Marxism, Coloniality, “Man”, & Euromodern Science

In some non-blog writings earlier this summer, specifically some work I put in on my dissertation, I expanded upon and made some significant changes to my earlier blog post entitled “Decolonization-Decoloniality-Marxism” to the extent that I feel they are now two different pieces, arching towards the same point. So I have decided to post the newer version here also.

For many years, my primary theoretical grounding could best be described as some kind of Marxism.  This was still very much so the case when I began the studies that led me to this point in my writings.  For much of that time, while often nominally loyal to some kind of Leninist/Maoist Marxism, in the sense of how viewed the project of actual leftist organizing, the primary internal debate that I engaged in with myself with regards to this outlook was between a kind of Althusserianism and Gramscianism.  Ultimately, I did, and still do, take a number of key elements from both.  From the former, a kind of ‘soft Althusserianism’, as Peter D. Thomas refers to it, the hallmarks of which are “a suspicion of teleology, an attentiveness to the social and political processes of subject- and subjectivity-formation, a respect for the relative autonomy of diverse instances within the social totality” (2009: 11).

From the latter I have long been attracted to, and taken up, Gramsci’s ‘absolute historicism,’ which entails the denial that any real or meaningful qualitative distinctions between different conceptions of the world—much less ideologies and philosophies—can genuinely be made, and consequently flowing from that a deep suspicion, and ultimately a quite uncompromising rejection, of “scientistic” and “deterministic” versions of Marxism (2009: 11). Other key elements of the kind of Gramscianism that Thomas describes, namely the study of subalternity and the form and functions of the microphysics of power, have also long been key elements of my outlook on the world (2009: 11)[1].

However, while many of these outlooks remain close to my mind and heart, the principal place that they held for me began to change with my exposure to more recent critical and theoretical production from within the spheres of Native, Black, and Decolonial Studies.  Ultimately my exposure to these new frameworks slowly began to erode the relative Marxist orthodoxy that informed so much of my views and work.

This has been the path for the last few years.  Nowadays my uses of Marxism are more in the direction of what I have taken up jokingly calling postmodern neo-Marxism; an intentional appropriation of the wording of Canada’s currently most recognizable reactionary academic: Jordan Peterson.  This, for me, is a Marxism that not only naturally emerges from those Althusserian and Gramscian moments and engagements of mine in years past, but which is also critically informed by the work of the late Mark Fisher (2009) and Fredric Jameson (1991), in that it is concerned with the postmodern condition, what Fisher refers to as capitalist realism; does not recoil in horror, as so much of Marxism in my experience appears to, from the contributions of radical scholars outside the Marxist canon and who are most associated with what we might call postmodernism or poststructuralism, such as Jean Baudrillard, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, or Jacques Derrida; and which now adds to its list of suspicions the state of current Marxist futurisms, both in terms of the necromantic practice of summoning the ghosts of socialisms long dead (Robinson & Schram, forthcoming), and in the ongoing quest for universality.

The very last of these points, the question of universality, also opens up a door onto what has become my primary issue with so most of Marxism, of almost any variant—Althusserian, Gramscian, Jamesonian, Fisherian, Leninist, Maoist etc.—which is quite often and quite simply that it is profoundly eurocentric.  What Marxism tends to miss in this regard—whether Althusserian, Gramscian, Jamesonian, Fisherian, Leninist, Maoist—is that this is a problem that Marxism is not really equipped to grapple with because, at the heart of things, Marxism, or at least orthodox Marxism, deeply holds to the abstractly “progressive” powers and qualities of this thing that we call modernity precisely because it is a product of modernity, born at the necrotic heart of the colonial order of things.

