EVERYBODY KNOWS.

Everybody knows the dice are loaded.
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed.
Everybody knows the war is over.
Everybody knows the good guys lost.
Everybody knows the fight is fixed.
The poor stay poor the rich get rich.
That’s how it goes.
Everybody knows.

Sometimes it takes a poet to capture the spirit of the times in a few words and images and Leonard Cohen in this poem certainly put his finger on much of the malady facing humanity in the 20th and 21st centuries. The first verse of the poem ‘Everybody Knows’ reproduced above is an excellent example. Furthermore, practically every verse in this poem turned song encapsulates some aspect of life during the neo-liberal phase of capitalism. For a start, in the game of life, under this system, the dice are certainly loaded against the working classes and in favour of the elite. Many of us have metaphorically had our fingers crossed most of the time. If Mr Cohen was referring to the end of the Second World War in the third line of the above verse, then certainly many of the good guys lost out. An estimated six million lost everything, including their lives. My father, part of the allied air force, in the UK sent here and there to fight fascism, survived but certainly lost his hair, his health, his teeth, his sense of fairness and eventually his job when he returned to civvy street in 1947.

He was one of a whole generation of Western pale-skinned working class survivors of that total war against fascism but who also thought they were fighting for something positive – the right of nations to self-determination. Yet he was accused of being a fascist when he later objected to economic immigration taking away much needed UK jobs and houses. Apparently he felt that he and his mates hadn’t fought for the freedom of ‘others’ in order to be economically and culturally replaced by them later or by their children later still. Millions had died, some from his own Nissan hut, in that war against an authoritarian version of capitalism categorised as fascism, but that didn’t matter. When capital and its supporters needed cheap labour in the UK, and recruited it from around the globe, people like dad became classed as neo-nazis, for objecting. No more evidence for such ill-thought out venom was deemed necessary than opposition to the importation of cheap labour. A fact which said more about the accusers than the accused.

He was not on his own. The same thing happened and is still happening in the rest of Europe and North America and perhaps elsewhere as an older generation that gave practically everything, except their lives and like dad, were (and are) routinely, unfairly and simplistically categorised as being the very thing they fought against. Dad was bitter about many things that had happened to him during the 1930s and the war, but like millions of others, grumpiness, a quick temper and an acid tongue did not induce him to become something he had fought against. Nor did many of that older generations children turn to fascism, practically everyone of my generation knew from parents, school and community the general reason for what what had taken place between 1939 and 1945. And of course, referring back to the poem, after the war was over, the class struggle to survive was in fact still fixed and everyone knows the poor stayed poor and the rich got rich – stinking rich in fact – whilst many of the poor got literally stinking poor, particularly in old age. And;

That’s how it goes –
Everybody knows!

Everybody knows the boat is leaking.
Everybody knows the captain lied.
Everybody’s got that sinking feeling.
Like their father or their dog just died.
Everybody’s talking to their pockets.
Everybody wants a box of chocolates.
And a long-stemmed rose.
That’s how it goes.
Everybody knows.

I shall assume that the boat leaking in this second verse refers to our mode of production which includes and supports the economy, culture, finance, politics etc. Practically everybody, except those in denial, knows that in all of these institutional arenas morality, integrity, fair play and honesty are indeed still leaking out of the system fast. Moreover, everybody knows the captains of industry, commerce, finance, education, state institutions and politics have lied and continue to do so when it suits them. Faced with a patriarchal, sexist political elite – all of whom are in the system for what they can get out of it and lie about their motives and deals – choosing who to vote for cannot be based upon their morality, truth or honesty – other criteria kicks in – and it has now kicked in big time.

And of course, millions of citizens globally, some worse than others, have now got a permanent existential sinking feeling concerning their present and future situation. It is one similar to, and frequently involves, the death of a significant other. In addition, everybody knows that our culture is based upon how much we have or don’t have in our pocket. It is also common knowledge that retail therapy, buying stuff, (epitomised by the box of chocolates) has become the ersatz (and diabetic inducing) sweetener for a lost sense of community belonging, well being and self-esteem. That’s currently how it goes. And of course, everybody knows. And that’s not all they know.

And everybody knows that its now or never
Everybody knows its me or you.
And everybody knows you live for ever.
When you’ve done a line or two.
Everybody knows the deal is rotten.
Old Black Joe’s still picking cotton.
For your ribbon and bows.
And everybody knows.

Bourgeois individualistic dualism now rules and everyone knows it takes the form of competition (there’s only one winner attitudes and practices) between individuals for jobs, homes, prizes, esteem and even partners. Everybody knows its a me, me, me culture and even the much needed me too movement starts with me and does not embrace the needs of poor ethnic women or those of the working class. Everybody knows we will soon be forgotten, unless we are lucky enough to have written a book, a piece of music, a poem or made an outstanding painting or statue. Simply emptying our bins, cleaning our streets, keeping our electricity and water flowing, growing our food, making our clothes, nursing us back to health, driving our trains and buses, etc., (just some of the real essentials for life as we know it) will not prevent us from sinking into a thankless obscurity.

