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Showing posts from November, 2011

History is a Weapon: eJournal call-out for submissions.

100 Flowers Press  is producing a "semi-academic" e-Journal called "History is a Weapon."  The first issue will be entitled "it is right to rebel, but better to make revolution" and will hopefully concern, loosely and creatively, questions concerning organization, organizing, the differences between a revolutionary and merely rebellious movement, and a host of other questions that may or may not have been raised by the OWS movement. The call-out and guidelines for submissions can be found here . Submissions are tentatively due February, 2012. All comrade bloggers and comrade blog readers who come from historical materialist perspectives should consider submitting, especially since so many of you (judging from your blogs and/or comments) have good ideas.

Questions raised by the [possible] end of Occupy Toronto

Now that Occupy Toronto has collapsed, at least temporarily, under the weight of its contradictions, I cannot help but be reminded of a post I wrote months before the #occupy movement was even proposed regarding the politics of affirmation .  In that post I argued that it is often easier to understand what we are against than what we are for and that the latter understanding, though harder to grasp, was the only thing that could lead to a revolutionary movement.  For while it is one thing to reject capitalism, or even worse symptoms  of capitalism, it is quite another to grasp and organize a movement directed by a post-capitalist politics.  Clearly this entire occupy movement, while being in some ways an expression of anger against what many of us want to reject, is hampered by its inability to propose a productive politics.  In fact, those most dedicated to "occupy" as a movement have gone to great lengths to assert a politics of pure negativity: "we don't like the

Theological Applications of Marxist Theory

In 1918 Anatoly Lunacharsky, in his assessment of Russian revolutionaries, wrote that Trotsky, despite being a great revolutionary leader, was "incomparably more orthodox than Lenin… he takes revolutionary Marxism and draws from it the conclusions applicable to a given situation.  He is as bold as can be in opposing liberalism and semi-socialism, but he is no innovator."  The lack of a creative application of revolutionary theory––taking universal concepts and applying them, dialectically, to a concrete and particular situation––was something, according to Lunacharsky, that escaped Trotsky whose theoretical offerings, unlike those of Lenin, were destined to remain rote and perhaps dogmatic formulations of the science of revolution begun by Marx and Engels.  Thus it is perhaps not entirely surprising that, if Lunacharsky was correct about Trotsky, the most loyal Trotskyist grouplets––those who never tire of repeating the words of their prophet and assessing Lenin through Trots

Cults of Personality

A couple days ago a friend sent me the link to the infamous, and unintentionally hilarious, Bob Avakian Burning Man article that the RCP-USA published, without any irony, over a year ago.  Apparently people are still encountering this article and wondering whether it was intended as a joke: members of the RCP-USA "popularize" revolution by going to the neo-hippy festival, Burning Man, and postering the highway with pictures of Avakian.  Because, the argument goes, Avakian's face somehow equals revolution; it is the platonic essence of revolution and, I suppose, one just needs to contemplate its existence in order to understand the necessity for communism.  Rereading this article, and again being struck by the dogmatic mindlessness of its writers, I could not help but be reminded of the numerous times I've encountered certain RCP-USA members and been flabbergasted by their glassy-eyed and uncritical cultishness.  (I say "certain" members because, occasionall

Rereading Althusser

Recently, due to some philosophical issues in the realm of marxism I'm interested in interrogating in my academic work (yes, I know I need to be "sent down to the countryside"), I have been rereading Louis Althusser.  For the past several years I have had a sustained, though not entirely serious, debate with a close comrade/friend who is something of an Althusserian about the necessity for communists to endorse a theory of the human subject: he has argued (following Althusser) that there is no such thing, and that such an argument is nothing more than bourgeois humanism, whereas I have argued that (while rejecting bourgeois humanism), such a theory is philosophically important.  And since I am interested in further arguing for this necessity, but without lapsing into humanistic stupidity, I figured it was probably appropriate to reengage with Althusser's philosophical rejection of the concept of a universal conceptualization of human being. I have not read Althusser

