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  • Writer's pictureBrandon Walley

Toward a Scientific Conception of Race

Please enjoy the full transcript from our Sunday class member and comrade, Wylie Rogers, presentation to the Chicago DSA. Following that are additional comments by Wylie, "...over the violent attacks on Asians domestically and the increase race baiting and war mongering directed against Asians internationally, especially China."



TOWARDS A SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTION OF RACE


I am honored and privileged to have the opportunity to share with you my views on one of the three most important questions confronting our class and the whole of humanity at the present time. In order of priority I list these as “Race", the impact of artificial intelligence and digital technology generally on the development of the productive forces and relations of production, and the climate crisis. Our success in resolving the latter two questions is wholly dependent on our ability to eliminate “Race” as the major obstacle to class consciousness and class unity nationally and internationally.


Before I proceed with my presentation, I want to publicly express my grief over the terrible , utterly senseless slaughter that occurred in the state of Georgia recently. The frequency and lethality of such assaults renders our work ever more urgent.


Our task today is huge in terms of breadth, depth, and complexity. The importance of the “Negro” or “Race” problem - the foundation, the edifice, of the whole racial hierarchy - and the horror, of the brutal inhumanity spawned by this problem produces an overwhelming desire to all at once encompass all its aspects, to solve all of the perplexing problems produced by it, to rescue humanity from its deadly grasp as quickly as possible.


Unfortunately, this approach, driven by moral outrage and a genuine concern for the well being of humanity usually leads to disaster and defeat. Such an approach strengthens rather than weakens the grip of race and racism on society. It does so because it obscures rather than discloses the root cause of the problem. It produces the vicious cycles of exhilarating false hopes followed by crushing demoralization and resignation.


Revolutionaries must avoid this pitfall. I for one was a frequent victim. As one who has spent nearly 60 years of his life grappling with this problem politically, intellectually, emotionally, and in day-to-day practice, I have traversed innumerable rabbit holes, engaged in pitched physical and ideological battles all motivated by the zeal to “beat the man” to liberate Black folks by "any means necessary.” Sadly, for years I was too “militant”, too “ideologically committed” to step back and pose the question of what “means” were “necessary.”


Recalling the above experiences, I believe that for my contribution to yield the most benefit to the discussion at this stage I must maintain the discipline to limit my remarks to the elaboration of the most enduring aspects of the problem of race; those aspects that expose the essence of the problem. This means addressing the problem from the vantage point of a view from 30,000 ft.


This approach may be dissatisfying to some and justifyingly so. These activists are right in wanting tools and insights to inform and guide their work in the struggle. For some “Theorizing” can blunt, even paralyze the drive for action, for organizing, for fighting back. All these and similar concerns and criticisms have considerable validity. The deviation of “analysis to paralysis” is as harmful as “action for the sake of action”.

However, there are periods where theoretical and strategic clarity is the overriding need of the revolutionary movement. Without it we are fighting blind and reduced to a plaything in the hands of the class enemy. My experience and my analysis informs me that we are in such a period. Hence, the content and form of this presentation.


I will now briefly describe the primary objective of this presentation and how I hope to achieve it.


I hope to provide the essentials of a conceptual framework and scientific basis for the comprehension of race and racism and the role they play in the class struggle. I will attempt to employ this framework and basis to provide concrete examples of the impact of race and racism on the class struggle. Finally, I want to share my thoughts on the tasks this analysis poses for revolutionaries in this arena of struggle, at this time and in this place (Chicago USA).


I will present the material through devices I call “Dimensions of class Struggle:” These dimensions allow us to apply the framework to specific arenas of concrete reality. A walk through these dimensions will serve as a way to assess the requirements for class conscious theoretical (strategic) and practical (tactical) work in this arena.


A word on my political orientation and my method of analysis. I consider myself as a Marxist in the strict scientific sense. I even dislike the qualifier “Marxist” because I think it deprives the works of Marx of its full scientific content. For me “Marxism” is the science of societal development or evolution.


As to method, Most would describe my approach as materialist dialectics and I would agree with them. My preference is to describe my method of analysis as resting on the following simple facts:

  1. Everything has a beginning and an end and skips no stages between these extremes.

  2. Everything is interconnected and interrelated with no empty space or disconnection between them.

  3. Everything is in contradiction, in struggle with itself. Unity is present but only as a precondition for struggle.

Having shared “Wylie’s laws of motion” we can now proceed to the matter at hand.

