Carlos Sardiña Galache, The all-out war of the Burmese military against its own people

Carlos Sardiña Galache, The all-out war of the Burmese military against its own people

The coup staged by the Burmese military on February 1, 2021 is plunging the country into an all-out war waged by the armed forces against virtually the whole of the population, as a massive civil disobedience movement is preventing the generals from taking full control of the state. In this lopsided war, the junta led by the Commander in Chief, Min Aung Hlaing, is using all the instruments of violence at its disposal with maniac relish. Soldiers are shooting unarmed civilians–more than 500 killed so far, including children as young as five; they are mercilessly beating up protesters and torturing jailed dissidents to death in a rampage of blind brutality designed to terrorize the entire nation into total submission.

Such brutality can be seen as the desperation of a cornered beast unleashing its fury in all directions.  The need for this violence to enable the Tatmadaw (as the Burmese military is known) to stay in power betrays a lack of popular legitimacy that the violence is doing nothing to remedy. Quite to the contrary. Whatever the outcome of the confrontation, the army is more hated now than ever, and such hatred will endure for years to come. This ends the brief and rare moment in which the army enjoyed popular support for its genocidal “clearance operations” in 2016 and 2017against the Rohingya, a beleaguered Muslim minority indigenous to the western state of Arakan. Because many Burmese despise the Rohingya as a demographic threat and wrongly regard them as “illegal immigrants” from what is now Bangladesh, many Burmese had approved of the military’s actions against them.

With the elected leader of Burma (officially known as Myanmar),[1] Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest and isolated from the world, and with most prominent politicians in her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), arrested or on the run, large swathes of the population quickly decided to take matters into their own hands. Shortly after the coup, Burmese citizens from all walks of life launched a spontaneous and peaceful civil disobedience movement that has been surprisingly resilient in spite of, or perhaps due to, its lack of a centralized leadership. Doctors and nurses, civil servants, bank employees, garment factory workers, students, dock workers and many others have brought the economy to a standstill for several weeks, taking to the streets almost daily, and managing to make the country ungovernable for the State Administration Council (SAC) led by military commander Min Aung Hlaing.

Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers elected in the November 2020 elections has created a civilian government, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), which is trying to gain international support while also negotiating a common front with the ethnic armed organizations that had been fighting the central state for decades, demanding autonomy for their regions in the borderlands of the country. These lawmakers escaped the capital at the coup and are now in an undisclosed location.  There are already talks to form a unified “federal army” to fight the Tatmadaw. Such a unified force would be extremely difficult to assemble, given the deep distrust among some of those armed groups, but many of them have expressed their solidarity with the civil disobedience movement, and some have renewed their attacks against the military.

In short, the takeover has united in unprecedented fashion a country deeply divided along ethnic, religious, and class lines. The Tatmadaw has always portrayed itself as the sole guarantor of national unity and the coup is paradoxically proving the point in an unintended way: with few exceptions, the whole country seems to be united against it.

AN ESCALATING CONFRONTATION

The takeover seems to go against the Tatmadaw’s own interests and the system that worked well for them since 2011, when the junta that ruled Burma since 1988 decided to embark on a transition to a “discipline-flourishing democracy,” whose terms were dictated by the generals with no input from the old pro-democracy camp. The Constitution drafted by the military gives the generals control over the three key security ministers—defence, home affairs and border affairs—as well as one quarter of all seats in Parliament, guaranteeing the military a central role in politics and freedom from civilian oversight.

The coup followed weeks of allegations, still unsubstantiated, of widespread electoral fraud, after the resounding victory of the NLD in the November 2020 election. These allegations were first made from Tatmadaw’s losing proxy party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), and then from the military itself. The Union Election Commission (UEC), appointed by the NLD government, rejected these allegations and eventually Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing decided to seize power hours before the parliament was due to convene and vote for the newly-elected government.

Meanwhile, ongoing developments in the war between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army (AA), a guerrilla faction fighting for autonomy for the Rakhine, the mostly Buddhist ethnic group dominant in the state of Arakan, also contributed to deepening tensions between the NLD and the military. Since late 2018, the war in Arakan had turned into the most violent conflict in the country and, a few weeks before the 2020 elections, the UEC decided to cancel the polls in most of the state for alleged security reasons. But shortly after the elections in November, conversations between the Tatmadaw and the AA resulted in an informal cease-fire, and the AA issued a statement calling for new elections in the whole of the state, an idea that the Tatmadaw supported. The NLD has little support in Arakan and was likely to lose to the local Arakan National Party (ANP), which is stronger than the NLD in the state. The civilian government ignored the demands of the AA and the Burmese military to hold elections in the Arakan, which undoubtedly further infuriated the Tatmadaw generals.

The military appointed some ANP politicians as members of the new military regime in Arakan, where the civil disobedience movement has not taken hold. This makes Arakan the only region in the country with no significant protest against the new regime, with the exception of some towns in the south of the state, where Rakhine nationalism is weaker and thus opposition to the junta is stronger. Meanwhile, the military removed the AA designation as a terrorist organization in March 2021. The armed group  remained largely silent after the coup, but it has recently announced its intention to join forces with other militias to fight the Tatmadaw. Nevertheless, the ANP continues its support for the military junta, making Arakan the only state where the divide-and-rule political tactics of the Tatmadaw seem to have succeeded to date.

Whatever the ultimate reasons for the coup (and given the opaqueness of the Tatmadaw leadership we may never know for sure), it doesn’t seem to have been very carefully planned. This is testified to by the defection of many diplomats, most dramatically the Burmese representative at the UN; in addition, the huge popular backlash against the coup appears to have caught the junta by surprise. The fact that the military didn’t manufacture a situation of instability strong enough to convince at least some sections of the population that a military takeover was necessary (as happened in Thailand prior to the coup in 2014, which came after months of street protests and political turmoil), demonstrates how ill-planned the action was.

Rather than the result of a conspiracy long in the making, the coup seems to be the Tatmadaw’s ‘solution’ to what probably was at first a manageable confrontation between the NLD and the generals that escalated as the latter became increasingly intolerant of the civilian government’s assertiveness while the NLD decided to defend to the last its electoral victory. Now, the claim made by Min Aung Hlaing and his henchmen that the takeover was constitutional and their promise to hold elections within one year both sound increasingly hollow. The coup means the effective dismantling of the 2008 Constitution.

