By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA
Revolutionary Worker #1097, April 8, 2001, posted at http://rwor.org
As you become aware of the situation of the masses of people all over the world--the horrendous suffering they face every day--the question that screams out in all this is WHY?!. Why are things this way? Why is anyone in the world going hungry...without decent housing and healthy conditions of life...without medicine and education to prevent diseases that are completely preventable?... Why are so many youth going without any kind of decent education at all?... Why is so much brutality and murder brought down on the oppressed people, all over the world?... The list of outrages--of real crimes against humanity--goes on and on and on. Why are the great majority of people still locked in a situation where they are struggling just to survive, and even if they make it another day, they are so weighed down by the struggle to survive, and all the oppression bound up with it, that it seems impossible for them to lift up their heads and think about the larger questions of life and to act to change their conditions and the world as a whole? Why is that the condition of the great majority of people in the world?
WHO "DECREED" THIS? Is it "god"? No, but if you were the ruling class presiding over and reaping the benefits from all this, you would sure as fuck WANT people to believe it had been decreed by some god!
Is there something wrong with the people? Are the people "just fucked up"? NO--there is nothing wrong with the people that has not been put on them by the system, and nothing they cannot cast off through the process of waging the revolutionary struggle to overthrow this system and to build on its ashes a new, liberating society free of exploitation and oppression.
Is it just racism--and, let's face it, is it that white people are just hopelessly depraved and lacking in decency? No. Now, it might seem that way sometimes! And I remember, for example, somebody sent me a clipping after the acquittal of those murdering pigs who shot down Amadou Diallo, and there was this quote from a Black guy who was protesting against this--he said to one of these media people: "What is wrong with white people? Do they just lack all humanity?" And you could see why people would ask that question. But that is not a scientific analysis-- it doesn't correctly reflect reality nor get to the fundamental causes of things--even of why there is so much racism.
And there are a lot of ideas put out there these days--unscientific ideas about how white people are "devils"--and this is meant literally--and white people are "genetically programmed" and/or "historically evolved" to be mean, nasty, and murderous, and so on. There are these lines put out about how white people's genes made them inferior--mentally inferior and morally inferior, I guess--and how white people developed all these aggressive and murderous traits as a result of living in these cold, harsh climates, living in caves in Europe and having to develop a vicious way of life to compete with each other and to deal with nature, for a long time. But this is not scientific knowledge--it doesn't correspond to reality, it doesn't explain reality.
NOT IN THE GENES
Let's take this thing about genes. Most genes of human beings, all over the world, are very, very similar; in fact, the whole notion of different "races" based on "genes" is itself unscientific--even that doesn't stand up to reality. And, as for white people (or Europeans) in particular, they're a real mixed bag of genes from all over the world, and in particular genes from Asia and Africa. So not only are the genetic similarities of people all over the world much greater than the differences but white people have all these genes mixed in, especially genes of people originally from Africa and Asia. So it can't be "the genes."
Now, as for living in caves, first of all, the only problem is it doesn't have much to do with reality. There were some people in Europe who lived in caves, but a lot of Europeans lived around the Mediterranean. Look at the Italians. Especially the ones from southern Italy (and Sicily) come from a Mediterranean climate--they don't live in harsh climates and they haven't been living in caves for a long, long time, if they ever did!
And on the other side of things, I've been to China and I've seen the caves that people lived in, in parts of China. I saw the cave that Mao stayed in when they were waging revolutionary war against Japan and then Chiang Kai-shek backed by the U.S. So there's nothing about caves that makes you aggressive except maybe in the sense of being able to wage a revolutionary war and win it. And, anyway, this kind of violence and conquest that we have seen carried out by European powers is real, but it's not new. And it is not limited to Europeans.
Ask the Chinese about the massive destruction and inhuman atrocities carried out by the Japanese imperialists when they occupied China, particularly during World War 2. And if you look across the world or you look throughout history, you can see that Europeans have not been unique in terms of enslaving and slaughtering people and generally treating people they conquered and oppressed in horrendous ways.
For example, look at ancient Egypt. You had the Egyptians in the northern part of the Nile country, and you had the Cushites (Nubians) in the south--they viciously fought each other back and forth. And you can see the archaeological evidence, including preserved literature, where, for example, after a great battle the Egyptians celebrated how they slaughtered the Nubians and boasted of how the Nubians' entrails were lying on the battlefield. And then the Egyptians ruthlessly exploited the Nubians. They celebrated this in their epic poetry. There's not something wrong with the Egyptians as a people--genetically or otherwise, historically or today--there's nothing wrong with their genes, and they didn't live in caves, and neither did the Nubians. It's just the character of the system--of the social relations that people are involved in and the corresponding political rule and ideas and culture--that is what determines how they deal with each other, and with other peoples, and how they look at things.
A RUTHLESS AND RELENTLESS SYSTEM
Now, national oppression, the oppression of whole nations and national minorities, within the U.S. and throughout the world, is very real and is a real horror--it's all too real and all too horrible--and in the U.S. in particular, WHITE SUPREMACY and its corresponding ideology is built into the very foundation and fabric of society. But this is rooted in the fundamental social, and international, relations, and today it is rooted in the very structure of capitalist-imperialism and its process of accumulation based on exploitation and super-exploitation of oppressed peoples.
Here's an important question: Why was slavery in the southern U.S. so ruthless and so relentless as compared to, say, the slavery in Africa at the same time or to slavery--some of the slavery, not all, but some of the slavery--in the ancient Roman empire, slavery that had more of a domestic character in which slaves could rise in position, could even buy their freedom sometimes. Why was slavery so much more ruthless and relentless in the southern U.S.? Well, the main reason was because it was linked to the capitalist world market. Slavery in the southern U.S. was linked to, and produced for, the capitalist world market. For example, the slaveowners sold cotton to England, where they made the textiles that then were sent back to the United States to be further worked on--turned into clothes, etc.--in manufacturing establishments in the northern U.S.
