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Was the US Built by Slaves?

Discussion in 'World History' started by abradley, Aug 26, 2016.

  1. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Actually it's Soros.

    Or Der Untermensch (the magazine)

    In the US whiteness has basically grown to encompass more and more people over time.

    AFAIK it just means Irish people with dark hair.
     
  2. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    It's a real term, used to describe Irish people with dark hair and, sometimes, dark complexions. The Anglo-Irish used it as a pejorative term for the Irish peasantry, but I think it probably owed more to the ancient European belief that a dark complexion indicated low birth and primitiveness while a fair complexion indicated noble birth and sophistication. While the attempt to claim a recent African origin for the Irish a genuine and hilariously contrived Thing, traitorfishs_favourite_image.jpeg, I think this phrase would only have been retroactively linked to it.

    That's true enough, although that's again a peculiarly American experience, because only in the United States was there this strong identification between "whiteness" and citizenship which obliged Americans to start playing with definitions to withhold full citizenship rights to groups they regarded as undesirable. In Europe, that identification between whiteness and citizenship wasn't really present, with ethno-religious identities tending to play a stronger role, so, for example, a Pole was a second-class citizen in Germany, despite the fact that we would be generally regarded as "white" rather than because he would be regarded as "non-white".

    Thinking of people in those terms is a novelty in European domestic life, and it has by no means supplanted traditional prejudices towards the tribe next door, even where it has overshadowed them. If our Jew-baiting friend seriously believes that Europeans will set aside a thousand years of accrued grudges because they happen to share a continent and a crucifix, he doesn't know Europeans.
     
  3. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Hence the German attempt to racialize the differences between Poles and Germans. I think you may be understating the ability of crackpot white supremacists to generate half-baked racial theories. And of course from the point of view of scholars studying something like the Atlantic slave trade white supremacy is going to be at least as important as the distinctions Europeans made among themselves.
     
  4. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    It's not the crackpot theories I'm questioning so much as the relevance of "white supremacy" to a European context. The European right are certainly racist, but they don't tend to operate within a clear framework of "white vs. non-white" so much as "my ethnic group vs. the world", and distinctions of whiteness and non-whiteness usually serve to elaborate on that basic distinction.

    That's not to deny that Europeans still operated within a framework of white supremacy so far as their colonial projects were concerned, but back in the metropole, these tended to be peripheral concerns. They didn't serve as the basis of identity as they did in the settler-colonies or among those actively engaged in colonial affairs. It didn't really matter to people in Ulster or Prussia or Yugoslavia who was white, because they were very unlikely to meet anybody who wasn't.
     
  5. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Right- To be clear I'm saying "white supremacy is a useful analytic frame sometimes, not all the time" here. I'm getting at something like the difference between German policy wrt to someplace like Alsace & Lorraine and German policy wrt to Namibia or Ukraine.
    The Nazis were considered so horrific by Europeans in part because they applied the methods and logic of white supremacy to European peoples in way that was nearly without precedent (this is leaving aside their fixation on the Jews). Really the atrocities of the Atlantic slave trade and in the colonies overseas are basically similar to what the Nazis did in Europe.
     
  6. jma22tb

    jma22tb Prince

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    And nothing the National Socialists in Germany did can even touch the level of depravity and horror that happened during the Barbary slave trade.
     
  7. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    I dunno. Generalplan Ost was an intentional attempt to murder well over 30 million men, women, and children due solely to their race; and reduce the survivors to a permanent slave race status for their German overlords.
    Ignoring, of course, the stated desire to plunge the world into an apocalyptic clash of civilizations between themselves and the United States/Soviet Union.

    I would challenge that. The Belgians, even during the dark days of the Congo Free State, didn't try and wipe out an entire group solely due to their perceived race. The actions in the Congo Free State are in that grey area between "mass murder" and "genocide". Yes, an estimated 10 million people were killed and the Congo way of life was basically destroyed; but as far as I am aware there isn't any evidence suggesting the Congo Free State intended to kill off all of the Congolese natives for any reason, let alone on an industrial scale due to their race. (Indeed, dead Congolese can't harvest rubber or work in the mines of Katanga.)
    I tend to place the Holocaust and the Nazi plan for non-Aryans in its own special circle of hell; well beyond even racially-inspired mass murder. The Rwandan genocide was definitely a genocide, but having stood inside the gas chambers at Majdanek where the walls are still stained blue from the gas highlights just how horrifying the Nazi plan for mass execution on industrial lines actually was.

