Pamphlet in .pdf format: here
Communism, and only communism, will forever abolish one of the worst evils capitalism has inflicted on the working class: racism. That’s why we invite you to join the International Communist Workers’ Party in mobilizing the masses for communism.
Racism is the Nature of Capitalism: Not Human Nature
Capitalism invented racism. Capitalists all over the world have adopted local forms of racism. Racist exploitation and terror remain cornerstones of capitalism-imperialism today. Every imperialist power relies on racism to win workers and youth to fight its deadly profit wars.
Whether it is Black and Latin workers in the US, Arab and African migrants and Roma in Europe, black workers and students in South Africa, or indigenous peoples from Guerrero to Australia, it’s the same story. Racist unemployment, segregation and police terror force billions to accept abysmal wages, living and working conditions.
For centuries, the fight against racism has inspired untold millions to heroic acts of resistance.
The masses have destroyed particular forms of racism: chattel slavery, open colonialism, South African apartheid. But new forms of capitalist exploitation emerged. They turned out to be every bit as racist.
Capitalism—Based on Competition—Needs Racism
Capitalist competition forces bosses to create some section of the working class to super-exploit. That drives down wages for all workers. It’s why capitalists use everything they can to divide us. It’s why they invented the very idea of race.
Capitalism’s racist terror enforces this super-exploitation. Its wage system forces us to compete with each other in a labor market in order to survive.
Thus capitalism creates the material basis for its “divide-and-conquer” politics.
This same racism divides the working class politically. It undermines class-consciousness and keeps us from joining together to liberate our class from wage-slavery.
Individualism and labor-market competition create fertile ground for racism. The bosses’ politicians and ideologues sow the seeds. Their schools, media and culture water the poison weeds that take root.
Communists, like many others, have long seen the critical need to fight racism. What we must see now is that only communism can end it.
Communism—Based on Cooperation—Must Eliminate Racism
Communist society will do away with money and wages, and the labor market where workers are forced to compete to get and keep a job so we can buy groceries and pay the rent.
Eliminating this competition for survival will eliminate the material basis for racist ideas within the working class.
Freed from the fear of individual poverty and mobilized to meet the needs of the working masses, we’ll decide together what needs to be done. Collective work will replace slaving for a paycheck.
We’ll cooperate to build housing, grow food, create new transportation systems, and produce the clothes, furniture, tools and toys that human beings need.
At first we may only be able to provide the bare necessities. But a fundamental communist principle is that nobody will live better or worse than anyone else. Wiping out racism is therefore integral to building communism.
The ideological struggle against racism will escalate as we fight to build communism. Millions of workers, soldiers, and youth will mobilize against class enemies who use racism to undermine the power of the working class.
Communism will end racist terror. Ending class society will end capitalism’s need for racist cops, courts and jails – indeed all cops, courts and jails. The abolition of private property and exploitation will make it possible for mobilized masses to solve any social problems ourselves.
Fighting against racism will be an essential part of everyday life—the only way we can work together to build a communist world. It won’t be automatic, but it will be obvious that to build the world we need we must defeat the legacy of racist capitalism.
Communism, not Nationalism
Some people think that all people of a particular “race,” regardless of class, should fight together.
This strategy – we call it “nationalism” – is a disaster for the working class. It reinforces the divisions in the working class that hold us back. It delivers workers into the arms of capitalists who come from similar ethnic roots.
In the worst case, nationalism as patriotism enrolls workers in their bosses’ fight with rival bosses. It wins us to kill other workers for the bosses’ profits. The ICWP stands for communism, not nationalism (see South Africa article below)
The Communist Fight against Racism
Racism creates a huge section of the working class with an especially deep hatred for capitalism. We must seek and build leadership from amongst the super-exploited and super-oppressed. We must convince all workers to respect this leadership.
By mobilizing the masses for communism today, we begin to smash racist divisions in practice. The victory of communism will create the material basis for ending racism forever.
Some people think this is impossible. They wrongly believe that white workers benefit from racism. But capitalist wage slavery penalizes—not privileges—all workers. Capitalism only privileges a few capitalists and their hangers-on.
Nobody will be privileged in communist society.
