Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 17, 2020

John Clegg, Bhaskar Sunkara, and the deeper implications of Project 1619

Filed under: Jacobin,Project 1619,racism,reparations,slavery — louisproyect @ 8:29 pm

Most of the vitriol directed against Project 1619 centers on Nikole Hannah-Jones’s introductory essay, especially her observation: “Anti-black racism runs in the very DNA of this country, as does the belief, so well articulated by Lincoln, that black people are the obstacle to national unity.” The World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) and its allies hope to put Lincoln back on his pedestal and refute the notion that black Americans have tended to fight against racism on their own. All of this is subsumed under the opposition’s main idea that they are fighting “identity politics” that undermines class unity.

There is another beef that the class fundamentalists have against Project 1619 that has generated less commentary. They don’t care for Matthew Desmond’s support for the New History of Capitalism, as it has been dubbed. Or NHC, for short. Titled “In order to understand the brutality of American capitalism, you have to start on the plantation,” the article cites two of the key NHC’ers:

“American slavery is necessarily imprinted on the DNA of American capitalism,” write the historians Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman. The task now, they argue, is “cataloging the dominant and recessive traits” that have been passed down to us, tracing the unsettling and often unrecognized lines of descent by which America’s national sin is now being visited upon the third and fourth generations.

For some academics, including Marxists, the idea that slavery is part of the DNA of American capitalism is a metaphor as objectionable as Hannah-Jones’s usage. They discount the importance of slavery as key to the growth of American capitalism and even go so far as to argue that it was a ball and chain on economic progress.

Writing for Jacobin in the sole article dealing with Project 1619, John Clegg, who disagrees with Charles Post’s analysis of slavery as “pre-capitalist”, describes the southern plantation as capitalist but concurs with Post’s description of it as retrograde. Unlike Sean Wilentz and company, Clegg is not that interested in a discussion of whether racism is in America’s DNA. Instead, his goal is to refute the NHC’ers Desmond cites:

Desmond begins his article by drawing on the Harvard historian Sven Beckert who argues that “it was on the back of cotton, and thus on the backs of slaves, that the U.S. economy ascended in the world.” Yet Desmond neglects to mention that this claim has been widely rejecte by specialists in the economic history of slavery.

If you click the link to “rejected” in the citation above, you will be directed to an article by economists Alan L. Olmstead and Paul W. Rhode titled “Cotton, Slavery, and the New History of Capitalism” that is the source of one of Clegg’s key rejoinders:

It’s true that cotton was among the world’s most widely traded commodities, and that it was America’s principal antebellum export. But it’s also true that exports constituted a small share of American GDP (typically less than 10 percent) and that the total value of cotton was therefore small by comparison with the overall American economy (less than 5 percent, lower than the value of corn).

I understand that Clegg is an accomplished academic with a post in the U. of Chicago history department but I have to wonder if he bothered to do anything except take Olmstead and Rhode’s claim at face value. They wrote, “More than this, cotton was not even the nation’s most important agricultural commodity in terms of value—that distinction always went to corn.” They don’t back that up with statistics and Clegg follows suit.

Clegg also takes their findings on exports as a percentage of American GDP at face value, but did he bother to put that under the same kind of critical scrutiny as he puts the NHC’ers? As a Columbia University retiree, I have access to the online Cambridge Historical Statistics that will likely never be checked by the Jacobin readers who walk away from Clegg’s article assuming that slavery was less important than corn in the take-off of American capitalism.

There’s a bit of a problem, however. The GDP that Olmstead and Rhode refer to was a product of their own research and not some independent data-gathering body. Since Olmstead is one of the six editors who put together the five-volume Cambridge series, it is entirely possible that his own biases might have crept into how the data is presented. It doesn’t help that one of the other editors is Gavin Wright, whose own attack on the NHC’ers is linked to in the word “widely” in Clegg’s citation above. Wright lets the impudent historians know that they are in for a good biffing: “Having thus allowed the editors to dig their own rhetorical graves, let me urge economic history readers not to overreact to the bluster and bombast.”

I should add that there was no government agency collecting data for GDP during slavery. If you do a search on “GDP” in the online Cambridge Historical Statistics, you will find the following disclaimer:

The official estimates of national income and product provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) begin in 1929. The broad interest in long-term trends has generated a number of attempts to estimate national product for the earlier period… It is important to note that all pre-1929 estimates are based on fragmentary data that were not originally collected for the purpose of making national product estimates. This means that the series are less precise than the official estimates.

In fact, prior to the publication of the Cambridge Historical Statistics, the only available data was from the census bureau but only beginning in 1869. In the essay on GDP in the Cambridge Historical Statistics, you will learn that economists have no uniform opinion on such matters. It even warns that Robert Gallman’s statistics on GDP dating back to 1839 “are not appropriate for studies of economic fluctuations or dynamics.” But never mind, let John Clegg cherry-pick the statistical findings in an article by Olmstead and Rhode that is congenial to his thesis that slavery retarded American capitalism. Others will dig deeper than the U. of Chicago sociologist.

All in all, reading Olmstead/Rhode and Wright reminds me of Sean Wilentz’s gate-keeping that keeps historians like Nicholas Guyatt beyond the pale. Wilentz huffs and puffs about how the impudent Hannah-Jones does not pay proper respects to Lincoln while the economists are beside themselves over the nerve of Sven Beckert and company exaggerating the importance of cotton and slavery. How dare they.

For some, there’s good reasons to cheer on Olmstead and Rhode since their debunking of the NHC’ers has the added value of rendering the need for reparations obsolete. If slavery did not turbocharge capitalism, why should black people be entitled to reparations? Maybe they should be paying back American corporations to compensate for lost profits under slavery.

In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Nikole Hannah-Jones said:

If you read the whole project, I don’t think you can come away from it without understanding the project is an argument for reparations. You can’t read it and not understand that something is owed. But there’s not a piece that looks at that in the project, so I’m going to be working on a piece that is actually asking the question of: If we understand that the legacy is alive right now and that so much of the conditions of black Americans can be traced to that legacy, then what do we actually owe? What is the restitution that is owed?

The WSWS, a bastion of opposition to Project 1619, will have none of this. “But the race-based interpretation advanced by the 1619 Project, reflecting the social aspirations of the more affluent sections of the African-American middle class, serves to bolster demands for reparation payments. This is not incidental to the Project’s aims. Hannah-Jones has already announced that her forthcoming project will be a demand for racially based reparations.”

Opposition to reparations also comes from the rightwing cesspool, just as was the case with Project 1619. When both the National Review and WSWS line up against Project 1619, you have to ask what the hell is going on. Same thing with the NHC and reparations. On August 26, 2019, an article appeared in National Review that gloated over Olmstead and Rhode’s “stinging rebuke” of NHC historian Edward Baptist. Since Baptist’s work was cited by Ta-Nehisi Coates’s in a call for reparations, naturally the government will have to say, no thank you.

Bhaskar Sunkara also came out against reparations in The Guardian but without the WSWS’s vitriolic class-fundamentalism or the National Review’s obvious white supremacist baggage. Instead, he finds the idea of reparations beyond the capability of government agencies to administer and unfair to non-black citizens who will be getting short shrift (the reference to Coates below is Ta-Nahisi Coate’s 2014 article in the Atlantic calling for reparations):

But what kind of bureaucratic process would be necessary to identify who gets to receive the reparations Coates supports? It can’t simply be race, because recent immigrants from Africa wouldn’t qualify, nor would the descendants of slaves held in former French or British colonies. Would we need a new bureau to establish ancestry? Is that overhead and the work it will involve for black Americans to prove that they qualify worth it compared to creating a universal program that will most help the marginalized anyway?

Or consider this dilemma: money for reparations will come from government expenditure, of which around half is funded by income tax. Could we be in a situation where we’re asking, say, a black Jamaican descendent of slaves, or a poor Latino immigrant, to help fund a program that they can’t benefit from? Reparations wouldn’t be quite such a zero-sum game, but it would hard to shake the perception. Is this really the basis that we can build a majoritarian coalition?

A blogger named Paul Sowers, about whom I know nothing, took exception to Sunkara in an article titled “Fuel for the Journey: Bhaskar Sunkara, Black Exclusion, and Reparations.” He begins by pointing out that the New York State county that Sunkara grew up in was sued by the Anti-Discrimination Center of Metro New York, a private civil rights group. It made the case that local government in Westchester County was violating the terms of an agreement to receive federal funds contingent upon their being allocated to undo obvious, longstanding patterns of segregation.

He caustically added: “Sunkara was born and raised in the village of Pleasantville, N.Y., which—when the lawsuit was initially filed in 2006—had an African-American population of 0.0%. It is referenced explicitly in Beveridge’s sworn declaration. And like many jurisdictions in Westchester County, it appears to have remained particularly keen on preserving the broader region’s rich history of enforced separation of black people.”

He then lets the hammer drop:

Which is what makes Sunkara’s most recent commentary on the issue of reparations in The Guardian so totally objectionable; because his life in America simply does not exist in any recognizable way without the fact of that manufactured black failure. Jacobin arguably does not exist without that black failure (Sunkara’s parents’ names both appear on Jacobin Press LLC’s business license filings, with his dad listed as the company principal, and the company address being listed at an apartment that the family owns in the Bronx). And so the question is, then, what does it mean for an individual whose life and professional career, which in so direct and unambiguous a way has been made wholly possible by the specific oppression suffered by black people, to then use his position in the media to promote the message that specific policy designed to redistribute such opportunities back to those very people “can’t adequately address racial inequality”?

In my view, the assault on both the NHC and on reparations demonstrates that racism remains part of the DNA of the U.S.A. as Nikole Hannah-Jones points out. In keeping with his undying loyalty to Bernie Sanders, Sunkara used his opposition to reparations as a cudgel against Elizabeth Warren.

