The SWP’s women problem raises some wider questions too


4:37 pm - March 14th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Early on in my first year of university, I went to a Socialist Workers Party meeting to hear about why the former republic of Yugoslavia had collapsed (it was 1995 ok!). According to everyone from the SWP there, class differences were to blame.

I pointed out that ethnic conflict may have also played a large role in why the former Yugoslavia collapsed, but my points were dismissed as extreme naivety. Fair enough, they had their own view, but I never bothered going back to another SWP meeting.

Laurie Penny, while writing about the inevitable demise of the SWP over rape-allegations, says:

In fact only one question truly matters: do you believe that it is possible to fight for a better world, for a world of justice, tolerance and liberty, while simultaneously denying the agency and autonomy of half the human race? And if you do, just what kind of a better world are you fighting for? Socialism without feminism, after all, is no socialism worth having.

She asks a good question, but I don’t think this quite gets to the nub of the problem.

Like a lot of the left, the SWP think everything is a function of class. Clearly, this is not the case, and I would hope that recent discussions of inter-sectionality (especially by feminists) have underlined this point.

So it doesn’t surprise me much that the SWP leadership is accused of playing down allegations of sexual harassment or rape… but then I’ve heard for years about how many well-meaning lefties played down allegations of racial discrimination or harassment.

I doubt the SWP members who first looked into the rape allegations thought they were denying agency or autonomy to women. I suspect they thought they were being good, responsible members by doing an investigation (however cack-handed it was). This is what happens when you only see the world through one prism.

Phil BC succinctly summed up the SWP position recently:

If you’re in the business of prosecuting class struggle to the point of the overthrow of capital, and you believe it is your party’s destiny to lead the working class in revolt, as far as behaviour, misconduct and crimes committed by party members are concerned the party is the sovereign body for pronouncing on questions of truth and guilt, of sanction and punishment.

Within the terms of party morality and the closed-loop universe of the SWP’s particular form of revolutionary identity politics, they did the right thing investigating the allegations.

In other words, the SWP’s starting position is that class difference lie behind everything, and therefore the capitalist system is the enemy and cannot be trusted. It’s no surprise then that they reject the mainstream judicial system.

How anyone could not see such a cluster-fuck coming is beyond me.

But I think this controversy also raises a few questions. Isn’t it time for the left to move on from the view that class differences alone are the key way to understand the interpret the world?

And what about other hard-left organisations? Will they also carry on pretending that they can operate outside the state as quasi-judicial bodies? Isn’t it time to accept that the ‘capitalist judicial system’ is the only viable one?

I don’t think the SWP crisis came about because they hate women, but because they still distrust institutions we all now take for granted, and because feminism (like race relations and other identities) are an inconvenient blind-spot.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Haven’t the SWP been loudly feminist for years?

2. Luis Enrique

the SWP crisis came about because … they still distrust institutions we all now take for granted, and because feminism (like race relations and other identities) are an inconvenient blind-spot.

that’s far too generous.

how about the crisis came about because the SWP is a collection of deluded messianic cultists with at least one leader who wants to commit rape and exploit the cult’s beliefs to get away with it, and others who would rather cover up rape than admit a shining light of the people’s vanguard is a rapist.

These lunatics would like to take control of this country and grant themselves powers to remake it as they see fit. Which would be a terrifying prospect if it wasn’t thankfully so very unlikely. I cannot understand why anybody would want a more “radical” left wing to achieve power, if this is what the radical left looks like.

“Socialism without feminism, after all, is no socialism worth having.”

It’s also worth pointing our that feminism without socialism is just as bad.

I think the article has a point about the way the SWP see the world, I’m just not sure it’s been taken to its logical conclusion.

