- Category: Race & Liberation
- Created on Monday, 04 July 2011 14:47
- Written by Noel Ignatiev
This is part of our unfolding Kasama discussion of J. Sakai's work "Settlers: the Mythology of the White Proletariat." Noel writes:
"I missed this discussion the first time, and am taking advantage of this reposting to put up an excerpt from a critique I wrote of Settlers back in 1985 when it was first published. I have tinkered slightly with my original."
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"For European-Americans who think that revolution is necessary, what better use could there be of their time, intelligence, and energy than the effort to crack open white society? To do that, they need a theory that will point out the fissures in it, not deny their existence."
by Noel Ignatiev
According to Settlers,
“the entire settler economy was raised up on a foundation of slave labor, slave products, and the slave trade.”
Of course it was, and as Settlers points out, the fisherman, the forester, the clerk, the cooper and the farmer were “dependent” on the system of slave labor; so was the child who tended a loom thirteen hours a day in a cotton-mill. Not only that, the slave was “dependent” on the mill worker and the fisherman.
Ever since the division of labor, human beings have depended on others for the things they need to live. In modern society all laborers “depend” on the exploitation of others. To attempt to give this truism a profounder significance is to embrace the world view of the bourgeoisie, which holds that its mode of regulating the social division of labor through the market is natural.
(As an aside, why limit the category of “settler” to those from Europe? People from Africa were imported to the western hemisphere to produce surplus value that was transformed into capital. Were they “settlers” too? And what about Mexicans and Indians already here, and Chinese imported later? They also produced wealth used to dominate others.)
Standard bourgeois economics teaches that a job is property. Settlers shares that view, as well as the outlook of the white worker who thinks that a racial monopoly of the “better” jobs is worth defending. Who could be more subordinated to capital, more blinded to proletarian class interests?
So far no sector of white society has separated itself categorically from the infamy. Perhaps none ever will. The privileges of the white skin have done their poisonous work. As many people have pointed out, class is not a listing of individuals by occupation but a process whereby some people come to see they have common interests, and that these interests include the building of a new society. Only events will determine whether any sector of European-Americans will take their stand with the global proletariat.
For European-Americans who think that revolution is necessary, what better use could there be of their time, intelligence, and energy than the effort to crack open white society? To do that, they need a theory that will point out the fissures in it, not deny their existence.