Race & Ethnicity


From: Scott Marshall

The Fight Against Racism Today

(Reprinted from the July issue of Political Affairs, monthly journal of the Communist Party, USA. For subscription information see below - all rights reserved.)

(Editor's Note: This discussion article was prepared by the National Board of the Communist Party. Readers are encouraged to respond to the concepts and problems raised in it. Responses can be handwritten, typed or can be put on a computer disk. Comments can be from 3000 to 6000 words. If you don't like to write put your thoughts on a tape and send it in. Let us know what you think.)

This educational discussion aims to raise the level of understanding and stimulate militant action of our Party in the fight against racism.

The fight against racism is an immediate and urgent challenge to our Party. To meet this challenge, we are undertaking a new level of collective ideological struggle within the Party to deepen our working-class approach to this struggle.

We need an updated assessment of where the class and people's movements are in the fight against racism, of the specific expressions of the increased level of racism and its impact on the class struggle. There are many new developments, the significance of which has not yet been fully grasped. A full collective discussion will make clearer our picture of how mass thought patterns and class consciousness are being influenced by the increased use of racism by the ruling class, a full discussion of our Party's collective experience in the fight against racism will improve our practical work and initiative.

The discussion should strengthen understanding of what is needed to build the strongest, broadest unity to help the movements go on the offensive.

The document discusses the following areas:

  • what are the main features of the ruling class' increased promotion of racism;
  • how does the increase in racism relate to the systemic crisis of capitalism;
  • what are the key issues in the fight against racism today;
  • what are the basics of our Marxist-Leninist analysis and approach;
  • what is the Party's role on this critical fight.

Effect of Systemic Crisis - The deepening of capitalism's systemic crisis combined with the legacy of 12 years of Reagan-Bush's unprecedentedly racist offensive, which has been extended and deepened by the Clinton administration, have brought about a dramatic increase in the effects of racism. The fact that there are still some illusions about the nature of this administration has made it more difficult to fight in some ways.

The increase in racism must be placed in the context of the crisis of capitalism - because it is the capitalist class which benefits from racism, using it to divide and to confuse the people about the reasons for the economic and social crisis of the system. Because the system is in crisis, there is an increase in the intensity and complexity of the ongoing ideological war on class unity and the principles and practice of equality.

The racist use of the crime issue, rising racist and police violence, deepening segregation, criminalization, attacks on immigrants, increasing poverty, homelessness and unemployment, an increase in stereotypes in the mass media, and environmental racism all indicate the depth of the crisis.

These tendencies must be seen within the context of the intensification of the class struggle. Corporate "downsizing" and mass layoffs in industry have led to an overall decline in the living standards of the working class, especially its racially and nationally oppressed components, and have exacerbated the growth of racism. These things are directly connected.

Capitalism's systemic crisis adds a whole new dimension to these problems. "Downsizing" and mass layoffs have wiped out many of the past gains against discrimination in the workplace. As the economic crisis deepens, new forms of economic racism are making themselves felt.

Massive unemployment, poverty and homelessness are its most direct and vivid result. Unemployment rates among African American, Latino, and Asian workers are twice those of whites, long-term unemployment is also particularly severe. A large percent of the homeless are Black and Latino. Economic racism's hideousness is particularly seen in its impact on Black and Latino children, close to half of whom live in poverty.

A key feature of the intensification of racism in this period is the level and quality of segregation. Segregation has accelerated rather than declined and has become sharper, characterized by deep poverty and extremely poor conditions of life. This is cause for closer examination of the significance of segregation today, not only as a by-product of economic factors but as a deliberate corporate and governmental policy, with far-reaching implications.

From the reservation system - formal, legalized segregation - to the Black and Latino inner city ghettos, segregation is a result of monopoly capitalism's drive for super- profits.

It is the result of corporate and governmental policies including red-lining and the Reagan and Bush administrations' cuts in housing and urban spending, which have resulted in the devastation of inner city neighborhoods. The attack on federal funding for building and maintaining public housing has brought terrible results; added to this is the Clinton administration's callously racist - and telling - proposal to use HUD monies to build prisons.

Racial and class segregation has produced a segregated school system, and contributed to the sharp downward slide in the quality of education received by Black and Latino children all over the country. The privatization of public education is worsening this problem and creating new inequalities.

The crisis of segregation facing all racially and nationally oppressed and especially African Americans is a direct result of the structural crisis of the late 70s and 80s and the corporate downsizing of the 90s. These ghettos and barrios must be understood as an essential aspect of the special oppression of these peoples - class, racial, and national - and a means of controlling and cutting these communities off from the rest of society, and of physically dividing the working class.

