This is an old draft summary of some background material I collated on the subject of racism, anticommunism and the construction of hegemony in the Cold War. Still very much clarifying the protocols of the research, its specific conclusions, relations between concepts, theoretical language, etc. are all highly provisional, some of it sketchy indeed, and apt to have changed in light of more recent research. I just thought those of you who are interested in this kind of thing would find it useful.
Theorising Race and Anticommunism in the Cold War
What are the raciological dimensions of Cold War anticommunism in the US (1945-65)? How did anticommunist practices in the Deep South during the period of classical anticommunism advance, allow, or inhibit, the reproduction of the racial relations of production? In what way did the reproduction of races determine the forms of Southern anticommunism? What role did the Southern social formation play in the construction of the Cold War 'historical bloc'? How did Southern racial anticommunism impede, or assist, the pursuit of US global hegemony against the ‘communist’ antagonist?
General statement of the problem
In the residuum of World War II, the United States seized the leading position among an alliance of states in the struggle against communism, exporting its Fordist production methods and building the institutions of a liberal world system. This struggle interacted with racial forms in complex, varying ways. Globally, the US found itself needing to sustain a multiracial anticommunist coalition, while at the same time upholding white supremacy where it was efficiently anticommunist (and where the racist assumptions of policymakers feared the ‘premature independence’ of black populations (Schmitz, 2006)). Domestically, the US power bloc sought to assemble a similarly broad anticommunist coalition, with workers integrated on the basis of Fordist corporatism. Here too, the ambiguities of managing hegemony in a white supremacist system were felt. While the national liberal state practiced a ‘colour-blindness’ which tended to preserve the racial status quo, in the Deep South a virulent form of racial anticommunism emerged to defend the institutions of white supremacist capitalism. Indeed, Southern capital, representing a politically powerful section within the US power bloc, was also a bulwark of a hard-line anticommunism. Despite the problems that a one-party racial dictatorship in the South posed for the United States’ global projection of ‘soft power’, policymakers in Washington were extremely reluctant to chasten or roll back this system. For, with all these difficulties, the specific configuration of class and race relations, the conjunction of different modes of rule in north and south, served the purposes of hegemony well for a time.
Introduction: Theoretical Approach
This work, as befits a marxist research project, inhabits a tension between the nomothetic and idiographic. The epistemological commitments of historical materialism are not exhausted by its inventory of nomological concepts. Indeed, the historical determinacy of laws in Marx’s research project points to the need for concrete investigation to determine “the boundaries” of the articulation of “productive force and relation of production” at any given conjuncture. (Banaji, 2010, p. 47) When Marx turns his attention to concrete situations, for example in the Eighteenth Brumaire, his approach is far from the positivist attempt to validate laws already supposedly established by historical data. On the contrary, he sets out to discern the lineaments of class and political formations, the shifting valences of ideological cynosures, the class alliances and mutating allegiances: this highly conjunctural analysis pays off with the emergence of concepts such as ‘Bonapartism’, or the ‘praetorian state’. (On the text’s relevance for the analysis of political power and the state, see (Jessop, 2002)). As we will see, the practitioners of historical materialism – above all, Gramsci and Althusser, both in their different ways ‘Machiavellian’ marxists, and Poulantzas, whose research project articulated the former pair – have also developed a series of conceptual operations designed to capture the specificity of concrete situations. Gramsci insisted, against a certain ‘economist’ reductionism, on the analysis of the “conjuncture”, of “situations”, of the “socio-historical moment” which is never “homogenous”, but which is “rich with contradictions”. (Sassoon, 1981, pp. 180-193)
Althusser, the poetaster of ‘aleatory materialism’, likewise focused on conjunctural analysis, the multiple determinations and levels of determination in a given situation, the “accumulation of contradictions” within it, and ‘overdetermination’ - the condensation within each point of the structure of the effects of the whole situation. In keeping with this aleatory materialism is the distinction he made between the ‘mode of production’ (certain abstract combinations of forces and relations of production) and the ‘social formation’ (the concrete site on which these forces and relations of production are realised, a site of overdetermined complexity). In my research, it is the conjuncture, and within it the social formation, that is the object of analysis. (Althusser, 1999; Althusser, 2005; Lahtinen, 2009)
But the term ‘conjuncture’ can be used in a different way, to refer to precisely the tension described above: a conjunction of the general and the particular. This conjunction means that the general, referring to a set of constants which recur in different situations, varies in its precise content depending on its relation to the particulars of a situation. (Lahtinen, 2009, p. 9) A persistent topographical feature of marxist assay, then, is its descent from the abstract to the concrete, with each approach to the concrete characterised by the introduction of new theoretical determinations. Consistent with this, each section of this argument begins with the clarification of some general concepts, abstractions which address historical problems prompted by my research questions. As the discussion proceeds, however, the thesis descends from the abstract to the concrete, from structural to contingent, particular and sometimes subjective factors.
In section I, I begin with a discussion of anticommunist practices in general, before proceeding to a discussion of their operation during the Cold War, and their particular application in the Southern racial state. ‘Practices’ is used here in the sense intended by Althusser, viz.: “all the levels of social existence are the sites of distinct practices: economic practice, political practice, ideological practice, technical practice and scientific (or theoretical) practice. We think the content of these different practices by thinking their peculiar structure, which, in all these cases, is the structure of a production”. (Althusser & Balibar, 1997, p. 58) At the most general level, the structure of production has three stages: i) raw materials are brought into relation with one another; ii) a labour of transformation is performed using some means of production; and iii) an end-product results. The determinant moment in this process is the labour of transformation itself; it is this which decides the kind of practice involved. When investigating anticommunist practices, I will give due attention to the specific levels (economic, political, ideological) on which they take place - though I will treat these levels as distinct (and thus ‘relatively autonomous’) aspects of a unitary structure in difference, rather than as an articulation of different structures - as well as to production process they are involved in. The generic category ‘anticommunism’ is a convenience, but inhibitive if left undifferentiated.
For example, a mainstay of writing on anticommunism is the ‘network’. These networks triangulate around three basic coordinates: civil society organisations (‘patriotic’ vigilante, liberal, trade union), capital, and the state. Of these, the most potent constituent is the state, which is the unifying element, the weaponised cutting edge, producing the public inquiries, the executed traitors and the raids - capable of raising anticommunism to the level of a ‘national obsession’. (Schrecker, 2002, pp. 12-14 & 25) That is to say, the presence or absence of the state in the network makes the difference between it being ‘national’ or purely ‘sectional’. Yet, this poses questions which cannot be answered in terms of the ‘network’. Why, and under what circumstances, does the state become an anticommunist combatant? What does it contribute that the other elements cannot? Above all, how does the state relate to the field of class struggle, in which communist and anticommunist practices operate? As soon as these questions are posed, it is clear that is necessary to disperse the network into its elements to answer them; and moreover, that each element should be understood in terms of the practices they bring to bear and the levels at which these take place.
I proceed in section II by situating the Deep South in relation to the US capitalist system during the Cold War. This entails, to start with, a theoretical clarification of what is included in the capitalist ‘mode of production’. For example, is it merely a particular combination of forces and relations of production? If so, what manner of combination persisted in the US in the reference period? Or, need our account specify the mechanisms of the system’s reproduction? (Wolpe, 1980, pp. 6-19) We proceed to an examination of the southern social formation, the possible articulation of combined modes of production within it, and the extent to which capitalism ‘underdeveloped’ black America (Marable, 2000) and perhaps even the south itself.
I ask, for example, did the persistence of sharecropping within a large rural economy indicate the endurance of ‘feudal’ forms (Kayatekin, 2001), or was such sharecropping fully subordinated to the logic of capitalist relations (labour tenancy) by this point? (Post, 2011) Is it feasible to speak of feudal ‘remnants’ in the South? If feudal or non-capitalist forms persisted in the South, how did these relate to segregation, and how in turn did that determine the South’s contribution to the Cold War ‘historical bloc’? By contrast, if capitalist relations were already fully established in the South, what contribution did eclipsed precapitalist formations make to the specific form that southern capitalism took? How did this determine class formations, politics and ideology in the South, and its relations with the US as a whole? How did it shape Washington’s prospects for maintaining different kinds of hegemony, with different types of racial order, in different types of space (local, national and international)?
