Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The Invention of
the White Race:

The Origin of Racial Oppression
and Social Control in Anglo-America


By Theodore W. Allen
Verso, in two volumes

[A note from Carl Davidson: Ted Allen was a teacher and friend of mine. I've often said three books are critical to understanding our country: Black Reconstruction by WEB Du Bois, Blues People by Amiri Baraka, and the Invention of the White Race by Ted Allen. Ted would have agreed about the first two, but may have been unduly modest about his own. In any case, our study group went through both volumes, and learned a great deal, especially what original historical materialism in the Marxist tradition looks like when done extremely well on a burning question. Here is a brief description of the books. The first two comments are a long review putting the work in a wider context, and an appreciation of Allen following his death.]

The Meaning of White

By Dara Bryne
Black Issue Book Review


One of the best ways to understand the workings of "whiteness studies" is to read some of its landmark books. These are essential readings that must not be overlooked by anyone who is interested in race, identity, gender, economics, politics, culture and American history. The most compelling and widely cited among them are Theodore W. Allen's The Invention of the White Race: Racial Oppression and Social Control (Verso Books, 1994), Noel Ignatiev's How the Irish Became White (Routledge, 1995), and David R. Roediger's The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Verso Books Irevised], 1999) and Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History (Verso Books, 1994).

Each author traces the development of "whiteness" to the 19th-century white working class in America. The Irish play a central role in each of these writings. One can look to the history of the Irish in America as a clear example of what "whiteness" means ideologically, materially and culturally. After reading these works, one understands why whiteness is not simply about having white skin. Rather economic and political processes serve as the dominant structural force in this society.


2 comments:

Jeff Perry said...

Theodore W. Allen: In Memoriam

By Jeffrey B. Perry

Theodore W. Allen, a working class intellectual and activist and author of the influential two-volume history The Invention of the White Race (Verso:1994, 1997), died on January 19, 2005, surrounded by friends in his apartment at 97 Brooklyn Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. He was 85. The cause of death was cancer, which he had battled for 15 years. Announcement of the death was made by his close friend Linda Vidinha.

Allen, an ardent opponent of white supremacy, spent much of his last forty years researching the role of white supremacy in United States history and examining records of colonial Virginia as he documented and analyzed the development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century. His main thesis, that the "white race" developed as a ruling class social control formation in response to labor unrest as manifest in Bacon's Rebellion of 1676-77, was first articulated in February 1974 in a talk he delivered at a Union of Radical Political Economists meeting in New Haven. Versions of that talk were published in 1975 in Radical America and in pamphlet form as "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The Invention of the White Race."

In the 1960s "Ted" Allen significantly influenced the direction of the student movement and the new left with an article entitled "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized?" which developed the argument that white supremacy, reinforced among European Americans by the "white skin privilege," was the main retardant of working class consciousness in the United States and that efforts at radical social change should direct principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and urging "repudiation of white skin privilege" by European Americans.

Allen was in the forefront in challenging phenotypical (physical appearance-based) definitions of race, in challenging "racism is innate" arguments, in challenging theories that the working class benefits from white supremacy, in calling attention to the crucial role of the buffer social control group in racial oppression, in documenting and analyzing the development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century, and in clarifying how "this all-class association of European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on laboring class European-Americans relative to African-Americans--[has served] as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of national life" in the United States. These contributions differentiate his work from many writers in the rapidly growing white race as "a social and cultural construction" ranks, which his writings helped to spawn.

In The Invention of the White Race Allen focused on Virginia, the first and pattern-setting continental colony. He emphasized that "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there were no white people there" and he added that he found "no instance of the official use of the word 'white' as a token of social status before its appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691." He also found, similar to historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., that throughout most of the seventeenth century conditions for African-American and European-American laborers and bond-servants were very similar. Under such conditions solidarity among the laboring classes reached a peak during Bacon's Rebellion: the capitol (Jamestown) was burned; two thousand rebels forced the governor to flee across the Chesapeake Bay and controlled 6/7 of Virginia's land; and, in the latter stages of the struggle, "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom from bondage.

To Allen, the social control problems highlighted by Bacon's Rebellion "demonstrated beyond question the lack of a sufficient intermediate stratum to stand between the ruling plantation elite and the mass of European-American and African-American laboring people, free and bond." He then detailed how, in the period after Bacon's Rebellion the white race was invented as "a bourgeois social control formation in response to [such] laboring class unrest." He described systematic ruling class policies, which extended privileges to European laborers and bond-servants and imposed and extended harsher disabilities and blocked normal class mobility for African-Americans. Thus, for example, when 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," Allen emphasized that this was not an "unthinking decision"! "Rather, it was a deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie; it proceeded from a conscious decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even though it meant repealing an electoral principle that had existed in Virginia for more than a century."

For Allen, "The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor group." The key to understanding racial oppression, he wrote, is the social control buffer -- that group in society, which helps to control the poor for the rich. Under racial oppression in Virginia, any persons of discernible non-European ancestry in colonial Virginia after Bacon's Rebellion were denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was made up of working-class "whites." In contrast, Allen explained, in the Caribbean "Mulattos" were included in the social control group and were promoted into middle-class status. For him, this was "the key to the understanding the difference between Virginia ruling-class policy of 'fixing a perpetual brand' on African-Americans" and "the policy of the West Indian planters of formally recognizing the middle-class status 'colored' descendant (and other Afro-Caribbeans who earned special merit by their service to the regime)." The difference "was rooted in the objective fact that in the West Indies there were too few laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were too many to be accommodated in the ranks of that class." (In 1676 in Virginia, for example, there were approximately 6,000 European-American bond-laborers and 2,000 African-American bond-laborers.)

In 1996, on radio station WBAI in New York, Allen discussed the subject of "American Exceptionalism" and the much-vaunted "immunity" of the United States to proletarian class-consciousness and its effects. His explanation for the relatively low level of class consciousness was that social control in the United States was guaranteed, not primarily by the class privileges of a petit bourgeoisie, but by the white-skin privileges of laboring class whites; that the ruling class co-opts European-American workers into the buffer social control system against the interests of the working class to which they belong; and 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.

Theodore William Allen, the third child (after a sister Eula May and brother Tom) of Thomas E. and Almeda Earl Allen was born into a middle-class family August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father was a sales manager and his mother a housewife. In 1929 the family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where, Ted was, in his words, "proletarianized by the Great Depression." He attended college for a couple of days after high school, but, because he didn't believe that setting encouraged independent thought, he didn't think it was for him and didn't go back. At age 17 he joined the American Federation of Musicians (Local 362) and served as its delegate to the Huntington Central Labor Union, AFL. He continued work in the trade union movement as a coal miner in West Virginia for three years until he was forced to leave because of a back injury. During that period he belonged to United Mine Worker locals 5426 (Prenter, West Virginia), 6206 (Gary, West Virginia) where he was an organizer and Local President, and 4346 (Barrackville, West Virginia). He also was co-organizer of a trade union organizing program for the Marion County West Virginia Industrial Union Council, CIO.

In 1938 Allen married Ruth Voithofer, one of eleven children in a coal-mining family, whom he first met in 1934. Ruth was active in organizing and educational work among mining families and women and, beginning in 1942, was a prominent organizer for the United Electrical Workers Union. They separated in the mid-1940s and Ruth Newell (her name after re-marrying) died in 1999.

In 1948 Ted moved to New York. He had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s and, after coming to New York, he taught classes in economics at the Party's Jefferson School at Union Square in Manhattan (1949-56). He was also active in community, civil rights, trade union, and student organizing work; he worked in a factory, as a retail clerk, as a mechanical design draftsman, as an elevator operator, and as a junior high school math teacher at the Grace Church School in Greenwich Village.

