The Proletarian Revolution
Has it been proven, by our "proletarian intellectual," that the 'white race' was invented in seventeenth century Virginia? How was it proven? First, we must define what the 'white race' is, thus acquiring the means whereby we might determine whether it exists at a given moment or not:
“Two fair conclusions would seem to follow: First, 'the white race' – supra-class unity of European-Americans in opposition to African-Americans – did not and could not have then existed. Second, the invention of the white race at the beginning of the eighteenth century can in no part be ascribed to demands by European-American laboring people for privileges vis-à-vis African-Americans.”
(Allen, Theodore W. (2014-06-03). The Invention of the White Race, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 4138-4141). Verso Books.)
The "white race" means "supra-class unity of European-Americans in opposition to African-Americans." You didn't know that's what it meant, did you? I'll bet not one person in a thousand would spontaneously offer such a definition. And what does that mean? First, those of you who need to polish up your Marxist-Leninist vocabulary, grown rusty since the Berlin Wall came down, should recall that Marxism is premised on class warfare: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles." (Marx, Karl.
Communist Manifesto, I. The Capital (Vol. 1-3): Including The Communist Manifesto, Wage-Labour and Capital, & Wages, Price and Profit (Kindle Locations 43062-43063). Madison & Adams Press.)
Our current stage of history is marked by the contest between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Who comprise the proletariat? Free laborers, who bring only their strong arms and willingness to work to the market-place. Marx's category by
definition excludes serfs and slaves:
"In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed; a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market."
(Marx, Karl. Communist Manifesto, I. The Capital (Vol. 1-3): Including The Communist Manifesto, Wage-Labour and Capital, & Wages, Price and Profit (Kindle Locations 43163-43166). Madison & Adams Press.)
"The economic structure of capitalist society has grown out of the economic structure of feudal society. The dissolution of the latter set free the elements of the former. The immediate producer, the laborer, could only dispose of his own person after he had ceased to be attached to the soil and ceased to be the slave, serf, or bondsman of another. To become a free seller of labor power, who carries his commodity wherever he finds a market, he must further have escaped from the regime of the guilds. . .Hence, the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-workers, appears, on the one hand, as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds, and this side alone exists for our bourgeois historians."
(Marx, Karl. The Capital (Vol. 1-3): Including The Communist Manifesto, Wage-Labour and Capital, & Wages, Price and Profit,
Das Kapital, Volume 1, Part 8 (Kindle Locations 11535-11547). Madison & Adams Press.)
At the time of Marx's trail-blazing writings, both the proletariat and their nemesis, the bourgeoisie, were understood to be essentially new classes brought to birth by the large-scale factory manufacturing created by the industrial revolution. But reading our author, we discover that a new thing has indeed come into the world: the "unfree proletariat:" "The peculiarity of the “peculiar institution” derived, rather, from the control aspect; yet not merely in its reliance upon the support of the free non-owners of bond-labor, as buffer and enforcer against the unfree proletariat; for that again was a general characteristic of plantation societies in America." (Allen, Theodore W. (2014-06-03). The Invention of the White Race, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 450-453). Verso Books.)
Free or unfree, take your pick: "The capitalistic form, on the contrary, pre-supposes from first to last, the free wage-labourer, who sells his labour-power to capital." (Marx, Karl.
Das Kapital, Volume I, Part 4. The Capital (Vol. 1-3): Including The Communist Manifesto, Wage-Labour and Capital, & Wages, Price and Profit (Kindle Locations 5084-5085). Madison & Adams Press.)
Do all possibilities remain open to humanity that ever once were open? The premise of Marxist historiography, as indeed of the Hegelianism that lay behind it, is that the answer is 'no.' Is slavery possible? Certainly, at one time it was a nearly-universal human institution. So let's revive it! The Marxist sputters, 'You can't do that!' No more than the shards of a glass vase shattered on the floor can reconstitute themselves, can a former state of class struggle be brought back, like a retro fashion. Except they did revive slavery, in the seventeenth century. It had never even gone out of fashion, in Africa and the Middle East.