AUNG SAN SUU KYI’S MISCALCULATIONS

The confrontation over the election results was the first time that Suu Kyi and her party openly stood up to the military since the beginning of the transition. The only precedent was perhaps the creation, after the NLD victory in the 2015 elections, of the position of “state counselor” for her, in order to circumvent the constitutional clause barring her from the presidency as the mother of two foreign nationals. But it’s very likely that the generals allowed her to get away with an arguably unconstitutional position that put her “above the President,” given that she had shown herself to be compliant and willing to collaborate with them.

Throughout most of the transition, Aung San Suu Kyi’s main, and perhaps unwitting, role was to provide legitimacy to the generals’ “discipline-flourishing democracy.” Her explicit objective was to change the Constitution to put the military under civilian control, but that was an almost impossible task under the rules she implicitly had accepted, given that any amendment requires at first the votes of more than 75% of seats in Parliament. The presence of soldiers occupying 25% of the seats makes such an amendment all but impossible without the assent of the military.

Throughout the transition she has behaved more often as a partner of the military than as a political rival; she has partnered with them in the name of “national reconciliation,” meaning a pact between the military and the old pro-democracy elite of which she is the figurehead. Such partnership may have been due at times to strategic calculations and to the fear of confrontation with the men holding the guns, but at many other times the NLD has shown itself to be more aligned ideologically with them than was apparent before. This was never more clear than when Suu Kyi decided to lead Burma’s self-defense two years ago at the International Court of Justice against the accusation of genocide brought because of the brutal operations of the Tatmadaw against the Rohingya in 2016-17.

The Tatmadaw and the NLD share indistinguishable racialist ideas on national identity, according to which only the members of the so-called “national races” are to be regarded as bona fide members of the Burmese nation. This most tragically excludes the Rohingya through a mendacious official historiography. The NLD government has also shown little sensitivity to the grievances of other ethnic minorities. Its handling of the peace process with the ethnic armed organizations has been an abject failure, perhaps unavoidably given that the military was never under civilian control, but compounded by the rejection of all political concessions to the minorities.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi has proven to be almost as authoritarian and distrustful of people’s involvement in politics, beyond voting for her, as the generals; this is shown in her dismissal of mass protests and her disregard for the lively Burmese civil society. Participatory politics are simply too unpredictable and risky for her strategy of rapprochement with the military. Also, Suu Kyi shares with the generals a similar neoliberal project, which the previous junta had tried to launch in the 1990s, but that couldn’t take off in the context of the international isolation imposed upon Burma at that time. The Suu Kyi government has not made any attempt to implement any kind of redistributive policy to address the country’s huge economic inequalities. Instead she has wooed the ‘cronies’, a few unscrupulous businessmen who made enormous fortunes during the dictatorship through their contacts with the junta,  admonishing them to “work for others in the future” without touching their own material interests.

THE ‘FATHER’ OF THE TATMADAW

The Suu Kyi/military rapprochement seems to have been based on the assumption that the Tatmadaw was somehow “redeemable.” Suu Kyi has often expressed her “fondness” for what she likes to describe as the military of her father, Aung San, the hero of Burmese independence, who created the military to fight British colonial power and who was killed by political rivals in 1947. But that is a gross misconception. Aung San indeed founded the military, but today there remain few traces of the anti-colonial force he assembled or of his vision of a Tatmadaw subordinated to a civilian government. The Tatmadaw, in its present form, has other parents, whatever use it may make at times of the figure of Aung San for propaganda purposes.

The main architect of the Burmese Tatmadaw was General Ne Win, Army Chief since 1949, and the man who led the country’s first two coups d’état. His second coup, staged in 1962, put an end to Burma’s experiment with democracy and inaugurated twenty-six years of dictatorship under the rubric of the “Burmese way to Socialism.” Even before taking power, Ne Win began to build the Tatmadaw as an autonomous force, a state within the state that took shape in a context of external threats—the infiltration in the early 1950s of Kuomintang troops from China, after their defeat by Mao Zedong’s troops in the Chinese civil war —and, more crucially, permanent civil war—against the insurgent Communist Party of Burma, which wouldn’t disappear until 1989, and several ethnic guerrillas such as the Karen National Union, the Kachin Independence Army, to name just two that remain active to this day. Most of those ethnic minorities had never been under the direct authority of the central Burmese state for long before the British unified Burma; they had little reason to feel they were part of a common national project basically imposed by the Bamar majority after British colonialism was defeated.

These protracted wars against internal political enemies and minorities turned the Tatmadaw into an occupation force in the rugged borderlands of the country, where it made use of brutal counter-insurgency tactics that made little distinction between enemy combatants and civilians. Similar tactics occasionally would be deployed in the urban centers whenever Bamars rebelled against military rule, as in 1988, when a popular uprising put an end to Ne Win’s rule only to be replaced by the military junta that drafted the current constitution.

Ne Win not only sought to subdue the ethnic minorities to a Bamar-centric nation-building project, he also tried to get rid of putative foreigners, such as either the descendants of Indians who migrated to Burma during the colonial period, or the Rohingya. He also had a deep distrust of democracy that stemmed from an utter contempt towards the Bamar majority itself, to which he belonged but which he regarded as too immature to rule itself. Thus, he instilled a sense of mission in the Tatmadaw as the only institution capable of ruling the country and keeping it together. 

Ultimately, despite his claims of working “to give back Burma to the Burmese,” what Ne Win accomplished was to give it solely to the Military. Already before his first coup, he began to make the Tatmadaw financially self-sufficient, establishing autonomous companies that are the precedents for the gigantic conglomerates that now dominate the country’s economy. Ne Win and his heirs turned the military into a warrior caste, in many respects isolated from the rest of the population. Officers enjoy privileges beyond the reach of most Burmese and live in a world largely cut-off from Burmese society at large; they and their families have their residencies in isolated compounds, attend their own schools, are treated in their own hospitals, and socialize almost exclusively with each other.

After Ne Win’s downfall in 1988, the military’s esprit de corps survived basically unadulterated, replacing the socialist leanings of Ne Win’s regime with a neatly capitalist outlook. Corruption and economic plundering reached never before seen heights after the end of his rule.

The Tatmadaw claims as one of its missions the “protection of the people,” and there is some twisted truth in that: it could aptly be described as a protection racket, and as is often the case with such organizations, Burmese people have to pay primarily to avoid the violence of the protection racket itself.

The caste mentality and social isolation go a long way towards explaining the brutality of the Tatmadaw against its own people. It also serves to explain why defections so far are limited to a few low- and mid-ranking Police and Army officersand why no one in the higher echelons of the military is breaking ranks with Ming Aung Hlaing. This was always a distant possibility that is becoming ever more distant by the day, as more officers share a common responsibility in mounting crimes against the population.

