II. Race: Capitalism’s Contribution

A. Genetic Races: Ingenious Nonsense

For the natural sciences today, the idea of classifying human beings by the concept of “race” is not only wrong but nonsensical. Science has determined that the genetic variations between the so-called races are less than the genetic differences within them. Pick two unrelated American Black people, and in all probability each of them will be as genetically close to a randomly picked white person as to each other. And vice versa. As a matter of fact, differences in blood types are far more important for purposes of categorization than differences in skin pigmentation, and they cut across racial lines. Only 7 percent of all human genetic variation can be said to be between the “races.” Of course, it would be absurd to argue that more significant biological differences such as blood types indicate superior and inferior people. Yet racists say skin color connotes such a ranking.

As well, based on the evidence we have today, we can say that human life originated in Africa, and only a comparatively small portion of that continent’s population emigrated to other areas of the world. A recent study of the genetic pattern in one chromosome from 1600 people in 42 populations throughout the world found far more extensive variation in DNA among African sub-Saharan groups than among peoples living in Europe, the Western Hemisphere, Asia and the Pacific Islands. To single out and homogenize Blacks as a distinct racial categorization is, in precise scientific terminology, crap.

The early twentieth-century white chauvinist attempts to prove the existence of separate races of humanity, despite their accompanying scientific patter, were akin to the anti-evolution religious creationist ideology that arose in America at the same time. It is not by accident that Black separatists like Professor Leonard Jeffries openly trace their intellectual roots back to this racist pseudo-anthropology. Far more dangerous are the most recent attempts by the white racist “Bell Curve” advocates, Richard Hernnstein and Charles Murray, to put an intellectual modern dress on the old race claptrap. Their efforts are equivalent to the attempts by contemporary fundamentalists to re-bottle their own snake oil under the name of “scientific creationism.”

B. Race: Capitalism’s Generic Brand

Yet for all the gibberish involved in the idea of differentiating between races, the notion of race persists. How can we explain the blatant contradiction between a phenomenon that doesn’t really exist biologically and the persistence in society of that same phenomenon, most often understood to be biological in origin?

Richard Fraser, the theoretician who developed “revolutionary integrationism” as a minority position in the formerly Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (see “Trotskyist Revolutionary Integrationism?” under “IV. Alternative Theories”), wrote:

1. The race concept of biological superiority/inferiority has been destroyed: the race concept has no biological reality. 2. Nevertheless the phenomenon race exists. Proof: try to tell black people that there is no such thing. (I went through a period trying that.) (Letter “On ‘Color Caste’” of January 15, 1984, addressed to Jim Robertson. Reprinted in Prometheus Research Series pamphlet, In Memoriam Richard S. Fraser.)

A grown man of obvious intelligence, who saw himself as a Marxist, spent time trying to tell American Blacks that race had no meaning! As a result he learned better. No doubt his Black listeners concluded that Fraser was either totally insensitive to their condition or simply a screwball who didn’t live in this world. In Fraser’s day, a Black worker in the South who ignored the reality of race was a dead Black worker. And not only in the South, and not only yesterday.

Many social as well as natural scientists tell us that racial categorization exists because of widespread prejudice and an unfortunate human penchant for stereotyping. In their minds, the ideas of race and racism are sociologically created. Newsweek magazine (February 13, 1995), in a major article entitled “What Color is Black: Science, Politics and Racial Identity,” identified with these liberal scholars. “The bottom line, to most scientists working in these fields, is that race is a mere ‘social construct’ – a gamy mixture of prejudice, superstition and myth.”

The idea that race is simply a clot of noxious misperceptions is wrong. The liberal scientists’ attempt to counter the racists with an idealistic explanation, locating the causal factor for racial prejudice in ignorance, is decidedly unhelpful. It leads to the rationalistic liberal panacea of “education” and moralistic preaching as the answer to racism.

Why does this particular set of rotten prejudices beset society today? Why do reasoning people persist in the belief that “race” really exists – even when they are fully exposed to the biological analysis? Race and racism are certainly social in origin, but the causes are deeper than mere bad ideas. In counterposition to the academic idea of race and racism as “social constructs,” Marxists (if forced to use academic terminology for the moment) would say that we understand them to be social systemic constructs.

The distinction between those who have a materialist explanation of racism based on the system and those who do not is crucial. No set of ideas can persist in society for any significant time without being rooted in actual material conditions of the system.

