On the Killing of Cecil the Lion


Social media has been filled with the posts about Cecil the Lion, a popular African lion in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park shot and killed by Walter Palmer, a dentist and recreational game hunter from the United States. The controversy started as Palmer’s critics highlighted the cruel nature of his actions and game hunting in general, and escalated when others, mostly in North America, who argued that a life of the lion should not receive so much attention, while many Black. Brown, and Indigenous lives are considered worthless.

I was sympathetic to the latter position and I still am to a certain extent. The reaction the killing has generated is rather absurd in the face of racism and the institutionalized killings of oppressed peoples, many of which go unnoticed by the mainstream media. However, my view somewhat changed when I read a recent article that documents the Zimbabweans’ reactions to the controversy, which was mostly generated outside of its borders in the Global North. Some Zimbabweans are reasonably baffled by the controversy when there are many pressing social and environmental issues that affect their everyday lives, while others recognize the role tourism plays in the overall national economy. Reading this article made me realize the correct yet inadequate nature of the claim that Black/Brown/Indigenous lives in North America should matter more than a lion’s life.

What about the Zimbabwean lives? Not that the lion’s death would have a direct effect on the lives of the Zimbabwean people. Still, they are the direct descendants of those who put up a fierce resistance to British imperialism and liberated themselves from the shackles of its domination, albeit through the national bourgeoisie represented by Robert Mugabe who still remains in power to this day (documented in the film Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes from Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense). Besides, why should they care about a lion named after Cecil Rhodes, the first colonizer of southern Africa (then called Rhodesia), an imperialist bourgeoisie, and an advocate of settler-colonialism and white supremacy? And Mugabe’s reactionary politics and prosecution of homosexuals aside, Zimbabwe is still a Third Word country under pressure from neo-colonial institutions like the IMF and World Bank.

Conversely, any criticism of trophy hunting should highlight its history as a bourgeois recreation tied to the development of capitalism and colonialism. In the 19th century Britain, game laws functioned as a legal means of the nascent bourgeois state to dispossess the peasants and subsistence hunters. The emptied lands were made available for the gentry who hunted solely for recreational purposes. In the mean time, the dispossessed farmers and foragers were forced to take up wage employment in the cities. Similar laws were applied in Canada to accelerate the process of colonization, and in Africa where the creation of game reserves and national parks dispossessed Indigenous populations, so wealthy Northern tourists like Walter Palmer can freely access the lands and kill protected animals with impunity.

It is within these historical contexts that the killing happened, and the Zimbabwean government is subsequently demanding Palmer’s extradition to Zimbabwe, as a legitimate exercise of its sovereignty.

It is completely reasonable to criticize the moralistic character of the mainstream animal rights discourse and highlight how some human lives are grossly undervalued. But it’s simply not enough to counter this by insisting that both human and animal lives should matter. This position still remains within the realm of morality instead of politics and historical materialism, informed by the history of colonialism and trophy hunting as a bourgeois recreation. Practically speaking, a principled anti-imperialist position to take on this matter is to demand Palmer’s extradition to Zimbabwe. He should face the real consequence of his actions in Zimbabwe, as a foreign visitor who seemingly felt entitled to kill an animal protected under domestic laws, while falling back on his bourgeois class position and First World privilege to get away with it.

Against the “Ally Industrial Complex”: Re-visiting the Legacy of the Young Patriots and the Rainbow Coalition

Cover of the Young Patriots pamphlet featuring the confederate flag.

Cover of the Young Patriots pamphlet featuring the confederate flag.

White people can be revolutionary too. This statement may raise the eyebrows of some anti-racist and POC activists who believe that the best thing white people can do is to be their “allies.” Rather than struggling for their own liberation (if they are even supposed to be oppressed), white people are called upon to “take leadership” from the oppressed peoples, partake in “Allyship” trainings, and reflect on their presumed privilege.

My intention in writing this blog entry is not to dispute the fact that white privilege exists. Canada and the U.S exist as they are today because both states have upheld and continue to uphold colonialism and white supremacy as their organizing principles, through the genocide of Indigenous nations and super-exploitation of migrant labour. However, this doesn’t mean that the white proletariat does not exist in North America, and that white people can never be oppressed and hence revolutionary. The Young Patriots and other white revolutionary organizations in the 60s and 70s already proved this thesis wrong.

