Class and race are intertwined, race is a class conversation, but we all know that

Class and race are intertwined, race is a class conversation, but we all know that

I just cannot agree with this line of thinking. In readings about the splits in the Communist Party in the 20th century, the big split was between those who wanted to go moderate to support Khrushchev and those who wanted to go with an anti-racist internationalist position, who were called “ultraleftist” (a dis by Lenin indirectly).[1]

In the end, the old left faded away, because the Civil Rights Movement (CRM)  was the most progressive social democratic force in the mid 20th century. The CRM opened the door for so many left movements. The ultraleft became the main stream of the left.

Civil Rights Movement was the most progressive social democratic force in the mid 20th century.

The problem was not the ruling class forcing the conversation toward race. The problem was internal to the left, where white leadership thought that pushing for social integration would decrease white support.

The overall strategy was “we will resolve the class conflict first, then racism will go away.”

The strategy was wrong, because class conflict might get reduced or resolved in white society, but it would be built on the labor and resources of oppressed non-white people. 

This is exactly the pattern that has developed internationally – you have European social democracies, but they still have remnant colonial relationships with the global south. I think some sects call this the Labour Aristocracy – a proletariat that is counterrevolutionary because it’s treated so well by capitalism that it will oppose revolutions. [2]

It’s what happened early in the New Deal, where white people got a New Deal, and Black people did not. This helped to reinforce neighborhood segregation, and increased the racial wealth gap. This, even after the New Deal was made anti-racist.[3] Now, the descendants of white people who benefited the most are often the Trump voters. [4]

Conversely, this is also why all of the left in the U.S. mainstream, in Congress, are also part of the Civil Rights coalition.

The problem was not the ruling class forcing the conversation toward race. The problem was internal to the left, where white leadership thought that pushing for social integration would decrease white support.

Race and class are so intertwined that every class struggle will become a racial struggle, and every race struggle will also be a class struggle. To say one is more essential than the other is oversimplifying. To say that class struggle is the essential one is a kind of fantasy.

Worse, if the class struggle ignores race, and favors whites, you end up with things like the Workingmen’s Party of California (WPC), a pro-capitalist-led populist takeover of the Marxian Workingmen’s Party of the U.S., that pushed anti-Chinese racism as part of their platform, and helped grow a movement to end immigration from China.[5][6] They were  successful. They were also led by a pro-capitalist, bootstrapper demagogue (who didn’t even like working class people), Denis Kearny.[5]

We’re still dealing with the aftereffects of the WPC in 2021.

John Kawakami is a writer and technologist in Los Angeles. Learn more about him at Soft News 33.


  1. The Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism Online, https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/erol.htm
  2. Hobswam, E., Lenin and the “Aristocracy of Labor”, https://monthlyreview.org/2012/12/01/lenin-and-the-aristocracy-of-labor/
  3. Was the New Deal Racist?, https://livingnewdeal.org/was-the-new-deal-racist-2/
  4. McElwee, Sean, Data for Politics 14: Who is Trump’s Base, https://www.dataforprogress.org/blog/2018/8/21/data-for-politics-14-who-is-trumps-base
  5. Carlsson, Chris, The Workingmen’s Party & The Denis Kearney Agitation, https://www.foundsf.org/index.php?title=The_Workingmen%E2%80%99s_Party_%26_The_Denis_Kearney_Agitation
  6. The Workingmens Party of California, http://wlh-wiki.law.stanford.edu/index.php/The_Workingmen%E2%80%99s_Party_of_California_(WPC)

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