I want to use this site to document some things I get up to. I hope it will make these things more accessible to others as well as clarify my own direction and purposes. My interests are varied and mostly undeveloped. They include, and of course are not limited to:
- marxism, anarchism, labor history, the black radical tradition; "the real movement"
- ecological sciences, geology, natural history, and plant biology
- arts, crafts, and culture
- history, anthropology, and geography
I can be contacted by email: adivsin [at] protonmail [dot] com.
Table of Contents
- Recommended Sites
- Reading List
- Recommendation to See "Drive My Car"
- W. E. B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction - Notes From Spring 2022 Reading Group
- Literature Review from John S. Wright's Introduction to Echo Tree: The Collected Short Fiction of Henry Dumas
- Reprinting C.L.R. James' Notes on Dialectics: Hegel, Marx, and Lenin
- Iris' Site; for those interested in Chinese and Buddhist philosophy, among many other things
- Advith's Site; mostly under construction. A good friend.
- James' Blog; for those interested in continental philosophy. A good friend.
- Dick's Blog; for those intersted in analysis of American racial capitalism and history.
- Meir and Owen's Site; mostly under construction. Two very good friends.
- Alex's Site; A good friend.
Posted 5-Nov 2022
So far, like an idiot, I have used Goodreads to track what I have been reading. I do not make particularly good use of the site though and there is no reason not to transfer my data, and notes/summaries to there. I hope to start including longer-form notes on the important books in links also in this page, including, for example, the WEBDB notes.
Click here to access the reading list
Posted 26-Sep 2022
Unfortunately I do not have much to offer in way of interesting criticism or analysis yet - I think before I do I will have to read Murakami's original story and rewatch the film. However, I was so moved by this movie I feel like it is necessary to make an immediate recommendation and lay out some of my initial feelings.
The only Murakami I have read was "Kafka on the Shore", interestingly, for a high school english class several years ago. It was very strange and although I did like it I felt that when I eventually come back to it I will find that opinion embarassing, and the book lackluster. I mean basically that it appeared to me at an eventful place and time, and "objectively" it wasn't so good. I was worried at the beginning of the movie that it would be stuck in this same kind of misogynistic mystification, but I think it goes beyond this stunted kind of view.
It is an extremely quiet and slow and reserved movie; it is fantastically rich and subtle. The moments of emotional rupture and exchange are perfect or almost perfect. You should go see it soon.
Posted 17-Apr 2022
This notes document is in the process of being updated, and moved to its own page. Click here to access the notes document
- The american west, or to be more exact, its land, is the most prized commodity of white labor, north and south, and capital, north and south. For these various groups it represents various things, but in all of them we will find intense racist antipathy and resentment. It contains a phenomenal untapped wealth, only waiting to be extracted, and representing for some the fantasy of adventure, freedom, and individual salvation. Unfortunately DB has zero analysis, or even mention, of indigenous people and their place in this dynamic.
- Among poor southern whites, white supremacy is the warp and weft of their lives. The predominance of slavery in their states has driven down the wages of white workers so sharply that most are incredibly poor, and DB devotes several lengthy quotes to their condition. The average cost to reproduce the labor of slave in a year is less than $20, and the majority of poor whites are absolutely unable to compete with that price. However, managerial positions in plantations, commerce, and police forces all provide paths for upward mobility, and the ultimate dream of most is to aquire land and slaves and become a slaveowner. The cheap prices of land in the west naturally drives them there.
- Among poor northern whites, the situation is slightly more complex. DB devotes several pages to analyzing the positions of urban labor organizers and socialists. The worst of them will give outright endorsements of segregation and slavery. The best will attempt to extricate themselves from it, and simply grant the southern slaveowners the right to conduct themselves the way they want. Totally lost on the later is their mutual economic dependence and relationship - and the fact that slavery in the south is also responsible for dimished wages in the north! Among these also is a movement of "free soilers" - beleiving that the absence of a land monopoly in america gives workers the opportunity to become independent and self-sustaining, the possibility of a material basis of socialism lies in the abundance of western land, inhabited by small farm-owners and cottage industries. The lack of a settler-colonial analysis is felt badly here, but DB nonetheless sees the situation very sharply.
- There is also the striking presence of racist mob violence in these northern cities, commited by the white proletariat against the black proletariat. DB notes that the capitalists are able to pay these workers significantly less, thus supressing down wages for white workers. Here there is a total erosion of class solidarity and consciousness, not helped by the inflamation of white labor organizers. I would like to also see how early redlining and physical segregation in northern cities played a part in this situation. Later, during the civil war, resentment against conscription and economic hardship will intensify this kind of racist violence.
- This drive westward, and essentially the competition between two sectors of the same capitalist class, and between two hopelessly confounded sections of the proletariat, leads to the outbreak of the civil war in kansas.
