I finally got around to reading it. It is an interesting book with some major flaws and a conclusion I do not agree with. Anyway, here are my thoughts.
There are many problems with Sakai's analysis. The most glaring is his treatment of the CIO and IWW which are either blantantly wrong, totally unsupported or supported by only the the most flimsy statistics and misquotes. His idea that the IWW wanted only white worker unity makes no real sense given their steadfast commitment to multi-racial, cross border unionism even during the insane xenophobia or WW1. If they had wanted white worker unity, I am unsure why they even formed an industrial union. Craft unions would have been much more sucessful for that purpose.
Sakai alleges that the CIO was fundamentally racist and settleristic and that they really only wanted to use black workers. The actual evidence for this is extremely thin on the ground and Sakai makes multiple assertions with no real support, such as saying that black workers were drafted into the CIO, which simply has no evidence of ever happening.
Sakai is sloppy to dismiss the historical instances of multi-racial class struggle, albeit in an embryonic form, with the CIO and IWW. He also leans too heavily into the "nations" model of understanding racial oppression, framing all racial conflicts as a simple National Liberation struggle, which leads him to bizarre places in his analysis and seems to misunderstand that while you can certainly think about a "Black Nation", the white worker and the black worker live in the same interconnected society.
Sakai is quick to dismiss analysis of racism that relies on false consciousness explanations, but yet the "materialist" alternative that Sakai proposes is flimsy. He spends a great deal of the book talking about the wealth and privilege of white workers, setting you up to believe that all of them are simply net-exploiters who quite simply, do not have an interest in socialism as they are more like bourgeois profiting from the workers below them than exploited proletarians. They are not exhibiting false consciousness, they are fully conscious of their Settler class and are acting upon it.
Sakai has to believe this, or else his analysis makes no sense. If white workers are exploited, then they have an interest in socialism and the argument becomes the same as Ted Allen or Noel Ignatiev, that the White Supremacist ruling class has given then privilege but their material interests fundamentally still aligns with Socialism. But how can Sakai think that all white workers are labor aristocrats? By sheer statistics, if he thinks that nearly all blacks are proletarian, then surely there are whites that are as poor, perhaps even working the same jobs as these black proletarians.
And Sakai is willing to admit this. He does so tactically near the end of the book when he describes Appalachian whites and clearly notes that they are being ripped off, and explicitly states that they are exploited, though they lack class consciousness. So here it is, Sakai has fallen back into something closer to the false consciousness stance. If they are exploited, then surely their interests lie in Socialism, but instead of looking at this, Sakai makes a strange point about Settler culture without explaining why these whites, objectively, are not being fooled and have an interest, if only white society could be cracked open, that follows with the colonized proletariat.
In his later works where he discusses the "de-settlerization", Sakai again tactically notes that a growing percentage of whites are exploited, but simply brushes off the notion of this leading to any revolutionary potential, despite this simple fact undercutting the entire materialistic analysis and reducing it to a petty analysis of some insurmountable white culture that keeps these whites, despite being objectively exploited even according to Sakai, from ever siding with the colonized proletariat. He simply calls the white working class reactionary and backwards facing and leaves it at that. He is no longer a fierce materialist pointing out of the facts of the exploitative parasitic labor aristocracy, he is reduced to a cynic.
Settlers is a dead end. For the black radical it promotes an extremely stunted practice that would have no good function in the increasingly diverse inner ring suburbs that house the modern working class. It is difficult to imagine how one would organize a multi-racial workplace if they thought whites should never be organized. For the white radical who wishes to crack open white society along its class lines, Settlers obscures the contradictions within white society.
Message too long. Click
to view full text.
332 posts and 45 images omitted.