The Philosophical non-Issue of Organization

Academic marxists in North America, and sometimes in Europe, have wasted too much time and energy focusing on the so-called philosophical problem of organization.  In social contexts where there does not appear to be a viable revolutionary organization capable of posing a significant challenge to capitalism, at the centres of imperialism where it is often difficult to mobilize the masses in a lasting manner against the bourgeoisie, many marxists often assume that we require a new theory of organization.  Although I agree that there are numerous and significant philosophical problems surrounding the practice of organizing, I also believe that most academic marxist attempts to re-theorize the concept of the revolutionary organization is a philosophical dead-end that does little more than attempt to (forgive the cliche) reinvent the wheel. Due to the failure of the world historical socialist revolutions in Russia and China there is a tendency amongst academic marxists to reject Lenin

End of Week Hiatus (hopefully)

Due to my hiatus between posts, and the fact that I lose traffic whenever I fail to write regularly, I feel that I should post something regarding the great and not-so-great engagements and interactions at the Historical Materialism Conference in London.  But since I am brained-out from the exhausting conference and trip back to Toronto, I lack the mental ability to write something substantial.  So instead, here's another half-assed and semi-humorous (if that) entry about my top likes and dislikes of the conference and everything surrounding the conference. Dislike #1: I forgot that North American, and especially USAmerican, airport security/customs are more asshole-ian than the rest of the world. Seriously, this is more of a grumpy complaint outside of the bounds of political commentary.  After all, we all know that the securitization of borders following 9/11 is fascistic, and is more fascistic towards people of colour (especially Arabs), but the US (and to a lesser extent Ca

Possible Brief Blog Hiatus

Tonight I'm off to the Eastern Hemisphere, specifically the origin continent of so-called "western" history: Europe.  More specifically to Paris and then London, all within the jet-lagged span of a single week.  Since I have never travelled anywhere in Europe, nor really had much interest in travelling to Europe aside from the fact that it is a place to travel and see things "with history" (because apparently there is no "history" in Canada and the United States because these are "young nations" and… oh wait, that's right, there's "no history" because it was actively annihilated in the act of founding Canada and the US!), this trip is job-related in the "professional development" kind of way.  Thankfully, because it is job-related, I will eventually get reimbursed and thus the fact that I don't really have the money to travel will be solved when my receipts and boarding passes are presented.  Plus it was just a

"We have not yet passed beyond class morality…"

Recently I have been reflecting on an anecdote at the beginning of Mobo Gao's The Battle For China's Past  regarding a presentation on the Cultural Revolution at a conference in South Korea.  After one presenter attacked the Cultural Revolution because of her parents' negative experience, an audience member stood up and asked the presenter about her family's background.  When the presenter admitted that her parents were members of a privileged intellectual class––a class whose privilege was targeted during this confusing period––the audience member replied, "So no wonder.  My father used to be head of the production team leader in my village.  He still recalls the Cultural Revolution with fond memories because that was his most brilliant years.  Those were years when the farmers felt proud and elated."  Gao's overall point was that our understanding of the past, and how we assess significant historical moments, is always filtered through our social positio

Two New Statements from the Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan

The Communist (Maoist) Party of Afghanistan has been, for a very long time, an important revolutionary force in Afghanistan.  Unlike the Islamists, its war against the occupation has pushed a secular progressive agenda; unlike the secular liberal (or those secular organizations that claim they are "progressive") organizations, it has refused to collaborate with the imperialist occupation or any of its NGO institutions.  As some readers may be aware, the organization's history of resistance goes back to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan where the party was almost completely liquidated––the Soviets actually targeted more Maoists than Islamists––and yet it managed to survive, eventually rebuilding itself to emerge as a significant organizational force in the now defunct Revolutionary International Movement (RIM).  Recently they have released two important documents, both of which I want to discuss below. 1. Rebuilding the Revolutionary International Movement The doc