Taking on the Right
Organised in collaboration with the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Committee and Socialist Register.
The HM conference is not a conventional academic conference but rather a space for discussion, debate and the launching of collective projects. We therefore discourage "cameo appearances" and encourage speakers to participate in the whole of the conference. We also strongly urge all speakers to take out personal subscriptions to the journal.
All queries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract submissions: https://conference.historicalmaterialism.org/index.php/hmlondon/hm15
Deadline: 1 June 2018
There is no escaping the resurgence of far-right racisms, nationalisms, populisms and fascisms across the globe. From Trump’s America to right-wing nationalist politics in Europe and Brexit in the UK; from the erosion of social democracy in its Scandinavian bastion to the rising popularity of authoritarian nationalisms in the Middle East; from deepening autocracy in Turkey to the often unchallenged influence of a belligerent Israel; and from the exercise of imperialist global power by financial structures and institutions across the Global South to right-wing nationalist revanchism from India to Russia – the rapid expansion and interlocking of these phenomena suggests that something dramatic is taking place. Yet concrete analyses and political responses from the left are lagging behind the juggernaut of contemporary reaction.
The aftermath of 11 September 2001 consolidated and intensified the colonial marriage of racism, xenophobia and far-right politics. Austerity and the prolonged impact of the 2008 global financial crisis has encouraged right-wing populisms. They have gathered support by blaming the centre for the collapse of traditional politics and castigated its (very limited) reforms in the field of human rights and equality, thereby promoting a nativist backlash against ‘minority rights’. The buds of fascism are showing in Germany, Italy and central European countries like Poland and Hungary where fascism had been publicly rejected since the end of the Second World War. International powers fuel war in Syria and destabilise countries such as Libya, whilst refugees from the region provide convenient scapegoats for all social ills. Elsewhere, from Charlottesville to Sofia, violent neo-fascists and neo-Nazis reclaim a street presence and impact that would have been roundly condemned and resisted two decades ago. Now, it finds succour with Trump’s patronage and thanks to superficial claims for free speech. Across the globe, the limited gains of reformism have been rolled back and replaced by a renewed immiseration of the working classes and the denigration of women, racialised others, the disabled, non-gender-conforming people, the dispossessed and the different.
Whilst, amongst some, such a state of affairs might encourage melancholia and withdrawal, for others it cries out for a radical left response. There are, however limited, seeds of hope to come from principled resistance to right-wing fascisms, nationalisms and populisms. The left must unify those who are threatened and those who are committed to resisting the right in solidarity, whilst transcending factionalist disagreements or a facile but politically naive and counterproductive left populism. This requires a renewed commitment to concrete analyses that challenge, oppose and dissect the cancerous growth of the contemporary far right: what are the class compositions, cultural resources, psychic structures and gender logics of its various manifestations? How is it anchored in the racism, authoritarianism and imperialism of the early twenty-first century world-order? What do the analyses of fascism, racism, nationalism and right-populism tell us about new articulations of the relationship between ideology, hegemony and political economy? No less important are, of course, the challenges for an effective resistance. What strategies for combatting the far right have proved productive – what can be learnt from countries where it has been kept in the margins? What are the potentials and limitations of militant anti-right politics, antifascisms, left populism, resurgent reformism and other forms of ‘progressive’ politics in the present moment?
Drawing on a century of Marxist antifascist and anti-right-wing theory and practice, this year’s Historical Materialism conference seeks to elicit discussions about how to confront, challenge, expose and take on the far right. Can classical Marxist theories provide guidance during the present moment? How would they have to be updated and revised in the light of unfolding developments and changed circumstances? How can we rethink the conditions for a radical left strategy that would avoid sectarianism and work towards the mass mobilisation of subaltern classes around an anticapitalist project? Are there new dimensions of fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia and contemporary nationalisms that today require new and different as well as restated responses? What are the scope, limits and key characterising features of this latest articulation of right-wing politics? Are we seeing versions of ‘populism’ or a more problematic ‘dark side of liberal democracy’, as some claim?
This is HM 2018’s core theme, and we welcome papers on:
• The relation of the new fascisms, populisms and nationalisms to the capitalist crisis, and to the crises of representational regimes.
• The relationships (and contradictions) between fascisms, nationalisms and populisms and neoliberal capitalism, branding, media and the cult of the entrepreneur and/or hard-headed technocrat.
• The historic and contemporary role of social-democratic and centrist parties in resisting – or appeasing – the far right.