Having thus located the South, I turn to the question of the relationship between race and anticommunism in the hegemonic moment: that is, the period of classical anticommunism during which hegemony was consolidated and maintained. Using the concept of the Fordist ‘historical bloc’ to explain the relations of production and the specific form of productive forces which dominated the US in this period, I also avail myself of Gramsci’s analysis of ‘Americanism and Fordism’, to explain the relationship between Fordist production methods, ‘Americanist’ ideology and US global hegemony. (Rupert, 1995; Gramsci, 1971)
I examine the question of ‘hegemony’, and the exceptionally broad alliance of class forces that massed under the rubric of anticommunism. Here, the key problem is what combination of coercion and consent permitted the assembly such forces unified around a broad set of anticommunist objectives and thematics. It is clear that coercion played a significant role in the marginalisation of insurgent social forces excluded from the post-war class compromise. It is equally clear, however, that significant popular forces not only consented to the anticommunist vulgate, but actively participated in its promulgation. The reconciliation of antagonistic interests and subject-positions thus needs to be explained in terms primarily of persuasion and particularly the formulation of hegemonic languages through which these diverse agents are incorporated as a ‘chain of equivalences’. If, as Voloshinov argues, “the word is the most sensitive index of social changes”, the mutations in political discourse should provide a symptomatic insight into the changing lived relation of American subjects to their political environment. (Volosinov, 1986, p. 19) Importantly, we are speaking of languages in the plural, and specifically the decussation of the Southern lexis of ‘racial populism’ with ‘national liberal’ discourses.
Part I –Discovering the Network: Anticommunist Practices
“[T]he theme remains always the same, the verdict is ever ready and invariably reads: "Socialism!" Even bourgeois liberalism is declared socialistic, bourgeois enlightenment socialistic, bourgeois financial reform socialistic. It was socialistic to build a railway where a canal already existed, and it was socialistic to defend oneself with a cane when one was attacked with a rapier.
“This was not merely a figure of speech, fashion, or party tactics. The bourgeoisie had a true insight into the fact that all the weapons it had forged against feudalism turned their points against itself, that all the means of education it had produced rebelled against its own civilization, that all the gods it had created had fallen away from it. It understood that all the so-called bourgeois liberties and organs of progress attacked and menaced its class rule at its social foundation and its political summit simultaneously, and had therefore become "socialistic."” – Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte
Anticommunism belongs to a family of ‘countersubversive’ practises, related to the narrower category of ‘counter-revolutionary’ practices. Countersubversion has an especially long pedigree in the United States, where the presumed conspiracies of Freemasons, Catholics, Mormons, African Americans, the ‘yellow peril’, and of course ‘Reds’ have serially aroused movements in defence of Americanism. In addition to its racial and national connotations, countersubversion is intimately bound up with patriarchal practices and the masculinist ‘regeneration through violence’. (Melley, 2001; Slotkin, 1973; Davis, 1960)
In the liberal tradition, countersubversion is treated as an aberration, a ‘paranoid style’ in politics birthed by the inability of certain marginal social groups to adapt to the pragmatic, compromise-based politics of the United States. (Hofstadter, 1972) As Corey Robin points out, (Robin, 2004, p. 15), this is rooted in an inadequate liberal analysis of the sources of political fear. While the Cold War state was repressive, it was not openly lawless, not flagrantly crushing civil liberty in the manner of the ‘totalitarian’ nemesis. Because of this, Cold War liberals were remarkably blasé about its abuses, reducing political fear to a psychopathology. However, this both underestimates the true level of state repression and misses the way in which political fear is distributed through the vectors of civil society which are supposed, in liberal theory, to be the bulwark against state terror. It is therefore important to take countersubversion seriously, as a typology of repressive (but not merely repressive) practices aimed at conserving relations of domination.
Anticommunist countersubversion, specifically, is an ensemble of class practices whose product is the conservation of extant relations of dominance primarily, but not exclusively, on the axis of class. It is involved in the suppression of insurgent classes and fractions for this purpose. This specification immediately runs into the challenge posed by authors such as Richard Gid Power, or Markku Ruotsila, who point out that anticommunism does not speak in a single voice. While Power seeks to redeem traditions of anticommunism that were not marred by extra-legal assaults on civil liberties, Ruotsila is concerned to establish the diversity of anticommunist thought, ranging from conservative anti-collectivism to social democratic parliamentarism. (Power, 1998; Ruotsila, 2001)
Indeed, such diversity is an explanandum that this research will aim to address directly – or rather, it is the unity of such diverse practices and ideological positions, a unity in difference, that I will try to explain. In addition to the diversity of ideological positions and political practices seemingly covered by anticommunism, the range of antagonistic class interests that have been unified by anticommunism is very broad indeed. The simple expedient of explaining this in terms of classes and fractions adopting a ‘class position’ other than its own - for example, the petty bourgeoisie adopting bourgeois class positions - will not do, as it is both question-begging and is a purely formal solution to a problem that demands concrete analysis.
We will return to this question in more detail in section III, but for the moment the point can be made in this way: I am approaching anticommunism primarily as a set of political practices, not as ideology. In this sense, it is the ‘line of political demarcation’ that I am interested in. That line is principally between communists and their allies, who have at least a nominal commitment to the abolition of relations of exploitation and oppression, and their opponents who vouch the futility and utopianism of such commitments and work to undermine efforts made on their behalf. The attribution of ‘class connotations’ to each of these poles need not be absolute. It is sufficient to say that the former will tend to be anchored in the most oppressed and exploited, while the latter will tend to be anchored in the bourgeoisie, the power bloc and sections of the middle class.
The distinction between the mode of production and the social formation is relevant here. For, while anticommunism seeks to defend and extend the capitalist mode of production as a model of development, struggles conducted in its name are carried out in concrete social formations, where the mode of production may be reproduced in and through modes of rule, political blocs, etc., that are not immediately reducible to capitalist imperatives. Thus, the defence of capitalism in the social formation is necessarily a contested, contextual affair, wherein certain policies or structures (such as white supremacy, ‘pragmatic’ segregation, ‘free unionism’, anti-unionism, and so on) may be seen as essential to capitalism’s successful reproduction, or as actively inhibitive to it. This permits a fairly wide range of strategic, moral and intellectual disagreements among anticommunists without undermining fundamental agreement over the need to defend capitalism in the social formation. This, at any rate, is what I take to be the articulating principle of anticommunist politics.
Yet the turn to anticommunist countersubversion itself demands further contextualisation. The fact of the rise of socialist movements as a concrete proposal culminating in the Russian Revolution is not sufficient to explain this recourse. Nor is the existence of an historical tradition of countersubversion, though this will be important to my explanation. I will say that in capitalist states undergoing a rapid process of development and industrialization, with rapidly expanding working classes, where state formations are still fragile (Southern state formations were emerging in violent struggles through the 19th century, reflecting profound divisions among elites, Blee & Billings, 1996), where bourgeois political traditions are relatively recent and industrial relations are relatively violent, the existing institutions of government, education, media, policing and the armed forces will have a limited ability to incorporate and neutralize the emerging labour and socialist movements. In a number of European states, a chief mechanism of incorporation was the displacement of domestic class antagonisms onto a global racial antagonism. Even if workers did not avail themselves directly of opportunities in the colonial frontiers, they could still be entranced by – in the plaintive phrase of Kautsky following the 1907 German federal elections - “the fascinating effect of the colonial state of the future”. (Schorske, 1983, p. 63) A similar aspiration fuelled the Progressive era racist militarism of Theodore Roosevelt, who looked forward to the creation of a “community of heroes” in which class distinctions would be eroded in the frontier. (Jenkins, 2002)
In cases where colonialism could not or would not solve the problem by alleviating domestic class antagonisms, a network of states, civil society (or vigilante) organisations and businesses turned to anticommunist ‘countersubversion’. In racial states, such as the United States, Australia and South Africa, this took intense forms, particularly following the Russian Revolution. Their class systems had been structured by ‘race’ in divergent ways, Anticommunism and racism were mutually reinforcing in these instances. Ruling classes threatened by insurgency will have the option of interpreting each localised challenge to their dominance as part of a wider problem of ‘Bolshevism’. Alternatively, they can seek to incorporate some popular demands, and seek to construct broad, hegemonic alliances to preserve their position. Simultaneously, they will be aware that black subjects are the least susceptible to anticommunist indoctrination and in fact most likely to be class conscious and sympathetic to the communist project. As such, to maintain the anticommunist front, and all other things being equal, it is advantageous to maintain strict racial divisions, to isolate and radically ‘Other’ challengers to white supremacy and thus inoculate the wider working class against their disintegrative influence.
Anticommunism and the political instance
The state, it is argued above, is central to the efficacy of the anticommunist network. This can perhaps be corroborated by a comparison with the ‘Tea Party’, whose anti-socialist agitation has enjoyed the support of some businesses and ‘patriotic’ organisations, but which has never been more than a ‘sectional’ movement. The ‘Tea Party’ movement has no equivalent to J. Edgar Hoover in the Justice Department, no Dies Committee, and no HUAC. It has no executed traitors, no public testimonials and no police forces and parapolitical mobs concretising its countersubversive intent with illegal raids. Failing thus far to colonise the state, denied the unifying properties of state power, it has remained the name for a disarticulated and ideologically unstable rightist rump. Yet, this raises the question: does the network move from ‘sectional’ to ‘national’ because of the state’s support, or does it capture the state because it has become ‘national’? What, or whom, does becoming ‘national’ involve? And what, or whom, does it exclude? To unpack these questions, it might be useful to unpack the network itself.
