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Labour NEC: Tendance Factional Guide to the Candidates.

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NEC Elections for CLP and BAME rep's - South Lakes Labour

Labour List today offers a survey of the Over 170 members standing in Labour’s NEC elections. 

Our top-team of experienced cadres has been working hard overnight on our own guide to the Candidate Statements 2020.

Slates, commonly known as ‘factions’.

Labour to Win.

This is the slate of   Progress and  Labour First.

Progress scores a few points for left-wingers in two areas, it “opposes Populism” and takes an anti-Brexit line. However, it was “founded in 1996 to support the New Labour leadership of Tony Blair”. It defines itself as a voice for “Progressives“. This is a term with a long history, back to the American ‘”progressive era” (1890s to 1920s)  fellow-travellers of the old Communist Parties. At present it is used by people as varied as American liberals (those called ‘left-wing’ by Trump supporters) , backers of the former Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and France’s centrist President Emmanuel Macron.

The word today is without serious local attraction or resonance in British politics and the left in the rest of Europe.

Most of the ideas of Progress are as vacuous as the SWP’s hopes for revolutionary socialism, “Most of all, we believe the United Kingdom is a country of which we could all be truly proud. It contains all the ingredients for a country that could help people to get on and make the most of life.  What we need are new ideas, new leadership and a commitment to change the way that Britain works. We have faith, that given the potential that our country has, we all have real reasons to be hopeful about the future of our community, our country, and our world.” (Our ambition for our country).

Labour First is a factional instrument of the old Labour Party right. “Labour First is a network which exists to ensure that the voices of moderate party members are heard while the party is kept safe from the organised hard left, and those who seek to divert us from the work of making life better for ordinary working people and their families.”

Its factional record is poor (New Statesman 2015),

Labour First, founded in 1988, is a pre-Blairite pressure group seen as the voice of the party’s traditional right. Headed by campaigner and former councillor Luke Akehurst, this faction supported ABC (Anyone But Corbyn) in the leadership election, while Akehurst himself backed Yvette Cooper. In the deputy race, it emphasised its ties to Tom Watson

They claim to be Keir Starmer’s best friends. This kind of claim to closeness to the winner  is familiar on the left amongst the groups that discovered  warmth for ‘Jeremy’ after many years of attacking the Labour Party as a pro-capitalist organisation.

Left-wingers are certainly right to accuse this alliance as drag backwards to the kind of centrist politics that lack bark and bite. They are expected to try to perform the role of left groups in demanding an ever-growing list of demands on the Labour Leader to follow their own ‘moderate’ politics, not his, or those of the largely left-leaning Labour membership.

A factional point to note is that the Progress/Labour First  list supporters do not advertise their slate’s existence in their candidates’ statements.

Luke Akehurst (perhaps their best known candidate) says simply, “I recommend also voting for Baxter, Paul, Payne, Singh Josan, Tatler, and Black, Griffin, Sherriff.”

This contrasts with the rival left list,

Gemma Bolton says,

I am supported by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance. I am fighting for a socialist Labour Government that will deliver the radical change we need.

Please also support Yasmine Dar, Ann Henderson, Nadia Jama, Laura Pidcock and Mish Rahman.

Their principal rivals are backing the above.

They are the

Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance (CLGA).

The first point to note is that the CLGA was originally a genuine ‘centre” and “left”alliance (Note, the Tendance was involved in this).

The Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance’s founding groups were originally Labour Reform, a centre-left democratic group within the Party founded at a meeting in Birmingham in November 1995, and the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, the left wing democratic grouping, who subsequently brought in other more left-wing groupings from within the Labour Party. Private talks with trades union representatives to build a broader base had failed on union demands and this initiated the inclusion of a much broader Left group from the grassroots, including Labour Left Briefing [Liz Davies] and the then-Editor of TribuneMark Seddon. Successful efforts were also made to include the Scottish Left.

While the original CLGA Co-ordinator, Tim Pendy, (Labour Reform), is at present languishing in the wilderness of the red-brown Full Brexit, and something called the ” Democratic Left Movement” many of the players are still around on the left, notably Ann Black.

