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The academic USA boycott is relevant to opposing colonialism and supporting Chican@ and New Afrikan nationalism

February 15, 2017

Trump signed the executive order denying entry to people from seven Muslim countries, and suspending Syrian refugee admissions indefinitely, almost three weeks ago. There have been different calls for boycotts of U.S. international academic/scientific conferences since the announcement. Courts have now blocked the travel ban, but boycott pledge sites are still accepting and counting signatures. Many in or from the affected countries still have concerns about leaving the United States, traveling to the U.S., or making travel plans and reservations, in the current circumstances. Days after the Ninth Circuit decision declining to lift a block on the travel ban, there was still published discussion in the U.S. of professors inside and outside U.S. borders supporting the boycott.(1) Some may be wondering about the current status of the boycott and how Chicana/os and New Afrikans (U.S. Black nation people) should relate to it.

Boycott pledges

The weekly top scientific journal Nature published an editorial opposing academic boycotts in general and the U.S. conference boycott specifically.(2) There is no mention of any boycott of Israel, and it looks like Nature hasn’t recently published an article against the Israel academic boycott. The apparent selective opposition to academic boycotts of the U.S. settler entity – involved in I$raeli colonialism and other instances of colonialism today – is problematic. The Nature editorial is concerning and interesting in other ways.

The editorial, which seems to prioritize interests of scientists and throw everything at the wall in the hope something will stick, at one point proposes working with the U.S. travel ban by allowing affected individuals to remotely participate in conferences by video, and by seeking waivers for researchers to be admitted “in the national interest.” The week-old article noted that a major online boycott pledge had more than 6,000 signatures. A separate pledge, focused on scientists and their “colleagues” from the seven countries, had more than 600 signers/supporters. The number is a tiny fraction of Nature’s print circulation and an even smaller fraction of Nature’s online readership, for example. Because of the Nature editorial, posted or linked hundreds of times, and other discussion in the medical journal BMJ and in news and social media, many scientists are aware, at least, of the U.S. conference boycott. A week later now, though, the “Science Undivided” (“We will not attend US conferences until our colleagues can”) pledge has only 657 supporters shown on a webpage. (The page is updated manually. Some supporters may not appear yet.) The recent average number of new supporters each day may be less than ten. (Thanks, “Nature.”) The “In Solidarity with People Affected by the ‘Muslim Ban’” pledge has “6400+ signatures” as of around noon on February 14. (This writer counted 5,625 publicly visible names. I’m not sure what’s going on there.) That’s an increase of only about 400 since a week ago. Many of these people are students, not professors or professionals. The number of postsecondary teachers alone in the United States alone, not including teaching assistants, is well over a million. Whatever excuses people want to make, there is much room for progress.

The real problem with the Science Undivided pledge, whose own wording is ambiguous about U.S. scientists, is that the FAQ page on says, “We are not calling on US scientists to boycott conferences.” U.S. scientists are encouraged to indicate their support by just adding themselves to the list but are also being told they aren’t expected to boycott anything themselves and can participate in conferences still marketed as being international. There is a distinction between “signing” and “supporting” the pledge. That is regrettable (though it is remarkable more American scientists couldn’t even spend a few seconds to submit their information with the understanding they could attend the conferences themselves). It could contribute to an old-boy-network problem or favor competitive interests of American scientists.

Certainly it would be hard to expect Chican@ and New Afrikan scientists to “support” that particular pledge when it would look like they are in favor of having fewer international attendees at international conferences they themselves are going to attend. Although, it is more likely that people have career interests in withholding support from the boycott. And, no doubt some white professors and even some coconut and oreo professors in the U.S. pay lip service to tolerating migrants or at least legal immigration, but secretly have issues with the international Asian and Muslim students in their classrooms. They might withhold support from a strong anti-ban action for that reason.

