Special oppression and the need for unity

BY:Communist Party USA| January 25, 2020
Special oppression and the need for unity


The following excerpt from the 2019 CPUSA Draft Program is intended to lay out the theoretical background for our approach to the fight against white supremacy and the need for unity with racially and nationally oppressed people in their struggle for equality.  The full Draft Program includes specific attention to groups suffering from racial, national, gender, and other forms of oppression.  You can download a PDF of the Draft program to read more.  The final version of the program will be released in Spring 2020.

Special Oppression and Exploitation

The most important allies of the working class are those who suffer special oppression due to capitalism and are also overwhelmingly members of the working class. Special oppression is discrimination, extra-exploitation, and social domination based on race, nationality, gender, and/or age. The racially and nationally oppressed, women, youth, and immigrants all face types of special oppression, as do seniors, the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer (LGBTQ) community, and the disabled and mentally ill. All specially oppressed social groups include primarily working class but also members of other classes. Those who are part of the working class suffer the exploitation and social problems of all other workers and, in addition, suffer from special oppression that is not solely based on class, such as racism, national discrimination, and male supremacy. Some people experience triple and quadruple oppression since they face multiple layers of intense exploitation, discrimination, and social domination.

Many features of special oppression cut across class lines and affect to some degree all members of each oppressed social group. The oppression affects not only those who are workers or part of the professional and small business groups but to some extent even those from sections of the capitalist class. This common experience of oppression creates a wide basis for unity within each oppressed social group and among all groups facing discrimination and social domination.

Capitalists directly gain from special oppression. Extra profits to the tune of many hundreds of billions of dollars per year are extracted by the special oppression and exploitation of the working class section of each group and from the disunity caused among the entire working class. Capitalists and their apologists use ideological poison to justify and cover-up both the special oppression and the exploitation of all workers. Working class members of specially oppressed peoples and groups play a key role in building alliances between the working class and the oppressed group as a whole, since they are an important part of both.

The Complexity and Interconnection of National and Racial Oppression

Our discussion of national and racial oppression is not intended to be comprehensive or limiting. These are complex issues, intertwined with each other and with class exploitation and oppression. There are many variations in national oppression, not just broad categories—for example, different Native Indian nations have distinct histories, cultures, languages, resources, treaties, and territories, so within Native Indian communities there are many different national questions, not one. Within groups, too, there are variations—for example, people of Japanese descent whose ancestors came to the U.S. during the latter part of the 1800s do not face identical issues as those who came following World War II. People from Caribbean countries who have English as their first language have different issues than those from the Caribbean whose first language is Spanish or French. We can’t ignore or reduce these complexities, we have to understand, appreciate, and respond to them in order to create a solid basis for strong working class unity and and to advance the power of the working class with its allies.

People of many nationalities face special oppression related to their national origins—issues of language, culture, history, immigration rights and status, professional status or lack thereof, historical and colonial oppression, the various reasons and pressures for their immigration, and more. Another complexity is that though most discrimination which followed from the terrorist attacks on the U.S is directed at Arab and Middle Eastern peoples many Latinos face racial profiling due to claims that they “look” like people from the Middle East. For another example, African immigrants have their own specific national issues but also face the generalized racial discrimination directed against African Americans. For example, Mexican Americans whose families have been citizens for centuries face harassment from immigration authorities due to racist assumptions based on skin color.

Our purpose is not to artificially separate discrimination and oppression into either national or racial categories, but to understand the ways they are interconnected and understand these different facets of the oppression faced by individuals and peoples.

Multiracial, Multinational Unity for Full Equality and Against Racism—Core Forces for Progress

Some of the foremost allies of the working class, through the various stages of struggle all the way to socialism, are the nationally and racially oppressed peoples. At the same time, racism is one of the most important weapons of the ruling class to weaken this relationship. Racism is a strategic tool in the classic divide-and-conquer tactic. Spreading division within the working class and between the working class and its allies weakens all movements and struggles. Against this division, we must build multiracial unity with the struggle against racism and the fight for full equality at its core.

The working class is the most multiracial, multinational entity in our society. Multiracial unity is key to building unity within the working class as well as between the working class and the whole of racially and nationally oppressed peoples.

Racism in its many forms continues to play a negative but central role in every aspect of U.S. life, including keeping the extreme right in power, producing extra profits, and developing, justifying, and maintaining institutionalized discrimination and oppression.