Everybody knows the post-slavery deal and pre and post-war New-Deals were rotten and the majority of dark-skinned people along with poor pale-skinned people are still routinely entrapped in modern forms of debt and trafficked slavery. They are still relegated to the bottom of the current capitalist constructed socio-economic pile. And in this regard, everybody knows who still picks cotton and in particular who sews our third world manufactured clothes – because the latter is printed on every shirt and dress label. And yes again – everybody knows – that’s how it goes.

Sometimes it takes a poet only a few short stanzas, to make obvious a whole picture that should be obvious to all, and however artistically, tell it how it is. The poem goes on further with a some references to more personal issues which I will omit. Those interested can always obtain the poem or the song, which I strongly recommend, for it is well worth reading or listening to. Finally, I am no poet but inspired to write this short article by Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, I offer my own feeble updated contribution to what everybody knows before signing off.

Everybody knows the seas are rising.
Everybody knows its getting too hot.
Everybody knows there’s too much rubbish.
But everybody wants more than they’ve got.
Everybody knows the worlds in trouble.
Yet everybody stays inside their bubble,
And buys more clothes.
That’s how it goes.
Everybody knows.

Yes indeed, Leonard!
Everybody knows – everybody knows.

Roy Ratcliffe (August 2018)

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16 Responses to EVERYBODY KNOWS.

  1. Tony Taylor says:

    Excellent piece, Roy. Perhaps you need to get the guitar out again and sing the song with your own added verse – on a residential weekend or the like. Best Wishes.

  2. Someone wise once told me that a poet is someone who can say a lot with a few words, that was his definition and you have just made the same point.
    That last verse is not too feeble, I bet you’ve done a lot worse and filled the waste paper basket.
    On the subject of racism, I get the impression that a lot of Jewish people are effectively prostituting themselves by allowing themselves to be used as shock troops in a campaign against the current left wing ascendency in the labour party, what the hell do they think they are playing at?
    I personally have never encountered any anti-Semitism in Britain although I have encountered a great deal of post empire racial stereotyping and presumptuous arrogance, everything from bad jokes to serious quasi fascist beliefs.
    By and large I always found that the racists who supported apartheid in South Africa also supported Israel simply on the basis that white people had the right to rule and Israeli Jews, at least the ones they had seen on television looked more white than the Arabs, they also supported American aggression in Vietnam. I feel as though I am being called a racist for not being racist the right way. Are you any wiser than me?

  3. Hi Leslie. Yes there is a lot of borrowed thinking among loads of people at the moment and most of it is superficial so borrowing it doesn’t improve the quality in any way. Indeed, what are they thinking of. Possibly the motive is that the best form of defence is a full out attack. I intend to do an article soon on ways of thinking which suggests that a dialectical approach should be the preferred method once it is freed of its upside down idealism. Regards, Roy

  4. Randy Gould says:

    Roy, as you well know I have issues with your analysis of the white working class and it’s own white supremacy and racism (including on the issue of immigration). It isn’t like I discount what you are saying, but I think it is more complex than you make it. We don’t need to be apologist for white supremacy and racism no matter where it comes from. White skin privilege is a real thing and white workers really do get material and social advantage based on their definition of being white. The truth is in the long run this costs them horribly. However, until that is confronted their will be no successful class war. That said, I love you brother and we will just continue to disagree on this point. Although the old theory of white skin privilege (as defined by Ted Allen, Noel Ignatiev and truly based on the writings and thoughts of W.E.B.Dubois and C.L.R. James) is fundamental to me, and I think rejected by you, I fully realize we are on the same side. Comrades can disagree and debate and in fact they must. We can do this without resorting to rancor, sectarianism, name calling and the like.

    PS: I am disturbed by the tone of Leslie’s comment. It is not that their is no truth to what she says, but when she throws in that she has never experienced ANY Jew hatred in Britain, well, please. Such a statement calls into question, for me, exactly where she is coming from. That the first thing that comes to her mind in a discussion of racism is to basically go off on Jews, well, call me paranoid, but that worries me. However, I am not going to waste time on all that now.

  5. Leslie is a bloke, he isn’t Jewish, in fact changing now to the first person, I am part of the white working class which has sometimes been maligned and rightly so for being outright bloody minded racist. I was born in the North of England, have lived and worked here almost the whole of my life, I am now 71 and in my entire existence I can remember two workmates at some time saying something which may have been anti Jewish, that is not one thousandth part of the ignorance and bigotry which I have encountered.
    Few Jews lived in the areas where I have lived and they are unfamiliar to me, I do not hate them and only two of the people who I have met have said anything anti-Semitic.
    I have met with racial contempt for the entire non white population of Africa and Asia which probably means about three quarters of the human race.
    I could understand the present furore about alleged anti-Semitism if Jews were genuinely afraid or even paranoid given the history which you know only too well but the present complaints about Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters appear to be entirely opportunist and I am still looking for the real motive, this appears to be defamation by Jews whose motives I can only guess.
    I will say it as often as I have to, opposing Zionism and condemning Israel is not anti-Jewish or racist, people like me are being compared to Nazis for not supporting the damned silly Zionist project.