• The new vectors of race and nationhood, and new relationships between antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-black, anti-migrant, anti-disability and anti-gender and sexually diverse politics.
• Changing forms of imperialism, and their connections to austerity, capitalist crisis, dispossession, primitive accumulation, and the global colour line.
• New media and technologies, and aesthetic and perceptual regimes nurturing the far right.
• Far right, ‘authoritarian’ or ‘populist’ movements and regimes in the global South, from India to Turkey.
• The history and politics of antifascist movements, strategies and theories, and their relevance in the 21st century.
• The psychosexual and gendered bases of fascism — especially in light of the role of ‘Men’s Rights Activism’ in the new reactionary movements.
• The implications of new fascisms, nationalisms and populisms for climate politics, conservation, climate-induced migration, the militarisation of climate control, and other environmental struggles.
At the same time, the conference will include particular streams that will both extend the issues of combatting the new right whilst looking at particular agendas within their politics and theoretical contestations. In addition, as always, HM is open to proposals for panels and papers on any subject within the purview of Marxist and left radical thought and politics, including critical sociology; economics and the critique of political economy; cultural, literary and aesthetic theory; political science and theory; history and historiography; philosophy; law; science studies and any other relevant discipline.
We have 6 Streams running this year (see below for full CFPs or click on the link):
We welcome proposals for papers or panels. Both should be made at: https://conference.historicalmaterialism.org/index.php/hmlondon/hm15 on the proforma provided.
• All paper proposals must include the names of all proposer(s), e-mail address(es) and titles and abstracts
• Panel proposals must include the names of all participants, e-mail addresses and titles and abstracts
• The closing date for submissions is midnight GMT on Friday 1 June
• If submitting to a stream, please specify which one.
A Note for Paper Proposers
We ask that, as far as humanly possible, you make yourselves available for the whole of the period of the conference, from the Thursday afternoon through to the Sunday evening for two reasons:
1) Unlike many traditional academic conferences - where sometimes speakers only turn up for their session and then leave - we are trying to create a different space with the HM Conference: we are trying to create an international public sphere of Marxist debate, discussion and exchange, and this means that we would like all participants to actively engage with the conference as a whole and all its sessions;
2) We cannot possibly accommodate every participant’s preferences, personal obligations etc with such a large conference. This means that we need to be able to schedule your panels in a manner that makes sense for the conference as a whole and, if necessary, to reorganise panels due to late cancellations, no-shows, emergencies and so on.
Last minute cancellations and no-shows – especially for reasons other than medical or real personal emergencies - are an absolute nightmare for the organisers. We therefore ask you, before you submit an abstract, to make all necessary arrangements with regard to teaching, childcare, travel etc to be sure that you will indeed be able to participate.
We encourage submissions from comrades from abroad and can provide paperwork for visa applications where necessary, but we ask that these requests be made as soon as you receive your acceptance notices, not left to the last moment.
We are also very open to preconstituted panels (preferably with no more than 3/4 speakers), including discussions/launches of new books, but we reserve the right to reject certain abstracts in such panels (i.e. these are not “take it or leave it” as a whole) and to reconstitute the panels in different ways where necessary.
We also expect that all participants will behave in an exemplarily comradely manner, including with conference helpers (who do their best in sometimes difficult circumstances). Vigorous and robust debate is to be encouraged but we will not accept sectarian or ad hominem polemics.
1 Strategy Stream
In early 2007, Daniel Bensaïd made an important intervention on the need to return to the politico-strategic question, after a long period marked by the absence of such debates within the anti-capitalist Left. More than ten years later this question remains more than pertinent. From the closing of an historical cycle of experiments in left-wing governance in Latin America, to the Syriza debacle, the Podemos impasse, the open questions regarding a future Corbyn government, and the necessity of grasping the relative weight of state coercion made clear in Catalonia, there are many instances that call for a reopening of the debate on strategy. While studiously avoiding tired and predictable factional disputes on the Left, Historical Materialism conferences in years past have provided a venue for discussion of conjunctural political developments, and socialist strategy has been an underlying thematic of the conference from the outset. However, this year we want to make such discussions more systematic by proposing a special stream on strategy. To this aim we welcome paper and panel proposals on subjects such as:
• The assessment of attempts of radical left governance
• The end of a cycle and new contradictions thrown up by Latin American experiences
• The possibility (or impossibility) of combining the aim of governance and revolutionary strategy
• The form, content, and direction of transitional demands and the notion of a political programme today that moves beyond redistribution towards transformation of the social relations of production
• The potential resistances to state coercion
• The relevance of ‘dual power’ today
2 Race and Capital Stream
Racism’s visible resurgence in the right has brought forward a number of questions around race, class, capital, empire, resistance and solidarity. Alongside the mobilisation of traditional racist tropes and signifiers by the right new forms of racialisation have been articulated through increasingly virulent official racism. This official racism has been deployed internationally – to legitimate and drive imperialist interventions and restructurings – and domestically – to channel social discontent away from the status quo and towards migrants and racial others.
