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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 Canada) are, as usual, are better assholes in this regard than the rest of the imperialist world––with the honourable exception, maybe, of Germany.  They substitute assholeness for even rational fascism: you think it would make more sense to let your imperialist allies do the work for you, rather than waste time and money by performing redundant operations that if you think about it are useless.  You get searched leaving Heathrow, for example, and you've gone nowhere but the secured airport and the plane in that entire time, and you have to get triple searched––not to mention go through customs and have your back rechecked when you don't even want to fucking visit America and have no intention of leaving said secure airport––when you're making a connection in the United States.  All this means is line-ups: I thought American conservatives hated line-ups… oh yeah, that's right, they only hate the bread line-ups of the old Soviet Union.  Guess lines are bad when you're waiting for something like free food but good when it's about being searched by fascists.

Like #1: meeting Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

As some of my regular readers might know, I'm a big fan of Dunbar-Ortiz who is often an under-appreciated thinker and revolutionary despite the fact that she was a founding member of Cell 16, one of the very first militant feminist groups in the US, and an original core member of the American Indian Movement––and that's just naming two of the groups of which she was an intrinsic part.  (In fact, as far as I can tell, she was the only person speaking at the Historical Materialism conference who had an actual revolutionary history.)  In person she's actually really nice––she even gave me her card and made appreciative comments about a question I asked at one of the sessions she also attended.  Whether or not I will work up the courage to email her, however, remains to be seen… Although, since she did comment on this blog once, perhaps she will see this shameless hero worship and respond!

Dislike #2: airport idiocy based on petty-bourgeois individuality.

Yes, another airport complaint––but this is only because I just got back from a long trip filled with annoyances.  Really, I'm just using this as an excuse to complain about something that has bugged me for years, but that I always forget after about a month of travel only to remember it, the next time I use an airport, and become pissed off all over again.  Why is it that, when they start the boarding call, that everyone stands up and mobs the surrounding area of the exit even though the announcer is calling only specific seats?  The mobbing only makes boarding go slower, but everybody wants to be near the front when their section is called: yet another example of short-term individual needs being put over the needs of the collective without realizing, as usual, that this selfishness even fucks the individual.  Just sit down; the plane is not leaving without you and your seat is already booked.

Like #2: visiting comrades now living in Europe.

 Obviously this was the best part of the trip and the reason I went for a week.  I am not entirely into touring, or doing tourist things, but I do like visiting with "comrades in exile" who are doing interesting projects around the world and meeting some of their new friends and comrades.  Now I'm at that age where I have comrades living on every continent and in hundreds of countries; I need to start taking advantage of this… if only affording regular plane tickets (and the fact I fucking hate airports, have I mentioned that?) wasn't a problem.

Dislike #3: hearing a paper about the connection between race and class in the history of USAmerica by a supposed expert which doesn't even take into account Sakai's "Settlers" thesis.

A white marxist male (I am aware of the irony here) who cites only white marxist males, such as Noel Ignatiev and David Roediger, along with dubious "anti-racists" like Tim Wise, and is writing a book on critical race theory that, despite redundantly echoing (and by echo I mean faint echo) the work of J. Sakai, has no awareness of this subterranean and yet influential tradition.  And when a question about Sakai was asked, and he admitted he hadn't read Sakai, the presenter also went so far as to off-handedly say that he didn't think the concept of the labour aristocracy was useful for his reasearch––even after admitting that he hadn't read Sakai's work in this area.  If you are going to do work on racism and racialization in the US, and especially work around the emergence of class composition in this regard, you should probably draw primarily on the tradition of work by people who were racialized and experienced this racism.  Just saying.

Like #3: seeing the paper "What the Fuck is Up with French Feminism" by Stella Magliani-Belkacem and Felix Boggio.

Not only was this paper brilliant in content, it was brilliant in form.  Tracing the history of french feminism and its collusion with colonialism up to its present collusion with Islamophobia, and read to a packed room, the authors received overwhelming applause.  Plus, I spent a good portion of the night afterwords hanging out with the authors (one of whom I had met earlier on the eurorail) who are really cool French marxists despite their [unorthodox] Trotskyism.  Really, due to their interests and the people they often cited, they seemed more like maoists in essence and trotskyists in form, which I hope to convince them of in the future.  But oh well, I'm not some crazed sectarian.

Dislike #4: the "Marxist Humanist" dude who ranted about Mao being a mass murderer at a plenary.

In response to one of the speakers, Peter Hallward, citing Mao, this moron thought it was "uncontroversial" that Mao was the Mao of reactionary historiographies––and this in the middle of a critical marxist conference.  I expect this sort of thing from the odd liberal and social democrat, but it's unforgivable when it comes from a so-called "marxist".

Like #4: the response to the "Marxist Humanist" dude by Hallward.

Thankfully Peter Hallward attacked this moron's use of "reactionary history", generating some applause. And even Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, who was also on that panel, made a snide comment about this man's use of reactionary history, much to his annoyance.  I hope it ruined his week.


  1. "In prison she's actually really nice––she even gave me her card and made appreciative comments about a question I asked at one of the sessions she also attended."

    'in prison?'...a freudian slip from the revolutionary unconscious?


  2. Great to see that you're back! "In prison she's actually really nice" is meant to be "In person", right? I'm going to assume that this was a result of you being exhausted from the trip and an (unintentional?) reflection on how you feel about stuffy academic conferences in general... :P

  3. oh man, you both noticed that mistake. I was so exhausted and typing too quickly... And since I think Freud is idealistic garbage, lol, then there is no way it's some psychoanalytic slip. No way!!! (Although irateadri's explanation might make sense.)


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