  6. Randy Gould says:

    Not by me.

    I am anti Zionist and view Israel as an example of Jewish Supremacy and Jewish skin privilege. It is also a settler State. I am Jewish. I am about the same age as you. I live in the USA, another settler State. My concern is exactly what I wrote before so I won’t repeat myself. I am not interested in some back and forth. Of course, there is far more racism aimed at people of color than at Jews. However, to argue as you did that Jew Hatred is non existent is simply false. I have. not paid that much close attention to Corbyn and anti- semitism. Jeremy Corbyn, while a better than average bourgeois politician is still just that and not exactly near the top of my concern level. Obviously some Jews are doing exactly what you think they are doing, but some Jews are not the Jewish People…and yes Jews are paranoid and have good reason to be. History has taught us that lesson time and again. And yes there is a dramatic rise in Jew hatred going across Europe and the USA. If you can’t see that, well, so be it. Sorry I got your gender wrong. While I do believe there are elements of the left which harbor anti-semitism, the main danger is obviously from the right. Yes, many try to turn anti Zionism into anti semitism but not me. That said this doesn’t mean that sometimes anti Zionism doesn’t cross the line into anti semitism.

    These days the closest definition I can come up with for my politics is Democratic Confederalism as described by the likes of Abdullah Ocalan and Murry Bookchin. I would not take offense to being called an autonomous Marxist either (I just worry that whenever you use the term Marxist it suddenly seems that you think Marx was and is flawless and I don’t think that. I am also a big fan of Roy’s (though sometimes critical). If you have not read his book on Revolutionary Humanism, I highly recommend it.

    Over and out…

  7. I read Roy’s book which you mention before discovering his website, I consider it to be an unusually good example of original thinking, I became sort of politicised, actually just very angry as a child of ten when my older brother was conscripted for national service, that kind of moral turmoil, inexpressible at the time lingers in the personality despite maturity and several profound changes of opinion, emphatically the left generally needs to become less sectarian, that was Roy’s main point, we have been more interested in factional in- fighting than in actually doing something.

    My original anger was against people who just let murder be done in there name, and it has not changed, I do not hate Jews any more than I hate Methodists, maybe the Jewish experience should be viewed as an enlargement of the human experience with implications for us all, It seems to me that there have been many marginalised communities but Jews are the ones with a tradition of scholarship and so have often articulated the wrongs done to others.
    .I hope that I have explained myself
    Best Wishes
    Leslie the bloke with a girly name

    I

    • Randy Gould says:

      Yes, you have. I did not mean to make you feel like that was necessary. I understand anger. In fact, I have a hard time understanding people wo aren’t. I do try not to be angry all the time or to let my anger overwhelm other and better emotions. It ain’t easy. You take care.

