Tendance Coatesy

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Attack on Women’s Place and ‘Blairite’ Transphobia: US Jacobin Gets Stuck into the UK Culture Wars.

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WPUK Archives - Woman's Place UK

The US left populist magazine Jacobin is the latest soldier in the culture wars around Transphobia. It recently published an extraordinary article (that is, beyond the already extreme norms in these battles for the claims it made) on the issue. The piece begins with this claim, “as last week’s Labour Party conference showed, pushback against trans rights has also become a key weapon in the Blairite war against the Left.” “trans-exclusionary radical-feminist (TERF) talking points have become central to the war on the “communist” “loony left” waged by blue-checkmark liberals and Blairite hacks.” (Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left )

It is sad to note that the author, Mark Montegriffo, is not the first person you’d have thought would had signed up to this. He has been active in Another Europe is Possible (whose politics the pro-Bosses’ Brexit Jacobin has never publicised). He is, by all accounts, is a decent type who, as part of his London activism, has backed groups like the IWGB, ‘the UK’s leading union for precarious workers.’ The Transphobia polemic includes attacks on the identarian Family, Faith and Flag Blue Labour. They are ones many will agree with. But that current’s days of glory and (limited) influence during the Labour leadership of Ed Miliband are long past (see: Blue Labour: Forging a New Politics. 2015). Yet…..Who knows, a few of their ideas might make come-back, but they are likely to do with working class and Red Wall identity, not hostility to gender politics.

But most is completely awry. The Jacobin article outlined the views of “Labour Campaign for Trans Rights”. Apparently, “They told me that, over a year ago, “a motion was submitted in various CLPs denouncing transphobia and denouncing Women’s Place.” Who are the latter? “Woman’s Place UK, a “feminist” organization created in September 2017 in order to oppose the trans rights embodied in the Gender Recognition Act.” Montegriffo paints a portrait of the Labour Party, from the Parliamentary group to CLPs, riven by debates on trans issues – a claim many would dismiss. He talks of Socialist Campaign Group members concerned with “the departures of trans members and (who)  condemned their targeting by transphobic MPs and their supporters.”

As we sail past the paragraphs a new reef surges. “We’re seeing a convergence,” Gleeson (an author of Transgender Marxism (1)), said, “where anti-welfarism (?), pro-imperialism, and transphobia are fundamental to the right wing of the liberal media establishment, from the Guardian to the Times.” Some might describe this as gibberish. Perhaps one should ignore the rest of the piece.

Fat chance.

Most people who have read the polemic (you wonder how many from the UK?) will be most struck by the ad feminam attack on Rosie Duffield MP, “Duffield soon went from being a beneficiary of the surge in socialist electoral activism to occupying the unofficial role of TERF-in-chief in the Parliamentary Labour Party.” But the text continues, “Despite the alleged security threats, Rosie Duffield did come to Brighton to speak at a Labour Women’s Declaration event aligned with Woman’s Place UK…”

Women’s Place have responded on FB.

What Jacobin gets wrong about WPUK”On 9th October, Jacobin published an article by Mark Montegriffo which misrepresented our campaign. On 12th October, we wrote to request a right of reply.

We have had no response so we are publishing the rebuttal here:Mark Montegriffo’s article sticks the boot into WPUK without any demonstrable knowledge of what we say or do. There was certainly no attempt made to ask us to respond to anything he writes in the piece. Mark doesn’t even seem to have looked at the Myth busters page.”https://womansplaceuk.org/2020/11/28/wpuk-mythbusters/

Every single one of the core activists in WPUK has a demonstrable record of long-term feminist activism. This includes working with women and girls affected by men’s violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, organising demonstrations demanding that the streets be made safe for women, workplace and trade union activism for women’s rights, research into women in the workforce and activism on reproductive rights.

We are confident our credentials as feminist activists are at least as robust as Mark’s.” For the rest of the rebuttal see the link. https://womansplaceuk.org/…/what-jacobin-gets-wrong…/If you want to find out more about our campaign, don’t be like Mark.Check out our website where everything we have published is availabe to view. https://womansplaceuk.org/about/Thank you.