Building Unity Among the Masses
Early on, communist society will inherit a huge amount of racist baggage from capitalism. The struggle against this legacy will be the fight of many lifetimes. An important example is widespread residential segregation. We will need to act immediately to end separate and unequal housing.
The ICWP will mobilize the masses to integrate neighborhoods and workplaces. We will collectively design and build (or rebuild) them to meet everyone’s needs.
Masses mobilized for communism will fight to build comradely unity in all aspects of work, education and social interaction. Communist workers’ power will create the conditions for eliminating personal (often unconscious) prejudices.
We will end the separation of “mental” and “manual” labor. This will set the stage to end racist education and work assignments.
Everyone will take turns performing difficult and unpleasant tasks. These will no longer fall disproportionately on the backs of a super-exploited group. Everyone will have opportunities to learn and practice new skills.
Education will be taken out of the schools that class society has created and made part of the collective process of work and community. (See our pamphlet Communist Education for a Classless Society here
Mobilizing the Masses
The ICWP will mobilize the masses to suppress capitalism’s racist culture. No longer will mass media be in the hands of corporations who pimp and profit from racist, sexist garbage. Instead, communism’s anti-racist art and culture will strengthen the unity of the working class.
The ICWP acts on these principles today. Our party unites communist workers and youth of every description and from around the world. We struggle together as comrades to mobilize the masses around the vision of a communist world.
We haven’t completely overcome capitalism’s racist training. Nor have we healed completely from the pain inflicted on us by racism. But the struggle to mobilize the masses for communism develops our better selves while moving us closer to our shared goal.
Only by fighting racism can we establish communism. Only by establishing communism can we end racism for good.
Racism Rose with Capitalism and Will Fall with It
“The discovery of gold and silver in America,” Marx wrote, “the uprooting, enslavement and entombment in the mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercialized hunting of black skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.” Capitalism, Marx concluded, “came into the world dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.”
Ancient or classical slavery was not justified by racist explanations or limited to people identified as “racially different.” Neither was the slavery that continued under feudalism. When capitalists reinstituted large-scale slavery in the 16th century, especially in the Americas, they soon justified it by skin color.
In the 15th through the 17th centuries, English lords enclosed the common land that peasant farmers had used for farming and forage, pushing peasant families into cities. Parliament passed laws punishing homelessness and begging. Some were forced into factory work. Others were forced into indentured servitude in Australia and the Americas.
Starving European laborers of Jamestown, Virginia, saw that Native American societies had no class divisions, state or private ownership of land. They worked cooperatively and had plenty of food. One in seven settlers deserted to the Powhatans. African slaves also fled to Indian communities. Every treaty the English made with Native American nations included a bounty for returning escaped slaves.
Early capitalism created a multi-ethnic maritime proletariat. English, Irish and African sailors worked together, and rebelled together. They saw indigenous people of the Caribbean living together in harmony, without wage slavery. Some sailors mutinied, some escaped. Thousands returned to Europe to spread the vision of a communalist life.
Most 17th century laborers in the British colonies were bound to years of servitude. Europeans and Africans often saw each other as natural allies. Planters feared this rebellious unity. They enacted servant and slave codes. Africans were defined as slaves for life. Those European servants who survived servitude were promised farmland and positions in the militia.
Capitalists developed racist ideology to justify the enslavement of darker-skinned people, particularly sub-Saharan Africans and indigenous people in the Americas. They invented the concept of “race” although there is only one human race.
Millions of Africans were torn from their homes and shipped to slave labor camps. They grew tobacco, cotton and coffee. The majority were sent to Brazil and the Caribbean.
African resistance to slavery began in the middle passage. Enslaved men and women, often speaking different languages, united to fight for their freedom.
The kidnapping of Africans combined brutal class oppression and super-exploitation. Enslaved persons produced the wealth that provided the capital for industrialization. As property, slaves constituted the largest capital reserve in the United States.
British capitalists also accumulated fortunes from the slave trade, from the profits of slave plantations and mines, and from the theft of native land.
Racist ideology justified enslavement and super-exploitation. In the US, it divided laborers of European, African and Native American ancestry. The division of labor and super-exploitation were enforced by the murderous police forces that came out of anti-Indian militias, slave patrols and strikebreakers.
