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Haiti, Oxfam – In Defence of Mary Beard; Contre Priyamvada Gopal. 

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“Familiar posture of wounded white innocence” says Priyamvada Gopal.

I confess, I really like Mary Beard.

She wrote one of the best ever books on Roman history, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome  (2015).

Since the Renaissance at least, many of our most fundamental assumptions about power, citizenship, responsibility, political violence, empire, luxury and beauty have been formed, and tested, in dialogue with the Romans and their writing.

From that you can guess she is not a reborn 18th century writer who uncritically admires the ‘glory that was Rome’, lauds the Republic, and ignores issues about the role of slavery, class conflicts, the position of women, and above all the violence that went with Empire in its history, up to the Caesars.

On the last issue the BBC last week showed Beard’s latest programme, Julius Caesar Revealed  which put his genocidal conquests at the heart of his rise to power, and underlined the narrow nature of the ‘republican’ claims to defend liberty against the ‘populist’ rise of Caesarism (a term used by a variety of political thinkers, including Gramsci, to refer to the role of a “great personality” in conditions where catastrophe looms).

Mary Beard has recently published this book, Women and Power.

As Rachel Cook outlines its theme,

Beard’s primary subject is female silence; she hopes to take a “long view on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment”, the better to get beyond “the simple diagnosis of misogyny that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on”. Calling out misogyny isn’t, she understands, the same thing as explaining it, and it’s only by doing the latter that we’re likely ever to find an effective means of combating it. The question is: where should we look for answers? Beard acknowledges that misogyny has multiple sources; its roots are deep and wide. But in this book, she looks mostly (she is a classicist, after all) at Greek and Roman antiquity, a realm that even now, she believes, casts a shadow over our traditions of public speaking, whether we are considering the timbre of a person’s voice, or their authority to pronounce on any given subject.

She continues,

Personally, I might have found this argument a bit strained a month ago; 3,000 years lie between us and Homer’s Odyssey, which is where she begins, with Telemachus effectively telling his mother Penelope to “shut up”. But reading it in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, it seems utterly, dreadfully convincing. Mute women; brutal men; shame as a mechanism for control; androgyny and avoidance as a strategy for survival. On every page, bells ring too loudly for comfort.

Mary Beard now has her own confrontation with efforts to shout her down.

After this,

The Cambridge Classics professor Mary Beard has been left “sitting here crying” after a provocative tweet concerning the Oxfam sexual exploitation scandal exposed her to a torrent of abuse on Twitter.

The Academic tweeted on Friday that “Of course one can’t condone the (alleged) behaviour of Oxfam staff in Haiti and elsewhere. But I do wonder how hard it must be to sustain “civilised” values in a disaster zone. And overall I still respect those who go in to help out, where most of us wd not tread”.

The tweet has sparked controversy over the last two days. One of hundreds to engage in the Twitter backlash was fellow Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal whose series of tweets against Beard included “this kind of thing is the *progressive* end of the institutional culture I have to survive day in day out” and “Cambridge desperately needs a Breaking the Silence on racism. About time and beyond”.

In a following tweet Gopal directly satirised Beard: “Obviously it’s not a great idea to randomly get your dick out, rape people etc. But it’s not easy to be politically correct while in shitholes. And overall I still respect people who head out to shitholes ‘cos I sure as hell wouldn’t dream of it’.”

Cambridge Student.

A Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal,   “an upper-caste woman from a liberal-ish Hindu family in India” as she puts it, has taken the time to Lecture Beard.

Gopal is keenly aware of her caste, but who’s had “a lot painful listening and learning from Dalit and other non-upper-caste intellectuals and campaigners”.

Associating Beard with the “genteel liberal racism that is the very lifeblood of Cambridge social intercourse” she talks, as they do over a cup of Earl Grey, of Theodor Adorno, and wishes to tell Beard about the Heart of Darkness, Black Agency,  Michel-Rolph Trouillot and the history of Haiti.

Not to mention “civilised values”.

Or to put it another way Gopal offers and over-intellectualises by a kilometre and ten by a “post-colonial”analysis of an emotional tweet.

Response to Mary Beard

I’m afraid that your good intentions notwithstanding, it is precisely this genteel patrician racist manner and this context of entrenched denial in which your tweet on Haiti, ‘civilised’ values (scare quotes noted but not enough, I’m afraid) and disaster zones was received. It was, as you now know, received with enormous shock. (Not by me though — I’m used to this kind of casual magisterial apologetic coming out of the mouths of my Cambridge colleagues; it’s the stuff of everyday college lunch table conversations and hence I’ve taken the simple step of not dining in colleges as far as is feasible ).

Your subsequent blog post, to not put too fine a point on it, did little to help your cause and is regarded by many as a ‘no-pology’, a stubborn refusal to see what was wrong with your original post and taking refuge instead in the familiar posture of wounded white innocence. This too is familiar to me at Cambridge: on the rare occasions I’ve bothered to raise questions of, let us say, ‘racially dodgy’ remarks that bring Cambridge or particular colleges into disrepute, I’ve been instantly shut down by what you would recognise, I am sure, as ‘snowflake’ behaviour: outrage, wounded innocence, protestations of good intentions, and finally the declaration that it’s not the racist pronouncements that are the problem but the person (me, in this instance) who calls them out. It is accompanied by another gesture which also manifests in your blogpost: a pronouncement that self-evidently the person who made the remark cannot possibly have made a racist observation because they do not consider themselves to be racist. Imagine if every misogynist you encountered made the same gesture — and they usually do: ‘I love women, OF COURSE I am not sexist, everyone knows I am not sexist.’ What would you say to him?

Your blogpost is not an adequate intellectual response to your, well, frankly outrageous tweet; it’s a series of postures of innocence and a continued refusal to analyse a problem in all its thorny difficulty. To those who felt violated and aggressed by the original tweet, your blogpost was a further slap in the face: a stubborn refusal to see what was so profoundly and deeply wrong with your claims in addition to bizarre, indeed cringe-making comparisons between the French resistance and aid workers. What is striking in both tweet and putatively exculpatory blogpost is your inability to see beyond Western agency: Western aid workers as resistance fighters, white aid workers as Mr Kurtz figures caving in the strain of ‘The horror, the horror.’

It is very generous for Gopal to speak for the Haitians, the French Resistance, and for all those who “feel violated” by a Tweet .

No less open-hearted and welcoming is her invitation to Beard to “come and meet my third years who next week will be discussing precisely Haiti and the Haitian revolution as they read Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s work on the elision of black agency in European historiography and European habits of thought. “

Yes, we Europeans have definite “habits of thought”…..

The row proceeds.

Some would say that another shouter-down made a pretty racist tweet.

The following is about the only sensible Tweet I have found.

********

More Background.

Launching an impassioned defence of her actions in the wake of the backlash, Beard tweeted “I am amazed that after decades of Lord of the Flies being a gcse English set book we haven’t got the point about the breakdown of morality in danger zones!! Just saying and this is NOT to condone the actions of a few aid workers”.