Labour List sums up the present line-up

The CLGA comprises Momentum, which is the biggest membership organisation, the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy (CLPD), thought to be the second largest, plus the Labour Representation Committee (LRC), Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) and Red Labour.

The smaller groups include the Labour Briefing Co-operative, Labour Assembly Against Austerity, the Labour Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Kashmiris for Labour, Grassroots Black Left and new joiner Labour Women Leading (an alternative to the Labour Women’s Network).

Jewish Voice for Labour has some admirable activists in it – and this is said from first hand acquantaine.
But its reputation is associated with these positions (conveniently summarised on Wikipedia, though extremely well known to many).

JVL has defended former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone,[5] supported Jackie Walker[36][37] as being a victim of a “vituperative campaign… based on this sliver of quasi-fact”,[38] deemed accusations of antisemitism against Moshé Machover as “ill founded”,[39][40] opposed and condemned the expulsion of Marc Wadsworth[41][42] as being “punished in advance of investigation and hearing of the case”,[43][44] welcomed the lifting of Derby North MP Chris Williamson‘s suspension[45] and called the National Executive Committee‘s ruling not to endorse him as a Labour candidate for the 2019 general election a “dangerous development for everyone who stands for justice for Palestinians and for democracy and freedom of expression in Britain, including within Labour”.

Many people would defend Moshé Machover and, perhaps, Marc Wadsworth. Those behind Livingstone, Walker, and, above all Chris Williamson, will be fewer in number.

It is to be doubted if their endorsement will help the slate win wider support.

On their candidates not many people on the left, and certainly not socialist internationalists and democrats will wish to be associated with Yasmin Dar’s past  participation public celebrations of  the Iranian regime’s anniversary.

The other candidates of the CLGA,  Ann Henderson, Nadia Jama, Laura Pidcock and Mish Rahman have serious supporters.

The AWL comments,

 Laura Pidcock has taken a pro-Brexit position. What about broader internationalism? Yasmine Dar has repeatedly attended Islamist events celebrating the “Islamic revolution” in Iran, i.e. the Islamist counter-revolution that crushed Iran’s workers, women and national minorities.

Lara McNeill and Ellen Morrison are both linked to the Stalinist left in Young Labour and have been actively involved in witch-hunting the socialist left and shutting down democracy in sections of the party and left where they are active.

Smaller Lists.

Another  group of candidates are running with the Tribune label.

This is not associated with the magazine of that name, now owned by ‘left populist’ US Jacobin. The UK ‘Tribune’ specialises in attacks on Keir Starmer and claims that the ” Israeli “secret services” are involved in Labour Party politics (“The shame of the new ‘Tribune’ and its editor“)

Tribune group of MPs

The Tribune group of MPs, not to be confused with Tribune magazine, has endorsed three ex-parliamentarians as NEC members’ section candidates. This is the grouping in Westminster that was reformed in 2005.

The Tribune group is chaired by Clive Efford. As a whole, it was not critical of Jeremy Corbyn during his leadership, apart from the party’s handling of antisemitism at that time. It fully supports Keir Starmer.

  • Theresa Griffin – Former MEP for the North West (2014-2020)
  • Paula Sherriff – Former MP for Dewsbury (2015-2019)
  • Liz McInnes – Former MP for Heywood and Middleton (2014-2019)

Open Labour is particularly worth noticing,

CLP rep candidates:

  • Ann Black – Former NEC member (2000-2018), South East regional board member, Oxford & District secretary
  • Jermain Jackman – British singer (winner of The Voice UK), founder of the 1987 Caucus (a collective of young Black men in Labour)

Experienced Cde DW says there are good  reasons to back these candidates:

… Dave Anderson, the former Blaydon MP who stood down in 2017 and appears to have distanced himself from any faction, and a fascinating note from one Aram Rawf who says “In twenty years I have gone from being an asylum seeker on the back of a lorry to being a Labour councillor.” What he does not say, is that he won office for Labour in the hostile environment of Thanet, the place that Farage coveted for his abortive career on the green benches

Labour List covers some of the other Independents (see article), though far from all.

Surely one outstanding candidate should have been included?

