Roediger and Ignatiev

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Nate
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Jun 26 2007 14:55
Roediger and Ignatiev

I recently read the book Wages Of Whiteness by Dave Roediger and How The Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev. Anyone read these? What did you think? I'm having trouble making up my mind.

booeyschewy
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Jun 26 2007 15:54

btr really likes them....

i don't know they sound interesting. haven't read them though. could be good?

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Jun 26 2007 16:32

Wages of Whiteness is pretty stupendous. It kind of looks at the way subjective class-formation played out in the US, with a constructed "blackness" (dependent, enviably/pitifully preindustrial, etc) used as a foil to the development of working class identity, thus fusing it with whiteness. It really changes the way I thought about race and class and made me reread the Race Traitor position. I still have no idea how that analysis helps in terms of practice though. That was the big weakness of RT.

I haven't read that Ignatiev book partly because I'm always so irritated by people citing it as some kind of great proof that race is constructed. No shit race is constructed, but isn't the relevance of that history the fact that 19th century Irish immigrants to the US put in a long-term concerted effort to claw their way into "white" America by selling out and fucking over their black fellow workers? "Well guess what, my ancestors weren't even considered white!" Shut the fuck up, I'm sure some of my ancestors were scabs, mercenaries and Indian killers too, but I wouldn't brag about it.

What I'm interested in reading next in this genre is the Ted Allen books and the Roediger follow-up (Working Toward Whiteness, I think).

Have you read Black Reconstruction In America?

petey
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Jun 26 2007 16:37

i read "how the irish..." and what i saw was one example, not necessarily generalizable.

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Jun 26 2007 16:45

Yeah, this is why the Roediger books are interesting, they look at a lot of examples. Supposedly the Allen books are like this mega opus.

Terry
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Jun 26 2007 22:01

I read 'How the Irish became white' years and years ago....I was very much not impressed. Not by the argument in the book, but I expected some kinda y'know new information in it...as I remember it seems that the Irish got shat upon when they landed in North America..and later crept up the ladder while putting the boot into the blacks...didn't seem to be saying much more than this...and isn't that well known? Maybe I missed somekinda American-specific point to it.

I'm vaguely interested in matters of the interelationship between race and class in the United States, but not to the extent of tracking all this material down myself, so if folk have further pointers as to what to read I'd appreciate them.

Yer man what wrote 'how the irish became white' also wrote 'an autonomist political history of the us' - which is on the Class against Class site..indeed I think his group Sojourner Truth Organisation have all their material archived on the web somewhere....they were close to 'Revolutionary Struggle', an Irish group of eclectic politics.

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Jun 26 2007 22:40

The piece Terry mentioned is here - http://www.sojournertruth.net/introus.html and there's an archive of other STO stuff here - http://www.sojournertruth.net/main.html. The archive includes other stuff on this subject, including a debate with Staughton Lynd and a collection of stuff on white supremacy and how to fight it. I'm told that Lynd criticizes Roediger and Ignatiev in his book on the Lucasville prison uprising, but I haven't read that so I can't really speak to it.

I read the 'autonomist history of the US' thing this weekend, keen to hear what folk make of that too. The main thing I wonder about is what to do with all this stuff, it's relevance to practice as MJ mentioned. I've read the short book about Love and Rage, I forget the name, the San Filippo book, it didn't seem to me that this sort of stuff helped L&R have any kind of viable practice.

MJ, any recommendations on intros to Race Traitor? I've got v1 of the Ted Allen book out of the library, I'm gonna start it in a week or two, definitely interested to talk about it if you want. I've not read Black Reconstruction yet.

Terry
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Jun 26 2007 22:58

During the first part of the C19th Irish rural labourers (both agricultural and in some small scale industries) would organise to keep out migrants from others parts of Ireland * , it seems to me this practise was brought across the water and applied to blacks and later Chinese.

* Funnily enough those migrants were called spalpeens, and there is now a band in Baltimore named after them.

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Jun 27 2007 03:47

Dunno about where to start with Race Traitor. I suddenly have 80% of the issues though! There's a couple things in there that surprised me including one long piece I might actually type up and post here if I ever get an uninterrupted block of time sometime soon. I think they were talking past most of their readers (both fans and detractors), but that's kind of inevitable when you're pushing an interesting analysis of a massive and complex historical process behind a handful of leftist slogans.

Terry wrote:
I read 'How the Irish became white' years and years ago....I was very much not impressed. Not by the argument in the book, but I expected some kinda y'know new information in it...as I remember it seems that the Irish got shat upon when they landed in North America..and later crept up the ladder while putting the boot into the blacks...didn't seem to be saying much more than this...and isn't that well known?

Sounds about right

Terry wrote:
I'm vaguely interested in matters of the interelationship between race and class in the United States, but not to the extent of tracking all this material down myself, so if folk have further pointers as to what to read I'd appreciate them.

I thought Wages of Whiteness was much, much more interesting.

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Jun 27 2007 05:44

80% is insufficient MJ. You're either 100% race traitor or 0%.

