How the Revolution Will Wipe Out National Oppression and Inequality

Revolutionary Worker #824, September 24, 1996

Carl Dix, spokesperson for the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, recently addressed a meeting of students active in the fight against attacks on affirmative action. This article is based on his talk.

The question of solving the oppression of Black people has been on the front burner in U.S. history several times—like right after the U.S. Civil War and when the civil rights and Black liberation movements were on the scene. Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, makes a very interesting point about these points in history. He say each time America's answer was to continue subjugating Black people, with maybe some surface changes. So this system has already had several chances to deal with this problem and I say, their time is up!

Today, there's a lot of rhetoric about how the problems society faces are only made worse when the government tries to fashion a solution. But the problem isn't that government in general isn't capable of solving the problems of society. The problem is that this government is run by the very class of people that is responsible for these problems—the capitalist class, the very people who benefit materially by continuing to inflict these problems on the great majority of people. This is why the solutions that they come up with won't eradicate poverty and won't end the oppression of Black people or any other problems in society. But that don't mean it isn't possible to solve these problems.

It is possible to feed the hungry, to house the homeless, care for the elderly, educate the people, welcome immigrants, provide healthcare, childcare and more. But to bring into being the kind of society that can do all this, first you gotta make revolution. Millions of people have to rise up in armed revolution, overthrow this capitalist government, wipe this dog-eat-dog system off the face of the earth and go on to build a whole new world. I know to many people that sounds like an extreme solution. But we're dealing with some extreme problems here and nothing less than revolution can solve them.

It's Gonna Take a Revolution

So how would a revolutionary society get rid of the oppression of nationalities and nations of peoples within society? And why would a socialist society be able to do this? Let me take the second part of that question first.

The kind of revolution that I'm talking about, we call a proletarian revolution—a revolution that has to be based on the people on the bottom of society. You have to unite broadly with other sections of people throughout society to carry it out, but it's got to be based on the working class—the class that objectively has nothing to lose but its chains. In order to free itself and all humanity, the proletariat has to get rid of the capitalist system and build a whole new society.

We got to get rid of the monopoly capitalist class which owns and controls all the means of production and resources in society. We got to overthrow the U.S. ruling class that exploits and oppresses people all over the world. We got to get rid of the capitalist system—which is the foundation for national oppression. And we got to get rid of the capitalist division of labor which is the material basis for the oppression of women.

This system has thousands of laws on paper outlawing discrimination, yet discrimination infects every part of capitalist society. This is because the capitalists have a greater law in command—the law of maximizing profit—and under this law all of society is maintained in a twisted state. But under socialism, with power in the hands of the people, a whole new society can be built. The profit motive can be taken out of the way society functions and operates. And things can be run in the interests of the broad masses of people.

To do something like this, you can't just put a new group of people in power and hope they'll do right by everybody. We won't say to the masses who just rose up and made the revolution, "OK, y'all can go back home now. Just sit back and let the Revolutionary Communist Party take care of business for you." No, we'll be challenging people and leading them in attacking every aspect of injustice and degradation left over from capitalist society.

We'll have to do that because our goal is to build socialism as a transition to a classless, communist society. A society where the means to produce wealth is the collective property of the people. And where the people decide what to produce and how to distribute what's produced collectively. A society where people are not forced into relationships of domination and subjugation in order to survive. A society where backward ideas and prejudices are being rooted out—not reinforced like they are under this setup.

After the Revolution

Now, on the question of how, under socialism, we would lead people to end the oppression of Black people and other oppressed people. Well, first off, we would lead them to do this unapologetically. We're not gonna say, "Well, we gotta do something about this oppression but it's unfair to ask any white person to change their racist ways and thinking." And we're not gonna say, "We gotta do something about what's been coming down on the sisters but don't worry, you men, none of you all will have to change your male chauvinist ways." We're gonna lead people to revolutionize all of society. And in the struggle to change society, people will have to change themselves. This will be a rude awakening for some people. And some people will put up fierce resistance. But the broad masses will welcome this—because it will be a truly liberating process.