Brian Precious.

The Tendance recalls the Cde’s writings on Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe,

 L and M assert that social antagonisms emerge when identities are threatened, rather than when they are fully constituted – contra the classical Marxist (Hegelian) formulation of a general antagonism and showdown between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in advanced capitalism. L and M proceed to critique the Marxist understanding of antagonism in terms of “contradiction” , rejecting it on the basis that, for such a conception to be viable, it requires the presence of things which are absent in an antagonistic situation: namely, fully constituted identities: Logically, in order for proposition A to be contradicted by proposition not A , we must, in the first place, have “fully A” and “fully not A” .But in antagonism, identities are in a state of flux: Two things which are in antagonism to one another are in a situation where the “partial presence” of one of them prevents the coming to full presence of the other, and vice-versa. Think of looking at one thing close to your eyes and another thing far away; you can’t focus on them simultaneously: The sharpness of one produces the blurring of the other.

..

Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe have deepened, enriched and updated the revolutionary tradition.

Spectrezine.

Now Cde Precious says,

Our 12.12.19 debacle was caused by a disastrous shift in our Brexit policy and a ferocious media campaign attacking Jeremy Corbyn personally. Antisemitism was massively exaggerated so as to be weaponized. This created the fear and intimidation typical of a witch hunt, as in Arthur Miller’s “” The Crucible “”.

On 12.12.19 we went down to our worst defeat since 1935. The big difference between our 2017 near-victory and our 2019 disaster is the change in our Brexit policy. It is long past time we faced up to this elephant in the room.

On 23.6.16 many Labour voters didn’t suddenly become xenophobic little-Englanders. They voted leave as they saw the EU as a threat to jobs, services, houses and democracy.

Only Labour has the policies to answer these worries. I am totally committed to our 2017 manifesto and our 2019 manifesto without the suicidal Brexit shift.

Still crazy after all those years!

Update:

On the wilder fringe Skwawkbox has yet to issue his instructions on who to vote for in the NEC elections and has decided to devote himself full time to attacking the Labour Party Leader.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 15, 2020 at 11:32 am

A Critique of Susan Watkins – New Left Review – on “After Brexit”.

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Image result for susan watkins new left review britain's decade of crises

Let Brexit Be Done!

 

“Holloa, my republican friend, d—n it, that’s a nasty lick you’ve got, and from one of people too; that makes it harder to bear, eh? Never mind, he’s worse off than you are.” It was, 1814, the time of the French Restauration. London had been celebrating a visit by His Sacred Majesty, the Bourbon King Louis the 18th. Zachariah Coleman a Dissenter and Radical, had not doffed his cap as the French King appeared. Hit by a burley Drayman’s fist, saved by the intervention of the above Major, the hero of The Revolution in Tanner’s Lane (1887. Mark Rutherford, W.H. White) could stand for the left after the blow of December’s General Election. We are still reeling as the People have cheered, or at least, voted, Boris Johnson into office.

In Britain’s Decade of Crisis, Susan Watkins talks of this present-day “restoration”. “The Tories are back in office with their largest majority since the 1980s, thanks to the long-ignored northern working class”. Like the Bourbons, the PM’s “ traditional ruling-class persona” gave the trappings of “decisiveness, vitality, enjoyment”. Rolling these phrases the Editor of New Left Review sees no cause to revise her judgement on the Leave victory in the 2016 Referendum. “Critics of the neoliberal order have no reason to regret this knocks against it, against which the whole global order establishment – Obama, Merkel, Modi, Junker, to Xi – has inveigled.” (1)

In another return to the old order New Left Review clutches at Tom Nairn’s portrait of British capitalist development. The “rising bourgeoisie was absorbed into the existing aristocratic state and civil structures”. “The world dominance of the City of London served to divert investment away from the northern industrial regions: higher returns were to be found overseas.” To cut a long, and contentious, story short, the country ended up with this: “While London remained the financial capital of Europe, ‘outward-orientation’ in the era of bubblenomics was above all Atlanticist.”