Anticommunism is organised principally at the level of the political, but in turn operates in all three ‘relatively autonomous’ instances of the capitalist mode of production: economic, political and ideological. That is to say, it organises the field of class struggle on all three levels of the mode of production. I have said that it is a form of ‘countersubversive’ politics. The precise meaning of this can only be understood by specifying the nature and role of the political. The capitalist mode of production is peculiar for its relative extrusion of the political from the economic. In contrast to the parcellised forms of sovereignty particular to feudalism, in which direct political power was wielded in the appropriation of surplus labour, under capitalism legitimate political authority (and not merely political violence) is monopolised by a state that is present in productive relations, constituting them, but is not usually the major factor in economic ownership, possession or exploitation.
If the ruling class are dominant in all levels of the mode of production, the ‘relative autonomy’ of the political instance in the capitalist mode of production means that the nature of that dominance politically, and the relation between political and class power needs to be specified. Here I will have recourse to the concept of the ‘power bloc’. While the historical bloc in Gramsci refers to a particular state of class dominance, Poulantzas’ idea of the power bloc refers to a form of political dominance appropriate to the capitalist mode of production. The power bloc arises because the ruling class and its allied classes are “constitutively divided into fractions” such as rentier, finance, commerce, industry, etc. A power bloc comprises the “coexistence of several classes, and most importantly of fractions of classes” in a “contradictory unity”.
But this unity cannot be achieved independently. This is because the capitalist state reconstitutes members of classes as ‘free and equal’ individuals integrated into a formally popular-democratic sovereignty, and thus imposes an ‘isolation effect’ that obstructs class-wide unity. While the working class can overcome this effect through ‘collective labour’, no such option avails itself to the bourgeoisie. As a result, it cannot through its own parties secure its own unity as well as that of class allies. No class or fraction can independently achieve hegemonic status within the power bloc since, left to their own devices, they would exhaust themselves in conflict. The decisive role here falls to the capitalist state, which “is the factor of the political unity of the power bloc under the protection of the hegemonic class or fraction. In other words, it is the factor of hegemonic organisation of this class or fraction”. (Poulantzas, 1968, pp. 229-252, 296-306) The power bloc is the form of political dominance practiced within the historical bloc.
In addition to organising the dominant classes and fractions (the power bloc), this theory endows the state with the role of disorganising the dominated classes. We will return to the role of ideology, but it is important to state that even at the level of politics, these practices are not purely repressive. Poulantzas argues that the political and ideological power of the ruling class requires a “material substratum”. That ‘substratum’ in the case of the Cold War was the incorporation of ‘free trade unions’ into a corporatist production system, and the distribution of a share of rising productivity to the working class. The widespread use of ‘productivity agreements’ in bargaining with organised labour ensured both an efficient extraction of surplus value and a secular tendency for wages to rise. It was this which made claims for the ‘free’ and ‘prosperous’ American worker, in contrast to the enslaved Russian worker, plausible ‘lived relation’ of U.S. workers to their situation. (Poulantzas, 2000, p. 31; Harvey, 2010, p. 96; Rupert, 1995, pp. 155-157)
In the Deep South, however, matters were different. The rate of unionisation, particularly in the core textile industry, was pitifully low. Instead of forging class compromise based on a relationship with ‘free trade unions’, employers and local authorities worked to isolate union activists as ‘communists’. Labour leaders were usually harassed by the law, and sometimes ‘disappeared’. (Honey, 1993, pp. 1-3)
This vigilante-like behaviour, the parapolitical aspect of countersubversion, is worth reflecting on. Local state formations in the South and the political organisations that operated through them had, as indicated previously, a history of involvement in guerrilla and vigilante violence in defence of class power. These states were created by plantation owners and white farm owners, and were impregnated by the imperatives governing their reproduction. As David James argues, this impregnation worked through four key mechanisms. First, the local state had to be responsive to local class formations in order to ensure growth and generate the revenue base for effective statehood. Second, local politicians were compelled to take account of the interests of the most powerful planter and farmer fractions, or risk an orchestrated backlash with the use of stolen votes, bribery or economic sanctions. Third, local officials such as justices of the peace were paid fees for their work - a certain sum per arrest, for example, leading to high rates of arrest of politically weak African Americans and thus the production of a cheap labour force through the prison system. (This practice continued well into the 1940s). Finally, and above all, planter and farmer elites used physical violence to take state power away from their political enemies: lynchings and terror aimed at blacks, Republicans or Populists. (James, 1988)
So, the dominant modes of political organisation were not conducted in the form of class compromises or bargaining, and the Southern ruling class had no interest in such a strategy. However, in the mill towns and energy frontiers of the southern United States, just as much as in the mineral economy of South Africa, there emerged a caste system which excluded black workers from ‘skilled’ occupations. Racialised pay differentials (sometimes formalised as ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ or ‘ABC’ payrolls, for example) were the norm. Patterns of workplace discipline were organised along colour lines. And the degree of paternalistic intrusion into workers’ lives also differed with race, as employers tended to intervene more in the private lives of white workers. (Davies, 1976; Honey, 1993, p. 151; Vitalis, 2000; Vitalis, 2000; Vitalis, 2007; Minchin, 1999; Minchin, 1997) What does this imply for the class relation between black and white labour in a segregated system? Do they, as some theorists suggest, form separate classes? Or different fractions of the working class? Is the ‘white working class’ in such systems a kind of ‘labour aristocracy’? Do white workers appropriate surplus value produced by black workers? Do they form a supervisory bloc with opposing class interests to black workers? (See Wolpe, 1976). I shall say that the segregated system produced a fractionalisation of the working class along racial lines – white workers were not overwhelmingly supervisorial, nor did they share in surplus value extracted from black workers – and that this fractionalisation in turn produced a racialised notion of ‘skilled labour’ as a ‘natural’ (racial) status rather than social attribute.
