Alabama and Tibet (?)

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Wed Jul 8 11:40:28 PDT 1998

Hello everyone,

Mat Forstater writes:
> Doyle
> Isn't racism an arbitrary human construct with
> nothing about it that in and of itself determines anything?

"Do you mean racism has no effects or impacts? If so, I disagree.

If the first part of the above is intended to mean that "race" is a social construction then I agree with that, but just because something is a social construct doesn't mean it isn't real. People suffer and die because of, and in the name of, social constructions all the time."

Doyle Sure racism affects real people, that recent murder in East Texas is an example. The point is to be able to understand how to change things. How would you end racism in the U.S.? I thought Wojtek had a great reply to me. He said when I said we need to end capitalism to end racism, (to paraphrase the exchange) Wojtek calmly replied ‘NO capitalism doesn’t need racism, racism could be eliminated in a particular capitalist state (if the conditions Wojtek outlined applied) and capitalism would just move on’ (I’m oversimplifying). And then Wojtek gave his conditions to define racism in the U.S. Meaning what sort of social conditions create racism against black people here. It was just a clear headed discussion that helps me to understand things.

Doyle That is why I brought up to you the distinction between class which capitalism absolutely requires, and racism. Arbitrary local structures might for a while "identify" the members of a group we call "racism". In any case the thing that determines things is capitalism. Racists did not "create" capitalism, and capitalism can do whatever it needs to without racist projects and experiments. That is why Wojtek refers to capitalists as opportunists. I could see problems with Wojtek’s formulation in the sense that using a state in the manner he did leaves a lot to the imagination. But I like the manner in which when we examine the facts of world history Wojtek’s idea could be tested, and explain things more clearly than the often moralistic arguments used in the U.S. about ending Racism Now!

Doyle I don’t find your remarks (so far) nearly as cogent and verifiable as Wojteks. For instance your comments about my raising Hitler’s Germany as an example of a really "bad" danger fails to make clear what is so uniquely threatening about "universalism" that is even more dangerous than Hitler’s Germany. I believe your contention was to state the worst danger as nationalists who cloak their fascism behind universalism . I find that rather opaque, because you make a deception about universals seem the most important part of the danger when to me a false claim of universalism is not that hard to challenge. Using deceptions and fake claims is a minor trick to play concerning state systems. Can you apply your thinking to Chile, or East Timor, or Pakistan or South Africa or Cuba in the sense of universals as I take the word to mean? I would expect you could show that universalism as a cloak makes things worse on a very great scale of things.

Doyle I’m not your judge and jury about the rightness of your opinions. Maybe your remark that ‘you haven’t seen the light’ compared to me is all that could happen here. Stated differently we agree to disagree. That feels like an empty exchange to me though. Let me say what I experienced with Wojtek. I challenged him three times starting with his off the cuff remarks about psychologism, and in a serious manner over a number of days he came up with some interesting and persuasive thoughts clearly stated. I’ll give you the same challenge. Use your remarks about universalism about the real world and see if you can make it stick to the common everyday practice of nations. Something that applies to Iceland, and Indonesia, etc. Or give an insight about destroying racism in the sense I remarked to Wojtek. Wojtek wrote back disagreeing with my contention in a way that was down right easy to understand, and could be verified from the practice of nations. I wrote we can "only" end racism in the U.S. when we end Capitalism. Is my statement right or wrong. And I don’t mean in a moralistic fashion of rightness and wrongness, but rightness in the sense that the facts match "my" words. I just mean what is the answer? Give it a serious shot. I’m not here to destroy you. I might have some questions to bring up. Is that OK? I’m not married to Wojtek’s assertion. It is persuasive from the facts I know. But I see this as a forum to get ideas out in a somewhat readable abbreviated form so we can develop all our understandings. Nor do I see this as a fashion contest about what is sexy in ideas. I mean your explanation must be verifiable from the facts of the world.

Doyle You stated that Marxism is Eurocentric. I would say Marx analyzed the capitalist economy. That economic form is global, or universal since the international system dictates the market place. What I see with various socialist governments around the world is the limitations of national states to alter the global characteristics of capitalism. However, I don’t see that the various Marxist oriented systems did anything but adapted to their specific location on the planet what they learned from Marx in terms of understanding capitalism, and the problems of creating a robust alternative. I really don’t understand how a term like Eurocentric helps to understand the problems of creating an alternative. At it’s best Eurocentrism sounds like a charge of geo origin chauvinism being leveled at Marxist economics. The charge reifies the origin of Marx’s insights about capitalism to his location in Europe and it confuses the ideas of developed centers and undeveloped periferies as not being a part of the whole capitalist system. Let’s not get into God worshipping about Marx, but his work seems to me easily useable anywhere in the world and has been. That is hardly Eurocentric in my opinion and is one basis for saying his work was universal in useage. The charge has to have a substance to it beyond the particular of Marx’s geo position in the world. So what is it, in a material sense that makes Marxism Eurocentric? Best regards, Doyle Saylor

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