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Jeffrey B. Perry Blog

Jeffrey B. Perry, "Some Class and Racial Aspects of the Conjuncture" (written in 2012)

The Developing Conjuncture and Some Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Fight against White Supremacy


Jeffrey B. Perry

Some Class and Racial Aspects of the Conjuncture

(This was offered over a decade ago, but people may find the comments of interest.

Deepening Economic Crisis

On June 25, 2010, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the after-tax income gaps between the richest one percent and the middle and poorest fifths in the United States had more than tripled between 1979 and 2007. The concentration at the top of the income scale was the greatest at any time since 1928, immediately prior to the Great Depression.[1] With the gap between rich and poor so vast, and with poor and working people increasingly limited in their spending, it came as little surprise when the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in his June 27, 2010 New York Times column what millions of Americans already knew - the United States was in a depression. He called it "The Third Depression," after those of the 1870s and 1930s, and he predicted that "tens of millions" of American workers would suffer, "many of whom will go jobless for years" including some who "will never work again."[2]

Facts supported Krugman's contentions. On July 1, 2010, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 14.6 million Americans were unemployed, 45.5% of these were long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more), and the official unemployment rate was 9.5 percent. Another 8.6 million were listed as involuntarily working part-time and 2.6 million more were marginally attached to the economy (they hadn't looked for work in the four weeks preceding the survey). Included in this group were 1.2 million "discouraged workers" who had given up looking for work "because they believe no jobs are available for them." Overall, the BLS counted 25.8 million workers unemployed/underemployed, some 17 percent of the workforce.[3] Other workers were turning to the Social Security Administration's disability program for help and the SSA's chief actuary predicted "roughly a million more disability applications from 2009 through 2011 than it would have without the recession."[4] Approximately 40 million Americans, 13.2% of the population, were living in poverty,[5] fifty percent of children would need food stamps while growing up,[6] over 46 million Americans were without healthcare,[7] home foreclosures hit a record high of 937,840 in the third quarter of 2009,[8] and a newly developed Economic Security Index found that 20 percent of Americans without a financial cushion experienced a 25 percent or greater loss of household income in 2009 (and conditions were expected to worsen).[9]

U.S. Workers Faring Badly

Joseph E. Stiglitz, another Nobel Prize-winning economist, emphasized in Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Shrinking of the World Economy (2010) that this "'Made in the U.S.A' crisis" has "quickly spread round the world" and since 2008 "tens of millions lost their jobs worldwide - 20 million in China alone - and tens of millions fell into poverty."[10] In addition to recognizing the devastating consequences worldwide, it is especially important to emphasize that poor and working people in the United States are not faring well either. The World Health Organization reported that "the U.S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country," but it ranked 37th in performance.[11] The Social Security Administration found that "50 percent of wage earners had net compensation [wages, tips, and the like] less than or equal to . . . $26,261.29 [$505 per week/$12.63 per hour pre-tax] for 2009.[12]America, according to Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), has "the highest rate of incarceration in the world."[13]At a June 2010 Congressional Summit it was reported that "incarceration rates have increased 800 percent in the last 30 years" and that "90 percent of all criminal defendants fall below the poverty line."[14] The Economic Policy Institute compared the U.S. to 19 other industrialized countries and found that it had "weaker unions, lower minimum wages, [and] less generous social benefits" than the other countries. Not only do U.S. workers work more hours than those in these other countries, they do so without statutorily paid public holidays and they are alone amongst this group in not receiving statutorily paid vacation time. Most significantly, on the two major measures of household income inequality (the Gini coefficient and the ratio of 90th-to-10th percentile), the U.S. showed the greatest inequality.[15]

White Supremacist Shaping

In the United States the suffering and hardship reflected in these and other areas are intensified by racial oppression. In July 2010 Black unemployment was reported at 15.6%, white unemployment was 8.6%; in 2008 Black poverty was reported at 24.7%, "non-Hispanic White" poverty was 8.6%.[16] Ninety percent of Black children will be on food stamps at some point while growing up.[17] Stark racial disparities exist, and in general have increased, in jobs, housing, health care, education, incarceration and every major social and economic indicator measured in the Urban League's State of Black America 2009. That report describes "persistent inequalities" in American society and utilizes an "Equality Index" that considers five areas - economics, health, education, social justice, and civic engagement in order to compare Black to "white" equality (with equality being 100% and an index of less than 100% indicating that Black people are

doing worse relative to "whites"). The overall Equality Index is 71.1%. The index for economics is 57.4%, social justice 60.4%, health 74.4%, education 78.5%, and civic engagement 96.3%.[18]

