Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Two Aspects of Power: Consciousness and Physical Force

Left: A Freedmen's school, a place of learning established by New Afrikans who had escaped the slave-system in the south of the united states. Right: a mob of euro-americans burns a Freedmen's school to the ground.

It is necessary, first, to overcome the opposition between a physicalist vision of the social world that conceives of social relations as relations of physical force and a "cybernetic" or semiological vision which portrays them as relations of symbolic force, as relations of meaning or relations of communication. The most brutal relations of force are always simultaneously symbolic relations. And acts of submission and obedience are cognitive acts which as such involve cognitive structures, forms and categories of perception, principles of vision and division. Social agents construct the social world through cognitive structures that may be applied to all things of the world and in particular to social structures... (Pierre Bourdieu, Rethinking the State: Genesis and Structure of the Bureaucratic Field)
War in its literal meaning is fighting, for fighting alone is the efficient principle in the manifold activity which in a wide sense is called War. But fighting is a trial of strength of the moral and physical forces by means of the latter. That the moral cannot be omitted is evident of itself, for the condition of the mind has always the most decisive influence on the forces employed in War. (Clausewitz, On War)
... colonialism is a comprehensive system, operating on all social levels (economic, political, cultural), and is not a mere expression of military aggression, i.e., “violence” in physical forms.
In most cases, colonial violence in armed/physical forms is preceded by unarmed and nonphysical forms of aggression, in the guise of traders, academics, missionaries—who seek not only to lay hold of the land and labor of the peoples, but also to lay hold of their minds, their customs, and their languages. These violent actions suppress, distort, injure, frustrate, infringe, profane and unduly alter the targeted peoples and their social orders, and cripple the people’s ability to resist and to regain their independence! (James Yaki Sayles, Meditations on Frantz Fanon's Wretched of the Earth: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings, p. 199)
The above passages are all getting at the dual nature of power and counterpower. Despite the differences between the authors -- a 20th century French Marxist philosopher, a 19th century German military theorist, and a leading member of the Black Liberation Army-Coordinating Committee who passed away in 2008 after spending most of his life in prison -- they are all really touching on the same thing. The fact that liberation and oppression each exist physically and on the level of consciousness.

Ignoring this duality dooms us to failure.

The above passages also parallel the distinction between a "war of position" and a "war of maneuver" made by the Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, who was persecuted by fascists under Mussolini. The war of position being about winning over people and accumulating forces, the war of maneuver about actually attacking the enemy and seizing power.

Gramsci's ideas are often interpreted in a very conservative way, to argue that the time is not right for physical confrontation - be in in the form of a Black Bloc, a blockade, or armed attacks - because the war of position has not yet been won, i.e. because radicals do not yet enjoy enough popular support. According to this argument, the war for consciousness and social power must precede the latter physical conflict, a proposition that i am not sure is in line with Gramsci's actual thought on the matter.

But even if one holds that the "war of maneuver" should only commence once radicals enjoy popular support, this conservative interpretation ignores the fact that physical activity, including violence, constitutes a necessary part of the "war of position". Just as power exists and can coerce through both physical force and the force of people's consciousness, the process of negating oppression must proceed both on the level of physical force and on the level of consciousness.

Indeed, according to many practitioners of armed struggle, the goal of physical attacks is not to be found in the material damage done, but in the changes in consciousness that they can occasion. For instance, as the Red Army Faction put it:
The propaganda target of anti-imperialist action is the dialectical relationship between being and consciousness, because the masses’ loyalty to the system is based on their accepting its pretty exterior, its promises, and its lies. Their loyalty to the system is based on its capacity to discourage all spontaneity in its quest to completely assimilate the masses into the “the silent bondage of the relationship” (Marx), which it forces the masses to accept as if it were only natural. Anti-imperialist action rips apart the system’s facade and manipulation, along with the loyalty of the masses, and forces it to admit the truth, about which the masses say, as always, “This is not what we wanted.” (RAF, The Black September Action in Munich: Regarding the struggle for Anti-Imperialist Struggle)
Although perhaps overly optimistic, this is clearly a strategy of intervening on the level of consciousness.

The dual material/symbolic nature of power is also one reason why political insurgencies can only ever be defeated politically. A military defeat will constitute a political challenge, and one that the insurgency may not be capable of overcoming, but in and of itself it cannot put an end to an insurgency. Likewise, a successful military operation will constitute a political opportunity, but one that can be bungled - bad political content or lack of follow-up can transform any military victory into a critical defeat.

Keeping in mind the dual nature of power, of oppression and liberation, is essential to our ability to decide what course of action is called for, and how best to respond to the circumstances around us.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Gendered Body Public: Egypt, Sexual Violence and Revolution

Politically, sexual violence constitutes both a form of terrorism against its target, and an act of affirmation for the rapists and those who identify with them. It is not normally a form of "horizontal violence" - that would imply that other than this unfortunate slip-up, perpetrator and target would both share the same class position and interests. The prevalence of sexual violence, and its intractability, speaks against this naive theory.

Rather than depoliticizing this question, sexual violence should be understood as a form of oppressive violence meant to either establish or defend hierarchies between people. Keeping some people - overwhelmingly women, but also queers of various genders, and in some cases cis men - "in their place".

Beyond that, sexual violence can be used to define a broader situation or political moment. Gendering it.

As such, the article reposted below from jadaliyya (an independent ezine produced by the Washington DC-based Arab Studies Institute) is worth reading. While the article does not offer any conclusions, it does underscore the need for analysis that is both anti-capitalist and anti-patriarchal, understanding these as not two separate but worthy struggles, but rather as two dimensions of struggle that we need to integrate.

Original article posted here.

The Gendered Body Public: Egypt, Sexual Violence and Revolution
by Maya Mikdashi

We must acknowledge, sit with, and address the sexual violence that has, is, and will occur in and around Tahrir Square. How do we do this work in a responsible and ethical manner that is in solidarity with Egypt's ongoing (and multiple) revolutions? How do we retain and respect political, economic and social complexity in the face of the horrors of mass and public sexual assault?

How to write when all you want to do is shout?

Friday 25 January 2013 was the second anniversary of the outbreak of the Egyptian revolution. Today the revolution continues, as protestors face down government allies and troops across Egypt. Bodies are bruised, bloodied, and killed. Rocks are thrown, bullets shot, and bottles broken. We are learning, once again, that violence is always plural and weighted differently. Those on the front lines, the frail, and the young are more vulnerable to that gas that burns eyes, those clubs that break bones, and those boots that kick flesh. Female protestors are also more vulnerable to the multiple violences of revolution, of protest, of repression. Women are more vulnerable to violence in times of peace and of stability, and no matter who is in power.

