Statement on the Call For Academic Boycott
The Historical Materialism New York Conference recognizes that in light of the current government of the United States’ increasingly racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic border and immigration policy, academics, activists, and independent thinkers throughout the world are rightly concerned with the role academia in the U.S. will play within this context. We also recognize that U.S. conferences like HMNY offer an important space for critical discussion, organization and that participation is an important goal for left academic around the world.
For this reason we support those who find it practically or politically impossible to travel to the U.S. for conferences, but do so in a manner that highlights and uses our position in the international organization of academic labor to advance the political goals of the boycotters. Recognizing the legitimacy of boycotting academic institutions as a political strategy, we affirm our commitment to the goals and principles of the international boycott on U.S. conferences. To this end, we have provided unprecedented levels of support for international travel to the conference this year, prioritizing support for scholars of marginalized and oppressed populations, both within and without the U.S.
Firmly condemning the US government’s long-standing policies of exclusion, scape-goating, and violence against immigrants and minorities, the conference stands up for and defends the need to resist the Trump administration’s racist, xenophobic, and Islamophobic extension of already brutal policies by any means. We commit to using space at the conference to critique the administration’s immigration, refugee, asylum, and border policies, and will donate funds gathered from the Saturday night party (details TBD) to fund emergency council and immigrant defense projects in New York. We will have space in the media/book-room for those fighting back and organizing to protect those who are most vulnerable.
We reject the notion that critical inquiry and radical commitment from our international comrades is impossible within the U.S. in the present conditions. On the contrary: we recognize the responsibility of radical scholars of all strands and from around the world to not only redouble theoretical efforts, but to translate theoretical efforts into clearer political commitments to defeating the exclusionary politics of the U.S. and its capitalist class here and throughout the world.
One hundred years after the Russian Revolution and ten years since the beginning of the current financial crisis, the world capitalist system appears volatile but stable. The current conjuncture, with all its turbulence and uncertainty, offers glimmers of hope in the form of resurgent left militancy and oppositional electoral socialism.
Meanwhile, an empowered right has also been emboldened by the instability of the twin crises of politics and capital. This is an age of social uncertainty – pregnant with political possibility as well as peril – that signals a crisis of strategy: what routes to revolutionary change are historically appropriate in the age of rebounding ‘socialisms’? As always, the Left’s prospects are globally uneven. Popular interest in electoral socialism has taken hold in the capitalist heartland, while a combative right has stymied the so called “Pink Tide” in Latin America, and the liberatory promise of the Arab Spring has turned to devastation and warfare. Ecological disaster and economic stagnation, war and mass migration, new ethno-nationalisms and constitutional autocracies, struggles around race and citizenship, the rising profile of economic inequality and the reimagination of gender, constitute the new landscape of political struggle. The vacuum created by the institutional decline of the forces of official reform has opened up the terrain on which these battles are presently fought.
Marxism’s place in this uncertain and volatile world appears less and less marginal – both as a result of the re-popularization of some of its basic critiques and because, as a theoretical practice, it is uniquely capable of making sense of the chaos. Still, the gap between theory and practice has only widened as the crisis of the Left and the workers’ movements have deepened since the mid 20th Century. The question of how to bridge this divide is urgent, given the concomitant rise of both far right and socialist politics, and the undoubtedly novel terrain upon which those politics converge. What renewals of radical Left theory and practice does the centenary of the Russian Revolution hold in store for us? How can Marxist thought intervene to bring more clarity to the economic, social, cultural, and political developments in an increasingly polarized world?
We invite you to New York City in the Spring of 2017 to discuss and debate these questions with us at the biannual Historical Material Conference. We ask you to consider the following themes in crafting your panel or presentation proposals, which are due by January 8th, 2017, and should be limited to 300 words. All panel proposals should be accompanied by a title and abstracts for each participating paper.