[Marxism] Theodore Allen (reformatted)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 7 22:12:22 MST 2005


In Memoriam

Theodore W. Allen, 85, Author of 'The Invention of the White Race' Verso 
Publisher, in Two Volumes

By Jeffrey B. Perry 1 February 2005

Theodore W. Allen, a working class intellectual and activist and author of 
the influential two-volume history The Invention of the White Race(Verso: 
1994, 1997), died on January 19, 2005, surrounded by friends in his 
apartment at 97 Brooklyn Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. 
He was 85.

The cause of death was cancer, which he had battled for 15 years. 
Announcement of the death was made by his close friend Linda Vidinha.

Allen, an ardent opponent of white supremacy, spent much of his last forty 
years researching the role of white supremacy in United States history and 
examining records of colonial Virginia as he documented and analyzed the 
development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

His main thesis, that the "white race" developed as a ruling class social 
control formation in response to labor unrest as manifest in Bacon's 
Rebellion of 1676-77, was first articulated in February 1974 in a talk he 
delivered at a Union of Radical Political Economists meeting in New Haven. 
Versions of that talk were published in 1975 in Radical America and in 
pamphlet form as "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The 
Invention of the White Race."

In the 1960s "Ted" Allen significantly influenced the direction of the 
student movement and the new left with an article entitled "Can White 
Radicals Be Radicalized?" which developed the argument that white 
supremacy, reinforced among European Americans by the "white skin 
privilege," was the main retardant of working class consciousness in the 
United States and that efforts at radical social change should direct 
principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and urging 
"repudiation of white skin privilege" by European Americans.

Allen was in the forefront in challenging phenotypical (physical 
appearance- based) definitions of race, in challenging "racism is innate" 
arguments, in challenging theories that the working class benefits from 
white supremacy, in calling attention to the crucial role of the buffer 
social control group in racial oppression, in documenting and analyzing the 
development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth 
century, and in clarifying how "this all-class association of 
European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on 
laboring class European-Americans relative to African- Americans--[has 
served] as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of 
national life" in the United States.

These contributions differentiate his work from many writers in the rapidly 
growing white race as "a social and cultural construction" ranks, which his 
writings helped to spawn. In The Invention of the White Race Allen focused 
on Virginia, the first and pattern- setting continental colony. He 
emphasized that "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there 
were no white people there" and he added that he found "no instance of the 
official use of the word 'white' as a token of social status before its 
appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691." He also found, similar to 
historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., that throughout most of the seventeenth 
century conditions for African- American and European-American laborers and 
bond-servants were very similar.

Under such conditions solidarity among the laboring classes reached a peak 
during Bacon's Rebellion: the capitol (Jamestown) was burned; two thousand 
rebels forced the governor to flee across the Chesapeake Bay and controlled 
6/7 of Virginia's land; and, in the latter stages of the struggle, "foure 
hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom from bondage.

To Allen, the social control problems highlighted by Bacon's Rebellion 
"demonstrated beyond question the lack of a sufficient intermediate stratum 
to stand between the ruling plantation elite and the mass of 
European-American and African-American laboring people, free and bond." He 
then detailed how, in the period after Bacon's Rebellion the white race was 
invented as "a bourgeois social control formation in response to [such] 
laboring class unrest." He described systematic ruling class policies, 
which extended privileges to European laborers and bond- servants and 
imposed and extended harsher disabilities and blocked normal class mobility 
for African- Americans.

Thus, for example, when African-Americans were deprived of their long-held 
right to vote in Virginia and Governor William Gooch explained in 1735 that 
the Virginia Assembly had decided upon this curtailment of the franchise in 
order "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros & Mulattos," Allen 
emphasized that this was not an "unthinking decision"! "Rather, it was a 
deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie; it proceeded from a conscious 
decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even 
though it meant repealing an electoral principle that had existed in 
Virginia for more than a century."

For Allen, "The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in 
its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical 
contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one 
undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor 
group." The key to understanding racial oppression, he wrote, is the social 
control buffer -- that group in society, which helps to control the poor 
for the rich.