In this regard I do not believe that there has been a meaningful shift away from eurocentrism, though certainly efforts have been made. Indeed, in my experience outside of academia, in on the ground activist work, in interactions with leftists of a myriad of different Marxist tendencies (Marxism-Leninism, Trotskyism, Maoism, various “left-communisms” etc.), the apparent default response amongst many to any attempted critique of eurocentrism within Marxism is to assume that those of us making the critique are saying that Marxism is a “white thing.” On the surface, this is quite obviously not the case, based purely on the historical record of 20th-Century revolutionary Marxist movements, nor do I think it is what anyone putting out a real analysis of the issue means to imply either.  Regardless, watching an endless parade of Twitter arguments, the fact that that is not what I or other are saying does little to stop Marxists, in particular Marxist-Leninists from parading out images of their favourite “Revolutionaries of Colour”: Hồ Chí Minh, Thomas Sankara, José María Sison, Huey P. Newton, Mao Zedong, Kim Il Sung etc. This, because no one who is really thinking through these issues is calling Marxism a white thing, does not actually do anything to diffuse the critique of eurocentrism.  In reality, what these two things are—the claim that people are saying Marxism is “white”, and the parade of images of ROC as a supposed counter-point—is actually, simply put, an ideologically placed thought terminator designed to short-circuit critique.

This of course is far from the only thought terminator used by many Marxist activists and theorists to diffuse attempts at critique.  A popular one, and one which I have had levelled at myself more than once over the years, is the proposition that critique of Marxism represents the work of some nefarious apparatus of the colonial-capitalist state, such as COINTELPRO[2], the CIA, FBI, or, for those of us up here in Canada, the RCMP or CSIS. For example, as I write this a quite popular claim, bordering on conspiracy theory, amongst certain segments of the cyberspace left is the american CIA, via its Paris-based front organization the Congress for Cultural Freedom, had a hand in translating into the Anglophone world the writings of certain postmodern/poststructuralist theorists, such as Derrida and Foucault, in the hopes that this would coax the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist rightwards and away from radical critique (Rockhill 2017).  While I cannot speak to the roll that the CIA may actually have had in this, the assumption seems to be that other scholars, theorists, and, also, activists would not have reached a point of critiquing Marxist assumptions without the cynical guiding hand of the CIA.  This functions as a thought terminator by allowing those Marxists who choose to deploy it to simply point at a source of critique and yell “agent!”

That said, working within the Marxist tradition, there have been a number of important attempts to think again and beyond eurocentrism.  I believe that amongst these various efforts, Robert Biel in his text Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement (2015) is absolutely correct when he says, speaking of Marxism, or what he thinks should be its “more neutral name” historical materialism, that:

The reality is that it is embodied in a particular movement which originated and developed in a definite set of geographical and historical conditions.  These inevitably influenced, and imposed limitations upon, the concrete form in which the theory was first put forward (2015: 4).

Here Biel’s assessment of the geo-historical location and timing of Marxism’s birth, and the marks that it has left on its body of theory, cleaves quite closely to what the late Cedric J. Robinson much more expansively noted in his classic text Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition.  Speaking of what he identifies as Marxism’s “ominous limitations, Robinson says:

However, it is still fair to say that at base, that is at its epistemological substratum, Marxism is a Western construction—a conceptualization of human affairs and historical development which is emergent from the historical experiences of European peoples mediated, in turn, through their civilization, their social orders, and their cultures.  Certainly its philosophical origins are indisputably Western.  But the same must be said of its analytical presumptions, its historical perspectives, its points of view.  This most natural consequence though has assumed a rather ominous significance since European Marxists have presumed more frequently than not that their project is identical with world-historical development.  Confounded it would seem by the cultural zeal which accompanies ascendant civilizations, they have mistaken for universal verities the structures and social dynamics retrieved from their own distant and more immediate pasts.  Even more significantly, the deepest structures of ‘historical materialism’ … have tended to relieve European Marxists from the obligation of investigating the profound effects of culture and historical experience on their science.  The ordering ideas which have persisted in Western civilization … have little or no theoretical justification in Marxism for their existence (1983: 2)

However, even the best-case examples of contemporary Marxist attempts to confront their school of thought’s congenital eurocentrism, such as in Biel’s important work, I have issues with the accounting of the problem.  For example, Biel ultimately largely boils the endemic issue of eurocentrism in Marxism down to a question of its political economy (2015: 171).  While in a sense I do agree that the political economy of most Marxists is somewhere between one hundred and one hundred fifty years out of date, the question of eurocentrism is not simply one that can be solved by the correct reading and application of dependency theory or world-systems analysis.  While certainly taking up that theoretical line—updated as it should be for the early 21st century, is important, and especially when paired with a serious concern for the question of imperialist parasitism—the manner in which it is focused upon by Biel actually, in my opinion, obscures the other, often deeper ways that Marxism has been marked by a profound eurocentrism since its original formulations.