Authentic Marxism asserts that the category of “race” is a brand, or permanent badge, that capitalism bestows on groups in order to designate one or more of them as inherently worthy of subjugation. It does so to create and maintain major divisions within the laboring classes, internationally and nationally. These divisions are vital to capitalism’s drive to maximize exploitation, and today they are obligatory if imperialism, the system’s highest stage, is to survive.

The capitalist system is propelled forward by its insatiable drive to exploit. To maximize exploitation, capitalism tests each device of social oppression, control and division. Through its own process of natural selection, it discards those that do not serve its purposes and sustains and develops those that prove vital to its continued existence. Only people who understand the roots of racism in the capitalist system can provide an answer capable of arming the working class against the ugly reality of racism.

Unfortunately, not even all of those who present themselves as Marxists and materialists either believe or can convincingly show that racism is rooted in the very nature of capitalism as a system. This deficiency stems from four interrelated failures:

  1. They understand capitalism only in the most formal and therefore static and unchanging terms. Therefore they do not make the central distinction between capitalism’s progressive epoch and the present decadent and reactionary epoch; that is, between developing capitalism and counterrevolutionary imperialism.
  2. They believe that racism today is a reactionary policy engaged in by capitalism rather than an inherent necessity.
  3. They do not have a Leninist understanding of the relation between layers of the working class (labor aristocracy, superexploited workers, etc.), the class struggle and racial divisions as they appear in the epoch of imperialism.
  4. Crucially, they do not see that Marxism posits the struggle over surplus value between the capitalist and wage labor classes as the heart of the system and therefore do not see racism in its essential relationship to exploitation.
  5. The false Marxists furnish answers that do not go to the heart of the problem, and end up in capitulation to the racist system. Later we will look at some of their theories in detail. However, we should first elaborate our historical materialist view on the development of racism in the U.S. Just as it is impossible to really understand racism without understanding capitalism, it is equally impossible to explain the workings of modern capitalism without analyzing the role of the socially-derived category defined as “race.”

C. The Irony of Capitalism

The phenomena of race and racism owe their existence to the continued existence of a social system that once played a role vital to human progress but which should have perished nearly a century ago – capitalism.

Humanity has always been prey to “prejudices, superstitions and myths” but, prior to the advent of capitalism, such social fantasies didn’t take on the forms of race and racism. Historically determined material reality did not yet render these particular forms of human self-degradation likely or necessary.

Throughout the history of class society prior to capitalism, starvation, plague and war were inescapable. In its progressive epoch, capitalism’s characteristically brutal exploitation of the laboring masses was an unavoidable precondition for the accumulation of capital. Previous societies produced to ensure their survival – or at least the well-being of their ruling classes. Capitalism’s great leap forward was that it accumulated. It was the first class society that could provide the basis for the future elimination of the horrors spawned by class societies, all of which ultimately owed their existence to scarcity. But to achieve that goal, capitalism itself will have to be overthrown.

The dialectic of history cannot be truly appreciated without a profound awareness of irony. The same accumulative drive that laid the basis for a world in which humanity can transcend itself also chains humanity to the most brutal and inhumanly destructive institutions our species has devised. The very advent of capitalism that established a “free” working class also ushered modern slavery into the world.

As Karl Marx pointed out, slavery and the slave trade were vitally important elements in the rise of capitalism, not only in the New World but in Europe itself. And slavery brought with it the poisonous doctrine of racism, as a means for rationalizing and defending this new “peculiar institution.”

A diffuse but growing hostility and contempt for people with darker skins developed as a justification for European imperialist expansion around the world, particularly among the British conquerors. Once the institution of slavery developed on a large scale in the Americas, the demands of maintaining control over large enslaved populations culled from Africa served to congeal the primitive and scattered racist rationalizations into an increasingly all-encompassing, pervasive and tenacious ideology.

Capitalist slavery was different from ancient slavery in several historically significant ways. For our purposes, it is crucial to note that modern slavery, as opposed to its classical counterpart, was based on race. But it didn’t start that way.

D. Slavery: Racism as Consequence, Not Cause

Capitalist slavery developed racism rather than being created as a result of racism.

Eric Williams was Trinidadian by birth, but spent a good deal of time in study abroad. This was undoubtedly important in giving him a need to deeply explore early chattel slavery and to place it within a wide-gauged world view. His study Capitalism and Slavery mistakenly treats slavery more as a cause rather than as a creation of capitalism, but any serious Marxist must acknowledge the monumental character of the work and the brilliance of its insights despite this error.