Incarceration figures are staggering. Black males are incarcerated "at a rate more than six times higher than white males" and Black females at a rate over 3.6 times that of white females.[19] Alexander, in The New Jim Crow, emphasizes that "no other country in the world imprisons so many of its racial or ethnic minorities" and she describes how America has "a set of structured arrangements that locks . . . [African Americans] into a subordinate political, social, and economic position, effectively creating a second class citizenship."[20] Jan M. Chaiken, Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, found "approximately 30 percent of black men ages 20 to 29 were under correctional supervision" and "a young black man age 18 . . . had a 28.5 percent chance of spending time in prison during his life."[21]

Alexander's work focuses on the criminal justice system and the "racialized social control" system that she wishes to "dismantle" and it describes "mass incarceration," much of it rooted in the white supremacist "War on Drugs," as "the most damaging manifestation of the backlash against the Civil Rights Movement." In her book she explains that the "current system of social control permanently locks a large percentage of the African American community out of the mainstream society and economy" through a "system of laws, policies, customs, and institutions, that operate collectively to

ensure the subordinate status of a group defined largely by race." She also details how "mass incarceration marginalizes large sections of the African American community, segregates them physically (in prisons, jails, and ghettos)" and then "authorizes discrimination against them in voting, employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service." Alexander also advises: "Whites should prove their commitment to dismantling not only mass incarceration, but all the structures of racial inequality that guarantee for whites the resilience of white privilege."[22]


In early 2011 much of the nation's attention focused on attacks on working people and public sector unions, centering on struggles in Madison, Wisconsin. A few related race and class aspects of that situation merit attention.

First, the public sector, nationally, according to Steven Pitts, of the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, "is the single most important source of employment for African Americans."[23] Both in terms of membership in those unions and in terms of the constituencies they serve, African Americans are hit hard by such attacks.

Second, other attacks on working people, along the lines that Alexander describes, have been occurring throughout the state. Though much less discussed, these attacks and their interconnection with the more publicly visible events in Madison are important. Wisconsin, which has less than a six percent Black population (and a history that includes nine "all-white" "sundown towns"), has the second highest rate of Black incarceration of any state in the country. Milwaukee, 80 miles from Madison, is the state's largest city with the largest Black population and has been ranked the nation's most segregated metropolitan area and the nation's first or second most segregated city. According to Marc V. Levine of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in 2009, the most recent year for which data were available, "a staggering 53.3 percent of metro Milwaukee's working age African American males were not employed: either unemployed, or, for various

reasons (including incarceration), not even in the labor force." Levine points out that "This is the highest jobless rate among working age black males ever recorded in Milwaukee, " which, he notes, also has "the widest racial disparity in jobless rates among forty of the nation's largest metropolitan areas." Milwaukee, though extreme, is not alone, however, and the "jobless" figures for adult Black males in other cities are similar: Detroit - 59.5%, Cleveland - 52.3%, Buffalo - 52.3%, Chicago 50.3%, Pittsburgh 50.3%, and so on.[24]

A direct connection between the attack on labor rights and the incarceration, segregation, and lack of job opportunities for African Americans is found in the story of how Governor Scott Walker, the outspoken opponent of labor rights in Wisconsin, rose in Republican Party ranks as a state representative from a small city outside Milwaukee (Wauwatosa -"white" population approx. 94%, Black population approx, 2%,). As a county executive from Milwaukee County, he was a leading opponent of a public transit bill that sought to connect the city to the suburbs, a bill that would have increased access to jobs for Black workers from inner city Milwaukee, and thus would have posed a potential challenge to white supremacist housing segregation and employment patterns.

