How Slavery Affects Capitalism and Responses to Capitalism

John L, Louisiana DSA

US Racism shaped capitalism via its justification for the super exploitation human beings faced and the genocide of human beings for their land and its resources. While capitalists exploited poor workers defined as whites, people defined as Black were considered as genderless sub-humans. The peoples indigenous to this land were considered inhuman savages who had no human rights in the face of manifest destiny. Under this racism, ‘People’ had become commodities to be bought and sold or killed and discarded or loaned to other people who couldn’t afford ‘one’. Centuries of this interwoven practice of racism and the crass efficiency capital demanded of its permanent workers influenced institutions, culture, education and all other aspects of life as systems do. While slavery had existed since the dawn of human civilization, as written in the code of Hammurabi, capitalism latched onto this practice and sought to make it as efficient and methodical as possible. Passing exploitation, expropriation and extraction onto the people with the least protections. So much so that it would take an armed civil war to end the practice of race-based chattel slavery in the United States. In spite of this change, the justification and construction of all human beings as being the same simply could not be adopted. Scientific experimentation via eugenics and cultural exhibitions via the World’s Fair and revival of the Olympic Games sought to prove white supremacy over lesser ‘races’ of humans, the Jim Crow Laws and Black codes of reconstruction enshrined this systemically. These aspects inevitably impacted the response to capitalism as well. Labor unions – while not instruments of the state – were not accepting to non-white members. Even as joint strikes occurred, many white unions and organizations avoided leaning too heavily into attitudes that favored more human rights. They could agree on better conditions, but not agreeing on shared humanity was too shaky of a foundation for this to last.

Today while, yes, as is often pointed out there is no more wide-spread specific law enshrining people who are not white as sub-humans. While, yes, liberals are running with anti-racism to be ultimately some idea of equal exploitation under capitalism. It does not mean we live in a post-racial society where a movement of the ‘multi-racial’ working class will just happen over night. Our response to capitalism is shaped by racism partly because it shapes the actual conditions of today. It does not mean that adopting ‘post-racial’ socialism as a means ‘to reach as many people’ as possible will indicate to people who deal with bigotry that we are an organization that is staunchly against it. If we cannot engage around how racism interacts with capitalism alongside other social constructs we’ll inevitably fail to actually build a movement that is responsive to our circumstance.