In the 1950s Ted married Marie Strong, a poet, and became stepfather to her son, Michael. In the late 1950s the Communist Party went through major repression and internal struggle and Ted left the Party in order to help establish a new organization, the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute the Communist Party (POC). In this period he wrote a number of economic and political articles on the economic situation in the United States and he argued that neither United States nor Latin American workers benefited from imperialism. In 1962 Marie died tragically and Ted, suffering greatly from her loss, discontinued work with the POC and traveled to England and Ireland.

By the mid 1960s, back in Brooklyn, and increasingly affected by the political climate marked by the growing civil rights movement, struggles for national liberation and socialism, and the Vietnam War, Allen set about taking a fresh look at the world and at his former beliefs. Nothing would be sacred. Though his formal education had ended with high school, he was a trained economist, he read widely in history, politics, literature, and the sciences, and he had a probing and analytical mind -- all of which would serve him well in the work ahead.

Drawing on the insights of W. E .B. Du Bois in Black Reconstruction on the blindspot of America, which he paraphrased as "the white blindspot," Allen began work on a historical study of three crises in United States history in which there were general confrontations of the forces of capital and those from below -- the crises of The Civil War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great Depression of the 1930s. His work focused on the role of the theory and practice of white supremacy in shaping those outcomes. He worked together with his friend, the late Esther Kusic, and his work influenced another friend, Noel Ignatin [Ignatiev]. Together, Ignatin and Allen provided the copy for an influential pamphlet containing both "White Blindspot," under Ignatin's name, and Allen's article "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized."

Allen argued against what he referred to as the current consensus on U.S. labor history -- one which 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 emphasized that each of these rationales had to be reinterpreted in terms of white supremacy, that white supremacy was reinforced by the white-skin privilege of white workers, and "that the white-skin privilege does not serve the real interests of the white workers."

The pamphlet, which issued a call to action -- "to repudiate the white-skin privilege" -- was published by the SDS-affiliated Radical Education Project and it had immediate effect on the left. It sharply posed the issues of how to fight white supremacy and whether, or not, that fight was in the interest of "white" workers. It also set the terms of discussion and debate for many activists within SDS.

Allen developed the analysis in his article into a still unpublished book-length manuscript entitled "The Kernel and the Meaning" (1972). It was then, in 1972, in the course of this work, that he became convinced that the problems related to white supremacy couldn't be resolved without a history of the plantation colonies of the 17th and 18th century. His reasoning was clear -- white supremacy still ruled in the United States more than a century after the abolition of slavery and the reasons for that had to be explained. He proceeded to search for a structural principle that was essential to the social order based on slave labor in the continental plantation colonies and still was essential to late twentieth-century America's social order based on wage-labor.

Over the next twenty years Allen did extensive primary research in colonial Virginia records (and his unpublished transcripts of this work, with his eye for the conditions of labor, are another of his important historical contributions). In this period he generated other unpublished book-length manuscripts including "The Genesis of the Chattel-Labor System in Continental Anglo-America" and "The Peculiar Seed," both of which dealt with the early 17th-century development of chattel bond-servitude in Virginia, under which workers could be bought and sold like property. (This chattelization of labor was done primarily among European American workers at first.)

When the first volume of The Invention of the White Race appeared it drew on, and challenged, the work of some of America's leading colonial historians including Winthrop Jordan and Edmund S. Morgan. It offered important theoretical and historical insights in the struggle against white supremacy when it challenged the two major arguments which tend to undermine the struggle against white supremacy in the working class -- the notion that racism is innate (as suggested by Jordan's "unthinking decision" explanation) and the notion that European-American workers benefit from racism (as suggested by Morgan's "there were too few free poor on hand to matter").

Allen challenged these ideas with his factual presentation and analysis, by providing a comprehensive alternate explanation, and by skillfully drawing on examples from Ireland (where a religio/racial oppression existed under the Protestant Ascendancy) and the Caribbean (where a different social control formation was developed based on promotion of "Mulattos" to petit-bourgeois status). He concluded that the codifications of the Penal Laws of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland and the slave codes of white supremacy in continental Anglo-America presented four common defining characteristics of those two regimes: 1) declassing legislation, directed at property-holding members of the oppressed group; 2) the deprivation of civil rights; 3) the illegalization of literacy; and 4) displacement of family rights and authorities. This understanding of racial oppression led him to conclude that a comparative study of "Protestant Ascendancy" in Ireland, and "white supremacy" in continental Anglo-America (in both its colonial and regenerate United States forms) demonstrates that racial oppression is not dependent upon differences of "phenotype."

While working on The Invention of the White Race Allen taught as an adjunct history instructor at Essex County Community College in Newark, NJ, and worked several years each on the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, as a postal mail handler in Jersey City, NJ, and as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. Constantly at the edge of poverty his scholarship was remarkable for its dedication and tenacity in the face of great personal difficulties. During this period his research in Virginia was facilitated by the generosity of Ed Peeples and his family in Richmond and his work in Brooklyn was encouraged by his former companion and close friend Linda Vidinha, her family and her companion Marsha Rosenthal, and a number of other close friends and neighbors who supported his efforts in numerous ways. For over thirty years his research, writings, and ideas were shared and discussed with his close friend Jeff Perry.

As an individual, Ted Allen attracted a wide circle of friends. He presented himself in a humble and homespun way, he was thoughtful and generous in manner, he had a wonderful sense of humor, and he took time to undertake many daily acts of caring and consideration. He was true and loyal to his friends, but always in a principled and forthright way. In many respects, he was a model of the true working-class intellectual. He lived what he preached and he was rooted deep in the working class. He challenged the division between thinkers and laborers, his work was connected to labor and anti- white-supremacist activists and actions, he was disciplined and persistent in his intellectual work, and he was principled in his politics. His life was dedicated to radical social change and he remained true to the course.

Allen's The Invention of the White Race, as well as his other pamphlets, articles, letters, talks, and unpublished manuscripts on the theory and practice of white supremacy in United States history have influenced several generations of anti-white supremacist and labor scholars and activists. They have also impacted a wide range of academic fields including history, sociology, politics, and legal, cultural, and literary studies. His most recent work includes an almost completed book length manuscript, "Toward a Revolution in Labor History" and an article submitted for publication only weeks before his death which focused on the individual and the collective and addressed theoretical problems in the socialist movement.

Theodore Allen was pre-deceased by his elder sister Eula May of Harrisonburg, Va. He is survived by his elder brother Tom, his siblings' families, his stepson Michael Strong, his companion in the 1970s and close friend Linda Vidinha, and by many friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and people influenced by his work.

His literary works have been left to his literary executor, Jeffrey B. Perry, and plans are underway to publish and disseminate his writings and to place the Theodore W. Allen Papers with a repository.

A "Theodore W. Allen Scholar Program" has been established in honor of his "pioneering work" on race and class as a "politically engaged independent scholar and public intellectual." That program, under the auspices of the Center for Working Class Life of the Economics Department of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, 11794-4384, 631-632-7536 (Michael Zweig, Director), will support scholarship and public presentations exploring the intersections of race and class. Tax-deductible contributions to the Fund may be made out to "Stony Brook Foundation" and marked "for Theodore William Allen Scholar Program."

Two commemorative events are being scheduled in Ted Allen's memory. In the early spring, his ashes (as per his request) will be spread over that area "three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in 1676.

The second activity, planned for June 18, 2005, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the community auditorium of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, will commemorate Ted's life and work and include testimony from family and friends who desire to speak on his life, work, and influence.