At the same time, the creation of a working class composed of workers of different “races,” including immigrants from Asia, Europe and Latin America, meant that uniting in class struggle against the capitalist exploiters has required the working class to fight against racism. However, the final victory against racism will require an end to capitalism.
The European invasion of America accelerated the expansion of capitalism to every corner of the world. It created a world market for goods and labor. As it became dominant worldwide, racism became a global ideology and practice, a permanent and indispensable feature of capitalism everywhere.
This world market set the stage for the development of capitalism into imperialism. Imperialism intensified competition among capitalists. This intensified the exploitation of the working class in general, and the super-exploitation of workers with darker skin, especially black workers.
Imperialism rested on the racist super-exploitation of the working masses of Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. Anti-imperialist movements in the 20th century combined a hatred of racist exploitation with nationalist illusions. The brutal exploitation of black workers in South Africa (see below) has revealed this to be a fatal error.
Ending Racism, Mobilizing for Communism: Can’t Have One Without the Other
The vision of Communism opened up new avenues of struggle against racism in the United States. For the first time, the potential to end racism became real.
Many cadre strained to break free of limits imposed by compromises with capitalism. Black, Mexican-American and immigrant communists often took the lead. We must build on their efforts to finally free our class of this racist scourge
Socialism Comes to the United States
The French Revolution gave birth to movements that for the first time called themselves “socialist” and “communist.” They were “Utopian,” based on a predesigned ideal communal society.
In the early 1800s Utopian ideas spread to the USA. These early socialists had a bad record on racism. Their organizations typically excluded even freed slaves. The Utopians were indifferent to the abolitionist movement. They argued that the abolition of private property and wage slavery would automatically free black people, without any special effort.
This all changed after the 1848 revolutions in Europe and the publication of the Communist Manifesto. Communism was put on a scientific basis. Instead of predesigned ideal communities, the struggle for communism came out of working class struggle. The key role of the proletariat was made clear. Marx summed it up during the US Civil War saying: “Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded.”
Tens of thousands of radicalized refugees fled Germany for the USA. One of the leaders was Joseph Weydemeyer, close friend and collaborator of Marx.
Weydemeyer founded the American Workers’ League. It was open to workers “without respect to occupation, language, color or sex.” The League didn’t last, but Weydemeyer worked hard in the abolitionist movement and the Republican Party. The German émigrés mistakenly buried themselves in the antislavery movement, almost suspending agitation for communism. Then they made the opposite mistake; they assumed the abolition of slavery resolved the whole race issue.
The New Socialist Party Takes a Stand Against Racism
In 1901, most socialists joined the Socialist Party of America. There were only three black delegates at the founding convention. However, the convention approved a resolution for “equal rights for all workers without distinction of race, color or sex.” It urged that black workers join unions and the Socialist Party.
Some white delegates objected to paying special attention to black workers. But William Costley, one of the black delegates, argued successfully that black workers “occupy a peculiar position among the laboring class.” He argued they were subject to extra exploitation and to hatred from both the bosses and some white workers.
The racist dissidents did manage to eliminate a clause denouncing lynching, on the grounds that it would make it impossible to organize in the South!
The Socialist Party had tens of thousands of members, dozens of daily newspapers, and played a leading role in unions. But it did not a have one central line. Their newspapers could print what they wanted. For a while the 1901 resolution was ignored.
Nonetheless, the left gradually gained strength and fought the white supremacists. Hubert Harrison, a leading black socialist intellectual put his finger on the heart of the matter. “In short,” he said, “the exploitation of the Negro workers is keener than that of any group of white workers.”
Communism Comes to the US
After the 1917 Russian revolution, the Communist International (Comintern) recruited the most militant class fighters. In the US, most were European immigrants. Many prominent black US communists were from the West Indies. They regarded black workers’ struggles as part of the crusade against capitalism and imperialism. It looked like the communist movement had finally gotten on top of the racism question.
However, almost nothing was said about racism at the founding convention of the US Communist Party (CPUSA). The Comintern noticed.
The Russian communists’ experience taught them that the fight against racism was crucial. Unfortunately, they framed it as a “proletarian national question.” The Comintern directed the CPUSA to prioritize the “Negro question.” It agreed.
