What's going on in AFed?

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dark_ether's picture
dark_ether
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Feb 5 2018 21:53

....k, just to clarify no one in the fed is into 'IDpol', and everyone agrees with the A&Ps, and everyone is aware that the working class exists is the only possible vehicle for a revolution and that cross class alliances are bad.

If anyone either in the AF or who has recently departed it *DOES* agree with IDpol, doesn't agree with A&Ps, or thinks cross class alliancs are ok, let them speak now or forever hold their peace...

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Steven.
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Feb 6 2018 03:49
Alf wrote:
We wrote an article, 'Reflections on the split in the Anarchist Federation'. Thought it better to step back and present it as a more reflective piece, rather than jump into the discussion here. But quite willing to engage here with any comments on or criticisms of the article.

http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201802/14822/reflections-split-anarchist-federation

I stopped reading this after the bit which corresponded with bullet point 11, when it became clear that whoever wrote this hasn't got a fucking clue what they are talking about, beyond reading the inaccurate and highly partisan posts on this thread by Serge Forward.

Apart from the fact the fundamental point of it (that the AF remainers promote "identity politics" over class politics) is complete bollocks, there are numerous other issues with it. In my view it is basically transphobic as well.

I'm assuming the person who wrote it has pretty much zero understanding of trans issues.

I found the very start of it pretty offensive when it referred to "transphobia" in inverted commas. Why was that put in inverted commas? The only reason I can think of to do so is that you don't think the behaviour was actually transphobic. I can't think of any articles on the ICC website referring to racism in inverted commas, so why is this different?

Then it went on to say that the dispute was sparked by "a group of feminists". This isn't really accurate either. It was sparked by two Green Party transphobes.

Then it went on to say that the "feminists" had a "leaflet arguing that new government legislation on “transgender rights” could be seen as an infringement on women’s rights to organize separately, since it would allow transgender males into spaces reserved by or for women."

Now this is another sentence which shows the authors haven't got a clue what they are talking about. Either that, or they are out and out transphobes.

The gender recognition act would not permit trans men into women's spaces.

Current law already means that trans women cannot legally be discriminated against. The GRA would just mean people would not have to go through invasive medical testing, and instead could self declare their gender as female.

Alf, seriously that article is such a piece of crap I think you should take account immediately. It is an embarrassment to your organisation, and an insult to internationalist communism and anyone who opposes transphobia, as we oppose all forms of discrimination against parts of the working class.

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Feb 6 2018 09:46

The article is merely trying to describe what the leaflet handed out at the bookfair is arguing. It's not trying to defend this argument.

And yes, transphobia is something real and needs to be opposed, but Steven's accusations against the authors as possibly being "out and out transphobes" looks to me like an expression of the wild misuse of this term which we have seen on this thread - comparable to the misuse of the term "fascist".

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Serge Forward
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Feb 6 2018 10:39

Alf, I would agree with Steven, that article was generally poor, as was basing a large proportion of it on my admittedly partisan comments in this here thread. Although I would obviously disagree with Steven over the "inaccuracy" claim wink I'd also agree with Steven that it shows a very poor understanding of trans issues. I don't agree it means the ICC is transphobic though, just a bit ignorant and you really need to raise your game in this area.

The ICC claim of sectarianism is also a mistake. Leicester Anarchist Communists has good relations with the CWO due to both groups' involvement in the Midlands Discussion Forum. To date, it has no such relationship with the ICC.

Speaking in a personal capacity, I would like to see a more relaxed relationship between anarchist communists and the groups on the communist left. This article is really not helpful in this regard.

Mike Harman
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Feb 6 2018 10:14
Alf wrote:
The article is merely trying to describe what the leaflet handed out at the bookfair is arguing. It's not trying to defend this argument.

It failed though, because a trans man is a man assigned female at birth. TERFs are actually fine with trans men accessing women's spaces, because they think they're confused butch lesbians or something (i.e. they can't admit that trans men are men, even they've had gender reassignment surgery and are sporting a beard etc.). Usually though, TERFs just don't mention trans men at all, because to do so would directly undermine all their arguments about trans women.

