[Marxism] US Blacks: caste, race, or nation?
bhandari at berkeley.edu
Mon Mar 6 12:36:23 MST 2006
Blacks are neither a caste nor a race nor a nation. They are members
of the American working
class whose ancestors suffered a specific and horrific kind of
exploitation as a result of a
historically contingent solution to the problem of a labor shortage
in plantation agriculture.
Racism was less the reason for African slavery than its result.
Racism resulted not only from the solution of slavery to a shortage
of the tractable
labor required to render plantation commodity production profitable
but also from
both the reservation of that slavery for Africans (who were cheaper,
healthier and easier to recapture than the alternative groups and
mixtures of laborers and
who had already proven their economic worth to the Portuguese)
and the degradation of slavery itself to the point where all customary
protections for unfortunate slaves were eroded (compare
North American practice to Spanish, Islamic and ancient Roman slavery).
Racism had an after life beyond slavery (polygenesis, then known as
school of anthropology, becomes a widespread
belief in the second half of the the nineteenth century); the plantation
has cast its shadow on African American life to this day. As a
result, blacks have needed
special organizations within the labor movement to defend their interests from
capitalists and fellow workers alike. But the need for such
organizations does not
make blacks a caste or a race or a nation.
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