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(en) US, APOC book II., RACE, GENDER AND CLASS Structure of the Global Elite and World Capitalism by pedro ribeiro

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 26 Nov 2004 08:54:08 +0100 (CET)

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"Let's put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are
oppressed, too, by sexism - the lie that there can be such thing as
?men?s liberation? groups. Oppression is something that one
group of people commits against another group specifically
because of a ?threatening? characteristic shared by the latter
group - skin color or sex or age etc. The oppressors are indeed
fucked up by being masters (racism hurts whites, sexual
stereotypes are harmful to men) but those masters are not
oppressed. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of
sexism or racism - the oppressed have no alternative - for they
have no power-but to fight. In the long run, Women?s Liberation
will of course free men, but, in the short run, is going to cost men
a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily. Sexism
is not the fault of women; kill your fathers, not your mothers."
---Robin Morgan---

I look at their faces. I see reflection and masks that sometimes
repeat my own in a strange cyclical pattern of power. Because in
here, I am but a wage-slave, condemned to sweating and hurting
for eight bucks an hour, forced to smile and accept condescending
behavior from the all-smiling, ever merry elite of capital. Out there
they might call me a brother, an equal. We are not.
The system of class and the European system of white dominance
and colonialism fused to became one single straight brute force, a
giant juggernaut that tramples over the working-class worldwide
and its two legs are racism and sexism.
Let us be realistic.
While I work at Stanford University, serving food for the sons of
the elite and the future elite, it is increasingly strange for me to
realize that this elite sometimes has skin darker than mine,
accents thicker than mine, visible cultural roots sometimes more
apparent than mine. The extent to which this realization affects
me cannot be easily described - it is an eye-opener and a mind
narrower. It is both an epiphany and an obscurity. This
multicolored, multicultural bourgeoisie is always the enemy and
sometimes the most unexpected and always undesired ally, which
forces its ?diversity? and its ?oppressed situation? down my throat
in an obscene mockery of the plight of the workers of the world.
Let us be realistic.
Racism -white dominance- is not an American phenomenon. The
?white race? supports a global system of racial inequality and
prejudice where, worldwide, the white male has a hegemonic
dominance. It is the new capitalist model, and it is the old.
Imperialism is a stream that never dried because it is vital for
World Capitalism.
The capitalist globalization process that everyday kills and
destroys the lives of millions of people around the globe serves the
political, social and economic agenda of a very well structured
global elite. This global elite is essentially composed of capitalist
white males, power-hungry and with no desire whatsoever to
relinquish or divide power. It is paramount to their institutions of
power to secure the ?invisibility? of the fact that the elite of the
world is composed of one class, one race, and one gender. This
elite controls the levels of government and the levels of business.
They are the church (the moral authority) and they are the
creators of culture. They are the philosophers, the educators.
They are the most pernicious and dangerous group of people.
Across the centuries this elite has used the divisions and social
inequalities in society to their advantage. In fact, they are the
creators, maintainers, and sole beneficiaries of this oppressive
structure. Through a structured and systemic misogynist, racist,
homophobic, brutal capitalist protocol, they ensure the
maintenance of their global empire and especially the
maintenance of their privilege domain over the majority of the
people on earth.
It is (and always was) in the interest of this elite that we, the
people, do not understand their affairs and have no access to their
domains. The institutions of race, class and gender are notably set
to the advancement and comfort of these people and the
exploitation of others.
Nowadays, this elite maintains a global system of exploitation, a
structure that interlocks racism, sexism and ?traditional? capitalist
exploitation. For lack of a better word I shall call this system
World Capitalism.
Traditional Marxist and class struggle analysis have always had
poor understandings of race and gender. The concept that those
two systems of exploitation are a ?fruit? of capitalist society and
will be eliminated when the class struggle is resolved fails to
analytically criticize a culture based on racism and sexism, both of
which came into the picture way before capitalism was around.
Furthermore, these reductionist analyses fail to recognize that the
power structure of privilege does not have to be ratified by the
police, the capitalists or even the State. Culture alone can be a
catalyst of exploitation and submission. A complete revolution
against the bourgeois social fabric cannot be done simply by
taking the bourgeoisie out of the picture.