The “material substratum” in this case was the relative advantage that white workers obtained over black workers. If, historically, the race system worked to undermine the bargaining power of labour, it also ‘compensated’ white workers with access to certain products, services or rights of citizenship, which the racially oppressed were denied. The value of these goods being socially determined and relative, they were judged not primarily by the standard of progressive improvement, but by the fact that some could have them as a racial birth-right, and some could not. As (Honey, 1993, p. 29) puts it, segregation “did not improve the wages of unskilled white workers” but it did provide “a labour system segmented into superiors and subordinates, which placed them in a relatively better position than blacks”. Communists were thus belaboured for attempting to erode the position of white workers vis-à-vis their racial ‘inferiors’. It was “the racialism of communism” that alienated Southern white workers. (Boswell, et al., 2006, p. 155)
Anticommunism in the Racial State
Three social formations in the twentieth century arguably manifested a particular concern with anticommunism: the United States, Australia and South Africa. These were states that, despite significant differences in land mass, demographics, and international power, shared many similarities. These include an historical experience of capitalist development through the ‘frontier’ (‘primitive accumulation’) and white supremacy. In the cases of both South Africa and the US, says Anthony Marx, similar processes of capitalist development and state-building drove the creation of forms of legally reinforced racial discrimination prevalent for much of the 20th Century. (Marx, 1999) And if the ‘colour’ of one’s ‘race’ determined life chances for citizens of each of these states, where segregation had parallel but not symmetrical careers, so the ‘colour’ of one’s creed could have a related set of effects. (Kwon, 2010, pp. 37-8)
The proximity of these two racial powers – one a hegemonic global power, the other a regional sub-imperialism - in their anticommunism did not begin with the Cold War, but rather with the Russian revolution and the immediately ensuing class struggles. (On anticommunism in South Africa following the Bolshevik revolution, see Stolten, 2007). Indeed, it was during the Cold War that their paths began to diverge, despite their growing co-dependence following the entry of the People’s Republic of China into the Korean War. While the victory of the Afrikaner nationalists in the 1948 South African legislative elections represented a hardening of segregation - “as though the Dixiecrats had won in the United States” (Borstelmann, 2001, p. 72) - US politics was dominated by a Cold War centrism which defended the racial status quo in the name of ‘colour-blindness’. This is in part because the Deep South represented only one part of the US, whereas South Africa had no counterpart to the US North. But it is also because the US aspired to global hegemony, which of necessity involved assembling a multiracial coalition against communism: thus, ‘colour-blindness’ formed part of US global strategy. (Vitalis, 2000)
Nevertheless, anticommunism was peculiarly intense in these states characterised by racial systems, and it was imbricated in the defence of these systems in remarkably similar ways. For example, Southern US politicians held that civil rights organisations represented the cuspate end of a communist conspiracy intent on global dominion. South African leaders similarly argued that the ANC was the local auxiliary of a Moscow design to take over the region’s mineral treasures. (Adam, 1993; Lewis, 2004)
Also contiguous to the United States in the intensity of its anticommunism was Australia, another racial state. There, just as in the United States, anticommunism was aimed at “a vague conglomerate of hostile causes”, from labour unionism to reformist socialism. In both cases anticommunist governments “used political terror, enforced through physical violence, civil ordinance laws, incarceration, sackings and injunctions against strike action to retain their hold on political power during World War I, the 1920s and the 1930s.” (Fischer, 2005) To be depicted as a ‘Red’ was in each case to be externalised and ‘Othered’; by the same token, to be a ‘racial’ subject in revolt was to be depicted as a ‘Red’. (See Clark, 2008) And in both countries, anticommunism was entangled with an imperialist ‘civilizing mission’ – particularly, in the post-war world, with respect to Asia. (Kiernan, 2002) If the Australian Right did not enjoy the same success as US anticommunists in rolling back the power of labour and the Left, this was largely because of the weakness of Federal legal enforcement, the reluctance of anticommunists to turn to vigilantism, and the limited ability of anticommunists to muster business support. (Fischer, 2002)
Southern anticommunism during the Cold War, similar in many respects to overseas analogues, also drew on both local and national traditions of ‘countersubversion’, rooted in intensely racialised struggles to conserve or restore relations of dominance. For example, the structures of segregation that one encounters under siege from the civil rights movement during the Cold War were facilitated by just this, as the Ku Klax Klan worked as the de facto paramilitary arm of a Democratic Party led effort to restore white supremacy and patriarchy, the material basis of both having been lost with the overthrow of slavery. Long after the Klan had been formally and effectively wound up, countersubversive violence aimed at black political and economic advances, as well as interracial relations, buttressed an emerging system of segregation. Following the historic ‘Compromise’ between North and South in 1877, which had been lubricated by alliances between Southern gentry and Northern capital, the pace of racist repression intensified. Significantly, a degree of unity among white Southerners, across classes, was forged through this terror. (Roediger, 2008, pp. 110-119)
Similarly, the rise of militant imperialist sentiment in the South under Woodrow Wilson, particularly during World War I, was coextensive with a countersubversive hysteria first about treasonous African Americans in sympathy with the Germans then about ‘Reds’ – the first wave of anticommunist repression from 1917-1919. The dominant key of this countersubversion was nativist, and racist. Robert Lansing, George Simons, and military intelligence credited the fraudulent thesis of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion to explain the success of the Bolsheviks. The Sedition Act (1918) was used pointedly against ‘aliens’, while J Edgar Hoover used his position in the Bureau of Investigation to raise alarm over the alleged propensity of African American leaders toward communism. The Lusk Commission established in 1919 to look into radicalism “argued that there was ‘not a single system of Anglo-Saxon socialism, nor a single system of Latin race socialism’. The only scientific system of socialism was ‘of German-Jewish origin’.” This was a particularly portentous accusation after the feverish anti-German propaganda that shadowed US entry into the First World War. Civil society and vigilante organisations such as the American League, the Daughters of the American Revolution, war veterans groups, and bodies of Minute Men, often funded by business blocs led by local Chambers of Commerce, were organised around nativist thematics. (Gaughan, 1999; Foglesgong, 2007, p. 58; Heale, 1990, pp. 60-96; Kovel, 1997, pp. 14-22) This was, then, a form of political class practice in which the Southern power bloc had accumulated experience.
The implementation of racial anticommunism during the Cold War enjoyed measurable success in both of its objectives of conserving white supremacy and isolating radicals. The civil rights leadership was cowed by fear of association with “Communist-controlled organisations”, and thus isolated. It was also frightened to take the steps (such as freedom rides) that would later win the civil rights battle. The downfall of Jim Crow was delayed by approximately a decade. As Marable put it: “The democratic upsurge of black people which characterized the late 1950s could have happened a decade earlier … most of the important Supreme Court decisions that aided civil rights proponents had been passed some years before. … Yet the sit-ins, the non-violent street demonstrations, did not yet occur; the façade of white supremacy was crumbling, yet for almost ten years there was no overt and mass movement which challenged racism in the streets. … The impact of the Cold War, the anti-communist purges and near-totalitarian social environment, had a devastating impact upon the cause of blacks’ civil rights and civil liberties”. (Marable, 2007, pp. 17-27)
Part II – The Southern social formation
“If the Negro is permitted to engage in politics, his usefulness as a labourer is at an end.”
“We can view the urban region as a kind of competitive collective unit within the global dynamics of capitalism. Like individual entrepreneurs, each urban region has the autonomy to pursue whatever course it will, but in the end each is disciplined by the external coercive laws of competition. Its industry has to compete within an international division of labour, and its competitive strength depends on the qualities of labour power; the efficiency and depth of social and physical infrastructures; the ‘rationality’ of lifestyles, cultures, and political processes; the state of class struggle and social tension; and geographical position and natural resources endowments.” – David Harvey
The capitalist mode of production and race in the Deep South
David Harvey offers a strategic view of space in the field of capital accumulation and the division of labour. If we infer that the “external coercive laws of competition” have constantly buffeted the southern United States as they have every other region, what implications does this have for the development of the Deep South as a regional formation? In what way and to what extent did capitalist imperatives mould the emergence of southern markets in chattel and chattel-produced goods? Did capitalism underdevelop the South? Or, did capitalism underdevelop black America?
Manning Marable’s argument that it capitalism did underdevelop black America suggests that the system was able to develop “not in spite of the exclusion of Blacks, but because of the brutal exploitation of Blacks as workers and consumers”. The paradox of American history, in this view, is that each advance of white freedom, affluence and state power was accomplished alongside black unfreedom, poverty and powerlessness. Development, meaning “the institutionalization of the hegemony of capitalism as a world system”, relied on a non-white periphery characterised by “chattel slavery, sharecropping, peonage, industrial labour at low wages, and culture chaos” for black people. This allowed the accumulation of surplus value from black workers to take place at an escalated rate compared to the equivalent for white workers. It was insured by systems of white supremacy which commanded the dependency of black populations – notably, a majoritarian political system that ensured that black minorities could only successfully advance agendas acceptable to either of the two main white capitalist parties. “The constant expropriation of surplus value created by Black labour is the heart and soul of underdevelopment”. (Marable, 2000, p. 2 & 7) This analysis, drawing from dependency theory, but above all from the work of W E B Du Bois, suggests that the global ‘colour line’ is a precondition for capitalist development, and the knot in which the antagonisms of the capitalist mode of production – the exploitation of labour and colonial subjection, as much as the oppression of women – are condensed.
David Roediger, also informed by Du Bois, takes a substantially similar position, rebuking those Marxists who have classified antebellum slavery as a form of agrarian feudalism. While in the abstract, he maintains, capitalism is structured around the dual freedom of labour (from the means of production; to sell one’s labour power as property), unfree labour is historically perfectly compatible with capitalism provided slavers exist and compete within a world market based on free labour. Further, while capitalism has certain homogenizing tendencies, it should not be expected to be ‘colour blind’ or to eventually level all national, religious and racial distinctions. The process of ‘race-making’ in capitalism is continuous, as profits are maximised through the social production of difference. (Roediger & Esch, 2009; Roediger, 2008, pp. 64-69; Lowe, 1999, pp. 28-29)
How one addresses this issue depends in part on how one understands the capitalist mode of production (CMP), and its relationship to precapitalist modes of production (PCMPs). In general, my position is that a mode of production consists of a specific conjunction of relations and forces of production. In this conjunction, productive relations have explanatory priority, as these determine the boundaries of productive forces (the form of surplus extraction determining the labour process). The capitalist mode of production is thus defined principally by the productive relations that are specific to it (the particular relationship of labour power to the means of production, the relations of effective possession of each, the form of surplus extraction), and secondly by the productive forces (the labour process and the relative quantity of surplus extracted). (Callinicos, 2004)
In this light, it would seem to be difficult to sustain the thesis that antebellum slavery itself was a CMP. For, the defining condition of antebellum slavery is the extra-economic bondage of the labourer to some means of production as a condition of her existence. This is quite at odds with the ‘dual freedom’ of the proletarian under capitalism; the worker who has been completely ‘freed’ from the means of production, but is also ‘free’ to sell her labour power. Charles Post thus argues that antebellum slavery was a decidedly non-capitalist form, and that the forging of American capitalism arose from the combined modes of production (slavery, petty commodity production, mercantile capital) in which capitalist imperatives exerted overall dominance. In this light, the dominant farmer republican ideology, as well as the political form of slaver dominance (Democratic Party hegemony), were pre-capitalist. This structure articulated modes of production motivated regional (north-south) competition and expansionism, which was eventually resolved by the Civil War and the victory of capitalism. (Post, 2011; Davidson, 2011; Ashworth, 1995; Ashworth, 2007)
Yet, intriguingly, Post’s argument focuses more on the productive forces (the labour process, the instruments of production) than on productive relations. And it is on the ground of productive relations, and specifically the position of the labourer with respect to the means of production, that Sidney Mintz broached the question of whether the plantation slave was a proletarian. Through an examination of Caribbean sugar plantations and the forms of labour relation (slave, indentured, free, etc.) prevalent in them, he discloses the co-existence and co-dependence of these forms in the same labour systems. Mintz shows: that slavery rarely exists in a pure form; that it is possible for elements of the slave labour form to overlap with the free labour form in concrete labour processes (the separation of the worker from the means of production); that elements of both were historically articulated within a capitalist labour process; that slaves themselves could adopt ‘free labour’ roles, for example in the production of food; and that it would be an error to become stuck in an ideal-typical abstraction in which the slave is the eternal other of the proletarian. (Mintz, 1978) Post allows for the articulation of different modes of production within distinct economies and regions, but Mintz’s argument suggests that in the concrete social formation, different modes of production may be articulated in the same labour process.