Under racial oppression in Virginia, any persons of discernible 
non-European ancestry in colonial Virginia after Bacon's Rebellion were 
denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was 
made up of working class "whites." In contrast, Allen explained, in the 
Caribbean "Mulattos" were included in the social control group and were 
promoted into middle class status.

For him, this was "the key to the understanding the difference between 
Virginia ruling-class policy of 'fixing a perpetual brand' on 
African-Americans" and "the policy of the West Indian planters of formally 
recognizing the middle-class status 'colored' descendant (and other 
Afro-Caribbeans who earned special merit by their service to the regime)." 
The difference "was rooted in the objective fact that in the West Indies 
there were too few laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit 
bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were too many to be 
accommodated in the ranks of that class." (In 1676in Virginia, for example, 
there were approximately 6,000European-American bond-laborers and 2,000 
African- American bond-laborers.)

In 1996, on radio station WBAI in New York, Allen discussed the subject of 
"American Exceptionalism" and the much- vaunted "immunity" of the United 
States to proletarian class-consciousness and its effects. His explanation 
for the relatively low level of class consciousness was that social control 
in the United States was guaranteed, not primarily by the class privileges 
of a petit bourgeoisie, but by the white- skin privileges of laboring class 
whites; that the ruling class co-opts European-American workers into the 
buffer social control system against the interests of the working class to 
which they belong; and that the "white race" by its all-class form, 
conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by 
providing it with a majoritarian "democratic" facade.

Theodore William Allen, the third child (after a sister Eula May and 
brother Tom) of Thomas E. and Almeda Earl Allen was born into a 
middle-class family August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father 
was a sales manager and his mother a housewife. In 1929 the family moved to 
Huntington, West Virginia, where, Ted was, in his words, "proletarianized 
by the Great Depression." He attended college for a couple of days after 
high school, but, because he didn't believe that setting encouraged 
independent thought, he didn't think it was for him and didn't go back.

At age 17 he joined the American Federation of Musicians (Local 362)and 
served as its delegate to the Huntington Central Labor Union, AFL. He 
continued work in the trade union movement as a coal miner in West Virginia 
for three years until he was forced to leave because of a back injury. 
During that period he belonged to United Mine Worker locals 5426 (Prenter, 
West Virginia), 6206 (Gary, West Virginia) where he was an organizer and 
Local President, and 4346 (Barrackville, WestVirginia).

He also was co-organizer of a trade union organizing program for the Marion 
County West Virginia Industrial Union Council, CIO.  In 1938 Allen married 
Ruth Voithofer, one of eleven children in a coal-mining family, whom he 
first met in 1934. Ruth was active in organizing and educational work among 
mining families and women and, beginning in 1942, was a prominent organizer 
for the United Electrical Workers Union.

They separated in the mid-1940s and Ruth Newell (her name after 
re-marrying) died in 1999.In 1948 Ted moved to New York. He had joined the 
Communist Party in the 1930s and, after coming to New York, he taught 
classes in economics at the Party's Jefferson School at Union Square in 
Manhattan (1949-56). He was also active in community, civil rights, trade 
union, and student organizing work; he worked in a factory, as a retail 
clerk, as a mechanical design draftsman, as an elevator operator, and as a 
junior high school math teacher at the Grace Church School in Greenwich 
Village.

In the 1950s Ted married Marie Strong, a poet, and became stepfather to her 
son, Michael. In the late 1950s the Communist Party went through major 
repression and internal struggle and Ted left the Party in order to help 
establish a new organization, the Provisional Organizing Committee to 
Reconstitute the Communist Party (POC). In this period he wrote a number of 
economic and political articles on the economic situation in the United 
States and he argued that neither United States nor Latin American workers 
benefited from imperialism.

In 1962 Marie died tragically and Ted, suffering greatly from her loss, 
discontinued work with the POC and traveled to England and Ireland. By the 
mid 1960s, back in Brooklyn, and increasingly affected by the political 
climate marked by the growing civil rights movement, struggles for national 
liberation and socialism, and the Vietnam War,Allen set about taking a 
fresh look at the world and at his former beliefs. Nothing would be sacred.

