Harry Haywood on the "Staggering Price of White Supremacy" (wasRe: renouncing whiteness)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sun Nov 26 23:03:09 MST 2000

James Heartfield wrote:

>On the contrary, I would say it has everything to do with abolitionism.
>Following Roediger and Allen I would say the core of their belief is
>that white people as a whole gain from black people - which is
>incompatible with the analysis that the working class is exploited: my
>own view until someone dislodges it.

Some might make use of Theodore Allen, David Roediger, etc. in a way
that you describe, but their work can be used to make an argument
that Harry Haywood made:

*****   It is not accidental then, that where the Negroes are most
oppressed, the position of the whites is also most degraded.  Facts
unearthed and widely publicized, including the Report of the National
Emergency Council to the late President Roosevelt, have thrown vivid
light on the "paradise" of racial bigotry below the Mason-Dixon Line.
They expose the staggering price of "white supremacy" in terms of
health, living and cultural standards of the great masses of southern
whites.  They show "white supremacy" -- the shibboleth of Bourbon
overlords -- to be synonymous with the most outrageous poverty and
misery of the southern white people.  They show that "keeping the
Negro down" spells for the entire South the nation's lowest wage and
living standards.

"White supremacy" means the nation's greatest proportion of tenants
and sharecroppers, its highest rate of child labor, its most
degrading and widespread exploitation of women, its poorest health
and housing record, its highest illiteracy and lowest proportion of
students in high schools and colleges, its highest death and disease
rates, its lowest level of union organization and its least

Nearly 45 per cent of sharecroppers were white in 1940....

Wages in 1938 were anywhere from 30 to 50 per cent below those of the
rest of the country.  In 1940 the per capita income of the southeast
was only $309.  Compare this with a national per capita income of
$573.  Containing 14 per cent of the nation's population, the region
received only 7.3 per cent of the nation's wage total....

Political controls which are aimed primarily at the
disenfranchisement of the Negro have also resulted in depriving the
mass of the poor whites of their right to the ballot.  In 1942,
6,000,000 southern whites were disenfranchised as compared to
4,000,000 Negroes.

Lynching, a device of the Bourbon ruling classes designed to keep the
Negro in "his place," is turned against the white worker whenever he
attempts to improve his conditions or to join forces with the Negro
in the struggle for his rights....

In fact, every measure passed to curb the Negro has resulted in
destroying the civil rights of the poor whites.  At the bottom of the
cultural backwardness and impoverishment of the southern white is the
position of his black neighbor.  America's Tobacco Road begins in the
Black Belt....

Plainly the South can progress only by breaking the oppression of the
Negro.  "A people which enslaves another people forges its own
chains," said Karl Marx.  The same idea was expressed in colloquial
language by Booker T. Washington: You can't hold the Negro in the
ditch without staying in it with him.   (Harry Haywood, "Shadow of
the Plantation [from _Negro Liberation_] (1948)," _Black on White:
Black Writers on What It Means to Be White_, ed. David R. Roediger,
NY: Schocken Books, 1998)   *****

White supremacy brought down not only blacks but the working-class
whites as well, with only the ruling class benefiting from "divide &
rule."  Centuries-long domination of plantations & then
share-cropping retarded industrial development & kept wages low in
the South, too.  To this day, the South is know for its low rate of
unionization, the Right-to-Work laws, cultural backwardness, etc.
Similarly, in Latin America, to take just one example, a staggering
concentration of landownership & neo-feudal oppression of black &
indigenous peoples, among other causes, kept the comprador elite in
power, stunted the home market, held back industrial development, &
let the nation stagnate in neo-colonial subjection to imperial powers
& the world market even after the wars of independence....  And
imperial powers (the British, and then the Americans), in turn, made
sure that the comprador elite would stay in power....  The present is
still shaped by this history, as neo-colonialism, for all its
mutations (now in addition to cash crop export, we have perpetual
debt servitude, export-processing zones, etc.), remains the rule.


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