Shortly thereafter, the “trial” of Finnish party member August Yokinen put the anti-racist struggle front and center. He had objected to black workers attending a social at the Finnish Language Association hall.
A “workers’ court” convened on March 1, 1931. Fifteen hundred attended. Black communist leader Richard Moore led the defense.
Moore blamed “this vile, corrupt, oppressive system.” He agreed Yokinen “must be condemned,” but offered mitigating evidence. His client didn’t benefit from the party documents denouncing racism because he couldn’t read English.
Yokinen confessed to being “under the influence of white chauvinism ideology.” He pledged to fight racism in the future. The court expelled him from the party, but recommended he participate in anti-racist struggles and reapply. He accepted the verdict.
Trials like these became “sensational news for all America” and inspired “a big wave of sympathy and approval” from workers of all races. For the first time, large numbers of black workers joined the CPUSA.
Yokinen himself led a march through Harlem, NYC, to support the Scottsboro Boys. The US government quickly deported him.
The Scottsboro Boys were six black teenagers framed for rape in Scottsboro, Alabama. The CPUSA hired a lawyer through their International Labor Defense (ILD) organization, but more importantly built a nationwide movement that saved their lives.
Many new black communist leaders came from the steel mills, mines and farms of Alabama.
Convict labor in this region enslaved hundreds of thousands. They were literally worked to death. U.S. Steel beat, whipped, starved and murdered thousands. Hundreds of unmarked graves in forests surrounding the steel and coke factories testify to the brutality. “Jim Crow” laws insured this cheap enslaved labor pool, dragging down “free” labor as well.
The Communist Party had three members in Birmingham in 1929. Ninety joined by August 1930. Over five hundred joined Party mass organizations: almost 90% were black. District organizers noted “Negros… are the decisive strata among the toiling masses in the South.”
Black communist leadership was also forged in the armed combat of Alabama sharecroppers. In Reeltown AL, the CPUSA-led Sharecroppers Union fought a 24-hour armed battle against the Sheriff’s department and Klansmen over the repossession of livestock. As a result, the Communist Party National Negro Commission demanded “the abolition of all debts owed by poor farmers and tenants, as well as interest charged on necessary items such as food, clothes and seed.”
Mobilizing for communism could never have been more appropriate. Communism will not only abolish “debt peonage,” but also all debt, banks and money. The means of production will be collectively owned. This will destroy the material underpinnings of racism.
Unfortunately, the CPUSA never explicitly advocated communist mobilization. Any possibility of such a plan was finally cut off by two big international compromises with capitalism.
Mexican American Communists in the Southwest
The CPUSA also recruited many Mexican and Mexican-American workers. In 1928, the Comintern decided communists should organize “revolutionary” unions instead of working within all-white unions. In the Southwest, this meant organizing Mexican and Mexican-American workers.
Racism forced these workers into the lowest-paid and most insecure jobs. Here too, organizers had to fight racist vigilantes as well as bosses.
The CPUSA-led coal miners’ strike in Gallup, New Mexico is of particular interest. The party recruited 150 Mexican miners before the strike, organizing cells in every mine. They emphasized “the revolutionization of the striking workers,” not just gaining “material results.”
In 1933, the miners struck. They faced martial law. The state militia escorted scabs into the mines. Workers were evicted from company housing, arrested and threatened with deportation. The strikers, often led by women armed with clubs, attacked scabs and the National Guard.
When the strike ended, the bosses black-listed Mexican organizers and deported many communists. The ILD, the same organization that defended the Scottsboro Boys, fought against the deportations and repatriations. They called them imperialistic and racist.
Once again, communist mobilization would have been the only real remedy. Communism will answer imperialism and racism by eliminating nations and borders altogether. Production will be organized collectively to fulfill the needs of the world’s workers. Profits and empire building will not enter the picture. But compromises with capitalism once again shut the door on mobilizing for communism.
Nationalism and the Black Belt
In 1928 the Comintern said southern U.S. blacks were a separate national group. Therefore the fight against racism should demand self-determination through national liberation of the southern “Black Belt.”
The CPUSA agreed but the whole business never made much sense. The “Black Belt” line never helped recruit or inspire organizing.
