Michael Rectenwald and other left/ex-left identity politics critics

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Jan 22 2018 16:17
Jay_S wrote:
so rabid in their anti-"identity politics" and with activity mostly aimed at transgressive critiques (i.e., polemic trolling) of the rest of the left,

We all like to see more well-researched, informative, sharp critiques and less low-effort trolling.

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Jan 26 2018 22:39
Jay_S wrote:
it is genuinely surprising to not see more anarchists and ultraleftists turn to the right-wing. Some of them [..] seem ripe for the picking when it comes to left-right conversions.

If this was not just meant as a cheap provocation, then you should probably elaborate. Or are you afraid to expose those "anarchists and ultraleftists"?

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Feb 1 2018 20:51

Jay_S has left the building.

FWIW, an often-cited critique of IdPol by Jenny Bourne: 'Homelands of the mind: Jewish feminism and Identity Politics' (Race & Class, July 1987) opens with the lines:

Quote:
Identity Politics is all the rage. Exploitation is out (it is extrinsically determinist). Oppression is in (it is intrinsically personal). What is to be done is replaced by who am I. Political culture has ceded to cultural politics. The material word has passed into the metaphysical. The Blacks, the Women, the Gays have all searched for themselves. and now, combining all their quests, has arrived the quest for Jewish feminist identity.

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Feb 1 2018 21:27
Jenny Bourne wrote:
What is to be done is replaced by who am I

That is pithy and well put. A lot of the (for lack of better word), vulgar identity politics seem to get it from, at least in part, Foucault, but they all seem to forget or ignore his warning that "resistance is a trap".

jaycee
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Feb 2 2018 09:56

"his book Disparities had a Kraken/octopus, representing capitalism or whatever, on its cover (a highly problematic imagery)"

I was confused by this. What is 'problematic' about this image/metaphor (the worst I can think is that it's a bit cliche- but the best metaphors tend to be anyway)

Mike Harman
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Feb 2 2018 11:48
jaycee wrote:
"his book Disparities had a Kraken/octopus, representing capitalism or whatever, on its cover (a highly problematic imagery)"

I was confused by this. What is 'problematic' about this image/metaphor (the worst I can think is that it's a bit cliche- but the best metaphors tend to be anyway)

There are many, many political cartoons where they put someone's head on an octopus - Murdoch, Bill Gates, often encircling the world.

One explicitly anti-Semitic usage is Churchill with a star of David controlling him from the Nazis: https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/churchill/interactive/_html/wc0213.html

The use of the octopus pre-dates that though - see this from the IWW, though no human head: http://depts.washington.edu/labhist/strike/images/iwwgiftwo1.jpg

And even earlier (1888) with a head on it for the British Empire with the Head of John Bull: http://www.historytoday.com/sites/default/files/johnbull.jpg

And this from Japan in 1908 just before war with Russia (no human head again):
http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_l8rpjtzG0R1qaxtrf.jpg

So it didn't start off anti-Semetic, but it was very easy to adapt.

jaycee
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Feb 2 2018 12:22

I thought that might be it but it seems like going a bit far to label the image itself as 'problematic' because of that. Context and intention seem important. I would say that its a bit stupid to suggest Zizek should be suspected of anti-semtism because of it (Stalinism and generally terrible politics at a lot of the time- for sure but anti-semtism? I don't see it).

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Feb 2 2018 13:23
jaycee wrote:
the worst I can think is that it's a bit cliche- but the best metaphors tend to be anyway

I said it was stupid, at least the metaphor (don't know if Zizek himself approved the cover). It's problematic, because now it is usually associated with antisemitism.

Quote:
its a bit stupid to to suggest Zizek should be suspected of anti-semtism

I didn't suggest that. I said it is like his analogy of transsexuals to people who want to marry their pet, which is associated with being a transphobic talking-point, but "itself" isn't transphobic, though sure is stupid.

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Feb 2 2018 18:20

My post was down-voted.

And an earlier post by Mike Harman (where he said: "The majority of racists, sexists and homophobes don't makes explicitly racist, sexist or homophobic remarks") even got three down-votes.

So to recall (as was said on the thread about AFed): "down votes are to be used on the comments which are abusive or in breach of site guidelines."

Khawaga wrote:
A lot of the (for lack of better word), vulgar identity politics seem to get it from, at least in part, Foucault, but they all seem to forget or ignore his warning that "resistance is a trap".

