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The Role of Asian American and Pacific Islander Movements

Notes on the Road
to 21st Century Socialism

Issue 2, March 2020

The Role of Asian American and Pacific Islander Movements

Race, Nationality Oppression and Revolutionary Strategy


Who We Are

We are LeftRoots members whose identities fall largely under Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) categories. We joined LeftRoots because we are excited to build a Left organization together with other cadre from the ground up and to develop strategy together.

AAPI cadre showed a lot of interest in responding to We Believe That We Can Win (WBTWCW) as soon as it came out. The writers of this document wanted to uplift AAPI communities’ role in revolutionary strategy. In February 2018, a group of LeftRoots cadre and compas (Pam Tau Lee, Michael Liu, May Louie, Lydia Lowe, Don Misumi, and David Monkawa) wrote a paper that was used as a starting point for this one.

The following individuals are the principal authors of this journal contribution. This is not a comprehensive document, but rather a response to WBTWCW. We thank the many cadre who have given feedback to this piece and acknowledge that not all points of view of AAPI cadre were included here, but key differences are footnoted at the end. Please take our sincerest apologies for mistakes, omissions, and things we just got wrong. We see this as a continuation of conversations, not as an endpoint, and hope to continue engaging with people moving forward.

What We Are Saying

Due to the fundamental role that slavery, land theft, and the particular exploitation of peoples of color played in developing US racial monopoly capitalism, we believe that communities of color have a particularly strategic role to play in building the US left and social movements.

We think that WBTWCW, the document that a few of our comrades developed last year, underplayed the role of AAPI communities and fails to distinguish AAPIs from whites in the discussion of the historic bloc. WBTWCW identifies Black, Latinx and Indigenous Peoples but excludes AAPI communities as part of the driving forces. This creates the impression that work in AAPI communities is less important both historically and in today’s movement. While we appreciate the work that went into WBTWCW, and the importance of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous Peoples’ struggles, it is important to recognize that this document was the productive of a collective process by a small number of people to jump-start a conversation. Strategy still needs to emerge from collective practice, analysis, and struggle, so it is premature for LeftRoots to name specific “driving forces” at this moment.

We believe that social movement activists, including LR cadre, need to learn more about the role of AAPIs in the US. As activists who are deeply rooted in AAPI struggles for justice, we understand the complexities of the AAPI communities, which are characterized by both class polarization and a wide range of experiences with colonialism, imperialism, militarism, and migration from the homelands.

Despite this complexity and diversity, we believe that the vast majority of AAPIs of all classes have a stake in the struggle against racial monopoly capitalism and that the struggles of the most exploited sectors of the AAPI working class have particularly advanced and continue to advance the interests of the entire working class and benefit all of US society.

Finally, we argue that both historically and today AAPI movements for justice and equality make important contributions to social movements and the struggle for socialism. Our communities have led and continue to lead important struggles to fight the Right, organize the working class, and unite communities of color. AAPI communities have also played important roles in socialism, historically and currently. We seek to build the AAPI struggle in solidarity with other POC (people of color) communities and the working class as a whole. We strive to lead a multi-class united front that moves our people in a revolutionary direction by building our base and the leadership of the AAPI working class, particularly the lower strata, women, and young people.


Race and Nationality-Based Oppression

What is the connection between the history of people of color in the U.S. and their role in the struggle for 21st century socialism? (This has historically been an important theoretical debate in the Left, known by Marxists as the “national question.”) Exploitation, oppression, and theft from communities of color, rooted in the history of colonialism and imperialism, was central to the development of the US economy and society; today’s inequality and super-exploitation is the result of a western legacy of racial capitalism. The issue of race or nationality oppression plays an exceptional role in U.S. society and its resolution is critical to achieving a fundamentally different one. Unifying working class struggles with the movements of peoples of color is critical to achieving a fundamentally different society.

The roles of people of color are fundamental to the development of the U.S. as a national economy and as an imperialist power. This process began with the near-genocide of indigenous peoples and the successive theft of their lands as the U.S. expanded westward. The U.S. then appropriated or stole land, and oppressed the Mexican people who occupied the Southwest – the Chicano people. The development of a slave-based agricultural economy, as described in WBTWCW, provided much of the initial development of the country, as well as the capital accumulation needed for industrial development. The ideology of white supremacy was fundamental to both colonialism abroad and the oppression of different peoples of color in the creation of the US and the building of its economy.