PROSPECTS FOR A NEW BURMA

The coup and the repression have fully revealed the utter futility of both Aung San Suu Kyi’s attempts at “national reconciliation” and the policies of engagement with the generals carried out by many Western countries after the beginning of the transition. But the Rohingya and many members of other minorities like the Kachin already knew from recent memory what she was refusing to see: the Burmese military is an unredeemable criminal organization.

Burmese are suffering now a repression in cities of central Burma that surpasses that of the “saffron revolution” in 2007 or even the bloodbath with which the Tatmadaw reasserted its power in 1988. In this context, many Burmese are doing some serious soul-searching and expressing their solidarity with minorities who have continuously suffered such abuses for decades. A new interethnic alliance is emerging. This solidarity is even reaching the Rohingya, with some Burmese expressing regrets for not condemning the recent crimes against the Rohingya and representatives of the CRPH reaching out to Rohingya leaders.

These expressions of support for the most widely despised minority in Burma might have been unthinkable only a few months ago, and they are encouraging. But it is difficult to assess how widespread they are or to what extent the CRPH is sincere or merely using an international cause célèbre to garner support abroad. Also, most contrite voices put all the blame for the plight of the Rohingya on the Tatmadaw, but racism against Rohingya infects even peoples who have staunchly opposed military rule for decades, such as the NLD leaders. The racism goes much deeper than mere “brainwashing” by a hated military whose propaganda virtually nobody in Burma ever believed—except when it came to the Rohingya. And the reality in Arakan is that Rakhine politicians known for their hatred towards Rohingya are now members of the state government.

Building a multi-ethnic democratic Burma, where all communities can reach an agreement to coexist peacefully and freely without being oppressed by a Bamar-dominated government after decades of conflict, will take much more than getting rid of the murderous Tatmadaw. This is a necessary condition, yet not a sufficient one. It will take a measure of political imagination, generosity, and boldness that the old pro-democracy forces led by Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD have utterly lacked. For now, the uphill battle is to defeat Min Aung Hlaing and his military junta; the alliances being forged in order to accomplish that will be the basis for the future rebuilding of the country once such struggle is over.

 

Carlos Sardiña Galache is the author of The Burmese Labyrinth: A History of the Rohingya Tragedy, published in 2020 by Verso.

[1] There has been some controversy about these terms since the previous military junta changed the official name of the country in 1989. The change only affected languages other than Burmese and was based on two misconceptions: that ‘Myanmar’ is somehow more inclusive to ethnic minorities and that ‘Burma’ is a colonial name. But both names refer historically to the Bamar-dominated kingdoms of the central lands in the country and when the British used ‘Burma’ they just translated from the original Burmese name, they didn’t impose a new name on the country as, for instance, the Spaniards did in the Philippines. I use the old nomenclature throughout this text, as a matter of personal preference and also because I think it sounds better in English.

 

Toulouse-Antonin Roy reviews Mark Driscoll, The Whites are Enemies of Heaven: Climate Caucasianism and Asian Ecological Protection

Toulouse-Antonin Roy reviews Mark Driscoll, The Whites are Enemies of Heaven: Climate Caucasianism and Asian Ecological Protection (Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2020).

Mark Driscoll’s The Whites are Enemies of Heaven: Climate Caucasianism and Asian Ecological Protection offers a fresh new look at treaty port imperialism in 19th century East Asia. Moving away from conventional accounts that highlight debates over “free trade” and imperialist politics, Driscoll examines Euro-American predation in light of what he calls “Climate Caucasianism,” a term he uses to describe the carbon-spewing industries and hyper-exploitation of non-western lands introduced as a result of the British capture of Treaty Ports following the Opium Wars. Driscoll argues that this “CO2lonialism” (one of Driscoll’s many creative neologisms) was a crucial moment in accelerating the current trend towards global warming and other ecological catastrophes. 

The overarching focus of The Whites are Enemies of Heaven is the “ruthless terrorism” of arms, human, and drug trafficking which treaty port officials, missionaries, and their agents inflicted on the Japanese and Chinese, along with their local responses. Using a mixture of warfare, lawfare, and “rawfare” – a term used to refer to the capitalist consumption of all living and nonliving things – Driscoll shows how racialized and gendered violence allowed Euro-Americans to weaken local populations and forcibly pry their way into East Asia’s untapped markets.

Resistance to “CO2lonialism” is the core focus of The Whites are the Enemies of Heaven. Throughout the book, Driscoll contrasts treaty port officials and their “extra-active” epistemology of instrumental reason or belief in the “mastery” of nature with the “intra-active” ways of anti-imperial radicals, whose forms of resistance were tied to local ecologies, weather systems, deities, and other non-human entities. From radical samurai and Autonomy & People’s Rights (APR) activists who led the struggles against the decaying Tokugawa state or later Meiji oligarchs, to the Gelaohui rebel brotherhood in Sichuan Province who opposed the activities of white missionaries and their Qing enablers, Driscoll brings together a diverse cast of “decolonial” movements from the region to show how an incipient “Asian undercommons” challenged regimes of capitalist extraction (xi). In the process Driscoll revisits foundational historical narratives of “anti-western” politics in China and Japan, showing us how opposition to capitalist modernization in the latter contexts should be seen more as “eco-protection” movements akin to today’s Indigenous “water protectors” rather than simple “xenophobic” backlash against foreigners.

In the introduction Driscoll examines the Sino-British Opium War, or what he calls “the first war for drugs.” Thanks to their capture of Bengal’s poppy fields, the British East India Company transformed opium into a lucrative commodity that quickly reversed the empire’s trade imbalance with the Qing. The flood of opium led to not only a massive outflow of Chinese silver from imperial coffers, but also widespread social immiseration, as company traders, smugglers, and criminal elements used opium and trafficked arms to create new markets for captive “coolie” labor, which helped fuel colonial industries after the abolition of slavery. This “clipper-coolie-captive-contraband-capital” circuit, as Driscoll calls it, provided the basis for capitalist accumulation in the treaty ports, as powerful trading firms that would go on to dominate East Asia like Jardine Matheson and Co. would launder their drug money in “clean” industries.

