Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Material Roots of Western Racism

Freeman, Alan (1998): The Material Roots of Western Racism. Published in: Eszmelet No. 1998 (1998): pp. 28-36.

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This article assesses the US discussion on the material roots of racism in which writers such as Malcolm X have been heavily criticised by ‘marxists’ for substituting race for class in the analysis of society.

The article argues that such criticism departs from the classical Marxist tradition in a manner characteristic of the dominant countries of the world in subordinating issues of political rights to the economic class struggle. This in turn arises from a failure to recognise the relation between racism and imperialism, itself arising from a division of the nations of the world which I define as ‘World Apartheid’.

The US-UK variant of marxism, which I characterise as ‘Imperialist Marxism’, has uncritically absorbed the world-view of the early imperialist pioneers – who were also social progressives – such as Rhodes and Chamberlain (and on the German side, Bismarck). Empire financed social welfare and economic well-being using the value transferred to the heartlands from the colonies, which it justified with the concept of a ‘civilising mission’ to transplant a superior culture to the ‘backward’ conquered countries.

This system of domination persists economically today despite formal political freedom. The ‘civilising mission’ is reproduced in traditional Marxism through the notion that the working class of the dominant countries is culturally and politically superior to the working class of the remaining four-fifths of the world.

The characteristic core of this view is that political power is of secondary importance to economic equality. Racism can therefore be overcome by the simple dynamics of economic class struggle, and demands for political rights should be subordinated to higher wages and better welfare.

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