Black Nationalism and the Struggle for Self Determination

Workers Action

A Statement by Workers Action

The Experience of Race

The scourge of racism pervades our society, even as we step into the 21st century, although not in the blatant form of past decades. Vicious racists now feel somewhat compelled to restrain themselves, although with exceptions, and the more mild versions of racism are not so much publicly articulated as unconsciously expressed.

We have a perverse culture when it comes to race. Whites and Blacks experience their designated racial category in diametrically opposite ways, not because of some intrinsic characteristic inherent within each race, but because each race, in part, is defined by the attitudes of the other.

For example, since whites have not as a rule been victimized by racism, when asked what they think about race, they will often respond that they are not aware of it and, with a touch of moral superiority, are puzzled why Blacks seem almost fixated on it. Of course, no one has forced the white population to become aware of its race. For whites, their own race is experienced more like the color of one’s eyes when looking out at the world; it simply isn’t noticed at all.

Blacks find themselves in a rather different situation. Whites have directed their racism towards Blacks on both conscious, intentional levels and subconscious, unintentional levels. And consequently Blacks experience themselves on almost a daily basis as members of a race. Whether because of the elderly white woman who clutches her purse when passing a Black man on the sidewalk, or a white sales clerk especially watching Black customers to guard against shoplifting, or an employer who hires a white applicant over a more qualified Black applicant, Blacks experience themselves as members of a race.

In a Detroit study conducted in 1999 to measure racism in hiring, a Black and white member of the study were sent out to apply for completely unskilled jobs so that any skill level was entirely irrelevant to the position. The white applicant secured a job after an average of 91 hours while the Black applicant required an average of 167 hours. During those additional 76 hours, Blacks experience themselves as belonging to a race.

Because our neighborhoods are to a large degree segregated, whites and Blacks rarely have the opportunity to discuss their conflicting experiences of race. And the mass media almost never reports what it means to be Black in America today.

Consequently two levels of separation are wedged between whites and Blacks. Because whites are not themselves the victims of racism, they are ignorant of the experience of belonging to a race. They know intellectually that they belong to a race, but it is not something they experience and feel. But Blacks have been forced into this experience as a defining moment of their lives. This is why we sometimes speak of “the Black community” but almost never of “the white community” and why Blacks constitute “a people” while whites do not. Racism has established an indelible bond among Blacks and has set them apart.

But in addition to this level of separation, a second level intrudes which doubles the separation. Whites as a rule have little to no knowledge of the abundant racism directed at Blacks. For whites, the racism is invisible. Consequently white liberals, for example, attribute the failure of Blacks to attain the same economic level as whites to poor schools, lack of proper training, or even to the lack of the will to “succeed” because of the legacy of slavery. All the blame is placed on the past; none of it on the present. White liberals consequently want to “help” Blacks through tutoring programs, job training, etc., but they constantly fail to appreciate the current role of racism as an explanatory factor of inequality. This ignorance of the racism Blacks experience therefore constitutes the second level of separation because Blacks note disapprovingly that whites do not bother to see what for them is blatantly obvious.

The Historical Context

During the late 1950s and through much of the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement made giant strides in dismantling many forms of discrimination. But it did not succeed in eradicating racism root and branch, nor could it. In the final analysis racism is generated and nurtured by the system of capitalism that continually worships greed and profit while trampling on human needs. Racism plays a double role in the service of capitalists. First, it allows Blacks and people of other races to be paid less, which directly translates into higher profits for the capitalists. Second, and perhaps more important to capitalists, by treating workers differently, the bosses create divisions and resentments within the working class and therefore undermine class solidarity, which is indispensable in the struggle for higher wages, etc., not to mention socialist revolution.

Because of its failure to eliminate racism, the Civil Rights movement spawned a more militant version of itself, the Black Power movement and Black nationalism, including Malcolm X, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Black Panther Party, all drawing tremendous support from within the Black community, especially youth, and additionally from some whites. With its explosive impact on the general culture, for example, through such songs as “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” it raised the consciousness of both Blacks and whites. Universities were forced to establish Black Studies Programs on their campuses by students who embraced Black nationalism, and these programs proceeded to change the culture of the universities. Emphasizing Black pride, the movement reversed the liberal analysis that Blacks themselves, due to their special history, were somehow deficient. The movement turned on white liberals and accused them of the more subtle forms of racism that took the form of paternalism and condescension. Embracing the notion that Black liberation could only be achieved by Blacks themselves, not well wishing whites, proponents of Black Power organizationally restructured the movement so that Blacks would no longer be led by whites. The goal was now self-liberation.

