Invention of the White Race

a reading and discussion group convened The Revolutions Study Group with Sean Ahern

Since its origin in the class struggles of colonial Virginia and Maryland, the “white race,” the most peculiar aspect of the “Peculiar Institution,” has remained the most contentious and misunderstood identity in American life.

The Invention of the White Race Volumes I & II, Theodore W. Allen’s historical materialist analysis of racial slavery, documents how the plantation elite put in place this system of social control following Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676. In the final stage of this uprising, an army of European and African chattel bond laborers burned Jamestown to the ground and temporarily drove Governor Berkeley into exile across the Chesapeake Bay.The terrified planter bourgeoisie, in a deliberate response to this display of labor solidarity, enacted a series of laws and practices in the late 17th and early 18th centuries which implanted a system of ‘white’ racial privileges that enabled the imposition of racial slavery and white male supremacy.

Allen defines racial slavery as a particular form of racial oppression homologous with gender and class oppression. The system of racial privileges defined and established the “white” race as a “bourgeois social control formation with consequences ruinous to the interests of the Afro-American workers but also disastrous for the white worker.”

Allen concludes Volume II with the following message to a new generation of activists: “Perhaps in the impending renewal of the struggle of ‘the common people’ and the ‘Titans,’ the Great Safety Valve of white-skin privileges may finally come to be seen and rejected by laboring-class European-Americans as the incubus that for three centuries has paralyzed their will in defense of their class interests vis-a-vis those of the ruling class.”

The Revolutions Study Group (started at the Brecht Forum) has met since 2009. The groups has recently completed a year-long study of W.E.B. Dubois’ Black Reconstruction. Participants have come and gone, however the group has held together, studying in depth a wide range of history including the French Revolution, the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the Mau-Mau Revolt in Kenya, the Haitian Revolution, the 1848 European Revolutions, the May 68 movement in France and the Hot Autumn of Italy and much more.

 

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Moving Against the System

Moving Against the System:
The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness
With editor and author David Austin

In 1968, as protests shook France and war raged in Vietnam, the giants of Black radical politics descended on Montreal to discuss the unique challenges and struggles facing their Black brothers and sisters. For the first time since 1968, David Austin brings alive the speeches and debates of the most important international gathering of Black radicals of the era.

Against a backdrop of widespread racism in the West, and colonialism and imperialism in the ‘Third World’, this group of activists, writers and political figures gathered to discuss the history and struggles of people of African descent and the meaning of Black Power.

With never-before-seen texts from Stokely Carmichael, Walter Rodney and C.L.R. James, these documents will prove invaluable to anyone interested in Black radical thought, as well as capturing a crucial moment of the political activity around 1968.

David Austin is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James.

 

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