Resolution on the Menace of Racism

Adopted by the 34th National Convention of the Socialist Labor Party of America, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 5–10, 1981

Once again capitalism is providing the social context for an upsurge in naked racism. The growth of KKK/Nazi activity, racial violence, police brutality and attacks on civil rights measures have added to the already considerable burden borne by blacks and other minorities. Though minority working people and their families are the more obvious victims of the racist backlash, all workers are hurt by—and thus have an interest in actively resisting—racism. An understanding of the roots and dynamics of racism demonstrates why.

Racism has been with us for centuries. Under capitalism in the United States, however, it has become a social institution. This is why past efforts to treat only the symptoms of racism have failed to eliminate the problem. After the passage of numerous civil rights laws, the creation of affirmative action guidelines, the promulgation of desegregation orders and fair housing regulations of every description, the gap between minority and white income levels has continued to grow. Black workers, as a specific example, continue to experience an unemployment rate roughly twice that of white workers. All minorities are still made to bear the stigma of unequal education, to occupy the most decrepit housing, to suffer inadequate health care, and more. Facts like these clearly demonstrate that the struggle for minority rights must go beyond legal reform measures and address itself to the fact that racism is an inherent part of the present social, political and economic order.

Stagnation Intensifies Racism

The prolonged and deepening stagnation of the capitalist economy has intensified virtually every form of racism. Thanks to the widespread job discrimination that has boosted minority unemployment well above the average, today’s growing unemployment problem has had an especially devastating effect on minorities. Because of racism, the budget cutbacks now being implemented by the Reagan administration will likewise have a magnified impact on minorities who have been forced in disproportionate number to rely on the meager social and welfare programs being gutted.

The economic crisis is also demonstrating where the material interests of capitalists and workers stand in relation to racism.

The capitalist class that controls and profits from the wealth produced by working people clearly benefits from racism because it enables employers to impose lower wages on minority workers and thus increases capitalist profits. Further, racist ideology among the working class divides it, weakening its ability to resist the austerity now being imposed by the ruling class. In fact, racism has in the past, and will continue in the future, to pit worker against worker and to prevent them from taking collective action against capitalism. In this way, U.S. racism acts as a powerful force militating against working-class solidarity and is as such one of the main pillars of American capitalism.

In implementing the austerity aimed at boosting profits at the expense of workers generally, the ruling class has not hesitated to fan the flames of racism. In proclaiming that the enforcement of affirmative action quotas, mandatory busing to achieve school desegregation and voting rights laws should be eased or scrapped altogether, the Reagan administration is letting it be known that it will tolerate intensified racism. In asserting that social and welfare programs needed by minorities cause inflation, capitalist politicians are lending credence to the racial scapegoating that furthers the agenda of ultrarightist groups like the KKK/Nazis. In short, capitalism is generating a social atmosphere in which racist ideology and racist violence can grow.

Struggle Against Racism

All workers have a stake in fighting racism. The lower wages paid minorities and high minority unemployment rates increase job competition and thus exert a downward pressure on all workers’ wages. As a result, capitalists reap every higher profits from the working class as a whole. The fight against racism must challenge the capitalist status quo that reinforces it. For example, under capitalism, there are a limited number of jobs. Accordingly, white workers tend to see gains for minorities as coming at white workers’ expense. At the same time, the disproportionate share of unemployment borne by minorities and the failure of the labor unions to fight on their behalf has left millions of jobless minority workers without access to the economic power they might otherwise have to defend themselves.

The Socialist Labor Party has long pointed out that the fight against racism is an indispensable element in, and part of, the struggle for working-class emancipation. The capitalist class can be effectively challenged only by the economic and political strength of a united working class. If white workers are to free themselves from capitalist exploitation, they must contribute to the building of a labor movement that embraces the struggles of minority workers against racism.

A movement to defeat racism once and for all must seek to replace the racist social institutions, artificial economic scarcity and profit motive of capitalism with a collectively owned and democratically administered economy that produces on the basis of satisfying human need. This means building mass, workplace-based organizations that will struggle for socialism and rebuild society from the bottom up. Such democratically controlled economic organizations would enable workers to bring their collective economic power to bear in struggles against all forms of capitalist oppression and ultimately provide the working basis for a socialist society.

In the face of the upsurge in racism, workers must link the demand for an end to the more intense exploitation and oppression suffered by minorities to the class struggle for socialism. For the struggle against racism cannot be successful unless and until it is transformed into a force for building the working-class unity needed to end exploitation generally.

Socialist Labor Party of America, P.O. Box 218, Mountain View, CA 94042-0218 • •

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