In other words, leaving the EU was not a knock to the neoliberal global order, or to “southern-based financialised capitalism”. Those gaining from “bubblenomics”, some of the funders of the Leave movement, show that much. The multinational state, Nairn’s bugbear, which he calls by the laborious name of Ukania, may be under strain. Watkins cites the ‘Scottish Rebellion’. She does not mention the sage’s speculation that “the breakup of Britain will be accompanied by the dissolution of its heartland or Southern nationalism into a larger European entity”. (2)

UKIP’s ‘National Independence” movement.

A belated English national independence struggle, led by UKIP, and with wider roots in the Northern Rust Belt, fuelled the demand for Leave. “England without London”, the alliance of the “disaggregated” working and middle classes who backed Leave, the ignored “will of the working class” given voice in Tory support is the result. But like the former mining and industrial districts of Northern France that have turned to Marine Le Pen, this is an alliance of the less-well off with their betters, the traditional reactionary wing of the right. French and British legitimists may add colour to the bloc; former mining families, self-pitying pathos. Racism, xenophobic, the germs of popular base for national populism, could be cited. They are not. One equally suspects that Simon Kuper is onto something when he talks of the “middle class anti-elitist” as the vanguard of Leave support, not the working class and poor ‘left behind’. (3)

Britain’s Decade of Crisis skirts over the movements against austerity that grew after the 2008 Banking crisis and state cuts. The People’s Assembly, run at the top by the small left group, Counterfire, funded by trade unions, such as UNITE, it galvanised and brought together grassroots protests. Prefiguring the election of Jeremy Corbyn, anti-austerity campaigns brought together left activists, local councillors, trade unionists and a big slice of community groups. Many involved joined the Labour Party – actively encouraged by the unions, and the transitional stage of supporters’ membership – under the new leadership. Some saw this as the basis for Labour insurgency, a challenge to “capitalist realism” in civil society. Yet, paradoxically or not, the anti-austerity movement began to fade the moment Jeremy Corbyn was elected and Momentum was floated as the new ‘social movement’. There is little doubt that placards and demos can only go so far when confronted with Council budgets and the Fortress of the DWP. (4)

Labour, Corbyn and the Media.

Watkins jumps to the challenge “from the Labour Left under Jeremy Corbyn: an appeal to redistribute wealth and recast foreign policy, distancing the UK from NATO’s wars.” We learn little about how Labour’s team prepared to turn these policies into a digestible form and the criticisms they faced, up to, and during the election about the unintelligibility and volume, of their plans Indeed the difficulties that the ‘Corbyn project’ faced are externalised.

We hear a lot about how the Parliamentary Party tried to frustrate Corbyn, and a great deal, a very great deal about the media’s hostility to Labour. The “Labour leader came under an unprecedented three-way assault—from the establishment intelligentsia, from his own parliamentary party and from opponents of his anti-war foreign policy.”

Nobody pointed out, that blaming foreign wars, with barely audible qualification, for the Manchester bomb attack – mass murder – was factually and politically doubtful. Nobody questioned Labour’s failure to give more than tepid support for Syrians killed by Baathist, Russian and Iranian forces, or do anything to back the Kurds, to back democrats against Assad, was reflected the ethically bankrupt ‘anti-imperialism’ of key Corbyn advisers. Nobody mentioned it in New Left Review!

Instead the issue of anti-semitism loomed over all others. She concludes“… given the scale and toxicity of the establishment onslaught, besides which the concoction of the Zinoviev Letter in 1924 appears the work of amateurs, the first duty is to salute the moral integrity of Corbyn and his courageous Jewish allies.” This no-holds, no concessions, defence offers little to resolve an over-commented issue. It is hard to credit that Corbyn supporters who reacted with as much vitriol as their critics helped resolve the issue, or that the way some treated the Labour Party as  a place to play out their absolute anti-Zionism, was not the best way to deal with a predictable attack from this quarter, helped. 

