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Showing posts from January, 2011

The Immanence of Monolithic Capitalism

Recently the students in one of the classes I teach had to watch Justice at Nuremberg  and use it, in their essay assignments, as a method of discussing legal theory.  Since the course curriculum did not present this movie in a proper historical context, using it mainly as a way to explain competing schools of the philosophy of law, my students, at least according to most of their papers, treated it like an objective historical document about fascism and America as "anti-fascist."  After reading fifty papers discussing this film, I was again struck with the realization that current North American and European ideology about World War 2 prevents a concrete understanding of fascism.  Movies like Justice at Nuremberg , and other films that treat the US army as some sort of moral and liberating force, support those false and banal definitions of fascism that prevent people from being able to recognize contemporary fascist dangers.  Fascism is vaguely defined as "totalitarian

The Four Categories of Contradictions

Recently, a close comrade of mine was recounting a story where he told a younger activist that, although he supported Tamil self-determination he did not whole-heartedly support the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) because their cultural-nationalist project resulted in the liquidation of numerous leftist Tamil groups (such as supporters of the Ceylon Communist Party (Maoist)).  Unfortunately, the younger activist misunderstood the critique, taking it to mean that my comrade was somehow anti-Tamil self-determination and was incapable of understanding what he was trying to argue.  Conversely, when many of us leftists argue that we support, for example, Hezbollah's resistance to Israeli imperialism we are often misunderstood as supporting Hezbollah's political project itself when this is often not the case. Oft-times many of us still have difficulties thinking through these problems: we understand that imperialism is wrong but we also understand that certain groups also v

That Persistent Love of the Coen Brothers

This post was initially inspired by friend and comrade blogger Xtina 's suggestion, from the Sophia Coppola post, that I write something about our mutual dislike of the Coen Brothers.  And then, when my closest comrade of all time wrote a post about True Grit (along with the Coen Brothers, queerish things, and general awesomeness) in her new and what will prove to be amazing blog All Killer , I got all riled up to rant about these dudes and their dudish films. When it comes to critically acclaimed American cinema, the movies of the Coen brothers are most often cited as contemporary examples of excellent film-making.  Critics love these boys and there is more than one unofficial fansite dedicated to their supposed brilliance.  And yet it is telling that the Coens' biggest fans––those who go on and on about their supposed genius––are male and those who do not enjoy their films, or at the very least just find them boring and annoying, are female. I remember years ago, when I

Why Do These Stupid Books Sell?

I am always fascinated and frustrated by the North American mainstream public's willingness to buy and accept as authoritative "historical" books of dubious scholarship that popularize ruling class ideology.  The reason these books are not treated with the suspicion they deserve, obviously, is because they are designed to reinforce what people are already taught to believe.  These books masquerade as academic, as well-researched and expert , but they rarely fit the standards of academic feasibility and honesty.  And yet they still become part of popular discourse, defended by laypersons who repeat, ad nauseaum, these books' claims and pour scorn on the qualified critics who raise questions. Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel , for example, not only argued the ahistorical and racist-colonial position that Palestine was an empty desert, a terra nullius, before the European Zionists arrived to "make it bloom again" (and that the Palestinians are really

Why is Sofia Coppola the Only "Feminist" Filmmaker Who Counts?

What is with all this hooplah surrounding Sofia Coppola?  Now she's on the cover of Bust , interviewed by Kim Gordon as if she's some sort of feminist film-making icon.  Clearly Gordon is a feminist icon (and if you don't agree with me on this I will never be your friend), but I am annoyed that we must accept Sofia Coppola, by virtue that she is a woman who makes films, as suddenly a feminist film-maker.  Granted, Bust 's feminism is rather limited and often tends to be about look-at-these-cool-women-doing-cool-things.  Not that this approach is without merit, but it does allow them to promote people as "feminist" who are really not that feminist. The fact that Sofia Coppola can make decent films does not automatically make her a feminist just by virtue of her gender.  Nor is the fact that she is making decent films all that surprising, considering the fact that she is Hollywood royalty and that her dad's production company will bankroll anything she wan

Anti-Capitalist Bloggers Unite! (Let's have our own lefty DIY conference!)

If you've been blogging for a while then, chances are, you will be familiar with the BlogWorld Expo , the uber-conference where bloggers from all the world converge to talk about multiple bloggy things like "Creating Killer Content" or "Podcast 101" (to name some of the seminars they apparently held in 2010).  But if you're a lefty blogger like myself then the Blog World kind of conferences do not really sound that interesting: aside from being driven by a capitalist instrumental logic that is concerned with the commodity-form of blogging, our anti-capitalist corner(s) of the generally imperial-capitalist blogosphere is generally devoted to issues that are not about pictures of our kitties, or how to set up a digital kitchen, or whether or not the real estate blog is dead.  (And the very fact that I am overusing the words "blog" and "blogging" and now "blogosphere" in this post is making me cringe.) So I'm interested in pr

Class Structure and Identity Politics

This post was motivated by a few concerns: a recent set of [always educative] conversations I had with my friend and comrade k. about identity politics versus marxism; a blog post by Ms. Marx about a heterosexist encounter ; and a post on Workers Dreadnought about Sylvia Pankhurst .  The connection to all three of these sources, with the exception of the first, might now seem tenuous since, typically lacking an overall plan, my entries tend to mutate three paragraphs into their creation.  Generally this was inspired by my frustrations with a very privileged and very North American marxism that refuses to account (regardless of developments in marxist theory elsewhere since the Third International) for other oppressions (racism, colonialism and imperialism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia) outside of a very limited notion of class. A prevalent "marxism" in North America (and perhaps one of the reasons marxism is less popular in North America than elsewhere) is a p

Yet Again: Tired Anti-Communism

What is going on with this contemporary wave of anti-communist films, all of which receive critical acclaim by the reptile press no matter how inaccurate and/or self-righteously misleading they might be.  Clearly capitalism is yet again being discredited, its current crisis and spate of imperialist wars potentially revealing the limits of its logic.  Perhaps these films are a reflection of the ruling class fear of its destruction.  They can only bash Political Islam so much––global capitalism is not really afraid of a movement that is mildly anti-imperialist at best and pro-capitalist at worse.  The promotion of the most vile Islamophobia is merely an expression [and a racist expression] of the need to scapegoat a population in order to justify imperialist intervention.  The current renewal of anti-communist propaganda, however, speaks to ruling class ideology's need to defend the horrors of capitalism by reminding us of " failed communism " so that we can all agree that

The Parameters of Counter-Revolution

This is entry is inspired by a recent post on The Workers Dreadnought  where the author briefly discussed, in the context of the arrest of Asit Sengupta, the unwillingness of North American communists to take the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism seriously. A common adage amongst the North American left, whenever the topic of the end of capitalism is broached, is that there is no point in building towards revolution because revolution is impossible in the current climate.  Thus, the best we can do is work with social democratic organizations to mitigate the misery of the oppressed classes.  Or, better yet, if we're academic leftists, write more books about the evils of capitalism and the need for a revolution that could never happen in our lifetimes. The problem with living in the centres of world capitalism is that the contradictions of capitalism are muted by the larger measure of privilege (or at least the illusion of privilege) and the "culture industry" ideo