Category Archives: Sojourner Truth Organization

Points for Discussion on Race in the United States from Noel Ignatiev

After a recent discussion and debate with the NYC local, we asked Noel Ignatiev (formerly of Sojourner Truth Organization and the journal Race Traitor) to clarify some of his theses on the status of race in the US on the eve of the Ferguson grand jury decision. We hope Noel’s position can serve as a prompt for a reinvigorated and principled discussion, grounded in US history and our understanding of Marx.

While the present moment is unique, we hope to understand the activities of the class today as part of an unfolding of the broader history of struggles against white supremacy and capitalism. If you are interested in responding to this piece at length please get in touch with us.

Noel’s piece is also one in a series of posts dealing with the wave of protest sweeping the United States following the police murder of Mike Brown and Eric Garner. Other posts in this series include: 5 Way To Build a Movement after Ferguson, Burn Down the Prison: Race, Property, and the Ferguson Rebellion, Turn Up Htown: Reflections on Nov 25 Day of Action, and The Old Mole Breaks Concrete: The Ongoing Rupture in New York City, .


 

Noel Ignatiev: Capital is race-blind; the capitalist mode of production (cmp) tends to reduce all human beings to abstract, undifferentiated, homogenous labor power. However, the pure cmp exists nowhere; all existing societies, including those in which the cmp prevails, contain elements left over from the past as well as elements that are the product of the political intervention of various groups.

Racial oppression is not universal to capital. Four places developed historically on the basis of racial oppression: the U.S., South Africa, Ireland, and Palestine.

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Communism is the Ascension of Humanity as the Subject of History: A Critique of Althusser and the Affirmation of Marx

(By Gussel Sprouts)

“Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.” (Marx)

If we are to affirm the ideology of Marx, and the Marxist understanding of not only communism, but its relationship to humanity, we can only begin so by understanding his thoughts on ideology and of his break with Feuerbach, and what this means for the relationships of subjects/objects. Louis Althusser, the philosopher who said “structures don’t take to the streets” as he turned his nose up at the students protesting in May ’68, disingenuously knew or cared little for the ideas of Marx and the ways they were distinct from the other thinkers of his time. At other times, he was willfully and honestly ignorant, but it is important to understand that Althusser’s thought is largely contradictory in a logistical sense (he was inconsistent in his breaks/agreements with Marx) but also in a sense that he produced thought which was fundamentally anti-Marxist.

Our critique of Althusser must go even further here than that of his misunderstanding of Marx, but what he builds on with such a conclusion, parallels can be seen in ideological apparatuses already in historical existence and the present moment, to which we can conclude that the ideological and cultural apparatus, the real movement to abolish the present state of things is not one of ideas, nor ideological “structures”. Capital has already reached an unprecedented level of totality, a certain subsumption of the Real by an irreconcilable “big Other” (1). Althusser would have all of this for what he calls “socialism”. We have seen this already in the history of existing socialisms, while originally hiding the ill-informed and possibly disingenuous veil of being “the first Left-wing critique of Stalinism”.

The first few sections are to provide contexts of Althusser (and therefore his thought) with that of Marx, revolutionaries of his time, and his politics in the Communist Party of France. After such, we will venture into Althusser’s ideas themselves. We will find that we do not require a deep understanding of Structuralism (or the sociological and Freudian undertones in his thought) to see that Althusser’s thought is irreconcilable with that of Marx.

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Reflections on Truth and Revolution: A History of Sojourner Truth Organization 1969-1986

by Eve Mitchell, originally posted on We’re Hir We’re Queer here.

I recently finished reading Michael Staudenmaier’s Truth and Revolution:  A History of Sojourner Truth Organization 1969-1986.  Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) was a majority white revolutionary group that worked closely with Black Nationalist and Black Power groups to build autonomist workplace, community, identity- and issue-based organizations.  They are most known for their theoretical contributions including the white skin privilege analysis and theory of dual consciousness.  Perhaps their most well-known writing (which was originally a speech) is “Black Worker, White Worker,” which describes their approach in building militant, fighting groups that organize on the demands of the most oppressed layers of the class.  Concretely, in their time and in the spaces they organized, that meant the Black proletarian.

Staudenmaier_TruthHowever, as Truth and Revolution describes, STO was involved in many forms of struggle including the early anti-nuke movement, the women’s liberation movement, some immigrant defense work, among other things.  The sheer amount of work they accomplished with very few people and resources in the span of a 17 years is extremely impressive.  This post will discuss some other reflections I have on their work.  These reflections are relevant to me in this stage of my organizing and experience, having recently moved to New York City and attempted to help build the Florence Johnston Collective (aka Flo Jo), a group that organizes within and across feminized workplaces, alongside working to build Unity and Struggle, a small, national, left communist grouping for the last five years.(1)  Obviously both of these tasks have been carried out in an extremely low movement time, in the wake of some interesting struggle globally and some upticks nationally and regionally.  My comments may not reflect some of the broader lessons to be learned from STO; I recommend checking out Truth and Revolution itself to extract those.

1. Privilege Theory and STO’s Race Politics.

Elsewhere I have written substantial critiques of how today’s activists and the Left use privilege theory and identity politics.  While I think this is qualitatively different from how STO used them, I agree with Staudenmaier when he writes that STO must bear some of the responsibility for how this theory continues to be applied.

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