I don't know man. Criticism can be directed even against the best forms of IdPol. And it's not just pointing at its re-integration into the system, but it sabotaging actual resistance or even feeding into rightwing (ethnic/religious) identity politics.

Mike Harman
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Feb 2 2018 22:14
Noa Rodman wrote:
Criticism can be directed even against the best forms of IdPol.

Can you define what this is though and give examples?

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Feb 2 2018 22:31

I think identity politics is better explained not by historical roots (which seem to be multiple; foucault, or various forms of nationalism, or postmodernism, etc.) but by the political ends it serves. Usually the class interests of the bourgeois in the long term, and the immediate interest of coalitional (read divide the class and rule) democratic party hucksters.

I think it's clearer to look at particular arguments and the premises they presuppose or potentially require (this depends on the nature of an argument).

I want to say that by identity politics, I don't mean all forms of dealing with political oppression based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality and the like. I mean the form of dealing with the problems these groups confront in terms of some inherent and immutable identity.

This identity is presumed to be paramount epistimologically, strategically, tactically, and culturally.

On the right, the idea of common humanity is openly derided as a farce. On the liberal side of things, it has to be attacked on less race-realist grounds, but the premise of fundamental difference and irreconcialbility of interests across identity lines is often lurking. And it's used to play-down class politics in the party (Bernie Sanders).

However, if these social groups don't share some mythical, inherent, unifying characteristics, but instead share characteristics as a result of their position in society; that position can change. What's more, the struggle to change them can take the form of a social and political struggle, much like that of workers in general.

But this doesn't serve the needs of bourgeois politicians and so it remains politically sterile. The left is pretty disorganized, so it's ability to raise a program of far reaching, class-based, attacks on gender, race, and sexuality oppression (and their nexus in class) is muted. So the identity politics media machine that feeds liberals and the far right continues in its cycles with little alternative.

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Feb 2 2018 22:34

I agree with jaycee, the nazis equated jews with rats, that doesn't mean that anyone using the image of a rat is a nazi. (except banksy, fuck banksy) The octopus is one image used for anti-semitism but it isn't exclusively that. Otherwise we couldn't use the numbers 18 or 88 etc

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Feb 3 2018 09:20
Mike Harman wrote:
Can you define what this is though and give examples?

By best forms of IdPol, I mean those that acknowledge the reality of class struggle. That's a low bar (French liberal historians discovered it already). Jenny Bourne's article mentioned Bundism, which retro-actively can be classified as a form of IdPol. Even political Zionism had a large socialist current within it (Israel as a safe space).

Jef Costello wrote:
The octopus is one image used for anti-semitism but it isn't exclusively that.

My point was Zizek's stupidity of employing such bizarre metaphor (and other statements), his appearance in bourgeois media, etc. makes Rectenwald's comments look harmless. There are people like RedKahina who do accuse Zizek of antisemitism, not on account of explicit antisemitic statements, but just suspicious motifs he employs (aka dog-whistling). Yet many at NYU still defend Zizek from that charge, yet criticise Rectenwald.

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Feb 3 2018 21:47

Just as an example of Zizek's sensationalism, in a recent lecture he mentioned the mid-1920s human-ape hybridization experiment by the zoologist Ivanov. In Zizek's telling Stalin (or the Bolsheviks) ordered the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

The only source for this quote is Chris Stephen and Allan Hall, “Stalin's half-man, halfape super-warriors,” The Scotsman, December 20, 2005.

They seem to reference unspecified "Moscow newspapers", which I doubt either of the authors could read in Russian. But Zizek just repeats this quote as gospel truth.

Perhaps Zizek was just being provocative/entertaining, and I, as an idiot, should learn to take everything he says with a grain of salt. But he seemed quite sincerely to buy this tabloid gossip:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926701-000-blasts-from-the-past...

IT WAS the story with everything: secret papers, an evil Soviet dictator and a zealous zoologist hell-bent on breeding a creature that was half man, half ape. When details of Ilia Ivanov’s attempts to create an ape-human hybrid emerged in the 1990s from the newly opened Russian archives, they prompted a rash of lurid headlines. Ivanov became the “Red Frankenstein”. His proposed liaisons were invariably dangerous. .There was even the suggestion that he had been ordered to breed super-strong hairy warriors for what The Sun in London dubbed “Stalin’s mutant ape army”.