In reframing western penetration of the treaty ports and opium wars as “Climate Caucasianism,” Driscoll allows us to see the response by East Asian governmental officials, intellectuals, radicals and reformers in a new light. Driscoll for example takes Commissioner Lin Zexu, the staunch anti-opium Qing official, and Aizawa Seishisai, the founding intellectual of the anti-shogunal Mito school, and examines their opposition to western encroachment. Focusing on both these thinkers’ appeals to “Heaven” and its implied connections between human action and cosmic forces, the book describes how non-anthropocentric modes of relationality critiqued imperial nations for their pursuit of profit, as well as their ignorance of interconnected spiritual and ecological systems. Westerners of course responded to these critiques by racializing East Asians as child-like human beings completely ignorant of “free trade,” or as “slavish” opium addicts incapable of self-governance (or what he calls the rhetoric of Asians as “supinestupefiedyellows”).

While the introduction uses the opium war to map out the dynamics of “CO2lonialism,” the remaining chapters dive into the treaty ports themselves and the forms of resistance they engendered. In chapter one, Driscoll revisits the Euro-American enclosure of treaty ports in late Tokugawa Japan, focusing primarily on various acts of white predation. Driscoll here offers a deep dive into the process of enclosure itself, showing how the “rawfaring” of female sex workers along with systemic daily racial terror was instrumental in the consolidation of Euro-American power. In 1862, a staggering forty percent of Euro-white merchants in Yokohama had a live-in sex servant. In addition to the endemic use of female sex slaves, ordinary Japanese were subject to daily humiliations like beatings, whippings, and canings at the first hint of resistance to white demands. Euro-Americans helped foster a climate of political radicalism, as militant samurai took matters into their own hands and launched assaults against foreign oppressors and complicit Tokugawa officials. Driscoll for example examines the ideas of rogue samurai like Kiyokawa Hachirô, who saw westerners as “ignorant predators” whose destructive appetites for resources contravened the balance between humans, “heaven” and natural systems (75). Anti-western actions though always invited disproportionate responses which led to further encroachment – a fact evidenced by the British destruction of Kagoshima which took place in 1863 after an English diplomat was killed following an altercation on the Tokaido highway the year before. Driscoll’s rereading of Treaty Port imperialism as racialized violence allows him to reframe radical samurai thinkers and activists as militant eco-protectors who sought to “revere the emperor, fight the whites” (Driscoll’s spin on the classic sonnô jôi slogan). This reading adds a new dimension to the already-rich field of scholarship on Mito radicalism during the bakumatsu years, bringing it more in line with recent theoretical assemblages in eco-Marxism, critical race theory, as well as Indigenous studies.

Chapter two shifts the focus away from Japan and moves to Sichuan in the mid-19th century, then on the fringes of the treaty port system. Following the second opium war, China was further opened up to whites, especially missionaries, who increasingly sought to proselytize across the interior. Whites in Sichuan envisioned a racially segregated treaty port system in the upper Yangtze that would service capital accumulation by bringing coal-powered boats up river and exploit Sichuan province’s rich mineral stores. French Catholic missionaries, particularly the Missions Étrangères de Paris (MEP), were the vanguard of these extractive operations. Missionaries in Sichuan were operating well beyond the confines of their designated areas, often engaging in a range of crimes – from human trafficking and sexual assault to “repossession” of Fengshui-aligned temples. Driscoll, however, highlights how Sichuanese were already primed for resistance, as the region formed a cosmopolitan “pluriverse” of intra-action on the eve of the arrival of westerners, with multiple ethnic groups and religious traditions (90). At the center of organized resistance efforts for fighting whites was the social rebel brotherhood Gelaohui (GLH), a secretive group which drew its support from dispossessed peasants, the poor, and those employed in trades like manure collection. The GLH were at the center of a number of major uprisings against missionary property theft and abuses. Anti-Christian actions though, as was the case with attacks in bakumatsu Japan, always invited a disproportionate response, as French Catholics frequently claimed outrageous damages beyond what actually happened. In this chapter, Driscoll further develops the idea of “intra-action” practiced by anti-colonial radicals, showcasing how the GLH critiqued western missionary presence in their placards and denunciations as harmful “pollution” which disrupted the balance of local ecologies. In all, Driscoll here examines how the “eco-ontology” of the Sichuanese world provided the basis – both material and epistemological – for resistance to western missions and corrupt Qing officials. This opposition, as chapters four and six later demonstrate, crystallized into a number of large-scale uprisings spearheaded by the GLH.

Chapter three returns to treaty port Japan in the immediate aftermath of the Meiji revolution and examines the politics of the Genyôsha – the secretive political group long reviled for its participation in ultra-nationalistic and fascist politics during the prewar era. Driscoll though takes us back to its founding years, when it was a part of an explosion of radical democratic activity targeting the incipient extractive capitalism of the Meiji oligarchs. Here Driscoll flips the script on the conventional accounts of the “Fight the Whites” movements, showing how they gained a new lease on life after the overthrow of the shogunate, rather than fade as a result of suppression by Meiji elites. The chapter demonstrates how resistance to top-down modernization, whether in the form of Genyôsha militants planning assassinations or APR activists writing their own constitutions to present to the emperor, drew their energy from the earlier social revolution to “flatten vertical Tokugawa society” (145). Driscoll draws attention here to the conceptual underpinnings of anti-colonial Genyôsha or APR activities, showing how a complex amalgam of eco-ontological appeals to the world of spirits and ancestors or Confucian notions of “Heaven” and the people’s right to overthrow rulers by force informed the anti-oligarchic politics of the 1870s and 1880s. He makes the crucial point that appeals to the emperor should not be seen as automatic support for emperorism, and we should recuperate these radical ideas traditionally written off by generations of scholars as germinations of later militarist fascism.

Moving back to Sichuan, Driscoll in chapter four discusses the further growth of the GLH in the second half of the nineteenth century and the role played by opium in that process. Here, Driscoll inverses the role of opium in East Asia from a social and moral scourge used by westerners to “rawfare” Chinese bodies into a source of “intra-action” that allowed locals to restore a sense of autonomy and dignity. During the late Qing era, political instability and dispossession marked highland areas, as powerful landlords and western capitalists drove many out of their homes or into a waged existence. This, coupled with ex-soldiers and mercenaries winding down after all the fighting from the Taiping Rebellion and other insurrections, swelled the ranks of the GLH. It was amidst these conditions that the GLH formed a vibrant culture of social banditry and anti-Qing resistance in Sichuan, forming lodges across opium dens and tea houses. These organizations were governed by elaborate rituals, behavioral codes, and were supported “intra-actively” through Daoist rituals and the worship of local deities (all of which were often accompanied by ritualized opium smoking). The chapter showcases how Sichuan’s riparian landscapes allowed GLH members to conduct robbery operations, evade Qing runners or spies, and stimulate a locally-grown opium economy. As is the case with Japan in the previous chapter, Driscoll here examines how the subversive energies of outcasts and rebels by the late 19th century were increasingly directed towards corrupt local governments, though the presence of Euro-whites was still at the center of militant activities.

