A brief history of the common themes between the original Communist Manifesto and today’s intersectionality and Critical Race Theory. The same theories and the same policies repackaged for a modern audience will lead to a similarly disastrous result, which is exactly why proponents of these destructive ideas continue to lie about them.
In their infamous Communist Manifesto, first published in 1848, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels wrote, “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!” Marx and Engels believed that the “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”
In over a century and a half since their publication, these themes have been recycled in countless ways for countless reasons. For example, in the lead up to World War I, progressives believed, or at least hoped, a large-scale war was impossible because the common man in each country would refuse to fight. They believed the workers of the world would literally unite against the war, if not topple the governments of the nations involved. By the end of the war, Tsarist Russia did fall leading to a Communist government under V.I. Lenin. Lenin used a variation of the phrase for the 2nd Comintern Congress in 1920, a few years after the revolution, “Workers and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite!”
Even then, Lenin believed there was a connection between class and race, and that it would help him support an anti-colonialist agenda and he hoped to unite racially subjugated black people in free market democracies. He, in fact, wrote a short essay entitled “Russians and Negroes,” published after his death. In it, he questioned “What a strange comparison, the reader may think. How can a race be compared with a nation? It is a permissible comparison. The Negroes were the last to be freed from slavery, and they still bear, more than anyone else, the cruel marks of slavery—even in advanced countries—for capitalism has no ‘room’ for other than legal emancipation, and even the latter it curtails in every possible way.” Ultimately, he declared, “Shame on America for the plight of the Negroes!”
Last year, Joe Pateman, a PhD Candidate at the University of Nottingham, published a paper, “V.I. Lenin on the ‘Black Question.” According to Mr. Pateman, “In his revolutionary activities and writings from 1913 to the fourth Comintern Congress in 1922, V. I. Lenin didn’t merely analyze the function of black labor in the process of capitalist development. He also had something to say about the role that black people themselves would play in their own emancipation.” He continued, “The guiding motto of the Comintern under the direction of Lenin—‘Workers and oppressed peoples of all countries, unite!’ fused the destinies of the racially subjugated black communities and working class in their struggles against imperialism.” Concluding, “This article argues that Lenin showed a keen interest in what was then called the ‘Black Question’. It shows that he adopted a non-reductive approach that highlighted the special character of black oppression in comparison to other forms. It concludes that his ideas remain relevant for the black liberation struggle today.”
In the meantime, the feminist movement was also developing their own variations of what would become the intersectional theme. In 1851, the former slave Sojourner Truth gave a speech entitled “Ain’t I a Woman?” where she discussed the unique challenges of being black and a female. Anna Julia Cooper published “The Colored Woman’s Office” in 1892, identifying black women as key actors in any movement for social change given their unique position suffering under multiple systems of oppression. She declared that “All prejudices, whether of race, sect or sex, class pride and caste distinctions are the belittling inheritance and badge of snobs and prigs.”
Fast forward a hundred years and “second wave feminism” was building on these ideas in the 1980’s. Audre Lorde is black and lesbian writer and poet known as the “Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet.” She declared that she was living in a country where “racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable” and “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.” Ms. Lorde also believed that “The oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions. There is a constant drain of energy which might be better used in redefining ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering the present and constructing the future.” Further, “Women of Color today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that is the task of women of Color to educate white women—in the face of tremendous resistance—as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.”
The specific word “intersectionality” first appeared in 1989, when Kimberlé Crenshaw published “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color.” Ms. Crenshaw’s primary focus was minority women, particularly those who suffered abuse and violence, who she saw as victims of multiple systems of oppression including the structural, political, and representational. It wasn’t long, however, before Ms. Crenshaw’s work was picked up and expanded upon by Patricia Hill Collins. She believed that these intersectional systems of oppression included race, gender, class, and ethnicity, describing it as “interlocking social institutions [that] have relied on multiple forms of segregation… to produce unjust results,” offering an “analysis claiming that systems of race, social class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, and age form mutually constructing features of social organization.”
