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To Theodore W. Allen there was nothing positive in the “white race” ruling class social control formation or in identifying as “white”

In his personal and political life Theodore W. Allen tried not to think or act “white.” He explained -- “the white race is now, and always has been nothing other than a bourgeois social control formation in this country.”

He considered it “the special obligation of the European-American worker” to act by “resigning from the white race, joining the human race as, if you will, a born-again proletarian free of the incubus of the ‘white’ identity.” He added that “resigning . . . Does not entail . . . entering some other ‘racial’ or nationality category; such a European-American remains a European-American.”

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” at
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 http://www.jeffreybperry.net/_center__i__font_size__3__font_color__sepia___b_6__the_invention_of_the_br_white_116387.htm> 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 Read More 
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Theodore W. Allen on “whiteness,” the “white race” and “white race” privilege



Theodore W. Allen on “whiteness,” the “white race” and “white race” privilege


Theodore W. Allen put the word “whiteness” in quotes because he shied away from the term. As he explained, “it’s an abstract noun, it’s an abstraction, it’s an attribute of some people, and it’s not the role they play. And the white race is an actual objective thing. It’s not anthropologic, it’s a historically developed identity of European Americans and Anglo-Americans and so it has to be dealt with. It functions . . . in this history of ours and it has to be recognized as such . . . to slough it off under the heading of whiteness, to me seems to get away from the basic white race identity problem.”

To Theodore W. Allen there was nothing positive in the “white race” ruling class social control formation or in identifying as “white,” and in his personal and political life he tried not to think or act “white.” He explained that “the white race is now, and always has been nothing other than a bourgeois social control formation in this country” and he considered it “the special obligation of the European-American worker” to act by “resigning from the white race, joining the human race as, if you will, a born-again proletarian free of the incubus of the ‘white’ identity.” He added that ‘resigning . . . does not entail . . . entering some other ‘racial’ or nationality category; such a European-American remains a European-American.”

As he developed the “white race” privilege concept, Allen emphasized that for the European-American workers these privileges were a “poison bait” and 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 would provide 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 an additional important insight 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.”

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.”

Allen made clear what he understood as the “interests of the working class” and referred to Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto: “1. In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.” He elsewhere pointed out, “The Wobblies caught the essence of it in their slogan: ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’"

Throughout his work Allen emphasized “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.”

Based on his research Allen wrote, “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.” He emphasized, “‘Solidarity forever!’ means ‘Privileges never!’”

For more on these issues and on 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” available in PDF format as the first link on the by clicking HERE
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Five Books to Consider for Readings on Race and Class in America



Five Books to Consider for Readings on Race and Class in America


Jeffrey B. Perry, “Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918” (Columbia University Press, 2008). Also see HERE

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" , Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (1994, Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012).

Theodore W. Allen, “The Invention of the White Race” Volume II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America", Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (1997, Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012).

“A Hubert Harrison Reader”, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Wesleyan University Press, 2001).

Hubert H. Harrison, “When Africa Awakes: The ‘Inside Story’ of the Stirrings and Strivings of the New Negro in the Western World,” New Expanded Edition, Edited with Introduction and Notes by Jeffrey B. Perry (Diasporic Africa Press, 2015).

The independent, working class intellectuals -- Harrison and Allen – are two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on race and class. They have much to offer readers today.

In addition, here are links to videos of slide presentation talks on –

Theodore W. Allen's “The Invention of the White Race” at the Brecht Forum in New York City and on
Hubert Harrison (at the Dudley Public Library in Roxbury, Massachusetts).


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“ . . . the ‘white race’ must be understood, not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation.” Theodore W. Allen


7. . . . the thesis of "race as a social construct," as it now stands, . . . is an insufficient basis for refutation of white-supremacist apologetics. For, what is to be the reply to the socio-biologist and historian Carl N. Degler who simply says that, ". . . blacks will be discriminated against whenever non-blacks have the power and incentive to do so . . . [because] it is human to have prejudice against those who are different." Or, what if the socio-biologists say, "Fine, we can agree that racial ideology is a social construct, but what is your 'social construct' but an expression of genetic determinants -- another version of Winthrop Jordan's 'unthinking decision'"
8. The logic of "race as a social construct" must be tightened and the focus sharpened. . . . the "white race" must be understood, not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation.

For Allen’s “Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race” – for Part 1 see CLICK HERE and for Part 2 see CLICK HERE

For additional discussion of this subject 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” pp. 77-86 at the top left
at HERE or at “Cultural Logic” HERE


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Theodore W. Allen Draws from Lerone Bennett Jr. in Treatment of White Supremacy and Racial 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.
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Facts of the current conjuncture . . .millions are suffering under the white supremacist shaping of this system, . . . .

As the economic situation worsens people are encouraged to read “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 or at Cultural Logic HERE

Harrison and Allen were two of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers on issues of race and class and they have much to offer for struggles ahead.