Here are examples of this sentiment from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) “Position Paper on Black Power” of 1966:

“The myth that the Negro is somehow incapable of liberating himself, is lazy, etc., came out of the American experience.”

“Negroes in this country have never been allowed to organize themselves because of white interference.”

“What does it mean if black people, once having the right to organize, are not allowed to organize themselves? It means that blacks’ ideas about inferiority are being reinforced… Further (white participation) means in the eyes of the black community that whites are the ‘brains’.”

The National Question and Self-Determination

In order to broach the national question, we must place it in the proper context.

Marxist revolutionaries fight for world revolution, not socialism in one country. We know full well that an entirely isolated socialist country does not by itself have the necessary economic resources to provide its population with a comfortable standard of living, free from the stress of poverty and deprivation. Moreover, isolated socialist countries are inevitably the victims of imperialism’s aggressions, either through direct military intervention or economic embargoes, both of which in turn lower the standard of living of those in the “socialist” country.

Consequently, as revolutionaries we fight to unite the world’s proletariat. Only together can we definitively overthrow capitalism, tear down national borders, and create an economic system that is dedicated to serving the interests of humanity, not profits for the super rich. We condemn going to war against another country in order to defend “our national interests” because, in the final analysis, these interests always turn out to be corporate interests, not our interests. We fight U.S. imperialism, which seeks to dominate other countries for economic gain. And when workers in other countries are attacked by their own ruling class, we protest.

The Marxist approach to nationalism is consequently constructed with the goal of maximizing world working class unity. If national self-determination in the form of separation promotes international working class unity, then we support it; if it undermines this unity, then we oppose it. For this reason, no simple formula can provide us with the correct position. Each situation must be analyzed on its own terms in order to determine which path to follow. However, general considerations can serve as a guide.

Because the nation-state, as a product of capitalism, has historically brought diverse people together within a single border, it has served to unify working people on a much larger scale than the system of feudalism, which was divided into small principalities. In this respect, capitalism has played a progressive role in relation to feudalism. It would be regressive to return to principalities.

But when capitalism reached its highest stage of imperialism, its rapacious greed for profit sent it scurrying around the globe, defeating entirely foreign countries, incorporating them into its empire, and then ruthlessly exploiting them. Here the victims in Africa, Asia, and the Americas felt that they had little in common with their new imperialist masters. And the Marxist analysis of the national question had to assume a correspondingly nuanced version. Given Russian imperialism and the scope of its empire prior to the revolution, the Bolsheviks were compelled to provide an analysis, and Lenin took the lead.

But first, a few comments about terms. When oppressed people have involuntarily been incorporated into an imperialist nation’s empire, the oppressed have generally responded with resentment and resistance, which in turn has translated into a struggle for some form of “self-determination.” This struggle for self-determination has frequently assumed the form of demanding a separate political state. Economic independence here is not an issue since capitalism has woven the world’s economies into a complex web so that none can claim economic self-sufficiency. Moreover, self-determination can assume different forms. At one extreme lie complete political independence and the establishment of a new state or the reestablishment of a former state. At the other extreme, an oppressed nationality may choose to remain within the borders of the existing state within which they are located; if they themselves make the decision whether to go or stay, then they have exercised self-determination.

Here is Lenin’s formulation: “The right of nations to self-determination implies exclusively the right to independence in the political sense, the right to free political separation from the oppressor nation. Specifically, this demand for political democracy implies complete freedom to agitate for secession and for a referendum on secession by the seceding nation. This demand, therefore, is not the equivalent of a demand for separation[emphasis added] (“The Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination,” 1916).

The point that an oppressed people can exercise self-determination without separating was reiterated by Trotsky in his discussions with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) on Black Nationalism and Self-Determination: “And yet, by achieving self-determination these groups [within the Russian empire] remained with the Soviet Union” (1933).

Furthermore, self-determination can range along a continuum between complete political separation and no separation at all. Lenin, for example, spoke of the possibility of establishing “… autonomous areas, however small, with entirely homogeneous populations, towards which members of the respective nationalities scattered all over the country, or even all over the world, could gravitate…” (“Critical Remarks on the National Question,” 1913).

Most importantly, Lenin argued that the policy of defending the right of oppressed nationalities to self-determination had the potential to maximize unity between the respective working classes of the oppressor and oppressed nations, even when the oppressed opted for separation, because genuine unity, in the final analysis, can only be forged on a voluntary basis and on equality: “… the Social-Democrats of the oppressor nations must demand that the oppressed nations should have the right of secession, for otherwise recognition of equal rights for nations and of international working-class solidarity would in fact be merely empty phrase-mongering, sheer hypocrisy” (“The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”). And in the same essay he added: “… we want large states and the closer unity and even fusion of nations, only on a truly democratic, truly internationalist basis, which is inconceivable without the freedom to secede.” Were the oppressed nationality forced to remain within the empire, the resentment of the oppressed would only be further fueled towards all members of the oppressor nation. If they separated with the support of the working class of the oppressor nation, then this support could serve as a foundation to strengthen ties between the two working classes.

And this principled approach in fact proved entirely correct. As Trotsky noted during discussions with the SWP in reflecting on the experience of the Soviet Union in comparison with the Austro-Hungarian empire: “The Austrian Social Democrats said that the national minorities were not nations. What do we see today? The separated pieces [of the old Austro-Hungarian empire...] exist, rather bad, but they exist. The Bolsheviks fought for Russia always for the self-determination of the national minorities including the right of complete separation. And yet, by achieving self-determination these groups remained with the Soviet Union… The dialectic of the developments shows that where tight centralism existed the state went to pieces and where the complete self-determination was proposed a real state emerged and remained united.”

Neither Lenin nor Trotsky consequently concluded that secession or separation was inevitably reactionary. For example, Lenin argued: “The petty bourgeois are letting themselves be frightened by the spectre of a frightened bourgeoisie…. They are afraid of secession. The class-conscious proletarians are not afraid of it. Both Norway and Sweden gained from Norway’s free secession from Sweden in 1905, it made for mutual trust between the two nations, it drew them closer together on a voluntary basis, it did away with the stupid friction, it strengthened the economic and political, the cultural and social gravitation of the two nations to each other, and strengthened the fraternal alliance between the workers of the two countries” (“Finland and Russia”). In The Junius Pamphlet Lenin added: “National wars [for self-determination] against the imperialist powers are not only possible and probable; they are inevitable, progressive and revolutionary….” And Trotsky, in the discussion on Black Nationalism with the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), asserted: “To fight for the possibility of realizing an independent state (for Blacks) is a sign of great moral and political awakening. It would be a tremendous revolutionary step.”

Black Nationalism and Self-Determination in the U.S.

It is helpful to begin our analysis with a review of the discussions conducted by Trotsky with members of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the 1930s where many of the basic Marxist methodological principles were at play. The question of the proper approach was particularly pressing since Blacks, as the most oppressed, have the potential to be the most revolutionary, but the SWP had not developed any coherent policy statements on this vital subject.

During the discussion, the question was raised whether Blacks constituted a racial minority or an oppressed nationality. If they were simply an oppressed racial minority, then the question of self-determination, in the sense of complete national separation, would not apply because they would lack the potential to become a nation since they would fail to exemplify the necessary cohesiveness to constitute themselves as a distinct people. Hence, the correct approach would proceed in the direction of integration and civil rights, not some form of self-determination. On the other hand, if they were judged to be an oppressed nationality, then the choice of some form of self-determination would become an option. Gradually, the discussion coalesced around the conclusion that Blacks, at that point in history, were an oppressed racial minority, not an oppressed nationality. At that time there seemed little evidence that Blacks wanted to define themselves first and foremost as a distinct people and separate themselves, in one form or another, from the dominant white population. However, Trotsky left open the possibility that they might yet evolve into a nationality sometime in the future. Such a development would above all revolve around the desires of Blacks themselves.

Of particular importance in this discussion are the criteria Trotsky employed to judge whether Blacks constituted an oppressed nationality or an oppressed racial minority. His revolutionary dialectical approach led him to reject abstract, metaphysical considerations, such as whether Blacks constituted a majority in any particular state, or whether a single language was spoken, or people adopted a common religion. He pointed out, for example, that Belgium would have no right to nationhood if a single language were a requirement. Following Lenin, who believed that people could be scattered “all over the country, or even all over the world” and still constitute a nationality, Trotsky at no time stipulated that Blacks must occupy a common territory in order to qualify as a nationality. Instead, he insisted that the consciousness of Blacks themselves is the crucial consideration: “An abstract criterion is not decisive in this question, but much more decisive is the historical consciousness, their feelings and their impulses.” And he kept returning to this theme: “We do, of course, not obligate the Negroes to become a nation; if they are, then that is a question of their consciousness, that is, what they desire and what they strive for.”

In other words, for Trotsky the material basis of the emergence of Black nationalism was not understood in terms of territory but in terms of the experience of racism which cements ties among Blacks and, while invisible to most whites, defines them apart from the remaining population and constitutes them as a separate people. He put it this way: “In any case the suppression of the Negroes pushes them toward a political and national unity.”

The emphasis on how Blacks themselves feel is fundamental to a revolutionary approach. However, we, as Marxists do not base our positions solely on people’s feelings. An additional material component has been provided by capitalism as it has singled out the Black population to victimize with its most vicious excesses. This fact leads to the possibility that Blacks might overwhelmingly become the most dedicated proponents of capitalism’s overthrow. We, as Marxists, would alienate ourselves from a potentially explosive, anti-capitalist movement if we dismissed Black nationalism as irrelevant on the grounds of failing a territorial, linguistic, or religious test. And as a historical fact, the most important of the Black Power movements of the 1960s moved in the direction of socialism without abandoning their nationalism, in part because their right to self-determination was being vigorously defended by Marxist socialists.

Moreover, Trotsky’s approach implies that the question whether Blacks constitute an oppressed nationality or an oppressed racial minority remains open as long as racism exists. If the U.S. spirals into a deep economic crisis, racism might come out of the closet in full force, which in turn could tempt Blacks to move into a more separatist direction, even though this separation might simply take the form of wanting their own political party. And Trotsky felt under no compulsion to venture a prediction regarding which direction events might evolve, especially since the decision to proceed in the direction of nationalism, according to him, could only be resolved by Blacks themselves.

But Trotsky also argued that even if Blacks constituted themselves as a nationality, revolutionary Marxists might nevertheless discourage any impulses towards political separation, while defending their right to do so. At one point he envisioned Black members of the SWP saying, for example, in response to a proposal for Blacks to separate: “Our Negro comrades [of the SWP, which was affiliated with the Fourth International] can say, ‘The Fourth International says that if it is our [Blacks’] wish to be independent, it will help us in every way possible, but the choice is ours. However, I, as negro member of the Fourth, hold a view that we must remain in the same state as the whites,’ and so on.”

At other points in the discussion Trotsky entertained the possibility that impulses in the direction of separation should not only be defended but encouraged. For example, he insisted: “Those American workers who say: ‘The Negroes should separate when they so desire and we will defend them against our American police’ — those are revolutionists, I have confidence in them” [emphasis added]. In other words, Trotsky left open both possibilities of relating to Black nationalism, if it did emerge. One would have to examine the specific conditions of such a movement before adopting a definitive position.

We believe that in today’s historical juncture, Blacks are defining themselves more in the direction of a racial minority. Their sentiment leans more in the direction of integration and equal rights rather than separation. However, as long as racism exists, this is not a closed question. Nor should we regard it as one of EITHER oppressed racial minority OR oppressed nationality. These categories are not static but exist in a dialectical tension where many intermediate positions between the two extremes stand as options. Sometimes, for example, Black movements have called for self-determination in relation to their own communities with no thought of pursuing a complete break with the U.S. This urge corresponds to Lenin’s stipulation that oppressed nationalities have the right to pursue “autonomous areas, however small[emphasis added]. In such cases they are moving more in the direction of acting as a nationality. We believe, in today’s context, it is important to offer support to these demands for Black control over Black communities.

A Black Political Party

In the course of the discussion among Trotsky and members of the SWP, attention turned to the proper relation to the possible emergence of an exclusively Black organization. What is striking is Trotsky’s sensitivity to the problem of racism, including his awareness that much of it emanated from the white working class. In fact, this is one of the reasons why Black oppression was of paramount importance to confront: not only do capitalists divide the working class through their racist practices, but workers themselves have contributed to these divisions, as Trotsky noted: “The skilled workers who feel set in the capitalist society help the bourgeois class to hold the Negroes and the unskilled workers down to a very low scale.” And earlier he remarked: “99.9 percent of the American workers are chauvinists, in relation to the Negroes they are hangmen and they are so also toward the Chinese.”

With the suffering of Blacks and the need to unite the U.S. working class as his point of departure, Trotsky argued: “…this oppression is so strong that they [Blacks] feel it every moment; that they feel it as Negroes. We must find the possibility of giving this feeling a political organizational expression. You may say that in Germany or in England we do not organize such semi-political, semi-trade-union, or semi-cultural organizations; we reply that we must adapt ourselves to the genuine Negro masses in the United States” [emphasis added].

And he continued: “They [Blacks] were enslaved by the whites. They were liberated by the whites (so-called liberation). They were led and misled by the whites and they did not have their own political independence. They were in need of a pre-political activity, as Negroes. Theoretically it seems to me absolutely clear that a special organization should be created for a special situation. The danger is only that it will become a game for the intellectuals.”

Although Trotsky referred to this Black organization as “semi-political” and “pre-political,” it is clear he is discussing an independent Black political party. The discussion later turns to formulating a recommended political program for the party and the possibility of it running political candidates.

Trotsky’s embracing of the possible need for some form of a separate Black political organization that would be based on the Black working class flows directly from his recognition that racism has not been the exclusive possession of white capitalists, but has infiltrated the white working class as well. And he astutely recognized that well meaning white liberal intellectuals have exhibited racist tendencies as well: “Many of them [white liberal intellectuals] continue to imagine that by the improvement of the mentality [of Blacks], and so on, the discrimination will disappear.” In other words, white liberals viewed racism as a Black problem, not a white problem.

We believe that if at some point a strong sentiment among the Black population, in response to racism, coalesced in the direction of establishing a separate political party, it might deserve both support and encouragement. For example, if a Black party, independent of the Democrats and Republicans, enjoyed widespread support in the Black communities and was leading a progressive liberation struggle during a period where, for lack of a Labor Party, the U.S. working class was not united, then this movement could serve as a catalyst in igniting other sectors of the working class to organize themselves independently and fight for liberation as well. In such circumstances, far from dividing the working class, such a movement could spark its resurgence. Moreover, our willingness to offer support in the form of united front struggles around specific issues or campaigns will in turn provide us the opportunity to reach out to receptive individuals or groups within the movement and introduce our program as a whole in favor of uniting the entire working class in order to overthrow capitalism.

Democratic and Transitional Demands

The struggle for self-determination is what we term a struggle for democratic rights. Capitalism claims to offer equal rights for all, but never delivers on the promise because treating workers differently raises profits and undermines worker solidarity. Ethnic and racial minorities, not to mention women, and undocumented workers, have historically been accorded second-class status when it comes to equal rights in terms of access to owning property, voting, getting a job, etc. These are the types of struggles in which liberals can comfortably join since they do not challenge the fundamental existence of capitalism.

Nevertheless, as Marxist revolutionaries, we do not turn our backs on democratic rights. By winning, or partially winning, democratic demands, we can not only help unify the working class (by diminishing racism and sexism, for example,) but success can infuse the working class with a sense of its own power and inspire it to pursue more ambitious goals. Therefore these struggles have the potential to change the balance of power, to one degree or another, between the exploiting capitalists and the oppressed working class.

However, we do not restrict ourselves to the struggle for democratic rights. As revolutionaries, we are constantly dedicated to maximizing the anti-capitalist thrust of any movement. For this reason, we combine the struggle for democratic rights with the struggle for transitional demands. The latter offer a bridge to socialism. If they are won, then the victory represents a blow at the capitalist functioning of the economy. For example, if we were to win “30 for 40,” meaning 40 hours worth of pay for doing only 30 hours of work, then we would have seized from the capitalists their “right” to arbitrarily dictate our wages and the length of the workweek with only their interests in mind. Nationalizations mean that companies have been removed from the sphere of the private economy and operate more in the direction of a planned economy. Workers’ control means that the capitalists cannot dictate the work process or control hiring and firing. All of these programs make significant strides in the direction of socialism and weaken the capitalist class. When transitional demands have been won, capitalism has suffered debilitating wounds.

We support the right of oppressed nationalities to self-determination, but we do not restrict the struggle to this demand. We combine it with transitional demands. As Lenin argued: “We must combine the revolutionary struggle against capitalism with a revolutionary program and tactics on all democratic demands: a republic, a militia, the popular election of officials, equal rights for women, the self-determination of nations, etc.,” (“The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination”). But this also means that we do not focus exclusively on transitional demands and turn our backs on the special struggles of the most oppressed elements of the working class.

Consequently such an approach implies that if the Black community were engaged in a struggle against a particular racist employer, demanding that the employer end discrimination and hire Blacks on an equal basis, then we would join this movement by creating a united front with the community. The united front is defined by sectors of the working class coming together to fight for specific, limited demands, in this case “End Hiring Discrimination,” or in the antiwar movement, “Bring the Troops Home Now.” Here the participating groups maintain their political independence, meaning that each group has the freedom to introduce its own political perspective by selling its newspaper, etc. In this way, we could introduce, through our publication, transitional demands such as “jobs for all,” “workers control over hiring and firing,” “30 for 40,” etc. By injecting these transitional demands into the struggle, we can show the way for all workers to unite and secure much bigger gains for everyone.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action refers to programs that were initiated in the 1960s by the U.S. government as a result of intense pressure from the Civil Rights movement to end discrimination, particularly around hiring and promotions, although labor unions and businesses have also implemented affirmative action programs on a voluntary basis. By aiming to achieve equality, particularly in hiring practices where discrimination has had, and continues to have, a virulent legacy, affirmative action addresses a democratic demand. It has taken various forms, from the most mild versions where employers are required to make extra efforts to ensure that all qualified potential applicants know about the job opening, on the one hand, to the more strict versions where employers are required to hire according to racial quotas on the other hand.

No simple formula can provide us with a compass for supporting or rejecting a particular affirmative action proposal in advance. Each case must be judged according to its own merits, always aiming at uniting the working class as our highest consideration.

We believe that affirmative action is often an effective tool for uniting the working class, especially during periods when Blacks are struggling for integration and equal rights. Blacks, Latinos, women, etc. have been victimized by discriminatory hiring practices in the past and continue to be victimized in the present. Consequently, they have fallen behind white workers economically. These practices have particularly benefited capitalists by undermining class unity. Blacks, for example, resent whites who are hired or promoted over them when Blacks themselves are the more qualified, and Blacks resent it when whites seem indifferent to the injustice. Whites resent Blacks when they are used as strike breakers. Many affirmative action programs have the potential to remove racist and sexist barriers so that all members of the working class have equal access to jobs, thereby eliminating major differences among workers and hence helping unify the working class.

We also believe that quotas at times can play a positive role in uniting the working class. Quotas have been a popular demand among the Black population, particularly when racist employers fight tenaciously to maintain their racist hiring practices. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, demanded quotas: “If the proportion of blacks to the total population was 12 percent, then we would ask that 12 percent of the employees be black.” More recently, the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund and Oversight Coalition in New Orleans has called for affirmative action with quotas of 67 percent for all federal jobs involved in reconstruction. Quotas have also been employed successfully to desegregate schools. In San Francisco, for example, as a result of a court case mounted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a court ruling prohibited more than 45 percent of any single race to attend the same school. While such examples of quotas have enjoyed popularity among the most oppressed, popularity alone is not a sufficient reason to embrace them, although it should be taken into consideration.

People resent quotas when they result in unqualified candidates being hired or promoted at the expense of qualified candidates. We think this resentment is understandable and would not support such a perversion of quotas. However, other situations can arise where recourse to quotas might be entirely appropriate. For example, if a company has engaged in documented intentional discrimination, and if no particular skills are required for the job, then we might very well support and join a united front movement, initiated by those who have been discriminated against, that has coalesced around the demand to hire applicants according to the same percentage as their presence in the surrounding community.

Affirmative action programs have often assuaged people’s basic sense of moral outrage in the face of blatant racist hiring practices, and have accordingly won support from both Blacks and whites for this reason. These programs also have the potential to help diminish divisions within the working class in so far as workers are placed on a more level “playing field” when applying for jobs. However, in and of itself, affirmative action does not advance us in the direction of socialism. We believe that our support for affirmative action programs must be combined with transitional demands, for example, for “30 for 40” or for massive public work projects aimed at employing the unemployed, both of which would increase the number of jobs for everyone. In this way, we can further strengthen working class solidarity so that we can march together towards our historical destiny of overthrowing capitalism and finally replacing it with a system where the good of the entire community replaces the lust for profits of a super rich minority as its guiding principle.

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