After a bit of back and forth with myself on whether or not it was worth it to respond to an article by Ross Wolfe (1), in which a bumbling, offhanded academic attempt is made to paint my article Decolonization is not a Metaphor: The Basics of a Genuine Anti-Colonial Position as the height of absurdity, i have decided to take the proverbial plunge and jot down a few thoughts. Perhaps against my better judgement, i decided to do this because the article by Wolfe, for all of its demonstrable euro-chauvinist flaws, does provide us with a nice teachable moment—indeed its euro-chauvinism is precisely why it is a useful pedagogical tool. The article helps to animate two particular points that i have been making for some time, on this blog and out in the real world. The first, and primary one that i want to address here, is one that has its antecedents going back at least as far as the thought of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, who discussed “the white man’s guilty conscience.” The second is one that has arisen quite simply from direct experience and the analysis that has arisen from interaction with the broad “left” on this continent.
Firstly, even though it is, i imagine, unnecessary for anyone who actually understood what i wrote, it should be said that nowhere in my article (or anywhere else in anything i have ever written) do i actually call for the direct expulsion from Maehkaenah-Menaehsaeh of all settlers. I will say that i am not unsympathetic—as a response to five centuries of genocide, ecocide, and colonization—to the notion that recalcitrant fascists, minuteman border vigilantes, white nationalists, christian evangelical types and other assorted militant front-line functionaries of the settler-colonial project be given a one way boat ride to parts elsewhere. However, that’s somewhat besides the point; i mention it purely as part of making myself clear. Anyway, what i did say is that settler people—and settler radicals, if they are to genuinely claim the leadership that they make-believe they already possess, must be leading on this point—have to give up the notion that they have an inherent, natural right to a chunk of this land. Indeed, no author claiming some variant of the descriptive term indigenist, at least that i am familiar with, has ever made such a claim. However, reading Wolfe’s gibbering keyboard slappings (2) would certainly leave one with the impression that it is pretty par for the course for this particular intellectual stream of thought.
Moving on, it should again be obvious to most that these two things are qualitatively different statements, and that one does not necessarily lead to the other, try as Wolfe might to manhandle such a link into place. On a most basic level, that Wolfe reads the former into the latter in the words of my article could be read as simply an attempt on his part to occlude the subject and practice of decolonization on Maehkaenah-Menaehsaeh. However, i would contend, that what he is doing here actually goes much deeper than that kind of superficial reading (true as it may be), and in fact demonstrates the point that Shabazz was making more than 50 years ago: that european, euro-amerikan and other white peoples (israelies, antipodeans, new caledonians etc.) are well aware of the crimes that their nation(s) have committed against the colonized and exploited peoples of the world (and that they materially benefit from it too i would add) and have, as a result of this knowledge, a deeply ingrained fear that in the revolution all that they have done will be visited back upon them by the global majority with great ferocity.
That Wolfe in such a clownish manner attempts to collapse a call for the expulsion of settlers (which is not, it must be pointed out, the only way to eliminate the category of settler, though, following Fanon, we must recognize that this category must be completely destroyed) into the line i put forth is indicative of this kind of white anxiety. Ongoing accumulation by dispossession is so deeply fundamental to the material basis, and attendant ideological outgrowths, of settler society that a call for even a small fraction of the bare minimum of anti-colonial justice—the return of what was taken from us—is interpreted as a clarion call for some kind of white genocide (and in this, the fear of white genocide, the circle between the white left and the white right becomes complete). Think visions of cattle cars—or perhaps much more aptly: a trail of (white) tears—in which europeans, euro-amerikans and other white settlers peoples are shipped off to be reeducated on small, barren portions of land, and through labouring to help (re)build up our societies.
This deep anxiety informs a not insignificant portion of knee jerk first world responses to genuine anti-colonial politics and theory.
That he attempts to indict me further by claiming that my article, if followed to logical conclusions, would additionally include the expulsion of East Asians, Middle Easterners, and Indians (by which i assume he is referring to subcontinentals) (3) is again an attempt to forcibly insert something into the text that is not there. Indeed, you’d think that someone such as he, who would claim to be quite well versed in marxist academia and critical theory type politics, would be well aware of the distinction increasingly being made increasingly within those particular milieus between the concepts of settlers and “arrivants”—his apparent lack of awareness on this point, i would note, is a pretty searing indictment of his own theoretical myopia, and goes a long way towards demonstrating that his “analysis” is filled much more with a sense of self-importance than they are with actual meaningfulness.
Again, i believe that Wolfe is taking his own uninterrogated fear that the We, the Red Indian Savage Folk and our old Afrikan allies, are coming literally for the heads and homes of him and his ilk and mapping it onto others in such a way as to try and make anti-colonial politics (not just my own, but the entire radical indigenist stream of thought and practice) seem patently ridiculous. Again, perhaps Wolfe is being intentionally disingenuous in an attempt to obfuscate the issue, but if he is, it is linked to some much deeper anxieties.
The secondary point that he, and others like him, demonstrate in their varied responses to my article is that overwhelmingly the “left”, outside of, in my opinion, the broad category of third worldist, whether marxist (of any variety) or anarchist, academic or non, are, on the whole, not friends of Indigenous people, and will not be able to be counted upon as allies in our liberation/decolonization struggle. This is precisely because they cannot make, or rather do not want to make, the conceptual and practical leap towards a genuine anti-colonial politics because they know that do so would mean the betrayal of the parasitic world that they are a part of. I trust my comrads in the Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement, the good folks in the African People’s Solidarity Committee & Uhuru Solidarity Movement, as well as the occasional isolated anarchist comrade. Unfortunately though it should go without saying that they are, in the current juncture, sadly few and fair between vis-à-vis the broad category of “the left” (even as they grow). The kind of unapologetically eurocentric, settlerist, first worldist rubbish demonstrated by the bulk of the north amerikan “left” sadly rules the day. We who see ourselves as part of the Indigenous Liberation/Independence Movement have to come to grips with this unfortunate truth. It also must be noted that most of the people who would claim leadership of our Movement also profoundly miss this. If we sit and wait for even the most “woke” sectors of the settler population to “come to their senses” and “see the real enemy” we’re frankly going to be waiting here for another 500 years. I can’t wait that long? Can you?
(1)I’m loathe to link to his article, and feed his website more traffic, as i agree with the comment by a comrade that “Responding to Ross Wolfe is always a mistake. That’s North American leftist internet 101,” but my point of using it as a pedagogical tool necessitates the people actually read his nonsense.
(2)Wolfe’s claiming that Palestine and Tibet as the world’s only remaining colonies should, on its own, be grounds for immediate disqualification of his attempt at a form of commentary as anything that should be taken seriously.
(3)Not to mention his addition into his indictment of me that my line would call for the expulsion of of mixed-blood persons. No serious indigenist anti-colonial thinker has ever seriously argued for this kind of patently ridiculous line. Indeed, the pendulum swings the other way than it seems Wolfe is aware, because many, if not every single one, of the most important thinkers to indigenism see mixed-blood people as an inseparable component of our nations.
The imagine at the top of this article is taken from Kwakwaka’wakw activist, artist and author Gord Hill’s War on the Coast comic.