For those as yet unfamiliar with the term ‘critical race theory’ (CRT) I will attempt to shed some light upon the phenomenon and at the same time criticise it from a revolutionary – humanist perspective. For some time CRT has been the product of a radical trend of academic thought which although originating in the USA has spread to Europe and elsewhere. In its essence it amounts to a legal and academic critique of civil rights legislation and other bourgeois laws on discrimination around the spurious concept of race. In other words CRT is a more assertive intellectual reaction to the fact that after decades of struggle, people, originally of enslaved and colonised countries currently resident in the USA, Europe and elsewhere are still not represented in many occupations in proportion to their numbers among the general population.
The adherents of the CRT trend consider that discrimination within western capitalist societies is primarily a result of institutional dynamics rather than the result of general capitalist inspired exploitation and individual prejudice. It is this alleged ‘institutional dynamic’ which upholds what CRT exponents generally class as ‘white privilege’. Like many other ‘conservative’ thinkers, humanity is dualistically divided by CRT advocates into at least two virtual (and thus false) categories (races) of humanity – in this case black and white. It is a form of mythopoeopic consciousness which creates and perpetuates a long held virtual reality, for there are no black skins, no white skins and despite ancient religious and modern secular inventions – no races.
These categories of patriarchal and bourgeois created ideology are simply elite inspired inventions. Consequently these dualistic forms of mythic consciousness and activism such as CRT, Black Lives Matter, etc., collude with bourgeois and patriarchal inventions of race and thus conserve and perpetuate these mythopoeian based categories which are used to justify exploitation. They then connect them to the reality of class discrimination under the capitalist mode of production. In this way they delude themselves (and those under their influence) to think that their sophisticated intellectual constructs are a correct image of reality.
In the real practical world, although there is massive discrimination, there are only pale and dark skin colours and no races. So the problem of general discrimination within capitalism – via bourgeois and CRT constructs – is transferred to the abstraction – institutional dynamics. It is this abstraction which then supposedly ensures that the ‘selection’ and appointment of candidates for jobs, positions and posts – at whatever institutional or occupational level – primarily discriminates against dark-skinned candidates. This is clearly not true universally nor in individual countries.
Overlooked by this CRT virtual reality construction is the fact that ‘selection’ is always personal discrimination in one form or another. Discrimination is perpetrated by those individuals who are ‘privileged’ to do the selecting. Moreover, discrimination is the fundamental basis of all class divided societies including capitalism. In marriage, friendship, occupation and community, class divided societies invariably discriminate against the designated ‘lower’ classes, no matter what the actual colour or shade of their skin. The middle classes do likewise.
Within countries dominated by dark skinned elites or multifarious religious elites, people similar to them will in general be more favourably selected than those of different skin colour or alternative religion. The modern bourgeois concept of ’positive discrimination’, hinges around this basic fact of pre-capitalist and capitalist forms of discrimination. It is important to recognise that Critical Race Theory does not wish to end discrimination, it’s advocates, just like ‘Me Too’ advocates just want to end the form of discrimination which affects their chosen constituency.
Critical Race Theory advocates accept the continuation of current capitalist mode of production along with the current divisions of labour between those who work manually for low pay and those who occupy the more privileged ‘clean’ occupations of academia, media, entertainment and sport. They merely wish to reform certain areas of capitalism in such a way to allow more dark skinned access to positions of power, wealth and status. Advocates of CRT do not consider positions of social power, wealth and status as problematic in themselves, so CRT is not a revolutionary trend of thinking but a conservative trend. It seeks to conserve capitalism by marginal reforms.
However, to some sections of the conservative elite middle class, CRT appears radical and assertive because it desires uncomfortable changes for them. And it is this ‘reform’ change aspect which has provoked the conservative and reactionary wing of the capitalist and pro – capitalist elite to accuse it of being influenced by Marxism. Consequently a war of words and further job and sinecure discrimination and termination has broken out in many US Universities and academic circles. The clash is between ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ wings of the pro-capitalist establishment.