All of this has not gone uncontested. Organised anti-racist politics throughout the world have made significant political interventions. Indeed, many elements of the new right-wing movements’ platforms are the direct response to the growing significance of these anti-racist movements. A key component of analysing and challenging the resurgence of the right, therefore, is understanding the role that racism plays in their construction and maintenance.
This necessity has led to a series of heated political debates within the anti-racist movements concerning the relationship between racism and other oppressions; the relationship between capitalism, colonialism and racism, and the relationship between different racial oppressions on the domestic and international stage.
The Race and Capital stream seeks to provide a historical materialist position in these debates. Taking seriously the rich history of black and postcolonial Marxisms, we seek contributions mapping the contemporary and historical connections between capitalist accumulation and practices of racialisation and empire. We are driven by the conviction that understanding racism within social relations of exploitation can we offer an explanation for its existence and persistence.
Understanding this in a broad sense to include issues of race, racism, indigeneity, colonialism, imperialism and migration, we would be especially interested in panels or papers concerning:
• Engagements with Afro-Pessimism and the relationship between anti-black and other racisms
• Marxist analyses of the relationship between racism, colonialism and indigeneity
• The relationship between Marxism and postcolonial theory
• Mappings of the relationship between racism and the right in both historical and contemporary contexts
• Historical accounts of the relationship between different forms of racism and different practices and regimes of accumulation
• Recovering anti-racist resources within the Marxist tradition
• Black and Third World feminisms
• Political Blackness and other historical accounts of anti-racist movements and their attempts to build solidarity with other oppressed groups
• Marxist engagement with intersectionality
• Histories of anti-colonial nationalism and its intersections with Marxism
3 Sexuality and Political Economy Network: Combatting the Right: Sexual Violence, Discrimination and Oppression and Left Responses
The resurgence of the right has brought a renewed politics of sexuality that has left sectional interests fighting battles they thought they had won. Trans people face renewed prejudice and discrimination from the right and also attacks from feminists who would claim to be left and defending women's rights. Women find inequality remains persistent and whilst #MeToo has thrown a light on harassment, political leaders like Trump thrive on using women as sex objects, whilst the epidemic of rape and sexual violence is unabated. Gay men, lesbians and sexually dissident identities find themselves bisected by a homonormativity that promises (grudging) inclusion within homo-nationalist and capitalist marketised societies, or condemnation and hostility should they wish to express their queerness in non-conforming ways. Both in law and in politics, nebulous appeals to decency and obscenity ensure judicial and policing discretion that leaves sexual dissidents vulnerable to arbitrary yet targeted attacks.
These issues, points of contestation in the West, do not begin to represent the naked violence, suppression and exploitation visited upon sexual and gender nonconformists in parts of Africa, the Indian sub-continent, the East and Russia. Systematic state sponsored prejudice and violence, overt discrimination, harassment and hostility and trafficking are prevalent and overt features and facts of life.
Behind these points of struggle and contestation, persistent inequalities and prejudices prevail: religious organisations that refuse even the strictures of human rights law; a conventional culture that views free sexual expression and discourse as dangerous and risk laden, to be preserved in private families or expressed in limited bio-medical risk averse sex education; protectionist discourses that ironically render young people vulnerable by pushing sexuality to subterranean levels and promoting ignorance and innocence.
Indicative themes might include:
• The scope and limits to Queer Social Reproduction Theory
• The political economy of sex work
• Building a Trans Marxism and resisting anti-trans attacks
• Resisting the Right on both sexual oppression and desexualisation
• Resisting attacks on women’s reproductive rights and sexual freedom
• Contradictions within the far right in imperialist countries between femo- and homonationalism on the one hand and heterosexism on the other.
• Global ‘Political homophobia’ or ‘heteronationalism’ and ‘Western’ homonationalism - a vicious circle.
• Campaigns against ‘pinkwashing’
• Marxism, empirical studies and the fight against scientific pathologies
• Debates between queer Marxist-humanism and queer anti-humanism.
• Marxist analyses of queer poverty, queer anti-racist struggle, the daily struggles of queer people of colour, and intersectional inequalities.
