Racism

Ron Press anclondon at gn.apc.org
Tue Apr 11 21:31:00 MDT 1995


  Hi
  >>>>>>>>>> From: Justin Schwartz
  <jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us

  I would have hoped that someone else would bite on a discussion
  of affirmative action in this context. Do we want to talk about
  the determination of consciousness by social being? Here's a
  concrete case. Do we want to discuss interests and overlapping
  group membership? No better case could present itself. And this
  one matters in terms of concrete politics. As Scott says, it is
  even possible we could win this one. So let's hear it, eh?

  rom: Scott Marshall <Scott at rednet.org

  But more fundementally if you can show the white worker that
  racism and prejudice "thus increase 'capitalist' domination over
  himeslf" then you are getting at his broader class self
  interest.

			     <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

  I would like to give a quick rundown of how racism came to South
  Africa.

  It was originally populated by black people. The whites came in
  1632. They stole the cattle and established a settlement. As
  they say 9 months later the first coloured people arrived. There
  was no real racism as such. There followed a number of wars of
  expansion by the white colonists. In many of these wars the
  white "tribe" made alliances with the black tribes. There is
  also the story of how some whites got shipwrecked of the coast
  and integrated with the local Xosa people.

  There were not enough whites to eliminate the blacks or to even
  try. Unlike the USA.

  Later trade unions were formed. These were mostly of skilled
  trades such as printing. There were no black trades unions as
  such. The black workers were mostly migrant and had ties to the
  land.

  Later the real industrialisation started with the discovery of
  diamonds and later gold. The miners who came were mostly from
  Australia. They were not organised workers but rather
  prospectors and freelance. They had brought their racism with
  them from Australia where they had come up against the
  aborigines.

  The trade unions quickly developed racial characteristics. The
  mine owners wanted cheap labour and wanted to employ blacks in
  skilled jobs. The white workers went on strike against black
  advancement. Or rather as it was put by their leaders a
  civilised wage for a civilised man. Or no replacement by cheap
  labour. On a number of accessions the black workers went on
  strike and they called on the white workers to help them, always
  in vain. When the whites went on strike they refused to ask or
  have the assistance of the black workers.

  The socialists of the time sought in vain to bring the two
  groups of workers together.

  After the 1922 white miners strike there was elections and the
  labour party and the white nationalists won at the elections and
  racial separation in the workplace was institutionalised. Of
  course the British who won the Boer war against the white
  nationalists had already agreed to a South African independence
  constitution which gave the whites the vote but not the blacks.

  The ANC had been formed in 1912. It was preceded by the African
  Peoples Organisation. So South Africa was on the path to a
  racially divided society.


  ****************** Well I put this history before you because it
  would be difficult to disentangle which came first racism within
  the working class or racism fostered by the capitalist class in
  order to divide.
  ****************** The egg or the chicken.

  Well to go on with the history. A battle ensued for and against
  racism in the trade unions and in the political movements. The
  Communist Party ( Although in the early days there was a strong
  white membership and leadership) quickly became a black lead
  organisation but non racist. White and black from an early stage
  were welcome and equal. ( Remember however they were human and
  there were problems) The ANC was a black organisation with no
  white membership. But to its credit it was never a racist
  organisation. In fact it worked even in the early days with the
  SACP and as you know at the Kabwe conference opened the
  membership to all races.

  People like Bram Fisher, Dr Dadoo, and many others were prime
  examples of whites and Indians who fought for democracy. These
  lessons were not lost on the ANC or the people they represented.

  Still racism grew in state circles. Interestingly enough within
  the trade unions the government had to bring in legislation to
  reinforce the ever present racism.

  In the Textile Workers Union in the middle 1950's we had white
  workers from Italy who joined the union when they were brought
  out to start a knitwear factory. A year later they had organised
  the African workers. Two years later they started their own
  branch. When the Government brought in legislation against mixed
  executives, ie not African-white but (coloured, Indian)-white
  they left the union. Ie racism slowly took hold.

  But circumstances sometimes alter cases. In the late 1980's (
  the race separation in  the unions had been repealed under
  international and local pressure) there were a number of
  instances where white engineering workers left the all white
  union and joined the non racial union "Because they fought for
  their members unlike the white unions"

  Today there is no racist legislation but there are still all
  white trade unions. I however know of no all black trade unions.

  It is a long struggle, over 300 years and we are not quite there
  yet.

  Now about what you in the USA call AA.
  ************* We are wrestling with this now. We feel that it is
  not discrimination in reverse. We feel that after 300 years the
  their has been caught. It is not enough to pardon him on the
  basis of confessing his crimes and saying he will not do it
  again. The victim must at least have recompense. We are not even
  saying that the criminals must return their loot. ( Although
  some say they should) but those discriminated against must at a
  minimum be given a leg up the ladder.
  *************

  We are getting stiff resistance. Not necessarily from the white
  workers. Some liberals resist, some capitalists. It is mixed.

  Now the USA is different, the relative numbers are different,
  but there are parallels.

  And what of the future when the third world comes knocking more
  loudly on the door. After all the rubbish America throws away
  each day could keep the third world fed clothed and educated for
  weeks. Gatt, passport controls, and boarder police are but a
  symptom of the problem of race discrimination on a world scale.

  Ron Press


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