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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

A Quick Guide to Sections of the Video on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” (Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry)



"Terbospeed," the screen name of a viewer of the video of Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race," took the time to select some key points in the presentation and provide excerpts and links to the exact sections in the video where the points are discussed.

What "Terbospeed" has done can be very helpful for viewers and I draw from "Terbospeed's" outline here --

"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.”

Main thesis 1) 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 2) a system of racial privileges was deliberately instituted by the late 17th century Anglo-American bourgeoisie in order to define and establish the white race, and establish a system of racial oppression 3) the consequences were not only ruinous to the interests of African-Americans, they were also disastrous for European-American workers

1:20 "[Hubert] Harrison Arrived in NY [from Caribbean] in 1900 and encountered a viscous white supremacy unlike anything he knew before" CLICK HERE

3:30 Contrast of Caribbean/US Slavery CLICK HERE

4:50 "Politically, the Negro is the touchstone of the modern democratic idea. The presence of the Negro puts our democracy to the test and reveals the falsity of it." (touchstone is black stone which tests the purity of gold) CLICK HERE

07:40 "This understanding of black labor as proletarian is essential to a whole new reinterpretation of US history" CLICK HERE

10:15 Originator -- "white skin privilege" concept, 1965 CLICK HERE

16:25 "Invention's" Main Theses CLICK HERE

23:00 "Three Major Crisis of US: 1870s, 1890s, 1930s" CLICK HERE

23:20 "Why no socialism in the US?" "Why was there a generally low level of class-consciousness in the US?" Review/criticism of left/labor/general historians - "Architects of Consensus" CLICK HERE

24:07 Six-pronged rational: (Consensus explaining low level of class consciousness) Early right to vote and other constitutional liberties Heterogeneity of the working class Free-land safety valve Higher wages Social mobility "Aristocracy of labor" Each is a myth, and needs to be reexamined in the light of Racism/White Supremacy CLICK HERE

37:50 'whiteness' - "the white race is an actual objective thing", "an abstract noun, an attribute of some people, not their role" it's a historically developed identity of European-Americans and Anglo-Americans and so has to be dealt with" CLICK HERE

38:22 "my book is not about, and does not pretend to be about `racism'" "it is about the white race, it's origin and method of functioning" "I stay way from using the word `racism' because of the ruinous ambiguity white supremacists have managed to give it" CLICK HERE

39:40 Slavery or Racism, which came first? CLICK HERE

40:55 "Look at some Howling Absurdities of ``Race''' CLICK HERE

43:45 "The Irish Mirror" "The reflector of Irish history affords insights into American racial oppression and white supremacy" Irish History "presents a case of racial oppression without reference to 'skin color' or, as the jargon goes, 'phenotype'." CLICK HERE

44:12 Core Argument - Comparative study of: 1) Anglo-Norman rule and 'Protestant Ascendancy' (1652-) in Ireland 2) 'white supremacy' in continental Anglo-America (in both its colonial and regenerate United States forms) CLICK HERE

44:55 Specific Examples of Racial Oppression 1) African Americans in the U.S. both pre/post emancipation 2) American Indians in the 19th century 3) Irish from early 13th century until 1315, and after 1652 CLICK HERE

45:08 Essential Elements of Discrimination (against Irish in Ireland and Afro-Americans) which gave these respective regimes the character of racial oppression, were those that: 1) Destroyed the original forms of social identity & 2) Excluded the oppressed group from admittance into the forms of social identity normal to the colonizing power. CLICK HERE

45:33 4 Defining Characteristics of Racial Oppression (Virginia 18th century) 1) de-classing legislation, directed at property-holding members of the oppressed group 2) deprivation of civil rights 3) illegalization of literacy 4) displacement of family rights and authorities The Hallmark of Racial Oppression: "the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor group" CLICK HERE

46:04 Maximize Profit, Maintain Social Control "Where the option was for racial oppression, a successful policy was one that could maximize the return on capital investment, while assuring its perpetuation through an efficient system of social control" CLICK HERE

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The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen Video Presentation by Jeffrey B. Perry Passes 55,000-Viewers Mark Please Share and Discuss Theodore W. Allen and Hubert Harrison are Key




This Video on The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen
Just Passed the 55,000-Viewers Mark on YouTube.

55,000 VIEWS -- Hubert Harrison (“the father of Harlem radicalism”) and Theodore W. Allen (author of “The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America”) are two of the most important thinkers on race and class in the 20th Century. If you are interested in issues of race and class in America, you are encouraged to read them and to become familiar with their work. If you have not yet watched this video on Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” which opens with some comments on Hubert Harrison, please do watch it and please let friends know about it. Allen’s rigorously documented “The Invention of the White Race” provides the basis for a radical, liberating understanding of U.S. history and helps to point the way forward for struggle. Allen and Harrison are that important!

