The Graduate Center student journal recently published my critique of what I term “settler Marxism”: historical materialism that doesn’t take settler colonialism and racial capitalism as the foundations and ongoing structures of political economy. As such, this form of leftism can’t contend with the violences of the chattel relation, of which the wage relation is a diminutive. In contrast to this abbreviated struggle located in wage labor, I call for prioritizing the material violences that disappear the human beings whose lived experiences most fully indict the modern hierarchy of value: Indigenous and racialized women, trans, and non-binary people.
I first presented these ideas in April 2016 at the symposium “The Work of Settler Colonialism,” organized by Anne Spice (the Graduate Center), Andrew Bard Epstein (Yale), and Antonina Griecci Woodsum (Columbia). I want to thank all three of them for putting together such a galvanizing CFP and resulting convening. And I want to thank Anne in particular for keeping after me to submit an abstract. Were it not for her inviting persistence, I wouldn’t have assembled these thoughts in orderly fashion. Thanks also to Advocate editors Bhargav Rani and Nandini Ramachandran, both for their editorial feedback and for generating the “revolution” thematic that this issue concludes.
I think of this piece as the third in my “labor triptych,” preceded by “Dirty Tricks: The GC Chapter Election” (2017) and “Death of the Die-In (and PSC ‘Civil Disobedience,’ Too)” (2016). Each of these analyses emerged from the intersection of my scholarly research agenda and my labor organizing with the CUNY Adjunct Project. Indeed, as I move on after five indelible years with the latter, this latest study of the limited frameworks of mainstream labor strategy seems a good last word (for now…).