The Role of AAPIs in the Building of the U.S.

Super-exploitation of Asian labor and their simultaneous legal exclusion from the United States formed an important foundation for the growth of US monopoly capitalism and was linked to the growth of US imperialism in Asia and the Pacific. This was particularly true in the West, following the end of the Civil War, where AAPIs contributed to reclamation of vast amounts of farmland, development of construction, mining, manufacturing and fishing, and completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. Racist laws, physical violence, and many forms of structural exclusion (such as the Page Act of 1875 and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) shaped the development and under-development of these communities and kept AAPIs in the hyper-exploited layer of the working class.

The Strategic Role of AAPI Communities

Because of the reliance of U.S. racial monopoly capitalism and imperialism on exploitation and oppression of communities of color, the multi-class struggles of AAPI communities play a significant role in creating change. While clearly affecting the hyper-exploited and “excluded” layers the most, this multifaceted oppression affects nearly all class strata of AAPIs. AAPIs have an objective stake in opposing racial monopoly capitalism, and AAPIs from every socioeconomic class can be rallied to fight it.

AAPIs have a rich history of organizing and resistance in militant sectors of the labor movement and the U.S. left. AAPIs were early members of the Communist Party U.S.A. and other early socialist organizations, formed revolutionary Nationalist organizations in the 1960s, and were important leaders of the New Left in the 1970s and beyond. AAPI movements played a leading role in raising anti-imperialist demands during the U.S. War in Southeast Asia (often referred to as the Vietnam War) and were at the core of struggles to open up college and university admissions and make education serve the communities. AAPIs led one of the most significant urban anti-displacement struggles in recent history (San Francisco’s I-Hotel), inspiring a tenant rights and rent control movement across the country, won a decades-long nationwide fight for redress and reparations for Japanese Americans interned during WWII, and continue to be an important progressive force in service sector unions as well as community-based labor organizing. AAPI movement leftists have led movement building in the electoral arena, from Jesse Jackson and Mel King’s Rainbow Coalitions to current political organizing on both coasts and in the South. From 1965-1970, Filipinx and Latinx farm workers united to win the first union contracts for table grape farm workers in California, granting workers better pay, benefits, and protections. Struggles for preservation of low-income AAPI neighborhoods have united residents and activists across sectors.

Through our organizing work, we have noted that the history of revolutionary movements in different Asian nations (and despite what may have happened in the aftermath of those revolutions), results in a higher level of class-consciousness among many AAPI immigrants than among the average U.S.-born citizen. Many progressive AAPI organizing groups rally their bases with explicit slogans about fighting for the working class. AAPI ties to global struggles can also play an important role in “defeating the neoliberal bloc and animating the left,” linking these struggles to a broader analysis of imperialism and global hegemony.

Possibly because AAPIs were overlooked as a small sector of the population, AAPI leftists and radical organizing groups like the Red Guard, East Wind, Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) [Union of Democratic Filipinos], and I Wor Kuen (IWK) [Righteous and Harmonious Fists] escaped much of the state repression and violent attacks suffered by the Black Liberation Movement under programs like

In later parts of this paper, we will talk more about AAPIs’ leadership in today’s movements. First, we will provide some context and background information on a selection of AAPI communities.

Incomplete History of Select AAPI Communities in the U.S.

AAPI communities in the U.S. are representative of many national origins, languages, skin colors, and religions, and exist in multiple socioeconomic classes, but are often homogenized and overlooked within the Left as an integral part of the working-class base. The post-World War II position of the U.S. as the dominant superpower and global enforcer and leader of anti-communist capitalist forces ushered in the rise of neo-imperialism and created new channels for migration into the U.S., leading to profound changes in existing AAPI communities and creating new ones. The 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act lifted the national quotas that favored European countries, increasing family immigration for the AAPI working class, and also gave preference to highly educated professionals and managers. These events have resulted in both increased class polarization and ethnic diversity in the AAPI population. Since the end of World War II, the ruling classes have also tried to use AAPIs as a wedge to divide and weaken movements for racial justice and working-class power.

In this section we will highlight some experiences within the AAPI community that are often left out of the history and narrative of the AAPI experience. It is important to note that this is not a thorough summary, as there are many other distinct AAPI communities whose history we do not go into in this paper.