Though his formal education had ended with high school, he was a trained 
economist, he read widely in history, politics, literature, and the 
sciences, and he had a probing and analytical mind -- all of which would 
serve him well in the work ahead. Drawing on the insights of W.E.B. Du Bois 
in Black Reconstruction on the blindspot of America, which he paraphrased 
as "the white blindspot," Allen began work on a historical study of three 
crises in United States history in which there were general confrontations 
of the forces of capital and those from below -- the crises of The Civil 
War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great 
Depression of the 1930s.

His work focused on the role of the theory and practice of white supremacy 
in shaping those outcomes. He worked together with his friend, the late 
Esther Kusic, and his work influenced another friend, Noel Ignatin 
[Ignatiev]. Together, Ignatin and Allen provided the copy for an 
influential pamphlet containing both "White Blindspot," under Ignatin's 
name, and Allen's article "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized."Allen argued 
against what he referred to as the current consensus on U.S. labor history 
-- one which attributed the low level of class consciousness among American 
workers to such factors as the early development of civil liberties, the 
heterogeneity of the work force, the "safety valve" of homesteading 
opportunities in the West, the ease of social mobility, the relative 
shortage of labor, and the early development of "pure and simple trade 
unionism."

He emphasized that each of these rationales had to be reinterpreted in 
terms of white supremacy, that white supremacy was reinforced by the 
white-skin privilege of white workers, and "that the white-skin privilege 
does not serve the real interests of the white workers."The pamphlet, which 
issued a call to action --   "to repudiate the white-skin privilege" --, 
was published by the SDS-affiliated Radical Education Project and it had 
immediate effect on the left. It sharply posed the issues of how to fight 
white supremacy and whether, or not, that fight was in the interest of 
"white" workers. It also set the terms of discussion and debate for many 
activists within SDS.  Allen developed the analysis in his article into a 
still unpublished book-length manuscript entitled "The Kernel and the 
Meaning" (1972).

It was then, in 1972, in the course of this work, that he became convinced 
that the problems related to white supremacy couldn't be resolved without a 
history of the plantation colonies of the 17th and 18th century. His 
reasoning was clear -- white supremacy still ruled in the United States 
more than a century after the abolition of slavery and the reasons for that 
had to be explained. He proceeded to search for a structural principle that 
was essential to the social order based on slave labor in the continental 
plantation colonies and still was essential to late twentieth-century 
America's social order based on wage-labor.  Over the next twenty years 
Allen did extensive primary research in colonial Virginia records (and his 
unpublished transcripts of this work, with his eye for the conditions of 
labor, are another of his important historical contributions).

In this period he generated other unpublished book- length manuscripts 
including "The Genesis of the Chattel-Labor System in Continental 
Anglo-America" and "The Peculiar Seed," both of which dealt with the early 
17th-century development of chattel bond-servitude in Virginia, under which 
workers could be bought and sold like property. (This chattelization of 
labor was done primarily among European American workers at first.) When 
the first volume of The Invention of the White Race appeared it drew on, 
and challenged, the work of some of America's leading colonial historians 
including Winthrop Jordan and Edmund S. Morgan.

It offered important theoretical and historical insights in the struggle 
against white supremacy when it challenged the two major arguments which 
tend to undermine the struggle against white supremacy in the working class 
-- the notion that racism is innate (as suggested by Jordan's "unthinking 
decision" explanation) and the notion that European-American workers 
benefit from racism (as suggested by Morgan's "there were too few free poor 
on hand to matter").

Allen challenged these ideas with his factual presentation and analysis, by 
providing a comprehensive alternate explanation, and by skillfully drawing 
on examples from Ireland (where a religion/racial oppression existed under 
the Protestant Ascendancy) and the Caribbean (where a different social 
control formation was developed based on promotion of "Mulattos" to 
petit-bourgeois status).

He concluded that the codifications of the Penal Laws of the Protestant 
Ascendancy in Ireland and the slave codes of white supremacy in continental 
Anglo-America presented four common defining characteristics of those two 
regimes: 1) declassing legislation, directed at property-holding members of 
the oppressed group; 2) the deprivation of civil rights; 3) the 
illegalization of literacy; and 4)displacement of family rights and 
authorities.

This understanding of racial oppression led him to conclude that a 
comparative study of "Protestant Ascendancy" in Ireland, and "white 
supremacy" in continental Anglo-America (in both its colonial and 
regenerate United States forms) demonstrates that racial oppression is not 
dependent upon differences of "phenotype."