Ultimately, if you see everything as an issue of social class, then you’re going to bang that nail with a hammer, no matter how screwed-up you are. And if you happen to hammer other minorities along the way because they don’t fit your world view, then you may genuinely not realise you are behaving as an instrument of repression. (As a disability rights activist I see a lot of this when we point out how mainstream society fails us. I’ve had non-disabled people tell me incidents of disablism I experienced at first hand can’t possibly have happened because _they_ know UK society isn’t like that)

But not recognising the damage you are inflicting doesn’t mean you get a get-out-of-jail-free card on your behaviour. Each of us has a responsibility to question our own actions, particularly when our failings are pointed out by the minority we are persecuting, and the SWP have signally failed to do that. They have become the very thing they claim to be fighting against, an entrenched oligarchy fighting to protect their own position at the cost of a persecuted minority. And if that isn’t a form of class oppression then I’m not certain what is.

Then again, who gives a flying toss what that gang of wingnuts thinks, about this or anything else?

@1

Haven’t the SWP been loudly feminist for years?

If by that you mean throwing the term ‘creeping feminism’ about as an insult, then yes. What they prefer to do is to talk about women’s oppression instead, and have been highly resistant to newer strands of feminist thinking which are actually quite compatible with Marxist thinking, though that has more to do with not actually bothering to look (well actually more actively avoiding looking) into newer developments in feminist thinking rather than any sort of ideological objection.

There have been rather good pro-feminist SWP members however, but the leadership and party hacks give them short shrift.

@4

They have become the very thing they claim to be fighting against, an entrenched oligarchy fighting to protect their own position at the cost of a persecuted minority.

This basically. The net result of the special conference, along with all the dirty tricks and bureaucratic party systems the CC used to rig it in their favour, has been to drag what claims to principles the SWP had onto the street and shoot them stone cold dead.

The man everyone likes to ignore – has this to say about the story. And I agree with him:

”The SWP: slain by cynical scandal-milkers
The socialists have joined the Catholic Church and the BBC as victims of a corrosive zeitgeist that views all institutions as nests of perverts.”

http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/13442/

When, in the process of trying to form an anti-war political party, you describe women’s rights as ‘shibboleths’ , it’s only a matter of time before what has happened will happen.

Luis Enrique gets it spot on here.

Hopefully the rest of the ‘democratic centralism’ parties will disappear now and we can have some better organizational forms that have the maturity to recognize disagreements and diverse views are essential

The glib use of the word “cluster-fuck” in an article concerning rape, with no trigger warnings or anything, suggests that you’re not very deep in your understanding of intersectionality Sunny, or very sincere.

It suggests to me that you’re more bothered about using the SWP scandal as a pretext to justifty shifting the emphasis even further away from class politics on the left, as if the 30-year long “retreat from class” that took place with the ascendency of Thatcher and neo-liberalism never happened. I think this is a mistake and not the correct lesson to be drawn from this torrid affair. Not in this historical moment, during the biggest depression since the 1930’s.

Another thing which gives this away is this statement “But I think this controversy also raises a few questions. Isn’t it time for the left to move on from the view that class differences alone are the key way to understand the interpret the world?”

This is a straw-man attack of the cheapest kind. No socialist, marxist, anarchist group literally believes, as you claim, that “class differences alone are the key way to understand the interpret the world?” Neither Marx or Engels ever claimed a vulgar “economic determinist” view of the world where only class mattered, and even groups like the SWP formally claim to to be utterly committed to feminism and women’s liberation. In other words, you’re missing the point Sunny. Try Ralph Miliband’s “Marxism and Politics” for more on this. What is usually at stake is emphasis, as identity poliics and class politics are not this mutually exclusive binary choice. Some of the smaller sects have over the years fashioned themselves a crude Marxist dogma that paid only the slightest lipservice to issues that weren’t class. A sort of cargo-cult prole fetish club and 1917 re-enactment historical re-enactment society for graduates of Red Brick uni’s. I think the SWP over the last 10-15 years has started to go down this path.