What, some might say, do you expect from Jacobin? They have axes-to-grind. They will publish attacks on a variety of Labour Party targets, Keir Starmer and ‘Blairism’ are old favourites. It is their role to produce them, and whether you like it or not they can sometimes hit hard.

But this is more delicate. There is the blatant hackle-raising of headline, “Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left”.

It looks as if the US journal did not warn Mark Montegriffo about rushing into areas where the Archangel Michael would hesitate to put his foot in.

Perhaps the magazine is just out of touch. Jacobin’s European Editor is best known in the UK for his learned studies of Amadeo Bordiga in the pages of the Weekly Worker (organ of the Communist Party of Great Britain, Provisional Central Committee, CPGB-PCC) – Famous as a polemical target of ‘Leftwing’ communism, ironically Amadeo Bordiga claimed to agree with Lenin’s strategy for world revolution. David Broder investigates (21.10.21).

Here is the response:

On the 9th October, Jacobin published an article by Mark Montegriffo which misrepresented our campaign.

On 12th October, we wrote to Jacobin to request a right of reply. We have had no response so we are publishing the rebuttal here.

 

What Jacobin gets wrong about WPUK

Extracts,

Mark Montegriffo’s article Transphobia Is the Latest Front in the Blairites’ War Against the Left sticks the boot into Woman’s Place UK without any demonstrable knowledge of what we say or do. There was certainly no attempt made to ask us to respond to anything he writes in the piece.

Anyone who wants to find out what we really say and do can look at our website. Mark doesn’t even seem to have looked at the Myth busters page.

Let’s start with his use of scare quotes to describe us as “feminist”. Every single one of the core activists in WPUK has a demonstrable record of long-term feminist activism. This includes working with women and girls affected by men’s violence, including domestic and sexual abuse, organising demonstrations demanding that the streets be made safe for women, workplace and trade union activism for women’s rights, research into women in the workforce and activism on reproductive rights.

…..

As the article points out, WPUK was on the receiving end of a campaign to brand us as a hate group inside the Labour Party. That’s the least of what we have had to put up with. We have had aggressively threatening demonstrations outside our events. Venues are routinely contacted and pressured not to host our meetings. Never once have we done anything of that nature. We are committed to respectful debate.

Contrast that to the treatment of Kathleen Stock at Sussex University. She has had groups of masked people protesting at her presence on the campus and arrived at work to find posters demanding she be sacked. And the reason for this campaign of intimidation and harassment is that she thinks humans are mammals and mammals don’t change sex by the power of thought.

The row continues.

*****************************

(1) Introducing Transgender Marxism

Jules Joanne GleesonElle O’Rourke / October 16, 2021

Transgender Marxism focuses wilfully on that which others might dismiss as vulgar, inappropriate, besides-the-political. It aims to provide a materialist account of the distinctive conditions of lack in which we find ourselves, and to help us wriggle free through unlikely means.

Much work remains to be done expanding the earthy, intestinal visions of Marx and his successors outwards, moving from the bowels towards the glands and receptors that make up our endocrine system. Transition, too, must come to be understood by revolutionaries as a response to its own form of hunger. The longings that drive so many to reforge lives for ourselves that leave us thoroughly proletarianised, or cast out, rendered surplus. Those cravings and cavings-in that clinicians have long attempted to desiccate under the catch-all term ‘dysphoria’. In truth, our moments of euphoric coping are enmeshed with the moments in which we are struck dumb by gut-churning dread. These are the moments that define our everyday lives. The restless energies that produce for us new needs; needs that can be difficult even to describe. Transphobic strands of ‘revolutionary’ thought would rather these yearnings be set aside, left unspoken; to be repressed (at least in the political arena), or perhaps to be exterminated altogether.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 23, 2021 at 10:27 am

21 Responses

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  1. Hmm. I suppose actually calling it “Transphobia” is actually a step toward resolving the problem. One shouldn’t accept Homophobia, should they? Even though there might be endless anecdotes to show how homosexuals are revolting, or maybe their allies, that the behavior of AIDS advocacy groups has not been civil etc. This analogy is deliberate. As Audre Lorde said:

    There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone. We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors.

