Masao Suzuki. (Fight! News/Staff)
San Jose, California – Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans and their supporters have taken to the streets to protest the wave of violence against Asian Americans. From the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when a Burmese family was assaulted in Texas; until the Atlanta Spa murder in April 2021, where six of the eight people killed were Asian American women, this wave of violence against Asian Americans inspired protests across the country, including even college students.
These protests were the largest ever to bring together Asian Americans of different nationalities. This was partly because the targets of the hate crimes were Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, Burmese Americans and others. Although the hatred and national chauvinism was primarily driven by anti-China sentiment stoked by racist politicians such as President Trump, the racists did not know or care about the nationality of their victims. There is also a growing shared experience of young Asian Americans who were born here or raised in the United States, of their shared experiences due to national oppression as Asian people in the United States.
The fight against violence against Asian Americans has also drawn many different classes into our communities: working people as well as members of the petty bourgeoisie such as small entrepreneurs, professionals, and managers. However, other types of domestic oppression, such as unfair treatment by ICE and immigration, may differ, as more affluent Asian Americans are better able to afford legal representation.
The fight against violence against Asian Americans is part of a larger fight for full equality and against national oppression. Asian Americans have a long history of fighting against racist and discriminatory laws and government actions, from the tax on foreign minors in California in the 1850s to the witch hunt against Chinese-American scholars today. . Asian Americans have also faced racist discrimination in housing, in the workforce, in marriage, in all aspects of life.
The struggle against national oppression aimed at Asian Americans has always had ties to the oppression of African Americans and other oppressed nationalities. Anti-miscegenation laws originally aimed at African Americans were also applied to Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans. On the other hand, restrictive covenants, which prohibited non-whites from buying many houses (to keep white neighborhoods), were first found in San Francisco, again aimed at Chinese Americans. But these racist restrictions in housing titles have also spread across the country to enforce housing segregation against African Americans.
The fight against national oppression has also intersected between Asian Americans and other oppressed nationalities. In 1894, American-born Kim Ark Wong was refused entry to the United States after traveling to China to see his family. The Chinese-American community took legal action all the way to the United States Supreme Court and 1898 won a decision guaranteeing citizenship to children born in the United States of non-citizens. This was especially important for Asian Americans, as Asian immigrants could not become U.S. citizens until the 1940s. This case was important to the Chicano community as well as other Latinos who immigrated to the United States.
At the same time, the struggle of other oppressed nationalities, especially African Americans and Chicanos, both benefited and inspired Asian Americans. 1947 Mendez v. Westminster ended the legal segregation of Chicano and Asian children in California public schools. More than anything else, the rise of African Americans in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the early 1960s paved the way for the end of the racist Immigration Act of 1924, which imposed quotas by hundreds to immigrants from Asia. Without this change, Asian Americans would be much smaller and very different today, with only Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipinos as the main nationalities. Many young organizers of anti-Asian violence protests said this was not their first protest, they first marched after the death of George Floyd.
While Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino Americans have fought for their rights since the 1850s, often alongside Chicanos in particular, the first consciously unified Asian-American fight did not take place until the 1960s. by black students for ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley, led to the formation of the first explicit Asian American organization, the Asian American Political Alliance, or AAPA, in 1969. AAPA was the main Asian American organization on campuses. both for a department of Asian American studies and a college of ethnic studies that would include departments of Black, Chicano, and Native American studies.
The rise of revolutionary African-American organizations in the 1960s also had a significant impact on Asian Americans. The Black Panther Party inspired the formation of I Wor Kuen or IWK in the late 1960s. IWK was named after an anti-imperialist uprising in China in 1900, but their political program was based on the Ten Point Program of the Black Panther Party. IWK turned to Marxism-Leninism to better capture the class struggle within the Chinese-American community, and eventually merged with other ML groups from oppressive movements, such as the largely Chicano movement of August 29 and the largely African-American revolutionary communist movement. League, formerly the African People’s Congress, a pan-Africanist organization.
Revolutionaries and Marxist-Leninists in the African American and Chicano movements revived the understanding that African Americans in the Southern Black Belt and Southwestern Chicanos were, in fact, oppressed nations in the United States. As nations – that is, a historical community with a common language, culture, economy and territory – they had the right to self-determination, up to and including the right to separate and form their own countries.
While a few voices raised the concept of an Asian American nation, it actually had no basis. Asian Americans do not share a common language, with most Asian American nationalities speaking different languages other than English at home. They have many different cultures, although they have historical ties. In fact, Asian Americans include many different nationalities from East, Southeast, South, and Central Asia: Chinese Americans, Filipino Americans, Native Americans, Americans of Japanese descent, Korean-Americans, and Vietnamese-Americans, to name just a few of the larger nationalities.
More importantly, there is no common territory for Asian Americans in the United States. The most concentrated population of Asian Americans on the continent is in the San Jose-San Francisco Bay Area, which over the past 20 years has developed two small, predominantly Asian American cities. In contrast, in the Chicano Nation, there are major cities such as San Antonio, Texas and Los Angeles, California, more than 70 counties spread across seven states, and even the entire state of New Mexico that are majority or near majority Chicano.
There are many Chicanos and Mexicanos who live outside of the Chicano Nation. Some even live in majority Chicano/Mexicano counties such as Adams and Franklin counties in eastern Washington. Chicanos and Mexicanos in eastern Washington are certainly oppressed nationalities facing economic, political, and social inequality. Many have lived in the Chicano Nation and/or have family there. But with the Chicano Nation’s northern boundary about 800 miles away, how could they act on self-determination and practically separate?
Similarly, Asian Americans, while certainly oppressed nationalities, cannot be considered a nation with the right to self-determination. As Communists, we fight for full equality for Asian American nationalities, including linguistic equality, political power, etc. in areas of concentration.
We also fight for the leadership of the working class of Asian Americans and other oppressed nationalities in their struggle against national oppression and for full equality. This includes both anti-reformism, such as promoting voting as the answer to all problems, and narrow nationalism, which sees other oppressed nationalities as the problem (an example of this is opposition to the affirmative action).
Our strategy for revolution is a united front against monopoly capitalism – against the rule of billionaires and big business. At the heart of this united front will be an alliance between the working class, on the one hand, and the oppressed nationalities, on the other. Asian Americans will play an increasing role in this, both as the fastest growing oppressed nationality and as part of the rapidly growing working class.
Masao Suzuki is chairman of the Joint Nationalities Commission of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and a former member of I Wor Kuen.