Over the past decade racism, racialisation, empire and solidarity have re-emerged as some of the most central and contested issues to contemporary political struggles. The political right has mainstreamed and instrumentalised explicit and implicit forms of racism to reach the halls of power. This racism has not simply been rhetorical, as successive right-wing governments have implemented exclusionary and discriminatory policies. This official racism has been deployed internationally – to legitimate and drive imperialist interventions and restructurings – and domestically – to channel social discontent away from the status quo and towards sub-proletarianised migrants and racial marginalized subjects.
At the same time, the burdens of successive ‘crises’ – from the financial crisis of 2008 to the impact of Covid-19 – have been distributed on a highly racialised basis, with poor, racialised subjects, both domestically and internationally, being hit hardest. This is not simply a transient phenomenon, with a warming planet presaging forms of ‘climate racism’ on the horizon.
This has not gone uncontested. Organized anti-racist politics throughout the world, typified through Black Lives Matter, continue to make significant political interventions. These anti-racist mobilisations have been sufficiently intense and widespread to force the forces of the status quo into action: corporations have declared ‘Black Lives Matter’, the neoliberal left has ‘taken a knee’, books about white guilt shoot up the chart and managers scramble to arrange ‘unconscious bias’ training. This has gone hand in hand with attempts to criticise the ‘extremists’ and ‘radicals’ within the anti-racist movement, de-legitimise their direct action and cast their acts of solidarity – particularly with Palestinians – as themselves racist.
These attempts to co-opt and contain the anti-racist movements are themselves a response to deep fissures within those movements, whose participants range from Marxists to well-meaning liberals, to Afropessimists and everything in between. As such, within the anti-racist movement itself debates have arisen over the nature of race and racism, the relationship between ‘race’ and ‘identity’ and – crucially – how ‘solidarity’ relates to anti-racist politics.
This has also sometimes led to mutual suspicion between anti-racists and Marxists. For some anti-racists, the Marxist tradition is incapable of thinking through the specific dimensions of race and racism. For some Marxists, anti-racist thinkers miss the social and material factors driving the world. While strong arguments have been advanced in both directions, these debates often descend into caricature. Many key anti-racist thinkers and activists – the Black Panthers, Angela Davis, Frantz Fanon to name the obvious – identify with the Marxist tradition. More broadly, there has been a rich vein in Marxism of thinking through the relationship between racism, capitalism and working-class struggle.
It is to this tradition that this special issue of Historical Materialism seeks to contribute: thinking through in a serious way the interconnections between capitalism, racism and the class struggle on a theoretical, political and historical level. The special issue seeks to serve as a forum for Marxists – in a comradely way – to discuss and intervene in these issues. Areas of interests include (but are not limited to):
- Theoretical and political accounts of the relationship between racism and capitalist social relations
- Explorations of the construction of racial categories and their interrelations
- Theoretical, political and historical accounts of racism and solidarity
- Critical Marxist engagement with any of the following concepts: intersectionality, anti-blackness, positionality, essentialism, colonialism, postcoloniality, islamophobia, racial capitalism, political blackness, imperialism, labour aristocracy
- The work of Black and Third World feminisms in advancing Marxist debates on race and racism
- Engagements with historical Marxist thinkers on race and histories of theoretical debates on Marxism and race
- Engagements and excavations of non-European Marxists and Marxist traditions
- Historical studies on issues of race and racism
- Marxist studies of imperialism and colonialism and the role of racism therein
- Racecraft, racialisation, and the historical constitution of ‘whiteness’, ‘blackness’, etc.
- Critical engagement with new social movements such as Black Lives Matters and calls for Defunding the Police and/or Prison Abolition
- The role of labour markets in racialisation (including: criminalization, migration, education, etc)
- Universalisms, particularities, and racial hierarchies.
Please send a 300-word abstract to HMRaceCapital@gmail.com by September 7th, 2020. The paper of no more than 9,000 words will be expected to be submitted by January 21st, 2021.