Like white-chauvinism, white-guilt is one of the twin blades of white supremacy. White guilt differs from white-chauvinism in a sense that it can be considered the polar opposite of its more forward and aggressive counterpart (although the two are not mutually exclusive and white-guilt often manifests itself in the most chauvinistic of ways). Some (liberals and so called socialists alike) tend to believe that this mode of thinking is good, progressive, and in some cases even revolutionary, because it can be a tool to force white people into opposing white supremacy through moralizing. However based on the history of, and current material conditions of class struggle in the US, the opposite is true and in fact this mode of thinking distorts the class struggle and inevitably serves as a contradiction in the fight against capitalism, imperialism, and national oppression.
How does white-guilt manifest its feeble head in an attempt to undermine the class struggle? It’s most popular formation in this current period is Ultra-Leftism and Third-Worldism. The primary Third-Worldist line holds that there is no revolutionary potential for the working class in the U.S., especially white workers. They justify this position by citing the history of settler colonialism and its legacy of racism to conclude that the white worker is inherently reactionary, and that oppressed workers in the capitalist centers like the U.S. are so privileged in relation to workers in the global-south that any attempt to build a working class movement in the imperialist centers is a move against the interests of colonized workers of the “Third-World”.
This line of thinking is problematic and ultimately leads to a nihilistic and defeatist outlook on the struggle as a whole. This trend holds that transitional-demands, which are demands meant to improve the standard of living for workers and oppressed people in the U.S. while building class-consciousness through small victories achieved through struggling against capitalist and exploitative policies, do not push the class-struggle forward because workers in the global north are inherently reactionary. If there is no revolutionary working class in the capitalist-imperialist countries, then what are workers in these centers to do? Are we to sit around and wait for permission from revolutionaries in exploited countries to build our movement here? There are third-worldists who imply that self deportation back to Europe is the answer (lmfao), but the more dangerous ones act on a more fatalist line that leads to many white, so-called-revolutionaries down the path of adventurism, general terrorism, and the wrecking of working-working class and internationalist movements built by workers in the capitalist-imperialist centers. After denying the class struggle, what’s left for so-called-socialists in the global-north? What separates these so-called-revolutionaries from the suicide cults of Jim Jones and his contemporaries? A distorted, misapplication of marxism, but nothing more.
I see it happening now, with self proclaimed “socialists” (don’t laugh!) publicly denouncing and opposing the militant teachers strike in West Virginia and opposing the union struggle because the majority of the teachers in WV are white, even though less than 4% of the population of the whole state is Black. Even further, the teachers strike has inspired teachers in states across the country to strike and demand better conditions. These idealists tend to forget that it is the role of a revolutionary party to intervene and guide the workers already in motion down a revolutionary path.
I’ve also noticed that this “settlers” line tends to be more popular among whites, primarily white men with bourgeois or petty-bourgeois backgrounds. Rarely, do I see someone of an oppressed gender, or a Black communist towing the line that there is no class-struggle in the U.S. To even think this is to deny history.
That is because people actually involved in the struggle see that line for the bullshit that it really is. Poor people and oppressed people see that struggle here is possible and necessary, many of us are actively engaging in class struggle daily. Only when one is is isolated from real working class and oppressed struggles, (like most of these strange academics seem to be) or is actively fighting against the struggle for socialism, do we see third worldist positions become popular.
This piece is in no way intending to undermine the importance of understanding the history of settler-colonialism and its legacy of racism and how that affects the working class movement as a whole. No analysis is complete without this history. However, the misapplication of marxism, coupled with a half-assed understanding of this history leads to the chauvinism and nihilism of many “revolutionaries” we see today. Consciousness is defined and sharpened through struggle, and ideology without struggle and application and experimentation is nothing more than empty rhetoric.