Andrea Dworkin Dies, Aged 58

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captainmission
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Apr 16 2005 15:58

random can you provide links to any of dworkins ethnographic work? Especially section that deal with women's experiences of sex work and how she understood and articlated the views of women that didn't consider their work as rape.

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Apr 16 2005 17:34

I've got a tutor who's doing just that about London sex workers at the moment captainmission (as in researching that area herself, not looking at Dworkin). It sounds really interesting, I'm really looking forward to her finishing her thesis cos there's actually been very little ethnographic work with London sex workers.

random
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Apr 16 2005 18:13
Quote:
from an academic point of view, her work is not considered anthropological

i dont really understand the difference between anthropology and cultural theory, so i was taking your above description of what anthropology is, and i think her work fits that description. can you help me out explaining the difference please?

capmiss, andrea dworkins field of expertise was male violence against women, not sex work. she tried to understand and articulate womens experience of male violence, and she worked and listened to women survivors of male violence in order to do so. there is no reason why she should have "understood and articlated the views of women that didn't consider their work as rape" because that is not the area within which she was working.

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Apr 16 2005 19:27

I'm a male survivor of female violence. No-one ever asked me about my experiences. grin cry

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Apr 17 2005 08:08

Interesting... Sunday times is claiming today that (male) right-wing fundies are lining up to call Dworking a genius, and reckons that she spent most of her final years 'in the company of conservative writers who recognised and appreciated her'.

They use a quote from David Frum (George W's old speechwriter, came up with 'Axis of evil'):

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"She understood that the sexual revolution had inflicted serious harm on the interests of women and children - and ultimately of men as well"
Wendal
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Apr 17 2005 15:45
Refused wrote:
I'm a male survivor of female violence. No-one ever asked me about my experiences. grin cry

I guess you are not the only one(nedless of sex) that has not been asked about your experience. I think there has started to come some studies of male who are battered by their female partners tough...

You can send me a PM about your experience if you want to. I would for one be intrested in hearing your story.

Wendal
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Apr 17 2005 15:59
Saii wrote:
Interesting... Sunday times is claiming today that (male) right-wing fundies are lining up to call Dworking a genius, and reckons that she spent most of her final years 'in the company of conservative writers who recognised and appreciated her'.

They use a quote from David Frum (George W's old speechwriter, came up with 'Axis of evil'):

Quote:
"She understood that the sexual revolution had inflicted serious harm on the interests of women and children - and ultimately of men as well"

Its intresting. First most people made sure to point out that they are not in any way related to her toughts but after she died and she get some semi-good press and everyone seems to want a piece of the pie. I dont think that she share George W's perspective on sexuality(being Lesbian to start with). The fact that she wrote a critical book called Right wing feminism says a lot about her view on conservatives.

captainmission
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Apr 17 2005 16:26
zobag wrote:
It sounds really interesting, I'm really looking forward to her finishing her thesis cos there's actually been very little ethnographic work with London sex workers.

yeah there's quite alot on sex work elsewhere though, think its the case there ain't much published ethnography done about the UK generally. Tried looking for stuff on male sex work for an ethnography i had to write and couldn't really find alt either.

Quote:
i dont really understand the difference between anthropology and cultural theory, so i was taking your above description of what anthropology is, and i think her work fits that description. can you help me out explaining the difference please?

the differnce isn't always that clear cut but anthropology is based on participating with and observing people in their everyday social context. Its through that that see how people understand there own lives and what structures produce those beliefs in the first place. Cultrual theory (at it worse) lacks that contextual grounding and instead relies on endless interpreation of cultural 'texts' occasionally supported selective examples.

Dworkins may have done interviews with women, but i'm not aware she did any ethnographic based work (correct me if i'm wrong).

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capmiss, andrea dworkins field of expertise was male violence against women, not sex work.

hang on...

Quote:
andrea dworkin spent much of her time over four decades working and speaking and most importantly listening to women about their experiences of male violence, including women working in the sex industry.

so dworkins, who wrote a great deal of her major works on pronography, was one of americas leading anti-pornagraphy campaigners, and tried to bring legisaltion to ban porno wasn't an expert in that field? eek I mean clearly she had some opinions on the issue.

i think you trying to side step the point here.

Quote:
there is no reason why she should have "understood and articlated the views of women that didn't consider their work as rape" because that is not the area within which she was working.

if she's was going to just discount the opinions of women that don't have a wholely negative opinion of sex work, and only consider those that agree with her that doesn't say much for the acedemic (or general) quality of her work does it?

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Apr 17 2005 23:07

Every now I wonder back onto enrager, get annoyed and dissappointed, and leave again.

I'm not the most eloquent person on the block, nor have I ever learnt the ins and outs of debating, therefore I expect that my meaning will be ignored but a couple of my choice of words (and though I love dictionarys, I most normally, as now, am posting straight from my gut, and am not looking up every word in my Oxford English to ensure that I am not misusing common words)

This thread is really frustrating. It seems to be about showing off and point scoring from the majority of the Dworkin haters. The orthodoxy on these forums pisses me off. Stray from the accepted arguments that seem often to stem from priviledge and lack of empathy, and you will be ripped to shreds for daring to insinuate that those posting here might be not the angels they seem to think they are. (This is not just a response to those posting here, and I think the "anti Dworkin" side have had many valid thoight out critisisms, especially more recently, but I just read this thread in one sitting, and previously my exposure to enrager was on a thread about the Iraq occupation where I consider those arguing pro occupation to be racist)

Actually, I think it does matter if whoever wrote the anti Dworkin website was a man or not. To use an analogy from class struggle, sure a lot of the working class can be reactionary and hold dumb views, but it is still valid critisism of a position if the person that wrote it is upper class.

And here's another thing - I've felt violated by the idea of heterosexual penetrative sex. I've sat as an adolescent in biology lessons at school horrified and dismayed at the descriptions of sex and pregnancy. I might be 29 and in a loving, heterosexual relationship now, but those images are still there. I've written graphic woman rapes man porn to vent the rage that filled me at the injustice of patriarchy which it felt to me was continually reinforced by the very nature of sex. It was always justified (there are lots of justifications when you're 18 and female and living in a small, destructive city) on the rare occasions when I got the actual blood of my oppressors on my hands.

(a Fanon reference that the oppressed must actually feel the blood of their oppressed on their hands to start to deal with the psychological trauma of their miserable position and move onto a more progressively empowered and thought through stance. I believe the term is resentement (in poncey french accent) to be the necessary stage where the oppressed are externalising the self loathing and redirecting it to a more appropriate and useful target, in Fanon's case the colonisers - yes all of them, not just the ruling class, but for women that would be all men. After you've gone through resentement you are able to progress to radical resentement where you are more reasoned, tactical and have understanding eg of differentials within the colonisers. I've never managed to read all of a Fanon book so I might be wrong, but thats what I understood it to mean.)

I guess the point of this is that I feel Dworkin wrote stuff that helped me. I'm glad I went through that externalising stage when I was furious at all men because looking back on it it was a progression from the earlier stage when I just felt shit about myself and my sex. She expressed, much more eloquently than I could, the reasons for that rage, so that I had language and concepts to work through what was going on.

Personally I find sg (suicidegirls.com) to be really upsetting - look at how cool us alternative folks can be, we still get to have our sexist images of scantily clad girls, but they look like the girls we fetishise instead of the blondes in playboy. To me, thats more hurtful than a normal porn site because its like this place can be - full of boys busy bringing in patriarchal norms whilst claiming to be confronting the other shit in society. The boys that had sand kicked in their face at school, and now have got themselves cool alternative clubs where they get to feel superior, but are still desperate for the status symbols such as pretty girls that confirm their new status as sand kickers rather than kickees.

AnarchoAl
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Apr 18 2005 00:44
ginger wrote:
Actually, I think it does matter if whoever wrote the anti Dworkin website was a man or not. To use an analogy from class struggle, sure a lot of the working class can be reactionary and hold dumb views, but it is still valid critisism of a position if the person that wrote it is upper class.

I don't think that is valid at all, it's just ad hominem. Lots of solid anarchists have been from upper-class backgrounds, Bakunin and Kropotkin are obvious examples.

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Apr 18 2005 01:39

I disagree, what position a person hails from does definitely make what they are saying more or less relevant. If David Blunkett were to write a book entitled 'in defence of civil liberties' it could only but be rubbished or at least dismissed. Equally I am not well placed to comment on the affairs of transexuals for example, as I have never been in the position they find themselves in and can have precious little empathy beyond the intellectual sort. I think it does matter that men should not have the final say on feminism in fact. I actually think it's crucial.