Millions Are Suffering and Conditions Are Worsening

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.[25]

The lives and work of Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen offer important insights for understanding and challenging such conditions. It is to some of these insights that we now turn.[26]

[1]  Arloc Sherman and Chad Stone, "Income Gaps Between Very Rich and Everyone Else More than Triples in Last Three Decades, New Data Show," Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 25, 2010, <http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3220>. In the May 2011 issue of Vanity Fair Joseph E. Stiglitz elaborated further. He pointed out that "1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation's income" and "in terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent." See also Joseph E. Stiglitz, "Of the 1 %, by the 1 %, for the 1 %," Vanity Fair (May 2011) online at <http://www.vanityfair.com/society/features/2011/05/top-one-percent-201105>.
[2]  Paul Krugman, "The Third Depression," New York Times, June 27, 2010, A 19,

<http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/opinion/28krugman.html>. Theodore W. Allen described such a crisis as "a capitalist crisis of overproduction." He explained, "The crisis of overproduction means . . . you can get anything you want if you have the money. But you ain't . . . [the crisis is] not of underproduction, but of over-production of Kapital." See Theodore W. Allen, "A Transcript of Ted Allen's Talk on the Domestic Economic Situation," March 2, 1974 - Chicago, p. 6, copy in possession of author.
[3]  United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment Situation Summary," July 2, 2010, <http://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/empsit_07022010.htm>. In addition, on July 2 the New York Times reported that 652,000 Americans stopped searching for work in June. See Michael Powell, "Recovery Slows with Weak Job Creation in Private Sector," New York Times, July 2, 2010, at <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/business/economy/03jobs.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=michael%20powel l%20recovery%20slows&st=cse>.
[4]  Conor Dougherty, "Beyond the Bubble: The Long Slog: Out of Work, Out of Hope," Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition), September 25, 2010, p. A 1.
[5]  Carmen DeNavas-Walt, Bernadette D. Proctor, and Jessica C. Smith, U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60-236, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2009), p. 13, <http: //www.docstoc. com/docs/