In practice, many rank-and-file communists rejected the false choice between the anti-racist reform of capitalism and revolutionary nationalism. In particular, black, Mexican-American and immigrant communist leaders took aim at racist super-exploitation.
Emma Tenayuca, communist leader of the 1938 San Antonio walkout of pecan shellers, put it clearly during the heat of the strike. She argued that Mexican-Americans were a separate ethnic group, subject to racist exploitation. Most importantly, they could only achieve liberation in the struggle of a united working class. Given the option, why couldn’t communist leaders like her be won to mobilizing for communism directly?
The “Black Belt” line was so unpopular that it was reduced to a “Sunday Ritual.” It was quoted in literature, but rarely discussed at a grass-roots level. Party leader Earl Browder conceded, “The [Black Belt] slogan [need not] be immediately transformed from a propaganda slogan into a slogan of action.”
United Front Against Fascism
This nationalist error was compounded by another Comintern initiative, the United Front against Fascism (1935). This meant supporting the racist Roosevelt administration and its New Deal even though it often excluded blacks and Mexicans.
The New Deal built Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps to relieve poverty and train young workers in forest conservation. They were racist and segregated. In February 1934, Young Communist League (YCL) activists organized a strike of two hundred black workers in a camp near Tuscaloosa, AL. State troops intervened. The strikers retaliated with bricks. New Deal executives fired 160 workers, arresting YCL strike leader Boykin Queenie. The CPUSA built a campaign demanding his release. Unfortunately, this kind of anti-racist activity against the CCC ceased under the United Front.
In 1931, black communist leader Harry Haywood criticized the party’s newspaper for printing a statement by William Pickens, the NAACP’s field organizer. Pickens advocated a coalition led by mass organizations of the CPUSA and the NAACP. The Communist Party reversed course under the United Front. It ceded leadership to the NAACP’s legal team.
Hosea Hudson, a black communist veteran of armed struggle in Alabama, put it simply when referring to on-the-job work. The United Front shrunk the party because “everyone got soaked up in the [CIO] union.”
During World War II, the CPUSA’s fight against racism, and class struggle in general, took second place to fighting Hitler. Many fightbacks were squelched. Those allowed had to “aid the war effort.” For example, the CPUSA-organized Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee fought racist attacks against Mexican youth, including the Zoot Suit Riots. The rationale was that these attacks made the U.S. look bad, hurting the war effort.
This reached a critical stage in 1944 when Earl Browder dissolved the Party! It was revived soon after but buried any mention of communism in its political work. CPUSA cadre effectively built anti-communist, reform organizations like the NAACP, while extolling the Democratic Party as the lesser of two evils.
Despite these derailments, leading black figures like Paul Robeson and W.E.B Du Bois continued to fight, undeterred by government sponsored anti-communism in the 1950s and 60s. Their confidence that communism would eventually end racism demands we mobilize the masses for communism and nothing less.
Communism and Anti-Racism Revived
In 1965, some communists who were sick of the CPUSA’s resistance to mobilizing for socialism and to fighting racism formed Progressive Labor Party (PLP).
PLP had early success organizing during the Harlem anti-racist rebellion. In 1968 they declared that all nationalism was reactionary. Until then, the whole communist movement believed that the nationalism of the oppressed was “objectively progressive.”
After campus PLP groups attacked the pseudo-science of academic racists, PLP formed the International Committee Against Racism (InCAR) in 1973. InCAR became well-known for fighting anti-busing racists, Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. But in practice, PLP abandoned the fight for communism for a program of militant anti-racist reform struggle. For example, the campus campaigns said little about communist education.
In 1982 PLP declared that communists should fight directly for communism. Workers should abolish wage-slavery and money immediately after seizing power. Socialism had never led to communism and never would.
Unfortunately, this was a high-water mark and was never really put into practice. Eliminating wage slavery may have been the goal, but the implications were rarely discussed. The party’s newspaper had little concrete to say about communism. Instead, it used its space to expose capitalism and to push militant reform struggles.
Birth of ICWP
In 2010, a good number of members fed up with PLP’s resistance to mobilizing for communism founded the International Communist Workers’ Party (ICWP). We make the fight for communism our daily struggle.