This background is part of why he SWP has responded to the “Delta” affair in the incomprehensible way. A lot of what has gone on is down to their own weird little cub-culture, and all the hundreds of power relationships going on at any given time in the party. The tendency to try and obfuscate a serious issue by burying it under a mountain of Leninist jargon is typically SWP, for instance. However all this is too long and dull to get into, only hardcore trotspotters would care. But I would recommend looking at these aspects before coming to general conclusions about the “radical left” as a whole Sunny.

I also disagree with this statement – “Isn’t it time to accept that the ‘capitalist judicial system’ is the only viable one?” is utterly wrong, especially in regards to accuations of rape and sexual harassment. The record of the legal system in prosecuting and following up rape and sexual harassment in this country is appalling, to say the least. Furthermore, it’s not your right to presume on anyone victim’s behalf what their preferred course of action should be in these situations. If someone chose to take an allegation like this to their party, due to lack of faith in the legal process, that’s their perogative. That doesn’t excuse the SWP for how they then went on to deal with this I might add.

As for the SWP, that’s an organisation that has degenerated over a long period of time into a small sect, with little influence, no internal democracy and other worrying cult-like tendencies. The reputation they had earned for themselves on the radical left for hi-jacking campaigns to “build the party” and for generally being an obstacle to progress long predates the “Comrade Delta” scandal. The way in which they cosied up with Galloway and some other deeply reactionary figures when they were involved in Respect, for instance, brought the whole of the radical left to disrepute, and their handling of this recent affair is doing the same thing again. I won’t miss the SWP one bit, I think their passing is a deliverance.

The question remains however will all radical and class-oriented politics, whether it be anarchist, trotksyite or unaligned, be buried with it, and are the SWP the stick with which the unholy alliance of New Labour liberals and far-right headbangers will use to attack anyone who dares to radical leftwinger? From Douglas Murray and Nick Cohen to Laurie Penny and Sunny Hundal (haven’t had time to work out if it’s a united or popular front yet) there’s quite a few people rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of sticking it to the left of this. Nick Cohen’s pretty obvious desire to use this affair to settle old scores with the people who opposed him over his support of the Iraq War, to pick one example, struck me as pariticularly insincere and cynical.

Now the SWP is gone, and the writing clearly on the wall for the remaining Trot sects, what will replace it? There is a dire need for a left of labour formation to come into existence in the next couple of years, for when Labour get elected in 2015 and start hammering people with the exact same cut as the Tories. We need to have some in place, ready for it. However this “People’s Assembly” stuff looks to me like a vangard of x-list celebrity left-wingers pushing the same insipid “all roads lead to Labour” stuff that’s dead in the water, that’s more concerned with trying to neutralise and monopolise anti-Labour sentiment from it’s left than it is to do with actually fighting against austerity.

“Isn’t it time for the left to move on from the view that class differences alone are the key way to understand the interpret the world?”

Um… I’m sympathetic to the point but I detect a whiff of hay here. I’d suggest that “the left” and the ultra-reductionist logic you ascribe to the SWP, let alone anyone else talking about these issue, are not the same thing. So you’re asking people to move on from a place they generally aren’t really at in the first place.

Most injustices have at their root disparities of power, class is one of those, as are the “wrong” gender, race, belief, health/disability, and simply sheer vulnerability in the case of sexual abuse. None of these can be ignored by anyone wanting a decent world to live in, and none ever makes sense examined totally in isolation.

Hundal:

Like a lot of the left, the SWP think everything is a function of class. Clearly, this is not the case, and I would hope that recent discussions of inter-sectionality (especially by feminists) have underlined this point.

Given that discussions of ‘intersectionality’ go back over two decades or more, then yes. On the other hand, the latest discussions emerged precisely because some feminists failed or refused to recognise this: for example, Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham re. race; the ongoing arguments about sex workers; or Suzanne Moore re. transgender women:

Intersectionality is good in theory, though in practice, it means that no one can speak for anyone else. It is the dead-end where much queer politics, feminist politics and identity politics ends up. In its own rectum. It refuses to engage with many other political discourses and becomes the old hierarchy of oppression.