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Apr 18 2005 08:30

If Blunkett wrote a book in which he turned on the right having been one himself, it would be hailed as proof positive of our position. The ex-head of the world bank who did the same thing comes to mind.

There is a tendency to dismiss mens' thoughts on the basis that 'well they're guys and couldn't possibly understand', but if a criticism or theory put forward is a logical and reasoned one, it shouldn't matter who the hell you are.

If you could only write on a topic because you're involved, history wouldn't exist, neither would psychology, sociology or indeed libertarian communism. You wouldn't be able to mount solidarity campaigns in foreign climes or even report them (because who the hell are you to talk about colombian massacres as a western oppressor?).

Not a good post Nick.

Wendal
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Apr 18 2005 13:50
zobag wrote:
It sounds really interesting, I'm really looking forward to her finishing her thesis cos there's actually been very little ethnographic work with London sex workers.

I dont know what academic categhory the Idea of prostitution by Sheila Jeffrey is counted to but it is a great book on the subject.

There is also a Norwiegan book about prostitution in Osla that is almost only based on interviews and statistics. It is called Bakgator and is probably named backstreets, citylights or something like that in english. It is used in Idea of prostitution so you can find it in the list of sources there.

AnarchoAl
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Apr 18 2005 14:37
Nick Durie wrote:
I think it does matter that men should not have the final say on feminism in fact. I actually think it's crucial.

Of course "men" shouldn't have the "final say" on feminism. As far as I'm aware, "men" as a group do not share a position on feminism anyway.

That doesn't mean that a man's viewpoint is less valid because of his genitals and social experiences. Obviously your experience shapes your opinions and this must be taken into account on a personal level- if a woman is talking to me about sexism or a coloured person about racism, obviously as a white man I should listen and think very carefully, taking into account my priviledged position. But I'll ultimately accept or reject an argument based on its merit, not who made it.

It's an obvious thing to say, but I know reactionary anti-feminist women, and happen to think I have a better gender analysis than them despite our respective sexes.

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Apr 18 2005 17:13

According to my dictionary ad hominem means "directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining". I feel a bit upset that a word I'm sure most of us wouldn't hear in common usage was used in response to a post where I clearly stated I didn't feel comfortable with word games. This seemed like an example of use of words as weapons rather than communication facilitators, but I appreciate that it might be a normal word to you, and that you might not have meant it like that - sometimes its frustrating when the perfect word or cultural reference exists to explain a concept and you can't think of another more normal one to replace it with.

I didn't say that nothing a man wrote on feminism would be any good. But I do think that it is important to know where someone is coming from, and what they have to gain or lose in their arguments.

I read (in "Thought Dreams" which was an interesting book which I think is worth reading although not uncritically) a critisism of Marxism, as opposed to feminism, anarchism and national liberation struggles where the writer states that a person can be oppressed economically, socially (hence feminism), politically (anarchism) and culturally (national liberation). All these oppressions have produced movements and analysis for radical ("from the roots") change. However Marxism he critisises because it did not come from those most affected by the (in this case economic) oppression ie the working class, but from the middle class. He says that this means that the concepts and vocabulary of Marxist economics comes from this short falling - there are bourgeousie who are factory owners and proletarians who are workers, but no concept of managers or administrators. The vocabulary and concepts available to us shape how we can think and communicate and filter how we view situations. I'm sure you can all see that he then went on to say that this means if you are not a factory owner, you must be proletarian, and therefore that lack of analysis of a more complex class structure (which anyway has different compositions at different times and in different places) led to stalinism.

The point of that was to try and express why I think that it does make a difference if a theorist is from the group struggling with the oppression or not. I would think it obvious, but it clearly wasn't, that I don't think all men are bastards and all women angels. I don't see why I should have to say that - this is about feminism and females fighting for their very sense of self and power. If a black person wrote about their experience of racism I would not get all defensive and demand they assauge my fears, as a person considered white these days in this country (I'm jewish so in another time and place i would not have been considered white, but my experiece has always been that of having white priviledge. Although I'm short sighted I have been provided with eye correction so I'm not considered "disabled" either, though 200 years ago I would have: all these concepts are not without change in status and who is considered priviledged, none of them are intrinsic)

The exact opposite of women positioning themselves as eternal victims of sexism needing saving by government or whatever, is us defining our own terms, our own struggle, our own ideas. Sure, men (especially white, upper class men from the south east of england) in the main will have better academic qualifications - thats kind of the point! But that academia is not some objective, ego free utopian land of ideas. Its very much part of the status quo.