Beard then took to her Times Literary Supplement blog to further her defense, but admitted in a tweet that she was left “sitting here crying”. Her blog told of the torrent of abuse she had experienced: “the predictable name calling ‘pervert’, ‘sick cow’, ‘disgusting creature’ or gross misreadings… ‘how hard is it not to gangrape women in a disaster zone?’. ‘you’ve lost your house, your family are dead, fancy a shag? Do you take PayPal?’ (I didn’t really want to include that, but I felt that you needed to see the tasteless too.)”

She added: “I find it hard to imagine that anyone out there could possibly think that I am wanting to turn a blind eye to the abuse of women and children” and that ” while we deplore what has happened and expect better, it is worth thinking of the context in which it took place. 99% of us have no idea of the stresses of working in these environments (and yes, living in them is worse, as there is no escape route). Most aid workers deal with that, I suspect, by drink and cigarettes. But that kind of societal, infrastructural breakdown provides a space for much worse.

“That is not to condone the awful things that happened but to contextualise them. And that is what we need to do, if we want to stop this happening again.”

Cambridge Student.

Update (from Roger). Gopal’s previous ordure:

9/11 and the Mumbai attacks

In the title of her December 4, 2008 Guardian editorial on the Mumbai attacks, Priyamvada Gopal asserts that “Comparing Mumbai to 9/11 diminishes both tragedies.” But even this title is deceitful, since, as her readers soon discover, the piece is not concerned with the particularities of the two events. Nor does the danger of “diminishing” 9/11 give Gopal pause. On the contrary, diminishing and displacing 9/11 from our active preoccupations is her intent. Allowing the November attack on Mumbai to be deemed “India’s 9/11” would be, she argues, “to privilege the experience of the United States” and to be complicit with India’s “relentless Americanization.” 9/11 is either another brand name in McWorld or something even more sinister, an event so “fetishized” as to “sanction endless vengeance,” even as it obscures “the experience of millions [elsewhere] who have suffered as much” as those who died or were injured in the attack on the U.S. on that day. 9/11 “legitimized a false war,” “created legal abominations,” and “strengthened neoconservatism.”

While Gopal’s piece makes perfunctory mention of the suffering of the victims of 9/11, it says nothing of the actual contours of that event, much less the intentions behind it. The U.S. reaction concerns her more than the attack itself does. Rather than offering any analysis of the event about which she was writing, Gopal strains to change the subject. Presumably the killing spree that took place in Mumbai from November 26th to November 29th 2008 (and has now come to be referred to “11/26”), requires no analysis. But when we actually specify what 9/11 was, can the comparison with it really be so easily avoided?

The crucial point to be made about 9/11 — and the one that Gopal studiously avoids — makes the comparison with the Mumbai attacks inevitable: both were attacks inspired by Islamism on intensely cosmopolitan urban populations with the intention of inflicting the maximum number of casualties. Moreover, like New York, Mumbai is an old colonial port city with a rich if submerged history of radical democratic struggle. Like New York, Mumbai is the commercial and cultural, though not the political, capital of a pluralistic democracy. In short, like New York, Mumbai is one of world’s great nerve-centers of contemporary capitalism. Also, the attacks on Mumbai were not on the Hindu chauvinist politics of Bal Thackeray, just as the 9/11 attack was not on the neo-liberalism of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg. In both cases, the targets were the profane pleasures of modern society. In both cases, the attacks were made, so to speak, in plain view, so that the fascistic menace was unmistakable (albeit in the absurdly comic form of expressionless young men who might, but for the assault rifles in their hands, be easily mistaken for ravers en route to Goa). Finally, as with 9/11, the regional strategic consequences bound to flow from the Mumbai attacks are profound.

In a certain respect, the semiotics of the attacks in Mumbai were even more ghastly than those of 9/11, since it witnessed the deliberate hunting of Jews qua Jews, especially at the Chabad House, where Jews were subjected to savage beatings before their execution, unlike even the Americans and Britons who were also singled out. For those who planned the attacks killing Jews was a priority and it was executed in the midst of a police siege by killers who had, in all likelihood, never so much as seen a Jewish person before. Though the murderous anti-Semitism on display in Mumbai ought by now to be an all-too-familiar aspect of Islamist ideology, Guardian correspondent Richard Silverstein, like Gopal on the editorial page, declines to acknowledge the obvious. Instead he insists that the attack on Chabad House was “not necessarily anti-Semitic,” claiming that the attackers were seeking “redress for crimes against Palestine” [“Why did the Attackers Choose to Attack Chabad House” Guardian 12/4/2008, cf. Alex Stein “Inspiration from India” Guardian 12/4/2008]. From this we may safely conclude that, for Silverstein, anytime a Muslim kills a Jew he need only utter the magic word “Palestine” to have his guilt absolved: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza means that it is open season on Jews all over the world. In the same vein, William Dalrymple, informs the wised-up readers of the Guardian that “the horrific events have to be seen in the context of. . . the abject failure of the Bush administration” and the “ill-treatment of the people of Kashmir” [“Mumbai Atrocities Highlight Need for a Solution in Kashmir” Guardian 11/30/08]. In Arundhati Roy’s column, too, we rely upon the terrorists to tell the truth and to remind “us” of the “things we don’t want to talk about any more” [“The Monster in the Mirror,” 12/13/08]. It is one thing for a journalist to report the content of authoritarian manifestoes or the statements terrorists make in the course of an attack; it is quite another matter to rationalize such statements in the manner of Silverstein, Dalrymple, and Roy.

Highlighting the political significance of the attack on Chabad House cannot be allowed to obscure the fact that there was also something quite discriminating about the seemingly more indiscriminate killing of commuters at the Victoria Terminus. It is not enough to say simply that, compared to the foreigners and the rich people at the Taj and Oberoi Hotels, the victims there were poorer, working people, though this is true. It is also worth pointing out that at the train station, the attackers fired directly into crowds. The Muslims among the dead there were not unintended victims. They were punished for living and working in peace in secular democratic India, i.e. of having failed to join the jihad. Of course, the Hindus regarded as pagans were positively marked for slaughter. As for the attacks on Mumbai’s elite hotels, likewise, the clear intent was to comingle on their marble floors the blood of dying unbelievers of all sorts — Zionist, Crusader, and Infidel. There again was the same unbridled murderousness that has been a significant feature of previous attacks, such as the 2006 commuter train in Mumbai and the serial bombings earlier in 2008 in Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, and Delhi, to name just a few. These rather elementary aspects of the politics behind the Mumbai attacks rarely merit mention in the analysis to be found in the Guardian. But while the “Left” cannot remain at this elementary level of analysis, neither can it afford to ignore the obvious.