While working on The Invention of the White Race Allen taught as an adjunct 
history instructor at Essex County Community College in Newark, NJ, and 
worked several years each on the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, as a postal 
mail handler in Jersey City, NJ, and as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public 
Library. Constantly at the edge of poverty his scholarship was remarkable 
for its dedication and tenacity in the face of great personal difficulties. 
During this period his research in Virginia was facilitated by the 
generosity of Ed Peeples and his family in Richmond and his work in 
Brooklyn was encouraged by his former companion and close friend Linda 
Vidinha, her family and her companion Marsha Rosenthal, and a number of 
other close friends and neighbors who supported his efforts in numerous ways.

For over thirty years his research, writings, and ideas were shared and 
discussed with his close friend Jeff Perry. As an individual, Ted Allen 
attracted a wide circle of friends. He presented himself in a humble and 
homespun way, he was thoughtful and generous in manner, he had a wonderful 
sense of humor, and he took time to undertake many daily acts of caring and 
consideration. He was true and loyal to his friends, but always in a 
principled and forthright way. In many respects, he was a model of the true 
working class intellectual.

He lived what he preached and he was rooted deep in the working class. He 
challenged the division between thinkers and laborers, his work was 
connected to labor and anti- white-supremacist activists and actions, he 
was disciplined and persistent in his intellectual work, and he was 
principled in his politics. His life was dedicated to radical social change 
and he remained true to the course.  Allen's The Invention of the White 
Race, as well as his other pamphlets, articles, letters, talks, and 
unpublished manuscripts on the theory and practice of white supremacy in 
United States history have influenced several generations of anti- white 
supremacist and labor scholars and activists.

They have also impacted a wide range of academic fields including history, 
sociology, politics, and legal, cultural, and literary studies. His most 
recent work includes an almost completed book length manuscript, "Toward a 
Revolution in Labor History" and an article submitted for publication only 
weeks before his death which focused on the individual and the collective 
and addressed theoretical problems in the socialist movement.

Theodore Allen was pre-deceased by his elder sister Eula May of 
Harrisonburg, Va. He is survived by his elder brother Tom, his siblings' 
families, his stepson Michael Strong, his companion in the1970s and close 
friend Linda Vidinha, and by many friends, relatives, neighbors, 
co-workers, and people influenced by his work.

His literary works has been left to his literary executor, Jeffrey B. 
Perry, and plans are underway to publish and disseminate his writing sand 
to place the Theodore W. Allen Papers with a repository. A "Theodore W. 
Allen Scholar Program" has been established in honor of his "pioneering 
work" on race and class as a "politically engaged independent scholar and 
public intellectual."

That program, under the auspices of the Center for Working Class Life of 
the Economics Department of the State University of New York, Stony Brook, 
11794-4384, 631-632-7536 (Michael Zweig, Director), will support 
scholarship and public presentations exploring the intersections of race 
and class.

Tax-deductible contributions to the Fund may be made out to "Stony Brook 
Foundation" and marked "for Theodore William Allen Scholar Program."Two 
commemorative events are being scheduled in Ted Allen's memory. In the 
early spring, his ashes (as per his request) will be spread over that area 
"three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred 
English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in 1676.

The second activity, planned for June 18, 2005, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the 
community auditorium of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, 
Brooklyn, will commemorate Ted's life and work and include testimony from 
family and friends who desire to speak on his life, work, and influence.  A 
two-part "Summary of the Argument of 'The Invention of the White Race'" by 
Theodore W. Allen can be found in the electronic journal C-Logic on the 
internet at

http://eserver.org/clogic/1-2/allen.html

http://eserver.org/clogic/1-2/allen2.htmlIn Memoriam

Theodore W. Allen, 85, Author of 'The Invention of the White Race' Verso 
Publisher, in Two Volumes

By Jeffrey B. Perry 1 February 2005

Theodore W. Allen, a working class intellectual and activist and author of 
the influential two-volume history The Invention of the White Race(Verso: 
1994, 1997), died on January 19, 2005, surrounded by friends in his 
apartment at 97 Brooklyn Avenue in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. 
He was 85.

