instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

The Invention of The White Race by Theodore W. Allen Special 50% Off Free Shipping and Bundled E-Book

The Invention of
The White Race

by Theodore W. Allen
Special 50% Off
Free Shipping and Bundled E-Book
New Expanded Edition
Essential for Understanding "Race and Class" in the U.S.
A Wonderful Gift


Theodore W. 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, first published in 1994 and 1997, presents a full-scale challenge to what Allen refers to as “The Great White Assumption” – “the unquestioning, indeed unthinking acceptance of the ‘white’ identity of European-Americans of all classes as a natural attribute rather than a social construct.” Its thesis on the origin and nature of the “white race” contains the root of a new and radical approach to United States history, one that challenges master narratives taught in the media and in schools, colleges, and universities. With its equalitarian motif and emphasis on class struggle it speaks to people today who strive for change worldwide. Its influence on our understanding of American, African American, and labor history will continue to grow in the twenty-first century.

Readers of the first edition of The Invention of the White Race were startled by Allen’s bold assertion on the back cover: “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 twenty-plus years of research of 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.”

Allen was not merely speaking of word usage, however. His probing research led him to conclude – based on the commonality of experience and demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people, the lack of a substantial intermediate buffer social control stratum, and the indeterminate status of African-Americans – that the “white race” was not, and could not have been, functioning in early Virginia.

It is in the context of such findings that he offers his major thesis -- the “white race” was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the later, civil war stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77). To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite, in its own class interest, deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the “white race” and 2) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also “disastrous” for European-American workers, whose class interests differed fundamentally from those of the ruling elite.

In developing these theses Allen challenges the two main ideological props of white supremacy – the notion that “racism” is innate, and it is therefore useless to struggle against it, and the argument that European-American workers benefit from “white race” privileges and that it is in their interest not to oppose them and not to oppose white supremacy.

In an effort to assist readers and to encourage meaningful engagement with Allen’s work this new edition of The Invention Of the White Race includes new introductions, appendices, internal study guides, and expanded indexes.

For reader's comments, an introduction, the Verso Books discount offer, and a link to Volume 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control CLICK HERE

For reader's comments, an introduction, the Verso Books discount offer, and a link to Volume 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America CLICK HERE

For further information on the work of Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

For an in-depth discussion of Allen's work 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” at the top left HERE and also at "Cultural Logic" HERE

For a video of a slide presentation/talk on Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” by Jeffrey B. Perry see



 Read More 
Be the first to comment

This Video on The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen Just Passed the 30,000-Viewers Mark on YouTube Allen's Work is of Great Importance




This Video on The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen
Just Passed the 30,000-Viewers Mark on YouTube


The slide presentation/talk opens with some insights from Hubert Harrison, “The Father of Harlem Radicalism.” Harrison and Allen are two of the most important writers and thinkers on "race" and class in the twentieth century and people are strongly encouraged to view and share this video and to discuss their work with others.

For information on Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books CLICK HERE
For information on Vol. I: Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books CLICK HERE
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE

For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE and CLICK HERE
For the Columbia University Press webpage on Hubert Harrison see CLICK HERE
For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE
For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison 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, HERE discusses their work in detail.
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

SUPER SPECIAL SALE on THE INVENTION OF THE WHITE RACE (2 vols., Verso Books) by Theodore W. Allen 40% off, free shipping & e-book

SUPER SPECIAL SALE on THE INVENTION OF THE WHITE RACE
(2 vols., Verso Books)
by Theodore W. Allen
Each volume at 40% off with free shipping and an e-book version bundled free.

See
Vol. I: Racial Oppression and Social Control

Vol. II: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

"'The Invention of the White Race' by Theodore W. Allen" Slide Presentation Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry

"'The Invention of the White Race' by Theodore W. Allen"
Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry




Theodore William Allen (1919-2005), was an anti-white-supremacist, proletarian intellectual and an autodidact who pioneered his "white skin privilege" analysis in 1965, authored Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race, in 1975, and authored the two-volume The Invention of the White Race, (2 vols., Verso Books, 1994, 1997, new edition 2012) and "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race" (1978).

