as per these maps. It's hard not to see persistent racism at work here, with (in particular) rural white racists not being able to conceive (however subconsciously) voting Democratic along with 80-something percent of blacks. If so, it's yet another tragic example of the long-term success of various strategies on the part of capitalist and other elites to divide and conquer those they are busy plundering and exploiting. This seems a good opportunity to again offer up for reader's attention information presented by David McNally in his excellent book Another World is Possible. I have previously discussed/excerpted from McNally's discussion of how, starting in the sixteenth century, British ruling and merchant classes appropriated/stole/privatized/enclosed the British commons (whereby the peasantry had gained their means of largely self-sufficient survival for centuries) so as to force peasants to become (that is, to effectively create a class of) wage-laborers.
Here I excerpt at length from his discussion of how racism was introduced as a means of both justifying the appropriation of property and the use of persons as slaves (copious references---173 in the chapter I'm quoting from---have been suppressed). I start with his discussion of the origins of racism in British appropriation of Irish lands. It's worth considering this case for the light it sheds on the social construction of race and racism as a means of suppressing unruly populations. What follows is long, but very much worth reading. Think of it this way: I typed it; all you have to do is read it.
Irish, Indians and Origins of Racial Oppression
In September of 1880, a writer in the Times of London commented on English depictions of the Irish. The largest English newpapers, he wrote, "allow no occasion to escape treating the Irish as an inferior race -- as a kind of white negroes". [...] That the Irish were racially caricatured should come as no surprise since, as the adage has it, Ireland was Britain's oldest colony. Yet, over several centuries, English domination was never fully secured. It was only with the emergence of agrarian capitalism in the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries that England established a new regime of colonial domination that secured its control, a regime that was to become the model for its venures in America. This new system of control emerged tentatively in the sixteenth century when four wars were fought a a number of colonizing initiatives launched.
The turning point came in 1649-52, when an army under Oliver Cromwell routed Irish resistance. The key to Cromwellian conquest involved more than superior military power, however. For the first time, Irish landholders, rich and poor alike, were evicted from their lands and a new capitalist landowning class, of English and Scottish descent, was settled in their place. By 1665, Irish Catholics, who had held two-thirds of the land in 1641, now clung to merely one-fifth.
The British ruling class used in Ireland the methods of eviction it had pioneered against the English peasantry. Huge expanses of land changed hands, creating a new landed ruling class---known to historians as the Protestant Ascendancy---which, unlike absentee owners, could directly oppress and control the Irish peasantry. Firmly ensconsed, this ruling group moved to consolidate its hold. A series of anti-Catholic statutes were passed, known as the Penal Laws, that forbade Irish-Catholics from sitting in parliament, voting in parliamentary decisions, possessing arms, operating a school, attending university, or practicing law. Under these laws, Catholics lost yet more land until they owned a mere one-sixteenth of the country. A virtual system of apartheid was created. But, while religion was the badge that differentiated exploiter from exploited, as one Anglo-Irish historian pointed out, "The penal code as it was actually carried out was inspired much less by fanaticism than by rapacity, and was directed less against the Catholic religion than against the property and industry of its professors". It was, in short, a massive property grab orchestrated under religious guise.
This marriage of plunder with ethno-racial discrimination established the basic structures of racial oppression as it would come to be practiced in America. Violence and terror, systematic discrimination and enslavement were all employed. During the anti-Irish wars of conquest, the heads of those killed during the day would be publically displayed. Moreover, at the end of the 1650's, up to 40,000 Irish men were sold by British adventurers to foreign armies for use as soldiers, a practice that would be repeated throughout the century. Youg Irishmen were also kidnapped by English adventurers and sold as indentured servants to plantation owners in Virginia and elsewhere. Even much of the legal framework of racial domination that would be applied to African-Americans had its Irish parallels. As Theodore Allen points out:
"If a law enacted in Virginia in 1723 provided that "manslaughter of a slave is not punishable", so under Anglo-Norman law it sufficed for acquittal to show that the victim in a killing was Irish. [...]"
Of course, a regime of oppression and discrimination of this sort requires some sort of ideological justification. English colonizers were initially troubled in this regard for two reasons. First, English law dating back to 1366 allowed Irishmen the same legal status as English subjects. Secondly, it had long been considered sinful for Christians to persecute or enslave other Christians. In working their way around these problems, the English ruling class laid crucial building blocks for racism as a belief system.
A key ideological move was to claim that, because they were not civilized, the Irish were not in fact Chrisians. Since the dominant world-view held that "savages" could not be Christians, apologists for the conquest of Ireland set about to prove Irish babarity. To that end, a whole series of racist stereotypes were constructed depicting the Irish as licentious, incestuous, pagan and uncivilized. Enslavement of Muslims, pagans and Africans throughout parts of medieval Europe had been justified on just this basis. Now, the same rationale was being used to justify colonial domination---including terror and slavery---as the basis for civilizing a "savage" people in Ireland. In developing this argument, English writers drew freely on Spanish justifications for murder and pillage against native peoples of the Americas. At the very origins of the European colonial era, then, the Irish joined American Indians as an "uncivilized" group against whome almost any and all forms of violence and oppression were justified.
