Not that it’s… bad per se.

But I feel that it’s already (I’m almost halfway through the book) covering ground that’s talked about in more depth in other books that have come out since 1983. Which I guess isn’t the book’s fault and it’s a nice overview of US history from a different viewpoint, but its analysis is kinda… Eh, bad, I guess? Marxist thought in general does not recognize slaves as “proletarians” and I don’t think many black Americans even recognize themselves as “New Afrikans,” which I think is a Maoist term.

I also don’t like how it misquotes and attacks people like Herbert Aptheker (who was attacked by the FBI during his day) and communist historian Philip S. Foner. Just seems that the author has an axe to grind, which would make sense if he was indeed a Maoist before Gonzalo turned Maoism in to something more than just a pro-China stance during the Cold War. After all, William Z. Foster, Herbert Aptheker, and Philip S. Foner were pretty staunchly pro-Moscow (originally, being a Maoist usually meant that you had a pro-Beijing stance during the Cold War after the Sino-Soviet split).

Anyways, I know that @muad_dibber@lemmygrad.ml loves Settlers and, if I have it right, it influenced him during his more formative years as a comrade. And I get that. So I don’t mean to come off as attacking the book, which is fine as an overview of the atrocities committed by the United States. How many people talk about the genocide against the Asian immigrants along the West Coast of the continental United States? But I do think that it lacks in terms of analysis.

I’m currently halfway through the book, of course, so I’ll continue reading. I like that it gives a who’s who and what’s what of people and events of colonial and United States history. I would recommend it to get a breakdown of the events leading up to the modern-day, but as the saying goes: don’t believe everything you read. Or rather, sometimes, it’s good to read something a bit critically.

Some books I would recommend if you like Settlers (or even didn’t like it):

White Supremacy Confronted: U.S. Imperialism and Anti-Communism vs. the Liberation of Southern Africa from Rhodes to Mandela by Gerald Horne (Author)

Bind Us Apart: How Enlightened Americans Invented Racial Segregation by Nicholas Guyatt

Black Worker in the Deep South by Hosea Hudson (Author)

Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation, and Capitalism’s Final Crisis by John Smith (Author)

Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Indigenous Americas) by Glen Sean Coulthard (Author)

I’ll have to read it to develop an opinion on the text itself, but the overwhelming majority of the time I see it cited or mentioned it is specifically in the context of liberals dividing the working class and ensuring no threat to capital ever develops in the United States.

@Azirahael
51M

I’ve read Settlers, recently. Most of it i already knew, but discovering how much of the US was built by Chinese people, and then how badly they were treated afterwards, was new to me.

My issue with the book is an undertone of ‘You can’t trust whitey’ And where many people take that undertone. On some forums, i have had people [only 2 so far] tell me not-jokingly, that concentration camps, and mass extermination is fine, as long as it happens to white people. Basically, the nazis were right, they just had the wrong targets. And they cited this book as to why.

And when you bring this up, people jump to white fragility and so on, as explanations as to why you MUST be hating the book. What the book says is not new. And much of it is true.

My issue with it is that it seems to be purpose written to stop Fred Hampton. Because he wanted to unite the working class, black, brown and white. And you have people citing this book as reasons to abandon the white members of the working class to the far right, and condemn any attempts to reach them in a revolutionary context.

there are better books saying the same stuff, without the drama. https://erich-arbor.medium.com/the-anti-marxist-elitism-of-j-sakais-settlers-409ff2d496ee

http://rashidmod.com/?p=1125

Muad'Dibber
mod
admin
41M

First I will say that Settlers isn’t primarily a theory book, but rather a history book with a guiding central thesis. In reading it, you’ll find that it often doesn’t define the undercurrents or do analysis of, the historical events it focuses on. Its less “analysis” and more “history” focused, but of course it does have a few central ideas and themes that Sakai feels drives US history.

The main thesis of settlers stands, that is proven thoroughly throughout, is that the US perfected a system of socialized bribery that allowed a minority of capitalists and slave-owners to recruit white settlers from europe, to form a settler garrison in the US, and gain from the genocide and conquering of hundreds of Indian tribes, and to steal the country from coast to coast, in a phase of orgiastic primitive accumulation. The bourgeoisie then continually invented new ways for this absorption into the murican dream and whiteness to occur, and had a mass base to carry out their goals, always at the expense of the oppressed nations living within the US’s borders, the black nation, the indian nation, etc whose class interests were at odds with the settlers, and who had no path out of exploitation.

