Yet another ‘New Left’, just as neoliberal as the last one

Today I read yet another article by a faux-leftist neoliberal waxing poetic about how a “New Left” is being born because of the Trump presidency and the Women’s March and it will be a bigger, better Left that actually does something and there will be movement! and resistance! and unity! and blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to link to it because you don’t even need to read it. You’ve read it plenty of times already. Every time the Left loses there is another article like this that says we are going to learn from our past mistakes and we are going to do better and next time we will win. And it includes all the liberal/leftist buzzwords du jour. This one was no different.

The Left doesn’t actually get “reborn” every time a right-wing politician wins or every time someone creates a hashtag or writes a thinkpiece. The people who value equality, social justice and the environment value these things all the time, regardless of who is in power or what is happening. The same people will just continue with what they were doing. There is no magical rising of the phoenix from the ashes, it’s just business as usual. (Or maybe I should say ‘anti-business’ as usual.)

No one who has been in power since I’ve been alive has been on the Left. The true Left was systematically destroyed decades ago, and what has existed since then has mostly been a feeble attempt to make capitalism slightly friendlier, without actually overthrowing it. Some people would argue that this actually serves capitalism, because as long as it’s the “slightly friendlier” version or as long as people believe it is, we all remain complacent and don’t take any radical action against it. (And by the way, only people in rich countries are in a position to think that capitalism can be at all friendlier. We aren’t the ones working in sweatshops that collapse while we’re in them or have suicide nets surrounding them.)

Leftists who write thinkpieces like to act as though we need something new to invigorate leftism. Some new movement or idea or new hashtag or slogan. But we don’t need anything new, what we need is something quite old. We need class consciousness, material analysis, and direct action. What passes for the Left these days is neoliberalism, but that is not what the Left is.

Faux-left thinkpieces lately have been calling for more “intersectionality” and this would be a good thing if they actually meant intersectionality. This word used to refer to an analysis of women’s oppression that took into account how race and class intersected to affect how different groups of women are oppressed. This was a necessary analysis since white women’s and upper class women’s experiences don’t represent everyone else’s but this group has historically gotten the most attention within feminism. However, the concept of intersectionality has been twisted to the point of being unrecognizable. The way it is being used today is effectively a call to include the interests of pimps and of men with a sexual fetish for cross-dressing to be centered within feminism. This is obviously anti-feminist, but because the pimp lobby and the autogynephile rights lobby have cloaked themselves in apparently-feminist outfits and no one can be bothered to do any actual research or thinking, they just play right along.

After the women’s march last weekend, neoliberal faux-leftists started claiming that the references to female body parts at the women’s march meant that we are not “intersectional” enough. What this means is that women are not supposed to talk about our oppression as women anymore, because this upsets men who wish they were women, and their views have to be included in feminism in order to make it “intersectional.” Telling women we cannot talk about our oppression as women is not intersectionality, it’s anti-feminism.

President Shitface has already “signed an executive order banning international NGOs from providing abortion services or offering information about abortions if they receive US funding.” This type of anti-abortion policy affects those of us who are biologically female, regardless of how we identify. Female biology matters, and those who have it are considered second-class citizens in a patriarchy. Transgender politics may seem “intersectional” by liberals, but they obscure the reality of sex-based oppression on which the feminist movement is based.

The way to rebuild the broken left is not to dig ourselves farther into the hole of neoliberal bullshit, it’s to get back to our roots. The left is the political position that brings us class consciousness. Women are a class of people oppressed because of our sex, and that is fundamental to understanding feminism. The working class are a class of people oppressed by capitalism, and this is fundamental in understanding the labor movement. We shouldn’t include the interests of men in feminism any more than we should include the interests of the rich in the labor movement.

Neoliberal politics where everyone is an individual agent choosing choices is a pro-capitalist ideology—this is the ideology that prevents class consciousness from developing and promotes consumer spending. This is not the Left, it is a backlash against the Left. The new identity politics where anyone can “identify” as anything they want is not a material analysis of oppression, it’s a way of obscuring the material analysis of oppression. It’s useful for people to name where they are socially located in a system of oppression: by their sex, race, class, sexual orientation, or disability status, because these social locations have material consequences that we can measure. But when people start “identifying as” something other than what they actually are that is a misuse of identity politics and a misunderstanding of how oppression works.