Although I have all sorts of problems with Ta-Nehisi Coates, he makes some very good points in his Atlantic article “The Case for Reparations”. Like is the case with Nikole Hannah-Jones’s reflections on her father’s experiences in her Project 1619 essay, Coates examines the costs racism extracted from a black man named Clyde Ross, who was born into a family fortunate enough to own 40-acres as promised by the Radical Republicans.

Unfortunately, his father was swindled out of his land by racists:

When Clyde Ross was still a child, Mississippi authorities claimed his father owed $3,000 in back taxes. The elder Ross could not read. He did not have a lawyer. He did not know any-one at the local courthouse. He could not expect the police to be impartial. Effectively, the Ross family had no way to contest the claim and no protection under the law. The authorities seized the land. They seized the buggy. They took the cows, hogs, and mules. And so for the upkeep of separate but equal, the entire Ross family was reduced to sharecropping.

Coates offers an impassioned case for reparations in contrast to Sunkara’s pettifoggery. It makes a good companion-piece to the articles that appeared in the Project 1619 special issue of the Sunday Times Magazine. If you have trouble getting past Atlantic’s paywall, contact me at lnp3@panix.com and I will send you a copy.

January 26, 2020

When the N.Y. Times referred to elected black officials as members of a “mongrel party”

Filed under: african-american,racism — louisproyect @ 10:49 pm

Since this post will be commentary on a Sunday NY Times book review that is behind a paywall, I am including the entire review at the bottom. In “When White Supremacists Overthrew an Elected Government,” Eddie S. Glaude Jr., the head of Princeton’s African-American Studies department and a frequent commentator on cable news, looks at David Zucchino’s “Wilmington’s Lie: The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy”. Zucchino, a contributing writer to the NY Times, has written a history of a white racist attack in Wilmington, North Carolina that left 30 African-Americans dead and their mass exodus from the city.

Wilmington had the largest percentage of blacks in any American city in the south. Still loyal to the Republican Party, they elected blacks to many offices in a manner that was reminiscent of Reconstruction. Whites, who voted Democrat, felt like they were being “replaced” and carried out a pogrom. You get a feel for Zucchino’s chronicle through this quote from the review, which I encourage you to read in its totality below:

The leaders of the violence went on to celebrated political careers. Josephus Daniels was appointed secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson and later named ambassador to Mexico by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Furnifold Simmons served 30 years as a United States senator. No one was ever held responsible for the brutal murders in Wilmington.

After reading this review, I made a bet with myself that the NY Times coverage of these events in 1898 would be from a perspective consistent with the racist policies of the Wilmington terrorists and the liberal icons Woodrow Wilson (revered much less so today than when I was young) and FDR.

Taking advantage of my subscription to the Times, I did some investigation in the paper’s archives. My intuition was correct. The Gray Lady wore a white hood and its editors, for all I know, were invited to Woodrow Wilson’s White House screening of “Birth of a Nation”.

The first sign that Wilmington was on the NY Times radar was on November 4th when it reported on “Race Troubles in the South: The First Red Shirt Parade held at Wilmington, N.C.”

WILMINGTON, N. C., Nov. 3.—The first red shirt parade on horseback witnessed in Wilmington was held today. It created enthusiasm among the whites and consternation among the negroes. The whole town turned out to see it, and hundreds of ladies waved flags and hand-kerchiefs as the long column of horsemen rode by. While the riders frequently cheered, the parade was otherwise quiet and orderly. Not an insulting word was uttered to a negro.

How about that? Not an insulting word was uttered. You’d think that the Times might have mentioned that the Red Shirts had a history of doing much worse than insulting black people. Wikipedia states that they and other such groups were the “the military arm of the Democratic Party” and were even more effective than the KKK in intimidating and assassination black Republican elected officials. On the same day, the racist Raleigh News & Observer had an article that sounded exactly like the NY Times:

The first Red Shirt parade on horseback ever witnessed in Wilmington electrified the people today. It created enthusiasm among the whites and consternation among the Negroes. The whole town turned out to see it. It was an enthusiastic body of men. Otherwise it was quiet and orderly.

The next sign that the NYT had lined up behind the growing white power movement was a November 5th article written just before local elections. It was titled “North Carolina: The Combination of White Voters to Resist the Possibility of Negro Domination.” No byline is attached to the article. It is openly racist in its analysis and as was customary back then uses lower case for the word “negro”. It even speaks of a political revolution:

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4.—Statements received here in reference to the race conflict which it was feared was imminent in North Carolina indicate that there will be no trouble at the polls on election day at Wilmington or elsewhere. The opinion prevails among those familiar with the situation that the white people will not resort to intimidation and. that the negroes will be allowed to vote without molestation, but that a large number of the latter have become disgusted with the Republican Party managers` failure to nominate candidates for county officers and will stay away from the polls.

The movement for a combination of the white inhabitants of the State to overcome the possibility of negro domination is reported to be gaining ground, and a political revolution is foreshadowed by observers of the situation. A Democratic victory is predicted, the members of that party expecting, with the aid of white Republicans and Populists, to elect the State judicial ticket, five of the nine Congressmen, and a majority in the State Legislature, although the Senate, they say, will possibly be close.

The former adversaries of Democracy who are now flocking to that party’s standard. say that they have not changed their political opinions, but that the combination of the white forces is necessary at this election, if for no longer, in view of the exigencies of the situation.

You’ll note that the Populists are forming a bloc with the racist Democratic Party in keeping with its retreat from a multiracial, class-based fight against the capitalists, while white Republicans are just as willing to sell out black voters as they were in 1877. With so many prestigious civil war historians rankled by Project 1619’s claim that blacks mostly fought on their own, you have to wonder whether they have an idea about what happened in Wilmington in 1898.

A day later, the NY Times published an article titled innocently enough “North Carolina’s Negroes: Offices Which They Hold in Several Counties of the State”. It was almost entirely a routine listing of those offices with likely the implication that they had to be put in their place, based on the final paragraph:

The number of negro office holders in some of these counties is small, and they are nearly all east of the centre line, but they give a pretty strong indication of what we may expect if the mongrel party which has put these negroes in office wins. If they make such a showing in a few years, what may we not look for if their party triumphs and they get on top again?

Mongrel party? If this is what the newspaper of record was writing, you can only imagine the sort of thing that was being published in the local white-owned newspapers in Wilmington that were whipping up the racist frenzy that would produce the pogrom.

To get an idea of how black activists reacted to Wilmington that year, you need to read a December 11th article titled “President Blamed By Negroes”. It is a reminder that black militancy and the need for black self-defense was not invented by the Black Panther Party:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20.—Washington is pretty generally condemning a speech made ire last night at a meeting of the National Racial Protective Association by T. Tomas Fortune of New York.

There were devotional exercises and resolutions of complaint against the President not insisting upon protection to the colored people in North and South Carolina, and then came Fortune’s speech. He referred to the prayer that had included a request for the divine blessing upon the President as being specially pertinent to a present need, sneered at the choice of Gen.

Wheeler as “a side partner” to the President, and declared that if Confederate graves are to be cared for by the Government, Confederate widows and orphans must be pensioned and a monument erected to Benedict Arnold. A specimen utterance was this:

“If all the black and yellow people stood on the same ground as myself, there would have been no thirty colored men killed in Wilmington unless there were also thirty white men killed. If the colored people did not have Winchester rifles, they had pitch and pine, and while the whites were killing, the blacks should have been burning. The negroes will never get their rights until they stand up for them. The worst organization which ever existed was the organized chivalry of the South, and as a result w have 250,000 mulattos in this country. Why, the very men killed at Wilmington were the sons and grandsons of the men who killed them.”

The speaker went on railing at the President and Gov. Tanner, and said that he was in favor of mixed schools, mixed marriages. mixed churches, and “a fair deal in everything.”

I had never heard of T. Thomas Fortune before reading this. He was a remarkable figure and way ahead of his time. Once again citing Wikipedia:

With Fortune at the helm as co-owner with Emanuel Fortune, Jr., and Jerome B. Peterson, the New York Age became the most widely read of all Black newspapers. It stood at the forefront as a voice agitating against the evils of discrimination, lynching, mob violence, and disenfranchisement. Its popularity was due in part to Fortune’s editorials, which condemned all forms of discrimination and demanded full justice for all African Americans. Ida B. Wells’s newspaper Memphis Free Speech and Headlight had its printing press destroyed and building burned as the result of an article published in it on May 25, 1892. Fortune then gave her a job and a new platform from which to detail and condemn lynching.

Toward the end of his writing career, he became the editor of Marcus Garvey’s newspaper. For those on the left so worried about “black identity politics”, especially the crew around Sean Wilentz and the bat-shit WSWS, it’s high time they woke up and got off their white horse. As for the NY Times, I am glad they are pushing Project 1619, but they still have a lot to atone for.

When White Supremacists Overthrew an Elected Government
By Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
Jan. 7, 2020

WILMINGTON’S LIE
The Murderous Coup of 1898 and the Rise of White Supremacy
By David Zucchino

Today we Americans find ourselves struggling with the ghosts of our past. Some among us reach for histories that affirm the established view of who we are as a nation. Many believe the United States is, and must always be, a white nation. But moments of storm and stress also occasion the telling of different stories. We have seen this with The New York Times’s 1619 Project. Now we have David Zucchino’s brilliant new book.

“Wilmington’s Lie” is a tragic story about the brutal overthrow of the multiracial government of Wilmington, N.C., in 1898. The book is divided into three parts. The first details how white supremacists rejected the goals of Reconstruction and chafed under what they called “Negro domination.” We are introduced to characters like “Colonel” Alfred Moore Waddell, who would play a central role in the coup, and to the overall sense of moral panic that engulfed the white community as it confronted black self-assertion — like that of Abraham Galloway, the first black man in North Carolina to campaign in a statewide race — in the aftermath of the Confederacy’s defeat.