While Gopal is right to claim that in many respects 9/11 is not unique as a point of comparison (there have been many other Islamist terrorist attacks besides 9/11), her aim seems not to locate the attacks in an alternative history of recent Islamist terrorism, as, for instance, in relation to the bombing in Pakistan in September of the Islamabad Marriott that killed 53 and injured more than 250. Rather, the Mumbai attacks are treated as have no determinate character whatsoever, Gopal preferring to speak only of a “massacre of defenceless innocents.” Presumably the same is true of the bomb detonated December 5th, 2008 in a market outside a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar in which 22 people were killed and more than 90 were wounded. While 9/11 posed for everyone worldwide the question of modern Islamism, Gopal’s editorial reveals once again how the Left continues to rely on its old reflex responses — supposed “anti-imperialism” — to defer any confrontation with the full scope of the barbarism in our time. In this way, the piece tends to obscure or deny what is salient for advancing (or even imagining) a politics genuinely capable of both countering fascism and reconstituting an emancipatory politics in South Asia.

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2018 at 1:41 pm

Spiked-on-Line and Stephen Potter: The Praxis of Lifemanship.

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Spiked-on-Line’s Manual.

“Soros does not believe in the legitimacy of borders nor in the authority of national electorates. Consequently he feels entitled to influence and if possible direct the political destiny of societies all over the world. “

The Telegraph  Living Marxism (LM).

They claim that the headline of the Telegraph piece is an anti-Semitic trope: it says Soros is ‘backing secret plot to thwart Brexit.’ That’s anti-Semitic? That would be a more convincing argument if the Telegraph and others hadn’t also regularly written about other plots – of which there are many! – to overthrow the democratic vote for Brexit, including those that do not involve donations from billionaires who happen to be Jewish.

Brendan O’Neill. Spiked on Line.

Nick Timothy liked the story so much he re-tweeted it.

 Retweeted

 

The role of Spiked-on-Line in the hate campaign against Soros has received attention on the left for the simple reason that this group, with origins on the far-left, is now popping up all over the right wing (not to say far-right)  British press.

They are above all celebrated as “contrarians”.

Brendan O’Neill in particular.

Having left behind Marxism, Socialism and indeed any form of the left, the crew have found a new ‘look me up to’ in the works of Stephen Potter.

Potter (whose books, it goes without saying are on all serious leftists’ shelves) is best known for this,

It was the first of his series of books purporting to teach ploys for manipulating one’s associates, making them feel inferior and thus gaining the status of being one-up on them. From this book, the term “Gamesmanship” entered the English language. Potter said that he was introduced to the technique by C. E. M. Joad during a game of tennis in which Joad and Potter were struggling against two fit young students. Joad politely requested the students to state clearly whether a ball had landed in or out (when in truth it was so obviously out that they had not thought it necessary to say so). This nonplussed the students, who wondered if their sportsmanship was in question; they became so edgy that they lost the match.

But that is not the end of the method.

Sport is only one case of always being “one up” on your opponents.

The Master defined the objective, “How to be one up – how to make the other man feel that something has gone wrong, however slightly.” Or, if you “are not one up, you are one down”.

Rosie Bell once outlined a key aspect of  the Potter praxis:

In his series Lifemanship (1950)  Stephen Potter invented a reviewer called Hope-Tipping who, in order to make a splash, would take a writer to task for not doing something he was famous for,  e.g. accuse D H Lawrence of showing  a neglect of “the consciousness of sexual relationship, the male and female element in life”.   So Hope-Tipping would be severely disappointed with Irving Welsh’s lack of interest in Edinburgh’s low life and he would castigate Dick Francis for not drawing on his knowledge of horses and horse-racing

The advice for what Potter called “Newstatesmaning”, that is reviewing, is at the centre of Spiked on Line’s approach. Sitting down with a dog-eared copy of the book and its sequel, One-Upmanship: Being Some Account of the Activities and Teachings of the Lifemanship Correspondence College of One-Upness and Games Lifemastery (1952) the team can write any number of articles.

The New Statesman writer Jonn Elledge recently found a few, or rescued them from the waste bin,

The campaign against the so-called “Black Death” has exposed the liberals’ true agenda.

The misogyny of the Suffragettes.

The witch-hunting of Jack the Ripper

There is are tired and trusted techniques. A master stroke is “Yes, but not in the South”, which “with slight adjustments, will do for any argument about any place, if not about any person and render any of your opponents’ assertions suspect.

There has been much justified celebration this week of that historic enfranchisement of around 8.4million mainly middle-class women. Far less attention has been paid to the other victory for democracy in the 1918 Act – the granting of the vote to virtually all males aged over 21, which enfranchised some 5.6million working-class men for the first time.

That side of the Act does not fit the fashionable script, which depicts the democratic victory of February 1918 as a triumph for modern feminism.

Mick Hume Spiked on Line 7th of February 2018

Or to imply that you are somehow in the highest realm of intellectual debate, but that you are also in touch with the common taste – lowbrowmanship.

2018 heralds the 80th anniversary of the longest running comic book in history – the Beano. For generations, working-class kids have grown up with the characters in the Beano. And supreme among them is the eternally naughty 10-year-old, Dennis the Menace, who first appeared on 12 March 1951.

Denis Hayes. Spiked on Line.  4th of January 2018.

Unfortunately if we thought that the professional contrarians were a joke they have their admirers, from Sky News, to here:

 

Here.

 

Victory for Environmental Protesters Against Notre-Dame-Des-Landes Aeroport.

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‘Zadiste’ (Zone à défendre), protest occupation against the  Airport Plan.

The projected creation of an Aeroport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes has been resisted since the start. From its relaunch in 2000 opposition has become increasingly radical. Ecologists, alter-globalisers and radical leftists began protests. Public  interest has been heightened by the ‘Zadistes’ (Zone to Defend) have occupied the area to prevent any construction work, although there was widespread criticism and opposition to the plan.

Huts built in 2012 to block work on the site.

There have been numerous demonstrations, some violent.

The Green party (EELV) backed opposition to the plan and effectively brought it to a halt during the last Socialist government under François Hollande

The present Minister for the environment, Nicolas Hulot, has backed those against the plan.

The campaign has received scant notice in the English language media but has accumulated great real and symbolic importance, not just for the principle of defending the environment but for the self-managed ‘zones’ created by the Zadistes.

These protests could be compared to those against the building of a military camp in Larzac in the 1970s.

The Fight for the Larzac refers to a non-violent civil disobedience action by farmers resisting the extension of an existing military base on the Larzac plateau in South Western France. The action lasted from 1971 to 1981, and ended in victory for the resistance movement when the newly elected President François Mitterrand formally abandoned the project.”

France’s government said Wednesday it was shelving plans to build a new airport in the west of the country, ending a dispute that has prompted nearly a decade of sometimes violent protests.

 Reports France 24.

French government drops divisive airport plan after years of protests

In an avidly awaited announcement in France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the “stiff opposition” made it impossible to proceed with the proposed new airport near the bustling city of Nantes, adding: “The project is therefore abandoned.”

Instead, Philippe said existing airports in Nantes and the Breton city of Rennes would be expanded to meet the growing demand for air transport in the region.