Jeffrey B. Perry is preserving and inventorying the Theodore W. Allen Papers. He edited and introduced Allen’s Class Struggle and Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975; Center for the Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2006) and he has authored numerous other pieces on Allen including "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). Most recently he contributed new introductions, back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes for the new (Verso Books, November 2012) expanded edition of Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race. (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.)

See the following links –

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Vol 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Verso Books) CLICK HERE and for Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America CLICK HERE

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

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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

Go to the following link to read 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"

For Videos of the Slide Presentation/Talks in the series “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” by Jeffrey B. Perry see

1. "Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, July 26, 2014

2. “Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York, and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1910)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014

3. “Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the 'New Negro Movement,' and the Liberty Congress (1911-1918)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 9, 2014

4. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 1] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014

5. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 2] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, September 6, 2014
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

"Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy by Jeffrey B. Perry

"Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,'
and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy"
by Jeffrey B. Perry
Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014




Theodore William Allen (1919-2005), was an anti-white-supremacist, proletarian intellectual and an autodidact who pioneered his "white skin privilege" analysis in 1965, authored Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race, in 1975, and authored the two-volume The Invention of the White Race, (2 vols., Verso Books, 1994, 1997, new edition 2012) and "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race" (1978).

Jeffrey B. Perry is preserving and inventorying the Theodore W. Allen Papers. He edited and introduced Allen’s Class Struggle and Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975; Center for the Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2006) and he has authored numerous other pieces on Allen including "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). Most recently he contributed new introductions, back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes for the new (Verso Books, November 2012) expanded edition of Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race. (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.)

See the following links –

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Vol 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Verso Books) CLICK HERE and for Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America CLICK HERE

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

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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

Go to the following link to read 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"

For Videos of the Slide Presentation/Talks in the series “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” by Jeffrey B. Perry see

1. "Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, July 26, 2014

2. “Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York, and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1910)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014

3. “Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the 'New Negro Movement,' and the Liberty Congress (1911-1918)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 9, 2014

4. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 1] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014

5. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 2] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, September 6, 2014
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

"Theodore W. Allen’s Work on ‘White Skin Privilege’ and ‘The Invention of the White Race” Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry Saturday, August 16, 10 AM The Commons

"Theodore W. Allen’s Work
on ‘White Skin Privilege’ and ‘The Invention of the White Race”
August 16, 2014
The Commons, Brooklyn




"Theodore W. Allen’s Work on ‘White Skin Privilege’ and ‘The Invention of the White Race”
Slide Presentation/Talk by Jeffrey B. Perry

Saturday, August 16, 2014
10:00 am --12 Noon
The Commons
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt and Bond)
Brooklyn, New York, NY, 11217

Mark the Date! Share the Information!

This course will focus on the relevance today of important insights from Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) one of the twentieth century's most important writers on race and class.

The Brooklyn-based Theodore W. Allen originated his "white skin privilege" analysis in 1965, authored Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race, in 1975, and authored the two-volume The Invention of the White Race (1994, 1997; Verso Books: New Expanded Edition, 2012).

Jeffrey B. Perry is preserving and inventorying the Theodore W. Allen Papers. He edited and introduced Allen’s Class Struggle and Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975; Center for the Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2006) and he has authored numerous other pieces on Allen including "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). Most recently he contributed new introductions, back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes for the new (Verso Books, November 2012) expanded edition of Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race. (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.)