How does that compare with your percentage of Radical America back issues?

sphinx
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Jun 27 2007 12:21

I've always thought race traitor was massively underrated and too easily mixed in with the 'privilege' liberal position. I would also say that defining a race traitor praxis too definitely would miss the point, which was to sharpen the class struggle. I thought this article had good insights in the right direction and wasn't afraid to point out what was going unsaid: http://www.infoshop.org/rants/corpse_last.html
The same author runs a blog here that I read pretty often:

http://phoenixinsurgent.blogspot.com/

(I could do without the military theme)

Man, RT should really up every article onto their website if they're not doing issues anymore.

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Jun 27 2007 12:21

Oh well we've only got 71% of those. The ones we're missing are evenly split pre-1975 and post-1986.

*cough*

petey
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Jun 27 2007 16:52
Quote:
any recommendations on intros to Race Traitor?

there's a collection of race traitor articles, a sort of "best of" race traitor:
http://www.amazon.com/Race-Traitor-Noel-Ignatiev/dp/0415913934

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Jun 27 2007 23:10
sphinx wrote:
defining a race traitor praxis too definitely would miss the point, which was to sharpen the class struggle.

Sphinx, how about starting with defining some not-too-definite race traitor praxis? I'm kind of at a loss about what to do with any of this.

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Jun 28 2007 01:26
Terry wrote:
'Revolutionary Struggle', an Irish group of eclectic politics.

grin

Terry
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Jun 28 2007 10:51

Why the smiley? As far as I know they did some good theoritical work on ecology, and were quite involved in a number of important environmental struggles, considerably in advance of much of the left in Ireland of that period.....and possibly of now also......they were also big into republicanism and euro-terrorism...which is pretty shit.

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Jun 29 2007 16:04

Is RS the group that put out the journal 'Ripening of the Time'?

sphinx
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Jun 29 2007 17:29

Nate,

There was at least the proposal by BTR and others of forming copwatches which brought working class people together in order to chronicle and stop the violence of the police. Phoenix's copwatch seemed particularly active when I stopped by. Copwatch is at least an interesting venue for building solidarity where there is a problematic 'color line' in the class composition. Phoenix is a perfect example, being a tech center that serves as a bridging point for immigrants from Mexico, Central America etc. The jails there are overflowing (literally) with imprisoned immigrants and the city sheriff essentially has his own private paramilitary. In a class composition like this, copwatch is a good place to start.

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Jun 29 2007 17:42

I'd actually be interested in whether any bigger picture is emerging about under what conditions a copwatch-style project is more or less likely to be successful. Is Phoenix the only successful one so far? (Is it still considered successful?)

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Jun 29 2007 17:45
Terry wrote:
Why the smiley? As far as I know they did some good theoritical work on ecology, and were quite involved in a number of important environmental struggles, considerably in advance of much of the left in Ireland of that period.....and possibly of now also......they were also big into republicanism and euro-terrorism...which is pretty shit.

Because that is *ahem* eclectic.

They also, according to grandaddy anarchy, through molotovs over the crowd at some carnsore point demo. So insofar as they were involved in a number of important environmental struggles, an evaluation of their involvement might be eclectic.

That said you know i love the autonomism so the few copies of theirs I've seen I've liked. Of looney left groups they are my favourite, as in I could imagine having joined them if they were around when I was 18 or so.

And yeah Nate as far as i know they were the ones who published that.

sphinx
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Jun 29 2007 17:52

Not sure to what extent Phoenix copwatch is still going. Might contact PI at the link above. When I was back in LA I heard good things about LA copwatch if I'm not mistaken.

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Jun 29 2007 20:38

Thanks George. I've got the issue with all the stuff about Italy, pro- red brigades and all that. It's actually good reading despite what I thought were crap politics. Any other issues of that that are any good?

Cop watch is just fine. I would argue that workplace organizing can have the same kind of "bringing people together" effect, but this isn't an either/or and it's off topic.

This isn't meant to be hostile, but I still don't see what the race traitor things adds about practice here. What I don't get is how copwatch (any more than workplace organizing) is a race traitor/ anti-white privilege practice. If anything, copwatch, like what I've heard about noborders stuff in europe, is an attempt to address the mechanisms for policing and holding down specific (and not usually white) sections of the working class. That's great, especially if it works, but one doesn't have to buy any of the white privilege/race traitor stuff - there are a number of viewpoints from which to recommend that kind of activity.

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Jun 29 2007 20:46
Nate wrote:
Thanks George. I've got the issue with all the stuff about Italy, pro- red brigades and all that. It's actually good reading despite what I thought were crap politics. Any other issues of that that are any good?

I dunno, everything they published was in my college library. The only stuff I've read by them is what I read there. They did a bit of 'workers enquiry' so there are some interesting inteviews with workers in various industries in ireland in the 1980s.

Terry
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Jun 30 2007 00:25
Quote:
"I read the 'autonomist history of the US' thing this weekend, keen to hear what folk make of that too."