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Feb 5 2018 16:04

That Zizek story begins at 20min.30 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ov5c23jlNvA

The experiment was done by artificial insemination, but Zizek tells it like there was actual sex between man and ape. He also calls it misogynist because a male human mated with a female ape, not the other way around. What I read was actually male ape sperm was inseminated in human females. He also calls it racist, because the experiment was done in Africa on blacks (which supposedly are closer to apes). I think it was just a question about difficulty in preserving ape sperm. Later Ivanov managed to take some apes back to USSR (Abkhazia) and did the experiment on Georgian women.

This outrageous telling of the story featured in a lecture delivered in St.Petersburg on October 25th 2017 on 100th anniversary of Russian revolution!

Compared to that, Rectewald's open anti-bolshevikism looks like harmless idiocy:

Quote:
Official Soviet sources show that the term politicheskaya korrektnost (political correctness) was used as early as 1921 to positively describe “correct” thinking. As expected, its author was none other than the primary architect of the Bolshevik revolution, Vladimir Lenin. Lenin’s promotion and later enforcement of political correctness followed from his notion of partiĭnost, or party spirit, which also stood for “party truth,” or the correct interpretation of the world and everything in it. After the revolution, political correctness was enforced by the Soviet terror.

http://www.ibtimes.com/why-political-correctness-incorrect-2645346

Mike Harman
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Feb 5 2018 21:49
Noa Rodman wrote:
FWIW, an often-cited critique of IdPol by Jenny Bourne: 'Homelands of the mind: Jewish feminism and Identity Politics' (Race & Class, July 1987) opens with the lines:

Quote:
Identity Politics is all the rage. Exploitation is out (it is extrinsically determinist). Oppression is in (it is intrinsically personal). What is to be done is replaced by who am I. Political culture has ceded to cultural politics. The material word has passed into the metaphysical. The Blacks, the Women, the Gays have all searched for themselves. and now, combining all their quests, has arrived the quest for Jewish feminist identity.

I haven't read the Jenny Bourne yet, but have added it to the list.

I had a quick look to see what Bourne had said more recently, and found these:

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/irrs-submission-to-the-labour-party-inquiry-i...

A. Sivanandan, Liz Fekete and Jenny Bourne wrote:

5. Impact of identity politics: Simultaneously with the subjectivisation of racism has come the influence of identity-based politics, which tends to personalise the political and individualise the social, and move the fight against racism to a fight for culture. Obviously cultural exclusion can in certain circumstances lead to institutional racism (for example Sikhs in the 1960s being effectively banned from driving buses because the wearing of turbans was not compatible with the official uniform cap). And in other circumstances, a fight for culture can also be a fight against racism (e.g. the Gypsy and Travellers’ struggle for provision of sites). But it does not follow that all cultural or ethnic demands unmet by an organisation or state agency are tantamount to racism. This emphasis on cultural/religious/ethnic rights became official policy following Lord Scarman’s finding on the 1981 ‘riots’,[3] that ‘racial disadvantage’ and not institutional racism was the problem and could therefore be compensated by meeting ‘the problems and needs of the ethnic minorities’. In the event, it encouraged different ethnic groups to vie with each other for preference and reduced multiculturalism from meaning inter-culturalism to culturalism meaning separateness.

And:

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/government-u-turn-on-single-identity-group-fu...

Jenny Bourne wrote:
Jenny Bourne, of the Institute of Race Relations, said: ‘We have always argued that it is not how groups are constituted that matters but whether they are ethnically-focused and inward looking or whether they tackle a social issue. What a group does is more important than what it is. Hopefully, the government is coming round to that view.’

(writing against government's withdrawal of funding from groups such a Southall Black Sisters).

What the IRR crowd generally tend to do is to counterpose identity politics and anti-racism (as the first excerpt does), whereas someone like Adolph Reed Jr. will say that anti-racism (including organising against police killings, against mass deportations, or against workplace discrimination) is identity politics to conflate it with 'first woman president' bullshit.

The IRR lot tends to have a pretty specific target, whereas Reed et al shift their constantly.

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Feb 8 2018 17:20

Lenin against identity politics of Jews. The Position of the Bund in the Party (1903):
...
And Karl Kautsky, in particular reference to the Russian Jews, expresses him self even more vigorously. Hostility towards non-native sections of the population can only be eliminated “when the non-native sections of the population cease to be alien and blend with the general mass of the population. That is the only possible solution of the Jewish problem, and we should support everything that makes for the ending of Jewish isolation."

