by Jack Suria Linares and Kayla Pace
ed. note: The following was the winning submission for the Activist Agenda at the YDS conference.
Why is this issue important?
Historically, the United States has played out the most systematically capitalist and imperialist form of oppression to prevent the liberation of the vast majority of people. From the Atlantic Slave Trade to Mass Incarceration, From the Trail of Tears to the continuous migration from the Global South, from the taking away of lands to the denouncement that people of color can never think on their own, the United States has always engaged in some of the most horrifying systematic forms of dehumanization against the working poor, but more specifically people of color. To shift the politics of this country, by definition we must engage in anti-racist struggles. Young Democratic Socialists should engage in building anti-racist politics not merely because in the upcoming years the United States will transform into a country where the majority of people are people of color, but because it is the ethical politics to engage in.
As Young Democratic Socialists, we understand that these atrocities are in fact what keeps Racial Capitalism and U.S. Imperialism functioning. By this we understand that Mass Incarceration, control of undocumented migration, and the growth and fear of terrorism merely cuts the labor supply to have people documented to not work, undocumented people to work, all while instilling a sense of fear for the exponential increase of people of color in the U.S. and globally. Moreover, by fighting for anti-racist politics we shift the understanding that a multicultural society is a better society than a society in which elite whites control the means of production and the political system under which we work.
However, we can no longer afford to be merely anti-racist; we must be agents of change. This means we will be engage people to fight racism. We must begin to do conscious organizing to state that multiculturalism is good, but not good enough. Multiculturalism, too, will be used to hide the atrocious history of the United States while continuing the delusional idea that the United States is the only exceptional country on its path to greatness. If a sort of multicultural capitalism or multicultural liberalism comes into existence, there will be no fundamental changes in the living conditions of the vast majority of people within the United States and across the globe. Racial Capitalism will continue to perpetuate its exploitative nature while appearing to have embraced a multicultural society. It hides the reality that the vast majority of People of Color remain at the mercy of a political economy and society set out to exploit and dehumanize.
How can it be addressed by a socialist analysis?
A socialist analysis of anti-racist politics and beyond (some have begun to think about them) understands that people of color will live in better conditions in multicultural capitalism, but no fundamental power will be given to the vast majority of people with terrible living conditions. Capitalism is at its best when inequality is at its highest. Racism highlights that this system maintains its inequality. The growth of a multicultural society may challenge certain forms of racism, but it will hide the continuing inequality within such a society.
The alternative may look something like the attempts that the indigenous have presented in Bolivia, a sort of intercultural socialist vision that takes serious consideration of the ways of thinking, the various philosophies created by people of color. Though we should not look at only one alternative, we must begin to search for such possibilities if we expect to defeat global multicultural capitalism in the future.
What are campaign activities that National YDS could do to address the issue?
On a national level, we must begin to consider how we can begin to think about such alternatives that go beyond anti-racist politics, which we must do, and at the same time avoid falling trap of not critiquing the possible rise of multicultural capitalism. One project can be a political education program to dive into the histories and philosophies throughout the globe, and in the United States, to find attempts made by radical people of color. Such a project could be about learning and teaching the challenges that people of color faced in left circles, their contributions to Left politics, and debates that they had between themselves. This may include readings from the Combahee River Collective, Claudia Jones, CLR James, and even contemporaries like Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin Kelley, or Enrique Dussel.
What are campaign activities that YDS chapters could do to address the issue?
As Young Democratic Socialists, we can help changes to take place. It is with the combination of a national and local level that we can begin an anti-racist politics that pushes beyond anti-racism. First, we must stand in solidarity and coalition with organizations that explicitly discuss and challenge racist practices and institutions. This includes fighting for Ethnic and Gender Studies Departments, wherever a YDS chapter may exist ,or fighting concerns that deal explicitly with campus environment. For example, if an unknown subject writes derogatory terms or opposes the increase of people of color on campus, YDS should reach out to organizations to make a public statement against hate, but also use it to open dialogue for a socialist politics that engages in anti-racist practice. Second, we must have genuine collaboration for events, inviting them to conferences, and attending or stepping back when asked. Third, if no organization wants to get involved, as a socialist organization we must discuss and begin conversations so as to reveal any racial tensions on campus and denounce them, while advocating for a politics that embraces the contributions and thoughts of people of color.
Perhaps, other activities could organizing workshops with multicultural organization to discuss the history of People of Color in the socialist and labor movements. Another could be the complex relationship between socialists, civil rights, and perhaps a way to bridge gaps between today's social and labor movements. A third could be a campaign for a particular issue concerning a local campus. Engaging in both short-term and long-term projects so as to constantly be involved and have an active community demonstrates that your chapter is strong, militant, and cares about issues and does not tokenize or trivialize the importance of anti-racist politics.