President Emmanuel Macron, who took office in May, promised a quick decision after years of indecision and political squabbles over the development. The issue has poisoned French politics and spawned a hardline protest movement.

Prior to the announcement, police deployed extra forces to the airport’s proposed site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes20 kilometres north of Nantes, where protesters have been camping out for years in a bid to halt the project.

Proponents of the airport have long argued that the region needs a larger hub to boost its economic prospects, while opponents say the airport is unnecessary and a symbol of exploitative globalisation.

Farmers trying to protect their land have joined forces with environmental activists and anarchists groups, who call themselves ZADists, based on the French acronym for “development zone.”

An initial attempt, in the autumn of 2012, to evict the squatters ended in violent clash between hundreds of riot police and activists hurling sticks, stones and gasoline bombs. Subsequent attempts also ended in failure.

More:  Notre-Dame-des-Landes : l’exécutif enterre l’aéroport. Libération.

This notes that the occupiers will not be made to leave until the Spring.

Supporters of the plan are not happy.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017) a Tribute from Ipswich.

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Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017)

On Saturday, on the anniversary of her friend’s death, Nina Power circulated a beautiful tribute, In Memoriam. She wrote, “Since you have gone I find it hard to go back to your writing. I think it is because there is still so much life in your words, but so much ghostliness too. And it was just so good, it just is so good. You captured exhilaration in writing like nobody else.”

This is also a contribution to Mark’s memory, written since our paths crossed at an Suffolk People’s Assembly meeting in Ipswich (Exiting the Vampire Castle), and because this recent reader of Capitalist Realism. Is there no Alternative? (2008) is deeply impressed by the work he left behind. (1)

Mark Fisher was a radical cultural critic. This expression barely covers the career of talented man whose research in the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit writings on the K-Punk Blog were marked by keen radical political feeling.

Capitalist Realism.

Capitalist Realism was, and is, a landmark study. It hits you from the first page with its quality. The book hooks the reader by an account of the film The Children of Men (2006), less a “cinematic dystopia” than a permanent state of emergency. Fisher reflects that it reminds him of a phrase attributed to Frederic Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, “that is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.” This captured the meaning of “capitalist realism”, “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (Page 2)

The scenario of The Children of Men, which revolves around mass sterility, the end of public space and where nihilist religious eschatology is all that is left for the masses wandering in camps to cling to, is striking in itself. While the state had yet to be reduced to the military and police, Fisher extended the plot to capitalism, a world now where, “all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and relics.” (Page 4).

Jean Baudrillard wrote of the French Socialist governments of the 1980s, well before the collapse of Communism, of the “end of the dialectic” “the end of history” and above all the “power of simulation”. (La Gauche Divine. 1985). Fisher evokes other French theorists, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, whose Capitalisme et schizophrénie. L’anti-Œdipe (1972) to him saw capitalism as a “dark potentiality” and “unnameable thing” which has only begun to be deterritorialised through finance. One might suggest that something of this complex work, which is, amongst many things, a critique of psychoanalysis remains in Fisher’s concern with the link between the new forms of capitalism and mental illness, though the relation with Guattari’s own therapeutic practices remains to be discussed. (2)

Fisher captures these themes in the sense of “sense of exhaustion, of cultural and political sterility”, preferring capitalist realism to the term “post-modernism”, an expression, he justly noted, loaded with ambiguities, ranging from politics, economics  and cultural trends. Perhaps more significantly the idea that that there is “no alternative” focuses on the propositional nature of the expression. That is it can be contested, without succumbing to the belief of theorists of the Baudrillard school, that the world has been absorbed in the “hyper-real” in which nothing beyond trivia  happens any more.

Capitalist Realism indeed describes the effects of free market liberalism; an iron cage of its own imposed in the area he knew best, education. Managerialism, targets, a bureaucracy that “invades all areas of work” (P 51). The Big Other, the “bewildered frustration of the individual in the call centre labyrinth” is an “expression of the ultimate cause-that-is-not a subject capital. (Pages 65 and 70) If the latter seems a reflection of an Althusserian subjectless process commentators have been more struck by the expression of ‘hauntology” – the individual’s nostalgia for “lost futures”.

New Political Terrain.

This reader was more impressed by Fisher’s effort to think beyond these limits. The final chapter of Capitalist Realism ends with a defence public services, what is slightly tongue in cheek called a ‘Marxist supernanny”. Not that he was anything but critical of defensive politics. “It’s well past time for the left to case limiting its ambitions to the establishing of a big state. But being ‘at a distance from the state’ does not mean either abandoning the state or retreating into the private space of affects and diversity”. (page 77)

If capitalist realism survived the credit crisis of 2008, and the end of capitalism was not in sight, a “new political terrain” remains to be conquered. With its own authentic universality, a term he understands in Alain Badiou’s ‘ontological’ that is foundational, sense), This implies, “resurrecting the very concept of a general will, revising – and modernising – the idea of a public space that is not reducible to an aggregation of individuals and their interests.”(Page 77) He defended ‘worker autonomy’. How the General Will can subordinate the state, at a time when the People has emerged in some left circles as a substitute for the working class, remains to be seen. (3)

Mark Fisher’s Exiting the Vampire Castle begins with a description of his dispirited state, looking at the left, and squabbles on the Internet, which was  rendered acute by attacks on Owen Jones. It continues,

One of the things that broke me out of this depressive stupor was going to the People’s Assembly in Ipswich, near where I live. The People’s Assembly had been greeted with the usual sneers and snarks. This was, we were told, a useless stunt, in which media leftists, including Jones, were aggrandising themselves in yet another display of top-down celebrity culture. What actually happened at the Assembly in Ipswich was very different to this caricature. The first half of the evening – culminating in a rousing speech by Owen Jones – was certainly led by the top-table speakers. But the second half of the meeting saw working class activists from all over Suffolk talking to each other, supporting one another, sharing experiences and strategies. Far from being another example of hierarchical leftism, the People’s Assembly was an example of how the vertical can be combined with the horizontal: media power and charisma could draw people who hadn’t previously been to a political meeting into the room, where they could talk and strategise with seasoned activists. The atmosphere was anti-racist and anti-sexist, but refreshingly free of the paralysing feeling of guilt and suspicion which hangs over left-wing twitter like an acrid, stifling fog.

I was one of the organisers of that meeting and can say that this passage cheered me up immensely. There are people on the left who have “exited” the Vampire Castle of ‘identities’ (perhaps code for an academic cultural left) that Fisher described, although our own fortresses are no doubt just as daunting. It is of interest that many of the people at the Fore Street Co-op Education Centre were active in the Labour Party at the time, and many more are today, from the present Ipswich MP, councillors, to trade unionists.

We are trying to make real if not the General Will, at least Left politics, and have a good stab at the ‘capitalist realism’ comrade Mark Fisher so brilliantly described, and for which we will remember him.

See also:  Journey back into the vampires’ castle: Mark Fisher remembered, 1968-2017

Thanks to Roger for sending me a copy of Capitalist Realism.

