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Theodore W. Allen’s Work On Centrality of Struggle Against White Supremacy
Growing in Importance on 98th Anniversary of His Birth

by Jeffrey B. Perry

August 23, 2017

Tags: The Invention of the White Race, Theodore W. Allen, Ted Allen, #antiwhitesupremacy, #whitesupremacy, labor, chattel bond labor, cpitalism, capitalists, Jeffrey B. Perry, no white people, great white assumption, Bacons's Rebellion, strategy, racial slavery, enslaved Black labor, Virginia, pattern setter, white supremacy, white privilege, white race privilege, @whiteprivilge, #whiteskinPrivilege, #white supremay, proletrians, proletarian, anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual and activist, pioneering class struggle, white skin privilege, Racial Oppression and Social Control, scholars, activists, Table of Contents, The Invention of the White Race, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, Verso Books, The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy

Theodore W. Allen

Theodore W. “Ted” Allen (1919-2005) was an anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual and activist. He developed his pioneering class struggle-based analysis of “white skin privilege” beginning in the mid-1960s; authored the seminal two-volume The Invention of the White Race in the 1990s; and consistently maintained that the struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at radical social change in the United States.

Born on August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana, he grew up in Paintsville, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia (where he graduated from high school), and then went into the mines and became a United Mine Workers Local President. After hurting his back in the mines he moved to New York City and lived his last fifty-plus years in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

The Invention of the White Race

Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race (1994, 1997: Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012) with its focus on racial oppression and social control is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding. It presents a full-scale challenge to what he refers to as "The Great White Assumption" -- the unquestioning acceptance of the "white race" and "white" identity as skin color-based and natural attributes rather than as social and political constructions. Its thesis on the origin, nature, and maintenance of the "white race" and its understanding that slavery in the Anglo-American plantation colonies was capitalist and enslaved Black laborers were proletarians, contain the basis of a revolutionary approach to United States labor history.

On the back cover of the 1994 edition of Volume 1, subtitled Racial Oppression and Social Control, Allen boldly asserted "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no 'white' people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years." That statement, based on 20-plus years of primary research in Virginia's colonial records, reflected the fact that Allen found no instance of the official use of the word "white" as a token of social status prior to its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691. As he later explained, "Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not 'white.' White identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be only after the passage of some six crucial decades" that the word "would appear as a synonym for European-American."

In this context he offers his major thesis -- that the "white race" was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the latter (civil war) stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77). To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the "white race" and to implement a system of racial oppression, and 2) the consequence was not only ruinous to the interest of African Americans, it was also disastrous for European-American workers.

In Volume II, on The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, Allen tells the story of the invention of the “white race” and the development of the system of racial oppression in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American plantation colonies. His primary focus is on the pattern-setting Virginia colony, and he pays special attention to the reduction of tenants and wage-laborers in the majority English labor force to chattel bond-servants in the 1620s. In so doing, he emphasizes that this was a qualitative break from the condition of laborers in England and from long established English labor law, that it was not a feudal carryover, that it was imposed under capitalism, and that it was an essential precondition of the emergence of the lifetime hereditary chattel bond-servitude imposed upon African-American laborers under the system of racial slavery.

Allen describes how, throughout much of the seventeenth century, the status of African-Americans was indeterminate (because it was still being fought out) and he details the similarity of conditions for African-American and European-American laborers and bond-servants. He also documents many significant instances of labor solidarity and unrest, especially during the 1660s and 1670s. Of great significance is his analysis of the civil war stage of Bacon’s Rebellion when thousands of laboring people took up arms against the ruling plantation elite, the capital (Jamestown) was burned to the ground, rebels controlled 6/7 of the Virginia colony, and Afro- and Euro-American bond-servants fought side-by-side demanding an end to their bondage.

It was in the period after Bacon's Rebellion that the “white race” was invented as a ruling-class social control formation. Allen describes systematic ruling-class policies, which conferred “white race” privileges on European-Americans while imposing harsher disabilities on African-Americans resulting in a system of racial slavery, a form of racial oppression that also imposed severe racial proscriptions on free African-Americans. He emphasizes that when free African-Americans were deprived of their long-held right to vote in Virginia and Governor William Gooch explained in 1735 that the Virginia Assembly had decided upon this curtailment of the franchise in order "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros & Mulattos," it was not an "unthinking decision." Rather, it was a deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie and was a conscious decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even though it entailed repealing an electoral principle that had existed in Virginia for more than a century.

Key to understanding the virulent racial oppression that develops in Virginia, Allen argues, is the formation of the intermediate social control buffer stratum, which serves the interests of the ruling class. In Virginia, any persons of discernible non-European ancestry after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was made up of laboring-class "whites." In the Anglo-Caribbean, by contrast, under a similar Anglo- ruling elite, "mulattos" were included in the social control stratum and were promoted into middle-class status. This difference was rooted in a number of social control-related factors, one of the most important of which was that in the Anglo-Caribbean there were “too few” poor and laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were '’too many’' to be accommodated in the ranks of that class.

In The Invention of the White Race Allen challenges what he considers to be two main ideological props of white supremacy -- the argument that "racism" is innate (and it is therefore useless to challenge it) and the argument that European-American workers “benefit” from "white race" privileges and white supremacy (and that it is therefore not in their interest to oppose them). These two arguments, opposed by Allen, are related to two master historical narratives rooted in writings on the colonial period. The first argument is associated with the “unthinking decision” explanation for the development of racial slavery offered by historian Winthrop D. Jordan in his influential White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812. The second argument is associated with historian Edmund S. Morgan’s influential American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia, which maintains that in Virginia, as slavery developed in the eighteenth century, “there were too few free poor [European-Americans] on hand to matter.” Allen points out that what Morgan said about “too few” free poor was true in the eighteenth century Anglo-Caribbean, but not in Virginia.