• Apologies, Redress and struggles against sexual oppressions around the globe
• Analysing queer issues through readings of Capital and Marx’s work?
• What would gay communism look like?
Whilst all and any papers that elucidate the relationship between sexuality (and gender) and political economy (Marxist and radical theory and politics) are welcome, papers that explore these violence's and how to combat and confront them, developing cohesive left strategies, tactics, solidarity and politics, both decoding the current struggles and developing coherent responses, are particularly welcome
4 Marxism and Philosophy Stream
Is It Possible to Be a Marxist in Philosophy? Or, coming even closer to the title of one of the recent posthumous publications by Louis Althusser: how is it possible to be a Marxist in philosophy today? Whilst touching on the forever recurring problem of the relationship of Marxism to philosophy that takes its origin in large parts from the uncertain and contested status of (critical) philosophy and theory in Marx’s own writings, this stream seeks to develop and bring together new answers that reflect recent debates and take into account the current status and configuration of Marxism and of philosophy.
Recent debates have, on the one hand, brought further into question the relation of Marxism to the philosophical tradition, by developing new readings of Marx’s relationships to a Spinozean immanent causality or even critique of ideology, to a Kantian epistemology and, maybe the most longstanding debate of all, to Hegel. The latter revolves particularly around the affinity or distance between Marx’s and Hegel’s conceptions of the dialectic, of form and abstraction and around the status and method of criticising bourgeois politics.
We have also witnessed new interpretations of Western Marxism, from new research on Gramsci’s ‘Philosophy of Praxis’, the new readings of Adorno and the Frankfurt School as well as of the work of Lukács to the continuous interest in the work of Althusser and in Marx’s relationship to French philosophers more generally such as Foucault and Deleuze.
At the same time, Marxists engaged in philosophical research are facing challenges from attempts to transcend or circumvent Marxism, often in the name of reclaiming some of the concepts that have always been central to the Marxist philosophical debates, such as materialism, speculation or ontology.
How do we therefore engage critically as well as productively with the various strands of ‘new materialism’, post-humanism, ANT and “object oriented philosophy” from within a Marxist tradition? And how do we address the urgent demand posed to the discipline of philosophy as a whole, to decolonise its forms of knowledge production in terms of scope, epistemologies and references? Implicit in these debates is, moreover, the broader question of the particular status of philosophy within the broad spectrum of Marxist philosophy.
It is in light of the above possible topics for papers and panel proposals include, but are not limited to:
- The status and role of philosophy in Marx’s own writings
- Marx’s relationship to Spinoza, Kant and Hegel
- Revisiting the Frankfurt School: Adorno and beyond
- Gramsci and the ‘philosophy of praxis’ beyond the ‘historicism’ polemics
- Lukács and his relevance for contemporary debates
- Althusser, especially in light of the new wave of posthumous publication of unpublished work
- Ontological challenges to Marxism: from post-humanism and new materialism to ANT, speculative realism and object-oriented philosophy
- Decolonising Marxist philosophy
- What is the place of philosophy within Marxism, regarding ontological grounding, epistemology, ethics and conceptual experimentation?
5 Marxist-Feminist Stream
The rise of the nationalist right across the globe is alarming for women. From the Polish government’s resolve to ban abortion, to the revolting violence against women and children in India defended by politicians of Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist party, to Trump’s regular misogynist comments and policies, right-wing demagogues and their supporters are not only creating a climate that legitimizes and justifies violence against women but they are also implementing laws to restrict women’s freedoms as much as undermine or negate the rights of LBTQ people. The prominence of the political right coincides with and fuels racist far-right and fascistic movements that are making headlines on a daily basis. The recent attack in Toronto by an ‘incel’ follower revealed the links between this group of women-haters and the alt-right.
These tendencies are not simply reminiscent of some of the darkest pages of history, when fascist rulers declared women’s bodies to be the property of men and the nation, and rape was treated mainly as a moral offence. Rather, they align with and reinforce neoliberal capitalist policies that destroy individuals’ lives and the planet on an unprecedented level – policies often implemented and still supported by liberal and centre-left politicians.