New studies point to what is termed "hypersegregation" of African Americans in the nation's largest industrial cities - LA, Houston, Newark, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, cities in which the structural crisis and long-term and generational unemployment have been sharpest. By hypersegregation is meant the geographic, political, economic and cultural isolation of these communities. This hypersegregation reveals that racism directed at African Americans has a unique quality and has reached a new and unprecedented stage.

Economic racism is also related to the crisis of the cities, where most ghettos and barrios are located. As basic industries move out, services are allowed to decline, streets fall apart, bridges crumble. Here the drug crisis continues unabated, infant mortality rates zoom to levels above those in the Third World, and diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis rage almost out of control. Here the communities are in a virtual state of siege as racist police departments, under the pretext of fighting drugs, terrorize and intimidate. Here Black and Brown youth are routinely rounded up in sweeps, and have filled the nation's jails and prisons to the point of overflow, with 35 percent of African American youth either in jail or under the control of the criminal justice system.

For Black and Brown people, racism means shorter, less healthy, less-valued lives.

Assault on Civil Rights - Directly connected to this is the ruling class' sharpened attack all down the line on civil rights. Reagan-appointed judges dominate the courts; existing civil rights laws are weak and are not enforced; affirmative action has suffered from a prolonged ideological attack on the very idea of it, and especially on the concepts of quotas and timetables, based on the false notion that discrimination is a thing of the past. The dropping of the nomination of Lani Guinier is illustrative of the Clinton administration's betrayal of civil rights.

Voting rights are under severe attack. The Supreme Court's overturning of the North Carolina Congressional district created to insure greater representation has elevated to the status of law the concept that the "civil rights of whites" are violated by the Voting Rights Act's remedies to make up for past discrimination.

In fact affirmative action is under a two-edged assault. On the one side, there is an almost complete undermining of its legal and political foundations by the right-wing Supreme Court which has rendered decisions claiming that certain forms of affirmative action are unconstitutional. On the other is the elimination of the intended effects of affirmative action in industry by the new rounds of layoffs. As recent studies indicate, these layoffs are having a profound impact on all racially and nationally oppressed workers; on Latinos, Asians, Native American Indians and especially African Americans.

The increase in racism must be seen in the context of the crisis of capitalism and its drive to maintain the $225 billion of super-profits based on the difference in wages paid to African American, Latino, and Asian workers as compared to whites for the same work.

The wholesale attempt to eliminate social programs like Social Security, welfare, and unemployment benefits, and the creation of a new "contingent" work force, many of whom are Black, Brown and women have led to the re-emergence of concepts that the racially and nationally oppressed are social pariahs beyond hope and that "money should not be wasted on them." Coupled with this ideological assault is Clinton's new crime bill which is a new and dangerous legal instrument for the creation of capitalism without entitlements.

This assault is aimed in particularly sharp ways at women of color, who are blamed for the problems of the community in general and of the youth in particular. The reality is the low wages received by Black and Latina women workers, and the extremely high rates of poverty - two-thirds of Puerto Rican households headed by women are poor. The Clinton administration's attack on welfare is aimed at racially and nationally oppressed women and their families, and exposes the hypocrisy of talk of "family values" by the administration.

Institutionalized Racism - Racism is ruling- class ideology and is the concept and practice of white supremacy. It is the practice of discrimination and oppression based on skin color, physical characteristics, continent of origin and culture. It has its origins as a justification for slavery and the conquest of the Americas. From the beginning, slavery in the United States was tied to the development and growth of capitalism. Founded on the sale and ownership of human beings on the basis of their physical characteristics and color, its purpose was the exploitation of unpaid labor for super profits. As chattels, Africans were hunted like animals, transported to the "New World," and then sold on the auction block like beasts of burden. In like manner Native American Indians were exterminated on a massive scale.

Moral and intellectual rationales were invented to justify this kidnapping, sale, enslavement and genocide against human beings. As an ideology, racism provided the moral and intellectual underpinnings of slavery, the westward expansion of colonialism and the seizure of half of Mexico. Thus the purpose of this doctrine was, and still is, to put forward ideas and theories founded on the myth that people of color are inherently inferior.

Almost 130 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, the legacy of slavery remains. It is embedded in and influences every aspect of social, economic and political life. This is what is meant by institutionalized racism.

Institutionalized racism is the combined economic, political, social, cultural, legal, ideological and other structures that exist to maintain the system of inequality.

As a set of institutions, racism is infused in the very foundations of our society and is inseparable from the economic foundations of U.S. capitalist society. The racist wage gap is a most fundamental feature: both in terms of the superprofits produced by the superexploitation of racially oppressed workers, and the additional extra profits created by the fact that racism divides and weakens the working class and drags down wages for all workers.