The capitalist engine of accumulation is ruthless and relentless. It isn't like a feudal system--it isn't like an ancient system of plantation agriculture. Capitalism's basic nature--its anarchy of production, its expand or die commandment, its unforgiving rule of push out other capitalists or go under--this is what makes it so ruthless and relentless. And once you have slavery linked to this kind of process of accumulation, it's bound to be ruthless and relentless. It's bound to continually drive people, it's bound, when it can no longer exploit them as slaves in production, to sell them to other slaveowners in other places where the land has not been so depleted by the system of slavery, where the slaves can be profitably exploited again, working on the plantations. It's bound to split up families. It's bound to tell young women that they should, that they have to, produce more babies to be torn away from them and sold to other plantations, as the slave system did in the U.S.
This irony is something--they're always talking about "babies having babies," these "irresponsible young women" in the ghettos. (And I have written about what is the real motivation and the real cause of that: the desire to have a feeling of dignity and worth--a feeling of purpose--to have someone, in a seemingly loveless and heartless world, who will love you unconditionally.) But back in slavery days the slaveowners would want the slave women to produce all kinds of children--and they'd want them to produce them "out of wedlock"-- they didn't give a damn about the families of the slaves and "preserving the sanctity" of their families--they would sell young boys and girls at the age of 10, or even much younger. They regarded and treated the slave women as breeding machines-- for the slaveowners.
You see, slavery would use up the soil rapidly--it was a very primitive system of agriculture--it would use up the soil and then they couldn't make a profit from the plantation system, so the slaveowners who were in that situation would then sell slaves to plantation owners in other places (like Mississippi) where the soil hadn't yet been depleted. And you can see the link between changes in production and the nature of the way in which people are exploited by something.
Take the cotton gin, for example. The cotton gin was a very simple device that was invented at the end of the 18th century. It separated out the cotton fibers from the cotton seed. Before that, it was very difficult, very laborious and time-consuming to do that, by hand (it was also painful, although that didn't bother the slaveowners, since the slaves were the ones suffering the pain--but the fact that it was time-consuming did bother the slaveowners, since it cut into the profitability of growing cotton). Before the cotton gin was invented to mechanically separate out the cotton seed from the fiber, slavery--or at least slave-grown cotton, which was soon to become a major product of plantation agriculture--did not appear to have that much of a future, because it was too expensive to actually employ slaves in cotton production. But once they got this cotton gin, that made a big difference. Then, as it was said in the South, cotton became "King" and more generally slavery "had a new lease on life."
Now there was all kinds of racism that was elaborated to justify this slavery. You know, I have to laugh when I hear about people saying: "If everybody would just read their Bible and follow what it says, everybody would treat everybody well." Bullshit! The Bible was used to justify slavery--it was one of the main things that was used to justify slavery--all this stuff from Genesis about Noah's bad son Ham who was supposed to be the ancestor of the people of Africa who put a "stain" on them. That was used by the southern slaveowners to justify slavery (along with the writings of Aristotle and some of these other "great thinkers" from throughout the ages).
But all this is rooted in material reality--in certain social conditions and relations. Yes, ideas have been developed to "justify" and reinforce slavery and other forms of exploitation and oppression, and these ideas are horrendous. But things don't begin with ideas--that's not the source and the foundation. You don't just get an idea like "I'm going to enslave somebody" and then you can go enslave them. If you don't have the material basis, I don't care how fucked up your ideas are, they're just going to shoot you if you try to enslave them! If there's not a whole social structure and a set of social relations to provide a basis, you can't institute a system just because you want to, or just because you have fucked-up ideas.
Once again, the fundamental point is that all this evil shit, all this exploitation and oppression, is rooted in and caused by the needs and workings of the system and not just by some racist ideas by themselves, although racism plays a big role in reinforcing this and in giving people a distorted picture of what is actually happening and why--putting the blame on the masses who are subjected to this enslavement and oppression.
To get at this further, let's look briefly at another experience of Black people being exploited under this system--but in a different form--after the Civil War and the end of outright slavery. For several generations after that, the masses of Black people were still, in a real sense, chained to the plantation system in the South--not by literal, physical chains and the condition of being owned outright by the plantation owners, but instead by the monopoly of land ownership that the white plantation bosses had, and by a whole system of basically feudal exploitation (share-cropping, and so on), and its superstructure of laws and legal segregation and discrimination as well as legal and "extra-legal" repression and terror by the police and the rest of official authority, along with the KKK, the "white citizens' councils," etc. And then, after World War 2, when for a number of reasons, it was no longer as profitable to exploit masses of Black people on the plantations--when agriculture was being transformed into more capitalistic agriculture, utilizing machinery increasingly in place of human labor, as that became more profitable--then Black people were largely driven off the land in the South...to be super-exploited, forcibly segregated and discriminated against, and brutalized by the police, in urban ghettos.
In each case--first, in chaining Black people on the plantations in the South and enforcing this with a whole system of oppression and terror, even after slavery was abolished, and then in driving them off the southern farmlands and into the urban ghettos, to be oppressed and brutalized there, in some new ways as well as some long-standing ways--in all this, it is the driving forces of the system that are the fundamental cause. It is the underlying dynamics of an economic system driven by the compulsion of capitalist accumulation and the capitalist market, in combination with the deeply-founded structures of white supremacy and the conscious actions of the ruling class to preserve and enforce all this. (This is gone into more fully in the pamphlet published by the Party: Cold Truth, Liberating Truth [CTLT].)
It's the system. That is what we're dealing with. That is the cause. That is the problem.
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