However, CRT advocates such as Derrick Bell, a Harvard University academic have expressed the opinion that they have no time for ‘Marxism’. In the use of the term ‘Marxism’ we encounter a further ‘virtual reality’ confusion of mainstream academia who have yet to comprehend the difference between the revolutionary – humanism of Karl Marx and the sectarian dogmatists such as Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky. The latter 20th century middle-class academic and legal reformist radicals falsely claimed to be following in Marx’s footsteps, when in reality they were perpetuating class-divided ‘big’ state-capitalist societies. [See the article ‘Marxists against Marx’ on this blog]
Indeed, Paul Macomb a CRT supporter, in attempting to define the trend, has classified CRT as a ‘Radical Liberal’ theory. That in my opinion is still not accurate, but it does take us closer to understanding it. My own characterisation of ‘Critical Race Theory’ is that like, ‘Black Lives Matter’, the ‘Me Too’ movement and ‘Extinction Rebellion’, it is simply another ‘liberal reformist’ trend. Moreover, it is one which in the current period of radicalised and decaying turmoil of the capitalist mode of production, appears in the bourgeois world of virtual reality as far more radical than it actually is.
The current period of capitalist crisis appearing within six fundamental areas of life (economic, financial, social, environmental, ecological and political) has been deepened by the health crisis triggered by the global Covid 19 pandemic. Each of the above areas has produced many seemingly radical single issue movements as reactions to the severity of the crisis. The advocates of each single issue (now often desperately and widely affected) articulate a present existential situation particular as the central ones requiring urgent solution. The solutions they imagine are by reforms to the existing mode of production – exclusively in their own chosen sector. They primarily see the world from their own particular sectional perspective – based upon the immediate material conditions they are living within.
However, by wearing such single issue blinkers, reform activists are blind to the larger global picture of humanity as a whole. Rising above this narrow restricted view to see how all these important issues are linked by the fact that they all are products or by-products of the capitalist mode of production, is at the moment beyond them. A whole generation has been blind-sided by the failure to recognise that the phenomena of Marxism, Communism and Fascism, were nothing more than previous middle-class radical forms of saving capitalist style relationships of exploitation by means of one party authoritarian States.
The fact that these state capitalist forms were administered by different political elites whose political perspectives were superficially opposed, has served to obscure the fact that their social and economic positions were almost identical. They all – without exception – intensively exploited wage labour by controlling private and/or state controlled capital. The modern middle – class, now horrified by the state capitalist forms their activist predecessors instigated in the 20th century, are still pursuing their interests – but now by other reformist means. Amazingly, they seek to reform a system of production which is not just massively oppressive to workers everywhere but is destroying the ecological and climatic foundation of all metabolic life forms upon which all human societies rest.
This liberal reformist activism occurs at the same time as the class system – by multiple inbuilt rivalries and nationalist orchestrated competition – is also undermining the solidarity and cooperation of working class humanity. International solidarity is now more than ever, necessary to solve the global problems currently facing humanity. Yet these and other such ‘globally renowned left wing scholars’ (sic) are publishing expensive books, holding elite participant conferences on this and other ‘topics of interest’ (such as re-invigorating another variant of top down ‘Marxism’) whilst enhancing their status and stipends, and all this as the capitalist system collapses around them and us.
Marx once wrote of an earlier 19th century generation of reformist intellectuals who sought to tinker with bits of capitalism; “These gentlemen, as has been proved, are chock full of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois ideas.” (Marx to Bebel, Liebknecht and Bracke). The new 20th century petite-bourgeois intellectuals have yet to see past their class arrogance. It is they, who now seek to “teach what they have not yet learned” (ibid), along with the other ‘self-made’ (sic) middle-class saviors of capitalism such as Musk, Bezos, Branson and Gates, etc., – some of whom think taking the rich into space will benefit the whole of humanity. They are all now part of the problem for humanity, not part of the solution.
Roy Ratcliffe (July 2021)
Mythopoeia. Although commonly applied and understood in the realms of fiction and mythology, this term has wider scope and implications. It also applies to a framework of thinking deeply immersed in categories already mythicalised (such as God, Race, Bolshevism, Maoism etc.) and whose thinking also becomes dominated by the immediate impact of an existential issue or situation. Those prone to mythopoeia are often ‘involved’ as participants in the issue or situation rather than as analysts of it. They invariably blend the past mythic language and understandings with a contemporary existential situation. As for example many Zionists with regard to currently defending and reclaiming land mythologically ‘given by God to a chosen people’. (sic). RR.