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"Right Against Right": Chapter One [download]

Since I'm leaving for holidays in a couple days, and will be away from my main computer until the new year, I figure I should put the next instalment of my free speech manuscript up before most of you lose interest. The other chapters require much more editing, and will probably take me some time to get to (I really hate editing because it's boring), but this one was less messy.

In this first chapter, entitled "The Modern Discourse of Free Speech", I examine the vicissitudes of the contemporary discourse's foundations, tracing them to the watermark of liberalism: J.S. Mill's On Liberty. While it is the case that liberal theory is much more than Mill, my intention with this project was to focus on the most coherent aspects of the free speech discourse and this coherence is located in Mill. Indeed, key modern liberal theorists such as Rawls or Nussbaum are working within the problematic determined by Mill. (Nussbaum has been pretty open about this influence but…

Continuity and Rupture: Publication & Book Launches

So Continuity and Rupture was officially released on December 9 and is already available to buy. Some people have already purchased it; some have already read it or are in the process of reading it, with mixed results. While some readers have found it more useful than The Communist Necessity others have not liked it as much. This is to be expected since Continuity and Rupture is different in form and content than The Communist Necessity. Whereas the latter was a polemic, the former is more rigorous and philosophical, and unfortunately I cannot keep every reader happy. The readers who disliked The Communist Necessity because it was too polemical will hopefully find Continuity and Rupture more useful because of its rigour; the readers who prefer polemical literature will doubtlessly find Continuity and Rupture turgid and unexciting.

As an author whose training is in philosophy my only apology for Continuity and Rupture's "excruciating" aspects is to appeal to my discipline…

Introducing "Right Against Right": a serial on the liberal convention of free speech

Once again, like the aborted Torsion and Tension manuscript, I have a project that did not make the roster of publication submission. Unlike Torsion and Tension, that I eventually withheld because I thought it was incomplete, I was unable to submit this particular (and smaller) manuscript for publication because it was initially meant to be part of a series of extended essays that I was unable to consolidate. The point of this series was to produce a number of very small books––the non-fiction equivalent of novellas or novelletes––that were designed to interrogate particular ruling class conventions. Here was the original proposed series blurb:

Excavating Bourgeois Ideas is a series of extended essays intended to provide a radical “thinking through” of key ruling ideas of the ruling class. The point with each of these engagements is not to provide a thorough engagement of the subject matter but instead to promote a thoughtful but polemical introduction to the concepts in question. Func…

Obituary: Quick Reflections on Fidel Castro's Death

With everything that has been written about Fidel Castro's death I doubt I'm going to add anything original. This entry will not be a useful think-piece or another hot take. Within twenty-four hours of learning about his death everything that I would have originally considered writing was already written and so there will be many aspects of what I say below that have been said, and said better, by others. Indeed, I considered passing over the news of his death in silence (outside of some tweets) but then two things made me change my mine: i) the fact that I tend to write obituaries about other people who were less significant or whose memory I wanted to dis-honour; ii) an excellent polemical obituary by a US Maoist that made me think about my understanding of Castro and the Cuban revolution in regards to my political development.


For me Castro's death is a strange event in that, having grown up with him alive, he has been one of the key living symbols of the great worldwid…

Since I Should Write Something on Upcoming Trump Presidency

Trump's victory is not an anachronism. USAmerica has always been a settler-colony par excellence, more muscular in its colonialism and white supremacy than Canada and even the late British Empire, and so the emergence of a fascist figurehead is in fact a consummation of what that country has always been. Trump represents a certain apex of what this national project's essence, though stripped of its liberal pretensions. The fact that a rich rapist who was successful only insofar as his dad loaned him money––who pretends to be a self-made man despite having weathered bankruptcy because of his inheritance––and because he was a media spectacle, and yet at the same time could pretend he was the accomplishment of the American Dream demonstrates that this dream is not only vacuous but that it is in fact based on the reality of Founding Fathers: wealthy, slave-owning, settler aristocrats who liked to proclaim their colony's "greatness" while pursuing the most egregious a…

Review of Dunbar-Ortiz's *An Indigenous People's History of the United States*

NOTE: I found this review in my drafts bin. It was written months ago when I read the book in question  and missing only a conclusion but, because of work/organizing/childcare, I must have forgotten about it. Indeed I only have a vague memory of writing it! In any case, I think some of the substance of this review has found its way into other things I've written but it's still worth putting out in full. It's worth reading this kind of critical scholarship in light of the *The Continent* controversy or, more productively, for writing the kind of politically charged literature that the left sorely needs.



I recently finished Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous People's History of the United States and was not at all surprised by its quality and content. It is pretty much what I expected it to be, but I would be shocked if Dunbar-Ortiz had failed to live up to the expectations that she set in her previous work. While there is not a lot of new material that she has pre…

On the Possible Translation/Publication of Lauesen's "The Global Perspective"

As some of my long time readers might recall, two years ago I reviewed the Gabriel Kuhn edited book Turning Money Into Rebellion about the so-called "Blekingegade Group". One of the main actors in this Group was Torkil Lauesen and now his more recent book, The Global Perspective, is up for translation and publication with Kersplebedeb. Whatever one might think about the political perspective of Lauesen and is comrades it is necessary to recognize that they were consummate anti-imperialists who were trying to find creative ways to manifest revolutionary internationalism. Moreover, they were also political prisoners because they were punished for their internationalism. The fact that Lauesen remains a consummate anti-imperialist after his incarceration, and has written a book that reflects his perspective, is worthy of investigation.