In any case, the numbers of people who have signed these pledges seem to have plateaued after an initial flurry of interest and attention. The legal struggle against the travel ban, however, is still going on. A Virginia U.S. district court judge ruled the ban unconstitutional.(3) Also, elite U.S. universities have sued over the ban.(4)

Colonialism versus neo-colonialism

A vast majority of the “professariat” hasn’t publicly committed to any boycott of U.S. international conferences despite some tangible university action against the ban at the administrative and leadership levels. This leads this writer to consider the more purely bourgeois or capitalist interests involved in lawsuits and rulings. It’s not that there is some real proletariat or multicultural actual progressive class in the U.S. that is more or less progressive than U.S. university instructors and researchers.

Even if aspects of the travel ban or a future new executive order are ultimately found to be legal in AmeriKKKan court, it would still be necessary to support a boycott as a matter of rejecting the colonialism of the situation. In terms of diplomatic equality, it shouldn’t be acceptable for Amerikans to do business and intelligence work in the Muslim ban countries while even rich people from those countries can’t travel to the U.S. to invest, have meetings, etc. (Ironically, a section of the January 27 executive order refers to “reciprocity” in the context of nonimmigrant visas.) At the same time, though U.S. capitalists would benefit from amerikan colonialism (jointly with U.$. workers), the U.S. capitalist interests involved in legal struggles against the travel ban may warrant consideration regardless of courtroom success/failure.

Historically, an obvious precedent is the Chinese Exclusion Act. The reason why people are talking about the 1889 Chae Chan Ping v. United States decision today is that the Chinese Exclusion Act itself, though repealed, was never ruled unconstitutional. So the Act and Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. continue to have consequences though their relevance is disputed. More to the point, responses to the Chinese Exclusion Act included a Chinese boycott of U.S. products, and opponents of the Act included U.S. capitalists as well as Chinese would-be neo-colonial comprador bourgeoisie, even some feudal elements in China. Many of the U.S. capitalists were exploiting Chinese migrant workers, but that doesn’t mean the U.$. labor organizations opposing the “yellow peril” were other than reactionary. It was a case where u.$. workers were in effect supporting colonialism in a complex way both inside and outside North America.

Some parts of the Muslim ban countries’ societies and economies are arguably still pre-capitalist. Historically, one feature of neo-colonialism is the introduction or expansion of capitalism in nominally independent countries still facing CIA coups and assassinations, and invasions. So this writer isn’t here to extol neo-colonialism as an advance in general, and the vast majority of countries are already neo-colonial as either oppressed or oppressor countries. Yet, there are still contradictions between neo-colonial forces and old-type colonialism today. There are two main reasons for this.

One is U.S. hegemony contradicting the interests of financial capitalists, including some of the Amerikans in charge of global investment portfolios. Financial capitalists are today less likely to associate U.S. hegemony with better investment outlooks. In global contexts, the oppressed don’t struggle against neo-colonialism or monopoly capitalism in the abstract. The biggest threat and the biggest obstacle to progress is the United States or U.S. hegemony. Thus there could be a wide variety of situations in which capitalists, interested in neo-colonial relationships and outcomes not particularly favorable to the United States, could play a useful role.

The other main reason, involving the continuing existence of nationalism and inter-imperialist rivalry, is the increasingly leading role that imperialist country so-called workers and middle-class people play in nationalism. This intersects with colonialism in the emergence of outwardly unequal relations with other countries. This is relevant to long-standing hostility to Muslim countries though it may not be as obvious as the role of populism in immigration restriction efforts in general.

Iranians are having to grovel for U.$. investment and trade as a part of seeking foreign investment and trade in general in the midst of economically debilitating ongoing sanctions and threats, and yet its citizens aren’t guaranteed protection in the United States even with the travel ban in limbo now. Because of the lack of stability and clarity in law and relations, it is now harder for U.S. capitalists and Iranian citizens in the U.S. to do business involving longer time frames. All of this is a sign of colonialism catering to amerikans with narrow interests or shortsighted views. Some of the origins of this are in the idea that Iran or Islam in the Middle East is a threat to amerikan workers after 9/11. For many years, people in both the Democratic and Republican Parties pandering to U.$. workers and other petty-bourgeois people have opposed more-pragmatic attitudes toward Islamic countries.