Female protestors have been beaten, dragged through streets, and shot at along with their brethren protestors. They have been imprisoned, disappeared, and repressed just as ruthlessly as their male comrades. They have been pinched, grabbed, and harassed by both regime supporters and their political allies at Tahrir. They have been stripped and they have been raped, in the offices of police and medical examiners, and in the spaces of the public. Their vaginas, anuses, and breasts, the very organs that mark them as women, have been targeted and violated by individuals and groups of men on every side of Egypt's political divide.

Sadly, this fact, that it is precisely the violence and rape of women that transgresses political divides, does not shock us.

The daily possibility of sexual harassment, assault, and repression forms, in large part, the female political subject(s) in the modern state era. Public assaults in Cairo, mass and public rapes in India,and the fact that every two minutes a woman is sexually assaulted in the US are only amplifications and spectacular examples of the sexual violence that women and girls face across the divides of nations, cultures, religions, and economic systems; in peace and in war.

It is sad but not surprising to note the silence on these gendered dynamics in the coverage of the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. It should be all too clear that Tahrir is a discriminately gendered space. But despite efforts to counter this trend, most analysis is deafeningly silent on the violence of this process.

By de-gendering Tahrir the square, the protestors, and the revolution itself is depoliticized. This is similarly the case across the uprising and upheavals in the Arab world and beyond. We cannot continue to deny that men and women and boys and girls face different assemblages of violence and vulnerability daily in the streets of Homs or in a Jordanian refugee camp. To de-gender the Syrian uprising is to depoliticize its costs, the people waging it and the tactics used by them and by the state. There is no universal, ungendered, unclassed, and anonymous protestor or body of protestors. And yet, writing about rape in Syria, sexual assault in Egypt is somehow a “social issue” and, shunted off to those boxes called “gender studies,” “women's issues,” or “social/cultural dynamics,” comfortably outside politics. We can no longer afford such comfort.

This comfort is unethical. It imposes analytical limitations on the very possibility of understanding the various ongoing struggles for transformative change we are witnessing today. It reinforces a long-standing reality in which agents of power appropriate, control, and limit struggles for gender equality by folding them in the residual categories of “women’s empowerment,” and “women’s participation.” This folding pretends to offer an easy solution to gender violence and inequality—that they will simply dissipate if more women were to exercise their right to vote or serve in parliament, for example.

In Egypt, it is this bifurcation of the “social” from the “political” that has allowed Mubarakists, officers, and Brothers, along with their regional and international allies, to set the terms of struggles for gender equality. Those terms—gender quotas for parliament and cabinet, family laws, and birth control—are silent on the dire need of meaningful social and political change. It is these false dichotomies between gender and politics, between the economic and the cultural that will continue to impede the very possibility of transformative revolution in Egypt and beyond.

It is not possible to write the political without beginning with plurality, without multivalent injuries, without bodies and the organs that mark them with difference by interconnected regimes of power. It is not possible to write the political without writing about the body; the body itself is both a medium and the primary target of modern politics and state intervention. Gender and sex are a product of this intervention and regulation of the body by the intersection of state, economic, historical and cultural practices. One cannot approach politics or revolution without a focus on the body. One cannot approach the body without thinking through sex and gender.

Analysts and journalists who write on the Syrian refugee crisis or Egyptian protestors who use the singular voice are making a choice. They choose to interpolate a universal that does not exist. This choice a political act. Is this singular voice due to ignorance, and if so, can we read ignorance as a political act? Is it even possible to write three dimensionally? And if it isn't, should we stop trying?

The urge to highlight one factor over another while thinking about sexual violence in a particular context is seductive: it is either culture, history, imperialism, or more generally, patriarchy. It is more difficult, and less conducive to action, to pause on ambiguity, contingency, and the ways these factors and others are woven (often tensely) together in each act of sexual violence—an intractable and constitutive aspect of political violence. Yet to simplify sexual violence—to consider it a woman's or social issue is to depoliticize it. To de-gender the uprisings is to depoliticize. It is to reproduce a unmarked universal - “the citizen” or “the protestor” - a mythical subject position that fails to capture the complexity of political life in an age of governmentality and biopolitics.

But is there a utility for this analysis when you just want to scream while reading about a female protestor stripped, violated and chased through the streets by male protestors, regime allies and onlookers in Tahrir Square, a place that has come to represent revolution, and revolutionary fervor, internationally?

*This article benifitted greatly from conversations with and insights from Hesham Sallam.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Divided World Divided Class Reviewed and Discussed by Matthijs Krul and others

Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism is a book published by Kersplebedeb as part of the Kalikot Book Series  (and available from back in September of last year.

Divided World Divided Class charts the history of the ‘labour aristocracy’ in the capitalist world system, from its roots in colonialism to its birth and eventual maturation into a full-fledged middle class in the age of imperialism. It argues that pervasive national, racial and cultural chauvinism in the core capitalist countries is not primarily attributable to ‘false class consciousness’, ideological indoctrination or ignorance as much left and liberal thinking assumes. Rather, these and related forms of bigotry are concentrated expressions of the major social strata of the core capitalist nations’ shared economic interest in the exploitation and repression of dependent nations.

This kind of analysis strikes many of us as "obvious" on a gut level, however explaining how this occurs can seem tricky. That's one of the strengths of this book, which breaks down the process historically, but also in terms of economic data. Showing how the goods consumed by the metropolitan working class contain more hours of labour than First World consumers work, the shortfall being made up by the exploitation of workers in the Third World.

Of course, this flies against the prevalent dogma of broad sections of the left. Here in canada, for instance, the New Socialist Group is hostile to the idea and implications of studying the labor aristocracy. As such, it is not surprising that they published a review by Charlie Post, Workers in the Global North: A Labour Aristocracy?, which dismisses Cope's claims out of hand. Post's dismissal was then taken to task by MLM Mayhem, in a his The Theory of Labour Aristocracy and its Discontents: a meta-review of Cope's "Divided World Divided Class". (Note also that MLM Mayhem had reviewed DWDC previously, as had MIM(Prisons). Note also that Nikolai Brown of also conducted a good interview with Cope about his book and his analysis.)

While the above debates can be of interest, by far the most thorough engagement with Cope's argument has come from Matthijs Krul on the excellent Notes and Commentaries blog. Rather than attempt to summarize Krul's appraisal and arguments, with permission i am reposting it below. Enjoy.