[6]  Susan Lang, "Half of U.S. Children - and Most Black Children - Will Use Food Stamps," Cornell University, Chronicleonline, November 3, 2009, <http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Nov09/ KidsFoodStamps.html>, citing Mark R. Rank and Thomas A. Hirschl, "Estimating the Risk of Food Stamp Use and Impoverishment During Childhood," Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, No. 163 (11) (November, 2009), pp. 994-99.
[7]  DeNavas-Walt, et al., Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage, 66. A Harvard Medical School study indicated that this resulted in 45,000 preventable deaths per year. See "Harvard Medical Study Links Lack of Insurance to 45,000 U.S. Deaths a Year," New York Times, September 17, 2009, at <http://prescriptions.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/17/harvard-medical-study-links-lack-of-insurance-to- 45000-us-deaths-a-year/?emc=eta1>.
[8]  Les Christie, "Foreclosures: 'Worst Three Months of All Time," CNNMoney.com, October 15, 2009, <http ://money.cnn.com/2009/10/15/real_estate/foreclosure_crisis_deepens/?postversion=2009101507>.
[9]  Jacob S. Hacker, et al., "Economic Security at Risk: Findings from the Economic Security Index," July 2010, available at <http://nw-assets.s3.amazonaws.com/pdf/ESI_report_embargoed_until_7-22_low- res.pdf> and at the bottom of <http://www.stateoftheusa.org/content/report-economic-security-slidi.php>. Conditions did, in fact, worsen for millions. By the end of March 2011 former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich pointed out "consumers are 70 percent of the American economy," their "confidence is plummeting," and is "weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession." See Robert Reich, "The Economic Truth That Nobody Will Admit: We're Heading Back Toward a Double Dip," March 31, 2011, Huffpost Business, April 7, 2011, at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-reich/the- truth-about-the-econo_b_842998.html>.
[10] Joseph E. Stiglitz, Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Shrinking of the World Economy (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010), p. 1.
[11] "World Health Organization Assesses the World's Health Systems," June 21, 2000, <http://www.who. int/whr/2000/media_centre/press_release/en/index.html>.
[12] Social Security Online, "Wage Statistics for 2009," at <http://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year =2009>.
[13] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: The New Press, 2010), p. 6.
[14] American Civil Liberties Union, Blog of Rights, June 24, 2010, "Innocent Until Proven Indigent," <http://www.aclu.org/blog/racial-justice/innocent-until-proven-indigent>.
[15] Lawrence Mishel, Jared Bernstein, and Heidi Shierholtz, The State of Working America 2008/2009 (Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2009), Chapter 8, "International Comparisons," pp. 357, 365, 367, 380. The nineteen other industrialized countries include France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Iceland, Norway, Italy, Australia, United Kingdom, Spain, Finland, Japan, Greece, and Ireland.
[16] Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment Situation Summary," July 2, 2010 and DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, and Smith, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008," p. 15.
[17] Lang, "Half of U.S. Children - and Most Black Children - Will Use Food Stamps."
[18] Wilson, "Introduction to the 2009 Equality Index," in The State of Black America 2009, 15-41, esp. pp. 15-17. All of these numbers with the exception of health declined from the previous year and in that area some 19.5% of African Americans had no health insurance. Thomas M. Shapiro, Tatjana Meschede, and Laura Sullivan, "The Racial Wealth Gap Increases, Fourfold," May 2010, Institute on Assets and Social Policy, Heller School, Brandeis University, <http://iasp.brandeis.edu/whatsnew/index.html>. At the end of March 2011 the Urban League reported that its 2011 Equality Index stood at 71.5% and that "Since the publication of the 2010 index, we have observed growing gaps in the relative status of blacks and whites in the areas of loan access, wealth, and children's health." See National Urban League, Executive Summary: The State of Black America 2011 Jobs Rebuild America: Putting Urban America Back to Work, March 31, 2011, pp. 2-3.
[19] U.S. Office of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, "Number of State Prisoners Declined by Almost 3,000 During 2009; Federal Prison Population Increased by 6,800," June 23, 2010, <http ://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/ content/pub/press/pim09stpy09acpr.cfm>.
[20] Alexander, The New Jim Crow, pp. 59, 180.
[21] Jan M. Chaiken, "Crunching Numbers: Crime and Incarceration at the End of the Millennium," National Institute of Justice Journal, January 2000, pp. 10-17, esp. p. 14, <http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/ Abstract.aspx?id=180078>. Chaiken explained that "in prison" reflected "actual prison sentences, which ordinarily are for at least a year and follow a conviction for a felony."
[22] Alexander, The New Jim Crow, pp. 10-11, 13, 17, 19, 59, 94, and 244.
[23] Steven Pitts, "Research Brief: Black Workers and the Public Sector," University of California Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education, April 4, 2011, p. 1. Pitts also points out (p. 2) that "Prior to the [current] recession the wage differential between Black and white workers was less in the public sector than in the overall economy."
[24] Marc V. Levine, "Research Update: The Crisis Deepens: Black Male Joblessness in Milwaukee 2009," Working Paper, October 2010 (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development," pp. 2, 3, 11, available online at <http://www4.uwm.edu/ced/publications/blackjoblessness_2010.pdf>; Daniel Denvir, "The Ten Most Segregated Urban Areas in America," Salon, March 31, 2011, available at <http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/03/29/most_segregated_cities/slideshow.html>; Harry Bradford, "America's Ten Most Segregated Cities," Huffpost, April 7, 2011 online at <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/07/americas-10-most-segregated-cities_n_845092.html>; and The Sentencing Project, Uneven Justice: State Rates of Incarceration by Race and Ethnicity (Washington, DC, July 1907), p. 8 available online at <http://www.sentencingproject.org/doc/publications/ rd_stateratesofincbyraceandethnicity.pdf>. James W. Loewen, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism (New York: The New Press, 2005), pp. 2, 5, defines a sundown town as "any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus 'all- white' on purpose." He found nine sundown towns in Wisconsin.
<http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/bp306-class-of-2011/>, which says that "In 2010, the unemployment rate for workers age 16-24 was 18.4% - the worst on record in the 60 years that this data has been tracked." See also Ruth Helman, Mathew Greenwald & Associates, and Craig Copeland and Jack VanDerhei, "The 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey: Confidence Drops to Record Lows, Reflecting 'the New Normal,'" Issue Brief, No. 355 (Employee Benefit Research Institute, March 2011) at <http://www.ebri.org/pdf/surveys/rcs/2011/EBRI_03-2011_No355_RCS-11 .pdf>.
[26] Much information on the wide-ranging Harrison, in addition to his work on the centrality of the fight against white supremacy, has recently been made available through A Hubert Harrison Reader, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, and through access to the Hubert H. Harrison Papers at Columbia University. Allen's Papers are not yet publicly available, however, and that fact prompted a decision to include more from his writings in the extended section on his work.

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Protesting during the 1978 postal wildcat strike with Draeden "Drake" Waller

During the 1978 postal wildcat strike, my friend, the late Draeden "Drake" Waller and I can be seen protesting outside the 34th Street post facility in New York City.