More neoliberal bullshit will keep moving us backwards. The faux left has nothing to offer oppressed people, it only has something to offer people who enjoy taking on “identities” and who like bashing feminists. The way to fix the left is to go old-school. We have the exact same task in front of us that we’ve always had. We have to teach class consciousness and material analysis of oppression, we have to educate about the effects of climate change and end stage capitalism, we have to take power away from the powerful and end capitalism and imperialism. We have to create a human society with positive values that is sustainable and doesn’t rely on fossil fuels. This has been the task of the Left for decades already. (Ideally, of course, it should be the task of all humans, since we’re all going down when our ship sinks, even the rich.)

It’s an overwhelmingly huge task to end capitalism, and maybe that’s why we are sitting around doing stupid stuff like having “pronoun circles,” because that makes us feel like we’re doing something, even though we’re too overwhelmed to do what we are actually supposed to be doing. Any impossibly large task has to be broken down into smaller tasks in order to be achievable. It also requires large numbers of people on board. People who care about social justice and the environment should organize task forces to solve achievable goals, and should do what they are capable of within a larger culture of resistance.

The faux-leftists calling for more “intersectionality” in the neoliberal sense as a way to improve the Left are embarrassingly off the mark. Neoliberalism is what’s holding us back from doing what we need to do. It’s what we need to get rid of in order to move forward.

French police “exhausted,” ask unions to hold off

The strike continues in France. I first wrote about it here.

From the Telegraph:

“France’s main police union on Tuesday pleaded with workers to put off a national day of demonstrations on Thursday against a controversial labour law saying they are too “exhausted” to cope with protests on top of dealing with the Euro and terror threats.

The plea came as workers unions opposed to the labour law categorically rejected government demands that any demonstration on Thursday in Paris must be “static” after previous marches through the French capital ended in violent standoffs with police and vandalism.

Stuck in the middle of the standoff between the government and the hardline CGT union and its allies, France’s main police union Alliance said officers were in desperate need of respite.

“We’re asking for this demonstration to be postponed, along with any other static protests as our colleagues are on all fronts and are exhausted, worn out, and tired,” said Frédéric Lagache, Alliance deputy secretary general.

“They find these demonstrations all the harder to bear as they are repetitive and very violent,” he said. According to several police unions, some 200 officers were injured in demonstrations on June 14. Police chiefs put the number at 28.”

This is how you do left-wing activism, folks. You strengthen unions, you strengthen class consciousness and solidarity among the working class, you protest violently when the ruling class tries to take away your rights, you shut down major institutions, you disrupt capitalism, you protest for so long that the police can’t control you anymore. And then you win. We should be paying lots more attention to this situation. This is a model of what activism we should be doing elsewhere. The U.S.A is completely controlled by industries that create private wealth for a tiny number of individuals who extract resources from the planet and its people and cause widespread poverty, illness, and environmental destruction. We absolutely need to be fighting back. We’ll know we’re doing it right when the ruling class is scared of us.

Those who are promoting individual solutions to problems based on consumerism and “choosing choices” are not on the left, they are promoting neoliberalism and capitalism, some of the most destructive forces on the planet, which is hurting the very people they’re trying to help.

We’ll be liberated from oppression when we are no longer controlled by an elite group of capitalists who plunder everything they can find, and when we can create our own culture based on a fair and just economy that protects the living planet and treats humans and non-human animals with respect and dignity. The revolution will only happen after we stop navel-gazing and act on adult maturity and responsibility to carefully plan strategies that will work, and execute our plans with full commitment.

The marketing of gender roles

Photographer JeongMee Yoon did an excellent photo project where she photographed children with their toys and accessories to show how striking the pink and blue contrast is between girls’ and boys’ things. It’s called The Pink and Blue project and you can see it here.

blue and pink

Yoon writes an excellent analysis of what is happening in these photos on her site:

“My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.

The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.”

She goes on from there and also analyzes the change in colours during the 20th century. Before World War II, the colours were pink for boys and blue for girls. It’s obvious these colours are an arbitrary social construction and not an innate preference when you consider that the colours used to be exactly the opposite. She also talks about how the manufacturers of children’s toys teach girls to develop an interest in makeup, beauty and domestic chores and teach boys to develop an interest in science, robots and industry.