Young Patriots Organization grew out of the Job Or Income Now project initiated by Students for Democratic Society (SDS). The group, based in the Uptown neighbourhood in Chicago, mainly organized poor white migrants from the Appalachian region in the Southern U.S. It came into contact with other organizations like the Black Panthers Party and the Young Lords, and formed the Rainbow Coalition (unrelated to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition), a multi-national coalition of revolutionary organizations in Chicago.

The Rainbow Coalition sought to reconcile seemingly antagonistic differences among its members and unite around the common causes of anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism. The coalition also included members of rival street gangs as its leaders believed that poor youths’ fighting each other in gang wars only served the ruling class’ interests. They subsequently brokered peace treaties among the gangs and sought to direct their energy to political goals.

Rainbow Coalition members at a news conference in April 1969. The lack of gender parity is unfortunate.

Rainbow Coalition members at a news conference in April 1969. The lack of gender parity is unfortunate.

Theoretically, the Young Patriots believed that poor and urbanized Appalachians experienced oppression similar to that of Blacks and American Indians. They described themselves as “hillbilly nationalists” and claimed the white southerners’ right to self-determination, in opposition to the “pig power structure” which reinforced the capitalist system and instituted slavery. They even waved the confederate flag, but for the cause entirely opposite of what the flag is being used today: anti-racism.

Of course, their claim to “White Power” (modeled on Black/Brown Power) and slogans such as “the South Will Rise Again” are rather obsolete and even reactionary in today’s context. Four decades later, the confederate flag has been entirely re-appropriated as the symbol of oppression by white supremacists and any white activists who show up to Black Lives Matter protests would be shunned and they probably should be.

Their use of the flag was even confusing to people in their time, particularly to the Black Panthers and the Young Lords who debated extensively about the meaning of the flag and if they should collaborate with the Young Patriots at all. Both organizations eventually decided to join forces with them based on their shared radical vision, strategic orientation, and organizing practice. It is these aspects of the Young Patriots that we should learn from, rather than their theoretical outlook and symbolism.

Canadian settlers culturally appropriating the Southern U.S settlers. Photo by Jordan Bell/CBC.

Canadian settlers culturally appropriating the Southern U.S settlers. Photo by Jordan Bell/CBC.

The Young Patriots’ organizing practice focused on combating racism within Uptown Chicago, a white working-class neighbourhood and also the primary recruiting ground for white supremacist groups like Ku Klax Klan. In other words, rather than tailing behind the POC/Indigenous-led movements and “taking leadership” from them, they went into their own community to fight racism. To do this effectively, they addressed the material needs of their community by organizing around the issues of poverty, housing, and police brutality. It was through their practical organizing efforts that they were able to build their shared vision with other oppressed peoples and a class-based multi-national alliance that is the Rainbow Coalition. Bobby Lee, a Black Panther who helped build the coalition, recounts his experience of working with the Young Patriots (quoted in Redneckrevolt).

Looking back, was there enough basis for unity? Hell, yeah! When I went to Uptown Chicago, I saw some of the worst slums imaginable. Horrible slums, and poor white people lived there. However, two organizations prepared the way for the Rainbow Coalition, without them there wouldn’t have been a chance of forming one…The uptown neighborhood was prime recruiting zone for white supremacists. Most of the cats who were in the Patriots also had at least one family member in the Klan. Cats like Mike James and Jewnbug, and Tappis worked hard to fight that mentality. Mike James and rua drove a wedge in that bullshit, that white supremacist bullshit, their groundwork was just amazing, out of this world. When did I first meet the Young Patriots? It was at the Church of the Three Crosses. There was a meeting, and it was the one recorded in the movie American Revolution II. After the crowd left, the Patriots were still there. We asked the Minister if he could let us have his office. We asked the Patriots if they could work with the Panthers and they said yes. I didn’t even tell Fred (Hampton) for the first three weeks of meeting with these cats. It wasn’t easy to build an alliance. I advised them on how to set up “serve the people” programs—free breakfasts, people’s health clinics, all that. I had to run with those cats, break bread with them, hang out at the pool hall. I had to lay down on their couch, in their neighborhood. Then I had to invite them into mine. That was how the Rainbow Coalition was built, real slow.