The second section charts the campaign to reassert white rule in Wilmington. Zucchino shows how Josephus Daniels, the editor and publisher of The News and Observer, the state’s most important daily, and Furnifold Simmons, the state chairman of the Democratic Party, exploited the prejudices and fears of white North Carolinians. As Zucchino writes, “More than a century before sophisticated fake news attacks targeted social media websites, Daniels’s manipulation of white readers through phony or misleading newspaper stories was perhaps the most daring and effective disinformation campaign of the era.” This was most clearly seen in the exploitation of a column about race, sex and lynching in the black newspaper The Daily Record to justify the coup. The article, written by one of the paper’s publishers, Alexander Manly, became Exhibit A in the case that black men had forgotten their place and represented a clear and present danger to the sanctity of white womanhood.

The first two parts of the book move in a deliberate fashion. Zucchino, a contributing writer for The New York Times, does not overwrite the scenes. His moral judgment stands at a distance. He simply describes what happened and the lies told to justify it all. A generalized terror comes into view as the white citizens of Wilmington mobilized to seize power through violence and outright fraud.

The details contained in the last part of the book are heart-wrenching. With economy and a cinematic touch, Zucchino recounts the brutal assault on black Wilmington. A town that once boasted the largest percentage of black residents of any large Southern city found itself in the midst of a systematic purge. Successful black men were targeted for banishment from the city, while black workers left all their possessions behind as they rushed to the swamps for safety. Over 60 people died. No one seemed to care. The governor of North Carolina cowered in the face of the violent rebellion, worried about his own life. President William McKinley turned a blind eye to the bloodshed. And Waddell was selected as mayor as the white supremacists forced the duly elected officials to resign.

In the aftermath of it all, the white community of Wilmington told itself a lie to justify the carnage, a lie that would be repeated so often that it stood in for the truth of what actually happened on Nov. 10. The editors of one newspaper wrote, “We must hope that by far the greater part of Negroes in this city are anxious for the restoration of order and quiet and ‘the old order’ — the rule of the white people.” The leaders of the violence went on to celebrated political careers. Josephus Daniels was appointed secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson and later named ambassador to Mexico by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Furnifold Simmons served 30 years as a United States senator. No one was ever held responsible for the brutal murders in Wilmington.

In the end, Zucchino pulls the story into our present moment. He interviews descendants of those who perpetrated the violence and those who bore the brunt of it. What becomes clear, at least to me, is that memory and trauma look different depending on which side of the tracks you stand. The last sentence of “Wilmington’s Lie,” which quotes the grandson of Alex Manly, makes that point without a hint of hyperbole. “If there’s a hell, I hope they’re burning in it, all of them.”

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. is the chair of the department of African-American studies and the James S. McDonnell distinguished university professor of African-American studies at Princeton.

 

January 9, 2020

The NY Giants new coach and NFL racism

Filed under: racism,sports — louisproyect @ 9:15 pm

I haven’t watched a football, baseball, or basketball game for its entirety in over 25 years at least. But I am an avid listener to the sports talk stations in NY, WFAN and ESPN. I also like to read the sports section in the local papers. Even if football is a barbaric sport that should be outlawed, I am glad to see the hapless NY Jets or NY Giants when they are doing well. For those who follow sports, you are probably aware that they have been doing poorly for over a decade.

Recently, the Giants have been a search for a new coach after having finished the season with a 4-12 record. The sports stations have been following this closely since the outgoing coach Pat Shirmer was blamed for the losing record. Many of the hosts and callers-in blame the team co-owners and general manager as well. The co-owners are John Mara and Steve Tisch. Mara’s grandfather Tim Mara founded the franchise in 1925 with money he had made as a bookmaker—a criminal enterprise. His son Wellington took over the team until his death in 2005. His John Mara functions as the CEO of the team with Steve Tisch mostly operating in the background. Tisch is the son of former co-owner Robert Tisch, who was Wellington’s partner. Tisch bought his share in the Giants with money he made through the Loew’s theater and hotel business. Most of Steve Tisch’s time is spent producing movies, such as “Forrest Gump”. Most fans blame Mara rather than Tisch for the team’s woes since Tisch functions pretty much as a silent partner.

The Giants were prepared to offer Baylor University coach Matt Rhule the job but the Carolina Panthers beat them to the punch, offering Rhule a 7-year, 60 million dollar contract. Just after the Giants learned of the deal, they made an offer to Joe Judge, the special teams and wide receiver coordinator of the New England Patriots, an AFC division team that have up until this year been either Super Bowl winner or at least AFC champions for most of the past decade. With their dynastic record, anybody associated with the Patriots is considered good coach material.

Despite this, WFAN and ESPN hosts were surprised to hear of Judge’s hiring since he was not on the radar for the coaching jobs that were being filled over the past few weeks. But it was only ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, an African-American, who raised holy hell about no blacks being considered. The Giants did interview a couple of black coordinators early on but it was mostly to show that they were honoring the Rooney Rule.

The rule was adopted by the NFL in 2003 as a way of making the GM and coaching positions open to minorities. It was named after Dan Rooney, the head of the league’s diversity committee and a former owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rooney’s and the Mara’s have amounted to family dynasties of the two teams and often considered model owners for their franchises’ stability and excellence. Wikipedia describes the circumstances of the rule’s adoption in the aftermath of the firing of two black coaches:

It was created as a reaction to the 2002 firings of head coaches Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dennis Green of the Minnesota Vikings, at a time when Dungy had a winning record and Green had just had his first losing season in ten years. Shortly afterwards, U.S. civil rights attorneys Cyrus Mehri and Johnnie Cochran released a study showing that black head coaches, despite winning a higher percentage of games, were less likely to be hired and more likely to be fired than their white counterparts. Former NFL players Kellen Winslow and John Wooten then put together a self-described “affinity group” of minority scouts, coaches, and front-office personnel, to advocate for the rule’s creation.

As should be obvious, this was prompted by the same resentment of white domination that made Colin Kaepernick decide to take a knee during the national anthem. It is worth mentioning how John Mara reacted to Kaepernick being on the job market after his protest made him persona non grata for the NFL owners, who tend to be rightwing fucks. He told Sports Illustrated that Giants fans would never forgive him for hiring Kaepernick, even though the aging QB Eli Manning needed to be replaced. However, Mara did not fire white kicker Josh Brown after he revealed that he was a wife-beater. In the NFL world, kneeling while the Star Spangled Banner is being played is a cardinal sin while wife-beating is a peccadillo.

John Mara was evidently following the example of his grandfather Tim, who didn’t care for black people very much as well. Like the gentleman’s agreement by team owners that blacklisted Colin Kaepernick, black players were excluded from the NFL between 1934 and 1946 for the same reason that blacks never played professional baseball: racism. Back then it was players getting shafted; today it is potential coaches or general managers. As Project 1619 put it, racism is in the American DNA.

George Marshall, the owner of the Washington Redskins (no connection to the Marshall plan architect), convinced other team owners to organize a two-division league, consisting of five teams each and culminating in a championship game between the two teams with the best records. Marshall stated publicly that he would never employ black athletes. His Redskins were the last NFL team to desegregate, holding out until 1962.

In an article for the Winter 1988 Journal of Sports History titled “Outside the Pale: The Exclusion of Blacks from the National Football League, 1934-1946”, Thomas G. Smith wrote:

Professional football owners, like their baseball counterparts, denied the existence of a racial ban. “For myself and for most of the owners,” Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers explained decades later, “I can say there never was any racial bias.” George Halas of the Chicago Bears declared in 1970 that there had been no unwritten exclusionary agreement “in no way, shape, or form.” Tex Schramm of the Los Angeles Rams did not recall a gentleman’s agreement.”You just didn’t do it [sign blacks] – it wasn’t the thing that was done.” Wellington and Tim Mara of the New York Giants also denied that minorities had been blackballed. Despite the disclaimers, however, blacks had disappeared from the game.

 

December 27, 2019

WSWS, Sean Wilentz, and the Star Spangled Banner

Filed under: racism — louisproyect @ 12:47 am

Francis Scott Key, who composed the Star Spangled Banner, owned slaves. He was a close political ally of fellow slave-owner Andrew Jackson, an icon of democracy according to Sean Wilentz

Without question, this assault on the NY Times Project 1619 is being co-led by WSWS contributor Tom Mackaman and Princeton professor Sean Wilentz. There’s some fancy footwork going on with Mackaman working with the professors who signed Wilentz’s open letter attacking the project and Wilentz lining up support among those who share his liberal Democratic Party politics. Even though it is a united front between the sectarian lunatics of the Socialist Equality Party and the Princeton don who is a close friend of the Clintons and hates any politician to their left, the WSWS is shrewd enough not to solicit an interview with Wilentz since that would give away their sordid game.

In my previous post on this controversy, I referred to Wilentz’s recently published “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding”. This book is consistent with the contents of the open letter that is so upset about Nikole Hannah-Jones’s saying that racism is in the USA’s DNA. That formulation is not that different from the universally acclaimed observation from H. Rap Brown that violence is as American as apple pie. Maybe, if these white professors grew up in the same circumstances as Hannah-Jones’s father, they’d understand her anger:

My dad was born into a family of sharecroppers on a white plantation in Greenwood, Miss., where black people bent over cotton from can’t-see-in-the-morning to can’t-see-at-night, just as their enslaved ancestors had done not long before. The Mississippi of my dad’s youth was an apartheid state that subjugated its near-majority black population through breathtaking acts of violence.

Wilentz, by contrast, was the son of the man who owned the highly successful 8th Street Bookstore that thrived in the days before Barnes and Noble and then Amazon. Growing up in such privilege, he probably can’t quite see things from the same perspective as someone who grew up picking cotton.

