This introduction cannot encapsulate the diversity and breadth of Marxist writing about race and racism. Yet it does attempt, at the very least, to give an idea of the seriousness with which Marxists have historically taken these issues. Far from just an ‘epiphenomenon’, many in the Marxist tradition have sought to significantly extend historical materialist theory in order to specifically understand race and racism.
A Marxist Humanist Perspective
The emergence of a new generation of antiracist activists and theorists seeking to advance an anticapitalist agenda creates a new vantage point of reexamining how racism relates to the logic of capital. This essay explores sources in the work of Marx, twentieth century Marxists, and Frantz Fanon that can provide direction for overcoming the binary of class and race.
A Contingent or Necessary Relationship
Anti-racist debate today remains polarized between “class reductionist” (any attempt to address racial disparities reinforces capitalist class relations) and “liberal identity” (disparities in racial representation can be resolved without questioning class inequality) politics.
This essay explores four questions through a critical dialogue with Black Marxist, Decolonial, and Political Marxist accounts of racism. First, is it possible to speak of racism before the advent of colonisation in the Americas? Second, what were the determinants for the production of these earlier modalities of racism? Third, who were the key actors responsible for the production of such racism? And fourth, what were the linkages between these developments and racisms that would unfold with the capitalist colonisation of the Americas?
This paper asks how whether and how caste fits into a global history of racial capitalism? The misidentification of caste as custom has long misled analysts and thwarted solidarities. Drawing on the insights of two important literatures, this paper seeks to remedy that misdiagnosis and show that 1) caste abolition must be central to any effective anti-capitalist politics in South Asia, 2) a focus on ‘local’ systems of racialization like caste is necessary in any history of global racial capitalism.
Steamship labour, colonial racecraft and Bombay’s Sidi jamAt
In the late nineteenth century freedpeople rescued from slaving boats on the Indian Ocean by British anti-slavery cruisers were sent to Bombay, where many of the young men found employment as stokers in the stokehold of P&O steamships. British administrators discussed the future of freed “Africans” strictly as profitable sources of labour. Freedpeople however went on to form their own Muslim communities or jamãt in Bombay known as Sidis or Habshis.
Settler Colonial Studies and Political Economy
This article criticises the political economic analysis of settler colonial studies, which it draws out through an immanent critique of its most famous practitioners. It then offers a critical genealogy of the wider theoretical trend that secures it: the post-Cold War vogue of asserting the ever-increasing centrality of primitive accumulation in global capitalism – what we might term a mode of predation.
Settler colonialism and racial capitalism in fair trade farming in Palestine
The recent proliferation of settler colonial and Indigenous studies of Palestine have addressed historical and present-day enclosure of Palestinian land, yet the question of ‘indigeneity’ is underexamined in this literature. Claims to indigeneity in Palestine straddle varied definitions: a racial category; as constructed through the colonial encounter or preceding colonialism; and as a local relation or an international juridico-political category. Using discourse analysis of a specific Palestinian sustainable agriculture initiative.
Migration, Race, and Class Today
This paper addresses the role of global migration and the nature of national borders within the co-constitution of class and race. We begin with Marx’s critique of the value-form – a critique that rests upon a distinction between the ‘essence’ of social reality and its immediate appearances.
On Racism and the Law of Value
Since the financial collapse of 2008 and the unfolding struggles in its aftermath, one can observe a rising interest in Marxist theories on race and racism. In this context some efforts were made to make use of Marx’s value theory for explaining the emergence and persistence of anti-black racism.[i] Some of the most promising approaches within this theoretical tendency make use of Moishe Postones work on antisemitism and the value-form, which is indeed a good place to start.[ii] Nevertheless, these recent theoretical investigations ignore, to no fault of their own, an already existing elaborate attempt that tried to bring together a theory of racism and Marx’s value-form analysis – namely the work of Peter Schmitt-Egner from the 1970s.
This article uses Marx’s idea of commodity fetishism and subsequent theories of reification to understand the social-construction of race. Race is typically defined as a socially-constituted category that is misattributed as a natural one. The goal of this article, in contrast, is to explain how this misattribution arises. In addition to this main objective, the article uses this explanation of race to contest recent attempts that locate the ‘persistent entanglement’ of race and capital in their functional relationship. Finally, the article engages with related, commodity-based theories of race and racism and concludes with thoughts on what the socially-constructed category of race can teach us about the nature of value and capitalism.
The New World Group and the Critique of Capitalism
This paper examines the critique of capitalism provided by the New World Group. Emerging from the West Indian Society for the Study of Social Issues at The University of The West Indies, Mona, the Group was formed in 1963 specifically to address the reformation of social and political forces in the wake of Caribbean territories gaining formal independence from European colonial powers.
On Jamaica and Labour in a Black Skin
Over the past 40 years a tradition of Marx interpretation has built up around a single passage concerning black slavery in an 1853 letter from Marx to Engels, in order to demonstrate that Marx’s support for emancipation was conditional on the level of ‘civilization’ attained by black slaves. I will argue that this interpretation, which attempts to prove Marx’s racist defense of slavery, is overdetermined by an inattention to historical context and a hypersensitivity to Marx’s nineteenth-century epithets.
Anti-colonial universality in the Age of Revolution
The ideas and political commitments of the revolutionary abolitionist and Spencean Robert Wedderburn (1762-1835) represent a compelling example of a form of universality, articulated in the midst of the Age of Revolution, which defied European colonialism and plantation slavery.
Racial Capitalism from Colonial Slavery to Postcolonial Migration
A reconsideration of the crucial historical role of slavery in the consolidation of the global regime of capital accumulation provides a vital source of Marxian critique for our postcolonial present. The Atlantic slave trade literally transformed African men and women into human commodities. The reduction of human beings into human commodities, or ‘human capital’ — indeed, into labour and nothing but labour — which was the very essence of modern slavery, served as a necessary predicate for the consolidation and perfecting of what
Homegrown Sugar Beets and the Racial Stratification of Labour
This paper provides a history of more than a century of efforts to establish and maintain a homegrown Canadian sugar supply – a twentieth century version of what Eric Williams called the ‘war of the two sugars,’ or the global competition between sugar beet and cane.
British Black Radicals against Racial Fascism
This article explores how Britain's Black Power movement challenged the political outlook of the anti-fascist left in the 1960s-70s. While the established left interpreted the National Front (NF) as an aberrant threat to Britain's social democracy, Black political groups foregrounded the systemic racial violence of the British state. By addressing intensifying racial oppression during a critical early phase in the transition to neoliberalism, they prefigured Stuart Hall's analysis of 'authoritarian populism'.