The Urgency of NOW: African Americans and Women

BY:Dee Miles| April 8, 2019
The Urgency of NOW: African Americans and Women

We Are the Same AND Different

The draft Party program examines African Americans and women in the US in our traditional Leninist framework. It argues not only are African Americans and women overwhelmingly members of the working class, but both are also members of social groups that are considered special questions.  A special question stands along side the class question and means in addition to the exploitation experienced by ALL workers, African American and women workers also experience other forms of oppression with members of their group who are not of the working class. National and racial oppression are experienced by all African Americans regardless of class because they are an oppressed race,  nationality, and people. Oppression as a gender is experienced by all women regardless of class precisely because they are women.

This means as workers even when African Americans and women perform the same work as others, they are paid less; they are segregated into certain fields of work and relegated to the lowest and lower pay grades. We refer to all of this as extra exploitation. For workers who are women of color, we talk about extra, extra exploitation, which sounds ridiculous but is an accurate depiction of the ridiculousness of real life in capitalist USA.

All workers experience exploitation, and we are the same in that sense. We are different in that some of us experience added oppression based on race, nationality, and/or gender. That difference makes a difference to our ability to struggle together in unity. Struggling to be woke, struggling to build class and socialist consciousness through active participation in united fightback and engaging in the battle of ideas, is the winning path to advanced democracy and socialism. We can develop class pride in our variation and not an illusion of simple sameness.


In Unity There Is POWER

The new draft program talks about struggling for unity for the purpose of amassing the power to win against a formidable capitalist ruling class.  We talk about fighting for the unity of the working class within itself (the organized conscious unity of black, brown, red, yellow and white workers, of male and female workers, as well as of workers across generations). We talk about the unity across class lines of each oppressed people within itself to amass even greater power to fight for equality and democracy.  We talk about the unity between the various nationalities of oppressed people based on common interest, without ignoring but embracing cultural and language differences. We talk about the unity of all women in the struggle for equality and against oppression, male supremacy, and misogyny.

We talk about the unity of African Americans, the whole people, with the working class and the unity of the whole of women with the working class. The Party program talks about all of these different kinds and levels of unity in struggle as being the real interest of the working class movement. These unified groups beyond the working class engaged historically in powerful independent organized movements are allies that are organically related to the working class.  That organic relation is based on the real objective interests of each grouping as a whole partly because of common membership of working class people in each, but also because of common interest and the common enemy of capitalism.  It’s an objective common interest and capitalism is the objective common enemy; capitalism will not and cannot free African Americans or women. Only the multi-racial, multi-national, multi-gender, multi-generational working class movement consciously united within itself and with all of its allies will truly free us of exploitation and oppression and bring us socialism. This is an objective truth.


On African Americans

A very interesting document, concerning major forms of inequality including class, race, and gender, is,  Growing Apart: A Political History of American Inequality; we have to create the space to examine this document both for content, style, and form.  From the report, 50 Years After the Kernner Commission, though the educational levels and wages of African Americans have increased over the last 50 years, home ownership has stayed the same:  in 1968 home ownership for African Americans was 41.1 % and in 2016, it was 41.2 %. For working class people, if there is any wealth, it is usually in the form of homeownership. Even more stark was the incarceration rate: in 1968, it was 604 out of 100,000 African Americans; in 2016, it was 1,730 out of 100,000.

Related is the issue of prison labor.  In many instances, prison labor is less costly than cheap labor abroad. The impact of prison labor on jobs and wages, but also as the impetus to incarcerate masses has to be examined. The issues of voter suppression, police brutality, and the institutionalized racism of the criminal justice system are all of major concern to people of color, African Americans especially, and the whole of the working class.


White Workers: Is the Grass Really Much Greener

Though wealth comparisons can help us understand the racial and national oppression of a people, they give the false impression that white workers are doing very well; yet, we know there is massive suffering in capitalist USA.  We have to do the work to decipher the truth which partially comes through when you look at low wage workers.

The fight to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would increase the pay for 38.1% of Black workers and 23.4 % of white workers.  Today, front line workers in the auto industry are low wage workers because of wage declines, and they are 67% male and 58 % white.  Retail, fast food, and childcare workers are significantly white, female, and low wage. We have to get at the truth. Between 1980 and 2014, the income of working class people fell by 25%, but the income for the very very top of the 1% increased by 600%.  We have to have an accurate picture of all sectors of our working class devoid of statistical bloating.

In response to our actual conditions, the following issues become urgent: childcare and paid family leave; jobs creation; wage increases; the right to organize; and a shorter work week.  These are working class issues especially important to women because women are now 1/2 of the workforce: 79% of women who work have children under 18, and 75% of those women who work with children under 18 work full time.  Artificial intelligence and automation will cause big job losses in fields most heavily populated by African American and women workers, and African Americans (and other people of color) along with women are more likely to be employed in low wage jobs. Union jobs pay more and have better benefits.  A shorter work week with no pay cut seemed like a pipe dream but is a realistic solution to massive job losses, which can also provide more leisure time for all workers.

In today’s political climate, these real solutions are referred to as socialist, and Trump argues socialist programs carry with them restrictions on the freedoms and rights of the individual.  Anti-socialist red baiting has the goal of fomenting deep division within the working class against people helping programs, policies, legislation, and institutions.   Racism, male supremacy, misogyny, and LGBTQ phobia also have the goal of fomenting division to weaken the ability of the working class along with its allies to win. Growing class and socialist consciousness in the process of struggle is the weapon to help build unity to strengthen and enable us to move forward together in the fight for equality and the advance of democracy and socialism.


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