A significant minority of the slaves brought to America were Muslims. If there was any single group of the population who would have had difficulty formulating a principled opposition to the institution in and of itself, it was these folk, because the founder of their religion was a slave-owner. Consequently, it was not until the 1960's that slavery was outlawed in Saudi Arabia, and then only nominally. Once here, though, they developed class consciousness and shouldered their way into solidarity with the industrial workforce, the proletariat, of factory capitalism, at that time practically non-existent in the South. Or so our author says.
The "white race" came into existence, according to our author, in order to disguise the otherwise inescapable identity of class interest between the free white laborers of the United States,— plus tenant and yeoman farmers, plus indentured servants,— and the black chattel slaves, held in life-time, hereditary bondage in the American South prior to the Civil War. In what does this identity consist? The economic function of these three classes could not be more different,
nor could they stand in more varied relation to the means of
production. If there is, after all, no point in doing class-based analysis of society, why not just abandon the Communist project? It will not be missed.
Our author has greatly simplified the field, leaving only two classes, Oppressor and Oppressed. People are sorted in one group or the other, depending on whether he sympathizes with their plight. We might name his school of thought, Sentimental Communism. Out of Communist class analysis, he has made something timeless. . .what it was never intended to be. Things have to be compacted down, complexity simplified, because our author hopes to see class solidarity between two groups, slaves and free laborers, that even Karl Marx realized were, historically, in no way class-mates.
Thus the proletariat is redefined to mean free labor (which is what the proletariat originally meant) plus bond-servants of all terms and conditions, plus tenant farmers (maybe), plus family farmers (maybe), residing in the state of Virginia,— although actually the whole world if you are a Trotskyite. It's Us versus Them. The proletariat is locked in an eternal death struggle with the "Plantation Bourgeoisie:" yes, the "Plantation Bourgeoisie,"— not a phrase you encounter every day, but presumably meaning plantation owners.
To find an Old World equivalent, look for Lord of the Manor, because in his original definition, the capitalist is not a man who owns slaves. Under Allen's manipulation, the category expands, he is sure with Marx and Engels' blessing: “The capitalist exploiters of bond-labor seemed to sense their dilemma before Marx and Engels made it manifest: 'The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production …'” (Allen, Theodore W. (2014-06-03). The Invention of the White Race, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 9865-9866). Verso Books.)
It is remarkable that the English, who had been in the forefront of the European peoples in casting off feudalism, regressed so dramatically in the New World, to the point of reviving slavery, a dead letter in their native land. And these grandees did it with such gusto and conviction as to revive the idea of harem rights. So much for economic determinism of history. The "plantation bourgeoisie" sold to a world market, just as did the big slave estates of Roman imperial Italy in antiquity.
This might seem a situation which defeats Marxist class analysis,
which perceives, in European history, a natural and indeed inevitable
progression from slavery to feudalism to free markets. . .and onward
to the inevitable triumph of communism. But maybe this conception of a
time arrow pointing in only one direction is just wrong. Maybe what
enabled the Europeans to rid themselves of forms of oppression like
slavery and feudalism was Christianity, not history, which lacks the
creative force Hegel assigns to it.
Feudalism, the concentration of ownership of land, the major productive resource in an
agricultural society, in a few hands, had never been permitted under Biblical law, which forbids joining field to field: "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" (Isaiah 5:8). Since it did not come from the Bible, which criminalizes it, where did feudalism come from? The old tribal cultures of the heathen nations of Europe were already characterized by this mode of thought: "The greater part, when they are pressed either by debt, or the large amount of their tributes, or the oppression of the more powerful, give themselves up in vassalage to the nobles, who possess over them the same rights without exception as masters over their slaves." (Julius Caesar, Gallic Wars, Book VI, Chapter XIII.) The large slave estates which had, like a growing cancerous tumor, forced the old peasant proprietors out of Italy, may have been developing in that direction; feudalism is slavery, lightly reformed. Plus warlordism commonly crops up in low security
environments, like Europe after the collapse of the Western Empire. However it happened, it happened. Whichever barbarian chieftain had most recently conquered the land with its helpless peasants held hostage, divvied the acreage into gigantic estates and gave them as gifts to his
principal henchmen. The people living on that acreage came with it,
like sheds or other out-buildings.