Yet the Bund is resisting this only possible solution, for it is helping, not to end but to increase and legitimise Jewish isolation, by propagating the idea of a Jewish “nation” and a plan of federating Jewish and non- Jewish proletarians. That is the basic mistake of “Bundism”, which consistent Jewish Social-Democrats must and will correct. This mistake drives the Bundists to actions unheard of in the international Social-Democratic movement, such as stirring up distrust among Jewish towards non-Jewish proletarians, fostering suspicion of the latter and disseminating falsehoods about them. Here is proof, taken from this same pamphlet:

“Such an absurdity [as that the organisation of the proletariat of a whole nationality should be denied representation on the central Party bodies] could be openly advocated only [mark that!] in regard to the Jewish proletariat, which, owing to the peculiar historical fortunes of the Jewish people, still has to fight for equality [!!] in the world family of the proletariat."

We recently came across just such a trick in a Zionist leaflet, whose authors raved and fumed against Iskra, purporting to detect in its struggle with the Bund a refusal to recognise the “equality” of Jew and non-Jew. And now we find the Bundists repeating the tricks of the Zionists! This is disseminating an outright falsehood, for we have “advocated” “denying representation” not “only” to the Jews, but also to the Armenians, the Georgians and so on, and in the case of the Poles, too, we called for the closest union and fusion of the entire proletariat fighting against the tsarist autocracy. It was not for nothing that the P.S.P. (Polish Socialist Party) raged and fulminated against us! To call a fight for the Zionist idea of a Jewish nation, for the federal principle of Party organisation, a “fight for the equality of the Jews in the world family of the proletariat” is to degrade the struggle from the plane of ideas and principles to that of suspicion, incitement and fanning of historically-evolved prejudices. It glaringly reveals a lack of real ideas and principles as weapons of struggle.

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Feb 8 2018 23:10

Well Lenin never really broke with social democracy.

Lenin to Zetkin:

Lenin wrote:
I have heard strange things about that from Russian and German comrades. I must tell you what I mean. I understand that in Hamburg a gifted Communist woman is bringing out a newspaper for prostitutes, and is trying to organize them for the revolutionary struggle. Now Rosa a true Communist, felt and acted like a human being when she wrote an article in defense of prostitutes who have landed in jail for violating a police regulation concerning their sad trade. They are unfortunate double victims of bourgeois society. Victims, first, of its accursed system of property and, secondly, of its accursed moral hypocrisy. There is no doubt about this. Only a coarse-grained and short-sighted person could forget this. To understand this is one thing, but it is quite another thing how shall I put it? To organize the prostitutes as a special revolutionary guild contingent and publish a trade union paper for them. Are there really no industrial working women left in Germany who need organizing, who need a newspaper, who should be enlisted in your struggle? This is a morbid deviation. It strongly reminds me of the literary vogue which made a sweet madonna out of every prostitute. Its origin was sound too: social sympathy, and indignation against the moral hypocrisy of the honorable bourgeoisie. But the healthy principle underwent bourgeois corrosion and degenerated. The question of prostitution will confront us even in our country with many a difficult problem. Return the prostitute to productive work, find her a place in the social economy that is the thing to do. But the present state of our economy and all the other circumstances make it a difficult and complicated matter. Here you have an aspect of the woman problem which faces us in all its magnitude, after the proletariat has come to power, and demands a practical solution.

Lenin wrote:
It seems to me that this superabundance of sex theories, which for the most part are mere hypotheses, and often quite arbitrary ones, stems from a personal need. It springs from the desire to justify one’s own abnormal or excessive sex life before bourgeois morality and to plead for tolerance towards oneself. This veiled respect for bourgeois morality is as repugnant to me as rooting about in all that bears on sex. No matter how rebellious and revolutionary it may be made to appear, it is in the final analysis thoroughly bourgeois. Intellectuals and others like them are particularly keen on this. There is no room for it in the Party, among the class-conscious, fighting proletariat.

Wait until after the revolution dears, written 100 years ago.

Lenin of course never one to support one faction of the ruling class against another for opportunistic reasons later to be proved terrible:

Lenin wrote:
Thus the liberal bourgeoisie are abandoning the historical system of “two parties” (of exploiters), which has been hallowed by centuries of experience and has been extremely advantageous to the exploiters, and consider it necessary for these two parties to join forces against the Labour Party. A number of Liberals are deserting to the Labour Party like rats from a sinking ship. The Left Communists believe that the transfer of power to the Labour Party is inevitable and admit that it now has the backing of most workers. From this they draw the strange conclusion which Comrade Sylvia Pankhurst formulates as follows:

“The Communist Party must not compromise. . . . The Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure, and its independence of reformism inviolate, its mission is to lead the way, without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution.”