A man might have an excellent point about patriarchy, and a person from the ruling classes might say something vital about capitalism. But feminism is not just about having an analysis and vocabulary. Its also about women determining our own confidence and ability to argue how we feel and fight for our own emancipation. "The workers become a class capable of ruling by the act of revolution" (misquoted, probably, from Marx) and feminism, actually creating our own freedom from oppresion turns us from shy and retiring anorexics into empowered, self confident and capable beings.

Hmmm, does that explain it better?

meanoldman
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Apr 18 2005 19:30

You're easily upset aren't you... As it happens ad hominem is a very common term, it's standard enough that you'll often here it on Radio 4 in the morning say.

As you wrote it that argument against Marxism is hopelessly illinformed and simplistic. Marxism did not emerge from on high but was an attempt to theorise the already existing socialist movement of which Marx was a part. Marx provided a tool for socialists and it's ridiculous to see Marxism outside that context, it is not seperate from what you categorise as political struggle but a part of that struggle. As for his line of reason about the development of Stalinism it's just so absurb if you know anything about the history of the USSR to merit serious discussion. I'm not even sure how having a simplistic view of class composition could be seen to lead to Stalinism on a theoretical level, let alone explain the actual steps that occured in the development of Stalinism.

This isn't to disagree with your point that language is not neutral but that particular example is quite horrible, I've read many anti-Marx arguments and that's one of the weaker. Should probably point out that I'm not a Marxist, but I do find Marxism very useful as an analytic tool for understanding capitalism and I find almost all critiques of Marx display a complete lack of awareness of Marx's writings.

With your analogy about a black person retailing their experiences of racism you defeat a strawman. That either the SCUM manifesto or some of the rhetoric of the Nation Of Islam though is neither suprising nor bad. There is a qualitive difference between feeling threatened by the idea of a woman who asserts her equality and feeling threatened by someone who believes themselves to be superior. You also appear to be incredibly defensive yourself, your posts have contained large amounts of writing relating to you being a victim, whether actually as a woman or hypothetically in a different time period as a Jew and as shortsighted. Your reaction to the use of 'ad hominem' was also extremely defensive.

You continue in your effective demolition of imagined opponents by stating the obvious, I don't think anyone here would disagree with you saying that academia is part of the status quo and contains very stong class and sexual biases in its composition and outlook.

And after all that your last paragraph was spot on. wink

[Going back to your post on Dworkin, her writings having helped you doesn't mean they're not rubbish. To draw an analogy with anti-racist struggles the Nation of Islam did help black people in the US gain confidence in their ability as black men to fight racism but that doesn't mean that the Nation of Islam's world view isn't essentially shit. I haven't read enough Dworkin to make any educated comment on her, my superficial impressions are definetly not positive but I can't really judge her on newspaper articles and long quotes, but my point is that her helping women in no way means she didn't write utter rubbish.]

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Apr 18 2005 19:40
ginger wrote:
Personally I find sg (suicidegirls.com) to be really upsetting - look at how cool us alternative folks can be, we still get to have our sexist images of scantily clad girls, but they look like the girls we fetishise instead of the blondes in playboy. To me, thats more hurtful than a normal porn site because its like this place can be - full of boys busy bringing in patriarchal norms whilst claiming to be confronting the other shit in society. The boys that had sand kicked in their face at school, and now have got themselves cool alternative clubs where they get to feel superior, but are still desperate for the status symbols such as pretty girls that confirm their new status as sand kickers rather than kickees.

I think you've hit the nail on the head there. Suicide Girls is fucking offensive shite for idiot subcultural grebo dicks. Fuck them for thinking they're different. I'd engage with some guy reading The Sport anyday.

