The only things our society readily gives people to express themselves with are products.

Literature, music, poetry, and art are no less products in this way. Upper-middle-class people are no less curators of themselves out of consumables.

In the Capitol there is a wild diversity in food and clothing, but the souls are all pale and lukewarm.

In resistance there are very few flavors, very hard to discern, very deep-down. But between resistance and consumption you can taste the difference like you can between protein and sugar.

I am staggered by the sorrow that is already here.

Have you been to /r/climate lately? I am overwhelmed by the sorrow that is to come.

But what is there left but to resist? I will help build communism at the south pole if I have to. Better than this woeful indignity, where my people resort to gorging on plastic because the only unadulterated spirit to be found is in rebelling against the strongest military ever to exist.

The way they tell the story–the way they have tried to make sure the story goes–there is so little daylight between the death the imperialists and the fascists promise us and the true life that rebellion brings.

And as Malcolm said, the price of freedom was never anything but death.

But with that said–I don’t know how to say it–the people are indomitable, they are a pressurized gas bursting through the walls of history. In the tiniest beam of light that pours through, the people will flood through and crack their system, and break their military apart on the rocks of time.

If most of the earth becomes unlivable, so be it. Let the sun of communism shine at the south pole, under enormous glass domes if it has to.

On the relationship between reform and revolution, and reactionary reforms vs. revolutionary reforms

I just wrote this in a comment on the MLM Communism 101 page, and I thought I expressed it pretty well, so I wanted to share it here. Credit to a friend of mine in RAIM for a status she wrote that really helped me grasp what a revolutionary reform looks like (the one about ending solitary confinement).

As the RAIM comrade put it, revolutionary reforms are reforms that increase the fighting power of the working class more than they do that of the bourgeoisie, or in a way that doesn’t concede anything (or at least anything of meaning) to the bourgeoisie.

Solitary confinement is a very good example, because it is a way that they lock up and torture the proletariat’s greatest leaders. Winning those leaders back to be able to engage with the masses, even if in prison, is a great victory for the working class.

My claim is not that *all* advancements in the condition of the working class overall help the bourgeoisie. I am arguing that *some*, and *in the long term*, are *overall* more helpful to the bourgeoisie than to the global proletariat.

For instance, if we could disarm the police or end solitary confinement, that would simultaneously improve workers’ situation in the here and now AND make the bourgeoisie weaker. This is true for both the short and long terms.

And in the short term, they are almost all better. If we were in a near-revolutionary situation and a working class guided by a revolutionary party was pushing for a social democratic program, that victory might be an overall positive thing, because it would give an already potent working class more resources to work with, to allow it to more probably consummate its revolution.

However, I believe all historical evidence shows that some worker demands, if not granted in near-revolutionary situations where the working class has become armed and guided by a party, can overall serve the bourgeoisie’s agenda more than the proletariat’s. I believe the social democratic program is an example of this.

. . .

> would you have opposed limiting the 12h work day? payed vacations? minimum wage?

Those demands were being made in an increasingly revolutionary situation by a not-yet-much-corrupted working class. I think they were good demands in their time that were building the proletariat’s strength without sapping much of its revolutionary energy.

But at this point, there are defenders of those concessions even among the bourgeoisie, and there have been since at least FDR’s time. Large sections of the bourgeoisie see a value in having a comfortable imperialist-country working class for a variety of reasons.

> where is the line drawn?

I think the question you’re asking here is, what should communists be doing? Like, where should *we* draw the line, in terms of what we support? The line can only be drawn based on historical analysis.

Basically, since we are in a non-revolutionary situation, we have to assume that these reforms will stick around for a long time and have their long-term effects. This means that pushing for social-democratic reforms is probably overall harmful for the proletariat’s position in the global class war.

So I do not think we should support economistic reforms like Fight for 15. Let the SEIU and other lapdogs of the bourgeoisie fight for that. We should not spend any resources on it.

If we do voice support for any, it should be for more political ones, like ending solitary confinement or disarming the police, or for justice for migrant workers.