On the contrary, the fact that most British workers still follow the lead of the British Kerenskys or Scheidemanns and have not yet had experience of a government composed of these people—an experience which was necessary in Russia and Germany so as to secure the mass transition of the workers to communism—undoubtedly indicates that the British Communists should participate in parliamentary action, that they should, from within parliament, help the masses of the workers see the results of a Henderson and Snowden government in practice, and that they should help the Hendersons and Snowdens defeat the united forces of Lloyd George and Churchill. To act otherwise would mean hampering the cause of the revolution, since revolution is impossible without a change in the views of the majority of the working class, a change brought about by the political experience of the masses, never by propaganda alone. “To lead the way without compromises, without turning”—this slogan is obviously wrong if it comes from a patently impotent minority of the workers who know (or at all events should know) that given a Henderson and Snowden victory over Lloyd George and Churchill, the majority will soon become disappointed in their leaders and will begin to support communism (or at all events will adopt an attitude of neutrality, and, in the main, of sympathetic neutrality, towards the Communists). It is as though 10,000 soldiers were to hurl themselves into battle against an enemy force of 50,000, when it would be proper to “halt”, “take evasive action”, or even effect a “compromise” so as to gain time until the arrival of the 100,000 reinforcements that are on their way but cannot go into action immediately. That is intellectualist childishness, not the serious tactics of a revolutionary class.

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Feb 9 2018 10:25
Mike Harman wrote:
Well Lenin never really broke with social democracy.

How is that relevant to his critique of Bundism? From your standpoint you would have to make the case that Lenin ignored antisemitism by insisting on the primacy of class struggle, and to be consistent, call him an antisemitic chauvinist Russian.

Lenin wrote:
is as repugnant to me as rooting about in all that bears on sex. No matter how rebellious and revolutionary it may be made to appear, it is in the final analysis thoroughly bourgeois.

Incidentally, when I started a thread on why there's little discussion about sex on libcom, it was mothballed precisely by the libcommers IdPol fraction.

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Feb 9 2018 12:28
Noa Rodman wrote:
Mike Harman wrote:
Well Lenin never really broke with social democracy.

How is that relevant to his critique of Bundism? From your standpoint you would have to make the case that Lenin ignored antisemitism by insisting on the primacy of class struggle, and to be consistent, call him an antisemitic chauvinist Russian.

It's relevant because he is not describing the self-organisation of the working class, but the programme of a Social Democratic political party - from that same piece, a paragraph you didn't quote:

Lenin wrote:
How can you talk of independence in questions of programme in connection, for example, with the demand for civil equality for the Jews? The Social-Democratic programme only sets forth the basic demands, common to the entire proletariat, irrespective of occupational, local, national, or racial distinctions. The effect of these distinctions is that one and the same demand for complete equality of citizens before the law gives rise to agitation against one form of inequality in one locality and against another form of inequality in another locality or in relation to other groups of the proletariat, and so on. One and the same point in the programme will be applied differently depending on differences in conditions of life, differences of culture, differences in the relation of social forces in different parts of the country, and so forth. Agitation on behalf of one and the same demand in the programme will be carried on in different ways and in different languages taking into account all these differences. Consequently, autonomy in questions specifically concerning the proletariat of a given race, nation, or district implies that it is left to the discretion of the organisation concerned to determine the specific demands to be advanced in pursuance of the common programme, and the methods of agitation to be employed. The Party as a whole, its central institutions, lay down the common fundamental principles of programme and tactics; as to the different methods of carrying out these principles in practice and agitating for them, they are laid down by the various Party organisations subordinate to the centre, depending on local, racial, national, cultural, and other differences.

Lenin's later comments to Zetkin castigated German women trying to organise prostitutes as a distraction - presumably this autonomy that he's opposed to. Sex workers are still organising (and went out on strike in New York recently) today. Elsewhere criminalisation is a massive obstacle to organisation - one that doesn't figure in the programmes of most groups because it doesn't affect them, and also which many 'feminists' are actually in favour of because they lump proletarians working in the industry in with the industry itself, taking a moral stance on sex work which undermines conditions and safety for sex workers themselves.

