I. What is Racism?

 

 

 

There is a great deal of confusion about what constitutes racism. We live in multi-ethnic societies where any person can be racially prejudiced against another person of a different ethnic background. It means that this person forms an opinion about another person solely on the basis of the “racial” group to which that person belongs.

 

If the person is discriminating against the other, and this could take the form of ignoring, excluding, avoiding, ridiculing, threatening or even violence, it is not necessary racism. Racial prejudice and discrimination become racism only at the point at which one racial group has more social, economic, political power than another racial group and it uses that power for its interests against the other group in a systemic manner.

 

To do that, the more powerful group has to be in a position to incorporate their prejudices into society’s laws, institutions, policies and norms, which they can then use to discriminate against the oppressed group. The power of the ruling class and of individuals of this class to discriminate is based not on language but on their position in the process of production and in many cases – as the result of this – their control of the state apparatus. Those who own the means of production are the ruling class. They exploit and oppress other classes and when the oppressed are of another ethnicity - this is racism.

 

Because of the confusion about what constitutes racism, it is very common to label a person who expresses prejudice as a racist. This confusion serves the interests of the ruling class. Part of the ideology that justifies racism is the claim that the verbal and written hate expressions against oppression and the acts of the oppressed against the oppressors are equal if not worse than the acts of the exploiters and oppressors, who claim that they are forced to defend themselves against savage terrorists.

 

Thus the rebellions of the Black slaves are equated to the cruelty of the slave masters. The raids of indigenous nations on the white settlers are characterized as savage bloodthirst. The killing of armed Jewish settlers or soldiers is characterized as terrorism while the racist terror of the Zionist state is characterized as self-defense or actions of deterrence.

 

Take the case of Example Ilhan Omar. In 2012, while then an employee of the Minnesota Department of Education she tweeted: “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

 

In January 2019, New York Times editor Bari Weiss claimed that accusing the Jewish state of hypnotic powers amount to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews are supernatural puppeteers — which fueled our persecution in ancient Rome and Nazi Germany.

 

Confused Omar apologized to Weiss. “My use of the word ‘Hypnotize’ and the ugly sentiment it holds was offensive,” wrote Omar. “It’s now apparent to me that I spent lots of energy putting my 2012 tweet in context and little energy in disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used, which is unfortunate and offensive.” Omar then deleted the tweet. [1]

 

Another example that illustrates the confusion about racism is the case of Farrakhan. In the USA it is common for the liberals to demand from people on the left to condemn Islamic leader Minister Louis Farrakhan as a racist. For example Jeremy Hunt of the right-wing Fox News wrote:

 

“Racism and religious and ethnic prejudice are a cancer on the soul and deserve sharp condemnation by every decent man and woman – whether such bigotry comes from a neo-Nazi, a Ku Klux Klansman, a radical Islamic terrorist, or an American religious leader. But as the case of Nation of Islam hatemonger Louis Farrakhan sadly illustrates, too many on the left are reluctant to condemn hate when it is spewed by a black activist

 

Farrakhan has a decades-long history of racist comments aimed at whites and anti-Semitic comments demonizing Jews. And he’s proud of his vile rhetoric – posting videos of his speeches on YouTube just a few days ago in Chicago.

 

In the above speech Farrakhan declared: “White folks are going down and Satan is going down, and Farrakhan, by God's grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew, and I'm here to say you're time is up – your world is through." [2]

 

In the real world the Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan is a reactionary and says things that show that he is racially prejudiced against white people, gays and Jews. Yet he is not a racist in relation to whites simply because he does not have the power to oppress them. Those who put him on the same plan as Trump, or the KKK are turning racism into mere verbal expression rather than institutional oppression. In doing so they help smear those who oppose real oppression and, because of it, refuse to condemn Farrakhan as a racist.

 

It is possible that Jews in the USA, especially those who support Israel, were offended by the word ‘Hypnotize’, yet it is a fact that American and European imperialists support Israel in spite of the systematic oppression of the Palestinians. This support needs an explanation. The Zionists themselves can provide the explanation. The Zionists are very proud of their role as the front line of the western-imperialists control of the Middle East.