Indeed, Post himself has no difficulty with the argument that ‘free labour’ needn’t exist in a pure form in capitalism. It is his argument, for example, that following the Civil War non-capitalist forms persisted in the South in the form of household-based sharecropping, until the Jim Crow era. The imposition of segregation was coextensive with the planters’ transition to capitalist ‘labour tenancy’ as the dominant mode of extraction – indeed, in this view, segregation was a necessity for its effective reproduction given the inability of planters to subsume the labour process under their control. The disenfranchisement of blacks and many poor whites was necessary for agrarian capitalism due to a specific feature of its production cycle and the disjunction with labour-time. (There is a ‘slack season’ between planting and harvesting and, as a result, agrarian capital often requires the legal-juridical coercion of labour-power.) In this sense, Jim Crow was a pathology of racialised capitalism that, while functional in various ways, was no longer necessary for its successful reproduction once technological advances allowed for the effective subsumption of the labour process by the 1940s. (Mann, 1990; Post, 2011; Hahn, 2003)
This specification of the relationship between CMP and PCMP has consequences for how we situate the South within the US and the global division of labour during the classical phase of anticommunism. Pace Post, we can say that the juridical, extra-economic coercion of labour in Jim Crow in part reflects the formative influence of a PCMP, a feudal remnant on the development of Southern capitalism. (Kayatekin, 2001) This left the South in a certain place relative to the development of capitalism, predominantly in its industrial form, in the US as a whole. The South was, in effect, underdeveloped by capitalism, just as black America was, precisely because the dominant capitalist imperatives drove the extraction of surplus value in the slave South by means of regional competition, and then impelled the imposition of a segregated polity as part of the indispensable means through which the South would converge with the nation.
The place of the South in American nationhood
“Even its children know that the South is in trouble”. – Lillian Smith.
During the classical period of anticommunism, the South was beginning to make a transition to Fordist production methods: it was en route to ‘Americanisation’, in a sense that will be discussed later. Its largest economic sector, the textile industry, was concentrated in a cluster of small production units, in small towns, across four states. By far the major producer was North Carolina, followed by South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. North Carolina’s productive advantage derived from the fact that it enjoyed access to an army of cheap surplus labour that was poorly organised, lacked political clout and lacked the protection of the law from the most intensive forms of exploitation. (Minchin, 1997, p. 2; Wood, 1986, p. 68)
Industrialisation was taking place slowly, and industrial unionism fared poorly. Worse still, the civil unrest arising from the struggle to end segregation, deterred investors. The business advocates of the ‘new south’ were not as invested in white supremacy as the planters’ regime, and began to voice unease as the civil rights movement grew. This did not mean that they had a principled objection to Jim Crow; their objections were phrased purely in terms of ‘law and order’, and the dire consequences for any city or state that could not protect property from lawless mobs. Jim Crow, if no longer necessary for the reproduction of capitalist relations in the South, was certainly an economic advantage for business, not only maintaining pay differentials that undermined the bargaining power of labour – the strong empirical and historical evidence is that racism increases inequality in white income distribution - but also maintaining a folkish, cross-class solidarity among whites, which unions found it very difficult to break through. However, a segregated South, shaken by anti-racist struggles, would have difficulties restructuring its operations to become competitive on a national level. At the same time, however, the business sell for the South was still predicated, as it had been throughout the Depression, on the promise of a low-wage labour market guaranteed by a near union-free environment. Southern Democratic politicians forced through right-to-work laws, and collaborated with Republicans in Washington on labour issues, such as Taft-Hartley. The textile drive by the CIO and Textile Workers’ Organising Committee in the latter half of the 1930s had made some inroads into the industry, but these gains were least impressive in the South – by 1939, the union had managed to organise only 7% of the region’s mill hands. A subsequent drive by the Textile Workers’ Union of America, between 1945 and 1955, was an even more dismal failure, and pragmatic efforts to work around the failure by forging cooperative relationships with anti-union politicians ended up reinforcing the grip of forces that had defeated them: the Democratic Party and white supremacism. (Bernstein, 2010, pp. 616-623; Brattan, 1997) (Wilson, 2000, pp. 25 & 108-109; Reich, 1981)
The South was in a strange place. Southern capital enjoyed political power disproportionate to its class power. It strategically dominated a region that had a good claim to represent the historical core of the United States. (Macleod, 1974; Blumrosen & Blumrosen, 2007) Yet it also seemed to be in a spotlit enclave where its racial practices were the occasion for global censure (and thus reluctant intervention from Washington, Dudziak, 2000), and where its social problems and seeming underdevelopment relative to the national norm seemed to undermine the grandiose notions that the region’s defenders.
It is a commonplace of the American turn to overseas colonies in 1898 that it was coterminous with an extensive nationalisation, an anti-sectional impulse that saw north and south re-united. This displacement of domestic tensions in overseas expansion was anticipated and welcomed by statesmen. Woodrow Wilson, for example, held that sectionalism arose primarily over the matter of commercial interests, while the collective commitment to the higher purpose of colonialism would relieve the focus on “the money question” – a classic articulation of Kriegsideologie. (Thorsen, 1988; Losurdo, 2001) What was nationalised, arguably, was the renascence of white supremacy in the South, so that both press and politicians of the North would express support for the emerging forms of segregation known as Jim Crow, and lament the egalitarian impulses of Reconstruction and the Fifteenth Amendment. (Weston, 1972, pp. 1-15) Yet even at this moment, the fact is that in the geography of US imperialism, the South was assigned the status of a ‘tropic’ – in Nancy Leys Stephan’s words, “a place of radical otherness to the temperate world”. Its relative backwardness in terms of capitalist development, and its attendant forms of racialised capitalism, fuelled this perception. So while north and south were ostensibly reconciled on the axis of racial nationalism, the regionalisation of the United States, the otherness of the South and its urgent need of reform, was reinforced on the very same ground. (Ring, 2009)
Southern politicians, organic intellectuals and business lobbies responded to this denigration on the plane of culture, arguing for tolerance of their native customs and their rare and delicate cultural ecology. They linked the defence of free markets and cosmopolitanism to the southern ‘way of life’. This was, for example, the tactic of Anthony Hart Harrigan, the first executive director of the Southern States Industrial Council, writing in the National Review. More generally, for racial conservatives the South was a citadel of ordered liberty, of civilization and “aristocratic” virtue. (MacLean, 2010; Lowndes, 2008) Such declarations naturally arouse one’s hermeneutics of suspicion. The feudal order to which such categories adverted had long since been subsumed in the South, and they read like nothing so much as the signposted thematics of Dixieland.