Or for another analogy we can see the anti-immigration rhetoric of a Trumka or Len McCluskey - who would like stricter border controls to try to control supply of labour - something which impedes workers organising - makes people easier to sack, evict and deport if they take any kind of action.

If we take Lenin's words literally "one and the same demand for complete equality of citizens before the law" this literally excludes non-citizens. Lenin might not have meant it like that, but modern border regimes certainly do - and social democracy has been one of the main 'left' creators of those regimes - the British Labour Party with the repatriation of Chinese sailors from Liverpool in 1946, the 1968 immigration act to exclude Kenyan Asians, and the 1999 immigration act which created Yarls Wood and the modern immigration detention and deportation regime.

Is this relevant enough?

Noa Rodman wrote:
Incidentally, when I started a thread on why there's little discussion about sex on libcom, it was mothballed precisely by the libcommers IdPol fraction.

1. The thread is still open.

2. I did not read the whole thread, but the last few comments were you positively citing Red Kahina, I think you may have mothballed yourself.

https://twitter.com/RedKahina/status/961615349530726400

Red Kahina wrote:
He virtually plagizarized +then vitiated the reporting of cory morningstar and vanessa beeley exposing the white helmets: he stole their research then insisted on stuffing it full of CIA/DoS propaganda lies about their "rescues" from Assad's genocidal program

https://twitter.com/RedKahina/status/960888296019779586

Red Kahina wrote:
Hello, that guy you are talking to is a Larouchie. I agree with you largely about 21st c wire, but some people doing good work end up publishing there because left "independent" media platforms are actually Soros or Omidyar or other CIA and

(both from this week).

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Feb 9 2018 12:37
Mike Harman wrote:
Well Lenin never really broke with social democracy.

Lenin to Zetkin:

Lenin wrote:
I have heard strange things about that from Russian and German comrades. I must tell you what I mean. I understand that in Hamburg a gifted Communist woman is bringing out a newspaper for prostitutes, and is trying to organize them for the revolutionary struggle. Now Rosa a true Communist, felt and acted like a human being when she wrote an article in defense of prostitutes who have landed in jail for violating a police regulation concerning their sad trade. They are unfortunate double victims of bourgeois society. Victims, first, of its accursed system of property and, secondly, of its accursed moral hypocrisy. There is no doubt about this. Only a coarse-grained and short-sighted person could forget this. To understand this is one thing, but it is quite another thing how shall I put it? To organize the prostitutes as a special revolutionary guild contingent and publish a trade union paper for them. Are there really no industrial working women left in Germany who need organizing, who need a newspaper, who should be enlisted in your struggle? This is a morbid deviation. It strongly reminds me of the literary vogue which made a sweet madonna out of every prostitute. Its origin was sound too: social sympathy, and indignation against the moral hypocrisy of the honorable bourgeoisie. But the healthy principle underwent bourgeois corrosion and degenerated. The question of prostitution will confront us even in our country with many a difficult problem. Return the prostitute to productive work, find her a place in the social economy that is the thing to do. But the present state of our economy and all the other circumstances make it a difficult and complicated matter. Here you have an aspect of the woman problem which faces us in all its magnitude, after the proletariat has come to power, and demands a practical solution.

does "find her a place in the social economy that is the thing to do." mean shoot her or is it the other way round?

Lenin wrote:
It is obvious that a whiteguard insurrection is being prepared in Nizhni. You must strain every effort, appoint three men will) dictatorial powers (yourself, Markin and one other), organise immediately mass terror, shoot and deport the hundreds of prostitutes who are making drunkards of the soldiers, former officers and the like.

Not a minute of delay.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/aug/09gff.htm

radicalgraffiti
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Feb 9 2018 12:47
Mike Harman wrote:
Noa Rodman wrote:
Incidentally, when I started a thread on why there's little discussion about sex on libcom, it was mothballed precisely by the libcommers IdPol fraction.

1. The thread is still open.

2. I did not read the whole thread, but the last few comments were you positively citing Red Kahina, I think you may have mothballed yourself.

https://twitter.com/RedKahina/status/961615349530726400

Red Kahina wrote:
He virtually plagizarized +then vitiated the reporting of cory morningstar and vanessa beeley exposing the white helmets: he stole their research then insisted on stuffing it full of CIA/DoS propaganda lies about their "rescues" from Assad's genocidal program

https://twitter.com/RedKahina/status/960888296019779586

Red Kahina wrote:
Hello, that guy you are talking to is a Larouchie. I agree with you largely about 21st c wire, but some people doing good work end up publishing there because left "independent" media platforms are actually Soros or Omidyar or other CIA and

(both from this week).

