African American History Month 2016 finds society becoming more polarized around wealth and poverty as the economy continues to replace workers with automated production. The African American workers, who have historically been the last hired, and first fired, were the first to feel the effects of these epochal changes in the economy. The legacy of slavery locked most African Americans, all but the elite, into the unskilled and semi-skilled sectors of the economy where automation was first introduced. As huge masses of workers are cast into permanent unemployment and poverty, the African American workers descend at twice the rate of whites and are disproportionally murdered by the police.
This revolution in how society produces the necessities of life has given rise to a new section of workers, a new class whose labor is steadily replaced with computers and robots. Although increasingly jobless and destitute, the ruling class will not provide for their support. At the core of this new class lies the mass of African American poor. Today this core of impoverished African American workers is joined by workers of all colors and nationalities. Every sector of the economy has shed millions of jobs or is creating part-time minimum wage and contingent jobs. The result is that millions are homeless, hungry and without adequate health care. Growing numbers of Americans lack basic utilities and are even denied clean, safe, life sustaining water.
The broad equality of poverty within the new class across previous lines of division is something qualitatively new in the U.S. and is the basis for real unity among the workers. Unity won’t come automatically, however—it has to be fought for. Such unity must be based in a common struggle for basic needs and a vision of a society where the private property of the corporations is made public. In such a society, the abundance automation is producing will be distributed to all according to need.
The ruling class has to stop the working class from uniting to achieve this vision. To do this, they are making use of the history of racial division—a division that they as a class have created to maintain their class domination. Their tactic is to use the race question and the attack especially on the African American poor to hide the fact that they are step-by-step imposing a police state on our entire society. If this attack is accepted by the majority, the ruling class will turn the attack against everyone.
Revolutionaries must fight every instance of racism with the understanding that this fight is part of the effort to unite the millions of dispossessed and destitute in a common struggle for life itself. This battle for unity is already underway in struggles to end police violence, homelessness, poverty and for necessities like water. Such a focus will set the basis for the people to carry on the fight for the strategic goal: a whole new society that will end poverty and racism.