The color of revolution

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Nancy Kato, author of the document “Women of Color: Frontrunners for Freedom,” laid it on the line.

“The struggle of women of color for equality is central to the elimination of the profit system and the success of revolution in North America.”

The reasons are rooted in history and contemporary reality. “In 1992, it will be 500 years since Columbus landed and brought the private property system which destroyed the communistic matriarchies of Native Americans. Since then, race and sex have been the excuses to enslave people of color, pay them less, and keep them in the worst jobs.”

Today, “women of color are being hit first and hardest by layoffs and poverty, the AIDS crisis, the slashing of social and health care services — all the evils of the decaying system.”

This oppression, Kato said, “create women of color with an attitude. We have to become the most tenacious and creative fighters against capitalism. And we understand how to defeat it. We see the interconnectedness of race, sex, sexuality and class oppression and how these work to divide the working class. We know best how to overcome these divisions so we can win liberation.”

Kato cited women of color’s role on the job and in the labor movement, connecting social and bread-and-butter issues and teaching white male workers that race and sex antagonisms are fostered by management to control all workers.

She stressed the special leadership of lesbians of color, who explode the myth that women are destined to be unpaid domestic slaves within the nuclear family, the basic social unit of capitalism.

Discussion of Kato’s presentation opened with praise for her document as a valuable tool in explaining the necessity of women of color’s leadership. She received high marks for her fresh, down-to-earth, accessible language.

Much discussion centered on whether the U.S. might not continue to oppress the Third World even after a U.S. revolution led by women of color and other oppressed. This concern, voiced by a Mexican comrade, rested on a perception that U.S. workers benefit from imperialism and that U.S. women of color aren’t as oppressed as their Third World sisters. Speakers responded that relatively few worker benefit from U.S. oppression. Those workers are primarily white and male; imperialism, capitalism’s lifeline, actually helps strengthen the oppression of women, especially women of color, at home.

Later in the discussion, Kato was attacked by two attendees for including a white woman among the consultants and editors of her document, even though two women of color had played the same role.

With members of RW’s National Comrades of Color Caucus in the lead, speakers hit the mikes in droves. (NCCC formed to RW members of color could meet to discuss and work out policy proposals on issues of importance to them.) Chicanas, Blacks, Asian Americans and whites exposed the attack as a covert cultural nationalist assault on the politics of the document.

Kato had upheld women of color’s leadership of a racially integrated workingclass movement. Cultural nationalism upholds race as the primary bond among peoples and class be damned.

Conference delegate Nellie Wong, Bay Area branch CCC coordinator, commented tellingly that cultural nationalism not only divides people of color from whites, it drives wedges between different groups of people of color. Other speakers had noted that an aspect of the attack on Kato, an Asian American, was that she had passively acquiesced to a white editor’s control. Passivity is a stereotype applied to Asian Americans by the dominant white culture.

The upshot of the discussion was that cultural nationalism is a divisive perspective that aids capitalism — which thrives because people of different races and sexes fight each other instead of it.

As Kato put it, “Our very political instinct and survival need is to build a united movement. We can’t do that without speaking to everyone’s needs. Together with all others demanding a decent world, we will change the course of human history.”

Also see: Radical Women’s candidly revolutionary conference

Also see: Gender, keyboards, and the future of U.S. labor

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