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Idle No More Movement Motivated By New Age Racism?

Idle No MoreIf you take the activists behind Idle No More at their word, you would simply accept that their movement – a grievance-based aboriginal movement demanding recompense for complaints that they haven’t fully explained – is going to change the face of Canada.

If you took them at their word, you would simple presume that their time has come.

Unfortunately, a lot of people other than just aboriginal protesters see Idle No More as their time to shine. And they’ve taken this as an opportunity to publicly peddle academic theories that essentially amount to little more than new age racism.

This is, of course, presuming that you actually consider White Privilege Theory – and its various bastard offshoots – to be an actual honest-to-goodness academic theory, as opposed to mere grievance-mongering.

Like virtually every idea favoured by the so-called “new left,” White Privilege Theory is in excess of 50 years old. It took its first recognizable form as a pamphlet penned by one Theodore W Allen. (Just for the information of those who tout degrees as a substitute for defending these ideas, Allen is commonly described as a “working class intellectual;” none of the source material identifies him as holding a university degree of any kind.) The pamphlet was entitled “White Blindspot” (which, if you ask me, sounds more like a restaurant chain than a serious academic work). In it, Allen wrote the following:

“The greatest ideological barrier to the achievement of proletarian class consciousness, solidarity and political action is now, and has been histocially, white chauvinism. White chauvinism is the ideological bulwark of the practice of white supremacy, the general oppression of blacks by whites.

The U.S. ruling class has made a deal with the mis-leaders of American labor, and through them with the masses of white workers. The terms of the deal, worked out over the three hundred year history of the development of capitalism in our country, are these: you white workers help us conquer the world and enslave the non-white majority of the earth's laboring force, and we will repay you with a monopoly of the skilled jobs, we will cushion you against the most severe shocks of the economic cycle, provide you with health and education facilities superior to those of the non-white population, grant you the freedom to spend your money and leisure time as you wish without social restrictions, enable you on occasion to promote one of your number out of the ranks of the laboring class, and in general confer on you the material and spiritual privileges befitting your white skin.

Of course there are dislocations in this set-up. Contradictions between antagonistic forces cannot be resolved except by revolution. The masses of white workers produce vast quantities of value, and there is consequently an unceasing struggle over how this value shall be divided - within the pre-imposed limits of the deal.”

While this has been treated for decades as the foundation of a serious academic theory, it in fact resembles nothing more than a racial conspiracy theory. It alleges that unionized labour hashed out a deal with the ruling class that would essentially establish black Americans as an institutional underclass. This satisfied what WEB Dubois – himself something of a forerunner to Allen – described as a pathological need for working-class whites to feel superior to working-class blacks (and blacks in general).

The obvious problem with Allen’s theory is the sheer absurdity of it. As much as I would enjoy being able to take credit for the most effective parsing of this, I cannot. Instead that credit must go to a Marxist scholar by the name of Alan Sawyer.

In a rebuttal essay, Sawyer notes that it would actually be impossible for unionized labour to cut such a deal on behalf of working-class whites. As of the writing of the essay in 1967, only approximately 25% of the American work force was unionized. So clearly the ability of labour leaders to forge such a social contract with the so-called “ruling class” would be marginal at best. Essentially what emerges is a vision of a racial conspiracy with remarkably few conspirators.

Moreover, as Sawyer continues, such a deal was far from guaranteed to be honoured by rank-and-file workers. If such a deal had ever actually been hatched, it’s clear that a considerable number of union activists didn’t go along with it.  For example, Congress of Industrial Organizers activists who demanded Chicago police cease their occupation of black neighbourhoods. So were they just not subject to the white supremacist social compact that Allen spoke of? Or was there in fact no such compact to speak of? If these activists had merely rebuked their white privileges, as Allen called for, they did it decades before Allen called for it. The year was 1919. Yet Allen makes no mention of it.

For his own part, Sawyer credits state coercion – both subtle and overt – for the plight of black Americans.

There’s more. Allen contends that “white supremacy” emerges from “white chauvinism.” And pretty much vice versa. Sawyer quite correctly identifies this as a circular argument.

At no point does white privilege theory improve very much beyond this. In 50 years it’s never advanced far beyond mere supposition. Even the little empirical evidence cited by the race theory academics who favour this theory is very rarely considered far outside of the race-obsessed ideology they’ve adopted. To find a race theory study free of confirmation bias is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack.

So instead, race theorists have developed a pervasive means of advancing their theories: the accusation of racism. To this end, they adopt a quite McCarthyite tack: denials of racism or disagreement with the theory are treated as evidence affirming the accusation of racism. This is a rhetorical shortcut that proves far too tempting for a great many of the low-effort thinkers attracted to this so-called field of study. To disagree with such individuals is to inevitably be accused of racism.

The only thing remarkable about these theories is the extent of their self-edification. The declaration that one does or does not enjoy “white privilege” is not a statement of fact. It never advances beyond the stage of declaring a grievance that cannot realistically be rectified. If anything, it amounts to a demand for deference on the basis of race. Nothing more.

That’s the insidious face of white privilege theory: peddled by individuals who are quite keen to declare themselves to be “enlightened,” white privilege theory is essentially a form of new age racism, wherein those who have previously enjoyed “privilege” will now consent to varying forms of discrimination in a vain attempt to set past injustices – some real, some imagined, some invented – right.

It’s not realistically a recipe for racial equality, no matter how badly the race theorists and activists who favour it may want to convince themselves it is. That’s why ordinary people quickly recognize this theory for what it is. That’s why this theory doesn’t actually exist outside of the academic circles in which it’s studied, and outside of politically correct activist circles. Both are places where few would dare question this theory, and anyone who dares to will swiftly face the consequences of doing so.

To express this in its purest metaphorical sense, this is a theory that cannot survive in the wild. Regardless of how excited such theorists may be, their time is a time that will never come.

Patrick Ross is a Contributing Writer for The Propagandist


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