This issue of Hard Crackers
ISSUE ONE SPRING 2016
The publication you hold in your hand grew out of discussions among people who had been involved with the journal Race Traitor.¹ Although they decided not to revive the journal, virtually every article in this issue of Hard Crackers deals directly or indirectly with race—no surprise, since race remains a major concern in the U.S. At the present time, a great deal of academic and social media discourse is focused on scrutinizing every inter-personal encounter between black people and whites to unearth “racist” attitudes and guide people in “unlearning” them, or taking legal action to prevent them. Hard Crackers has little in common with that approach, not because we deny the existence of the problem but because we think addressing it that way is largely useless and misses the point.
The Civil War began, as Frederick Douglass pointed out, with both sides fighting for slavery—the south to take it out of the Union, the north to keep it in. The south’s aim in seceding was to extend slavery into the territories owned by the U.S. that had not yet been constituted as states—nearly the entire west and southwest—and to dedicate the Union explicitly to expanding slavery into territories not yet conquered—Mexico, Central America, Cuba and ultimately Brazil—with the aim of establishing a hemispheric slave republic like ancient Rome.
The north sought to confine slavery to those places where it already existed, excluding slavery (and free black people) from new territory. It cannot be overstressed: Neither side in the conflict was less committed to white supremacy than the other. Yet within two years, what had begun as a battle over states’ rights and union was transformed into a revolutionary war to abolish slavery.
What brought about the change? It was not the success of the Abolitionists in winning people to renounce race prejudice but the fact that the War confronted millions of people with a choice: turn it into an antislavery war, or accept the domination of the southern system everywhere—and that they could not do. And so northern farmers and mechanics who had never dreamed of going to war to free others—human beings rarely do such things—joined free black people and former slaves in a great army and marched across the land singing the noblest war song of the ages, “As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.” Southern non-slaveholding whites played an important part in bringing about the downfall of the Confederacy, resisting the draft, deserting the army in large numbers and joining the general strike of white and black labor. The alliance between those who owned thousands of acres and hundreds of people and those who eked out a hardscrabble existence on the poorest land was unstable and could not endure.²
The Civil War brought about, in addition to the overthrow of a reactionary social system, the most profound and sustained progress in human relations the country has experienced.³ For our part, we look forward to a new civil war, an occurrence foreshadowed by the sales records for firearms set by people who are showing through their actions that they do not expect to resolve the present contradictions peacefully. It is possible that civil war would follow the breakup of the two-party system, as happened the last time. In any case, Hard Crackers thinks that “racism” will do a great deal of mischief before it is done away with, but that the alliance between a real-estate tycoon and people who live in shacks and trailer parks is unstable and cannot endure. Civil war will make that clear.
We want Hard Crackers to be a place where black people can express their bitterness at the prolonged mistreatment they have suffered at the hands of whites, and where the resentment on the part of many whites at being blamed for a history they do not think is their fault can also be heard. In this way we believe we will make our greatest contribution to finding a way out of the mess we are all in.
Future issues of this publication will focus on various themes from daily life, including domestic relations, schools, prisons, and jobs. Its contents will depend on the responses of readers.
¹ Race Traitor published sixteen issues between 1993 and 2005. Its motto was “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity,” and its goal was to abolish the white race, that is, to do away with the privileges (and burdens) of the white skin. Back copies are available for $5 each through this journal. A collection of articles from the first five issues won an American Book Award. It is available on amazon. Some articles are on line at www.racetraitor.org.
² The resistance of southern whites to the slaveholders is the hidden history of the Civil War. Among the books that tell the story is Bitterly Divided: the South’s Inner Civil War, by David Williams. A new film is about to be released, “The Free State of Jones,” starring Matthew McConaughey, about one of the most dramatic episodes. The trailer is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EMkxEKKSQI
³ Seizing Freedom: Slave Emancipation and Liberty for All, by David Roediger, provides a survey of the advances in popular movements resulting from the Civil War and Reconstruction.