The cause of death was cancer, which he had battled for 15 years. 
Announcement of the death was made by his close friend Linda Vidinha.

Allen, an ardent opponent of white supremacy, spent much of his last forty 
years researching the role of white supremacy in United States history and 
examining records of colonial Virginia as he documented and analyzed the 
development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth century.

His main thesis, that the "white race" developed as a ruling class social 
control formation in response to labor unrest as manifest in Bacon's 
Rebellion of 1676-77, was first articulated in February 1974 in a talk he 
delivered at a Union of Radical Political Economists meeting in New Haven. 
Versions of that talk were published in 1975 in Radical America and in 
pamphlet form as "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery: The 
Invention of the White Race."

In the 1960s "Ted" Allen significantly influenced the direction of the 
student movement and the new left with an article entitled "Can White 
Radicals Be Radicalized?" which developed the argument that white 
supremacy, reinforced among European Americans by the "white skin 
privilege," was the main retardant of working class consciousness in the 
United States and that efforts at radical social change should direct 
principal efforts at challenging the system of white supremacy and urging 
"repudiation of white skin privilege" by European Americans.

Allen was in the forefront in challenging phenotypical (physical 
appearance- based) definitions of race, in challenging "racism is innate" 
arguments, in challenging theories that the working class benefits from 
white supremacy, in calling attention to the crucial role of the buffer 
social control group in racial oppression, in documenting and analyzing the 
development of the "white race" in the latter part of the seventeenth 
century, and in clarifying how "this all-class association of 
European-Americans held together by 'racial' privileges conferred on 
laboring class European-Americans relative to African- Americans--[has 
served] as the principal historic guarantor of ruling-class domination of 
national life" in the United States.

These contributions differentiate his work from many writers in the rapidly 
growing white race as "a social and cultural construction" ranks, which his 
writings helped to spawn. In The Invention of the White Race Allen focused 
on Virginia, the first and pattern- setting continental colony. He 
emphasized that "When the first Africans arrived in Virginia in 1619, there 
were no white people there" and he added that he found "no instance of the 
official use of the word 'white' as a token of social status before its 
appearance in a Virginia law passed in 1691." He also found, similar to 
historian Lerone Bennett, Jr., that throughout most of the seventeenth 
century conditions for African- American and European-American laborers and 
bond-servants were very similar.

Under such conditions solidarity among the laboring classes reached a peak 
during Bacon's Rebellion: the capitol (Jamestown) was burned; two thousand 
rebels forced the governor to flee across the Chesapeake Bay and controlled 
6/7 of Virginia's land; and, in the latter stages of the struggle, "foure 
hundred English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom from bondage.

To Allen, the social control problems highlighted by Bacon's Rebellion 
"demonstrated beyond question the lack of a sufficient intermediate stratum 
to stand between the ruling plantation elite and the mass of 
European-American and African-American laboring people, free and bond." He 
then detailed how, in the period after Bacon's Rebellion the white race was 
invented as "a bourgeois social control formation in response to [such] 
laboring class unrest." He described systematic ruling class policies, 
which extended privileges to European laborers and bond- servants and 
imposed and extended harsher disabilities and blocked normal class mobility 
for African- Americans.

Thus, for example, when African-Americans were deprived of their long-held 
right to vote in Virginia and Governor William Gooch explained in 1735 that 
the Virginia Assembly had decided upon this curtailment of the franchise in 
order "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negros & Mulattos," Allen 
emphasized that this was not an "unthinking decision"! "Rather, it was a 
deliberate act by the plantation bourgeoisie; it proceeded from a conscious 
decision in the process of establishing a system of racial oppression, even 
though it meant repealing an electoral principle that had existed in 
Virginia for more than a century."

For Allen, "The hallmark, the informing principle, of racial oppression in 
its colonial origins and as it has persisted in subsequent historical 
contexts, is the reduction of all members of the oppressed group to one 
undifferentiated social status, beneath that of any member of the oppressor 
group." The key to understanding racial oppression, he wrote, is the social 
control buffer -- that group in society, which helps to control the poor 
for the rich.

