How is unity built?

Stu Shafer sshafer at
Sun Oct 8 09:22:59 MDT 1995

At 03:51 AM 10/8/95 -0400, Jerry wrote:
>Yes, it's true that unity is needed. Yes, it's true that our class
>enemies like to see workers divided. How is unity built?

I agree. This is the practical question.

>This is one of the oldest, most important, and heated divides in the
>history of the working class. It is an issue that has separated Marxists
>since Marx and continues to do so today.

This is what I was trying to suggest in my earlier note. And divide-and-rule
is the oldest and most successful strategy in the history of domination. My
point was that the ruling class alone benefits from these divisions, and, in
fact, actively encourages them. Clearly, reporters are not part of the
ruling class. But they know who butters their bread when their reports serve
the interests of exacerbating the conflicts among the masses. (Within the
limits, of course, of not destabilizing the system.)

>Historically, there have been two major positions:
>Position One:
>Proletarian struggles are all-important. Other struggles (e.g. by oppressed
>nationalities, women, etc.) should be supported but must take second
>place to unity. In the past in the US, this position has said that
>struggles by African-Americans are not only less important than working
>class struggles per se, but in some cases should be opposed because they
>will promote disunity in the working class. In other cases, women are
>told that their demands are less important than working class struggles
>or the demands of African-Americans. They are told not, for instance,
>to critisize sexism in the trade union movement or the Black community.
>Why? Only our class enemies benefit from such divisions.
>Position Two:
>Real unity can not be built by denying the legitimate demands of oppressed
>nationalities, women, gays, etc. We, as Marxists, have a responsibility
>to build unity by supporting these struggles and must, consequently,
>condemn racism, sexism etc. both from the capitalists and the capitalist
>state AND within the working class and oppressed communities. Where we
>ignore real divisions and refuse to condemn racism, sexism, etc. we
>undermine the *real* prospects for unity. We also undermine our own
>credibility as revolutionaries.
>I am a supporter of "position two." I believe that "position one" has
>*greatly* hurt efforts for organizing and unity.

Thanks for this summary of the two lines. I am also a supporter of position
two. I would add that condemnations of racism, sexism, etc. are not
necessarily mutually exclusive positions. We can condemn Furhman's racism,
OJ's sexism, and the power of money in the "just-us" system, all
simultaneously, without falling into the trap of taking sides on whether
O.J. was guilty. And credibility as revolutionaries depends on our
willingness to practice self-criticism as well as criticism. We should be
willing to recognize the racism, sexism, and other forms of bias built into
our individual consciousnesses by all the years of socialization under
ruling class ideology.

That said, my main point yesterday was that until the ruling class is
defeated, the capitalist state replaced, and we begin the protracted
struggle to build socialism and, eventually, communism, can we ever hope to
have the means to finally resolve the contradictions among the people (and,
I would add, between human society and nature). That doesn't mean we hold
the struggle against racism, sexism, etc. in abeyance until the "working
class" wins (i.e., position one). Who is the working class, anyway? Male,
female, black, white, brown, gay, straight . . . It is through the practice
of building unity among the masses in the struggle against our common enemy
that we lay the groundwork for the successful resolution of the
contradictions among ourselves.

- Stu

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