‘White Trash’ – A book review of our family – I
by Ramin Mazaheri on 09 Mar 2017 2 Comments

Americans, whether you like it or not, and whether you admit it or not, this book review is about our family. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (2016) by Nancy Isenberg is a book so necessary that it compelled reviews in “The New York Times” and “The Wall Street Journal” because it finally gives White Trash the place in American history that they have always been denied.


After all: “The tenant farmer with his mule and plow is not a romantic image to remain in historic memory.”


In the book’s final paragraph is a pithy historical summation of America’s contempt and disregard for White Trash: “They are not who we are.”


Any good history book allows the reader to draw parallels with the current age. “They are not who we are,” also aptly describes the raging combat in the United States between the Trumper and anti-Trumper camps.


What was the book’s goal?


“If this book accomplishes anything it will be to have exposed a number of myths about the American dream, to have disabused readers of the notion that upward mobility is a function of the founders’ ingenious plan, or that Jacksonian democracy was liberating, or that the Confederacy was about state’s rights rather than preserving class and racial distinctions.” (My emphasis)


Lack of social mobility and preserving class distinctions: keeping peasants in their place – the ultimate goal of aristocrats and today’s anti-Trumpers.


What this book does is to prove how poor Whites have systematically been denied land, opportunity and a voice just as much as Blacks and women.


There has never been social mobility for all Whites – just rich Whites – and this will be the bursting of a major myth for many people who believe America is, or at least used to be, “the land of opportunity”.


If you are not dissuaded of that myth at the end of this book review all I can say is: Read this book.


This book has been criticized by some reviewers for ignoring Blacks.


Well, it’s a book about Whites, and I see no reason not to study this ethnic group. I also see no reason to delve into race wars in this column either, so I guess I’m a racist too, or whatever.


As a communist, I view all race war as a legislatively-correctable absurdity, anyway.


Instead of discussing race politics, I argue that this book proves we absolutely must reject the anti-Trumper’s contention that the current schism in the US is a cultural divide and not a class war.


The White Trash Revolution (WTR), a theme of mine which gained a foothold with Brexit, has always been about class and not race. How else could someone named “Ramin Mazaheri” be one of its leading propagandists?


But elevating race in order to deny class is what Americans always do, and that’s why the author decried this systematic class unconsciousness on the book’s very first page:

“It is as though in separating from Great Britain, the United States somehow magically escaped the bonds of class and derived a higher consciousness of enriched possibility… The very act of migration claims to equalize the people involved….”


It does not, so give up your racial, gender and sexual politics. Let’s get to the down-and-dirty of it all – class.


The foundation of the US is White Trash and you know it


What is trash? Above all, it is waste.


16th century England was obsessed with waste, and that certainly fits in with the stereotypical view of an obsessive English person who can’t waste a thought, much less a minute and even still less a New World of “wasted” natural resources.


The author relates that it also meant “waste people” – i.e. the poor.


So-called “peoples’ history” books such as these are so great because events like Bacon’s Rebellion of 1676, “one of the greatest conflicts the colony ever witnessed,” are restored from obscurity to show that class was always from Day 1 in America.


There is, “…ample evidence to show the participants made it about class warfare… It is important that we understand that Bacon’s Rebellion for what revealed: the most promising land was never equally available to all.” (Author’s emphasis)


And imagine if America’s kids identified with the true situation of their 17th century counterparts? You’d have a nation of budding communists: “Waste men and waste women (and especially waste children, the adolescent boys who comprised a majority of the indentured servants) were an expendable class of laborers who made colonization possible.”


Such books also remove the luster of historical figures, which is probably why Arkansas is considering a bill to ban the books of Howard Zinn’s, such as “A Peoples’ History of the United States”.


The deconstruction of Thomas Paine is especially interesting as he was the main propagandist of the American Revolution. As a journalist who is regularly accused of being a propagandist, I’d like to note the already-clear differences between him and me: “His overarching argument was that European-descended Americans were a new race in the making, one specially bred for free trade instead of the state machinery of imperial conquest.”


Critically, the Englishman Paine had been in the US for just a year when he wrote “Common Sense”. He clearly had only a very superficial level of understanding of how America actually worked, and I can only imagine how false my analysis of France was after only my first year here.


However, Paine did make a true democratic contribution: He destroyed the godly aura of monarchy and openly revealed its parasitic nature – this anti-authoritarian idea was indeed radical.


But his outlook was inherently aristocratic: “(Paine argued) Therefore, if the leadership class did not seize hold of the narrative, the broad appeal for political independence would be supplanted by an incendiary call for social levelling.”


Despite the historically-revisionist claims of today’s jingoists, social leveling was thus not a goal in 1776.


The West as a White Trash dump


The US had so many advantages and possibilities to build a true Utopia, and yet their unparalleled geographical richness has been squandered by capitalism and imperialism.


Beginning with Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, the West became a hugely-effective safety valve for class discontent but it was never the hugely-effective producer of social leveling that people assume.


“The western territories were for all intents and purposes America’s colonies,” and squatters, crackers and poor White Trash would flee to the frontier to escape the indentured servitude of tenant farming.


However, they were rarely able to stay there for long, much less for generations: At best, early settlers would clear the land for the “real farmers”, i.e. rich farmers with connections to land speculators, who had government contacts that would sell them the best farmland as each new region turned into an official state.


The lack of social mobility is evident in the name given to these squatters, such as “swampers”, and good luck raising good crops there. “Tarheel”, “bogtrotter”, “briar-hoppers” and “tackies” are all both insults and descriptions of the lousy land they lived on. In 2017 even “trailer trash” is a term to describe someone who lives on a bad and small patch of land isolated from society.


“By the 1850s, poor whites had become a permanent class. As non-slaveholders, they described themselves as ‘farmers without farms’…. Whether they stayed put or moved west, poor whites occupied poor land.”


‘Biology is destiny’ means Trash stays trashy


In the 1840s and 1850s, as Europe was discovering Marxism, the US was only discovering a reactionary social science known as evolutionary biology. This ideology made biology destiny, and in the 1850s the term “White trash” became widespread. The author repeatedly stresses that the term mainly connoted physical defects, and not just a culture of poverty and a character marked by frontier wildness.


Poor whites were now labelled as a degenerate class, biologically induced to crime, immorality and even incest. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s humanistic and moral “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (praised by Tolstoy) had a 2nd book that was as anti-white trash as the first was anti-slavery, per the author.


By promoting evolutionary biology instead of Marxism, America employed such great ideas like the right to exterminate all the Indians, mulattos being defects, Hispanics being unevolved. Sweet, righteous Anglo-Saxons could not even live by Indians.


But let’s forget all that, because such racism is already well known.


What this book focuses on is the widespread belief of the time that – much like undocumented immigrants lowering wages today (sidebar: that solution is total amnesty and open borders) – slavery was something which was ruining not just the allegedly-perfect DNA of whites, but the living standards of poor Whites.


“In barring slaveholders from the territories he (the Republican presidential nominee of 1856 and ‘Free Soil’ supporter) would prevent northern white laborers from being reduced to virtual slaves in the West.”


What? I thought the US Civil War was to free the Blacks?


Admit it, American: You already knew that the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t issued until 1863, two years into the war. Why do you suppose that was?


They never gave us a satisfactory answer, but it’s – as usual – class and not race.


(To be continued…)

Courtesy The Saker


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