Southeast Asia: War, U.S. Militarization, and the Refugee Experience

The first wave of refugee migration to the U.S. was the direct result of the U.S. war in Southeast Asia, defined in this section as, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and ethnic minority groups. From 1964-1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos during 580,000 bombing missions. Much of the “Vietnam War” was fought on Cambodian soil, at the same time that Cambodians were dying in the “killing fields” of the Khmer Rouge.

In 1975, just after the fall of Saigon, the Khmer Rouge gained control in Cambodia and the U.S. authorized the entry of 130,000 people from Southeast Asia. Beginning in 1979, the second wave of immigration followed an escalation in oppressive government policies in Vietnam and the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. accepted 531,310 Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees and over 140,000 from Laos (including Hmong people).

The third wave of migration occurred in the 1990s, as the U.S. allowed former political prisoners in Vietnam to leave, and the more comprehensive “Family Reunification” program, which allowed refugees living in the U.S. to petition their relatives from Vietnam to join them.

Once established in the U.S., many Southeast Asian refugees were resettled in cities like New Orleans, Seattle, San Jose, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Houston, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Though finally away from the war and the refugee camps, transition to life in the U.S. created further hardship for Southeast Asian refugees. Many experienced discrimination and racist violence, particularly in the years immediately following the U.S. War in Southeast Asia. Many were resettled in primarily African American and Latinx communities, in areas that were already experiencing high poverty, chronic unemployment, and poor housing conditions. Southeast Asian Americans have some of the highest family poverty rates of all AAPI communities.

Philippines: Colonization, Forced Migration, and Family Separation

400 years of colonialism, including the last 100 years of U.S. direct and indirect imperialist rule, have put the Philippines in a state of chronic economic crisis; the vast majority of the population live in absolute poverty. Because of this chronic economic crisis, more than 10% of the Filipinx population is forced to leave their families behind to seek work abroad. The U.S. has the largest Filipinx community outside of the Philippines.

The first wave of Filipinx migration was migrant workers who were recruited as cheap labor from 1906-1934, and worked on Hawaiian plantations, California farms, and Alaska fishing docks. Upon arrival in the US, Filipinxs have experienced systemic racism and discrimination, segregated from white facilities and blamed for taking U.S. citizens’ jobs and women. Perceived as a social problem, disease carriers, and an economic threat, Filipinx immigration was limited to 50 people per year through the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934.

The Nationality Act of 1940 allowed non-citizens who joined the military to seek citizenship. Close to 10,000 Filipinxs applied. The Rescission Act of 1946 denied Filipinx veterans their rights to benefits. Of the 66 countries allied with the U.S. during WWII, only Filipinxs were denied military benefits.

By 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act changed the character of Filipinx labor flowing to the U.S. “Relative-selective immigration” allowed Filipinxs to immigrate as petitioned relatives of previous migrants who became US citizens. On the other hand, “occupational immigration” allowed the entry of mostly middle-level professionals—nurses, medical technologists, doctors, teachers, managers and engineers.

Since the 1990s, the migration of Filipinxs abroad to find work has been feminized, with women making up to 80% of migrants, a vast majority working as domestic workers. Many of these migrant women end up in the global human trafficking industry, tricked by deceptive contracts, their communications and movements monitored and restricted.

South Asians, Muslims, and Palestine

South Asian is a general term used for people from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and other countries in the region, and can also include Indo-African and Indo-Caribbean people. South Asians are divided by caste, religion, class, nationality, and ethnicity and their immigration patterns to the U.S. are also diverse. South Asians have been in the U.S. since the 18th century and have been denied and stripped of citizenship, barred from entering the country, prohibited from owning property, (alongside Japanese-Americans in 1913), have been excluded from becoming permanent residents, (alongside black folks in Oregon in 1907) and suffered from mob attacks by vigilante white groups. Early South Asian migrant men often married into and assimilated with Mexican, Puerto Rican, and other communities of color when they settled.

The first significant wave of South Asian migration came after the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that lifted the ban against Asian immigration. The Act brought in many of the professional Indian-Americans that consist of the managerial class. More recently corporate lobbying has resulted in H-1B professional work visas. Indian Americans make up most South Asians living in the U.S. and constitute predominantly upper-caste and professional class families. Low-income South Asians comprise of some of the most exploited groups in the U.S. They occupy low-wage jobs such as gas station workers, taxi cab drivers, domestic workers, and food vendors.