The working class must fight against racism, for full equality of all nationally oppressed, and for affirmative action, if it is to unite internally and enter lasting alliances with the organizations and movements of racially oppressed peoples. Similarly, the nationally and racially oppressed groups must support working class demands in order to unite internally and to ally with labor.

All workers deserve a job with a living wage, affordable housing, access to low cost healthcare and education for our children. The working class must fight against the capitalists’ ideological campaign to convince white workers that racially and nationally oppressed people are the ones that hold them back. In reality, it is racism that holds them back.

Racially and nationally oppressed people live and work in every region, in every state, and in every major city and are largely working class. Institutionalized racism has resulted in the lowest-paying, most dangerous jobs generally being held by workers from nationally and racially oppressed groups. Among the nationally and racially oppressed are African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans and other Latino peoples, Native peoples, Muslims, Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Arabic and Middle Eastern peoples, and many groups of immigrants and their descendants.

From its inception, the United States was built on racism. From the displacement and near genocide of Native people, to the enslavement of Africans, to the theft of huge sections of Mexico, to the racist exclusion of Asian and Pacific Islander immigrants, to the current xenophobic hysteria against Latinos, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians, racism has been a convenient tool for the maintenance of power and extra profits by the ruling class at the expense of oppressed people and all workers.

Racism affects the unity of the working class at all levels. Racism is a tool that not only exploits racially oppressed people, it aids in the exploitation of white workers as well. Racial discrimination in hiring, racist wage and salary policies, racial stratification of various industries and trades, undermines the interests of all workers. The ability of employers to pay workers differently based on skin color, country of origin, immigration status, or hire date in two-tier wage systems, exerts downward pressure on the wages of all workers. It allows bosses to extract even higher profits from racially oppressed workers. Racism is good for business but is bad for working people of every race. White workers have a powerful self-interest in fighting racism—white workers will gain greater victories to the degree that they unite with nationally and racially oppressed workers. Multiracial unity in the workplace and on the shop-floor is key to winning victories for all, t lifting wages and working conditions, and honoring the dignity of every worker.

The workplace is not the only place where building multiracial unity is essential. Multiracial unity is necessary at all levels of class and democratic struggles. This is the reason for the long-standing coalition between the labor and civil rights movements. Not only do these movements have common enemies, they have a common agenda of expanding economic, social, and civil rights. The working class and racially oppressed people have common interests in housing, employment, education, voting rights, the environment, world peace, and other areas.

Members of the working class who are white must take an initiating and leading role in combating all instances of racism and national oppression wherever and whenever they occur and provide support to people of color who are in leadership of movements and organizations because such acts are the building blocks of grassroots unity and trust. They prove the struggle against racism is not for racially oppressed people to combat alone. It is in the self-interest of all workers, leading to greater unity, respect, and strength, for the labor movement and all other movements.

The depression of wages, the suppression of voting power, and the oppression of culture and language all hurt the working class as a whole. An essential aspect of class and socialist consciousness is for the working class to have a deep understanding of exploitation and national, racial, and gender oppression.

To fully understand its own exploitation and oppression as a class, the working class has to understand the extra exploitation and special oppression of its component parts and allies. This means understanding the historical experience well enough to develop an organic allegiance to the specifics of the democratic demands for equality of each. This includes taking action as a leading, solid advocate of those demands. The working class cannot win without the collective class achievement of an understanding of the complexity of its natural allies and of building multiracial, multinational working class unity. This understanding must be utilized to guide action. Racially and nationally oppressed people have a history of being subjected to oppression on the one side and resistance and fightback on the other, all of which contribute to the collective wisdom and range of action of the whole of the working class.




    The Communist Party USA is a  revolutionary working-class  political party founded in 1919 in Chicago, IL. The Communist Party stands for the interests of the American working class and the American people. It stands for our interests in both the present and the future. Solidarity with workers of other countries is also part of our work. We work in coalition with the labor movement, the peace movement, the student movement, organizations fighting for equality and social justice, the environmental movement, immigrants rights groups and the health care for all campaign. But to win a better life for working families, we believe that we must go further. We believe that the American people can replace capitalism with a system that puts people before profit — socialism. We are rooted in our country's revolutionary history and its struggles for democracy. We call for "Bill of Rights" socialism, guaranteeing full individual freedoms.

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