(1) We may well have directly met. I recall a conversation in Ipswich with somebody about post-modernism and Derrida – not one may imagine a frequent topic in the town.

(2) See Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari. Biographie croisée. François Dosse. La Découverte. 2009. This book contains a wealth of details about their lives and theories. Guattari was a supporter of a version of ‘anti-psychiatry. Some consider that Mille plateaux (1980)  is more useful for its description  of how states “capture” people and territories. 

(3) Ed Rooksby’s review of Capitalist Realism in Historical Materialism, Vol 20 No 1. 2012, asked how literally we could take these suggestive ideas.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 15, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Catalonia: Revolution Postponed as Puigdemont backers say he will be President on the 31st of January……

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Image result for puigdemont caricature

Puigdemont with Adviser in Brussels.

Los diputados de Junts per Catalunya en Bruselas: “El 31 de enero Puigdemont será el presidente”

MPs of Junts per Catalunya in Brussels, “On the 3st of January Puigdemont will be President. 

Once upon a time, a long time back, a few weeks before Christmas….. Catalonia was on the threshold of a revolution.

Socialist Appeal echoed many a sage  left-wing commentator in stating, “the Catalan revolution: the struggle for the Socialist Republic of Catalonia, to serve as the spark for the Iberian Socialist Revolution, and the prelude to the European Socialist Revolution.”

As recruiting posters for a new Durutti column began to appear in Hoxton Quinoa bars, the left press was awash with stories from the front line.

Grizzled journalists made their way across snow swept Pyrenean trails to send back reports from Catalunya.

The Socialist set the tone, ” Spain/Catalonia: “Like a massive football match, with a revolutionary atmosphere!” Supporters lined up to cheer.  Socialist Worker advised, “Workers’ mobilisation” was the key to success.  Counterfire began an appeal “To support in any way possible the emergence of a broad based solidarity movement in the UK.” In an exercise of considerable imagination Red Pepper published a piece stating, “Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism”. Some Anarchists, no doubt excited at the prospect of visiting Hemp Milk Cooperatives off the Ramblas, saw a resurrection of the CNT as this tiny union backed independence. (1)

Spain’s PM, Rajoy seemed to act out of his way to reinforce the hostility of Catalans.There were justified protests in Catalonia against the repression unleashed against the ‘referendum’ and gaoling of Catalan MPs.  There were some strikes, many backed by employers, public functionaries and business, that failed to take off in the factories and the majority of the working class. Theyw ere more effective in snarling up road traffic than anything else.

But internationally the event the only demonstrations of support for Catalan nationalism, led by a large section of the Catalan bourgeoisie, and its main party, JuntsxCat were organised by the Scottish Nationalist Party, and, in Brussels, a curious event which saw Trotskyists march with the extreme-right Vlams Belang.

In the event the regional elections on the 21st of December saw a marginal victory for the assembled Catalan nationalists and a crushing defeat for the pro-independence radical left.

CataloniaParliamentDiagram2017.svg
Parties and coalitions Popular vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Total +/−
Citizens–Party of the Citizenry (Cs) 1,109,732 25.35 +7.44 36 +11
Together for Catalonia (JuntsxCat)1 948,233 21.66 n/a 34 +3
Republican Left–Catalonia Yes (ERC–CatSí)1 935,861 21.38 n/a 32 +6
Socialists’ Party of Catalonia (PSC–PSOE) 606,659 13.86 +1.14 17 +1
Catalonia in Common–We Can (CatComú–Podem)2 326,360 7.46 –1.48 8 –3
Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) 195,246 4.46 –3.75 4 –6
People’s Party (PP) 185,670 4.24 –4.25 4 –7

The loudest voice braying for Catalan nationalism, Socialist Appeal, was exultant, “The victory of the pro-independence bloc is a blow to the Rajoy government and the Spanish regime as a whole.” They explained away the defeat of their own favoured force, the CUP, as follows,

The anti-capitalist, pro-independence CUP had a bad result: 4.45 percent of the votes and only 4 seats. For comparison, it had 8.21 percent and 10 seats after the 2015 elections. It ran a very good and militant campaign, in which it insisted on the defence of the Catalan Republic and the mandate of the 1st October referendum, linking these to the question of winning and defending social rights, and talking openly about socialism and internationalism.

But these strengths in the CUP’s campaign were offset by a number of factors. Firstly, the memory of its past mistakes in supporting JxSí and its budget of cuts. Secondly, the fact that many of its votes in 2015 were on loan from ERC supporters who did not want to support JxSí and who have now gone back to ERC. Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the fact that during the crucial events of the Catalan October, the CUP was not seen clearly enough as offering an alternative leadership.

 On odd left group that backed austerity……

I think we can guess who, in the eyes of Socialist Appeal,  is ready to offer such a “leadership”.

About the only force to emerge from these events with any credibility is Catalunya en Comú–Podem (aligned to Podemos) who also lost support (less drastically, from 8.9% to 7,5%).

Some of those who had previously criticised Podemos for the way its ‘populism’, the identification of the ‘people’ against the ‘casta’ as the main political conflict, suddenly  found in the Catalan ‘people’ led by the nationalist bourgeoisie a new progressive vehicle.

Podemos, by contrast stood for a ‘multi-people ‘ or plurinational Spain and defended the Catalans’ democratic right for decide their future for themselves.

In terms of real politics the biggest historic left nationalist party, the Republican left (ERC), is back to its previous position of propping up the right-wing Puigdemont led bloc.

Which leads us back to the present dilemma:

Catalan separatists agreed on Wednesday to try to re-elect Puigdemont as regional leader, raising the scenario of the fugitive former leader governing by video link from Belgium. He faces arrest in Spain for sedition and rebellion.

“Parliamentary rules are very clear,” said Spanish government spokesman Inigo Mendez de Vigo at a weekly press conference. “They do not contemplate the possibility of a (parliamentary) presence that is not in person.”

“This aspiration is a fallacy, it’s totally unrealistic and it goes against the rule books and common sense,” he added.

(1) I note however that some retained, to their honour, their senses: Against all states, old and new! Down with patriotism! Down with borders! Long live the international class struggle!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Morning Star Joins “Counter Narrative” – “White Helmets” linked to Terrorist Factions.

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Image result for white helmets

“Leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria” says Morning Star.

There has been a lot of very distasteful material circulated about the White Helmets in Syria.

This began to be widely noticed last year.

Amongst others former leftist Tariq Ali joined in the smears against the humanitarian organisation just after the murder of comrade Jo Cox,

Yesterday the Guardian published a robust defence of the White Helmets.

Olivia Solan reported in great detail on the continuing efforts to besmirch them.

The main charge is that they are “a fraudulent terrorist organisation”.

Before reading some of the article we should recall that the “Daily paper of the Left”, the Morning Star,  recently published this:

Is BBC Panorama just a useful propaganda tool?  Alison Banville. Morning Star, 14th December 2017.

Two days before the episode was aired, independent investigative journalist Vanessa Beeley published a deep expose of the entire affair based on her own on-the-ground, investigations inside Syria.

