Q: You claim that full equality will be one of the main priorities of socialism, but from my understanding, affirmative action is the opposite of equality and completely unnecessary in an unracist and equal society. Explain your rationalizing of affirmative action. Paying for 100 years of oppression is a ridiculous notion — equality is what they want, and they have it now.

A: I disagree with most of the premises and assumptions contained in your question. First, we do not currently have real equality — just to take a few examples, there is still a huge (and growing) gap between the wages of white and Black workers, and between males and females, and there is still a much higher rate of unemployment for minorities. “They” do not have equality now — meaning none of us do.

Second, affirmative action is required to level the playing field right now, to eliminate current injustices and inequities, and to ensure equal high-quality education, equal job and housing opportunities and so on.

Third, it is necessary, in our view, to make up for the continuing effects of systemic racism and discrimination — not by monetary payments to individuals, but by providing additional funds for education, employment, housing, health care, recreation and culture. To be “color-blind” right now, and for some time to come, is to be blind to continuing discrimination and its toxic legacy, hence the need for affirmative action.

We would not try to legislate or outlaw thoughts, but racist acts and public expressions of racism can be outlawed. Even more importantly, we can change the institutions of society that foster, promote and allow racism.

While racism is in part a matter of individual prejudice, it is also a matter of the billions of dollars that the capitalist class makes in super-profits by paying Black, Latino, immigrant and women workers less. The excess profits made from the wage differentials run to hundreds of billions of dollars each year — a powerful incentive for them to promote racism and sexism in open and subtle ways. This also allows the capitalists to extract more profits from white workers, by keeping their wages down too. If all workers were organized and united, all workers would make more money than currently — the lingering wage differentials between North and South are directly related to the amount of unionization, and are also a source of super-profits.

We think it is in the interests of the vast majority to overcome racism and unite across all lines of division promoted by the ruling class. Affirmative action to promote real equality is a necessary part of building that unity and is in all workers’ interests.

We invite readers to submit questions about the Communist Party USA, its basic policies, and a Marxist viewpoint on current social issues. The answers are provided by Marc Brodine, chair of the Washington State Communist Party. Questions can be sent to cpusa@cpusa.org.