Racial Unity in the Class Struggle

Most people don’t openly say this, but it’s generally assumed that an activist should only organize their own racial community and not any others. It is commonly accepted that whites should not organize communities of color due to them reproducing white supremacy. These

Racial unity amongst bay area militants.  Is this SF State or Berkeley?

The photo shows representatives of the Asian, Black, and Chicano/Mexicano student organizations at Berkeley (that is Richard Aoki on the left, whose life is documented in the recently released film “Aoki”)

are questions and concerns we should take seriously but with the conscious goal of working through the racial contradictions rather than accepting them as they are. The process of building unity amongst the working class will find its most difficult hurdles in confronting race and racism.

The picture to the right is of three different militants, from three different racial groups, coming together in struggle.  Many have pointed out that the budget cut movement is largely White activists, but the reality is that the budget cuts impact communities of color far more. Therefore it’s important for communities of color to continue entering this struggle, and in large part this means bringing in issues that pertain specifically to one’s racial community. For example, many Black activists against the budget cuts bring up the racist murder of Oscar Grant. In their political mind these issues are not different but stem from the same system.

Let’s return to the positive aspects of the 1960s, and the quest for racial unity in order for the struggle to deepen by simultaneously challenging the particular issues in each racial community with the major issues that we are all subjected to through the budget cuts and the general breakdown of capitalism.

7 responses to “Racial Unity in the Class Struggle

  1. The photo shows representatives of the Asian, Black, and Chicano/Mexicano student organizations at Berkeley (that is Richard Aoki on the left, whose life is documented in the recently released film “Aoki”). So, while it is an argument for unity, it is also an argument for the need of “communities of color” for their own mass organizations.

  2. Of course inter-racial radicalism has a much longer history, perhaps beginning with the race traitor Gonzalo Guerrero in Mexico, to the second phase of Bacon’s Rebellion, the San Patricios who defended Mexico in 1846-48, radical abolitionists (including Jews who ran with John Brown), the IWW, “pre-mature antifascists” like Carey McWilliams (who attacked the California plantation elite in the 1930s), the early civil rights/anti-colonial movement… I know that some white abolitionists founded their opposition to slavery by arguing that it was degrading to all workers… Although some may claim that it is easy for a European-American to say this, I stand with internationalist comrades around the world in saying One People, One World, One Struggle.

  3. Short and to the point! The political, ideological and historical analysis of how under-resourced students of color will come through the struggle. It’s hard working creating a coalition like this, but I am seeing glimpses of in our campus at UCB with the Third World Assembly and through our plans to outreach to the local bay high schools (ie Oakland High). The SOC at Cal and their allies can attack the capitalist system by organizing and educating the local low-income communities – who face harsher cuts and situations then the elite at the universities. The lack of community-outreaching was one of the downfalls of the UCB TWLF of the 60’s but this nationwide struggle can bring us to a new focal point of activism. The task is to bring these university folks to the under-resourced communities and show them what where the battle-field is at.

  4. This is a key intervention. There are many ways to accomplish this: one way is to build people of color only groups that come together in a united front; another is to build multiracial organizations. Both approaches I think are valid and important. Up here in Seattle, our group Democracy Insurgent takes the second approach, building a majority people of color multiracial organization composed of students, workers, and unemployed folks to fight budget cuts, workplace speed up, and tuition hikes. We are trying to revive the spirit of the picture you posted and as a group that is a third Black and third Asian we are definitely inspired by folks like Aoki who bridged the divide between these communities through militant action. We are also finding that many of the new folks coming out to mass coalition meetings against budget cuts right now are white students (many of them working class) even though many of the folks calling and facilitating these meetings are militant students of color. This is a good development to start, and it’s great that we’re reaching working class students, but we hope that more students of color in particular will get involved over time. We are trying to reach out to the rank and file members of the various ethnic student organizations. While friends in these organizations are very supportive the groups themselves have been slow to move and slow to join the united front against the cuts. This is unfortunate; we need as many folks as possible to get involved if we are going to successfully demand that the campus becomes accessible to students of color, including folks from the communities these groups claim to represent. Advance the Struggle’s post on Students as Positive Proletarian Actors makes a critique of these groups, which we have circulated to sympathetic members of these groups who are getting frustrated with their inaction and bureaucratic orientations. Nevertheless, we’ll keep trying to reach out to these groups while doing what we’ve done best so far: bringing together militant people of color from various communities who want to advance the struggle and take action now.

  5. In terms of community outreach, one thing we have done is to make sure that Democracy Insurgent itself is open to non-campus members. A number of the key organizers involved are workers of color from off campus, some of them recent graduates from UW. This leaves us open to the red-baiting charge that we are “outside agitators” trying to “infiltrate” the campus, and some of our members have been arrested for meeting with campus workers in campus buildings during their break times. But we’ve been relatively successful at beating back these attacks by saying we’re fighting to make the campus open to the entire city, a kind of community center and educational hub for all working class folks, especially communities of color that are currently shut out from it. A few of us are also working to build an organizing project to combat unemployment in our neighborhood and we are trying to link this up with demands to make the campus accessible to youth from our community who want to work there or go to school there. Most of the other campus groups who’ve joined the coalition against budget cuts so far are sympathetic to this approach and from jump want to make sure our work connects with broader struggles against budget cuts in the city. I think in this we are learning from what ya’ll are doing in California and the debates going on over how to connect the workers’ and students’ movements. We’re certainly following these debates very closely as our governor is proposing a new round of cuts that would put us closer to a California level crisis. I hope this will spark a California level response.

  6. Pingback: What in the hell … :: … is required to organize with someone? :: January :: 2010

  7. I really appreciate this post, thanks so much. One though I had reading it is that while you’re right that this perspective exists on the left, the mainstream labor movement is bucking the trend, despite the many problems with the labor movement. According to this – http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2009/11/changing-demographics-of-the-labor-movement.html
    women are almost half of union members and people of color and immigrant membership has risen. I know unions do hire women and people of color as staff but I also know for sure that at least some of this membership growth has involved organizing across racial lines, further proof that it’s possible.
    take care,

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