Race and the New Class
Ideological currents do not emerge from the ether, supernatural forces, or the inequities of the human heart. They are born out of and develop along the lines of the productive relations of any given society. In order to gain widespread traction as a major ideological current, whatever their factual integrity may or may not be, any and all ideas must respond to objective relations that can be quantitatively measured and felt. Even if it is a lie, that lie must be born of material realities. The subjective, no matter how misguided, manipulated or absurd, arises out of the objective. That is to say, the “why” and “how,” which can be complete fabrications, must rest upon an “is” and “are,” which are rooted in definite and objective day to day realities.
Under the rule of private property the objective stationing of men and women independent of their wills into specific social relations gives rise to subjective explanations of the purpose of society and the purpose and origin of its given divisions. This is to say that a given explanation that is subjective arises out of the objective and never the reverse. For instance, the idea of Divine Right did not create feudal relations but rather Divine Right emerged from Feudalism. Even the resistance to ruling class ideology is based on the material realities of the day. You cannot demand worker-run factories if the factories do not exist. Again, the subjective arises from the objective and never the reverse, and the particular development of racism in America is no exception to this basic truth.
No ideological current in American history has been as devastating to the fight for class awareness as that of racism. The historical basis for racist ideology has been wage bribery. The owning class simply paid white workers better wages, which led to them having better, more stable communities with better schools and an easier path to participate in the general economy. The question should never be confused — whites as a whole do not, nor have they have ever, owned the economy. The bourgeoisie who are mostly white, but who grow more multi-ethnic by the day, own the economy. Their rule historically has not been based on skin color but rather control of the institutions put in place to provide them the ability to absorb surplus labor value.
Where there is wealth extraction there is a contradiction of interests. The working class’ best interest as a whole, to unify workers of all colors and creeds in the struggle for reform, is not based in demands against fellow workers but rather demands against the owners. In order to avoid the unified efforts of the workers, the owners had to create material inequalities amongst them along other lines by which they might identify. In doing so they assured that those getting paid a dime would find it difficult to organize with those earning a nickel, for fear they too would receive the lower wage.
This also created in the mind of the nickel earner that the dime earner and the ruling class itself were, if not one and the same, closely related. Given the economic position of the nickel earner, often part of an army of surplus labor, the dime earner often viewed himself as beset by a conspiracy hatched by the implausible unity of the nickel earner and the ruling class. This is the historical basis for populism. All of this subjective thought sat upon and made possible unequal wages, color discrimination in certain fields, as well as the imposition of a different relation to the political formations of government, and the terror of the State between whites and nonwhites, particularly African Americans.
Racial Ideology Undermined by New Technology
Racism as an ideological force in society is incompatible with the new technological base that is revolutionizing the mode of production. These new technologies being introduced are having devastating effects on people’s ability to enter into the job market. Many very routine jobs that were the staple of yesterday’s economy are being either a) automated or b) sent overseas (many of those jobs are being automated as the technology moves forward and expands into new markets. Even sweatshop wages more and more are having trouble competing with labor replacing devices that are becoming more and more affordable).
This process undercuts the entire economic system of an industrial workforce and national market. Many of the major pillars of society are having to change in order to be compatible with the new technological base, which is pushing more and more towards the end of labor. This means laws, political structures, forms and application of State terror. And yes, the ideology the ruling class attempts to inject into society at large has to change in order to remain compatible with the new mode of production.
Under such a system, which is destroying the productive relations of the American industrial workforce and labor in general, racism, which is a subjective ideological expression of given divisions and inequalities within the development of American industry, has no objective material base to stand on. New ideas to protect private property must emerge. More and more this ideology is reflecting the direct demonization of the non-owning class. “You don’t own a factory or a hedge fund? How terribly irresponsible of you! You deserve whatever happens.”
Youth and an Emerging New Class
We see this new ideology emerging today in its first stages with the demonization of the youth, which in many cases is expressed jointly with the old racial expressions. This was certainly embodied in the person of Mitt Romney, who explained that his loss to Barack Obama was the result of the bribery of Blacks, Latinos and the youth. What is striking here is that he does not identify the color or ethnicity of the youth. This is expressed all throughout society today, in as much as the youth are a cutting edge of an emerging class for whom general employment has never been a material reality.
The process to frame youth as the source for social inequity largely began on racial lines. It began with the demonization of inner city youth, again mostly black and brown. These youth were the cutting edge of a working class who suddenly could not find work. But as unemployability spreads past the inner city into the broader white world so too must this ideology spread. The entire label of Generation X forwarded the idea that this oncoming generation were a bunch of “slackers” for whom “work was a four letter word.” More and more these new ideas that cross color lines are being put forward in media and throughout culture. The bourgeoisie intend to make us fear and hate our own kids.
Racism in American history means one thing: the myth of white supremacy. The history of the struggle against racism in America has not been a straight line of progress and advancement towards equality for the African American and other ethnic minorities as is often taught; nor has it ever been by any means a universally accepted answer to the question of the very real material inequalities that have existed within society. Thomas Jefferson, who defended slavery, in that he thought whites were genetically superior to Blacks by virtue of blushing more fully, and Thomas Paine, who referred to slave owners as desperate wretches, were both men of their times. The same is true of Jefferson Davis and John Brown, Martin Luther King and George Wallace.
Each of these men were beset by the material realities of their time and they fought for a set of interests based on what was possible at their given time. Today we see the emergence of new ideas and ways in which people relate to one another that had not existed in previous times. In the thirties communists and labor activists took to the streets with signs that read “black and white unite and fight.”
Today that message would be absurd as no one is attempting to block black and white workers from uniting in protest. What is happening today is to make any form of protest illegal. In the sixties various organizations rose claiming to “confront the system” or “fight the power”; groups such as the Black Panthers, the Brown Berets, the Young Lords, and the nearly entirely white Students for a Democratic Society. Here were movements for social justice that reflected the basic segregation of society at large. This isn’t really anyone’s fault, but it was a reflection of the objective realities of the world.
Today we see particularly in youth a greater ethnic unity than has ever existed in America. This is based in the material unemployabilty of so much of the population regardless of color. Even in the bitter poverty of the robber baron era employment still created a system by which to segregate people either by law or by wage. That system is doomed. Under complete unemployability old forms of segregation will have no material basis. Men and women base their vision on the material world laid out before them. A feudal peasant might dream of an agricultural collective free of the yoke of the lords. A factory worker might dream of a worker owned and run factory with profit sharing, or more visionary still, a workers state.
With the new technologies whose application one way or another will lead to the end of labor, we can envision a world free of control, free of slavery, in a word one that is free. No one can shape history with their bare hands. We must step into the objective process and fight for what is possible within it. It is a new day and we must see it with new eyes.
January/February 2013. Vol23.Ed1
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
P.O. Box 477113 Chicago, IL 60647 firstname.lastname@example.org
Free to reproduce unless otherwise marked.
Please include this message with any reproduction.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011