Black, Brown, White — Unite and Fight!

September 21, 2001

Speech given at the 27th National Convention of the CPUSA

The fight against the capitalist class enemy, against the ultra-right danger which threatens even limited bourgeois democracy, requires the highest levels of all people’s unity. Without higher levels of multi-racial and multi-national working class, Black, Brown, white unity, the fight to build all people’s unity, will be stymied.

The working class has nothing to lose but its chains and nothing but unity and organization to gain its freedom. Winning or losing the fight to curb the power of monopoly corporations, for working-class political independence and socialism, in the end depends upon the highest levels of unity, and therefore every democratic force must stand rock solid in the fight against racism, chauvinism and national oppression. It is in the self-interest of all working people – white, Black, Latino, Asian, American Indian – to take up this fight. There is no avoiding it. This fight is a complex, multi-layered process. Yet it is possible to win victories, and absolutely necessary.

Racism and national oppression arose with capitalism. It has features unique to our country. Its origins are with the enslavement of Africans, the theft of lands from Mexico, the extermination of the Native American Indians, and US imperialist domination in Central and South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Our nation came into being part and parcel with the development of our multi-racial, multi-national working class. This coexistence of class exploitation and racism is expressed in Rev. Martin Luther King’s famous dictum “the race hater is also a labor baiter.”

Racism is reflected in specific patterns of national oppression practiced against African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans, Arabs and other oppressed minorities that require specific responses.

The struggle for equality of each oppressed community adds something special to the overall fight against racism. At the same time we have to find the commonalities and the intertwining links between all the struggles for equality. Together they form a powerful force. In present day monopoly capitalist society, racism, chauvinism, anti-Semitism, sexism, and homophobia are ruling class instruments to divide the multi-racial working class, extract super profits, and justify imperialist aggression and colonial domination.

Racism demobilizes and desensitizes those it influences. It disarms the working class in the face of ruling class oppression. The most unequal, unjustifiable and horrendous treatment becomes justified; the most obscene and inhuman becomes acceptable.

Institutionalized racism results in nationally and racially oppressed communities having the lowest standards of living, the highest levels of joblessness and poverty, the worst health, housing, schools, working conditions, services, infrastructures and environmental conditions. The 2000 census proves that our multi-racial, multi-national, male and female working class has become dramatically more diverse. The character of every area and region, urban and rural alike, is changing dramatically. This is especially true of the growing Latino and Asian populations due to millions of new immigrant workers. California, New Mexico and Hawaii are now composed of majority nationally and racially oppressed communities. In Los Angeles and New York there are hundreds of nationalities and hundreds of languages spoken. Most cities, towns and communities are quilt works of nationalities. Over 50% of the 100 largest cities are majority nationally and racially oppressed.

The accumulation of wealth in capitalist society is based on the drive for maximum rate of profit. Super exploitation of workers in slave-like conditions are found especially in developing countries. This pattern is reproduced here among immigrant workers mainly from those same countries. The struggle against racism and national oppression in the new era of globalization is linked to the fight against US imperialist economic and colonial domination and aggression, against US national chauvinism, for peace and environmental justice and thus for immigrant rights. It requires higher levels of international working-class solidarity. The corporate ruling class constantly conjures up new forms of racism as the old forms wear thin and are exposed under the flood lights of class and democratic struggle. Racism becomes more clever, insidious and virulent to counter increasing class consciousness.

The new forms of racist ideology are inexplicably tied to the new features of capitalist economic development: the new level of monopoly corporate mergers, concentration of wealth, and globalization. It is related and associated to the ultra right danger.

But the new forms are often regurgitated old tried and true methods, including brutal forms employing every lever of state monopoly corporate power.

