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Showing posts from January, 2013

Fallen Idols: on Samir Amin's recent capitulation to imperialist intervention

Although the strength of marxism has always resided in the fact that its method stands over and above its specific adherents, it is still disappointing when important marxist theorists, or more importantly a communist organization, fails in their fidelity to the method.  A knee-jerk reaction is to denounce this betrayal, and the entire history of those involved in this betrayal, as if they had nothing worthwhile to offer (this is being done, here and there, with the evaporated Peoples War in Nepal as if it is irrevocably tainted by the current revisionism of the party that had once led the revolution), and I myself have made this mistake more than once. The betrayal I am talking about here, however, concerns Samir Amin's recent analysis of Mali  that came as a shock to both myself and others.  As faithful readers of this blog will probably be aware, I have been highly influenced by Amin's anti-imperialist political economy and his creative application of marxism that has af

The Theory of Labour Aristocracy and its Discontents: a meta-review of Cope's "Divided World Divided Class"

Although the position Charlie Post takes in his thorough, and thoroughly backwards, review of Zak Cope's Divided World Divided Class  was predictable, the review itself tells us more about the state of critical thought amongst marxist theorists at the centres of capitalism than anything else.  We could point out that the fact that Post begins by snidely claiming there is no empirical basis for the theory of the labour aristocracy is a rather humorous attempt at empty rhetoric: he knows that numerous revolutionary political economists such as Samir Amin have provided an empirical framework to apprehend a labour aristocracy because he argued with their frameworks in his own analysis (simply because your empirical framework is in disagreement with another doesn't mean that there is no  empirical data, it just means that you are calling one set of empirical data into question with your own); he should also be aware that his own empirical data was called into question with another

The Elevation of the Tactical: the limits of the boycott approach in Palestine solidarity work

Nearly a decade after the emergence of the Boycott-Divestment-Sanction (BDS) Palestinian solidarity movement (which, following the anti-apartheid South African model of first world activism, proposes the international boycott of Apartheid Israel) what was once seen as a tactical approach to Israeli apartheid is now being treated––at least in some significant quarters of the left at the centres of global capitalism––as tantamount to revolutionary strategy.  Talk of bourgeois rights, upholding a naive conception of international law, and all the hallmarks of capitalist legality has been shifted from the realm of means to the kingdom of ends.  This elevation of the tactical use of bourgeois rights, along with a general confusion of what it means to be an internationalist, should give us pause.  And we should be especially worried when we find ourselves speaking of a legal tactic and the dubious propositions of the capitalist discourse of "human rights" as the telos of anti-imper

Fallacy Detection Machines

Marking student papers and engaging with student argumentative logic can sometimes be a depressing chore: the meandering and tangental rhetoric, the lazy arguments, and most importantly the uncritical absorption of bourgeois "common sense" can sometimes be depressing.  More depressing is the fact that, by their second semester, first year philosophy students tend to hide their problematic arguments in nice-sounding philosophy lingo: they inappropriately use the terms validity  and soundness  just because they think it will make their arguments sound better; they scatter appeals to named fallacies throughout their papers. This over-abundance of fallacy appeals has caused me again to reflect on the problem of informal logic and how, despite the uses of argumentation theory, it is also a problem when it comes to critical thought.  In our haste to teach students about the errors of lazy thinking, we philosophy instructors have often over-emphasized a list of supposed fallacies

Another Child Post!

I know I said, back when I first posted on the birth of my child, that I would write about revolutionary parenthood on another blog.  The problem, however, is that this other blog has failed to develop; the other two parents involved, who have more experience than me, haven't yet posted anything.  And since parenthood has now become a massive part of my life, I cannot just pretend that it does not exist.  No, I'm not planning on making these kinds of posts normative here (really, this is mainly just pressure to launch that other blog), but I feel like, in lieu of a proper platform, I should write something about my the importance of raising a child as a communist. First of all, I feel the need to discuss the problem of raising a child who is nominally a girl  (because she has two x  chromosomes and because of this will be socialized as "female" and thus will be perceived as "female" until if and when she decides otherwise) in the context of the vestigial i

The SWP's Misogyny: an unsurprising revelation

Just recently the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), beloved Trotskyist vanguard of the labour aristocracy in Europe and North America, is imploding over its inability to deal with member-on-member sexual harassment .  Considering that its leadership is trying to sweep this problem under the proverbial rug ("this is not a cover up" the aforelinked article cites the SWP leadership as saying), if it wasn't for Tom Walker's open letter regarding his resignation from the SWP, the problem probably would have remained a big secret. Except it is not really that much of a secret.  The publicization of misogyny in an organization that uses "feminism" like a swear-word, disparages anything that is not some banal practice of class essentialism as "identity politics" (this despite a failure to agitate outside of the labour aristocracy since, well, forever), and is generally an organization run by stuffy old anglo-saxon men (like Christopher Hitchens without th

Confusing Appearance with Substance

I am generally annoyed by the academic left's propensity to be hyper-critical on the level of appearance and decidedly uncritical on the level of substance.  The tendency to focus critique on the formal rather than the essential is a product of academicization, a tendency of which I am often guilty––which is maybe why I find it annoying… After all, we often despise in others what we secretly despise in ourselves. In order to illustrate what I mean by critiquing appearance at the expense of substance, form at the expense of essence, I'll use an example of my union local's strike several years ago that was once the subject of one of my [discontinued] Tao of Mao  comic strips .  At one point during the strike a group of people singing a Woodie Guthrie song on the line were chastised as being "racist" over a list serve due to the fact that Guthrie, regardless of the song that was being sung, was responsible for the song "This Land is Your Land".  At the sa

Two Tendencies of Imperialism

I want to start this post by noting two tendencies of imperialism that are often treated as irreconciliable contradictions but are dialectically interrelated: 1) the tendency of super-profits gleaned from the export of capital to allow for a greater measure of social democracy at the centres of global capitalism (and thus what is sometimes called "the labour aristocracy" or the "phenomenon of embourgeoisment"); 2) the bourgeoisie's search for profit tends to result in the phenomena of down-sizing, of laying-off workers at the centre and breaking unions in order to harness cheap labour in peripheral nations or in migrant populations that have been forced from the peripheries to the centres.  The over-emphasis of either tendency results in a failure to understand the export of capital in totality. Clearly, to speak of the first tendency at the expense of the second is to ignore reality.  In this period of capitalist crisis, labour unions at the centres of capita