Indeed, despite the recent efforts of the canadian Maoist philosopher Joshua Moufwad-Paul, working through the late Samir Amin, to portray Marxism as a “modernity critical of modernity,” and leaning heavily on the concluding pages of Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth in order to declare “the need to establish a new Enlightenment that will be free from the predations of Europe” I find little hope for this within the onto-epistemological framing of the Marxist project (2018). Indeed, elsewhere Moufwad-Paul falls back on old Marxist tropes I have no taste for in order to circumvent Black theorist Alexander G. Weheliye’s criticism of all theoretical traditions of european origin as “white European thinkers [who] are granted a carte blanche” (2014: 6).  Namely, Moufwad-Paul consciously falls back on that old Marxist claim that “it is only the Marxist tendency that can account for and surmount this carte blanche, thus necessarily generating theoretical offspring critical of its erroneous aspects, because of what it is: a science” [emphasis original] (2019).

As I have said already, I am critical of the claims to not only Marxism’s long-running project of positioning itself as a science, as well as generally scientistic outlooks in general, a lingering remnant of my Gramscianism.  However, the claim to Marxism’s scientificity, made explicit in Moufwad-Paul’s body of work, brings into quite clear focus the problems of Marxism’s onto-epistemological eurocentrism.  Take for instance this paragraph, in which he quite boldly writes:

Moreover, claims that there are other knowledges that have been excluded by the dominant scientific narrative does not prove that science-qua-science is incorrect––as the artefacts the latter produces immediately demonstrates.  At best such claims only demonstrate that the colonial-capitalist monopoly on scientific investigation has excluded just as much as it has appropriated and that it could stand to learn more from the research of others: we know this is correct since environmental scientists have discovered that there are indeed suppressed knowledges of numerous Indigenous populations that prove the possibility of living sustainable lives. At worst, however, claims about excluded knowledge traditions can lead to unqualified endorsements of culturalist mystification.  Just because a truth claim is made by a colonized or formerly colonized population does not make it correct, no more than the various anti-scientific truth claims made by colonizing populations (i.e. Six Day Creationism, anti-vaccination, “chem-trails”, ethno-nationalism, conservative conceptions of gender and sex, etc.), and thus it is not always wrong that science excludes some knowledges. Indeed, science necessarily has to exclude those truth claims that are proven wrong regardless of their origin.  This does not mean that scientific investigation, because of the influence of the ideological instance, might not wrongly exclude truths due to a scientist’s devotion to various social dogma, only that other times the exclusion is correct.  Only Christian fundamentalists would argue that we are not better off for the exclusion of Six Day Creationism from the discipline of biology (2019).

In a single arch here Moufwad-Paul concedes that primitive savages, such as Indigenous populations, may actually have some sort of useful knowledge about the world in the form of Traditional Ecological Knowledge, or TEK—a currently buzzworthy area of discussion within philosophy, the social sciences and environmental studies—yet, in a stunningly oblivious move demonstrating the deep eurochauvinist and racial-colonialist contours of his own Marxist “science”, simultaneously colours non-european traditional knowledges and epistemologies with the same brush of “culturalist mystification” as conservative christian supremacists seeking to overturn the current liberal-bourgeois secular order to replace it with their own. This is deeply problematic, something which Moufwad-Paul appears to not even notice, much less concern himself with.  Indeed, given his philosophical commitment to epistemologically and methodologically situating Marxism as a science, I suspect that even if these euro-colonial problems were presented to him he would not even recognize them as such.  To be even more specific, the position which Moufwad-Paul outlines here is profoundly epistemicidal, to borrow a concept from Ramón Grosfoguel (2013) and Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2018; 2014).  His thinking is also deeply tinged by what Fernando Coronil would call, drawing on already-existing discourse, Occidentalism (1996), and which, reflecting on Edward Said’s conception of Orientalism, with its focus on the euro-west’s deficiencies in representing the Othered “Orient” (1979), he describes as “the conceptions of the West animating those representations” (56).