The epidemic of racist police brutality and racial profiling is deeply embedded in the historic racism of the police departments. Many are infested with KKK members who commit crimes with impunity. These roots can be traced to slavery when law enforcement hunted escaped slaves. Similar roots exist in today’s militarization of the US -Mexico border and the vigilantes who hunt down Mexican immigrant workers. The struggle against racism is being waged in the new political realities of the raw racism of the White House, but also the new defensiveness of the Bush administration. The Jeffords switch removed Trent Lott, a Klansman, from the Senate Majority Speaker’s position.

Forms of racism can be found in every area of life, including the mass voter disenfranchisement, criminalization of racially oppressed communities, the racist criminal justice system (which uses African Americans and other nationally oppressed youth as profit fodder for the prison industrial complex), the use of the death penalty and the destruction of affirmative action.

Despite the growing multi-racial character of our urban areas, housing patterns and schools remain highly segregated. With the elimination of affirmative action, colleges and professions are becoming more segregated. Yet the sharpening class struggle is also producing new levels of unity. The need for unity is glaringly apparent in the face of massive monopoly concentration and exploitation.

The new AFL-CIO leadership understands this. It is working to present a multi-racial image, expand organizing among the nationally and racially oppressed and build alliances with oppressed communities. There is a growing anti-racist consciousness as a result of the widespread exposure and struggle against racist profiling and police brutality, the struggle against the confederate flag, the racist implementation of the death penalty, inequality in the criminal justice system, and the mass disenfranchisement of voters. There is greater anti-racist consciousness stemming from the victory of the Chavez holiday. The new role of all oppressed minorities in the production process is reflected in the new role racially oppressed workers and their communities are playing in all labor and peoples movements, coalitions and struggles. The involvement of the Latino community in the fight against the confederate flag in South Carolina advanced class unity. The nationwide multi-racial coalition, especially in the Deep South, in defense of the Charleston 5 also advances class unity.

The ruling class is also aware of this growing unity. It is working overtime to create splits, particularly among oppressed groups, as in the Los Angeles mayoral elections. There are special efforts to pit immigrant workers against other racially oppressed communities, which will intensify as the economic downturn worsens.

The fight for unity and for civil rights today is taking place in a changed atmosphere. Victories are possible but to be effective the struggle against racism has to be waged on specific issues and extended to all areas of social life.

The fight against racism must be part and parcel of every demand and every social movement. For example, the fight for working-class political independence goes hand-in-hand with advances in political representation for oppressed communities.

The development of unity cannot be taken for granted. It will not happen by magic or on its own. It must be consciously fought for at every step, at every turn, every day, without fail by individuals, groups, organizations, communities and the working class as a whole. Without constant vigilance and struggle, racism seeps into the ranks of the working class, confuses, disrupts and disarms.

Understanding and acting on the need for unity arises with the growing class and anti-monopoly consciousness. White workers fight racism when they understand their self-interest is tied to the interest of their multi-racial, multi-national class.

Fighting racism is not only a good and moral thing to do, it is the necessary thing to do to fight the bosses, for the expansion of democracy and for the betterment of all humanity. The interests of all workers – Black, Brown and white – are bound up in the fight for unity and equality. Communists to this day have a proud tradition in the fight against racism. But no organization or its members can rest on their laurels. We must win our stripes anew every day. Without constant vigilance and struggle against racism, we too are vulnerable to its influences.

Communists belong in the front ranks of the fight, especially in the grassroots and rank and file trenches, where racism has a million practical everyday expressions. Communists play a unique role in the struggle against racism. We show racism is a product of the capitalist system. This outlook inspires broad multi-racial unity.

Confronting our class enemy means confronting racism. Today’s struggle demands a higher level of awareness, sensitivity, understanding and most of all – initiative.

Higher consciousness leads to timely and militant action to expose ruling class racist practice and ideology as we fight to unfold the advanced initiatives of labor and the broad people’s coalition. Comrades and clubs can be and are initiators, a leading force in their neighborhoods, campuses or workplaces in mobilizing broad public sentiment to act, to confront, expose, and to deal a death blow to racism. Communists can make an indispensable contribution to the cause of freedom for all of humanity.




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