The older Wilentz became, the more he adopted the inside-the-beltway attitudes of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and other historians who saw American presidents as being a lamp onto the feet of backward peoples. Like Schlesinger, who wrote a flattering portrait of Andrew Jackson, Wilentz came up with his own adoring biography in 2005 that was torn apart in the New Left Review by Tom Mertes. (Contact me for a copy of the paywalled article.) Mertes had these choice words for the WSWS’s co-thinker, who made excuses for Jackson’s genocidal attacks on American Indians in the same way he made excuses for Bill Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia:

Far greater exertions are required to burnish Jackson’s bid to construct a Herrenvolk republic free of Indians. Here Wilentz’s contortions are truly exemplary. His Jackson is a ‘sincere if unsentimental paternalist’, who simply wished for the good of the indigenous peoples, killing them only when ‘provoked’—though he lets slip a few pages earlier that he was a ‘fire-eating hater of unyielding Indians’. Yielding Indians were those who agreed to ‘voluntary’ removal from their ancestral lands, for their own protection, to ‘safe havens’ (Kurdistans for the 19th century?), so rescuing them from the ‘obliteration’ that would otherwise have befallen them. If these operations did not go quite as ‘smoothly and benevolently as Jackson had expected’, this was an unfortunate outcome he had in no way intended.

As it happens, one other African-American besides Nikole Hannah-Jones got the reputation of being a “racialist” not too long ago. I am referring to Colin Kaepernick who took a knee for the Star Spangled Banner, an act that “divided the working class”, no doubt.

There’s a tie-in to Andrew Jackson here as well as this article points out. In a neglected verse in the national anthem, it celebrates the killing of slaves who had fought alongside the British in exchange for their freedom:

Kindly put, Key was a nation-builder who lost luster later in life. Perhaps his association with the fierce Jackson turned his character unkind, darker and harder. Like many upper-crust slave owners, including James Madison, Key claimed to favor colonization, shipping free blacks to Africa.

It’s worth looking at Key in better days. At St. John’s College in Annapolis, he played lots of schoolboy pranks. Good-looking and confident, he had a gift for scribbling verse, which he put to good use at age 35, in the crepuscular light of day.

“The Star-Spangled Banner” hails the huge battle flag flying over Fort McHenry after dawn broke and smoke cleared above Baltimore’s waters after a night of British naval bombardment. Key witnessed the scene from a neutral vessel and composed his patriotic poem in the rush of victory that very morning. A sensation, it swept the streets, sung to the tune of an English drinking song.

Pride was palpable. Baltimore saved the early republic after the British army sacked Washington. Madison fled the empty capital, riding ahead of the redcoats, who feasted in the White House before setting fire to it. Baltimore blocked the British advance up the Eastern Seaboard, and the bard bottled the moment. The song was named the national anthem more than 100 years later. If only that were the happy end of the tale. From the third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner”:

No refuge could save the hireling & slave/

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:/

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave/

O’er the land of the free & the home of the brave.

This verse is hardly ever sung these days, but there it is.

Whatever side you’re on, we all need to know the roots of “The Star-Spangled Banner” run deep in slavery’s soil. How deep is seldom told.

Lawyer-poet Key, born to massive slaveholding wealth in Maryland, was one of the richest men in America. He liked it that way.

As he grew older and darker, Key sought to buttress slavery, known as our own “peculiar institution.” He did just that, past his last breath. The U.S. Supreme Court, which he helped shape, stood strongly for slavery. So beside the anthem, his political legacy as a critical political player in upholding slavery is devastating.

In his 50s, Key became an adviser to President Andrew Jackson, who was also a wealthy self-made Southern slaveholder.

At the same time, Key was named by Jackson as the U.S. district attorney for the nation’s capital, where he prosecuted race and slavery laws to the fullest extent, even to the death penalty. He also aggressively prosecuted early abolitionists, who had founded the anti-slavery movement in 1833.

Key often whispered in the ear of Jackson, the plantation owner in the White House. When he wasn’t shouting, Jackson listened. Jackson’s presidency brought brutal, racially motivated mob violence like never before, including a race riot in Washington, D.C. Jackson had no sympathy for mobs, but even less for slaves and free blacks.

Then came the worst cut of all: Key prevailed on Jackson to name Key’s own brother-in-law, Roger Taney, to the Cabinet and then to the ultimate prize: chief justice of the United States.

To be tied to the infamous Taney is a serious stain on Key’s rosy reputation. Like Key, Taney was a native of Maryland, a state steeped in slavery, where Frederick Douglass was born. Taney and Key were friends before Roger met and married Key’s sister. That’s how small the antebellum South was for wealthy white men.

Roundly hated north of the Mason-Dixon line, Taney lived long enough to author the 1857 Dred Scott Supreme Court opinion, the most starkly racist high court decision in history. Taney struck down the argument that free blacks could become citizens in free states like Illinois and further declared that all blacks, whether slave or free, were never entitled to any rights, period.

The Dred Scott ruling landed as a public outrage. Historians consider it a catalyst for the Civil War, which broke out four years later. Taney swore in Abraham Lincoln as president in 1861, a face-to-face breaking point between the nation’s past and future.

Is racism part of America’s DNA? That so many people could be outraged by Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to kneel while the anthem is being sung suggests it is.

December 24, 2019

Behind the attack on New York Times Project 1619

Filed under: racism,slavery — louisproyect @ 10:16 pm

Last August, the NY Times Sunday Magazine was entirely devoted to Project 1619, an attempt to root the racism of today in the institution of slavery that dates back to 1619, when more than 20 slaves were sold to the British colonists in Virginia. This hypothesis in itself might have not touched off the controversy surrounding the project. Instead, it was another claim that the American Revolution of 1776 was a reactionary rebellion to preserve slavery that probably set the gears in motion that led to an open letter from five prestigious historians to the NY Times that concluded:

We ask that The Times, according to its own high standards of accuracy and truth, issue prominent corrections of all the errors and distortions presented in The 1619 Project. We also ask for the removal of these mistakes from any materials destined for use in schools, as well as in all further publications, including books bearing the name of The New York Times. We ask finally that The Times reveal fully the process through which the historical materials were and continue to be assembled, checked and authenticated.

The letter was written by Sean Wilentz and signed by him and four others: Victoria Bynum, James M. McPherson, James Oakes, and Gordon S. Wood. All are white with an average age of 71.

It is highly likely that the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) that publishes the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) helped organize this campaign since all of the historians, except Wilentz, have granted interviews to it about their objections to Project 1619. It is even more likely that SEP member Tom Mackaman led this effort since he is a professor at King’s College in Pennsylvania and might have used his academic status to persuade them to take a stand. McPherson probably didn’t need much persuasion since his contacts with WSWS go back to 1999. It is not clear how much contact WSWS had with Sean Wilentz since his liberal Democratic Party politics might have made him much less amenable to any joint project with a bunch of sectarian lunatics.

At any rate, others have connected the dotted lines, including the Wall Street Journal that summed up the conflict a week ago:

So wrong in so many ways” is how Gordon Wood, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the American Revolution, characterized the New York Times’s “1619 Project.” James McPherson, dean of Civil War historians and another Pulitzer winner, said the Times presented an “unbalanced, one-sided account” that “left most of the history out.” Even more surprising than the criticism from these generally liberal historians was where the interviews appeared: on the World Socialist Web Site, run by the Trotskyist Socialist Equality Party.

The “1619 Project” was launched in August with a 100-page spread in the Times’s Sunday magazine. It intends to “reframe the country’s history” by crossing out 1776 as America’s founding date and substituting 1619, the year 20 or so African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Va. The project has been celebrated up and down the liberal establishment, praised by Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

A September essay for the World Socialist Web Site called the project a “racialist falsification” of history. That didn’t get much attention, but in November the interviews with the historians went viral. “I wish my books would have this kind of reaction,” Mr. Wood says in an email. “It still strikes me as amazing why the NY Times would put its authority behind a project that has such weak scholarly support.” He adds that fellow historians have privately expressed their agreement. Mr. McPherson coolly describes the project’s “implicit position that there have never been any good white people, thereby ignoring white radicals and even liberals who have supported racial equality.”

The project’s creator, Nikole Hannah-Jones, is proud that it “decenters whiteness” and disdains its critics as “old, white male historians.” She tweeted of Mr. McPherson: “Who considers him preeminent? I don’t.” Her own qualifications are an undergraduate degree in history and African-American studies and a master’s in journalism. She says the project goes beyond Mr. McPherson’s expertise, the Civil War. “For the most part,” she writes in its lead essay, “black Americans fought back alone” against racism. No wonder she’d rather not talk about the Civil War.

To the Trotskyists, Ms. Hannah-Jones writes: “You all have truly revealed yourselves for the anti-black folks you really are.” She calls them “white men claiming to be socialists.” Perhaps they’re guilty of being white men, but they’re definitely socialists. Their faction, called the Workers League until 1995, was “one of the most strident and rigid Marxist groups in America” during the Cold War, says Harvey Klehr, a leading historian of American communism.

“Ours is not a patriotic, flag-waving kind of perspective,” says Thomas Mackaman, the World Socialist Web Site’s interviewer and a history professor at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He simply recognizes that the arrival of 20 slaves in 1619 wasn’t a “world-altering event.” Slavery had existed across the world for millennia, and there were already slaves elsewhere in what would become the U.S. before 1619.

So, Mackaman says that the arrival of 20 slaves in 1619 was no big deal since “Slavery had existed across the world for millennia, and there were already slaves elsewhere in what would become the U.S. before 1619.” Odd that Mackaman, the big-time Marxist scholar, can’t distinguish between pre-capitalist and capitalist slavery. Yes, there were slaves in 1619 but being one in the Ottoman Empire was not the same thing as picking cotton. The Janissaries, who were slaves, were also the Sultan’s elite troops, paid regular salaries, and eventually became part of the ruling class.

If the WSWS was defending Marxism by going on the attack against Project 1619, that didn’t seem to bother the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone who was pleased to hear James McPherson deny that racism was a permanent condition. This is the same Barone who wrote “How Genetic Science Is Undercutting the Case for Racial Quotas” for the Washington Examiner on April 4, 2018. Somehow, the belief in genetic inferiority does not seem consistent with racism not being a permanent condition but I’ll let the dialectical geniuses at WSWS sort that out.