      • Hi Randy and Leslie. I’ve had few days off from the net so just catching up. I am replying to both of you because there seems to be a common topic between us regarding how we assess prejudice and from where it stems. Randy in particular frequently disagrees with me on the issue of pale-skinned people’s prejudice and thinks my viewpoint is simplistic. That’s  the first time in a long time I have been accused as having a simplistic point of view. Usually I am accused of over complicating things.  Note the detailed and complex arguments in my book.  Obviously that book doesn’t mean I am impervious to viewing things simplistically. However,  in this case I don’t think it accurate to describe my position as simple or too simple. Indeed, I think, from what I know of it, it is Randy ‘s view (apologies if it is not) and those others who similarly pose the issue simply in terms of black and white who have failed to move beyond simple dualisms.   Not only do I think this a simplistic dualism, but also a blatantly false one.
        As I have said before in previous articles, there are no black people or white people or biological races, except in bourgeois colonialist ideology. The uncritical acceptance of these false – politically manipulated – categories means people who have borrowed their thinking and accept them as valid are already at least halfway into a virtual world of thinking governed by the the choice of words, categories and false opposites given to them. Extreme privilege and vindictive prejudice, for example, is a global phenomena and not one restricted to pale skin colour, as I first realised during the Biafran war, the later Bosnia/Serbian disputes and later still in the Shia/Sunni disputes of the Middle East. Patriarchy is a form of institutionalised male privilege over, and prejudice against, women. That too, can also get extremely nasty, and that also transcends skin colour.
        Accurate thinking requires accurate words and concepts; inaccurate words can lead to inaccurate thinking. When no hint of real world contradiction emerges, from such dualistic positioning, I tend to consider it falling far short of describing reality, even when some aspects of reality are bolted onto or smuggled into the false dualisms. That eclectic process just further confuses understanding. The only contradiction in such dualisms is between the actual reality of the present mode of production, its fundamental class structures and these wholly or partially false ideas which have  arisen from it. For me, when ideas contradict reality, it is the ideas which should be suspected not reality, despite the fact that millions upon millions may not have fully realised this yet. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the tendency of thinking the ideas are correct and then selecting from reality those bits which seem to fit the ideas is enormously strong. See Marx in ‘The German Ideology, for how this works.
        To me the above mode of false-category-led thinking, deliberately or accidentally misses out the fact that most dark skinned people are part of the working class and treated as such by pale-skinned elites and dark-skinned elites alike. Most of the pale-skinned people are also working class and treated as such by pale-skinned elites and dark-skinned elites alike. To me the class position of people under capitalism is the most important category. Approached with this class position in mind, the question of how to deal with the historically differentiated rewards within the worlds working classes arises. Is it really sensible to berate one section for the differences introduced by the elites? Or is more sensible to point out the similarities between poor and working class dark-skinned and poor and working class white-skinned people and campaign for working class unity in order to raise the status of the lower, above its present level. And in doing so raise the strength of the working class movement to end these differentials and asap class differences.
        Is it not important to drive an intellectual wedge between pale-skinned workers and pale-skinned elites and drive an intellectual wedge between dark-skinned workers and dark-skinned elites as a prelude to other joint class struggles? This to my mind needs to be the really complex but principled position to be adopted in the present and future struggles. It is not dark versus light skin, but class versus class which is the crucial issue of struggles for humanity. In contrast, the stressing of any similarities between like skin shades – as if that is the primary issue at stake under this current mode of production – is an easier road to travel given the ideological dominance of this fictionalised and exaggerated difference. However, to me it is a diversionary road and leads to further undermining class consciousness. This intended and unintended tactic will only play into the hands of the ruling elites whose interests are served by such divisions among workers. Starting from the real essence of the class divisions within capitalism and working out strategies based upon this reality requires a far more complex analysis and set of educational tasks than simply condemning one side or the other within a bourgeois dualistic framework of supposed irreconcilable opposites.
        This pattern of elite promoted ideological dominance on the invented category of biological race reminds me of the history of near eastern religions where received ideas, uncritically supported by practically everyone, were just accepted as reality. Millions upon millions, for example thought the sun went round the earth and could not think anything different because the words and categories, as reinforced by the church, were the only ones available to them to think with. And of course, appearances seemed (and still seem) to confirm this first impression. Without the words planets and orbits and understanding them in some detail, the brain had no where new to go in thinking. First and even second impressions or thoughts, do not always lead beyond a superficial or mistaken understanding. [Eg. Leslie can be a male or female pronoun – a mistake soon corrected in this case – but a mistake nonetheless. This indicates how we can all easily be mistaken and make unwarranted assumptions. None of us are impervious to it – me included.]
        A similar simplistic dualism occurred among many anti-capitalists (myself included until I read Marx thoroughly) I have met who only  saw labour and capital as polar opposites and found no contradiction in this obvious and first-hand appearance. It took Marx, using inverted Hegelian dialectical thinking to forensically point out that capital was economically nothing more than stored up past labour in money or commodity form, which was used as a basis for present labour to act upon it to produce more stuff. So it turns out that capital is past labour and present labour is future capital. The content of both is labour – so no essential contradiction there. But without these additional words and understandings the idea of capital and labour appear as dualistic opposites. It is just the bourgeois mode of production, which has created specific classes, and categories based upon appearances, which has led to the conception that the two are fundamentally separate and opposed, rather than being intimately connected as they still are during actual production. What humanity needs to get rid of is the economic form of classes which gives the appearance of a fundamental opposition between past labour and present labour. In general, the underlying reality of life and its products, is different than what it appears after, first, second and even third thoughts – it nearly always is!
        I think the above faulty reasoning also applies somewhat to the debate around anti-Semitism. No one seems to question the use of this badly used and now linguistically abused term.  A Jewish academic long ago questioned the use of this term since many Arab peoples speak Semitic languages and so strictly and accurately speaking, being anti-Semitic was being phobic against Palestinians as well as other Semitic language speakers. A partial recognition of this problem came with the classification of Jews opposed to Zionism etc., as self-hating Jews rather than a more confusing, Jewish anti-Semites. (ie otherwise it would amount to an awkward category of anti-Semite, Semite!!!) The Jewish academic, mentioned above suggested the correct word for people who have a phobic hatred directed against Jewish people was Judeophobia. A psychological category rather than a socio-biological one, which makes far more sense to the reality I experience. Of course he was largely ignored and people kept on with the promoted superficial wisdom of the politically altered meaning of the word Semitic. It is now a word which is so inaccurate and usefully elastic that it can, and is, being used to outlaw any criticism of Jewish or Israeli colonialism. And again just because a vast majority accept this politically manipulated term and structure their thinking accordingly, doesn’t mean it is accurate or really meaningful and certainly not from a revolutionary-humanist position.
        Finally, as is often the case, challenges to what I write encourages me to delve deeper and question if I am sufficiently accurate or not (or even wrong) and also do further study. So I thank you both for your frequent challenges and questions. In this case they have motivated me to develop the points above in a full article (or two) and also to argue further against anti-capitalists and revolutionary-humanists borrowing their thinking too uncritically along with the need to always go beyond appearances and beyond the words and categories given to us by those who genuinely think they know what they are talking about. And of course, no offence is meant to anyone personally, it’s the faulty and distorted ideas I am criticising not us frequently victimised receivers and bearers of them.  Regards, Roy