For example, the lead article in this pamphlet explains how communism will end racism, and what form the struggle against racism will take after the revolution. We have no illusion that short of a revolution we can make any permanent progress against racism.
This article on the history of racism has much to say about the history of communism. The reason is that only communism can abolish racism.
What makes us think we can do any better than our predecessors? Because we stand on the shoulders of communist-inspired masses. It’s almost exactly 100 years since the Russian revolution, more than 150 years since the publication of the Communist Manifesto, and almost 500 years since the publication of Utopia. We have 500 years of experience to draw on, 150+ years of Marxism and a whole century of masses struggling for communism and against racism.
This experience is hard-won and priceless. We will still make mistakes, but there are many mistakes we won’t make. That includes underestimating the central role of the fight against racism. Communism will knock down the pillar upon which racism stands: wage slavery.
This time we will succeed.
Anti-Black Racism Set the Pattern in the U.S.
In the summer of 2016, two years after the murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson MO and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, workers around the world poured out in outraged protest against the racist killings of black workers Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, MN.
US cops have killed hundreds of unarmed men and women in the interval. While most of them were white, black people are more than twice as likely to be killed by the cops than whites, closely followed by Native Americans and Latino/as. Racism, by intensifying attacks on black, Latino/a, and Native American workers, cheapens the lives of all workers.
Racist murders continue in spite of mass protests and hashtag activism, databases tracking police killings, White House conferences, and police body cameras. Reform movements call for special prosecutors, but even when killer cops are brought to trial, as in the case of the murderers of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, they get off. Anger and frustration mounts, and lone gunmen have begun to target cops.
Capitalism is based on exploitation. That’s why it needs racism. It has various forms: slavery, lynching, Jim Crow and police terror. We can only end it by ending wage slavery. That’s why we must mobilize the masses for communism—a system without wage slavery, bosses, borders or cops. We can begin now with political strikes demanding: “End Racist Police Terror by Mobilizing the Masses for Communism!”
Throughout the history of the Americas, the genocide and enslavement of indigenous people and kidnapped Africans formed the material basis of capitalism. But it was particularly harsh in what became the US. Slave codes, beginning in the 1660s, forcibly separated black and white indentured servants, making Africans and their children slaves for life.
Slavery and its expansion were crucial to the development of US capitalism. Modern policing grew out of the slave patrols that hunted down runaways.
It took a bloody Civil War to eliminate chattel slavery in the US in 1865. But the end of chattel slavery led to debt peonage and the penitentiary system.
As capitalism was consolidated in the US South, a brutal system of segregation was put into effect. Jim Crow laws, enforced through state and vigilante terror, rigidly separated blacks and whites.
Urban police forces grew out of the private patrols hired by the capitalists to violently crush strikes against wage slavery. Federal housing policies (both during the New Deal and the post-World War II GI Bill) kept neighborhoods and schools segregated throughout the US. Cops enforced the segregation that kept black workers in the north stuck in the most exploited industrial jobs.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s eliminated Jim Crow laws. But intensified inter-imperialist rivalry pushed the US bosses to seek super-profits in countries where intense racism forces workers to toil for starvation wages. Most of the blue-collar jobs that allowed black workers in the US to support their families were shifted overseas in the 1970s and 1980s. The War on Drugs and massive prison construction have led to a new Jim Crow. Black workers have been criminalized and subjected to intensified racism.
South Africa: Marikana Massacre Exposed the Bankruptcy of Nationalism
Workers and capitalists are enemies. Capitalists’ wealth comes from exploiting workers’ labor. We never have common interests with our exploiters. The working class has one common interest—to unite against the capitalists and eliminate exploitation and wage slavery.
The modern South African state is the product of one of the world’s fiercest, most intense, battles against racism. Its major governing institutions earned their leadership credentials in the battle, starting in the 1950s, against the overtly racist system called apartheid, or “apartness.”
As mass resistance grew, the government responded with violence. The Sharpeville massacre in 1960, where the government killed 69 unarmed demonstrators, angered the world and drew support for the struggle against apartheid.
Years of sustained state violence countered but never conquered the resistance. In 1976 when police killed hundreds of unarmed high school students in Soweto, the anger exploded. Arrests, torture and murder of youth failed to intimidate the masses. Mass strikes of miners and other industrial workers shook the worlds’ capitalists.
