The grand prix, hailed as Montreal’s biggest and most economically lucrative event all year, aside from Jesus’s birthday, hit the town last weekend. For those who commit serial sociology, it is a case study for all of the troubling contradictions in Western society. For those committed hedonists (including and excluding auto enthusiasts), minor and major criminals, and restaurateurs, it is a grotesque version of the Jubilee, where all debts are forgiven through the marginal profits of cardinal sin.

But I don’t have time for moral cleansing. Leave that for pastors, postmodernists and anarchists.

The opulence and ethics of the fanfare are small material concern, and unfortunately the focus of too many puritans trying to exorcise vice. Let the people drink and what not. The municipal humanitarian concerns are a by-product of the larger violence.

Oil and rubber and steel are violence. A good visualization and starting point is this map:

map grand prix

It is a good map. The world. You probably recognize it. Now, why the three colours? Green represents the countries that have Grand Prix circuits; dark grey are the countries that formerly had Grand Prix circuits and light grey are the countries that never had Grand Prix circuits.

The obvious observation is that there are currently no tracks in Africa, the Middle East and India. Africa, a continent of one billion people, 1/7 of the world’s population does not have 1/21 of the circuits. But that is a simple, casual observation. If this map was made 60 years ago, every track would be in a white dominated colonial country, a centre of capital, and today that is still, generally the case.

The location of the track and the map is of significance because it shows one thing: the countries that produce rubber and oil, the two main ingredients in an F1 racer and all vehicles, generally, do not have circuits and make little residual economic benefit from their production. The Grand Prix is the highest metaphor for the confluence of colonial and imperial exploitation, of surplus value being sucked for nothing from brutally colonized peoples and injected into the toys of the global elite. It is important to illustrate exactly how violent rubber extraction is.

It is well known now that the Belgians murdered millions to extract rubber from the Congo. Workers would have to climb trees (at the risk of falling to their deaths) and rub the stinky rubber on their skin, climb down and rip it off their skin to pay off the debts the Belgians placed on the workers. If the amounts were inadequate, the Belgians would cut off limbs or simply kill the workers. Resistance was often and brutally crushed. Ho Chi Minh, writing for a communist newspaper in Paris writes of French barbarity:

“Under the title ‘Colonial Bandits’ our comrade Victor Meric has told us of the incredible cruelty of a French administrator in the colonies who poured molten rubber into the genitals of an unfortunate Negress. After which, he made her carry a huge stone on her head in the blazing sun, until she died.

This sadistic official is now continuing his exploits in another district, still with the same rank. Unfortunately, such odious deeds are not rare in what the good press calls ‘overseas France’.”

Episodes as such replayed over and over in every colony. European brutality made Grand Prixs possible. Nothing brought fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the United Kingdom, the Swiss, French, Belgians together like a sunny day at the races.

The car, itself, a product of advanced manufacturing, can only exist in countries that have traditionally benefited from the capital accumulation of colonial adventures. The extraordinary profits reaped from the backs of starving colonized people, mostly coloured, allowed for precarious investment in the initial capitally intensive productive forces of vehicles and the high wages of the western industrial workers.

Lenin calls these workers, “the labour aristocracy.”

They, and most of the workers in the west benefit from the violent enforcement of cheap extractive techniques and cheap labour in the colonized world. The car represents the highest form of the contradictions in the global working class. Rubber and oil brings misery to colonized countries. Rubber and oil brings wealth to colonial countries.

The Grand Prix is not just a celebration of human ingenuity, it is a celebration of the armistice between the labour aristocracy and the global bourgeoisie over their dominance of the colonized world. The highest and most desperate expression of this union is fascism and imperial jingoism. Does this make the Grand Prix a fascist celebration?

Perhaps there is a classless entertainment value to watching cars fly around a track. Summer celebrations are fun. Sure, but it must be recognized critically and fully that the material conditions that allow for the existence of the Grand Prix are based on violent colonial exploitation.

Before I end I need to make something clear because not only is this an argument against liberalism, conservatism, but this analysis must be stated to be clearly against postcolonialism and postmodernism and incorrect interpretations of Marxism:

  1. The participation of the upper crusts of colonized countries in Grand Prix celebrations does not mean there is an equality in the participation of peoples as a whole.
  2. The Japanese are among the most brutal colonial exploiters and are equal participants in the production of cars. They are a fully imperialist nation.

This is to say, that the Grand Prix are not firstly an expression of white supremacy or white privilege as some postmodern anarchists might extol, but an expression of colonial/ capitalist inequalities firstly.

Panelists Katie Nelson and Jerry Gabriel discuss Homa Hoodfar’s detention in Iran, Stella’s campaign against the abolition of sex work and various topics from the news of the week. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha

Panelists

Katie Nelson: Concordia student

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

 

*Homa Hoodfar Report by Hannah Besseau

*Stella Interview by Enzo Sabbagha

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

The Montreal Grand Prix is always noisy. First, there are the rather loud Formula 1 engines revving on Ile Notre-Dame at the event itself on Sunday. Then there are the street parties all weekend on a blocked off Crescent and more recently lower Saint-Laurent as well. And, of course, there are the protests.

As in previous years, people will be out in force against the hyper-capitalism intrinsic to the event. One of the things many protesters argue the F1 promotes, including those who put together this Critical Mass event, is sexual exploitation and human trafficking.

Montreal-based sex workers’ rights organization Stella is, of course, also against sexual exploitation and human trafficking, but feels that during the Grand Prix, sex work is unfortunately conflated with trafficking in quite a bit of the protest messaging. They have launched a social media poster campaign to counter this perception.

In a press release, they argue that:

“(The Grand Prix) brings with it exaggerated and unfounded claims of an increase in human trafficking, and youth and sexual exploitation. In more recent years it has also resulted in increased police repression and surveillance of people working in the sex industry and our clients. Amidst this flurry of attention, sex workers in Montreal are placed at greater risk of violence as they undertake working practices to avoid police detection, that put our security at risk.”

– Stella press release

This evokes a similar style to that used by Femen’s Grand Prix protests: topless women with messages written on their bodies. What’s different with Stella’s campaign is that the women’s faces and nipples are covered and the messages are against the criminalization of sex work, a.k.a. prohibition.

(* Ed’s note: We mentioned Femen just so it was clear that this campaign wasn’t at all the same as that group’s stunt at last year’s Grand Prix, but Stella made quite a good and correct point: “Is it our campaign that is reminiscent of Femen’s or is it Femen who appropriates our culture and fails to recognize the work of all the sex workers who have been pioneers of toplessness and of using breasts to subvert patriarchy?”)

Will this campaign help change the messaging of anti-Grand Prix protests? Given some of the comments already on event pages that argue against lumping sex work in with exploitation and trafficking, it’s possible that it could tip the balance by giving those comments a unified voice.

Will this campaign get lost in the shuffle? Given the huge amount of attention paid to the Grand Prix as well as the multitude of divergent protests, that is possible as well.

One thing is for sure: the Grand Prix will be at least a little louder this year.

You can read more about the Stella campaign on their site and Facebook page