TL:DR; want some free land? All you gotta do is kill some indians to get it. And thousands of poor white proles from europe very loudly said yes.

Its an expose of the US’s settler-colonialist foundations, its history of genocide, exploitation, social bribery, and the spoils that went to those who willingly absorbed into whiteness and the murican dream (even if they had to kill indians to get some cheap land to do so.) Also has an excellent and unique analysis of FDR’s new deal as the bribery and absorption of the labor movement into settler colonialism that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

The spats with other leftists, and detractions from the book are really incidental IMO… the “READ SETTLERS” meme is important because there’s nothing more dangerous to the pride of western leftists than telling them they’re likely descended from generations of bastards. Making sure people don’t read settlers is the best way they can defend their identity and race pride, which must be eradicated for any true internationalism to arise. This book really separates the social chauvinists from the internationalists.

Also there’s a tendency for imperialist leftists to dismiss the book by calling Sakai racist, or claim that he was a race essentialist, which has been disproven many times: Settlers probably more than any other book first elucidated the complicated overlap between race and class; how they are inextricable, and how those US leftists who attempt to split the two are committing a mistake, and have their progenitors in the history of the US labor movement.

Oh one other thing, the New Afrikan thing doesn’t have to do with Maoism (In a post-interview that I recorded as part of the audiobook, he talks about how he has great respect for mao, but he isn’t MZT or MLM), it has to do with the idea of “colonized nations within the borders of empire”: IE peoples with shared traditions, origins, and class interests, that should make up a nation with its own autonomy and system of governance, but is prevented from doing so. This is “the right of nations to self-determination”, but within the US’s borders, that everyone from Malcolm X to Indigenous leaders to puerto rican anti-imperialists pushed for.

@Makan
creator
41M

I’ve never seen anyone call Sakai a racist.

Also, thousands of poor white proles didn’t say yes. Marx/Lenin never defined whites as a labor aristocracy and Sakai hardly accounts for the fact that there were many black or brown labor aristocrats. Also, Settlers has essentially been done better in terms of history and analysis since 1983. Also, you didn’t really account for my issues with the book, such as the misquoting and attacks on big-name communists like Herbert Aptheker and Philip S. Foner, who were attacked by figures like the FBI.

@albanianbolshevik
banned
11M

The issue here, is that everyone in US is pretty much a labour aristocracy. The wrong of Sakai is seeing it throught race, and the civil rights movements and the follow up rainbow coalition politics followed by the then-black nationalists proved him incorrect.

The labour aristocracy is not the ‘whites’. It is almost the entirety of the people in America, black and whites included. America is not ‘Amerika’, and leftists should start understanding this small truth which is being more and more evident by Holywood.

@Augustus
41M

Settlers was written in the 70s when this labour aristocracy was probably true and scientifically correct

It was written in a quite bleak period of history

Todays US though has hungry people lining up at foodbanks, hook worm (a disease of extreme poverty and had thought to be eradicated from usa) is flourishing in places like Alabama

If you went to these White working class neighbourhoods in the 70s you would have seen an industrial proletariat mostly bought off by the crumbs of imperialism

That isnt true anymore. They have no jobs and are high on opiods

Muad'Dibber
mod
admin
51M

That’s debatable… even with increasing poverty, the US still is by definition, mostly a labor aristocracy, which has a very specific and concise definition:

The labour aristocracy is that section of the international working class whose privileged position in the lucrative job markets opened up by imperialism guarantees its receipt of wages approaching or exceeding the per capita value created by the working class as a whole.

And while its true that wages have gone down in the US (certainly not to the level of the average world working class tho), cost savings from imperialism are more than enough to offset the loss in wages.

A good section from John Smith - Imperialism in the 21st century:


Neoliberal globalization has transformed the production of all commodities, including labor-power, as more and more of the manufactured consumer goods that reproduce labor-power in imperialist countries are produced by super-exploited workers in low-wage nations. The globalization of production processes impacts workers in imperialist nations in two fundamental ways. Outsourcing enables capitalists to replace higher-paid domestic labor with low-wage Southern labor, exposing workers in imperialist nations to direct competition with similarly skilled but much lower paid workers in Southern nations, while falling prices of clothing, food, and other articles of mass consumption protects consumption levels from falling wages and magnifies the effect of wage increases. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook 2007 attempted to weigh these two effects, concluding: "Although the labor share [of GDP] went down, globalization of labor as manifested in cheaper imports in advanced economies has increased the ‘size of the pie’ to be shared among all citizens, resulting in a net gain in total workers’ compensation in real terms.