Since September 11, 2001, low-income South Asians have experienced severe discrimination in the form of Islamophobia and xenophobia. Muslims, South Asians, and people from West and Central Asia have been targeted by the U.S. through surveillance and other forms of criminalization. Police target and frame the most vulnerable in entrapment cases and those who are “read” as Muslims are painted as threatening and likely-terrorists. This image is used to justify the hyper-criminalization of the community and the wars the U.S. continues to wage in West and Central Asia.

Muslim communities have not only faced discrimination domestically but abroad as well at the hands of the U.S.’s war machine. Additionally, the U.S. invests in the systemic genocide of Palestinians through its political, financial, and military support of Israel. Palestinians have a decades-long history of resisting occupation and the Palestinian cause has gained prominence in the U.S. Many easily draw parallels with the occupation and the criminalization of poor Black people in the U.S.

Undocumented Members of AAPI Communities

The Pew Research Center reported that AAPIs comprise 13% of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., with Indians comprising 500,000 of that number, Chinese comprising 325,000 immigrants, Filipinxs comprising 180,000 immigrants, and Koreans comprising 160,000 immigrants. The numbers may also be significant for other Asian populations that are not reported including Bangladeshi, Burmese, and Nepali immigrants: the fastest growing AAPI immigrant populations.

AAPIs in the U.S. Today

AAPIs, currently about 19 million in population, are the fastest-growing population by percentage in the country and are a particularly important force in many major cities. By 2055, AAPIs are predicted to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S. AAPIs also have one of the fastest-growing populations in poverty, with the highest growth in poverty among native-born AAPIs. Half of poor AAPIs live in just 10 major cities.1

The “Model Minority” Myth

Popularized after the Cold War, the “Model Minority” Myth has been used to pit AAPI communities against Black and Latinx communities, as well as to erase the different experiences within AAPI communities. The Model Minority Myth is part of the capitalist ideological offensive that attempts to divide people of color from each other and the multiracial U.S. working class as whole.

AAPIs have a larger sector in the professional/managerial class and higher-paid levels of the working class than other oppressed nationalities, but the class composition is highly polarized, with a big concentration of AAPI workers in the hyper-exploited layers of the workforce as low-wage and contingent workers. AAPIs also are disproportionately represented in high median income categories, due to the above average number of wage earners per household and geographic concentration in high-cost cities and regions.

Globalization has complicated class structures in communities of color, particularly AAPI communities. Global managers of color like Ken Chenault of American Express and Sundar Pichai of Google, move within and manage transnational corporations, as a modern comprador class of relative privilege.

The model minority myth over-emphasizes individual AAPI ‘success’ stories of certain Asian groups (primarily Chinese, Korean, Indian people), making it seem like anyone who works hard can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It is used as a tool of white supremacy to absolve racism and inequality, to dismantle reforms like affirmative action and give cover to racist policies.

We do not discount the existence of racism within our communities. But we should be clear that different forms of racism, whether white supremacy, anti-Blackness, colorism, or xenophobia, are all manifestations of a capitalist system that seeks to exploit and profit from the divisions it creates. Racial division is the financial backbone of capitalism and, as revolutionaries, we must combat it in all its forms.

Rise of the Asian Right Wing

Today, the Right is making a concerted effort to infiltrate and divide the AAPI movement by appealing to the narrowest forms of ethnic nationalism.

We have seen this with the evangelical Christian Right within the Korean American community which mobilizes against Korean reunification. The Right wing danger has been strengthened by the influx of a new sector of global capitalists from China who are investing in U.S. real estate and corporations and sending their children to study at elite universities. An increasingly visible Chinese Right wing led by an elite class of foreign nationals is attacking the Movement for Black Lives, the Census, ethnic data collection, transgender rights, and affirmative action in education in collusion with the Tea Party. The Hindu Right plays a similar role in Indian communities, with global capitalists living in the US playing a role both here and in India.

While this sector has little relationship to the lives of most AAPI native-born and immigrant workers,the ideological struggle in the AAPI movements will continue to intensify in the years ahead, especially as the Right wing within AAPI communities continues to co-opt civil rights language. LeftRoots’ strategy for 21st century socialism should include a plan to fight the Right and win over the majority of the AAPI people.

Imperialism, Neo-imperialism, and Militarism

AAPI immigrant communities, as a result of firsthand experiences with U.S. imperialism, neo-imperialism, and militarism in their homelands, often have more developed internationalist politics that will be critical in our struggle for 21st century socialism.

