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Racialism, feminism and equality

25 July, 2020 · Marxism> Critique of ideology

Why are racialism and feminism replacing movements for equality of rights? There is a certain pattern in the way these movements expanded globally in the last four years. Feminism and Anglo-Saxon-style racialism share identical arguments and tools in their structure. However, while feminism has been adopted as a state ideology in several continental European countries, racialism is receiving, especially in France, a head-on response from the state itself and its left wing.

From the USA to the world

One month before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Democratic Party expected a big sucess. When a recording of Trump uttering outrageous remarks was released, a good part of the Republican Party distanced itself from its candidate. Trump seemed destined to retire or go down in history in shame. But he ignored it. He simply ignored the storm and so did thousands of voters. Democratic strategists, on the same election night, could not believe it. Unable to think that there were issues of substance so strong that they could overcome such a scandal, they blamed it on a lack of feminist awareness and bet on facing Trump from the first day of his term with a global march of women. The idea was, first and foremost, to push women’s votes back into their camp. So the party and its entourage continued to support all kinds of campaigns. The most important one, the resurrection of the #metoo movement from Hollywood. American feminism was becoming mainstream, it was looking for support in Europe and the rest of the world from its university network and it had just given impetus to a series of trends that were pushing it to become a state ideology in other countries.

We now come to March of this year. The Democrats’ discourse is already focused on the black vote. In the press there are a number of opinion articles warning of both the opportunity and the danger for Biden’s candidacy. They need a movement. And the police murder of George Floyd in late May gave them their chance. Black Lives Matter is revived with demonstrations all over the country. For the Democrats, a political expression of the traditions of Anglo-Saxon liberal radicalism, the conjunction is simple: the program of the black petty bourgeoisie is adopted and the discourse of the other pieces making up the party are accommodated. The accompanying campaign of the Democrats tries to present itself as a global movement of condemnation because its objective from the first moment is the presidential elections.

The essence of essentialism

Pro-BLM protesters kneel to apologize for a supposed “privilege” that all white people in the world would enjoy regardless of their class.

And once again another version of American identitarianism arrives in Europe and under similar premises. For both racialism and feminism, it is no longer a question of equality, but of affirming political subjects, communities united by interests above those of the social classes cleaving them. They seek recognition. That is to say, a differentiated treatment that guarantees spaces of power for women or for the black community, that is to say, for the small bourgeoisie that leads and identifies itself with these movements. This can be clearly seen in American black racialism.

The aim, according to them, would be to diversify workplaces and thus to do justice to the black community. The problem is that this divides the workforce, opens the way to wage diversity for the same work and, by classifying everyone by race, inevitably discriminates against everyone. Instead of affirming the equality and the universality of the interests of all workers, they artificially create divisions between co-workers who will suddenly be forced to defend their race [that is, their quota] if they want to keep their jobs.[…]

That is why the means of the civil rights movement, like those of the BLM now, further deepened racial categorization, division and separation, far from overcoming discrimination. Only in this way, by establishing quotas by race, could black workers come to identify with the products of Black businessmen and the black petty bourgeoisie maintain a united and legally recognized lobby in the bureaucratic apparatus of big American corporations, universities and all kinds of organizations. Since it was obvious that this had nothing to do with equality in the face of exploitative conditions, they called it promoting diversity.

Strike for Black Lives, 23/7/2020

It is the same mechanism normalized by feminism in the discourse on labor relations that both media and politicians keep pushing everyday. The wage differences that may exist for the same job are not calculated. The difference between the set of wages received by men as a whole and the set of wages received by women as a whole are calculated instead and the difference is called gender gap without taking into account anything else. Neither the level of precarization of each age group – young workers are precarized because they are young, that is, because they have arrived at the labor market after the flexibilizing reforms, not because they are women- nor the level and content of their previous training, etc.

The aim is to represent the labor market as if there were only two groups when jobs were distributed, men and women, and what one group gains, the other loses. A zero-sum game. This first move – dividing workers into two supposedly rival groups – is topped off by peddling to working women that the progressive thing, what is really useful to women as a group, is to be commanded by other women. That is to say, workers are divided in two groups theoretically in competition, men and women, to later justify the takeover of management and intermediate positions in big companies by women from the petty bourgeoisie.