But since a decent translation costs and Kersplebedeb is a small press, it will be rather difficult to get Lauesen's book translated into Eng…

Against Revolutionary Pessimism and Optimism: Revolutionary Realism

A certain revolutionary pessimism has been enshrined, particularly in the imperialist metropoles, since the collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the victorious pronouncement that capitalism was "the end of history." Even before the rise of the so-called "new world order" this pessimism was becoming normative amongst an academic left jaded with "Stalinism", convinced that barbarism was defeating socialism. We can locate its precedent, for example, in the work of the Frankfurt School where human civilization is perceived (according to the most bleak reading of Adorno and Marcuse) as being attuned to its death drive, where Benjamin's "angel of history" metaphor is blasted from its essay in order to fixate upon the long catastrophe of human history.

Such an attitude, it needs to be said, makes visceral sense. When faced with all the failures of past communist movements, the collapse and fragmentation of a worldwide movement that challenged capitalis…

Review of Esteve Morera's "Gramsci, Materialism, and Philosophy"

I know I hinted at a review of Morera's Gramsci's Historicism but I'm going to break that non-promise and instead review Morera's recent Gramsci, Materialism, and Philosophy. Some background for this decision… First of all, a week after I finished Gramsci's Historicism I met with the author (who was also my former dissertation supervisor) to present him with an advance copy of Continuity and Rupture (since he wrote a lovely endorsement for it) and, because he's such a giving and sweet academic, Morera gave me a free paperback copy of his most recent book that, because of its size and engaging prose, I finished very quickly. Secondly, while it is clear that Gramsci's Historicism is a monumental work on Gramsci, and it is impossible to imagine contemporary Gramscian scholarship without it, the fact that the latter exists because of the former already means that this book has been thoroughly reviewed and absorbed into something that can vaguely and informally …

"Saving The Left From Itself"

Is there anything more annoying than those individuals who imagine that they are "saving the left from itself"? You know the people I mean and if you don't you will soon: self-proclaimed gadflies who believe that their own personal understanding of the world is more rational and correct that the left as a whole, who worry that the left is going to far (and sometimes inaccurately use the words "fascist" when they aren't using "totalitarian" to describe said left), who maintain that they are the true left critics of progressive populations who just don't get it, who natter on about liberal free speech as if this convention is inherently progressive, who are repulsed by political violence, and who occasionally like to cite Orwell.

None of this is to say that the broad and mainstream anti-capitalist left does not deserve critique from this very same left, that lines of demarcation need to be drawn between tendencies, and that some practices the le…

Cultural Exploitation Instead of Cultural Appropriation

Lionel Shriver's recent complaint about charges of "cultural appropriation" has caused me to think again about the uses and abuses of the term. For those unfamiliar with Shriver's speech regarding cultural appropriation it goes something like this: at the Brisbane Writer's Festival the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin and The Mandibles delivered a speech about "fiction and identity politics" that was about the right of authors to write and represent any culture they desired and that all charges of racism or cultural appropriation were attacks on a writer's essential right to free expression. Since the speech was driven by her anger at a particular criticism made of The Mandibles, it was in many ways a knee-jerk "how dare you tell me what I can write about" screed. In the context of recent debates in literary forums about the ethics of representation that have raised a number of important concerns (i.e. when and how is it justified for…

My Favourite Summer Reads

This summer I was able to read a lot. This was partially due to the fact that my daughter became really good at playing at parks by herself and with other kids, leaving me to sit at picnic tables and read whatever book I brought along. Here are some (not all) of the things that I read and enjoyed from June to August.

1. After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux. This book had been sitting on my back-burner for a while. I bought it over a year ago but wasn't able to get to it until the beginning of the summer break. I was expecting something that, like so much French philosophy, would be unnecessarily turgid and sacrifice precision/rigour for obscurantism. But Meillassoux was pleasantly surprising: the book was focused, rigorous, and clear for anyone who is familiar with the philosophical canon. His argument against correlationism and for philosophical realism demonstrated a deep knowledge of both the analytical and continental traditions. I'm not sure whether or not I agree with a…

Review: Yogendra Dhakal's "Revolution, Yes! Right Liquidationism, No!"

The People's War in Nepal was a significant event for the Maoist International Communist Movement. Like the People's War in Peru years earlier, this protracted event was another site of theoretical and practical explosion that demonstrated that the revolutionary ethos of the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st Century was in fact Maoist. While it was indeed the case that the PW in Nepal was largely ignored by the mainstream left in the imperialist metropoles it was still something that mattered for those who cared about third world revolution: the theoretical developments it produced (for example Hisila Yami's work on proletarian feminism), the practical experience it imparted, seem all the more tragic in its failure to accomplish its aims when the Prachanda-led leadership capitulated to revisionism––the always present danger that the Maoist theoretical tradition has elucidated.

Yogendra Dhakal's Revolution Yes! Right Liquidationism No! is a book that returns us …