Is it not possible that Trotsky’s use of the word, regardless of what his feelings about racism may have been, was merely descriptive, insofar as the effort of Slavs to assert and preserve their Slavic identity inherently involves a concern with race? Are not racists, as Trotsky regarded them, essentially just a species of anti-Communist, rejecting submersion into nondescript humanity under alien personalities and interests?
In Charles Malato’s Philosophie de l’Anarchie (1897) we find both raciste and racisme:
Nul doute qu’avant d’arriver à l’internationalisme complet, il y aura une étape qui sera le racisme; mais il y a lieu d’esperer que la halte ne sera pas trop longue, que l’étape sera brûlée. Le communisme qui, au début de son fonctionnement, apparait devoir être fatalement réglementé, surtout au point de vue des échanges internationaux, entrainera la constitution de fédérations racistes (latine, slave, germaine, etc.) L’anarchie qu’on peut entrevoir au bout de deux ou trois générations, lorsque, par suite du développement de la production toute réglementation sera devenue superflue, amènera la fin du racisme et l’avénement d’une humanité sans frontiéres. (p.47)
TRANSLATION: No doubt that before arriving at complete internationalism, there will be a stage which will be racism; but it must be hoped that the layover will not be too long, that it will be rapidly surpassed. Communism, which appears that it must inevitably be regulated at the beginning of its functioning, especially in regard to international trade, will bring about the establishment of racist federations (Latin, Slavic, Germanic, etc.). Anarchy — which we can glimpse at the end of two or three generations when, as a result of the development of production, any regulations will have become superfluous — will bring the end of racism and the advent of a humanity without borders.
Although Malato was not in favor of racistes or racisme as such, regarding them as constituting an intermediate stage on the path from the destruction of the existing empires to his ideal of global anarchy, his use of those words back in the late 19th century was clearly not polemical but based on their objective content. Malato saw a tendency in Europe toward reorganizing political boundaries and allegiances along racial (or ethnic) lines, and he called this tendency racism. Note also that Malato refers to Pan-Slavism as a form of racism, thus anticipating Trotsky’s specific application of the word.
A piece for National Public Radio (Gene Demby, “The Ugly, Fascinating History of the Word ‘Racism’,” 6 January 2014) cites the Oxford English Dictionary to the effect that the first use of the word racism (in English) was by Richard Pratt in 1902, five years after Malato’s use of raciste and racisme in French.
In fact, Pratt had used the word even earlier, at least as early as 1899, in remarks at a conference of the Friends of the Indian. On that occasion Pratt advocated an approach to destroying “racism and classism.” (Proceedings of the Seventeenth Annual Conference of the Lake Mohonk Conference of the Friends of the Indian, 1899, publ. 1900)
Pratt was a Baptist religious zealot who was particularly devoted to stamping out the identities of various North American tribes through assimilation. NPR’s author for some reason finds it paradoxical that somebody who condemns racism would be trying to stamp out the racial as well as the specific ethnic identities of Cheyenne, Choctaw, or Muscogee, when in fact it is perfectly consistent. Racism in its proper meaning, as we see with Charles Malato and the Occitanian separatists a century ago (contemporary with Pratt), means concern for one’s race (however that race is defined), and an impulse to preserve that race, and, in accord with that, organization along racial lines. To condemn racism as such is ultimately to condemn the preservation of any race, with the mongrelization of all mankind, explicitly hoped by some, being the predictable long-term result. Deliberate destruction of races through assimilation and mixture, as advanced — although in a more direct and obvious manner than we usually see — by Richard Henry Pratt with his Carlisle Indian Industrial School, is the ultimate implication of anti-racism. It is remarkable that anyone pretends to be confused about this.
I find pensée raciste (French for “racist thought”) and individualité raciste (“racist individuality”) in the volume of La Terro d’oc: revisto felibrenco e federalisto (a periodical championing the cultural and ethnic identity of people in southern France) for the year 1906. Here the word racist was used without a hint of negativity:
Je forme des voeux pour la réussité de vos projets, car je suis persuadé que, dans cette fédération des peuples de Langue d’Oc luttant pour leurs intérêts et l’émancipation de leur pensée raciste, le prestige de Toulouse trouvera son compte. (p. 101)
TRANSLATION: I express my best wishes for the success of your projects, because I am convinced that, in the federation of the peoples of Langue d’Oc fighting for their interests and the emancipation of their racist thought, the prestige of Toulouse will benefit.
Ce malheureux Midi! Il est victime, de toutes les façons! Ruiné, spolié, abruti, c’est un sort de pays vaincu qu’on lui réserve et tout ce qui serait de nature à caractériser son individualité raciste et dont la survivance ou le culte pourrait le faire reprendre conscience de lui-même pour l’arracher à sa torpeur et assurer la sauvegarde de ses intérêts matériels et moraux, est-il bon à autre chose qu’à être combattu et tourné en dérision? (p.68)
Occitanians were proudly racistes in 1906.
TRANSLATION: This unfortunate South! He is a victim in every way! Ruined, robbed, brutalized, it’s a fate of conquered countries that one reserves for him, and whatever would be likely to characterize his racist individuality and whatever’s survival or worship could make him regain consciousness of himself to snatch him from his torpor and safeguard his moral and material interests, is it good for anything except to be combated and ridiculed?
While racists were bad people for Leon Trotsky, some people in Occitania in 1906 did not share that value-judgment, because they had a different perspective and different interests.
Finally there is the Théorie du Racisme (Theory of Racism) written by a former volunteer of the Légion de Charlemagne, René Binet. He wrote in 1950:
Several years ago, a flag was raised over the world. It is not the flag of a nation, nor that of a party, but the flag of a new breed of men armed with new knowledge and belonging to all the White nations: these men are racists.
The powers of the old world, the adherents of ancient philosophies, the servants of old divinities, have joined forces to combat this type of man and to tear down his emblem.
From now on, everyone anywhere on the globe who opposes the decay of his people, the decline of his race, and enslavement, will be accused of “racism” and “fascism” because he took up the flag.
Thus the time has come for racists to declare openly their will to save those of our values that still can be saved, and to proclaim before the obsolete world that makes an insult of the word racist, what it really means to be racist.
Why should I accept the value-judgments of my enemies? The label racist is only an effective attack if it is perceived as one, which means, only if the value-judgment attached to it is accepted. Don’t accept that! If you can stop worrying about being called a racist, if you can refrain from using a barrage of flaky counterattacks (the way “conservatives” do) to avoid talking about your own real views, then you can be sincere and really communicate with people. You might even have a chance to explain that almost everybody is racist and that it’s normal — which is a fundamental fact that every White person needs to know.