The YPO's anti-gentrification propaganda. Courtesy of Bill Keniston.

The YPO’s anti-gentrification propaganda. Courtesy of Bill Keniston.

Challenging oppression within one’s own space is one of the key aspects of the “accomplices, not allies” literature that surfaced after the Ferguson uprising. While its analysis is generally correct in identifying the problems inherent in the so called “Ally Industrial Complex,” the alternatives it proposes often hinge on ultra-leftism i.e. valorization of direct actions over mass organizing. Yet the very notion that one cannot contribute to revolutionary social change by living vicariously through other peoples’ struggle is refreshing and worthy of attention.

Retrospectively, the North American Left’s retreat from class relegated anti-racist politics to the predominantly petit-bourgeois spaces such as universities, social services, and NGOs. The vacuums left open in the white working-class communities are often filled by white supremacists and other far-right groups who are able to mobilize the poor whites by scapegoating other oppressed groups like women, queer and trans people, Indigenous peoples, and immigrants.

How to implement this model today is an open question and dependent on one’s location. In the Canadian prairies, class divisions often correspond to race/national lines. For instance, Saskatoon and Winnipeg have the highest concentration of urban Indigenous residents in Canada, many of whom are poor and ghettorized in particular neigbourhoods. The poor whites are numerical minority. In comparison, Southwestern Ontario has a large number of white working-class populations, many of whom are dispossessed as a result of de-industrialization, factory closures, and the flight of capital to elsewhere. In such an environment, their organization becomes essential, though probably not along the national lines like the Young Patriots did in Chicago. Despite the obvious differences, it is not a coincidence that both of these regions are the hot spot for white supremacist activities in Canada.

As capitalism goes into crisis, the far-right has more sophisticated class analysis than the left does. They are able to identify their social base and advance their reactionary agenda based on this analysis. It is imperative for the left to do the same but for the revolutionary cause, and build a similar class-based alliance among oppressed communities that is by no means antithetical to the individual struggles and the various forms of oppression they experience. I believe the Young Patriots Organization and the Rainbow Coalition serve as a model upon which we could build our own.

Response to Boots Riley: Toward a Dialectical Understadning of Production and Reproduction

Photo by Josh Sanseri

Photo by Josh Sanseri

I always appreciate Boots Riley’s artistic and political interventions. Despite his creative capacity and credibility he has developed over nearly two decades of his career as a politically engaged hip-hop artist, he remains down to earth and accessible. He constantly interacts with his fans on social media and engages in discussions. He is not afraid to use his fame (for the lack of better word) to popularize radical politics and serve the popular struggles. But I’m not writing this to put Boots in the pedestal. Like any of us, he is imperfect and not without contradictions. His recent op-ed piece on the Guardian, later republished by Creative Time Reports, contained some errors that I would like to point out in this blog entry.

In this article, Boots criticizes the mainstream labour movement for prioritizing lobbying and not teaching the workers to fight. He argues that workers should stop relying on union bureaucrats and asking politicians to raise the minimum wage for them. This would only lead to compromise and defeat. Instead, workers should directly engage in militant strikes, work stoppages, and occupations that could disrupt the business-as-usual at the points of production and physically prevent the scabs (“replacement workers” in the bourgeois language) from taking the place of the strikers.

What is needed, he claims, is a militant union that is grounded on revolutionary ideology, willing to struggle and ultimately win, not only immediate struggles but also a broader political and social change. Like his previous writings, this article is a much needed intervention in the present period when the workers’ movement in North America is in the perpetual state of defeat. Even as a mainstream news article, it’s 100 times better than Paul Mason’s piece on the so-called “End of Capitalism” that the Guardian also recently published.

