from Understanding and Fighting White Supremacy
by Noel Ignatin
It was raised that our position as expressed by Dave means attacking the white workers. We believe that the fight against white supremacy is in the interests of the working class, including white workers. If anyone disagrees, that person should speak up.
The principle reason the bourgeoisie upholds white supremacy is not the quest for maximum profit in an immediate and direct sense. If it were, the employers would give job preference to the cheapest labor available, Black labor. No, the aim is political control, the maintenance of the white population's support.
People have characterized our position as calling on whites to "give up" hard won gains, such as union job control. In the first place, the struggles were not waged by those who currently enjoy the benefits. In the second place, the ruling class, when forced to concede reforms, always tries to frame its concessions so as to weaken proletarian solidarity. Such is the case with the seniority system, for example, which was fought for by both Black and white workers, but which now often serves to protect the superior status of whites. In a certain sense, the entire struggle of the working class is aimed at overturning past victories: bourgeois democracy, union dues check-off, compulsory education, etc.
In the third place, it is not a matter for whites of "giving up" the relative advantages they hold over Blacks and other Third World people. The bourgeoisie pursues white workers everywhere with tokens and reminders of superior status, and they cannot be given up, but must be cast off through militant struggle. What is the ruling class response to any serious effort by white workers to join Black people in the struggle against white supremacy? Attica is one indication.
The question was raised - why do we give greater weight to the struggle against white supremacy than to other issues that hold back the working class, especially male supremacy? In doing so, we are not arguing that Black people are more oppressed than women; no one can know exactly the pain felt by another. Nor are we saying that white supremacy has historically been more important in dividing the working class than male supremacy; a good case can be made to the contrary. The reasoning behind our position is this: of all the struggles in which a popular victory would fatally weaken U.S. capitalism, the fight against white supremacy is the one with the greatest chance of success. This is so for several reasons, one of which is sufficient to mention here: its link with the worldwide anti-imperialist movements of the colonial and dependent peoples.
Space limitations prevent an adequate treatment of the practical implications of all this. For now, just three points:
1) we should choose to do political work in areas where there are large numbers of Black and other Third World people, because their presence makes it easier to raise, among whites, the issue of white supremacy in a way that relates to their experience, rather than as lecturing them.
2) we should give priority to those issues which have the greatest potential of immediately and directly involving a fight against white supremacy — not to the total exclusion of other issues, but as a priority.
3) Alan Charney listed three political groupings among , Black people, and suggested we should work with them all. Significantly, he omitted a fourth tendency – the nationalists. Several years ago, when the Republic of New Africa was peacefully pursuing its work of building the New Communities and organizing support for its projected plebiscite on the status of Black people, it was attacked by officials of the State of Mississippi, which tried to assassinate a number of its citizens and, failing in that, is trying to keep them locked up for long terms. Since then there have been other repressive acts — yet how many on the white left even know of their case? Judging by the fury of its response to RNA efforts to separate from the U.S., one would have to conclude that since its birth the State of Mississippi has been committed to the goal of integration. We have to seek out nationalist formations and find ways of supporting them and working with them on terms which they find acceptable.
Lastly, as to program. Everyone on the left agrees that the fight for jobs is crucial in the present period. Yet most whites ignore the fact that a major aspect of ruling class policy is to shield the white population, as much as possible from the most severe effects of economic crisis by transferring the burden of inflation and unemployment onto Black and other Third World people inside and outside the U.S. The ruling class is willing to take the risk of further angering the oppressed nationalities because the alternative, of equalizing the burden on the working class as a whole, would have harmful political consequences to continued capitalist rule. We believe that such an understanding as we have outlined above must determine our political response to the present economic situation. This means that the fight against racism is not simply another demand in a long list.
A working class program for this period must have as its central feature the fight for equality of Black, Latin and other Third World people! In terms of specific program relating to the struggle for jobs, we propose the following:
1) There are already a number of examples of Black and Third World groups and women resisting ruling class attempts to roll back the affirmative action gains of the 60's. In Fremont, California, Kansas City, Missouri, Fairfield, Alabama and now in Chicago, suits have been filed against management and unions in collusion. We should take steps to bring together these various struggles in a national campaign, using both legal measures and mass action, to maintain and extend affirmative action standards. This must include a specific statement of our willingness to set aside union prerogatives where ever they conflict with equal employment rights.
2) We should develop a campaign to expose the trend toward shutting down industry in the inner-city and . shifting it to the suburbs, perhaps focussing a national organizing effort on the scheme to "decentralize" the postal system.
3)We should organize to defeat the Rodino Bill and its various local versions, and to stop the deportation raids on undocumented workers.
We believe such a program is a vital necessity in order to develop among the working class as a whole the unity and will to fight effectively for useful jobs for all.