A Special System of Oppression - Racism must be understood as a special system of oppression dependent on the capitical life and affects the thought patterns of millions. Because of this, the solution to racist oppression rests on dismantling its structures in society and in the economy.

Institutionalized racism has economic, social, political, ideological and cultural forms, and denies equality, justice and dignity to all people of color. Because its roots are in capitalism's drive to maxnd in the history of U.S. capitalism's development, racism has an especially sharp impact on racially and nationally oppressed ways: on African American workers, who in the last recession experienced the greatest job loss on a national average and who t experience high unemployment and who are harassed and persecuted related to their status; on Puerto Rican workers, whose famat the highest rate; on Native American Indian workers in the cities and especially on the reservations, among whom unemployment, a much lower-than-average life expectancy and poor health care are the norm; and on Asian workers, who are forced to work ight for unity in a given situation.

For example, the closing of factories has had an especially severe impact on African American workers, a large percentage of whom are concentrated in industry. In the latest recession Black workers were the only segment of the work-force to experience a net job loss. Complicating the racist pattern in layoffs are new company-imposed literacregulations, which have resulted in further layoffs of Black workers who avoided layoffs by having sufficient seniority. Unablorkers have been forced out of their jobs in large numbers, even in the steel industry, where the consent decrees of the 1970so have less plant-wide seniority.

An important feature of racism's new forms is the new vigor of the anti-immigrant campaign, d Asian workers. This campaign places the blame for unemployment, government budget deficits, etc, on immigration. It is an old idea, but was given new attention in the battle around NAFTA, and was aimed particularly at Mexican workers and Mexican AmerAnti-Arab racism is flagrantly promoted in the media and in popular culture. Hysteria and hostility towards Arab peoples have been deliberately and systematically whipped up, particularly around the time of the Gulf War, and since. It has been used especially to create diversions, though temporary, from attention to the real problems of the U.S. working class. The promotion of for the economic crisis. The decision of the Clinton administration to reverse its policy on Haitian refugees is an essential part of the campaign against immigrants in general.

A difficult and dangerous problem which has also sharpened in this period is the pitting of oppressed nationalities against one another. The ruling class and its media paint a picture of widespread and deepening antagonisms between peoples, and the notion that equality and unity are not possible. Building unity of all racially and nationally oppressed is a key part of the fight for the interests of the whole class.

Similarity of Oppression - The differing forms of racial oppression against people of color has in no way mitigated the similarity of their oppression. Racism gives a common character to their status within the U.S. Hence, their emancipation, irrespective of nationality, is dependent upon a common and united struggle of all working people against racism.

In this regard the struggle against economic racism has a particular importance. The fight against it must be the foundation of any campaign for real equality. In situations in which close to half the African American and Latino populations live at or near the poverty line, the fight for equality for these victims of the crisis must be the point of departure for full equality for racially and nationally peoples as a whole.

In his report to the Communist Party's Mid-term Conference, Comrade Hall said,

Poverty and racism have become a deadly twosome. Thus, there can be no effective fight against racism without a struggle against poverty. And there can be no effective fight against poverty without taking on the struggle against racism and for equality. Such a guiding principle is necessary in the struggle for working-class unity.

This is the basis for the Conference call for an all-out campaign for jobs and equality, launched and promoted by our Party. The fight for a massive federal jobs program, with strong affirmative action provisions, and for new, stronger Civil Rights laws, is the basis for unity in this period. It will be the proving ground for commitment to the fight for equality and against racism.

The racism that appeared during Clinton's election campaign has now emerged full- blown after less than one year in office. Part and parcel of Clinton's caving in to pressure from the right has been capitulation to racism, from the abandonment of the Guinier nomination to the "anti-crime" campaign, which is essentially a call for "jails, not jobs." It is a call to establish a new legal basis for monopoly capitalism in the 21st century, a capitalism where workers have no benefits and Black and Brown workers no rights. The Clinton administration has come out more and more openly as the spokesperson for the policies of the transnational corporations.

It is ominous that the president who was elected on the basis of rejection of Reagan- Bush policies made the kind of arrogant and overtly racist speech that Clinton did in Memphis in November at a national meeting of Black ministers.

Perhaps the most unashamedly racist speech by a president, or any public official, was Clinton's "off-the-cuff, straight-from-the-heart" speech in which he lamented the "great crisis of the spirit that is gripping America today." Using codewords and themes such as "personal responsibility," "family stability" and "family pathologies," he reverted to the old themes of blaming the victims, revealing a president deeply infected with racism. This address will go down in history as infamous, reviving the oldest and worst racist stereotypes, bigotry and ignorance.