We say straight up in the Programme of the Revolutionary Communist Party that, after the revolution, we're gonna have a firm affirmative action program. Our Programme says:

"Since the history of the development of capitalism in the U.S. is a history of the most savage oppression of the Black, Native American, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Asian and other oppressed peoples, taking up this question for solution is crucial for the U.S. proletarian revolution.

"Discrimination will be immediately and forcefully banned in employment, housing and all other spheres. As part of this general process in society, the army of police which enforces all this through systematic terror in the ghettos and barrios and other areas where oppressed nationalities are concentrated will have been destroyed, just punishment handed out to its hired thugs, and in its place will be armed and organized militia made up of the masses in these neighborhoods and areas.

"Segregation in neighborhoods, schools and the like will be banned and integration promoted. Segregationist groups will be broken up...and if, for example, somebody in a factory jumps up and starts some racist mouthing off, although he will probably not be jailed unless he is really organizing a reactionary movement, the masses of workers will be mobilized right then and there to wage a sharp struggle against all this and to isolate and defeat such reactionary poison."

"The new proletarian state will take immediate and special measures to change the situation of all-around social equality... Everybody is going to have an urgent feeling that their own conditions must be improved from this ugly devastation of capitalism. But Party members and other class conscious people are going to have to go out and struggle with the rest and set an example in practice, in self-sacrifice and voluntary labor, to see that the neighborhoods at the very bottom are rebuilt—and improved—first, while people in other areas will have to be given second priority, and in some cases even to largely live with what they've got for a time until the resources can be devoted to that problem too. If the proletarian state does not apply this policy, then the basis for proletarian power will be seriously undermined, because the oppressed people would rightly say, "How is this different from before? We're still on the bottom."

Revolutionary Example in Maoist China

Now, we recognize that doing this ain't gonna be easy. But the proletariat's got some historical experience to learn from.

Look at what they did in China under Mao Tsetung's leadership. When the revolution triumphed in China in 1949, over 80 percent of the people were poor and illiterate peasants in the countryside. And in the cities, people suffered terrible poverty.

There was a lot of struggle in the Communist Party of China about how to move forward in this situation. Some leaders in the Party said that in order to rebuild society you had to rely on the small section of educated professionals and award them with continued privileges. But Mao Tsetung rejected this and instead mobilized the broad masses of people to break down all the differences in society—between countryside and cities, between mental and manual labor, between people of different nationalities, between men and women.

Some of you may have seen the video Breaking With Old Ideas, a movie done in China during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. This movie tells the story of a struggle to develop revolutionary education in the countryside.

As I said before, the struggle we're waging today raises the whole question of what kind of society we want. And this movie gives people a real sense of how, once the masses have power, they can really transform society.

Breaking With Old Ideas shows how the poor peasants struggled against a whole tradition of discrimination and elitism in education. And it shows how through this struggle they revolutionized the system of education in China. They got rid of the old, irrelevant curriculum. They changed the criteria for admissions, giving poor peasants and workers the chance to go to college for the very first time. They overthrew backward-thinking school officials who promoted elitism and discrimination against the oppressed.

The masses struggled over who should be admitted to college. Should it just be the kids of intellectuals and high-ranking Party members? Because if they did it like that they'd be recreating a class structure not radically different from the one they were used to before. Or did revolutionary China need their own version of affirmative action?

And what kind of education should people get? Education focused on memorizing facts and spitting them out on command? Or education geared toward solving real problems in society? And what was education for? Making money and getting a privileged place in society? Or serving the people and working to build a new society free of oppression?

Under Mao's leadership and his revolutionary line, the people began to transform the educational system so that it became part of the whole process of revolutionizing all of society. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, peasants and workers decided collectively who should go to college. And the criteria they used to make these decisions wasn't like who could do the best on entrance exams or who had read the most books. Instead they considered things like: Who would best be able to come back and serve the community and help solve the problems the people faced.

The revolutionaries fought to combine education with productive labor and put forward the slogan, "Every student works, every worker studies." Students weren't allowed to go off to school and just learn abstract theories. Learning was integrated with solving real problems of the people. Peasants with rich practical experience were invited to serve as part-time lecturers at agricultural colleges. And intellectuals went to the countryside to work alongside peasants.

And through all of this, a lot of attention was paid to the question of national minorities.