Posted 13-Feb 2022
- DB begins by describing the intense economic disparities between the upper-class white property owners and lower class whites, with a substantial petit-bourgeois section comprising merchants, professional artisans, overseers, etc., who economically were of course enmeshed within the institution of slavery. But the economic inequality was reflected in stringent property requirements for voting. Political representation not based around population and the 3/5ths clause served to secure political power in hands of agricultural elites. C Sumner quotes an anonymous official who states that the entirety of political power in SC is concentrated in the hands of less than two hundred individuals.
- The decadence and "culture" (DB denounces it as meager and ridiculous) of southern aristocrats leads into happy reception in Europe and the north; genealogically unrelated to any european aristocracy. They are pompous and debauched, sexually "lawless", "chaotic", "catholic".
- DB believes that if the planters had coordinated their action against merchants and industrial leaders in the north, they would have been able to preserve themselves. A lack of intelligence and a lack of concern with production prevents them from doing so, and agriculture's auxiliary industries set the prices. A core component of this is refusal to integrate modern agricultural machinery and industry in the south, as it would require greater education for the enslaved population. However, the doctrine of racialized inferiority makes this impossible. DB also thinks such a modernization would have required legal protections for women and children, increasing wages, and greater political equality, but this point is sadly not articulated.
- In the south, the slave is capital and as such can not be particularly "incentivized" to work harder or more efficiently; what racists see as "laziness" is really work resistance. It is impossible to increase wages to attract immigrants, and slaves had to be cared for in times of injury and sickness, so there is very little flexibility in the labor pool and no way of economizing it. DB also notes that the incorporation of women into the labor pool then leads to border states raising slaves for sale in the more commercialized deep south. This was denied strongly because the commercialization "debased" the natural patriarchal organization of slavery, another important myth.
- Two paths outside of this economic wane: reopening of the transatlantic slave trade (opposed very strongly by the north and border states) and westward and southward expansion, into the northwest, the caribbean, mexico and south america. The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 makes the prohibition of slavery in new states impossible, and south goes to war there with the north, fighting to extend slavery.
- DB mentions (pg. 45) southern dependence on northern and european debt, but does not elaborate the point or discuss its details; he only says that the southerners were too provincial and lazy to attempt to overcome their financial enclosure.
Posted 26-Mar 2022
- I quite like the opening: "When Edwin Ruffin, white-haired and mad, fired the first gun at Fort Sumter, he freed the slaves. It was the last thing he meant to do but that was because he was so typically a Southern oligarch. He did not know the real world about him. He was provincial and lived apart on his plantation with his servants, his books and his thoughts. Outside of agriculutre, he jumped at conclusions instead of testing them by careful research. He knew, for instance, that the North would not fight. He knew that Negroes would never revolt. And so war came."
- There was an assumption of Southern military superiority given a "military culture" among aristoracts and their domination of federal government. Average northerners were not interested or preared for war, and definitely not interested in emancipation. It was instead an issue of nationalism and national unity.
- DB is careful to note that slaves did not act irrationally or against their own interest. Northern armies and politicians did not desire or try to enforce emancipation. Only when it was demonstrated that the north would not return fugitive slaves did they begin leaving for the safety of union camps. Because the south was only able to feed and clothe its armies with slave labor, this materially constituted a general strike and was responsible in a large degree for the south losing the war. The south was aware that its slave-labor system was a military element, because it permitted a greater part of the white population to enter their armies, but was unable to concieve of slave revolt and exodus.
- Wartime demands of labor necessitated union armies hiring (at lower wages) freed black people as labor in constructing and running camps. Conscription would follow, but not integrated with white troops. At least one incident of white northern regiments attacking black northern ones.
- A period of proto-reconstruction: schools and hospitals are built for and by black people; new homes are constructed; wages paid for labor in union camps and armies. The most noteable or largest, DB reports, is in New Orleans. Banks first attempted to return black people there to slavery on sugar plantations, for the economic benefit of the north and its military, which was essentially refused. Then he sent surveys to the workers there to see what they required and wanted. Unfortunately there is no elaboration beyond this. In the mississippi valley, a tax is introduced on the wages of the freedmen that goes to the construction of housing, hospitals, and tools (something hard to imagine happening today). In Davis Bend, Mississippi, land is given to freed slaves to cultivate and manage themselves; sheriffs and judges were also elected from this population; property was fundamentally under the control of the military government. Sadly again there is not much elaboration. General Sherman's Sea Island circular grants all the land along rivers and coasts of the south, south of Charleston, to black refugees of the war. Special Field Order 15 divvies up land in 40 acre tracts. Abandoned and captured property goes on auction, much of it to white northernerns. Quality of life rises and exports decrease.
- Before the war white artisans had fought to exclude slaves from more skilled labor and won. The war was not fought by the wealthy (except as officers) and this resentment is channeled into resentment against black people as if they had "caused" the war.
Posted 26-Mar 2022
- British wealth, philanthropy, and every other institution stood behind the confederacy and wanted strongly to circumvent the northern blockade around it to continue the cotton trade. Despite the economic hardship this put onto the textile workers of that country, and the north, the emancipation proclamation was well received. This is not to speak of the joy with which it was received by the soon-to-be free people of the south.
