Home > Subversion > What’s Wrong With Anti-Racism

What’s Wrong With Anti-Racism

From Subversion, No. 15 (Summer 1994)

Subversion is not anti-racist because “we are all human beings” or “we all have the same colour blood” or “we should all be able to live together, respecting each others different cultures, religions. colour. etc”. Subversion is anti-racist because racism is one of the ideological tools used by our rulers to keep the international working class divided and unaware of the thing which binds all the worlds workers together the fact that we are the working class: that we must sell our labour power to survive: that we are wage slaves.

Racism has been used to justify genocide and slavery in the past but now it is used to help keep class consciousness at bay. Instead of seeing the world as being made up of bosses and workers we are meant to see it filled up with “foreigners”. We are meant to see all the people who live in France as one group, instead of as it really is: a small group of exploiters and the mass of exploited, just as it is in Britain. Just as we are encouraged to identity with the very same scum who rip us off, make us work. sack us, send us to war, we are also encouraged to identity “foreign” workers with the very scumbags who rip them off. We are meant to blame migrant workers for local unemployment. We are meant to fear everyone in Japan or Germany because they are surely conspiring to wreck “our economy”, aren’t they?

Divided and ruled

Just as racism in its basic forms helps dilute and divert working class consciousness so does the “anti-racist” formula: “we are all human beings”. This sort of argument tries to say that “we” are an in it together, “we” means bosses and workers, the leaders and the led, the powerful and the powerless. Once again we (the working class) are supposed to identity with our exploiters (the bosses/bourgeoisie) and THEIR murdering economy, capitalism. This use of the word “we” to describe all humans is a clever way of denying class, notice how Greenies say that “we” have ruined the planet. Are they stupid? Do they really think that all humans are to blame, all the masses of people who have been thrown off the land, all the masses of proletarians who have starved, been killed by poverty, forced to work like slaves all their lives? Anyone with half an ounce of sense can see that the great majority of the worlds population has never had any control over even their own lives let alone the actions of those people who live on our backs. Anyone who uses the word “we” to describe every person in the world either has no idea that there is an exploiting class and an exploited class, or wants to have at least some say in the ordering about and bleeding dry of the working class. And this is certainly the aim of left-wingers who say “we an all human beings”, as well as the “green” movement.

Pro-capitalist anti-racism

The anti-racism of the Labour movement is pro-capitalism anti-racism, you won’t catch the leader of the TUC saying that racism is a tool used by the ruling class to keep the international working class divided. The leader of the TUC will say that racism is a cancer that divides society, and that it is stirred up by right wing elements. Yes, racism may be stirred up by capitalism’s right wing defenders, but society is already divided into classes – only a defender of capitalism and the present order of things could call racism a threat to society. There is NOTHING about this society worth defending but it is essential for workers to fight racism in the working class as part of the struggle to raise class consciousness and unite against capitalism. While the Labour Movement might defend a “black” member of the boss class who is under racist attack, we could not. What we would do is use the incident to point out the fact that racism is a tool of the ruling class to keep us confused and in our place, but we could never defend this “black” boss or her/his “right” to trade, give orders, make profits. etc. – if we defended the rights of anyone to lord it over us we would be anti-working class.


What is race anyway?

At the beginning of this article an example of racism was given which involved only attitudes between France and Britain. Some people might say that this is not racism because the “white” French and the British are of the same “race”, they might call it “chauvinism” instead. The people who argue this obviously think that there are real biological differences between people in the world, they would categorise all people with a similar skin colour into a specific racial type (African, Eurasian etc.) therefore arguing that “racism” can only happen between these different coloured groups and that only “chauvinism” can happen between people of different countries but who share the same colour. Other people argue that racism can only be defined in terms of a “dominant country” exploiting a “minor country”, or the legacy of this exploitation. Thus British, “white” people can only be racist to people from all its ex-colonies, although in effect they really mean anyone in those countries that Britain is perceived to be superior to. In this philosophy people from the ex-colonies cannot be racist towards “white” British people, what whites might perceive as racism (e g., “fuck off you “white” bastard”) is, in fact, anti-imperialism!

Class

It’s not worth trying to find your way around the torturous and inane logic of the proponents of the ideas described above. If we want to understand what racism really has to do with our daily lives, what the reality of it is, then we must look at it from a class perspective. We must understand who actually benefits from it and why it is an enemy of class struggle. Never mind all the dubious philosophical ins and outs of it racism sets workers against workers and obscures who our real enemies are – the manipulators and benefactors of a divided and confused working class.

