A twenty-first century union movement must begin with recognition of one point: the working class divides along lines drawn by the oppressions built into capitalism. These divisions lead some theorists to believe–incorrectly–that the United States has no working class but a series of identities fighting for recognition (and often fighting only against the specific form of oppression they face).

Divisions within the working class are linked to larger social divisions. Divisions on racial lines are not simply divisions within the working class but a component of a larger set of societal racial divisions. As a result, people’s social and political identification tends to cross class lines because of the all-round nature of special oppression. For example, African American and Chicano workers might identify with other things African American and Chicano, respectively, because of the scale and scope of racial oppression. Women workers might identify with issues that affect women who are not of the working class (though this process is complicated).

This does not mean, crudely, that “everyone has it tough.” Rather it means that class cannot be understood in a linear fashion. One cannot, for instance, inoculate oneself against racism and sexism or overlook the experiences that one has had as a member of a group that has known racial or gender oppression. Such experiences inform ones’ existence in general but also the way in which one perceives other components of reality–in this case, class.

~Bill Fletcher Jr. & Fernando Gasparin, Solidarity Divided

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