The usefulness for the corporate bourgeoisie is evident. Davos started to launch its own reports on the gender gap, the European Ministries of Labor started to design policies to reduce it with special emphasis on the entry of women from the corporate petty bourgeoisie into the management bodies of the big companies, a discourse that quickly channeled a good part of the political expressions of the petty bourgeoisie in revolt.

From feminism as a state ideology to the rejection of racialism

All this explains why the European reactions against the adoption of Anglo-Saxon feminism into a state ideology were so weak. The various academic sects, seeing the willingness of the state, fought each other violently, occupying all the discursive space of power to secure their parcels of land and expand their fiefdoms. For a moment it was fascinating to see the resemblance to the proliferation of conflicts that the decadent Roman state suffered when Christianity became a state ideology. Theological questions of such atrocious idealism as does sex exist or is it merely subjective? became a matter of state with governments playing the role of new Constantines while even the queen and the showbiz stars discovered themselves to be feminists.

And yet, now, when the BLM demonstrations began to give rise to an import of racialism, proposing identical means and concepts as those used by feminism, the manifestos from leftist intellectuals agisnt it proliferated, the claims of republican universalism against the ideology of white privilege and the affirmation of the values of the Enlightenment against ethnic communitarianism proliferated. Of course they are absolutely right when they claim that

The first particularity of this “anti-racist” conception is to reintroduce the notion of “race”. Its supporters claim that race is no longer biological but social. However, reintroducing “race” refers to biology. They replace class struggle with racial struggle, with all the variations and deviations that this induces. Everything is analyzed through the prism of skin color. Therefore, the [new] racists claim to fight racism in order to better promote their own. It is no longer a racism from above where the other is seen as inferior. It is a racism from below, victimizing, which sees the other as oppressive. Everything opposed to it can be summed up as “white”. Attributing a skin color, “whiteness”, as the name of a supposed system of oppression, sticking an epidermis on it, is a form of racism. As opposed to “whiteness” it affirms the “racialized”. This deeply racist and paternalistic term also reduces and assigns the individual to his skin. It makes him into an eternal victim.

This simplistic categorization (would a color chart be necessary to measure the degree of “racialization”?), worthy of 19th century theorists of race hierarchy, is transformed into political slogans. This victimizing racism points to a “structural state racism”, thought out, organized and legalized by “whites”. All its ills would find their explanation in ” whiteness ” and colonial history. The color of a human’s skin becomes the only explanation for what he can suffer or do to others. A “white man” is held responsible for all the colonial history of his ancestors… or someone else’s ancestors. And if the black Frenchman or the North African one rejects this denomination of “racialized” and wants to be emancipated? He is considered a traitor, a “house Negro”, a “service Arab”, a “collaborator”. Yes, racialism is a new form of racism.

Naëm Bestandji

Agreed, whiteness as a system of oppression above capitalism, essential, timeless, on the fringe of the system of exploitation, is a racist invention. However, is this not also the case of the patriarchy, that conceptual aberration identical in structure? To begin to understand this bizarre blindness, one need only read the same article cited above:

Therefore, it does not aim at unifying society. Its aim is to divide society, to divide it into ethnic and religious groups. Its model is American. The United States was built and is organized around communitarianism and racial segregation. The struggle for civil rights, for decades, has been organized around this. Everyone speaks for his or her “people” who are not part of the American people but the people of his or her pigmentation. All groups must be able to live separated but together, without confrontation, within the same state. This is the model that the racists want to import, with all the racist vocabulary in their baggage, like “white privilege”, “white tears”, etc. The struggle is no longer universal. Its subject is the [ethnic] community.

