Relationship Between Race and Capitalism Essay

In the words of Malcolm X, “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice, and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation… It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of black against white, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter. Racism is primarily rooted in the historical development of capitalist as a world system. This has been proven through several centuries to be a flexible and useful method for the possessing classes. Racism justified genocide and conquest, on which established the European colonial empires. Racism rationalized the slave trade, which spurred the primitive accumulation of capital needed for the industrial revolution. The existence of racism may be explained in three ways.

First, the dominant view in which is rarely expressed as theory but rather operates at the level of individual and societal assumptions, that racism is an irrational reaction to difference which cause some people with white skin to have problems to people with black skin which sometimes leads to violent actions. Individuals and groups who have this understanding of racism advocate education and awareness as a way of preventing racism. Next, racism is endemic in white society and the only solution is for people with color to organize themselves separately from whites in order to protect themselves and to defend their interests.

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Finally, racism based on a materialist perspective, in which views racism as a materially caused phenomenon. Racism as product of capitalism, grew out of early capitalist use of slaves for the plantations, it was consolidated to justify white and western domination of the rest of the world. The impact of capitalism on colonized societies did not generate a capitalist mode of production. The structures of colonial social formations took a different shape, Using India as a classic example. The resulting structure was neither the unchanged pre-colonial system nor as it identical with that of conventional capitalism. It is properly designated as, I have suggested, a colonial mode of production. The exploitation and pillage of the West Indies and the Americas, and that of Africa by means of the slave trade, and finally, the discovery by Europeans of the sea route to the Far East and India, led to a rapid growth in world trade by the 16th century. The vital role of India and the Far East in generating the system of British industrial capitalism and capital accumulation in Britain is undeniable.

In that role, were great monopolistic chartered trading corporations that emerged in England during 16th and 17th century, such as the Baltic Company and the Levant Company? The greatest of which was the East India Company, which conquered and had rule over India. First, Europe’s relationship with India was of mutual prosperity and trade. Until the East India Company began to create a monopoly for itself in Indian trade, pushing out other European rivals, notably the French, followed it’s by conquest of the country, that phase was from 1600 to 1757 was not an unequal colonial relationship.

The East India Company had a large interest in promoting the export of silks and cotton textiles from India which soon began to be noticed on British industrial interests. Political anxiety in Britain began to demand restriction in the trading privileges of the East India Company and an end to imports of Indian textiles products. The Indian society in the 17th century, except for its naval and military weakness, was fully equal in the fields of manufacture, agriculture and culture, compared to the Europeans during the time.

Contrary to the stereotyping of the medieval Indian society during this time, it was successful and large cities were already established rivaling those of European ones. India’s trade relationship with the East India Company and Britain ended with the beginning of the conquest of India in 1757. Still the main interest of the East India Company was to maximize the export of Indian textiles to Europe and primarily to Britain. By being a colony of Britain, there was the direct extraction of surplus from the India’s countryside in the form of land revenue and taxes, and other impositions.

Plunder and conquest joined hands with trade. The collection of land revenue, the paternalism of India’s feudalism was substituted with the unmitigated materialism and greed of the officials of the European Company. Land revenue and taxes became a major source of surplus extraction for the Company thus increasing their capital. Under the rule of the Company, land revenue was collected with ruthlessness that was unprecedented. India became the primary source of wealth of the Company and Europe funding the next levels of capitalism in the western society. By the mid-19th century, racism was evident in all western society.

The growth of racial consciousness in Europe was a direct effect of colonial expansion and the demand for cheap labor for their plantations. Chattel slavery was revived to exploit the resources of the new world, continued far into the 19th century in the United States. A number Europeans who ended up as semi slaves during the time had usually lost their citizenship due convictions for petty crime. The demand for slave labor was not met in the lands of the colonial powers, primarily because the ruling classes feared social turmoil as a result of slave labor.

The surplus population of European peasants and lower class was eventually used for wage slavery, whereas the aboriginal tribes of South America and Africa, whose darker skin color was an identifying mark, provided the solution to shortage in labor in the New World. Slavery clearly needed an ideological justification, for it was contrary both to the teachings of Christian charity, prominent during the time, and the concept of the inalienable rights of man advocated by the ideologues of the market and the enlightenment that slaves are in an inferior position economically and socially.

In time, white slave owning society constructed a boundary of color and race. It was neither the method nor means of slave production which was to be despised, but rather the slave themselves that the reason for the dark skin was the mark of the slave and that it was first the mark and sign of human inferiority. Racism, like other methods of capitalist ideology, reveals the reality of social exploitation and oppression, but it inverts cause and effect.

It is bourgeois not only in its historical origin, but also in its societal functions, providing a rationale and reason for the misery, injustice and suffering which are an inevitable part of the society. Peoples that were enslaved, dispossessed or conquered, are not victims of a senseless social order, but rather doomed by biological predetermination of their race. Ultimately, racial discrimination is at the all time low with laws enacted to have equality for everyone regardless of race. However, capitalism as argued does not look to oppress race.

Their main view is to earn by all means, thus, if they do not tend to look at race in general since their main concern is money. However, racism or not, capitalist today still seek to oppress those who are under privileged as in the case of shops hiring illegal immigrants knowing that they can justifiably exploit their lack of rights by giving them less than the minimum wage and having them work long shifts. Capitalism may have been long done using race as its work horse but now has found new means to exploit those who are less fortunate.

1. Capitalism & Racism. http://www. bolshevik. org/1917/no12/no12capitalismandracism. html 2. Alavi, H. Colonialism and the Rise of Capitalism. http://ourworld. compuserve. com/homepages/sangat/Colonial. htm 3. Fighting Racism: A Key Struggle. http://www. plp. org/pl_magazine/racism. html 4. Gonzalez, H. 2005. You Can’t Have Capitalism Without Racism — Looking Back at Malcolm X (1925-1965). http://www. socialistalternative. org/news/article20. php? id=76


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