Her analysis is spot-on. She identifies that gender roles are being taught by marketing and consumer products, which are coming from globalized capitalism, and that they are successfully teaching young people their “gender,” right from the early years. She identifies that many children will grow out of wanting everything pink or blue as they get older, although a few of them keep this preference.

This all seems very obvious to me. As I write this blog post I’m thinking that I’m really not saying anything new and I’m probably beating a dead horse. But there are people out there who think that a little girl’s love for pink is an innate preference that has nothing to do with socialization, and that a little girl’s love for blue and science/sports toys makes her innately a boy. These people have obviously had their brains completely swallowed up by marketing. Any adult should have the media literacy skills to realize when they’re being marketed to, and to resist the messages coming from capitalism to buy more stuff. Responsible adults should know that buying stuff is not the key to happiness and that marketers will sell you a pack of lies to get you to buy their stuff. It seems to me this is really basic knowledge that everyone needs to exist in the world. The fact that people cannot see through a marketing campaign and cannot name it as capitalist propaganda designed to sell stuff means that neo-liberalism and capitalism are indeed winning. (Of course, we already knew that.) I try to analyze culture a lot on this blog, because that’s one of the things we have to do as lefties is analyze the culture that capitalism is creating. Step one in fighting back is analyzing the situation. Unfortunately, we never seem to get beyond step one, because so many people are invested in the notion of consumer choice as a path to liberation.

Children’s play doesn’t actually have to involve consumer products. I can’t believe that even needs explaining, but it does. There are tons of games and activities that don’t require any stuff at all, like tag, hide-and-go-seek, climbing a tree, or looking for insects in the yard. There are many games to be played with ordinary household objects, like building forts, or playing “school” or “house.” Kids have excellent imaginations and can turn anything into anything. A cardboard box can be a space ship that you can use to travel through space, and a couch can be a pirate ship under siege. Tables and chairs can be buildings and a living room can be an entire city. The fewer consumer products kids are playing with, the better. Consumer products kill the imagination because they tell you exactly how you should play.

I still have some photos of when I was ten and we had the best day ever flooding the backyard garden. It was a warm day in early spring and there was nothing planted yet, and we were allowed to put water in the dirt pile to make mud. We built little islands out of mud and brought out plastic toy boats and we drove the boats through the muddy water around the islands. Two girls and two boys did this and we had a great time and got all muddy. It would have been incomprehensible to me to call this a “boys’ activity.” It’s just an activity.

These kids with their rigid gender roles and “innate” love of certain consumer products would really benefit from being allowed to go outside and play.

French workers on strike

This is how I know we don’t have a left in North America. Check out what they’re doing in France! (And please do click on the link and watch the video.)

From BBC.com:

“Strike action over labour law reforms gripped France on Thursday, with oil refineries, nuclear power stations and transport hubs disrupted.

Riot police battled protesters in Paris and other cities, making 77 arrests, while 15 officers were injured and cars and shops were vandalised.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls insists the reforms will not be withdrawn but has suggested they could be “modified”.

Tear gas filled the air as police in Paris struggled to contain a march which set off from Place de la Bastille.

Of the arrests, 36 were made in the capital while other cities like Lyon and Bordeaux saw similar confrontations.

Officials say 153,000 people took part across France though union leaders put the number at nearly twice that.”

This is a large group of workers who know they are a class of people with a common interest and who work together to protect their interests. They aren’t afraid of disrupting production and they aren’t afraid of police violence. This is what the left is. This type of action requires an entire culture based on class consciousness, solidarity, and strong unions.

The so-called “left” in North America is currently working to prevent anyone from developing a class consciousness, preferring to have us all think of ourselves as individuals who can choose our own choices, and they are against showing solidarity to anyone (particularly women) and prefer engaging in horizontal hostility. Hardly anyone is willing to think about where this “I choose my choice” paradigm comes from (it comes from neo-liberalism, individualism, consumerism, CAPITALISM), and the effect this paradigm has on the working class (it makes us weaker as a group because it prevents us from fighting for our interests).

The politics of navel-gazing and affirming “identities” and changing our own bodies instead of changing the world is not left politics, it’s a manifestation of our defeat. The promotion of the idea that oppressed peoples such as prostituted women “choose” their oppression because of their “agency” is a manifestation of our defeat, too. We’ve collectively swallowed the neo-liberal agenda that’s been fed to us in a deliberate attempt to allow the already powerful to accumulate even more private wealth.