Palestine also serves to illustrate, thanks to U.S. participation in colonialism and opposition to the two-state solution during Obama’s presidency. In neo-colonialism, it would be possible for multiple states to go to Palestinians and, for example, offer to invest in oil production in Palestine. It might be exploitation of Palestinians and even contribute to climate change, but it would be better than the current situation of I$rael and the United States dominating and obstructing things. Neo-colonialism isn’t the case with Palestinians now for the most part, and the United States under Bubba favorite Donald Trump is now openly defying global consensus with remarks right in front of Benjamin Netanyahu suggesting amenability to the one-state so-called solution.(5) And this: “As far as the embassy moving to Jerusalem, I’d love to see that happen.” So-called leftists and so-called progressives will continue to play stupid and unite with right-wing Israelis for a single state and oppose Palestinian independence, in the name of opposing apartheid, as if the United States has really been for the two-state solution.

Chican@ and New Afrikan nationalism

Chican@ and New Afrikan academics and scientists shouldn’t be involved in any of that. They should support Palestinian statehood and sovereignty. Supporting an independent Palestinian state could be a matter of supporting Chican@ nationalism and New Afrikan nationalism. It is harder to support Chican@ and New Afrikan nationalism when one believes Palestinians, who are further ahead in national and statehood projects, should abandon their nationalist gains and aspirations and accept that “Israel”/Palestine should become like the United States (as if it could) – a country that incarcerates Chican@s and New Afrikans at higher rates than blacks were incarcerated in Azania under Apartheid. Though potentially painful, participating in academic boycotts of the U.S. is also not without group interest and could be a matter of supporting Chican@ and New Afrikan nationalism. It is harder for the world to take any claim to distinct nationhood seriously when Chican@s and New Afrikans act like they are part of one nation with whites engaging in colonial oppression. It would not be like how the 1905 Chinese boycott contributed to nationalism and progress back in China, but Chican@ and New Afrikan participation in the boycott of U.S. international conferences has the potential to contribute to nationalist consciousness unlike efforts more oriented toward helping Democrats and helping amerika’s global image. Although, if it that is not true, anti-migrant activity in the U.S. may still contribute to nationalism in Mexico and other poor countries.

U.S. whites sense that the integrationist patriotic project is in danger and so self-flagellation about white privilege is at a fever pitch. Many are uncomfortable with the travel ban for the same reason besides global public opinion concerns. Hopefully, Chican@s and New Afrikans will not be misled by this and will participate in anti-amerikan boycotts as part of Chican@ and New Afrikan nationalist movements developing in opposition to u.$. nationalism and patriotism.

There has been a decrease in travel to the united $tates for various reasons.(6) Most Chican@s and New Afrikans don’t need to move from the cities they live in, but there is also no need to attach themselves to the pile of shit that is the U$A. ◊

• “America academic boycott: “Left-wing” anti-boycott arguments influenced by patriotism,” 2017 Feburary.
• “America boycott movement growing in spite of Democrats’ pro-AmeriKKKan disagreement with Trump,” 2017 February.
• “Oppose the United Snakes: Most ordinary Americans support the Muslim ban,” 2017 February.

1. “UMN professors boycott academic conferences in response to Trump travel ban,” 2017 February 14.
2. “Academics must protest against Trump’s travel ban — but they should do so productively,” 2017 February 7.
“In solidarity with people affected by the ‘Muslim ban’: call for an academic boycott of international conferences held in the US.”
3. “Trump travel ban hit by new legal setback,” 2017 February 14.
4. “Harvard, Yale and Stanford sue Donald Trump over his ‘Muslim travel ban’,” 2017 February 14.
5. “Full transcript: Trump, Netanyahu talk of regional approach to peace at White House press conference,” 2017 February 15.
6. “Trump’s travel ban is causing a large drop in US tourism,” 2017 February 14.
“After Trump ban, fewer foreigners showing interest in travel to U.S., except for Russians,” 2017 February 16.

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