    I am not particularly defending Jacobin Magazine as I have significant disagreement with them, but it seems that you are using them as a foil here to deflect from the contradictions of the stubbornly held Transphobia where you really should respond to the challenge for a much more thoughtful synthesis of Queer Liberation, Feminism and Socialism, etc.

    American Dream

    October 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm

  2. Blue Labour is still around, though it is doubtful is this will win Embery a left audience.

    Andrew Coates

    October 23, 2021 at 12:11 pm

  3. That Transgender Marxism looks like a load of shit

    Sue r

    October 23, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    • They say, “Political economist and pornographer Georges Bataille, writing between the wars, distinguished between the work of earlier revolutionaries and Marx’s baser materialism. Whereas previous generations had sought out a transcendent principle as a means of drawing ‘above’ the grisly realities of imperialism’…..”

      You wonder how far it draws its thoughts on sex from the author they cite at the start of the introduction, Georges Bataille…

      One hesitates to go further…

      Story of the Eye (French: L’histoire de l’œil):

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Story_of_the_Eye

      Having read a few books by Bataille, and having one, La littérature et le mal, at home, one should add that you can draw a very wide variety of ideas from him:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Bataille

      The French intellectual Georges Bataille (1897–1962) developed base materialism in his work during the late 1920s and early 1930s as an attempt to break with all existing materialism. This essay is an explication of base materialism and its radical implications for contemporary theory. Bataille argues for the concept of an active base matter that disrupts the opposition of high and low and destabilises all foundations. Then he attempts to use this to develop a radical libertarian Marxism, opposed to both Stalinism and fascism. Although it provided a critique of the emphasis in Marxism on production, the active flux of base matter could not be contained in a political discourse. This means that Bataille’s thought has an impact beyond the political and into the wider domain of theory.

      https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14797589809359312?journalCode=rcuv19

      Andrew Coates

      October 23, 2021 at 2:13 pm

  4. I find the quotes you give prime examples of verbal diarrhea, and, if we are going to be Freudian, anal and scatalogical. I suggest this is no surprise.

    Sue r

    October 23, 2021 at 3:49 pm

  5. “That is why it makes no sense for “gender critical” feminists to ally with reactionary powers in targeting trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people. Let’s all get truly critical now, for this is no time for any of the targets of this movement to be turning against one another. The time for anti-fascist solidarity is now.”

    Andrew Coates

    October 23, 2021 at 4:46 pm

    • The sun is setting on transphobic Feminism. The U.K is one of the last places where it has some relative strength and generally where it does get some traction it is amongst the older generations, not younger people, I do believe. It is more of a second wave phenomenon, not so much third wave or fourth wave. I am very glad that it is pretty much of a non-issue where I live. Gender essentialism came and went decades ago though Feminism is still quite strong.

      American Dream

      October 23, 2021 at 5:12 pm

      • I am referring just above to where I live- where transgender people are treated mostly as people in my neighborhood and are respected members of the community, although in the larger society still subject to the kind of ostracization and social campaigns as are waged in the U.K., if not physical assault and murder.

        That said, accepting WPUK’s disavowal of Transphobia uncritically is like taking the fox’s denial of any interest in the henhouse at face value:

        Media coverage and criticism
        The group has been described as transgender-exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs).[3][1] It has faced opposition from Pride Cymru and the Wales Equality Alliance.[13] The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights has described it as a hate group.[14] London Feminist Library organiser Lola Olufemi described the group as “a clearly transphobic organisation” after withdrawing from an event at the University of Oxford.[15][16]

        The group has opposed being categorised as TERFs, stating that a number of trans women who oppose gender recognition based on statutory declaration, such as Debbie Hayton and Kristina Harrison, speak at their meetings.[3][17][18] In February 2020, 13 academics at University College London wrote an open letter to The Guardian arguing that the group was not a “trans-exclusionist hate group”.[19][20] In her 2021 book The Transgender Issue: An Argument for Justice, author Shon Faye described the organisation as “the most well-known grassroots anti-trans feminist group”.[21]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Place_UK

        American Dream

        October 23, 2021 at 5:28 pm

  6. “US Jacobin Gets Stuck into the UK Culture Wars.”

