Dear Black Lives Matter,
Having read about your organisation from your website it seems that your aim is not just to bring about greater harmony between people of different races by highlighting the disproportionate impact of structural inequality on the black community. Your aim seems to be to destroy what is described as ‘capitalism’, imperialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. These terms can be understood in a variety of ways, but I choose to understand them from a classical Marxist perspective. As you appear to be offering a revolutionary social programme not too dissimilar to some programmes which were associated with nineteenth-century Marxism, it is important to remind ourselves that those programmes failed to preserve liberty and opportunity for all working people. With all twentieth-century type Marxist programmes, there is a risk that the programme will simply cause chaos and eventually bring about the end of freedom and liberty and return society to authoritarianism in the name of maintaining social order and the pursuit of the ‘idea’ of socialism.
To tackle inequality, unfairness and elitism, such as the domination of modern institutions by the upper middle classes people would be better off joining together rather than becoming alienated from one another and letting the elite off the hook by allowing them to think that structural inequality is caused by the white ‘far-right’ working-class discriminating against the black working class. Workers and ordinary people of all colours should unite around the world.
Capitalism, as critiqued by Karl Marx was an inevitable phase of history and involved workers, under the veil of ‘bourgeois’ freedom being forced on pain of starvation to sell their labour-power, under contract to capitalists and thereby ‘freely’ accepting their own exploitation. Freedom itself was not the problem, it was the way the bourgeoisie used worker ‘freedom’ to effectively trap them into a world of low pay, with no welfare, no education, no healthcare, and no pensions. These were the issues for Marx. Freedom was a social good, but the absence of social provision coupled with low pay created a toxic economic environment that could only be addressed by collective action.
Today we have retained our freedom and for the last eighty years enlightened governments, under pressure from workers, particularly in Europe, no longer allow ‘naked’ exploitation. We do not in Europe, or the United Kingdom have a wholly ‘capitalist’ domestic economy as Marx would have understood it. Our domestic economy is broadly what Marx would have called socialist and whilst there are still ‘structural problems’ that need addressing, those structural problems affect white people as well as black people and should be addressed by us together.
Whilst the global economy is ‘capitalist’ it is hard to imagine how any movement will achieve anything without mass multiracial global cooperation by the worlds working classes. This is unlikely to be forthcoming in anything like the near future. The results will be that direct violent action only serves to reverse what achievements have been made on behalf of all workers so far. These achievements in the United Kingdom are not inconsiderable. There is also the risk that the process of direct action may destroy the freedoms all workers have achieved too and thus empower totalitarian nations to exploit western workers of all backgrounds.
Imperialism is understood by most on the traditional as well as classically Marxist left as the expansion of one nation’s economy by invasion into another nation’s markets by military force, otherwise known as colonialism. Western nations have been actively engaged in abandoning their old colonies, so colonialism is no longer an issue for the worlds free nations.
We have global capitalism largely unregulated and therefore widespread global trade. This has been called neo-colonialism. The need to invade to shore up collapsing national economies or to gain global influence is no longer necessary, global bodies like the World Trade Organisation make such action unnecessary and the United Nations renders such action illegal. But the drive for free trade or neo-colonialism is more complex. Whilst Marxists would agree that global capitalism has a corrosive effect on the planet and the lives of millions of people, by spreading trade, and peace, as well as freedom, and cooperation, global values are being promoted. Without the principles of capitalist freedom underpinning free trade, nations burdened by tyranny, a lack of democracy or oppression would struggle to liberate their people. Neo-Colonialism is, therefore, a two-edged sword. Like capitalism itself.
Destroying imperialism is therefore unnecessary as it no longer goes on via military conquest. Destroying global capitalism is unlikely to happen at the moment as power structures inside and outside the western world remain largely indifferent to change. Failing to recognise capitalisms positive contributions, ignores the reality that many countries that were victims of past imperialism are now successful global traders and freely participating in the world economy, improving the lives of their people and introducing democracy. So Global capitalism is not wholly good, but it is not wholly bad either, as Marx said it is a phase in humanities evolution. It must be allowed to leave behind a legacy of freedom and democracy. If it were possible to destroy global capitalism by direct action in one country, for example, the United States, it may not actually serve the interests of the worlds, ordinary workers at this stage of humanities social and economic evolution.
In respect of patriarchy, this is a post tribal reality for females, being the control of females and their sexual behaviour with men, to control male personal wealth and power, its ownership and inheritance. There is now little control of females in the west for this purpose. Patriarchy exists in the world, but the western world does not control female’s sexual behaviour for any reason including the ownership and the inheritance of wealth. Females are considered the equals of males and this is enshrined in legislation. How do Black lives Matter propose to dismantle patriarchy without sending females back to a pre-patriarchal world where the only characteristic of interest to men was not the wealth females represented, but their simple collective reproductive capacity? This ambition of abolishing patriarchy sounds laudable but the implications for women are truly outrageous. Look at virtually every country outside of the west? You will see patriarchy being proudly promoted. It is particularly prevalent in the Islamic world.
Finally, white supremacy. In my paragraph on capitalism above, I referred to ‘structural inequality’. This is best summed up as the institutional disparity in wealth and power between different groups in society. The impact of structural inequality impacts on both the poor white community and the poor black community. It might be more visible in the case of the black community but the exploitation of the working class historically, and the structural inequalities prevalent today in Britain affect white people and black people equally. There is nothing a poor white person can legally do which a poor black person cannot do but both can and are excluded from achieving a fulfilling life by our political and economic systems continued unfairness, elitism, and inequality.
America does not need a socially and economically destructive revolution it simply needs to develop as an interim phase of its history the kind of socialism that exists in the United Kingdom and Europe. The revolution will need to wait.