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"August 23 Marks the 103rd Anniversary of the Birth of Theodore W. Allen" by Jeffrey B. Perry


 "White supremacy" wrote Theodore W. Allen, is "both the keystone and the Achilles heel of U.S. bourgeois democracy."


"White identity had to be carefully taught."


Theodore W. "Ted" Allen (August 23, 1919-January 19, 2005) was an anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual and activist. He developed his pioneering class struggle-based analysis of "white skin privilege" beginning in the mid-1960s; authored the seminal two-volume "The Invention of the White Race" in the 1990s; and consistently maintained that the struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at radical social change in the United States.


Born on August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana, he grew up in Paintsville, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia (where he graduated from high school), and then went into the mines and became a United Mine Workers Local President. After hurting his back in the mines, he moved to New York City and lived his last fifty-plus years in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn where he worked various jobs including as a postal worker at the Bulk Mail Center in Jersey City, NJ and as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library.


"The Invention of the White Race"


Allen's two-volume "The Invention of the White Race" (1994, 1997: Verso Books, new expanded edition 2012 and new consolidated – 2 volumes in one – edition, Verso Books, 2021) with its focus on racial oppression and social control is one of the twentieth-century's major contributions to historical understanding.


It presents a full-scale challenge to what he refers to as "The Great White Assumption" — the unquestioning acceptance of the "white race" and "white" identity as skin color-based and natural attributes rather than as social and political constructions. Its thesis on the origin, nature, and maintenance of the "white race" and its understanding that racial slavery in the Anglo-American plantation colonies was capitalist and enslaved Black laborers were proletarians, contains the basis of a revolutionary approach to United States labor history.


On the back cover of the 1994 edition of Volume 1, subtitled "Racial Oppression and Social Control," Allen boldly asserted "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no 'white' people there; nor, according to the colonial records, would there be for another sixty years." That statement, based on 20-plus years of primary research in Virginia's colonial records, reflected the fact that Allen found no instance of the official use of the word "white" as a token of social status prior to its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691.


 As he later explained, "Others living in the colony at that time were English; they had been English when they left England, and naturally they and their Virginia-born children were English, they were not 'white.' White identity had to be carefully taught, and it would be only after the passage of some six crucial decades" that the word "would appear as a synonym for European-American."


In this context he offers his major thesis — that the "white race" was invented as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor solidarity as manifested in the latter (civil war) stages of Bacon's Rebellion (1676-77).


To this he adds two important corollaries: 1) the ruling elite deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges to define and maintain the "white race" and to implement a system of racial oppression, and 2) the consequence was not only ruinous to the interest of African Americans, it was also disastrous for European-American workers.


In Volume II, subtitled "The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America." Allen tells the story of the invention of the "white race" and the development of the system of racial oppression in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Anglo-American plantation colonies. His primary focus is on the pattern-setting Virginia colony, and he pays special attention to the reduction of tenants and wage-laborers in the majority English labor force to chattel bond-servants in the 1620s.


 In so doing, he emphasizes that this was a qualitative break from the condition of laborers in England and from long established English labor law, that it was not a feudal carryover, that it was imposed under capitalism, and that it was an essential precondition of the emergence of the lifetime hereditary chattel bond-servitude imposed upon African-American laborers under the system of racial slavery.


"Throughout much of the seventeenth century, the status of African-Americans was indeterminate."

Allen describes how, throughout much of the seventeenth century, the status of African-Americans was indeterminate (because it was still being fought out) and he details the similarity of conditions for African-American and European-American laborers and bond-servants. He also documents many significant instances of labor solidarity and unrest, especially during the 1660s and 1670s.


Of great significance is his analysis of the civil war stage of Bacon's Rebellion when thousands of laboring people took up arms against the ruling plantation elite, the capital (Jamestown) was burned to the ground, rebels controlled 6/7 of the Virginia colony, and Afro- and Euro-American bond-servants fought side-by-side demanding an end to their bondage.


It was in the period after Bacon's Rebellion that the "white race" was invented as a ruling-class social control formation. Allen describes systematic ruling-class policies, which conferred "white race" privileges on European-Americans while imposing harsher disabilities on African-Americans resulting in a system of racial slavery, a form of racial oppression that also imposed severe racial proscriptions on free African-Americans.