WBTWCW point 47 describes the period of US imperialist expansion during the late 1800s that began a pattern of aggression and established it as the world’s leading military and imperialist power. This included overthrowing the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, and the invasion of Guam and the Philippines as part of the Spanish American War of 1898. The Asian and Pacific lands of Hawaii, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and the Philippines were used as military testing grounds, and continue to be occupied at varying levels today. The Philippines recently agreed to the use of five military bases by the U.S., and the military occupies a full third of Guam’s land. The entire population of indigenous Pacific Islanders were evicted by force in the early 1970s from their homes on the Cocos Island atoll to make way for a U.S. naval base.

U.S. imperialism propagated the ideology of American exceptionalism—that the U.S. is uniquely positioned to, and has a duty to, spread “liberty” and “democracy” throughout the world, and protect our individual and collective freedom domestically—to justify imperialist domination overseas and the super-exploitation of people of color throughout the Global South.

For decades, countries in the Global South have been exploited and provided raw materials and cheap labor for the “core” of the Global North. The resulting super profits are used to buy off politicians, labor leaders and white workers.

Imperialism and racial monopoly capitalism today do not primarily depend on occupying foreign territory. The anti-colonial struggles that began after World War II through the 1970s led imperialist powers to search for alternative methods to manage and control the exploitation of wealth and resources of its subject countries.

Transnational corporate expansion evolved as the primary instrument of modern imperialism. A few world powers, led by the U.S., have dominated the global financial system, with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund at the center of this domination. These institutions keep poor countries in debt and impose austerity measures by cutting social services, while they promote free trade and privatization (neoliberalism). They use their powerful industries and economies to overwhelm and subordinate the economies of developing countries and governments.

The current phase of monopoly capitalism is based on the financialization of capital, in which big companies no longer profit from producing things, but instead financial institutions (banks, hedge funds, private equity firms, asset management companies) profit through high interest rates, creating debt, and increasing fees, etc. As the U.S. faces greater competition for global domination, it has fewer resources to buy off white workers, so that intensifying racist ideas becomes even
more important.

This neo-imperialist system forces API and other migrant workers out of their homelands and into the hyper-exploited sectors of the U.S. working class. The U.S. ruling class instigates fear of these migrants and criminalizes them, invoking xenophobia and white supremacy, to both create divisions within the working-class and coerce migrants to accept abysmal conditions.

The struggles of countries in the Global South are an important factor in charting the battle against U.S. monopoly capitalism. We also must consider and support the struggle of workers in the Global South against transnational corporations.

AAPI Organizing and the Movement for 21st Century Socialism

AAPI organizing today draws upon a long and rich organizing history and is strategically important for the left in certain regions. AAPI communities have some of the strongest progressive mass organizations, particularly in important coastal cities in the U.S. Some more established communities build upon an intergenerational core of left activists with deep organizing roots. Newer mass organizations from Filipinx, Southeast Asian, South Asian and Muslim communities continue to make the linkages between U.S imperialism and their home countries.
In such cities, AAPI organizations are core anchors of progressive coalitions and leaders of intersectional organizing, waging important struggles around workers’ rights and economic justice, detentions and deportations, housing and land, local electoral power, and racial profiling.

AAPI workers have high concentrations in and are leading important struggles of the “hyper-exploited sectors” of the working class, particularly in coastal cities, in which fighting for their own interests expands the rights of the entire working class and society. In the early 2000s, immigrant women from the Philippines, Haiti, the Caribbean Islands, Nepal, and other South Asian countries worked together in a six-year-long campaign to win recognition, rights, and protections for domestic workers in New York. Immigrant Filipinas have continued to lead domestic worker movements from California to New York through the National Domestic Workers Alliance Chinese immigrant restaurant workers’ fight in San Francisco led to a regional industry transformation that advanced and benefitted all workers. Similarly, Chinese home health care workers led the first unionization of a private home health care agency in Massachusetts, and Chinese workers played a lead role in the recent hotel worker strikes in Boston and Chicago. The fight for people’s right to the historic Chinatown community has been a key anchor to build a broader Right to the City and anti-displacement movement in Boston and elsewhere. Organizations like the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, whose membership is largely Muslim and immigrant, continue to build local working class power with national implications in the fight against companies like Uber and Lyft.