      • Randy Gould says:

        Before I even finish reading this, I must say I do NOT have a biological view of race. Race is a socially determined construct created at a specific time and for a specific reason. There are no biological races. I also do not lay the blame for this on any part of the working class. It was invented by the ruling class back in colonial times here in America. Further, I do not believe in the long run that this “white skin privilege,” if you will, benefits anyone but the bourgeois ruling class. However, in the shorter term to try and claim that what you call the pale skinned part of the working class (not sure why changing simple terminology exempts you from your own criticism) does not reap certain material and social and economic privilege from their “paleness” is ridiculous. The fact that the bourgeois invented this and incorporated in in their ideology does not mean that we can simply pretend otherwise. Ruling class ideology certainly predominates whether we like it or not and invades the consciousness of the working class. The bourgeois didn’t invent this social construct for fun. To pretend that all parts of the working class are treated the same is only to further divide the class. To pretend that white supremacist ideology does not exist within the working class is also to ignore reality. To not develop a method beyond saying, “hey, we are all exploited and oppressed by the bourgeois under capitalism, ‘’ and have some sort of simple ,”black, white, unite and fight” tactic ignores all this and is doomed (as history has repeatedly shown) to failure. Of course, the entire class is exploited, no one here denies such a thing. Of course, only a united class can ever hope to bring the era of capital to a close. The question remains how do we get there. One thing I do know is we don’t get there by denying obvious reality, ask black folks to forgive us but we just can’t be bothered with their particular form,of exploitation and repression, call upon black workers to be good guys here and pretend that they don’t realize every second of every day that they are treated very differently then the white workers around them (and by the white workers around them), and simply say we are all in the same boat here. That is not gonna cut it. Until the pale skinned members of the class understand this, reject their privileges as best they can, can we seriously hoe to see a united class play its historical role and change the world.

        On the rest, get back to you later,

        PS: You are anything but simple

  8. Randy Gould says:

    Further, you should notice I try to use the term “racism” as little as possible, for the reason that to me it implies that all this is a matter of bad thoughts, and it is not.

    Further, I no longer believe that basically the only thing that matters much is class. There are too many other factors (such as nationalism, ecology, religion, gender, “race”, etc) that play a significant role. While you may say you know this, but basically your analysis is one of class versus class. If only it were so simple (there is that word again). I simply will refer you to the analysis of Abdullah Ocalan on Democratic Confederalism and to the very real and on going attempts by the people of “Rojava” to create something new.

    More coming…

  9. Randy Gould says:

    If I may..

    ‘’It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule.’’
    — W.E.B. Dubois

    ‘’But it is idle to believe that this is what keeps white and black agricultural laborers and sharecroppers apart. There is more to it than that. The working whites are an economically privileged group. Jobs as truck drivers, mechanics, etc. are reserved for the whites. When the WPA has jobs to give out, a Negro gets one only after scores of whites have got theirs. The white school teachers get better pay. The white children get better schools. In southeast Missouri the relief authorities will even pass the word around to the whites in a certain area to meet at a certain place, where meat, lard, and clothes are given out while the graham flour and beans are practically all that the Negroes get. It is on this solid, concrete basis that the race prejudice flourishes, not to mention the social advantages which can ease life and nourish pride where life is so hard and degradation so near.”
    — C.L.R. James

    ‘’”Every white worker, whether he knows it or not, is being challenged by every Negro to take the steps which will enable the working peoples to fulfill their historic destiny of building a society free of domination of one class or of one race over another.”
    —C.L.R. James

