File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 2

Subject: RE: M-I: RE:  Social Movements and class
Date: Mon, 27 Jan 1997 15:12:52 -0000

(0) 	First, a sort of preamble : Doug thought either I or Stephen 
or both were not aware or down played the role of women and blacks
and gays and Lesbians within the working class. I think it is clear
Stephen doesn't. Nor do I. When I used the phrase "working class
unity" I meant not a purely economic trade union unity, but one
which explicitly takes up and opposes oppression of any sort. If 
going to bother having this discussion, I think it has to be on the
basis that all its participants actively oppose oppression of any 
The sorts of arguments used to win white workers to opposing racism
are class arguments. These may well put off middle class blacks from
actively opposing racism, even though racism affects them. This 
a conscious choice on the part of anti racists about their strategy 
fighting racism. This choice in strategy amongst active anti racists
was what I was talking about

(1) 	One point I think needs making is that there is no natural unity 
the oppressed. If you don't believe me, put a Lesbian separatist, a 
OUTRAGE ! activist and a Black nationalist in a room for half an hour
and see what happens ( if you happen to have a "socialist Zionist" 
you only need wait ten minutes ). This splintering and fragmentation 
material roots : one way for white middle class women for instance to
achieve equality with white middle class men is to offer themselves 
loyal allies against Blacks and/or workers in general. I have seen 
of my own friends emotionally ripped apart by such conflicting 
The only basis on which there can be any unity is on a class basis : 
fight together against oppression of any sort because it is in all of 
interests to do so.

(2) 	It is true to say that all Black people suffer from racism, all 
>from sexism, all Lesbians and gays from homophobia. I think it is 
true to say however that the ruling class as a whole benefits from 
various forms of oppression, and that this includes those members of 
ruling class who happen to be black, female, or gay. This is why a 
which seeks unity on the basis of oppression alone cannot succeed 
within one particular oppressed group : not only is there no natural 
BETWEEN oppressed groups, there is no natural unity WITHIN any
particular oppressed group. One particular example close to my heart 
when CP members, ILP members, and working class Jews united to
stop the Nazi Blackshirts marching through the Esat End in the 30's,
the Board of Deputies told all Jews to : "Stay at home. Shut your 
This split, like all subsequent splits, was a division along class 

(3) 	I hesitate to raise this, not because it's not important, but 
it quite often leads to a fruitless ding dong. But the issue of "who 
benefits ?"
is an important one for practical strategy. But simply, if you think 
straight male workers benefit from the oppression of blacks, gays, 
women, you will see them as part of the problem, not the solution. It 
either leads you directly to persuing a nationalist type strategy, or 
unable to counter those who do.

(4) 	Stephen raises the interesting question of the Trade Union 
being to the left of their members from time to time when it comes to
opposing racism. He cites the AFL and the civil rights movement - I
could cite the unofficial dockers strike in 1968 in support of Enoch
Powell's infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech. Trade Union officials,
and reformist ideas and parties in general, act as a sort of ballast
in relation to the working class movement as a whole. They stop
violent movements to either right or left. After a period of defeat
and demoralisation for workers, trade union officials in terms of
the general politics, may well not shift to the right as dramatically
as most workers. This had certainly happened under the Labour
government from 1964 - 1970, which had taken on the dockers
and the seafarers and had won, with the conivance of the
Labour supporting trade union officialdom. I guess defeat and
demoralisation might also explain the racist tendencies of the
AFL branches Stephen mentions. This lack of political ballast
explains the instability we see across most of Europe today :
the National Front in France regularly gets 15% of the vote
and controls three town councils - yet Immigrants "sans papiers"
[ without proper papers ] get enthusiastically welcomed during
the recurring mass strikes and demonstrations. The discrediting
of Reformist politics under Mitterand ( or Craxi etc ) means many
workers are to the right and to the left of the trade union officials 
at the
same time.


Adam Rose

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