I think there is a blurry line where it can be good to voice support for resisting austerity efforts. But I need to study this specific question more, and I also think it might be a really nuanced thing where you see what the masses are demanding, especially the lowest and deepest section of the proletariat.

In fact, that’s one of the most important things to look at: as a comrade of mine was just pointing out earlier, while it *looks like* the demand for universal free tuition helps the whole working class, in practice there are all sorts of hidden expenses and obstacles that mean the poorest and most oppressed section of the proletariat actually do not have any better access to education as a result. It is a demand that helps the labor aristocracy, and doesn’t really help the lowest and deepest sections of the proletariat at all.

This is much the same with the question of raising the minimum wage, because the lowest and deepest sections of the proletariat are also the most unemployed, and are the quickest to be fired, so a higher minimum wage is not as helpful as it might seem to the most revolutionary sections of the working class.

But truth be told, I don’t think this whole question is as important as it might seem.

It is not super important because currently, we do not have the power to meaningfully participate in the electoral arena at all. If we were as big as the Communist Party of the Philippines, we might have the power to win those kinds of more political reforms through the work of the united front.

But I sincerely believe that for every imperialist country in the world right now, the primary task of communists should be carrying out the mass line among the lowest and deepest section of the proletariat, Black Panther Party-style, in order to build an uncompromising underground revolutionary party that is providing leadership to a united front and which is carrying out people’s war, or preparing for it.

We cannot build this by participating in electoral movements first. That is precisely what they want us to do. Our first work is to build self-reliant, disciplined, theoretically advanced people power that can survive no matter what laws are passed.

* * *

I was making this explanation as a way of defending a claim I had made earlier:

Welfare capitalism is a strategy that imperialism has used to stabilize itself, and in that way has only deepened capitalism’s grip on the world. . . .

The workers of the Scandinavian countries (those who are citizens, at least) now have even less reason to struggle against capitalism, and more reason to align themselves with imperialism than ever.

Welfare capitalism is twins with fascism. They are both strategies that bring the workers of an imperialist country into tighter alliance with that country’s bourgeoisie while making the super-exploitation of outside workers all the more brutal.

A not so terribly long and hopefully somewhat engaging story about how a libertarian became a communist

became a communist

You may have heard me summarize these events before, but this is *far and away* the best I’ve ever told the story. I feel re-inspired and reinvigorated just for having retold it like this, so I wanted to share it.

I used to be a libertarian. Like, a pro-capitalism, pro-market person who also wanted drugs and gay marriage to be legalized, and u.s. interventionism to be ended as much as possible. I started off as a Democrat when I was like thirteen because my parents were both Democrats, but then I read Ayn Rand when I was fifteen and then I also read this book “In Defense of Global Capitalism,” which is full of statistics that I found very convincing about why cutting regulations and lowering tariffs is best for everyone in every way. But I wasn’t *trying* to be an asshole or like a puritan Christian, and I believed in personal freedom, so I supported some “socially progressive” stuff. But I was also an outspoken advocate of “free markets” and such.

Virtually the only anticapitalists I would encounter for years were lifestylist anarchists on a college campus who, I don’t even remember what they said. I do know from time to time they would mention Chomsky or Howard Zinn, because I remembered those names when I started exploring on my own later. But they pointed out how this or that aspect of government policy was being corrupted by a corporation. For a while that just deepened my libertarianism, because the standard libertarian response is like, “Well, then if we just got rid of the government, then it couldn’t be corrupted.” The ideals of anarchism (“no gods, no masters”) made sense to me, but I wasn’t ready to abandon capitalism, so I became an anarchocapitalist.

But like, at the same time, the more I learned about the history of the time before government regulations, that seemed even *worse*. So on one hand I didn’t want government programs or regulations to stop, but I was also a quick advocate for removing tariffs and such, and believed that all arbitrary authorities should be destroyed.

It was a pretty contradictory position, and I didn’t see a solution, so I was pretty cynical for a while, even as the people around me continued to pour information about the greed of corporations on me. And I never stopped paying attention to electoral politics and geopolitics, even while I continued to not be able to draw any new conclusions about it, because I at least wanted to know what was going on in the world.