    ‘’A new social status was to be contrived that would be a birthright of not only Anglos, but of every Euro-American, a “white” identity designed not only to set them “at a distance” from the African-American bond-laborers, but at the same time to enlist European-Americans of every class as active, or at least passive, supporters of capitalist agriculture based on chattel bond-labor.The introduction of this counterfeit of social mobility was an act of “social engineering,” the essence of which was to reissue long-establishedcommon law rights, “incident to every free man,” but in the form of “white” privileges: the presumption of liberty, the right to get married, the right to carry a gun, the right to read and write, the right to testify in legal proceedings, the right of self-directed physical mobility, and the enjoyment of male prerogatives over women. The successful societal function of this status required that not only African-American bond-laborers, but most emphatically, free African-Americans be excluded from it. It is that status and realigning of the laboring-class European-Americans that transformed class oppression into racial oppression.’’
    —Ted Allen

    ‘’Race is a biological fiction, but it is a social fact. The white race consists of those who enjoy the privileges of the white skin—freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the inside track for jobs and careers, not having to fear for their lives every time they leave the home, expecting, if they are female, that the state will protect them from strangers. Its most downtrodden members enjoy a social status above any person defined as “non-white.”
    From the standpoint of the working class, the white race is an attempt by some workers to cut a separate deal with capital, at the expense of the class of which they are a part. From the standpoint of capital, it is a cheap way of buying some people’s loyalty to a social system that exploits them.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’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.’’
    —Ted Allen

    ‘’Race is a biological fiction, but it is a social fact. The white race consists of those who enjoy the privileges of the white skin—freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the inside track for jobs and careers, not having to fear for their lives every time they leave the home, expecting, if they are female, that the state will protect them from strangers. Its most downtrodden members enjoy a social status above any person defined as “non-white.”
    From the standpoint of the working class, the white race is an attempt by some workers to cut a separate deal with capital, at the expense of the class of which they are a part. From the standpoint of capital, it is a cheap way of buying some people’s loyalty to a social system that exploits them.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’…the system of white-skin privileges, while it is undeniably real, is not in the interests of white workers as part of a class which aims at transforming society to its roots. The acceptance of a favored status by white workers binds them to wage slavery, makes them subordinate to the capitalist class. The repudiation, that is, the active rejection, through struggle, of this favored status is the precondition for the participation by white workers in the struggle of workers as a distinct social class.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’The white race is a club. Certain people are enrolled in it at birth, without their consent, and brought up according to its rules. For the most part they go through life accepting the privileges of membership, without reflecting on the costs. Others, usually new arrivals in the country, pass through a probationary period before “earning” membership; they are necessarily more conscious of their racial standing.

    The white club does not require that all members be strong advocates of white supremacy, merely that they defer to the prejudices of others. It is based on one huge assumption: that all those who look white are, whatever their reservations, fundamentally loyal to it.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’I contend that the key element in the popular acceptance of capitalist rule is the ideology and institution of white supremacy, which provides the illusion of common interests between the exploited white masses and the white ruling class.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’A traitor to the white race is someone who is nominally classified as white but who defies white rules so strenuously as to jeopardize his or her ability to draw upon the privileges of whiteness. The abolitionists recognize that no “white” can individually escape from the privileges of whiteness. The white club does not like to surrender a single member, so that even those who step out of it in one situation can hardly avoid stepping back in later, if for no other reason than the assumptions of others – unless, like John Brown, they have the good fortune to be hanged before that can happen. But they also understand that when there comes into being a critical mass of people who look white but do not act white – people who might be called “reverse oreos” – the white race will undergo fission, and former whites, born again, will be able to take part, together with others, in building a new human community.

    However exploited the poor whites of this country, they are not direct victims of racial oppression, and “white trash” is not a term of racial degradation analogous to the various epithets commonly applied to black people; in fact, the poor whites are the objects of race privilege, which ties them to their masters more firmly than did the arrows of Vulcan bind Prometheus to the rock. Not long ago there was an incident in Boston in which a well-dressed black man hailed a taxi and directed the driver to take him to Roxbury, a black district. The white cab driver refused, and when the man insisted she take him or call someone who would, as the law provided, she called her boyfriend, also a cabdriver, on the car radio, who showed up, dragged the black man out of the cab and called him a “nigger.” The black man turned out to be a city councilman. The case was unusual only in that it made the papers. Either America is a very democratic country, where cab drivers beat up city councilmen with impunity, or the privileges of whiteness reach far down into the ranks of the laboring class.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’The white-skin privilege system does not require that all whites be treated the same; everyone knows that ethnic groups vary in wealth and status. It demands only that enough people identify their interests with those of the “white race” to prevent effective proletarian class solidarity. It thus polarizes the country into two “races”: those who enjoy the privileges of whiteness, and those who do not. Just as a “mixed” neighborhood has traditionally meant the interval between the first black person moving in and the last white moving out, so the intermediate position of various groups reflects a moment when their racial status is being determined.’’
    —Race Traitor (Journal)

    ‘’The privileges of whiteness extend to the lowest members of the white race, who enjoy a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it. ‘’
    —Race Traitor (Journal)

    ‘’The white race is a historically constructed social formation. It consists of all those who partake of the privileges of the white skin in this society. Its most wretched members share a status higher, in certain respects, than that of the most exalted persons excluded from it, in return for which they give their support to a system that degrades them.