Among Ted's many well wishers during his recent battle were:

Sean, Donna, and Dylan Ahern
Thomas E. Allen
Thomas E. (Dobby) and Dorothy Allen
Irving and Mildred Appelbaum
Dennis and Ruth Blunt
Peter Bohmer
Evie, Gene, and Nadja Bruskin
Florence, Remco, Uchenna, and Obina Van Capeleeven
Rosemarie Cavagnaro
Connie and Bill Coleman
Gerry Colby
Lynn and John Dambeck
Durand, Priscilla, & Luke Daniel
Carl Davidson
Lee and May Davenport
Barbara Denlinger
Mary DiGregorio
Dilmeran Dunham
David Finkel
Bill Fletcher
Anamaria Flores
Tami Gold
Philip Harper
Becky and Perri Hom
Anne and Charles Johnson
Barbara Johnson
Stella Jones
Bob Kirkman
Beth Lyons
Pamela McKenzie
Leon Moultrie
Gerry and Carolyn Mosseller
Greg Myerson
Maggie Paul
Dennis O'Neil
Kay Osborn
Carol Patti
Chad Pearson
Eva and John Pellegrini
Edward, Karen, and Camille Peeples
Jeff Perry
Greg and Linda Reight
Cecily Rodriguez
Gilberto Rodriguez
Linda Roma
Marcy Rosenthal
Arlene and Spencer Rothenhauser
Yvette, Christopher, and Gabriel Roussel
Frank and Stacy Saavedra
Andrea Schneer
Jonathon Scott
Vicki and Bob Shand
Dave Siar
David Slavin
Christina Starobin
Michael Strong
Vivian Todini
Chris Tsakos
Linda Vidinha
Mary Vidinha
Stella Winston
Joan Zimmerman
Michael Zweig

John Munro said...

The Roots of ‘Whiteness’