But maybe that’s what happens when you replace ‘class struggle’ with ‘the patriarchy’ as the ‘one prism’ though which everything else is viewed. In other words, even allowing for the ‘clusterfuck’ at the SWP, I’m not buying the idea that feminism has no ‘blind spots’ of its own.

9

Very well written and argued, very few on the left believed that class was the only influence/determinent, Sunny is just following the LP meme of denying its’ roots. Class denial is equally as nonsensical as suggesting that it is the only factor.

13. Standing Orders Pedant

“And what about other hard-left organisations? Will they also carry on pretending that they can operate outside the state as quasi-judicial bodies? Isn’t it time to accept that the ‘capitalist judicial system’ is the only viable one?”

This seems like an over stretched conclusion to make –

Which other left organisations are doing this? Is it as widespread as the remark makes out?

Accepting the capitalist judicial system doesn’t mean that it’s the only viable one – it might be the only viable one in the here and now, but that doesn’t preclude there being a more viable one in an as yet undiscovered future.

Generally, I thought that this was a general attack on class politics, which I think is sad – there is a legitimate reason to keep banging on about class – not at the expense of other things, not to the detriment of other things, but along side them, because the reality is that class – in the marxist sense of the word, is really important, and more than that – its something that people very broadly share, it’s something that unites us, rather than divides us, and that is very important.

14. Shatterface

This is what happens when you only see the world through one prism

Quite.

The problem with the European left is that it has been dominated by the one dimensional views of Marx and his camp followers. That means every kind of inequality is interpreted in terms of class and class alone, which was inadequate even in the 19th Century when class boundaries were far more clear cut than in the 20th Century let alone the 21st Century.

Inequalities can be gender based. Pretending that the nuclear family was an invention of capitalism and therefore explainable in terms of the capitalist reproduction of labour was never anything but risible.

Society is also heteronormative and you can’t explain that in terms of class either: a capitalist system that marginalises 5% (or whatever) of producers and consumers is inefficient on it’s own terms. Saying ‘hey, capitalism favours heterosexuals because that favours a higher return on capital investment’ is clearly horseshit.

You can pretend that race is a hangover from an earlier, imperialist stage of capitalism if you want but a racially stratified society doesn’t map onto 21st Century economic reality.

Likewise the ‘Protestant work ethic’ with it ‘s ‘rich man in his castle, the poir man at ihis gate’ ideology dorsn’t explain the dominance of Christianity in the 21st Century.

And we also live in a society which is neuronormative – and the fact that most people haven’t even heard that word before is indicative of how pervasive it is.

The proposed solutions to this – such as meritocracy – are, if anything, worse because they attempt to make inequality acceptable by making inequality ‘fair’.

The problem isn’t any particular inequality but inequality itself – and inequality is fundamentally about power. the left might favour economic redistribution but not democratic distribution. i hear plenty of claims that the left will do this or that in power but it’s all about State control: nothing about investment in workers’s direct control over the workplace; plenty about controling media representations of women or homosexuals but nothing about investments in independent media..

It’s never about dismantling oligarchy just changing the oligarchs.

14. Shatterface

“The problem with the European left is that it has been dominated by the one dimensional views of Marx and his camp followers. That means every kind of inequality is interpreted in terms of class and class alone, which was inadequate even in the 19th Century when class boundaries were far more clear cut than in the 20th Century let alone the 21st Century.”

Except that’s not true, either in theory or in practice. Don’t get me wrong, that are examples of far-left groups who’ve ignored everything but class, but there’s little or no basis for this in Marx’s actual work itself, and whilst there are groups on the far-left who’ve gone in for ths class reductionism, there’s also examples of marxist feminists, anti-racist socialists, and groups that genuinely did consider these sorts of issues interlinked inherent to one another that you’re utterly ignoring. It’s probably worth reminding you here that there’s a history going back well over 100 years for instance of marxist feminism, back in the days when many liberals and tories were against female suffrage, to pick an obvious example.