If the South’s still rural economy, and supposed cultural staidness and traditionalism, contrasted it with the cultural celerity of the North, this trope adverted only to already racialised (and embourgeoised) assumptions about culture. It colludes with what W T Lahmon described as those “polite external forces” struggling to maintain sovereignty over insubordinate subaltern forms. (Lahmon, 1998, p. 152) Of course, the much vaunted traditionalism of the South, culturally enacted in a certain Hellenic formalism in architecture, design and music, was a style peculiar to Ulster Scot and English settlers, and was even there less evident in the working classes than among the Southern gentry. Certainly, such Hellenism was a polite external force relative to the open-ended, experimental and improvised character of much African American culture. (Bronner, 2009; Burrison, 2007, p. 103) The area in which the South was and remains most distinctive is language, with numerous surviving (or only recently extinct) colonial English dialects alongside Cajun French, Isleño Spanish, and indigenous languages. Southern English itself is a creolised product of “multiple lines of descent”, with a dominant English ‘core’, as well as Scotch-Irish and African grammar, syntax and phonology fusing into a single “speechway”. (Algeo, 2003)
This form of southern cultural particularism can be read through the homogenizing processes of capitalism, not merely as a defensive reaction but as a willing process of commodification. “Dixification”, in which the cultural specificities of the south are absorbed into a spectacular fable of diversity (Dixieland), was already inscribed into the defence of Jim Crow. (Romine, 2008, pp. 1-2) This Dixification-by-speech-act meant that at the precise moment when the apologists of white supremacy were flaunting their feudal sensibilities, they were bidding for incorporation in the American national imaginary on the terms of globalizing industrial capitalism. Anticommunism furnished the means to make this transition effective. A case, perhaps, where “the royalists are the true pillars of the constitutional republic”.
Part III – Fordism, the ‘historical bloc’ and languages of hegemony
Americanism and Fordism: the ‘historical bloc’
I have suggested that the US was ruled by a Fordist ‘historical bloc’ in the period of classical anticommunism. According to Gramsci, an ‘historical bloc’ consists of an articulation of “structures and superstructures … That is to say the complex, contradictory and discordant ensemble of the superstructures is the reflection of the ensemble of the social relations of production.” Within the historical bloc, “material forces are the content and ideologies are the form”, though this distinction is “merely didactic”, because “material forces could not possibly be historically conceived without form, and ideologies would be individual whims without material forces”. (Gramsci, 1971, p. 471)
Gramsci here specified both a formal, conceptual relationship between “two areas of abstract reality”, and a concrete description of the relationship between these two areas in a social formation. The concrete relation is between different social forces, and perhaps different modes of production articulated in a single national economy (as in the Risorgimento). Within this historical bloc, it is possible to have numerous combinations of political alliances and differing distributions of power among dominant classes and fractions, without the basic unity of the bloc being disturbed. For a new historical bloc to come into existence requires a “political initiative” on the part of emerging class forces to shift “the dead weight of traditional policies”. (Sassoon, 1981, p. 121; Gramsci, 1971, p. 263) The historical bloc is above all, then, a conjunctural fact.
What is the relation between the ‘historical bloc’ and hegemony? Gramsci’s analysis of ‘Americanism and Fordism’ centred on the rationalisation of production techniques involved, suggesting that Fordism represented an historically progressive transition away from individualism and competition toward collectivism and planning, albeit one taking place within capitalist logic. It was a transition that was easier to accomplish in the United States owing to the psycho-physical acculturation of workers to industrial life, as well as to the rationalisation of America’s demographic composition, so that it lacked the "vast army of parasites", the classes with no economic function, the unproductive landed gentry, clerics and middle classes who still predominated in parts of Europe. Thus, the reactionary forms of resistance to Fordism in Europe, extolling idyllic patriarchy, ruralism, Catholicism and the artisanal life, were largely absent in the United States. (Gramsci, 1971)
Just as central to Fordism according to Gramsci was its moral and religious dimension, and particularly the regulation of the sexual instinct. While Gramsci saw a potentially progressive, rational development in this, it was dealt with in a despotic way by Henry Ford, reflecting his need to ensure that workers would be able to reproduce their labour power in its normal state, his wider concern with the sensualisation of culture (epitomised by ‘Jewish’ jazz), and his support for Prohibition. The living conditions imposed in ‘Fordlandia’, Ford’s failed attempt to create an enclave of Fordist America in Brazil producing rubber, included the regulation of workers’ diet and the export of Prohibition. These represent the most consistent attempt by Ford to impose these norms. For Ford, the corporation was a prototype of the nation, and the habits of its workforce should reflect those of a healthy, Christian society. Fordism was not, then, simply a method of production. It was also a productivist ideology tied to a narrative of civilizational advance, Americanism, and a Christian ethic of labour. (Rupert, 1995; Gramsci, 1971; Grandin, 2010; Beynon, 1984, pp. 40-41)
Yet, it would be erroneous to treat Fordism in itself as the means of labour’s incorporation into the post-war system. While Gramsci focuses on the famous ‘high wages’ of workers under the Fordist pattern, these production methods had consequences that Gramsci’s analysis did not envisage. A mainstay of industrial sociology on the subject is the fact that corporate planning removes skills and initiative from the ‘shop floor’. (Braverman, 1974; Pfeffer, 1979; Beynon & Nichols, 1977; Sennett, 1972) In the words of Ford’s ghost-writer, the “net result” of these methods was “the reduction of the necessity for thought on the part of the worker”. (Rupert, 1995, p. 63) This gave rise to a zombie-like existence for workers. Resistance to this tendency could take various forms. It could be passive. Workers, (Garson, 1994) explains, could develop games and objectives to make the work more interesting, or simply refuse to do a bad job by sticking strictly to procedure. Or it could take the form of industrial struggles over the control of the labour process, where it has been a central doctrine of Ford that this is one thing that is not up for negotiation. (Beynon, 1984) There was therefore no necessary reason, if the left in the labour movement was not cannibalised by anticommunism, why ‘high wages’ alone should deliver industrial peace, or why productivity agreements, often the cause of the intensification of labour and the risks attached to it, and a further shift in control over labour processes to managers, should be the basis for class compromise rather than class struggle.
Importantly, American labour was not merely incorporated into a domestic Fordist bloc, but also its globalization under the rubric of ‘free trade unionism’ and anticommunism. This was possible in part because US planners embraced ‘New Deal’ thinking in their construction of the global financial and economic architecture, repudiating the laissez-faire economic liberalism that, for example, Southern industrialists and policymakers still favoured. (Callinicos, 2009, pp. 165-187; Smith, 2003; Smith, 2005, pp. 82-121) Thus, a liberal world economic order, reinforced by reciprocal trade agreements and Marshall Plan aid, was one which labour could perceive that it had a stake in. It would allow America’s production machine to thrive, create jobs and growth within the US, improve the bargaining power of labour, and constitute the best response to “Soviet Communist imperialism”. (Rupert, 1995, pp. 44-46) While interwar Europe displayed forms of reactionary resistance to ‘Americanisation’, the Fordist model is what was successfully transfused into European productive centres under Washington’s post-WWII hegemony, with the guidance of sympathetic social democratic or Christian Democratic leaderships. (van der Pijl, 1984) Thus, in the post-war United States, at home and abroad, hegemony flowed from the factory.
Hegemonic languages and political identities
“Italy is a fact, now we need to make Italians.” - Massimo D’Azeglio on Italian unification
Hegemony is political class leadership, in two senses: 1) leadership within a class alliance, either bourgeois or proletarian; 2) dominance over other classes. Leadership within the “system of class alliances” entails the hegemonic class or fraction assimilating the interests and perspectives of allied classes and providing a moral and intellectual framework that accommodates them. Stuart Hall reminds us that hegemony is neither a normal nor a fixed state, but a condition of rule that must constantly be constructed: “‘hegemony’ is a very particular, historically specific, and temporary ‘moment’, in the life of a society. It is rare for this degree of unity to be achieved, enabling a society to set itself a quite new historical agenda, under the leadership of a specific formation or constellation of social forces. Such periods of ‘settlement’ are unlikely to persist forever. There is nothing automatic about them. They have to be actively constructed and positively maintained.” (Hall, 1986) Hegemony is that “homogeneous politico-economic historical bloc, without internal contradictions” – an overstatement – which must be consolidated through “conscious, planned struggle”. (Gramsci, 1971, p. 263)
In what manner is hegemony constructed? Coercion plays an important role, particularly with regard to those excluded from the hegemonic bloc. But while force “can be employed against enemies”, it is ineffective “against a part of one's own side which one wishes rapidly to assimilate, and whose ‘good will’ and enthusiasm one needs”. (Gramsci, 1971, p. 263) In a hegemonic moment, the dominant mode of rule is through ideology. The dominant ideology cements an array of contradictory subject-positions. In this respect, the dominant ideology must incorporate within its body elements of popular ideology, which are then represented as a set of differences, with their specifically antagonistic aspect neutralised. (Mouzelis, 1978) A hegemonic project must transform the terms of political discourse in this manner, creating a new definition of reality.