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Apr 19 2005 09:57

Ever diplomatic, I see... wink

As for Suicide Girls... well I actually I find it kinda offensive, but no more offensive than I find any other mainstream porn (and yes it is mainstream porn - it's now sponsored by Playboy FFS. And while we're at it, it's actually run by a woman and a man, it's not like some right on girl power venture or anything...). I really don't see any difference between SG and Playboy (the fact that a woman co-runs the site really doesn't amount to much, other than reaffirming the notion that yes, women can be money grabbing, exploitative and cut-throat too...), it's just another porn venture catering to a certain market, pushing a very idealised notion of "beauty" that's pretty much unacheivable for most of us mere female mortals, paying their models a fraction of the profit the owners rake in. The fact that they have tattoos and piercings is pretty much the only difference between SG and any other mainstream porno site.

I mean I don't find any of those images offensive in themselves, it would be very hard for someone to actually come up with a claim that they were offensive (I mean, some girl with too much eyeliner who looks like she just puked up her breakfast with some "alternative" black tape over her tits is hardly gonna make anyone need to lie down in a darkened room...), but the actual concept of Suicide Girls is kinda wierd. Just personally, looking at their site makes me feel depressed, ugly, freakish and totally inadequate, cos I'm just a regular girl who's never going to look anything like that, would never get onto a site like SG no matter how many piercings or whatever I got. It does the exact same thing to me psychologically as looking at a copy of Cosmo or anything else that propogates the notion of "acceptable" beauty/ideal women etc.

Also, having met quite a few of their models only backs up the impression you get from reading their forums - on the whole a bunch of elitist bitchy divas with a popularity contest mentality. Absolutely no differnce between SG and any other mainstream porno venture.

There's so much cool DIY/alt porn on the web, I really don't understand the attraction of SG at all.

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Apr 19 2005 10:03
revol68 wrote:

Of course im just a big bad bullying male who is oppressing your ohh so precious subjective experiance of pAtRiarKhy!!111!1 by demanding a some analytical argument instead of "well I feel ... blah blah" bullshit.

Whilst obviously I agree that analytical arguement is important if you want to make a serious political point/position, I also think it's kinda wierd to just dismiss someone's view because they're talking about how they feel. If you're talking about the effects of patriarchy, yet when a woman talks about how certain aspects make her feel it's just "bullshit", I think yr maybe missing a bit of the point, cos surely people's experiences of how patriarchy effects them personally are kind of important? confused edit - don't bother, the button just explained that one!

Oooh and while we're at it, what's wrong with franz Fanon? I only ask cos I'm meant to be reading The Wretched of The Earth for one of my exams but I haven't started yet, and I want to cheat on my homework wink

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Apr 19 2005 10:11
zobag wrote:
Whilst obviously I agree that analytical arguement is important if you want to make a serious political point/position, I also think it's kinda wierd to just dismiss someone's view because they're talking about how they feel. If you're talking about the effects of patriarchy, yet when a woman talks about how certain aspects make her feel it's just "bullshit", I think yr maybe missing a bit of the point, cos surely people's experiences of how patriarchy effects them personally are kind of important? confused

I wouldn't dismiss experience/affect quite like this. However, I would dispute that experience/affect/feeling is a useful place to start a politics from. You're probably young & lucky enough not to remember how standpoint epistemology fucked up politics (and student politics in particular) in the 1980s, when it seemed almost compulsory to preface any contribution to a debate with the phrase, "Speaking as a......"

Now, to repeat, this isn't to dismiss feelings and experience. But what happens all too easily is that the deployment of experience becomes a claim of authority.

There is a sense in which experience can't be disputed -- you either feel something or you don't. The problems start when this trivial sense of the indisputablilty of experience is inflated into an indisputable claim of authority for the arguments that are based on that experience.

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Apr 19 2005 10:21

Good point. I agree, and I can think of various occassions (in good ol' real life and on these boards) where I've heard people come out with utter balls, and assert that it must be true and beyond criticism because they are a woman. It makes counter-arguements from men easy to discredit (if you're thick), but the problem comes when you're challenged by... another woman! Having been that "other woman" a fair few times, I've been variously dismissed as either ignorant, partarchal, reactionary, "counter to the struggle for women's freedom" and "dangerously divisive". Which is always amusing.

I wasn't saying that anything someone says, just cos it comes from their personal experience of oppression, should be listened to, just that people's feelings shouldn't be dismissed as bullshit just cos they're people's feelings. Although thinking about it, I'm pretty sure that's what revol68 would say anyway embarrassed

So, as you were... smile

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Apr 19 2005 10:24

Fucking hell, serious debate.

