Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Helen Keller Would be IWW's Joan of Arc", 16 Jan. 1916 | New York Tribune

 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Lenin on the question of oppression, working class unity, and the process of engaging with the justified distrust that oppressed people feel towards those of the oppressor social group


I've been thinking a lot about the question of what it actually takes to build a truly united, multiracial, multigender, multi-all-forms-of-oppression, movement that is truly based in genuine solidarity and the collective striving toward mutual emancipation from exploitation and oppression.

It is of course an understatement to say that this is a very difficult task. This is precisely because capitalist society is so effective at dividing the working class and creating definite strata within the working class along the lines of various forms of social oppression. Black workers are invariably subjected to racist attitudes by white workers, and likewise between men and women, and so on. The distrust that exists within the minds of oppressed groups towards those of the oppressor social group -- regardless of class -- are quite real, and frankly understandable, in a strictly logical sense, because of the foregoing.

Thus, the task of establishing unity between oppressed groups as part of a larger united working class struggle for the abolition of capitalism presents very difficult challenges.

In particular, the question of building a revolutionary organization along these lines can be immensely confounding. Indeed, history is littered with social movements, revolutions, and even mass revolutionary parties which have foundered precisely on this contradiction; the contradiction between the needs of unity of the entire working class, and the immense enmity and suspicion which exists between them at present because of capitalist social relations.

Oftentimes, trust will breakdown between comrades within a group or social movement over this issue, with oppressed people feeling slighted, marginalized, or not taken sufficiently seriously.

First of all, I want to say that I actually don't think this is ultimately a matter of individuals being racist or sexist [though that certainly can and does happen on the left and even within revolutionary organizations].

I also don't think that racism or sexism or really, by definition, any form of oppression, in general -- as social constructions -- are the product of any one individual's attitudes. Rather, it is a product of the ensemble of social relations which obtain under capitalism.

Yet, the fact is that this oppression does exist, is real, and permeates virtually all of our relations within the system. Inequality exists between various strata of the working class due to this oppression -- in terms of their opportunity, livelihoods, well-beings -- which then in turn impacts oppressed people's sense of confidence and self-worth, etc., especially in relation to those strata of the working class which rest above them (not even to mention in relation to the upper classes of the dominant social group).

As I sometimes do, I decided to see what comrade V.I. Lenin may have to say on the matter. Now, I don't think that Lenin (or anyone for that matter), was an infallible genius or other such nonsense who always has the "correct" thing to say on every matter.

Nonetheless, I do think on this particular question he offers some important insights.