‘ […] The fate of the white working class has always been bound with the condition of Black workers. Going as far back as the American colonial period when Black labour was first imported into America, Black slaves and indentured servants have been oppressed right along with whites of the lower classes. But when European indentured servants joined with Blacks to rebel against their lot in the late 1600s, the propertied class decided to “free” them by giving them a special status as “whites” and thus a stake in the system of oppression.
Material incentives, as well as the newly elevated social status were used to ensure these lower classes’ allegiance. This invention of the “white race” and racial slavery of the Africans went hand-in-glove, and is how the upper classes maintained order during the period of slavery. Even poor whites had aspirations of doing better, since their social mobility was ensured by the new system. This social mobility, however, was on the backs of the African slaves, who were super-exploited.
But the die had been cast for the dual-tier form of labour, which exploited the African, but also trapped white labour. When they sought to organise unions or for higher wages in the North or South, white labourers were slapped down by the rich, who used enslaved Black labour as their primary mode of production. The so-called “free” labour of the white worker did not stand a chance.
Although the Capitalists used the system of white skin privilege to great effect to divide the working class, the truth is that the Capitalists only favoured white workers to use them against their own interests, not because there was true “white” class unity. The Capitalists didn’t want white labour united with Blacks against their rule and the system of exploitation of labour. The invention of the “white race” was a scam to facilitate this exploitation. White workers were bought off to allow their own wage slavery and the African’s super-exploitation; they struck a deal with the devil, which has hampered all efforts at class unity for the last four centuries.
The continual subjugation of the masses depends on competition and internal disunity. As long as discrimination exists, and racial or ethnic minorities are oppressed, the entire working class is oppressed and weakened. This is so because the Capitalist class is able to use racism to drive down the wages of individual segments of the working class by inciting racial antagonism and forcing a fight for jobs and services. This division is a development that ultimately undercuts the living standards of all workers. Moreover, by pitting whites against Blacks and other oppressed nationalities, the Capitalist class is able to prevent workers from uniting against their common class enemy. As long as workers are fighting each other, Capitalist class rule is secure.
If an effective resistance is to be mounted against the current racist offensive of the Capitalist class, the utmost solidarity between workers of all races is essential The way to defeat the Capitalist strategy is for white workers to defend the democratic rights won by Blacks and other oppressed peoples after decades of hard struggle, and to fight to dismantle the system of white skin privilege. White workers should support and adopt the concrete demands of the Black movement, and should work to abolish the white identity entirely. These white workers should strive for multicultural unity, and should work with Black activists to build an anti-racist movement to challenge white supremacy. However, it is also very important to recognise the right of the Black movement to take an independent road in its own interests. That is what self-determination means. […] ‘
Excerpt from “How the Capitalists Use Racism”, from the book “Anarchism and the Black Revolution” by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin