Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bob K., Boston Political Collective (M-L)

The White Chauvinism Campaign and Political Line

First Issued: September 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Those who object to the OC’s identification of racist ideology among white comrades as the primary obstacle to building multinational unity frequently offer as the alternative the development of political line on the struggle against racism. The Guardian, representatives of the rectification line, as well as various opposition forces within the OC, have all taken the OC to task for once again neglecting the theoretical tasks of our movement and for substituting an internal witch-hunt for the development of correct anti-racist practice based on Marxist theory.

The OC leadership has replied in typical fashion: it is not the function of the OC to develop and adopt political lines, but to lay the basis for that theoretical development by organizing the tendency into a single center. The task of putting forth a political line on the struggle against racism will fall to the future Ideological Center (IC), and finally to the party. Furthermore, the OC claims that the current racial and class composition of the OC renders impossible the development of correct theory on this issue. To call for developing political line on racism at this time, they claim, is to ignore the crucial contributions of national minority and working class comrades to this and other theoretical tasks. The defeat of white chauvinism is the necessary prerequisite to in building the multinational base on which correct theory can be developed.

Taken at face value, the OC’s position is bad enough. It postpones indefinitely our movement’s theoretical tasks around the crucial issue of racism, and by implication, other issues as well. As pettit bourgeois whites, they claim, we don’t know enough about racism to develop a political line. At the same time, however, we do know enough about racism to eliminate it in our own ranks. The worst part of the OC’s position, however, is that it is pure smokescreen. It is simply not true that the SC does not have a political line on the struggle against racism on which its practice is based. While never discussed or struggled over in the OC, a certain conception of the nature of racism in US society has guided the development of the campaign against white chauvinism. While this conception has not been put forward formally in the OC, it has been made public in the Organizer and other organs of the fusion party building line, and its impact on the OC campaign is clear enough.

To the fusionists, racist oppression reduces to its economic function in capitalist society. It is first and foremost a phenomenon consciously foisted upon the working class by the ruling class. According to a speech by PWOC’s Florence Buckley, racism “is the strategy that the capitalists have found the most profitable in dollars and cents and the most useful in holding back the development of class consciousness.” For that reason, “we are committed to putting the struggle against racism front and foremost in all areas of work.” The struggle against racism is primary because “the exploitation of the labor of Black people for super profits is key to the ruling class’ desire to perpetuate and maintain racist ideology.”

If the sole purpose of Buckley’s comments were simply to stress the importance of racism in maintaining capitalist society, we would only have differences over formulation. The conclusions drawn regarding the nature of anti-racist struggle make it clear, however, that these were not just chance formulations in the course of a popular presentation, but represent a conception of racist oppression as a phenomenon that has no dynamic of its own, no autonomy from its economic function, from the fundamental contradiction between labor and capital, or from the direct manipulation of the capitalist class.

Such a conception of racism denies that there is a material basis for racism within the white working class. The argument goes as follows: since the overwhelming majority of national minorities are proletarians, the interests of national minorities and those of the white working class are the same. “The concentration of national minorities, particularly Black people, in the working class has meant that the program of Black liberation has been more consistently a working class program that strikes more sharply at the roots of capitalism than any other reform movement,” stated Buckley. “Similarly today, demands which Black people raise – demands for jobs, housing, quality desegregated education – are in the interest of the entire working class, Black and white.” That is, the only objective interests of national minorities and whites derive from their class position. The fundamental, long run unity of interest between minority and white workers in the struggle against capitalism is translated in mechanical fashion into an objective unity of immediate interest in each and every reform struggle under capitalism. In this way, the racial contradiction within the working class conveniently, if unconvincingly, disappears.

If, because of similarity of economic position, there is no objective basis for the racial disunity of the working class, then it can only be the subjective conditions, racist ideology, that separates white and minority workers. And since racist ideology has no material basis in the working class – it does not correspond in any way to the objective interests of white workers, – it amounts; to merely a “false consciousness,” a “deception” of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie. The key to building working class unity, therefore, is exposing this deception within the working class. (For the People, Aug/Sept 80: “the only beneficiaries of racist and sexist violence against women are the bankers, industrialists, and wealthy who run this country”. p.13) Thus, the problem of racial division in the working class is viewed as the project not of objective conditions – which are favorable for class unity – but of subjective conditions.

The white chauvinism campaign applies the same logic to the communist movement. The objective conditions favor the building of the OC as a multinational organization. The only thing that could obstruct that multi-nationality is the ideological deviance of OC cadres: their white chauvinism. The “defeat” of white chauvinism within its ranks is therefore seen not only as necessary, but as sufficient for making the OC attractive to national minority comrades.

The pervasiveness of racist ideology in US society has its impact on every white comrade. The struggle against racist ideology among white communists is therefore an important part of the struggle for multinational unity in the communist movement. But claiming that the main obstacle to building that unity is that white comrades simply don’t take the task seriously enough or are afraid to take leadership from minority comrades simply trivializes those factors that keep the bulk of national minority comrades outside of the OC and most other party-building organizations. An effective strategy for building multinational unity in the party-building movement must be based on a serious analysis of the isolation of white anti-revisionist/anti-dogmatists and national minority anti-revisionist/anti-dogmatists, including the history of the black liberation struggles and the relation of the communist movement to those struggles. To say that the conditions are ripe for overcoming that isolation, if only white cadres didn’t think awful things about minorities, simply won’t do.