Richard Pryor explains how capitalism leads to racism, in a 1977 interview

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It’s almost as if the corporate leadership is a swamp and it needs to be drained.


Richard Pryor was really, really awesome.


These interviews are so cringey: Pryor is 2x as smart, and most of the time not joking, but the hosts always stumble, try to look like they’re “down with it” and laugh at all the wrong parts (when Pryor is trying to be serious).


More proof that we’ve known this all along. 40+ years after this interview, though, we’re still in denial about it as a society.


It’s difficult to overcome 400 years of the entire basis of our capitalist system. 1619 was the first year black slaves were imported into North America, as a replacement for recalcitrant white indentured servants and indigenous people who were more likely to simply run away.

We’ve used slavery and/or racism to keep the wealthy rich ever since. And nope, nothing has changed. The elites continue to play us off on one another by drumming hate of this group or that group so that they can weaken resistance to their plundering of a continent full of riches.

Pryor spoke to truth here. Too bad folks still don’t get it and think equality and wealth sharing to build a better society is what’s truly “evil”, and not hatred, fear, and centuries of bloody violence.


Eddie went there too…


He’s greatly simplified it but he’s right. The only way to overcome the downsides of capitalism is to not value the outcome of capitalism. What I mean is capitalism would have us all wish to be rich, with 5 houses and fancy cars, and a stockholder of more money than you can use in your life. And of course capitalism needs us to all want that, to fight to try and get it, and to loose spectacularly against the people who think they’ve won the game. What we need to do is not care about being rich and fancy cars, and 5 houses - and instead focus on having a stable and rewarding life - have pursuit of happiness, and ensure that this modest goal is easy to achieve through things like Medicare for all and a robust social safety net. And sure, if being filthy rich spins your wheel you are free to try to do that to, but you don’t get to own our government and make it a game stacked in your favor.


It’s barely touched on in the interview, but the fact that NBC gave him a prime-time show in 1977, even in limited run, is astounding.

Not as astounding as when he got his own kids’ show, but still.


The underlying statement of that fact; it shouldn’t have been “astounding” at all, but the inherently racist nature of our society is what made it so.


Pryor is the best, full stop.


Capitalism needs two things: social discontent to provide the dynamic force of consumerism, and also a permanent underclass to provide the bulk of the cheap labor. Which has meant slaves, tenant farmers (serfs, basically), cheap immigrant labor for the factories, but also a deep resentment of the classes providing the labor. Because separation had to be maintained between the beneficiaries of the system and the labor. So, Jim Crow laws, immigration laws based on ethnic exclusion, ‘restricted’ schools, neighborhoods, etc.

And of course capitalism was supposed to free us from the old system of aristocracies and serfs, but the urge to have that has never really gone away. The reactionary force continues to work for the restoration of the permanent aristocracy.


This. We are told that success is measured only by the size of our bank accounts. Thus, we must never be satisfied because we can never have enough money. The stock market thrives off this same view of reality, valuing endless profiteering and “growth” over companies that are stable, reliable, produce good products at fair prices for fair wages and still pay their bills.

A good part of the 20th century was spent in pursuit of a system that got rid of all that nonsense. The rise of unions, the ending of segregation and Jim Crow laws. And what did we do the minute we got a taste of all that? Turned around and elected Ronnie to help bring it all back under the lies of “if the rich just have a little more, we’ll all have a little more, and it’s really the poor people who are stealing from us all.” The worst part is, that shit worked, too.

Fixing it all will take massive work, and probably some Constitutional changes.


I’ve been re-reading (cover to cover this time) the Situationist International Anthology (1958-69). I’d come to it years ago for the ‘society of the spectacle’ and ‘psycho-geography’ stuff, but re-reading it now, I’m staying for the hardcore political/economic theory/critique that I’d just skimmed over before.