    The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin. Until that task is accomplished, even partial reform will prove elusive, because white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in US society.

    The existence of the white race depends on the willingness of those assigned to it to place their racial interests above class, gender, or any other interests they hold. The defection of enough of its members to make it unreliable as a predictor of behavior will lead to its collapse.’’
    —Race Traitor (Journal)

    ‘’(Ted Allen saw) Racial oppression as a form of social control in societies in which the majority is from the oppressor race is based on the counterfeit of social mobility accorded the laboring class members of the oppressor race in the form of racial privileges. The privileges are the basis on which the laboring class members of the oppressor race are enlisted by the elite to hold down the subject population. They perform this social control function, even though they share a class position with the large majority of the racially oppressed.’’
    —Sean Ahern

    ‘’Beginning in colonial Virginia, the primary benefits to being white were found in the labor arena. The desire for economically rewarding work has often been the enticement held out to white people to forge their acceptance and support of a system of racial oppression. ‘’
    —Judy Helfand

    ‘’Another thing that is largely forgotten in the crush of writings on “critical whiteness studies” is the black origins of the theory of white skin privilege. Historians like David Roediger have highlighted the role of Black radicals like W.E.B. DuBois in this process, especially his analysis of the “public and psychological wage” that white workers received after the Civil War that led largely to the cross-class alliance between white workers and the white ruling class, against the surging black movement that emerged from the Civil War. Other Black radicals, such as Hubert Harrison and C.L.R. James, advanced similar ideas in the period before World War Two.’’
    — Michael Staudenmaier

    ‘’The analysis of white skin privilege, which was central to STO (Sojourner Truth Organization) politics from beginning to end, highlights what was distinctive about STO’s theoretical approach. Lots of leftists and liberals have embraced the white skin privilege concept over the past forty-odd years, but too many of them have interpreted it to mean that white people, including white workers, are simply bought off, co-opted into being supporters of the status quo. To me, the key thing about STO’s take on this issue is that it treats white workers’ situation as contradictory. STO said that white workers have a material stake in the system of racial oppression but are still part of an exploited class that has the potential to make a revolution. And this contradictory situation embodies part of the basic contradiction of capitalism, which is internal to the working class itself.’’
    —Mathew Lyons

    ‘’The population is armed to the teeth and their guns are not pointed at the bourgeoisie. White people, who see themselves as white more than as people, are increasingly nervous as US demographics indicate they will soon be a minority. They are a mass base for fascism. The police have lots of tools and technology. So, socialism or barbarism? I’d say the bad stuff has a head start.’’
    —Carol Travis

    ‘’Ted was moved to adopt the idea of a conscious decision by his desire to combat the view, promoted by Carl Degler, Winthrop Jordan and others, that there was something in human nature, or at least the English psyche, that explains the rise of white supremacy. Ted felt, correctly, that Jordan’s explanation, by blaming race prejudice and oppression on inherent “attitudes,” absolves the ruling class of responsibility and, no less important, makes it impossible to overturn these evils. Unfortunately, his explanation is based on the same fallacy as the theory of “Intelligent Design” in biology, which holds that the suitability of a feature to its function demonstrates that it was consciously designed to fulfill that function. As Darwin discovered the law of development of organic nature (a law so simple and in such conformance with the evidence that Thomas Henry Huxley, on hearing of it, exclaimed, “How stupid of me not to have thought of that!”—in modern parlance, facepalm!), Marx discovered the law of development of human society, historical materialism, which he formulated as follows:

    “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

    Historical materialism explains the origin of white supremacy in the plantation colonies of mainland North America in the seventeenth century without resort to conspiracy theories or any other variant of “conscious decision,” and also without resort to theories of the inherent character of the English soul.’’
    —Noel Ignatiev

    ‘’Race is a social construction. There is only one race, the human race. But race has historically been something negotiated by the courts, something that has legal standing, and something that has impacted people’s lives across the color line. As Cheryl Harris and Ian Haney Lopez have written, to be “white” is to have a type of property in America. Because “whiteness” is property, it can be inherited, passed down from one person to another as an inheritance, and has value — both symbolic and monetary — under the law, and in the broader society.’’
    —Chauncey DeVega

    ‘’If you don’t start by seeing slaves in the U.S. as proletarians, you end up in a swamp.’’
    —Carl Davidson

    ‘’I think what Ted (Allen) contributed is immeasurable, but he was simply wrong about the “blame the ruling elite” line. If we believe in working class self activity, or simply in the idea that the forces-of-production/relations-of-production contradiction is internal to the working class, then we have to take the bad with the good. In that sense, working class whites were integral to the emergence and development of white supremacy.’’

