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Hubert Harrison
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May-August 2017
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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Hubert Harrison, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, "Big Bill Haywood," and Patrick Quinlan
were among the activists at 1913 Paterson Strike
Discussed by Garret Keizer
in Harper's Magazine. July 2017

June 14, 2017

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Big Bill Haywood, Patrick Quinlan, 1913 Paterson Silk Strike, Garret Keizer, Botto House, Jeffeey B. Perry, Labor History, Labor's Schoolhouse, Paterson Strike of 1913, Harper's Magazine, Hubert H. Harrison


Hubert Harrison, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, "Big Bill Haywood," Patrick Quinlan, 1913 Paterson Silk Strike Activists

Hubert Harrison, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, "Big Bill Haywood," and Patrick Quinlan were among the activists at the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike. See Garret Keizer's article, "Labor's Schoolhouse: Lessons from the Paterson Strike of 1913," in the July 2017 issue of Harper's Magazine.

Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

July 3, 2016

Tags: Recommended Summer Reading, Theodore W. Allen, Black Radicalism, African American History, Labor History, American History, U.S. History, Non-Fiction, Freethought, Origin, Racial Oppression, Anglo-America, Recommended Summer Viewing, Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, autodidact, anti-white supremacist, white privilege, white skin privilege, whiteness, Bacon's Rebellion, slavery, chattel bond-servitude, working class, intellectuals, Hubert H. Harrison, Ted Allen, twentieth century, race, class, A Hubert Harrison Reader, Wesleyan University Press, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story, Stirrings and Strivings, New Negro, Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, Developing Conjuncture, Insights, Centrality, Fight, struggle, Against White Supremacy, The Invention of the White Race, Racial Oppression, Social Control, Verso Books, Dudley Branch, Boston Public Library, Roxbury, Massachusetts, Brecht Forum, New York City, Multiracial Organizing Conference, Greensboro, NC



Recommended Summer Reading
Recommended Summer Viewing
On Hubert Harrison
and Theodore W. Allen

Important summer reading and viewing -- The autodidactic, anti-white supremacist, working-class intellectuals Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen are two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class. The following readings and videos are recommended:

“A Hubert Harrison Reader” ed. with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Wesleyan University Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World,” edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press) CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought -- CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume 1: “Racial Oppression and Social Control," edited with an introduction and notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Verso Books), CLICK HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race,” Volume 2: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America," CLICK HERE

“Hubert Harrison,” video of a slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Dudley Branch of the Boston Public Library in Roxbury, Massachusetts on February 15, 2014, CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen’s ‘The Invention of the White Race’" by Jeffrey B. Perry at the Brecht Forum in New York City CLICK HERE

“Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” video of 2016 slide presentation/talk by Jeffrey B. Perry at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” against white supremacy in Greensboro, NC CLICK HERE

Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (which offers the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought) http://www.jeffreybperry.net (at Top Left) or see http://clogic.eserver.org/2010/2010.html

Jeffrey B. Perry Discusses
Theodore W. Allen
on “The Invention of the White Race,”
Labor History, and the Centrality of Labor Struggle Against White Supremacy

April 7, 2014

Tags: Jeffrey B. Perry, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Hubert Harrison, Labor History, Centrality of Labor Struggle Against White Supremacy, Caeser Pink, Arete Living Arts Center, Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) National Conference, Brooklyn - CUNY Center for Worker Education, white skin privilege, white race privilege



Jeffrey B. Perry Discusses Theodore W. Allen on “The Invention of the White Race,” Labor History, and the Centrality of Labor Struggle Against White Supremacy

Interview conducted with Caeser Pink and staff of Arete Living Arts Center (Brooklyn, NY) on Saturday, June 8, 2013, at the Labor and Working Class History Association (LAWCHA) National Conference, at Brooklyn - CUNY Center for Worker Education, 25 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY, 10004.

Posted on 7 April 2014.

For additional information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE!

For key insights from Theodore W. Allen on U.S. Labor History CLICK HERE!

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE!

For additional writings by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE!

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE!

For information on Arete Living Arts Foundation Be the first to comment

Theodore W. Allen
Offers Key Writings for the Study of U.S. Labor History
by Jeffrey B. Perry

April 7, 2014

Tags: Labor History, working-class, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Verso Books, Toward a Revolution in Labor History, Jeffrey B. Perry, The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy, Cultural Logic, labor historians, African American, bond-laborers, proletarians, class-conscious, anti-white supremacist, counter-narrative, re-interpretation, white labor apology, slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, slaveholders as capitalists, enslaved laborers as proletarians, capitalist, racial slavery, means of production, plantations, non-owners, alienation of labor power, commodities, capital, plantation bourgeoisie, slaves, proletarians, chattel bond-labor, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Lewis C. Gray, Roger W. Shugg, Hubert Harrison, David Roediger, Winthrop D. Jordan, Eric Williams, C. L. R. James, Caribbean, Karl Marx, surplus-value, Civil War, free wage-labor, Negroes, wage labor, labor-power, commodity, labor power, Abraham Lincoln, International Socialist Review, essentially proletarian, most throroughly exploited, proletariat, duty of the party, crucial test, Socialism, kernel and the meaning, labor movement, chattel bond-laborers, white blindspot, labor historians, heterogeneity, safety valve, homesteading, social mobility, relative shortage of labor, pure and simple trade unionism, classical consensus, Frederick Engels, proletarian revolution, Frederick A. Sorge, Frederick Jackson Turner, Richard T. Ely, Christian Socialist, Morris Hillquit, Socialist Party, John R. Commons, Selig Perlman, A Theory of the Labor Movement, Mary Beard, Charles A. Beard, William Z. Foster, communism, American exceptionalism, white-blindness, white supremacism, white skin privilege, main retardant, white supremacy, white race, majoritarian democratic facade, main barrier, incubus of white identity, European-American, free land safety valve theory, railroads, mining companies, land companies, speculators, homesteading, heterogeneity, industrial unions, workers party, language problem, Exodus of 1879, 1877, Haymarket, 1886, Pullman strike, 1894, Populists, the South, Middle Western farmers, sit down strikes, industrial unionism, workers and poor farmers, Free land, constitutional liberties, immigration, high wages, social mobility, aristocracy of labor, white skin privileges

Those studying of US Labor History would do well to include writings by and about the independent, working-class scholar Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005), especially as put forth in his The Invention of the White Race (2 vols., Verso Books, [1994, 1997], 2012) and his still-to-be-published “Toward a Revolution in Labor History” (2004). (See some of these writings can be found HERE.)

Important insights from Allen’s writings are found in Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (Cultural Logic July 2010) available online HERE (top left) and HERE . (This article includes links to many writings by Allen.)

Allen contends, that “the beginning of wisdom for labor historians must be the recognition that from 1619 on the history of African American bond-laborers is a history of proletarians. From this all else follows.”

In his writings Allen seeks to lay the basis for a class-conscious, anti-white supremacist, counter-narrative of American history. He offers “the groundwork for a total re-interpretation of U.S. history” that he considers to be “unfettered by white labor apology which consistently locates Afro-Americans outside the working class.”

Of major importance is Allen’s analysis of slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, slaveholders as capitalists, and enslaved laborers as proletarians. In describing “the capitalist development which motored the Anglo-American racial slavery system,” Allen’s historical work shows “that the means of production on the plantations were monopolized by one class,” that “non-owners were reduced to absolute dependence upon the owners and could live only by the alienation of their own labor power to the service of the owning class,” that “the products of the plantation took the form of commodities,” and “that the aim of production was the accumulation and expansion of capital.”

He emphasizes that “slaveholders were capitalists – a plantation bourgeoisie – and the slaves were proletarians.” He also points out that the “proposition that the United States plantation system based on chattel bond-labor was a capitalist operation is a widely recognized principle of political economy” and cites a disparate group of writers including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Lewis C. Gray, Roger W. Shugg, Hubert Harrison, David Roediger, and Winthrop D. Jordan who have taken this position, and he adds that Eric Williams and C. L. R. James “view Caribbean slavery in this light, as well.”

Allen calls special attention to the fact that Karl Marx invariably treated the American plantation economy as capitalist enterprise and quotes Marx that “The production of surplus-value is the absolute law of this [capitalist – TWA] mode of production.” He similarly quotes Marx that “The overworking of the Negro [bond-laborer – TWA] . . . was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products [as in ancient classical slavery – TWA]. It was now a question of the production of surplus-value itself.” Referring to circumstances where both rent and profit go to the owner-employer Marx explained, “Where capitalist conceptions predominate, as they did upon the American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit.” Allen also quotes Marx before the Civil War discussing the nature of differential rent and commenting that while free wage-labor is the normal basis of capitalist production, still “the capitalist mode of production exists” in the Anglo-American plantation colonies based on “the slavery of Negroes.”

In the course of his work Allen addresses a question that might be raised – How can slavery be capitalist, since it is not based on wage labor? He responds, “What is historically significant about the wages system is that it is based on the general transformation of labor-power into a commodity, and that in turn is due to the fact that the producers have lost ownership of the means production, and therefore can live only by the sale of their labor power.” He cites Marx’s letter to Lincoln, that the African-American bond-laborer was “sold without his concurrence, while the European-American worker could ‘sell himself,’” and Marx’s statement that “‘the business in which slaves are used [in the United States] is conducted by capitalists,’ and for the same purpose, the accumulation of capital by the extraction of surplus value from the exploitation of commodity-producing labor.”

Allen notes, “the bond-labor form was a contradiction of the basic requisites of general capitalist development – a contradiction that was purged away in the Civil War,” but emphasizes that “[for] a time that form of labor was not a barrier to rapid capitalist accumulation, but its main engine.”

On the topic of slaveholders as capitalists and the enslaved laborers as proletarians Allen quotes from Hubert Harrison in the 1912 International Socialist Review that “The . . . Negroes of America form a group that is more essentially proletarian than any other American group.” Allen adds that in “a presumed reference to African American bond-laborers” Harrison wrote, “the Negro was at one period the most thoroughly exploited of the American proletariat.” After quoting Harrison’s statements that “the duty of the [Socialist] party to champion his [the African American’s] cause is as clear as day” and “this is the crucial test of Socialism's sincerity,” Allen concludes: “the study of class consciousness, ‘the working people’s consciousness of their interests and of their predicament as a class,’ should start with the recognition of that fact.”

Allen draws a similar conclusion from Du Bois’ discussion of the interests of “the laboring class, black and white, North and South.” Over his last forty years he would often cite, and add emphasis to, Du Bois’ seminal words that “the [white] labor movement, with but few exceptions, . . . never had the intelligence or knowledge, as a whole, to see in black slavery and Reconstruction, the kernel and the meaning of the labor movement in the United States.

For Allen, this insight expressed by Du Bois was “a basis . . . for understanding and applying the general Marxist principles in assessing the interests of American labor and the state of American labor’s consciousness of those interests.” As Allen explained:

"Given this understanding of slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, and of the slaveholders as capitalists, it follows that the chattel bond-laborers were proletarians. Accordingly, the study of class consciousness as a sense the American workers have of their own class interests, must start with recognition of that fact. But historians guided by the white blindspot have, in effect, defined the United States working class as an essentially European-American grouping. In doing so they have ignored or, at best, marginalized the propertyless African-American plantation workers, the exploitation of whose surplus value-producing labor was also the basis of capital accumulation for the employers of those workers."

Also of great importance is Allen’s historical research in which he challenged (almost 50 years ago) what he described as the prevailing consensus among left and labor historians, a consensus that attributed the low level of class consciousness among American workers to such factors as the early development of civil liberties, the heterogeneity of the work force, the safety valve of homesteading opportunities in the west, the ease of social mobility, the relative shortage of labor, and the early development of “pure and simple trade unionism.”

He argued that the “classical consensus on the subject” was the product of the efforts of such writers as Frederick Engels, “co-founder with Karl Marx of the very theory of proletarian revolution”; Frederick A. Sorge, “main correspondent of Marx and Engels in the United States” and a socialist and labor activist for almost sixty years; Frederick Jackson Turner, giant of U.S. history; Richard T. Ely, Christian Socialist and author of “the first attempt at a labor history in the United States”; Morris Hillquit, founder and leading figure of the Socialist Party for almost two decades; John R. Commons, who, with his associates authored the first comprehensive history of the U.S. labor movement; Selig Perlman, a Commons associate who later authored A Theory of the Labor Movement; Mary Beard and Charles A. Beard, labor and general historians; and William Z. Foster, major figure in the history of U.S. communism with “his analyses of ‘American exceptionalism.’”

Allen challenged this “old consensus” as being “seriously flawed . . . by erroneous assumptions, one-sidedness, exaggeration, and above all, by white-blindness.” He also countered with his own theory that white supremacism, reinforced among European-Americans by “white skin privilege,” was the main retardant of working-class consciousness in the U.S. and that efforts at radical social change should direct principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and “white skin privilege.”

As he further developed his analysis Allen would later add and emphasize that the “white race,” by its all-class form, conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by providing it with a majoritarian “democratic” facade and that “the main barrier to class consciousness” was “the incubus of ‘white’ identity of the European-American.”

Allen discussed reasons that the six-point rationale had lost much of its force and focused on historical analyses. He noted that the free land safety valve theory had been “thoroughly discredited” for many reasons including that the bulk of the best lands were taken by railroads, mining companies, land companies, and speculators and that the costs of homesteading were prohibitive for eastern wage earners. He similarly pointed out that heterogeneity “may well . . . have brought . . . more strength than weakness to the United States labor and radical movement”; that the “rise of mass, ‘non aristocratic,’ industrial unions has not broken the basic pattern of opposition to a workers party, on the part of the leaders”; and that the “‘language problem’ in labor agitating and organizing never really posed any insurmountable obstacle.”

He then focused on what he described as “two basic and irrefutable themes.” First, whatever the state of class consciousness may have been most of the time, “there have been occasional periods of widespread and violent eruption of radical thought and action on the part of the workers and poor farmers, white and black.” He cited Black labor's valiant Reconstruction struggle; the Exodus of 1879; the “year of violence” in 1877 marked by “fiery revolts at every major terminal point across the country”; the period from “bloody Haymarket” in 1886 to the Pullman strike of 1894 during which “the U.S. army was called upon no less than 328 times to suppress labor's struggles”; the Populists of the same period when Black and white poor farmers “joined hands for an instant in the South” and when Middle Western farmers decided to “raise less corn and more hell!”; and the labor struggles of the 1930's marked by sit down strikes and the establishment of industrial unionism. Allen emphasized that in such times “any proposal to discuss the relative backwardness of the United States workers and poor farmers would have had a ring of unreality.” He reasoned, “if, in such crises, the cause of labor was consistently defeated by force and cooptation; if no permanent advance of class consciousness in the form of a third, anti capitalist, party was achieved . . . there must have been reasons more relevant than ‘free land’ that you couldn't get; ‘free votes’ that you couldn't cast, or couldn't get counted; or ‘high wages’ for jobs you couldn't find or . . . the rest of the standard rationale.”

His second, “irrefutable” theme was that each of the facts of life in the classical consensus had to be “decisively altered when examined in the light of the centrality of the question of white supremacy and of the white skin privileges of the white workers.” He again reasoned, “‘Free land,’ ‘constitutional liberties,’ ‘immigration,’ ‘high wages,’ ‘social mobility,’ ‘aristocracy of labor’” were “all, white skin privileges” and “whatever their effect upon the thinking of white workers may be said to be, the same cannot be claimed in the case of the Negro.”

"The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From
Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen
On the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy"
by Jeffrey B. Perry

February 24, 2014

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, Jeffrey B. Perry, Developing Conjuncture, White Race, White Race Privilege, white skin privilege, race privilege, Bifurcation, Labor History, Black History, Toward a Revolution in Labor History, Strategy, Daedalus, The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights, Jeffrey B. Perry, King James Bible, first Africans in Virginia, no white people, Virginia, plantation bourgeoisie, white identity, kernel and meaning, more essentially proletarian, chattel bond-laborers, proletarians, most vulnerable point, Socialist Party, Negro problem, cant of democracy, all-class association, class collaboration

The article "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen On the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" can be found in pdf format by CLICKING HERE and GOING TO THE TOP LEFT (top left). The Table of Contents is provided below:

Table of Contents
for
"The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From
Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen
On the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy"
by
Jeffrey B. Perry


Epigraph
Introduction
Hubert Harrison
Theodore W. Allen
Harrison and Allen and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White-Supremacy
Some Class and Racial Aspects of The Conjuncture
Deepening Economic Crisis
U.S. Workers Faring Badly
White Supremacist Shaping
Wisconsin
Millions are Suffering and Conditions are Worsening
Insights from Hubert Harrison
Arrival in America, Contrast with St. Croix
Socialist Party Writings
“Southernism or Socialism – which?”
The Socialist Party Puts [the “White”] Race First and Class After
Class Consciousness, White Supremacy, and the "Duty to Champion the Cause of the Negro"
On “The Touchstone” and the Two-Fold Character of Democracy in America
Concentrated Race-Conscious Work in the Black Community
Capitalist Imperialism and the Need to Break Down Exclusion Walls of White Workers
The International Colored Unity League
Struggle Against White Supremacy is Central
Insights from Theodore W. Allen
Early Research and Writings and Pioneering Use of “White Skin Privilege” Concept
White Blindspot
Why No Socialism? . . . and The Main Retardant to Working Class Consciousness
The Role of White Supremacy in Three Previous Crises
The Great Depression . . . and the White Supremacist Response
Response to Four Arguments Against and Five “Artful Dodges”
Early 1970s Writings and Strategy
“The Invention of the White Race”
Other Important Contributions in Writings on the Colonial Period
Inventing the “White Race” and Fixing “a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros”
Political Economic Aspects of the Invention of the “White Race”
Racial Oppression and National Oppression
“Racial Slavery” and “Slavery”
Male Supremacy, Gender Oppression, and Laws Affecting the Family
Slavery as Capitalism, Slaveholders as Capitalists, Enslaved as Proletarians
Class-Conscious, Anti-White Supremacist Counter Narrative – Comments on Jordan and Morgan
Not Simply a Social Construct, But a Ruling Class Social Control Formation . . . and Comments on Roediger
The “White Race” and “White Race” Privilege
On the Bifurcation of “Labor History” and “Black History” and on the “National Question”
Later Writings . . . “Toward a Revolution in Labor History”
Strategy
The Struggle Ahead
Addendum

Theodore W. Allen
Offers Key Writings for the Study of U.S. Labor History
by Jeffrey B. Perry

October 30, 2013

Tags: Labor History, working-class, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Verso Books, Toward a Revolution in Labor History, Jeffrey B. Perry, The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy, Cultural Logic, labor historians, African American, bond-laborers, proletarians, class-conscious, anti-white supremacist, counter-narrative, re-interpretation, white labor apology, slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, slaveholders as capitalists, enslaved laborers as proletarians, capitalist, racial slavery, means of production, plantations, non-owners, alienation of labor power, commodities, capital, plantation bourgeoisie, slaves, proletarians, chattel bond-labor, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Lewis C. Gray, Roger W. Shugg, Hubert Harrison, David Roediger, Winthrop D. Jordan, Eric Williams, C. L. R. James, Caribbean, Karl Marx, surplus-value, Civil War, free wage-labor, Negroes, wage labor, labor-power, commodity, labor power, Abraham Lincoln, International Socialist Review, essentially proletarian, most throroughly exploited, proletariat, duty of the party, crucial test, Socialism, kernel and the meaning, labor movement, chattel bond-laborers, white blindspot, labor historians, heterogeneity, safety valve, homesteading, social mobility, relative shortage of labor, pure and simple trade unionism, classical consensus, Frederick Engels, proletarian revolution, Frederick A. Sorge, Frederick Jackson Turner, Richard T. Ely, Christian Socialist, Morris Hillquit, Socialist Party, John R. Commons, Selig Perlman, A Theory of the Labor Movement, Mary Beard, Charles A. Beard, William Z. Foster, communism, American exceptionalism, white-blindness, white supremacism, white skin privilege, main retardant, white supremacy, white race, majoritarian democratic facade, main barrier, incubus of white identity, European-American, free land safety valve theory, railroads, mining companies, land companies, speculators, homesteading, heterogeneity, industrial unions, workers party, language problem, Exodus of 1879, 1877, Haymarket, 1886, Pullman strike, 1894, Populists, the South, Middle Western farmers, sit down strikes, industrial unionism, workers and poor farmers, Free land, constitutional liberties, immigration, high wages, social mobility, aristocracy of labor, white skin privileges

Those studying of US Labor History would do well to include writings by and about the independent, working-class scholar Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005), especially as put forth in his The Invention of the White Race (2 vols., Verso Books, [1994, 1997], 2012) and his still-to-be-published “Toward a Revolution in Labor History” (2004). (See some of these writings can be found HERE.)

Important insights from Allen’s writings are found in Jeffrey B. Perry, “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (Cultural Logic July 2010) available online HERE (top left) and HERE . (This article includes links to many writings by Allen.)

Allen contends, that “the beginning of wisdom for labor historians must be the recognition that from 1619 on the history of African American bond-laborers is a history of proletarians. From this all else follows.”

In his writings Allen seeks to lay the basis for a class-conscious, anti-white supremacist, counter-narrative of American history. He offers “the groundwork for a total re-interpretation of U.S. history” that he considers to be “unfettered by white labor apology which consistently locates Afro-Americans outside the working class.”

Of major importance is Allen’s analysis of slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, slaveholders as capitalists, and enslaved laborers as proletarians. In describing “the capitalist development which motored the Anglo-American racial slavery system,” Allen’s historical work shows “that the means of production on the plantations were monopolized by one class,” that “non-owners were reduced to absolute dependence upon the owners and could live only by the alienation of their own labor power to the service of the owning class,” that “the products of the plantation took the form of commodities,” and “that the aim of production was the accumulation and expansion of capital.”

He emphasizes that “slaveholders were capitalists – a plantation bourgeoisie – and the slaves were proletarians.” He also points out that the “proposition that the United States plantation system based on chattel bond-labor was a capitalist operation is a widely recognized principle of political economy” and cites a disparate group of writers including W. E. B. Du Bois, Ulrich Bonnell Phillips, Lewis C. Gray, Roger W. Shugg, Hubert Harrison, David Roediger, and Winthrop D. Jordan who have taken this position, and he adds that Eric Williams and C. L. R. James “view Caribbean slavery in this light, as well.”

Allen calls special attention to the fact that Karl Marx invariably treated the American plantation economy as capitalist enterprise and quotes Marx that “The production of surplus-value is the absolute law of this [capitalist – TWA] mode of production.” He similarly quotes Marx that “The overworking of the Negro [bond-laborer – TWA] . . . was no longer a question of obtaining from him a certain quantity of useful products [as in ancient classical slavery – TWA]. It was now a question of the production of surplus-value itself.” Referring to circumstances where both rent and profit go to the owner-employer Marx explained, “Where capitalist conceptions predominate, as they did upon the American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit.” Allen also quotes Marx before the Civil War discussing the nature of differential rent and commenting that while free wage-labor is the normal basis of capitalist production, still “the capitalist mode of production exists” in the Anglo-American plantation colonies based on “the slavery of Negroes.”

In the course of his work Allen addresses a question that might be raised – How can slavery be capitalist, since it is not based on wage labor? He responds, “What is historically significant about the wages system is that it is based on the general transformation of labor-power into a commodity, and that in turn is due to the fact that the producers have lost ownership of the means production, and therefore can live only by the sale of their labor power.” He cites Marx’s letter to Lincoln, that the African-American bond-laborer was “sold without his concurrence, while the European-American worker could ‘sell himself,’” and Marx’s statement that “‘the business in which slaves are used [in the United States] is conducted by capitalists,’ and for the same purpose, the accumulation of capital by the extraction of surplus value from the exploitation of commodity-producing labor.”

Allen notes, “the bond-labor form was a contradiction of the basic requisites of general capitalist development – a contradiction that was purged away in the Civil War,” but emphasizes that “[for] a time that form of labor was not a barrier to rapid capitalist accumulation, but its main engine.”

On the topic of slaveholders as capitalists and the enslaved laborers as proletarians Allen quotes from Hubert Harrison in the 1912 International Socialist Review that “The . . . Negroes of America form a group that is more essentially proletarian than any other American group.” Allen adds that in “a presumed reference to African American bond-laborers” Harrison wrote, “the Negro was at one period the most thoroughly exploited of the American proletariat.” After quoting Harrison’s statements that “the duty of the [Socialist] party to champion his [the African American’s] cause is as clear as day” and “this is the crucial test of Socialism's sincerity,” Allen concludes: “the study of class consciousness, ‘the working people’s consciousness of their interests and of their predicament as a class,’ should start with the recognition of that fact.”

Allen draws a similar conclusion from Du Bois’ discussion of the interests of “the laboring class, black and white, North and South.” Over his last forty years he would often cite, and add emphasis to, Du Bois’ seminal words that “the [white] labor movement, with but few exceptions, . . . never had the intelligence or knowledge, as a whole, to see in black slavery and Reconstruction, the kernel and the meaning of the labor movement in the United States.

For Allen, this insight expressed by Du Bois was “a basis . . . for understanding and applying the general Marxist principles in assessing the interests of American labor and the state of American labor’s consciousness of those interests.” As Allen explained:

"Given this understanding of slavery in Anglo-America as capitalism, and of the slaveholders as capitalists, it follows that the chattel bond-laborers were proletarians. Accordingly, the study of class consciousness as a sense the American workers have of their own class interests, must start with recognition of that fact. But historians guided by the white blindspot have, in effect, defined the United States working class as an essentially European-American grouping. In doing so they have ignored or, at best, marginalized the propertyless African-American plantation workers, the exploitation of whose surplus value-producing labor was also the basis of capital accumulation for the employers of those workers."

Also of great importance is Allen’s historical research in which he challenged (almost 50 years ago) what he described as the prevailing consensus among left and labor historians, a consensus that attributed the low level of class consciousness among American workers to such factors as the early development of civil liberties, the heterogeneity of the work force, the safety valve of homesteading opportunities in the west, the ease of social mobility, the relative shortage of labor, and the early development of “pure and simple trade unionism.”

He argued that the “classical consensus on the subject” was the product of the efforts of such writers as Frederick Engels, “co-founder with Karl Marx of the very theory of proletarian revolution”; Frederick A. Sorge, “main correspondent of Marx and Engels in the United States” and a socialist and labor activist for almost sixty years; Frederick Jackson Turner, giant of U.S. history; Richard T. Ely, Christian Socialist and author of “the first attempt at a labor history in the United States”; Morris Hillquit, founder and leading figure of the Socialist Party for almost two decades; John R. Commons, who, with his associates authored the first comprehensive history of the U.S. labor movement; Selig Perlman, a Commons associate who later authored A Theory of the Labor Movement; Mary Beard and Charles A. Beard, labor and general historians; and William Z. Foster, major figure in the history of U.S. communism with “his analyses of ‘American exceptionalism.’”

Allen challenged this “old consensus” as being “seriously flawed . . . by erroneous assumptions, one-sidedness, exaggeration, and above all, by white-blindness.” He also countered with his own theory that white supremacism, reinforced among European-Americans by “white skin privilege,” was the main retardant of working-class consciousness in the U.S. and that efforts at radical social change should direct principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and “white skin privilege.”

As he further developed his analysis Allen would later add and emphasize that the “white race,” by its all-class form, conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by providing it with a majoritarian “democratic” facade and that “the main barrier to class consciousness” was “the incubus of ‘white’ identity of the European-American.”

Allen discussed reasons that the six-point rationale had lost much of its force and focused on historical analyses. He noted that the free land safety valve theory had been “thoroughly discredited” for many reasons including that the bulk of the best lands were taken by railroads, mining companies, land companies, and speculators and that the costs of homesteading were prohibitive for eastern wage earners. He similarly pointed out that heterogeneity “may well . . . have brought . . . more strength than weakness to the United States labor and radical movement”; that the “rise of mass, ‘non aristocratic,’ industrial unions has not broken the basic pattern of opposition to a workers party, on the part of the leaders”; and that the “‘language problem’ in labor agitating and organizing never really posed any insurmountable obstacle.”

He then focused on what he described as “two basic and irrefutable themes.” First, whatever the state of class consciousness may have been most of the time, “there have been occasional periods of widespread and violent eruption of radical thought and action on the part of the workers and poor farmers, white and black.” He cited Black labor's valiant Reconstruction struggle; the Exodus of 1879; the “year of violence” in 1877 marked by “fiery revolts at every major terminal point across the country”; the period from “bloody Haymarket” in 1886 to the Pullman strike of 1894 during which “the U.S. army was called upon no less than 328 times to suppress labor's struggles”; the Populists of the same period when Black and white poor farmers “joined hands for an instant in the South” and when Middle Western farmers decided to “raise less corn and more hell!”; and the labor struggles of the 1930's marked by sit down strikes and the establishment of industrial unionism. Allen emphasized that in such times “any proposal to discuss the relative backwardness of the United States workers and poor farmers would have had a ring of unreality.” He reasoned, “if, in such crises, the cause of labor was consistently defeated by force and cooptation; if no permanent advance of class consciousness in the form of a third, anti capitalist, party was achieved . . . there must have been reasons more relevant than ‘free land’ that you couldn't get; ‘free votes’ that you couldn't cast, or couldn't get counted; or ‘high wages’ for jobs you couldn't find or . . . the rest of the standard rationale.”

His second, “irrefutable” theme was that each of the facts of life in the classical consensus had to be “decisively altered when examined in the light of the centrality of the question of white supremacy and of the white skin privileges of the white workers.” He again reasoned, “‘Free land,’ ‘constitutional liberties,’ ‘immigration,’ ‘high wages,’ ‘social mobility,’ ‘aristocracy of labor’” were “all, white skin privileges” and “whatever their effect upon the thinking of white workers may be said to be, the same cannot be claimed in the case of the Negro.”

Important Labor History
The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen

December 2, 2012

Tags: Labor History, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race

Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race should be of special interest to students and scholars of Labor History. This two-volume "classic," recently published by Verso Books in a new, expanded edition (with internal study guides), challenges existing master narratives and seeks to provide the foundation for a radical new interpretation of U.S. History and U.S. Labor History.

Read comments on Invention from scholars and labor activists HERE and see a few samples below, at the very bottom.

Note the attention to labor in the following "Table of Contents" --

The Invention of the White Race
Vol. 2 The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America

Table of Contents


Introduction to the Second Edition [by Jeffrey B. Perry]

PART ONE: Labor Problems of the European Colonizing Powers
1. The Labor Supply Problem: England a Special Case
2. English Background, with Anglo-American Variations Noted
3. Euro-Indian Relations and the Problem of Social Control

PART TWO: The Plantation of Bondage
4. The Fateful Addiction to “Present Profit”
5. The Massacre of the Tenantry
6. Bricks without Straw: Bondage, but No Intermediate Stratum

PART THREE: Road to Rebellion
7. Bond-Labor: Enduring . . .
8. . . . and Resisting
9. The Insubstantiality of the Intermediate Stratum
10. The Status of African-Americans

PART FOUR: Rebellion and Reaction
11. Rebellion – And Its Aftermath
12. The Abortion of the “White Race” Social Control System in the Anglo-Caribbean
13. The Invention of the White Race – and the Ordeal of America

Appendices
Appendix II-A: (see Chapter 1, note 64 [re “Maroon communities” in the Americas])
Appendix II-B: (see Chapter 2, note 6 [re Wat Tyler’s Rebellion])
Appendix II-C: (see Chapter 5, note 46 [re the “‘cheap commodity’ strategy for capitalist conquest and William Bullock])
Appendix II-D: (see Chapter 7, note 197 [re the bond-labor system])
Appendix II-E: (see Chapter 9, note 54 [re reduction in the supply of persons in England “available for bond-labor in the plantation colonies”])
Appendix F: (see Chapter 13, note 26 [re William Gooch and the discussion of white supremacy among the ruling classes in eighteenth-century Virginia])
Editor’s Appendix G: A Guide to “The Invention of the White Race” Volume II
Editor’s Appendix H: Select Bibliography on Theodore W. Allen

Notes
Index [Newly Expanded]

Sample Reviewer Comments --

“In a masterful two-volume work Theodore (Ted) Allen transforms the reader’s understanding of race and racial oppression . . . This two volume work becomes more than a look at history; it is a foundation for a path toward social justice." -- Bill Fletcher, Jr., co-author, Solidarity Divided and “They’re Bankrupting Us!” And 20 Other Myths about Unions

The Invention of the White Race [is] . . . meticulously researched . . . and its insights . . . themes and perspectives should be made available to all scholars . . . it should become a classic without which no future American history will be written.” -- Audrey Smedley, Professor Emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth University, author of Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview

"As magisterial and comprehensive as the day it was first published, Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race continues to set the intellectual, analytical and rhetorical standard when it comes to understanding the real roots of white supremacy, its intrinsic connection to the class system, and the way in which persons committed to justice and equity might move society to a different reality." -- Tim Wise, author, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority

“Allen's Invention of the White Race is one of the most important books of U.S. history ever written. It illuminates the origins of the largest single obstacle to progressive change and working class power in the US: racism and white supremacy.” -- Joe Berry, Labor educator, organizer, and author of Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education

“The profound insights in The Invention of the White Race are essential both to understand the origins and destructiveness of white supremacy and to provide the means to conduct struggle against it. Allen’s study is mandatory reading for everyone concerned with justice, equality and the liberation of all from the binds of white supremacy.” -- Mark Solomon, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University

"Few books are capable of carrying the profound weight of being deemed to be a classic--this is surely one. Indeed, if one has to read one book to provide a foundation for understanding the contemporary U.S.--read this one." – Gerald Horne, activist, historian and author, most recently, of Negro Comrades of the Crown: African-Americans and the British Empire Fight the U.S. Before Emancipation

“A must read for educators, scholars and social change activist -- now more than ever! Ted Allen’s writings illuminate the centrality of how white supremacy continues to work in maintaining a powerless American working class.” -- Tami Gold, Professor & Filmmaker, PSC CUNY Chapter Chair, Hunter College

“If one wants to understand the current, often contradictory, system of racial oppression in the United States --- and its historical origins --- there is only one place to start: Theodore Allen's brilliant, illuminating, The Invention of the White Race.” -- Michael Goldfield, author of The Color of Politics: Race and the Mainsprings of American Politics

“[A] historical materialist analysis . . . reflecting the perspective of the author whose working class upbringing informed his work and whose political understanding called for constant struggle against white supremacy.” -- Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, author, Red Dirt: Growing Up Okie