Also the idea that the European Left is dominated by Marx and his camp of followers is also untrue. The Fabian Society and Bernstein etc that’s a different story, and they were nominally marxist at a push, but by no means were they communist revolutionaries in the sense that Marxist as a label now means.

The accusation that the radical left is class reductionist in the year 2013 is simply inaccurate. It’s a gross an inaccurate caricature that makes finding out the real roots behind things such as this harder for everyone. It’s really unhelpful infact.

Because most of the arguments you’ve set out derive from an inaccurate premise a lot of those arguments really don’t amount to much.

I do think the handful of people leaving the SWP over this are overreacting morons. I’m joining the party.

The problem with the SWP is that although they criticise Stalin, they have a positive opinion of Lenin and Trotsky who were responsible for mass murder and all other sorts of nastiness following the October Revolution. However, because this was done in the name of the cause they believe in, they’re prepared to turn a blind eye to it to make feeble excuses for it. It’s no better than those on the right who are prepared to turn a blind eye to Pinochet’s crimes. I believe radical socialism is a flawed and redundant concept but have a lot of respect for the Socialist Party of Great Britain because they at least have been consistent in opposing left-wing authoritarianism.

16 & 17

Crank alert.

I would have also queried the use of ‘clusterfuck’ but when I saw it I was on a phone and I have fat fingers. Now on a computer, I would say the language used has become somewhat important at this point in time because it coincides with a circular argument alongside the SWP situation, where 1) no effort is made at presumption of innocence – one or more rapes DID take place, it is asserted, end of – and 2) anyone who has trouble accepting the Nick Cohen interpretation is guilty of ‘rape denial’ and actively protecting one or more criminal acts.
On the blogs, the Twit-o-sphere and CiF there is a lot of commentary from authors who might realise in future they have spouted nonsense – such as two twitterers suggesting someone beheads the author of the link in post 7 (even while complaining about SWP thuggery).
I have blogged about these case more elsewhere; my main point here is that if people were treating them as two alleged crimes arising from (alleged) individual criminal responsibilty – rather than symptomatic of the big picture – it might lead to an alternative, more civilised understanding of events.

3) We could also do with less collective guilt too. For instance, I used to sell the small circulation mag _Wake Up_ in the mid-1980s. Why should its editor/guru Dave “Womble” T be linked to the alleged crimes of Comrade Delta by virtue of him being on the British left?
In short, if you’re going to get on your moral high horse about the SWP you should probably maintain your own minimum standards of logic and tolerance.

20. Daniel Factor

The SWP have a record of ducking out of women’s rights issues when it comes to minority cultures and religions because they believe to tackle sexism in minority religions is “racist”.

21. Harry Haller

Yes, this analysis is a good one and in a few words summarizes the main substance of the matter.

I’d only add that Mark&Lennys (as I dub them) tend to be people who, for all their professions of “democratic centralism,” across time and organizations repeatedly produce monstrous behavior on the part of the “special people” who end up being their own “ruling class.” A cloistered environment with emphasis on privacy, is an ideal ground for culturing all manner of bad behavior. This is the main reason I think centralism–democratic or otherwise–especially in a “vanguard party” that must, cult-like, keep its inner doings opaque from the view of the (bourgeois) outside world, fosters grandiose abusers.

It is strongly suggestive of dominance/submission and at times, sadism/masochism. I’ve no objection to people’s kinks, so long as they are consensual. As we’ve seen, that’s not always the case.

22. So Much for Subtlety

I don’t think the SWP crisis came about because they hate women, but because they still distrust institutions we all now take for granted, and because feminism (like race relations and other identities) are an inconvenient blind-spot

That is an interesting response. And it shows the on-going problem the Soft Left has when it comes to the Hard Left – they insist that there are no enemies to the Left. Yes there are. I doubt that the same tolerance and forgiveness would be extended to the Tories when it came to sexism and racism.

It is time to admit the obvious – all Trotskyite groups end up as Rape Cults focused on a rapey leader.

