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Showing posts from September, 2012

The Strength of Marxism

The strength of marxism does not lie in the personal beliefs of Marx and Engels but in the scientific method they theorized and gave to the revolutionary masses as a weapon.  For some reason, the most facile critics of marxism don't seem to recognize that this, more than anything else, why those of us who "should know better" still call ourselves communists despite the fact that, yes, Marx and Engels might have been wont to make problematic statements about the world outside of Europe.  For those points of possible chauvinism can also be critiqued––and have been  critiqued––by the very method Marx and Engels initiated.  Thus, as I have argued elsewhere, when we speak of marxism  we also mean something that is open to the future that extends beyond Marx and each successive moment of important theoretical crystallization.  Indeed, this is part of what makes historical materialism a science: no science is closed to the future and, once it is treated as such, vanishes into

On Movement to Movement Tailing

A year has passed since the #occupy  movement emerged in upper North America and was avidly embraced by those leftists who hungered for revolution but were unwilling to accept that there might be a science of revolution learned from the victories and defeats of the past .  Obsessed with the new, and preferring to tail what would turn out to be a largely (with honourable exception) petty-bourgeois movement, the apparition of #occupy  was met with numerous uncritical statements about revolution , how it would change everything… some even went so far as to imagine it was the most important "revolutionary" movement in the world. Well, large sectors of the left at the centres of capitalism have always been myopic; we tend to get caught up in our social movements––or movements that closely resemble our movements––and generally ignore, sometimes even dismiss, actually existing revolution that is happening elsewhere in the world.  Hence all the excitement over the so-called "

Balancing the Problem of Accessibility with the Importance of Revolutionary "jargon"

As someone trained as an academic, a persistent difficulty that hampers my writing is the ability to make whatever it is I'm writing about accessible to the lay audience who lacks the same training.  Other academics and former academics [ note: I am a "quasi-academic" because I don't have a permanent academic job, and have been rather slip-shod in pursuing an academic career! ] are quite familiar with all the theoretical jargon that we've been trained to understand; they will also hopefully be aware (because they remember their first days in academia) of  how alienating some of the more jargon-heavy texts can be––theory rendered opaque by a language possibly overburdened with semantic clutter.  Indeed, I still remember the first time I encountered Heidegger in a second year philosophy course and had to write an essay on a chapter of Being and Time  because the crazy professor thought second year philosophy students should be able to read most of Being and Time  in

Review: Zak Cope's "Divided World Divided Class"

[I promised this review when I promoted the Kalikot Book Series several posts back .  Since I had the privilege of doing some copy-editing for this book , I'd already read the book thoroughly enough to write a review.  Even still, I wanted to wait for a print copy to arrive so that I could cite properly and not have to review the electronic "track changes" file that is still on my computer.  (Also, I would be able to see, with horror, the typos I missed and thus have more reason to be annoyed with myself.)  The book arrived just before the baby, so the review has been in limbo until now.  Thankfully, some people have been promoted it (like the excellent Speed of Dreams' recent promotion , for example) so hopefully word will get around that this book is worth buying––as I plan to convince you in the following review!] These days, at the centres of capitalism, it is en vogue for leftists to attack  Lenin's theory of the labour aristocracy .  Some marxist critics,

A Child Being Born = Blogging Delay

It has been six days since my last post which is something of a long gap for me––for the past year I've been pretty good at posting every three or four days, even if I post utterly random shit.  This time, the reason for my six day hiatus was that my partner, after hours of excruciating pain, gave birth to our daughter on Monday night.  As you can imagine, I wasn't really in the frame of mind in the weekend leading up to her active labour and the days following to do very much except concentrate on this event. Although I generally don't use this blog to talk about my personal life, and don't plan to make a habit of this anytime soon, I felt that I should at least post some news to commemorate baby Samiya's torturous emergence into this cruel capitalist world on Monday, September 17, 2012.  Torturous for her and definitely torturous for my partner, once again confirming that the late Shulamith Firestone was correct when she wondered why it should be necessary for

Back to Teaching First Year Philosophy: "Don't tell me about my affluence and imperialist privilege you stupid philosophy instructor!"

The school year has started up again and, lucky enough to have found some contract work, I am back teaching undergrads about philosophy and trying very hard not to sound like a jaded academic.  The best thing about teaching undergraduates is that you get to see how "common sense" morality and capitalist ideology is still a significant filter in the way they approach theoretical concepts… and if you're lucky enough to succeed in getting a few of them to question these assumptions, you sometimes end up learning something in the way that their often sudden moments of insight are fresh and exciting. Otherwise you just keep relearning how being selfish is "human nature", why people who are doing mental labour are more hard-working than people who do the majority of the world's manual labour, and that a lot of your students desperately believe that they will not be a failed academic like you when they finish their glorious university career. One of the most inte

Kersplebedeb Launches Kalikot Book Series

The always excellent Kersplebedeb Press –– the independent leftwing publisher that has brought us such classics as Butch Lee's Night Vision , Kevin "Rashid" Johnson's Defying the Tomb , and [in collaboration with PM Press] the ongoing documentary history of the Red Army Faction––has recently launched "the Kalikot Book Series" with Zak Cope's Divided World Divided Class as its first book.  Today, the website of the Kalikot Book Series was launched and I urge all of my readers to visit this site and, if financially able, purchase the first book. The Kalikot Book Series is devoted to publishing books from the anti-eurocentric marxist tradition, many of which will be maoist or maoist-inspired from a variety of voices and perspectives throughout the world.  "These are books," the website proclaims, "that seek to serve as interventions into numerous complicated problems faced by the contemporary revolutionary left and to not only educate,

Interpreting the World: philosophy, "marxist philosophy", and why I am always uneasy with my chosen discipline

Some time ago, I wrote about how I was re-reading Althusser and discovering, in this re-reading, that there were less differences between my thought and his than I had once imagined.  In this re-reading I discovered that I agreed with positions I once rejected (i.e. his theory of "epistemological breaks", his analysis of the young/older Marx) while, at the same time, respectfully rather than uncritically distancing myself from some of the positions I still find philosophically unsustainable (i.e. his rejection of the human subject).  And as I continue, now and then, to brush up on my Althusser I discover that there is of points that I find extremely agreeable and important.  He was, as I emphasized in the article cited above, one of the foremost philosophers of marxism; since I also examine the trajectory of marxist thought from a philosophical framework, I keep discovering that i have a lot to learn from this thinker who, at one point and in a period of naive reading, gener

The Recent PQ Victory and the Apparent End of the Quebec Student Strike

If the success of the Parti Quebecois (PQ) in the recent Quebec provincial election proves anything, it's that elections are used by the ruling classes to undermine rebellion.  Indeed, as a recent Partisan  article indicated , the elections were used to contain and undermine the anti-capitalist sentiments of the Quebec student strike.  The fact that the PQ was able to speak, if only hypocritically, to the legitimate demands of the Quebecois students––and to rearticulate these demands within a bourgeois framework––says more about how elections are used to de-radicalize organic uprisings than the political veracity of the PQ.  Realizing that the rebellion lacked revolutionary coherence, and hoping for a return to business as usual, the ruling classes proposed an election––the only legitimate avenue of "freedom" in these so-called democratic societies––and one of its parties––still bourgeois regardless of its franco-nationalism, and clearly more politically enterprising and

The Hotness of Young Stalin

Two nights in a row, when I was out drinking with comrades, someone has started a conversation about the hotness of young Stalin.  Is this simply a coincidence or is there something in the leftist networking world (i.e. facebook, from which I am still successfully abstaining) I've missed?  For it seems rather odd, in the context of the default and generally uncritical anti-Stalinism that affects the western left , that people would be exchanging pictures of young Stalin. Apparently, now people cannot avoid the fact of Stalin's 20-30 something hotness.  I mean, even if you're a Trotskyist you cannot deny that young Stalin was hotter and hipper than young Trotsky––who looked like, let's be clear, a maladjusted basement nerd trying hard to be cool .  Hell, I would like to say that young Stalin was possibly hotter than Lenin but I worry that this would be tantamount to revisionism!  Whatever the case, we cannot deny the uber-hotness of the youthful Stalin in the glory day