In addition to the Trump-supporting Washington Examiner, Wilentz and company got thumbs up from the City-Journal, the voice of the neoconservative Manhattan Institute, the National Review, and New Criterion, a high-falutin’ journal that once awarded a prize to Charles Murray, best-known for his Bell-Curve theory that finds Blacks genetically inferior.

Most of the fury from the WSWS and its academic allies is directed at an introductory article written by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an African-American staff writer for the NYT Sunday Magazine and the recipient of a Polk Award for her reports on NPR Radio. This paragraph must have made Sean Wilentz’s hair catch fire:

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South. The wealth and prominence that allowed Jefferson, at just 33, and the other founding fathers to believe they could successfully break off from one of the mightiest empires in the world came from the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery. In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.

From all the sparks this debate has generated, it is important to recognize that it did not start with her article. To some extent, it reflects both a generational and racial divide with both younger and Black scholars less willing to believe in the purity of our Founding Fathers. The overwhelming majority of the Project 1619 authors were African-American. All the white ones were young.

You can see the generational conflict at work in the June 6th NY Review of Books take-down of Sean Wilentz’s latest book titled “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding” (unfortunately behind a paywall; contact me for a copy). Written by Nicholas Guyatt, it reflects the skepticism of younger scholars about the democratic pretensions of Jefferson, et al. It also puts Wilentz’s reverence for the US Constitution into a political context:

So why is Wilentz so interested in a form of antislavery originalism? The answer, I think, lies in politics rather than history. No Property in Man began as a series of lectures at Harvard in 2015. That year, Wilentz got into a spat with Bernie Sanders after the presidential candidate told an audience in Virginia that the United States “in many ways was created…on racist principles.” Wilentz, in a New York Times Op-Ed, dismissed “the myth that the United States was founded on racial slavery” and accused Sanders of “poison[ing] the current presidential campaign.” To describe the Founding as racist was, Wilentz wrote, to perpetuate “one of the most destructive falsehoods in all of American history.”

Wilentz has long been a liberal activist. For more than a quarter-century, he faithfully supported Bill and Hillary Clinton. During the Lewinsky scandal in 1998, he warned Congress that “history will track you down and condemn you for your cravenness” if Bill Clinton was impeached. In a 2008 editorial in The New Republic, he accused Barack Obama and his campaign team of keeping “the race and race-baiter cards near the top of their campaign deck” during their battle with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. He has been a particularly sharp critic of those who’ve rallied behind candidates to the left of the Clintons. In a recent article lamenting the Sanders phenomenon, Wilentz accused the left of being irresponsible in its economic promises, solipsistic in its embrace of identity politics, and disrespectful toward the achievements of the liberal tradition. Trashing the Founders is, for Wilentz, another sign of progressive immaturity.

Nicholas Guyatt is a 46-year old (that’s young to me!) British professor at the University of Cambridge who has a better grasp of American politics than you might expect. His latest book is titled “Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation”, which addresses the question why the Founding Fathers failed to include blacks and Indians in their cherished proposition that “all men are created equal”? The usual answer is racism, but the reality, according to the Amazon.com blurb, is more complex and unsettling. Namely, “Unable to convince others-and themselves-that racial mixing was viable, white reformers began instead to claim that people of color could only thrive in separate republics: in Native states in the American West or in the West African colony of Liberia.” Some of you might recall that, as Hannah-Jones pointed out, Lincoln’s solution to the North-South conflict was sending slaves to Liberia.

This obviously is not the kind of analysis that sits well with Marxists and leftists who view 1776 as a paradigmatic bourgeois-democratic revolution. As Neil Davidson has pointed out, it is best to think of these revolutions only as bourgeois rather than bourgeois-democratic since in most instances the result was all about class domination rather than Enlightenment values.

Hannah-Jones’s article was not the only one that pissed off the WSWS and their historian allies. There’s also one by Matthew Desmond simply titled “Capitalism” that is based on the groundbreaking scholarship of Sven Beckert, Edward Baptist and Walter Johnson. They make the case that chattel slavery was a form of capitalist exploitation even though there’s very little in Marx’s Capital to buttress that analysis. It was only with the publication of Eric Williams’s “Capitalism and Slavery” that scholars began to reconsider these questions. While he has not lined up with WSWS on whether the Constitution sanctioned slavery, John Clegg informed Jacobin readers that Desmond was all wet in claiming that slavery “helped turn a poor fledgling nation into a financial colossus.” I will be working on a lengthy reply to Clegg but it is important to note that two of the historians who signed the open letter agree with him.

One of them was John Oakes, who in referring to this new scholarship,  takes the accusatory tone so characteristic of WSWS: “What you really have with this literature is a marriage of neo-liberalism and liberal guilt. When you marry those two things, neo-liberal politics and liberal guilt, this is what you get. You get the New York Times, you get the literature on slavery and capitalism.” I’m almost surprised that he didn’t use the term “pseudo-socialist” that is ubiquitous to this sectarian website. For Oakes, Desmond’s fatal flaw is moralism:

Desmond, following the lead of the scholars he’s citing, basically relies on the same analogy. They’re saying, “look at the ways capitalism is just like slavery, and that’s because capitalism came from slavery.” But there’s no actual critique of capitalism in any of it. They’re saying, “Oh my God! Slavery looks just like capitalism. They had highly developed management techniques just like we do!” Slaveholders were greedy, just like capitalists. Slavery was violent, just like our society is. So there’s a critique of violence and a critique of greed. But greed and violence are everywhere in human history, not just in capitalist societies. So there’s no actual critique of capitalism as such, at least as I read it.

This could not be further from the sort of detailed economic analysis Desmond puts forward in his article, such as this:

As slave labor camps spread throughout the South, production surged. By 1831, the country was delivering nearly half the world’s raw cotton crop, with 350 million pounds picked that year. Just four years later, it harvested 500 million pounds. Southern white elites grew rich, as did their counterparts in the North, who erected textile mills to form, in the words of the Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner, an “unhallowed alliance between the lords of the lash and the lords of the loom.” The large-scale cultivation of cotton hastened the invention of the factory, an institution that propelled the Industrial Revolution and changed the course of history. In 1810, there were 87,000 cotton spindles in America. Fifty years later, there were five million. Slavery, wrote one of its defenders in De Bow’s Review, a widely read agricultural magazine, was the “nursing mother of the prosperity of the North.” Cotton planters, millers and consumers were fashioning a new economy, one that was global in scope and required the movement of capital, labor and products across long distances. In other words, they were fashioning a capitalist economy. “The beating heart of this new system,” Beckert writes, “was slavery.”

The WSWS interviewer confessed to James McPherson, the other critic of the new scholarship on slavery and capitalism, that he finds it “problematic”. Certainly, McPherson must be as bothered as he was by their drawing “an equal sign between what they perceive to be a fully developed capitalist South, and the North.” That is a crude reduction of what Beckert, et al, have written, but just what you might expect from WSWS. McPherson’s response is rather feeble:

Yes, that’s right. That part of it—that the South is as capitalist as the North, or Great Britain—is unpersuasive to me. Certainly, they were part of a capitalist world order. There’s no question about that. Cotton and sugar were central. But the idea that the ideology of the planter class in the South was a capitalist ideology, there I’ve always been a little bit more on the side of Eugene Genovese, who sees the southern ideology as seigneurial.

I have no idea whether McPherson read Desmond’s article carefully but there is nothing about “ideology”, nor is there much to speak of about it in the scholarship of Beckert, et al. Instead, their books focus on commodity production for the marketplace that is central to Marxist theory, even if it is not premised on free wage labor.

Finally, there is the question of why people like Bynum, McPherson, Oakes and Wood would ever sit down with the likes of the SEP/WSWS. You can only conclude that they, like most academics, have a narrow focus on their own work and could not be more indifferent to the hundreds of articles on the WSWS website that have defended Assad from charges of war crimes and other such crypto-Stalinist rubbish. They also probably liked the attention they were getting from this sect that does have a talent for buttering up academics, at least those who are such babes in the wood.

One of the most reactionary elements of the SEP’s program is its characterization of the trade union movement in the USA as an obstacle to progress as if Scott Walker’s crushing of the public service unions in Wisconsin was no big deal. To get an idea of how demented these people are, they published an article this year calling attention to how the Christchurch, New Zealand white supremacist and mass murderer Brenton Tarrant praised trade unions in his 50-page manifesto as if this would warn off someone working in an Amazon warehouse from starting a union.

Unlike other groups on the left, the SEP does not participate in the living mass movement. Except for its website and the election campaigns they run from time to time, you will never run into them at planning meetings for a protest against fracking or police brutality. Its primary goal is to gin up traffic to its website as if reaching some target number of visits will hasten in the socialist revolution.

The main complaint that it has about Project 1619 is a familiar one, namely that it is based on identity politics rather than class. Although he did not sign the open letter, Adolph Reed was happy to sit down with these idiots, another sign of his political myopia. When WSWS asked him to comment on supposedly a dominant tendency in academia is to attribute all social problems to race, or to other forms of identity, he replied:

As Walter Benn Michaels said, and as I have said time and time again, if anti-disparitarianism is your ideology, then for you a society qualifies as being just if 1 percent of the population controls 90 percent of the wealth, so long as that within that 1 percent 12 percent or so are black, etc., reflecting their share of the national population. This is the ideal of social justice for neoliberalism. There’s no question of actual redistribution.