” don’t think the SWP crisis came about because they hate women, but because they still distrust institutions we all now take for granted, and because feminism (like race relations and other identities) are an inconvenient blind-spot.”

Alternatively, it came about because they are a tiny cult organisation, and once the leadership make a decision, what matters is that the leadership’s decision is approved, not the rightness or wrongness of the decision.

A bit of the old dialectic solves everything. Marx could have told you that.

@19

“The SWP have a record of ducking out of women’s rights issues when it comes to minority cultures and religions because they believe to tackle sexism in minority religions is “racist”.”

I don’t even think it’s as noble as that, Daniel. I think they think that standing up to “racism” will garner them more support than standing up to “sexism” – note their 70s campaigns. I don’t think the leadership give two shits about the races, or indeed, the sexes. To them, people are chess pieces to be moved around in the Manichean war between Capital and Proletariat.

“It is time to admit the obvious – all Trotskyite groups end up as Rape Cults focused on a rapey leader.” (21) If Delta is indeed a rapist, that would make two Brit Trotskyist leaders guilty of rape in the past 30 years (treating Gerry Healy as the other one). That would still be two too many, but a lot of people commenting on this (blogs, CiF, the twit-o-sphere) are using similar rhetoric to the SWP. In the process, liberal ideas like people being ‘presumed innocent’ and avoiding ‘collective guilt’ are dumped by the roadside to make way for illogical ranting.

In 1985 I would sell the small-circulation mag Wake Up. It was (is?) part of the British far left, but why should its editor/guru Dave T have take any personal responsibility for the things Comrade Delta is alleged to have done? Yet in Nick Cohen land, the theme of everyone left of Labour being somehow a rapist-in-waiting or their future accomplices is never far away.

26. Shatterface

I wouldn’t mind so much if the SWP actually drew members from the proletariat but most of them seem to be students or members of the petit bourgeoisie (civil servants, teachers, etc).

27. Charlieman

@24. Shatterface: “I wouldn’t mind so much if the SWP actually drew members from the proletariat but most of them seem to be students or members of the petit bourgeoisie (civil servants, teachers, etc).”

Bollocks. I don’t care from which class the SWP oppressors come. If they oppress…

“Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down

Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down”

I ain’t perfect but I’ll try to live up to the words above.

The keyword, I think,is not so much class as Leninism: as Alex Calllinicos’ response to events has demonstrated, they believe they are the inheritors of Lenin’s party, and that this will forever absolve them from general matters of morality and liberal procedure (and that, rather than conscious misogyny, is why a rape is held less important than the need for unity). Students who have joined SWSS groups thinking it was a righteous protest group in their own image have received a slap in the face over this, but maybe that can be a source of enlightenment. And as someone who has worked along with the SWP down the years without wanting to join them, this event should give some older comrades a greater, and overdue, sense of modesty and fallibility.

The problem isn’t any particular inequality but inequality itself – and inequality is fundamentally about power. the left might favour economic redistribution but not democratic distribution. i hear plenty of claims that the left will do this or that in power but it’s all about State control: nothing about investment in workers’s direct control over the workplace; plenty about controling media representations of women or homosexuals but nothing about investments in independent media.
Shatter
You are as naive as the commies and trots. The idea that investment in workers direct control was the argument used in privatisation. A workers share culture. In the end every greedy bastard sold their shares to foreign utilities companies. As for independent media, give me fucking break. No such thing and never will be.
Shatter your in the half way place, blagging there is third way, when in reality you know that the Thatcherites have been right all along

PS Most of the ex trots become right wing investment bankers or vile right wing journos like Cohen

“It is time to admit the obvious – all Trotskyite groups end up as Rape Cults focused on a rapey leader.”
True, like most religious cults, such as the catholic church, eh Opus boy

SMFS@ 21:

Well, the Labour Party was a distinctly Trot institution in the 70s and early 80s, and it ended up turning into New Labour; you may want to re-examine your thesis, or possibly point the Weeting investigators at specific Labour MPs.