In this sense, then, we are speaking of hegemonic languages. The dominant register of US anticommunism in the classical period was that of liberal nationalism, in which the United States was extolled as a unique bulwark of democratic freedoms, civil rights and individualism, against the collectivist, undemocratic tyranny of the USSR. While I have maintained that the ‘line of political demarcation’ in anticommunism is the defence of the capitalist social formation, the symbolic field of anticommunism was organised, quilted around the master-signifier of ‘freedom’. The master-signifier of ‘freedom’ organised a chain of cognate signifiers – ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’, ‘choice’, ‘free markets’, ‘diversity’, ‘individualism’, and their negations – in a contested discursive field, in which the Southern white power bloc conducted its hegemonic practices.
This has important resonances in American politics, particularly when contrasted with ‘slavery’. Communists and their allies in the United States were frequently baited as agents, or at best apologists, of (in Norman Thomas’ phrase) “human slavery under Stalin”. (Yarnell, 1974, p. 87) The vernacular of abolitionism is being accessed here, but not only of abolitionism. The institutions of slavery in American history could be reproved as an abridgment of human rights, as in the radical tradition of Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Lydia Marie Child, Benjamin Lundy or the Grimké sisters. But it was as likely to be reviled as a lowly social status that properly belonged only to the raced, as in the tradition of ‘white labour republicanism’. (Roediger, 2007)
More broadly, depending on one’s sociolect, freedom could mean the freedom to sell one’s labour power as one’s own property; the freedom to purchase that labour power and put it into circulation with means of production; the freedom to organise a union; the freedom from unionism; the freedom of African Americans as equal citizens in a capitalist democracy; the freedom of a racial caste to enjoy the privileges of segregation; etc. The ability of ‘freedom’ to occupy this role, then, unifying diverse subject-positions, arises because it is a relatively tendentially versatile signifier (rather than a “tendentially empty signifier”), one of several such, enabling “common nuclei of meaning” to be “connotatively linked to diverse ideological-articulatory domains”. (Laclau, 1977)
The idioms of ‘antitotalitarianism’ played a similar role. Cold War ‘antitotalitarianism’ effectively merged all non-liberal sources of politics into the (curiously ductile, indefinite, polysemous) category of ‘totalitarianism’. (Losurdo, 2004) This was not merely a contrivance of Cold War political science, but reflected concrete experiences. In the workers’ movement, the locution ‘Red Fascism’ began to emerge as the Popular Front Left was strained by revelations concerning the scale of repression in the USSR and the sudden ‘anti-imperialist’ lurch of the CPUSA in response to the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. In effect, what Koestler rendered in fiction, and what Brzezinski et al formalised as an anticommunist orthodoxy, had been anticipated in the organised labour movement. (Rupert, 1995, pp. 156-7) The uses of ‘antitotalitarianism’ were as diverse as those for ‘freedom’. If for the Southern States Industrial Council, civil rights legislation was a “blueprint for totalitarianism”, for a liberal Southern woman like Lillian Smith, it was the Southern white supremacist system that was ‘totalitarian’. (Sensing, 1964; Smith, 1993, p. 120).
I will now turn to a different aspect of the unity of these subject-positions.
Racial populism and southern identity
For Gramsci, the ‘Southern Question’ was one of revolutionary praxis: how a revolutionary working class in the north of Italy could unite with southern peasants in a possible hegemonic formation capable of challenging capitalism. The northern bourgeoisie had united Italy’s territories in a formation dominated by capitalism, but where feudal relations remained prevalent in the south. Northern attitudes to the south reflected the quasi-colonial relationship between the two: southerners were lazy, backward and feckless. By an obverse logic, northern workers were seen in the south as privileged, overpaid ‘lords’ involved in a dissolute urban lifestyle whose values were at variance with those obtaining in the south. The problem, then, was that the unity of the popular classes could not be taken for granted, but had to be constructed. The disaggregation of the peasantry meant that there it could not provide the unifying instance, so the task fell to a centralised and collectivised proletariat. The northern working class, to become hegemonic within a ‘system of alliances’ capable of challenging capitalism, had to incorporate the interests and perspectives of other subaltern classes and fractions. It was no mere task of co-optation: the working class had to offer a programme that would be of real benefit to its potential class allies. It was also necessary to wage cultural struggles to overcome the prejudices that disorganise the popular classes to the advantage of the hegemonic bloc. (Gramsci & Verdicchio, 2005; Santucci, 2010, pp. 101-108)
However, the question that Gramsci studied, though it produced answers that resonate beyond its own subject, was historically determinate, concerned with historically produced systems of difference thrown up in the Italian social formation in the conjuncture following unification. In studying the Deep South, and its role in the anticommunist coalition, my problem is different. The issue raised is how the combatants of anticommunism successfully disorganise popular class opposition and incorporate elements of the popular classes. The traditions of Southern populism must be considered carefully. I have suggested that racial populism in the South worked as a similar factor in the incorporation of white workers as class compromise did in the North. In fact, Southern populism possessed almost the opposite valence before its defeat to capitalist class forces in the late 19th Century. Although the movement emerged over the defence of customary rights and traditions that were under attack from capitalist forces, it swiftly gave a new cultural and political form to the intensifying class antagonisms in the rural South, and also attempted to connect these to similar experiences in the North and West. The cooperation between the Southern Farmers’ Alliance and the Knights of Labor eventually produced a platform for a populist class alliance, a common political and economic endeavour in the short-lived People’s Party. The movement foundered on its own segregated structures, and on the unresolved tensions between the conservative and radical wings which expressed class divisions between propertied farmers and tenant farmers. It ran up against the limits of its political vision, rooted in the defence of small producers which had been central to Southern politics since the American Revolution, and finally it suffered from the co-optation of significant aspects of its agenda by the Democratic Party. (Hahn, 2006)
Southern ‘racial populism’ is, by contrast, that form of political practice elaborated by the Democratic Party through the defeat of Southern populism and the development of Jim Crow. In interpreting this, I find Laclau’s concept of populism as a form of popular-democratic interpellation, working on the antagonism between the 'people' and the 'power bloc', useful – with some caveats. For Laclau, populism is a discursive, ideological phenomenon, since the ‘people’ do not exist in productive relations. Whereas class antagonisms operate at all levels of the mode of production, and relate to the fundamental conflict between the working class and the ruling class, populist interpellations work on the antagonism between the people and the power bloc. ‘Populism’ is a ‘tendentially empty signifier’, with no class connotations and thus a raw material in the waging of class struggles. In the hands of dominant classes and fractions, this permits "the presentation of popular-democratic interpellations as a synthetic-antagonistic complex with respect to the dominant ideology". This is to say, there is oppositional content to popular-democratic articulations which can be absorbed and neutralised, or the dominant classes and fractions can, when hegemony breaks down, organise the oppositional content in an antagonistic thrust to re-organise the power bloc rather than depose it. (One can think here of the New Right’s articulation of certain popular ideas in a reactionary discourse aimed at re-organising the Fordist-Keynesian bloc as a neoliberal bloc.) (Laclau, 1977; Mouzelis, 1978)
Racial populism is, for these purposes, a relatively tendentially versatile signifier in which class connotations have been displaced onto the terrain of race. But this does not merely mean the absorption of oppositional content: rather, in the Deep South, it was articulated in a “synthetic-antagonistic complex” regarding the dominant ideology of liberal nationalism. It set up white, Christian, Southern folk in counterposition to Jews, ‘Papists’, African Americans, the Federal government (at least, the institutions of the New Deal), and of course communists, whose insidious work could be located behind each of the former.
Racial populist interpellations thus produced a folkish, Southern political identity, one of the multiple identities articulated within the anticommunist carapace. Gramsci’s insight was to see in bourgeois hegemonic practices the elaboration of a unity in division: that is, Italian unity on capitalist terms meant the division of popular classes along cultural, ethnic lines. But identities do are not stable factors in politicisation. If identity is indeed a ‘politics of location’, then the political uses of a given identity are partially contingent on the location it inhabits. If the process of identification begins with the necessarily fictive narrativization of the self, this very fact that this process is fictive, that it is semi-arbitrarily sutured, means that an identity never has the unified, settled character that (some of) the advocates of ‘identity politics’ tend to claim for it, and is thus susceptible to contestation. (Hall, 2003)
The susceptibility of such identification to more or less universal, or particular, articulations has to do with its location in the social structure and the calculable interests of its bearers. Identification, after all, proceeds through the identification of others with similar values and interests. The closure of identity is, moreover, only semi-arbitrary, as it can take place along lines of real antagonism. As fields of politicisation, some identities are more potentially universal than others, to the extent that their relationship to the dominant relations of exploitation and oppression can open them to communist interpellation.