“The media’s anti semitism campaign represented a damaging assault on Corbyn’s Labour from above.” Far from the only one, but Watkins is eager to go for the next issue. “Brexit hurt the party from below—dividing it from an important section of its historic voter base.” Again, without surveying the influence of those called the Corridor Cabal, who backed Brexit even more enthusiastically than Watkins, or the turn outs on some of the biggest mass demonstrations ever seen in Britain, for remaining in the EU, she concludes, “ Instead of proposing an alternative solution to the crisis, as in 2017, Labour was the main force blocking the implementation of the popular vote, in a defence of the status quo—aligned with the Supreme Court, the House of Lords, the ‘Remainer elite’.”

Let Brexit be Done!

Any attempt to stop Brexit was not only doomed, it frustrated an alternative. “Corbyn could have avoided this position by giving Labour mps a free vote on Brexit legislation in 2019, ‘according to their conscience’, as Harold Wilson had done on the divisive 1975 referendum on the UK’s entry into the Common Market. With the ‘northern group’ voting for the bill and two dozen Labour abstentions, Johnson would have been denied the chance to make electoral hay out of the obstruction of Brexit, and the prospect of combating a much weaker Tory administration would have lain ahead at the next election.”

In other words, Labour should have let Brexit pass. The Northern patriots would have been appeased, Johnson, his key policy given the green light, his own remain opponents tossed aside, and pro-EU protesters rattled, would be in a mess. Or “much weaker”.

With the blessing of hindsight  Zachariah Coleman should have tipped his hat to the Bourbon King.

Having cheered him on his way, the Dissenter would only have to wait till 1830 to see the elite gone, and a fine musical, Les Misérables, written to celebrate it.

What now for Labour and the Left. Momentum, according to some reports, has frazzled out. Long-Bailey looks unlikely to hold the Corbyn candle. The pro-Corbyn left is fragmenting.  “The new left keeps open the prospect of taking the fight to the terrain of the future with bold solutions for inequality, climate change and the international order, as the Corbyn leadership tried to do” states Susan Watkins towards the conclusion of the New Left Review Editorial. This looks like a rerun of the alter-globalisation folk politics of the past, without any prospect of power.

What constituencies should the new left and Labour address? Reworking the themes of the Somewhere and Nowhere people, the Metropolitan and the Periphery, the political and electoral cartography stands as this: For Paul Mason, the progressive alliance of the future lies squarely with the ‘internationals’, the young metropolitan professionals of the Remain camp. For Wolfgang Streeck, the national level offers the only effective basis for democratic accountability, for calling the ravening forces of capital to order.” Paul Mason, internationalist, opponent of right-wing populism and “national neoliberalism”. Wolfgang Streeck, star writer for New Left Review, member of the alliance between left sovereigntists and Brexit Party supporters, the Full Brexit, the man who thinks national borders are the “last line of defence”…. The Editor leaves little doubt about where her support goes….(5)

*****

  1. Susan Watkins. Casting off? Editorial. NLR No 100. 2016.
  2. Page 391. The Enchanted Glass. Britain and its Monarchy. Tom Nairn. Radius 1988.
  3. Simon Kuper. The revenge of the middle-class anti-elitist. Financial Times. Feb 13th. 2010. Most British Leave voters lived in the south of England, and 59 per cent were middle class (social classes A, B or C1), writes Danny Dorling, geographer at Oxford University.
  4. Exiting the Vampire Castle. Mark Fisher. 2013. “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.
  5. From the Demise of Social Democracy to the ‘End of Capitalism’: The Intellectual Trajectory of Wolfgang Streeck. Jerome Roos. 2019 HISTORICAL MATERIALISM 27(2): 248-288

As an example of how the pro-Corbyn left is splintering this could not be better:

 

Here

The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity. Douglas Murray. Culture Wars seen from the Right.

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Image result for The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity. Douglas Murray.

 

The Madness of Crowds. Gender, Race and Identity. Douglas Murray. Bloomsbury Continuum. 2019.