Chapter five closes the book’s story arc on the Genyôsha’s rise to political prominence during the 1880s. In this chapter Driscoll hones in on the factional politics of the Genyôsha, showing how the organization’s cozying up to more conservative emperorist politics led it down the path of participating in coal extraction. The chapter examines at great length the Osaka Incident of 1885, which was a failed plot by anti-oligarch revolutionaires to launch a simultaneous uprising both in mainland Japan and Korea to remove despotic governments. Contrary to typical readings of the Osaka Incident as a failed overseas imperialist venture, Driscoll here portrays the activities of Genyôsha militants and other APR supporters as an attempt to create a social “levelling” revolution across national boundaries. Genyôsha leader Toyama Mitsuru though later gave up this armed revolutionary strategy and shifted to a more “practical” capitalistic solution by getting into coal extraction in Kyushu to finance his mission to unseat the oligarchs, thereby shifting the group’s status from “last samurai” to “first extractive capitalist” (Driscoll’s playful title for the chapter). The effects of the coal boom though were devastating, as farmers were displaced by large companies, women sex trafficked on coal freighters, labor movements were quashed, and even convict labor was used. Genyôsha’s tactics for land acquisition to set up coal operations wound up looking no different from those of large conglomerates, as the organization too began hoovering up territory to cash in on growing capitalist demand. Nevertheless, the decade of revolutionary terror the Genyôsha helped foster symbolized the lingering opposition to westernization and further kowtowing to extraterritorial demands. As Driscoll points out, the Genyôsha may have played a role in the rolling back of unequal treaties in the 1890s, but it ultimately betrayed its original eco-ontological philosophy of its early days to become agents of the Japanese state abroad.

In chapter six, Driscoll examines the instrumental role both Sichuan opium and the GLH played in the railroad rights recovery movement and subsequent Xinhai revolution of 1911. While the opening of treaty ports had led to a destructive trade imbalance which ravaged the local economy, Sichuanese had reversed their fortunes towards the end of the 19th century by creating their own vibrant opium economy. In 1882, Sichuanese opium was said to “be more than all the imported opium from British India, accounting for roughly 140,000 chests.” (260). “Stoned Sichuan”’ saw large numbers of workers escape the capitalist alienation of their labor – whether as boat trackers moving the drug or small farmers cultivating it. As Driscoll highlights, opium smoking was not only a lucrative business and recreational activity that drew people to the GLH; it was also a way to amplify existing human-animal-environment-deity connections through smoking rituals. The opium boom of course soon caused a western backlash, as the drug’s links to Daoist spiritual practices made it not only a source of vice but also idolatry in the eyes of missionaries. Soon, Christian-run “opium refuges” emerged in Sichuan to treat addicts, though these organizations were largely a front for conversion, as well as an excuse to pump people full of western-made synthetic opioids. As western missionaries kicked their anti-vice efforts into full gear, Qing “new policies’” began targeting opium production and consumption. Modernization schemes sought to criminalize the rich social life revolving around opium (all in the guise of hygiene). Driscoll here compares these Qing policies to Marx’s “bloody legislation,” where the state instills waged discipline on a population through violence and the criminalization of indigence. Sichuanese opium taxes paid for a lot however, so when the Qing began outlawing it in September 1906, the state began to impose unpopular taxes on needed products. Driscoll ends the chapter by showcasing how the criminalization of opium soon intersected with the region’s other major economic issue: the recovery of railways from foreigners. Soon GLH forces linked up with Tongmenghui revolutionaries and engaged in a number of anti-Qing uprisings which weakened government troops in the lead-up to the crucial Wuchang uprising that unseated the dynasty. Driscoll manages to rebrand the Xinhai revolution as a broader regional movement inextricably tied to the dynasty’s suppression of eco-ontological worlds, and not a movement solely about an abstract idea of Chinese nationalism. Interestingly, the GLH after its participation in the overthrow of the dynasty would soon go the way of the Genyôsha, as later during the Republican era the group was taken over by middle-class and gentry elements, steering it away from its proletarian roots and making it into a “respectable” organization.

The Whites are Enemies of Heaven also contains two “Intertexts” which serve as a type of bridge between chapters. This portion of the book at first glance appears to be rich source materials that didn’t quite “make the cut” for the regular chapters, but when weaved into the book’s broader arguments about the linkages between sexual and ecological violence take on significant relevance. Both of them are organized around a representative cultural text of white supremacy in Asia. Intertext one features the novel Madame Chrysanthème, while the second intertext covers the opera Madame Butterfly. Both texts feature a white protagonist having a relationship with Japanese sex slave who then goes on to abandon and discard her after his time in the treaty ports comes to an end. Driscoll uses both these stories as representative cases of white indifference towards (as well as fetishization of) female Asian sexuality, which he highlights was built on the still-circulating supremacist formulation “they love western guys over there” (210). This assumption though quickly turned to murderous rage as the rawfaring of Asian bodies generated resistance from groups like the GLH or the Boxers (another group typically cast as “anti-foreign”). White indifference towards “rawfared” females soon morphed into the use of what the colonizers themselves referred to as “Negro methods” – extermination tactics honed in the scramble for Africa or in antebellum U.S slavery – used to put down anti-western uprisings in China. Genocidal campaigns of racial terror, mass killing, and systematic rape for example followed right on the heels of the Boxer uprising. Here Driscoll draws from the Lacanian distinction of pleasure versus enjoyment, where pleasure is governed by social restrictions, while enjoyment is linked to self-destructive behaviors (the death drive). In much the same way we shop and destroy the planet imperiling ourselves, Driscoll showcases how whites “wilding out” in treaty port China found sadistic enjoyment in racist attacks knowing full well it could potentially invite their own destruction.