I've just re-read the leaflet distributed at the bookfair, and it does not use the phrase 'transgender men', so the use of that phrase comes entirely from the ICC author (or possibly is copied from someone else's account, which would not make it better).

As Steven. says there are only two ways to end up using 'transgender men' to mean trans women - either due to ignorance or intent.

If someone wrote an article saying that Muslims won a battle to wear turbans on buses in the late '60s that would rightly be described as either ignorant or racist. You wouldn't let an article get written that swapped use value and surplus value the whole way through because it just wouldn't make any sense at all.

So I'd really recommend actually learning about this and getting a bit less defensive.

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Feb 6 2018 10:53

I confess the article has not mastered the terminology, which as the link to Wiki demonstrates, is Byzantine in its complexity. But my question regarding the content of the 'TERF' leaflet is this: was the leaflet not centred round objecting to the 'invasion' of women's spaces by people which they consider as not really women at all?

At the same time, this isn't really the main issue raised by the article, which is a much broader one, and which has to be examined if we are to understand why this clash at the Bookfair has caused such an explosion in the anarchist movement: is it true that significant parts of the anarchist movement are being pulled into the politics of 'identity', whether based on gender, sexuality, race or nationality?

Mike Harman
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Feb 6 2018 11:58
Alf wrote:
I confess the article has not mastered the terminology, which as the link to Wiki demonstrates, is Byzantine in its complexity.

Alf, you're not a columnist for the New Statesman, you publish articles with paragraphs like this:

ICC wrote:
All social changes are the result of the deepening and prolonged collision of the relations of production with the development of the productive forces. If we defended the hypothesis of the definitive and permanent halt in this development, the deepening of this contradiction could only be demonstrated if the outer bounds of the existing property relations were 'absolutely' receding. However, it happens that the characteristic movement of the different periods of decadence in history (including the capitalist system) tends rather in the direction of expanding these frontiers up to their final limits than towards their restriction.
Alf wrote:
At the same time, this isn't really the main issue raised by the article, which is a much broader one, and which has to be examined if we are to understand why this clash at the Bookfair has caused such an explosion in the anarchist movement: is it true that significant parts of the anarchist movement are being pulled into the politics of 'identity', whether based on gender, sexuality, race or nationality?

You're asking the wrong question, because you don't understand the basis of the conflict. Another question to ask would be, "Why did two Green party members feel sufficiently emboldened that they could distribute transphobic leaflets at the anarchist bookfair, and put up posters in the toilets" One answer would be the ignorance of many people in attendance who had not read up on the issues prior, partly because they're unaffected by them. Something you're contributing to by posting an article that can't get basic terminology right, then doubling down on by calling that terminology 'byzantine' instead of reading up on it and issuing a correction.

el psy congroo
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Feb 6 2018 12:15

Alf, just shut the fuck up already.

Go ahead, someone ask them how they feel about sex workers.

You and your organization have been misogynistic for years, so how can we be shocked at the transphobia?

TERF = trans-exclusionary radical feminist, not "trans exclusive" radfem as the article claims.

If anything is byzantine, it's the ICC.

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Feb 6 2018 12:22

The discussion can be narrowed to disinterring exactly what happened at the bookfair. Or it could be widened into a discussion about the present difficulties in the anarchist movement. And further widened into a discussion about the present difficulties for all revolutionaries in a period where class identity and class consciousness are in retreat.

But perhaps it's better if I just shut the fuck up.....

Mike Harman
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Feb 6 2018 13:15
Alf wrote:
The discussion can be narrowed to disinterring exactly what happened at the bookfair.

Again the framing here is fucked. If we look at the Sit Down strikes of the '30s, we could look at the role of women (black and white) in those strikes: https://libcom.org/history/sit-down-strikes-women-1937-ivan-greenberg - their exclusion from factory occupations, resistance to this etc.