The dominant liberal nationalist register of Cold War anticommunism offers, of course, only that parochial form of universalism peculiar to empires, one which has limited appeal for the oppressed or most exploited, but which successfully interpellated the relatively better off sections of the working class. In the South, we find folkishness and particularism rather than universality on the anticommunist side. These identities, though perhaps inadequate for a would-be world hegemon, also made their claim on Americanism. Indeed, they claimed to represent the only true Americanism, the white, Christian, patriarchal America of free enterprise and Anglo-Saxon democracy which alone could withstand the solvent effects of communism. And the South was, without question, the sector of US society that favoured American expansionism more than any other, despite reservations about the incorporation of multiracial states like Hawaii into the union (which was as much anticommunist as racist, given employers’ express fears that the ILWU ran the island-state like a socialist dictatorship). (Gaughan, 1999; Ziker, 2007) The seeming paradox of Cold War hegemonic politics is that the unity and dominance of the US ruling class in the classical period of anticommunism rested on cleavages in the social formation in which it reproduced itself, while its universalism depended on its perpetuation of oppressive particularisms.
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 From the abstract to the concrete, rather than the reverse: “There are therefore two methods, one starting from the real itself, the other from abstractions. Which of these two methods is correct? 'It seems to be correct to start with the real and concrete . . . but on closer inspection it is clear that this is false.' The second method, which starts from simple abstractions in order to produce knowledge of the real in a 'thought-concrete' 'is manifestly the correct scientific method '”. (Althusser & Balibar, 1997, p. 88)
 It also obscures the reality of countersubversive politics in important ways. The concept of “black paranoia”, emerging in response to allegations of CIA involvement in drug trafficking as part of a counter-revolutionary war in Nicaragua, is in principle applicable to every accusation by black Americans of state repression, from the ‘We Charge Genocide’ petition onward. The response to ‘social hygeine’ programmes, of Tuskegee, of the racial component of COINTELPRO, and so on, is thereby reduced to a pathology of American democracy. On “black paranoia”, see (Cockburn & St Clair, 1998, pp. 63-94).
 Lest I seem to fall into an implicit apologia for Stalinism, I should make a number of things clear. First, I would include neither Trotskyist nor anarchist anti-Stalinism in the category of anticommunism, precisely because of their anticapitalist (in fact, communist) commitments. To take a more ambiguous example, Richard Wright’s repudiation of communism, culminating in a contribution to the ex-communist text The God That Failed in 1949, may be taken to identify him as an anticommunist. Yet, despite his scepticism, there continued to be a ‘residual’ communism in his approach (Gilroy, 1993, p. 148), and the nature of his political engagements (for example, his enthusiastic involvement in the Bandung Conference in 1955) continued to be determined in part by his critical approach to colonial and racial domination. Second, because I am interested in the ‘line of political demarcation’ does not mean that I am willing to efface or downgrade the importance of ideological divisions. How agents are situated by ideology has some important bearing on how they relate to the ‘line of political demarcation’. Third, of course the practical engagements of communists often fell short of any anticapitalist remit. Yet, just as for Sartre the French communist party (PCF) was the sole unifying instance capable of imparting "class-being" to French workers (Elliott, 2006, p. 9), so the US communist party (CPUSA) as the dominant force in the ‘Popular Front’ Left was plausibly perceived by its opponents as the major notable threat to American capitalism. Finally, it is of some significance that many people had excellent, plausible and pragmatic reasons to be anticommunist, if communism was taken to mean either the social relations prevalent in the USSR or the alarmingly zigzagging and secretive political strategy of the CPUSA.
 It may seem that the capitalist class has means of achieving class-wide unity outwith the state in the form of interlocking directorates and business lobbying (‘collective capital’), (Useem, 1984), but in fact such unity tends to be remarkably narrow, produced among fractions of class fractions, and as a result even this limited unity is realised through the state.
 As a definition of the capitalist state, this would certainly seem to collapse into structural-functionalism, as Poulantzas’ critics often suggest. As a specification of a particular role that the capitalist state must fulfil if there is to be a unified power bloc, however, and re-stated as an historical outcome rather than as a constitutive feature of statehood (as Poulantzas does in State, Power, Socialism), this argument is compatible with the ‘strategic-relational’ approach to the capitalist state which treats the state as a condensation of existing social relationships, a strategic field of contestation. However, it also involves re-phrasing the relationship between the economic, political and ideological as one of dimensions of a contradictory unity, rather than as one between distinct structures, a step which I agree with. (Poulantzas, 2000; Bretthauer, 2011, p. 77; Jessop, 2007; Jessop, 1985, p. 159)
 These thumbnail comparisons are intended to be informative. They provide points of contrast and convergence through which some of the dimensions of the problem can emerge, disclosing a possible relationship between a particular ensemble of factors: a racial caste system with origins in a colonial form of governance; a relatively advanced state of capitalist development; and anticommunism as a form of praxis for the management of turbulent labour systems, complementary to the caste system. As importantly, however, they should form a prophylaxis against the temptation toward ‘American exceptionalism’. (On the debates over ‘exceptionalism’, see Archer, 2007) The idea of a specific American sonderweg predicated on the absence of feudal remnants, relative prosperity and early suffrage (for white males) implies a set of international norms from which the US deviated. In fact, both South Africa and Australia shared many of the characteristics supposed to make the US ‘exceptional’.
 A Mississippian comments on the introduction of Jim Crow laws to the state. Quoted, (Wood, 1986, p. 118)
 Quoted in (Wilson, 2000, p. 108)
 Marx’s own approach would tend to reinforce this argument: “Direct slavery is as much the pivot upon which our present-day industrialism turns as are machinery, credit, etc. Without slavery there would be no cotton, without cotton there would be no modern industry. It is slavery which has given value to the colonies, it is the colonies which have created world trade, and world trade is the necessary condition for large-scale machine industry.” Karl Marx, ‘Letter from Marx to Pavel Vasilyevich Annenkov’,
 “All these factions of the party of Order, each of which has its own king and its own restoration in petto [secretly], mutually enforce, as against their rivals' hankering for usurpation and revolt, the common rule of the bourgeoisie, the form in which the special claims remain neutralized and reserved the republic. Just as Kant makes the republic, so these royalists make the monarchy the only rational form of state, a postulate of practical reason whose realization is never attained, but whose attainment must always be striven for and mentally adhered to as the goal. Thus the constitutional republic had gone forth from the hands of the bourgeois republicans as a hollow ideological formula to become a form full of content and life in the hands of the royalists in coalition. And Thiers spoke more truly than he suspects when he said: "We, the royalists, are the true pillars of the constitutional republic."” Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France.
 Gramsci’s concern with language arose from a concrete set of experiences – in particular, the standardization of the Italian language that was so fundamental to creation of an Italian nation-state. Gramsci spoke the Sardinian dialect as a first language. Those driving Italian unification were based in the relatively wealthy and powerful north, and sought to create a language based on the Tuscan dialect, spoken by educated members of the nation. The over-riding of local dialects was inextricable from the subordination of Sardinia and the south of Italy in general to the needs of northern industrial capital. This was what was meant by ‘making Italians’.
 The concept of the ‘tendentially empty signifier’ is conjoined with an argument that political signifiers have necessarily no ‘class connotation’, and presages the discursive turn taken by Laclau in later years. This rests, in my view, on an inappropriate extrapolation from the althusserian principle of the ‘relative autonomy’ of political and ideological instances from the economic. The tendency is for post-althusserians to make an implicit elision between no necessary correspondence between political alignments and class forces, and necessarily no correspondence between political alignments and class forces. Paul Hirst made this strange inference explicit: “the notion of relative autonomy is untenable. Once any degree of autonomous action is accorded to political forces as means of representation vis-à-vis classes of economic agents, then there is no necessary correspondence between the forces that appear in the political (and what they 'represent') and economic classes. It is not simply a question of discrepancy (the political means 'represent' the class more or less accurately) but of necessary non-correspondence.” (Quoted Wood, 1986, p. 81)
 There is also that lineage of antitotalitarians who claim to be unable to distinguish between fascism and communism, yet in practice tend to choose the former - which we can trace from, for example, John Spargo (who did not admire fascism, but preferred the victory of Franco in Spain to a success for the USSR in Europe) to Jeane Kirkpatrick, for whom authoritarian right-wing dictatorship was always preferable to democracy where communists might gain power.
 I have already explained my reservations about just how ‘empty’ a signifier is, and that I prefer to speak of the relative tendential versatility of signifiers (this seems to me an obviously advantageous approach when dealing with signifiers such as ‘race’, which of necessity are not neutral in class struggles). I will now also second Mouzelis’ criticism that Laclau’s approach acknowledges the role of political organisation in the actualisation of populist strategies without dealing with it in any concrete way, and without theorising it.
Labels: althusser, anticommunism, articulation of modes of production, capitalism, cold war, deep south, gramsci, hegemony, jim crow, mode of production, poulantzas, racism, us politics, us ruling class