The whites-only government could no longer protect the interests of world banks like Barclays or the Fortune 500 companies. In 1994 Nelson Mandela, freed from decades in jail, was made South Africa’s first black President.
The African National Congress (ANC), which had led the resistance, became the party that administers capitalism. It in backed not only by the old imperialist powers, Britain and the US, but increasing allied with their rising imperialist rivals, China and India.
Black Economic Empowerment created hundreds of black millionaires but increased the misery and racist oppression of the masses. The number of people who live on less than $1 a day has doubled since 1994. President Zuma has a multi-million dollar swimming pool while people who live in townships have no running water!
Trained by generations of resistance to exploitation, South Africa’s workers have risen up again. In 2012, an unofficial strike of platinum miners at Marikana was met with state violence. Corralled by the police, 34 miners were shot, and then 270 arrested and charged with murder!
Former ANC freedom fighters are now capitalist exploiters and assassins. Cyril Ramaphosa, once head of the National Union of Miners, is now on the Board of Directors of Lonmin Mining Company, which owns the Marikana mine.
Marikana exposes the lie of nationalism: that workers of one “race,” ethnicity or nationality, have more in common with their bosses than with workers seen as belonging to another “race,” ethnicity or nationality. Along with racism, it is one of the most powerful weapons the capitalists have to prevent the revolutionary unity of all workers.
Today’s Economic Freedom Fighters, combining black-nationalist symbols with demands for nationalization of mines and industry, are another example of capitalist reformism masked by nationalist rhetoric.
ICWP Grows in South Africa
From Sharpeville to Soweto to Marikana the workers of South Africa have shown that our class is an unstoppable force, but to defeat racist oppression, we must defeat capitalism itself.
ICWP comrades in South Africa have rejected the nationalist betrayal of the ANC and find an enthusiastic response to mobilizing the masses directly for communism. After our international conference in November, 2015, we have built collectives among industrial workers, students and unemployed workers and have begun organizing among miners in the North West.
Latin America: Racism towards Indigenous & African People
In Latin America, indigenous people were enslaved from the second voyage of Columbus in 1493 until the 1820s, when most Latin American countries won independence from Spain.
The abolition of African slavery began in 1791 when Haitian slaves organized a mass uprising against their French masters. They declared Haiti an independent republic ruled by ex-slaves after fighting thirteen years against French, English and Spanish imperialists who tried to re-enslave them. Indigenous people and descendants of en- slaved Africans still face vicious racism through- out the Americas.
Indigenous people and descendants of enslaved Africans still face vicious racism in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America.
The poorest and most oppressed people from Chile to Mexico are those living in isolated indigenous communities. They also have a long history of struggle, although it has often takes the form of nationalism instead of a united class struggle for communism.
In 1932, mostly indigenous farmworkers in El Salvador, led by the Communist Party, rebelled against the military dictatorship. This uprising was crushed by the Salvadoran military, who massacred between 10,000 and 30,000 people, nearly wiping out the Pipil people.
The slave traders took most of the Africans they had kidnapped to Brazil and the Spanish colonies. Rebellions shook the entire slave system–the most famous was Quilombo da Palmares in Brazi where escaped slaves built a multi-racial society where everything was held in common.
The work of enslaved Africans was crucial to Brazil and Cuba’s production of coffee and sugar cane for the international capitalist market. That’s why the rulers of these countries were the last to abolish slavery: Cuba in 1886 and Brazil in 1888.
In Mexico (which abolished slavery in 1820) and elsewhere, many have denied the existence of an African slave trade. Nevertheless, black workers in Latin America are more often poorer and have less schooling, shorter lives and higher infant mortality than whites.
The old communist movement did not make a priority of fighting racism. Therefore the masses have a limited understanding of racism as something inherent to capitalism-imperialism.
Communism, Not Socialism, Can End Racism
In five hundred years of heroic struggle by indigenous and African people in Latin America, the most successful in consciously addressing the racial question has been Cuba.
The 1959 revolution promised to end discrimination against black workers in housing, education, health care and jobs. It made significant progress in literacy, health care, and opening the professions.