What Williams says about the development of slavery in the West Indies he also applies to its North American variant:

Slavery in the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan. (p.7, Capricorn Books Edition.)

Initially, poor European whites as well as African Blacks were exploited in the U.S. as bond servants. The categories of indentured servant (a time-bound form of virtual slavery) and slave were not sharply distinguished, and those forced into such labor were not originally differentiated by their race. However, over time, attempts at enslaving American Indian and whites were abandoned. While enforced white service was time-bound, African Black slaves were not only forced into bondage for life but the condition was inherited: their children became slaves as well.

What accounts for the emergence of an exclusively Black chattel slavery? Williams says:

It has been suggested that it was humanity for his fellow countrymen and men of his own color which dictated the planter’s preference for the Negro slave. Of this humanity there is not a trace in the records of the time, at least as far as the plantation colonies and commercial production were concerned. (p.14.)

We cannot list here all the reasons why African labor was increasingly preferred and finally made exclusive by the plantocracy in the Americas. Briefly stated, their society did not produce sufficient numbers of Native American Indians who could survive and produce under the conditions of modern capitalist slavery. As well, it would have been politically impossible in Britain during the tumultuous years of the late 1600’s and early 1700’s to enslave people from its own workforce. Indentured servitude, given its time limits, did not meet the growing needs of the plantation economy, and there was an insufficient supply. Even the supply of prisoners couldn’t keep up with the demands of the plantations in the New World. Further, the bloody suppression of Ireland had developed a servant workforce that was far too cohesive and rebellious from the outset, as experience in the West Indies proved.

The colonies, especially their highly labor-intensive plantation system, desperately needed masses of laborers who could be forced to work for little return. Williams observes:

The features of the man, his hair, color and dentifrice, his “subhuman” characteristics so widely pleaded, were only the later rationalizations to justify a simply economic fact: that the colonies needed labor and resorted to Negro labor because it was cheapest and best. This was not a theory, it was a practical conclusion deduced from the personal experience of the planter. He would have gone to the moon, if necessary, for labor. Africa was nearer ... . (p.20.)

The humanity that the planters lacked towards European whites certainly never entered into their calculations when it came to the millions of forcibly transported Blacks who died in midpassage between their African homelands and the slave markets of the New World. This monstrous holocaust was relatively negligible in financial terms, the vital calculation for the slave traders and planters.

Williams claims that African slavery became the dominant form in the New World essentially because it was cheap and plentiful. That economic factor has largely been verified by the historical record; however, by itself, and even considered together with other factors cited above, the availability of huge amounts of enslavable African labor doesn’t fully answer why slavery was exclusively Black. Williams of course acknowledges the role that racism played in justifying and rationalizing slavery. However, he doesn’t go to the heart of the matter with respect to the North American colonies.

In the 1660’s and ‘70’s, North America was racked by a series of plebeian class revolts, most notably the “Servants’ Plot” of 1663 and “Bacon’s Rebellion” in 1676-77, during which European and African bond-servants seized and then burned Jamestown, the capital of the colony of Virginia. The armed revolts scared the hell out of the tiny upper classes and the British military establishment which served as their only protection. Laborers of African and European origin not only worked together, lived together and fraternized socially, they rebelled and fought together against their common class enemy.

The historian David R. Roediger, in his book The Wages of Whiteness, argues that racism was pervasive very early in imperial British and colonial American society. Whatever problems exist in his overall theory, Roediger is very insightful. He is also scrupulous in his attention to facts, so he carefully points out that “In certain places and at certain times between 1607 and 1800, the ‘lower sorts’ of whites appear to have been pleasantly lacking in racial consciousness. Perhaps they had never fully imbibed the white supremacist attitudes of the larger society ... .” He adds:

In any case, racial lines were often drawn quite waveringly at the bottom of society. Before 1680, Virginia’s “giddy multitude” was biracial and shared not only a desire for land but also social occasions, solidarity in rebellion and sometimes the same household. North and South, white indentured servants fled at times with Black (and even Indian) servants or slaves, an act which brought extra scrutiny to the white escapee because his or her companion was more likely to be stopped and questioned than he or she was. (p.24.)