Ms. Collins also linked “color-blind ideology” to a “new racism,” demanding that “Blackness must be SEEN.” She employed what is known as a “Marxist feminist approach” and “Marxist feminist critical theory” to analyze the intersections of consumer racism, gender hierarchies, and disadvantages in the labor market, referring to intersections of social inequality as the matrix of domination or “vectors of oppression and privilege.” If you noted the similarity between “Marxist feminist critical theory” and “critical race theory,” that is because there is significant overlap. Collins herself joined the University of Maryland’s department of sociology as a Distinguished University Professor in 2005. There, she teaches Critical Race Theory itself to graduate students, in her own words, “How African American male and female youth’s experiences with social issues of education, unemployment, popular culture and political activism articulate with global phenomena, specifically, complex social inequalities, global capitalist development, transnationalism, and political activism.”
In this sense, we can view “intersectionality” as the rallying cry to advance Critical Race Theory: All minorities are united together in their oppression to overthrow the oppressors.
We should pause for a moment to consider why any of this requires a new “theory.” Contrary to what the proponents of intersectionality and Critical Race Theory claim, there is no need for a new interpretation of history to teach actual history. It is certainly true that a black homosexual or transgender individual is likely to experience more discrimination than a heterosexual black person, especially back in the 1800’s, or that a homosexual white person would have experienced discrimination a hetero white person wouldn’t up until very recently. Nor is any new theory required to teach students about the horrors of reconstruction or Jim Crow; these are readily repeated facts.
A theory, however, is required when your goals are much more ambitious than teaching “honest history,” as they would say. A theory is required when you seek to overturn the prevailing philosophy in the United States and Western Europe, which we can generally consider an edifice built on individual rights, the free exchange of ideas and services, and limited government.
Marx and Engels were keenly aware of this, hence the Communist Manifesto starts by deriding the free market system, “Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes” before proposing various theories to support the new one. “In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality. And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at. By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.”
Marx and Engles then introduce a new system to replace it. “In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” They continue, “The Communists are further reproached with desiring to abolish countries and nationality. The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”
It should be no surprise that Critical Race Theory has its own version of this. According to Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, a book written by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic in 2001, “Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism and neutral principles of constitutional law.”
The authors outlined five “basic tenets” that unsurprisingly map readily with Communist principles straight out of the Manifesto. Race is socially constructed; Marx and Engels saw the proletariat as socially constructed, a collection of variously oppressed groups. Second, racism in the United States is the rule, not the exception; Marx and Engels believed the exploitation of the proletariat was the rule. Third, the legal system in America serves the interests of white people; Marx and Engels imagined it served the interests of the capitalists. Fourth, minority groups undergo a process known as “differential racialization,” where varying degrees and kinds of negative stereotypes are placed upon them by white people; Marx and Engels felt the proletariat were constantly redefined and marginalized by the capitalists, a process that went all the way back to the feudal system. Fifth, people of color cannot be confined to a single oppressed group; Marx and Engels wanted the proletariat regardless of profession or nation united as a group. Sixth, white people have no business talking about racism or related interests; only “voices of color” are qualified to comment; Marx and Engels believed the proletariat alone could drive the revolution.
In addition to the underlying theory and philosophy, even the politics and policies share striking similarities. For example, Marx and Engels called for “a heavy progressive or graduated income tax,” the “abolition of rights of inheritance,” the “centralization of credit in the hands of the state,” the “centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state,” and the “general abolition of all distinctions between town and country for a more equitable distribution of the populace over the country.” All of which would find a welcome home in today’s progressive movement. The only substantive change is the substitution of race, ethnicity, and gender for class.
In that case, is it any wonder that they insist on lying about every single aspect of it, from whether or not it’s proliferating in our schools to what it actually is? If you were pushing a political philosophy steeped in a century of mass murder and deprivation, one completely counter to liberal traditions in the west, would you be honest about it?
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