The Situationists’ 2 main revolutionary goals are the ‘supercession’ of bureaucracy (political) and wage labor (economic). The former argues that ‘changes‘ in political rule don’t really structurally change anything - pretty much ‘the new boss is the same as the old boss.’ So in terms of your comment above, aristocracy being replaced by democracy or communism (which they refer to as Stalinism in order to differentiate the political/totalitarian reality from the economic ideal/facade) are in effect still the same structurally. By any name, the true enemy is the resulting ‘ruling bureaucracy‘ that sooner or later ends up actively working against the peasants/proletariat they claimed to support, cuz ‘hey this having power thing is pretty great…I’d like to keep it.’ Every ‘change‘ in political structure or ‘revolution’ (USSR, China, Cuba, North Vietnam, etc) just cycles new blood (literally and figuratively) into an unchanging political superstructure with the majority used as pawns and then left out in the cold (again, literally and figuratively).

They go on to propose the idea of ‘Direct democracy‘ (ie ‘workers councils’) as the replacement of the bureaucracy, which seems surprisingly idealistic/naive given, you know, human nature. I think their response to that would be related to the concept of ‘alienation’ (which is often described as a product of wage labor and modern society) and which has turned humans into the alternately destructive competitive selfish blasé beings we currently are. But I’m not sold (ha) on that, or the idea that somehow people would magically all get along if wage labor and bureaucracy were obliterated (thru revolution, natch). Some percentage of cavemen likely were a-holes too, and could ruin a settlement even if 80% of the other cave people were cool. No capitalism or modernity required.

Anyway, very cool to see Richard Pryor discussing the same structural issues regarding the inter-relatedness of political and economic systems as Guy Debord and the ultra-radical 1960’s euro revolutionaries (who saw Watts and Newark and Detroit And Paris ‘68 as real world proof of their earlier critiques, if not the first steps towards international revolution). Who knows…maybe they partied together at some point in the seventies. Seems like they would have gotten along famously.


“In the late 1600s, the political leaders of the Virginia colony struck upon an answer to all those labor problems, an answer which plagues us to this day.
The Virginians legislated a new class of people into existence: the whites.”


Joe Strummer, in the film Rude Boy, very succinctly put it during a brief political discussion. After the Russian revolution, it was “just a different group of men riding around in the big black cars.”


Capitalism, imperialism and white supremacy are not distinct things; they are all facets of a single system.

To cite one of my standard Akala quotes:


They refer to it as Stalinism (more accurately Marxism-Leninism) because it isn’t anarcho-communism, or anarcho-syndicalism, or council communism or any of the other anti-authoritarian forms of communism that have historically been crushed by Marxism-Leninism before they can get started. It isn’t no true Scotsman, it’s a a schism that goes back to when Marx expelled the anarchists from the First International. As Bakunin said

We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege and injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.

What, people are greedy and arseholes? If that is true then why do we concentrate power so that only a few people hold it, and make things so the best way to get that power is to be a greedy arsehole?

And then we wonder why Trump happened, or Hitler, or Stalin…

I believe it is better to abolish hierarchy so that the arseholes cannot have the power that they can today. It is what has been happening in Rojava for the last 8 years, It’s an ongoing process, but I see no signs of it failing from within Rojava.

(I am not a situationist, but the situationists are part of the libertarian-socialist spectrum which I am also part of)



No argument. The ‘idealism/naivety’ I was trying to describe was more around even if you do reset existing power structures to become ‘flat’ or non-hierichal, that the baser parts of human nature rather quickly re-establish some new hierarchy, with…

So I was thinking more about the sustainability moreso than the initial action if that makes sense.

I’m not familiar. I’ll certainly look it up Thanks for the reference. I hope it progresses my thinking.



In the comments above I’m mostly hearing lots of critiques of capitalism, which doesn’t necessarily equate to ‘yay communism’ (which in the history of the last century is really a misnomer for totalitarianism). In fact they aren’t really the binary opposites some want us to believe they are. As discussed above, there are actually several significant overlaps between the on-the-ground realities of the two (exploitation, concentration of power…), and aspects of each can massively suck at the same time.

IOW, hating the Yankees doesn’t make me a Mets fan.

Or, in the immortal words of Tim Curry in Clue “Communism is just a red herring.“