The Spark

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

30 Years Ago:
The Murder of Vincent Chin:
Racism Divides the Working Class

Jul 16, 2012

June 19th marked the 30th anniversary of the death of Vincent Chin, a 27-year-old Chinese-American draftsman, in Detroit, Michigan. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat by a supervisor from a Chrysler plant and his laid-off stepson. The two had earlier yelled racist insults at Chin and his friends. Thinking Chin was Japanese, they yelled, “It’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work.”

During the depths of recession in 1982, plant closings, layoffs, and big concessions were blamed on Japanese imports by the media, politicians, and companies. These lies were also spouted by UAW officials. Some union officials organized workers to smash Japanese cars with sledge hammers in PR events, and the UAW distributed racist bumper stickers.

The murder of Vincent Chin was a kind of lynching, for which the UAW had laid the groundwork. Most workers did not go out and murder someone they thought was Japanese. But the propaganda directed auto workers to place blame for lost jobs on a nationality, rather than the policies of the corporations’ drive for profits.

But most of the jobs were lost to speed-up and outsourcing inside the U.S. Much of the work that used to be done by Ford, Chrysler and GM workers is now being done by companies like Penske, CEVA, OmniChem, Bridgewater, Johnson Controls, etc. where workers are making $11 or $12 or $15 an hour, rather than $28.

So today, faced with another economic crisis, the bosses are again using anti-transplant, anti-Chinese, anti-Mexican and anti-Japanese propaganda to divert workers’ anger about the loss of jobs and decent wages and benefits. They are trying to focus our anger against the wrong people, but that only works if we let them do it to us.