Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Announcement: Histomat goes to Latin America!

As people in the UK have probably noticed, the nights are getting in and winter is now almost upon us. However, some lucky bastards are able to avoid the cold and the wet and Blair's new attacks on civil liberties and go on holiday at this time of year - and a good friend of mine happens to be doing just that. I have been discussing protest in my last two posts (I've been a bit busy lately to be able to write anything original - apologies) - and it is therefore appropriate that my friend has decided to visit the continent of Latin America - which has seen huge mass movements emerge and struggle against neo-liberalism. Lenin's Tomb has covered the latest developments here far better than I could - just as it brilliantly deals with just about everything else from riots in Paris to war crimes in Iraq. Anyway, I am very happy to introduce my (still as yet anonymous) guest writer who is about to depart for warmer climes, on what I like to call his 'Che Guevara tour' - not that I am jealous or anything:

'Hello. I am Histomatist's new foreign correspondent -
a kind of John Simpson for the radical blogosphere,
though I'm not intending to liberate any cities I
visit. I have, however, been allowed by Snowball to
write a few posts about a two month trip I am making.
The trip will begin in Argentina in mid-November, end
on New Year's Eve in Rio, and may take in Chile,
Bolivia and Paraguay en route.

I think travel is an odd one. On the one hand, what
could be more enlightening than exploring a different
country? It is an opportunity to learn more about
other cultures, to meet interesting an adventurous
people, and to digest life without the oppressive
cloud of work hanging over you.

And yet I'm not sure I've ever known anyone who
returned from travelling any more free-thinking or
open-minded than they were before they left. Travel
has been fetishised to such an extent that it is now
just a standard rite of passage for the average
middle-class youth. The Western liberal version of
multi-culturalism, whereby all cultures are tolerated
so long as they adopt Western customs and renounce
rituals which might offend Western sensibilities,
means that we are even more closed to experiences
which might challenge our innate sense of cultural and
civil superiority.

I don't pretend to be the most adventurous traveller
in the world, but hopefully I may be able to find out
a few scraps of interest about Latin America. Parts
of the continent are currently something of a lone
voice in left-wing politics, with a handful of
countries openly challenging the neo-liberal system
which has been foisted on so much of South America. I
go there knowing little about Latin American culture,
politics or history, so hopefully my observations
won't be too ignorant or trite.

Overall though, my objectives for this trip are fairly
- to learn to tango (not such a modest objective, as
anybody who has seen me dance will testify, but I saw
it on Strictly Come Dancing the other night and it
looked like a piece of piss);
- to successfully chat someone up in Spanish;
- to find a Bush supporter and call him "un pendejo"
(the insult President Chavez fired at Bush at a recent
UN summit meeting - it literally means "a pubic hair
caught in a man's foreskin");
- to avoid getting dengue fever / altitude sickness /
addicted to cocaine;
- to read my five allotted books: Hasek, "The Good
Soldier Svejk"; Nabokov, "Bend Sinister"; Twain,
"Pudd'nhead Wilson"; Lorca, "Poet in New York";
"Zizek, "The Metastases of Enjoyment". A rum
selection if ever I saw one.

Since I'm a guest blogger, I guess I'd better have a
nickname. Any suggestions would be gratefully
received, as would any recommendations from
Histomatist readers on where I should go in South
America. Hasta luego!'

Edit: to add an article by John Pilger on Latin America here



At 11:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You could call yourself Paddington. He came from Peru yet could speak perfect English and had a penchant for rather plain marmalade sandwiches. He also spent plenty of time talking to cardboard people although here the comparison must certainly end.

At 5:35 pm, Blogger minifig said...

how about napoleon, or, to be a little more kind, boxer to carry on the whole animal farm thang?

At 7:44 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you both. I appreciate the Animal Farm suggestions, but I'm way too lazy to be a Boxer, so I think I'll take Paddington as my name.

Couple of updates: I won't, after all, be in Bolivia during the elections. I was hoping to be there on election day (December 4), but the bureaucrats in charge of preparing for election day used the 1991 census population data instead of the 2001 data. Unbelievable. The elections have therefore been put back until December 18, when I will be in Brazil.

Still, I will be there during the campaigning season, so hopefully (if my Spanish is up to it) I'll be able to speak to some Bolivians about how they see things. As far as I know, the left candidate Evo Morales is ahead in the polls at the moment.

And one other thing - an on-the-ground article on the recent Mar de Plata conference:


In haste,

At 8:08 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Have a good time, Paddington. The Bolivian ruling elite were cunning in calling elections in the first place in order to try to dampen down the struggle.

On names - I do like the idea of keeping the Animal Farm thing - (if Benjamin appeals?) or else what about Ernesto (in honour of Che?) But I am cool with Paddington too...

At 9:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about boy bear?

This is a great one as it reminds us of the glory of Stalin as well as paying homage to Padington Bear?

At 1:55 pm, Blogger Snowball said...

Why would this blog wish to remind people of 'the glory of Stalin'?

Stalinism was the grave-digger of the Russian Revolution, and did more than probably anything else to discredit revolutionary Marxism in the twentieth century.

Other Trotskyist bloggers take note: Quote Stalin on your blog and suddenly you are a Stalinist...

At 12:58 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, Paddington here. Er, "glad" to see I am attracting rampant Stalinists to the blog. The less monolothic leftists among might be interested to know that my Spanish teacher has a dog called Trotsky and two cats called Lacan and Freud. Those of you who are followers of Horkheimer, Adorno and Zizek will, I´m sure, be impressed.

Anyway, this message is really a rather feeble apology for not posting this week. In my defence, I have lost my wallet, and am attempting (so far with a profound lack of success) to romance unsuspecting travellers in my company.

BUT - I promise I will send a proper report at the weekend. There is a wealth of stuff to talk about here in BA - loads of "reclaiming the streets" type of stuff, some elegant anti-Bush graffiti, and some good, liberational history to get one´s teeth into. I shall attempt to put all this inot some sort of order at the weekend - but, lack of money notwithstanding, life is muy bien here in Buenos Aires.

Hasta el fin de semana,
Paddington xx

At 2:52 am, Blogger Zenny K. Sadlon said...

There's a lot of information about "The Good Soldier Svejk" at www.SvejkCentral.com. :-)


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