In Defense of Class Reductionism

Strom McCallum

July 13, 2022

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, (1848)


The charge of “class reductionism” shouldn’t faze us as socialists. If to accept that the world’s great problems are ultimately matters of political economy to be solved through the development of proletarian politics if to be a Marxist, is to be a “class reductionist,” then we ought to embrace the charge as a badge of honor. It is unnecessary to suspend our historical materialism in favor of "identity politics" essentialism. We should uphold and develop our understanding of the problems of racial and ethnic bigotry as expressions of the grand problem of capitalism. We must defend the idea that these must ultimately be addressed, as all other component problems are, namely through class-based politics.

Those who throw the class reductionism label at us contend that our prescription for these problems amounts to neglect, or even indifference toward, these problems. Such accusations are blatantly absurd. Do we Marxists fail to recognize that the matters of Post-Age of Discovery racism and ethnic bigotry are among the greatest problems facing humankind simply because we understand them to be products of economic relations, to be component problems of the grand problem of capitalism that, like all other component problems of the grand problem of capitalism, can only be solved through the building of proletarian class consciousness and solidarity? Absolutely not! We hold that racial and ethnic/national oppression and bigotry are pervasive throughout the world and critical to the protection of existing property relations and the capitalist order. Indeed, we recognize that they are probably the most powerful impediment to the realization of a proletarian consensus for the expropriation of capital and the realization of socialism, and consequently, to the realization of a global cooperative commonwealth.

Class Reductionism and the Pseudo-Left

Accusations of "class reductionism" never amount to anything more than what can easily be shown to be propagation of counter-solidaristic anti-Marxian hogwash, and in some instances, entail outright propagation of "mainstream" bourgeois race ideology. Indeed, many “racial justice” ideologues stray into a rejection of universalism and into overt racial essentialism.

Consider the usag