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Race and Class

Race and Class

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By Alex Callinicos

Racism remains one of the main features of the advanced capitalist societies. It is institutionalised in the systematic discrimination which black people experience in jobs, housing, the education system, and the harassment they suffer at the hands of police and immigration authorities.

The stark fact that the rich capitalist democracies are profoundly racist societies demands action to challenge and, if possible, to abolish racism. Obviously, any anti-racist strategy presupposes an analysis of the nature and causes of racism. The traditional liberal view, still very influential, treats racism primarily as a matter of attitudes: the problem is that whites are prejudiced against black people. The obvious solution would seem then to be educating whites ou of their prejudice

More radical anti-racists, by contrast, see racism not as a matter of the ideas in people's heads, but of oppression, of systematic inequalities in power and life chances stemming from an exploitative social structure; the solution lies therefore in political struggle. But within the radical camp there are vital differences in analysis and strategy.

Black nationalists tend to see racism as an (at least relatively) autonomous phenomenon, whose origins, structure and dynamic, while connected to those of the capitalist mode of production, cannot be reduced to them. Revolutionary Marxists, by contrast, regard racism as a product of capitalism which serves to reproduce this social system by dividing the working class; it can be abolished, therefore, only through a socialist revolution achieved by a united working class, one in which blacks and whites join together against their common exploiter.