Fighting Racism Today
That racism is still rampant among many came to the fore recently when white estate agent, Penny Sparrow, used Twitter to abuse black families enjoying a New Year’s Day outing at the beach in Durban. Liberals say that free speech is a right. People should be able to say whatever they want to. Free speech of racists, sexists, homophobes, & xenophobes should always be opposed as their starting point is the suppression of freedom and the denigration of those they abuse.
The United Front, a formation contesting the neo-liberal policies of the ANC government, issued a statement which opened with the following words which we should all salute:
“That the likes of Hart, Penny Sparrow and others unashamedly act out their white supremacy should not be taken as isolated incidents. With the continued failure of the ANC post-apartheid government, white supremacists have become emboldened… they portray black people as undeserving beneficiaries of affirmative action, poor administrators failing to govern a country and run a modern economy, monkeys, victims claiming entitlements, and so on. They also use their inordinate social, economic and political power to perpetuate black oppression and to defend their ill-gotten gains.”
The statement then went on to call for far stronger legislation to punish racism, which in our view does not assist it taking the fight against racism further. Putting our faith in the state alone is no solution. Legislation against Hate Speech already exists as does the use of the SAHRC.
Marxists say that for racism to be defeated it’s not just the individuals who express it that need to be challenged, but the very system that creates it. The origin of racism lies in modern day slavery, the shipping of millions of people, held in bondage to work the plantations of the Americas. The trade in humans and slavery that followed were undertaken for economic reasons. They were immensely profitable and played a major role in the development in capitalism. Like all forms of exploitation, it required an ideological justification. The barbaric treatment of slaves was legitimised by the theory that these people were subhuman. The racism that grew from the slave trade was further boosted by colonialism and imperialism as a whole.
White supremacy in South Africa has roots in colonial subjugation of black people whose human dignity was taken away to create an endless pool of cheap labour to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for workers of the white minority capitalist class. This system was eventually codified and legislated into law as apartheid in the 20th century. Racist ideology, language and laws were used to justify one set of humans with power treating another group as inferior. Over the decades, men, women and children who stood up against apartheid were taking back their dignity. The system was racist in its very fabric. To fight the racism of apartheid, we needed to fight the economic system that it was built on.
The ANC led a battle against the institutionalised racism of apartheid. In 1994 they had the opportunity to put in place a progressive interventionist state that created jobs, drove spending on schools, housing hospitals, and electrification. Instead they opted for a model approved by the business community, the World Bank and the IMF. The Neo-liberal policies of the ANC have directly prevented the kind of real material changes that would reverse the racist legacy of apartheid.
Inadequate service delivery, degrading conditions in informal settlements, labour brokers casualising labour, landlessness, continued dominance of capital, gifted confidence to racists to express their filth against black people in the country. Some whites feel secure in the belief that they are better than black people because when they look around they see many black people are living in squalid conditions.
Ideas such as sexism, homophobia, nationalism and above all racism sets workers against each other, disrupts their unity and are of great advantage to the bosses. Racism provides the system and its rulers internationally with an extremely useful scapegoat for unemployment and other social ills that capitalism produces.
This is why fightbacks like #FeesMustFall, end outsourcing, and wage strikes in the mining and farming sectors are key to the fight against racism. Winning these demands will mean restructuring the economic system to redress the inequalities of the past. White people who get behind these demands are taking part in an anti-racist struggle. It’s not enough to be non-racist and say nothing about inequality. Anti-racism demands taking an active role confronting oppression and inequality in society and constantly being aware of one’s own prejudices.
Socialism is not just about combating racism, it is about waging the most determined war on every form of racism A socialist society unites workers as collective owners and decision makers rather than dividing them. It is a society not based on exploitation but on solving joblessness, homelessness & poverty and is spread through international solidarity It is a society that will be able to once and for all steadily eliminate the last vestiges of racism.