Lenin & Trotsky on the Irish Easter rebellion

jones/bhandari djones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Thu Apr 6 03:38:21 MDT 1995

Louis wrote:

>. Phenomena such as black and latino nationalism, feminism,
>gay liberation, etc. are not pure expressions of proletarian militancy.
>They incorporate all sorts of reactionary fantasies, weaknesses and
>errors, but those in the US left, who like Radek, stand on the sidelines
>and cluck their tongues at these inchoate movements, are also
>missing the essential point. The Marxist movement does not set the
>terms of the class-struggle. It must participate wholeheartedly and
>unselfishly. That is the way capitalism will be eventually defeated.

As  Marxists confront the problems of race and racism, I recommend the book
by Yehudi Webster The Racialization of America (NY:St. Martin's Press,
1992), with which I think I do not ultimately agree. He argues

"official racial classification and studies of racial experiences do
nothing but render social problems insoluble.  Racial solutions, such as
busing, affirmative action, black power, and multiculturalism, are bound to
fail, because they heighten the very racial awareness that is said to have
led to 'racial problems' in the first place.  Their failure is then
conceived as proof that race is a hardened reality that has "a life of its
own".  Violent confrontations often emerge from the stalemate, and escale
into large-scale conflagarations.  The periodic death and destruction,
however, pale into insignificance compared to the chronic maiming of human
beings, which is misnamed racial violence, racial oppression, and racial
poverty.  Racial classification of social problems is the principal source
of the tolerance of waste and human destruction in American society.  This
conclusion does not imply that were it to be abandoned, social problems
would disappear. Rather, the implication is that once racial classification
is discarded, conclusive analyses can be developed on whose basis solutions
could be constructed.  Racially defined problems, by definition, cannot be
resolved."  (p21)

As I understand it, Patrick Mason and Howard Botwinick--two students of
Anwar Shaikh's--have attempted to demonstrate persistent inequalities in
the labor market: within firms, among firms w/i the same branch, between
sectors and of course between workers and the industrial reserve of labor
and surplus populations. This creates the possibility that the allocation
of people within this uneven terrain will be carried out according to
racial and gender categories in which, no matter how unreal, people will be
fitted for the purposes of allocation.  What may be a social problem then
is the categorization and confinement of people to positions of persistent
inequality by (the creation  and distribution of people into the categories
of) race and gender.

The fight against discrimination, i.e., the relegation of some people to
the worst social positions through their inclusion in stigmatized
categories, would then only be a step, though a necessary one, to the
possibility of the united class action which alone can generate sufficient
social power to transform bourgeois society.  If anti-racism is guided by
such a goal, I do not see how it could be the principal source of
tolerance for  waste and human destruction, as Webster puts it.  Perhaps
this is where Louis' Leninist-minded Marxists could intervene.

 It could be that racial classification is a practice that has arisen in
order to allocate people as demanded by these  persistent inequalities,
just as the formation of the universal equivalent was driven by  commodity

If race is a practice,  this requires not a classificatory change but the
formation of a truly abstract labor force through anti-discrimination
legislation and affirmative action, the purpose of which would be to remove
the disadvantages of forcible ghettoization and social isolation, both of
which are impediments to the formation of abstract labor as a real category
and social force.

 It is true that this may seem to foment race consciousness among workers,
instead of class consciousness, but not if we intervene, as Louis suggests,
in the formation of a true social class which sees its task of social
revolution as  possible only through its own self-conscious unity,
achieved by *its own efforts* to counteract the persistent intra-class
inequalities generated by capital accumulation.

has anyone read Botwinick's or Mason's work?


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