More generally; the left hasn’t been meaningfully Marxist in a very long time. This is partly because meaningful Marxism involves doing enough work to understand the differences between what Marx thought and wrote, and what was done with that by later writers. It’s partly because the UK left joined the social democratic tent when it became clear that it was working, and it’s partly because Britain went through the era where Marxist analysis made much sense a good while ago: then we became post-industrial.

Marx and his thinking are now almost solely used for rhetorical purposes. Since talking is all the SWP ever do or will do, that’s why they’re seen as hard-left. In print rather than in practice, you can talk all the Marxism you want. In government, it’s virtually impossible to be hard-left in the UK; doubling the size of the middle class and moving most of the working class from secondary to tertiary industrial employment doesn’t just move the goalposts, it takes them away and sets up a kebab van and a shoe shop.

In my previous incarnation I used to argue slightly incoherently that the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ stopped meaning much when a nation went post-industrial, and that no-one had noticed because we’re the only people who’ve actually done it yet. I’m not sure I was wrong; for some time now class has been primarily a category of symptoms, not an institutional cause. Yes, class persistent, and is thus a causal factor, but when Marx wrote class was a thing in itself, like race as opposed to culture or gender as opposed to sex.

If an overwhelming number of people in your society think that whites are supreme, your society will be racists. If the overwhelming mass of your society, of all classes, grow up with a view of class as a thing you’re born into by the will of god, like having green eyes, then class becomes a strong casual factor in the outcomes of your society. That was true in Marx’s day but hasn’t been true in Britain for a long time; class now is a descriptor, with extremely fluid boundaries even if there’s no longer much movement up or down.

Is a person who works in an estate agency and wears a suit to work middle class? In the 50s, yes. Now, they may well hold no higher educational attainment than GCSEs and come from a weary estate in the Black Country where everyone’s unemployed. Is a person who works as a plumber working class? Maybe, but they could also have a degree in international law and have grown up in Hampstead. Class is now a loose categoric description rather than a root causal factor: even if very few actually do climb the class ladder since the 80s, nearly everyone thinks one can do so. Just on that level, leaving out all the other things that are true of the Information Age economy which Marx simply couldn’t see coming, the old left-right narrative of class is no longer the playing-field we engage on.

“Well, the Labour Party was a distinctly Trot institution in the 70s and early 80s, and it ended up turning into New Labour;”
Do you think so. Not what I remember.The two camps were old block stalinists and old labour methodists. Both hated trots

33. Shatterface

You are as naive as the commies and trots. The idea that investment in workers direct control was the argument used in privatisation.

No, shares were sold to everyone whether they worked there – and in most cases they didn’t – or not.

A workers share culture. In the end every greedy bastard sold their shares to foreign utilities companies.

They couldn’t sell their shares if only employees held them. As long as you are employed those shares beling to you; leave the company and your shares are bought out by those who remain.

Privatisation never put shares in the hands of the workers; it was about expanding the market of share trading.

As for independent media, give me fucking break. No such thing and never will be.

The internet is killing both corporate and state media.

29

The left have not been meaningfully marxist for a long time because Marx wrote in the 19th century about capitalism as it was then, things have changed dramatically, as you note, and so have new marxists theorists. Unfortunately, most debates on LC about socialism tend to focus on Marx because most of the right-wing commentators, and many left-of-centre for that matter, do not prepare themselves for meaningful debates about socialism.

As you note in your last paragraph, perception of class is now blurred, and since Thatcher, it appears that we are all now middle-class because of certain symbols related to consumerism and property ownership, we even have OAPs freezing to death or starving who are sitting on shares from the sell-off of utilities.
This, for socialists, is the biggest obstacle, Marx, no doubt, would still label it ‘false-consciousness’.

However, despite acknowledging that class is no longer the major part of socialist narrative, it is still a significant factor in determining access to wealth, something which Labour seems to have forgotton or chooses to ignore.

