Freedom From Oppression
As socialists, we believe that capitalism is the root of all oppression. Capitalism causes oppression because that is the way it functions: as Marx explains, the ruling class is made wealthier by exploiting the working class, and therefore it is in the ruling class’s best interest to keep the working class oppressed. It is in the working class’s best interest to fight against that oppression and throw off their chains.
Oppression is not just about class, however. Marx also explains that as capitalism has progressed, “it has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle.” Along these lines, we understand that there are many different groups in our society that capitalism has an interest in keeping from reaching their full potential, and the oppression that these groups face is varied. There is oppression along racist lines, sexist lines, homophobic lines, transphobic lines, and ableist lines. All of these forms of oppression may look different from each other, but they are still caused by capitalist greed, and they are all things that socialists must fight against.
Black Lives Matter
Black labor has been exploited to build this country. Therefore, we cannot talk about liberating the working class without acknowledging that pain and fighting alongside the struggle for black liberation. We cannot talk about freedom from oppression without saying, loudly and clearly, that Black Lives Matter. We believe the United States should pursue reparation programs for Black people, including (but not limited to) the creation of a robust set of social policies to immediately address the disproportionate effects of poverty.
Black workers face racism in the workplace on a daily basis. They are paid less than their white counterparts; on average, black men earn 87 cents on the dollar compared to what a white man in the same position earns. Black women earn 64 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Gentrification and rising housing prices displace lower-income residents, a majority of whom are black and brown people of color. Police patrol majority-black neighborhoods at a much higher rate, and black and brown people make up a disproportionate percentage of the prison population. From there, the prison-industrial complex (a product of capitalism) exploits their labor even more to line the pocketbooks of the wealthy. We support amending the Constitution to fully abolish Slavery, ending the War on Drugs and providing restitution to those harmed by it, and ending all discriminatory practices in the broken criminal justice system.
We can see this oppression happening clearly enough in Louisville, as it is also happening in cities all over the country, and when we look at all this, it is clear to us that capitalism is the problem. Capitalism is the driving force behind all of these oppressions: it demands that the wealthy continue to oppress and exploit the workers, and the wealthy in the United States have done this by constructing systems designed to keep people of color powerless. In order to stand against capitalism, we have to stand against gentrification in Louisville, we must oppose the racist policing of LMPD, and we must be actively anti-racist in everything that we do.
Our anti-racism must also include standing up for our immigrant neighbors. We live in a country where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) comes up with myriad excuses to arrest and deport innocent people, tearing families apart, and Louisville is no exception. The presence of an ICE office downtown means this city is not actually the sanctuary it claims to be.
As socialists, we recognize that the large influx of refugees that we’re seeing is caused by wars and destabilization in various countries across the Middle East and South and Central America. These are all areas that the United States government has invaded or had a hand in toppling democratically elected leaders in greedy conquests to gain more access to resources like oil and minerals. These refugees then, displaced by capitalism, are further persecuted when they come to the United States looking for asylum. To counter that form of oppression, we need to stand against the right-wing xenophobia, racism, and scapegoating, and say without a doubt that refugees are welcome here.
Socialists stand with the international working class, which includes people from all countries, all walks of life. We also understand that our communities are stronger when we all stand together. If Louisville really wants to be a “Compassionate City,” then we need to protect all of our people, regardless of where they came from, and that means abolishing ICE, defending refugees, and removing unnecessary and racist barriers to immigration to the United States .
The fight for gay rights did not end when the Supreme Court ruled marriage equality into law: in many places in Kentucky and across the country, LGBTQ people are still denied housing and denied jobs, simply because of who they are. Inhumane practices such as conversion therapy are still legal in much of Kentucky. Unjust laws make it legal to use electroshock “therapy” to - calling it plainly - torture gay and transgender children and teens until they either commit suicide or claim they are straight. Socialists must stand against these horrific forms of oppression.
The fight for trans liberation, specifically, needs to be highlighted. Trans people are often denied access to healthcare simply because the state wants to police their gender. The process for transitioning is prohibitively expensive, and oftentimes the cost of not transitioning is endless abuse and assault. Trans people, especially black trans women, are murdered at a much higher rate than cisgender people. And in our public schools, trans children are fighting for the right to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender, and being publicly ridiculed for it.
We feel that when a society forces children to have to fight to use the bathroom, there is something wrong with that society. We also believe that access to healthcare and the right to live as yourself without fear are human rights that should be protected. Socialists must stand against all forms of oppression, and so we say that trans rights are human rights and we stand by our assertion that there can be no queer liberation under capitalism.
Capitalism has historically exploited, and continues to exploit, women’s labor as well, with working class women bearing the brunt of the pain. Socialism recognizes that sexism is one of the forms of oppression that we need to fight against. We also recognize that this question is a multifaceted one: in our society, women do not all experience sexism in the same way. For example, women of color experience a form of sexism that is intertwined with racism, a form of sexism that white women will never experience firsthand. Muslim women experience sexism differently from non-Muslim women. Trans women experience a form of sexism known as transmisogyny, which is different from the sexism that cisgender women experience. This is not intended to separate people into categories; rather, it is intended to highlight that all these diverse women are part of the multiracial working class, and should all stand together in the fight against capitalism, since all of us have the same enemy.
Feminism also abolishes gender norms, which makes it a liberating force not just for women, but for people of all genders. Nonbinary people are oppressed by the capitalist, patriarchal idea of the strict gender binary, and can benefit from feminism’s idea that everyone should be free to express their gender how they choose. In addition to that, the patriarchy forces men to hold themselves to a toxic standard of masculinity. In abolishing these patriarchal norms, feminism can be a liberating force for men as well.
Socialist feminism must be intersectional. It must also be about more than just highlighting the accomplishments of a few individuals. We aim to liberate the working class, and that means supporting measures that improve life in material ways for the working class as a whole, such as equal pay and paid parental leave. It is about the collective struggle of all people, not about celebrating a special few.
People with disabilities have often been left out of discussions about oppression, and yet they too experience it firsthand. Because our healthcare system values profit over people, it invented the term “pre-existing conditions,” whereas in any other country that would be known as “medical history.” In the United States, under our inhumane capitalist healthcare system, having a “pre-existing condition” is nothing more than an excuse for insurance companies to deny coverage to people who need it. On top of that, it is also prohibitively difficult to be approved for disability benefits, and many people risk losing their benefits if they get married. This is just another way that capitalism oppresses people and keeps them from being able to access their basic needs and live full lives.
We feel that disability rights are especially important to include in our platform because we are currently in the middle of a deadly pandemic with wide-reaching effects that are going to last far into the future. We know that COVID-19 often aggravates underlying health conditions, making symptoms worse and sometimes fatal. We also know that many survivors of COVID-19 are left with long-lasting health problems. These people will need assistance and support, and the capitalist system is not set up to provide that support.
In fact, capitalism has no interest in providing support to people with disabilities in general. It would rather continue degrading them, and portraying them as a drain on the country’s resources, as a way to turn the working class against itself. Socialists need to stand for disability rights, as we stand for the rights of all people who are being oppressed by capitalism. After all, as we like to say in the labor movement, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”