Like all the other people so ready to dismiss the contributors to this project as “neoliberal” or worse, Reed appears to have either only skimmed through the articles or not having read them at all. If he had read Trymaine Lee’s “The Wealth Gap”, he would have seen something complete different from blacks trying to use affirmative action to get a seat at the ruling class table. Showing little reverence toward the New Deal that has become fashionable during the growing popularity of Bernie Sanders, Lee writes:

The G.I. Bill is often hailed as one of Roosevelt’s most enduring legacies. It helped usher millions of working-class veterans through college and into new homes and the middle class. But it discriminatorily benefited white people. While the bill didn’t explicitly exclude black veterans, the way it was administered often did. The bill gave veterans access to mortgages with no down payments, but the Veterans Administration adopted the same racially restrictive policies as the Federal Housing Administration, which guaranteed bank loans only to developers who wouldn’t sell to black people. “The major way in which people have an opportunity to accumulate wealth is contingent on the wealth positions of their parents and their grandparents,” Darity says. “To the extent that blacks have the capacity to accumulate wealth, we have not had the ability to transfer the same kinds of resources across generations.”

Writing for The New Republic, where he has a monthly column, Reed assured his readers that “The New Deal Wasn’t Intrinsically Racist”. That’s some consolation to the children of those men and women who got screwed “accidentally”. Like most of the garbage Reed writes nowadays, it is an attempt to debunk the idea that American society is racist to the core. At the heart of all these historians’ special pleading for the Great American model is a refusal to come to terms with the reality, namely that it was a racist and imperialist genocidal monster that grows more rapacious with each passing year. It is not surprising that the Washington Examiner, The National Review, The City Journal and the New Criterion find the WSWS campaign amenable to their reactionary interests. Whenever I run across this special pleading for an idealized republic in which racial and other “identity” based demands are an obstacle to future progress, I am always reminded of what Leon Trotsky, the greatest Marxist thinker of the 20th century, told his comrades in 1933, when he was an exile living in Turkey:

But today the white workers in relation to the Negroes are the oppressors, scoundrels, who persecute the black and the yellow, hold them in contempt and lynch them. When the Negro workers today unite with their own petty bourgeois that is because they are not yet sufficiently developed to defend their elementary rights. To the workers in the Southern states the liberal demand for ‘social, political and economic equality’ would undoubtedly mean progress, but the demand for ‘self-determination’ a greater progress. However, with the slogan ‘social, political and economic equality’ they can much easier be misled (‘according to the law you have this equality’.

This is the attitude that revolutionaries should adopt when it comes to Project 1619. It is also the attitude that my friend Noah Ignatiev defended as a “race traitor”. For those who reject the “racial identity” politics of the NY Times-backed project simply because a bourgeois newspaper is behind it, I invite you to contact me for copies of the key articles. They are the real deal as opposed to the junk the WSWS is peddling.

February 16, 2019

The Militant newspaper quotes a neo-Nazi favorably

Filed under: racism,Red-Brown alliance — louisproyect @ 9:30 pm
Steve Sailer

Large tech companies like Amazon are notorious for hiring new college graduates at crappy wages and pushing them to get places in gaggles. Describing how this leads to what he calls “unaffordable family formation,” Steve Sailer says in an Unz Review blog, “It helps them squeeze more out of workers: The firms like being in places too expensive to raise a family — families are distractions, at least in the short-run.”

https://themilitant.com/2019/02/16/capitalist-crisis-blocks-affordable-family-formation/


UNZ Review is a neo-Nazi website as I have pointed out on my blog. As for Sailer, he is a typical contributor to UNZ Review. From Wikipedia:

Steven Ernest Sailer (born December 20, 1958) is an American journalist, movie critic, and columnist. He is a former correspondent for UPI and a columnist for Taki’s Magazine and VDARE.com. He writes about race relations, gender issues, politics, immigration, IQ, genetics, movies, and sports. As of 2014, Sailer stopped publishing his personal blog on his own website and shifted it to the Unz Review, an online publication by Ron Unz that described itself as an “alternative media selection”.[1]

VDARE.com has been associated with white supremacy,[2][3] white nationalism,[4][5][6] and the alt-right.[7][8][9] Sailer’s writing for VDARE has described black people as inherently lacking judgment,[10] and claimed that Jews control the media to demoralize and divide other groups.[11]

His writing for both VDARE and Unz Review have endorsed eugenics and scientific racism.[12] Sailer has been credited with coining the term “human biodiversity” in the 1990s, with the term later becoming popular among the alt-right as a euphemism for scientific racism.[13][14][15]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Sailer


From a Sailer article on UNZ Review:

White Flight After the Greater Migration
The growth of black gang violence in far-off Australia raises an interesting question that I can barely find discussed anywhere online: white flight in other countries. The Great Migration of 6 or 7 million African-Americans from the South to Northern cities in the 1940s-1970s contributed heavily to white flight to the suburbs. With sub-Saharan Africa forecast to quadruple in population to 4 billion over the rest of the century, first world countries need to be thinking seriously about what would be the impact of a Greater Migration of blacks out of Africa of one or two orders of magnitude greater than the Great Migration that caused so much havoc in 20th Century urban America.  So what do other countries think about this prospect? I can’t find much in English on the topic of white flight in Europe.


I suspect that lots of European elites think that It Can’t Happen Here because:

– They don’t really grasp that it ever happened in America. After all, it’s not a subject for respectable discourse in the American press.

– Unlike us, white Americans are racist, so they deserved whatever it was that happened to them.

– We’ll send the migrants to the boring suburbs instead, and keep the lovely downtowns for ourselves.

– We have gun control, so how bad can things get?

January 22, 2019

Thoughts on the Covington High School/American Indian confrontation

Filed under: indigenous,Kevin Coogan,racism — louisproyect @ 8:23 pm

After having written over 1,500 film reviews for Rotten Tomatoes for the past twenty years or so, I am probably better qualified than most people to make sense of the one hour and forty-five minute video recording made by a member of the Black Hebrew Israelites cult that can be seen below:

The recording was about the same length of the average film I review but one that was even less interesting than the Hollywood junk I am forced to watch at year end in advance of the annual NYFCO awards meeting. Made by Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan on a smart phone, it had no close-up footage of the American Indian confrontation with the Covington Catholic schoolboys except for the native drummers advancing on them and then being swallowed up. Most importantly, you don’t see the smirking Nick Sandmann whose future as a student and professional will be constrained by his arrogance. No Ivies for him.

Like Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon”, there are a number of versions of what happened on the plaza beneath the Lincoln Monument on late Friday afternoon four days ago. The right has predictably taken up Nick Sandmann’s cause while the left has indicted him as a racist thug. Given the kind of abuse American Indians have put up with for the past three hundred years, Sandmann ranks as a minor first-offender but an offender nonetheless. I will try to explain his and his classmates’ behavior later on but want to start off with a word or two on the Black Hebrew Israelites who created a climate that made such a confrontation possible. If they had not been haranguing people that day, the Covington students and the Indians would have never crossed paths.

The Hebrew Israelites will be familiar to most New Yorkers, where they are based. Many years ago they used to preach (for the lack of a better word) near the corner of West 8th Street and Sixth Avenue where I am embarrassed to say I used to preach socialism with my SWP comrades. It is difficult to say whether passers-by were puzzled more by them or us.

Thanks to the indispensable Wikipedia, I have a better idea of who they are. The belief that African-Americans are the true descendants of the Biblical Hebrews has been around since the late 1800s when Frank Cherry and William Saunders Crowdy formed the first such congregations, unconnected to each other. Wikipedia doesn’t have any information on Cherry but Crowdy is a notable figure. He was born into slavery in 1847 and escaped from his masters in 1863 after an argument. Wasting no time, he joined the Colored 19th Regiment of the Union Army as a cook that year. After the war, he became a Buffalo Soldier, the term for Black cavalry members used to break American Indian resistance to the white settlers.

Crowdy’s Church of God and Saints of Christ is a fairly conventional institution with a mixture of Christian and Jewish customs. Members believe that Jesus was neither God nor the son of God, but rather a strict adherent to Judaism and a prophet sent by God. Leaders of the Church call themselves Rabbis, and so on.

The outfit that Shar Yaqataz Banyamyan belongs to is a horse of another color. The best introduction to them is a Village Voice article from March 2011 titled “Black Hebrew Israelites: New York’s Most Obnoxious Prophets”. Author Steven Thrasher recounts their infamous street theater:

On this corner, in the shadow of the Empire State Building, you could just pull up a chair with a bowl of popcorn and watch a show more entertaining than anything you’d ever see in a comedy club. The House of Israel, shouting within earshot of the tens of thousands of people who pass through this intersection on any given evening, makes for a sticky web. The endless stream of “so-called black” New Yorkers, “so-called Jews,” bewildered Japanese tourists, and born-again Christian teens who pass by are their flies.

For the first 30 minutes of Banyamyan’s video, you see his four co-religionists at the bottom of the Lincoln Monument, about 40 feet from the stairs and with their back to Lincoln’s statue. Another 40 feet or so in front of them are about 150 American Indians who have come to Washington as part of an Indigenous People’s March and Rally. It is likely that the event has ended since nobody is giving a speech. Instead, they are in a circle dance with drummers keeping rhythm. Their mood is relaxed.

The unnamed street preacher of the Hebrew Israelites kept up a steady stream of invective against them the entire time. He denounced them for worshipping buffaloes and totem poles. A couple of Indians walked over to argue but they probably would have been better off just ignoring them, especially since that would rob the cult of a sense of accomplishment. Their goal is not so much winning supporters but antagonizing people.

Meanwhile, there were maybe a dozen or so Covington students on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial who were paying no attention to the war of words between the cult and the handful of Indians.

That began to change forty minutes into the video when the Covington’s numbers had increased, marked visually by the MAGA hats about half of them were wearing. When the cult spotted the MAGA hats, they turned their backs on the Indians and refocused their verbal abuse on the students who they called children of incest led by pedophile priests. They denounced Trump as a “faggot” since he was seen on the Internet hanging out with Rudolph Giuliani in drag from a charity event in 2000:

By fifty minutes, the Covington students had risen to the bait and surrounded the Hebrew Israelites who taunted them as being chicken-shits, too afraid to take on five Black men protected by angels. I suspect that the students were less interested in having a fight with the men and were simply mystified by street theater that never would be seen on a sidewalk in their lily-white town.