See the following links –

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" (Verso Books) CLICK HERE

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

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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

Go to the following link to read 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"

 Read More 
Be the first to comment

“Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry (Introduction)

“Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen,
and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy"
by Jeffrey B. Perry (Introduction)




“Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” Introduction to 5-Session Class by Jeffrey B. Perry
July 26, 2014
at The Commons in Brooklyn, NY


This course focuses on the relevance today of important insights from Hubert H. Harrison (1883-1927) and Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005), two of the twentieth century's most important writers on race and class. The St. Croix, Virgin Island-born, Harlem-based Harrison was the leading Black activist and theoretician in the Socialist Party; a brilliant writer, orator, and editor; the founder of the "New Negro Movement," the major radical influence on A. Philip Randolph and Marcus Garvey, and a self-described "radical internationalist." He is known as "The Father of Harlem Radicalism."

Theodore William Allen (1919-2005), was an anti-white-supremacist, proletarian intellectual and an autodidact who pioneered his "white skin privilege" analysis in 1965, authored Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race, in 1975, and authored the two-volume The Invention of the White Race, (2 vols., Verso Books, 1994, 1997, new edition 2012) and "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race" (1978).

Jeffrey B. Perry edited “A Hubert Harrison Reader” (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and authored “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press, 2008). Perry also contributed new front and back matter to the new edition of Allen's “The Invention of the White Race” and he authored "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). He is currently working on a new edition of "When Africa Awakes" by Hubert Harrison for Diasporic Africa Press and Vol. 2 of the Hubert Harrison biography.

Dr. Perry is also preserving and inventorying the Theodore W. Allen Papers. He edited and introduced Allen’s Class Struggle and Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race (1975; Center for the Study of Working Class Life, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 2006) and he has authored numerous other pieces on Allen including "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). Most recently he contributed new introductions, back matter, internal study guides, and expanded indexes for the new (Verso Books, November 2012) expanded edition of Allen's two-volume The Invention of the White Race. (Vol. 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control and Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America.)

For 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, CLICK HERE

For information on Hubert Harrison --
CLICK HERE for reviews of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918"
and CLICK HERE for information on "A Hubert Harrison Reader"
and CLICK HERE for writings, audio, and video abour Hubert Harrison

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

For a Slide Presentation/Talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” CLICK HERE

Also see the following links –

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Vol 1: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Verso Books) CLICK HERE and for Vol. 2: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America CLICK HERE

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

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

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

Go to the following link to read 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"

For information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE

For Videos of the Slide Presentation/Talks in the series “Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy” by Jeffrey B. Perry see


1. "Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, July 26, 2014

2. “Hubert Harrison, St. Croix, Early Years in New York, and Black Working Class Intellectual Circles (1883-1910)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 2, 2014

3. “Hubert Harrison, the Socialist Party, the Founding of the 'New Negro Movement,' and the Liberty Congress (1911-1918)," by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 9, 2014

4. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy,"[Part 1] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, August 16, 2014

5. “Theodore W. Allen, 'White Skin Privilege,' 'The Invention of the White Race,' and the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy," [Part 2] by Jeffrey B. Perry, Slide Presentation/Talk at The Commons, Brooklyn NY, September 6, 2014
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

Cornel West on Hubert Harrison, Thomas Paine, and Jeffrey B. Perry Left Forum, 2014




Cornel West discusses Hubert Harrison, Thomas Paine, and Jeffrey B. Perry (author of "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) at the Left Forum, June 3, 2014, in New York City. The panel was chaired by Laura Flanders and also included Chris Hedges and Richard D. Wolff.

Cornel West on Hubert Harrison, Thomas Paine, and Jeffrey B. Perry


For information on “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press) CLICK HERE

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

For a video presentation on Hubert Harrison, "The Father of Harlem Radicalism," who is discussed at the beginning of this video CLICK HERE

For additional information on Jeffrey B. Perry CLICK HERE

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" (Verso Books) CLICK HERE

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

For a video presentation on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," which draws insights from the life and work of Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE

For key insights from Theodore W. Allen on U.S. Labor History CLICK HERE
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

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


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.
 Read More 
Be the first to comment

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

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.”
 Read More 
Be the first to comment