At a certain point, I also started to have the good fortune of the women around me starting to share their personal experiences of being oppressed as women, and I came to realize that patriarchy was real, and massive, and overwhelming. It made me incredibly sad once I realized that virtually every single woman on the planet had to go through the harassment and violence that my close friends were experiencing. I am a white nonbinary person who passes as male and as heterosexual from a mostly middle-class background–I had simply never encountered that knowledge before. I knew our society was unequal because–duh–how come there aren’t the same number of men and women senators and CEOs? But once I heard how violent and cruel the system was that created those effects, and from people I knew were not lying, how could I ignore it?

From there I got interested in feminism, and from there into what is called social justice in general. I learned about the history, gravity, depth, and brutality of white supremacy. Learning about white supremacy and the disparity of wealth between white and black people in the united states led me to believe that a huge part of a solution to the problem would simply have to be massive economic redistribution, regardless of my skepticism of government intervention. And I saw that the power structure DID seem to be racist and sexist. And I noticed that a lot of the people involved in social justice were interested in left-leaning politics, and sometimes even critical of capitalism itself–and meanwhile most of the libertarians I had bumped into over the years denied the reality or severity of patriarchy and white supremacy. I found myself consorting with people on the left end of the political spectrum more and more. And I liked them more, they were simply kinder and funnier.

And somewhere along this timeline, I graduated from college and had to take a job that did not pay well, and which I hated. I was poorer than I had ever been. I had to find ways of scraping by in every aspect of life, from living in bad housing to eating as cheap of food as I could find. I learned what it is to *constantly* worry about money. I learned how hard it is to find a job with any kind of security or personal enjoyment. And then the recession in 2008 hit, and they cut the pay at my job, and I got even poorer. To be poor is terrible, and I wasn’t even *close* to absolute poverty by global standards.

So then four things happened at roughly the same time:

First, I was lucky enough to have the internship that I’d had for two years help me land a salaried job, which paid quite well (at least for the area I was living in), plus it gave me benefits. I realized just how fucking stressed I had been about being poor, and realized that inevitably part of what keeps poor people poor is that existing in such deprivation is self-perpetuating. It’s like gravity–the closer you are to absolute poverty, the harder the forces pulling you down are. Meanwhile, with this new job, I had passed above an important economic line. I found it easy to keep saving more and more money, and saw how that could help me climb even higher if I wanted to. I saw on a personal level how, once you get above a certain amount of wealth, there’s a feedback loop that lets you keep getting wealthier.

Second, Occupy was going on. I started to hear lots of theories about what was going on in the world, including more anticapitalist stuff. Nothing too severe. A friend of mine happened to be reading “Debt: The First 5,000 Years.” Well, the concept of debt itself was being talked about a *lot* around that time, and I had heard people saying that book was interesting, so I decided to read it. More on that in a second.

Third, in fact while I was reading “Debt,” I went to what is called the Rainbow Gathering, a basically anarchist gathering in the forest where no money is exchanged, and anyone who shows up can eat for free. But they are asked to work, getting water, digging latrines, etc. in order to support the whole thing. There is a lot wrong with Rainbow, but it was an overall positive experience for me (probably because I am white and pass as a man). I met some incredibly kind and compassionate people there, and I saw an entirely different way of running society–one where people do things for each other because they love each other and they love the community and society that supports them. A society where each individual’s self-interest becomes expansive, and they recognize that their own personal flourishing will be fostered most by a society in which *ALL* people are flourishing.

The fourth thing is I watched the film “Malcolm X.” I’ll go more into that in a minute.

So, “Debt: The First 5,000 Years” is basically a history of class society. It tells again and again how the system of loans and interest crushed peasants and other laborers deeper and deeper into the ground with each passing generation, and how periodically they would rebel and force the debts to be erased, only for the cycle to start again. I started to grasp the structure of history, that ruling/owning classes and working/non-owning classes were very old indeed.