An understanding of the concept of privilege and how privilege
imposes itself on our daily lives is necessary get at the root of why
racism and sexism are so strong in our societies ?why we have to
fight for the ?right? of getting jobs (not goods jobs, just jobs in
general), why it is dangerous for us to walk at night, why, even
when economically it would make sense to alleviate the tensions
around race and gender, our society is adamant in keeping those
tensions alive and burning. The global elite benefits threefold from
the system of World Capitalism - a system devised, planned and
structured around white male bourgeois privilege, a system that
connects different forms of exploitation in one single machine.
In contrast to some people, I firmly believe that the structure of
World Capitalism could not do without racism and sexism. The
reasons for the existence of these two systems of oppression can
be slightly different but the end result is the same - the
submission of the oppressed to the elite of capitalist society.
For the purpose of this analysis, racism and sexism shall be
broadened to include a multitude of other correlated subjects that
are intrinsically tied to and share the same roots of racism and
sexism. In this essay, racism refers (unless noted) to race
dominance and privilege, national identity, nationalism,
imperialism, colonialism and cultural repression. All these share
the basic premise of domination of one ethnic/national group over
a subordinated one.
To understand Race and Capitalism in a broader sense than the
American concept of race, it is paramount for us to analyze race in
its historical context.
Racism in Europe started before Capitalism. The feudal lords and
the crown of Spain (absolutist and mercantilist) already obsessed
over the concept of ?limpieza de sangre?, the purity of blood. This
concept became strong in Spain in the 1400?s, when the
Spaniards fought against the Moor invaders. A national liberation
struggle, if you like.
These concepts of race and the purity of blood, however, were
deeply ingrained in European culture. Europe was a continent
driven by conquest and tribal wars. The Romans regarded the
tribes of Germans and Francs to be barbarians, brutes of low
intelligence and destined to be submitted to the rule of the Roman
Examples demonstrating a racist culture and a racist system as
integral parts of the European culture run back in history ad
nauseum. Why should we be shocked that they, when spreading
their empire, spread too their racist system?
It is a fairly common misconception that other cultures had no
racist background until the arrival of the Europeans. That is not
true. The African tribal wars that to this day plight the people in
that continent are a living proof that race (identity) was an issue
long before Capitalism.
What seems then to be the purpose of racism? In classical
dialectical materialistic analysis, the constant struggle over power
between forces of society shapes the format of the future as well
as the present of a given society. In the case of the disappearance
of race and gender in our society, the only struggle to be faced is
the class war; against a united working class, the capitalist are
bound to lose. The need of a different struggle, the need of race
and gender inequality for the capitalist is to engage the working
class in different battles, to divide and conquer it.
Based on that, one could argue that racism has always been a
structure designed to maintain the power of a certain class over
another by creating a platform of ?equality? of sorts, making them
?brothers? of the oppressed class. This definition of racism carries
more weight than we can initially imagine, but it fails to recognize
that racism can outlive class oppression and still be the source of
power for a few that would rule at the top of a racialized hierarchy.
Racism and sexism are more culturally rooted in the world than
Capitalism, more than the struggle between the bourgeoisie and
the proletariat. Racism and sexism are two paramount structures
of domination with which the world dominant class maintains its
power and without which, the structure of World Capitalism
would collapse.
It is part of the strategy of the global elite to actively support and
maintain white dominance worldwide.
The idea that white supremacy is an American phenomenon, that
it is a national issue, and that racism in the U.S. has origins in
American Capitalism is, in essence, a very American idea. At the
same time, the complex aspects of race in the U.S. and the
current debate on racism and classism might be the catalyst for
change in the perception of race and white dominance.
Global white dominance appears in two different aspects: privilege
and de facto ruling.
The privilege of the white race is an absolute in the world's
politics and economics; nowhere on the face of the world are
people of European descent the oppressed minority (or majority)
to an elite of color. The ?white race? enjoys a privilege that does
not falter by geographic means.
The white colonial/imperial power stretched itself across the globe
through the process of capitalist globalization. The consolidation
of global capitalism is not only rooted in racism but dependant on
it. From Brazil to India to Mexico, the lighter skin carries a lighter
burden and occupies the higher place.
The de facto ruling of a white elite that controls the global
capitalist structure enforces the privilege of the ?white race?.
Transnational corporate forces are massively concentrated in the
U.S. and Europe and so are the powerful nation-states. The
?white race? enjoys a position of privilege in these two arenas.