He emphasizes that when free African-Americans were deprived of their long-held right to vote in Virginia and Governor William Gooch explained in 1735 that the Virginia Assembly had decided upon this curtailment of the franchise in order "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros & Mulattos," it was not an "unthinking decision." Rather, it was a deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie and was a conscious decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even though it entailed repealing an electoral principle that had existed in Virginia for more than a century.


"Any persons of discernible non-European ancestry after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group."

Key to understanding the virulent racial oppression that developed in Virginia, Allen argues, is the formation of the intermediate social control buffer stratum, which serves the interests of the ruling class. In Virginia, any persons of discernible non-European ancestry after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was made up of laboring-class "whites."


In the Anglo-Caribbean, by contrast, under a similar Anglo ruling elite, "mulattos" were included in the social control stratum and were promoted into middle-class status. This difference was rooted in a number of social control-related factors, one of the most important of which was that in the Anglo-Caribbean there were "too few" poor and laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were ''too many'' to be accommodated in the ranks of that class.


Challenges Two Main Ideological Props of White Supremacy


In "The Invention of the White Race" Allen challenges what he considers to be two main ideological props of white supremacy — the argument that "racism" is innate (and it is therefore useless to challenge it) and the argument that European-American workers "benefit" from "white race" privileges and white supremacy (and that it is therefore not in their interest to oppose them).


These two arguments, opposed by Allen, are related to two master historical narratives rooted in writings on the colonial period.


The first argument is associated with the "unthinking decision" explanation for the development of racial slavery offered by historian Winthrop D. Jordan in his "White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negro, 1550-1812."


The second argument is associated with historian Edmund S. Morgan's "American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia," which maintains that in Virginia, as slavery developed in the eighteenth century, "there were too few free poor [European-Americans] on hand to matter."


Allen points out that what Morgan said about "too few" free poor was true in the eighteenth-century Anglo-Caribbean, but not in Virginia.


"White race" privilege


The article 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, 2010) describes key components of Allen's analysis of "white race" privilege.


It explains that as he developed the "white race" privilege concept, Allen emphasized that these privileges were a "poison bait" (like a shot of "heroin") and he explained that they "do not permit" the masses of European-American workers nor their children "to escape" from that class.


"It is not that the ordinary white worker gets more than he must have to support himself," but "the Black worker gets less than the white worker." By, thus "inducing, reinforcing and perpetuating racist attitudes on the part of the white workers, the present-day power masters get the political support of the rank-and-file of the white workers in critical situations, and without having to share with them their super profits in the slightest measure."


"The 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."

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


Probing more deeply, Allen offered additional important insights into why these race privileges are conferred by the ruling class. He pointed out that "the ideology of white racism" is "not appropriate to the white workers" because it is "contrary to their class interests." Because of this "the bourgeoisie could not long have maintained this ideological influence over the white proletarians by mere racist ideology."


Under these circumstances white supremacist thought is "given a material basis in the form of the deliberately contrived system of race privileges for white workers." Thus, writes Allen, "history has shown that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers, it also shows that the concomitant racist ideology has blinded them to that fact."


Allen added, "the white supremacist system that had originally been designed in around 1700 by the plantation bourgeoisie to protect the base, the chattel bond labor relation of production" also served "as a part of the 'legal and political' superstructure of the United States government that, until the Civil War, was dominated by the slaveholders with the complicity of the majority of the European-American workers."


Then, after emancipation, "the industrial and financial bourgeoisie found that it could be serviceable to their program of social control, anachronistic as it was, and incorporated it into their own 'legal and political' superstructure."


Allen felt that two essential points must be kept in mind. First, "the race-privilege policy is deliberate bourgeois class policy." Second, "the race-privilege policy is, contrary to surface appearance, contrary to the interests, short range as well as long range interests of not only the Black workers but of the white workers as well."


"'Solidarity forever!' means 'Privileges never!'"


He repeatedly emphasized that "the day-to-day real interests" of the European-American worker "is not the white skin privileges, but in the development of an ever-expanding union of class-conscious workers." He emphasized, "'Solidarity forever!' means 'Privileges never!'" He elsewhere pointed out, "The Wobblies [the Industrial Workers of the World] caught the essence of it in their slogan: 'An injury to one is an injury to all.'"