Despite the strength and clarity of Boots’ argument, it is when he delves into historical analysis that it becomes less convincing. He traces the historical origin of the retreat of class struggle in the U.S first to the 1940s. This was when the Communist Party of the U.S.A (CPUSA) adapted the Comintern’s Popular Front strategy against fascism and halted their public criticism of the U.S government. Revolutionaries no longer made their politics public and organized in a clandestine fashion. In Boots’ view, this made them more vulnerable to the state repression during the red scare that followed this period.

This assessment is interesting and something we can learn from in the face of the heightened repression and anti-terrorism legislation that are currently being passed by governments everywhere (i.e Bill C-51 in Canada). However, he also traces the present weakness of the workers’ movement to the rise of the New Left in the 1960s when the left supposedly, in Boots’ words, “moved away from class struggle.”

The New Left did things differently: no more showing people that they could stop the machinery of industry, forcing the bosses to meet demands or lose profit. Instead, their goal was to cause enough of a scene on the street that the media would cover it and embarrass administrators or politicians into meeting demands. This approach may have had some success at the time, but it’s not the model that today’s workers should use.

Our power lies not in the streets but at the pivot point of capitalism : the workplace.

This emphasis on wage labour and capital as the primary contradiction in capitalist society and the subsequent need to build militant labour movement have been the focus of his political line for some time. He has applied this framework to analyze specific issues like gentrification and events like the rebellions in Ferguson and Baltimore. While I agree with Boots’ overall analysis that workplace organizing has declined, his equation of the New Left with the weakening of class struggle is somewhat misleading.

For one, Boots’ view of class struggle is tactically focused. Radicalness of a movement is judged by its (un)willingness to engage in militant actions, rather than theoretical orientation informed by concrete analysis of concrete situation. He also seems to frame this reformist turn in the labour movement as purely subjective, as a strategic choice made by activists and organizers at the time. He doesn’t consider objective conditions that made workplace organizing difficult i.e high unemployment and poor living conditions among the racialized working-class peoples. He also doesn’t mention the fact that this was a period in which anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism came to the forefront of radical politics, and many movements shifted their focus from civil rights to self-determination (i.e Black/Brown/Red Power) in response to the grinding poverty, lack of essential services, and increased police repression in their communities. For these reasons, organizations formed during this period were mostly community-based and used tactics that were less oriented towards economic disruption i.e armed self-defence and service to the people programs.

Boots’ reference to the media stunt and shaming of public officials seems to refer to the Black Panthers Party, which engaged in public confrontations with the state, often by mobilizing their social base and appealing to the media. Of course, when they were not doing these things, they were organizing other community institutions mentioned above and resisting capitalism at the points of reproduction rather than production.

Boots’ comment on the New Left should not be seen as trivial. It is representative of a broader current within Marxist thought that prioritizes production over reproduction as the primary site of class struggle. It points to the age-old disagreement as to which section of the working-class is the leading force of revolution and subsequently where revolutionaries should focus their organizing effort in. For Boots, the answers are wage labourers and the workplace.

In comparison, many anti-colonial theorists of New Left like Huey P. Newton and Franz Fanon saw the “lumpenproletariat” as the revolutionary class, though the precise definition of the term is highly contested. Long before the New Left, Marxist feminists had pointed out the tendency in Marxsim to discount reproductive labour performed by women as the basis of the capitalist mode of production. Proletarian feminists later updated this theory to contextualize capitalist patriarchy in the age of imperialism as super-exploitation; exploitation of women’s labour both at the points of production and reproduction. Its effect is most harshly experienced by poor women of colour in the periphery of the world system, and within the internal colonies of settler societies. Unfortunately, Boots does not consider any of these factors.

By valorizing the points of production as the primary site of class struggle, Boots seems to suggest that robust national-liberation movements and struggles during the so called New Left period in the 1960s and 70s, led by organizations like Black Panthers, Young Lords, and American Indian Movement cannot be considered as authentic class struggle. True, many of these groups defined their politics along race and national lines, rather than a strictly class-based line. Still, Boots’ view only reinforces the idea that class struggle only happens in workplace, not in the communities.

What is missing from Boots’ analysis is more nuanced understanding of class and class struggle. What is needed is a broadening of class struggle as not only between capital and labour but also between the oppressors and the oppressed, the exploiters and the exploited, and the colonizers and the colonized.