Token gains around race and gender are allowed not so much to
pacify race and gender struggles, as it is to foment further
struggle. The idea is to give the exploited a little taste of what they
could get, but to make it clear that they would have to carry a
certain burden in order to get it; just like a mule who tastes a piece
of carrot once is bound to want to eat the whole carrot, and will
work with all its strength to reach the unreachable carrot, while
carrying the weight of the cart in its back. But, apparently
contradicting themselves, the capitalist class shows its contempt
for race and gender equality by openly attacking any form of
improvement in the situation of the oppressed genders and races.
This makes the structure, in the eyes of people of color, a racist
one, instead of a purely classist one. It is necessary to keep people
thinking that a) gains can be achieved inside the structure and b)
racism is everywhere (which is true, but it needs to be really
thrown at people?s faces all the time). The objective of this
exercise is to demonstrate both that power is on the side of the
elite and that therefore the oppressed?s situation can only improve
if they submit enough so the elite do not see them as a threat but
as something they can thoroughly control. In order to carry out
this exercise the elite maintains a distance between those that
have power and privilege and those who do not. It is interesting to
see that the elite of color benefits from the racist structure too, and
that if racism were to simply be wiped out of the whole scenario,
they would be in bad waters. It is in their interest that the white
elite dominates - that would eagerly try to take over if they thought
that they could do it without tearing the fabric of social control
that the white capitalist elite maintains.
The racist structure of the system allows the elites of color to
maintain their power. Imperialism has been used as a shield by
every single dictator that had its power threatened by the bigger
shark. From Castro to Hussein to Milosevic, third world dictators
drag millions of people of color, working class people, and
anti-imperialist militants into the defense of their oppressive
regime. This is not a justification of U.S. actions but rather an
example of how the racist structure of global capitalism doesn?t
just benefit the white elite and is therefore supported directly or
indirectly by the elite Worldwide. It is a case of opportunism,
where oppressors assume an ?oppressed? mask to defend and
maintain their dominance over various groups of people.
A concrete example of this is the role that Brazil now plays in the
FTAA meetings. Lula and the PT (Brazilian Worker?s Party) have
repeatedly tried to sell an image of a defiant Brazil, which is
concerned with the imperialist role that the U.S. would play in
South America irf the FTAA gets approved. What they are really
concerned with is that Brazil might lose its hegemonic dominance
over the South American market, and then, if the U.S. does not
open its market to Brazilian products, the Brazilian elite class of
land owners would lose power. They are not concerned with the
effects of the FTAA on labor, environment and the people. It is
just very convenient that these issues are only brought up to rally
public support.
This pattern repeats itself around the globe. Besides, the majority
of this ?elite of color? are actually descendent of Europeans. Just
look at South America, the diversity and richness of races and
cultures in it, then look at the elite of South America, a very white
and European bourgeoisie. The elite of Africa, while not European
in skin, are mostly educated and raised in Europe or the U.S. The
pattern repeats itself.
In maintaining white supremacy, the elite of color try to escape
guilt-free. In the fight for racial and gender equality, the working
class remains bound. It is not that these fights are not important;
if anything, alongside class, they are the most important ones. It is
only that, without the fall of the Capitalist system as a whole, any
fight becomes just filler.
Other parts of the elite of color take a more aggressive position in
the defense of the interests of the World Capitalist elite; the elites
of Japan thrive off of the complete submission to the American
Empire. Make no mistakes, this is hardly a submissive elite - they
were imperial forces for centuries and held an elitist racial position
over their neighbors. However, in this game they play the
subordinate elite because it is very much in their interest to keep
the status quo, the rest is inconsequential. Japan, defeated in
WWII, is reborn as a Global power, but in submission to white
empire. The Left worldwide have, for decades now, struggled with
race, class and gender, with which liberation should take
precedence, without realizing that if any take precedence, the
whole fight in itself is almost a moot point. Racism is not only a
pillar of class oppression, it is one of the single bases of
oppression itself. GENDER
In this essay, when referring to Sexism, it is incorporated into the
concept (unless noted) issues like - women?s rights, women?s
position in the bottom of the scale of the capitalist society,
homophobia, heterosexism, and male violence against women
and queer people.
Sexism - Male dominance, is the least addressed and
consequentially the most widespread system of oppression in the
world. The roots of sexism in societies cannot be easily traced and
I will not even attempt to delve into its history to avoid any fallacy.
However, in this essay, I shall analyze sexism in its relationship
with Global Capitalism and the struggle for liberation.
The revolution of the Capitalists was economic and political- not
social. The French Revolution, the fall of the Absolutists in
Europe, and the social changes that followed were designed to
enforce the rule of the bourgeoisie and strengthen the influence
and power of this rising class against outside forces.
Representative democracy, liberty and freedom and all the other
promises that the revolution made to the people were designed
according to which form would create a favorable atmosphere for
the establishment of capitalism.
It is interesting then to notice that the revolutionary leaders were
quick to crush the women?s movement that was born during the
French revolution. The establishment of Capitalism could not
allow the development of such a movement, especially since, in
order to meet what those women were demanding, a distribution
of power was necessary. One pamphlet distributed by women
during the revolution was called Request for Women to be
Admitted to the Estates-General, and had the following quote:
?"Man is born egotist...he reduces us to managing his household
affairs and to partaking of his rare favors when he feels so
inclined." Nothing could be more true and it exemplifies the
relationship between the elite and women - the relationship of
power and the need for a structure that ?justifies? and maintains
such a relationship. The current strained relationship between
Capitalism and women has a lot to do with the fact that the elites
of the World are - no matter their ?color? - an oppressive majority
of males. Male dominance is not only a ?cultural trait? as it is one
of applying a simple rule of power - those who have power will not
give it up for free. Concentrated power is limited - the more you
share the less you have. The elites of the world will not relinquish
power to women.
The relationship of power between men and women needs to
transcend race and class in order to be effective. Although one
could argue that this is just another classist plot of the bourgeois
to keep their economic rule over the working class, it is very
interesting to notice that misogynist thinking is part (in different
levels) of a multitude of cultures, even before they were put in
contact with each other. Hunter-gatherer societies had their good
share of misogyny - they were hardly the utopia that certain
people picture them to be. The dominant gender in our societies
has been exploiting women?s work and women in general for
millennia after millennia. Sexism is not a capitalist invention. It is
no accident that the bourgeoisie?s power is composed essentially
of males, this is merely a consequence of the fact that even when
the class struggle between the nobility and the bourgeois
aristocrats was being fought in the French Revolution, in one
thing they agreed - that it was a fight between men, to see which
men was going to be the rulers. It is obvious then why the views
of women like Olympe de Gouges, a French Revolutionary
woman, were so threatening to the male revolutionaries that she
was guillotined in 1793 as a reactionary royalist. Robespierre and
Marat and the men of the Revolution were most certainly terrified
of losing their power to a woman who advocated not only the
necessity of full legal equality between the genders, job
opportunities for women, schooling for girls and the creation of a
national theater where only plays written by women could be
performed, but the creation too of the National Assembly of
Women, emphasizing the need for women of self-government and
equal power for men and women.
Gouges understood that, because the culture of sexism, a
structure that ?embraced? men and women as ?equals? would do
nothing to actually satisfy women?s needs and desires for
liberation - it would merely be a token act. The need of
self-organization for women came from the realization that in a
social structure, every single relationship is one of power and, if
the social structure is constructed by men, it would be inherently
sexist. Only women can devise a structure that would really
benefit women.
Sexism always had a condescending tone to its rhetoric, a view
that men?s subjugation of women was actually a necessity for the
welfare of women. What is interesting is that this view is deeply
ingrained in the social fabric of our society, and to ensure this, it is
necessary that all men participate consciously or unconsciously in
terrorizing women; much like the State, the function of manhood
is to terrify women into accepting men?s ?protection? for the price
of their total submission. As Susan Brownmiller puts it, rape ?is
nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by
which all men keep all women in a state of fear". All forms of
violence against women (rape, domestic violence etc) are forms of
intimidation and bullying through which, firstly, male dominance
is imposed, and second, male ?protection? is made ?necessary?.
Culture reinforces the dominant role of the male and its ?need? of
Violent behavior by men against women and against each other is
more than just assertion of power against the recipient of violence,
it is part of the engine that feeds off the terrorizing of women to
keep them submissive. It is the double use of the rod - it can beat
you up or beat someone else to protect you. And, as Susan Griffin
notes in the book Rape - The All-American Crime, "if the
professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant
heterosexual [male], it may be mainly a quantitative difference."
The extent to which dominance and violence are exerted over
women may vary in quantity, but not in substance.