So at this point, I kind of already knew. I wasn’t quite ready to admit it, but I knew. I had basically already been chipped away at enough, but the “break” hadn’t happened yet. I had heard of “A People’s History of the United States” for forever. It’s mentioned in the movie “Good Will Hunting,” in fact. I kind of knew what I would find in that book after having read “Debt,” but I had never really had an interest in reading “A People’s History” up to that point in my life. So then I read it.

The heroes of “A People’s History” are anti-imperialists and anticapitalists from basically beginning to end. I would say now that the book has major shortcomings and problems, but for me at the time it really picked up right where “Debt” left off, and helped me see that the modern ruling class was really no different from the one that had emerged thousands of years ago. I saw (or came to believe, at least) that the root of the problem was that concentrated wealth is concentrated power, so if we want a free, non-oppressive, and truly democratic society, we simply have to disallow concentrated wealth.

Well, that basically meant I had become a communist, or at least that I believed communism would be good. I was pretty timid about it for a while, but after I finished reading “A People’s History,” I was ready to call myself a socialist, at least. And I was also ready to say that if nothing else, in order for the wealth to be sufficiently equalized, the political-economic system had to come under the power of the people, whether or not capitalism was entirely abolished. In short, I had come to believe in the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat, though I had not yet realized that was the right term for it.

But once I knew I was a socialist, well, how convenient–there was a branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) in my city. So I showed up to one of their meetings, and I met people who actually spoke respectfully and knowledgeably about Lenin and the Russian Revolution.

They also eased my transition by basically agreeing with all of my prejudices and stereotypes about the USSR under Stalin and the PRC under Mao that capitalist society had drilled into me.

And so although I have learned more, since then, and now uphold the USSR under Stalin and the PRC under Mao, I think it helped my transition into revolutionary socialism by having my first exposure to Leninist ideas come from people who didn’t also immediately try to tell me that the USSR and the PRC were overall good during those times instead of Very Very Bad (as I had always been told by basically everyone I had ever met in my life, and every TV program and movie I had ever watched, and every book I had ever read). So I was ready to listen.

As an aside, I think this is part of why there are so many Trotskyists in the First World, also–because they are willing to recognize that capitalism cannot be reformed and will have to be overthrown, but they can’t touch the third rail, they can’t break the taboo. Stalin is compared to Hitler, and Mao is even worse. No one wants to become a Hitler apologist, and upholding the contributions of Stalin and Mao feels like that’s how people will start to look at you. And many do, in fact. But it’s not as bad as I was worried it would be.

So it took me maybe a year, still, after showing up to that ISO meeting to accept, as they were telling me, that capitalism could not be reformed, and that a revolution was necessary. And what the folks at the ISO branch said about the necessity of the working class getting organized and powerful also made sense, so I recognized the need for some kind of hierarchical party, even if the end goal was a stateless society.

So about Malcolm X. Well, getting that salaried job gave me both the time and emotional reserves to try to focus on improving my mental health for, really, the first time in my life, instead of just scraping by. And a lot of my friends had gotten into practices like meditation, and also into some elements of wisdom traditions (the sort of stuff Ram Dass, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and Jiddu Krishnamurti talk about, for example) like trying to be present, and trying to be humble.

And I realized that there was tremendous validity in many of these practices–these practices worked, they helped me feel better. My whole life I had never understood why anyone would want to kill their ego–isn’t my ego me? Why would I want to kill me? But I realized that wasn’t what they were talking about. The ego is my bullshit delusions of grandeur, as well as my self-hate. I realized that I had been both aggrandizing myself and despising myself, when really I could let go of both, and it would be a lot better for me, emotionally. And I saw how addiction played into all of this–how people turn to addiction to treat their stress and pain. I saw how all the world was consumed with addiction to this or that. I myself was addicted to masturbating and watching porn, as well as to alcohol and cigarettes, as well as to looking at silly stuff on the internet. Even self-aggrandizement itself is an addiction, and I came to despise how arrogant I had been. I came to despise the whole of capitalist culture, and it was easy for me to see how capitalism REQUIRED us to all be addicted, consumed by these things. It was so insidious–capitalism poisons us spiritually. God, I want to cry just thinking about it. Capitalism rots our souls out, it seduces our well-intended desires into addictions, and then turns us against each other to achieve them.