Underlying this speech is the ruling class' attitude about the special conditions racism has created. It was an attack on the gains of the civil rights battles, cynically abusing the memory and legacy of Martin Luther King. The speech was a most audacious expression of the false notion that the problems of crime and violence are due to a "lack of family values." This problem, the president insisted, causes murder and mayhem to occur in the country's ghettos and barrios with "reckless abandonment." In other words, Black people are totally out of control and must be restrained by any means necessary. This concept reflects the ruling class' attempt to "criminalize" an entire people on the basis of race, and has very dangerous implications, including that it is a justification for police brutality and racist vigilantism.

Not satisfied with his Memphis performance he shortly afterwards traveled to Los Angeles, where he put forth the same ideas directed at the Mexican American community, this time invoking the image of Cesar Chavez. Clinton's racist anti-crime campaign has been matched by California's right-wing Governor Wilson, who has called for building more prisons as a priority.

Clinton's speeches are aimed to divert and confuse, to point the finger away from monopoly capital, which is in fact responsible for the deterioration of the neighborhoods and standard of living of African American and other racially oppressed people, and especially their working-class component. His message was quite clear: don't look to the government to solve these problems, don't look to the obvious reasons - joblessness and poverty, racism and discrimination - for crime, drugs and violence.

Clinton's statement that, "unless we do something about crime I we will not be able to repair this country" is a cover for government inaction on the economic crisis, when in fact what is required is a massive federal jobs program, legislation to enforce and strengthen affirmative action, a new Civil Rights Act, strengthening labor's rights, and laws which cut into monopoly profits (increasing corporate taxes, shorter work week, increase in the minimum wage, etc.).

Most importantly Clinton's overt racism in his Memphis speech gives the green light to racist forces around the country - this is racism led by the president. It must not be forgotten that Perot's United We Stand America, Pat Buchanan and the even more reactionary fundamentalist fanatic fringe like Robertson's Christian Coalition are working feverishly to cash in as the patience of disillusioned Clinton supporters gives way to anger. By resorting to racism himself, the President is adding fuel to these ultra- right fires.

Foreign Policy - The blatant racism of the president is also revealed in his militarist foreign policy. Racism is being used - along with its evil twin, anti-Communism - to justify aggressive actions in pursuit of a world "safe" for corporate profiteering. The administration has wrapped itself in a mantle of militarism and racist arrogance, from Somalia to Haiti, to North Korea, acting on the one superpower premise.

U.S. imperialism has justified its muscle flexing and aggressive actions towards Somalia and Haiti using a thinly veiled racist rationale - that the people of those countries have reached a state of barbarism and anarchy and are incapable of governing themselves. Implied and at times even stated is the idea that these countries have problems because the people are less "civilized." Covered up is the fact that the U.S. itself armed and trained Duvalier's regime and had a hand in Somalia as well.

The concept of "nation-building" is also a thinly disguised cover-up of imperialism's intent to control other countries. The notion that the U.S. needs "win-win" capability - to be able to fight and win two wars at once - is crude in its arrogance. Anti- Communism and racism shaped the recent confrontation with North Korea over the issue of nuclear weapons, in which the U.S. not only claimed to have the right to decide which countries can develop such weapons, but threatened to use them.

There are obvious similarities between these developments in the foreign policy arena and the administration's domestic policy: between the concept that the solution to the massive social and economic problems at home is more police and more prisons, while internationally, U.S. imperialism openly announces its intention to use military force to impose "order" wherever necessary to protect corporate interests.

the Labor Movement - The intensification of racism goes hand in hand with the overall offensive of monopoly. The two are interwoven and interact with one another in economic, political and social life. From the standpoint of monopoly capital they are but two sides of a single policy whose aim is not only to add billions to the year-end profit statements of the capitalist class, but also to slow down and reverse the new trends towards multi-racial working-class and all-people's unity that are so evident today. The growing strength and future potential of these trends has not been missed in the corporate boardrooms nor by the well-paid image makers of monopoly capital.

While the overall offensive of monopoly capital has driven down the living standards of the working class with a disproportionate and heavy burden falling upon the victims of racial and national oppression, its other class aim of busting up multi-racial, multi- national working class and people's unity, has proved more elusive.

Indeed, the greatest progress in the fight against racism has been among the working class. Black, Brown, and white working-class unity has mushroomed. It is deeper and broader today. It expresses itself through a variety of issues and forms as well as in diverse arenas.