Race, Class and Unfree Labour in the Rise of Capitalism
The Irish experience provides an important confirmation of the pioneering argument made by the Trinidadian historian Eric Williams in his landmark book, Capitalism and Slavery (1944). Arguing that slavery must be understood principally as an economic institution out of which racism grows, Williams wrote that
"Slavery in the Caribbean has been too narrowly identified with the Negro. A racial twist has thereby been given to what is basically an economic phenomenon. Slavery was not born of racism; racism was born of slavery. Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan."
Williams' argument, while incomplete in some respects, contains a profound truth: that unfree labour in the Americas was not initially based on race. Only through a long period of trial and error did plantation capitalists settle on a strategy of racial oppression of enslaved Africans. At its beginning, bonded labour in the Americas was, as Williams says, "brown, white, black and yellow". In fact, as it became clear that indigenous peoples would not be a sufficient foundation for New World labour---either because of their ability to resist or because of their catastrophic disappearance due to disease and murder---the planters turned largely to Europe for bonded or indentured labourers. These bonded labourers were obliged to work for a master for a defined period of time, often for five to seven years. Typically, their legal status did not differ considerably from that of black slaves: they could not marry without permission and they could be sold, put up as stakes in bets, inherited or used to pay debts. Considered property in law, indentured servants lacked the rights due to legal subjects; they could be "beaten, maimed, and even killed with impunity".
In the decades prior to large-scale importation of enslaved Africans, white indentured servants formed a class of unfree labour which, far from being of marginal importance, was absolutely central to many of the early plantation economies. Indeed, for more than 150 years, over half the white emigrants to North America came as indentured servants [...]
We should not be surprised to discover, then, that racial categories were quite unstable at this point in the history of colonial capitalism. Indeed, the modern discourse of race had not yet developed, at least in part because differences in skin colour did not yet map onto the distinction between the free and the unfree. After all, the Americas knew both unfree whites and free blacks. The latter group, while a definite minority, exercised basic rights in law (until the period of systematic racialization arrived); they could buy, sell and own land and slaves, and they could purchase European-American bond-labourers. At the same time, the racial identity of the poor Irish in Britain and its colonies remained unclear. In 1690, for instance, the Barbados Colony Council requested that the colonial government provide "white servants"; yet, they proceeded to exclude "Irish rebels", explaining that they did not want "labourers of that Colour to work for us". This remarkable passage underlines just how much race is a social construction [...]
In principle, emerging capitalism in the New World could have functioned quite happily with a variety of ethno-racial groups forming a stock of unfree labour. And, for a considerable period of time, the planters tried to organize colonial societies on just this basis. But a key problem---control of the labouring class---eventually forced them to choose a strategy of racial domination. The result would be new forms of oppression whose wretched effects continue to shape the world in which we live.
How to Tame a "Giddy Multitude": The Dilemma of Colonial Capitalism
Too often, the development of racial slavery and doctrines of white supremacy are simply attributed to the available supply of unfree labour. [...] Ignoring the evidence that the planter class was quite happy to exploit a "mixed" pupulation of unfree labourers, they neglect this ruling elite's problems in trying to discipline rebellious groups of white servants, Indians and black slaves that populated the Anglo-American colonies.
[One] difficulty of relying largely on enslaved natives was [that] native societies were not sufficiently stratified for a privileged layer of indigenous peoples to be "bought off" and integrated into the structure of domination. In most of Ireland outside of Ulster, by contrast, the English eventually hit on the solution of co-opting the Catholic bourgeoisie into a neo-colonial arrangement. This social stratum then served as a "buffer group"---a sort of junior partner in the colonial arrangement---which administered systems of social control no longer seen as originating outside Irish society. But native societies were simply not unequal enough to facilitate such a strategy. Resistance to enslavement thus tended to provoke uprisings of whole peoples [FTR: note that this tracks the resistance in Iraq]. While tens of thousands of native peoples were enslaved in British North America by the early 1700's, the costs of extensive enslavement---in terms of Indian wars that imposed great damage on the fledgling colonial societies---tended to be prohibitive.
These social and economic costs first became clear to the planters of Virginia on March 22, 1622 when the Indians of the Powhatan Confederacy launched a war to halt Anglo-American expansion onto Indian lands In the aftermath of the devastation caused by that battle, the planters backed off enslavement of natuves and set out instead to impose bondage on all Anglo-American labour. The same dilemma reared its head in southeast Anglo-America during the so-called Yamassee War (1715-17), a rebellion of Indian nations that came close to toppling the colony of South Carolina. After this native uprising, the use of Indian slaves quickly disappeared. [...] Natives would eventually be genocidally eliminated, once population settlement and military power made victory more or less certain; for the time being, however, difference sources of bond labour had to be found.
