The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Multi-Cultural Fragments January 13, 2006 by RedStar2000

Up to this point, I've never had the dubious "pleasure" of participating in a fully developed thread on the thorny subject of "multi-culturalism" as a political phenomenon in late capitalism.

The matter has always arisen in "fragmentary" form; it's something that's "there" but that people seem reluctant to discuss in detail.

Perhaps this is due to the perception that multi-culturalism is a kind of "political minefield"...a careless or poorly worded statement can attract a "ton of shit" on your head.

And who needs that?

So this is a third brief collection of my posts on the subject. If you wish, you can have a look at my first two tentative efforts here...

Communism and the "World Culture"

Identity Politics



So is that evil "multiculturalism"? Or does that action, and the union's position, strengthen the unity of all workers in the plant, and help strengthen the identification of a new layer of workers with the union?

Prayer breaks for Muslims?

What strange terrain you have chosen to explore.

Particularly in view of Tyson Food's own track-record...

Even The Militant's own reporter acknowledged (in an off-hand way) Tyson's use of religion.


Over a year ago Tyson set up a symbolic “Mosque,” or prayer space with room for two workers.

It does not mention whether Tyson supplied the "rugs". Will the union ask for that? *laughs*

Ah well, never mind a living wage or remotely dignified working conditions. Both the union and the Trotskyist are down for "the right to pray".


Multiculturalism became a perfect way for western governments to rationalise the fragmentation that was taking place in their societies. With the demise of the old labour movements, communities were breaking down and old social solidarities no longer existed.

I think you may have a point here. An experienced ruling class "pays attention" to the "social glue" that holds its society together.

Lots of societies are or have been "multi-cultural"...but to institutionalize that seems to be "something new" in modern capitalism.

They're not doing that because their hearts have seen a new light and the spirit of brotherly love has overcome their greed. *laughs*

To actively encourage non-assimilation is a way of "slowing down" a process that will, in the long run, take place anyway -- the adaptation of the immigrant to the dominant culture of his/her "new country".

What does a ruling class gain by such a measure? Obviously, it can use cultural differences among workers against each other.

The deeper and more long-lasting those differences are, the more useful to the ruling class.

To be sure, it may strike the reader as "unfair" that someone who immigrates to another country must, in the long run, "give up their culture".

But that seems to be "how things work". It's hard to maintain an "enclave" of a foreign culture...the children and grand-children of immigrants lose interest in the "old ways".

In fact, the only way it can really be done is if that society's ruling class insists on rigid segregation of the immigrant community.

Once even a few doors are opened, the process of assimilation begins at once and accelerates as time passes.

Is the new ideology of "multi-culturalism" really a device to keep "those damn doors" shut a little longer?

This may be something worth considering.
First posted at RevLeft on December 28, 2005


The objective of multiculturalism is to achieve political equality.

Sez who? And why should we believe them?

What does "political equality" even mean in an epoch of capitalist despotism?

And even further, are all cultures "created equal"?

Are all the characteristics of any given culture "equally sacred" and "equally worth preserving"?

To be sure, it is the reactionary characteristics of our own culture that must be our prime target. Just as it is the imperialism of "our own" ruling class that merits our sharpest and most vigorous attacks.

If you look at the Religion subforum, you'll see that I attack Christianity far more regularly than I attack Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Judaism.

That doesn't mean I think that those other superstitions are "good"...I also attack them when I think it's appropriate.

The "culture" of modern capitalism is well worthy of our sustained attacks for many obvious reasons.

That doesn't mean that the semi-feudal or proto-capitalist cultures of other countries are "good" fact, in many respects they are even worse than what we have now.

Consider, for example, the practice of "arranged marriages" (backed by the threat of violence against any young person who refuses to cooperate).

Is this something "good" that we should "tolerate"?

Do people have a "right" to do that to their children?

And are we "obligated" to "respect" that "right"?

In the name of "multiculturalism"?


Assimilation is a thinly disguised word which means you will conform to my view.

Indeed it is. All cultures emphasize conformity and whatever persuasions it employs are usually backed by the threat of violence.

Modern capitalism primarily employs you might expect. The more enthusiastically you embrace the dominant culture, the more money you're likely to make and the better you'll live.

But the violence is still there, even if it's usually "in the background".

A dominant culture "cannot" surrender its dominance unless it's historically "finished". If the people who developed that culture conclude that it's no longer useful, then they'll reject it and invent a new one or adopt one that they themselves regard as "superior".

I remember reading once about a young Native American kid (back in the 1940s) who was completely disgusted with the stagnation and poverty of reservation "life". He decided to move to Los Angeles and "pass for colored"...because he thought the life of African-Americans was "better" -- even in the period of segregation. The consequence of such a move is that he would have inevitably adopted African-American culture to fit his new identity.

Isn't that true for all of us?

If France, for example, turns out to be the first real communist country in the world, and some of us manage to escape our own capitalist prisons and make our way to France, do you imagine that we'll be able to "carry our cultural baggage" with us? That we can go on acting "just like we did" back in New York or Toronto or London or Sydney?

If we have any common sense at all, we will learn how to "act like" French communards.

More civilized.


Isn't is better to develop a system which caters for a broad range of views rather than a narrow pattern of behaviour?

All depends, doesn't it? What specific "views" do you want to "tolerate"?

Any or even all of the old shit from pre-communist cultures?

Or just the "harmless stuff" -- foods, music, clothing styles, etc.?

I expect that the "harmless stuff" will be preserved or, at worst, just "wither away" with changing fashions.

But I don't think there will be much "tolerance" for the "bad stuff".

Nor should there be.
First posted at RevLeft on December 28, 2005


It is not up to the state to dictate what is a good culture and what is a bad culture. That is tyranny. The state should allow everyone the freedom to live as they choose. Now that itself may conflict with aspects of some cultures and it's only in that single case where a culture may interfere with a individual's freedom that the state should offer its interference and protection.

You seem to have an idealist concept of "the state"...that, for example, it has an "interest" in protecting "individual freedom".

A state does not stand "outside" or "above" the society that it governs. Quite the contrary, it is an integral part of that society.

It exists as a machine which the ruling class uses to rule. It is shaped for that purpose...and no other.

When you speak about what the state "should do" or "shouldn't do", you are speaking in abstractions about what you perhaps consider an "ideal state".

That's "disconnected" from what real states actually do.

As it happens, real states act with greater or lesser vigor to reinforce the "dominant culture". It seems to them like the "natural" thing to do.

What, for example, would be the utility of "law" were it written/spoken in a language that a large portion of the population could not understand?

It simplifies the tasks of a state if everyone speaks and reads the same language...and thus immigrants are encouraged and even compelled to learn the dominant language.

And it simplifies the life of the immigrant as well. If you've ever been in a country where you didn't speak the dominant language, then you know how utterly helpless you feel. Even the simplest task that involves interacting with others becomes fraught with difficulties if you don't speak the local language.

When I spent two months in Cuba (back in 1964), I began to "pick up" fragments of Spanish out of necessity. I have no doubt that in two or three years there that I would have developed considerable fluency...and, quite possibly, just abandoned a good part of my "American culture" as simply useless in my new environment.

For example? In Cuba, you don't just drop your trash on the street as you walk along (like people do in America). You carry it to a public litter can and drop it there. Even cigarette butts!

When you go to a new country, things are different. The rational response is to adapt to those differences.

Of course, the younger you are, the easier that is. The sons and daughters of immigrants assimilate far more readily than their parents and grandparents.

You seem to think that this is "unfortunate" or even "terrible".

What is the point of preserving a culture that is no longer useful?
First posted at RevLeft on December 29, 2005


I do think it would be unfortunate for immigrants to need to assimilate fully into their adopted country. I would much rather them to be able to integrate their culture with the native one. And too let the two cultures intertwine and merge, with the best aspects of both cultures being preserved and the worst discarded.

Well, that happens, a little. Cultural borrowing goes on all the time anyway...and would happen even if there were no immigration at all.

But unless the immigrants bring with them an enormously attractive culture, the dominant culture will prevail...even if it is slightly modified.

A technologically more advanced culture is usually far more attractive to people than a less advanced "high tech" immigrants may indeed see a great deal of their culture adopted by the "low tech" country they immigrate to.

Otherwise, people see nothing to be gained by modifying their existing culture in any serious way...and so they insist (mildly or vehemently) that the immigrant conform to their culture.

I repeat: that's how things seem to work in actual practice.


It's completely arrogant to suggest that such and such a culture, "is no longer useful".

That is not a "value judgment" that I am "imposing" on the immigrant. It's a judgment that the rational immigrant reaches on his/her own.

If one can live more comfortably by accepting the dominant culture of one's "new country", then why not do so?

Do you imagine that cultures are "sacred objects" that "must be preserved"?

They're not. They're just human inventions which can always be junked if a better (more useful) invention comes along.


In my opinion your quest for simplicity and short term utility robs a society of an ability to experiment and experience a much vaster body of knowledge.

Knowledge is not really the "same" as culture. Any culture over time acquires new knowledge and changes itself accordingly.

Although it is presently fashionable in some circles to speak of "western culture" with a sneer, the fact of the matter is that modern "westerners" have been remarkably skillful in borrowing useful ideas from other cultures.

I am enjoying my coffee and cigarettes this morning...even though coffee and tobacco were completely unknown in the "west" prior to 1600CE or so.

I've read that in England today curried chicken is actually more popular than the traditional "fish & chips".

How "un-British". *laughs*

So I think your fears are groundless. The "good stuff" in different cultures will be preserved "no matter what" and the "bad stuff" will either "wither away" or be "suppressed"...also "no matter what".

Multi-culturalism might "slow down" that process...but it can't be stopped.
First posted at RevLeft on December 29, 2005


Think about it: would you rather one culture that was a mix of all the cultures (the melting pot), or many cultures that we can all experience (the cultural mosaic).

To all intents and purposes, we can only "experience" one culture at a time.

That being the case, I prefer a that includes all the "good stuff" from all cultures and rejects all the "bad stuff".

I must not be alone in that preference; that seems to be the direction we're headed in.

Sure it may take another five or ten centuries for that to happen on a global scale. Human lifetimes are short when we start considering "macro-trends".

But I think that's what people will end up wanting. And in a communist society, people get what they want.
First posted at RevLeft on January 2, 2006
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