Is that 'narrowing' the discussion of that movement (by talking about how systems of gender and race impacted, and were impacted by, the strike movement), or broadening it from an implicit or explicit assumption that the strikes were limited to white male workers? Is it more or less narrow to discuss 1930s US strike movements with or without reference to Jim Crow and structural racism in the North?

Alf wrote:
class identity and class consciousness are in retreat
ICC on the bookfair wrote:
it is not surprising that the problem of class identity is being obscured by a fixation on other, more specific identities

So you do like identity politics, then.

Dauve wrote:
If one identifies proletarian with factory worker (or with manual labourer), or with the poor, one misses what is subversive in the proletarian condition. The proletariat is the negation of this society. It is not the collection of the poor, but of those who are dispossessed, “without reserves,”14 who are nothing, have nothing to lose but their chains, and cannot liberate themselves without destroying the whole social order. The proletariat is the dissolution of present society, because this society deprives the proletarians of nearly all its positive aspects: the proles only get their share of capitalist material, mental, and cultural wealth in its poorest aspects. All theories (bourgeois, fascist, Stalinist, Labourite, left-wing, or far-leftist) which somehow glorify and praise the proletariat as it is and claim for it the positive role of defending values and regenerating society, are anti-revolutionary. Enlightened bourgeois even admit the existence of class struggle, providing it never ends, in a self-perpetuating bargaining game between labour and capital, where the proletariat is reduced to the status of an element of capital, an indispensable wheel within an inevitable mechanism. The bourgeois does not mind the worker as long as he remains a partner.

https://libcom.org/library/capitalism-communism-gilles-dauve

This is Marx vs. Lassalle all over again.

All of the Bernie vs. Hillary identity politics vs. class arguments of the past couple of years were this shit - a false dichotomy between positive class identity and representation vs. gender/race identity and representation. How people constantly manage to throw their critiques of class representation out of the window as soon as anyone mentions identity politics never ceases to amaze me.

If you want to make the argument that a positive 'class identity' is the missing thing in contemporary society, then even a cursory read of discussions around identity politics would show that people are not choosing between mutually exclusive identities, but rather discussing how different experiences of the stratification of class society shape imposed identities. Race and gender as the mechanisms by which many of the divisions of work (and the working class) in society are organised.

Combahee River Collective wrote:
We believe that sexual politics under patriarchy is as pervasive in Black women's lives as are the politics of class and race. We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously. We know that there is such a thing as racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual, e.g., the history of rape of Black women by white men as a weapon of political repression.
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Feb 6 2018 14:02

In response to a previous post by Mike Harman

I would not be against changing certain of the formulations in the article regarding the bookfair events. But it would help if Mike would answer my previous question, which was about what the leaflet was actually objecting to:

"was the leaflet not centred round objecting to the 'invasion' of women's spaces by people which they consider as not really women at all?". (Invasion in inverted commas, please note).

On narrowing: I don't think it's "narrowing" to recognise that issues of race and gender are constantly being posed in the class struggle. What I was objecting to was narrowing the problems facing the anarchist movement to what took place at the bookfair.

Class identity is indeed a major problem to be clarified and deepened, but I dont think that Dauve and/or the communisers have solved it because I think the tendency of their thought is to reject the working class as a revolutionary subject.

Shutting up (for now)

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Steven.
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Feb 6 2018 14:10
Alf wrote:
The article is merely trying to describe what the leaflet handed out at the bookfair is arguing. It's not trying to defend this argument.

Alf the problem is that it basically does because it mis-genders trans women, calling them trans men. This de facto supports the argument of TERFs that trans women are not women.

Quote:
And yes, transphobia is something real and needs to be opposed

I'm glad that you feel that is the case. That being so, why then is "transphobia" at the beginning of the text in inverted commas? The only reasons I can think of the doing so would be if a: you didn't think transphobia was a real thing, or b: you didn't think the transphobes at the Bookfair were transphobes, which they clearly are (you can just take a look at their hateful personal social media accounts for confirmation of this)

Quote:
but Steven's accusations against the authors as possibly being "out and out transphobes" looks to me like an expression of the wild misuse of this term which we have seen on this thread - comparable to the misuse of the term "fascist".

here you are being ridiculously defensive.