AAPI organizations and leaders are playing important roles in fighting the Right wing around critical wedge issues, from deportation to criminalization to affirmative action. For over two decades, Southeast Asian activists have been fighting deportations of refugees who now face deportation due to U.S. criminal convictions. This organizing has sharply linked the current struggle to U.S. imperialism and the criminalization of people of color.

Working-class South Asians have also participated and led immigrant communities to be in solidarity with black and indigenous people, who have been targets of police brutality. Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), a membership-based organization of working-class South Asians, for example, challenges anti-blackness in its own and other immigrant communities by consistently prioritizing solidarity with the black community. The organization has been at the forefront of pro-people movements including anti-war, anti-police brutality, and racial justice forces in the country.

AAPIs’ courageous core role in the fight for justice for Akai Gurley in New York City, directly challenging the Right wing’s wedge strategy to pit the Chinese community against the Black community, is an example of why LeftRoots should not buy into the Model Minority Myth and de-prioritize work in the AAPI movements. AAPI youth have played a particularly key role in building solidarity across communities of color. Importantly, this work has not come from a perspective of passive “allyship” with the Black movement. Instead, in the spirit of the Black Panthers, who developed the concept of “revolutionary nationalism as applied internationalism,” we uphold the revolutionary nature of the AAPI struggles for equality and see our interests as integrally linked to the struggles of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous peoples.

AAPI movements will continue to play an important role in the movement for peace and global justice. AAPI communities in the US have varying experiences with 20th century socialist experiments in our home countries, which have implications for left organizing among AAPIs in the U.S. Many AAPI leftists are intimately familiar with the U.S.’s role as an imperialist force today and bring a global consciousness to domestic struggles. AAPI immigrants bring practical experience with socialist movements in their homelands, both positive and negative. AAPI ties to global struggles can also play an important role in “defeating the neoliberal bloc and animating the left,” linking these struggles to a broader analysis of imperialism and global hegemony.

Increasingly, most political leaders locate the growing danger of war in the Pacific region, due to both instability in the region and the intensifying competition between the U.S. and China. This underscores the important role that AAPIs in the U.S. will play in the struggle for peace and internationalism, as well as in the fight against racial profiling and hate crimes, which will continue to rise and increasingly target AAPIs as spies or “the enemy.”

In short, the work of building a broad-based left movement in the U.S. should include work in AAPI movements and communities. It is not a coincidence that AAPIs are proportionally over-represented within the ranks of LeftRoots. The continued growth of left-leaning AAPI activists is an outgrowth of the left’s relative strength in this movement. The left has enough of a mass base in parts of the AAPI movements and in a few cities (like San Francisco, Oakland, and Boston) to contend for leadership of broader cross-class coalitions on a local or regional scale. This base and level of influence should not be abandoned, as was done in some instances by the 20th century New Left; we should recognize its importance as we focus on the overall task of building 21st century socialism.

While our communities continue to struggle against capitalist hegemonies of anti-Black racism, colorism, heteropatriarchy, and exploitation from our own small and middle capitalist classes, we are building a new ideology and culture based on equality and self-determination for all people. We have a rich history of resistance against oppression and solidarity with other peoples of color and working-class struggles. From our ranks have developed strong organizations that continue to be in the forefront of the major movements of the day. Any path forward to 21st century socialism must be a path that draws upon the strengths of all our movements and AAPIs will continue to have much to contribute.


  1. Why do the authors argue that there are both historical and present-day reasons that AAPIs play a significant role in the US left movement?
  2. Is it important for the left to both unify the multiracial working class and to organize different class sectors of AAPIs and other people of color, as the authors propose? What are some examples of when those interests might be in conflict?
  3. How have US social movements been impacted by the Model Minority Myth?
  4. How does global conflict affect the role of AAPIs in the US social movements?

Points of Difference and Debate

In the process of writing this paper, we realized that even among AAPI cadre there were important questions and differences of opinions which are important to note. One of the main questions/differences was around the use of the terms ‘driving forces’ and ‘historic bloc,’ including questions about whether this type of analysis is important.

Key points of view not reflected in this paper include:

  • The Gramscian concept of “historic bloc” and “driving forces” may not be a useful approach for our times.
  • We should not divide and define the historic bloc in racial categories but instead need a stronger multiracial politic that includes a diverse set of people including whites.
  • AAPIs should not be isolated as the only problematic question about “driving interests” or “leading forces.” We should focus on local and regional assessments based on the specific time, place and conditions and identify the relationship between different class segments and global capital before we say who should be in the historic bloc.
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