Bryan Palmer provides a useful framework for this re-conceptualization in his article Uniting the Dispossessed. Palmer problematizes how defining class solely in terms of extraction of surplus value and the wage relation limits the entirety of the meaning of class and class struggle to workplace. He argues that we need to consider not only the process of production and relations of exploitation that characterize it. We also need to look at how dispossession makes the survival of such system possible.

For Palmer and many other Marxists, reproduction is part of the dialectical whole that constitutes the capitalist mode of production. In particular, by referring to Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation, Palmer points to the expansive nature of capitalist reproduction in which self-sufficient peasants and land-based peoples are forcibly separated from their lands and means of production, and subsequently become dependent on wage for survival. However, unlike Marx’s definition of primitive or original accumulation, Glen Coulthard applies this to the Canadian context and argues that dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their land is not an one-time event, but ongoing process and the foundational mechanism of settler-colonial capitalism in Canada.

Palmer also points out that, in order for capitalism’s to survive, it deliberately dispossess and pauperizes a section of workers as a “redundant population” and a reserve army of the unemployed. Similarly, like during the 60s and 70s, austerity programs continue to deprive many working-class peoples of essential services like housing, healthcare, and education. He argues that dispossession is part of the capitalist system which differentiates one section of the working-class form another, and the solution is not to posit this or that section as being more revolutionary than others, but to have e broader understanding of class that includes both waged and non-waged.

When we consider these factors, Boots’ analysis becomes inadequate. In North America, radical transformation of society requires understanding of settler-colonialism as its primary contradiction, and that the very existence of capitalism is made possible through the continuous dispossession of Indigenous peoples. It is neither desirable nor possible to build a revolutionary mass movement in Canada without the active participation of Indigenous peoples.

Boots’ call to “fight the scabs” also makes re-conceptualization of capitalism as dispossession and unemployment as part of its mechanism necessary. Practical corollary of this conceptual shift is of course organization of the unemployed and other dispossessed sections of workers to ensure that they don’t become scabs in the first place. The Workers Unity League (WUL), a Canadian counterpart to the pre-Popular Front radical unions Boots mentions, did exactly this during the 1930s.

Organization of the dispossessed workers is something that the contemporary labour movement has failed to do, while groups like Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) fill this vacuum, often by engaging in militant actions. This was most clearly demonstrated in defensive, if not overly chauvinistic, positions taken by the mainstream unions in response to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program. Without organizing the unorganized and proactively calling for broader immigration reforms in collaboration with other grassroots organizations like No One Is Illegal, many of them simply called for abolition of the program altogether. This has only reinforced the regressive immigration policies, led to mass deportations, and continued super-exploitation of migrant labour in Canada, while the majority of Canadian workers remain non-unionized and precarious.

Again, all of the flaws I have identified in Boots’ article are nothing new and something that Marxists have been debating for decades. But his popularity and the force of his argument make it all more necessary for us to revisit them now than later. I’m also not saying that it’s either production or reproduction that we need to focus on. We need to have a well-rounded analysis of both as dialectically interrelated and mutually constitutive, as part of the same whole, however contradictory they may be. We need both strong workers’ movement and mass organizing in neighborhoods, communities, and campuses to push the struggle forward.

Robert Biel’s Contribution to Anti-Colonial Marxism: Book Review — Eurocentrism in the Communist Movement


CORRECTION: The book was not republished jointly by AK Press and Kersplebedeb, but as a joint project of the Kalikot Book Series and Kersplebedeb. AK Press only distributed it. The Kalikot Book Series and Kersplebedeb also published Zak Cope’s “Divided Class, Divided World,” JMP’s “The Communist Necessity,” and is publishing a new book on China as an imperialist country (forthcoming).

As my first blog entry, I’m posting a review of Robert Biel’s Eurocentrism in the Communist Movement.

As indicated in the title, Biel’s work was intended to challenge a racist and chauvinistic current within the official communist movement led by the Soviet Union and communist parties in the imperialist countries (i.e Western Europe and North America). The book is based on the research conducted in the 1980s by the Political Economy Study Group (PESG) of the Revolutionary Communist League of Britain (RCLB) and was originally published as a pamphlet.