In Rainbow Gathering, they refer to the outside world as Babylon. This comes to them via Rastafari, which calls the police and white supremacist, consumerist society Babylon. And the Rastas themselves got the term from the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Jewish people spend a while being a captive and oppressed people in the kingdom of Babylon. When Christianity came along it used this story as a metaphor–sin (which, to me, as a basically secular person, I was able to understand as being caught up in selfish, bullshit, addictive, egotistical desires) was Babylon, and Christ was the way out of Babylon.

I was also reading Dante’s “Divine Comedy” at the time and taking a course on it with a *really* good scholar of Dante. In Dante, there are some beautiful lines about freedom from sin, or what I took as freedom from addictive desire. At the beginning of “Purgatorio,” the second book in the “Comedy,” the protagonist has just crawled through the bottom of Hell. And Hell, in Dante, is a place where people are tortured by the sin they succumbed to in life. They are mocked and destroyed over and over again by the thing that caused them to turn from humility and expansive love to cold, narrow, inward-looking selfish love. And Hell is this dark, gray place, with no colors except for like blood colors and shit colors and pus colors.

And so the protagonist, at the beginning of Purgatory, he crawls through the center of the earth, out the bottom of Hell, and he’s on this island, and the sky is full of color, and it’s morning, and the sun is just rising, and the waters of the ocean are pure and he can wash himself clean of all the soot and shit and blood he’s gotten covered in going through Hell. And there’s this line,

“We were going along … like one seeking the lost path and, until he reaches it, feels he walks in vain.”

I felt like I had been looking for the right path my whole life, not even knowing if it was real or not, and oh my God, I had finally found it. I found it spiritually and politically all at once.

So watching “Malcolm X,” I saw this same story in him, in fact, even more intensified. Malcolm X had been involved in a lot of crime as a young man, and went to prison. And he was very addicted and self-serving, but then he meets members of the Nation of Islam in prison. And say what you will about them now, they helped Malcolm save himself. They helped him realize all the stuff I had been talking about. He, too, found spiritual meaning and political purpose all at once. Malcolm X was an incredibly inspiring figure for me. I had come to hate white supremacy, so when in the movie he writes, “Please tell Elijah [Muhammad] I have dedicated my life to telling the white devil the truth to his face.” I was like, “HELL yeah.”

So realizing that I had always heard that Malcolm X was this really bad person, when in fact he is one of the most amazing people ever to live, well, that was just about it for me and this society. I wanted to overthrow it. I realized it had destroyed all possibility of my having a genuinely good, decent life on this earth, because it had twisted and corrupted literally everyone and everything. I wanted to serve the people to work to help free us all from it, as Malcolm X had. Nothing else would do it for me.

I sobbed at the end of that movie when I realized what a great human being we had lost in Malcolm. Though I cannot relate as deeply, not being black nor living through those times, I feel like I really get it when Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, heard that Malcolm had been assassinated and in rage and anguish said, “Fuck it, I’ll make my own self into a motherfucking Malcolm X.”

Very few people will ever be as great as Malcolm X, but I want to serve the people with all my heart. All the various contradictory purposes and desires of my life up to that point became aligned at that time and all pointed in the same direction. I am going to give my life to the communist movement, and nothing could make me happier than the great luck I have had in being given the opportunity to do so.


 

 

 

Capitalism does not develop technology faster than socialism

Contrary to claims that are really common in the mainstream, the presence or absence of markets has basically nothing to do with whether meaningful and important technological research is done. Technological advance happens when curious and thoughtful people are given resources to do research–that can happen regardless of the type of economic system is in place. It happened in pre-capitalist economic systems (such as feudalism), as well, albeit at a slower pace than in capitalism.

For instance, one fact that flies in the face of the claim that capitalism is the best system for technological advance is that the Soviet Union beat the united states to every space race milestone except landing on the moon.