Largely as a consequence of their vulnerability to generalized revolt, the capitalists deliberately sought to populate the country with poor but free European labor in addition to the captive Africans whom they reduced to permanent slavery. They took this path in order to gain the support of those who they hoped would defend private property and the ruling class by virtue of white racial identification – in counterposition to the Black slaves. The rulers instituted a battery of laws not only relegating Blacks uniquely to slavery but also adding further distinctions in treatment based on race. As well, the ruling class increasingly propagated secular and religious myths of Black inferiority in order to rationalize the subjugation of Africans.

The relative success they had can be seen in the testimony of the highly literate nineteenth-century defender of slavery, George Fitzhugh, who observed:

The poor [whites] constitute our militia and our police. They protect men in the possession of property, as in other countries; and they do much more, they secure men in the possession of a kind of property which they could not hold a day but for the supervision and protection of the poor [whites].

Thus “race” and racism took hold. The ideology of racism and its myth of Black racial inferiority was nurtured and propagated in America for four major interrelated reasons: 1) to justify slavery; 2) to divide the working masses; 3) to harness the white laborers to the defense of property and property owners; 4) to carry out capitalism’s fundamental aim of maximizing exploitation and accumulation. Therefore Williams’ conclusion that racism was a consequence and not a cause of slavery is historically accurate.

As Frederick Douglass, the foremost leader of Black abolitionism, stated:

We are then a persecuted people, not because we are colored, but simply because this color has for a series of years been coupled in the public mind with the degradation of slavery and servitude.

Skin color, facial features and hair texture were used as a brand, first to separate slaves from the poor white labor. And as the system developed in North America, its usage and significance widened.

E. Slavery and the Widening Reasons for Racism

By 1860, just prior to the Civil War, approximately 500,000 out of the 4,500,000 Blacks in America – about one-ninth of the total – were free. However, in the years leading up to the Civil War, freedom did not mean anything like real equality, either in law or in practice.

After holding an initially central position in the skilled Northern workforce, Blacks were soon displaced by craftsmen emigrating from Britain. Later European immigrants largely displaced them from the ranks of unskilled labor. In the South, slaves did perform much of the skilled labor up to and through the Civil War period. Both free Blacks as well as their enslaved brothers and sisters were used as cheap labor everywhere. As well, the capitalists used desperately poor Blacks as strikebreakers and scabs, tossing them aside when their undercutting mission was over. It all added up to bare subsistence for most Blacks under repressive conditions, in freedom as well as in slavery. Aside from a small petty bourgeoisie and a tiny middle-class professional stratum, the vast majority of Blacks were forced into the bottom layers of the workforce and the unemployed.

In a system dominated by the white capitalists, a sharp material distinction in terms of income and conditions existed between the races. Whites had open advantages before the law of the land. As well, in the North white workers had access to jobs and trades that Blacks did not. In the South, since the Black craftsmen were mainly slaves, they had to surrender the lion’s share of their income to their masters. Even where white plebeians were desperately poor, as so many were especially in the South, they could still have some hope of bettering their condition since they weren’t enslaved. Aside from the obvious benefits, the poor white could think of himself as part of a superior race when he compared himself to Blacks.

Africans were brought to the New World for one purpose, slavery. That was the decisive material element in any comparison of conditions between white and Black labor. Identifying slavery with the Black skin of the slave had a powerful impact on the European-American mentality. It served as the counterpoint in the development, over time, of the idea that being white brought with it an inherent proprietary right to free citizenship and the sole right to enjoy its benefits: America was white by right.

The dog-eat-dog world of capitalist relations took hold in North America with great rapidity. The lingering history of Europe was transported to these shores often in the form of national and religious hostilities. These quarrels could be ignited at given times by worsening fears of job displacement and other contentious issues. The alien and sedition acts passed in the 1790’s marked a particularly rapid growth of anti-immigrant sentiment among Americans with British origins. Nativist hostility to immigrant laborers, especially toward Irish Catholics who came to these shores in a great influx after 1820, often became a bloody reality.

The United States was crisscrossed by the ugly growth of competing identities. Would it become a society chiefly defined by the newly self-identified “white” race’s privileged position over a subjugated people it identified as “Negroes,” the “Black” race? Would it become dominated by a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant nativism lording it over an immigrant Catholic pariah group? (After all, the Irish were often compared to Blacks and considered a “dark race” of “barbarians” and “apes.”)