The document was recently re-published as a book under Biel’s name, with new footnotes and a chapter bringing the book’s content up to date. Biel does not discuss the gendered aspect of capitalism extensively in Eurocentrism, but he seems to draw more attention to the issue vis-à-vis the super-exploitation of women and oppressed nations in two books that followed (New Imperialism and Entropy of Capitalism) both of which I have not yet read.

In any case, Biel’s primary purpose in this book is to demonstrate the necessary connection between Eurocentrism within the communist movement and its degeneration into reformism, and subsequent co-optation by global capitalism. Revolutionary communists often describe this current as “revisionism,” comprising of communists who abandon the Marxist principle of class struggle in favour of “peaceful transition to socialism,” and appropriate the Marxist discourse to serve their reformist if not overtly capitalist goals, against the interests of working-class and oppressed peoples whom they claim to serve.

Biel argues that this revisionist turn in the communist movement was characterized by the revisionists’ abandonment of dialectical materialism as a philosophical framework. Dialectical materialists see the world as full of contradictions and in constant flux (dialectical) and subsequently see class conflict as the mover of history (materialism). However, in place of dialectical materialism, the revisionists adapt a mechanical and linear view of history in which development of capitalism is seen as natural and inevitable. Biel argues that this theoretical orientation has shaped the movement’s Eurocentric view and its relationship with, and attitude towards anti-colonial struggles in Third World.

The defining characteristic of this view is to see capitalism as progressive in destroying Indigenous modes of production, bringing the colonial and semi-colonial peoples up to par with the proletarians in the industrialized Global North, hence increasing the possibility of revolution. It accordingly frames Europe as the centre of social progress and the European working-class as the sole driver of world history, while sidelining the struggle of colonized peoples and framing them as the receiving end of revolution, rather than active participants. Marx and Engels infamously adapted this view in their analysis of British colonialism in India.

Unlike the popular criticism of revisionism which often associates its rise to the theories of Karl Kautsky, and later the post-Stalin Soviet and policies of Nikita Khruschev, Biel goes back all the way to Marx and Engels. According to Biel, both men gradually developed more sophisticated anti-colonial analysis and sympathy with the struggles of colonized peoples. However, they remained trapped in the racist ideology of their time, characterized by their view of history as linear progress passing through stages. They did not try hard enough to move beyond it, though he acknowledges that Marx went further than Engels did.

Lenin significantly transcended Marx and Engels’s Eurocentric limits by acknowledging the agency of colonized peoples and their increasingly active role in the making of world history, but he did not criticize the shortcomings of Marx and Engels. In addition, he still saw non-European societies as stagnant, seeing their struggle as something new, rather than dating back to early days of capitalism.

Despite Lenin’s contributions to the development of anti-colonialism within Marxism, his death led to its weakening and the deepening of Eurocentrism within the communist movement. During the period of Third International (Comintern) in the 1930s, creative ideas of participating Third World communists and other communists of colour were ignored and marginalized. The interests of anti-colonial struggles were subordinated to the anti-fascist Popular Front strategy formulated in the industrialized centre.

In such a climate, the Chinese Revolution was a great accomplishment, not only to the Chinese masses but to Marxism, the communist movement, and anti-colonial struggles around the world, proving that non-European peoples can make revolution on their own terms. However, Biel does not spare his criticism for the Chinese communists either, pointing out the weakness of their political economy and dogmatism during the Cultural Revolution.

Throughout the book, Biel is acutely aware of the danger of anti-revisionism in which the ruthless criticism of revisionism could lapse into dogmatism. Nonetheless, as a dialectical materialist, he is also cognizant of the contradictory nature of everything and contributions made by each Marxist in developing the revolutionary theory, in spite of their shortcomings.

There are very notable strengths in Biel’s work. For one, it challenges what many postmodern and liberal theorists see in Marxism; the Eurocentrism in Marxism as the defining characteristic of Marxism, as an undifferentiated and homogenous theory (which is ironic given their obsession with diversity and differences). He skilfully demonstrates the usefulness and effectiveness of Marxism in correcting its own errors and the fact that many anti-colonial struggles have taken up Marxism as a tool of liberation in places like Asia, Africa, Latin America, and North America as exemplified by Black and Red Power movements in the late 1960s and 70s. The places that were hitherto seen as “periphery” became the forefront of revolutionary movement.