That fact is even more telling when one bears in mind the very different situations both countries were operating in at the time:

On the one hand, the fact that the united states was and is an empire means it had more wealth, more populations to draw scientists in from, and more resources to give those scientists. It had also industrialized about 90 years prior to the space race.

On the other hand, the Soviet Union wasn’t stealing resources from anyone, had a much smaller population to draw scientists from, and had industrialized only a couple of decades prior.

And *still* the USSR outran the united states in the space race for the majority of it.

That is a testament to the fact that with a planned economy, scientific research is directed toward exactly wherever it would be most helpful–for instance, things like cancer research (what does it say that tiny, poor Cuba’s planned economy can make medical science discoveries that the united states hasn’t? [http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/14/cuba-lung-cancer-vaccine_n_7267518.html]).

Capitalism can’t help itself: It has to waste a certain amount of resources coming up with such sad inventions as Farmville, because under capitalism research can’t be fully directed where it would be most helpful–it has to follow profit. It can make a bigger profit by selling distractions and treating symptoms rather than by inventing cures and giving them out for free.

Meanwhile, socialism sees the real wealth of its society in making sure citizens flourish, which makes them creative, productive, and hard-working. So, in fact, socialist countries have every incentive to create cures and vaccines and give them to every citizen for free, rather than letting diseases spread while they try to profit off of treat-the-symptom medications.

If you examine the way science was done in the Soviet Union, it really wasn’t done in a dramatically different way from how most important research is done in capitalist countries; in every capitalist country on earth, pioneering research in all important technologies is always directed by the government and done mostly with government money.

The most telling fact about all of this is that, when it comes to scientific research in areas where the u.s. ruling class considers it absolutely important to be on cutting edge–for example, in military technology–the research is not trusted to the market but is instead researched through heavily funded government agencies like DARPA.

Here’s an article that goes into greater depth on all of this: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/03/socialism-innovation-capitalism-smith/

The federal government can’t treat the white “Patriot Movement” fascists in Oregon as it treated armed black and indigenous people

I posted this to my Facebook yesterday. I thought I said something really important really well, so I wanted to post it here so I could find it again more easily and so passersby on the internet might find it more easily, too.

Black Agenda Report | Why the Feds Punk Out When Confronting White Rightwing Insurgents

“‘The Mass Black Incarceration State was designed to pre-empt any insurgency by Black people’ – but is wholly unprepared to handle armed revolt from ***the white Right, from which it also draws much of its police manpower.***”

Asterisks mine. That is the very heart of this issue. Capitalism has been breeding armies of fascists for 500 years to protect itself–and fascists, whether in white hoods or blue uniforms, work for cheap: all they want are the best of the table scraps. But since amerika is no longer alone on the world stage, the scraps are getting thinner.

But don’t get it twisted, capitalism cannot exist without this protective layer of fascists. There are only two ways this plays out:

– Fascist revolution, where the informal (and, at least to white men, subtle) domination of white, hyper-patriarchal, hyper-nationalist men becomes formalized and legal, and what was always a fake republic turns officially into an empire.

– Communist revolution, where the broad masses of toiling people (mostly women), who have always produced the vast majority of society’s wealth, defeat both the capitalists and the fascists and start building a true democracy where economics serves universal human flourishing instead of private accumulation. And the toiling class that amerika depends on is worldwide, which means both that most of the planet will be involved in this revolution and also that everyone on the planet gets their rightful piece of the european and amerikan pies they’ve been building for 500 years.

And it will play out, and soon.

.

.

.


For more information about the black and indigenous armed occupations that were attacked by the federal government, see about the MOVE bombing here and the Wounded Knee massacre here.

A few thoughts on the question of privilege and the material basis for racism from a Marxist perspective

This question equivocates around the meaning of the word “benefit.”

Yeah, under communism, the average person would be happier than the average white worker is now. In this way, yes, white workers do not benefit(1) from our current system.

However, in our current global system, Euro-descended workers on average have it quite comfortable among workers. They receive much better treatment from the state, as well as from society at large, and in their dealings with the economy in general.

