From the July 1982 issue of the Socialist Standard
Nine-tenths of the people in this and other industrialised countries are workers, in possession of less than half of the wealth we produce. The international capitalist class, on the other hand, own most of the land, factories and other resources. They receive an unearned income of rent, interest or profit and do not have to work for a living. The struggle between these two main classes, over ownership and control, carries on regardless of race or sex. In every country, including Russia and China, production takes place for the profit of a minority. Capitalists of every religion and nationality invest in whatever areas they find most profitable. Capitalism can only be run in their interest. They take the fruits of our labour and pay us wages and salaries to keep us in working order, fit for further use. This system of legalised robbery continues whether the government is Tory, Labour or Liberal-SDP. Workers are forced to compete over jobs and the limited housing and services available to us. This has led to racial hatred as well as prejudice about sex or age. Division between workers has so far prevented our class from taking political power to end capitalism. The British ruling class has been prepared to use racism to strengthen its position ever since slavery was justified by referring to the Africans as “subhuman”.
Capitalism is a system of competition rather than co-operation. The world is divided into rival nations. Through education and the media, those who own and control the capital persuade their workers to be loyal to “the nation” (its owners) in war and “peace”. Racist theories have supported this blind loyalty to our masters’ interests. But there is no “British race”. All humans belong to one species: we have the same blood, and we can interbreed to produce offspring. Those who have tried to divide the species into races, based on inherited physical features, have disagreed about how many races there are. But their scientific investigations have shown that there are no “pure” races and no inherently “superior” races. The advances made by humanity in organising society have depended on increased intermingling and co-operation rather than division and competition among people. Even if there were separate races it would not affect the case for socialism. Some racial theorists have spread the myth that workers are biologically inferior to their capitalist rulers and unable to work together, without leaders, to create a democratic society. But the special feature of humans compared to other animals is our great adaptability. If there is a need to cooperate to change society, we can do so. A United Nations statement on race drawn up in 1950 by professors from across the world, concludes that all humans “are capable of learning to share in a common life, to understand the nature of mutual service and reciprocity, and to respect social obligations and contracts”.
The roots of racism
Capitalism is based on profits made by exploiting the labour power of wage and salary-earners, realised by selling their produce on the market. Because the competition of the market place is anarchic and chaotic, the number of people who can be profitably employed fluctuates unpredictably. In the boom of the 1950s, there was a labour shortage in Britain and workers were recruited from India, Pakistan and the West Indies. When the recession set in, they were the first to lose their jobs, which were in any case the lowest paid. Black workers suffer discrimination in jobs and housing, and are then accused by racists of causing those problems. But areas like Northern Ireland, with the highest unemployment, have the lowest immigration rates. Capitalists are pleased to see the newspapers which they own blaming such problems on sections of the working class. The result is to divide workers against one another and hide the real cause of the problems. Racist organisations like the National Front and the British Movement (and racists in the Tory and Labour Parties) want “white Britons” to defend “their” nation. But the people in Britain do not share a common interest. One percent of the British people own four-fifths of the stocks and shares. An English-speaking carpenter, designer or doctor has more in common with a Russian or African accountant or engineer than with the Duke of Westminster or “Tiny” Rowland. Those without substantial property are forced to work for its owners, and suffer the insecurity this causes, regardless of the skin-colour of worker or capitalist.
The political response
The parties which offer to run capitalism are all racist, including the Labour Party, which, despite its rhetoric about “brotherhood”, passed the racist Commonwealth Immigrants Act in 1968. The 1977 Labour Government Green Paper on Nationality competed with the overt racism of the Tories in its pleas for tighter control. Meanwhile, the so-called Communist Party has supported nationalist import controls, also supported by the National Front. And Roy Jenkins of the SDP has spoken of the need for “a strict limit on the amount and rate of inward immigration for settlement” (House of Commons, 5 July 1976), encouraging the spread of the myth of “overcrowding”. (From 1968 to 1977 over half a million more people left than entered Britain, according to the Office of Population Census and Surveys, and the United Nations has shown that the world could support several times its present population.)
The way to defeat racism and fascism is not to “fight the fascists on the streets”, as some on the Left have suggested. You cannot clear up confused ideas by fighting confused people. The divisive lies of racism must be constantly exposed. Old ideas must be challenged by new realities. The only way to get rid of racism is to get rid of the out-dated social system which keeps producing it. A socialist society, based on common ownership and democratic control of all productive resources, must be established by democratic political action. One of the first steps in that direction Is to recognise the class struggle as a fact of life under capitalism. Workers of every colour and country can unite to establish a society where production will be for the needs of all, not for the profit of a few. Racism divides the working class; socialism will unite the human race.