The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

An Ideology of Oppression

Feb 14, 2022

Whoopi Goldberg recently got into some hot water for stating that the Holocaust was “not about race,” since both the Nazis and the Jews were white. She quickly came back and said what she had learned—that the Nazis had indeed seen the Jews they oppressed as belonging to a separate, inferior race from them, even though both were white.

Which raises the question: what IS race?

"Race” does not actually exist in human biology. There is only one species, Homo sapiens, one race, fundamentally the same in all of its wonderful variations of skin color, facial features, and body sizes and shapes around the world.

"Race” as an ideology didn’t even exist until the Middle Ages started giving way to capitalism. Early capitalism developed in England and France. The early capitalists rationalized that they were more successful because they were of a superior “race": the English were superior to the Irish; Western Europeans were superior to Eastern Europeans and Jews. People were wealthy or poor because that was what they were naturally fit to be.

As capitalism expanded to the world, “race” was used as a way to justify why Western European capitalists were entitled to enslave, conquer and exploit Africans, Asians, and indigenous Americans. Other peoples were labeled as “Other Races"—inferior humans, or even not humans at all. Again, they were fulfilling their “natural” lot in life by being conquered and enslaved.

"Race” as an ideology continues today because we still live in a society where a great many people are exploited and oppressed by a very few at the top. The capitalist class has an interest both in justifying their position at the top, and of dividing the workers they exploit. Better for them to sell the idea that poor people are poor—and poor countries are poor—because those people are simply incapable of anything better. MUCH better for them, than to admit that they are rich because they have been stealing from the rest of us for so long! And if workers get divided among so-called “racial” lines, it becomes that much harder to unite against their true common enemy.

The ideology of “race” and racism will only disappear with the common fight of a united working class against the capitalist class and the capitalist system that exploits us all.