Good-Bye, Noel

I met Noel Ignatiev sometime in 2001. Loren Goldner, whom I met in 2000, had turned me on to Race Traitor, the journal John Garvey and Noel had founded. I was fascinated. I never knew white folks like these.

I achieved consciousness in the stew of vague Afrocentricity and cultural nationalism swirling about in the late 1980s and early 1990s, after growing up in an evangelical household. I knew something was wrong with the cultural nationalist stream and black nationalism in general, but I couldn’t figure it out. When I got to college that was literally the only black consciousness I encountered. I couldn’t fight it, so I didn’t, and I entered politics from the right of center, as a sort of farcical nationalist, with my Farrakhan tapes and everything. I could fight my Christianity, though, so I found Marx’s and Engels’s critique of religion, and this led me into the rest of the European radical tradition.

Which is why I couldn’t understand Race Traitor at first. I was stunned that white people could be so critical of racism, first of all. I had only ever heard liberals and “progressives” speak of such matters. It took me a while, but then it finally clicked. Race Traitor was a communist project, just like Italian operaismo, and with exactly the same emphasis on how the working class is composed historically.

We wrote one another occasionally over the years, and I wrote a couple of things for Race Traitor and Hard Crackers, but I wish I had been closer to Noel. I considered him a friend, and I admired his work and enjoyed our meetings in person. He was charismatic and funny, and possessed a deadly combative intellect, which I admire greatly. He was simply fun to be around.

But I am most grateful to him for Race Traitor. His work there literally unified my intellect, by putting flesh on the bones of all the radical theory and simultaneously illuminating American history. American racism is extremely strange, overwhelming, distorting, and perhaps unique, but it is also, of course, class struggle. Noel helped me to understand.

Add Your Comments

Your email is never published nor shared.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <ol> <ul> <li> <strong>