Divided World Divided Class Reviewed by Matthijs Krul

There are times when one encounters a book that is frustrating in a way particular to the intellectual life: that is to say, when one encounters a book that is precisely the book one wanted to write. Given the relative obscurity of my interests, this does not happen often to me, but Zak Cope’s Divided World, Divided Class is precisely one of these. I have harboured plans for the longer term to write a book on the history of the labour aristocracy and its interrelationship with the rise of social-democracy as the political expression of the imperialist rent required for the maintenance of that class, with all the necessary economic and historical detail; in fact, I almost undertook this as my PhD subject. If I had done so, I might well have been embarrassed. Cope has done just this, even up to much of the same bibliography I had had in mind! Be that as it may; these reflections are not to make myself seem important, but to underline the value I think this book has, being the only one of its kind and a real historical contribution to the critique of political economy under capitalism.

Cope’s book is a milestone in the current of Marxist political economy known as “Third Worldism”, that is to say, in developing an honest and realistic understanding based in Marxist value theory of what in the wider literature is called the divergence question: the long-standing division of the world between a small number of rich countries where even the working class has incomes in the top 10-20% of the world population, and a much larger number of poor countries lagging tremendously behind in all aspects of development. As is well known, this gap grows larger rather than smaller, and significantly from the Marxist point of view, it has led for the first time in world history to the majority of the world population actually being poor urban workers – in these countries. There is among socialists little disagreement as to the reality and significance of this fact. Nor of the corollary, the enormous significance of finding the right economic theory to explain and understand the mechanics of this divergence. Even the ‘well-meaning’ type of neoclassical economist would readily agree to this. As Robert Lucas once famously noted:
Is there some action a government of India could take that would lead the Indian economy to grow like Indonesia’s or Egypt’s? If so, what, exactly? If not, what is it about the’ nature of India’ that makes it so? The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else. (1)
For this reason it is remarkable with how little seriousness and honesty most Marxist economic theorists have been willing to analyze this subject. There is indeed some excellent Marxist literature in development economics, as exemplified by the works of Ben Fine, Patrick Bond, and others. There is also a wider literature more rooted in Marxisant versions of dependency theory, such as Samir Amin and Arghiri Emmanuel. These already go much further in trying to analyze not just the perpetuation of differences in wealth by immediate policies of imperialism and expropriation, but to also understand the historical reproduction of class relations corresponding to the phenomenon of global divergence. For this reason, perhaps, those authors are already somewhat marginal within Marxist economic theory. Generally it has been very acceptable to the various Marxist parties and political currents to expound upon the evils of imperialism and war and the poverty of the Third World, but it has been much less acceptable to try and understand those “mechanics” underlying this divergence, never mind the political conclusions to be drawn from these facts themselves. This threatens the political viewpoint of most intellectual Marxists, rooted in the politics of students and workers in the First World countries; those conclusions may not be compatible with that viewpoint, and it is hard to ignore the feeling that at some level this is sensed by many Marxist economists. Do not explore too far in this direction, they seem to say: for there be dragons.

It is therefore to the immense credit of Zak Cope (this may or may not be pseudonym) that he has done so regardless of the political consequences or palatability of this research for the Marxist mainstream in the West. Indeed, once one starts thinking about the perpetuation of divergence, the ever-declining interest in revolution and support for a meaningful socialism among First World workers, the rise of social-democracy as the ‘consensus’ of the First World even up to the neoliberal era, the logic of settler states and the inherent ‘workers’ chauvinism’ associated with them and the reproduction of similar ideas among the working classes of Old Europe in response to immigration; in short, all the unpleasant realities of Marxism today and one then notices how all these are contrary to the expectations of mainstream Marxist political thinking but entirely compatible with the Third Worldist perspective, one has a very strong case to be explained indeed. Cope does just this with great vigour and relentless scientific seriousness. What J. Sakai had done for American settlerism in Settlers, this Cope does more extensively and more scientifically for the position of the working class of the rich countries as a whole.

Cope’s case runs, briefly summarized, as follows. The imperialism of the Western countries (broadly taken), enabled initially by the plunder and exploitation of the Americas and continued by the increases in wealth, power, and technology enabled by these, have over time created the potential for systematic transfers of surplus value from the ‘imperialized’ ‘periphery’ to the imperialist ‘center’. These transfers then not only allow a great blossoming of labor in the countries of the center that is not immediately productive of capital, because it is compensated for by the external value transfers, but more importantly it permits the ruling classes of the center to buy off the exploited working class of the center with the proceeds of this imperialist rent. This labor aristocracy, so formed, then no longer fulfils the one special role the working class has in Marx and Engels’ theory of historical materialism: namely, to be unable to emancipate itself without overthrowing the conditions it itself reproduces with its labour.

In and of itself, this is not a new observation: it is the classic expression of the theory of the labor aristocracy as found in Engels and Lenin, among others. However, the real crux is that Cope then extends this theory by demonstrating, as only the obscure “H.W. Edwards” had done before him, that the natural ideology of the labor aristocracy is social-democracy, and that social-democracy is the means by which the imperialist rent is shared with a wider and wider section of the working class of the center. This First World generalized labor aristocracy thereby becomes almost entirely non-exploited in net terms, according to Marx’s theory of value, because the value of the surplus value produced by them is (more than) compensated for in the process of distribution through world trade. That is to say, the imperialist and neo-imperialist unequal exchange between the First World – defined by Cope as roughly the OECD and the non-OECD, excl. Eastern Europe – and the Third constitutes such a vast transfer of surplus value in the sphere of distribution that it permits, through social-democracy, an almost total compensation for the domestic exploitation of the First World working class.

Cope goes into considerable historical and economic detail to support this position. Almost always such a suggestion is immediately dismissed by doctrinaire mainstream Marxists as being impossible, or done away with by a kneejerk reference to the idea that the most productive laborers must be the most exploited. But not only does the theory of labor aristocracy have a considerable Marxist pedigree, as mentioned above, but it is vital to note that Marx himself emphasized that ‘world trade’ itself functions as an exogenous factor of distribution in the model of capitalist exploitation presented in Capital. Already early on, Marx criticizes the inability of Proudhon to take the global division of labor, as produced by world trade, into account, much like many Marxists today:
Mr Proudhon is so far from the truth that he neglects to do what even profane economists do. In discussing the division of labour, he feels no need to refer to the world market. Well! Must not the division of labour in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, when there were as yet no colonies, when America was still non-existent for Europe, and when Eastern Asia existed only through the mediation of Constantinople, have been utterly different from the division of labour in the seventeenth century, when colonies were already developed?