“During my time in East Aleppo in 2016/17 with Syrian journalist Khaled Iskef, we translated documents (in Arabic) found by Iskef that referred to two British organisations, Adam Smith International (ASI) and Integrity Global in connection with the funding of Syrian ‘opposition’ structures in East Aleppo,” she recalls.

The next thing Beeley says is crucial to understanding what this story is really about. “These documents were found among the debris of the various Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings and White Helmet centres. It is noteworthy that these three entities operating in what was terrorist-occupied East Aleppo until December 2016, always worked alongside one another, either sharing facilities and buildings or next door to one another in the various districts of East Aleppo where they centred their activities.”

Now, let me first point out that you may not be used to the phrase “terrorist-occupied East Aleppo” if your only sources of news are western corporate ones which routinely and reflexively describe the exact same place at that time as “rebel-held East Aleppo” in line with the official government narrative..

But if, like myself and my travelling companion, fellow independent journalist Mike Raddie, you had walked the streets of East Aleppo in April this year and listened to the people there who came out to meet us, you would have heard them talk not of “rebels,” but only of “terrorists.”

Because that’s what you call people who terrorise you. And when a man stands in front of you and tells you that these occupiers killed his six children, you simply do not have the right to call them anything else. If you’re in any doubt about the correct nomenclature here then more first-hand testimony from East Aleppo residents gathered by Beeley can be found at 21stcenturywire.com, and you might ask yourself as you read why it wasn’t brought to you by Channel 4 News, ITV News or the BBC?

……

This brings us to my second point regarding Beeley’s quote. “Nusra Front (al-Qaida in Syria) centres, East Aleppo Council buildings, and White Helmet centres,” where the documents confirming the Adam Smith Institute’s involvement were found, represent entities which “always worked alongside one another.”

Oh dear. This would be difficult to explain to the public wouldn’t it?

The White Helmets are eulogised by the entire western establishment and its duteous media. How could Panorama have accommodated the affiliation of these civil defence “heroes” with Nusra Front terrorists without undermining the entire edifice of propaganda propping up the White Helmets’ mythology? And without exposing them as what John Pilger has described as “a complete propaganda construct in Syria”?

Again, Beeley has done the on-the-ground work that so-called journalists in the “mainstream” media should have done and compiled “categorical” evidence that “the leadership of the White Helmets is some of the most hardline terrorist groups in Syria,” all the while being funded to the tune of £200 million by the British government.

White Helmets have been filmed standing on the dead bodies of Syrian Arab Army soldiers, celebrating executions, staging fake rescues and sawing the head off a 12-year-old child.

White Helmet members have been photographed in their “civil defence” uniforms and then the same individuals pictured holding guns as they pose with their terrorist factions.

The White Helmets are not recognised by the Switzerland-based International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO) but the REAL Syrian civil defence is.

Oh yes, they do exist and, unlike the White Helmets, this genuine group works in all areas, saving civilians without discrimination, not just in the areas controlled by terrorist groups. They even have an emergency phone number that citizens can call for aid. it’s 113, in case you were wondering.

Panorama could have made their programme about this and included the evidence that the Free Syrian Police — that’s the Orwellian use of “free” by the way — and the local councils being funded by the British taxpayer through the secretive and unaccountable Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and doled out by the Adam Smith Institute and Integrity Global are, along with the White Helmets, working alongside Nusra Front.

That is the real story, but they didn’t tell it.

No corporate media outlet is going to expose this huge propaganda exercise that is designed to destabilise Syria rather than, as the Foreign Office’s claims, “make communities in Syria safer by providing basic civilian policing services.”

This is not the first time they have used this ‘source’ as Paul tweeted earlier this year.

Yesterday the Guardian published this:

How Syria’s White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine

The Russia-backed campaign to link the volunteer rescuers with al-Qaida exposes how conspiracy theories take root: ‘It’s like a factory’

by

The Syrian volunteer rescue workers known as the White Helmets have become the target of an extraordinary disinformation campaign that positions them as an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organisation.

The Guardian has uncovered how this counter-narrative is propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government (which provides military support to the Syrian regime).

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defence, is a humanitarian organisation made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.

They have also exposed, through first-hand video footage, war crimes including a chemical attack in April. Their work was the subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary and the recipient of two Nobel peace prize nominations.

In spite of this positive international recognition, there’s a counter-narrative pushed by a vocal network of individuals who write for alternative news sites countering the “MSM agenda”. Their views align with the positions of Syria and Russia and attract an enormous online audience, amplified by high-profile alt-right personalities, appearances on Russian state TV and an army of Twitter bots.

The full article is long and can be read through the above link.

But one point should be underlined.

The source the Morning Star relies on, Vanessa Beely, and her 21stcenturywire.com, stink to high heaven.

Some of the most vocal skeptics of the UN’s investigation include the blogger Vanessa Beeley, the daughter of a former British diplomat who visited Syria for the first time in July 2016; a University of Sydney senior lecturer, Timothy Anderson, who described the April chemical attack as a “hoax”; and Eva Bartlett, a Canadian writer and activist who said the White Helmets staged rescues using recycled victims – a claim that’s been debunked by Snopes and Channel 4 News.

It continues,

Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at Infowars.com.

In 2016, Beeley had a two-hour meeting with Assad in Damascus as part of a US Peace Council delegation, which she described on Facebook as her “proudest moment”. She also was invited to Moscow to report on the “dirty war in Syria”; there, she met with senior Russian officials including the deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov and Maria Zakharova, director of information and press at Russia’s foreign affairs ministry.

RT duly responded,

Question less: The Guardian whitewashes all criticism of Syria’s foreign-funded White Helmets

The Guardian has cast aside self-awareness, seized the moral high ground (its self-proclaimed permanent base), and jumped to the defense of Syria’s ‘White Helmets,’ painting the group as victims of an “online propaganda machine.”

Journalist Olivia Solon, in an article headlined ‘White Helmets became victims of an online propaganda machine,’ is keen to make sure that any questions about the motives of the group are dismissed as a ‘counter-narrative.’ That’s what others might call the ‘other side of the story.’ In full effect is the journalistic trope of our times… RUSSIAN INTERFERENCE!

The White Helmets, officially known as the Syria Civil Defense, is a humanitarian organization made up of 3,400 volunteers – former teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters – who rush to pull people from the rubble when bombs rain down on Syrian civilians. They’ve been credited with saving thousands of civilians during the country’s continuing civil war.”

Even someone who eats lentils for every meal would have to admit that the passage above lacks a certain journalistic cynicism. Whether you like it or not, there are very definite questions hanging over the White Helmets – some of them are raised by Solon, but only in a mumbly, out-of-the-corner-of-the-mouth, staring-at-the-floor kind of way, before being roundly dismissed.

How can they be bad? the White Helmets starred in a movie that won an Oscar for heaven’s sake. (Of course it’s not relevant, but so did Kevin Spacey).