It most forcefully expresses itself around economic issues and in the economic arena. And in the recent struggle against NAFTA multi-racial, multi-national unity took a new leap and reached a new level. The ideological fog of white and great power chauvinism which has been lessening over the past decade was blown away in no small measure. This occurred among substantial sections of the labor movement.

Likewise, the coalition and alliance relationships between labor and the racially and nationally oppressed also have emerged in a new way. The labor-African American alliance, playing as it has a pivotal role at many turning points in the nation's development, has moved to a new stage as reflected by the August 28th demonstration for Jobs, Peace, and Justice, the first major challenge to the Clinton administration.

Similarly, the relations between labor and the Mexican American people and other movements of the racially and nationally oppressed have also moved to higher ground. In this, the role of Mexican American workers has given a fresh and dynamic impulse to both labor and the labor-community alliance.

The new level of Black, Brown, and white unity is the ground for new initiatives, for a counteroffensive against monopoly, for a winning struggle against the transnational corporations and the Clinton administration.

Of course, this process of unification did not happened overnight, but rather has been molded by subjective as well as objective processes. Needless to say, it has not been without snags and detours, even setbacks along way.

Nonetheless, the fact is that the struggle against NAFTA brings the struggle for multi- racial working-class and people's unity to a new stage. In doing so, it presents new opportunities in the labor movement in terms of the struggle against racism and for full equality.

The most important and enduring spinoff of the NAFTA fight was the growth of class consciousness. A worker who is coming to think in class terms more easily understands the interconnection between the class struggle and the struggle against racism. A worker who sees the profit drive of the transnational corporations as the cause of the systemic economic crisis can be more easily convinced of the need for special measures to address the racist patterns of layoffs. A worker who is beginning to understand the nature of class exploitation is more apt to see the special system of exploitation and oppression directed against Black and Brown workers as well as the common class interests of all workers.

In short, the growth of class consciousness is the force field to protect against influences of white chauvinism and racist ideology. It is the ideological backdrop to raise still higher the anti-racist sentiment and understanding among white workers. And, most importantly, it is the springboard from which new, bold initiatives against racism and for equality can be launched.

Struggle for Affirmative Action - In the center of labor's struggles for jobs, health care, housing, and other urgent needs should be found the issue of affirmative action. It is an indispensible element in the fight for multi-racial and all-people's unity. And without Black, Brown, and white unity victory against monopoly capital is impossible.

But it won't be easy. The struggle for affirmative action, and the ruling class assault on it, has been fierce precisely because it lies at the intersection of the struggle against class and racial oppression, against exploitation and super-exploitation.

Over the past two decades the labor movement has taken principled positions on affirmative action. It has become a more effective and active fighter against racism. But more needs to be done both because of the systemic nature of the economic crisis and because of the ruling class assault on affirmative action.

At the same time, the new anti-racist thought patterns among workers make possible the upping of the ante in the fight against racism and for Black, Brown, and white working-class unity. They make possible a new boldness in terms of moving the labor movement more and more in the center of this struggle.

There are new problems because of the systemic nature of crisis. Our discussion should examine what adjustments can be made in layoffs so that the biggest burden does not fall on racially and nationally oppressed workers as it currently does. The main principle is to make the company pay and fight for solutions that preserve class unity. The fight for affirmative action must be closely connected to other radical proposals, such as a shorter work week with no cut in pay.

We should assert that the fight for affirmative action in the labor movement is necessary to class unity, that it is a class issue as well as a democratic issue.

Our discussion should also examine how to elevate the role of the labor movement in the fight against police brutality, housing discrimination, immigrant rights, and the dismantlement of public education to mention a few issues. Here too we should discuss the racist dimension of these issues, show how their roots lie in the system of capitalism and its new stage of crisis, and come up with concrete initiatives.

The fight for class unity must also take up unity between the trade union movement and the unemployed giving special attention to the racist pattern in layoffs. The Jobs and Equality Campaign takes on special importance in relation to this issue.

We should examine as well the connection between the fight for the full equality of African Americans, Mexican Americans, American Indians, Asians, Arabs and other racially and nationally oppressed peoples with the question of the rights of labor, as both are restricted and suppressed by monopoly capital. And we should do it keeping in mind the new level of class consciousness among workers.

Finally, we should probe how to better connect the self and class interests of white workers to the fight against racism and for equality. How can we convince white workers that fighting racism is necessary not simply because it is morally correct, but because it hinders the cause of the whole working class, and distorts and disfigures the whole society.

We should also find better arguments to demonstrate that the fight against racism is in the self-interest of white workers, showing that it holds down the wages of all workers and creates obstacles to trade union and class unity. In this regard it should be emphasized that white workers have a special responsibility to step up the fight. This special responsibility has to be linked to mutual self-interest of different sections of the working class, that the emancipation of each section depends on united struggle of against all forms of bigotry and discrimination.