Driscoll’s The Whites are the Enemies of Heaven rewrites the book on the “opening” of China and Japan by shifting the lens to the ecological struggles and “eco-ontological” approaches they engendered. Both classical narratives of “modernization,” whether the Meiji “success story” or the late Qing “self-strengthening” failure, are insignificant here. What matters is “CO2lonialism,” inspired and imposed by Euro-whites and then enforced by local elites, which suppressed insurgent political movements and alternative socialities. In rebranding opposition to treaty port imperialism as an assertion of universal humanity in the face of racialized occupation and plunder, The Whites are Enemies of Heaven allows us to link the late nineteenth century moment with liberation movements in the decolonizing era, or more recent Indigenous protests against capitalist extraction. Even though the featured movements of his book would slide into irrelevance or betray their radical eco-ontological programs, Driscoll’s powerful new book serves as an invitation to “redeem those earlier commitments of the Gelaohui and Genyôsha in our present as we search for examples to counter intensifying Climate Caucasianism and ongoing Superpredation” (308). Driscoll’s The Whites are Enemies of Heaven is a timely intervention that injects new life into the study of imperialism with its richly detailed source materials and broad conceptual frames. The book is sure to inspire future work which will engage colonial histories through the lens of local eco-ontological approaches.

Toulouse-Antonin Roy holds a PhD in history from the University of California Los Angeles and currently teaches middle and high school world history in Taiwan. His work examines the pacification and disposession of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples and the making of Japan’s camphor industries during the colonial era. He is the author of the recent articles “War in the Camphor Zone: Resistance to colonial capitalism in upland Taiwan, 1895-1915” (Japan Forum, 2020), as well as “‘The Camphor Question is in Reality the Savage Question’: Indigenous Pacification and the Transition to Capitalism in the Taiwan borderlands (1895-1915)” (Critical Historical Studies, 2019). He can be reached at toulroy@ucla.edu

Editorial Collective, Statement on Anti-Asian Violence

Editorial Collective, Standing Against Anti-Asian Violence

We are outraged at the racist violence against Asians and Asian Americans, especially elders and women, which has resurfaced since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. As “Asianists,” we are painfully aware that prejudice and hatred against Asians and Asian Americans have been an integral part of the US history of racism since the 19th century. Recent assaults in Atlanta, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York follow a familiar but disturbing pattern of racial violence against those who are regarded as Asians or those of Asian descent in the United States. In the current moment, the practice of blaming the pandemic on the Chinese nationals who first suffered its horrifying effects also fits a common but intolerable culture of castigating original victims of a pandemic for its devastation. The Editorial Collective of positions politics joins with others around the country and elsewhere in standing against this violence. We hope all people of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander ancestry remain safe in these perilous times, not only from the effects of COVID-19 but also from the pandemic of racist violence.  

In solidarity,
Editorial Collective of positions politics

Jing Wang, Letter from MIT

Jing Wang, Letter from MIT

In mid-January of this year, MIT professor Chen Gang, a Chinese-born American mechanical engineer and nanotechnologist, was arrested by the FBI and charged with wire fraud for “failing to file a foreign bank account report (FBAR) and making a false statement in a tax return.” In fact, since the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched its China Initiative in 2018 to counter national security and technology threats from China, 1000 Chinese scientists have been investigated, among them, 50 were arrested. An FBI officer declared that they are opening up a new federal case every 10 hours against scientists who have developed deep ties with Chinese universities. Of the 5,000 active counterintelligence cases the FBI has launched, “nearly half of them are related to China.”

Chen was charged with building collaboration with Shenzhen-based Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) for which he received 29 million grant from the university, which led to the FBI’s assumption that Chen committed espionage by assisting China in developing its science and technology programs. Chen’s arrest sent a shock wave to the science community in the US.  MIT president Rafael Reif quickly stepped forward to refute the charge by clarifying the nature of the SUSTech engagement in an open letter to the MIT community. “It is not an individual collaboration; it is a departmental one, supported by the Institute.”  Meanwhile, approximately 200 MIT faculty drafted and signed an open letter to support Professor Chen in defense of academic freedom and international scientific collaboration. The rallying cry “We are all Chen Gang” sent a powerful protesting message to American law-enforcing authorities.

Professor Chen was fortunate because he has MIT’s backing, which includes provision of legal counsel and financial assistance. But other arrested scientists, Tao Qian at the University of Kansas and Charles M. Lieber at Harvard among them, were ditched by their home institutions and are fighting their legal battles alone. In the wake of Chen’s arrest, science communities in the US are mobilized to fight back. The main target is DOJ’s China Initiative and racial profiling. Editorials of science journals, webinars, and opinion pieces sent the new Biden administration the message: the defense of those wrongfully arrested professors is the defense of the scientific enterprise. 

To show support for the initiative of anti-racial profiling of Chinese scientists, please read this petition. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan Association of Chinese Professors are calling for the establishment of a federation of ACPs (Association of Chinese Professors), a horizontal connection between ACPs of various universities, to promote academic freedom and protect the vital interests of Chinese professors. The first cross-campus joint meeting was held on January 30. Forty-five representatives from twenty-seven universities attended.

We are witnessing the return of McCarthyism for sure. We have to fight against the governmental interference with academic research and stop the societal prejudice against scientists of Chinese birth.

Ken Kawashima reviews The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetic in Japan’s ’68

Ken Kawashima reviews The Red Years: Theory, Politics, and Aesthetic in Japan’s ’68, edited by Gavin Walker (Verso, 2021)

It is Time to Return to the Future of The Red Years for Our Time.

The Red Years: Theory, Politics and Aesthetics of the Japanese ’68, edited by Gavin Walker, is a book that reconstructs three fundamental aspects of the Japanese ’68 revolution for us today:

    1. Marxist and revolutionary theory, which was caught in a certain mode of crisis, but also in a mode of new possibilities for revolution and rebellion in the present;

    2. Revolutionary politics of the Japanese ’68, i.e., the intersectional diversity of anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist revolutionary practice in Japan led by student proletarians;

    3. Radical aesthetics of, and for, revolutionary and emancipatory politics, which changed human perception in the fields of writing, painting, music, dance and theatre.

In what follows, I will focus on the first two points, but if there is an overarching and basic lesson of the book, it is this: “There is no guilt in revolution—to rebel is correct”. (235) Comrade Walker’s timely declaration repeats—and psychoanalytically grounds— Mao’s declaration to The Shanghai Workers’ Revolutionary Rebel General Headquarters in 1967. As the Chairman declared then: “In the last analysis, all the truths of Marxism can be summed up in one sentence: To rebel is justified.”

2.

Marxist theory occupied a central place in the Japanese ’68, and The Red Years discusses how it combined the inheritances of three, inter-related discourses of Marxist theory:

    1. Japan’s interwar discourses of Marxist theory, epitomized by the Debate on Capitalism (“the Debate”), which spanned from 1927 to 1937;

    2. The political economic theories, method and research of Uno Kōzō (1897-1977);

    3. Marxist theory in the Soviet Union from 1919 to 1956, the latter year representing the critique of Stalin and the Hungarian rebellion.