According to Marx and Engels, feudalism had to depart for capitalism to arise. This makes sense, because saving labor cannot mean saving money if the labor pool is fixed and unalterable. But evidently history's arrow runs in opposite directions, forward and backward, just fine, by our author's lights.
Going back to Hegel, who gave birth to this illegitimate offspring, that is not the idea.
By 'capitalist,' Allen means to point to no economic function in particular, no new class, only more or less what the contemporary Tea Party means by 'elite.' In Allen's portrayal of the world, these overlords sit in council like gods. They never mistake their own interest, which marks them off as a different race of beings from ourselves, never mind white vs. black.
Marxism is the grand-daddy of all conspiracy theories; but does the
world really work that way? Do a handful of men sit around a table and
apportion resources to various groups? After Bolshevism was victorious in
Russia, they inverted the system, as they saw it; the people sitting
around the table represented the proletariat, not the capitalist
class. And they drafted Five Year Plans. And then they drafted
another one about two years into the first, because things hadn't
turned out the way they expected. This is why the formerly socialist
world is littered with highways to nowhere, bridges with no access
roads, and glittering factories in the middle of the farm fields which never
produced anything. Ask the question, How will the future be
different from the past, and it is manifestly unanswerable. The
Silicon Valley computer industry did not grow from a seedling to a
giant because the big Wall Street money men were funneling capital
its way; they weren't. It was largely self-financed; people in the
field saw the potential, while outsiders did not understand what they
were making. The 'elite' sitting around the table do not make the
world, they never did. This whole tin-foil-hat wearing conspiracy
theory is a fantasy from the starting gate. And yet people who will
tell you they are not Marxists will tell you that it did work that
way, back in Virginia in the seventeenth century. If it worked that
way then, then why does it not now? If they think it still does, do they
understand some people think it's the market which brings resources
and people into alignment, and you defy it at your peril?
Manumission, granting freedom to individual slaves, was always part of the 'social control' mechanism of the ancient world. They liberated slaves that citizens might abound: "It is neither pleasing to Heaven nor creditable that our race should cease and the name of Romans meet extinguishment in us, and the city be given up to foreigners, — Greek or even barbarians. We liberate slaves chiefly for the purpose of making out of them as many citizens as possible; we give our allies a share in the government that our numbers may increase:. . ." (Caesar Augustus, quoted in Dio, Cassius. Complete Works of Cassius Dio (Delphi Classics) (Delphi Ancient Classics Book 36) (Kindle Locations 15394-15396). Roman History, Book 56, Chapter 7). The Roman empire abounded in freedmen; the inexhaustible hope of freedom, even if never actually acquired, acted as a steam pressure release valve, giving the slave reason to go on. A slave who had lost that hope could petition for redress: "There is a law even for slaves who have given up all hope of freedom, that they may demand a sale, and thus exchange their present master for one more mild." (Plutarch, Superstition, 4.1).
This invaluable 'social control' function of manumission was all but abandoned by the cruel, and myopic, Southern slave-masters. In some cases they made manumission illegal, purportedly out of concern that some freed slaves entered into perennial unemployment. Was this short-sighted? Not in his mind; it was a vital step in the creation of the 'white race.' These masters of the universe can make no mistake. Exactly what happened, whatever it was, is what was planned, intended, and engineered down to the last detail. This is the conspiracy mind-set. Once the avenue to freedom was blocked off for African-Americans (although about a tenth of African-Americans were in fact free on the eve of the Civil War), then the fundamental Rights of Man, always described as such in contemporary literature, could be re-gifted back to the white folk, who already possessed them, as 'white privilege,' and they would presumably be none the wiser, never noticing the ripped wrapping and askew bow. The fools! Presumably our author shares the normal Communist contempt for 'bourgeois liberties' in any case.