The logic behind the creation of a social fabric that reinforces a
gendered dichotomy of violence/passivity is to create an
atmosphere of fear so overwhelming that the mere presence of the
male becomes threatening, making any movement that challenges
patriarchy appear impossible. Male attitudes - tone of voice, way
of sitting, conversation, clothing -everything is designed in order
to keep women guessing and consequentially afraid. It is then not
surprising that our movement and our spaces remain male
dominated and will stay so until we critically analyze the balance
of power in the attitudes and presence of men and women inside
the movement.
A woman in a room full of men, no matter how strong, outspoken
and determined she is, and no matter how much the men are
determined to treat her as an equal - is definitively in a position of
less power and thus will not have the same weight in her voice,
unless structural changes are made to prevent that. And if radical
organizations and institutions are not conscious of this power
imbalance and do not actively confront this situation - the
maintenance of the status quo is inevitable. The oppression of
women by working class males is a phenomenon that can be
traced back to almost every single culture. To see the feminist
struggle as separate and a ?division of forces? of the working class
is a ludicrous statement - a reflection of a poor understanding of
the nature of oppression and the nature of the working class.
Indeed, to separate these three fights is to divide the working
class, but to set priority in any of them and have the others as a
tag along is to totally destroy any hopes of liberation that the
working class might have. Gender-based oppression serves a
political purpose too. It serves the elites that women have no
political power for the same reason that it serves the elites that
people of color do not have political power. There is, however, a
difference between the gender elite and the elite of color. The
male-dominated elite of color is, globally speaking, fairly stronger
and definitively more aggressive in its pursuit of power than the
gender-elite. The gender-elite lives in a much more subordinate
position (to their male counterparts) than the elite of color - thus
putting them in a closer position with the women of the working
class. An abused woman will identify with the plight of another
one - independent of class or race; a queer person can identify
with persecution and prejudice against all queer people.
It is, however, very important to notice that empathy and de facto
equality are a far cry from each other, and while bourgeois women
might have some aspects of gender oppression in common with
working class women any substantial alliance is not possible
because they are class enemies.
The union of the working class in one fight will not happen
without the acknowledgement of the multiple layers of oppression
inside the working class itself and the actual destruction of power
imbalance within a movement that proposes to change the reality
of oppression lived by the working class nowadays. A forced union
of the working class, with disregard of the real issues of gender
and race except in a superficial way, is bound to fail.
A world revolution is necessary - a complete change of structure,
a social, economical and political revolution that destroys class,
gender and racial oppression.
I disagree with the idea that the class struggle should take priority
over the race and gender struggle - this centralist and elitist view
of disregarding the concerns of women and people of color have
been seen thousands of time before, and we have been betrayed
and stomped on enough to realize that those with power will not
relinquish it, it must be taken from them. Only the oppressed can
liberate the oppressed, and it is vital that we understand that
people of color, women, queers and all other oppressed people
inside the working class don?t just hear this motto repeated in
their heads like a mantra, but that they actually need to exercise
that line inside the movement and draw their own conclusions of
where they want to go and what needs to be done. I too disagree
with the idea that race and gender should be taken priority over
the class struggle - the simple idea that race and gender issues can
be solved inside the capitalist system in any frame is simply
ludicrous. Inside the capitalist system, we have no real say in the
affairs of business and very little (in the most optimistic of the
views) in the affairs of the government. A feminist or a race
movement that does not have as priority the abolition of the
capitalist system will fall short on its legs - gender and race justice
are impossible inside the capitalist system. The capitalist system is
not only a system based on class dominance, but one too that
maintains women and people of color inside that class and
oppressed within it.
The means must be coherent with the ends. A movement that
disregards any of the systems of oppression is bound to be limited
and to create a society based on elitism. Unless the movement is
committed to be one that addresses those three issues seriously
and not sidestep them with ?we are all equal? condescending
behavior, its range is going to be limited and it will turn off people
that see themselves as not only working-class, but that feel other
pressing forms of oppression crushing them.
It is time to reevaluate the movement?s approach on issues of
race, gender and sexuality - it is good to see that there is a
movement of people that are already working in that direction. It is
time for us to have a revolution in ourselves to change our
perception on what a real liberation of the people means.
I see their faces - their smiling brown faces - and there is nothing
of me in there. We shall build a different World.
* [APOC - Anarchist People Of Color]

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