For sixty years, Noel Ignatiev provided an unflinching account of “whiteness” — a social fiction and an unmitigated disaster for all working-class people. This new essay collection from the late firebrand covers the breadth of his life and insights as an autodidact steel worker, a groundbreaking theoretician, and a bitter enemy of racists everywhere.
In these essays, Ignatiev confronts the Weather Underground and recounts which strategies proved most effective to winning white workers in Gary, Indiana, to black liberation. He discovers the prescient political insights of the nineteenth-century abolition movement, surveys the wreckage of the revolutionary twentieth century with C.L.R. James, and attends to the thorny and contradictory nature of working-class consciousness. Through it all, our attentions are turned to the everyday life of “ordinary” people, whose actions anticipate a wholly new society they have not yet recognized or named.
In short, Ignatiev reflects on the incisive questions of his time and ours: How can we drive back the forces of racism in society? How can the so-called “white” working class be won over to emancipatory politics? How can we build a new human community?