This pair of hostile relationships both continued not only to exist but even to flourish. However, the overwhelmingly dominant relationship which emerged was clearly that of white-over-black racism. The Protestant hostility to Catholicism remained malignant, with periodic rises and falls in intensity until the 1960’s. Nativist chauvinism toward immigrants is not only still with us, it is now peaking once again. However, the overwhelmingly dominant relationship of this kind which came to identify American society was that of the “white race” in a superior position to the “Black race.”

By no means did all workers buy into the racist division. The middle-class abolitionists were not the whole anti-slavery movement; there were significant sectors of the working class who favored emancipation as well. There were Irish workers who steadfastly refused to join in the mob violence against Blacks that became such an important feature of Irish-Black relations in the 1800’s. Many of the German communist followers of Karl Marx remained adamant anti-racists long after they came to these shores. And, of particular interest were the sons of the working class who, with John Brown, gave their lives in the armed struggle for Black liberation. Of course, the chief opposition was written in the blood of the early heroic slave revolts and then, the later day-to-day resistance of Blacks on the plantations and in the workplaces.

As we have emphasized, whites’ claims of superiority were not rooted in the clouds; whites had a distinct material advantage over Blacks, primarily based on the centrality of slavery up until the Civil War period. Nevertheless, there was no social peace within the so-called superior race. Quite the opposite. The class division of society, partly hidden on the surface by the racial and national-religious differences, could not be fully buried. The raw and tumultuous development of American capital expansion saw to that.

Underneath the racist superiority relationship was the need of the developing capitalist class to maintain its real dominance over the laboring classes by using the divisions to maximize its extraction of surplus value. The victory of white capitalists in achieving the racial schism didn’t make life idyllic for white workers. They won whatever gains they got through determined economic struggles and bloody battles, not through the beneficence of the capitalists. The white race identity did not mean love on either side of the class line that divided the “Caucasians.” In fact, resentment against the upper classes for not being beneficent was if anything heightened by the racial identity. The riots that periodically ripped through Northern cities often displayed anti-Black venom on the part of many of the participants. But most actions were essentially directed against the capitalists.

In the years prior to the Civil War and emancipation, American capitalism was moving from an artisan, merchant, small farmer, land speculator and slave economy onto the long road toward becoming a society dominated by financial and industrial manufacturing interests. A heavy importation of cheap labor and massive capital investment from Europe produced a country ripening for full-scale class war.

The unification of the states in the wake of the American revolution was fundamentally fragile. Although Marx correctly saw that the North and the South were both capitalist, he pointed out that the conflict between a system based on free labor and a system based on slavery was inherently unstable. The coexistence of incompatible slave and free labor sections in a developing and expanding capitalist society could not persist; yet the racial division which had its roots in slavery was the chief means by which the nation staved off radical threats to its stability. For this purpose, it was necessary to brand Blacks as inferior whether they were slaves or not.

The Northern white artisans and nascent proletarians on the one hand, and the Black slaves on the other, all demonstrated their capacity for violent rebelliousness against their exploiters in the early years. Urban riots were common. Slave revolts put constant fear into the minds of the masters. Even when these revolts lessened prior to the Civil War, the planters were constantly aware of the danger. This pervasive anxiety was accelerated by the series of slave rebellions that had ripped through the British and Spanish colonies – to say nothing of the lingering fears stoked by the successful revolt of the slaves in Haiti in 1804.

Of course, in the first part of the nineteenth century, the danger posed to the republic was not a socialist revolution. Manufacturing was in its infancy. The proletariat was just emerging as a distinct class. However, the radical and continuous disruption of the early American bourgeois order could certainly have ruined possibilities for the future sustained development that the U.S. was to experience. A relatively united workforce could, for example, have forced an alternative something like what happened in the Australian colonial-settler experience. There the working class became such a potent force that the political development of imperialism had to be left in the hands of the labor aristocrats via the Labor Party, at a great cost to the capitalists and their profits.

We originally cited four reasons for American capitalism wanting to secure the slave masters’ property through obtaining the support of poor whites. We can add the greater goal of overall support and defense of the ruling class state power. The contentious alliance between the Northern bourgeoisie and the Southern plantocracy was able to insure its political rule of the country because of the race division. The anger of the white plebeian masses against their rulers was present but was sufficiently diverted so that the system could be maintained.

Divisions within the workforce such as country of origin, language and religion were important barriers to class solidarity. The presence of an expanding frontier and its chances for profit through farming and land speculation undoubtedly provided a general kind of safety valve effect. However, the racist division within the developing workforce was without doubt the chief factor in allowing capitalism to transform itself in the direction of eventual superpower imperialist status.