And that is not all. Is the whole internal organisation of nations, are their international relations, anything but the expression of a given division of labour? And must they not change as the division of labour changes? (2) 
In Capital, too, the modification in the domain of distribution (affecting market prices) is recognized, for example by the classic case of differences in productivity:
But the law of value in its international application is yet more modified by the fact that on the world-market the more productive national labour reckons also as the more intense, so long as the more productive nation is not compelled by competition to lower the selling price of its commodities to the level of their value. (3)
Cope describes at length the formation of various labor aristocracies of settler kind, such as those of the American migrants in the United States (over and against the ‘racially inferior’ populations), of the English settlers in Ireland, and so forth. He describes how communism is subverted among these workers into a chauvinistic form, seeking the benefits of the capitalist system but shared with and among the labor aristocracy itself, not globally or with the lower ranks of the segmented labor market, and how social-democracy is the natural expression of this phenomenon, and fascism the crisis expression of it. (Which, incidentally, ought to do away with the Trotskyist canard about the supposedly evident ridiculousness of the theory of ‘social fascism’ proposed against social-democracy by the Comintern; in fact, this is precisely what social-democracy often is, seen from this global vantage point.) But, even all this accepted, Marx proposes above the usual mainstream Marxist explanation, that is, that differences in productivity and intensity of labour account for the very systematic and extremely widely shared wage differentials between the First World working class and the Third World working class. Merely pointing at imperialism and the remarkable ‘coincidence’ of this differential with the main imperialist countries or their primary trading partners is not enough, nor is historically describing the First World workers’ systematic rejection of revolutionary possibilities in favor of social-democracy, from which they benefit but nobody else. One must demonstrate the economic basis in unequal exchange and in direct exploitation of the Third World of this wage differential.

Cope then comes to the major economic contribution of his book, which is to do just that. Using the widely available statistics on working hours, male workers’ wages in OECD and non-OECD countries, the estimates of value transfer through undervaluation of Third World currencies compiled by Gernot Köhler, the estimates of value-added in production between the First World and the Third, and so forth, Cope makes a clear and convincing case suggesting strongly, although with some room for error, that it is not at all possible to account for the differentiation by productivity differentials only, and in fact that the overwhelming majority of the wage differential is composed of vast transfers of value from the developing countries to the developed ones, distributed there to the Western working class. The means of such transfer are unequal exchange in commodity trade (i.e. deteriorating terms of trade), unequal exchange in currency exchange rates, the substantial and systematic trade deficits of the First World (especially the US), FDI profit repatriation, and so forth.

The author has undertaken extensive statistical analysis of publicly available data from the ILO, World Bank, UN, OECD etc., and therefore cannot be accused of coming up with mere speculative estimates or handwaving it away, as is usually done by mainstream Marxists on this issue. Some may object that one cannot simply measure prices of production adjusted in the market and then conclude value transfers from these, but this misses the point: it is precisely the case that bourgeois measurements such as GDP, total factor productivity and so forth are merely based on existing prices, and therefore do not – as is the point of Marxist value theory – explain the causes and social origins of particular prices prevailing rather than others. Measures such as volume of trade within the First World versus between the First and the Third (the latter being much smaller at present prices) will not do as a common counterargument – they constitute a petitio principii, because it is precisely the low prices and low ‘value’ of the Third World production relative to the First World production that is reflected in such statistics, and that needs explaining in the first place.

It is tragic to note how little attention to these facts has been paid by most Marxist thinkers of the past decades, despite their enormous political and economic consequences. Perhaps this is because it is not very convenient to the outlook and strategy of many Marxist political organizations to acknowledge that the Western working class currently is not revolutionary, and in fact cannot be revolutionary without majorly violating the expectations of Marx and Engels’ theory of historical materialism. This would perhaps explain the systematic failure of many Marxist parties to analyze why they do not and cannot become ‘mass parties’ in the West, and why the ‘mass parties’ that did exist in the West did not make revolution at any point. (Although in being more serious about supporting the so-called ‘really existing socialisms’ elsewhere in the world, the Moscow line parties and ‘Eurocommunists’ were arguably still more useful than the current leading groups.) However, after the publication of this book the ball is in the court of the mainstream in Marxist political economy to do something with this, at the least to analyze it statistically, come up with new theories and new scientific research in this direction, and to not flinch from the conclusions these may offer. Socialism must be scientific or it is nothing, and there can be no partiality towards preconceived notions in science.

All this being said, I have some minor quibbles with the book, which should not detract from the great appreciation I have for its urgency and importance. At times, I fear – like many Third Worldist Marxists – Cope bends the stick somewhat too far. While he appears not to be wholly consistent in this, he suggests at some points in the historical section of the narrative that the labour aristocracy would have been relatively significant on the world stage for Britain and similar countries as early as the 18th century, due to the benefits of imperialism. This seems to me unlikely for two reasons: firstly, because social-democracy is the vehicle for the actual mechanics of ‘dividing the spoils’, and no such system was to be found anywhere but in the racial economy of settler states (including plantation Ireland). Secondly, because we know from refined economic history writing of the last two to three decades that the true ‘modern’ divergence between Europe and the rest of the world begins roughly between 1750-1830, depending on estimates, and reaches its complete form only with the conquest of India and its use as a cudgel to beat China with.

It seems therefore for a process of generalized labor aristocratization, so to speak, to occur, one would have to estimate this no earlier than the late 19th century – after the Berlin Congress, the complete colonization of the world by Europe, and the rise of social-democracy. It is important here for Cope and sympathizers not to bend the stick too far: imperialism as such is as old as the age of the first empires in Mesopotamia, and the mere fact of its presence even on a large scale does not thereby create the divergence nor generate a labor aristocracy. Ancient Rome had a labor aristocracy paid out of imperialist rent, among the plebeians of the capital city, but even this class was not numerous or politically significant enough to systematically alter the class relations underpinning ancient society, and it faded into nothingness.