1993 elections - Racism had a serious impact on the recent elections, serving to divert and confuse an electorate which is angry, worried about jobs and insecure about the future. Playing on this economic distress, and to deal with the fact that there is growing sentiment that something is deeply wrong with the system, the ruling class used racism to create the perception that the problem is crime and violence, that the criminals are Black and Brown people, especially youth.

This sharpened use of racism weakened the necessary coalitions and key elected officials were defeated in several states and cities. In New York City, a stepped up racist drive of ultra-right forces grouped around the Guiliani candidacy pushed the idea that Mayor Dinkins' administration was incompetent and had not addressed crime. The charge of incompetence was deeply racist in origin and inspiration. On the issue of crime it was implied that Dinkins was weak because he is African American; ignored was the fact that the crime rate actually went down during his administration. The issue of crime and violence was pushed to the fore in the election debate, with the facts falling victim to hysteria and fear.

The November elections demonstrated how critical unity is in the electoral arena; our role is to show that these defeats hurt the working class as a whole, and not just Black and Brown people; and that to make any legislative gains in terms of jobs, labor's rights, against privatization, etc, we must increase the representation of Black, Latino and labor elected officials at all levels of government.

There were also positive trends in the elections, with growing recognition that the key to victories of independent and progressive campaigns is the alliance of labor, Mexican American, African American, Puerto Rican and other racially and nationally oppressed peoples.

Under capitalism there is constant anti-working- class ideological pressure. The ruling class pushes ideas that weaken unity, and deny, distort or erase working-class history. The main weapons in its arsenal are racism and anti-Communism.

Our discussion should examine what are the trends and developments in mass thought patterns around this question. How has the heightened racist drive affected people's thinking specifically and on what issues? How can masses be moved in a positive direction in the fight against racism?

The multi-racial, multi-national working class and indeed the country and the entire people face a dilemma: the essence of which is that there is a desire to act but an inability to do so. There is a crisis of inaction in the fight against racism. One reason for this crisis of inaction is a continuing double standard and blame-the-victim concept, which stem from an as yet insufficient understanding of the systemic source of racism.

Mass Thought Patterns - Most whites accept the notion that racism is morally wrong. And moral arguments can be powerful weapons in the fight against it. >From this standpoint it is important to take people where they are and build on these achievements. How can we build on this desire to act?

As a result of the Civil Rights movement and the struggles for equality, important progress has been made in countering the worst influences of outright racism in people's thinking. A majority of Americans support and believe in racial equality. A majority of white people oppose racism as they understand it. Among white workers there is substantial recognition of the commonality of labor's rights and the struggle for equality of all racially oppressed people. Together with Black, Latino, Asian and Arab workers, this constitutes a powerful anti-racist majority sentiment in the country.

This sentiment must be activized and turned into a powerful stream of struggle in combatting the new growth of racism. It must be the basis of launching new powerful blows at the system of racist institutions and the monopoly capitalist economic system which undergirds it. It must be tapped into in the unfolding of the Campaign for Jobs and Equality and a new Civil Rights Act.

The struggle to change mass thought patterns in an anti-racist direction is an important aspect of the ideological forms of the class struggle. It can help move the working class and other strata in an anti-monopoly, anti-imperialist, pro-working class, and pro-democratic direction. It can help deepen class consciousness and assist in the emergence of socialist consciousness.

While basing the fight against racism on the premise of majority support for these goals recognition must be made of trends that move in the opposite direction. The ultra-right has regrouped after Bush's defeat and won significant victories in the past elections. The Christian evangelical right, the Catholic church, and the forces around Perot are conducting campaigns aimed at increasing racism's influence, using the crime issue, and targeting multi-culturalism in education and Rainbow curriculum.

As with all other problems and struggles, it is absolutely essential that we have a class perspective on the struggle against racism. In the broad movements, in which there are anti-racist sentiments and activity, there are classless concepts of racism which don't get at the root cause and the necessary kinds of solutions. One expression is the idea that white workers are more racist than other sections of the white population, which ignores the history of and relationship between the fight for equality and the labor movement, and denies the material basis and necessity for working-class unity of Black, Brown and white. And, it is in the labor movement where we see the greatest progress and most significant developments in the struggle against racism in the last period.

