Class and Racism in Capitalism

Both Prof Richard Wolff and Prof David Harvey addressed the relationship between racism and class in a capitalist society this past week... 


No one is used to being referred to as a “business cycle shock-absorber.” But as Prof Richard Wolff argues in a recent article, How Racism Is an Essential Tool for Maintaining the Capitalist Order, that is exactly how people of color, indigenous Americans, women and immigrants are being used by capitalism.

“For capitalism, making such a minority absorb most of the costs of capitalism’s instability allowed the majority of the working class to be relatively exempted, relieved, freed from them. The majority could be less subject to cycles because the minority was made relatively much more subject. Capitalism promised the majority relatively secure jobs and incomes because it took those away from the minority. The majority could thus worry less about the next cycle, whereas the minority had to worry more and adjust their lives more. Racists could then attribute the resulting differences between minority and majority subparts of a population to inherent qualities of different “races” instead... In bitter competitions between Black and white shock-absorbers for cyclically scarce jobs, whites could and often did use racism to gain advantages in access to those jobs. In multiple ways, then, capitalism fostered and benefited from racism; it thus settled deeply into the system."

Read the full article: How Racism Is an Essential Tool for Maintaining the Capitalist Order

In the latest episode of Anti-Capitalist Chronicles: Race and Class, Prof David Harvey recollects his move to Baltimore in the 1970s and the mixed, even hostile, reactions that people had to class analysis of racial issues. 50 years later, he argues that this analysis may prove to be the necessary next step in the shift in consciousness of a movement that can create lasting change. Harvey also underlined a major topic from his previous episode, that our biggest threat is falling into yet another period of reform (such as the neoliberal reforms of the 1980s) that does not address the underlying systemic issue. 

“We have to push the liberal left. We have to push all those people demonstrating to understand that capital is the problem. Capital cannot be the solution. And by “capital” we’re talking about wealthy elites and their manipulations of white racism, which is not to say that white racism is simply their construct, but their manipulation of it and their suckering of it seems to me to be something we need to pay very close attention to... The bringing together of race and class is the one thing that the ruling class of the United States is incredibly fearful of. If you put race and class together, you will have a revolution.”

Watch the full episode: Anti-Capitalist Chronicles: Race and Class

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