It is also important to distinguish the particular political economy of settler societies from the larger set of labor aristocratic countries, and to sharpen these distinctions analytically. Cope does not fully do so. It is also for this reason that I disagree somewhat with his reading of Nazi Germany as a form of labor aristocratic imperialism. While Cope mentions the work of Adam Tooze in his footnotes, he does not seem to understand the significance of his work as counteracting Götz Aly’s claims of widespread German benefits from the very start of the Nazi empire. Of course, in Nazi Germany the programme of rearmament and re-industrialization virtually eliminated unemployment and inflation, and this made the fascist rule possible for most of the 1930s. But its basis, as described by Tooze as well as Sohn-Rethel, was not in a labor aristocracy, but in the expansionist sectors of industry, in the Junker class, and in the small and medium farmers, all classes greatly disadvantaged by the relative underdevelopment of Germany among the greater powers. A relative underdevelopment is not a basis for a classic story of labor aristocracy, but the contrary.

In my own three extensive articles outlining a preliminary Marxist political economy of Nazi Germany, I emphasize that the fascist policy of Nazi Germany was not primarily one of a ‘regular’, pseudo-social-democratic labor aristocracy in Germany, but an attempt at creating such a class; and not just that, but in the specific form of a settler society. The programme of colonization and destruction of Eastern Europe for ‘Lebensraum’ is, as Cope rightly notes, simply an application in Europe of the principles of colonial imperialism Europe undertook elsewhere; but he misses the significance of its settler form, which means a necessarily racial policy, a programme of genocide, and so forth. Cope seems to suggest that the Bismarck-Kautsky era had already created a greater labor aristocracy and that otherwise the presence of benefits from war plunder (including of Jewish assets), holidays and so forth pacified the working class of Germany.

I am not so convinced; precisely German relative underdevelopment prevented the full rise of such a labor aristocracy earlier on (hence the serious size and potential of the KPD, the various revolutionary moments, etc.), and the Nazi programme to create one was truncated by the war. It seems it was mainly a combination of repression, conscription, and the benefits of being employed in positions superior to the POWs and ‘undesirables’ that made large-scale working class resistance to the Nazis unfeasible until late in the war, but this only shows a settler society that failed to form, not one in real existence. More research is certainly needed into a serious Marxist explanation of this phenomenon, beyond opportunistic use of Götz Aly alone. The rise in the standard of living of Germans was in this way purely contingent on the first few war years and failed to materialize in a substantive way; in fact the rather austere ‘ordoliberalism’ of the Erhard period did more for post-fascist West German living standards, thanks to American value transfers(!), than the Nazi period ever did. It does, of course, all the more underline the great significance of destroying this attempt at creating the ultimate, perfect settler society in the heart of the imperialist center itself, an ultra-empire; and therefore the correctness of the Communist policy of ‘suspending the class struggle’ in favor of the anti-fascist effort.

Finally, Cope does not wholly avoid the common notion among Third Worldist Marxist writers (for example in LLCO) that the economic analysis as such necessarily generates a set of strategic political concerns. While it is certainly the case that these conclusions have major consequences for the evaluation of the possibility of revolution in Western countries, it does not follow, for example, that one must put an undifferentiated ‘anti-imperialism’ on the agenda as the only or main concern of all Marxist activity. Not that this is wrong per se, but one simply cannot make the leap from historical and political-economic analysis to strategy in this way, nor so close off the debate about the possible avenues of further political understanding. Just as the Trotskyists have a habit of reading clichéd conclusions about ‘socialism from below’ based on the experience of the Russian Revolution into every historical or economic analysis, so the Third Worldists tend to read into every event the necessity for Western Marxists to verbally or politically prop up any figure or group in the Third World that presents itself as ‘anti-imperialist’, however implausible; and this I do not think needs follow from accepting the conclusions of this critique of political economy.

These minor points being made, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough to all open-minded Marxists and people interested in development questions. Occasionally the prose is somewhat rote, but the points are extremely important and made with all scientific seriousness and are the fruit of an impressive amount of research and statistical calculation. In the current period, the capitalist classes of the First World seem inclined to go more and more against the historic compromise of social-democracy, and the social-democracy is therefore declining in historical vigour proportionally to the shift of capitalist production from the First to the Third World in search of lower wages and higher profits, pressured by ever-accumulating private debt. This death agony of social-democracy seems to me only understandable on the basis of a Third Worldist analysis as outlined in this book, if one does not want to fall back into unsatisfying and intellectually lazy clichés about “false consciousness”, “hegemony”, media dominance and whatnot to explain the current global political constellation. Nepal makes revolution while no British communist group has more than 3000 members, China and India ‘develop’ along capitalist lines because the Western working class has lived at their expense – that is the reality we must explain today. Divided Word, Divided Class is neither more nor less than an application to our time of the analysis Friedrich Engels made of the British working class in 1883, the year of Marx’s death:

Do not on any account whatever let yourself be deluded into thinking there is a real proletarian movement going on here. I know Liebknecht tries to delude himself and all the world about this, but it is not the case. The elements at present active may become important since they have accepted our theoretical programme and so acquired a basis, but only if a spontaneous movement breaks out here among the workers and they succeed in getting control of it. Till then they will remain individual minds, with a hotch-potch of confused sects, remnants of the great movement of the ‘forties, standing behind them and nothing more. And–apart from the unexpected–a really general workers’ movement will only come into existence here when the workers are made to feel the fact that England’s world monopoly is broken.

Participation in the domination of the world market was and is the basis of the political nullity of the English workers. The tail of the bourgeoisie in the economic exploitation of this monopoly but nevertheless sharing in its advantages, politically they are naturally the tail of the “great Liberal Party,” which for its part pays them small attentions, recognises trade unions and strikes as legitimate factors, has relinquished the fight for an unlimited working day and has given the mass of better placed workers the vote. But once America and the united competition of the other industrial countries have made a decent breach in this monopoly (and in iron this is coming rapidly, in cotton unfortunately not as yet) you will see something here. (4)
This world monopoly is now that of ‘the West’ so-called; and every day it is more broken, while every day the Western working class fights to maintain it. What will we do?

1) Robert E Lucas Jr., “On the Mechanics of Economic Development”, in: Journal of Monetary Economics 22 (1988), p. 3-42.

2) Karl Marx, Letter to P.V. Annenkov (Dec. 28, 1846).

3) Marx, Capital, Vol. 1, Ch. 22

4) Friedrich Engels, Letter to August Bebel (Aug. 30, 1883).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Transsexual and transgender women denied access to shelters as temperatures drop in Montréal

The following press release from ASTT(e)Q (Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec):

Transsexual and transgender women denied access to shelters as temperatures drop in Montréal
ASTT(e)Q urges Québec shelters to change discriminatory practices

25 January, 2013 - As temperatures drop to extreme lows, transsexual and transgender women in Montréal continue to be turned away from many homeless women’s shelters. Over the past week of bitter cold, ASTT(e)Q, a local trans health project of CACTUS Montréal, has witnessed several of our members be denied shelter on the grounds of being trans. While such refusals are frequently justified by administrative regulations, members of ASTT(e)Q believe that these exclusive practices are rooted in discriminatory attitudes towards trans people.