“white race” privilege

The article "The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy" (Cultural Logic, 2010) describes key components of Allen's analysis of "white race" privilege. The article explains that as he developed the "white race" privilege concept, Allen emphasized that these privileges were a "poison bait" (like a shot of “heroin”) and he explained that they "do not permit" the masses of European American workers nor their children "to escape" from that class. "It is not that the ordinary white worker gets more than he must have to support himself," but "the Black worker gets less than the white worker." By, thus "inducing, reinforcing and perpetuating racist attitudes on the part of the white workers, the present-day power masters get the political support of the rank-and-file of the white workers in critical situations, and without having to share with them their super profits in the slightest measure."

As one example, to support his position, Allen provided statistics showing that in the South where race privilege "has always been most emphasized . . . the white workers have fared worse than the white workers in the rest of the country."

Probing more deeply, Allen offered additional important insights into why these race privileges are conferred by the ruling class. He pointed out that "the ideology of white racism" is "not appropriate to the white workers" because it is "contrary to their class interests." Because of this "the bourgeoisie could not long have maintained this ideological influence over the white proletarians by mere racist ideology." Under these circumstances white supremacist thought is "given a material basis in the form of the deliberately contrived system of race privileges for white workers."

Thus, writes Allen, "history has shown that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers, it also shows that the concomitant racist ideology has blinded them to that fact."

Allen added, "the white supremacist system that had originally been designed in around 1700 by the plantation bourgeoisie to protect the base, the chattel bond labor relation of production" also served "as a part of the 'legal and political' superstructure of the United States government that, until the Civil War, was dominated by the slaveholders with the complicity of the majority of the European-American workers." Then, after emancipation, "the industrial and financial bourgeoisie found that it could be serviceable to their program of social control, anachronistic as it was, and incorporated it into their own 'legal and political' superstructure."

Allen felt that two essential points must be kept in mind. First, "the race-privilege policy is deliberate bourgeois class policy." Second, "the race-privilege policy is, contrary to surface appearance, contrary to the interests, short range as well as long range interests of not only the Black workers but of the white workers as well." He repeatedly emphasized that "the day-to-day real interests" of the European-American worker "is not the white skin privileges, but in the development of an ever-expanding union of class conscious workers." He emphasized, "'Solidarity forever!' means 'Privileges never!'" He elsewhere pointed out, "The Wobblies [the Industrial Workers of the World] caught the essence of it in their slogan: 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'"

Throughout his work Allen stresses that "the initiator and the ultimate guarantor of the white skin privileges of the white worker is not the white worker, but the white worker's masters" and the masters do this because it is "an indispensable necessity for their continued class rule." He describes how "an all-pervasive system of racial privileges was conferred on laboring-class European-Americans, rural and urban, exploited and insecure though they themselves were" and how "its threads, woven into the fabric of every aspect of daily life, of family, church, and state, have constituted the main historical guarantee of the rule of the 'Titans,' damping down anti-capitalist pressures, by making 'race, and not class, the distinction in social life.'" That, "more than any other factor," he argues, "has shaped the contours of American history -- from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to the Civil War, to the overthrow of Reconstruction, to the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, to the Great Depression, to the civil rights struggle and 'white backlash' of our own day."

Strategy

Allen also addressed the issue of strategy for social change. He emphasized, “The most vulnerable point at which a decisive blow can be struck against bourgeois rule in the United States is white supremacy.” He considered “white supremacy” to be “both the keystone and the Achilles heel of U.S. bourgeois democracy.”

Based on this analysis Allen maintained, “the first main strategic blow must be aimed at the most vulnerable point at which a decisive blow can be struck, namely, white supremacism.” This, he argued, was the conclusion to be drawn from a study of three great social crises in U.S. history – “the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s.” In each of these cases “the prospects for a stable broad front against capital has foundered on the shoals of white supremacism, most specifically on the corruption of the European-American workers by racial privilege.”

Groundbreaking Analysis Continues to Grow in Importance

Ted Allen died on January 19, 2005, and a memorial service was held for him at the Brooklyn Public Library where he had worked. Then on October 8, 2005, his ashes, as per his request, were spread in the York River (near West Point, Virginia) close to its convergence with the Pamunkey and Mattaponi Rivers – the location where the final armed holdouts, "Eighty Negroes and Twenty English," refused to surrender in the last stages of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Allen’s historical work has profound implications for American History, African-American History, Labor History, Left History, American Studies, and “Whiteness” Studies and it offers important insights in the areas of Caribbean History, Irish History, and African Diaspora Studies. With its meticulous primary research, equalitarian motif, emphasis on the class struggle dimension of history, and groundbreaking analysis his work continues to grow in influence and importance.

Additional Information

For writings, audios, and videos by and about Theodore W. Allen and his work see HERE

For information on The Invention of the White Race Vol. I: Racial Oppression and Social Control [Verso Books] (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) see HERE

For information on The Invention of the White Race Vol. II: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) see HERE

For the fullest treatment of the development of Theodore W. Allen’s thought see “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” (Cultural Logic, 2010)
HERE


Twelve Years Ago
on January 19, 2005
Theodore W. Allen Died
Learn From His Work
Keep His Memory Alive!

January 18, 2017

Tags: January 19, 2005, Theodore W. Allen, Brooklyn, cancer, class struggle, white skin privilege, #whiteskinprivilege, white privilege, #whiteprivilege, white supremacy, racial oppression, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery, SUNY Center for the Study of Working Class Life, The Invention of the White Race, Verso Books, Racial Oppression and Social Control, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, West Point, Virginia, foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms, Bacon’s Rebellion, Census, Hispanics, Roediger

Theodore W. Allen
(1919-2005)
Twelve years ago, on January 19, 2005, Theodore W. Allen died at age 85 in Brooklyn, NY after a fifteen-year battle with cancer.