But the misogyny of the right-wing is not restricted to the legitimation of physical violence and their attacks on women’s reproductive rights. It is also evident in the social and economic degradation of women’s lives. Austerity policies across Europe and North America have hit women the hardest. According to the Women’s Budget Group in the UK, seven years of Tory government cuts to welfare provisions have meant the loss of jobs in the public sector (where women are prevalently employed) and the closure of almost 20% of refuges for victims of domestic violence. Such policies entrench further women’s position as the poorest section of society, often in heavily racialized terms. In the US, the budget cuts proposed by Trump’s administration in Medicaid, housing assistance and low-income energy assistance would bear particularly negatively on women, especially women of colour. Furthermore, migrant women find themselves confronting the sharpest end of the right-wing nationalist stick. Not only do they constantly face the risk of being deported, but they are also segregated in the care and domestic/cleaning sectors, which are the worst paid and devalued sectors of the economy. This is the result of the ongoing and intensifying devaluation of workers’ social reproduction, or those activities that are not always directly and immediately profitable for capitalism (such as healthcare and education) but are nonetheless crucial if capitalism is to have a cheap and exploitable workforce at its disposal.
In such a bleak context, women have nonetheless shown a strength and level of organization that we have not seen in decades. In Argentina, the US, Poland, Italy, Spain and many other countries women have taken to the streets, organizing against gender violence and the misogyny to which they are subjected on a daily basis. In movements like #MeToo, Ni Una Menos, and the International Women’s Strike, they are fighting back against the climate of male impunity and hatred fueled by the right. They are also challenging the hypocrisy and calls to ‘lean in’ by neoliberal self-proclaimed feminists.
Marxist-feminists are playing a key role in these movements. Not only are we directly involved in the resistance against the right but we are also developing new theoretical and organizational tools to face the challenges women encounter at this nationalist, ultra-authoritarian turn in neoliberal capitalism. From the development of the Social Reproduction framework to the critique of corporate and right-wing feminisms, to the unraveling of, and battle against femo- and homo-nationalisms that want us to believe that Islam is the patriarchal and homophobic enemy to combat, Marxist-feminists in the last ten years have produced some of the most sophisticated and effective approaches to analyse and oppose capitalist barbarity.
To continue developing our theoretical and organizational tools and create new ones, we welcome papers that cover (but are not restricted to) the following themes:
• Women’s and feminists’ resistance against the right: struggles and movements
• Why are women leading or participating in far-right formations and political parties?
• What are the strategies of right and far-right platforms in approaching working-class women specifically?
• The forms of violence activated in suppressing feminist and LGBTQ activism
• The role of the judiciary system and state apparatuses overall in legitimizing capitalism’s authoritarian turn as regards women’s and feminist struggles
• If and how cultural practices and theories, including those that concern art and literature, engage Marxist-feminist thought in undermining the far right and the ‘fascist matrix’ of much contemporary politics
• The role of religion – for example, of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches – in promoting and normalizing authoritarian misogyny and nationalism and joining forces with the right and far right
http://www.historicalmaterialism.org/work-workers-inquiry-and-class-com…Marxist-feminist pedagogy in combating the far right (in the classroom, student movements, social centres)
• Marxist-feminist theorisations of the links between capitalism and fascism.
• Strategies and tactics: what can Marxist-feminism do in order to combat the rise of the far right and its social appeal?
• The utility of Social Reproduction Theory in assessing and theorizing capitalism
Abstracts and panel proposals should explicitly mention the Marxist-Feminist Stream. Panel proposals should include names and abstracts of all participants.
6 Work, Workers’ Inquiry, and Class Composition Stream
This stream builds on the “Work” stream from the Historical Materialism London conference in 2017. In collaboration with Notes from Below, we are inviting contributions on the subject of work, workers’ inquiry, and class composition. As Marx explained in his call for a workers’ inquiry, ‘socialists . . . must wish for an exact and positive knowledge of the conditions in which the working class – the class to whom the future belongs – works and moves.’ In this stream we propose drawing together papers that examine the changing shape of work and workplace struggle today.
We invite abstracts for papers that use the method of workers’ inquiry. For this stream, we conceive of the method broadly as one through which workers’ own experience is used as the basis for analysis, either by the researcher, the worker themselves, or in a process of co-research. Papers must draw on some form of empirical data about work, which can be from the author’s own experience. Following from last year, we are particularly keen to encourage workers to submit abstracts about their own experiences (and are happy to work together in advance of the deadline on proposals).
We expect papers to address (or at least in part) the following:
- the changing technical composition of work (how work is organised and managed, what kinds of labour is involved, the use of technology, and management techniques)
- the social composition of workers (how workers are organised within society, for example, living conditions, cultures, access to support of various kinds)
- the political (re-)composition of workers (how workers organise politically, including a range of forms from resistance and refusal, up to political organisations).
Registration is necessary and will be open once the programme is released.