Last week on Question Time  “Rachel Boyle, a woman of colour, audience member and academic, said: “Let’s be really clear about what this is, let’s call it by its name, it’s racism.” Fox responded that discussions of racism in Britain were “really starting to get boring now,” and accused Boyle of reverse racism for pointing out that he is a “white, privileged male”. Since then, the actor has been busy making an apparent campaign to become the new poster boy for the populist right.”(Independent)  For Douglas Murray the other, largely critical, reaction has shown the face of the ” new totalitarians. ” “ox, again perfectly reasonably, pointed out that he has had no more say than anyone else in choosing the colour of his skin and that in such circumstances the person who imagined she was being anti-racist was in fact being perfectly racist herself.” It was the “identitarians” who were at fault in this “terrifying parable” (The terrifying parable of Laurence Fox’s Question Time appearance)

There is a serious critical debate on identity politics or ‘identitarianism”. On the left responses began in the late 1980s in the pages of Race and Class with articles by Ambalavaner Sivanandan channelling the idea that leaders of pre-formed ‘communities’ should be represented and integrated into the state through Community Relations Councils. In No Logo (1999) Naomi Klein observed the emergence in North American student circles of what is now called ‘intersectional’ cultural battles, at the expense of fights about the increasing domination of globalised corporate power over everyday life. (1)

In the 1990s and the first decade of the new millennium Kenan Malik attacked responses to Islam and the rise of people identifying themselves in “narrower ethnic terms”. He wrote, liberal indulgence, “helped build a culture of grievance, in which ebbing offended is a badge of identity, cleared a space for radical Islamists to flourish and made secular and progressive arguments less sayable, particularly within Muslim communities.” In 2010 Rumy Hasan observed that “A profound consequence of silence in regard to oppressive practices within religious-ethnic minority communities has been the abandonment, or the downplaying of key universalist egalitarian principles.” Chief amongst those, he stated, was secularism. (2)

In France Nedjib Sidi Moussa has taken apart the “ethnodiffértialisme” the “racialisation of the social question” primarily through Muslim identity – and the pretension to engage in “race struggle” by anti-Semitic ‘anti-white’ groups like the Indigènes de la République. From an Algerian family he does not shrink from addressing the failure of the radical left to address Islamist violence and the hatred of Jews La Fabrique du Musulman (2017) suggests that the so-called radical supporters of identity politics have a lot in common with right-wing identitarians like Alain Soral. Yves Coleman of Ni Patrie Ni Frontières and Nadia Meziane provide essential critical commentary on these issues in French. (3)

Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds avoids developing the views on the threat of migration. The idea that “the mass movement of peoples into Europe” is happening as Europe has “lost faith in its beliefs, traditions and legitimacy.” (The Strange Death of Europe. 2017). An authority on this, Yves Camus, and his theory of the Great Replacement, cited in that work, does not pop up in the present volume. It is not the suicide of a Continent that preoccupies The Madness, but ‘“a great crowd derangement”. This new Tulip Mania is ‘Identity politics’. “It atomises society into different interest groups according to sex (or gender), race, sexual preferences and more.” (Page 3) These “rights issues have moved from being a product of a system to being the foundations of a new one.” (Page 7). These “destabilising foundation of liberalism” lead to “ugliness” to “believe things that are unbelievable”. This “crowd madness” needs, like a minefield, to be “cleared”.

One could be forgiven for thinking that Murray was a contributor to Spiked, and an acolyte of Frank Furedi. Yet the former Revolutionary Communist Party guru is absent from his pages; his warnings about the post-68 left’s turn to a “bitter conflict between competing lifestyles – symbolic struggles”, the “culture wars”, are unmentioned. (4)

Post-Marxism.

Murray does however have a smattering of knowledge about the left and ‘post-modernism’. Citing Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (1985) and an article on the same theme in Marxism Today, he outlines a shift from class polities to “new political subjects’, “women, students, young people, racial and regional minorities, as well as the various anti-institutional and ecological struggles” (Page 57). Skirting clear of these “post Marxists” fascination with the left potentials of populism, he observes that their “ideological children in identity politics and intersectionality seem to be content to inhabit an ideological space littered with contradiction, absurdity and hypocrisy.” (Page 58)

These new classes of “exploited” persons are explored, we learn, in the hard to read prose of Judith Butler, and produce “social justice theories”. The gobbledegook around social constructs and gender and race offers the gently e amusement of the “conceptual Penis as a Social Construct” and doubtless more opportunities for spoofs than Murray could cut and paste into his book.