 

“Hanit is the Hebrew word meaning spearhead. That word explains why Israel is a vital strategic asset not just to Great Britain, but to the West as a whole”. [3]

 

Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the American flag is rarely (if ever) burned in protest – indeed, some Israelis fly that flag on their own independence day. And avenues in major American cities are named for Yitzhak Rabin and Golda Meir. Arguably, there is no alliance in the world today more durable and multifaceted than that between the United States and Israel”. [4]

 

Due to this role, the pro-Zionist ruling classes, that controls the mass media, have managed to confuse Anti-Semitism with Anti-Zionism. Those who oppose Israel’s brutal repression of the Palestinians are accused of Anti-Semitism. By doing so, the pro-Zionists lump together the persecution of Jews with the opposition to racism. To understand the meaning of this confusion, the reader should bear in mind that for many years the imperialists, including the US and Israel, supported South Africa’s apartheid. Would it surprise anyone if some black Americans condemning South Africa’s Apartheid would have been saying that South Africa ‘hypnotizes’ the world? Would it surprise anyone if those who defended apartheid would have called them racists?

 

It is important to differentiate between Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism. Only by using the scientific method of Marxism is it possible to truly understand the difference. It is not an easy task but it is necessary in order to provide real knowledge to those who support the Palestinian cause and at the same time oppose all forms of racism.

 

Racism appears in different forms and different levels. The lower level is discrimination based on the racial background of groups, classes and nations. The more severe forms are the robbery of the land and natural resources of the native people. Many times it includes ethnic cleansing and even genocide of the oppressed.

 

In this booklet we will deal with the racism against the North American Indians, Blacks slavery, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism and then with Zionism as a form of racism.

 

 

 

The roots of racism

 

 

 

Merriam Webster dictionary defines racism as:

 

A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

 

2a: a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles

 

2b: a political or social system founded on racism

 

3: racial prejudice or discrimination

 

Thus the dictionary offers definitions that focus on one hand on idea-belief and on the other hand on social and political system. It does not deal with the dialectical relations between the two.

 

Believing that ideas come first is the essence of the idealist philosophy. Those who hold to this philosophy are likely to say that hard working people thought that it would be wonderful if they would have slaves to do the hard work. Or that God created some people to be slaves. Those who hold to the materialist philosophy will seek the explanation for slavery in the conditions of society.

 

Marx was the theoretician who explained the relationship between ideas and the economic foundation of society. In the German Ideology Marx wrote:

 

“Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation. By producing their means of subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material life.

 

The way in which men produce their means of subsistence depends first of all on the nature of the actual means of subsistence they find in existence and have to reproduce. This mode of production must not be considered simply as being the production of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form of activity of these individuals, a definite form of expressing their life, a definite mode of life on their part. As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production. (…)

 

The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process. (…)

 

In direct contrast to German philosophy which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men say, imagine, conceive, nor from men as narrated, thought of, imagined, conceived, in order to arrive at men in the flesh. We set out from real, active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of their material life-process, which is empirically verifiable and bound to material premises. Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their corresponding forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production and their material intercourse, alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and the products of their thinking. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. In the first method of approach the starting-point is consciousness taken as the living individual; in the second method, which conforms to real life, it is the real living individuals themselves, and consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness.[5]

 

Thus Marx explained that the superstructure includes culture, ideology (world views, ideas, values, and beliefs), norms and expectations, identities that people adopted result of social institutions (education, religion, media) and the state-political apparatus that governs society.

 

The superstructure grows out of the economic base, and reflects the interests of the ruling class that controls society. The superstructure justifies the base, and in doing so, justifies the power of the ruling class and the exploitation and the oppression of the working people. The superstructure is not passive but influences the classes in society that in non-revolutionary days of stability act according to the ideas originated by the servants of the ruling class.

 

The history of racism is the history of mainly the middle class, who instead of fighting against the ruling class, attack an ethnic minority, blaming them for the suffering of the middle class. Thus in times of historical and periodical deep crisis like the period we live in now, racism is on the rise.

 

It follows that if we want to understand racism we must begin with the understanding of the relationship of production in a given society, its level of the forces of production and the place of classes in the relationship of the production.

 

As we live at the end of the capitalist epoch, to understand the racism of today we must analyze the history of this mode of production which began with the primitive accumulation of capital.

 



[1] Ariel Sobel Opinion: Defend Ilhan Omar. But Don’t Look Away From The Things She’s Said, www.buzzfeednews.com/article/asobel/defend-ilhan-omar

[3] Jerusalem center for Public Affair Israel Security, Regional Diplomacy and International law http://jcpa.org/article/israel-strategic-asset-west/

[4] Michael B. Oren Israel is Now America’s Closest Ally Written Michael B. Oren, Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2008

[5] Karl Marx: The German Ideology (1845), MECW Vol.5, pp. 31-37