“Overall, the facts of the current conjuncture indicate that millions of poor and working people are suffering under U.S. capitalism, that millions are suffering under the white supremacist shaping of this system, that these conditions are inter-related, and that these conditions are worsening.”

Table of Contents

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 [re “Daedalus”]
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“The ‘White Race,’ ‘Hispanic’ Ethnicity, and the Politics of Census-Making” Response to Francis Wilkinson "Who's to Say Jeb Bush Isn't Hispanic?" by Jeffrey B. Perry

The letter that I submitted on April 10, 2015, to "The Record" newspaper in North Jersey was published by that paper on April 12. The newspaper changed the title and removed portions of my letter. The published letter can be found HERE and the letter that I submitted follows:


“The ‘White Race,’ ‘Hispanic’ Ethnicity, and the Politics of Census-Making”

Francis Wilkinson’s “Who’s to Say Jeb Bush Isn’t Hispanic?” (April 8, 2015) raises the question – “isn’t ‘Hispanic’ partly a contrivance”? He then points out that regarding the Census, “Hispanics can call themselves white or black or something else.” He is right on both counts.

The question arises, why do the decision-makers for the Census Bureau facilitate “Hispanics” being counted twice – as both Hispanic and as “white or black or something else”? One key to understanding the answer has to do with another contrivance -- a political contrivance – the “white race” -- and with the question of ruling-class social control.

Theodore W. Allen in “The Invention of the White Race” writes 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.” He based this statement on the fact that he found no instance of the official use of the word “white” as a token of social status in any Virginia record prior to 1691. This was not merely a matter of semantics. His research led him to conclude – based on the commonality of experience and demonstrated solidarity between African-American and European-American laboring people -- 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 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. He then points out that since that time the all-class formation known as the “white race” has served as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of national life.

Today, when the gap between rich and poor is at record proportions and white supremacy mars the land, and when increasing numbers are realizing the need for social change, the powers that be are still interested in using the “white race” to maintain social control. Thus, in the face of predictions that this country will be majority non-“white” by 2042, they are taking various steps to counter that prospect, including political steps with the Census that facilitates “Hispanics” (as Wilkinson notes) to “call themselves white” (and more do call themselves “white” than call themselves “black”). One important aim of such political census-making, and of allowing “Hispanics” to be counted twice and to call themselves “white,” is to enable the ruling powers to preserve the democratic gloss, if not of a “white” majority, then at least of a “white” plurality, in their efforts to maintain social control.

Jeffrey B. Perry

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Theodore W. Allen Shied Away From The Term "whiteness"




Theodore W. Allen (1919-2005) did pioneering work on “white privilege” and “white skin privilege” from the mid-1960s until his death in 2005. He shied away from the term “whiteness.” As he explained:


“. . . it’s an abstract noun, it’s an abstraction, it’s an attribute of some people, it’s not the role they play. And the white race is an actual objective thing. It’s not anthropologic, it’s a historically developed identity of European Americans and Anglo-Americans and so it has to be dealt with. It functions . . . in this history of ours and it has to be recognized as such . . . to slough it off under the heading of ‘whiteness,’ to me seems to get away from the basic white race identity problem.”



The fullest treatment of the development of Theodore W. Allen’s work can be found in “The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights From Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight Against White Supremacy,” available in PDF format HERE (at the top left) and HERE.

For articles, audios, and videos by and about Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE.

For a video on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s Vol. II: "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo America" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books with a new, internal study guide CLICK HERE.

For information on Theodore W. Allen’s Vol. I: “Racial Oppression and Social Control" (including comments from scholars and activists) published by Verso Books with a new, internal study-guide CLICK HERE.

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



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


Excerpts from an interview conducted with Caesar 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.

For additional information on Jeffrey B. Perry Click Here

For key insights from Theodore W. Allen on U.S. Labor History Click Here

For information on Theodore W. Allen's "The Invention of the White Race" Click Here

For additional writings by and about Theodore W. Allen Click Here

For writings by and about Hubert Harrison Click Here

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

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Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, the "white race" as a Ruling Class Social Control Formation, and "white" Identity Interview with Jeffrey B. Perry at Morehouse College3/4/2010





"Hubert Harrison, Theodore W. Allen, the ‘white race’ as a Ruling Class Social Control Formation, and ‘white’ Identity”
Interview with Jeffrey B. Perry conducted and videoed by Ingemar Smith
Morehouse College, March 4, 2010, Atlanta, Georgia


For more on these topics see the longer video HERE and 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” at the top left HERE

For more on Hubert Harrison CLICK HERE and HERE

For more on “The Invention of the White Race,” especially Volume II: “The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America” CLICK HERE

For more on Theodore W. Allen CLICK HERE
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