What they seemed to be more interested in was recreating the “team spirit” of their high school gym, seeing the group of five insane Black men as a rival basketball team. One youth stripped down to his shorts and began jumping up and down bare-chested like a cheerleader. For all I know, that’s what he was. It didn’t take much to get the Covington students revved up and they all began jumping up and down, yelling chants that are not possible to decipher from the video although I might have heard “block that pass” at some point. It is important to understand, however, that there was a good distance between them and the Hebrew Israelites at this point, likely a result of an older man (likely a chaperone) urging them to retreat.

At one hour and twelve minutes into the video, you see Nathan Phillips leading a small group of Indians headed toward the teens drum in hand. Still high on adrenaline, the students surrounded them and continuing jumping up and down in rhythm to the drum. I doubt that no more than the average contempt for Indians motivated them at this point. It is likely that they were like most teens, just acting like assholes—especially the smirking Nick Sandmann. I have seen articles that compare the Covington youth to the “Unite the Right” protestors in Charlottesville when they strike me as have never having heard of Richard Spencer. The closest analogy to them would be the football crowds who do the “tomahawk” at an Atlanta Braves baseball game. There have been references to a basketball game in the Covington gym where a couple of students have painted themselves black. It is likely that this was not minstrel-type racism but only a reference to the school colors (everybody else around them is dressed in black.) That being said, it was a slap in the face to Black players on the opposing team in the same vein as blocking Nathan Phillips. The affront was inspired more by watching NFL games where painted faces are prevalent rather than Tucker Carlson.

These are racist jerks but no more so than probably 90 percent of Americans that Leon Trotsky once described in the following terms. Substitute the word “Indians” for “Negroes” and you’ll get the idea: “99.9 per cent of the American workers are chauvinists, in relation to the Negroes they are hangmen and they are so also toward the Chinese. It is necessary to teach the American beasts.”

In terms of their political views overall, they are like probably 90 percent of the white students in Catholic schools–pro-Trump and anti-abortion. That is why they came to Washington. They were at an anti-abortion rally and picked up MAGA hats from street vendors. That’s normal for the USA even if for the rest of the planet it is aberrant behavior. Everything is relative. What’s normal for the USA would strike a Swede as fascist (at least up until the point when Swedish fascists become the majority.)

After the Indians are surrounded by the Covington students and disappear from the camera’s view, there is of little interest in the video except one key element. All of this takes place a good distance from the Hebrew Israelites who chat among each other about the bad behavior of the students, something that has a hollow ring given the hour or so they spent stoking them up. With all due respect to Nathan Phillips, there is little evidence that his small and plucky group was acting to defuse the situation since the distance between the youth and the cult was considerable. My guess is that he was asserting their right to climb to the top of the stairs, which certainly was their right. The callow youth of this Catholic School saw their right in turn to block them as if they were a visiting high school basketball team. They will pay for their arrogance in years to come.

 

December 26, 2018

Race, class and the DSA

Filed under: african-american,DSA,racism — louisproyect @ 11:49 pm

Miguel Salazar, hired gun for the New Republic

On December 20th, Miguel Salazar wrote an article for New Republic titled “Do America’s Socialists Have a Race Problem?” that was clearly intended to scandalize the DSA. While the magazine is by no means as disgusting as it was under Martin Peretz’s neoconservative editorial control, it certainly reflects the dominant position of the Clinton/Biden/Pelosi wing of the Democratic Party. If you want to get a handle on Salazar’s politics, you should read the Nation interview he did with Jon Lee Anderson, the author of a hostile biography of Che Guevara. Check out this question: “Recently, in the US, there has been a push for a more revisionist approach in looking back at historical figures such as Robert E. Lee or Andrew Jackson. In an interview with BBC Mundo, you say that we can’t compare figures from the past using the morals of today. Where do we draw the line on figures like Che?” Imagine that. Making an amalgam between the slavocracy and a physician who gave up a promising career to risk his life fighting for the liberation of Cuba’s campesinos.

It appears that an African-American politician named Cat Brooks was urged to come to a Bay Area DSA by some of her supporters who were at a meeting in progress. They summoned her because there was sentiment against endorsing her candidacy for mayor of Oakland. A DSAer named Jeremy Gong was likely leading the opposition to her based on an article he wrote in September titled “East Bay DSA Should Not Endorse Cat Brooks”. To start with, Gong argues that her support for charter schools should preclude an endorsement. But additionally Gong hearkens back to a hoary debate on the left going on for a century at least. He writes: “in her statements to and about DSA, Brooks has revealed that she holds a political perspective which understands race to be the fundamental dividing line in society instead of class — and this undermines our project of building a multiracial working-class movement.”

For Salazar, the emphasis on class betrays the DSA’s supposedly old-school Marxism:

But unlike other progressive groups, DSA has to contend with internal factions that are very seriously wedded to a certain strain of socialist ideology—one that emphasizes, as Karl Marx did, a churning class war that governs the history of humankind. For these socialists, an anti-capitalist movement must be anti-racist, since capitalism has been instrumental in the subjugation of minorities. But they are also weary of liberal politicians who, they say, exploit race to pander to minority groups, all while skirting the deeper class conflict at work. In the past year, these hard-liners have clashed on numerous occasions with other socialists, often minorities themselves, who contend that righting America’s unique wrongs requires an approach distinct from the universal precepts of historical materialism—one that emphasizes racism’s special impact on inequality, supra-class.

It would be useful if Salazar identified who “these hard-liners” were but I wouldn’t expect an article designed to scandalize the DSA to name names. My first inclination would have been to check what such a “hard-liner” had written to judge for myself, if only Salazar had bothered to provide a source. But then again I am used to reading Marxist polemics where clarity is all-important. When you write for the New Republic and The Nation, clarity gets short shrift.

Further evidence of racism might have been uncovered in Philadelphia as well. There was a proposal in DSA to set up a reading group based on Asad Haider’s new book “Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump”. After the political education committee declared that it was not starting any new reading groups, the DSA members went ahead with it anyway. When the Philly DSA leaders found out, they told them to either cease and desist or resign. Considering the loose-knit nature of the DSA, this struck me as an organizational solution to a political problem, namely how to resolve the class/race contradiction or decide whether one even exists. The two camps went back and forth for a couple of weeks with temperatures rising, I supposed.

Finally, the fight boiled over into the pages of Jacobin when Melissa Naschek, a co-chair of the Philly chapter, wrote an attack on Haider’s book because it viewed the Black Power movement of the 1960s positively. For her, Black civil rights figures such as A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin are much more in line with DSA perspectives because they “insisted that the way forward was through an interracial working-class coalition.” By creating separate Black organizations such as SNCC, the Panthers, and dozens of other less well-known groups in the sixties, the Black Power movement was “was still based on a liberal belief that economic inequality could be dealt with by segregating the working class into racially distinguished units”, even if the rhetoric of an H. Rap Brown or Stokely Carmichael was “militant”.

Since Naschek and Haider only know the sixties by reading secondary material, I am not surprised that they find inspiration in either A. Philip Randolph or H. Rap Brown. Unfortunately, the Black struggle in the 1960s was held back by reformism on one side and ultraleftism on the other. As should be understood, they function as two sides of the same coin. As Peter Camejo once put it, the failure to win reforms, especially through electoral politics, can make impatient youth take part in adventurist actions that are designed to persuade politicians to change—an act tantamount to a tot having a tantrum.

Sometimes a liberal becomes frustrated not getting the ear of the ruling class, and he concludes that he has been using the wrong tactics. So he adopts a lot of radical rhetoric. He says this ruling class is apparently so thickheaded that what we’ve got to do is really let loose a temper tantrum to get its attention. The politicians won’t listen to peaceful things, but if we go out and break windows then Kennedy will say, “Oh, I guess there is a problem in this society. I didn’t realize it when they were just demonstrating peacefully. I thought everything was OK because they were in the system, but now they’re going outside the system, they’re breaking windows, so we’ve got to hold back.”

These liberal-ultraleftists think that’s what moves the ruling class. Actually they come close to a correct theory when they say that if people start leaving the system the ruling class will respond. But they don’t believe that the masses can be won. They think it is enough for them to leave the system themselves, small groups of people carrying out direct confrontations.

Does Melissa Naschek have any idea that A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin refused to speak out against the Vietnam War for fear that it would undermine Democratic Party programs to help Black people? You’d think that to help her make her case against Black Power she would have at least held up Martin Luther King Jr. who did tie race and class together in the course of pointing out why Blacks should oppose the war. Maybe she decided to sweep him under the rug because too many people, especially old farts like me, knew that he was beginning to adopt some of the themes that the Black Power movement had articulated. This includes his 1967 statement that “The majority of [Black] political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support … most are still selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of [Blacks] nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader.” H. Rap Brown might have used coarser language but it amounted to the same thing.

Haider wrote a lengthy reply to Naschek on the Verso website that I cannot begin to summarize because of its length but suffice it to say that he finds Randolph and Rustin lacking. Somewhat surprisingly, he does not mention their silence on the Vietnam War.

My biggest problem with his response is his tendency to express himself through abstractions. For example, he writes: “To argue for improvements in the living conditions of Americans alone is not universal. But any struggle can become universal if it challenges the whole structure of domination and brings about a collective subject with the possibility of self-governance.” I guess this is the occupational hazard of being a dissertation student. You read stuff like this all the time and it seeps into your own writing. That being said, I am probably much more in sympathy with his ideas since I was passionate about Black nationalism from the time I heard Malcolm X speak at a Militant Labor Forum in 1965.

Turning back to Salazar, he blames the Momentum caucus in DSA for the old-school Marxism that led to the rejection of Cat Brooks:

These ideological clashes, usually pitting DSA leadership against rank-and-file membership, have been largely limited to East Bay and Philadelphia, the only two major chapters in the country run by the Momentum caucus, a subgroup described in a 2017 Nation profile as the “most explicitly Marxist” within the organization, with a heavy focus on the campaign for Medicare-for-All.

