1960s >> 1969 >> no-779-july-1969

Letter: Myths, Equality and Race

Sirs,
I have recently become acquainted with the facts of race. As I believe that you are honest men at heart I feel sure that you will be able to peruse (and take action upon) the enclosed document in the spirit of scientific investigation and its strict regard for truth. I am sure you will agree that the facts presented in this document make nonsense of the egalitarian myths propounded in Socialist dogma.

 

David J. Hidson,
London SW7

 

Reply:

 

The document Mr Hidson encloses is a leaflet issued by the National Front, headed ‘Are You a Multi-Racialist?’ which discusses a recent article in the Harvard Educational Review by Dr Arthur Jensen, an educational psychologist. On the back, under the irrelevant and misleading title ‘Human Progress and the Race Problem’ is a photocopy of an article, Negro IQ Handicap’, on the same subject from the Sunday Telegraph of March 23, 1969.

 

Socialists have never said that all men are equal, in the sense of having the same abilities and the same needs. Far from it; we have always recognised that each individual human being has different abilities and needs, a point summed up in the old socialist slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”.

 

The NF leaflet asks if we think that ‘‘children of all races possess the same potential at birth”. First, let us have a look at ‘the facts of race’.

 

The word race is a technical word in the science of biology (Dr Jensen, an educational psychologist, avoids the word and uses ‘group’ instead, judging by newspaper reports). It refers to a sub-species, a subordinate division of a species. For instance, homo sapiens is a species so the various races of mankind would be its sub-species.
Biologists have never been able to agree on how many races there are, and indeed never will, since where you draw the line will always be a matter of convenience and argument. Some argue that mankind is so mixed that it is not worth trying to draw any lines and that the concept of race has no use in the study of mankind. Of course there are recognisable differences in physical and mental characteristics between individual human beings and these can be the subject of scientific investigation and classification. Whether biologists use the word race or not here is not our concern as socialists. That is up to them and we would not presume to tell them what to do in their own subject.

 

The word race is also used outside biology as a political term. On this we do have something to say. Sometimes it is used as a synonym for nation (another vague concept), language group, those who share a common tradition, those with the same range of skin colour. Even in otherwise careful books and journals you can read about ‘the Celtic races’ (language) or the black race’ (skin colour). This causes no end of confusion. So we say the word should be banished from political discussion and confined, if used at all, to a specialist term in biology.

 

We can now return to the NFs question: Do we think that “children of all races possess the same potential at birth”? This is meaningless, but can be boiled down to two questions:

 

Do we think that all children possess the same potential at birth? Not necessarily.

Do we think an individual child’s ‘race’ is a guide to his or her potential? No, nor does Dr Jensen.

Given the fact that human beings are not the same or of equal ability, it is a valid line of scientific research to see if there is any correlation between the inequality of intellectual skills and some physical characteristic like skin colour.

We have not yet read Dr Jensen’s article and so have had to rely on newspaper reports. But we will take his word for it that so-called IQ tests carried out on groups of the American population labelled ‘Negroes’ and ‘Whites’ consistently show that on average Negroes do worse than whites. So what? All that shows is that the group called Negroes on average do worse in IQ tests than the group called Whites. That is the only fact, Mr Hidson. The real question is why. Dr Jensen’s hypothesis that “genetic factors are responsible for low intelligence among Negroes” has every right to be considered. Mr Hidson seems to forget that a hypothesis (“a position assumed for the purpose of argument”) in science is not the same as an established fact. Dr Jensen’s hypothesis, or any other one for that matter, cannot yet be proved. For, although it is known that genes govern inherited characteristics and although genes governing some physical characteristics have been identified, biology has not yet discovered the genes governing intellectual skills (if there are any). Research into this is only in its earliest stages and certainly it would be premature now to say that there is an established link between genes governing intelligence and genes governing skin colour.

Anyway, this is not what Dr Jensen is saying. From a biological point of view, the American Negroes are a mixed group descended from slaves imported from North and West Africa, from immigrants from various parts of Europe, and from the original inhabitants of America. Their skin colour varies from white to dark black and Dr Jensen has not suggested that the lighter your skin the more able you are to do IQ tests. He has only said that ‘genetic factors’ are involved. Where they came from (perhaps from the Whites!) if they are is another question altogether.

So the American Negroes are not a biological race. The White/Negro division of America’s population is a political division which has nothing to do with genes or biology. And it is not a very meaningful one at that. What, for instance, is the logic of saying that anyone with an identifiable Negro ancestor is a Negro instead of that anyone with a White ancestor is a White? This is an important point, because when you are dealing with averages your results depend partly on the groups you are comparing. Say the political definition of a White had been ‘anyone with a White ancestor’. Then the groups that were compared would be different. So would the results but the individual scores would still be the same.

Dr Jensen has proceeded on the basis of the existing non-biological division of the American population. His results show that on average Whites do better than Negroes. They did not show that all Whites do better than all Negroes. This is why it is impossible to say how an individual White or Negro will do. As Dr Jensen himself pointed out:

  Since, as far as we know, the full range of human talents is represented in all the major races of man and in all socio-economic levels, it is unjust to allow the mere fact of an individual’s racial or social background to affect the treatment accorded to him. (quoted in the Financial Times, April 16).

Another passage (which oddly enough appears on an NF leaflet) from his article, however, goes further than this:

  If a society completely believed and practised the ideal of. treating every person as an individual it would be hard to see why there should be any problem about ‘race’ (quoted Sunday Telegraph, March 23).

Precisely. This is the socialist case on race. Treat human beings as individuals and work for a society where the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” prevails.

Three final points:

Even if science were to establish (which it is nowhere near doing yet) a correlation between intellectual ability and some physical characteristic, that would not alter the socialist case in the least. A world community, without frontiers, based on common property and production solely for use, would still be the solution to working-class problems. The case for Socialism has never rested on the absurd proposition that all men are the same, physically and intellectually.

What relevance have the results of Dr Jensen’s IQ tests to the NF policy of ‘Keep Britain White’ and ‘Send Them Home’? Very few immigrants to Britain are American Negroes, the specific group about which Dr Jensen makes his hypothesis. What evidence have the NF for saying that what might be true of the American Negroes is true of other ‘non-whites’? Dr Jensen does not suggest any correlation between intelligence and skin colour. That is something the NF seems to have mistakenly read into his findings.

The word equal has a double meaning— the same and not inferior or superior to. Because people are different does not necessarily mean that they are inferior or superior. Yet this simple error is often made. To talk about inferior/superior is to erect some standard against which people can be judged, a standard that is manmade and outside biology and genetics. Are those who fare badly on IQ tests of less worth than those who fare well? If this is what the NF or Mr Hidson are saying, let them say it. We answer that every human being, whatever his abilities, is of equal worth and should have an equal say in the running of human affairs. That is the equality socialists stand for. Nothing in Mr Hidson’s letter or the NF leaflet makes nonsense of it.

Editorial Committee