Again, for the sake of brevity, I will focus on the first two points.

To recapitulate a familiar but still repressed story of the splitting of the Marxist Left in the interwar period in Japan: the split was expressed in the form of a Debate that distinguished two Marxists factions, which took opposing sides in relation to the Comintern Thesis of 1932 on the situation in Japan. The 1932 thesis called for overthrowing the feudal Emperor system in Japan as a precondition for a subsequent proletariat revolution, and also concluded that the Meiji Restoration of 1868 was not a bourgeois revolution, only an incomplete one. (Walker, 2016, Chapter 2).

Supporting the Comintern line was the Japanese Communist Party (JCP, founded in 1922), itself supported by the “Lectures faction” or Kōza faction (講座派) of Marxist scholars and researchers. Opposing the Comintern line, the JCP and the Kōza faction was the Rōnō faction (労農派). The Rōnō faction argued that the Meiji Restoration was effectively a bourgeois revolution and that the capitalist mode of production—especially in terms of the development of the commodity (and market) economy, or 商品経済— had been fully developed in Japan by the 1930s. They thus argued for a direct communist revolution and an immediate dictatorship of the proletariat, but also tended to ignore the idea of overthrowing the Japanese Emperor system.

As The Red Years clarifies, many of the theoretical and political positions from the interwar Debate were transplanted and transferred to the ’68 revolutionaries, and to their new historical conjuncture in the shadows of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaties, which placed Japan in the position of a ‘client state’ under U.S. imperialism. In the ’68 conjuncture, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) and its youth league (Minsei) adopted the Kōza faction position; the Japanese Socialist Party (JSP) adopted the Rōnō faction position and was deeply influenced by the theories and research of the Japanese Marxist, Uno Kōzō. Finally, many of the New Left sects of the Zenkyōtō movement, who commonly opposed both the JCP and the JSP, were also influenced by Uno. But instead of taking Uno’s theories to parliament like the JSP, the New Left took Uno’s theories to the streets.

In The Red Years, Suga Hidemi gives a concise description of the discursive constellation of the Rōnō faction, Uno Kozo’s economic theories, and the New Left:

In the postwar years, the Rōnō faction’s argument became the position of the left wing of the Socialist Party (now known as the Social Democractic Party), which was to the Communist Party’s right. Insofar as it did not advocate the abolition of the emperor system, the Socialist Party could be considered a moderate social democratic party. Broadly speaking, Uno Kōzō’s economic theories…could be placed within the Rōnō faction ideology. Starting with the Bund, the question of how to interpret Uno’s economics was an important topic for the Japanese New Left. (102)

Further corroborating the impact of Uno Kōzō’s thought on the New Left, Hiroshi Nagasaki, author of the Theory of Rebellion, writes:

The influence of Uno’s political economy on the thought of the New Left was immense. On the one hand, as a method of political economy for disclosing the objective crises of capitalism anew, it provided powerful and independent thematics of economic analysis. It emphasized the need to write a new theory of imperialism. On the other hand, Uno’s theory of principle, by locating the motor-force of revolution outside the text of Capital, provided a conception of ‘freedom’ to practice. It was the opportunity in thought that allowed for the liberation of ‘rebellion’ from the Marxist theory of revolution. (Nagasaki, The Red Years, 37)

In this quotation, Nagasaki emphasizes three points of Uno’s method for political economy that were so meaningful for the New Left’s radical vision and practice in ‘68:

(1) Uno’s theory of the fundamental principles of political economy (i.e., Marx’s Capital)

(2) Uno’s theory of (the inevitability of) crisis

(3) Uno’s theory of imperialism (i.e., Lenin’s Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism)

Regarding the world of principles and its relation to practice, in Theory of Crisis (1953), Uno wrote:

What is clarified as a social principle is something that is expressed as if it can make society move and develop eternally. This means that what becomes a principle is something that is repeated, inevitably and necessarily. The historicity of a society’s birth, growth, and decline becomes hidden in the background, so to speak. Thus, when we provide the exposition of the principles of political economy, as a system that begins with the ‘commodity’ and ends with ‘all classes’, questions such as the birth of ‘commodities’ or the end of ‘classes’ cannot be answered by the systematic principles itself. Now, in Capital, when Marx on occasion explains the necessity of capitalism to transform into another kind of society, I do not believe that this problem can be solved by the systematic principles themselves. This, at least, is how I understand it. There is no reason and no way that the principles, in and of themselves, can provide an exposition of a society’s birth and death. (Uno, 1953, my translation)

For Uno, the question of theory and practice has three aspects. First, the question of theory is never assumed to be automatically unified with practice (politics), as in the phrase “the unity of theory and practice.” Uno instead separated theory from politics, and vice versa (and in a way that resonates with Althusser’s theoretical struggles within the French Communist Party in the 1960s-70s. See Althusser, 1990a and 1990b).

Secondly, practice/politics is ultimately a question of overturning the world of capital’s principles from a position that represents the outside of capital, i.e., the position and movement of labor-power (Marx, 1990, Chapter 6; Kawashima, 2009; Walker, 2016, Chapter 4; Kawashima-Walker, 2019). This is Uno’s famous question of the commodification of labor power, its ‘im/possibility’, as well as its ‘negation’ or ‘sublation’, or 労働力商品化の「無理」•「止揚」. (Uno, 1953, 1958)

Thirdly, the autonomous place of politics is something that can be reached only by passing through three, distinct levels of political economic research and their attendant forms of knowledge (abstract-theoretical; historical; and concrete-empirical):

    1. the theory of the purely abstract, fundamental economic principles of the capitalist mode of production, as theorized by Marx in Capital, also known as Uno’s 経済原理論;

    2. the theory of the historical stages of capitalist development, or 段階論 and 経済政策論, which are based on the differences between the state economic policies of mercantilism (重商主義), liberalism (自由主義), and imperialism (帝国主義);

    3. the concrete, historical analysis of capitalism after 1917, or the analysis of contemporary capitalism in its historical conjuncturesor 現状分析.