A Review by John Munro
Labor/Le Travail
9/22/2004


BEHIND THE RECENT EMERGENCE of "whiteness" as a prevalent category of scholarly analysis lies the story of two intertwined intellectual traditions and their belated acceptance in the American academy. One of these traditions is antiracist Marxism; the other is the black antiracist tradition. Both have commented on white identity and white racism in ways that presage the insights of the explosion of whiteness studies that followed David Roediger's key text, The Wages of Whiteness. (1) In this essay, I will provide a brief overview of the two aforementioned traditions before proceeding to evaluate the post-Wages scholarship. Hopefully, my discussion will contextualize the whiteness phenomenon by pointing to its roots. I also hope to demonstrate that although some of the whiteness scholarship is less than perspicacious, the work of Roediger et al. constitutes a meaningful intervention into the historiography of race in American history.
Finally, my intent here is to build upon and respond to Eric Arnesen's helpful survey of the whiteness field. (2) For their Fall 2001 issue, the editors at International Labor and Working-Class History asked Eric Arnesen to review the expansive whiteness literature; an assemblage of prominent scholars issued responses in the same issue, and Arnesen in turn answered criticisms and made some concluding remarks about the debate. Rather than repeat Arnesen's overview exercise, I will focus on some central texts in order to indicate how they contribute to our understanding of race in American history, or the extent to which they confirm Arnesen's contention that "the category of whiteness has to date proven to be an inadequate tool of historical analysis." (3)
I begin, then, with Marxist tradition. In many ways, Marx's materialism, as perhaps most clearly spelled out in his 1859 preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, set the tone of left thinking about race for the next three generations. (4) Among the much quoted passages of the preface, Marx posits that regarding material economic forces, the "totality of these forces of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstructure and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness." (5) In this classic statement of base and superstructure, racial relations are clearly of the superstructural variety.
This approach to race, combined with the temporal linearity of Marx's theory of "primitive accumulation," and his journalistic analyses of "modernization" in India, have earned him latter day critics who have convincingly pointed out the Eurocentric limits of his analysis. (6) These critics have paid less attention to the addendum to the base and superstructure model buried near the end of the third volume of Capital, where Marx specifically mentions race, but it is true that for European and American Marxists of the 19th century and the first three decades of the 20th, race was generally held to be of a secondary, if not epiphenomenal, order. (7)
With the partial exception of the Industrial Workers of the World, (8) the tendency to put economics far before racial concerns was true of such diverse Marxists as Karl Kautsky and George Plekhanov, (9) as well as Georg Lukacs and V.I. Lenin. For instance, at the very outset of his famous analysis of reification and proletarian consciousness, Lukacs rules out the possibility of non-economic explanatory categories, commenting that "there is no problem that does not ultimately lead back to that question [of capitalist economics] and there is no solution that could not be found in the solution to the riddle of the commodity-structure." (10) In an equally representative essay, Lenin's outline of imperialism situates empire-building as a response to the exigencies of finance capital, but is totally silent about the racial dynamics of imperial rule. (11)
In the United States, Eugene V. Debs promoted an equally reductionist line. (12) In the 1880s, he realized that white racism in the labour movement hampered organizing efforts, but he always looked at racism as a byproduct of class exploitation rather than as structured oppression in its own right. (13) He exemplified this approach in his 1903 comment that "there is no 'Negro problem' apart from the general labor problem." (14) Debs' biographer Nick Salvatore shows that although Debs' thinking about the relationship between race and class became more sophisticated by the 1920s, he continued to perceive white supremacy and black oppression as secondary issues. (15)
This situation finally began to change during the interwar period as the Euroamerican Marxist tradition encountered black antiracism. The black radical tradition, as Cedric Robinson calls it, came out of an enslavement that could never be total: "Slavery altered the conditions of their being, but it could not negate their being." (16) As white Marxists, compelled by the admonitions of black comrades, began to think more deeply about the autonomous force of white supremacy in the United States, their earlier insistence on the centrality of economics became increasingly untenable.
Hubert Harrison, a contemporary of Lenin and Debs, had a most advanced understanding of race and class intersectionality, and his influence undoubtedly shaped subsequent thinking on the subject. Harrison was one of Harlem's most eminent black intellectuals in the 1910s and 1920s. Claude McKay remembered Harrison as "a lecturer on the sidewalks of Harlem. He lectured on free-thought, socialism, and racialism, and sold books. He spoke precisely and clearly, with fine intelligence and masses of facts." (17) Although Hubert Harrison died in 1927, his impact resonated throughout Harlem and beyond during his lifetime, as his biographer Jeffrey Perry has made evident. (18) In fact, Perry himself came to see the significance of Harrison through being exposed to Theodore Allen's ideas about whiteness and racial oppression in the United States. (19)
Harrison openly advocated a "Race First" position, especially in the years after World War I, but for Harrison race first never displaced socialism from his progressive agenda. Rather, Harrison's race-first stand was a reaction to the pervasiveness of racist ideas across the white political spectrum. In a 1920 article in Negro World, Harrison told white socialists that "[w]e say Race First, because you have all along insisted on Race First and class after when you didn't need our help." But he was quick to remind his readers that "[t]he writer of these lines is also a Socialist." (20) Finally, Harrison's anticolonialism, while always cognizant of imperialism's racial contours, foreshadowed the political economy framework that became increasingly attractive among black radicals during the interwar period, who in turn influenced racial theory across the American Left. In Harrison's words, "the lands of 'backward' peoples are brought within the central influence of the capitalist economic system and the subjection of black, brown and other colored workers to the rigours of 'the white man's burden' comes as a consequence of the successful exploitation of white workers at home, and binds them both in an international of opposition to the continuance of the capitalist regime." (21) Harrison's analysis of empire combined aspects of Karl Marx's "primitive accumulation," Lenin's conception of imperialism, and a militant anti-racism; as Jeffery Perry has summarized, "Among African American leaders of his era Harrison was the most class conscious of the race radicals, and the most race conscious of the class radicals." (22) Harrison's ability to advocate that racial oppression and economic exploitation provide equal barriers to human liberation in the United States comprises a key development in race and class theory that the American Left and later whiteness scholars would take up in subsequent decades.
After World War I, the antiracism of African Americans and Caribbean immigrants such as Harrison ultimately led to theoretical reconsiderations within the Marxist camp, as historian Winston James has ably demonstrated. (23) Both within the Communist Party of the United States and outside of it, leftists, both black and white, began to better understand the autonomy of racial oppression and the intersection of that oppression with economic stratification. (24)
The most dramatic example of the coming together of these two traditions within the CP occurred when the Party began its antiracist work in earnest after the sixth Comintern Congress inaugurated advocacy of self-determination in the Black Belt. (25) The Black Belt "thesis" held that majority African American Southern territory comprised an oppressed nation. The thesis made little sense on the ground, where Jim Crow would continue to thrive for over thirty more years, but the new line was notable for two reasons: it brought about greater synchrony between the central strain of American Marxism and the antiracist struggle, and it meant that the Party's new antiracist praxis would set it apart among insurgent organizations outside of the black community. For historians focused on events in Moscow, the adoption of the new line may rightfully appear to be the result of machinations at the Kremlin, but in the us, CP rank-and-filers adapted directives from above to local conditions, thereby solidifying the Party's record as the preeminent antiracist organization of the Depression decade. Theoretically, the Party's discernment of the intersectional nature of social oppression reached its most sophisticated in the contributions of Claudia Jones in the post-World War II period. (26)
The most dramatic examples of this convergence of traditions outside the Party came from the Fourth International and from W.E.B. Du Bois. Max Shachtman's Communism and the Negro in 1933 is a key document of radical thinking about race from within the Trotskyist camp. (27) Separated from the CP by differences that were by 1933 increasingly irreconcilable, Trotskyists were themselves struggling to develop theory and strategy about race that would situate them as an attractive alternative to the CPUSA. According to Shachtman, "The bourgeoisie of the United States bases its special exploitation and oppression of the Negro upon the theory of its 'racial superiority'." (28) In this analysis, then, white supremacy cannot be explained away by economics, and must be met as a constituent component of the American racial and economic climate. The most significant implication of Shachtman's position is that whites would need to become aware of how their identities position them in American racial and class hierarchies if liberation for all was the goal. For Shachtman, no meaningful progress toward liberation for all is possible "until the white workers become the most uncompromising champions of the Negro." (29) Such an observation might appear to be the unique contribution of current whiteness scholarship; Communism and the Negro indicates otherwise.
As Christopher Phelps shows in his valuable introduction to Communism and the Negro, Shachtman's work almost certainly had an impact on C.L.R. James' thinking on what was then called "the Negro question." (30) Phelps indicates that Shachtman deferred to James after the latter's arrival in the United States in 1938, but the recovery of Shachtman's pamphlet gives a new reference point for tracing the evolution of James' thinking about race in particular, as well as the theoretical evolution of leftist racial theory in general. In his 1938 book The Black Jacobins, James wanted to theorize a way forward for contemporary African resistance and thereby develop the position that this resistance would be violent in nature. (31) In his conclusion, James argued that "The blacks of Africa are more advanced, nearer ready than were the slaves of San Domingo." (32) Clearly, racial events on both sides of the Atlantic were inseparable.
When turning his gaze to the United States, James found the connections to Africa no less pertinent. On a programmatic level, James wanted to further promote internationalism among African Americans, as he specifically advocated during his meetings with Leon Trotsky in 1939. (33) In his 1950 work American Civilization, James recognized that white supremacy had a peculiar deployment in the US, and he noted that African Americans generally thought of themselves primarily as Americans. But he also situated the "Negro question" as the most significant site of racial struggle because of America's tendency to lead the rest of the world by example. (34) Again, Shachtman's critique of CP advocacy of black nationhood for a population that "felt no national attachment to that section of the country, they never have felt it to be their specifically Negro nation" echoes clearly here. (35)
During the interwar years, W.E.B. Du Bois, coming out of the black antiracist tradition, was also writing about white supremacy in ways that challenged Marxists to rethink their terms. (36) Du Bois's thinking on the intersections between race and class has been understandably influential for current whiteness scholars. In 1933, he could share the central Marxist insight that, regarding capitalists and workers in general, "A wage contract takes place between these two and the resultant manufactured commodity or service is the property of the capitalist." Yet he also noted that exploitation comes "from the white capitalists and equally from the white proletariat," thereby imparting his understanding of white supremacy's cross-class nature. (37)
More than a half-century before whiteness came into vogue as a useful category of historical analysis, Du Bois pointed out the economic dimension of racial formation, when he proclaimed that "I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen!" (38) In a 1931 Crisis article on African Americans and Communism, Du Bois, in a passage reminiscent of Marx's comment that "[l]abour in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin," once again demonstrated his internationalist perspective on the imbricated relationship between race and class: "Until the colored man, yellow, red, brown, and black, becomes free, articulate, intelligent and the receiver of a decent income, white capital still uses the profit derived from his degradation to keep white labor in chains." (39) Thus, Du Bois advocated an oppositional framework that opposed both white supremacy and capitalism, not only in the name of justice for African Americans, but for oppressed peoples everywhere.
Most significant for whiteness studies, Du Bois also alluded to the psychological component of whiteness in an influential passage of his magisterial Black Reconstruction, published in 1935. (40) Nearly seven decades after its publication, the full impact of this book is still being felt at the academy. Black Reconstruction was hardly given its due when it came out, but it ultimately set the terms of debate over the Reconstruction period, as well as over the relationship between race and class in the United States and on a global level. The book, of course, inspired David Roediger's theoretical approach to white identity in Wages. (41)
For Du Bois, whiteness entailed a "psychological wage" that offered public deference based on race and compensated for the class exploitation endured by white workers. (42) Throughout Black Reconstruction, Du Bois puts forward a model of social stratification that was at once materialist, psychological, antiracist, and anticapitalist.
It is important to see the fullness of Du Bois' thought in light of Eric Arnesen's charge that David Roediger misrepresents Du Bois' argument about white identity formation. For Arnesen, Roediger's invocation of the "psychological wage" is misplaced, since this passage is but a sidebar to Du Bois' materialist argument. In Arnesen's interpretation of Black Reconstruction, "the denial of resources, power, and even dignity to nonwhites and the conferral of influence, material benefits, and prestige upon whites are standard operating assumptions." (43) In light of the fact that Du Bois was teaching Marx's Capital to his Atlanta graduate students while writing the book, (44) Arnesen's reading is plausible, but ultimately unfair.
When we read through Du Bois' long book, and compare it to his contemporaneous writing, it becomes apparent that Du Bois sought to highlight the material component of white supremacist capitalism and point out the less tangible facet of white racial identity that situates white over black independent of material incentive. For Du Bois, Reconstruction represented "one of the most extraordinary experiments of Marxism that the world, before the Russian revolution, had seen." (45) But Du Bois tempers this materialist insight by reminding his readers that the anticapitalism of the post-Civil War era was always mediated by whites' loyalty to their irreducible racial identity: "the Southern poor white had his attitude toward property and income seriously modified by the presence of the Negro." (46) This sophisticated understanding of how class and race interrelated during Reconstruction also shared affinities with Shachtman's Communism and the Negro. (47)
The encounter between Marxism and the black radical tradition resulted in many thought-provoking exchanges and a heightened sophistication in the Left's understanding of racial identities on both sides of the colour line. Unfortunately, the anticommunism of the Cold War submerged these works and debates from much of historical consciousness within the United States, or forced them offshore, where they remained until they reemerged out of the frustration of a stymied civil rights movement and the counter cultural currents of the late 1960s and early 1970s. (48)
By the late 1970s, historians and scholars in cultural studies were beginning to reappraise the notion of white identity. Alexander Saxton, himself a member of the CPUSA in the 1940s, and Barbara Fields, a Marxist scholar who studied under C. Vann Woodward at Yale in the 1970s, both recast race in terms of the base/superstructure model. In a 1979 review essay, Saxton discusses liberal analyses of racial oppression, such as those of Gunnar Myrdal and Nathan Glazer, and goes on to note the relative paucity of ideological frameworks in the extant scholarship on race. (49) Saxton also indicates the historical reason for this lacuna: "Ideological argument does not fit harmoniously into either consensus or progressive outlooks since it stems from a class analysis of historical change. The Cold War drove it underground in America." (50) In proper Marxist form, Saxton bemoans the dearth of economically oriented ideological perspectives, lamenting that their theoretical rigour is much needed, since "the class bases of racist ideology are likely to be with us for some time to come." (51)
The 1980s signaled a heightening of Cold War tensions, Reagan style, but Saxton's call for ideological analyses about race were not quashed yet again. Instead, Barbara Fields clarified the ideological Marxist approach to race in an important 1982 essay. (52) In this piece, Fields argues that race is indeed ideological, thereby forecasting the attention to the social construction of race that would preoccupy much subsequent scholarship. She also, again in classic Marxist fashion, demarcates race and class as each being of different analytical orders: "class is a concept that we can locate both at the level of objective reality and at the level of social appearances. Race is a concept that we can locate at the level of appearances only." (53) Both Saxton and Fields were returning historical practice to the fruitful kinds of political economy-driven critiques of white supremacy that characterized interwar scholarship. They were also recasting race within the superstructural realm that proved to be a limitation, one that the earlier literature sought to overcome.
Meanwhile, developments in Birmingham, England were afoot that would nuance the Marxist paradigm and supercede the limitations of the base/superstructure model. Under the directorship of Stuart Hall between 1969 and 1979, Birmingham's Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies focused increasingly on the race and gender intersections with class dynamics. (54) Hall had immigrated to England from Jamaica in 1951 and was influenced by Perry Anderson, E.P. Thompson, and Raymond Williams, but ultimately wanted to look more closely at racial identity. (55) The result was theoretical understandings of race and class wherein one did not precede or explain the other. As Hall puts it in a noteworthy 1980 essay, "Race is ... the modality in which class is 'lived,' the medium through which class relations are experienced, the form in which it is appropriated and 'fought through'." (56) Like Saxton and Fields, Hall is also interested in Marxism and ideology, but his project has been to displace the base/superstructure metaphor from how we understand race and economics. (57) Hall's theoretical insights, as acknowledged in Roediger's introduction to Wages, helped historians and cultural studies intellectuals come to terms with the autonomy of race, which in turn led to the renewed focus on white identity in the 1990s. (58)
So, this is some of the background to the publication of Roediger's Wages in 1991. Clearly, the precedents to this work provide the political and intellectual context necessary to understand how the whiteness field came to be. With this background, we can read Wages, and to an extent subsequent whiteness scholarship, as the inheritors of the two traditions sketched out here: the African American antiracist tradition, best represented by Harrison and Du Bois, and the Marxist tradition in the United States, traceable through Alexander Saxton back to the 1928 Black Belt thesis of the Third international, and to Max Shachtman through C.L.R. James in the Fourth.
In Wages, Roediger explores class and race dynamics in the antebellum 19th century in order to make five principal arguments: like all other identities, white identity is socially constructed; racial identity is not reducible to economics; racism emanates from "above" through elite divide-and-conquer strategies, as well as from "below" through white working-class racism; psychological benefits from whiteness strengthened a cross-class white identity that precluded interracial alliances based on class; and the formation of and loyalty to white identity were reactions born out of fear of dependency and work discipline. The influence of Harrison, Shachtman, Du Bois, James, and Hall are discernible in all of these arguments. From here, the whiteness field grew exponentially in both historical and cultural studies.
Wages in some ways represents the belated fruition of interwar thinking on race and class. Wages draws explicitly on Black Reconstruction, but Roediger's book is clearly in keeping with the entire interwar left and antiracist milieu, as well as more recent developments in history and cultural studies. But because we can discern precedents for Wages, this does not mean that this volume was not a significant work in its own right, or as David Brody puts it, "there is no denying the enormous achievement of his book." (59) Roediger not only shook up the field of 19th-century American history, and pushed historiographical trends away from the base/superstructure approach (not that Marxists simply capitulated to this development), but he also brought our attention to white identity in ways that were new. Certainly, there had been many sophisticated analyses of race within history before, but they by and large centered on black identity, thereby leaving whiteness unexplored and to a degree naturalized.
Roediger followed Wages with a 1994 collection of essays entitled Towards the Abolition of Whiteness. (60) In this wide ranging volume, Roediger revisits the 19th century by looking at the 1877 general strike in St. Louis. But this collection also includes discussions of Robin Kelley's Hammer and Hoe, George Rawick's Sundown to Sunup, plus observations on the state of labour history. Perhaps most interesting is Roediger's analysis of labour history's crisis. Although exceptions are noted, he identifies the cause of the crisis in organized labour's decline and, more importantly, if unsurprisingly, in labour history's general unwillingness to give race and gender equal billing alongside class. (61) Rather than retreat on his earlier divergence from the base/superstructure model, then, Roediger in Towards the Abolition deepens his critique and applies it to the labour history field as a whole. By the mid-1990s, it seemed that Roediger was possibly abandoning labour history for the putatively less crisis-ridden cultural studies department across the quad.
In his response to Amesen's essay on whiteness in International Labor and Working-Class History, David Brody argues that Amesen does not adequately distinguish the achievements of Wages from the scholarship that follows. (62) Brody's point is apt both for those works that analyze whiteness from within the Marxian framework that Amesen contends whiteness studies have abandoned, and those works that exemplify less rigour. Theodore Allen's 1994 ‘The Invention’ of the White Race, Volume One is a striking instance of the former. (63)
Arnesen lumps together ‘The Invention’ with Noel Ignatiev's ‘How the Irish Became White’, without pausing to consider how conventionally Marxist Allen's work is, and therefore how diverse is the range of scholarship within the whiteness tent. (64) Both Allen's and Ignatiev's intellectual formation occurred in the same New Left generation of the 1960s and 1970s, but the psychological and cultural emphasis of ‘How the Irish Became White’ stands in marked contrast to Allen's materialist bent. In ‘The Invention’, Allen posits that white supremacy came into being in the United States around the end of the 18th century as a way of maintaining class inequality: "Primary emphasis upon 'race' became the pattern only where the bourgeoisie could not form its social control apparatus without the inclusion of propertyless European-Americans." (65) This argument emphasizes the agency of the ruling class in maintaining social control, thereby setting Allen's book apart from approaches to whiteness that are more culturalist in orientation. Indeed, Allen's position on whiteness seems not too distant from Amesen's, since they both consider racial identity to be driven by the motor of materialism.
One point of commonality among Roediger, Allen, and Ignatiev that Arnesen pays little attention to is their shared sense that whiteness ought to be placed into history's dustbin at the earliest possible convenience. The very title of Roediger's 1994 collection, Allen's contention in his second volume that ‘The Invention’ of whiteness represents a "monstrous social mutation" that we'd clearly be better off without, (66) and Ignatiev's editorship at the journal ‘Race Traitor’ illuminate this commonality. (67) In another review essay of whiteness studies from a cultural studies standpoint, Homi Bhabha applauds this stand against privilege, but issues a worthwhile caution:

the stentorian tone of soul-searching, accompanied by its rhetorical
rectitude, comes uncomfortably close to the way in which
'nationalist' discourses of the state frequently address the people
or the troops as a homogeneous mass waiting to be mobilized. Such a
disciplinary political program makes it impossible to exert one's
right to make a nuanced response, to suggest a variation in terms
or tone. One is obliged, more or less, to answer passively, in the
affirmative. (68)
Regarding political consciousness, then, the politics that animate important sectors within whiteness studies have aided their push for theoretical insights, but they are also potentially alienating.
David Brody's point about Arnesen's failure to differentiate Wages from subsequent work is also relevant for some of the weaker analyses from within the whiteness camp. For example, Annie Gilbert Coleman draws our attention to how white supremacy operates in the skiing industry. (69) Her essay highlights how labour is racially coded and stratified in one sector of American tourism, but moves from this helpful observation to make the startling claim that "Ski tourism has been an economic force in the West since World War II. It has equally significantly, however, (re)shaped western culture." (70) But perhaps the worst offender when it comes to fantastic claims is Daniel Leonard Bernardi's book about whiteness in the television show Star Trek. (71) Bernardi offers the following reading of the series:
There are moments of beauty and resistance in Trek. Contrary to the claim of the undifferentiated Borg collective, resistance is not futile. The white paradox is not always already a given; there are chinks in its armor. The task, it seems to me, is to historicize the history in and of whiteness, with the goal being to create an alternative universe that is more honest about the past and more open to a truly different present. At stake in such an undertaking are our very identities. As Edward Said imagines, 'Just as human beings make their own history, they also make their cultures and ethnic identities.' For me, Spiner [an actor on Star Trek]'s performance, coupled with my own historical sense of identity and race, provides an opportunity--complete with its own ironies and contradictions--to realize a different space-time. (72)
Here, the culture industry provides our models of resistance and Edward Said's thought is reduced to an exercise in channel surfing. This might make for interesting discussion at science fiction conventions, but in terms of scholarship it is a clear indication of how far some of the work on whiteness has strayed from the insights of the traditions from which it is derived. Clearly, in some cases, Arnesen is right to call whiteness "a blank screen onto which those who claim to analyze it can project their own meanings," but he is wrong to make this claim about the field as a whole. (73)
Some of the historical post-Wages work on whiteness is encouraging in its thoroughness and its subtlety. Two works stand out in this regard: Matthew Jacobson's Whiteness of A Different Color and Bruce Nelson's Divided We Stand. (74) Adolph Reed, who shares Arnesen's opinion that the dissent from Marxism within the whiteness field constitutes one of its major shortcomings, writes that "Jacobson's interpretation essentializes whiteness as a phenomenon that transcends and directs history even as he wants to construe it as the product of social relations." (75)
I disagree. By using the European immigrant experience to explore what he terms "divisible whiteness" from the early republic to the mid twentieth century, Jacobson is able to demonstrate precisely how notions of whiteness changed over time. (76) For instance, in his discussion of the gradual decline of northern European supremacy within the overall category of whiteness, Jacobson convincingly situates the 1924 Johnson Act as a watershed moment that marks "the beginning of the ascent of monolithic whiteness." (77) If historians are looking for an empirically guided and theoretically clever analysis, Whiteness of A Different Color provides one by way of an examination of non-Nordic European immigrants' gradual assimilation into whiteness from an earlier, despised, social position. Reed is correct to note that this work could have benefited from more attention to "the discrete dynamics of social relations, political economy, power, and political institutions," but these dynamics are present, if not always prominent, in Jacobson's discussion. (78) Most importantly, however, Jacobson is able to historicize relations of whiteness, and thereby add to our understanding of this historical category of identity.
Bruce Nelson's Divided We Stand also historicizes race on both sides of the colour line while paying close attention to political economy. In phraseology that could have appeared in a Stuart Hall essay from two decades ago, Nelson explains that "class has meant the long-term negotiation of identities and allegiances that have always been conditioned by race, gender, and emergent ethnicity." (79) Nelson's study of dock and steelworkers at times makes even the most progressive white workers and activists appear ineluctably racist, but overall this book does the needed work of indicating the ways in which the American workplace and working-class culture have been infected by racism and white loyalty to their racial identity. By framing moments of interracial solidarity in these work settings as essentially exceptions to generally entrenched white supremacy, Nelson begins to move away from the labour history project that seeks a usable past upon which an anticapitalist and antiracist future can be envisioned.
It seems appropriate to round out this review with a few comments about Arnesen and Roediger's latest work. Shortly after the scholars' debate in the pages of International Labor and Working-Class History, Arnesen published an important study of African American railroad workers from the rise of the railway until the industry's decline in the post-war era. (80) In this book, Arnesen examines the class and racial dynamics of work on the trains. In keeping with his argument in the whiteness debate, he finds that for workers on either side of the colour line, "Informing their perspectives, of course, were their respective economic interests." (81)
Of course. But Arnesen also finds that the struggles of Pullman porters and dining car workers led union leaders and leftists to forge "a unionism that was as much, if not more, about race and civil rights than it was about class." (82) This observation does not contradict Arnesen's brief against whiteness studies. As we have seen, and as Arnesen himself argues, historical modes of inquiry that precede the recent proliferation of whiteness studies provide all of the tools required for a sophisticated understanding of how American workers shaped their identities and workplaces along both class and colour lines. But surely the best whiteness scholarship has only added to that understanding.
In other works not specifically indebted to whiteness scholarship, such as Thomas Sugrue's study about how whites rallied around their racial identity to prevent residential desegregation in post-war Detroit, or Daniel Walkowitz's book about how social workers thought about themselves and their work differently in terms of race, class, and gender in different moments of the 20th century, the contributions of Roediger and others have sharpened our understanding of white identity in ways that help account for the emergence of this exciting new scholarship. (83)
In his latest collection of essays, Colored White, Roediger treads further from historical analysis and closer to political commentary. (84) His essay "Mumia Time or Sweeney Time?" is an example of this shift. In this piece, Roediger demonstrates the depth of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal by pointing to the range of declarations and solidarity actions from organized labour. Roediger then goes on to counterpose "Mumia time" to "Sweeney time" in an effort to emphasize the apparent naivety of organizing for social justice under union banners.
By pointing to the top-down nature of the AFL-CIO leadership, Roediger indicates the continuities between John Sweeney's approach to unionism and that of his reactionary predecessors. (85) He also makes clear that organized labour must take account of the needs of its non-white and female membership if it is going to continue to be relevant. But Roediger's essay presents a false dichotomy, as even his own evidence about labour support for Mumia indicates. The challenge for contemporary organizing both in and outside the house of labour is to make it both Mumia and Sweeney time. In his recent The Next Upsurge, sociologist Dan Clawson shows how antiracist organizing must encompass labour struggles and vice versa. (86) Reading Clawson's valuable handbook alongside "Mumia Time or Sweeney Time?," we see that the politics of Roediger's essay come across as unnecessarily divisive in contrast to the grounded program for change offered in The Next Upsurge. Like Clawson, Martin Oppenheimer, in a recent theoretical review of socialist approaches to racism, advocates a leftist position within contemporary debates that accords race its full experiential and theoretical weight while recuperating the economic dimension of racial oppression. (87) In short, we cannot afford to give either race or class short shrift with the stakes in the struggle against global racial capitalism being as high as they currently are.
"Mumia Time or Sweeney Time?" might appear to divert us from the topic at hand, but this essay is relevant beyond the fact that it was penned by one of the main characters of this review. Roediger's unnecessary dilemma betrays his distance not only from "regular" historical work but also away from one of the central insights of worthwhile whiteness studies: we don't have to choose between class and race. Indeed, we choose at our detriment since, as Hubert Harrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, Max Shachtman, C.L.R. James, Stuart Hall, and David Roediger himself have taught us, we need to fight on both fronts, which are often the same front, at all times to win the struggle for democracy. Whiteness studies, if nothing else, have reinforced that important message.
I would like to thank Nelson Lichtenstein for his helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this essay.
(1) David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (1991 ; revised ed., New York 1999).
(2) Eric Arnesen, "Whiteness and the Historian's Imagination," International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 3-32.
(3) Arnesen, "Whiteness," 6.
(4) Karl Marx, Preface and Introduction to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (Beijing 1976 [1859]).
(5) Marx, Preface, 3.
(6) For Marx's theory of primitive accumulation, see Capital, Volume 1 (New York 1976 [1867]), 873-876, 914-930. Edward Said has criticized Marx's New York Tribune writing on India in Orientalism (New York 1994 [1978]), 153-157. In an argument heavily indebted to Michel Foucault's discussion of Marx in The Order of Things, Said contends that nineteenth-century Orientalist discourse rendered Marx unable to equate Indian suffering due to capitalist expansion with that of Europeans. Also see Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York 1994 [1966]), 261-262. Aijaz Ahmad offers a contrasting view of Marx in his In Theory: Classes, Nations, Literatures (New York 1992), 221-242. For an appraisal of the Eurocentrism of Marx's linear model of time, see Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton 2000), 47-71. For a more general critique of Marxism's perennial failure to take adequate account of the salience of white supremacy as a world historical phenomenon, see Cedric J. Robinson, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition (1983; second ed. Chapel Hill 2000). Finally, for an intriguing perspective about the multiplicity of readings possible in the original works of Marx and Engels, see Daniel Bensaid, Marx for Our Times: Adventures and Misadventures of a Critique (New York 2002).
(7) In this discussion of base and superstructure, Marx comments that although the latter was ultimately determined by the former, this "does not prevent the same economic basis ... from displaying endless variations and gradations in its appearance, as the result of innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural conditions, racial relations, historical influences acting from outside, etc." Capital: Volume 3 (Toronto 1991), 927.
(8) Philip Foner, "The IWW and the Black Worker," Journal of Negro History, 55, 1 (January 1970), 45-64.
(9) For a discussion of the economically reductionist "orthodoxy" of Kautsky and Plekhanov's Marxism in the era of the Second International, see Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards A Radical Democratic Politics (1985; reprint London 1999), 19-29.
(l0) Georg Lukacs, History and Class Consciousness: Studies in Marxist Dialectics (Cambridge, MA 1994 [1923]), 83 (emphasis original).
(11) V.I. Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism: A Popular Outline (New York 1939 [1916]).
(12) For an overstated but useful argument about the legacy of Debs' insensitivity to white racism throughout the interwar left, see Keith P. Griffier, What Price Alliance? : Black Radicals confront White Labor, 1918-1938 (New York 1995).
(13) Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist (Chicago 1982), 106.
(14) Quoted in Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs, 226.
(15) Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs, 228.
(16) Robinson, Black Marxism, 125. Four important examinations of this tradition among a vast literature are John Thornton, Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800 (New York 1992); Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA 1993); Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge, MA 1998); Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston 2000).
(17) Claude McKay, A Long Way From Home: An Autobiography (reprint; 1937, London 1985),41.
(18) Jeffrey B. Perry, "Introduction," in Jeffrey B. Perry, ed., A Hubert Harrison Reader (Middletown, CT 2001), 1-30. Also see Kevin Gaines, Uplifting the Race: Black Leadership, Politics, and Culture in the Twentieth Century (Chapel Hill 1996), 234-260; Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia: Caribbean Radicalism in Early Twentieth-Century America (New York 1998), 122-134.
(19) Jeffrey B. Perry, "Acknowledgements," in A Hubert Harrison Reader, xviii.
(20) Hubert Harrison, "Race First versus Class First," in A Hubert Harrison Reader, 109.
(21) Hubert Harrison, "Imperialist America," in A Hubert Harrison Reader, 222.
(22) Jeffrey B. Perry, "Introduction," in A Hubert Harrison Reader, 2.
(23) Winston James, Holding Aloft the Banner of Ethiopia.
(24) The three best discussions of this process within the CP are Mark Naison, Communists in Harlem during the Depression (New York 1983); Robin Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression (Chapel Hill 1990); Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unit Unity: Communists and African Americans, 1917-1935 (Jackson 1998). For a useful discussion of the ways that the 1931 Scottsboro case brought greater awareness of American white supremacy to Europe, see James A. Miller, Susan Pennybacker, and Eve Rosenhaft, "Mother Ada Wright and the International Campaign to Free the Scottsboro Boys, 1931-1934," American Historical Review, 106, 2 (April 2001), 387-430.
(25) For more details and background on the Black Belt thesis, see Harvey Klehr and William Tompson, "Self-Determination in the Black Belt: Origins of a Communist Policy," Labor History, 30, 3 (Summer 1989), 354-366; Harvey Klehr and John Earl Hayes, The American Communist Movement: Storming Heaven Itself(Toronto 1992), 75-77; Gerald Home, "The Red and the Black: The Communist Party and African-Americans in Historical Perspective," in Michael E. Brown et al., eds., New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S. Communism (New York 1993), 199-237; Susan Campbell, "'Black Bolsheviks' and Recognition of African-America's Right to Self-Determination by the Communist Party USA," Science & Society, 58, 4 (Winter 1994-1995), 440-470; Cedric J. Robinson, Black Movements in America (New York 1997), 119-120; Mark Solomon, The Cry Was Unity, 68-91, 119-120; Oscar Berland, "The Emergence of the Communist Perspective on the 'Negro Question' in America: 1919-1931," Science & Society, 63, 4 (Winter 1999-2000), 411-432, and 64, 3 (Summer 2000), 194-217; Vernon L. Pederson, The Communist Party in Maryland, 1919-57 (Chicago 2001), 39-40.
(26) Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race & Class (New York 1981), 167-171; Kate Weigand, Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation (Baltimore 2001), 97-113.
(27) Reprinted as Max Shachtman, Race and Revolution, (New York 2003 [1933]).
(28) Shachtman, Race and Revolution, 66 (emphasis original).
(29) Shachtman, Race and Revolution, 4.
(30) Christopher Phelps, "Introduction," in Race and Revolution, xlii-xlvii.
(31) Robert A. Hill, "In England: 1932-1938," in Paul Buhle, ed., C.L.R. James: His Life and Work (New York 1986), 77.
(32) C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L'Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938; reprint, New York 1963), 376.
(33) C .L .R. James, Leon Trotsky, et al., "Plans for the Negro Organization," in Leon Trotsky on Black Nationalism and Self-Determination (New York 1967), 68.
(34) C.L.R. James, American Civilization (Cambridge, MA 1993), 201.
(35) Shachtman, Race and Revolution, 74 (emphasis original).
(36) Obviously, by the 1930s the quantity and quality of Du Bois's intellectual contributions had already established him as one of the major thinkers of the twentieth century. For present purposes, I want to focus on his work from the 1930s because it has been so significant to contemporary whiteness scholarship.
(37) W.E.B. Du Bois, "Marxism and the Negro Problem," in David Levering Lewis, ed., W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader (New York 1995), 539, 543.
(38) W.E.B. Du Bois, Darkwater: Voices Within the Veil (reprint; 1920, New York 1999), 18.
(39) Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, 414; W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Negro and Communism," in W.E.B. Du Bois: A Reader, 593.
(40) W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America. An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1960-1880 1935; reprint, New York 1962).
(41) David Levering Lewis provides a rich contextualization of Black Reconstruction in terms of its reception and the earlier scholarship it addressed. See David Levering Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois : The Fight for Equality and the American Century, 1919-1963 (New York 2000), 350-378. For a discussion of the ways in which Black Reconstruction affected American Marxism, see Paul Buhle, Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left (New York 1991), 169-170.
(42) Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 700.
(43) Arnesen, "Whiteness," 12.
(44) Lewis, W.E.B. Du Bois, 361.
(45) Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 358.
(46) Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 248.
(47) Christopher Phelps, "Introduction," in Race and Revolution, xxiii-xxvi.
(48) For analyses of anticommunism's impact on antiracist internationalism and on the silencing of political economy based critiques of racism, see Robert Korstad and Nelson Lichtenstein, "Opportunities Found and Lost: Labor, Radicals, and the Early Civil Rights Movement," The Journal of American History, 75, 3 (December 1988), 786-811; Brenda Gayle Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935-1960 (Chapel Hill 1996); Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca 1997); Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA 2001); Carol Anderson, Eyes Off the Prize: The United Nations and the African American Struggle for Human Rights, 1944-1955 (New York 2003).
(49) Alexander Saxton, "Historical Explanations Of Racial Inequality," Marxist Perspectives 6, 2 (summer 1979), 146-168.
(50) Saxton, "Historical Explanations," 161.
(51) Saxton, "Historical Explanations," 166.
(52) Barbara J. Fields, "Ideology and Race in American History," in J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson, eds., Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, (New York 1982), 143-177.
(53) Fields, "Region," 151.
(54) Accounts of the Centre's history during this period include Stuart Hall, "Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies," in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler, eds., Cultural Studies (New York 1992), 277-286; Norma Schulman, "Conditions of their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham," Canadian Journal of Communication, 18, 1 (1993), http: www.cjc-online.ca/viewarticle.php?id=140; Charlotte Brunsdon, "A Thief in the Night: Stories of Feminism in the 1970s at CCCS," in David Morley and Kuan-Hsing Chen, eds., Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies (New York 1996), 276-286; H. Joseph Carnie, "Talking to the Centre: Different Voices in the Intellectual History of The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS)," Gateway (Spring 2002) (55) See Hall's discussion of his own biography in "The Formation of A Diasporic Intellectual," in Stuart Hall.
(56) Hall, "Race, Articulation, and Societies Structured in Dominance," in Houston A. Baker, Manthia Diawara, and Ruth H. Lindeborg, eds., Black British Cultural Studies: A Reader (Chicago 1996 [1980]), 16-60. Quotation from p. 55.
(37) Hall, The Problem of Ideology: Marxism without Guarantees, in Betty Matthews, ed., Marx: A Hundred Years On (London 1983), 57-84.
(58) Roediger, Wages, 11.
(59) David Brody, review of The Wages of Whiteness, Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 24, 2 (Autumn 1993), 378-380. Quotation from p. 380.
(60) Roediger, Towards the Abolition of Whiteness: Essays on Race, Politics, and Working Class History (New York 1994).
(61) Roediger, Towards the Abolition, 69-81.
(62) Brody, "Charismatic History: Pros and Cons, "International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 43-47. This specific point is made on p. 45.
(63) Theodore W. Allen, ‘The Invention’ of the White Race, Volume One: Racial Oppression and Social Control (New York 1994).
(64) Arnesen, "Whiteness," 14. Also see Noel Ignatiev, ‘How the Irish Became White’ (New York 1995). Ignatiev and Allen have both been interested in race and class for some time. See Ted Allen, "Can White Worker Radicals be Radicalized?" (pamphlet; Detroit 1969); Noel Ignatin (Ignatiev's former surname), "White Worker, Black Worker," in White Supremacy: A Collection (Chicago 1970). This earlier work comes out of the context of the radical challenge posed by the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit during the late 1960s and early 1970s. For more on radical Detroit in this period, see the classic study by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin, Detroit: I Do Mind Dying (updated edition; 1975, Cambridge, MA 1998). Also see James Boggs, The American Revolution: Pages from A Negro Worker's Notebook (New York 1963); Grace Lee Boggs, Living For Change: An Autobiography (Minneapolis 1998); L. Todd Duncan, "The Continuity of Living for Change: An Interview with Grace Lee Boggs," Social Text, 67 (Summer 2001), 43-73; Heather Ann Thompson, Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City (Ithaca 2001).
(65) Allen, ‘The Invention’, (V. 1), 19. There is a clear and deliberate resonance in Allen's argument with Edmund Morgan's earlier work on colonial Virginia. See Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York 1975).
(66) Allen, ‘The Invention’ of the White Race, Volume Two: The Origins of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America (New York 1997), 13.
(67) ‘Race Traitor’'s editorial stance on this question is the least ambiguous: "The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race." "What We Believe," (15 November 2003).
(68) Homi K. Bhabha, "The White Stuff," Artforum, 36 (1998), 21-24.
(69) Annie Gilbert Coleman, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Skiing," Pacific Historical Review, 65, 4 (25 November 1996), 583-614.
(70) Coleman, "The Unbearable Whiteness," 584.
(71) Daniel Leonard Bernardi, Star Trek and History: Race-ing Toward A White Future (New Brunswick, NJ 1998).
(72) Bernardi, Star Trek, 181-182.
(73) Arnesen, "Whiteness," 8.
(74) Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of A Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (Cambridge, MA 1998); Bruce Nelson, Divided We Stand." American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality (Princeton 2001).
(75) Adolph Reed, Jr., "Response to Eric Arnesen," International Labor and Working-Class History, 60 (Fall 2001), 69-80. Quotation from p. 73.
(76) Jacobson, Whiteness, 89.
(77) Jacobson, Whiteness, 93.
(78) Reed, "Response," 72.
(79) Nelson, Divided We Stand, xlii.
(80) Arnesen, Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality (Cambridge, MA 2001).
(81) Arnesen, Brotherhoods, 40.
(82) Arnesen, Brotherhoods, 101.
(83) Thomas J. Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton 1996); Daniel J. Walkowitz, Working With Class: Social Workers and the Politics of Middle-Class Identity (Chapel Hill 1999).
(84) Roediger, Colored White: Transcending the Racial Past (Berkeley 2002).
(85) For a critique of AFL and AFL-CIO leadership under Sweeney's predecessors, see Paul Buhle, Taking Care of Business: Samuel Gompers, George Meany, Lane Kirkland, and the Tragedy of American Labor (New York 1999). For a more detailed study of the Gompers years, see David Montgomery, The Fall of the House of Labor- The Workplace, The State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925 (New York 1987).
(86) Dan Clawson, The Next Upsurge: Labor and the New Social Movements (Ithaca 2003).
(87) Martin Oppenheimer, "The 'Minorities Question': Does the Left Have Answers?," New Politics, 9, 4 (Winter 2004), 121-135.