Notes on: Cole, M (2009) The Color – Line and the Class Struggle: a Marxist response to critical race theory in education as it arrives in the United Kingdom. Power and Education 1 (1): 111 – 123

Two central tenets are to be challenged, the primacy of race over class and the notion of white supremacy. Instead he advocates '(xeno– racialised capitalism' which has more explanatory power and suggests that both class and race are crucial factors. CRT suggestions for human liberation are 'variable and vague' compared to Marxism.

CRT emerged as a non-Marxist left challenge and its main protagonists include Gilborn who presented papers at an international conference at Manchester Metropolitan University, and later at a BERA conference 2007 and 2008. The latter included Ladson- Billings.

One of the central tenets is that race rather than class is the major form of oppression and one root is the philosophy of Marcus Garvey who argued that race was the primary factor in all parts of the world. Marxism is white radical orthodoxy by comparison, but race is the primary contradiction. Subsuming it under class is '"the typical Marxist error"' Gillborn in particular will be discussed on the UK education system.

His analysis in his 2008 book says it is complex but particular minoritised groups are less likely to achieve the key benchmarks when compared to white peers of the same gender; white students are the only group to show an increase in the number of higher grade GCSEs; and young people in each of the black categories are more likely to be permanently excluded from school. This results in '"locked-in inequality"', so deep-rooted and so large that it is more or less inevitable. He mentions gap talk, where the gap is a discursive strategy used to construct the view that things are improving, and statistics are given a particular tone that encourages positive interpretation. Assessment is rigged so even if black children do succeed the rules are changed — the system as fixed grade limits which prevents them getting the highest grades and a new system of assessment for five-year-olds penalises black children in the only part of the system where they were successful. Black-and-white inequality for five-year-olds is now growing. So he concludes that 'not only does assessment produce inequality, it sustains it as well' (112 ) [see also Gillborn ]. These data indicate 'white supremacy', a more useful concept than racism, which tends to focus on extreme racist organisations and considers instead forms are normalised and taken for granted, that saturate everyday actions and policies, something deeply rooted, more comprehensive and subtle.

Marxists agree that there has been a continuity of racism but say that white supremacy does not explain this continuity because it is unconnected to modes of production and developments a priori. Marxism is able to 'understand and challenge all forms of racism'. CRT does not focus on modes of production; it 'homogenises all white people together as being in positions of power and privilege'; it inadequately explains '"non-colour-coded racism"' and is counter-productive as a political unifier and rallying point. (113) Non-colour-coded racism includes Sivanandan on xeno-racism, anti-Irish racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Gypsy Roma traveller racism.

Miles , a Marxist sociologist, sees racialisation as an ideological process assisting the appropriation of labour power. Races are categories which are socially constructed, not functionally linked to capitalist development, but produced by combining human biological characteristics and cultural characteristics in order to produce differentiated social collectives. They interact with different modes of production and their social relations. The mode of production refers to the combination of forces  [human and mechanical] and the relations of production [social relationships primarily between social classes]. Together this affects the way people relate to the physical world and to each other, and they occur in 'historically specific, structural and necessary ways'. Together they constitute the economic structure of society, the real foundation et cetera. Racism and rationalisation has its origins in the British Empire and is 'historically and geographically specific', associated with the racialised concept of nation, in the context of competition from other countries and being overrun by other European races. 'The indigenous racism of the period was anti-Irish and anti-Semitic' (114), fuelled by numbers of destitute Jewish immigrants. Overt institutional racism was intentional and found in all the major institutions of society and became part of popular culture including the actual curriculum.

