Must racism be capitalist ?

Charles Brown CharlesB at
Tue Jan 4 07:00:27 PST 2000

Most of the multiracial hiring periiods of the firms take place in the context of other firms that continuouly to discriminate, and a general climate of segregation starting right with residential, school and general social segregation outside of work. The limited hirings of Black people, other people of color , women are by some capitalists who pluck the fruit of the larger discrimination, in lower pay rates. Also, these are the exceptions that enforce the "rule" over the white men workers, the other edge of the sword of skin color privilege cutting against white male workers in the form of hiring from the reserve army of the less employeds' racially oppressed divisions and segments to demonstrate and enforce controls through the ultimate industrial sanction, taking your job.

In the recent Detroit Newspaper strike, the newspaper corporations hired scabs from the poor and chronically unemployed Black people in Detroit, and claimed that they were making their work force more multiracial and reflective of the community. The union had a checkered history in civil rights. The corporations basically won the strike in part by the use of Black scabs.

The critical timings of hirings by the bosses is important in evaluating how hiring of Blacks, women and people of color can be used to win class battles and yet leave the overall statistics of hiring as discriminatory against Black people, women, people of color.


>>> James Farmelant <farmelantj at> 12/30/99 02:51PM >>
On Wed, 29 Dec 1999 18:10:54 -0800 Sam Pawlett <rsp at> writes:
>JKSCHW at wrote:
>I can't swer athi si R's
>> approach,
>Hey Justin, Swahili? Esperanto?
>> Justin: Again, I can't recall hia argument in detail. But the point
>would be
>> to show that divide and conquer is individually rationally for
> I think one should be on guard against undue functional explanation
>examining the relationship between capitalism and race(ism). Sure the
>capitalist/ruling class benefits from racism but that isn't saying
>Only by highlighting the mechanisms by which the ruling class
>enforces, encourages and benefits from racism can be people struggle
>against it.

That would seem to be necessary for demonstrating that capitalism tends to promote racism IMO. The kind of objection that one tends to get to the "divide-and-conquer" argument from neoclassical economists is that supposing if its central thesis is true (that racism or sexism by dividing the working class cheapens all labor whether white or black) the very fact that pools of cheaper black labor or female labor will result will encourage capitalists to begin to hire them in preference to the more expensive white male workers. Thus even if it is supposed that racism and racial discrimination is in the general interest of capitalists, capitalists will find themselves in Prisoners' Dilemma situation where it becomes expedient to break with racist hiring patterns because such defection is more profitable at least in the short-run. Thus the neoclassicals arguments imply that capitalism will be inhospitable to racism which of course makes the observed fact that patterns of discrimination in hiring and promotion on the basis of race and gender to be something of a mystery. Some neoclassical economists will invoke concepts like psychic income to argue that some people simply have otherwise inexplicable tastes for racism or sexism even at the expense of increased monetary income. But such arguments seem rather lacking in plausibility IMO.

Michael Reich's empirical studies on racism and workers' incomes leads him to take a class struggle perspective. He links the existence of inequalities on the basis of racial discrimination to the existence of increased inequalities among white workers. And he perceives a inverse relationship between the degree of racial discrimination in hiring to the degree of unionization of workers. So Michael Reich's work seems to provide some interesting empirical support to the divide-and-conquer argument. All this raises the question that aupposing the neoclassicals to be wrong concerning the relationships between capitalism and racism, what exactly is wrong with their analysis? Justin says that Roemer has been able to show how capitalists as individuals are able to benefit from the divide-and-conquer consequences of racism (and sexism), so how does Roemer show this to be the case and does he show that there are no benefits to capitalists on an individual basis if they as game theorists say "defect" - in this case defecting meaning ceasing to discriminate against a disfavored group?

Jim F.

> One of the most powerful examples of divide and conquer
>how to overcome is the film *Matewan* when the bosses bring in blacks
>from the south and Italian immigrants to break a strike by white
>coalminers. All discover that what they have in common and what is
>important is class. Class is a more powerful unifier than race and
>culture is a divider.
> Recall David Roediger's work that the US white working class has
>itself benefited from racism by means of a kind of "psychic income".
>This might suggest that the ruling class aren't interested in race per
>se but benefit from it as an unintended consequence of the poorest
>in the US also being a racial minority. I guess this would be the
>not race' view. Just something to consider. Part of me feels that
>capitalists don't care much about the color of your skin or cultural
>background just if you work hard and cheap.
>Sam Pawlett

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