Mass Media - The most powerful form for the dissemination of racism are the mass media and popular culture, both of which are controlled by the ruling class, and which impact on how people develop their understanding of and attitude towards people of other nationalities and cultures. Racist portrayals of the racially and nationally oppressed are at new levels, and there has been an erosion in the gains made in this area during the Civil Rights period. Modern-day minstrels have appeared on T.V. and racist images of Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Native American Indians are frequently aired. There is an attempt to convince the American people that racism in comedy is acceptable, as demonstrated by the recent white actor appearing in black face.

People have to be helped to see that what is shown on television, portrayed in movies, and played on the radio are related to the system of racism, and not separate and apart from what's happening in the economy and in society generally. Communists can bring a class analysis to the public debate on whether what is found in music and on television simply reflects reality or helps to create it.

For example, there is a relationship between the struggle around NAFTA, heightened anti-immigrant propaganda and the idea that corporations should be allowed to move to wherever they can make the greatest profit, as well as the fact that Congress recently funded an extension in unemployment benefits by cutting disability payments for immigrants.

The Party can help people see and understand these relationships, and the systemic character of the problems. There is debate, coming from many points on the political spectrum, as to whether or not there are solutions. Can racism be eliminated, can equality ever be achieved? Some have put forward the idea of the permanence of racism and have expressed concern that nothing can be done about it.

Our Party's ability to provide answers to this most basic question is absolutely essential.

Marxism-Leninism is more, rather than less, necessary and useful to provide basic answers. At a moment when masses are searching for the way out of this economic crisis, we must find ways to show that it is the system of capitalism that is in crisis, that the problem lies with capitalism's putting "profit before people." Likewise on the question of the cause of and solutions to racism. Our analysis of racism's roots in exploitative class relations of capitalist society is key, both to pointing to ways to fight racism and for equality, and to build class unity so that we can make the fundamental change that is necessary to solve basic problems.

We are confident that there can be victories in the fight against racism and for equality, because we see the basis for unity against racism among all working people. The fight against racism and for class unity is integrally related to the struggle for socialism. These questions are linked to the very laws and nature of capitalism.

The relationship between class and racial oppression under capitalism is the key point around which working-class unity is being built. Such unity is the foundation and the glue for the kinds of broad movements which are leading the fight for economic justice.

Just as we struggle today to defend and expand the economic and democratic rights of the working class, while we point to the capitalist system as the root of the problems, likewise we insist on a special struggle for equality and against racism for only on this basis can the entire class be united. At the same time we show that only when the basis for division and antagonisms is eliminated, can equality be fully realized.

The fight against racism is related to the struggle for socialism not only because socialism is the ultimate solution to racism and discrimination, but because socialism will only be won by a strong, united, fighting working class, Black, Brown and white, leading the whole people.

Influences on the Party - The struggle against the influences of racism within the Party is an ongoing struggle, but at certain moments requires even more attention and collective effort. The increase in the promotion of racism by the ruling class in this period means just that.

A correct approach to the struggle against racism must flow from our class analysis. The main task is to elevate the level of understanding and struggle against the racist ruling class offensive.

How we approach the question of racism's impact on our Party is very important. Struggle against influences of racism must unify and strengthen and aim to improve the clubs' atmosphere, inner life and activity. It must be in the context of activity, of involvement in struggles of people, and in responding to events.

Influences of racism in the Party take different forms. Because it is so directly part of the country's experience all whites are to one extent or another influenced by it. The first step in the fight against the influences of racism is to recognize it. It cannot be fought against if it is not seen. Developing a capacity for self-criticism is a most important weapon in this fight.

The main expression of the influence of racism in the Party is reflected in weaknesses or failure to take responsibility and initiative in the fight against racism.

Insensitivity on the part of white comrades reflects itself in various forms: in the failure to accept leadership from African American, Latino, and Native American Indian comrades - this is particularly so with regard to minority women; in placing standards for leadership on them that either exceed or fall below that of whites; in failures to consult or follow the standards of collective leadership where minority comrades are concerned; and in failing to fight for Black, white, Brown unity and composition in Party collectives. These problems weaken collectivity, and feed individualism and go- it-alone attitudes.

Another expression of the influences of racism is insensitivity to the dignity, intelligence, self-respect, and national culture of racially and nationally oppressed comrades. Insensitivity most often comes to the surface during tense situations, and can take the form of curtness, impatience, talking in an angry tone, or shouting. In its most gross form it is also reflected in making racially disparaging statements about other peoples and cultures.

Expressions of outright insensitivity increase when there isn't struggle, and when the level of racism in the society generally have sharpened. Insensitivity reflects an underlying attitude of white superiority. It is expressed in disrespectful or arrogant treatment of racially oppressed comrades. Insensitivity is not only a matter of personal behavior, but is a reflection of lack of understanding of the crucial nature of racism in our society, its damage to the cause of the whole working class, its pervasive nature, and as well the fact that it can be beaten.