Red Kahina also denies genocide in the Bosnian war eg https://twitter.com/RedKahina/status/955815778967785472

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Feb 9 2018 16:02
Mike Harman wrote:
It's relevant because he is not describing the self-organisation of the working class, but the programme of a Social Democratic political party

You asked me what I meant by "Criticism can be directed even against the best forms of IdPol" and to give examples. I replied that: "By best forms of IdPol, I mean those that acknowledge the reality of class struggle." The example I gave was the Bund (which was part of the RSDLP.), which thus recognised class struggle, yet it was still perfectly legitimate for Lenin to direct criticism against it.

You didn't ask me about (criticism of) specifically non-party, a-political organisations/examples. But apparently that is your question properly formulated.

So then, please answer your own question: can you provide an example of an a-political/non-party group, which recognises class struggle, but whose focus is on a particular identity, that is open to criticism according to you (or was given a fair criticism by someone else)? If you can't provide an example, then you effectively precluded the possibility of criticism of IdPol groups whose only low criteria is to also pay some lip service to class struggle.

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I did not read the whole thread, but the last few comments were you positively citing Red Kahina, I think you may have mothballed yourself.

You quoted Lenin's repugnancy of sex talk in politics. I didn't understand the relevance of that, nor your exclamation "Wait until after the revolution dears, written 100 years ago."

I merely note that Lenin's feeling was shared by many of the IdPol-inclined posters on that thread. In fact today it are Leninists (from Spiked to WSWS) who prominently sound the alarm about curtailment of sexual freedom.

Mike Harman
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Feb 9 2018 17:44
Noa Rodman wrote:
You didn't ask me about (criticism of) specifically non-party, a-political organisations/examples. But apparently that is your question properly formulated.

Well you said the 'best forms of IdPol' then you cited a criticism of an organisation that was organising within a social democratic political party, by one of the leaders of that social democratic political party.

Do you think the RSDLP was the best form of class struggle? If not how could an identity-formation within it be the best form of identity politics? If you do think the RSDLP was the best form of class struggle, then I don't think we'll agree on an example. Social Democracy has been about the representation of the working class in state institutions, not about the abolition of classes.

Noa Rodman wrote:
So then, please answer your own question: can you provide an example of an a-political/non-party group, which recognises class struggle, but whose focus is on a particular identity, that is open to criticism according to you (or was given a fair criticism by someone else)?

So the various Indian Worker Association (s) in the UK would be an example.

https://web.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/CRER_RC/publications/pdfs/Research%20P... is a good overview (I've not read it end-to-end, but dipped into different bits several times, see also Sivanandan 1982).

In the '30s they were mostly concerned with Indian independence, revived in the '50s/'60s to deal with campaigning against immigration laws, strike support, and more general social issues like language or navigating bureaucracy.

In the '60s you still had union-enforced colour bars, like on the Bristol buses: https://libcom.org/history/black-white-buses-1963-colour-bar-dispute-bri...

There were splits between groups that wanted a society for 'all Indians' vs. those committed to an Indian Workers Association. There were splits around membership/control via the CPGB, and on positions towards say the Naxalites in India in the '60s. There were tendencies that tried to organise community self-defence against the far right, vs. ones that drifted into state-affiliated institutions like the Labour Party, Commission for Racial Equality and similar.

So you have the full range of tendencies from rank-and-file within the trade unions, strike support outside the union structure (sometimes by necessity due to racial antipathy from the unions themselves, sometimes not), commitment to not using state institutions, drifts into state institutions, party affiliation/frontism, non-party-affiliated communiss.

These are all divisions which affect non-identity-based class struggle groups - see Plan C's gradual incorporation into the Labour Party, 2012-2018: https://libcom.org/forums/announcements/plan-c-website-launched-check-it... The tension in the US IWW between NRLB or not.

My issue is that in the case of the IWA, the drift to the Labour Party or the CRE will be placed on it being an 'identity-based' group - a natural tendency of identity politics towards cross-class alliances. With Plan C, there is more of a sense of either disbelief, or that it's the fault of careerism and similar, but identity politics is not blamed, nor a natural tendency towards cross-class alliances (although I personally do think that some post-autonomism re-introduces social democracy by the back door and in fact does contain such an ideological tendency - because it has a failed analysis of capitalism and class struggle and a lack of theory of the state).