Mis-gendering trans people is transphobic. Would you agree with that?

If so then you have to agree this article is transphobic.

I would hope that rather than open transphobes, the people who wrote this article are just ignorant – both of trans issues and of the internal happenings in the AF. TBH this is pretty clearly the case in both senses, which is why this is such a crap article.

But your claim that calling something transphobic "transphobic" is equivalent to calling non-fascists "fascist" is completely ridiculous.

Apart from anything else, you mischaracterise my comment. What I said was:

Steven. wrote:
Now this is another sentence which shows the authors haven't got a clue what they are talking about. Either that, or they are out and out transphobes.

Now I don't know who the authors are, or anything about them. However from what they have written there are only these two possible interpretations. If you are saying the authors are not openly transphobic, I'm happy to accept that. However that does mean they haven't got a clue what they are talking about.

As Mike points out, your defence of the authors (that trans terminology is so complex it doesn't matter how you use it) also doesn't stand up in the slightest, considering how overly jargony and complex the languages in your average ICC text which may talk about dialectical materialism, decadence, obscure Marxist terminology. This is much more complicated than the idea that you should address trans women as women and trans men as men.

As I said before, my suggestion would be that the authors either take down the article, or take the time to get a very basic understanding of both trans issues and the issues in the AF before they write something. This is a very simple introduction to trans issues, which is much easier to comprehend than half the stuff on the ICC website: https://libcom.org/library/trans-101-wobblies

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Steven.
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Feb 6 2018 14:13
Alf wrote:
But it would help if Mike would answer my previous question, which was about what the leaflet was actually objecting to:

"was the leaflet not centred round objecting to the 'invasion' of women's spaces by people which they consider as not really women at all?". (Invasion in inverted commas, please note).

happy to answer your question: yes that was what the leaflet was centred around. However the ICC article was written in such a way that it showed that the authors essentially agree with the transphobes that trans women were not women: as it calls them "transgender men".

So your question is pretty irrelevant, in terms of defending the ICC authors from accusations of transphobia.

Edited to add: trans issues are pretty new to me, and I have occasionally accidentally used unintentionally offensive and transphobic language without thinking. However what I do now if challenged on it is that I immediately apologise and retract my comment. I don't double down, and start using people of falsely accusing people of being "fascists"

Mike Harman
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Feb 7 2018 17:28

I'm going to keep banging on about the identity politics vs. class false dichotomy until it sinks in.

Back to the ICC statement:

ICC wrote:
These developments are not taking place in a vacuum. The tendency, within anarchism, to abandon class politics and look for solutions in various forms of identity politics – whether based on gender, race, or nation – while not new, are certainly being exacerbated by the characteristics of the current historic period, in which capitalism is sinking towards barbarism while the working class, weakened by all the divisions engendered by this decomposing society, has found it extremely difficult to resist as a class and above all to rediscover its own perspective for the future of humanity. In a situation where the working class is tending to lose its sense of itself as a distinct social force, it is not surprising that the problem of class identity is being obscured by a fixation on other, more specific identities – a fixation which, while linked to genuine oppressions, tend to obscure the central problem of exploitation and the capitalist social relation.

BBC Newsnight put out a video last night:

https://twitter.com/BBCNewsnight/status/961012360424038400

BBC wrote:
Has the liberal elite’s growing focus on race, gender and sexuality left working class people overlooked in favour of identity politics?

It goes on to lament John Major as the most recent 'working class' prime minister (or maybe it's Theresa May, it's not entirely clear).

And from this week by Chris Hedges in TruthDig:

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/bankruptcy-american-left/

Chris Hedges wrote:
The left, seduced by the culture wars and identity politics, largely ignores the primacy of capitalism and the class struggle.