These guys wear white helmets and surely only good guys wear white! They’ve reportedly fallen victim to the worst villain there is, Darth Vad… erm… Russian Social Media!!

The way the Russian propaganda machine has targeted the White Helmets is a neat case study in the prevailing information wars,” Solon writes.

Indeed! Just as this article is itself a case study in lacking self-awareness, strategically balancing non-sequiturs and omissions and displaying a complete unwillingness to engage with the complexity of life, geopolitics and Syria.

The UAE based National describes those joining with the above,  “Alongside these channels there have been online attacks by a loose coalition of vocal activists and trolls, including anti-Western bloggers and far-right conspiracy theorists railing against the MSM [mainstream media], as well as evidence of Twitter bots furthering the reach of the smears.”

And the Morning Star.

I will conclude with one of the latest Tweets from the, no doubt also lentil-eating,  ‘terrorists” themselves.

Culture Wars on the Left, The Gender Recognition Act, and Transphobia in the UK.

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Image result for helen steel anarchist book fair

Helen Steel: Attacked by Trans Activists.

For some years the left has rightly taken up LGBT issues.

But the ‘T’, transgender, side of this has become increasingly fraught and the word itself is now an invitation to argument.

For some people Transgender people are (also?) women or men.

The Gender Recognition Act has brought the issue to the fore.

The Socialist Feminist Network – a site that should be compulsory reading for those commenting on the subject – has this,

What do Socialist feminists say about gender identity ideology?

The proposed changes by the Tory government to Gender Recognition Act are a fundamental change to the legal definition of the sex categories man and woman allowing individuals to opt into their chosen gender. Women are currently protected as a sex under the equality act. If anyone of the male sex identify into this protected characteristic it renders it meaningless. Males who identify as women will have legal protection but the female sex will lose protection as a distinct category.

They go on to say,

Under the Transgender umbrella a number of self- identities exist including non-binary, bi gender, gender queer and gender fluid. If the effect of the Bill, is in practice, to give male bodied people access to female intimate space that will be an unacceptable outcome. The stereotypical criticism of women as “pearl clutchers” for expressing concern over access to toilets is a horribly sexist dismissal of the idea of the importance of safety for women and girls. There are concerns about toilets, yes, but also about male access to female sport facilities, to refuges for women fleeing violence and to the female prison estate etc.

We believe that there may be possibilities that strengthening sex discrimination law will have the effect of improving rights to express gender more freely whilst not undermining existing laws that protect women.

This is probably the most controversial section,

We do not accept that transwomen are women and trans men are men. We associate this with unscientific thinking and the demand that it is an accepted truth of progressive politics as worryingly authoritarian. The demand that the left adopts this level of irrational thinking is often associated with vicious misogynist attacks, usually against feminists, on those who will not submit to the lie. There is a worrying trend of silencing women associated with transgender activism, petitions demanding feminists lose jobs, memes suggesting that we are hateful, petty snarking etc. and this is unacceptable. We are confident that our movement will back us and provide support to us in this.

They conclude,

Repeatedly feminists refuse to acknowledge the term “cis” women to describe themselves. It is simply a descriptive word, why object so strongly?

Our view is that women’s struggle for rights are part of a wider class struggle and should be at the centre of our movement. However gender theory denies us the vocabulary to discuss our biology or be explicit that even reproductive rights are for women. This is not just a problem in Ireland; recently students at Oxford University demanded the removal of references to women’s biology from abortion rights literature on the grounds that they were “transphobic” and “cis sexist”. Not only did they demand the removal of words describing female biology but they also threatened disaffiliation from abortion campaigns.

Language determines consciousness, or to put it less strongly, the structure of language influences cognition and world view. Therefore we will not simply shrug our shoulders at attempts to re-classify the meaning of a word as fundamental as “woman”. By demanding that we drop some words that describe our reality but insisting that we utilise others that frame a new context, gender theory is seeking to determine new classifications. At a minimum the left should try to unpack these new frameworks to understand what lay behind these motivations.

We should always try to understand the relevance of seeking to reframe language both in relation to the world around us and in relation to power. To place the word “cis” in front of the word woman immediately makes the actual woman/ adult human female “other”. In this classification anyone who “self identifies” is more oppressed than a “cis woman”. It creates a hierarchy of women, soon to be manipulated into new insidious classifications such as “cis women” having “privilege” or in some way being oppressive to those who “self-identify” as non cis or part of the transgender umbrella. These kinds of mental gymnastics have resulted in the absurdity of a major British political party, the Greens, calling women “non- men”. In this post- modern construction feminists become “cis sexist” and are then the valid target of abuse, this abusive behaviour, not surprisingly, follows familiar patterns of misogyny but that now have the cover of the cis / trans binary.

This is the pit in which liberal feminism currently thrashes around, a post- modern word salad, insisting feminism must centre everyone, except ourselves. This will not do. Instead we want a socialist feminism that unapologetically centres women, particularly working class women, in our movement. We say, unapologetically, feminism is for women.

The following article appeared in the Observer this Sunday.

UK transgender rights row intensifies as book fair is cancelled. 

Accusations of ‘transphobia’ have led to bitter divisions within Labour and the Women’s Equality party, feminist and anarchist movements.

An annual book fair that has served for more than three decades as the most important meeting point for the British anarchist movement has become the latest casualty of widening splits over the issue of transgender rights.

Organisers say that they no longer have “the appetite or the energy” to stage next year’s London Anarchist Bookfair, following fraught scenes at the event last month. A group of feminists were confronted by other activists who accused them of distributing “transphobic” leaflets that promoted prejudice against transgender people.

The acrimony follows highly publicised splits in universities, women’s organisations and political parties over the issue. Lily Madigan, a 19-year-old who has just won a vote in Kent to become Labour’s first women’s officer from a transgender background, has been at the centre of a row within the party.

…….

The increasingly angry disputes follow government proposals to streamline the process for how people can change their gender, under the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). A public consultation is to be held on speeding up and demedicalising the process, with the current need to be assessed and diagnosed by clinicians seen by some as intrusive.

Choosing whether one is a man or a woman is a matter of self-identification, trans activists assert. Some opponents of the GRA have warned that this may lead to young, vulnerable people making decisions they later regret. Others have suggested that self-identifying undermines the status, rights and experience of biological women.

The rows “are going on within all sorts of social movements”, said Helen Steel, the veteran social justice campaigner known for her role in taking on McDonald’s in the 1997 “McLibel” case.

She said she had been left traumatised by her experience at the book fair, claiming she was surrounded by a “baying mob” after intervening to stop the bullying of two women who had been distributing leaflets about the GRA. (1)

“I have been aware that women have been bullied on this issue for a long time now but, until it happened to me, I was not aware of the extent of the bullying and am shocked by it,” Steel said. “I have been an environmental and social justice campaigner for most of my life. In all that time, I have never experienced such a toxic environment.”

