Is socialism a partial solution to discrimination?

Jayanban Desai leading the protest at Grunwick, 1976 to 1978

Is the solution to racism, misogyny and prejudice a nicer capitalism or do we need a more profound transformation of society?

What do we do when a right winger like Priti Patel claims that she is fighting prejudice? Do we acknowledge this and support her as a woman who has suffered deeply from two types of discrimination? Or do we see her as a class enemy and defender of the status quo?

What is the position of women in Cuba? How much racism is there in Cuba? How much discrimination is there? Did the Cuban revolution get rid of prejudice in Cuban society? Did it make women more equal? Did it stop prejudice against people with a darker skin? Did the situation improve in all socialist countries for women?

I would argue that, in large measure, the Cuban revolution was successful in tackling the problems of discrimination, though discrimination remained, especially homophobia. Socialism did benefit women. It did give them a huge amount of equality in comparison with other similar Latin American countries.

A revolution in 2021 would be far more effective in tacking homophobia, for example than a revolution carried out in 1959.

You could imagine that any future transformation (revolution?) in one of our societies would now take into account the need to tackle all forms of discrimination and prejudice. A revolution in 2021 would be far more effective in tacking homophobia, for example than a revolution carried out in 1959.

So, in large measure, the logical conclusion is that a socialist revolution would solve an important part of the puzzle that is sexism and racism. It would bring an enormous measure of economic and practical equality. Along with an economic revolution comes a deep change in cultural attitudes.

For example, Mexico’s indigenous heritage was almost completely ignored by the modernising capitalist government of Porfirio Diaz, but after the Mexican revolution nearly all Mexico’s heroes, heroes like Benito Juarez, were deeply rooted in Mexican culture. Mexico became proud of its indigenous heritage and embarrassed by the fact of the Spanish conquest.

We are obliged to fully support the Black British struggle that is intersectional, and that is also for socialism; the feminist struggle that is intersectional and that is also for socialism; the struggle for LGBT rights that is intersectional and also for a socialist transformation.

But, as Stephanie Julia Urdang argued as long ago as 1973, it is only when the people discriminated against take an active part in the overall struggle against oppression that the problem is dealt with more effectively in the new society that is created.

Still, you look at the revolutions in Mozambique and Angola and what used to be Guinea Bissau now and you have to conclude that what was really more effective in reducing discrimination was the transformation of Cuban society into a socialist society and the people who fought for the Cuban revolution, supported by their women, were mainly men.

we must ally ourselves with [people who suffer discrimination] completely and understand them support them if we ourselves are not members of their group. They in turn, we expect, will not oppose the struggle against capitalism.

So, as my comrade, James Tweedie (former International Editor of the Morning Star) points out: anyone who is really serious about getting rid of the problems of discrimination will also be really serious about transforming our society into a democratic socialist society – a communist society in the best sense of that word.

Women and black and LGBT people, refugees and other persecuted sections of the population lead the struggle against their oppression, and we must ally ourselves with them completely and understand them support them if we ourselves are not members of their group. They in turn, we expect, will not oppose the struggle against capitalism.

Of course Angela Davis has criticised bourgeois feminism for this precise reason. Bourgeois black British oppose the removal of capitalism. Bourgeois LGBT people oppose the transformation of society into a more just society.

And all of our struggle for a new socialist society must take place within a broad alliance with the majority working class, the foundation of any future positive transformation of society.

Now this makes it complicated for socialists. How do we deal with oppressed people who side with the oppressor, especially when we belong to one of those groups? At some point, don’t they too become our enemy? Isn’t Priti Patel the enemy?

And all of our struggle for a new socialist society must take place within a broad alliance with the majority working class, the foundation of any future positive transformation of society.

It was C. L. R. James who said that the black working class in Britain and the USA were the leaders of the working class in the UK and USA

Five black British men went down to protect young black activists from right wingers in a demonstration in London and one of the five ended up saving a white working class counter demonstrator from injury. This is highly symbolic.

It was C. L. R. James who said that the black working class in Britain and the USA were the leaders of the working class in the UK and USA because they were the ones who suffered its exploitation and oppression the most, and the ones who understood its nature the best.

The solution to prejudice is not a nicer capitalism. It is not more of the same. The solution requires a profound socialist transformation of society and that struggle has to be in a broad alliance based on the working class, but it will probably be lead by the people who suffer exploitation and prejudice the most.


Phil Hall

Phil Hall is a university lecturer working in the Middle East. He is a committed socialist and humanitarian. Phil was born in South Africa where his parents were in the ANC. There, his mother was imprisoned and his father was the first journalist from a national paper to be banned. Phil grew up in East Africa and settled in Kingston-upon-Thames. He has also lived and worked in the Ukraine, Spain and Mexico. Phil has blogged for the Guardian, the Morning Star and several other publications and he has written stories for The London Magazine.



Categories: Capitalism, Equal rights, Racism

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