This happens alongside the fact that non-Euro-descended people–especially, in the United States, black and brown people–receive much worse treatment from both the state and society at large and are forced to occupy much worse positions in the relations of production. Under capitalism white people always receive a value that nonwhite people are oppressed into producing. Whether you call that extra value a benefit(2) is up to you. But there is no disputing that fact.

The question that we as Marxists have to confront is, which of these two definitions of benefit (1 or 2) should we consider in analyzing the revolutionary potential of white people. This is obviously not a wholly settled question.

However, we’d be foolish and obstinate to avoid noting that white people, even white workers, have historically been very reactionary and violent against nonwhite workers who challenged their control of jobs that had been made white-only and of historically white-only societal positions.[note 1 below] What’s more, they have also served as the front-line mercenaries of the inhuman violence necessary to incorporate previously unincorporated lands, peoples, and resources (e.g., the settling of north amerika in Manifest Destiny, and the European colonization of the rest of the world generally) into imperialist capitalism–obviously because many of them saw a route into the bourgeoisie in this way because they got to keep some of the spoils.

And now, whatever the specific definition of “benefit” we’re using, the point is that white people, even white workers–in the United States and pretty much everywhere–act like they have something to lose from uniting with nonwhite workers as part of the international proletariat.

That’s why it’s foolishness to deny the existence of “white privilege” regardless of whether we agree “privilege” or “benefit” are correct words for it. The semantic debate is irrelevant. Call it a value transfer if you like. Whatever you want to call it, even broke white workers act like they have something to lose from uniting with nonwhite workers. We as Marxists must, must, must acknowledge that fact. We must inquire into the material reality that underlies it.[note 2 below] What we can’t do is argue semantics as a way of sweeping the material reality under the rug and say “white workers don’t benefit, black and white unite and fight” over and over until the conversation has ended.

note 1:

1. I’d like to make a point that I had included in a post I wrote but never published about the material basis for racism:

The psychological wage of whiteness (and maleness, straightness, and cisness/gender conformity, for that matter) is material. It makes an emotional difference whether or not the average stranger smiles at you and treats you kindly and deferentially. And whether or not someone smiles in a plausibly friendly and agreeable way is a material fact. White men monopolize society’s limited positions of esteem, praise, and admiration; even poor white men get more esteem and respect than almost all black people in any given area. What it means to occupy these positions is to be the recipient of material acts that feel good and sometimes flattering to receive. The other side of the coin is that the oppression of nonmale and nonwhite people includes disallowing them as valid recipients of these gestures of respect while simultaneously driving them into a pool of people who are pressured into performing these gestures for those who control more value–the privileged–providing a stable emotionally laboring workforce that consistently creates this material benefit of esteem and sees little of it.

This fact (the materiality of the psychological wage) should be all the more apparent when we consider how much money many people with disposable incomes spend on buying rare and expensive “status symbols.” People displaying status symbols receive roughly the same sort of value as comes automatically with being a man with a white body: a certain level of respect and esteem from the general population, a valuable type of treatment that feels good.

Last night I was thinking there were two separate aspects of the psychological wage of whiteness: (1) the others-treat-me-well-and-that-feels-good psychological wage and (2) the I-flatter-myself-for-being-white-or-at-least-not-black psychological wage. But it’s now obvious to me that the (1) others-treat-me-well wage is a material prerequisite for the (2) self-regard-for-being-white wage, and that they’re totally inseparable because they’re part of one singular phenomenon.

2. Another thing that I think is worth noting is that, as the murderer Dylan Roof’s white supremacist manifesto reminds us, one of the most significant “historically white-only societal positions” that white men fight to preserve for themselves alone is “sexual and romantic partner for white women.”

note 2:

I guess while I’m at it, I believe the other major material value transfers that underlie racism[note 3 below] are:

1. A significantly better share of the jobs–as well as higher wages for the same work done, faster promotions, and other employment advantages; correspondingly, when white workers go to spend their money, the services they pay for are cheaper than they would be otherwise because nonwhite people are forced to work for less, further stretching the already-larger paycheck of the white worker.