The Madness of Crowds is determined to expose these absurdities. There is something deeply distasteful in the way that the Associate Editor of the Spectator rummages through the Web to find them. Gay demonstration, apparently, (Murray is openly gay himself) include fetishists with their leathers, sadomasochists flogging each other in the street….”(Page 39) Murray is fascinated with women singers’ wiggling bums, which is perhaps understandable, though the demand that they should be “sexy but not sexualised” will have passed most people by. Misandry – a new one on my spell checker – “Man are trash”, is a rubbish example of when put alongside this jumble of terms, “concepts like ‘male privilege’, ‘the patriarchy; ‘mansplaining or “toxic masculinity”. “ (Page 103) Is Murray suggesting that patriarchal structures do not exist, that women are often not oppressed by men, or that the unpleasant, violent, side of masculinity is something even a gentleman scrivener has never seen?

Unfamiliar with American campus politics one is still unable to take on trust Murray’s description of racial incidents and university slanging matches about people’s rival experiences. It would strike many people that in a country that elected Donald Trump, and which has a substantial, networked, far right, that racialism remains an issue beyond verbal jousts. Black Lives matter, most seem to agree, is a call that reflects a justified angry response to an unpleasant reality.

Tansexuality.

Murray reaches his lowest moment is the chapter on Transexuals. He insinuates that many trans people may be largely motivated by being “sexually around by the idea of presenting as, or actually becoming a woman” (J. Michael Bailey). This casts doubt on whether that “tans is a hardware issue”, that is against the claim that “trans are born this way. (Page 199) Digging deeper into the pit of controversy around transexuality The Madness of Crowds cites the hostility to those who assert that surgery cannot “make you a woman”. Greatly respected feminists who have taken this, or a more moderate critical view, and have been violently hounded for their opinions. “Transphobic”, Murray is not familiar enough with the subject to talk of the details of the rows about ‘TERFs’, feminists do have a legitimate point of view. So do transsexuals. But this book, with its prurient interest, casts little light on this “unbelievable unclear issue”.

Attempting a weighty conclusion The Madness of Crowds reminds us that in 73 countries it is illegal to be gay, and 8 in which being gay is punishable with death. Women are denied basic rights in countries in the Middle East and East Africa. Inter-racial violence happens across the world. “But there is a paradox here: that the countries which are the most advanced in all” in promoting laws and a culture of rights “are the ones now presented as among the worst”. (Page 232) He has no doubt that the agenda, “the last part of a Marxist subculture” is to “policies absolutely everything and turn people against the society they were brought up in. That the left believes that, “when intersectionality has done is job and he matrix of competing hierarchies has finally been nixed, then an era of universal brotherhood will ensue.” (Page 252)

Hidden from this present book are the countless Middle Eastern, Maghrebin, African, Asian Iranian gay and feminist activists. It is their “religion of social justice”, which many on the left support. Are we “using” their fight too? It is one very far from identical to what Mark Lilla calls North American “liberal identity politics”. It involves political action, and politics means joining people together, not separating them. The courage to join together for human, universal rights is our struggle. Feminist, gay and other movements are part – one part – of this, all over the world. This is a more substantial than limiting our “source of meaning” amongst our kith and kin, important as the “love of people and places” is. Or wallowing in snippets about the wilder side of American and British cultural politics. Or boosting an opposing right wing identity politics.

To top it Murray,”….has been described by French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy as “one of the most important public intellectuals today”.[8]

  1. Communities of Resistance. Writings on Black Struggles for Socialism. by A. Sivanandan Verso 1990.
  2. P 210. From Fatwa to Jihad. The Rushdie Affair and its Legacy. Kenan Malik. Atlantic Books. 2009. Page 224. Rumy Hasan, Multiculturalism, Some Inconvenient Truths. Politico’s. 2010
  3. La Fabrique du Musulman. Nedjib Sidi Moussa Libertalia. 2017.
  4. First World War. Still no End in Sight. Frank Furedi. Bloomsbury 2014.
  5. The Once and Future Liberal. After Identity Politics. Mark Lilla. Hurst and Company. 2018.