Under racial oppression in Virginia, any persons of discernible 
non-European ancestry in colonial Virginia after Bacon's Rebellion were 
denied a role in the social control buffer group, the bulk of which was 
made up of working class "whites." In contrast, Allen explained, in the 
Caribbean "Mulattos" were included in the social control group and were 
promoted into middle class status.

For him, this was "the key to the understanding the difference between 
Virginia ruling-class policy of 'fixing a perpetual brand' on 
African-Americans" and "the policy of the West Indian planters of formally 
recognizing the middle-class status 'colored' descendant (and other 
Afro-Caribbeans who earned special merit by their service to the regime)." 
The difference "was rooted in the objective fact that in the West Indies 
there were too few laboring-class Europeans to embody an adequate petit 
bourgeoisie, while in the continental colonies there were too many to be 
accommodated in the ranks of that class." (In 1676in Virginia, for example, 
there were approximately 6,000European-American bond-laborers and 2,000 
African- American bond-laborers.)

In 1996, on radio station WBAI in New York, Allen discussed the subject of 
"American Exceptionalism" and the much- vaunted "immunity" of the United 
States to proletarian class-consciousness and its effects. His explanation 
for the relatively low level of class consciousness was that social control 
in the United States was guaranteed, not primarily by the class privileges 
of a petit bourgeoisie, but by the white- skin privileges of laboring class 
whites; that the ruling class co-opts European-American workers into the 
buffer social control system against the interests of the working class to 
which they belong; and that the "white race" by its all-class form, 
conceals the operation of the ruling class social control system by 
providing it with a majoritarian "democratic" facade.

Theodore William Allen, the third child (after a sister Eula May and 
brother Tom) of Thomas E. and Almeda Earl Allen was born into a 
middle-class family August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana. His father 
was a sales manager and his mother a housewife. In 1929 the family moved to 
Huntington, West Virginia, where, Ted was, in his words, "proletarianized 
by the Great Depression." He attended college for a couple of days after 
high school, but, because he didn't believe that setting encouraged 
independent thought, he didn't think it was for him and didn't go back.

At age 17 he joined the American Federation of Musicians (Local 362)and 
served as its delegate to the Huntington Central Labor Union, AFL. He 
continued work in the trade union movement as a coal miner in West Virginia 
for three years until he was forced to leave because of a back injury. 
During that period he belonged to United Mine Worker locals 5426 (Prenter, 
West Virginia), 6206 (Gary, West Virginia) where he was an organizer and 
Local President, and 4346 (Barrackville, WestVirginia).

He also was co-organizer of a trade union organizing program for the Marion 
County West Virginia Industrial Union Council, CIO.  In 1938 Allen married 
Ruth Voithofer, one of eleven children in a coal-mining family, whom he 
first met in 1934. Ruth was active in organizing and educational work among 
mining families and women and, beginning in 1942, was a prominent organizer 
for the United Electrical Workers Union.

They separated in the mid-1940s and Ruth Newell (her name after 
re-marrying) died in 1999.In 1948 Ted moved to New York. He had joined the 
Communist Party in the 1930s and, after coming to New York, he taught 
classes in economics at the Party's Jefferson School at Union Square in 
Manhattan (1949-56). He was also active in community, civil rights, trade 
union, and student organizing work; he worked in a factory, as a retail 
clerk, as a mechanical design draftsman, as an elevator operator, and as a 
junior high school math teacher at the Grace Church School in Greenwich 
Village.

In the 1950s Ted married Marie Strong, a poet, and became stepfather to her 
son, Michael. In the late 1950s the Communist Party went through major 
repression and internal struggle and Ted left the Party in order to help 
establish a new organization, the Provisional Organizing Committee to 
Reconstitute the Communist Party (POC). In this period he wrote a number of 
economic and political articles on the economic situation in the United 
States and he argued that neither United States nor Latin American workers 
benefited from imperialism.

In 1962 Marie died tragically and Ted, suffering greatly from her loss, 
discontinued work with the POC and traveled to England and Ireland. By the 
mid 1960s, back in Brooklyn, and increasingly affected by the political 
climate marked by the growing civil rights movement, struggles for national 
liberation and socialism, and the Vietnam War,Allen set about taking a 
fresh look at the world and at his former beliefs. Nothing would be sacred.