In other words, cost savings resulting from outsourcing are shared with workers in imperialist countries. This is both an economic imperative and a conscious strategy of the employing class and their political representatives that is crucial to maintaining domestic class peace. Wage repression at home, rather than abroad, would reduce demand and unleash latent recessionary forces. Competition in markets for workers’ consumer goods forces some of the cost reductions resulting from greater use of low-wage labor to be passed on to them.

In his study of Walmart, Nelson Lichtenstein reports: “Wal-Mart argues that the company’s downward squeeze on prices raises the standard of living of the entire U.S. population, saving consumers upwards of $100bn each year, perhaps as much as $600 a year at the checkout counter for the average family… ‘These savings are a lifeline for millions of middle- and lower-income families who live from payday to payday,’ argues Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott. ‘In effect, it gives them a raise every time they shop with us.’” Lichtenstein, 2005, Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism (New York: New Press).

Perhaps the most in-depth research into this effect was conducted by two Chicago professors, Christian Broda and John Romalis, who established a “concordance” between two giant databases, one tracking the quantities and price movements between 1994 and 2005 of hundreds of thousands of different goods consumed by 55,000 U.S. households, the other of imports classified into 16,800 different product categories. Their central conclusion: “While the expansion of trade with low wage countries triggers a fall in relative wages for the unskilled in the United States, it also leads to a fall in the price of goods that are heavily consumed by the poor. We show that this beneficial price effect can potentially more than offset the standard negative relative wage effect.” They calculate that China by itself accounted for four-fifths of the total inflation-lowering effect of cheap imports, its share of total U.S. imports having risen during the decade from 6 to 17 percent, and that “the rise of Chinese trade … alone can offset around a third of the rise in official inequality we have seen over this period.”

@Augustus
21M

Great reply com, can you source the labour aristocracy definition tho?

Muad'Dibber
mod
admin
21M

Sure, its from Zak cope, divided world divided class. Here’s a link to the longer description he gives.

@T34
21M

You’re right that the labor aristocracy arose through historical processes and will eventually disappear through them. The disappearance has probably already begun. It looks like the US labor aristocracy is slowly proletarianizing.

But I disagree about how far along this is. I don’t see real proletarian demands or outlooks from the white working class, such as open borders, opposition to US police and the military, seriousness about global warming, solidarity across race and gender, etc. They’re still acting like a labor aristocracy.

@Makan
creator
11M

The view of the Comintern and Lenin was that the US had a proletariat by the turn of the century though.

@Augustus
21M

Capitalists were still shooting strikers in the US just before ww1

They very much were a proletariat but i believe they became a labour aristocracy that began to side with the bosses and imperialism after ww2

@Makan
creator
11M

Capitalists were shooting strikers all over the world though.

@T34
31M

The most important point of Settlers is that white workers in the US form a labor aristocracy. That provides a material basis for enduring white supremacy and the revisionism of the white working class. I haven’t seen that written so clearly anywhere else.

it misquotes and attacks people like Herbert Aptheker … and communist historian Philip S. Foner

Can you give examples of misquotes? I’ve heard a lot of complaints about Settlers, but so far I haven’t seen anything substantial that would change the main point about US white settlers being the labor aristocracy.

@Makan
creator
11M

Wait a second, but white workers in the US don’t form a labor aristocracy.

@T34
21M

Not all of them, but the labor aristocracy together with the bourgeoisie and the middle classes make up most of US society (at least when Settlers was written). From Chapter 13:

The bourgeois, the middle classes and the core of the labor aristocracy are the absolute majority (over 60%). The labor aristocracy is swollen in size. Almost 2 out of every 100 male Euro-Amerikans are policemen, firemen or other protective security workers. Highly-paid construction tradesmen, machinists, mechanics and other skilled craftsmen outnumber ordinary production and transportation workers. Even this greatly understates the extent of the settler labor aristocracy. Many Euro-Amerikan factory workers, technicians, clerical workers, and even general laborers (such as municipal Park Department “laborers” in the major cities) receive extra-proletarian wages, sometimes doing light labor and usually no toil at all. The settler labor aristocracy is considerably larger than its hard core, perhaps comprising as much as 50% of all male Euro-Amerikans.

