a Workers Solidarity Movement position paper

Racism


1. Racism is the discrimination against a group of people on the basis of characteristics which are either truly or falsely attributed to them as a group. Racism is usually subscribed to by people who have a belief in their 'superiority' over the group which they are racist against. Racism can be based on many perceived differences such as skin colour, nationality, languages, beliefs, cultures and customs.

As Anarchists we believe that people are not inherently racist just as people are not inherently sexist. Racism is a product of Capitalism which seeks to maintain the status-quo by dividing the working class and dissipate the chances of a united class based struggle. Racism has risen as part and parcel of capitalist society we live in and can only be completely eradicated by the destruction of the current society to be replaced by a classless pluralistic society.

2. Racial oppression is different to religious oppression in that the racially oppressed person cannot change their colour but the religiously oppressed can disguise and change their beliefs.

Religion is about the ideas in a person's head, not about any physical or other unalterable characteristic. It is wrong to attack or belittle a person's colour or nationality. It is wrong to discriminate against them for this reason or because of beliefs they may hold. However it is not wrong to attack or seek to change a person's political or religious beliefs.

3. We believe that in society today people are racially oppressed. We therefore believe that the fight against racism is an integral part in our fight towards a classless society. We believe in fighting racism wherever we see it rear it's ugly head. By breaking down any racial barriers we see it as a progressive step towards unifying the working class and strengthening it so that it will see the real source of oppression is the ruling class.

4. Racism has developed alongside the rise of capitalism. Slavery was not born of racism but that racism is a consequence of slavery. With the need for cheap labour and production slavery became the obvious option. Racism was developed to accommodate and justify this hideous exploitation. We believe that this is the origin of racism within modern society.

5. We believe that in more recent times racisms role as a tool for dividing the working class is exemplified in the treatment of immigrant labour in their host countries. Immigrants are subjected to lower wages and the more undesirable jobs.

The native worker feels superiority to the immigrant in that he aligns himself with the ruling class and perceives that he has a higher status in society. He/She being the same colour as the capitalist who is exploiting both sets of workers. Racism gives certain (white) workers perceived benefits but these are insignificant in comparison to what can be achieved by a united workforce.

6. Racist ideas need to be constantly challenged especially in the workplace. This will be easier when many workers are having ideas challenged by the experience of class struggle but there is no linear relationship between racism and the level of class struggle. Anti-racist victories can be won at times of comparatively high struggle. Anti-racism is not a matter of waiting for the 'economic struggle' to pick up.

In times when large numbers are engaged in struggle against the bosses' rule, they are, generally more receptive to the logic of anti-racist arguments. These are fuelled by the experience of solidarity, the recognition of the need to maintain and expand it, and a growing awareness of their identity as a class rather than as a national/racial/religious/etc. group.

The capitalist weapon of 'divide and rule' will use racist ideas to weaken the strength and solidarity of Trade Unions.

We believe racist ideas, practices and rules must be eliminated in workers organisations. It is only through a united fight can any long term gains be won.

7. We recognise the right of people directly effected by racial oppression to organise autonomously. However we believe that the racism can only be defeated by the united struggle of the working class.

We see 'Black Nationalism' as having a false understanding of the source of racism. It makes no links to the role racism plays in dividing the working class.

It is because of our belief that man/woman is not inherently racist and that we place the origins of racism with the birth of capitalism. This is why we cannot agree with the 'Black Nationalist' viewpoint.

We believe that struggles should be undertaken by the movement as a whole. Only through the destruction of class society by a united working class can racism be defeated.

8. In Ireland to-day the sharpest expression of racism is that directed against Travellers. This racism is so widely accepted that it is commonly not seen as racism at all. It is sanctioned and encouraged by the state through the use of separate signing on times and places for Travellers. Travellers who fought against this racism have been criminalised and framed by the police. Even where sections of the left have campaigned in this area they commonly accepted some of the racist arguments in doing so, e.g. in combining calls for proper halting sites with ones for quotas of Travellers that would be accepted into a particular area. We will treat the struggle against anti-Traveller racism as a priority.

9. We are against all immigration controls and support the right of both political and economic refugees to settle in any country they please.

10. Racist attitudes and opinions will not be tolerated within the movement as they are oppressive and incompatible with the proud principles of an anarchist organisation.

11. As Anarchists we will fight racism where we see it, with particular emphasis on the working class as it is only through the united struggle of the working class ( black, white, pink, brown, yellow) that capitalism will be overthrown and replaced by a classless pluralistic society.

12. Fascism is not a special case of racism, it is a separate phenomena, there have been fascist groups to which racism was not central. Fascists are different because there aim is not to win any argument but rather to drive there opponents off the streets and terrorise the population. Fascism exists as a last bastion of capitalism, to be resorted to when 'normal' methods fail.

13. Therefore we apply quite different tactics towards fighting fascism. We support a policy of denying fascists any opportunity to organise, recognising that such opportunities what ever there supposed purpose, will be used to organise terror.

14. Where there is reasonable evidence that fascists are operating behind a racist organisation to build there strength or where a racist organisation is connected with physical attacks we also support a policy of denying such an organisation opportunities to organise. However if it is purely a case of advocating racist [ideas?] we do not deny the right of such people to organise although where appropriate we will organise the greatest numbers to demonstrate outside their meetings and against their ideas.

This paper is out of date - see the new WSM site for the more recent version