    I wouldn’t waste my time reading any American content on British politics. I am British and live in America and in my experience they are utterly clueless about anything not American, even those who profess to be left wing and engaged. Many believe the UK is run by the Queen on a day to day basis. It’s telling that in the US the media rarely , if ever, include any content involving the affairs of foreign nations. One Ex CNN presenter once stated that during his time if the station featured content not to do with America (this included stories about Mexico and Canada) they would experience a mass switch off or switch over. This was confirmed by focus groups. Their viewers simply weren’t interested.

    IainF

    October 23, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    • I can echo this – and add a riposte. I have one facet which is a bit unusual on the left. I quite like Americans and the US. I guess it came from a longish visit I made back in the early 1970’s underwritten by an elderly female (now long gone) who wanted to see her grand cousin, the only member of the English bit of the family still around. And what was interesting was that due to the settlement patterns of the US Walsh’s, my trip wasn’t to the tourist delights of New York, old-world Boston or regal Washington, but to the more prosaic delights of Plainfield in Union County, New Jersey. This was only three hours away by a New Jersey Transit train from Penn Central station in Manhatten, but light years away from the lights of Broadway in terms of daily life. It was more like an enlarged Billingham than the Bronx, with refineries, engineering plants and a thundering interstate highway nearby. The locals (at that time) were a mixture of descendents of the Irish, Italian and Polish communities, most people were in work and daily life revolved around work and the telly. Everyone voted straight down the Democrat ticket and – this was the greatest thing – were overwhelmingly friendly to a British stranger spending a month’s sojourn there. So that made me “pro-American” in the sense of pro the people, if not the nation and how it ran its foreign policy. I had been on all the anti Vietnam marches, and whilst the local Plainfielders were, by and large, I guess, for the war (which was in its last year then) they were quite happy to tolerate a foreigner who might disagree with them, even if they felt I “didn’t understand” what it was all about. That old New Deal idyll, I guess is now dead, suffocated by an inchoate rage fuelled by economic and social change at the European “other”. But their ignorance is partnered by our own. I guess very few here can appreciate the sheer depth and class and social divergences between the older East Coast and upper mid west manufacturing towns and the preppy university settlements, let alone the isolation and rage of the anonymous forgotten exurbs and the marginal old mining or railroad towns of West Virginia or Arkansas (and that’s before I get to the deep south and the south, south west or of the fetid Louisiana parishes.) We need to talk to each other, but not mediated by outlets like Jacobin.

      David Walsh

      October 23, 2021 at 7:32 pm

      • Having never been there and not having empathy for US politics or political and religious ideology, though recognising that there is a left, not very strong, but some of which is not too far off various European lefts, I would never generalise.

        I would however generalise about Judith Butler, whose main works are at a Laclau and Mouffe level of abstraction, and who now sees fit to generalise about Europe, from Poland to Romania, not to mention Turkey, And, “Latin America, Europe, Africa, and east Asia. The opposition to “gender” is voiced by governments as diverse as Macron’s France and Duda’s Poland.”

        All I can find on this from France in French on related issues is the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, getting compared by the far-right Zemmour to Doctor Mengele , for advocating at the start of October, a better deal and treatment for transgender school students (Not that he advocates easy transitions:

        https://fr.news.yahoo.com/th%C3%A9orie-genre-%C3%A0-l%C3%A9cole-jean-115347363.html

        Butler continues, “In Germany and throughout eastern Europe “genderism” is likened to “communism” or to “totalitarianism”. and then to Brazil..