@29
“Well, the Labour Party was a distinctly Trot institution in the 70s and early 80s”.

What utter nonsense. There may have been Millies among the membership but a “distinctly Trot institution”? What have you been smoking, dude?

“They couldn’t sell their shares if only employees held them. As long as you are employed those shares beling to you; leave the company and your shares are bought out by those who remain.”
I love you idealism but it won’t work. What about unfair dismissal. What about a guy who works there for 50 years and gets sacked a year before retirement. He loses his shares. Also you don’t much from shares unless you cash them in.
Workers co-operatives or share holding firms don’t work, mainly because workers don’t like them. The John Lewis model, as long as you are not a low paid worker, with a bonus is much more likely to work.
This reminds me of the POUM and the anarchist collectives.

Also how would you distribute the shares. The bickering would be intolerable.

38. Planeshift

@31 – I think you’re onto something there.

When people percieved social mobility to be something non existant they were more likely to participate in the social institutions surrounding class. If you know your entire life is going to be spent in the mines, and there is little else you can do, then joining the union and using industrial action to advance your living standards makes perfect sense. If you are a young shelf stacker, but you only see this as a start whilst you train/learn a skill, it’s pretty unlikely you’ll join a union to improve your living standards – if you end up arguing with your boss there are plenty of other shops to stack shelves in anyway.

It’s perhaps noteworthy that the main areas unions remain strong in are the public sector – where people largely still do expect the job to be for life. It also illustrates why the public generally doesn’t support strikes – is anybody seriously going to genuinely feel solidarity for DWP staff on strike this week? I suspect any support they get will be for general historial reasons (we have to support unions….) rather than actual empathy.

It’s also therfore a challenge for political parties who used to rely on class for a block vote. To what extent can using the instutions of the working class – unions, working man’s clubs and so on – to advance political causes be anything other than a strategy with diminishing returns.

38

The problem of class perception doesn’t only exist within trade unions, there are a large number of educated professionals who also belong to a trade union, so issues of social mobility do not apply to them.

The real disincentive of trade union membership for the shelf stacker is not beliefs about social mobility but the knowledge that it is unlikely that any trade union would be beneficial, and there’s also the small factor of the fee to be paid out of very low wages.

40. Dislecksick

I think it’s high time feminism was re-examined. Isn’t feminism these days about trying to prevent middle-aged married men from finding younger women more attractive than their wives?

The battle for sex equality has been well and truly won. The outcomes aren’t the same, but thats because despite the theory, Men still have a penis and women still have ovaries, and it will take more than bleating to stop Men wanting power and dominance (hence the career motivation) and women wanting children. These are not social constructs, never have been, and never will be.

Also, the male members and particularly leaders of political parties are expressly concerned with increasing their own power over others, and are therefore much more likely to exploit women below them in the pyramid – it’s no different to any other organisation in that respect.

The only difference is now that the state regulations are coming in, if you are an MP you have a good chance of getting it hushed up.

“Isn’t it time to accept that the ‘capitalist judicial system’ is the only viable one?”

Not if you’re a woman I wouldn’t have thought.

“In pay, pensions, politics and promotion, the gender gap is a disgrace. But in justice, women face a national scandal…………

………..When the gender equality duty came into force, it was hoped that systems, structures and organisations would adjust practice and tailor it to the specific needs of women. Nowhere is the failure to do so more apparent than in the area of the penal system. Instead, their treatment at the hands of criminal justice agencies is increasingly punitive, following male models of imprisonment as punishment, regardless of the offence, background, vulnerability or family circumstances of the woman involved.”

From:

Our prisons are failing women

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/13/prisons-women-human-rights?INTCMP=SRCH

42. redvelvetshoes

Any party which regards rape and womens bodily security and autonomy as inconvenient glitches in a bigger picture can fuck off, as far as I’m concerned.
Yours etc
A happy to remain,
Atleeite Labour member.


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