This video of a slide presentation/talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (2 vols., Verso Books) just passed the 55,000 viewer mark -- CLICK 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 CLICK 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) published by Verso Books see -- CLICK HERE

For information on Allen’s “Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” Part 1 see CLICK HERE

For an in-depth treatment of the development of the work of Theodore W. Allen see “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 at the top left at CLICK HERE

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

For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/disc.htm and see CLICK HERE

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see CLICK HERE
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Video on The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen Passes 50,000-Viewers Mark CRUCIAL FOR UNDERSTANDING U.S. HISTORY Points Way Forward for Struggle




This Video on The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen
Just Passed the 50,000-Viewers Mark on YouTube.

50,000 VIEWS -- Hubert Harrison (“the father of Harlem radicalism”) and Theodore W. Allen (author of “The Invention of the White Race: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America”) are two of the most important thinkers on race and class in the 20th Century. If you are interested in issues of race and class in America, you are encouraged to read them and to become familiar with their work. If you have not yet watched this video on Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race,” which opens with some comments on Hubert Harrison, please do watch it and please let friends know about it. Allen’s rigorously documented “The Invention of the White Race” provides the basis for a radical, liberating understanding of U.S. history and helps to point the way forward for struggle. Allen and Harrison are that important!

This video of a slide presentation/talk on Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (2 vols., Verso Books) just passed the 50,000 viewer mark -- http://youtu.be/2Gq77rOuZck

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 http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__i__font_size__3__font_color__sepia___b_6__the_invention_of_the_br_white_116387.htm

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) published by Verso Books see -- http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__i__font_size__3__font_color__sepia___b_5__the_invention_of_the_br_white_116386.htm

For information on Allen’s “Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” Part 1 see http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/allen.html and for Part 2 see http://clogic.eserver.org/1-2/allen2.html

For an in-depth treatment of the development of the work of Theodore W. Allen see “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 at the top left at http://www.jeffreybperry.net or at “Cultural Logic” at http://clogic.eserver.org/2010/2010.html

For a video of a Slide Presentation/Talk on Hubert Harrison see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heBKm1ytd5Q

For comments from scholars and activists on "Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" (Columbia University Press) see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/disc.htm and see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__font_size__3__font_color__green___b_3__hubert_harrison_br___center___fo_86150.htm

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Hubert Harrison see http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__font_size__3__font_color__green___b_1__hubert_harrison___i_the_voice_of_76560.htm
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Video on The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen Passes 45,000-Viewers Mark ESSENTIAL FOR UNDERSTANDING U.S. HISTORY Points Way Forward for Struggle




This Video on The Invention of the White Race
by Theodore W. Allen
Just Passed the 45,000-Viewers Mark on YouTube.


Theodore W. Allen’s work provides an essential foundation for a radical critique of U.S. history.

Its focus on the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy in the context of class struggle points the way forward for struggle in the 21st century.

Those who teach classes are encouraged to read and to include Allen’s seminal work in their courses. They are also encouraged to utilize this video.

The slide presentation/talk opens with some insights from Hubert Harrison, “The Father of Harlem Radicalism.”

Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. 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.

PLEASE VIEW AND SHARE WITH OTHERS!

(The Video was shot at the Brecht Forum in NYC by Fred Nguyen of Fansmiles)

For “A Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” (in 2 parts) by Theodore W. Allen CLICK 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) published by Verso Books CLICK HERE

For information on "The Invention of the White Race" 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

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, available at the top left HERE or at this site HERE provides the fullest treatment of the development of Allen’s thought.

For Sean Ahern’s review of Theodore W. Allen’s “The Invention of the White Race” (Verso Books) in "Black Commentator" CLICK HERE

For another video “On Theodore W. Allen, ‘The Invention of the White Race,’ and White Supremacy in U.S. Labor History” – An Interview with Jeffrey B. Perry at the Labor and Working Class History Association Conference in New York City 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

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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.”
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"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

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

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


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

"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."

-- Theodore W. Allen --
-- From his critical review --
--"On Roediger’s 'The Wages of Whiteness,'” 2001
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Hubert Harrison on Black Workers

“The ten million Negroes of America form a group that is more essentially proletarian than any other American group . . . and the Negro was . . . [under slavery] the most thoroughly exploited of the American proletariat, . . . the most thoroughly despised.”
--Hubert Harrison--
--“Socialism and the Negro,” "International Socialist Review," 1912--
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