Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism (RT)

Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism (RT)


* Founded by the communist Noel Ignatiev
* Sought to eradicate “white skin privilege” from society
* Viewed capitalism as a root cause of racism and white supremacy
* Ceased publication in 2005

A periodical that was established in 1992, Race Traitor: Journal of the New Abolitionism (RT) was guided by the core belief that “treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.” Defining the white race as “a historically constructed social formation” consisting of “all those who partake of the privileges” associated with being white, RT lamented that “white influence permeates every issue, domestic and foreign, in U.S. society.” To address this situation, RT held that “the key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race, which means no more and no less than abolishing the privileges of the white skin.” This does “not mean we want to exterminate people with fair skin,” RT emphasized, but rather “that we want to do away with the social meaning of skin color, thereby abolishing the white race as a social category.” Such a perspective was akin, said RT, to rejecting the legitimacy of any privileges associated with royalty, while not “wanting to kill the king.” “Whiteness has a lot in common with royalty,” RT elaborated. “They are both social formations that carry unearned advantages.”

RT aimed “to serve as an intellectual center” for likeminded individuals, or “abolitionists,” who shared the worldview and objectives summarized above. Toward that end, the publication sought “to challenge, disrupt and eventually overturn the institutions and behavior patterns that reproduce the privileges of whiteness, including the schools, job and housing markets, and the criminal justice system.” By RT’s reckoning, abolitionists by definition “do not limit themselves to socially acceptable means of protest,” and they “reject in advance no [potential] means of attaining their goal.”

RT co-founder and co-editor Noel Ignatiev joined the Communist Party USA in January 1958 under the name Noel Ignatin, but left the party soon thereafter to help establish the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reconstitute the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. He subsequently became involved in the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s. When that group later dissolved, Ignatiev joined the New Communist Movement and helped form the Sojourner Truth Organization in 1970.

Ignatiev contends that “the United States, like every capitalist society, is composed of masters and slaves.” The latter are not only blacks, he says, but poor people of all colors who are exploited by wealthy whites. By Ignatiev’s telling, RT and its abolitionists “attac[ked] whiteness” not only for the purpose of advancing racial justice, but also “to undermine the main pillar of capitalist rule in this country.” The ultimate “aim” of abolitionism, he acknowledges, “is not racial harmony but class war” that will result in capitalism’s demise and socialism’s ascendancy.

Viewing the white race as morally defective and in need of wholesale transformation, Ignatiev maintains that “white people must commit suicide as whites in order to come alive as workers, or youth, or women, or whatever other identity can induce them to change from the miserable, petulant, subordinated creatures they now are into freely associated, fully developed human subjects.”

“The white race is a club,” says Ignatiev. “Certain people are enrolled in it at birth, without their consent, and brought up according to its rules. For the most part they go through life accepting the privileges of membership, without reflecting on the costs.”

Ignatiev contends that police brutality against African Americans stems from the fact that “the cops look at a person and then decide on the basis of color whether that person is loyal to the system they are sworn to serve and protect. They don’t stop to think if the black person whose head they are whipping is an enemy; they assume it.”

RT, which ceased publication in 2005, was endorsed by the late Professor Derrick Bell, the founder of critical race theory.

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