Throughout most of the seventeenth century, indentured labourers from the British Isles were imported in ever-larger numbers for this purpose. More than 90,000 European immigrants, three-quarters of them chattel bond-labourers, were brought to Virginia and Maryland between 1607 and 1682. Then, as a result of the establishment of the Royal African Company in 1672, a steady supply of African slaves was secured. Yet, while the supply of labour was now guaranteed, its control was not. As new problems of social unrest erupted, the plantation bourgeoisie moved in fits and starts toward a strategy of strict racial oppression.
The essential problem for the planters had to do with the rebellious culture of the lower classes. Especially worrying was the way this popular culture crossed ethno-racial lines. In the Virginia of the 1660s, for instance, the ruling class bemoaned the character of the "giddy multitude" which consisting, as one historian puts it, of "an amalgam of indentured servants and slaves, of poor whites and blacks, of landless freemen and debtors". This mixed "rabble" of the lower classes regularly resisted the violence and oppression of unfree labour. On occasion, this resistance could pass over into insurrection as it did in 1676.
Bacon's Rebellion of 1676 was the largest popular upheaval in the history of colonial America. The crisis started as a quarrel within the colonial elite over enforcement of anti-Indian policies, but, as so often happens in popular rebellions, division and conflict at the top of society created the opening for the lower orders to mobilize on their own behalf. Of 15,000 participants in the tumultuous events, a majority were bond-labourers---2000 African-Americans and 6,000 European-Americans. These well-armed rebels plundered property and set the capital ablaze, in the process sending the royal governor and his entourage into hiding. Perhaps most significant, they demanded freedom from chattle servitude. The ruling class now confronted a rebel army composed of "freemen, searvants, and slaves". That such a diverse group of labourers could resort to common insurrectionary was especially disconcerting. [...] Such images of a joint uprising of black and white, slave and bondsman, proved traumatic. In the face of a united rebellion of the lower orders, the planter bourgeoisie understood that their entire system of colonial exploitation and privilege was at risk.
Social Control in the "New World": The Emergence of White Supremacy
Determined to eliminate the threat of revolution from below, the planters devised a new system of social control. As the English bourgeoisie had done in Ireland, they sought to create a buffer group that could reinforce the established order. To this end, they relaxed the servitude of white labourers, intensified the bonds of black slavery, and introduced a new regime of racial oppression. In so doing, they effectively created the white race---and with it white supremacy.
Again, it is important to insist that the problem of social control drove this strategy. The fundamental issue was not colour prejudice, although this certainly existed, but the establishment of stable structures of oppression that would be secure against rebellion. In the British West Indies, for instance, the promotion of a "coloured" middle class was used to develop a buffer group as a counterweight to lower-class revolt. [... T]he European population was not sufficiently large to serve as an effective disciplinary force. The development of a substantial group of "free blacks and coloureds" emerged as the default strategy. By the early 1830's, this group owned nearly one-quarter of the bond-labourers in Jamaica.
In British North America, however, Europeans were generally a majority of the colonial population. To establish a stable regime of social control, the planter bourgeoisie eased white servited and debased the status of African-Americans. Most historians agree that the conditions of white and black servants began to diverge considerably after 1660. Prior to then, many black servants appear not to have been indentured for life. From about 1660, however, a steady stream of legislation sought to separate black and white servants and to prevent "mixed" marriages and the procreation of "mixed-race" children (a crime known as "miscegenation"). Yet, law is one thing, practice another. And the evidence suggests that the behavioural changes---exemplified particularly in the decline of united rebellions by white and black servants---date in the case of Virginia from about 1680.
Increasingly, colonial law imposed lifetime bondage for black servants---and, especially significant, the curse of lifetime servitude for their offspring. These became the defining features of slavery in America. Legal decisions in Virginia in the 1660s reflect this trend, as does a law enacted in Maryland in 1664. [...] Meanwhile, South Carolina moved in 1712 to classify all blacks, Indians, or mixed-race peoples as slaves unless they could prove otherwise. Twelve years later, that colony also deprived men of those groups of the right to vote even if they were legally free and owned property. In fact, a Virginia act of 1723 denied African-Americans the right to hold any public office, to be witnesses against whites in a court of law, to raise their hand against any European-American (a crime whose punishment was thirty lashes at the public whipping post), or to bear any kind of arms. As Governor William Gooch explained, the Virginia Assembly had decided "to fix a perpetual Brand upon Free Negroes and Mulattos". Across the board, laws were being redesigned in ways that drew sharper lines between the rights and conditions of Europeans and African-Americans. Central to this process was political disenfranchisement: the denial of the right to vote. Interestingly, most Anglo-American colonies had previously granted the vote to free blacks. But now this too was rescinded: in Virginia in 1723, in Georgia in 1761, in Louisiana in 1812, and so on. Looking back on these developments, we can observe the ruling class of colonial America "in the act of inventing race". A system of white supremacy and black inferiority was being constructed---one that crossed class lines and incorporated poor Europeans into white privilege. The planters had "consolidated their class position by asserting white racial unity". Freedom was increasingly identified with race, not class. And a new mental universe---the ideology of modern racism---was constructed as an inherent part of this process.