After World War II 'the Empire came home to roost' with the demands of an expanding economy producing a shortage of labour leading to migration from the Republic of Ireland, the Indian subcontinent and the Caribbean, with minority ethnic workers as a source of cheap labour. Despite their heterogeneous class structure, they came to occupy an homogenous position among 'the semiskilled and unskilled', disproportionately concerned in certain types of manual work — 'shift working, unsocial hours, low pay and an unpleasant working environment' (115). They came to occupy a distinct fraction of the working class, '"a racialised fraction"'. When the children enter the education system they were represented differently. Black kids were seen as disruptive and violent, Asian kids were academic but a social threat to white children, or religious aliens. Asians were seen as benign but passive, often compared deliberately to aggressive Caribbean students.Gillborn wants to see all this as white supremacy, but for Marxists, we need to understand different rationalisation of the subjects of former imperial colonies [for economic reasons though -- because of class destinations? Needs more argument.]

Racialisation continues today , and antiblack versions coexist with anti-Asian versions, but differentiated according to social class. Anti-Asian racism is further differentiated according to ethnic origin, Bangladeshi and Pakistani people faring worse than Indians, for example 'a reflection of the social class differences between these communities' [active social class in the UK?].  Increasing Islamophobia is also a factor in the aftermath of terrorist events 'which themselves cannot be understood without reference to both old UK and new US imperialisms' (115).

CRT focuses on racism related to skin colour and says that except for Nazi Germany Europeans were always ranked above nonwhites. But there is much 'actual and potential variants of present-day non-colour-coded racism' , again linked to the labour market. The British capitalist state needs a ready supply of cheap labour which is then publicly vilified 'in order for the state to maintain hegemony over the longer residing population' (116). There is a direct comparison between former imperial citizens and migrant workers from Eastern Europe today, including 'similarities in perceptions and treatment'. The demand for market flexibility leads to questions of social control, new emphasis on the ideology of the social contract, new stresses on demarcation.

Sivanandan has identified non-colour-coded racism as a result, 'xeno-racism' — '" a racism that is meted out to impoverished strangers even if they are white"'. It has an economic basis in ethnic wars, exclusion, the notion of aliens coming to prey on the wealth of the West and destroying national identities. 'There is substantial evidence of xeno-racism in Europe' [including the EU's own recent survey], and recent attacks on Polish and Eastern European people in Britain.

All of this shows the importance of social class, especially if we take the Marxist usage to refer to 'all those who need to sell their labour power to survive'. Other sociologists use different terms to refer to lower status and lower earnings, and some people have referred to fractions of the working class. Eastern European migrant workers mainly occupy low-paid jobs. Gillborn himself has acknowledged the importance of low-paid jobs in the past, and gross economic inequalities, but says that class does not appear to be equally significant for all groups [this piece refers to the controversy over students with FSM, which apparently offers insufficient recognition that race is classed and gendered [see Gillborn et all and their submission to Sewell Cole is quite good on the emphasis placed by Gillborn on the small group of Irish and Travellers to deny class].

There are different visions of the future. For CRT racial liberation is primary for any emancipatory education. Crenshaw says there is a shared ethical commitment to human liberation even if there are disagreements over the specific direction — 'thus often in CRT the solution is vague' (117) with talk about the struggle, visions of hope, the end of oppression, the ultimate goal of social transformation and so on. There is a lot of talk about praxis, commitment, and ending racial oppression to end all oppression, but no particular indication of what liberation means or social transformation. Mills thinks that white supremacy has to be overthrown first before socialism is possible because a non-white supremacist capitalism is still preferable to a white supremacist capitalism, which might be OK — but the next stage, capitalism without racism or sexism 'is almost inconceivable'. (118). There may be more liberal versions on offer. CRT may well be '"passionate… about classism "' as Gillborn claims, but tackling oppression should also lead to tackling exploitation at the point of production.

This has been an attempt at 'comradely discussion' although Gillborn seems reluctant to debate with Marxists. He thinks that Marxists will not be amenable to his pragmatic intent to use the best analytic tools because they want to '"fetishise a single concept or theory"' (118). He does think that intersectionality might help unite the differences. Overall though, Marxism is not moribund, but is a living project, with applications say in Venezuela and Chavez [oh dear] . CRT is not up to the 'gargantuan task' of struggling against capital and empire.

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