Now many people don't know this, but when the proletariat seized power in China in 1949, there were more than 30 different nationalities in the country. The Han people made up more than 90 percent of the population and there was a whole history of Han chauvinism, where minority nationalities faced oppression and discrimination.

Even before 1949, Mao fought to unite the minority nationalities as part of the revolution. He said, the culture, religion and customs of the national minorities shall be respected. They must not be compelled to learn the Han spoken and written language and they shall be helped to develop their culture and education in their own languages. He said the minority nationalities must be treated as as equals and he said the people must forbid all practices of insult or contempt towards national minorities, in word or deed.

After liberation, the government invested in economic construction in minority areas, proportionately higher than in other regions. Substantial aid was granted to finance educational and medical institutes for minority nationalities. And assistance, materials, party cadres and technical staff were provided in order to develop industrial and agricultural production in minority areas.

Before 1949, the education of minority nationalities in China had been terrible or non-existent. In socialist China, special sections in the education departments in the central and local governments were assigned to pay attention to developing education for minority nationalities. Some schools had special preparatory classes for minority students to help them catch up with others and go on to higher studies. More teachers were sent into minority areas and programs were set up to train teachers from the minority nationalities. Special institutes were set up to train revolutionary party cadres from the minority nationalities so that they could go back to their areas and lead the revolutionary struggle.

All this shows how, under socialism, the problem of national oppression and discrimination can be consciously taken up by the masses of people and solved.

What It's Gonna Take to Defeat Attacks on Affirmative Action

Now, I want to end on this question of what it going to take to defeat the attacks on affirmative action.

The system is trying to polarize society in a way that will help them carry out their assault on affirmative action. But we have to bring about a whole different polarization—one that brings together people of all nationalities, and from all walks of life, to fight against the attacks on affirmative action. This is a polarization that's favorable to winning this battle and favorable for carrying the fight further. Now, to do this, we got to build a determined battle throughout society. We got to rally people broadly for this fight and unite with a lot of different forces. But we also got to make sure that the fight gets fought all the way through and doesn't get sidetracked.

You got Bill Clinton saying "mend it, but don't end it." You got Jesse Jackson working to focus things on registering and voting. You got faculty and even some regents saying: Don't worry, just sit back and let us take care of things and don't do anything radical or you'll alienate everybody. You got all those forces out there, and we gotta figure out how to fight in the midst of all of this.

We got to forge real plans that will enable us to unite with those who really want to defend and extend affirmative action. We got to unite with people when they're doing something that's gonna push the fight forward. We also got to know how to struggle when people are dragging things back from our goal.

As students you all can play a crucial role in this battle. You got the freedom and the responsibility to speak up for other sections of the people who are under attack by this system and to take action. And once you get things started many others will join in because what we're fighting for is right.

We got to draw on lessons from the past, and from the present, too. How did affirmative action come about in the first place? Not because the system wanted to get rid of discrimination. Not because the people voted for it. Affirmative action came about because of the uprisings in the 1960s and the fear this put into the system's heart. And the only way we're gonna stop them from snatching it back is through waging the same kind of determined resistance.

We can do this, sisters and brothers. Look at the battle to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The system wanted to murder him on August 17. But the struggle of the people forced them to back off and grant a stay of execution. This fight ain't over. Mumia still doesn't have a new trial and they still want to execute him. But this initial victory has shown us that the only way to stop the execution of Mumia and get him free is by continuing to wage a broad, diverse and determined struggle.

Now, some people say that taking it to the streets ain't where it's at in this fight. Right now reactionaries are trying to get an anti-affirmative action initiative put on the 1996 ballot. So some people are saying that the only way to win this is to register people to vote and get them out to the polls. But we gotta stop and ask—what kind of system would even put such a reactionary thing on the ballot? If they came to us and said, "We're going to hold a vote on whether slavery should be put back into effect," should our response be to organize people to vote no!?

Hell no! We'd need to be out in the streets building determined mass resistance to stop it! That's what we need to do around these attacks on affirmative action. And by doing this we can have broad impact on different sections of the people.

If we seize the time and step out there and take this battle on for real and don't half-step, there's a lot of other people we can win to join with us. We can strike blows to this system of oppression and degradation. And when we do that, we'll be able to go into other battles against this system with even more strength.