Though his formal education had ended with high school, he was a trained 
economist, he read widely in history, politics, literature, and the 
sciences, and he had a probing and analytical mind -- all of which would 
serve him well in the work ahead. Drawing on the insights of W.E.B. Du Bois 
in Black Reconstruction on the blindspot of America, which he paraphrased 
as "the white blindspot," Allen began work on a historical study of three 
crises in United States history in which there were general confrontations 
of the forces of capital and those from below -- the crises of The Civil 
War and Reconstruction, the Populist Revolt of the 1890s, and the Great 
Depression of the 1930s.

His work focused on the role of the theory and practice of white supremacy 
in shaping those outcomes. He worked together with his friend, the late 
Esther Kusic, and his work influenced another friend, Noel Ignatin 
[Ignatiev]. Together, Ignatin and Allen provided the copy for an 
influential pamphlet containing both "White Blindspot," under Ignatin's 
name, and Allen's article "Can White Radicals Be Radicalized."Allen argued 
against what he referred to as the current consensus on U.S. labor history 
-- one which attributed the low level of class consciousness among American 
workers to such factors as the early development of civil liberties, the 
heterogeneity of the work force, the "safety valve" of homesteading 
opportunities in the West, the ease of social mobility, the relative 
shortage of labor, and the early development of "pure and simple trade 
unionism."

He emphasized that each of these rationales had to be reinterpreted in 
terms of white supremacy, that white supremacy was reinforced by the 
white-skin privilege of white workers, and "that the white-skin privilege 
does not serve the real interests of the white workers."The pamphlet, which 
issued a call to action --   "to repudiate the white-skin privilege" --, 
was published by the SDS-affiliated Radical Education Project and it had 
immediate effect on the left. It sharply posed the issues of how to fight 
white supremacy and whether, or not, that fight was in the interest of 
"white" workers. It also set the terms of discussion and debate for many 
activists within SDS.  Allen developed the analysis in his article into a 
still unpublished book-length manuscript entitled "The Kernel and the 
Meaning" (1972).

It was then, in 1972, in the course of this work, that he became convinced 
that the problems related to white supremacy couldn't be resolved without a 
history of the plantation colonies of the 17th and18th century. His 
reasoning was clear -- white supremacy still ruled in the United States 
more than a century after the abolition of slavery and the reasons for that 
had to be explained. He proceeded to search for a structural principle that 
was essential to the social order based on slave labor in the continental 
plantation colonies and still was essential to late twentieth-century 
America's social order based onwage-labor.  Over the next twenty years 
Allen did extensive primary research in colonial Virginia records (and his 
unpublished transcripts of this work, with his eye for the conditions of 
labor, are another of his important historical contributions).

In this period he generated other unpublished book- length manuscripts 
including "The Genesis of the Chattel-Labor System in Continental 
Anglo-America" and "The Peculiar Seed," both of which dealt with the early 
17th-century development of chattel bond-servitude in Virginia, under which 
workers could be bought and sold like property. (This chattelization of 
labor was done primarily among European American workers at first.) When 
the first volume of The Invention of the White Race appeared it drew on, 
and challenged, the work of some of America's leading colonial historians 
including Winthrop Jordan and Edmund S. Morgan.

It offered important theoretical and historical insights in the struggle 
against white supremacy when it challenged the two major arguments which 
tend to undermine the struggle against white supremacy in the working class 
-- the notion that racism is innate (as suggested by Jordan's "unthinking 
decision" explanation) and the notion that European-American workers 
benefit from racism (as suggested by Morgan's "there were too few free poor 
on hand to matter").

Allen challenged these ideas with his factual presentation and analysis, by 
providing a comprehensive alternate explanation, and by skillfully drawing 
on examples from Ireland (where a religion/racial oppression existed under 
the Protestant Ascendancy) and the Caribbean (where a different social 
control formation was developed based on promotion of "Mulattos" to 
petit-bourgeois status).

He concluded that the codifications of the Penal Laws of the Protestant 
Ascendancy in Ireland and the slave codes of white supremacy in continental 
Anglo-America presented four common defining characteristics of those two 
regimes: 1) declassing legislation, directed at property-holding members of 
the oppressed group; 2) the deprivation of civil rights; 3) the 
illegalization of literacy; and 4)displacement of family rights and 
authorities.