While it may seem unfair here to single out a single canadian philosopher representing a specific strain of Marxism, in this case, Maoism, I focus briefly here on Moufwad-Paul precisely because he so well articulates the argument for Marxism’s claim to scientificity, and, by way of a likely unintended extension, this also lays clear the problems of that position, again whether or no Moufwad-Paul necessarily recognizes them as problems[3]. Additionally, some of the pitfalls that lead Moufwad-Paul to the almost-funny-if-it-was-not-serious euro-colonial racist equivocation of christian fascist theology and the subalternized, genocided, and still colonized and suppressed cosmologies, ontologies, and epistemologies of Indigenous peoples have entrapped many a Marxist thinker attempting to cut themselves out of the net of endemic eurocentrism. In both of their recent writings Biel and Moufwad-Paul hinge much of their thought on this matter on the assertion that as a theory, analytic, and methodology historical materialism is not only the best blade for this job, but indeed is the only one, and, not only that, it has already succeeded in that regard[4].

This is not a particularly new argument for Marxists to make.  In the closing decades of the Cold War, the Cuban philosopher Roberto Fernández Retamar attempted to make a link between a kind of proto-post-Occidentalist thought and Marxism.  For Retamar capitalism was essentially the same as Occidental thought, and therefore Marxism, as a critique of capitalism, could not be anything other than post-Occidental (1986).  However, while the colonial genesis of capitalism has caused a global ontogenic overlapping of capitalism and colonialism, hence my, and others, use of the compound term “the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system”, I do not believe that this makes the two categories reducible to each other.  If they were, then class struggle and anti-colonial/decolonial struggle would seem to be reducible to one another, but, as such contemporary Native thinkers such as George E. Tinker (2008) and Glen Coulthard (2014) I believe convincingly demonstrate, this would be an oversimplification of colonial relations as they exist, and one which ultimately leaves Natives by the wayside in the global quest for proletarian revolution and socialism.

Thinking back again to Moufwad-Paul, while I am not necessarily opposed to the idea of a “modernity critical of modernity,” or Fanon’s call to build a new enlightenment, for myself, probably contrary to Moufwad-Paul, this is because I follow Lewis Gordon’s corrective of Enrique Dussel in that what we generally call modernity in a broad sense should more correctly be understood as euromodernity, because modernity is not something strictly owned by Europeans (2013). This is the crux of my issue with Moufwad-Paul and Marxism in general: it is not that it is, or even can ever claim to be, just or simply a “modernity critical of modernity,” but that we must also be precisely clear about that which we speak, and in this case we can only regard Marxism as a euromodernity that attempts an internal critique of euromodernity.  In this vein, as far as we can genuinely consider Marxism to be an actual critique of modernity, then it must be said to be, much like its oft ideological foe postmodernism, a eurocentric critique of euromodernity (Grosfoguel 2008).

This is a trap that Marxism, despite all of the insight that it may contain about the exploitation of wage labour by capital, imperialism, class struggle and the like, fundamentally cannot escape because of the eurocentric corruption in its roots, which ultimately causes it mistake a european vision for a “scientific” one, and one with an unqualified universal applicability which should supplant all other epistemological systems. And this one of the ultimate traps of Marxism: the notion of universality.  Abstract universals as they are, with the global designs that they proffer, especially when rooted in something birthed at the heart of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system, are inherently epistemically western and colonial (Mignolo 2012).  This is a trap set by the fact that that this thing we call modernity is indelibly, ineluctably, and inescapably linked with the colonial order of things.  It was out of needing to understand this trap, out of the context of the Latin American engagement with dependency theory and world-systems analysis, that the late Peruvian sociologist Aníbal Quijano coined the concept of the coloniality of power, often shortened to just coloniality, sometimes also referred to as the colonial matrix of power, and linked it to the compound concept of modernity/coloniality in order to describe this twinned relationship (2010; 2008).

Coloniality is different from colonialism.  Colonialism, in a broad sense, setting aside the specifics of settler colonialism, denotes the political and economic relationship wherein the sovereignty of a nation or a people rests on the power of another nation.  Coloniality, rather, refers to long-standing patterns of power that emerged as a result of colonialism, and thus, coloniality survives colonialism, being maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self etc.  Coloniality, understood in this way, is constitutive of modernity, which, broadly construed, are those pillars and interrelated spheres that define culture, labour, intersubjective relations, and knowledge production/epistemology and ontological questions and concepts such as the nature of the human and the naturalization of life and the permanent regeneration of the living (e.g. the invention of the concept of “nature” etc.) well beyond the strict limits of colonial administrations (Maldonado-Torres 2010; Mignolo & Walsh 2018).

Related to this is the concept of the decolonial and decoloniality.  In my interactions on social media platforms with Marxists and other leftists over the past months and years, what I suspect to be an attentiveness to the verbiage, but not the content, of current Native critique by many Marxists has given rise to a seeming neologism, decolonialism, and a conflation within that between two related by different concepts: decolonization and decoloniality. In essence, decolonization is and always has been tied to the question of land and power.  As Glen Coulthard notes in his Red Skin White Masks (2014) both Native oppression and resistance to that oppression is informed by, and through, the question of land.  Decoloniality on the other hand, while inherently tied to the materiality of decolonization is about those patterns of power and epistemological/ontological elements that originated from colonialism and modernity, but which can and very much so have persisted beyond colonialism.  In short decoloniality is the end of coloniality, which implies the end of modernity as well, or, to be more correct, euromodernity.

Likewise, a decolonial critique of modernity/coloniality is a critique from the position of subalternized and silenced knowledges, rather than Marxism or postmodernism’s eurocentric critique of euromodernity (Mignolo 2012).  These are the very same knowledges which Moufwad-Paul’s eurocentric ideological stance regarding the scientificity of the Marxist worldview relegate, at best, to possible mere addendums to western science’s body of knowledge, and at worst ones that must be rejected on the grounds of being “culturalist mystification” of the same kind and content as colonial and deeply anti-Indigenous conservative Christianity, to be replaced by the more correctly “scientific” Marxist epistemology and methodology of historical materialism.

Thinking through the decolonization/decoloniality distinction in this way it becomes possible to see that the first instance, that is land and power, can be taken up without actually uprooting the second, those patterns of power that form modernity/coloniality.  In fact, I would argue that a basic cursory look of the history of Marxist revolutions around the world in the 20th century, from China to Cuba to Viet Nam, demonstrates that this has actually been the general pattern with previous decolonization movements.  While it is perhaps possible to recapitulate this within a more traditionally Marxist theorization of the base-superstructure relationship, because of the deeply rooted epistemological, ontological and cosmological commitments within Marxism to a european geopolitics and body-politics of knowledge, there are elements of modernity/coloniality that escape the sight of Marxism often when considering the ideological dimensions of capitalism that will be struggled against both before and after the formal end of the capitalist world-economy, once the march towards communism is begun.

Indeed, in many ways because of these deeply held, and often unquestioned conceptions within at least mainstream and orthodox conceptions of Marxism, such as the conception of human-as-Man, of nature and of the human-nature relationship, it is possible for Marxism to actually deepen the commitment to modernity/coloniality within a given situation, even as it may work to struggle against others because of the perceived universality of Marxism. In fact, because of at least orthodox Marxism’s open and enthusiastic commitment to many of the core tenants of euromodernity, and hence its lurching fear of ‘postmodernism’ (itself a Eurocentric critique of euromodernity), a more cynical reading would see this kind of deeper westernization to be an almost inevitable

Marxism is thus, within this kind of understanding, a thoroughly modernist analytic and political project, and is thus tied up with many of the epistemological and ontological dimensions of coloniality.  Marxism, like postmodernism and post-structuralism are, as Grosfoguel notes, “epistemological projects that are caught within the western canon, reproducing within its domains of thought and practice a particular form of coloniality of power/knowledge” (2008).  This includes in many ways a recapitulation of liberal-bourgeois notions of the human and humanism, a problematic with which I grapple significantly in this dissertation [you can catch a few glimpses of this aspect of my work in some previous posts I have made, which also were clips of my dissertation writings].  For Marx, and for the Marxist tradition that followed, this liberal-bourgeois humanist tendency is perhaps most clearly subsumed up within what Tiffany Lethabo King identifies as a Lockean formulation that links labour with land, and labour with property, and eventually labour with the ability to claim status as a proper human subject (2019: 23).  This analytic has been the site of deep challenge and critique from within both Black and Native Studies.

The encounter between Marxist theory and Black and Native Studies is one that destabilizes the former by way of a structural violence that both prefaces the labourcentric analytics of Marxism, as well as exceeds its margins of theorizability and incorporation.  From within Black Studies, Saidiya Hartman, for example, theorizes the fungibility of Blackness and of the enslaved Black person as a challenge to the labourcentric theoretical analytic of Marxism, which has historically, and currently, tended to reduce this ongoing structural mechanic and lived experience to mere alienated labour, if an extreme case of such.  Pushing beyond these limitations, she proposes racialization, accumulation, and domination as the analytics best suited for understanding the development and position of Black subjectivity, rather than pure labour (2003).   Similarly, emerging from Native Studies, Glen Coulthard, in his attempt to think through and with the Marxist analytic, necessarily pushes beyond the Lockean labourcentrism of Marxism in order to find grounding on which to orient both discussions of Native oppression and colonization, and question of Indigenous liberation.  He notes in Red Skin White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition, “the history and experience of dispossession, not proletarianization, has been the dominant background structure shaping the character of the historical relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian state” (2014: 13).  Indeed the relationship between Indigenous people and the processes of proletarianization, or rather the lack thereof (in so far as the cognition of the settler state and society views it), is paradigmatic of the Indian as the Savage, and as part of the Wild, a ontological status that I explore later in this dissertation [again, snippets of this can be read in recent previous posts].

What is ultimately at stake here concerning Marxism as a particular kind of liberal-bourgeois, euromodern, and labourcentric humanism, is that the violences of conquest, genocide, and enslavement escape the ability of its grammars and registers to make a full accounting of them.  If Marxism is to be made applicable to the violent sufferings experienced by genocided and enslaved peoples, it must be stretched so much that it will perhaps become unrecognizable to those theorists who take up and proclaim the myriad Marxist schools of thought.  This, of course, reflects Fanon’s old, if perhaps quite understated, prescription that “a Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched when it comes to addressing the colonial issue” (2004: 5).

To a considerable extent this problem of Marx, and Marxism’s, liberal-bourgeois humanist tendencies in theory-analytics and methodological-pedagogical-praxiological commitments extends even to those sub-formations that have attempted to openly expunge this kind of allegiance from the Marxist canon.  One can here think of the structural Marxism, and later aleatory materialism, of Louis Althusser, and the many students and theorists that he cultivated or influenced, including Jacques Rancière, Alain Badiou, Antonio Negri, and Étienne Balibar.  Indeed, here we can even group those outside of Marxism, or at least its mainstreamed manifestations (including Althusserian), but who were aligned in some manner with Althusser’s anti-humanist impulses.  The chief theorists that come to mind in this regard are Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze, as well as the latter’s occasional partner in writing and theory, Félix Guattari.  None of these theorists, try as they may have, or may well still try, have been unable to really move from out underneath the shadow of Marx’s essentially Lockean labourcentrism, and thus away from an inner commitment to a colonial, liberal-bourgeois humanism.

Curiously, or perhaps not (if you are as cynical of the world of Man as I am) it is something to note that the natal and myopic eurocentrism of the broad Marxist tradition prevented those Marxist, as well as poststructuralist, postmodernist and post-Marxist, theorists looking to sketch a way out of the humanist impasse from seeing that such onto-epistemic worldviews already existed in the world, but who’s genealogies of such were, and are, submerged under centuries of colonial domination. As Tiffany King says:

Genealogies have a way of remembering the “anti-humanist” traditions of Native/Indigenous people’s that the West’s form of violent Enlightenment humanism wiped out through genocide.  The only reason that we experience European postmodern/poststructuralist anti-humanist impulses like those found within Deleuzian thought as novel and as an epistemic revolution is because Indigenous and Native people’s cosmologies and epistemologies that did not recognize boundaries between nature/culture or the human and the western sensuous world were wiped out and had to be remade by the West (2016).

Today the proclamation of these sorts of epistemic non-revelations confused for revolutions of thought are still being produced within the confines of the westernized, colonized academy.  As such, because our genealogies of thought have never been quite as dead as western anthropologists and philosophers may have believed, Black and Native Studies have often met the arrival of these still-newer iterations within western thought with scepticism.  Consider for example the now quite vogueish frame-work of object-oriented ontologies, whose arrival on the academic and theoretical scene both Jodi Byrd and Kim Tallbear critique as Johnny-come-lately-ish and Columbusing in their approach to issues of the human, because they are anything but new to Indigenous worldviews (2018: 602; 2015: 234).

Thinking again of both Cedric Robinson and Louis Althusser’s critiques of certain tendencies within Marxism, there is one final point worth noting, and that is the suspicion of teleology which marked the thought of both, and which has also deeply influenced by own thinking vis-à-vis Marxism.  Robinson links the Marxist inversion of the Hegelian dialectic of the worldgeist into the dialectic of history (historical materialism) with a shift away from seeing time as non-linear and cyclical, to linear, and notes that there are christian religious and prophetic dimensions to this shift which are secularized and subsequently re-articulated within Marxism.  In his An Anthropology of Marxism he notes:

This peculiarity is barely disguised in the Western eschatological ordering of history. Modern Western civilization derives from its cultural predecessor, Judeo-Christianity, a notion of secular history which is not merely linear but encompasses moral drama as well. The narratives of providential history are sufficiently familiar to most of us as to not require repeating … [e]ven secular historical conceptions like historical materialism reflect the ‘good news’ presumption of the Judeo-Christian gospel: the end of human history fulfills a promise of deliverance, the messianic myth. When Marx and Engels maintained in The Communist Manifesto that human history has been the record of class struggle and then proffer the socialist society as one without classes, it is implied that history will then come to an end. Socialist society—a social orer which displays no classes, no class struggle and therefore no history—reflects a kind of apocalyptic messianism (2001: 6-7).

In the linear historical dialectic of orthodox marxism the coming socialist/communist society takes the place of the new heaven and new earth promised in the christian book of revelation, and the mythologically borderless proletariat the place of the return of Christ. Indeed, given how this is linked to the shift in western thought (long before the rise of euromodernity) from cyclical temporality to linear readings of time and history, it should lead us to question what Biel has to say about historical materialism, when he claims:

In that sense [historical materialism as the application of dialectics to the development of history], although the approach was discovered by Marx, we could say it had an existence independent of its origins in time and place and could well have been worked out under a different set of circumstances (2015: 4)

While perhaps in a sense correct, especially as Marx, and Hegel before him, was far from the first person in human history to develop and deploy a dialectical perception of the world—though, thinking through King, one has to again consider how this is in fact an epistemological non-revelation when confronted with the genocidal and epistemocidal annihilation of many such dialectical worldviews with the coming of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system—one has to seriously wonder whether historical materialism as it is broadly understood by most Marxists would have actually arisen in such circumstances which may have evinced a profoundly different perception of time, such as those embedded within the epistemological and cosmological conceptions of many of our diverse Native nations in the northern bloc. There is also a sense here, within mainstream Marxism, of a universal or general time at work within the historical dialectic, even within the linear sense, which is something that has been deeply troubled recently by theorists as diverse as Mark Rifkin (2017), José Rabasa (2010) and Kyle Powyss Whyte (2019).

However, all of this has not meant that I have rejected Marxism in a full sense, or if not Marxism per se, then perhaps certain critiques and analytics emergent from within the Marxist paradigm.  Indeed, my writing in this dissertation makes regular references to the Gramscian concepts of civil society and hegemony, the Althusserian line of thought regarding ideology, and, especially towards its latter chapters, is deeply informed by the thought of Mark Fisher, and to a lesser extent by Fredric Jameson.  Rather, I would refer now to my relationship with Marxism as complicated, or in a state of revision, which seeks to combine, perhaps unevenly and certainly with jerks and stops, on the one hand what I see as a kind of postmodern neo-Marxism (an appraisal by labelling that I am sure would drive most Marxists I know into a fit) and on the other with a decolonial and Black Studies informed Indigenous critical theory perspective which is mindful of the relationship between modernity (and ultimately postmodernity, and the posthuman, if such a thing is actually meaningfully different from modernity in a qualitative fashion) and coloniality, and is suspicious of the scientistic quest for universal laws of human development and pathways into the future. I sometimes jokingly refer to this project as one of decolonial indigenous postmodern neo-Marxism.  A mouthful for sure, but no worse than the endless strings of hyphens seen throughout the history of the Marxist project.  What is important here in all of this is that, to follow King’s prescription, any loyalty on my part to Marxist theories, methods, and analytics is properly prioritized—which is to say made subordinate to, and consequently in a state of constant scrutiny from—commitments with and within Native, Black and Decolonial Studies (2019: 68).  Thus, while Marxism is not dismissed from my political and theoretical commitments, what role it does play is refracted and modified by the decolonial and the abolitionist.  This is where myself, suffering to make a decolonial corrective to Marxism, make my point of departure.


[1] I have often found myself cleaving closer to this kind of Gramscianism than to Althusserianism though, primarily because of my long-held suspicion of scientistic approaches to Marxism.  This is a key element of much of Marxism, which insists that the historical materialist methodology is a/the “science of history” and thus lays forward the claim that what it is doing analytically and theoretically is akin to science.  While I understand the Marxist drive/desire to be “scientific,” it has never been a concern that I have shared, primarily because I consider it to be an epistemological standpoint that is deeply wedded to the european Enlightenment, which as I discuss briefly above, is ultimately a colonial epistemology.

[2] COINTELPRO, short for Counter-Intelligence Program was a U.S. state project that targeted for political repression left-wing organizations and other movements deemed subversive which originated within the colonial and racial “minority” populations resident within the United States.  Targets including the Communist Party, elements of the american New Left and New Communist Movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, American Indian Movement, and Young Lords (Churchill & Wall 2001).

[3] I must credit this insight here to a fellow Indigenous leftist, Lakota tweeter Hinskéhanska, with whom I have regular discussions on social media.  I had already been critical of the earlier 2018 piece my Moufwad-Paul and the claim of Marxism as a “modernity critical of modernity,” but had not read the follow up article from this year.

[4] Moufwad-Paul at times is all over the place.  For example, in these writings, and on his personal blog works in which he argues against anything appended with the prefix “post” (postmodernism, postcolonialism, poststructuralism, post-Marxism etc.) he argues at length that a major problem with these schools of thought, in so far as the question of eurocentrism is concerned, is that they are often rooted, ultimately, in theorists more eurocentric than Marx. While it is no doubt the case that philosophers and theorists such as Nietzsche were deep eurochauvinists, an argument amounting to “well, those thinkers are eurocentricer” is not one that I find particularly convincing.  Additionally, this line of thinking from Moufwad-Paul is significant in its uncharitability towards Native, Black, Third World, migrant and other subaltern theorists, whom he seems to treat as oblivious to the eurocentrism of theorists and theories other than Marx.  This would seem to me to be a kind of white-saviourism in Marxist clothing, which is a particular flavour of eurocolonial racism.  I can assure Moufwad-Paul, as well as my readers, that we, and I include myself humbly here, do not need a white canadian Maoist philosopher to instruct us in what is and is not eurocentric.

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