[David North, the national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States]"I think this has been the narrative pushed by the pseudo-left, middle-class groups who are drunk on identity politics, which have a vested interest in constantly distracting people from the essential class differences that exist in the society. Dividing everyone up on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference fails to address the major problem."

[...]
Resistance to this global cabal of corporate oligarchs must also be supranational. It must build alliances with workers around the globe. It must defy the liberal institutions, including the Democratic Party, which betray workers.
[...]
If we do not rise up to bring government and financial systems under public control—which includes nationalizing banks, the fossil fuel industry and the arms industry—we will continue to be victims.

Let's defy liberal institutions, by... nationalizing banks and the arms industry! Let's not ignore capitalism and the class struggle, by making the state the owner of capital! Let's blame divisions in the working class on those who have been historically excluded from it!

Or we can look at Jonathan Pie's Tom Walker, with Michael Portillo, Andrew Neill and Rachel Reeves making similar arguments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkoRODfEMyY 'faith flag and family', 'the cultural superiority of the coastal elites' and the rest.

These are not aberrations, they are mainstream political commentary repeated daily.

The ICC statement does some handwaving about a Marxist approach to different types of oppression under capitalism:

ICC wrote:
Does any of this mean that all the problems posed by the different forms of oppression and division reinforced by capitalist society have been solved by the marxist movement? Not at all: even when we are talking about authentic marxism and not its Stalinist or leftist caricature, its various currents have not been immune from workerist ideologies, reductionist visions of class, and even overtly “patriarchal attitudes”. But we are convinced that it’s only the marxist, historical method that will enable us to understand the origins of different forms of oppression and the way to oppose and overcome them, which can only mean starting from a lucid class standpoint that states openly that identity politics are a dead-en

But nothing is offered that actually does that, not in the statement, not a link to anything that does. Where is it?

The one link we get is to this article by Workers Offensive. https://www.workersoffensive.org/single-post/2017/10/13/The-Dead-End-of-Racial-Identity-Politics It talks about Fredrick Douglass and Marcus Garvey, without discussing the Black Panthers (revolutionary intercommunalism, "we fight racism with socialism") or DRUM and similar groups. And it cites social democrat Adolph Reed in three separate footnotes.

People who consider themselves communists are just borrowing arguments about 'identity politics' from right wing liberals and social democrats (who are busy trying to build their own cross-class electoral alliances under some rubric of a culturally defined (white) working class alongside populist economic measures that will appeal to small and medium (and large) businesses against poorly defined 'elites' (generally code for black people and bankers)), slapping a paragraph of handwaving on it, and calling it analysis. It's fucking lazy and it's time to do better.

Spikymike
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Feb 7 2018 18:46

Since the split in the AF seems to me at least to be more about matters of strategy and tactics than principles, I think dark_ether misses the point in their demand 'to speak up now' and say if anyone involved either way in the AF split agrees with 'identity politics' as it may be quite possible from a communist class struggle perspective to view some people who claim to be against such politics in theory, never the less to contribute to it by their practice. Serge's earlier contribution maybe didn't help but the 'Communist Anarchism' comrades need to be given some space to develop their distinct political point of view without the likes of the ICC, SPGB, or others with their own agendas (and problems) rushing to judgement.

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dark_ether
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Feb 7 2018 19:20

It's just tedious to see things that are not remotely close to the truth of what people in the 'fed do or believe brought up on libcom threads.

'cross class alliances' is rejected wholesale, its in the A&Ps for a reason.

Turns towards 'big tent anarchism' are likewise rejected, if anything discussion is turning more to widening the tent on the communist side of the tent, not the anarchist one. (to butcher a metaphor).

No one is talking about the idea encouraging to oragnise around identities, there is an openness to oragnising around oppressions faced, but thats distinct. In addition its always done with a class struggle strategy in mind, ie not cross class, and not aiming for more women MPS or minority CEOS or LGBT Police or any of the other liberal talking points we sometimes get lumped in with.