These are the three levels of Uno’s method for political economy. As such, they are the ‘precursors’, so to speak, of the emergence of the autonomy of politics. In the context of the Japanese ’68, Uno’s theoretical exposition of the world of capital’s principles had the dialectical effect of liberating thought and politics away from the purely economic principles of capital, and towards the invention of alternative modes of subjectivation, community, and political practice that were totally antithetical to the world of capital and its commodifying and oedipalizing principles of capitalist and imperialist sociality. In short, the political praxis of the Japanese ’68 began where Uno’s theoreticism ended. As Hiroshi Nagasaki writes in his On Rebellion:

We departed from the point where Uno consciously [i.e., logically] stopped. In other words, the radical theoreticism of Uno, which absolutely lacks actual relations with practice, in turn influenced our [political] practices [their autonomy]. (The Red Years, 209)

Echoing this line of thought, Yutaka Nagahara writes:

It is exactly the distinct, autonomous field of politics that must be questioned for its possibility, as Badiou did. This paradoxically resonates with Boltanski and Chiapello, who argue that ‘the history of the years after 1968 offers further evidence that the relations between the economic and the social…are not reducible to the domination of the second by the first.’ It is this ‘inversion’, so to speak, that ’68 made happen on the structured streets.” (The Red Years, 209)

 

3.

What happened to the Japanese ’68 after the event of ’68?  The problem, as Nagahara quotes Badiou, is that, “We are commemorating May ’68 because the real outcome and the real hero of ’68 is unfettered neo-liberal capitalism.” (The Red Years, 207) Moreover, compounding the problem of neoliberalism, the defeats of the ’68 revolution have created a Left with a strong tendency to “overvalue the negative capability of remaining in doubt, skepticism and uncertainties”, which, according to Mark Fisher, has become a “political vice” of the Left that the New Right is more than happy to take neoliberal advantage of. (The Red years, 231)

How can the Left today overcome this insecure doubt, skepticism, uncertainty, as well as its sad passions? The Red Years, it seems to me, alerts us of two important tasks that can, and must, be done to begin resolving these problems on the Left.

First Task: to develop further the open secret of the Japanese ’68 rebellions: that capitalism ‘works’ and ‘operates’ in the way that it does only because there is something intrinsic about capitalism that is fundamentally inoperable and broken. Any appearance of rationality in capitalism is only an illusory appearance (Schein) of capital’s exchange process based on the commodity-form, which itself is nothing but a salto mortale, or an irrational and speculative “leap of faith” from the relative form of value (‘20 yards of linen’) to the equivalent form of value (‘1 coat’). (Marx, 1990; Karatani, 2020) It is thus a mistake to think that the essence of capital can be explained as if it is a purely rational substance.

Therefore, it is never the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist rebels who are the mad ones. The anti-capitalist rebels are the normal and sane ones; it is capital, its representatives, agents, sycophants, saboteurs and spies—especially in the stage of imperialism—who are the stark and raving mad lunatics, hell-bent on deploying whatever irrational means of violence to realize absolute and relative surplus value for the dictatorship of capital. (Deleuze-Guattari, 1968)

Therefore, to believe that one can describe capital as if it is rationally structured will fail to realize the many ir/rational reasons why everyday people—who think—will repeatedly revolt against the dictatorship of capital, even in vain, if only to taste a little bit of real freedom. As Yutaka Nagahara writes:

Rational Marxian economics could demonstrate the structure of our reiterated defeats scientifically only because of the way in which it describes capital itself as rationally structured; but for that very reason, it can never imagine and therefore realize the (ir)rational reasons people revolt repeatedly in vain. (The Red Years, 182)

Second Task: To develop the revolutionary inheritances of the Japanese ‘68 in today’s depoliticized dead-end of neoliberal thought, it is necessary to re-articulate the critique of contemporary forms of eclecticism. This critique is necessary (once again, as it was for Lenin in the 1890s in Russia) because eclecticism prevents all of us from coming together as a unified combination of forces to overthrow capitalism.

Eclecticism today is a neoliberal way of thinking and living that makes everyone too timid to even dare to revolt against the existing conditions of capitalism. Eclecticism today is a sophisticated and pompous discourse of allowing the existing conditions of capitalism to be analyzed interminably, and thus to remain in place indefinitely and unchallenged. Today, eclecticism also commonly combines with Essentialism and Esotericism to produce a generalized depoliticization. For example, in today’s University discourse, “Latourian Object Analysis + Identity Politics + Neo-Heideggerian fundamental ontology = Eclecticism + Essentialism + Esotericism = Radical Depoliticization”.

Marxism and the Left today must smash such senseless, neoliberal eclecticism in order to begin to actualize the possibilities of socialist revolution that the Japanese ’68, for a brief moment, forced into existence.

As Lenin wrote in the 1890s: “The eclectic is too timid to dare to revolt… Let anyone name even one eclectic in the republic of thought who has proved worthy of the name rebel!” (quoted in The Red Years, 233)

Finally, to stamp out eclecticism amidst the crisis of neoliberal capitalism today requires, more than ever, nothing short of a renewed theory of the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Marx, 1875; Lenin, 1917; W.E.B. Dubois, 1935; Balibar, 1977).

Walker’s The Red Years identifies these important tasks (and more) as critical elements for the revolution to be accomplished for our time, daring us to renew a revolutionary and rebellious movement on the Left against the dictatorship of capital.

To rebel is correct and justified!
Smash Capitalism and its Neoliberal Eclecticism!
Labor-Power for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!

 

Ken Kawashima
University of Toronto

 

References:

Althusser, Louis (1990a). Reading Capital, Verso.

____ (1990b). For Marx, Verso.

Balibar, Etienne (1977). On the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, Verso.

Deleuze-Guattari (1968/). Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, translated by Robert Hurley, University of Minnesota.

W.E.B. Dubois (1935/1992), Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880, the Free Press.

Karatani, Kojin (1973/2020). Marx: Towards the Center of Possibility, translated by Gavin Walker, Verso.

Kawashima, Ken (2009). The Proletarian Gamble: Korean Workers in Interwar Japan, Duke UP.

Kawashima, Ken and Gavin Walker (2019). “Surplus Alongside Excess: Uno Kōzō, Imperialism, and the Theory of Crisis, Viewpoint Magazine, https://viewpointmag.com/2018/02/01/surplus-alongside-excess-uno-kozo-imperialism-theory-crisis/.

Marx, Karl (1990). Capital, Volumes 1, Penguin.

_____ (1875). Critique of the Gotha Program.

Lenin, V.I., (1917), State and Revolution.

_____ (1916). Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism.

Uno, Kōzō (1953), Theory of Crisis, translated by Ken Kawashima, forthcoming from Brill Publishers, Historical Materialism series, with an essay by Kawashima and Walker, “Uno’s Theory of Crisis Today”.

____ (1958). Capital and Socialism (資本論と社会主義), in 宇野弘蔵著作集、Vol. 10.

Walker, Gavin (2016). The Sublime Perversion of Capital: Marxist Theory and the Politics of History in Modern Japan, Duke UP.