…Black struggle, Socialist struggle: together we fight!
In 1964, Malcolm X, said, “You can’t have capitalism without racism.” The opposite is also true. Racism is nothing but a tool to divide the working class. It was a result of the capitalists’ need to set white workers against black slaves, and prevent them from working together in slave revolts. Actually, slavery in Roman society was completely different than under capitalism. There were white slaves and black slave-owners; it is only under capitalism that racism became necessary to protect profits.
Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, in the Virginia Colony, fuelled racism. The rebellion consisted of black slaves and poor white farmers uniting for a common cause. Such unity in the lower classes – those who produce – is dangerous for any ruling class, the same way businessmen and right-wing politicians, today, worry about strikes and unions.
The Civil War was America’s second revolution. The black population played a revolutionary role, fighting against the southern plantation capitalists, overthrowing slavery, and officially becoming part of the working class. Like all other workers, they could now choose who to work for, but were forced to sell their labour to survive.
As I said, racism is a tool to divide and distract the working class. Consciously or unconsciously, the bosses benefit from it.
Being part of the working class did not automatically mean a good life or a good job. The black workers were pushed into ghettoes, marginalized, and used as cheap labour. The capitalists used racism to play white workers against black, keeping them divided and blaming unemployment and low wages on the African American population, not capitalism. The struggle of the black working class grew, with the emergence of organizations such as the Black Panthers, and as workers across the racial divide began to unite, capitalists were forced to give ground in a bitter fight.
The Civil Rights movement shook the foundations of American society. Concessions were won, such as voting rights and civil liberties in states where racism was strong. It was only a matter of time until the movement began to connect racism to the capitalist system. In 1966, Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry… Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong…with capitalism… There must be a better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a Democratic Socialism.” Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many Black Panther leaders were all coming to socialist conclusions. This made them dangerous to the capitalist class. Tragically, these revolutionaries were assassinated because of this.
As we find ourselves in this capitalist society, I think we can all agree, even at Dawson, that racism is still present. “Black-Caf,” “Jew-Caf,” and “Italian-Caf,” yes, we all hear these terms. One thing I have to say to all you self-segregating people is that most of you come from a working class background, many of you work to pay for your studies, and most of you will be part of the working class in the near future. Know your history, united we are strong, our fight is the same.