However, Cuban socialism, like all socialism, is state capitalism. This guaranteed that those disadvantaged by the legacy of racism rapidly fell further behind.
More recently, the transition from state capitalism to market capitalism has eroded these temporary gains. Racism against black workers in Cuba has worsened. They are much more likely to be stopped by the police. By 2005 they had double the unemployment rate of whites.
The International Communist Workers’ Party in Latin America is learning from the experiences of comrades in South Africa, India, the US and elsewhere that the fight against racism is crucial to the fight for communism.
Imperialism, Religion, Race and Caste in India
India became a battleground for rising capitalist European powers competing for trade and natural resources in the 15th century. Europeans found feudal kings ruling locally while the Moghul Empire slowly disintegrated. By the mid-18th century, British capitalists consolidated their rule.
For the masses, this meant unprecedented horrific devastation. British colonial administrators required the cultivation of crops to support British industry instead of food for local consumption, creating famine. Mass peasant rebellions erupted, expanding to open armed conflict and culminating in the “Sepoy Rebellion” of 1857.
The British crushed the Sepoy Rebellion. But they realized they needed to divide the Indian masses to prevent future rebellions, much as they created racism in their American colonies in the 17th century. This time they seized on religious divisions. They adopted a theory proposed by James Mill, who had never visited India, in his book The History of British India (1818).
British administrators provoked conflict among the peasants and city dwellers based on religion. They paid Hindu priests to throw pork in front of Muslim mosques. They bribed Muslim mullahs to throw beef in front of Hindu temples. They also enforced strict rules of segregation based on religion and the centuries-old Hindu caste system to further divide the oppressed peasants.
The British rulers created a hierarchy of over 3000 castes and 25000 sub-castes. They classified some rebellious peasants as the ‘untouchable’ caste, many of whom are today’s Dalits. This helped British imperialists reap super-profits from the huge wage differences between workers in Britain and in India.
An emerging Indian capitalist class started to monopolize steel, coal, textile industries. But its growth was restricted by British rule. So it formed the nationalist Indian National Congress (Congress Party) in 1885 to mobilize Indian industrial workers and peasants to support Indian capitalists against the British.
The emergence of the industrial working class also brought unity among the workers at the point of production in factories. Regardless of their religion or caste, the workers faced the same capitalist enemy. Against all the attempts to divide the workers, a revolutionary working class was emerging.
The Russian Revolution of 1917 spurred the formation of the Communist Party of India (CPI). Its members came from both Hindu and Muslim backgrounds. The CPI built a mass base in several regions and led millions in political strikes against British imperialism.
When Gandhi became the leader of the Congress Party in 1921, he mobilized for non-violence in opposition to the militant working class rising against its class enemy. He did not advocate ending the caste system.
Like the British, Gandhi promoted the myth of a glorious Hindu past. He wanted an independent India based on Hindu culture, while cynically trying to unite Hindu and Muslim workers against the British. In South Africa, he had pushed racism against black workers in an effort to get the racist rulers to accept Indians as “white.”
The CPI rightly called Gandhi a junior partner of Indian capitalists. However, the old international communist movement mistakenly regarded nationalism as a progressive force against colonialism. When World War II began, the CPI followed the class-collaborationist line of the Communist International and ended its armed struggle against British rule. Today we understand that communists must mobilize the masses for communism and nothing else.
After World War II, the bloody partition of Hindu India from Muslim Pakistan intensified the religious hostilities created by capitalism. The Congress Party rulers of India, freed from British domination, unleashed terror and grinding poverty on the working class.
Indian politicians intensified divisions based on the caste system in the service of a rising Indian capitalist class. This system has been racialized, with the glorification of lighter skin and physical attacks on Africans and others with darker skins. Modi’s ultra-nationalist Hindu BJP, building fascism to boost their global ambitions, has picked up where Congress left off.
There is a growing mass movement fighting anti-Dalit racism in India today. The International Communist Workers’ Party is involved in that movement. We explain patiently that only communism can uproot the material basis of racism and finally end it.
Some articles about racism, nationalism, capitalism and communism:
Upcoming Series: The Untold Story: Struggles on the Road to Ending Racism with Communist Revolution