F. The Early Emergence of a Labor Aristocracy

Marx stressed that competition was essential to capitalism. Competition is not only crucial for the functioning of the various capitalist firms; Marx pointed out that the division of the working class into competing sectors is even more important for the survival of capitalism. Competition within the bourgeoisie and competition within the working class are not just policies which are deliberately turned on and off by the rulers, they are inherent drives within the system. The working class has a fundamental interest in overcoming its competitive divisions; but to do so it must overthrow capitalism. The bourgeoisie is also motivated to overcome its inherently competitive drive, but it cannot do so.

However inherent and crucial, competition is nevertheless not the fundamental drive of the system. Competition is a drive on “the level of appearance.” Appearances or forms cannot exist without content and they are very real – they are not simply myths and prejudices. Competition, as Marx stressed, is an “executive” law, a drive which carries out the more fundamental systemic laws, what he referred to as “the inner laws of capitalism.” These are the laws of exploitation, the laws which dictate the accumulation of capital (value); the laws which dictate the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the wage labor proletariat over possession of the surplus value created in production by the latter.

In a nutshell, the individual capitalist is driven to compete against other capitalists; that necessity is apparent to him. He sees and understands that it forces him to try to grab a bigger section of the market by introducing more machinery and firing more workers. Thus his drive to gain profit at the expense of rival capitalists drives him to carry out the needs of the system as a whole, something he isn’t consciously motivated by on an everyday basis. Unawares, he executes capitalism’s inner laws; he thereby carries on the class struggle against wage labor.

Not only individual capitals are forced to compete; national capitals do so too. Nation-states vie with each other to shelter, defend and maximize the capital accumulations of the ruling classes they represent, at the expense of rival capitals. These states are therefore instrumentalities for waging war against the international working class and the return it gets for the exploitation of its labor power. And therefore, division of that class into competitive sectors is a crucial weapon capitalists are driven to use, internationally and domestically.

The division of the working class exists not only to defend the ruling class politically and militarily; it also helps to maximize accumulation of surplus value through accelerating exploitation. In sum, competition among the toilers tends to lower the wages of all labor, even the more highly paid. The better-off workers are faced with the threat of replacement by the reserve army of labor, and therefore forced to work more cheaply.

During the historical development of Black/white relations, both in the colonies and after the American revolution, this process functioned through the mechanism of racial division. Blacks were forced to serve as cheap labor. White labor was better paid, but far less so than if the intra-class competition had been overcome or even substantially reduced by the elimination of the race barrier.

That is one aspect of Marx’s well known view. In Capital he wrote:

In the United States of North America, every independent movement of the workers was paralyzed so long as slavery disfigured a part of the Republic. Labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded. (New World edition, Vol.I, p.301.)

White working-class gains were undermined by slavery, according to Marx. In America, slavery cemented the racial wall and ensured a substantial material differentiation, enough so that white workers, even though they rose up before and during the Civil War, did not pose a real challenge to private property.

Marx and Engels both noticed the growth of an aristocratic layer of workers in Britain. Engels also pointed to its development in the United States when he discussed the relations between American workers and new immigrant labor. It is also clear that a white labor aristocracy arose in North America in the nineteenth century on one side of the race line, while superexploited layers of Blacks were created on the other side.

The development of early American capitalism reflected the whole structure of successive levels built on the core of the internal laws of motion Marx described. Of course, the surface of events never reflects the inner laws on a one-to-one basis; human society in general and capitalism in particular are far too complex, contradictory and creative for that. Ultimately and decisively, the inner tendential laws determine the general development; however, the surface reality always includes some anomalies and transient distortions of that internal essence.

For example, slave labor didn’t fit the free labor model that Marx depicted as the norm for capitalism; nor did the planters behave like classic bourgeois entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, in their own distorted way and for their own reasons, the various institutions operated to execute the system’s laws of motion. Consequently, not only did the capitalist firms, plantations, industries, governmental units, nations, trusts and cartels compete on various levels, but the system itself – anomalies included – engendered competition between what became fundamentally separated racial sectors of the workforce. Being “free, white and twenty one” did not guarantee a worker a labor aristocratic income, but it made it conceivable. For Black slaves it was inconceivable.

Accumulative capitalist class society, born out of scarcity, created a demon that still haunts us: racism.