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Are Europeans Just Naturally Racist Oppressors?

by John Spritzler

October 15, 2016

Some people say that Europeans (and people of European descent, a.k.a. "white people") are just naturally racist oppressors, and this explains past history. These people don't believe there is a class conflict over the values that should shape society. They believe that ordinary Americans (those of European descent, that is) share the same values of racism, inequality and dog-eat-dog competition as the American ruling class. They see the great divide in the world as being between those who are not descended from Europeans versus those who are. They prefer to use non-class, even racial terms, to describe conflict in the world: "people of color" versus "whites" or indigenous versus settler. I call this a "liberal" view because it is one that completely serves the interests of the actual ruling class by diverting anger and blame away from it and directing it instead onto ordinary people because of the color of their skin or the continent of their origin.

In this absolutely liberal view, the working class Britons who in the 1600s and 1700s were forcibly brought to North America against their will in chains (typically, a man who got drunk in an English pub would be "spirited away" to wake up the next morning in the hold of a ship bound for the New World), sold as virtual slaves and even prohibited from marrying (we're talking about a number probably greater than the number of Africans brought to the Colonies as slaves, by the way) were all a bunch of racist "European colonizers." In this distorted view, working class Britons in the Colonies had "interests" aligned with the wealthy Britons who virtually owned them, and their "interests" conflicted with enslaved Africans and native Americans being driven off of their land.

In the mythological world of these "Europeans-are-all-racist-oppressors" folks ("anti-Europeans" for short), when working class Europeans found themselves in the New World they just naturally set to work exterminating the indigenous population. After all, what else can you expect of the racist European riff raff? But a very different picture emerges when one looks more closely at that period, particularly when one looks at what ordinary Europeans did in North America when left to themselves and not strictly controlled by ruling class Europeans:

"Probably the earliest group of English to have simply melted into a native society were the inhabitants of Raleigh's 'lost colony' of Roanoak in 1590. A century later, there were literally thousands of 'white Indians'--mostly English and French, but Swedes, Scots, Irish, Dutch and others as well--who, displeased with aspects of their own cultures, had either married into, been adopted by, or petitioned for naturalization as member/citizens of indigenous nations. By then, the phenomenon had become pronounced enough that it had long-since precipitated a crisis among the Puritans of Plymouth Colony and figured in their waging of a war of extermination against the Pequots in 1637.

"The attraction of 'going native' remained so strong, and the willingness of indigenous peoples to accept Europeans into their societies so apparent, that it prevailed even among those captured in Indian/white warfare. During the 1770s, George Croghan and Guy Johnson, both acknowledged authorities on the native peoples of the mid-Atlantic region, estimated that the great bulk of the several hundred English prisoners of all ages and both genders taken by the Indians had been adopted by them rather than being put to death.

"The literature of the period is literally filled with observations. Virginia's Lieutenant Governor Francis Fauquier, for example, noted that whites 'recovered' from Indians had to be 'closely watched [lest] they will certainly return to the Barbarians.' Colonel Henry Bouquet, who headed a 1764 expedition to take charge of 'captives' returned under terms of a treaty with England by the Shawnees, Miamis and other peoples of the Ohio River Valley, issued orders that 'they are to be closely watched and well Secured [as] most of them, particularly those who have been a long time among the Indians, will take the first Opportunity to run away.' The Reverend William Smith, chaplain and chronicler of Bouquet's foray, noted that most younger whites seemed to view their 'liberators' as captors and 'parted from the savages with tears.'" [2]

The contemptuous understanding by anti-Europeans of working class Americans of European descent is wrong because the racial categories, like "European colonists," which they use to understand history cannot make sense of it. Let's look at some examples of this.

When white working class Americans rose up in rebellions against the new American ruling class soon after the American revolution (for example the famous Shay's rebellion, a six month long armed uprising of 2000 small farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786-7 and the Whiskey rebellion of farmers in western Pennsylvania in 1794 which forced George Washington to mobilize an army of 13,000 troops to suppress) they were fighting for equality versus privilege, and for real democracy versus the fake kind. But according to the anti-Europeans, the right way to characterize these rebels is simply as "European colonizers" who were "carrying out a genocidal project."

Despite the fact that descendants of these white and supposedly racist-to-the-core European working class "colonizers" joined with blacks to create the Southern Tenant Farmers Union [3] in Arkansas in 1934, despite the fact that they refused to yield to Klan pressure to keep their union separate from black tenant farmers, and despite the fact that they joined with blacks to stage mass strikes against the big landowners all across the Jim Crow south for better wages and working conditions, despite all of this the anti-Europeans reasoning says, "So what, they were still just a bunch of racist European colonizers."

The anti-Europeans lump the working class descendants of Europeans in America together with America's ruling class and say they all share the same evil values and interests. They talk about the genocide that America's rulers committed against the native Americans as if the genocidal U.S. Cavalry was the pure expression of the values of ordinary people of European descent. But real historical events don't support this wrong notion. Here is how "European colonists" demonstrated their "common interest" with America's rulers in the 1920s and 30s, and how they ended up being attacked by the modern equivalent of that very same U.S. Cavalry.

In May 1920 a coal strike in Matewan, West Virginia spread throughout the state leading to a three hour gun battle between strikers and guards brought in "to prevent infiltration of union men." The strike continued to August 1921 when the workers decided to use force to get through the guards, deputies and troopers who were preventing them from entering and spreading the strike to other counties. The workers formed a "citizens army" march of 4,000 led by war veterans, accompanied by nurses in uniform, and armed with every weapon they could obtain, and they battled deputies defending the non-union counties. President Warren G. Harding sent "2,100 troops of the 19th Infantry, together with machine guns and airplanes," to defeat the "citizens army." The airplanes were armed with gas bombs and machine guns, and although the strikers backed down before the planes were used, the federal government was forced to reveal to these West Virginia coal miners that, if necessary for the protection of capitalist power, it would bomb American citizens just as it had bombed foreigners in the First World War (and as it would bomb civilians on an unimaginable scale in a future World War.)

On July 28, 1932 in the nation's capital, twenty thousand veterans of WWI, many unemployed and homeless, camped out in the Capital to demand payment of bonuses they had been promised. On that day, the future military "heroes" of WWII made their debut in history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, with Maj. Dwight D. Eisenhower and one of his officers, George S. Patton Jr., following orders from Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley, led four troops of cavalry, four companies of infantry, a mounted machine gun squadron and six whippet tanks, lined up on Pennsylvania Avenue near 12th Street in Washington DC, in an attack on thousands of Americans who had become known as "Bonus Marchers." Veterans who raised their arms against soldiers on horseback had their arms cut by sabers. Others were hit by the flat of the sword. In some instances ears were cut off. Two were killed and many wounded. As horses pounded toward the veterans, reporters at the White House were told the Secret Service had learned that those resisting eviction were "entirely of the Communist element." "Thank God," said President Herbert Hoover, "we still have a government that knows how to deal with a mob."

When a longshoremen's strike in 1934 led to a general strike in San Francisco of 130,000 workers, which spread to Oakland and then up the Pacific Coast, the Los Angeles Times wrote: "The situation in San Francisco is not correctly described by the phrase 'general strike.' What is actually in progress there is an insurrection, a Communist-inspired and led revolt against organized government. There is but one thing to be done -- put down the revolt with any force necessary." FDR's National Recovery Administration chief, General Hugh S. Johnson, went to San Francisco and declared the general strike a "menace to the government" and a "civil war."

In the same year 325,000 textile workers, many of them women, used "flying squadrons" to spread their strike throughout the South from mill to mill, often battling guards, entering the mills, unbelting machinery and fighting non-strikers. So alarmed was The New York Times that it warned, "The grave danger of the situation is that it will get completely out of the hands of the leaders...The growing mass character of the picketing operations is rapidly assuming the appearance of military efficiency and precision and is something entirely new in the history of American labor struggles. Observers...declared that if the mass drive continued to gain momentum at the speed at which it was moving today, it will be well nigh impossible to stop it without a similarly organized opposition with all the implications such an attempt would entail." Declaring martial law, South Carolina's governor said that a "state of insurrection" existed. When the strike spread to New England, Governor Green, of Rhode Island, declared that, "there is a Communist uprising and not a textile strike in Rhode Island," and then declared a state of insurrection. Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge declared martial law. National Guardsmen began mass arrests of flying squadrons and held them without charge in a concentration camp where Germans had been held during WWI..." By September 19 the death toll in the South had reached thirteen." [4]

Unruly "European colonists" frightened the real rulers of America so much that the real rulers instigated a war with Japan in order to be able to control militant workers by charging them with being unpatriotic during a war with a foreign enemy.

The descendants of these white European working class "colonizers" who today are working longer hours for less pay and seeing their health benefits and pensions vanish, are, by the bizarre anti-Europeans' reasoning, legitimate targets of hostility by "progressive anti-racists." This kind of thinking can only bring happiness to the American ruling class, because such thinking means that the ruling class's divide-and-rule strategy is working perfectly.

None of the above contradicts the fact that many ordinary people of European descent have been persuaded to believe racist lies about other people, and on that basis to go along with racist crimes of their rulers. The point is that there is a huge difference between what the rulers do--deliberately concoct racist lies for the purpose of divide-and-rule to oppress all ordinary people over whom they rule--versus what ordinary people do--naively believe the racist lies and not understand how they are part of a divide-and-rule strategy that harms themselves as well as the people who are the direct object of the racist lie (as discussed further here.)

Ruling elites invariably use racist lies to make one segment of the population fear another segment. The rulers then aim to secure the obedience of former by claiming to be its protector against the latter. The Israeli ruling class thus demonizes Palestinians and ethnically cleanses the land of them in order to make the Palestinians angry and seem fearful, and then claims to be protecting Jews in Israel against "the Arabs." The Americna rulers in the 19th century demonized and ethnically cleansed the land of Native Americans, and then claimed to be protecting European-descendant Americans from them. This is divide-and-rule 101. All ordinary people, whether they fall for the racist lies or not, are victims of it.

Let's unite ALL who want to remove the rich from power to have real--not fake--democracy with no rich and no poor. Visit www.PDRBoston.org to see more about this.

 

References


2. Ward Churchill, http://www.zmag.org/zmag/articles/jan98ward.htm
3. see http://www.oldstatehouse.com/educational_programs/classroom/arkansas_news/detail.asp?id=767&issue_id=37&page=3 4. from The People As Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II, by John Spritzler, which cites quotations from Strike! by Jeremy Brecher

 

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The People as Enemy: The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II by John Spritzler