Throughout his work Allen stresses that "the initiator and the ultimate guarantor of the white skin privileges of the white worker is not the white worker, but the white worker's masters" and the masters do this because it is "an indispensable necessity for their continued class rule."


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




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


 Based on this analysis Allen maintained, "the first main strategic blow must be aimed at the most vulnerable point at which a decisive blow can be struck, namely, white supremacism."


This, he argued, was the conclusion to be drawn from a study of three great social crises in U.S. history – "the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s." In each of these cases "the prospects for a stable broad front against capital has foundered on the shoals of white supremacism, most specifically on the corruption of the European-American workers by racial privilege."


Groundbreaking Analysis Continues to Grow in Importance


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


Allen's historical work has profound implications for American History, African-American History, Labor History, Left History, American Studies, and "Whiteness" Studies and it offers important insights in the areas of Caribbean History, Irish History, and African Diaspora Studies.


With its meticulous primary research, equalitarian motif, emphasis on the class struggle dimension of history, and groundbreaking analysis his work continues to grow in influence and importance.


Those interested in learning more of the work of Theodore W. Allen can see: 

Writings, Videos, and Audios by and about Theodore W. Allen at https://www.jeffreybperry.net/4__theodore_w__allen_br___b___font___font___center__86151.htm

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Read the introduction to HUBERT HARRISON: THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY, 1918–1927 (Columbia University Press), by Jeffrey B. Perry.

 Read the introduction to HUBERT HARRISON: THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY, 1918–1927 (Columbia University Press), by Jeffrey B. Perry. see HERE

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Epigraph (Part 4 of 4) -- from "The Developing Conjuncture . . ."

Epigraph (Part 4 of 4) -- from "The Developing Conjuncture . . ."


"(In) three periods of national crisis [Civil War and Reconstruction, Populist Revolt of 1890s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s] characterized by general confrontations between capital and urban and rural laboring classes . . . The key to the defeat of the forces of democracy, labor and socialism was in each case achieved by ruling-class appeals to white supremacism, basically by fostering white-skin privileges of laboring- class European-Americans."
--Theodore W. Allen "Introduction" to "The Kernel and the Meaning: A Contribution to a Proletarian Critique of United States History," 2003


"[This 'white race'] . . . this all-class association of European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African- Americans - [has functioned] as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of national life"
-- Theodore W. Allen, "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race," 1998


"The 'white race' is the historically most general form of 'class collaboration.'"
- Theodore W. Allen, Taped Interview with Chad Pearson, SUNY-Albany, May 13, 2004


" . . . the 'white race' must be understood, not simply as a social construct, but as a ruling class social control formation."
- Theodore W. Allen, "Summary of the Argument of The Invention of the White Race," 1998

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"Black Wobblies Subtitle: Hubert Harrison and Ben Fletcher" by Jeff Stein in "Anarcho-Syndicalist Review," #85, Spring, 2022

"Black Wobblies Subtitle: Hubert Harrison and Ben Fletcher" by Jeff Stein in "Anarcho-Syndicalist Review," #85, Spring, 2022  See HERE



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Epigraph (Part 3 of 4) From "The Developing Conjuncture and Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry

Epigraph (Part 3 of 4)


" . . . among the masses of white workers, the bourgeoisie established the dominance of race consciousness as against proletarian class consciousness."
- Theodore W. Allen "Presentation for a Panel Discussion," 1972


"As long as the Color Line exists, . . . The cant of 'Democracy' is intended as dust in the eyes of white voters . . . It furnishes bait for the clever statesmen."
- Hubert Harrison, "New Negro," 1919


"It is only the Blindspot in the eyes of America, and its historians, that can overlook and misread so clean and encouraging a chapter of human struggle and human uplift [as Black Reconstruction]."
- W.E.B. Du Bois, "Black Reconstruction," 1935


"All the while their white blindspot prevents them from seeing what we are talking about is . . . the 'white question,' the white question of questions - the centrality of the problem of white supremacy and the white-skin privilege which have historically frustrated the struggle for democracy, progress and socialism in the US."
- Theodore W. Allen "White Blindspot," 1967

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Recent Reviews of 2-volume Columbia University Press Hubert Harrison Biography by Jeffrey B. Perry


Here are links to recent items on my 2-volume, Columbia University Press, biography ("Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918" and ubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality:"H"Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927").


Robert Greene, II, "The Stalwart: Hubert Harrison's Radical Life and Times," "The Nation," vol. 314, No. 12, June 13-20, 2022, pp. 38-42. -- See HERE or see HERE


John Woodford, "A Giant Rescued from Oblivion," "Against the Current," Vol. XXXVII, No. 3, July/August 2022, pp. 35-38 -- see HERE

 Carlett Spike, "Jeff Perry's Scholarship is Elevating 'the Father of Harlem Radicalism,/" "Princeton Alumni Weekly," published online April 27, 2022 -- see HERE

Sean I. Ahern, "Hubert Henry Harrison-Tribune of the People," "Black Agenda Report," in 3 parts June 8, 15, 22, 2022 online at -- part 1 see HERE part 2 see HERE and part 3 see HERE 

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Jeffrey B. Perry Interview with Laura Flanders


Jeffrey B. Perry Interview with Laura Flanders



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"A Giant Rescued from Oblivion" -- review by John Woodford of "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press) by Jeffrey B. Perry -- in "Against The Current"

"A Giant Rescued from Oblivion" -- review by John Woodford of "Hubert Harrison: The Struggle for Equality, 1918-1927" (Columbia University Press) by Jeffrey B. Perry -- in "Against The Current." Woodford has written for "Ebony,""The Chicago Sun-Times," "The New York Times,"and "The Black Scholar" and he was editor-in-chief of "Muhammad Speaks." 

See HERE  

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Epigraph (Part 2 of 4) From "The Developing Conjuncture and Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of Struggle Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry

"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


"The South, after the [Civil] war, presented the greatest opportunity for a real national labor movement which the nation ever saw or is likely to see for many decades. Yet the [white] labor movement, with but few exceptions, never realized the situation. It 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."
W.E.B. Du Bois, "Black Reconstruction," 1935


"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, "On Roediger's The Wages of Whiteness," 2001

"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 . . . [True democracy and equality implies] a revolution . . . startling to even think of."
Hubert Harrison, "The Negro and Socialism," 1911


"The most vulnerable point at which a decisive blow can be struck against bourgeois rule in the United States is white supremacy. White supremacy is both the keystone and the Achilles heel of U.S. bourgeois democracy, the historic font of bourgeois rule in the United States."
Theodore W. Allen. "The Most Vulnerable Point," 1972


". . . the mission of the Socialist Party is to free the working class from exploitation, and . . . the duty of the party to champion . . . [the Negro's] cause is as clear as day. This is the crucial test of Socialism's sincerity."
Hubert Harrison, "Socialism and the Negro," "International Socialist Review," 1912
"The Negro problem, then, is the great test of the American socialists."
W.E.B. Du Bois, "Socialism and the Negro Problem," "The New Review," 1913


". . . your official documents [show] that the white men of your [Socialist] party officially put [the white] 'race first' rather than 'class first.'"
Hubert Harrison "An Open Letter to the Socialist Party of New York City," "Negro World," 1920

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Epigraph (Part 1 of 4) From "The Developing Conjuncture and Insights from Hubert Harrison and Theodore W. Allen on the Centrality of Struggle Against White Supremacy" by Jeffrey B. Perry

Epigraph (Part 1 of 4)
"The King James version of the Bible . . . does not contain the word 'race' in our modern sense . . . as late as 1611 our modern idea of race had not yet arisen."
Hubert Harrison, "World Problems of Race," 1926
"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."
Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 1, 1994
(Written after searching through 885 county-years of Virginia's colonial records)
"In the latter half of the seventeenth century, [in] Virginia and Maryland, the tobacco colonies . . . Afro-American and European-American proletarians made common cause in this struggle to an extent never duplicated in the three hundred years since."
Theodore W. Allen, "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race," 1975
" . . . the plantation bourgeoisie established a system of social control by the institutionalization of the 'white' race whereby the mass of poor whites was alienated from the black proletariat and enlisted as enforcers of bourgeois power."
Theodore W. Allen, "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race," 1975
" . . . the record indicates that laboring-class European-Americans in the continental plantation colonies showed little interest in 'white identity' before the institution of the system of 'race' privileges at the end of the seventeenth century."
Theodore W. Allen, "The Invention of the White Race," Vol. 1, 1994
" . . . their (the poor "whites") own position, vis-a-vis the rich and powerful . . . was not improved, but weakened, by the white-skin privilege system."
Theodore W. Allen, "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race," 1975

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