A century after the defeat of the German Revolution, our world is still threatened by authoritarianism, imperialism, racial apartheid/s, and regressive attacks on women and LGBTQI people. The timescales of the biosphere have been thrown into disarray; globally a million species face extinction while locally, the Murray Darling Basin runs dry. The state of capitalism is cast into stark relief as our rulers push ahead with the Adani coal mine and economic policies which further concentrate wealth in the hands of the ruling class.
The hard right deepens and intensifies centuries of colonialism, diverting anger away from capitalism and towards racialised Other(s); Australia’s treatment of indigenous peoples, refugees and migrants may be a disturbing vision of an international future. Indeed, no victory is sacred and no past gain is immune: abortion is besieged in the USA while here, homophobia raises its head once more, under the guise of religious freedom. All the while, the centre-left architects of this situation – the neo-liberal Labor, social democratic and progressive parties – founder amid a lack of vision and initiative. To stand for the status quo is to accelerate catastrophe.
Yet, as Rosa Luxemburg wrote just over 100 years ago: “… at the same time, history marches inexorably, step by step, toward final victory! Where would we be today without those “defeats,” from which we draw historical experience, understanding, power and idealism?”
These words are no platitude: around the world, capitalism is confronted by a resurgence of resistances, often on a mass scale. The Gilets Jaunes refuse to allow order to reign in Paris. The Extinction Rebellion refuses to allow order to reign in London. The Hong Kong rebellion refuses to allow order to reign in Beijing. Every day, millions defy the borders imposed by states increasingly reliant on them as sites of labour arbitrage and sanguine fetishes of authority. Elsewhere, millions seek political alternatives, driving the greatest renaissance in socialist ideas and organising in decades. The progressive wing of neo-liberalism, with its blithe arrogance and entitlement, often finds political power stolen from its grasp – by the many, from the few. The old order is not safe anywhere.
The organisers of the inaugural Historical Materialism Melbourne conference call for papers presenting diverse responses to this complex and multifaceted situation. HM Melbourne will be a space for discussion, debate and cross pollination: we invite proposals for papers and panels from activists and radical academics alike. We welcome contributions that build our knowledge of the past as much as those that analyse the present or contend over philosophical visions of the future; theoretical contributions are welcome, as are those with an empirical or practical focus. Indigenous, non-white, refugee, LGBTQI and feminist perspectives are warmly welcomed as are papers that interrogate class power and political strategy, or which dwell in the intersections between these and other topics.
The Historical Materialism Melbourne Organising Committee seeks abstracts of no more than 100 words, to be submitted no later than 31 August 2019. Panel proposals must include an overall abstract of approximately 100 words, as well as shorter abstracts for individual papers. Please include your name, any institutional affiliation and a contact email address.
Please email your abstract or panel proposal to email@example.com