Papist Plots and Anti-Semitism

If you want any proof of the good work racism has done for the bosses you only have to take a cursory glance through history. In the 1840’s and ’50’s the Tory Party began a campaign against Irish workers in Britain in order to divide the Chartist Movement. Tory henchmen carried out several atrocities against workers in the North and West, which were blamed on Irish workers. Meanwhile the ruling class tried to whip up fear of “Papist Plots” and migrant labour taking work from “the English”. While the specific incidents have been forgotten the effects of this campaign to divide the working class are still evident in England. It’s no coincidence that anti-Semitism began to be encouraged in Germany after World War One. Things had to be done to fragment a proletariat that had created a revolution in 1919 and might try again in the new economic depression of the 1920’s. It was funny how a couple of years ago we heard lots about strikes in the new “unified” Germany but now most of the news concerns the “rising tide of racism”. It has proved very handy for the German Labour Movement and the bosses in general to be able to urge workers to see “society” under threat from nazi types. It’s a brutal way of diverting a rising class combativity, and i who benefits? The bosses of course.

Recession

In general, it seems, we are likely to see more racism when the economy is in “recession” and when it seems likely that workers might fight back. Since the Trafalgar Square riot and the defeat of the Poll Tax we have seen a marked rise in actual racist attacks, media coverage and the Labour Movement getting back on the anti-racist bandwagon. Is it a coincidence?

Today racism does have fairly deep roots in the working class but racism and nationalism tend to be pushed aside
during rising class struggle. What we must ask ourselves is who would benfit from a dissipation of the spirit of rebellion that was brought on by the Poll Tax? Certainly the bosses and certainly the Labour Movement, of which even the left wing (Militant) crapped themselves because of the riot. Instead of it getting out of hand, thinking that if we i beat the Poll Tax we could beat other things, instead of escalating the class struggle, it’s much better for us to worry about rising nazism and go on well-policed and harmless marches, where we can hear our Labour Movement leaders going on about the “threat i to society” posed by racism. But they don’t really want racism to go away, just as they don’t want capitalism, oppression and wage slavery to go away either. And racism is so useful to world capitalism that only a fool could believe that they’d let it disappear. Racism can only be defeated in struggle and only the destruction of global capitalism and the creation of true human community will put it to rest forever, because no longer will it serve any use.

Opportunity Knocks

It will be argued, of course, that things like Equal Opportunities [specifically, the Commission for Racial Equality, 1976] have done a lot to erode racist attitudes and allow “black” workers, as well as women and the disabled, to “do well” in the workplace. In fact bosses in large companies (including local councils, Royal Mail, etc.) see Equal Opportunities as a numbers game.

Managers are given targets for the percentage of “black” workers they should employ and if they achieve these targets they look much better to their superiors. It goes something like this: the Government realises that “‘black” people need to be better integrated into the workforce (why does the State like “black” police officers?), so they set up things like the Commission for Racial Equality, which, very handily, makes the Government look like it disagrees with racism;

Employers are then encouraged to set up an Equal Opportunities policy, being persuaded that they don’t really want to look like an old fashioned racist and sexist company, do they? And anyway, local councils and Government might not buy products and services from companies that don’t pursue Equal Opportunities, they’ve got the “black”, women and disabled vote to think of, after all. And so managers recruit more “under-represented” people, not because anyone in this whole chain is actually anti-racist but simply because everyone in the chain is looking after their own interests (i.e. their profits or power).

We mustn’t let ourselves get caught up in their game. The very least that Equal Opportunities might have done for “black” workers in Britain is have made it easier to get a job now. But even this is not true, is it? There is a far greater percentage of “black” people unemployed than “white” people, let’s face it, it was easier for “black” people to get work in the 1950’s, when there was no such thing as Equal Opportunities!

The capitalists are playing games with us, “Black” workers are supposed to defend a “society” that has Equal Opportunities written into law. A society that says it is anti-racist, and yet “black” workers are worse off now than they were 20 or 30 years ago (as all workers are, of course), and for all this Equal Opportunities bullshit we now have another “rising tide of racism”. Racism and “anti-racism”: for our rulers both are tricks to keep us under the heel.

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