This is the text of a leaflet distributed by supporters of Socialist Revolution throughout the country. Download the PDF version of the two-sided foldable leaflet here . Read the full article here .
Racism against East Asians, Southeast Asians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States has a long history in the US, and has only intensified with the pandemic. Over 3,800 anti-Asian racist incidents have been recorded since the beginning of the shutdown. This is significantly higher than the 2,600 hate incidents reported the previous year—and 68% of incidents were against women. Most incidents of anti-Asian violence are not charged as hate crimes.
The rise in anti-Asian racism is a global phenomenon. In May, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that “the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating, and scare-mongering” and urged governments to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.”
In the US, some responsibility has to be laid on Donald Trump, who spewed xenophobic vitriol about the “kung flu” and the “China virus.” According to the journal Health Education & Behavior, anti-Asian discrimination had been on the decline for over a decade but experienced a significant uptick due to discriminatory coronavirus speech. But the sickness of anti-Asian racism did not start with Trump. In fact, the United States has a long and sordid history of such bigotry.
For example, Chinese workers have faced immense discrimination since they started immigrating to the US in the 19th century. Although Chinese workers made up an insignificant percentage of the population, they were used as scapegoats and blamed for the depressed wages of white workers. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented immigration from China and laid the basis for laws and statutes of the same type against workers from the Middle East, South Asia, Japan, and Latin America. The US state also interned 120,000 Japanese Americans and immigrants in camps during World War II. The recent spike anti-Asian racism is thus only a continuation of decades of division and discrimination, built into the foundations of American capitalism.
Asian women, in particular, are subject to discrimination and violence under capitalism because of how they have been portrayed as submissive, hypersexualized, and docile. There is also a myth that Asians are the “model minority”—who all supposedly become doctors, lawyers, and engineers. But the reality is that most Asian Americans face significant economic hardship. As of 2018, Asian-Americans are the most economically divided racial or ethnic group in the country. This reflects the growing income inequality between the capitalist class and the working class more generally in American society.
And although Asian-American households enjoy the highest median income, some Asian ethnicities have poverty rates well over the national average of 15.1%, such as Burmese (35%), Bhutanese (33%), Hmong, and Malaysians (28%). These immigrants are often low-skilled workers, compared to high-skilled H-1B1 visa applicants. Their access to high-paying jobs is limited, and the capitalists force different sections of the working class to compete for lower and lower wages.
Racism in all its forms is, at root, a ruling class tool to divide and rule the working class. Regardless of ethnicity or nationality, all workers must sell their labor power to a capitalist for a wage if they are to sustain themselves and their families. By sowing the poison of hate between workers based on their outward appearance, whether in 1882 or 2020, the capitalists can depress all workers’ wages and control the labor pool with racist border controls. Sexism likewise helps perpetuate a gender wage gap, leading ultimately to lower wages for all workers.
While Donald Trump did no favors for Asian Americans, some hoped that Joe Biden might improve relations with his call for “national unity.” However, both parties represent the interests of American imperialism, and the intensifying rivalry between US and Chinese imperialism only adds fuel to the fire of xenophobia. In February, President Biden signed a memorandum denouncing discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. But the very same month, he played into the imperialist fear-mongering, warning that if US imperialism fails to decisively compete with China, they “will eat our lunch.”
The ruling class has profited handsomely by dividing Asian workers from the rest of the class for over a century. Immediate and unconditional amnesty and full rights must be extended to undocumented workers, many of whom are from East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
Across the country, workers and socialists have come out against anti-Asian hate, guided by the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all! Millions of workers and youth understand that you cannot have capitalism without racism and oppression in all its forms. The labor movement has a responsibility to link up in solidarity and mobilize the working class to combat racism. The labor leaders missed a historic opportunity to mobilize the class as a class during last summer’s George Floyd protests. The colossal potential power of organized labor was not made actual, and the movement eventually ran out of steam and was diverted into the election of a Democrat. The same mistake must not be repeated this time.
The authorities’ handling of the Atlanta tragedy is a vivid reminder of the urgent need for class-independent unity in organization and action. Without this, the working class is mere fodder for exploitation and atomization. Through its collective strength and relationship to the means of production, only the working class can combat racism at the source, by building a workers’ government capable of uprooting the class roots of exploitation and oppression. This is the only path forward. To end racism and the hate crimes that inevitably flow from it, we must fight to end capitalism. Contact us to learn more  about how the International Marxist Tendency is organizing for this struggle.