Can't we just call each other cocks? tongue

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Apr 19 2005 10:28

Or just make more S&M jokes?

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Apr 19 2005 10:31
zobag wrote:
Or just make more S&M jokes?

In fact, I was just setting one up. You were supposed to post "Cock," & then I was going to post "Thankyou, mistress." tongue

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Apr 19 2005 12:19

[...]

and yes, i think franz fannon had a lot of useful, good stuff to say. and yes i do support genuine national liberation struggles. and no, i don't find that my feminism or support of national liberation struggles leads me to unavoidable cross class alliances, if thats your point. maybe because i have a brain and an ability to look and learn analytically from my experiences.

[...]

post edited because it was almost entirely a flame on revol that upon second reading was not particularly constructive

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Apr 19 2005 12:24

I'm not going to respond to the rest of your post, which is largely an off-topic rejoinder to revol68's attack, but this made me want to ask

Quote:
and yes i do support genuine national liberation struggles. and no, i don't find that [...] support of national liberation struggles leads me to unavoidable cross class alliances

How on earth not? Isn't that the point of NL struggles- the creation of an identity that excludes class?

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Apr 19 2005 12:55
Jack wrote:
ginger wrote:
and yes i do support genuine national liberation struggles.

Such as Scotland?

I support the progressive elements within scottish liberation movement, yes, and the breakdown of the rest of the united kingdom into autonomous, cooperative parts.

i consider it analagous to asking a class struggle anarchist if they would support a working class racist or wife beater.

with regards to scottish liberation from london rule, scotland is also made up of regions that were, prior to the union with england, under imperialist rule from within "scotland". its just a matter of length of time. edinburgh has no more right to rule eg the highlands and islands, or even the lowlands than westminster.

i'm really happy to continue this discussion. i'd be interested in a constructive dialogue where every party learns something and grows as a result. i'm unlikely to respond to aggressive flaming.

LeonardfromLeom...
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Apr 19 2005 13:01

Ginger - There is no way that Scots can ever be allowed to rule Scotland - they have made too big a mess of running England!

Anyway I have been waiting ages for an opportunity to post a picture that shows precisely why the biggest weakness of Scottish nationalism is of course Scots themselves - how could we ever, as class struggle anarchists, abandon the working classes of Edinburgh and Glasgow to this sort of nonsense?

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Apr 19 2005 13:42

But I thought Fanon's idea* was that national liberation struggles are good but only if they do not result in the formation of nation-States, as nation States suck and lead to exactly the same structures of dependence and inequality as colonialism/occupation?

*this may not be true, as I said I haven't yet read, but I'm pretty sure that's what our lecturer said confused

Caiman del Barrio
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Apr 19 2005 13:44
the button wrote:
I wouldn't dismiss experience/affect quite like this. However, I would dispute that experience/affect/feeling is a useful place to start a politics from. You're probably young & lucky enough not to remember how standpoint epistemology fucked up politics (and student politics in particular) in the 1980s, when it seemed almost compulsory to preface any contribution to a debate with the phrase, "Speaking as a......"

Now, to repeat, this isn't to dismiss feelings and experience. But what happens all too easily is that the deployment of experience becomes a claim of authority.

There is a sense in which experience can't be disputed -- you either feel something or you don't. The problems start when this trivial sense of the indisputablilty of experience is inflated into an indisputable claim of authority for the arguments that are based on that experience.

zobag wrote:
Good point. I agree, and I can think of various occassions (in good ol' real life and on these boards) where I've heard people come out with utter balls, and assert that it must be true and beyond criticism because they are a woman. It makes counter-arguements from men easy to discredit (if you're thick), but the problem comes when you're challenged by... another woman! Having been that "other woman" a fair few times, I've been variously dismissed as either ignorant, partarchal, reactionary, "counter to the struggle for women's freedom" and "dangerously divisive". Which is always amusing.

I wasn't saying that anything someone says, just cos it comes from their personal experience of oppression, should be listened to, just that people's feelings shouldn't be dismissed as bullshit just cos they're people's feelings.

Hi there Button. How you doing Zobag??

Could you do me a favour and staple those posts to Jess' brain, since I've been trying to explain this to her for ages.