A majority of women’s shelters throughout Québec require trans people to have undergone sex reassignment surgery, and/or to have changed their legal sex. “Such requirements are unattainable for most homeless trans people, due to prohibitive costs, and extensive administrative requirements,” says Mirha-Soleil Ross, staff of ASTT(e)Q. “Trans women are left with no alternatives, as men’s shelters are clearly not an option. With no place to turn, homeless trans women find themselves on the streets, which in -30 below temperatures is nothing short of deadly.”

“Just this week, a trans woman who had her surgery months ago was refused access to a woman’s shelter because she didn’t have an ‘F’ on her identity documents! While we believe trans people should have access to shelter and housing regardless of surgical status, this is a clear case of discrimination disguised as administrative regulations,” continues Ross.

“We are currently seeing many important legal and social advances for trans people, including in neighbouring Ontario where one can change their legal sex regardless of surgical status,” says Nora Butler Burke, coordinator of ASTT(e)Q. “In Québec, trans people have been relentlessly educating intervention workers and calling for shelters to address the exclusion of homeless trans people for decades. Yet shelters continue to refuse trans people based on the outdated policies of the Québec Department of Civil Status.”

In the context of life threatening temperatures, ASTT(e)Q urges all shelters to immediately remove barriers to admission for trans people based on the legal documentation in their possession and/or their surgical status. More broadly, we advocate for access to shelters, as well as other gender specific services, to be available according to one’s social identity rather than according to their legal or surgical status. We encourage organizations across Québec to work in collaboration with trans community groups to ensure that trans people are no longer denied access.

About ASTT(e)Q (Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec)

ASTT(e)Q aims to promote the health and well-being of trans people through peer support and advocacy, education and outreach, and community empowerment and mobilization. We understand the health of trans people and our communities to be interrelated to economic and social inequalities, which have resulted in trans people experiencing disproportionate rates of poverty, un(der)employment, precarious housing, criminalization and violence. We believe in the right to self-determine our gender identity and gender expression free from coercion, violence and discrimination. We advocate for access to health care that will meet the many needs of our diverse communities, while working collectively to build supportive, healthy and resilient communities.


For interviews: Nora Butler Burke at 514-347-9462
For terms, definitions and additional information about trans people:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Zig Zag on Idle No More: "In any liberation movement there are internal and external struggles"

We are living in exciting times, with large numbers of people clearly fed up and taking action, no longer content to wait for the right moment or the right ideas or the right leadership to tell them what to do. Whether we think of Occupy, the Arab Spring, or the current Idle No More upsurge, spontaneity and taking a stand seem to be the order of the day. For those of us have lived through less exuberant times, it is a welcome change. That said, this new environment that clearly comes with its own potential pitfalls and weaknesses.

In order to try and understand this better, i asked some questions of Zig Zag, also known as Gord Hill, who is of the Kwakwaka'wakw nation and a long-time participant in anti-colonial and anti-capitalist resistance movements in Canada.  Gord is the author and artist of The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance Comic Book and The Anti-Capitalist Resistance Comic Book (published by Arsenal Pulp Press) and 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance (published by PM Press); he also maintains the website

Here is what he had to say...

K: What are the living conditions of Indigenous people today within the borders of what is called "canada"?

ZZ: Indigenous people in Canada experience the highest levels of poverty, violent death, disease, imprisonment, and suicide.  Many live in substandard housing and do not have clean drinking water, while many territories are so contaminated that they can no longer access traditional means of sustenance.  In the area around the Tar Sands in northern Alberta, for example, not only are fish and animals being found with deformities but the people themselves are experiencing high rates of cancer.  This is genocide.

K: Dispossession has been a central feature of colonialism and genocide within canada. Can you give some examples of how people have resisted dispossession in the past?

ZZ: Well in the past Native peoples had some level of military capability to resist dispossession, which ended around 1890.  More recently there have been many examples including Oka 1990, Ipperwash 1995, Sutikalh 2000, Six Nations 2006, etc.  At Oka it was armed resistance that stopped the proposed expansion of a golf course and condo project.  At Ipperwash people re-occupied their reserve land that had been expropriated during WW2, and they still remain there to this day.  At Sutikalh, St'at'imc people built a re-occupation camp to stop a $530 million ski resort. They were successful and the camp remains to this day.  At Six Nations they re-occupied land and prevented the construction of a condo project.

K: The canadian state has an army, prisons, police forces, and the backing of millions of people - not to mention the fact that it is completely integrated into world capitalism, both as a major source of natural resources and as an imperialist junior partner, messing up peoples around the world. What kind of possibilities are there for Indigenous people to successfully break out of this system, and resist canadian colonialism? What is the strategic significance of Indigenous resistance?

ZZ: Indigenous peoples must make alliances with other social sectors that also organize against the system.  The strategic significance of Indigenous peoples is their greater potential fighting spirit, stronger community basis of organizing, their ability to significantly impact infrastructure (such as railways, highways, etc, that pass through or near reserve communities) and their examples of resistance that can inspire other social movements.

K: What are bills C-38 and C-45, and how do they fit into the current global economic and political context?

ZZ: Bills C-38 and C-45 are omnibus budget bills the government has passed in order to implement its budget.  They include significant revisions of various federal acts, including the Navigable Waters Protection Act, environmental assessments, and the Indian Act. These are generally seen as facilitating greater corporate access to resources, such as mining and oil and gas.  The amendments to the Indian Act affect the ability of band councils to lease reserve land.  The move to open up resources, by removing protection from many rivers and lakes and "streamlining" environmental assessments is clearly meant to bolster Canada as a source of natural resources and to overcome public opposition to major projects such as the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and others.

K: Is this something new, or more of the same old same old from the canadian state?

ZZ: These bills are new in that they're designed, in part, to facilitate greater corporate access to resources, primarily in the changes to the environmental assessment and Navigable Waters Protection Act.  These are measures designed to re-position Canada as a major source of oil and gas for the global market, and particularly Asian markets, while diversifying Canadian exports of such resources away from a US focused one, as the US economy continues to decline.  At the same time they are indeed a continuation of policies adapted by the federal government for many years now, which include major projects such as the Alberta Tar Sands and proposed pipeline projects.  These policies are the result of the neo-liberal ideology that states have been following for the past few decades.

K: What is one to make of this Idle No More movement that has sprung up over the past six weeks?

ZZ: It's similar to Occupy in that it reveals a yearning for social change among grassroots Native peoples, but it is also reformist and lacks any anti-colonial or anti-capitalist perspective.  It is fixated primarily on legal-political reforms, specifically repealing Bill C-45 (which passed in mid-December).  Although it has mobilized thousands of Natives, this is only to create political pressure on the government.  The four women from Saskatchewan who founded the movement are lawyers, academics, and business managers, so it is no surprise that the entire trajectory of the movement has been focused on legal-political reforms.  Another prominent speaker on behalf of INM has been Pam Palmater, a lawyer and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University.  Last summer, she campaigned against Shawn Atleo for the position of "grand chief" of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

As it isn't anti-colonial or anti-capitalist, it has been a safe platform for many Indian Act chiefs and members of the Aboriginal business elite to participate, and many have in fact helped orchestrate the national protests and blockades that have occurred.  In fact, INM allied itself early on with chiefs from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario.  It was chiefs from these provinces that made the symbolic attempt to enter the House of Commons on Dec. 4, an event that in many ways really launched INM and built the December 10 day of action.

These chiefs oppose Atleo, support Palmater, and have been the driving force behind most of the major rallies and blockades that have occurred in their respective provinces (with notable exceptions, such as the Tyendinaga train blockades).  

The involvement of the band councils has helped stifle any real self-organization of grassroots people.  The reformist methods promoted by the original founders has included the imposing of pacifist methods and so has dampened the warrior spirit of the people overall. Another factor in the INM mobilizing has been the fast carried out by the Indian Act chief Theresa Spence in Ottawa.  This has motivated many Natives to participate in INM due to the emotional and pseudo-spiritual aspects of the fast (a "hunger strike" to the death).  Despite the praise given to Spence, she revealed her intentions in late December when she made a public call for the chiefs to "take control" of the grassroots.

K: What you are outlining seems to be a class analysis of the INM movement. Some people have suggested that class analysis is incompatible with anticolonial analysis, that it is divisive, or amounts to applying a european framework that is not relevant to Indigenous people. What do you make of this?

ZZ: Under colonization the capitalist division of classes is imposed on Indigenous peoples.  The band councils and Aboriginal business elite are proof of this.  Under capitalist class divisions, there are new political and economic elites that are established and who have more to gain from assimilation and collaboration, despite any movements for reform they may be involved in.  As separate political and economic elites, they have their own interests which are not the same as the most impoverished and oppressed, which comprises the bulk of Indigenous grassroots people.  Middle class elites are able to impose their own beliefs and methods on grassroots movements through their greater access to, and control of, resources (including money, communications, transport, etc.).

For a genuinely autonomous, decentralized and self-organized Indigenous grassroots movement to emerge, the question of middle-class elites, including the band councils, must be resolved.  I would also say that in any liberation movement there are internal and external struggles.  The internal one determines the overall methods and objectives of the movement, and therefore cannot be silenced or marginalized under the pretext of preserving some non-existent "unity."  In fact, only when internal struggles are clarified can there be any significant gains made in the external one, against the primary enemy (state and capital).

K: January 11 was the day that Harper was initially supposed to meet with Spence and other chiefs from across canada. But on the day of the meeting, due to Harper’s shenanigans, Spence and most other chiefs opted to boycott it, and Spence declared she would be continuing her hunger strike. How deep is this split, and does it signify that some chiefs are breaking with the neocolonial setup and developing a radical potential?

ZZ: There have always been divisions within the AFN and between regions.  As I mentioned, some Indian Act chiefs, especially in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Manitoba, have been spearheading many of the Idle No More rallies and breaking from the AFN's agenda.  This shouldn't be interpreted as proof that they are more radical, but rather that they have their own agenda.  "Grand chief" Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the AFN's provincial wing, has been very active in promoting INM rallies and blockades, etc.  But Nepinak's AMC also suffered massive funding cuts announced in early September.  His organization will see their annual funding cut from $2.6 million down to $500,000.  He is fighting for his political and economic career and has little to lose by agitating for more grassroots actions, but that doesn't mean he's now a "radical."  Rather, the band councils and chiefs must be understood as having their own agenda in regards to their power struggle with the state.  Many are easily fooled by militant rhetoric and symbolic blockades, but these are old tactics for the Indian Act chiefs.

Along with chiefs fighting for the maintenance of their provincial or regional organizations (such as the AMC or tribal councils), which is contributing to band council participation across the country in INM mobilizing, the chiefs in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario have a political struggle with Atleo and have their own vision for greater economic development.  It was the chiefs from these provinces that boycotted the meeting between the PM and Atleo, and who called for the January 16 national day of action.

Delegations of these chiefs have travelled to Asia, Venezuela, and Iran seeking corporate investors, especially in the oil and gas industry.  Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, one of those at the forefront of recent events and an outspoken opponent of Atleo, is the chief of the top oil producing Native band in the country (located in Alberta and Saskatchewan).  Fox and other chiefs have also attempted to gain access to OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, for partnerships with corporations.  Nepinak and other chiefs also met with Chinese officials in December, also looking for potential partnerships.

The rationale of these chiefs, Palmater and their allies in INM (the four "official founders") is that Atleo is collaborating with the assimilation strategy of the Harper regime.  Meanwhile, it is they who seek to take control of the AFN and impose their own version of Native capitalism, based in part on foreign investment in resource industries.  Ironically of course, many INM participants are rallying to defend Mother Earth, in many ways being used as pawns in a power struggle between factions of the Aboriginal business elite.  Many INM participants, I would say, are unaware of these internal dynamics.  Their mobilization under the slogans of "stop bill c-45," "defend land and water," etc., are positive aspects of INM, and show the great potential for grassroots movements.  But this is something that is in the early stages, and the movement will have to overcome the parasitical participation and control of the Indian Act chiefs as well as middle-class elites for it to advance.

K: There were hundreds of Idle No More actions on January 11. Here in Montreal, roughly three thousand people demonstrated, by far the largest protest related to Indigenous issues i have ever seen in this city. At the same time, the demonstration was overwhelmingly made up of non-Indigenous people, ranging from radical anticapitalists to members of Quebec nationalist and social democratic groups. This seems in line with the INM strategy of framing the movement as representing all canadians. How compatible is this with an anticolonial perspective, and what are the strengths and weaknesses of such diverse support?

ZZ: The first priority and main focus for an anti-colonial liberation movement must be its own people.  This is how it develops its own autonomous methods and practise, free from outside interference.  This helps to unify the movement and establish it as an independent social force.  Alliances are clearly necessary, and while the ultimate goal might be a multi-national resistance movement, colonialism and the unique history as well as socio-economic conditions of Native peoples means they must be able to organize autonomously from other social sectors.

I think in principle to frame Idle No More as one representing all Canadians is correct, but the way in which they are doing this waters down and minimizes the anti-colonial analysis that is necessary for radical social change.  By trying to appeal to the "Canadian citizen" it may broaden its appeal but to what end?  In the process it will have weakened the anti-colonial resistance.  Even now you can see the renewed calls for "peaceful" protests from INM'ers, as well as statements from the "official founders" that they don't support "illegal" actions such as blockades.  They're very sensitive to any loss of public support, claiming it is now an "educational" movement and that they don't want to inconvenience citizens.  The reformists might claim that in this manner we can build a bigger movement to defeat Bill C-45, but clearly such bills are just part of a much larger systemic problem we can identify as colonialism and capitalism.  Without addressing the root causes we'll just be doing the same thing next year against another set of bills. And of course, basing one's anti-colonial resistance on the opinion of the settler population will never lead to liberation.

K: We seem to have entered a period of spontaneous upsurges like INM internationally, be it the Arab Spring or Occupy or the recent anti-rape protests in India; in each of these cases masses of people are clearly fed up and willing to throw themselves into action, but for better or for worse they often bypass any of the organized anti-imperialist or anti-capitalist groups or traditions. Is this a sign of a failure on our part, that when circumstances finally give way to revolt we are not connected to those doing the revolting? Or is there something else going on?

ZZ: I would say a part of these mobilizations is the use of social media in spreading information and coordinating actions. Certainly in the Arab Spring, Occupy and now Idle No More, this has been a significant component of the mobilizing that has occurred.  It seems that there are more people who have been influenced by these ongoing social revolts and mobilizations, that then decide to take action of some kind, and the internet empowers them to organize rallies, etc.  They don't need the already existing radical groups to do this, and may not even know of their existence.

This leads to the situation where mobilizations are called, gain traction and then expand -- but they have a very shallow analysis of the system and lack experience in real resistance.  In both Occupy and INM we see inexperienced organizers who believe they have re-invented the wheel, who feel they know best how social movements should conduct themselves, etc.  At best, these mobilizations show that there is a yearning for social change among a growing number of people, but social media enables them to bypass more experienced and radical groups, and their naivete leads them to think that these groups fail because they're too radical. Therefore they appeal to the most basic and populist slogans, the least threatening forms of action, etc.

I don't know if I would characterize it as a failure on the part of radical groups that they are somewhat disconnected from these types of mobilizations.  They're not revolts, they're largely reformist rallies without a radical analysis dominated by liberals and pacifists, middle-class organizers, etc.  Until these movements are radicalized there is little possibility for radicals to be fully involved.  Another aspect of these types of mobilizations is their relatively short duration.  Occupy was largely over three or four months after it began, with some exceptions (such as Oakland).  How long will INM endure?

K: Although their leadership may be neo-colonial and middle-class, surely many of those in the grassroots who are attracted to surges like INM are not. How should established Indigenous anti-colonial groups relate to these mass mobilizations? Are there specific approaches that are more effective than others? And are there things to avoid?

ZZ: I would say Indigenous anti-colonial groups should engage such movements critically, and not simply take the role of cheerleaders. When large numbers of people are aroused and mobilized, it means they're thinking about, and discussing, concepts such as colonialism, tactics, strategies, methods, etc.  So it is an opportune time to contribute radical anti-colonial and anti-capitalist analysis, even though some participants in the movement think that such debate "divides" people. I would avoid denouncing such movements, or opposing them, of course, because there are both positive and negative aspects.  Promote the positive and try to illuminate the negative, the contradictions, etc.  As many participants are new and inexperienced, anti-colonial groups can contribute a lot to expanding and radicalizing the movement.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Eight Years of Sketchy Thoughts

It has been eight years since i started this blog, basically as a way of trying to figure out how to develop and explore some political ideas and perhaps also deal with a period of political and personal isolation i was going through. It "worked", and provided a space not only to try and figure some things out, to record things i would otherwise have forgotten, and to try and elaborate a set of political reference points. It has been a nice complement to what at the time was the more business-oriented site i also run.

Of course, every medium shapes the message, and there are drawbacks to this particular format. For one, not all blog posts are equal, and not all have the same staying power. Reposting a callout for a demo may be more important than writing up thoughts on the Iranian Revolution, but a year later the latter might retain some value, while the former does not. Furthermore, for some reason, google does not index all blog posts. There are things i have written here that for whatever reason are essentially invisible to the internet. And finally, with the advent of Facebook, a lot of things i would have written about here, i now simply repost or "like" there. Facebook is an amazing organizing tool, but comes with a major built-in security liability, and tends to dumb down our thoughts as well as our conversations. Beyond the quip and the snark, anything worth saying becomes "TLDR" in a mindscape ruled by grumpy cats and bad collages dubbed "memes".

Ever since i set up the leftwingbooks website for stuff that i sell, the distinction between what belongs on Sketchy Thoughts and what belongs on kersplebedeb has become pretty arbitrary. The ideal would be to somehow combine them. For the past year or so i have been exploring, with different people, ways to do just this, in the hopes of making a more coherent and useful repertoire of documents and thoughts. This was supposed to happen before the end of 2012, but that obviously was as bit too hopeful. Nevertheless, i'm going to take advantage of this New Year's to post a retrospective of sorts, a compendium of the things i am most pleased with having written on this blog over the past 8 years. (Unfortunately, this leaves out the many excellent things other people have written which i have reposted here, as well as series of reports i posted which only take on relevance when seen together; however this is just not that kind of retrospective!)

My hope is that soon all of this will be consolidated in a new way, but in case it isn't, here is a guide to the my favorites out of over 1000 postings to have made it on to sketchy thoughts since 2005, in reverse chronological order and separated out into categories:

Class and National Contradictions in quebec (and canada)

Political Struggle

On the Subject of Patriarchy

Militant Resistance and State Repression in quebec (and canada)

Fascism, Warlordism, Genocide, and Other Nightmare Potentials

Nations, Colonialism, Imperialism

Science Fiction