In a similar vein, Biel criticizes reactionary elements within anti-colonial movements that see class differences as a foreign import, just like they see feminism as a sign of colonization on part of Indigenous women. However, the book is not an attempt to superimpose class-based analysis on Indigenous movements. Rather, it is an attempt to re-conceptualize class in a way that takes the specificity of colonial oppression into consideration.

Another significant aspect of the book is that its intended audience is not the colonized peoples per se, but the leftists in the imperialist countries and for them to challenge Eurocentrism within their own ranks, and stand in solidarity with anti-colonial struggles. This reflects Biel’s awareness that the people in the North do have a role to play in making revolution on the global scale, unlike what the advocates of Third Worldism believe.

Despite these strengths, there are some weaknesses in Biel’s analysis. As Biel focuses his effort on criticizing revisionism essentially as an Eurocentric ideology, he does not pay much attention to Trotskyism and its own Eurocentrism, aside from few comments on Trotsky’s disdain of peasantry and the national question. This is despite the fact that (as JMP shows), many Trotskyist organizations, particularly orthodox ones like the Spartacist League, still see the industrial working-class as the sole leading class of world revolution.

Another weakness of the book is unfortunately what many other Marxist studies of colonialism have not done. While Biel’s analysis of migration in Chapter 9 is one of the most progressive, the general focus of his work is on Third World and the North/South contradiction. As a result, the question of internal colonies (or “Fourth World” as coined by George Manuel) and the struggle of Indigenous Peoples within settler-colonies are not explicitly addressed and only mentioned in passing.

This may be partially excusable as Biel is based in the U.K. Still, he could have done better in bringing in concrete examples of struggle in North America and particularly Canada, a British colony! But this is partially due to the fact that Marxists have historically had very little to say about Indigenous Peoples in North America, aside from Marx and Engels’ work on the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and perhaps the negative encounter between Russell Means and the RCP-USA in the 1980s.

This weakness could nonetheless be counteracted by Biel’s claim that Marxism is not at all antagonistic to Indigenous modes of production. In some cases, it has recognized that capitalism preserves non-capitalist modes of production (i.e feudalism) to accumulate profit more effectively. In other cases, it has seen the co-operative manner in which many non-capitalist societies are organized as a a model for a new socialist society. While the latter view could be seen as romantic and implicitly subscribing to the discourse of “Noble Savage”, Biel’s anti-colonial politics is by no means anti-development and rather defined by his unqualified support for the right of colonized peoples to self-determination and direct their own future.

Glen Coulthard has provided much needed Indigenous voice to this matter in his recent book Red Skin, White Mask: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Despite the significance of Coulthard’s work, however, his analysis of Marxism is solely based on Marx and his theory of primitive accumulation, rather than contributions made by later Marxists that Biel highlights (i.e Lenin and Mao). Coulthard subsequently conflates Eurocentrism in Marxism with Marxism as such and subscribes to the view that Marxism is inherently Eurocentric.

Finally but not least, as much as I would like to recommend this book to everyone who is interested in Marxism, it assumes that the readers already know certain Marxist terminologies and gist of historical events that took place in the theory’s development. The book subsequently limits the audience to those already well-versed in Marxism, which is unfortunate considering the book’s practical implications for activists and organizers on the ground. In spite of these shortcomings, I highly recommend Robert Biel’s Eurocentrism in the Communist Movement for those who want to renew their understanding of Marxism and anti-colonial politics.



Welcome to Red Anthropology!

On this blog, I will be publishing book/film reviews, my views on current affairs, and reflections on organizing in Treaty 6 Territory. I will also be promoting local events that I support and posting other random things.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on anything. I want this blog to be educational and pedagogical for myself as well as those who read it, though I may occasionally take more didactic approach depending on the topic and engage in polemics as I see necessary. Feel free to comment, but trolling will not be tolerated and the site will be moderated rigorously.

Lastly, I will be promoting this page and posting less wordy stuff on my Twitter page of the same name.