You’d think that “the most explicitly Marxist” faction in DSA would be all about raising transitional demands and breaking with the Democratic Party. But in this strange skewed perspective of the New Republic and The Nation, a heavy focus on Medicare-for-All is virtually equivalent to Che and Fidel going into the Sierra Maestra mountains to start a guerrilla war. If you go to the Momentum website, you’ll discover that despite their dim view of the Democratic Party, they also view attempts to build a new left party as futile. Momentum leader Jeremy Gong co-wrote an article with Eric Blanc on Jacobin making the case that the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and Medicare-for-All illustrate “How Class Should Be Central”, as the title puts it. If that’s what “most explicitly Marxist” represents in such circles, I guess I am no Marxist.

Finally, a few words about Adolph Reed who intervened in this debate in a Common Dreams article titled “Which Side Are You On?”. Reed, who was a Trotskyist in the sixties just like me, has evolved into a class fundamentalist of the sort that the Debs SP and the CPUSA of the 1930s typified. Apparently, it is also the orientation that Miguel Salazar and Melissa Naschek favor.

Debs, bless his soul, just didn’t understand what his contemporary W.E.B. DuBois was trying to say:

I have said and say again that, properly speaking, there is no Negro question outside of the labor question—the working class struggle. Our position as Socialists and as a party is perfectly plain. We have simply to say: “The class struggle is colorless.” The capitalists, white, black and other shades, are on one side and the workers, white, black and all other colors, on the other side.

Reed sounds like he has plagiarized Mark Lilla, the Columbia professor who blamed Trump’s victory in 2016 on Hillary Clinton’s identity politics:

This politics is open to the worst forms of opportunism, and it promises to be a major front on which neoliberal Democrats will attack the left, directly and indirectly, and these lines of attack stand out in combining red-baiting and race-baiting into a new, ostensibly progressive form of invective. Hillary Clinton’s infamous 2016 campaign swipe at Sanders that his call for breaking up big banks wouldn’t end racism was only one harbinger of things to come. Indeed, we should recall that it was followed hard upon by even more blunt attacks from prominent members of the black political class.

It has been and will be all too easy for the occasion to elect “the first” black/Native American/woman/lesbian to substitute for the need to advance an agenda that can appeal broadly to working people of all races, genders and sexual orientations. Our side’s failure to struggle for that sort of agenda is one reason Trump is in the White House. We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that helped bring about that result.

It’s worth mentioning that Reed’s hostility to Black people organizing on behalf of their own demands has led to some truly reactionary positions. In an article on Nonsite.org, he takes up the question of Black Lives Matter focusing on killer cops. He writes:

This line of argument and complaint, as well as the demand for ritual declarations that “black lives matter,” rest on insistence that “racism”—structural, systemic, institutional, post-racial or however modified—must be understood as the cause and name of the injustice manifest in that disparity, which is thus by implication the singular or paramount injustice of the pattern of police killings.

But, when we step away from focus on racial disproportions, the glaring fact is that whites are roughly half or nearly half of all those killed annually by police. [emphasis added]

As for this “glaring fact”, it skirts the real issue, namely whether a white cop would have shot a 12-year old boy like Tamir Rice running around with a toy pistol in a playground if he had been white. When someone in a position to speak for the Black left ends up spouting the kind of garbage you can hear on Tucker Carlson, you really have to wonder what went wrong.

November 27, 2018

The Dark Side of the New Deal: FDR and the Japanese-Americans

Filed under: Counterpunch,Japan,racism — louisproyect @ 1:36 pm

Boys Behind Barbed Wire (Norito Takamoto, Albert Masaichi, and Hisashi Sansui), 1944, Manzanar concentration camp

COUNTERPUNCH, NOVEMBER 27, 2018

Not long ago, I had lunch with Arn Kawano, a friend and Marxmail subscriber whose parents had been interred during WWII for no other reason than being Japanese-Americans living in California. I was anxious to discuss a film with him that I had reviewed recently titled “Resistance at Tule Lake”, which described how Japanese-Americans stood up for their rights as citizens against FDR’s fascist-like Executive Order 9066 that gave the green light to the camps.

Arn, who has a law degree, told me that despite liberal obsessions with constitutional rights, there is very little to protect such citizens when a government acts in the name of a national emergency. If anything, FDR’s willingness to shred the constitution should alert those invoking the New Deal as some kind of golden era for democracy and human rights to look more closely and objectively at American history. To give you an idea of the inability of American liberals to comprehend the depravity of FDR’s internment camps, Herbert Wechsler, an attorney who was part of the Nuremberg prosecution team, was also the government’s lawyer in a case defending the legality of Executive Order 9066. Later on, when Wechsler was teaching at the Columbia University law school, a student named Arn Kawano asked him if he had to do it all over again, would he have defended 9066? When he answered yes, Arn gathered up his books and walked out of the classroom.

Continue reading

November 20, 2018

FDR made Donald Trump look “woke” by comparison

Filed under: New Deal,racism — louisproyect @ 12:39 am

Greg Robinson:

In contrast, the President lent credence to the wildest and most unsubstantiated anti-Japanese rumors. A few weeks after Executive Order 9066 was signed, for example, Roosevelt told his Cabinet that “friends of his” who had explored the lower California region of Mexico some time previously had uncovered numerous secret Japanese air bases, which could be mobilized for work in concert with Japanese aircraft carriers on bombing raids into southern California.’ Thus, if the President believed unsubstantiated reports of fifth column activity by Japanese Americans, it was not simply because he lacked hard information but also because he was prepared to believe the worst, and expected the worst, from them.

Roosevelt’s view that the character of different ethnic and racial groups was biologically inherited, and the influence of such ideas on his policy decisions, expanded during the war years, even though such Social Darwinist racial theories had begun to be discredited by the anthropological writings of Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and others. In mid-1942 the President commissioned Dr. Ales Hrdlicka, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, Dr. Isiah Bowman, president of Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Henry Field of the Field Museum of Natural History to direct a massive secret series of anthropological studies by experts on postwar migration and resettlement of Jews and other groups, with an emphasis on “problems arising out of racial admixtures and . . . the scientific principles involved in the process of miscegenation as contrasted with the opposing policies of so-called racialism.”

The President stated that he wanted the scientists to determine the optimum racial mixture of postwar refugee populations: “The President wishes to be advised what will happen when various kinds of Europeans—Scandinavian, Germanic, French-Belgian, North Italian, etc.—are mixed with the South American base stock. The President specifically asked the [research] committee to consider such questions as the following: Is the South Italian stock—say, Sicilian—as good as the North Italian stock—say, Milanese—if given equal social and economic opportunity? Thus, in a given case, where 10,000 Italians were to be offered settlement facilities, what proportion of the 10,000 should be Northern Italians and what Southern Italians?”‘ Similarly, Roosevelt commented at different times about the possibility of imposing eugenicist policies against troublesome groups. He joked in 1945 that Puerto Rico’s high birthrate could be curbed through mass sterilization, using “the methods which Hitler used effectively.” Similarly, in August 1944 the President discussed with his Cabinet “the advisability of sterilizing about 50,000 Junkers and officers of the German Army. [FDR] said that science had done wonderful things and that sterilization could now be accomplished by the use of rays which were practically painless.” Although these remarks may also have been facetious, at least in part, Roosevelt told Treasury Secretary Morgenthau a few days earlier, “You either have to castrate the German people or you have got to treat them in such a manner so they can’t go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past.” Other administration officials, notably Navy Secretary Knox, discussed sterilizing Germans in earnest.”

Throughout the period of evacuation, Roosevelt’s ideas about people of Japanese ancestry remained dominated by his belief in innate biological character. In spring 1942 FDR maintained a correspondence with Hrdlicka on the source of the nefarious and warlike Japanese character, which Hrdlicka attributed to the less developed skulls of the Japanese.” Roosevelt’s view of the Japanese as inherently savage was likewise reflected in his private conversations. He stated in 1935 that aggression “was in the blood” of Japanese leaders. In January 1942 he told Quentin Reynolds that the Japanese were “treacherous people,” and hissed through his teeth while quoting Japanese leaders in imitation of stereotypical Japanese speech patterns.” FDR’s assistant, William Hassett, recounted in August 1942 that “the President related an old Chinese myth about the origin of the Japanese. A wayward daughter of an ancient Chinese emperor left her native land in a sampan and finally reached Japan, then inhabited by baboons. The inevitable happened and in due course the Japanese made their appearance.

Roosevelt’s words and actions both before and after Pearl Harbor, when taken in their entirety, point to his acceptance of the idea that Japanese Americans, whether citizens or longtime resident aliens, were still Japanese at the core. He regarded them as presumptively dangerous and disloyal on racial grounds. There might well be some loyal individuals: Roosevelt was willing to make exceptions for Japanese Americans of demonstrated loyalty once they were properly vouched for, and he had approved John Franklin Carter’s plan during fall 1941 to organize protection for “the loyal Japanese” in case of war. However, in the absence (and sometimes in the presence) of evidence of loyalty, the presumption remained, and in an extreme situation it overshadowed all other considerations. When Carter’s “Roosevelt” character is asked about the feelings of Japanese Americans who were deported “because they had slant eyes and yellow skins,” he remarks coolly, “Their patriotism was suspect.” Roosevelt’s decision to approve the race-based exclusion of West Coast Japanese Americans followed logically from this view that they were incapable of being true Americans. Already in his 192os articles, FDR justified discriminatory legislation by ‘Americans” toward a group he gratuitously referred to as “unassimilable aliens.” His refusal to admit discriminatory intent in the race-based exclusion of Japanese immigrants during the 192os logically precedes his willful blindness toward the role of racial bigotry in catalyzing Californians with longtime nativist grudges to press for the evacuation of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.