Thus far the masters of the universe, the "ruling class." But is even our proletariat complete and well-defined? What about small-scale family farmers? New England developed on this basis. They were not absent altogether in Virginia. Sometimes they're in, sometimes they're out. We discover that the "laboring classes" include: "...non-slaveholders, self-employed smallholders, tenants, and laborers." (Allen, Theodore W. (2014-06-03). The Invention of the White Race, Volume 2 (Kindle Locations 6392-6393).
This is a little weird, because if Marx and Engels wanted to draw
attention to anything, it is to the fact that, under capitalism, the
working class does not own the means of production: "On the other
hand it [usury] undermines and ruins small peasants' and small
burghers' production, in short all forms, in which the producer still
appears as the owner of his conditions of production. Under the
developed capitalist mode of production, the laborer is not the owner
of his means of employment, of the field which he cultivates, of the
raw materials which he works up, etc." (Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, The Capital, Volume 3, Part 5, Kindle location 37207,
Complete Works). The 'peasant proprietor' might be dirt poor; that
is not the issue. Amidst all their errors, Marx and Engels wanted to remind
people of what history does in fact show, that there is nothing natural or
inevitable about the existence of a 'working class'
which owns no land. Look back at Italy under the Roman Republic, or
Israel under the Mosaic law: the people owned the land they farmed. There is
nothing natural nor historically inevitable about English feudalism,
nor about the subsequent enclosures and evictions of the peasantry
from the land.
But Communist agitators, faced with the pratical problem of
making the revolution, could be ambivalent. The Revolution is wherever you find it,
and in its early stages, in China as in Russia, the peasantry
participate in bringing down the old regime. But it will ultimately
be discovered that they are "reactionary," as Marx himself realized: "Of
all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class. . .The lower middle classes, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie
to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle
class. They are thereefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay,
more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the
wheel of history." (Marx, Karl and Friedrich
Engels. The Communist Manifesto, Part I. Bourgeois and Proletarians, London,
1848: Complete Works, Including The Communist Manifesto, Wage-Labour and Capital, & Wages, Price and Profit (Kindle Locations
43220). Madison & Adams Press.)
The peasants who join in making the revolution generally want one
thing, land, and once they expropriate the landlord's holdings, they
are done with the Revolution. Tragically, the Revolution is not done
Some of the rural work-force, however, are part of the
proletariat. Just not slaves, not serfs, not peasant proprietors, not
tenants. While there is such a thing as capitalist agriculture, by definition
it employs free agricultural labor, it does not bargain or trade
with the farmer, much less own him. It is only once the land has
been torn out of the farmer's hand that he becomes available for
capitalist exploitation: ". . .so capitalist agriculture demands the
expropriation of the rural laborers from the land and their
subordination to a capitalist, who carries on agriculture for the
sake of profit." (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
The Capital, Volume 3, Part Six, Kindle location 37509). As the condition for the birth of capitalist agriculture, feudalism
must die, slavery must expire, the family farmer must go extinct, or
be made to become so. As it turns out, if
the capitalists did not steal the land, the socialists surely would.
Since after all it was a stated principle of the Communists to
eliminate private ownership of land, they could not go very far hand
in hand with the family farmers, before their ways diverged: "As soon
as the means of production have ceased to be converted into capital
(which includes also the abolition of private property in land),
credit as such has no longer any meaning." (Karl
Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Capital, Volume 3, Part 5, Kindle
location 37396, Complete Works).
Note well: "The premises for a capitalist production in
agriculture are these: The actual tillers of the soil are wage-laborers, employed by
a capitalist, the capitalist farmer, who carries on agriculture
merely as a special field of exploitation for his capital. . ."
(Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Capital, Volume 3, Part Six, Kindle location 37557). If not facing each other on opposite sides of the class divide,
workers and peasants at any rate were not on the same side, they were different. Here
again Marx and Engels differentiate between workers and farmers: "It
might be said that not only capital, but also laborers, in the shape
of emigrants, are annually exported from England. In the text,
however, there is no question of the peculium of the emigrants, who
are in great part not laborers. The sons of farmers make up a great
part of them." (Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
Das Kapital, Volume I, Footnote 885). Note, farmers are not
laborers. Not that capitalism cannot come to the countryside; but when it
does, the cast of characters there to greet it cannot be serfs,
slaves, peasant proprietors, nor even tenants; they've wandered in
from a different theatrical production. When gigantic agribusiness
establishes factory farms in your neck of the woods, Dear Reader, the
sign of their presence will not be a sudden a proliferation of serfs. If
your response to this logic-chopping is 'what's in a
name,' then you are just not cut out for Marxist class analysis. And
neither is our author. He has jumbled together what must remain separate
and generally made hash out of it all.
Marx and Engels' lack of
precision on this point, of who exactly comprise the proletariat,
devolves even further at the hands of our author. An advertised
historical dialectic process spurring economic change becomes a
static, eternal state, in which terms like 'capitalist' and
'proletariat' cease to refer to discrete economic functions, rather,
the good guys are always the proletariat, the bad guys the
capitalists, and 'capitalist' simply means 'bad guy,' 'proletariat'
'good guy.' Marx and Engels laugh at economists who treat the form of
landed property ". . .as though it were not a historical but an
eternal category." (Karl Marx and Friedrich
Engels, The Capital, Bolume Three, Part Six, Kindle location 37509).
But this is the best our author can do. 'Oppressor/oppressed' is left as the most finely grained
analysis attainable. Slaves thus have to belong to the proletariat,— 'Can't
you see they are victims! How dare you say they are not good guys!' I
didn't say they are not good guys, I said they are not free laborers,
which is how Marx and Engels define the
proletariat. Surely they are not any new class. If since their
day self-advertised Marxists have discovered Marx and Engels were
wrong, then glory be, that's a sign of progress. However this self-taught, eccentric
author doesn't seem to realize he's not doing it right. He is, however,
continuing a trend which began before his time and led to a tragic
Generally under Communism the farmer's class status is suspect; recall that the Russian 'kulaks,' family farmers, were class enemies of the deepest dye, because peasant proprietors, it turns out, resist communist expropriation to the death. When the focus falls on their "reactionary" nature, we must eject them from the proletarian class. Our smaller remnant proletariat however remains
an assortment of jacks-of-all-trades: free but landless rural laborers, plus indentured servants, plus chattel slaves, plus share-croppers. A moment's thought should show there is not necessarily any community of economic interest amongst these
diverse groups: a tenant farmer, as perhaps an occasional employer of free labor, would prefer prevailing wages to be low, which no rural wage-earner would prefer. Besides, an entire industry peddling racial grievance exists in the present day, asserting that these poor whites were being offered, not an illusion, but something tangible and valuable, 'white privilege,' worth so much in actual cash terms that descendants of these recipients ought to pay reparations for their ill-gotten gains! Who is right, Allen or the racialists who promote his findings in the present day? They can't both be right.
This literary project is not the first time the peasantry has been welcomed aboard the glorious proletarian revolution. Both Russia and China, at the time those countries embraced socialism, were peasant societies not far removed from feudalism.
The industrial work-force were, in theory, to be the storm-troopers
leading the world to the revolutionary barricades, but, where they
even existed, they refused the task, having other goals in mind.
Places where capitalism scarcely existed, like semi-feudal China,
proved fertile ground for revolution; the starving, deprived masses
were happy to join shoulders to overthrow the existing system. Mao
Zedong revised Communist thought to make of them a revolutionary
class, never mind that it was a prior revolution, the Peasant's
Revolt Martin Luther tried to stave off.
But a fatal flaw lay hid in this revision, leading to the very
high body counts that always accompanied successful Marxist
take-overs. Like all farming folk, the Russian and Chinese tenant rural dwellers wanted land. Having gotten it, they lost interest in making the revolution. The government was disappointed, having expected them willingly to fork over their land to the newly formed state farms and collectives. Unhappy to discover the farmers were not so revolutionary after all, and maybe even had never
really been proletarians, they killed them in large numbers: