From the archive of struggle, no.72

Thanks once again Petey for spotting an error in my last post. I’ve reposted the link below, with extras. Thanks once again, of course, Entdinglichung, whose archival gleaning is becoming impossible to keep up with.

Cover of "Waterfront Workers of New Orlea...

“The roots of multi-racial labour unity in the United States” was published in International Socialism 2:63, Summer 1994, and can be read either at MIA or the SWP’s own archive. It’s a review  of Eric Arnesen, Waterfront Workers of New Orleans: Race, Class and Politics, 1863-1923 (New York and Oxford, 1991). Here’s the intro:

The idea that white workers in the US have historically benefited from racism is widely accepted on both the academic and political left. Even those who hesitate to draw such conclusions concede that a class analysis is insufficient to explain the persistence of racism in the US. [… For socialists in the US the question of the ‘socio-economic nutriments’ of racism is a matter of practical politics. The persistence of racism cannot be accepted as a ‘baffling phenomenon’, but is either explicable in terms of the class struggle, or, if race can be proven to be a more fundamental social division than class the struggle for workers’ power in the United States is sheer utopianism.

Previous articles in this journal have taken up the relationship of race and class in general and racism in the US in particular.2 Therefore there is no need here to recount the theoretical debates on the centrality of class. Rather this review article will attempt to show how multi-racial workers’ unity could take root in seemingly the least likely context: the segregated 19th century South. It will argue that whites did not benefit from the exclusion of blacks from the ranks of organised labour, but that such divisions were disastrous for black and white workers alike.

Further, despite white supremacy, black workers North and South often rejected alliances with the small, but influential, conservative black middle class to make common cause with white workers in trade unions and socialist organisations. It will conclude by arguing that the struggle against racism in the US working class is above all a political question that cannot be resolved within the economic framework of trade unionism. Rather it must be rooted in the struggle for socialism and black liberation.

You can read Lee Sustar elsewhere,at ZSpace (on various historical and political topics), at International Viewpoint (on Egypt), at Viewpoint (on Karl Marx) and even at NPR (on Dennis Brutus).

Here’s some recently posted material from Entdinglichung, including stuff I’d missed last month.  (more…)