The dimensions with a brief description of their purpose follow:

  • The “Scientific dimension “ – This dimensions develops the scientific conception of race and racism,

  • The “Economic Dimension” – This dimension discusses the economic impact of race and racism on the class struggle,

  • The “Political / ideological Dimension” - This dimension focuses on race as a specific form of the class struggle, as a specific integral element of capitalism and capitalist development in contrast to the view that it (race) precedes, transcends, or runs parallel to capitalism,

  • The “Psychosocial / Cultural Dimension” – This dimension is concerned with the elaboration of the dehumanizing effects of race and hence of capitalism, as an obstacle to the further development of humanity,

As pointed out above, these dimensions are primarily for explanatory purposes. This is not to devalue their substantive importance. It is to emphasize that they are not meant to be all inclusive. Hopefully they will stimulate other relevant dimensions.


THE SCIENTIFIC DIMENSION

Often in attempting to analyze and counter the destructive effects of race and racism on humanity, progressives and revolutionaries unwittingly commit the serious error of uncritically accepting as valid the bourgeois elaboration of these concepts. The result is that they engage in a fight with the enemy on conceptual and political terms and conditions set by the enemy. They end up in a futile struggle against the class enemy within the limits of these conceptions.


Yet, and this is of paramount importance for this subject, the error referred to above often leads to well intentioned efforts resulting in the strengthening rather than the weakening of the enemy, of aiding and abetting its work of sowing discord, division, hate, demoralization, dissolution, and ultimately momentary defeat of the movement.


What then in essence is a scientific conception of Race?


Race is a historically evolved conception expressing or reflecting specific objective and subjective means and methods of bourgeois class oppression based on readily observable and superficial physical differences existing within the human family. Its sole purpose is the preservation of capitalist relations of production and the maintenance of conditions for the maximal extraction of surplus value.


Though abstract, this definition fulfills four essential concrete requirements. First, it states what “Race” is. Second, it links Race to a specific mode of production, a specific socioeconomic formation, a specific form of class society. Hence, to a given period of historical development. Third, it sets forth the raison d'etre of Race, the creation of conditions favorable to the maximum exploitation of wage labor.


Fourth, and finally, the definition discloses that like capitalism, race has an origin, a beginning and an endpoint, a life and death cycle corresponding to that of capitalism. From this we can infer with confidence that Race like Capitalism undergoes changes in form, is able to adapt and morph in ways that accommodate the needs of capitalism. We can also surmise that with the demise of capitalism race will also die. But, as with capitalism, race will not succumb of its own accord but as a result of the ultimate victory of the working class over capitalism.


To complete the construction of our framework and scientific basis for race we must develop a definition of Racism.


Racism is the ideological system constructed by the ruling class for the implementation of Race as forms of social practice, the pedagogy of race. Racism is the means by which race is dynamically embedded and nurtured in the individual and collective consciousness and the civil and cultural institutions and structures of a given class society.


Obviously, there is much more that could and should be done in further developing this dimension. However, I have accomplished the task of providing what I consider a scientific definition, one sufficient to this stage of discussion. Therefore, I will stop here to avoid slipping into a rabbit hole.


THE ECONOMIC DIMENSION

Certain aspects of the role of race in the economic realm are readily apparent. Other aspects operate in a more clandestine manner and escape notice.


For example, we are all aware of the black/white income gap and the practice of discrimination against “people of color” in job hiring and promotion.


On these and similar issues the focus is on the “racial“ disparity, the gap between the “races” typically favoring “whites” over blacks and other people of color. We justly fight to eliminate this unequal distribution. This is an absolutely necessary task in the revolutionary struggle.


But we have to constantly pose the question: How does this struggle contribute to the elimination of race and capital. Can overall income equality between the “races” be achieved under capitalism? Will Equality between the races exist after the fall of Capitalism?


According to the definition provided above the answer to both questions is NO! in the first instance, Economically the distinction of race imposed on humanity by capitalism is imposed precisely to create and increase income and wealth inequality between labor and capital and within the working class on the artificial distinction of race and on the natural differences of age and gender.


In the second instance, the elimination of capitalism eliminates the need for racial distinction as an instrument of class oppression. It “withers” away along with classes under socialism.


The failure to grasp the real essence of race and its role in relation to the capitalist accumulation process leads to the unwitting adoption of reformist strategy and tactics in the pursuit of revolutionary objectives.


Again there is much more to say on this issue. However, we must continue our mission of avoiding rabbit holes.


THE POLITICAL / IDEOLOGICAL DIMENSION

Here in this dimension we come face-to face with issues that have bedeviled the revolutionary movement in the U.S. for quite some time, certainly the whole of my tenure. These are the “Race versus Class” and the “National Versus the international” debates.


Again, the conception of race given here provides little latitude or wiggle room on these issues. It asserts without reservation that race is a manufactured political construct, an invention and weapon of capitalism for the preservation of its class power. As such is an expression of the class struggle in given historical circumstances.


Of course, the capitalists must create, maintain and strengthen the separation, the distinction between class and race. Indeed, they must ensure that the relationship between them is antagonistic. And in this they have succeeded to a great extent.


As to the national/international sphere, we are all aware of the race baiting suffused in U.S. military adventures. And Lenin disclosed in his trenchant criticism of the Herrenvolk racism of the parties of the Second International in their attitude towards the “primitive coloreds” of the colonies.


I would be amiss if I failed to mention the international racism of the Trumpites in regards to immigration from Latin American countries.


Much more could and should be said on this dimension. However, what needs to be said at this point on this subject has been said. I daresay it will generate considerable discussion.


THE PSYCHOSOCIAL / CULTURAL DIMENSION

This is the dimension that raises the greatest alarm and concern for me personally. In my view the role and function of race here threatens the degradation of humanity to an uncivilized state.


Here we must hazard a step or two down this rabbit hole.


In its advanced state of decay capitalism is being forced to increasingly rely on ever more virulent and dehumanizing forms of race and racism. No longer capable of granting real meaningful reforms or concessions to an increasingly militant and informed working class, capitalism the world over is resorting to even more brutal racist attacks on the working class and its movement for self emancipation.


These attacks, these campaigns of racially orchestrated police and military violence and terror, the incitement of chauvinist demagoguery, brazen assaults on democratic institutions and norms, the utter inhumanity of separating children from parents and confining them in cages, all this and more in defense of capitalism under the banner of race.


But this is the ultimate result, the final legacy of a socioeconomic system birthed on the international trade in black skins and the genocidal elimination of tens of millions of “colored” peoples of the so-called “new world”.


In the U.S. the people of all “races'' are suffering terribly from the domination of the political process by race. The rotting carcass of U.S. capitalism / imperialism has spawned the incredible death toll of the pandemic, the opioid crisis, the sharp decline in life expectancy for all sections of the working class, and the brainwashing of millions of benighted Americans with the caustic lye of white supremacy.


All these horrors. And what is the go to response of the ruling class? To buy a year's time with the Cares act to prepare the ground for a showdown with the “Yellow Peril”.


I conclude with a few brief remarks of the implications of the developments presented here for our chapter. Whether we want to or not, CDSA will play a positive pivotal role in the developing political struggle. To what degree, that is to the extent that the CDSA role is one of class conscious leadership depends on its willingness to acquire the necessary clarity to provide such leadership.As an observer and now a member, I can attest to the revolutionary and moral commitment of the chapter. For me the most clear expression of this commitment is the “mutual aid” effort and the desire to bring socialism to the south and west sides of the city.


It's looking good.



additional comments...


I have this problem that when a thought pops into my head I have a need to share it with others who may see some value in it. Following is such a thought.


As you are aware, I have expressed my concern over the violent attacks on Asians domestically and the increase race baiting and war mongering directed against Asians internationally, especially China.


History has shown us that such acts as described above are typically a prelude to war. The first stage almost always consists of ginning up fervent at times maniacal racial and ethnic hatred and acts of scapegoating, intimidation, terror, exclusion, and outright murder.


History also shows that progressives and revolutionaries are often late and reactive to such assaults. They underestimate the venality of Capitalism, its readiness to sacrifice humanity for profit. They also often underestimate the ability of the people to defend communities under assault if educated and mobilized to oppose and defeat the threat.


My thought is that we can learn from history. We can be proactive and confront the enemy before it can mount its assault. Following is an example for consideration.


Chicago has a number of relatively large Asian communities, the Chinese and Korean communities to name two. To these communities must be added the large what is now called the "Latinx? community which is quite international and contains a large, especially vulnerable "undocumented" population.


Thanks to its success in the electoral arena CDSA is uniquely positioned to mount a defense of these communities. More importantly, it is in a position to coerce, or, if you will, persuade the City or state power into the proactive defense of these communities.


Such a defense would take the form of legislative action,, say an ordinance or resolution put forth by CDSA members serving as Alderpersons committing the city to a defense of these communities against the threat of attack and to take decisive action against those carrying out such an attack.


Even if such an effort failed to yield protective legislation, it would serve definite educational, and organizing efforts. At the very least it puts the population on alert to the danger.


Again, my thoughts. But, the more I think about them, the more plausible and necessary they become.

In struggle and solidarity,

Wylie


 

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