        This is Fascism, she writes, “In his well-known list of the elements of fascism, Umberto Eco writes, “the fascist game can be played in many forms,” for fascism is “a collage … a beehive of contradictions”. Indeed, this perfectly describes anti-gender ideology today. It is a reactionary incitement, an incendiary bundle of contradictory and incoherent claims and accusations. They feast off the very instability they promise to contain, and their own discourse only delivers more chaos. Through a spate of inconsistent and hyperbolic claims, they concoct a world of multiple imminent threats to make the case for authoritarian rule and censorship.”

        Oddly out of her own list of world-wide imminent threats from *the* anti-gender movement (singular) she does not mention efforts to censor gender critical feminists…

        https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2021/oct/23/judith-butler-gender-ideology-backlash

        Andrew Coates

        October 23, 2021 at 8:31 pm

        • Regarding Judith Butler, I think there are valid reasons to critique her philosophical writings- they are not materialist enough for my taste for one. In regards to Trans Rights, I will take her over the Transphobes any day of the week. That said, I have much more affinity for the Unity and Struggle position on Queer Liberation:

          http://www.unityandstruggle.org/2010/03/sylvia-rivera-transliberation-and-class-struggle/

          http://www.unityandstruggle.org/2010/01/queer-liberation-is-class-struggle/

          http://www.unityandstruggle.org/2010/10/beyond-gay-marriage-and-queer-separatists-the-call-for-a-working-class-queer-movement/

          American Dream

          October 23, 2021 at 11:06 pm

          • Judith Butler is clearly pointing out the dangers of a red-brown alliance around reactionary gender ideology:

            It does not matter that chromosomal and endocrinological differences complicate the binarism of sex and that sex assignment is revisable. The anti-gender advocates claim that “gender ideologists” deny the material differences between men and women, but their materialism quickly devolves into the assertion that the two sexes are timeless “facts”. The anti-gender movement is not a conservative position with a clear set of principles. No, as a fascist trend, it mobilizes a range of rhetorical strategies from across the political spectrum to maximize the fear of infiltration and destruction that comes from a diverse set of economic and social forces. It does not strive for consistency, for its incoherence is part of its power.

            Advertisement

            In his well-known list of the elements of fascism, Umberto Eco writes, “the fascist game can be played in many forms,” for fascism is “a collage … a beehive of contradictions”. Indeed, this perfectly describes anti-gender ideology today. It is a reactionary incitement, an incendiary bundle of contradictory and incoherent claims and accusations. They feast off the very instability they promise to contain, and their own discourse only delivers more chaos. Through a spate of inconsistent and hyperbolic claims, they concoct a world of multiple imminent threats to make the case for authoritarian rule and censorship.

            This form of fascism manifests instability even as it seeks to ward off the “destabilization” of the social order brought about by progressive politics. The opposition to “gender” often merges with anti-migrant furor and fear, which is why it is often, in Christian contexts, merged with Islamophobia. Migrants, too, are figured as “infiltrating”, engaging in “criminal” acts even as they exercise their rights of passage under international law. In the imaginary of the anti-gender ideology advocates, “gender” is like an unwanted migrant, an incoming stain, but also, at the same time, a colonizer or totalitarian who must be thrown off. It mixes right and left discourses at will.

            As a fascist trend, the anti-gender movement supports ever strengthening forms of authoritarianism. Its tactics encourage state powers to intervene in university programs, to censor art and television programming, to forbid trans people their legal rights, to ban LGBTQI people from public spaces, to undermine reproductive freedom and the struggle against violence directed at women, children, and LGBTQI people. It threatens violence against those, including migrants, who have become cast as demonic forces and whose suppression or expulsion promises to restore a national order under duress.

            That is why it makes no sense for “gender critical” feminists to ally with reactionary powers in targeting trans, non-binary, and genderqueer people. Let’s all get truly critical now, for this is no time for any of the targets of this movement to be turning against one another. The time for anti-fascist solidarity is now.

