Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Laurie Penny, Brendan O’Neill, the SWP and Feminism.

with 3 comments

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The SWP and rape: why I care about this Marxist-Leninist implosion

Laurie Penny describes the way the SWP Disputes Committee has handled allegations of rape.

She notes,

So far, so throat-closingly vile – but why should we care about the implosion of a Marxist-Leninist party with a few thousand members? Here’s why. The SWP is small, but it has been a significant organising force on the British left for more than 30 years, taking a leading role in coalitions like Stop the War, Unite Against Fascism and, recently, the fight against austerity in the nation’s poorest communities. Its affiliate parties in Europe and the Middle East, like Germany’s Die Linke, also punch above their weight in terms of influence. Lots of writers, thinkers and journalists have been members of the party; some still are. I’ve never been a member, but it matters that it is disintegrating because its leadership cannot confront its own misogyny.

Let’s leave aside the claim that Die Linke is one of the SWP’s “affiliate parties” – it isn’t.

Penny concludes, rightly,

In fact only one question truly matters: do you believe that it is possible to fight for a better world, for a world of justice, tolerance and liberty, while simultaneously denying the agency and autonomy of half the human race? And if you do, just what kind of a better world are you fighting for? Socialism without feminism, after all, is no socialism worth having.

Three cheers for comrade Penny – though we suggest she gets a more modern account of the British Left than ‘As Soon as this Pub Closes‘ which she has famously read.

Brushing  up on what “Marxism-Leninism” (definitely not SWP territory) is would also help.

But Penny is right.

So, let’s back the “women on the left, along with those brave men who support the fight against abuse and exploitation” who have put their heads above the parapet.

Cue for the Spiked-on-Line’s Brendan O’Neil to claim in the UK Huffington Post,

I’m no fan of the Socialist Workers’ Party, so I won’t be losing much sleep over the fact that it is currently imploding under the weight of two sex scandals. But I do find it intriguing that this intellectually moribund organisation is having the final nail pounded into its coffin, not by the state or by the right, but by feminism.

The SWP, one-time declarer of war against mighty capitalism, is being done in by feminist disdain rather than by free-market fundamentalism. And it isn’t the only one – more and more radical left-wing groups are meeting their ends at the hands of feministic finger-pointing.

Cue for the columnist for  money-making scam, The Big Issue, to skim through a few ideas.

You can’t help thinking that some observers are turning the SWP’s two alleged victims of rape into Trojan Horses against Trotskyism, using them as battering rams against an ideology and party that they never much liked.

Left-wing radicals always feared, or perhaps fantasised, that they would be battered by the forces of the state. But it’s feminism that is pushing them over the edge.

If you have little idea of what “feministic” or indeed feminism,  is, and why it is a bad thing, he elaborates,

Rather, the crises in these radical groups reveal the divisive and destructive impact of identity politics, of which modern-day victim feminism is a key strand.

Now we heard that one, er, rather a long time ago.

I recall ‘identity politics’ as something around in the late 1980s.

In No Logo (1999), Naomi Klein, after a long series of socialist feminists, leftists and Marxists, took identity politics to pieces a couple of decades ago.

But here we this repeated, with a twist.

It is a problem because,

Firstly because radical leftism was built the idea of universalism, on a belief in a common cause, whereas the politics of identity is particularistic, pitching women against men, disabled people against the abled-bodied, gays against straights, and so on. And secondly, where the old left was driven by a conviction that human beings are strong-minded and strong-willed, capable of governing both their own destinies and the world they live in, modern-day identity-obsessives promote the cults of fragility and victimhood instead, the idea that people are easily harmed by words or unfortunate experiences and thus might occasionally need the state to look after them.

Robert Hughes, you should be alive in these days, the Culture of Complaint (1993)  is reborn!

‘Identity politics’ are all about healing the lame, exalting the sick, gays and women against straights and men.

“Fragility” and “victimhood’?

Call the State!

O’Neill does not need any account of what a variety of feminists says (there was  a guide to its strands as complex as As Soon as This Pub Closes).

Nor that the women leading the campaign against the violence and abuse inside groups like the SWP are socialists committed heart and soul to the universal principles of equality and liberty.

So he turns to very former Communist Beatrix Campbell for a few toss-away lines on Communism.

“.Left-wing radicalism is “macho, manic”, she said; it “valorises conquest of nature and other humans”; it is a “men’s movement masquerading as egalitarian and socialist”.

In short, the old Socialistic worldview was just too darn cocky, too ambitious, too keen on exploiting nature’s resources to create a world of plenty, and thus it needed to be put in its place by the more caring, apparently mumsy creed of feminism. This, fundamentally, is what the feministic finishing-off of various radical left groups represents: the downsizing of the left imagination to make it fit better with the petty obsessions and humourless authoritarianism of today’s inward-looking politics of identity.

So much better is the Daddy, John Bird’s (MBE) and his Big Issue.

Their imagination soars to the conquest of the streets by the ‘homeless’ (one local seller here has been flogging it for over a decade).

This is what ex-Workers’ Revolutionary Party  Bird says nowadays,

If welfare is to be fairer and more useful to its beneficiaries it will have to come with strings attached. That could mean that those who have the time and ability should help the aged and the infirm, the mentally unable and the physically incapable in their communities.

Limiting the hit on the taxpayer by capping benefits is one necessary thing.

O’Neill has yet to pronounce on these issues.

But given his efforts to link Feminism with the State, and take a swipe at the left, you can’t help thinking that he’s going that way.

He is that humourless.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm

3 Responses

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  1. […] clear this isn’t an internal matter for the SWP this has impacted on the whole of the Left.” Andrew Coates, for example, has cheered on Laurie Penny: “Three cheers for comrade Penny.” But others would […]

  2. […] were three political parties who had stalls there. One Notion Labour, the Socialist Party and the Socialist Rapists Workers Party. Some of the comrades on the Labour stall were asking me if I would sign anything and I insisted […]

  3. Ha ha ha. The left keeps eating itself. You people are a joke.

    Gianna Xanople

    July 13, 2020 at 6:11 pm


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