REVOLUTION does not believe that racism is just part of human nature. If that were true, there would be no point in fighting back against all the injustice that racism causes. Instead we believe that racism is part and parcel of the capitalist profit system.
The rich businessmen that rule Britain made millions and millions of pounds from these colonies. They stole food, minerals and precious stones. They enslaved millions of Africans and transported them to America and the West Indies in the slave trade. They forced millions of Africans and Indians to work for very low wages, and they made enormous profits as a result.
When the victims of this system fought back, the British army crushed them using the best weapons technology could create. For years they steadfastly refused to meet the demands of the colonial peoples for independence. At Amritsar in India in 1919, the British Army shot down hundreds of Indian men, women and children in a bloody massacre.
At home the British ruling class tried to present themselves as democrats and “good Christians”. But in the Empire the people were denied any rights at all.
To justify this, the capitalists developed the ideas of modern racism.
To explain why the British and European colonialists had the “right” to trade in slaves as if they were cattle, and to kill them like animals, the colonialists had to pretend that black people were not really human.
Theories started to appear suggesting that black people were really closer to apes than humans These lies became very deep-rooted; we still hear echoes of these sick ideas in racist taunts in the playground and the classroom today.
Books claiming to be “scientific” appeared in the 1800s trying to ‘prove” that black people were inferior.
This was the same as the books circulated by the Nazis which argued that Jews were “subhuman”. The same arguments appear today in the writings of US psychologists who claim that black people are “naturally” less intelligent.
It is all lies. It is nothing more than an excuse for oppression and mass murder.
The British Empire came to an end in the years after the Second World War. Today – with a handful of exceptions – Britain does not rule over its old colonies directly. But Britain, along with France, America and other prosperous advanced countries, still has the main say in the running of the former colonies.
Big western companies decide what is produced and where. They force whole countries to produce things for the West, not for themselves. The former colonies have to pay off massive debts to the Western banks, which keeps them stuck in terrible poverty.
The ‘advanced’ countries are still imperialists, exploiting the Third World and keeping millions below the poverty line. The former colonies are independent in nothing more than name: they are semi colonies.
And how do the imperialists explain away the terrible poverty and suffering that their system causes? Through racism, of course.
They blame it all on the people of Africa and India themselves, for their “backwardness”, “laziness”, “corruption” and so on. And when people try to escape from this awful situation and come to the West, they keep them out with racist laws.
That is why we say that capitalism created racism, and keeps it going today. Racism is the capitalists’ excuse for hundreds of years of crimes against black people.
Divide and rule
There is another reason why the capitalists spread racist ideas: to keep the working class divided.
It’s simple if you think about it. The capitalists have to blame somebody for all the problems their system creates. So they blame the victims. Black people become the scapegoats for the ills of capitalism.
These ideas can take a hold because many white workers want to keep themselves ‘one step above’ their black brothers and sisters.
Slightly higher wages, slightly better chances of getting a job or promotion, slightly better housing – all these things – according to racist ideas – need to be defended’ against the claims of black people.
But the cost of defending the racist system is high for white workers too. Racist ideas weaken the struggles of all workers, including whites.
One report from American experts proved that where black workers suffer discrimination or lower wages than whites, the bosses will use this to push down all wages. In areas where there is less discrimination, wages of all workers will tend to be higher. Unity is strength.
Some black activists believe that white workers are so corrupted by racism that there is no chance of a united fight against the system. Instead they argue for a separate black struggle against racism. This is understandable given the long history of racism in Britain, and the racist actions of the Labour Party. In government in the past Labour has brought in racist immigration controls, and today Tony Blair supports increased powers for the racist police. But separatism is no answer to this.
Black people make up at most 6% of the population. This is just not enough to overthrow the root cause of racism – the capitalist system and the state that defends it. But the working class as a whole – black and white – makes up the overwhelming majority of the population. United in struggle the working class could bring the whole racist system crashing down.
And workers can unite.
During the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984, many miners who had previously been very racist discovered that black workers were among their most determined supporters.
The money collected in support of the miners in black communities was enormous. The miners suffered under extreme violence from the police throughout the strike, and this caused them to see police harassment of black youth in a different light.
As one miner told black delegates to the miners’ support committee in Birmingham: “Now we know what you have had to put up with. You have supported us. In the future we must support you.”
Unity of black and white workers will not happen automatically – it will have to be fought for. One way of fighting for it is black self-organisation within the workers’ movement – like the black workers caucuses and conferences in the unions. But neither Labour nor black separatism has the answers that can unite black and white workers.
Instead we have to build up a revolutionary youth movement and a new revolutionary working class party, to unite black and white workers in the fight for:
- An end to all discrimination in housing, education and jobs.
- Organised self-defence against police, racist and fascist attacks.
- The abolition of all immigration controls, an end to all deportations of black people and the closure of the Campsfield Detention centre.
- Cancel the Debts of the Third World countries to Western banks.
- For a united working class fight against the system that causes racism: the capitalist profit system.