Saturday, February 05, 2011

Enough liberation to go round

Queen of Thorns wrote a post Why the Left Needs Feminism and cross posted over on the standard. I think her post is really interesting and important (and it's great to see it at the Standard, which usually only comments on feminist issues when there's a really obvious way to insult John Key in the process). Here I do focus on what I disagree with her about and so I suggest you read the whole post, because there's lots of cool ideas in there.

And I agree with her conclusion - obviously I agree with her conclusion. But I disagree with some of the points she makes along the way. Mostly, I think, because we have a different analysis of the role of the Labour Party within the left.

QoT appears to begin her post by setting up a Labour party: "focused on class struggle or strictly economic leftist ideas." This labour party does not exist. Chris Trotter has indeed tried to portray worshipping at the altar of testosterone as a service to the working class, but that doesn't make it true. Likewise there are those who suggest the reason that the fifth labour government alienated so many working-class people was because of it's crazy feminism, but the actual feminist legislative achievements at that time were minimal particularly with what doesn't done (I'm looking at you pay equity and abortion law reform). At times QoT appears to accept Chris Trotter's zero-sum game and just argue that 'identity politics' things are important - rather than going further and saying that there's enough liberation to go around.

In places of her post she is treading over reasonably familiar ground. One of the biggest intellectual challenges for the left is to understand the why and the how of the fourth labour government? Certainly this has come up on left blogs before and there is an argument which places the responsibility at the feet of 'identity politics' (Chris Trotter, John Minto and Bryce Edwards have all made it). I disagree - and I've written my thoughts on this before, so I'm not going to go over them again.

But at times QoT seemed to be arguing the inverse of Trotter's argument:

Trotter is speaking about the 1980s, that golden age of namby-pamby identity politics when the left got distracted by piffling little side issues like whether men should be held accountable for raping their wives and whether gay men should be allowed to be gay.

A time when the Left wasn’t, to quote Phil Goff’s own advisor John Pagani on that thread, “connecting with things that matter to people”. You can probably draw your own conclusions as to the kind of people he means.


I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again, but this idea that the 1980s was a golden age of identity politics (whether you see that as a bad thing) gets repeated far more often than it gets proved. No-one has been able to tell me what the wonderful legislative feminist gains of the fourth labour government were.

But more importantly here Pagani is clearly conflating the 'left' and 'the parliamentary labour party'. He's also wrong on both counts. Because in the 1980s the parliamentary labour party was 'connecting with things that matter to people' - if you call a kick connecting. It was privatising assets, introducing GST, introducing student fees and selling post-offices. And the extra-parliamentary left were also connecting with those very same things, remember just because we didn't win, doesn't mean we didn't fight.

Likewise while homosexual law reform and rape law reform, both had their home in the extra-parliamentary left, neither sat quite as comfortably in the parliamentary left. Homosexual law reform was a private members bill, and several Labour MPs at the time voted against it. Whereas the act that criminalised rape in marriage had been drafted under Muldoon's government, but not passed before the snap election. I disagree with QoT idea that 'the left' focused on Homosexual and rape law reform during the 1980s and this was good, as much as I disagree with Trotter et al's reverse formulation.

I am concerned about the stories that get told about the 1980s, partly because I care about history, but also because I am worried people will draw the wrong lessons today. I think QoT reinforced Trotter's formulation of class and 'identity' politics standing in opposition to each other with the way she talked about the past even though I think her argument was the opposite of that.

This is not a zero sum game - there isn't a limited amount of liberation available that we have to fight among ourselves for. It's the opposite - your struggle is my struggle, and I cannot be free while you are in chains.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Maia,

    My "golden age of identity politics" line was heavy sarcasm - as someone who was an infant in the 80s and a slightly-radical 21st century feminist now I actually think it's ludicrous for Trotter to act like basic human rights stuff like homosexual law reform and criminalizing marital rape was special or radical - like, isn't that just want anyone with a vague concept of human dignity should just do?

    But when I rant I tend to make my sarcasm a little unclear!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous5:40 am

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN
    Why American men should boycott American women

    http://boycottamericanwomen.blogspot.com/

    I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don't know how to cook or clean, don't want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

    American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

    This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.

    BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous5:14 pm

    Bottom line is that true Feminists like Boudicca had honour or engaged in the fight for the vote. Today's feminists are tools of the Frankfurt School social theorists.

    After failing to radicalise the German working class as Internationalist (they became National Socialists NOT Internationalists) the Frankfurt Schoolers fled to the US (to escapr Hitler)where they were given tenure at Columbia University.

    In the 1950's they attempted to radicalise the American worker - again they failed. Why? Because generally workers were paid well for their work.

    They then formed the hypothesis that the white male European/Anglo-American was suspect from a revolutionary perspective...so they looked for a new constituency to radicalise:

    - Women
    - Homosexuals
    - The youth (the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world
    - Non-whites (and white Jews)

    This is when Herbert Marcuse headlined a revisef version of Frankfurt School critical theory called ' The Theory of Polymorphic Perversity' i.e. if it feels good do it!

    In essence the theorists believed that:

    - The white male needed to be destroyed as he represented the un-radicalised worker.

    - The Church need to be destroyed as this promoted understanding across the classes and false class-consciousness.

    - The family needed to be destroyed as this created an alternative to the State in terms of transmitting values to the young, private property, individualism as opposed to collectivism and loyalty

    In their own words they said 'we will make the West so corrupt it stinks'. Haven't they done well? Ever ask yourself why Critical Theory is taught on EVERY Uni course in the West... it is an inter-generational plan to implement a 1930's worldview... why? Simples. Cultural Marxists state that a matriarchal society is a necessary 'precursor' state to the state of anarchy required before socialism can be implemented. They also state that males, once subjugated by legislation, will rise up and destroy the matriarchy and it is they who will institute socialism as they believe it to have been their saviour (and not the originator of the matriachy they destroyed).

    So the Left think that us women are 'useful idiots'!!!

    The next phase can then be implemented...men running the show as per(after all 9 out of 10 Frankfurt Schoolers were male) and breeding consigned to ArtSem dormitories...dystopian I know but this is what they themselves have stated on the public record!

    So the moral of the story is that some women and some men are natural allies AND some men and some women really are the enemy of humanity.

    Why should we trade the gains of our ancestresses for a generation or two wielding man-hatred power (on behalf of totalitarians)???

    Or should that be TotalitariaNZ.

    Peace Sisters x

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