Allen, one of the twentieth century’s most important writers on class and race, and the struggle against white supremacy, pioneered his class struggle based analysis of “white skin privilege” in 1965 and offered seminal writings on class struggle, white supremacy, and racial oppression such as “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” ([1974; SUNY Center for the Study of Working Class Life, 2006) and the two-volume “classic” “The Invention of the White Race” (1994, 1997; Verso Books, 2012), Vol. I “Racial Oppression and Social Control” and Vol. II: ”The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.”

After his death his ashes (as per his request), were spread over that area "three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77).

Shortly thereafter, an “In Memorium: Theodore W. Allen” Tribute was published online at HERE

Writings, videos, and audios by and about Theodore W. Allen are available at HERE

For a presentation viewed by over 104,000 people on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” at the Brecht Forum in New York see HERE

For a recent presentation on “Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’” at a “Multiracial Organizing Conference” in Greensboro, NC see
HERE

For the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought see 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 HERE

For information on “The Invention of the White Race” Vol. I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) see HERE

For information on “The Invention of the White Race” Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists and Table of Contents) see HERE

For some background information on how the U.S. Census uses “race” in regard to “Hispanics” see Theodore W. Allen’ "’Race’ and ‘Ethnicity’: History and the 2000 Census” at HERE

For Allen’s important review on “Roediger’s ‘Wages of Whiteness’” see HERE

People are encourage to become familiar with the work of Theodore W. Allen and to share this information with others as we continue to struggle for a better world.

Theodore W. Allen and The Invention of the White Race
by Jeffrey B. Perry
New Video

June 29, 2016

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Ted Allen, Carl Davidson, W.E.B. Du Bois, Multiracial, Organizing, Poor, Working Class, whites, white privilege, white supremacy, class consciousness, Fusion Films, white skin privilege, socialism, Black Radicalism, whiteness, slavery, capitalism, proletariat, Movement, Beloved Community Center, Greensboro, Ben Wilkins, Joyce Johnson, Rosalyn Pelles, Bob Zellner, Al McSurely, Leonard Zeskind, Devin Burghart, Eric Preston, Fusion Films, chattel bond-labor, Bacon's Rebellion, John Punch, Elizabeth Key, American Exceptionalism



New Video
Theodore W. Allen and The Invention of the White Race
by Jeffrey B. Perry


This slide presentation/talk on “Theodore W. Allen and ‘The Invention of the White Race’" by Jeffrey B. Perry was presented on Saturday, June 18, 2016, at a "Multiracial Organizing Conference" on "Organizing Poor and Working Class Whites: The Challenge of Building a Multiracial Movement," at the Beloved Community Center, 417 Arlington St., Greensboro, NC.


The two-day conference pulled together a “multiracial” group of mostly young organizers from the South, who are doing work among poor and working people, and who oppose class exploitation and oppression and emphasize the centrality of struggle against white supremacy to efforts at social change.


The video includes some important insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison, "the father of Harlem Radicalism."


Organizer Ben Wilkins coordinated the two-day conference and other speakers included long-time activists Joyce Johnson, Rosalyn Pelles, Bob Zellner, Al McSurely, Leonard Zeskind, and Devin Burghart.


Special thanks go to Eric Preston (and Fusion Films) for help in the preparation of this video.


Please share this video with others! The struggle against white supremacy is central to efforts at social change!


For the video CLICK HERE


"I had heard of prejudice in America
but never dreamed of it being so intensely bitter"
Claude McKay

April 22, 2016

Tags: Hubert Harrisonm United States, St. Croix, shocked, virulence, white supremacy, Afro-Caribbean, immigrants, Jamaica, Claude McKay, manifest, implacable hatred of my race, prejudice in America, intensely bitter, Developing Conjuncture, Insights, Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, Centrality, Against White Supremacy, Cultural Logic

Claude McKay


When Hubert Harrison arrived in the United States from St. Croix in 1900 he was “shocked” by the virulence of the white supremacy he encountered. Other Afro-Caribbean immigrants in that period reacted similarly when they arrived. Harrison’s friend, Jamaica-born Claude McKay, explained that when he came to the U.S.

“It was the first time I had ever come face to face with such manifest, implacable hatred of my race, and my feelings were indescribable . . . I had heard of prejudice in America but never dreamed of it being so intensely bitter.”

For more on this see the article “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy” in PDF format HERE or at “Cultural Logic” HERE.

Ten Years Ago, on January 19, 2005, Theodore W. Allen Died

January 19, 2016

Tags: Ten years ago, January 19, 2005, Theodore W. Allen, died, Brooklyn, cancer, class struggle, white skin privilege, white supremacy, racial oppression, Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery, The Invention of the White Race, SUNY Center for the Study of Working Class Life, The Invention of the White Race, Verso Books, Racial Oppression and Social Control, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, West Point, Virginia, foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms, Bacon’s Rebellion

Ten years ago, on January 19, 2005, Theodore W. Allen died at age 85 in Brooklyn, NY after a fifteen-year battle with cancer. Allen, one of the twentieth century’s most important writers on class and race, pioneered his class struggle based analysis of “white skin privilege” in 1965 and included among his many writings on class struggle, white supremacy, and racial oppression “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” ([1974; SUNY Center for the Study of Working Class Life, 2006) and the two-volume “classic” “The Invention of the White Race” (1994, 1997; Verso Books, 2012), Vol. I “Racial Oppression and Social Control” and Vol. II: ”The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.” After his death his ashes (as per his request), were spread over that area "three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in Bacon’s Rebellion (1676-77).

Writings, videos, and audios by and about Theodore W. Allen are freely available HERE People are encourage to become familiar with the work of Theodore W. Allen and to share this information with others as we continue to struggle for a better world.

Theodore W. Allen
“The Most Vulnerable Point,” 1972

December 24, 2015

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, Most Vulnerable Point, keystone, Achilles heel, decisive blow, white supremacy, bourgeois democracy, bourgeois rule

“The most vulnerable point at which a decisive blow can be struck against bourgeois rule in the United States is white supremacy. White supremacy is both the keystone and the Achilles heel of U.S. bourgeois democracy, the historic font of bourgeois rule in the United States.”
Theodore W. Allen

 

Theodore W. Allen
Draws from Lerone Bennett Jr.
in Treatment of White Supremacy and Racial Slavery

December 9, 2015

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, Lerone Benett Jr., white supremacy, Racial Slavery, Winthrop D. Jordan, Handlins, Oscar, Mary, Handlin, Edmund S. Morgan, T. H. Breen, Shaping of Black America, Barbados, The Road Not Taken, Ebony Magazine, British West Indies, Barbados, bond-servants, white supremacy, ruinous to the interest, white worker, Afro-American workers, labor solidarity, Africans, Indians, deliberate choice, Jamaica, lifetime servitude, intermarried, bourgeoisie, petite bourgeoisie, Providence Islnd, social control formation, Bacon's Rebellion, racial privileges, white race, unthinking decision, psycho-culturals, socio-economic, Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery

Which came first, racism or slavery? In the post-World War II era of national liberation upsurge, a related controversy has occupied much attention of American historians. One side, the "psycho-cultural" side, holds that white supremacy is "natural", the result of an "unthinking decision"; that it derives from human attributes not subject to effective eliminative social action. The other side, the "social" side, believes that racism arises from socio-economic, rather than natural, conditions; that (at least by implication) it is susceptible of elimination by social action.

Evidence of early instances of enslavement of Afro-Americans is stressed by the "psycho-cultural" school as proof of the "natural antipathy" of white and black. On the other hand, as Jordan (foremost of the "psycho-culturals") puts it, "Late and gradual enslavement undercuts the possibility of natural and deep-seated antipathy towards Negroes . . . if whites and Negroes could share the same status of half freedom for forty years in the seventeenth century, why could they not share full freedom in the twentieth." (Winthrop D. Jordan, "Modern Tensions and the Origins of American Slavery," Journal of Southern History, vol. 28 [1962], pp. 19-30, loc. cit., p. 20.)

Of all the historians of the "social" school whose work I have read, only the black historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., in his article, "The Road Not Taken," Ebony, vol. 25 (1970), no. 10 (August), pp. 70-77, and in Chap. III of his new book The Shaping of Black America (Chicago, 1975), succeeds in placing the argument on the three essential bearing-points from which it cannot be toppled. First, racial slavery and white supremacy in this country was a ruling-class response to a problem of labor solidarity. Second, a system of racial privileges for white workers was deliberately instituted in order to define and establish the "white race" as a social control formation. Third, the consequence was not only ruinous to the interests of the Afro-American workers but was also "disastrous" (Bennett's word) for the white worker. Others (such as the Handlins, Morgan and Breen) state the first two points to some degree, but only Bennett combines all three.

Although I learned of Bennett's essay only in April 1975, the same three essentials have informed my own approach in a book I have for several years been engaged in writing (and of which this present article is a spin-off), on the origin of racial slavery, white supremacy and the system of racial privileges of white labor in this country.
The comparative study of the systems of social control in the various slave-labor plantation colonies in the Americas, combined with a study of Bacon's Rebellion, its origin and aftermath, can contribute much to the resolution of the question, in favor of "deliberate choice" and against "unthinking decision." In the continental plantation colonies (Virginia was the pattern-setter) the Anglo-American ruling class drew the color line between freedom and slavery on race lines; any trace of African ancestry carried the presumption of slavery. The same Anglo-American ruling class drew the freedom-slavery line differently in Jamaica and Barbados (as did other European ruling classes elsewhere in the Americas). The poor white became not only economically, but politically and socially, marginal in the British West Indies generally. In the southern continental colonies the bourgeoisie came to base their system of social control upon the white proletarian and semi-proletarian and subsistence agricultural classes. In the southern plantation colonies the free person of any degree of African ancestry was forced into an illegal or semi-legal status, as a general rule. The same Anglo-American ruling bourgeoisie deliberately created and nurtured this group as a petit-bourgeois buffer-control stratum in the Caribbean island societies. These are all decisive differences which cannot be explained on the basis of "psychology" or "English cultural heritage."

Finally, and more important, while the Anglo-American bourgeoisie had, by their prior experience in Providence Island and Barbados, learned the profitability of equating, or seeking to equate, "Negro" and "slave," the masses of European (at that stage almost all English) bond-servants in Virginia had not accepted that point of view. Instead, they intermarried, conspired, ran away, and finally revolted in arms together with African bond-servants. Racial slavery could not have existed, and did not exist, under those circumstances. Under such circumstances, to attempt to solve the "labor problem" by increasing the number of African bond-servants, reducing them to hereditary lifetime servitude, and making them the main productive labor base of the society would have been like trying to put out the Jamestown fire with kerosene.

A Letter of Support
Re: The Black Justice League Protests at Princeton
by
Jeffrey B. Perry and Gene Bruskin
--

November 21, 2015

Tags: Woodrow Wilson, Progressive, Democracy, self-determination, race question, African Americans, white-supremacist, white supremacy, The Birth of a Nation, inter-racial marriages, lynching, segregation, disfranchisement, attacks on African American communities, Washington, Chicago, Espionage Act 1917, Sedition Act 1918, Palmer Raids 1919-1920, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Nicaragua, he kept us out of war, the rights of small nationalities, Hubert Harrison, Liberty League, Make the World Safe for Democracy, Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement, Make the South Safe For Democracy, Harlem rally, pogrom, East St. Louis, Ferguson, Missouri, Hubert H. Harrison, When Africa Awakes, The Inside Story of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World, Diasporic Africa Press, Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, Gene Bruskin, U.S. Labor Against the War, Trade Unionist, The Voice, New Negro Movement, a voice in their own government, Panama, Honduras, Mexico, Post Office, Treasury, Interior, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Navy, A Letter of Support, Black Justice League, Protests, Princeton

In 1964, as Princeton freshmen we were told that Woodrow Wilson had been a leading Progressive, a proponent of “Democracy,” and a champion of self-determination abroad. It is good to see students today challenging that picture.

Wilson’s record was deplorable on the “race question.” He cut back federal appointments of African Americans; supported showings of the white-supremacist film "The Birth of a Nation" for himself, his Cabinet, Congress, and the Supreme Court; stood by silently as segregation was formalized in the Post Office, Treasury, Interior, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and Navy; did nothing as almost two dozen segregation-supporting legislative attempts including exclusion of Black immigrants, segregation of streetcars, and a ban on inter-racial marriages in the District of Columbia were introduced in the House and Senate; and declined to use any significant power of office to address lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement and the vicious white-supremacist attacks on twenty-six African American communities including Washington, DC, Chicago, and East St. Louis that occurred during his administration.

Under Wilson the U.S. not only implemented the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, and the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, it also occupied Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Nicaragua and intervened in Panama, Honduras, and Mexico. Nevertheless, Wilson ran for President in 1916 on a campaign slogan “he kept us out of war,” posed before the world as a champion of democracy, and prated of “the rights of small nationalities,” of “self-determination,” and of “the right of all who submit to authority to have a voice in their own government.” In addition to the awful horrors let loose on small countries pre-war, in the postwar period he also helped to pave the way for partition, occupation, and conquest in the Middle East and Africa and for future wars.

There were contemporaries of Wilson, people like the intellectual/activist Hubert Harrison, the founder of the first organization (the Liberty League) and first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant “New Negro Movement,” who saw through the misleading portrait of Wilson so often found in the media and history books. Harrison understood that while lynching, segregation, and disfranchisement marred this land, and while the U.S. brazenly attacked smaller countries, “Wilson's protestations of democracy were lying protestations, consciously, and deliberately designed to deceive.” At the founding meeting of the Liberty League in June 1917, Harrison posed a direct challenge to Wilson who had claimed the U.S. was entering World War I in order to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.” Harrison’s mass meeting was called, as its organizational flyer headlined, to "Stop Lynching and Disfranchisement in the Land Which We Love and Make the South 'Safe For Democracy.'" A month later Harrison led a second major Harlem rally to protest the white supremacist “pogrom” (his word) in East St. Louis, Illinois (15 miles from Ferguson, Missouri).

We are glad that the Black Justice League is raising some of these issues, opening the eyes of many, and helping to point the way forward in the 21st century.

Dr. Jeffrey B. Perry ‘68
jeffreybperry@gmail.com
Editor of the new expanded edition of Hubert H. Harrison, When Africa Awakes: The "Inside Story" of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World and author of Hubert Harrison, The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press)

Gene Bruskin ‘68
genebruskin@gmail.com
Founder, U.S. Labor Against the War
Trade Unionist

Theodore W. Allen
There Were No "White" People There
Early 17th Century Virginia
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry

December 23, 2014

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, There Were No White People There, Early 17th Century Virginia, Jeffrey B. Perry, white privilege, white skin privilege, whiteness, racism, white people, white supremacy, Bacon's Rebellion, John Punch, Thomas Grantham, ruling classsocial control formation, labor solidarity



Theodore W. Allen
– There Were No "White" People There –
Early 17th Century Virginia
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry


Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) pioneered his “white skin privilege” analysis in 1965, wrote the ground-breaking “Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race” in 1974/1975, and wrote the seminal two-volume "The Invention of the White Race" in 1994 and 1997 (since reprinted in new expanded form in 2012 by Verso Books).

His "The Invention of the White Race," with its focus on racial oppression and social control, is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume classic (Vol. 1: "Racial Oppression and Social Control" and Vol. 2: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America") details how the "white race" was invented as a ruling-class social control formation and a system of racial oppression was imposed in response to labor solidarity in the wake of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77), how the "white race" was created and maintained through "white race" privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans, how these privileges were not in the interest of African-Americans or laboring class European-Americans, and how the "white race" has been the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination Theodore W. Allen – There Were No White People There – In Early 17th Century Virginia in America.

This brief video elaborates on Allen’s point that "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no 'white' people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years." As he subsequently explained, “Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not ‘white.’” “White” identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be another sixty years before the word “would appear as a synonym for European-American.”

For a longer Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” at the Brecht Forum in New York City on January 31, 2013, Click Here

The article “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 offers the fullest treatment of the development of his thought and discusses this subject. See the article at Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen Click Here and Click Here
For information on Jeffrey B. Perry Click Here
This segment was videoed on August 16, 2014, by Fred Nguyen of Fan Smiles.

There we no "white" people there, 1619


On the back cover of the 1994 first edition of The Invention of the White Race Vol. I: Racial Oppression and Social Control, author Theodore W. Allen writes, “When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no ‘white’ people there; nor according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years.” He based this statement on the fact that, after twenty-plus years of meticulous research and examination of 885 county-years of pattern-setting Virginia’s colonial records, he found “no instance of the official use of the word ‘white’ as a token of social status” prior to 1691.

There we no "white" people there, 1640


The men who ran away with John Punch (Barack Obama's ancestor) in 1640
were "Victor, a [D]utchman" and "a Scotchman called James Gregory"

The Journal of the Executive Council of Colonial Virginia dated 9 July 1640 discusses the case of John Punch, President Barack Obama's ancestor. It is the only known account of the case and it reads as follows:

"Whereas Hugh Gwyn hath by order from this Board brought back from Maryland three servants formerly run away from the said Gwyn, the court doth therefore order that the said three servants shall receive the punishment of whipping and to have thirty stripes apiece one called Victor, a [D]utchman, the other a Scotchman called James Gregory, shall first serve out their times with their master according to their Indentures and one whole year apiece after the time of their service is Expired ... the third being a Negro named John Punch shall serve his said master and his assigns for the time of his natural Life here or elsewhere."

In this 1640 document the two servants captured with John Punch are described as "a [D]utchman” and “a Scotchman." They were not described as "white." The “white race” was not functioning in early Virginia.

There we no "white" people there, 1676-77


From Captain Thomas Grantham's Account


During Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77) Captain Thomas Grantham played a decisive role in bringing about the final defeat of the rebels. He procured the treachery of a new rebel general to help him in securing the surrender of the West Point (Virginia) garrison of three hundred men in arms. Then Grantham tackled the main stronghold of the rebels, which was three miles up country. In Grantham's own words:

" I there met about four hundred English and Negroes in Arms who were much dissatisfied at the Surrender of the Point, saying I had betrayed them, and thereupon some were for shooting me and others were for cutting me in peeces: I told them I would willingly surrender myselfe to them, till they were satisfied from His Majestie, and did engage to the Negroes and Servants, that they were all pardoned and freed from their Slavery: And with faire promises and Rundletts of Brandy, I pacified them, giving them severall Noates under my hand that what I did was by the order of his Majestie and the Governor....Most of them I persuaded to goe to their Homes, which accordingnly they did, except about eighty Negroes and twenty English which would not deliver their Armes."

Grantham tricked these one hundred men on board a sloop with the promise of taking them to a rebel fort a few miles down York River. Instead, however, he towed them behind his own sloop, brought them under the guns of another ship, and forced their surrender. In his account of the incident he wrote that the rebels "yeilded with a great deal of discontent, saying had they known my purpose they would have destroyed me."


Theodore W. Allen
on Two Main Ideological Props of White Supremacy
Among Euro-American Workers

December 21, 2014

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, white privilege, white skin privilege, class struggle, white supremacy, Winthrop D. Jordan, White Over Black, Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom, Bacon's Rebellion, racism is innate argument, white workers benefit argument, too few free poor to matter, unthinking decision




Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) pioneered his “white skin privilege” analysis in 1965, co-authored "White Blindspot" in 1967 and authored the accompanying “Can White Workers/Radicals Be Radicalized?’” in 1969, wrote the ground-breaking Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race in 1974/1975, wrote the seminal two-volume The Invention of the White Race in 1994 and 1997 (since reprinted in new expanded form in 2012 by Verso Books) , and authored a number of other extremely important published and unpublished pieces.

Allen's The Invention of the White Race, with its focus on racial oppression and social control, is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume classic (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America) details how the "white race" was invented as a ruling-class social control formation and a system of racial oppression was imposed in response to labor solidarity in the wake of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77), how the "white race" was created and maintained through "white race" privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans, how these privileges were not in the interest of African-Americans or laboring class European-Americans, and how the "white race" has been the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination in America.

This brief video discusses how Allen’s work challenges two main ideological props of white supremacy among European-American workers -- the argument that "racism is innate" and the argument that European-American workers "benefit" from white supremacism and "white" privileges (Allen argues that the race privileges are a "poison bait," like a shot of heroin, and that the race privileges are ruinous to the interests of African Americans and of European-American workers).

As he argues –
“An Injury to One is an Injury to All!"
"Solidarity Forever, Means Privileges Never!"


The article “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 offers the fullest treatment of the development of his thought and discusses this subject. For the article Click Here (at top left) or Click Here

For a longer Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s The Invention of the White Race at the Brecht Forum in New York City on January 31, 2013, see Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen Click Here and Click Here

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry Click Here

This segment was videoed on January 31, 2013, by Fred Nguyen of Fan Smiles.

Work Place Organizing
Against White Supremacy
Influenced by
Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen

December 21, 2014

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, touchstone, centrality of struggle against white supremay, The Invention of the White Race, Jeffrey B. Perry, class struggle, white supremacy, Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, white privilege, white skin privilege, class struggle, white supremacy, post office, postal workers, postal strik, postal reorganization, LIUNA, National Alliance of Postal and Federal Employees, Bulk Mail Center, PATCO. workplace organizing



Work Place Organizing Against White Supremacy
Influenced by Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen


In this interview segment Jeffrey B. Perry discusses organizing work among postal workers that was influenced by insights from two former postal workers and two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class – Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005)

Background on the important work of Harrison and Allen can be found in the article “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 can be found Here (at top left) or Here

For information on Hubert Harrison Click Here and Click Here, Click Here , and
Click Here .

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism” at the Dudley Public Library in Roxbury, Mass.
Click Here

For a briefer video see Hubert Harrison: “The Father of Harlem Radicalism” – A Brief Introduction – Video Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry at Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen Click Here and Click Here

For A Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” at the Brecht Forum in New York City Click Here

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry Click Here

This video is drawn from 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 in Excerpts from an 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
Available Here

Theodore W. Allen
Theses on “The Invention of the White Race”
and Lessons from Three Crises
Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry

December 18, 2014

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, New Expanded Edition, Verso Books, Jeffrey B. Perry, Racial Oppression and Social Control, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, white privilege, white skin privilege, Bacon's Rebellion, class struggle, economic crisis, developing conjuncture, white supremacy




Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) pioneered his “white skin privilege” analysis in 1965, co-authored White Blindspot in 1967 and authored the accompanying “Can White Workers Radicals Be Radicalized?’” in 1969, wrote the ground-breaking Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race in 1974/1975, wrote the seminal two-volume The Invention of the White Race in 1994 and 1997, and authored a number of other extremely important published and unpublished pieces.

His "The Invention of the White Race," with its focus on racial oppression and social control, is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding. This two-volume classic (Vol. 1: "Racial Oppression and Social Control" and Vol. 2: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America") details how the "white race" was invented as a ruling-class social control formation and a system of racial oppression was imposed in response to labor solidarity in the wake of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77), how the "white race" was created and maintained through "white race" privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans, how these privileges were not in the interest of African-Americans or laboring class European-Americans, and how the "white race" has been the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination in America.

This brief video presents three of Allen’s theses related to the invention of the “white race” and his important analysis of the white supremacy’s role in beating back struggles from below in three great crises in U.S. history.

The article “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 offers the fullest treatment of the development of his thought. Click Here (at top left) or Click Here

For A Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” at the Brecht Forum in New York City Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen Click Here and Click Here

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry Click Here

Hubert Harrison: "The Voice of Harlem Radicalism,"
Founder of the Militant "New Negro Movement"
and Giant of Black History
Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry
Brooklyn, Nov. 19, 2014

November 12, 2014

Tags: Hubert Harrison, Hubert H. Harrison, Militant New Negro Movement, When Africa Awakes, Harlem Radicalism, Arthur Schomburg, A. Philip Randolph, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Jeff Perry, Williana Jones Burroughs, Eugene V. Debs, White Rose Home, Frances Reynolds Keyser, Freethought, anarchism, Booker T. Washington, Post Ofice, Charles Burroughs, Chandler Owen, William Monroe Trotter, James Weldon Johnson, NAACP, Joel E. Spingarn, East St. Louis, soapbox oratory, book-reviewing, armed self-defense, St. Croix, Theodore W. Allen, social control, white supremacy, D. Hamilon Jackson, Claude McKay

Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of twentieth-century history. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by Joel A. Rogers, in "World's Great Men of Color" as "the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time." Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as "the father of Harlem Radicalism."

Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper ("The Voice") of the militant, World War I-era "New Negro" movement; edited "The New Negro: A Monthly Magazine of a Different Sort" ("intended as an organ of the international consciousness of the darker races -- especially of the Negro race") in 1919; wrote "When Africa Awakes: The 'Inside Story' of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World" in 1920; and he served as editor of the "Negro World" and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920.

His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of "New Negro" militants and common people including the class radical A. Philip Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is the key link in the ideological unity of the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement -- the labor and civil rights trend associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist trend associated with Malcolm X. (Randolph and Garvey were, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm (whose father was a Garveyite preacher and whose mother wrote for the Negro World), speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.

Harrison was also an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer; a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; and a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what is now the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

For information on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
and CLICK HERE

For a video of Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

The Invention of the White Race
by
Theodore W. Allen
Slide Presentation/Talk (Video)
by
Jeffrey B. Perry

April 10, 2014

Tags: The Invention of the White Race, Theodore W. Allen, Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison, Verso Books, Fred Nguyen, Fansmiles Productions, Brecht Forum, Hubert H. Harrison, white supremacy, white privilege, white skin privilege, radicalism, capitalism. labor history, racial oppression, social control, racial slavery, chattel bond servitude


Jeffrey B. Perry -- Slide Presentation/Talk on
The Invention of the White Race (Verso Books) by Theodore W. Allen
with special emphasis on Vol. II: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.
Hosted by “The Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society”
Filmed by Fred Nguyen on January 31, 2013
Brecht Forum, New York City
The video is Courtesy Fansmiles Productions.




Note -- On this cold January night in 2013 the Brecht Forum, when it was still located in lower Manhattan, had no heat. The standing room only audience is testimony to the interest in Theodore W. Allen's important work and the struggle against white supremacy. For more on Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race CLICK HERE!

Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) were independent, anti-white supremacist working class intellectuals and activists and they are two of the most important thinkers on race and class of the twentieth century. The slide presentation/talk is an effort to share some important insights from Allen and Harrison. If you have not already seen the video, you are encouraged to give it a look. Whether, or not, you have seen it – you are encouraged to share it with others. All who view the video -- are also encouraged to read the introduction (with links) that accompanies the video.

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 Invention of the White Race
by
Theodore W. Allen
Slide Presentation/Talk (Video)
by
Jeffrey B. Perry

March 7, 2014

Tags: Theodore W. Allen, The Invention of the White Race, Jeffrey B. Perry, video, Verso Books, The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America, The Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society, Fred Nguyen, white skin privilege, white privilege, Bacon's Rebellion, Lerone Bennett Jr., Winthrop D. Jordan, Edmund S. Morgan, racial slavery, chattel bond servitude, Africa, Ireland, Virginia, Maryland, South Carolina, St. Croix, Barbados, Jamaica, Haiti, white supremacy, white race, social control formation, social construct, national oppression, capitalism


Jeffrey B. Perry -- Slide Presentation/Talk on
The Invention of the White Race (Verso Books) by Theodore W. Allen
with special emphasis on Vol. II: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.
Hosted by “The Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen Society”
Filmed by Fred Nguyen on January 31, 2013
Brecht Forum, New York City
.

Note -- On this cold January night in 2013 the Brecht Forum, when it was still located in lower Manhattan, had no heat. The standing room only audience is testimony to the interest in Theodore W. Allen's important work and the struggle against white supremacy. For more on Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race CLICK HERE!

Please mark this video for viewing and share with others!

December 17th is the Anniversary of the Death
of Hubert Harrison
in 1927 at Age 44

December 16, 2013

Tags: December 17, anniversary, death, Hubert Harrison, New Negro. Hubert H. Harrison, Joel A. Rogers, World's Great Men of Color, A. Philip Randolph, labor, civil rights, father of Harlem radicalism, Arthur Schomburg, St. Croix, Danish West Indies, class-consciousness, anti-white supremacist, race consciousness, class conscious, race conscious, capitalism, white supremacy, touchstone, democracy, dust in the eyes, revolution startling to even think of, socialism, Garvey movement, Civil Rights, Negro World, Black Liberation, Socialist Party, Voice, Liberty League, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, freethought, birth control, book reviewer, bibliophile, 135th Street Public Library, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Columbia University Press, common people, independent thought, scientific, critical, modern, radical, Color Line

Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) is one of the truly important figures of early twentieth-century America. A brilliant writer, orator, educator, critic, and political activist, he was described by the historian Joel A. Rogers, in World’s Great Men of Color as “the foremost Afro-American intellect of his time.” Labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph described Harrison as “the father of Harlem Radicalism.” Harrison’s friend and pallbearer, Arthur Schomburg, fully aware of his popularity, eulogized to the thousands attending Harrison’s Harlem funeral that he was also “ahead of his time.”

Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies, in 1883, to a Bajan mother and a Crucian father, Harrison arrived in New York as a seventeen-year-old orphan in 1900. He made his mark in the United States by struggling against class and racial oppression, by helping to create a remarkably rich and vibrant intellectual life among African Americans, and by working for the enlightened development of the lives of “the common people.” He consistently emphasized the need for working class people to develop class-consciousness; for “Negroes” to develop race consciousness, self-reliance, and self-respect; and for all those he reached to challenge white supremacy and develop modern, scientific, critical, and independent thought as a means toward liberation.

A self-described “radical internationalist,” Harrison was extremely well-versed in history and events in Africa, Asia, the Mideast, the Americas, and Europe. More than any other political leader of his era, he combined class-consciousness and anti-white supremacist race consciousness in a coherent political radicalism. He opposed capitalism and maintained that white supremacy was central to capitalist rule in the United States. He emphasized that “politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea”; that “as long as the Color Line exists, all the perfumed protestations of Democracy on the part of the white race” were “downright lying,” that “the cant of ‘Democracy’” was “intended as dust in the eyes of white voters,” and that true democracy and equality for “Negroes” implied “a revolution . . . startling even to think of.”

Working from this theoretical framework, he was active with a wide variety of movements and organizations and played signal roles in the development of what were, up to that time, the largest class radical movement (socialism) and the largest race radical movement (the “New Negro”/Garvey movement) in U.S. history. His ideas on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy anticipated the profound transformative power of the Civil Rights/Black Liberation struggles of the 1960s and his thoughts on “democracy in America” offer penetrating insights on the limitations and potential of America in the twenty-first century.

Harrison served as the foremost Black organizer, agitator, and theoretician in the Socialist Party of New York during its 1912 heyday; he founded the first organization (the Liberty League) and the first newspaper (The Voice) of the militant, World War I-era “New Negro” movement; and he served as the editor of the New Negro in 1919 and as the editor of the Negro World and principal radical influence on the Garvey movement during its radical high point in 1920. His views on race and class profoundly influenced a generation of “New Negro” militants including the class radical A. Philip Randolph and the race radical Marcus Garvey. Considered more race conscious than Randolph and more class conscious than Garvey, Harrison is a key ideological link between the two great trends of the Black Liberation Movement--the labor and civil rights trend associated with Martin Luther King, Jr., and the race and nationalist trend associated with Malcolm X. (Randolph and Garvey were, respectively, the direct links to King marching on Washington, with Randolph at his side, and to Malcolm, whose parents were involved with the Garvey movement, speaking militantly and proudly on street corners in Harlem.)

Harrison was not only a political radical, however. J. A. Rogers described him as an “Intellectual Giant and Free-Lance Educator,” whose contributions were wide-ranging, innovative, and influential. He was an immensely skilled and popular orator and educator who spoke and/or read six languages; a highly praised journalist, critic, and book reviewer (reportedly the first regular Black book reviewer in history); a pioneer Black activist in the freethought and birth control movements; a bibliophile and library builder and popularizer who helped develop the 135th Street Public Library into what became known as the internationally famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; a pioneer Black lecturer for the New York City Board of Education and one of its foremost orators). His biography offers profound insights on race, class, religion, immigration, war, democracy, and social change in America.

For information on vol. 1 of his biography, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918 (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

December 17th is the anniversary of the death of Hubert Harrison in 1927 at age 44. – Please help to spread the word about his important life and work!

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.”

Herb Boyd's Review of
Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918

May 20, 2009

Tags: Herb Boyd, review, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, Neworld Review, Baldwin's Harlem, The Harlem Reader, Amsterdam News, One World Today, incomparable intellect, uncompromising integrity, obscurity, independent working class scholarship, history of Harlem, Focus on Harlem, The Voice, charisma, socialism, Barack Obama, legacy, white supremacy, capitalist, prophecy

Herb Boyd


Readers are encourged to look at Herb Boyd’s "Neworld Review" review of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (see Reviews). Herb Boyd is the author of "Baldwin's Harlem" and "The Harlem Reader," he is a writer and columnist for the "Amsterdam News," and he is managing editor for "One World Today."
Boyd writes, in part:
“[Hubert] Harrison’s incomparable intellect, uncompromising integrity, and the influence he had on the thinkers of his day is gradually emerging from the shadows of obscurity, thanks largely to the yeoman and independent working class scholarship of Jeffrey B. Perry. . . .
Anyone interested in the history of Harlem will find an inexhaustible supply of information in Perry’s chapter “Focus on Harlem.” But it’s hard to single out any one chapter since Harrison’s life was inseparably attached to Harlem where his forums, his paper The Voice, his charisma and his redoubtable socialism made him one of the most compelling men of his times.
Indeed, during those days when he walked the streets of Harlem, or any other part of the city, he was widely acknowledged for his vast storehouse of facts and information, and now through Perry’s prodigious research Harrison’s brilliance can once more engage a generation eager to find inspiration and renewed political spirit.
As the pundits bandy about the possibility we may be living in a post-racial society given the ascendancy of Barack Obama, Perry’s study of Harrison’s life and the redemption of his legacy is never more pertinent than when he writes: “Hubert Harrison understood white supremacy to be central to capitalist rule in the United States.”
Add prophecy to Harrison’s impressive resume."

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

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