The actual proletarian elements among the white workers are disorganized and disengaged. I don’t see any real proletarian demands from the US white working class, such as open borders, opposition to US police and the military, etc.

@Makan
creator
11M

How does Sakai come to these conclusions though in statistics?

@T34
21M

It’s footnote 4 of Chapter 13, which uses the 1970 US census.

@Makan
creator
11M

No, I mean how does he come to these conclusions based on the statistics? His definition of what constitutes middle-class or labor aristocrat seems arbitrary.

@T34
31M

There’s a list of occupations a few pages into chapter 13:

BOURGEOIS & MIDDLE CLASSES - 37%* Managers 12.17% Professionals 15.34% Salesman, Agents & Brokers 5.20% Farmowners & Managers 3.11% Clerical-Admin 1.15%

CORE OF LABOR ARISTOCRACY - 24% Craftsmen 21.82% Protective security 1.90% (police, firemen, etc.)

Sure, Sakai had to make some choices, and the last 50 years have probably proletarianized some of these like Clerical-Admin. But even today, from https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm the percentage of managers and professionals is 41% (64 million out of 158 million).

I can’t imagine percentages anywhere near these in middle-income countries like Mexico, much less low-income countries like Bangladesh. Sakai calls the US a “headquarters society” that manages the rest of the empire.

@Makan
creator
21M

This is a Maoist viewpoint. He does not appear to be upfront about how he classifies “labor aristocracy.” By this measure, the DPRK would be comprised of a labor aristocracy.

@T34
31M

I don’t know enough about Maoism to answer that. But Lenin in https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/oct/x01.htm says that

In the nineteenth century the “mass organisations” of the English trade unions were on the side of the bourgeois labour party. Marx and Engels did not reconcile themselves to it on this ground; they exposed it. They did not forget, firstly, that the trade union organisations directly embraced a minority of the proletariat. In England then, as in Germany now, not more than one-fifth of the proletariat was organised.

So, at most 20% of the workers were under the sway of bourgeois labor parties. Two world wars and a cold war later that could easily be more than 20% in the US. On top of that over 40% that are managers, professionals, etc.

But I think you’re nitpicking the details too much. The key is not which specific professions get classified as labor aristocracy, the key is how they behave. Do they ally with imperialism and its bourgeois labor parties, or with the global proletariat? Lenin again:

Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution.

@Makan
creator
11M

Err, you didn’t really answer my point. You just said that Sakai can’t predict any of this through Lenin’s own words. Aside from what Sakai considers the “labor aristocracy” being arbitrary, by his own metric, the DPRK is also comprised of a labor aristocracy.

@T34
31M

Wait, do Maoists really believe that DPRK has a labor aristocracy? I’ve never heard that before. DPRK has no empire! So there are no superprofits to use as bribes and no imperialistic alliance with privileged workers to super-exploit colonized workers.

Also, are you criticizing Sakai for being too specific or not specific enough about the makeup of the labor aristocracy?

@Makan
creator
11M

I’m criticizing Sakai for being arbitrary and many Maoists have made that claim before with the DPRK.

@albanianbolshevik
banned
11M

They are. Almost everyone living in america is a labour aristocrat. If supposedly global communism exists tommorow, the income of almost all americans will shrink to more than half.

@albanianbolshevik
banned
01M

The issue here, is that you see it in matters of race. Both the white and blacks of US are parasites. Not only the whites.

@albanianbolshevik
banned
11M

deleted by creator

Muad'Dibber
mod
admin
11M

deleted by creator

@albanianbolshevik
banned
11M

Quite excpected, no one here understands the implications of the book. The book is in fact, very good. Not becuase of the conclusions sakai arives too (the black nation of U is, in fact, an imperialist nation but because it points you to a radical understanding of imperialism, and this is always good compared to the right-winger opportunist which will tell you that essentially, the labour aristocracy is insignificant. The civil rights movements and the Trump phenomenon proved that the black nation pretty much sold out already, it is only the white nation that may be willing to kill the project called ‘America’.

@ksynwa
admin
21M

Who is J. Sakai anyway? Never read or heard anything about him apart this book.

@Makan
creator
21M

People have often debated this with some thinking that he’s only anonymous because he’s FBI or something.

Honestly: I think he was just a Maoist back in 1983 who had the time on his hands. Nothing more.

@Union4all
11d

interesting! I wonder if it could be a pseudonym from a famous author who did not want to be identified as communist

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