John Rex is one of the world's foremost scholars on race relations. In a 1986 essay he notes contrary to Hirsch that ethnicity and cultural rather than phenological characteristics can be the basis of racism. The scholarship of people like Rex which later influenced people like Kenan Malik is pretty mainstream regarding every region in the world except the USSR. It is only in Soviet history due to the distorting influence of people like Francine Hirsch that there is a complete denial of the existence of official racism because of the claim that ethnicity is not race and culture is not biology.
Hirsch states, "The mass deportation of targeted nationalities, along with other Soviet nationality policies, was premised on the conviction that nationalities (like classes) were sociohistorical groups with a shared consciousness and not racial-biological groups. This is not a trivial distinction." (Hirsch p. 30). In point of fact it is a trivial distinction because the "sociohistorical groups" perform the exact same role as "racial-biological groups" and both are primordial, essentialized, immutable, and based solely upon ancestry. As noted in earlier posts the South Africans used the "sociohistorical group" definition to define race in South Africa rather than the "racial-biological group" definition Hirsch believes is necessary for racism to exist (Ross, p. 116). On the basis of Hirsch's logic there were thus never any "racial politics" in apartheid South Africa. But, since Hirsch has never examined racism in a comparative context outside of Nazi Germany and the USSR she fails to see the absurdity of her position. Rex notes that ethnicity as a "sociohistorical group" to use Hirsch's terms or groups marked by "cultural characteristics" to use his term rather than phenotypical ones can serve as the basis for racial oppression or exploitation (Rex, p. 72). What is important is not whether the justification of racial discrimination is in "terms of biological ideas." (Rex, p. 71). But, rather that the ethnic identity of a stigmatized group is "imposed upon them to restrict their mobility and to facilitate their exploitation and oppression." (Rex, p. 71). Rex states quite clearly, "I am quite happy to divert attention away from phenotype as such to that group of situations which, whether it rest upon phenotypical or upon cultural differences, actually involves exploitation and oppression." (Rex, p. 72). As an example he notes, "the essentially ethnic relations of Northern Ireland actually have much in common with black-white relations in other countries." (Rex, p. 72). That is the discrimination against Catholics by the dominant Protestants in Northern Ireland during the 20th century was racial discrimination even though the groups involved are "sociohistorical" ones rather than "racial-biological" ones.
I know that other than Eric Weitz and Walt Richmond I am the only US scholar who believes that Rex's definition of racism is applicable to the USSR and that everybody else follows the idiocy of Hirsch in believing that there must be some actual "biological" component defining the categories involved for "race relations situations" (Rex, p. 72) to exist. But, why is the USSR of all societies in world history exempt from the same sociological analysis that applies to the rest of the world? Nobody has ever been able to answer this question to my satisfaction. I do, however, encourage to people to try in the comments.
Francine Hirsch, "Race without the Practice of Racial Politics," Slavic Review, vol. 61, no. 1, Spring 2002, pp. 30-43.
John Rex, "The Role of Class Analysis in the Study of Race Relations - A Weberian Perspective," in John Rex and David Mason, (eds.), Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations,Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 64-83.
Robert Ross, A Concise History of South Africa, Cambridge University Press, 1999.