"We cannot effectively counter the depth of white racism in the US if we don’t understand its origin and mechanisms. [Allen] has figured something out that can guide our work—it’s groundbreaking and it’s eye-opening." -- Gene Bruskin, Co-Convener U.S. Labor Against the War and Former Director of the Justice@Smithfield Campaign

“Through an exhaustive review of the primary sources, Theodore W. Allen pulls back the veil over the origin of racial oppression in Anglo-America. Allen's description of how the 1% divided and controlled the 99% in response to the class struggles of 17th century Virginia challenges European Americans today to ‘throw off the stifling incubus of the white identity.’” -- Sean Ahern, New York City public school teacher

“Independent scholar Theodore W. Allen has produced a two-volume tour de force that situates the development of racism, white supremacy, and racial identities in context of the sixteenth and seventeenth century British conquest of Ireland, the Atlantic slave trade, the rise of chattel bond-servitude in the Caribbean and English-speaking North America, and the destruction of Native American societies. More importantly, Allen draws from a wide array of primary sources to reveal the ways the political and economic elites, driven to maintain and expand their social control of laboring people — whether bound or free -- invented the concept of the white race. Allen’s research has profoundly shaped and influenced, often behind the scenes, historians’ debates on American colonial slavery and its connections to racism, white supremacy, and nascent capitalism.” – Charles L. Lumpkins, Pennsylvania State University, author of American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot and Black Politics

“Allen’s closely argued book produces a stunning transformation of the issue [of which came first, slavery or racism] by insisting that the question is . . . when and how European-Americans began to think of themselves as white . . . Historians of early America are likely to find especially illuminating Allen’s well-developed analogy between Ireland and British America, which persuaded me, at lest, that systems of ‘racial oppression’ have little to do with phenotype. Immigration historians should be particularly interested in Allen’s analysis of how the Irish, victims of racial oppression at home, learned that they were ‘white’ once they crossed the Atlantic and became . . . supporters of a system of racial oppression in the United States.” -- Russell R. Menard, University of Minnesota, in Journal of American Ethnic History

“Anyone who wants to understand the peculiar state of working class organizing in the USA — from the support by the majority of Southern white working class people for the war to defend slavery to the perversions of "Joe the Plumber" — needs to study and learn from the insights provided by the work of Ted Allen. Ted Allen's work resonates to this day with everyone who has confronted the organizing challenge of dealing with the issue of race in the crucible of class politics in the USA. During my nearly 50 years of writing, reporting and organizing, there has rarely been a time when Ted Allen's studies haven't helped me understand more clearly what we were confronting, either in Chicago's public schools or in other areas (such as military organizing) where I worked.” -- George N. Schmidt, reporter for www.substancenews.net and Chicago Teachers Union delegate

“Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race is essential reading for all students of race and power in America. This path-breaking research reframes and cuts across the disciplines of history, sociology and politics, shedding a dynamic new light on the important and often hidden phenomenon of race in America's cultural evolution.” -- Joseph Wilson, Professor of Political Science, Brooklyn College

". . . this is a rare book. It is the product of deep reflection, patient research and passionate political commitment. It speaks authoritatively to a thousand-year sweep of the history of Britain, Ireland, West Africa, the colonized Americas and the United States. Its origins outside professional history – Allen has worked as miner, mailhandler, draftsman and librarian – lend an urgency and clarity usually absent in academic writings, but without even a bit of anti-intellectualism . . . Allen . . . is making a decisive contribution to the demystifying and dismantling of what he terms the ‘quintessential Peculiar Institution’ – that is, ‘the so-called “White Race.”’ His 1975 pamphlet, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery brilliantly posed the issue of the ‘invention of the white race’ within a materialist framework.’ . . . In Volume One, Allen uses Irish history as a ‘mirror’ to generate new angles of vision regarding race in the U.S. Since, as he argues, ‘Irish history presents a case of racial oppression without reference to alleged skin color,’ it offers a sharp challenge to easy assumptions that racism is a natural, color-based ‘phylogenic’ phenomenon. . . . Allen offers the best account yet of the process by which the Irish “became white” in the U.S. and of the roles of the Democratic Party, the unions, the labor market and the Catholic Church in ensuring that the nineteenth century immigrants best ‘prepared by tradition and experience to empathize with the African Americans’ would become a critical component of the “intermediate stratum’ of ‘whites’ perpetuating a system of racial oppression and class privilege in the U.S. In describing this tragic transformation, Allen provides a model for the consideration of ‘white skin privileges,’ which is seen as material and real but also as part of a larger system of oppression, including white worker oppression . . . what is most striking in Invention of the White Race is the quality of searching questions and clear answers.” – David Roediger, in Race Traitor

“Along with David Roediger and Noel Ignatiev, Theodore Allen has made a critically important contribution to the study of working-class 'whiteness' in the United States. Allen's exploration of how and why Irish immigrants embraced a white identity is truly original, and worthy of renewed engagement.” -- Bruce Nelson, author of Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race

Hubert Harrison:
The Voice of
Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

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