Issue #29: Industrial Democracy, Whiteness, and the Complexities of Black Politics
In this second installment of work inspired by the example of Judith Stein we include essays by Preston Smith II on New Urban Renewal, Touré Reed on Lester Granger, Thomas Adams on Stein, Cedric Johnson on David Roediger, and Anton Jaeger on David Graeber.
Inside the issue
A Federal Art Project mural cycle of thirteen panels devised and painted by Victor Arnautoff in 1936 in a San Francisco high school portrays George Washington as a slave owner and as the author of Native-American genocide. It is an important work of art, produced for all Americans under the auspices of a federal government seeking to ensure the survival of art during the Great Depression. Its meaning and commitments are not in dispute. It exposes and denounces in pictorial form the U.S. history of racism and colonialism. The only viewers who should feel unsafe before this mural are racists.
Granger’s “Challenge to the Youth,” Stein’s Challenge to Historians: Industrial Democracy and the Complexities of Black Politics
Granger and the League’s promotion of trade unionism as a vehicle for civil rights highlights the problem with the commonplace disposition to view the NUL and NAACP through dichotomous lenses like Bookerite or Du Boisian. Such frameworks not only look past institutional politics’ sway over the scope of these civic groups’ agendas, but they may also obscure the influence of changes in the broader political landscape over the parameters of African American civil rights.
The benefits that black professionals received from new urban renewal was less a change in how they define their interests than a change in opportunities to pursue those interests. There has been an underappreciation for the role of class interests in driving black housing professionals and property owners’ politics during the postwar urban renewal period.
The popular claim that Trump’s election signified resurgent white supremacy is not only wrong—it’s dangerous. It grants more power to the fascist right than it deserves. Different voters and constituencies supported Trump for different reasons, not all of them rational.
Bullshit Jobs is one long exercise in evasion—an attempt to go “beyond” capitalism without actually going through it. Graeber prefers the muteness and aphasia of the animal over the interdependence of the speaking subject. Yet as Marx, Engels and contemporaries already recognized, Kant’s ape has to begin to speak and assume his role as a member of coercive communities if history is to ever start.
I wonder and worry if the fashionability of the field comes from its evasion of this question. Does it spring from a hope…that capital and capitalists can regulate themselves, that in effect, capitalism can have a history sans class politics. As Stein’s work shows, this seems at best naively decontextualized—detached from the actual history of capitalism. And at worst? Then the new history of capitalism looks a lot like the ideological expression of its subject.