2. The direct cash flow from what could be called the “overseer industry.” That is, well-paying jobs are created in white communities where otherwise there wouldn’t be jobs–and these jobs consist of acting as part of the violent social control of the people of oppressed nations. The most obvious manifestations of this today are the burgeoning prison system and ever-expanding police forces. The “overseer industry” provides hundreds of thousands of lucrative jobs to communities of white workers. This is something that the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons turned me on to; some relevant articles here, here, here, and here. This especially agrees with an observation that Michelle Alexander makes in The New Jim Crow that

racial attitudes–not crime rates or likelihood of victimization–are an important determinant of white support for “get tough on crime” and antiwelfare measures.[87] Among whites, those expressing the highest degree of concern about crime also tend to oppose racial reform, and their punitive attitudes toward crime are largely unrelated to their likelihood of victimization.[88] Whites, on average, are more punitive than blacks, despite the fact that blacks are far more likely to be victims of crime. Rural whites are often the most punitive, even though they are least likely to be crime victims.

3. There is a huge value transfer to U.S. workers from the imperialist exploitation of nations beyond their country’s borders. This imperialism sustains and is sustained by a certain type of racism (e.g., anti-Arab racism) that is sometimes distinct from the sort of racism that sustains and is sustained by white people’s internal imperialism of the internal oppressed nations (e.g., anti-black racism). However, the fundamental similarity of these distinct racisms means they anchor and catalyze each other. That is, being rewarded for being white supremacist at home encourages white people to go try being white supremacist abroad, and vice versa.

As a side note, we can examine the relative importance of this inter-catalyzing effect by comparing the United States to European countries, which do not have large-scale internal imperialism: this effect is obviously not all-important, because Sweden is still internationally racist and imperialist. But it may be one reason why people in the United States act as the world’s foremost mercenaries for imperialist capitalism.

4. As a comrade reminded me recently, there is also a value transfer ongoing in the form of gentrification. During most of the twentieth century, political-economic forces forced racially oppressed people into inner cities while euro-descended people moved to the suburbs. Now this trend is reversing, and the increasingly valuable land in the core of major cities, which has been occupied by people who face racial oppression, is being forcibly transferred primarily to euro-descended people.

note 3:

In case it’s not clear to anyone reading who’s not super-well-versed in Marxism, this is what I mean when I talk about the material basis for racism:

We Marxists believe that, statistically, every demographic groups’s political beliefs and activities are most of the time mostly determined by their position in the relations of production–that is, their political affiliation tends strongly to be determined by their position on the playing board in the grand social-political-economic game. The capitalist class, or the owning class, receives value from owning the means of production, so they fight to preserve the relations of production that provide that value. The working class suffers from being forced to generate value for the owning class, so they fight to overthrow the existing relations of production. So when I talk about “the material basis for racism,” this is what I’m talking about: a value white people receive and want to keep receiving that motivates them to preserve the status quo, the existing social-political-economic arrangement.

That desire to continue to receive the value of being white in a white supremacist world rarely manifests as a naked and violent selfishness that fully sees the exploitative relationship and nevertheless decides to pursue it. Even slave-owners needed a mystifying ideology to justify their directly and violently forcing other people to produce value for free. Rather, when someone is confronted with two possible interpretations of the world–(1) a painful interpretation that says that they, along with most everyone they have ever cared about and even their whole society, have been complicit in a monstrous injustice that has provided them a great deal of value that they have come to take for granted, and (2) a soothing interpretation that explains what would otherwise look like an injustice in a way that allows them to continue to receive that taken-for-granted value while still regarding themselves, along with the people they care about and their society at large, as basically decent people who aren’t doing anything immoral–it would seem most people are inclined to accept the soothing and justifying interpretation and thereafter avoid thinking about it as much as possible. Racism and sexism–beliefs that explain that forcing a group of people to be servants is just and fair because they are in fact inferior, or naturally prefer to serve–are those more soothing explanations.