    —Michael Staudenmaier

    ‘’You may have noticed that many of those who have been instrumental during the last half of the twentieth century and now in the new one advancing the theory of white skin privilege have been white. That may seem odd to you. But consider the theory is really aimed at a strategy and the strategy is aimed at white folks, particularly white workers. The goal is for the white workers, the white multitudes now, most especially, but not limited to the United States to reject the material privileges and advantages their white skins have given so that the class can become unified for real, so that white supremcay and capital can be abolished once and for all. This falls in line with what Malcolm X suggested to white activists and white folks years ago. He told them they didn’t need to come into the black community and talk to black people about racism and white supremacy, they needed to go into their own communities and confront their own people. Black people need no education about racism and white supremacy. They need no leadership from white people and no talking to by white people. In fact, white people must look to black people for leadership in the struggle. This is hard for most white people, activists or not, to actually accept, but accept they must.’’
    —Randy Gould

  10. Randy Gould says:

    Rather than me repeat myself (or have to work to hard), I posted all those quotes above from many folks over the years to stimulate thought. They all came from a posting on my old, defunct blog SCISSION.

    Hopefully, you won’t hate me too much for taking such liberties.

  11. Randy Gould says:

    In the middle of the above quotes, Noel (with whom I once,shared membership in STO) objects to To what he sees as Ted’s idea that it was conscious decisions by certain individuals which led to the origins of white supremacy. Others also have questioned this as being too much based in the minds of the few as opposed to the historical and material conditions. I actually responded to Noel in this way with a question.

    ‘’I, like you, “…do not believe that great historic turns can be attributed to conspiracies.” I, like you, believe, “Historical materialism explains the origin of white supremacy in the plantation colonies of mainland North America in the seventeenth century without resort to conspiracy theories or any other variant of “conscious decision,” and also without resort to theories of the inherent character of the English soul.”

    My question is would your understanding allow for the fact that conscious decisions were in fact made as Ted describes, but were only able to be made within the historical materialist framework which you state. Ted does place the emphasis on the conscious decisions of some real people. I would not do that as I, and agreeing with you, believe that, “…there are innumerable intersecting forces, an infinite series of parallelograms of forces which give rise to one resultant—the historical event. This may again itself be viewed as the product of a power which works as a whole unconsciously and without volition.”” Basically, I am asking again if you feel, “..a conscious decision by the plantation bourgeoisie of the tobacco-growing regions of the Chesapeake Bay in response to the problem they faced, how to control the labor force on whom the production of surplus value depended,” could have indeed occurred resultant to the historical material conditions which existed at the time. I would disagree with Ted emphasis on the centrality of these decisions to the process, but I think he does demonstrate that some such decisions were made. It seems to me, and correct me if I am wrong, that the simple adoption of certain Acts and laws demonstrates the existence of such decisions. However, again, they do NOT demonstrate the centrality of them, all on their own, to the origin of and development of white supremacy.’’

    Know what, I don’t remember if I ever got an answer. As much as I respect Noel we go through periods of, shall we say, not speaking…lol

  12. Several people who I worked with in engineering opted for some reason to study sociology at night school, numerous conversations ensued, I listened and learned, it was descriptive not explanatory.
    A world was revealed to me in which we had all been categorized according to the type of work which we do, socio/economic categories determined our culture, attitudes, interests and so on,

    I had one question which stumped them all, it was “Why then are we having this conversation” quite simply we were behaving in a way untypical of and unexpected in our allotted category, Clearly sociology does not anticipate the attitudes of all individuals but only gives statistical and temporary truths.

    All of the people I have met who want to change society do not conform to any expected sociological norm and this was the interesting thing about it, it was only the conservative ones who the theorists of sociology could explain or even bothered to examine, even right at the bottom of the social heap people with a definite conformity to “Category” appear to think that they have a niche which is worth defending.

    I sought an explanation, my tentative conclusion is as follows, social stratification is a consequence of working class submission to capitalist domination, stratification will be overcome to the extent that we struggle against exploitation and not just against the stratification itself.

    Put simply, when we submit we stratify, just as naturally as iron filings form lines when put near a magnet. I have watched people accommodating themselves too easily to a situation which they felt they could not change or challenge, for instance long term unemployment, the sense of hopelessness was depressing, gut wrenching even.

    If you are familiar with the writer V S Naipaul you may have read his definition of cast in India,
    ” Cast defines people according to function but class is a system of rewards” he was right about cast but wrong about class. Class as we usually define it is the relationship of exploited to exploiters
    Slavery in the USA has cast a long shadow and to the extent that Afro Americans are being allocated different functions to Euro Americans (No one is really black or white) to this day there may be said to be a kind of cast system within which white(ish) skinned people are given the illusion of privilege.
    Anyway I am reminded of another old song called The Walls of Red Wing by Bob Dylan.
    I sometimes think this world of ours is just one prison yard
    that some of us are prisoners the rest of us are guards.

    That just about sums it up.

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