This understanding of racial oppression led him to conclude that a 
comparative study of "Protestant Ascendancy" in Ireland, and "white 
supremacy" in continental Anglo-America (in both its colonial and 
regenerate United States forms) demonstrates that racial oppression is not 
dependent upon differences of "phenotype."

While working on The Invention of the White Race Allen taught as an adjunct 
history instructor at Essex County Community College in Newark, NJ, and 
worked several years each on the staff of the Brooklyn Museum, as a postal 
mail handler in Jersey City, NJ, and as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public 
Library. Constantly at the edge of poverty his scholarship was remarkable 
for its dedication and tenacity in the face of great personal difficulties. 
During this period his research in Virginia was facilitated by the 
generosity of Ed Peeples and his family in Richmond and his work in 
Brooklyn was encouraged by his former companion and close friend Linda 
Vidinha, her family and her companion Marsha Rosenthal, and a number of 
other close friends and neighbors who supported his efforts in numerous ways.

For over thirty years his research, writings, and ideas were shared and 
discussed with his close friend Jeff Perry. As an individual, Ted Allen 
attracted a wide circle of friends. He presented himself in a humble and 
homespun way, he was thoughtful and generous in manner, he had a wonderful 
sense of humor, and he took time to undertake many daily acts of caring and 
consideration. He was true and loyal to his friends, but always in a 
principled and forthright way. In many respects, he was a model of the true 
working class intellectual.

He lived what he preached and he was rooted deep in the working class. He 
challenged the division between thinkers and laborers, his work was 
connected to labor and anti- white-supremacist activists and actions, he 
was disciplined and persistent in his intellectual work, and he was 
principled in his politics. His life was dedicated to radical social change 
and he remained true to the course.  Allen's The Invention of the White 
Race, as well as his other pamphlets, articles, letters, talks, and 
unpublished manuscripts on the theory and practice of white supremacy in 
United States history have influenced several generations of anti- white 
supremacist and labor scholars and activists.

They have also impacted a wide range of academic fields including history, 
sociology, politics, and legal, cultural, and literary studies. His most 
recent work includes an almost completed book length manuscript, "Toward a 
Revolution in Labor History" and an article submitted for publication only 
weeks before his death which focused on the individual and the collective 
and addressed theoretical problems in the socialist movement.

Theodore Allen was pre-deceased by his elder sister Eula May of 
Harrisonburg, Va. He is survived by his elder brother Tom, his siblings' 
families, his stepson Michael Strong, his companion in the1970s and close 
friend Linda Vidinha, and by many friends, relatives, neighbors, 
co-workers, and people influenced by his work.

His literary works has been left to his literary executor, Jeffrey B. 
Perry, and plans are underway to publish and disseminate his writing sand 
to place the Theodore W. Allen Papers with a repository. A "Theodore W. 
Allen Scholar Program" has been established in honor of his "pioneering 
work" on race and class as a "politically engaged independent scholar and 
public intellectual."

That program, under the auspices of the Center for Working Class Life of 
the Economics Department of the State University of New York, StonyBrook, 
11794-4384, 631-632-7536 (Michael Zweig, Director), will support 
scholarship and public presentations exploring the intersections of race 
and class.

Tax-deductible contributions to the Fund may be made out to "Stony Brook 
Foundation" and marked "for Theodore William Allen Scholar Program."Two 
commemorative events are being scheduled in Ted Allen's memory. In the 
early spring, his ashes (as per his request) will be spread over that area 
"three miles up country" from West Point, Virginia where the "foure hundred 
English and Negroes in Arms" demanded their freedom in 1676.

The second activity, planned for June 18, 2005, from 1 to 4 p.m. in the 
community auditorium of the Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza, 
Brooklyn, will commemorate Ted's life and work and include testimony from 
family and friends who desire to speak on his life, work, and influence.  A 
two-part "Summary of the Argument of 'The Invention of the White Race'" by 
Theodore W. Allen can be found in the electronic journal C-Logic on the 
internet at

http://eserver.org/clogic/1-2/allen.html

http://eserver.org/clogic/1-2/allen2.html


Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 





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