Opponents of Steel and the other feminists assert that to have allowed the distribution of the leaflets was to create an environment in which transphobia was encouraged, discriminating against a group of people who already experience high rates of suicide, poverty and persecution.

Spiked-on-line’s  Ella Whelan had already opined, LILY MADIGAN IS NOT A WOMAN

Having a 19-year-old boy as a women’s officer is ridiculous.

Lily Madigan, a transgender teenager formerly known as Liam, has been elected as the women’s officer for the Labour Party branch in Rochester and Strood in Kent.

Madigan’s election has caused a stir — something this teen is used to doing. At 18, he hired a solicitor and threatened to sue his mixed Catholic secondary school for not allowing him to use the girls’ changing rooms or dress according to the girls’ uniform code.

……

So, here we have a trans teen who has previously been part of an effort to undermine a women’s officer’s career now being elected as a women’s officer. Understandably, some are angry about this. How can a teenager who has only recently declared himself to be a woman be eligible as a women’s officer? As Teresa Murray, vice-chairwoman of the executive committee of Rochester and Strood CLP, said: ‘Lily will have to work very hard to convince other people that her very presence there is not going to undermine them.’

The role of a women’s officer is important, feminists argue, because the lived experience a woman is something men cannot understand. Therefore, in order for women to feel politically represented, they must be represented by women. Now, some of us may disagree with this and think that it elevates the narrowness and divisiveness of identity politics over the idea of politics as a universal democratic pursuit. But it is what some people believe, and of course have a right to believe. And yet identity politics and the cult of diversity have now gone so far that women in politics are being pressured to accept a man as their ‘female representative’.

The new obsession with transgenderism is throwing up many difficult questions. What does it mean to be a woman? Is simply looking like a woman enough? And what about the rise in transgender feeling among young people? Are we comfortable with children fixating on their gender — with girls binding their breasts or boys taking drugs to prevent puberty? These are serious issues and they must be discussed openly, without fear of ostracism or demonisation. But that isn’t happening. Tragically, transgender politics has become a new dogma, promoted by almost every wing of the elite, and that is bad for young people, for women, and for freedom and critical thinking.

It is tempting to reject anything the ex-RCP says but Labour does not appear to have been thought through the difficulties this appointment raises.

But do we agree with this?

Theorising Feminist Transphobia Phil Burton

“According to Janice Raymond’s The Transsexual Empire, trans women represent patriarchal agents within the women’s movement. In plainer language, she argues they are men who have surgically altered their bodies to become simulacra of women’s bodies, but that does not make them women. The socialisation of being brought up male, along with its myriad entitlements, privileges, expectations, and complicity in the reproduction of patriarchal social relationships remains. Therefore the acceptance of trans women runs the risk of constituting an alien presence within the women’s movement”

After further analysis of this current of thought, from the marketing of femininity,  a concern “with all women’s experiences and seeks to articulate them, which includes trans women, and is characterised by inclusion and an interest in the individual” and the contrasting, “marketable commodity” of feminist transphobia, with “roots in anxiety”,  Phil concludes,

There is no reason why, for instance, the existence of trans men and trans women should reinforce the gender binary, especially when the performance and resistance of gendered practices vary as much among trans as they do among cis people. Indeed, by arguing that treatment/surgery should not take place isn’t one upholding the binarism by forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received? Additionally, the existence of a gender industry no more delegitimises trans people than the gay men’s health care “industry” (or the so-called pink pound) does gay men.

Yes, both try and produce subjects of particular kinds, but all institutions and constellations of institutions do so, sometimes for profit. So what? Furthermore, some elements of second wave feminism are exclusionary of women, and there remains perspectives that criticise BDSM lesbians, butch lesbians, indulge bi-erasure and critique bisexuality, and of course, there is the small fringe of lesbian separatism. The difficulties some feminists have with trans women are inseparable from identity border wars, but simultaneously newer generations of feminists view these feuds as old hat and irrelevant to the main job of critiquing and opposing patriarchy and capitalism.

The comrades from the Socialist Feminist Network raise legitimate concerns.

Not least, for political activists,  is the following, “To place the word “cis” in front of the word woman immediately makes the actual woman/ adult human female “other”. In this classification anyone who “self identifies” is more oppressed than a “cis woman”. It creates a hierarchy of women, soon to be manipulated into new insidious classifications such as “cis women” having “privilege” or in some way being oppressive to those who “self-identify” as non cis or part of the transgender umbrella. ” And, “recently students at Oxford University demanded the removal of references to women’s biology from abortion rights literature on the grounds that they were “transphobic” and “cis sexist”.

Many will sympathise with the wish to be inclusive and to understand the point of view of trans activists and to fight against the prejudices towards them.

But Phil raises a number of straw figures to argue against, beginning with the idea that critics of trans people who wish to identify as women, be recognised as women is linked to the wilder claims of those who consider them as “patriarchal agents within the women’s movement”.

It is very far from clear what “forcing people to inhabit the gendered bodies they received” means. Perhaps it implies that we can leave our bodies for new ones.

But one thing overshadows anything else.

The hatred against so-called Terfs, (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists), extended to anybody who criticises trans-activists, is repellent just as is some of the language used by some feminists against them.

Or this litany of lies.

Related image

The more recent sight of people screaming “TERF Nazis” at radical feminists is not easy to forget or forgive.

Image result for Terfs

Biological differences between men and women exist. There is a limit to the social construction of identity, and those limits, outlined in Norman Geras in, Marx and Human Nature: Refutation of a Legend (1983), include physical differences in our “corporal organisation” which no gender reassignment can deconstruct. We can begin with reproduction and menstruation, or, the Socialist feminists call it “women’s biology”.

Kindness towards people does not include the obligation to remain silent about these issues.

 

*******

(1) Comrade Helen Steel’s statement includes this:

  • Half an hour later, I was surrounded for over an hour by a baying mob of around 30 trans activists who shouted misogynistic abuse in my face and at others, and who would not leave me alone. This included: ugly Terf, fucking Terf scum, bitch, fascist and more. That kind of behaviour should have no place in anarchism or any other progressive politics.
  • Despite that provocation, I did not at any time threaten or assault anyone. No trans activists were threatened by anyone else in my sight or hearing.
  • While I was surrounded, I saw a man’s hand moving towards my face and when it was within inches of my face I blocked it and pushed his arm away. He then started shouting that I had assaulted him and I should be thrown out.
  • Some of those in the baying mob tried to stoke anger and division by calling me a snitch, making false claims that I had filmed them assaulting a feminist at Speakers Corner and had handed that footage to the police. Footage of the incident is available and actually shows me intervening to protect the victim of the assault, not filming it. The videos embedded in this article show what actually happened, please do watch them and see the truth for yourself.

Image result for Terfs anarchist book fair

Her opponents’ views can be seen on Phil’s Blog and here: Transphobia at the London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

 

Update: This by Helen Saxby, one of the best overviews of the whole debate,  has been signaled by a feminist socialist comrade on Facebook. When Women’s Rights Are #NotaDebate

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2017 at 11:54 am