            More: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2021/oct/23/judith-butler-gender-ideology-backlash

            American Dream

            October 24, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    • As a subject of that Empire, I’ve got to agree. I lived just a few hours from the Canadian border in the days before Internet news was big. The local library had plenty of domestic newspapers but nothing Canada or Mexico. That says it all. I believe there was once a Canadian television show whose premise was to mock “Americans” by starting off interviewing them with a fake name for the Canadian PM. They would always go along with the hoax, never once got it.

      American Dream

      October 23, 2021 at 8:09 pm

  7. ‘Eppur se mouve’ Galileo. (Reference Scopes trial).

    Sue r

    October 24, 2021 at 8:42 am

  8. “Much work remains to be done expanding the earthy, intestinal visions of Marx and his successors outwards, moving from the bowels towards the glands and receptors that make up our endocrine system.” This says it all, really. Firstly, these people are entirely ignorant of anatomy and physiology. But secondly and more importantly, their output should be treated much like any other bowel movement.

    Francis

    October 24, 2021 at 1:45 pm

  9. Whats going on in Sussex is a witch hunt.An entitled mob of bullies and bigots are threatening a Lesbian,feminist academic and calling for her employers to sack her.Shes getting death threats.Shouldn’t the Left be giving her 100% support.The UCU’s thrown her under the bus.If this is Salem much of the.British Left are siding with the Puritans.The ‘no debate’ Trans cult are the result of decades of postmoderniism and Idenriry poliitics They are a\ cul de sac.They are misogynist,anti science and anti modernity.The anti-Stock coalition has nothing to offer radical politics.It should be dumped in the dustbin of history with the far right or the Taliban.

    Mark Nelson

    October 24, 2021 at 4:58 pm

  10. Although individuals in WPUK may have done good work and calling them Blairite seems completely random the organisation exists to promote transphobia and does very little outside that. This weird narrow obsession that seems to be consuming certain feminists. Disgusting really.

    Eric

    October 25, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    • The group does have a focus, and view, on ‘gender self-identification’, which many would not agree with. Whether that is enough to pin them down as inspired by fear of transsexuals is hard to tell. The argument here is firstly against the catch-all diatribe in Jacobin, and secondly their right to speak, not the rightness of what they speak. Obviously awareness of positive work that some of their supporters have contributed influences posting this in the first place.

      Some of the wider issues of gender critical feminism are taken up in the discussion of Butler.

      This is indeed how *Wikipedia* describes them:

      “Woman’s Place UK[a] (WPUK) is a British political advocacy group founded in 2017.[2]

      The group is opposed to gender self-identification for trans people in the UK, and has advocated restricting access to women-only spaces to women on the basis of “sex, not gender”.

      The group was founded in response to the British government’s launch of a consultation on proposals to change the Gender Recognition Act away from a medicalised system towards one based on statutory declaration. In late-July 2018, the group issued five demands:

      Evidence-based debate about the impact of the proposed reforms;
      An increase in women-only spaces;
      A review of exemptions in Equality Act 2010;
      Women’s organisations to be included in the consultation;
      A review of how the proposed reforms would affect data collection.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Place_UK

      Andrew Coates

      October 25, 2021 at 7:07 pm

      • That Jacobin article gets it about right though. I’m not sure what the goings on in the Labour Party are, and I don’t really care. But why are “feminists” so focused on rolling back trans rights if they aren’t transphobes? If if there are concerns around changing rooms etc., the excessive focus and the fear mongering are still completely unnecessary. And it isn’t just about women’s spaces there are things about rolling back access to trans health care as well. Nor is it about starting a conversation with trans people, it’s about shutting trans people out of public life as far as possible. They refuse to platform trans people, they campaign against trans women representatives.

        It really isn’t about being gender critical anymore (criticism of gender roles etc. which would get support from many/most trans people) it’s about policing the borders of womanhood.

        Eric

        October 26, 2021 at 3:35 pm

  11. The author of the Jacobin article seems more concerned with defending the Young Labour leadership than they are with putting forward a clear defense of trans rights. Worth noting that they don’t e.g. mention the role of the Morning Star’s role in promoting ‘gender-critical’ feminism.

    mrtusks

    October 26, 2021 at 2:25 pm


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