[Marxism] Re: white chauvinism

Peter Goselin pgoselin at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 18 12:32:09 MDT 2004

In the one year that I have been on this list, I have
posted once -- to disagree with a contributor about
the legal definition of libel.  Folks who know me and
my tendency to argue and debate (both in person and on
listservs) would doubtless be surprised to hear that I
could go for a year without putting in my two cents. 
Truly, it has not been difficult because I have found
that the little bit of time I have is spent entirely
reading, thinking about, digesting, and reading some
more of the contributions here.  On account of some of
the discussions here, I actually did go back and
re-read Marx and Lenin...understanding them
differently and (I like to think) more profoundly on
the basis of the insights that contributors to this
list have provided.

I join with Lou Paulsen in expressing dismay at the
direction that this discussion has taken.  I suppose
that could be seen as predictable since I was a WWP
member for a number of years and continue to be a
strong supporter.  But the discussion about white
chauvinism and the attempt to shut down participants
from oppressed groups because of their use of that
term reminds me very very clearly of how I became
associated with WWP in the first place.

In the early 1980's I was a sort of radical
social-democrat activist with little or no knowledge
or understanding of marxism.  I was in the Socialist
Party, which at the time was, ironically, involved in
"regroupment" discussions with Soldarity, the people
who published Against the Current, and a group called
International Socialists (I don't even know for sure
what happened to them...they were not the same as the
ISO, though).  It was at the point that I started to
notice how thoroughly and disturbingly white our ranks
were that I began to question whether we were doing
enough as "revolutionaries" (so I saw myself) to
challenge racism.

That's when I first heard a Workers World Party member
talking about listening to people of color and other
opppressed groups, and taking them seriously and
respecting their perceptions of their oppression.  It
was largely for that reason that I was won over to
WWP.  During my time in and around WWP I don't recall
any leading white (male, straight) comrade ever
patronizing a person of color with whom they disagreed
. . . but I do recall that often a response would be
carefully calculated (in my observation) to answer the
content of the area of disagreement, while not, as Lou
Pa says, reacting defensively or rejecting the
speaker's perception of racism.

At this point, I guess I've been around enough to know
that people have many different communication styles. 
I've learned that I have to listen differently to
Melvin than to Louis Proyect, for instance.  One
doesn't communicate better than the other, but very
differently.  But I find it very troubling to read
that the list moderator and several of its otherwise
wonderful contributors really think that it is
possible to simultaneously welcome members of
oppressed groups into the discussion, while at the
same time censoring their responses to what they see
as racism, white chauvinism, or whatever you wish to
call it.

This is an unattractive conundrum.  There are many
contexts in which I would have responded to this level
of insensitivity and the discomfort it creates (for
others and for me) by simply leaving.  But I feel I
have learned a great deal here and that the same
people who make me feel uncomfortable are also serious
revolutionaries from whom I would like to continue to

- Peter Goselin

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