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Yet Again: Shameless [partially] Self Promotion [but of new joint blog]

Over the past year and a half this blog, which has always pretty eclectic, has developed an audience that is less interested in my posts about movies and books and art.  Interestingly enough, in the first year of my blog the only posts that garnered any traffic beyond my friend and comrade circles were those posts about movies and books.  Indeed, the first post that was ever reblogged was my long analysis of Pascal Laugier's Martyrs.  Now my reviews and analyses of art and literature and film generate far less traffic than other posts, so I stopped blogging about the cultural sphere of the superstructure about a year ago.

(This is not to say that I am interested in only blogging about those subjects that garner the most traffic.  If that was the case, I would blog only about obituaries of people I disliked.  After all, my posts about the late Jack Layton and the late Vaclav Havel are so far my most popular. [The latter received over 1000 hits on the first day of its posting!  Peop…

Xmas Annoyances

Like many communists who come from a certain religious background that is hegemonic in the Americas and Europe, this season (and specifically tomorrow) produces familial social obligations that can be simultaneously nostalgiac and onerous.  Generally speaking, of course, this is a problem with most family obligations: we cannot forget that communism should mean the death of the family––or, at the very least, the death of the current and dominant expression of the family.  But the traditional social obligations connected with this season are obligations that I find the most stressful.  If my partner and I didn't care about our families we would avoid participating in any way, shape or form in this Yuletide hub-bub; the only reason we leave our city to visit our families elsewhere, and participate (granted, as minimally as possible) in Christmas social conventions, is because it matters to them.

The most obviously annoying thing about this season is its religious specificity.  I wou…

Counter-revolutionary and Revisionist Die on the Same Day

While people were still spilling too much ink writing peonages to a petty bourgeois essayist who, regardless of whatever skill he possessed as a stylist, will eventually be forgotten, two historically important figures died.  Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-Il are now dead; the closeness of their respective deaths is simultaneously marked by a vast political distance.  Whereas Vaclav Havel represented the aspirations of the global bourgeois class, the frenzied excitement at the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the elevation of capitalism as "the end of history", Kim Jong-Il represented the continuation of the kind of "communism" that served as a straw-person justification for victorious capitalism.  And the demonization of the latter figure, that will doubtless continue after his passing, will also serve to justify the hagiography of the former.

Indeed, expect the hagiography of Vaclav Havel to reach frenzied heights in upcoming weeks.  Although the cultural industry tha…

"People of the Shining Path": Old Dispatches Television Documentary (1992)

A month ago, I wrote a post about class morality that mentioned, in passing, certain assessments of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP-SL, also known as the Sendero Luminoso or "Shining Path") as an example of how revolutions are morally conceived by bourgeois ideology.  Although the post was not intended to defend the Sendero Luminoso (and in fact noted that, in my opinion, the organization theoretically and practically degenerated on certain points), someone in the comments string took issue with my use of the Shining Path as an example and failed to understand my overall points about bourgeois ideology.

The comments condemning the Sendero Luminoso demonstrated a typical over-reliance on the very dubious Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Peru––an organization staffed by conservatives and state officials and thus far from "independent"––which blamed many of the brutal policies of Alberto Fujimori's Grupo Colina death squad on the PCP-SL.  Moreover, these com…

"How Good 'We' Have It"

At various points in the blog I have discussed the tension surrounding using bourgeois rights in a non-bourgeois manner.  Moreover, I have argued that what are often misunderstood as "bourgeois rights"––that is, rights that capitalism gives its subjects out of the goodness of its heart––are actually not essential to capitalism and primarily exist under capitalism because of struggles against capitalism.  To paraphrase from memory a comment made by Jeff Noonan at Rethinking Marxism2009: capitalism's essential logic is antithetical to life and the only things that have made capitalism liveable exist because of anti-capitalist struggle.

If capitalism is a system based on the logic of surplus-value (which includes accumulation, expansion, the subordination of use to exchange, economic alienation, militarism, and anything that means in a very simple and very crude sense profit over people), then the only individual "human" rights that matter are those rights requir…

On Attempts to Massify Philosophy

Around two years ago I picked up a small book, published at the end of the Cultural Revolution in China, entitled Selected Essays on the Study of Philosophy by Workers, Peasants and Soldiers.  The essays in this book are the product of various study groups based in different sites of production during the GPCR––ship yards, glass factories, motor plants, village communes, etc.––and at first read appear like a rather strange and perhaps humorous attempt to "philosophize".  Take, for example, the essay entitled "Dialectics of Building a 10,000-Ton Freighter" where the authors (a workers' philosophy study group in Tientsin Hsin-kang Shipyard) write:
Standard practice in building a ship is to use a berth corresponding in size to the ship under construction.  Our shipyard has only a 5,000-ton berth.  Was it possible to build a 10,000-ton freighter there? […] Some shook their heads and said: "it would be sheer adventure." […] Others ridiculed the idea as &quo…

Random Cultural Interlude

After so many "serious" blog posts (most of which degenerate, as usual, into rants) I figure that it is time to write something not-so-serious––or, at the very least, less contentious [maybe].  Since I have not blogged about films and books for awhile (and since I used to have the odd film or book review peppered throughout this blog), I'm going to spend this post gibbering on about what I have been reading, watching, and listening to this week.  This will perhaps give people an insight into the strange landscape of my interior life: no I do not only read Marxist/Leninist/Maoist literature, or only watch "political" movies, dismissing everything else as "bourgeois" and hardly worth my notice.  So, in no particular order, I will describe the cultural products (some of them crap some of them not crap) that are not specifically marxist that I have been shoving into my brain over the past seven or eight days.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (novel): I'm halfwa…

Settler Ideology and Attawapiskat

There is a "common sense" settlerist discourse in this country that holds, empirical evidence to the contrary, that the colonized are privileged to be colonized––indeed, sometimes even more privileged than the colonizers.  Perhaps a sublimated articulation of the "civilizing mission" ideology that could be openly proclaimed decades ago, the claim that the colonized "have it good" under colonialism is usually, specifically in Canada and the US, based on spurious claims about supposed tax exemptions, idyllic myths about North American bantustans (Canadian reserves, we need to remember, were the basis for the South African apartheid bantustan system), or some other garbage that passes for wisdom amongst those who want their racism justified as rational fact.  Now with the media furor surrounding Attawapiskat, where once again the Canadian public is being inundated with the reality of colonized life (this happens every once in a while only to be quickly forgo…

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 1…

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 Trot…

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…