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Feb 9 2018 19:59
Mike Harman wrote:
Do you think the RSDLP was the best form of class struggle?

It is enough to admit that the RSDLP practised/recognised a form of class struggle.

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If not how could an identity-formation within it be the best form of identity politics?

My criterion for the best forms of IdPol is merely their recognition of class struggle. You may argue that anarchist Jewish organisations were better forms of IdPol groups than socialist Jewish organisations, but the point would still stand that the Bund was better than non-class Jewish organisations.

Quote:
If you do think the RSDLP was the best form of class struggle, then I don't think we'll agree on an example.

Even if you want to make the (implausible) case that the Bund was not engaged in any form of class struggle, that still leaves the fact that the Bund is an example of IdPol, which can be criticised.

Apparently your problem with the Bund would to be that they joined a Soc-Dem political party, a non-class group in your view. But clearly you must have a criticism of the Bund as an IdPol group too. It is not clear if your criticism of the Bund would be different from Lenin's.

Otherwise you can shield all IdPol groups from criticism by arbitrarily classifying them as "No True Class Organisations", i.e. cross-class alliances. So when they do some criticisable thing, you can say it is because they are non-class, not, however, because they adhere to IdPol.

Mike Harman
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Feb 9 2018 20:46

Here's another example, although you've ignored my first one entirely so far.

https://libcom.org/history/burnsall-strike-glimpse-future-sarbjit-johal

They criticise themselves in that piece:

SASG wrote:
Workplaces are too small, too isolated, and trade unions leadership wields too much reactionary force. The strikers must then have new support networks from the community, from among unemployed workers, women's groups and so on. However the Burnsall strike shows that the role of the support group needs to be looked at carefully. The Burnsall Strikers Support Group London (in which SASG members were active) was successful in publicising the strike and raising its profile nationally but an assessment of the strike suggests that we spent too much time and energy in trying to push the union into action. We should have concentrated more on strategies independent of the union - such as mass pickets - to win the strike, irrespective of whether the union was going to support or block us.

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Feb 10 2018 10:10
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They criticise themselves in that piece

That's a criticism of their over-reliance on unions. It is not a criticism of identity politics, on the contrary (I'd say it's a good justifying reason for IdPol).

As for your first example (of the IWAs), you acknowledge they did criticisable stuff, but immediately add that "these are all divisions which affect non-identity-based class struggle groups". In other words, it is not related to their IdPol orientation.

My example of a critique of the Bund did relate to their IdPol orientation. In your extremely restricted (arbitrary) definition, they were not a class-organisation. I think my criterion (namely the recognition of class struggle) is a low bar, but on the other hand it still excludes the great majority of IdPol groups which the rightwing/mainstream regards as the "left" (e.g. the Democratic Party, various NGOs, etc.).

radicalgraffiti
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Feb 10 2018 10:18

any thing can be criticised for any reason, that doesn't make the criticism useful or valid

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Feb 10 2018 12:06
radicalgraffiti wrote:
any thing can be criticised for any reason, that doesn't make the criticism useful or valid

Any sentence can be composed of words, that doesn't mean it contributes anything to discussion.

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Feb 10 2018 14:34

Sivanandan, mentioned in #47 above, died last month. From an obituary;

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... Siva’s many celebrated aphorisms – easy-to-remember encapsulations of complex ideas that challenged simplistic assumptions. Others included: “We are here because you were there” (relating to post-colonial migration); “If those who have do not give, those who haven’t must take”; and “The personal is not political, the political is personal”.

The latter illustrated his growing frustration with the solipsism of emerging identity politics, particularly among what he saw as a more well-heeled, younger generation of intellectuals, who he felt were reluctant to engage with issues of class even though it was the struggles of the black working-class who had paved the way for them. “The people who made this mobility possible were those who took to the streets,” he once told me. “But they did not benefit.”

... In his polemic he was scathing. In the essay The Hokum of New Times (1990), he slated the shift towards a progressive politics rooted more in identity than class, branding it “a sort of bazaar socialism, bizarre socialism, a hedonist socialism: an eat, drink and be merry socialism because tomorrow we can eat drink and be merry again … a socialism for disillusioned Marxist intellectuals who had waited around too long for the revolution”. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/07/ambalavaner-sivanandan