I've re-read it. I'm coming from a perspective of not having read up on theories of race and class in the United States, or knowing anything much about reconstruction and slavery (i'm much better versed on civil rights, black power, and environmental justice)...from that perspective it is an interesting and plausible argument he makes. However there are worringly crazy things mixed in with it...like claiming there has been as much social reform in the U.S. as in West European social democracies...and like this opening passage:

Quote:
STO wrote:
"What would the United States be like without black people? The answer to this question can be found by considering a country like Canada, which resembles the U.S. in many ways - a vast area of great natural resources, sparsely settled by native peoples before European colonization. Canada differs from the U.S. in only one significant particular - it was never given over to African slavery, nor was it ever implicated in the slave trade. And this particular is at bottom responsible for the difference between one country which has dominated world politics throughout this entire century and today constitutes the biggest exploiter of peoples on a world scale, and another whose impact on world affairs has been far more limited. "

Like wtf?!!? this guy has never heard of the British Commonwealth and Empire?!??! ...when I read things like that it makes me think that maybe I find his other stuff plausible only because he is writing about things I know little of.

Also it takes a real 'crisis of leadership' line in regard to reconstruction and the railway strikes and them not linking up...if only there was a wee group there with the right political perspective (ie STO got set up 100 years earlier) .... roll eyes ...that is a fairly minor point in regard to his overall perspective but that kinda lame 'anaylsis' is very prevalent on the left and annoyes me (though sometimes it can hold some truth).

More to the point he ends up with making a distinction between left groups that take a one multi-ethnic movement/organisation line and groups that take a line supporting black (or whatever) autonomy....(though earlier the CPUSA and the IWW are praised for being multi-ethnic in an earlier historical context).

I'm not sure that makes sense. I'm not sure organising under a 'people of colour' umbrella is a good idea.

Reading about the environmental justice and toxics movements...it is striking that black people had a collective tradition of struggle and awareness to draw upon when faced with local pollution.....much much more so than whites, who were often starting from scratch...seems to me that a 'people of colour' approach excludes the very folk in most need of being hooked up with coalitions and alliances.

Also I have seen the point being made that a movement never really took off around disproportionate environmental risks on the heads of low income people (despite this being well documented prior to similar on racial grounds) because there wasn't a prior existing movement and 'framing' around that...whereas with the racial aspect of disproportionate environmental risks, struggles in that context were able to tune into the agenda of the civil rights struggle and link up with civil rights networks.

Another way of looking at it would be that race you are born with whereas 'low income' is your own fault....so there is a greater injustice with the disproportionate environmental risks on racial lines...viewed from the prism of the official American ideology (for want of a better term) that is.

Strikes me that .... and Ignatiev makes a similar point ....that the ethnic minorities in the US...the blacks and Hispanics anyways..are in the vanguard of the class in that country. Therefore they need to be leading the way rather than just having the particular focus on 'people of colour', a particular focus which has greater resonance for many material, cultural and historical reasons, but which, nonetheless, isn't gonna change American society, because whites are in the majority.

But then I'm a Euro class reductionist.

George great to hear that all the RS material is available in Trinity....I had thought it only available in the Linenhall Collection which only seems to be in Belfast and Galway...can you PM the details as to where it is...as I cannot find it in the Trinity on-line catalogue...I presume it is in some special collection?

Also can someone give me a link to Amazon for the Ted Allen person folk are talking about the only Ted Allen books I find are cookbooks.

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Jun 30 2007 04:20

"theodore" allen

Terry
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Jul 1 2007 13:44

George I've found their material in the library catalogue by searching by title rather than publisher/organisation....do you know of anything they published other than 'Rebel' and 'The Ripening of Time'.

BTW I'm pretty sure the infamous petrol bombing incident took place at hunger strike rally not a Carnsore one.

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Jul 3 2007 18:43
Terry wrote:
George I've found their material in the library catalogue by searching by title rather than publisher/organisation....do you know of anything they published other than 'Rebel' and 'The Ripening of Time'.

Fuck, I went looking for this about 2 and 1/2 years ago. If I went looking again I might find it. But yeah you are right they are filed in a strange way. There is also some stuff by Big Flame and Red Notes, 2 british autonomist outfits but again they are filed in strange ways.

Quote:
BTW I'm pretty sure the infamous petrol bombing incident took place at hunger strike rally not a Carnsore one.

I'll ask grandaddy anarchy. I think he was there.

Black Flag
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Jul 4 2007 19:18

American Jews shat on the blacks in the sixties, does this mean we should forget about the holacaust or put it down as irelevant.It is a fact that the irish were treated just the same as black slaves and they have every right to be pissed off about it.What do you expect them to feel?Gratitude?

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Jul 4 2007 20:20

Whoops watch your knees, they've missed the point and seem to be jerking

pgh2a
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Jul 8 2007 09:48
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American Jews shat on the blacks in the sixties

That's a pretty broad statement. Care to elaborate?

Black Flag
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Jul 11 2007 15:23

Read The Holacaust Industry by Norman Finkelstein.