Class Basis of the Struggle for Equality

Glimpses of Britain and USA history

The Afro-American component of our U.S. working class is exploited, as are all workers. But they are additionally discriminated against and exploited on the basis of racism.

Racism is a big factor in the fact that 25-30 per cent of Black workers in basic industry are unemployed. Most are suffering from long-term unemployment.

There is also a distinct pattern of racism in upgrading and job classifi­cation. The racist pattern in hiring and firing of Black workers remains in full force.

Because of past discriminatory practices, pension, retirement and social security benefits are smaller for Black workers.

And, of course, Black workers and their families suffer from all the dis­crimination and racism directed against the whole Afro-American com­munity-poor housing, education, medical and child care, cultural oppres­sion, as well as political under-representation.

The gap created by racist inequality is a major obstacle to working- class unity. A true measure of the class consciousness of all workers-but, in a special way, of the level of class consciousness of white workers- is the level of Black-white unity. Black-white working-class unity is a fundamen­tal precondition for working-class unity in general. The struggle for Black- white working-class unity is key in the building of the alliances between movements and struggles.

A critical arena for the struggle must be jobs and affirmative action. The struggle for equality in unionized industries can be conducted by way of affirmative action clauses in labor contracts. This must become stan­dard for all labor contracts.

But some of the most serious racist inequalities are in unorganized in­dustries and shops. Therefore, the struggle for equality and against racism in general raises the need for organizing the unorganized and for more binding affirmative action legislation that would be applicable to the unor­ganized service industries. It also raises the need for enforcing the law and increasing the minimum wage standards.

The inequalities suffered by other nationally oppressed components of our working class are all patterned after the system and essence of racism practiced against the Afro-American community. The racism against Black America feeds and is a conduit for the national oppression, discrim­ination and chauvinism against other nationally oppressed minorities.

The oppression that other national minorities suffer is not the same. But it is fed by and is closely connected with the racism that permeates all phases of our life.

Because the cause is just and because it is in its class interest, the trade union movement must be convinced to accept as its major responsibility the struggle for equality for all components of the working class in every area of life.

From: Political Affairs, 1984