    In a more general sense, the attempts to maintain white rule in Africa presented themselves as a fundamentally good, civilizing force - a far cry for the Nazis stated intentions of butchering their way across Europe into an apocalyptic clash of civilizations with the United States. Equating mass murder -let alone the garden variety oppression and violence found in colonial Africa- with what the Nazis did minimizing what the Holocaust actually was.
     
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2016
  8. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Well I may be mistaken but I think the legal definition of genocide has a 'in whole or in part' somewhere, and in any case my argument doesn't hinge on the technicality of whether there was genocide or not. I said the Nazis applied the methods and logic of white supremacy in Europe in a way that was unprecedented. I would say that this is true even completely leaving out the Holocaust. I tried to signal that with the phrase 'this is leaving aside their fixation with the Jews' but it wasn't very clear. I wasn't trying to imply a moral equivalency between the Holocaust and the slave trade/colonialism - rather an equivalency specifically with the Germans' policies in the East, more broadly with the extraction of lots of slave labor from occupied Europe, and a rigid system of apartheid to be enforced inside Europe.

    Also, I'm concerned more with actual facts than with 'presentation.' The Nazis also presented themselves as defending and upholding 'European civilization'. The Japanese claimed the same thing.
     
  9. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    There's very little that the Nazis did that is without precedent in European history. Ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, apartheid, death squads, they're all present in European history before 1933. In fact, the early interwar period, against which background the Nationalist Socialists emerged, was a relative high water mark for all of these practices, Europe only returning to "normality" in the mid-1920s.

    I suppose what you could say is that these are things the Europeans had largely stopped doing to each other by 1933, and that their practice by the Nazis represents a re-introduction from the colonial world. But, I'm not sure how far that's a truthful description and not simply a poetic one. Probably there's a whole debate to be had around it.

    To the outside world, but within the Nazi movement, it's a little more complicated. A lot of them were quite ready to believe that the war was a racial Ragnarök, that the world would be smothered in blood and ash and be reborn. This is a movement, after all, which celebrated the barbarian, both as an historical figure and as an abstract concept, and regarded urbanism, commerce and literacy as suspicious and unreliable, at best as tools to be kept on a very short leash. The gentlemanly war for European civilisation against Asiatic barbarism was how the Nazis wanted the world to see their war, but it's questionable whether they really saw it in those terms themselves, or at least whether all of them did.

    I mean, there's the bit were ten million people were systematically murdered. Remember that bit? It's a big bit. The main bit, in fact. Kinda surprised you're not aware of these details?
     
  10. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    No, I'm not saying that nothing the Nazis did had ever been done in Europe before. In fact one of the sources for me claim viz. the Nazis is Mazower's Dark Continent which covers the period from 1914-1948. The point is that the scale and ambitions were much greater than they'd been in the past. And additionally the Nazi obsession with racializing the differences between Europeans gave their rule an extra 'oomph' of atrocity that was lacking before them.

    In my understanding this kind of apocalypticism was largely restricted to SS fanatics, and even then wasn't exactly widespread until the war started going pretty badly.

    The total I've most commonly seen for the Holocaust is eleven million, but the number 'systematically murdered' is significantly greater than that if one includes Soviet citizens who were liquidated, the victims of the "Commissar Order", the deliberate starvation of Soviet POWs, and the various other victims of 'anti-partisan' operations throughout Europe.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2016
  11. schlaufuchs

    schlaufuchs La Femme Moderne

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    inb4 holocaust denial.
     
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  12. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Anyway heading back on-topic no one has yet mounted a substantial argument against the points in post 17, where I cited a number of sources saying that slavery provided much of the surplus the US used to industrialize.
     
  13. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    Is that a difference in kind or a difference in degree? I don't disagree that the Nazis surpassed previous atrocities in Europe, but most of their policies had precedents in European history. Those that don't, such as the industrialisation of mass-murder, don't really have precedents in European colonialism, either, but seem to have been a special sort of evil invented specially for the occasion.

    It's possible that the Nazis represented the application of colonial logic to Europe, but I don't know if that's necessary to explain why their regime operated as it did, or if there's a clear mechanism by which the logic of colonialism is fed back into Nazis domestic and military policy, given the lack of colonial experience or even, really, interest on the part of the Nazi leadership.

    Well, it's there from the earliest iterations of Nazism, and the European far-right more generally. The far right of the fin de siecle is abuzz with the inherent nobility of violence and the desirability of war as a source of creative discussion, and the foundings fathers of interwar fascism and Nazism seem to have found exactly that in the First World War, or to convince themselves that they did. This outlook becomes repressed as the far-right comes to power and adopts a veneer of bourgeois respectability, but I don't think it ever goes away. This contrasts with the colonial regimes of the British, French, et al., who for all their barbarism sincerely believed that the eventual outcome would be peace and prosperity for all.

    I take it you're not familiar with the Doctor's plot?
     
  14. jma22tb

    jma22tb Prince

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  15. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Mainly of degree. I think the fidelity to my original point (Europeans hated the Nazis so much in part because they applied the logic and methods of white supremacy to Europe in an unprecedented way) is high and that original point still stands.

    As far as I understand it, this is the view of numerous scholars - certainly the theme shows up numerous times in Mark Mazower's work. Though I don't think any of them would argue it's the whole story. AFAIK it goes back to Hannah Arendt and possibly further.

    Yeah, I mean I get that it was there on an ideological plane, but I'm just not sure how much that narrative actually informed the policy and practice of eg German administration of conquered territories.
     
  16. Traitorfish

    Traitorfish The Tighnahulish Kid

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    And that's where I get off.

    I think that Europeans mostly hated Nazis because they invaded everywhere and killed everyone. I don't think we need to throw in a sense of offended whiteness into the mix, especially given that most of the Nazis' victims were not people with an historical experience of overseas colonialism, and no deep investment in a "white" identity.

    Were they arguing that the Nazis were consciously applying colonial logic to Europe, or just that this is a useful way to think about it? As I said, the Nazi leadership did not have a strong background or apparent interest in colonial affairs.

    It's unlikely that the "civilising" narrative informed British or French colonial policy very strongly, either. I think this is mostly a question of presentation and self-perception.
     
  17. Lexicus

    Lexicus Deity

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    Ok, that's not remotely what I meant. I'm not saying that Europeans at the time noticed this, like they were outraged that the Nazis would dare treat whites in a way they felt should be reserved only for the darker races.

    The latter, which to be clear is what I'm arguing too...

    Ok, then do you really think the majority of Germans who fought in World War II and administered the German state and army saw themselves as participating in the lead-up to an apocalyptic clash of civilizations? Because I don't. The German propaganda presented the war effort in the East as slaying the Judeo-Bolshevik menace in order to ensure the continued existence and flourishing of the Aryan race. It presented most of its other policies (the ones it didn't keep secret) the same way. I've never seen any reason to think that most Germans didn't take this seriously.
     
  18. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    There's a very revealing Irish phrase, which in less family-friendly language translates to 'white black', and usually refers to Catholics. The point it inadvertently makes is hugely important - that we construct race, and who does and who doesn't count as 'our lot', on whatever lines we like, and even being white isn't enough to guarantee that you will always be treated as white. Throughout all of history, we see people chopping and changing definitions of identity, and changing their minds about which identities are the important ones (is it more important that you're white, or Christian, or European?) to suit their own purposes. The great lesson of that is that there's not much 'objective' underneath it all.
     
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  19. .Shane.

    .Shane. Take it like a voter Retired Moderator

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    Weird, I feel like I'm missing the OP?

    Interesting so many people try to answer in black and white terms, whereas the answer is much more nuanced.

    Slavery played an integral role in the building of the economy and prosperity of the country. To say "built" implies it is the sole reason. There are other factors, but they all work together, synergyistically.
     
  20. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    There isn't really an OP: this thread, as I remember, was cut out of another thread, which had veered off topic but which I thought could turn into a decent WH thread. Unfortunately, I can't quite remember where I made the cut - but the title is much more my attempt to sum up the discussion that arose by itself than something which anyone actually tried to write a post around.
     

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