The Elements of Oppression and the Struggle for Liberation*

1. Oppression of one group of people by another group of people originates in, and is perpetuated by economic exploitation, by the organized taking (often in a concealed way) of the value produced by the work of one person or group of persons by another person or group of persons. Thus, the slaveowner takes the value produced by the slave and returns only the minimum necessary to keep the slave alive. Similarly, the baron takes the produce of the serf, the capitalist that of the wage worker.

2. An oppressive society has many ways of maintaining oppression and exploitation. Control of communication, mis-education, lies, false propaganda, habits, culture, and religion are used and are reinforced by force in the form of laws, courts, police, prisons, armies, etc.

3. The crucial social means for the perpetuation of oppression is dividing the oppressed and pitting them against each other, so that different groups of oppressed people cooperate in oppressing each other to the benefit of the people in the oppressing roles.

4. The principal individual means for the perpetuation of oppression is the feeling of wanting to switch roles in a distress recording of mistreatment, to accept the more “comfortable” role in a re-enactment of a mistreatment recording, of being the mistreator rather than being the mistreated, and to settle for co-operating in oppressing someone else rather than ending all oppression.

5. To end the oppression of any one group of people completely it is necessary to end all oppression.

6. The oppressed peoples always have the strength to end oppression and exploitation. The difficulty lies in confusion, lack of cooperation , and fear, as well as in old habits of thought.

7. It is in the real interests of all human beings to end oppression.

8. The oppressed and exploited groups of the population are the ones who can be counted on to realize this in a majority and to struggle consistently for liberation once they are aware of the true situation.

9. Individuals from among the exploiting group and their supporters can be won over for liberation on an intellectual basis, but only a minority of these groups can be won over for liberation until liberation is achieved.

10. Each group of oppressed must realize their oppression, must proclaim their own worth, must forge unity around a common program, must seek and win allies among the other oppressed, and must act.

11. Oppressed people must evolve leadership in order to struggle successfully for liberation. This leadership must have a rational theory to guide them, must constitute a dedicated, informed, united group and must seek and achieve unity with leaders of all other oppressed groups. 

* First printed in Pensamientos No. 1—September, 1975

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00