This conception also racializes a religion, Islam, which is considered the religion of the oppressed. This religion is apparently embedded genetically in every Muslim “by birth”. It is no longer just about attacks on individuals because of their religion. Fear and criticism of Islam is also, and above all, pointed out as a form of racism. Therefore, “Islamophobia” has been preferred to “Muslimophobia”. Any criticism or mockery of dogma is declared an attack on believers. Moreover, Muslim fundamentalists are said to be Muslims like anyone else. Any criticism of Islamism thus becomes an attack on all Muslims and thus “Islamophobia” and consequently racism . even if this criticism and mockery comes from other Muslims. This is where racism meets Islamism. The latter has always wanted to make Islam a (superior) race in which the sexist covering of women’s bodies would be the equivalent of skin color. The CCIF and the fashionable Islamism of the Lallab association, an ideological derivative of the Muslim Brotherhood, are examples of an alliance with the racists.

Mosque in Mulhouse, France, under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood and financed by Qatar

Not coincidentally, the main source of resistance to Anglo-Saxon racialism in Europe is France. The French state has been fighting against the Muslim Brotherhood for years for control of the suburbs. Working-class neighborhoods in which the lack of alternatives, of class struggles for years, have made a racialist, ethno-religious communitarian explanation tempting, in which the petty bourgeoisie of the neighborhood fits in without problems, relishes in sacralized preachings in the mosque and receives Qatari or Turkish economic aid.

The argumentative mechanisms of feminism are identical to those of racialism and ethnic communitarianism. But feminism does not segregate the sexes geographically, it does not create an alternative nation, nor does it link it to imperialist competitors. That is why the French republican state and continental European legislation can integrate feminism, turn it into a state ideology as in Spain. Whereas the ghetto’s racialism and political-religious exaltation cannot be integrated.

Bourgeois ideology and the interests of the workers

Meeting of youth organizations of the Bund in Warsaw in 1932. The Bund was a Jewish socialist party of racialist ideas that split from the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party.

Bourgeois morality, the religion of the commodity permeates the whole of capitalist society. It is nothing but the sanctification of “free” exchange in the market. By turning exchange by definition into a fair and equal exercise, being forced to sell one’s labor power in order to eat becomes an epitome of freedom. Class situation disappears. The abstract individual, the citizen of the bourgeois state, reigns as sovereign in a moral order in which the exchange of equals (all merchandise is exchanged for another of equal value for the other) would produce by mere repetitive magic an increase in global wealth. Selling your effort and time at market price, on equal terms with other wretches like you, is an act of freedom that produces general social welfare and progress. That is the message. In the happy capitalist order the equality in the market between some abstract entities called individuals is precisely what makes the existence of unequal social classes invisible.

To affirm equality in order to deny exploitation is the ideological correlate of a very material tendency: the tendency of capital to homogenize the conditions of exploitation in order to maximize the opportunities of big concentrated capital and to dilute risks. It is this social force, nourished by the competition between capitals, that pushed for the creation of a universal class subject to an experience of exploitation and life on similar terms all over the world, the proletariat.

However, partly as vestiges of past eras, partly as a result of the divisive strategies of the bourgeoisie or some of its factions, always intent on seeking a differential advantage, discrimination between workers on the basis of sex, language, religion, race… was always present. For the workers to defend their unity, the universality of their interests and objectives, was a precondition of their mere existence as a class with the capacity to become a political subject and an indissoluble part of their project. That is why from the beginning, the socialist movement has confronted at the same time nationalism and linguistic, ethnic or racial discrimination, discrimination against women and feminism.

The duty to protest against national oppression and to fight against it, which corresponds to the class party of the proletariat, does not find its foundation in any particular “right of nations”, just as the political and social equality of the sexes does not emanate from any “right of women” to which the bourgeois movement for the emancipation of women refers. These duties can only be deduced from a generalized opposition to the class system, to all forms of social inequality and to all powers of domination. In a word, they can be deduced from the fundamental principle of socialism,

Rosa Luxemburg. The national question and autonomy, 1908

Today, in a historic stage of perennial economic crisis, with the petty bourgeoisie leading and driving any movement no matter how delusional it may be to gain ascendancy over a piece of the state in order to secure its income at the expense of the workers, with the state applying itself to dividing and silencing any expression of real struggle, this message is more important and more urgent than ever