Any and all forms of chauvinistic behavior against racially and nationally oppressed comrades is destructive of the essential Black-Brown-white unity of our Party, and is unacceptable.

Paternalism - Paternalism is another expression of racism's influences in the Party, and is one of the biggest problems because it may not be as obvious. Paternalism reflects an attitude of superiority, and a lack of understanding that equality is necessary for the whole class to advance, that the fight for equality is necessary to the fight for socialism, that Party unity is essential. Paternalism is destructive because it is phony. Paternalism damages collectivity and weakens one's ability to effectively struggle.

Paternalism corrupts both the white comrades who express it and the comrades at the receiving end, it is an opportunist approach to fighting racism, and inhibits political growth, ideological development and real unity.

Paternalism is exhibited in situations in which racially and nationally oppressed comrades are treated with condescension. It can take the form of ingratiating oneself to minority comrades; expressing the belief that racially oppressed comrades are beyond criticism; in having good relations with minority comrades when they agree with you, but condemning them when they do not. Paternalism is reflected in excessive praise, hanging on every word, and "missionary-like" tendencies to work only among the racially and nationally oppressed.

In our discussion, we should concretely examine expressions of the influences of racism, to deepen white comrades' understanding of the objective basis for the fight against racism and for unity. The concept that it is a special responsibility of white Communists to take initiative in the fight against racism and to build anti-racist sentiment among white people, is an important one.

Both paternalism and insensitivity most often reflect attitudes of white superiority that comrades may not be conscious of. The struggle must be on the basis of confidence that these weaknesses can be recognized and overcome, in an atmosphere which is at once conducive to raising such criticisms as well as helping comrades to grow.

The fight against all forms of the influences of racism is important in yet another respect: people join the Communist Party because they expect a higher level of understanding and conduct. They expect higher ideological and moral standards than what they see in society generally. And so it should be. In this regard manifestations of influences of racism are particularly harmful and must be consistently dealt with.

In the leadership of the Party, the struggle for the highest working-class standards on this question is even more important. Every leading Communist should consider as their own the fight for the most comradely, respectful, equal relations among Black, Brown and white in the collectives of the Party.

The atmosphere in this discussion should be comradely and objective, and help comrades to grow in their understanding of racism and our Party's role. The discussion should contribute to an atmosphere in the Party in which people of all racial and national backgrounds are comfortable and work as equals.

Party's Traditions and Role - The Party is unique in that it bases its fight against racism on its working-class Marxist-Leninist science. Our Communist plus and understanding of the class source of the struggle against racism and for equality enables us to play a unique role in the fight against racism in all of its many forms and for multi-racial, multi- national unity. This fight requires constant vigilance and the maintenance of high working- class standards. Consistent application of this principle and deep involvement in struggle will enable the Party to make yet another historic contribution in the fight against racism today.

The Communist Party has always been identified and identified itself with the fight for equality and against racism. A principled and consistent approach to this fight is a fundamental premise of Communist politics and ideology. In a sense, it is part of our Party's birthright, one of the main reasons for its founding by Socialist Party members who rejected its opportunist and ultimately chauvinistic approach to the fight against racism and for equality, and declared that this fight was essential to the class struggle and the working class' fight against capitalism.

From the fight to organize the industrial unions, the defense of the victims of legal lynchings such as in the Scottsboro case, the organizing of sharecroppers in the South, to the Civil Rights movement, our Party has a long and proud history. Communists have helped organize and mobilize masses in the fight against racism, and raise the level of understanding of racism's roots in the capitalist system and its role in dividing the working class and hobbling struggle.

Perhaps most important is our Communist conviction that unity is necessary, and our confidence that it is possible.

As part of the discussion we should look at how to elevate the fight against racism in the movements in which we are active, how to build the Jobs and Equality campaign, but as well, what specific campaigns against racism the Party and YCL could help initiate.

For example, on the question of the use of racist symbols by professional sports teams: the Party could help spark a movement, for which there would be mass support, and which could make a big contribution to the public debate about racism and the fight for equality. We should initiate a new campaign to outlaw racism: racist acts, statements, and attempts to undermine or not enforce existing laws. A central thrust of the Jobs and Equality campaign and the call for a new Civil Rights act must be to reassert the call for outlawing racism.

This Party-wide discussion will make an important contribution to a collective updating and refreshing of our approach, and to a greater level of activity and involvement in the struggle against racism, and for equality and unity of our multi- racial, multi-national working class. ##30##

Political Affairs Monthly Theoretical Journal of the Communist Party, USA
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