- The pressures of the war, especially in lack of labor and a lack of men to fight force black conscription in the war. There is a strong resistance to black officers. There is constant talk of them being mutinous. Objections were raised - quickly quashed - to freeing of wives and children of conscripted and employed black men. Border state congressmen tried to stop any federal money from being received by black soldiers, and even to compensate their former owners for the work they performed for the army! There were also attempts to pay them considerably less, which lead to near mutiny and refusal of work.
- In new york, resentful of the war's economic pains, white workers organize mass lynchings. Desertions by white soldiers reach hundred thousands. The emancipation proclamation, however, not only lead to conscription of hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, it also gave a popular, moral force to those armies. The racist and resentful segments within the white population were still quite large, and in response to a draft work stoppages and lynchings spread throughout the country. DB notes that resentment was strongest among the Irish, because economic competition between them and black workers was strongest. In new england as many as a thousand were killed and more than five thousand were made homeless because of these lynchings. It was only put down by the army. Interestingly the emancipation proclamation was recieved almost universally positvely among the british working class (marx was one of their representatives, and his response public letter to lincoln was quoted). Why was this, especially given the sometimes explicitly racist positions of the german-american working class? This seems a key component to understanding the racial regime of capital and settler colonialism.
- Freed slaves begin as laborers and spies in the army. (Interestingly, it was information reported by a black woman that lead to the arrest of John Wilkes Booth). The practical experiences of war begin to broker trust between white and black workers in the armies; despite this, incidents such as several white regiments turning fire on several black ones in ship island, LA, occur. Black regiments were also deliberately used as shock troops, leading to incredibly high casualty numbers. The bravery and heroism is nationally recognized. There is some discussion here of the "epochal" sea island circular and sherman's special field order #15, both of which warrant further investigation. One thing we noted DB did not include at all, except in occasional remark, was the changes in conditions for women and children during this monumental time. Hopefully they will be discussed later, as there is no analysis, even in the triumphant end of the chapter, of what liberation meant for women subjected to years of sexual exploitation.
- As the south begins to lose the war, more and more in the government talk about conscripting their own black soldiers. The idea is shut down by Davis and officials until things are almost lost; they eventually agree, but no black confederate soldier is trained in time to see the war. A black newspaper in virginia reported that many "secret societies" of black people met throughout the south as to what they would do if, or when, they were conscripted by the confederates, and the plan was absolute mutiny and support of the union. I think Julius C Scott's "The Common Wind" may deal with this kind of subject a little further.
- DB, from the last paragraph of 121 to the last pages of the chapter, has a wonderful description of the tremendous religious feeling and epochal vision of the time. To try and render it here would do it a disservice. He concludes it with "Ode to Joy" in the original German. "Alle Menschen werden Brüder..!"
Posted 26-Mar 2022
I have been reading Henry Dumas' collected short fiction, in an edition edited by Eugene Redmond. The few stories I have read of this Dumas collection have intrigued me and I hope to write a review of them when I am finished. For now, I have combed through John S. Wright's introduction for musical, literary, and anthropological references. Without having read any of them, I think there could be something in persuing them. Here they are, arranged categorically:
- Sun Ra's The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra
- Sun Ra's Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy
- Amiri Baraka's Blues People (ethnomusicology)
- John Szwed's Space is the Place (biography)
- Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal's Black Fire
- Achebe's Things Fall Apart
- Armah's The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born
- Thiongo's Weep Not, Child
- Tutola's The Palm Wine Drunkard
- Tutola's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
- Sembene's God's Bits of Wood
- Laye's The Radiance of the King
- Ekwensi's Jagua Nana
- Reed's Mumbo Jumbo
- Diop's The Cultural Unity of Black Africa
- Du Bois' The World and Africa
- Deren's Divine Horsemen
- Herskovit's Damohean Narrative
- Higgin's Anacalypsis
- Jacob Lawrence
- Vincent Smith
- Romare Beadern
Posted 16-Dec 2021
C.L.R. James wrote Notes on Dialectics in 1948. It was published in two small runs, first in 1966 and then in 1971 by "Friends of Facing Reality Publications". I think it had a rather limited circulation among the Detroit milieu. It was printed again by Lawrence Hill and Co, in 1980, in three editions. It is now thoroughly out of print.
I was first introduced to the book by my friend James Crane. My university, surprisingly, had a copy in circulation - and very surprisingly this was from the 1971 run, an original mimeograph. I informed their rare books department that this book had been lurking under their noses, and now feel awful about taking it out of circulation. As such I am attempting to conduct a small reprint out of my dorm room, beginning in 2022.
This project will require me to reformat the pdf of the book currently available on Libcom.org; to purchase a printer, toner, and paper; to familiarize myself with the bookbinding process; to purchase those tools; and then to find enough people interested in purchasing the book to recover the cost of materials. It will then require many hours of work.
If you are interested in purchasing several (more than two) copies of the book, please email me straightaway. It will give me the energy necessary to follow through with all this.