We should be getting together as a group to fight with all we’ve got against those who plunder the environment, the working class, and women. We know who the enemy is. The enemy is not feminists who understand biology, or shop clerks who call men “sir,” the enemy is those who have the material power to extract resources from the planet and its people to create private wealth and destroy the living environment in the process.

What the left has turned into in North America is an embarrassing disgrace. So-called “progressives” are no-platforming anyone who displays class consciousness, an action which basically amounts to punching yourself hard in the face, and the right is laughing at us. The entire labour movement and the feminist movement need to be rebuilt from scratch.

Take a look at France. They’ve got it right.

We’re all gonna die

So I read some more of Deep Green Resistance. I’m still getting through this book really slowly, even though I like to read, because it’s so bloody depressing that I can barely make myself pick it up.

The first half of the book is theoretical and the second half is practical. It’s the theoretical part that is depressing, and I finished it last night, so I think it will be smooth sailing for the rest of the book now. The next section will be on strategies and organization, so I’m looking forward to that.

The last part of the theory section is about other environmentalists and why their plans aren’t going to work. The main reasons are because they believe renewable energy sources are more efficient than they are or because they aren’t working to end capitalism. There is a whole detailed explanation of why wind and solar energy cannot power civilization, and how if you are not stopping capitalism then you aren’t going to succeed in stopping the destruction of the earth, nor are you creating a world worth living in.

We are going to reach the end of fossil fuels soon, and we cannot replace them with any other fuel without continuing to destroy the planet. Not only will we not be able to keep civilization going, but we will run out of food, too. When topsoil is dead the only way to make plants grow is with fertilizer made from fossil fuels. Our food system is dependent on fossil fuels, so when we reach peak oil we will also reach peak food. The human population is way over carrying capacity and we are headed toward widespread starvation.

DGR recommends reducing the human population by lowering the birth rate, which can be accomplished by raising the status of women. When women can control our own fertility, we have fewer children. It’s men who cause overpopulation by controlling women’s bodies and forcing us to give birth to more soldiers for their wars. Human males are the most dangerous and destructive force on the planet. They are absolutely not qualified to be in charge and they need to be stopped.

If we are going to survive, we have to stop capitalism and patriarchy. Unfortunately, all the progressive movements have been taken over by neo-liberalism, causing us to degenerate into apolitical navel-gazers who no-platform anybody who actually understands what is going on and what needs to be done about it. The ability of human beings to be stupid, incompetent and useless is just astounding. I honestly don’t have any hope that we are going to save the planet because people are too goddamm stupid to get their act together. I find myself feeling a constant underlying despair that I can’t do anything about. Being a member of the proletariat, and having no assets, I have to work for capitalism in order to earn enough money to meet my basic needs. Every day I go to work knowing that what I’m doing is pointless because the whole system is going down anyway,  but I have to pretend like everything is normal so no one thinks I’m a crazy person. In fact, I am completely crazy and should be wearing a tin foil hat.

It feels like being in the zombie apocalypse, honestly. I’m surrounded by drooling idiots stumbling around consuming everything in their path with no awareness whatsoever of what’s going on around them. When I meet people who are still alive and not turned into zombies, I’m overjoyed!

I’m not going to turn into a zombie. I’m going to keep my eyes and ears open and pay attention to what is going on and do whatever I can to help the resistance movement. I will not go down without a fight.

50 Shades is now a brand name

I shouldn’t really be surprised.

There is a line of “50 Shades of Grey” themed sex toys. I found this article because Gail Dines linked to it to talk about how many different industries are all “in bed with” the porn industry. By the time the next 50 Shades film comes out, there will be a whole line of products to go with it, as well as pop songs released from the soundtrack. Fifty shades will be everywhere you look. The film is sold to us as edgy and sexy, but it’s a story of a man stalking, abusing, and manipulating a naive woman.

When several industries at once are all advertising a product, it’s hard to escape from seeing it. When I’m streaming pop music online, one of the songs that plays is “Love Me Like You Do” from the 50 Shades soundtrack. When I go around town before the film is released I see large ads for it everywhere. Even though I haven’t read the book or seen the first film, I know all about it.

We’re told that the product being sold in this case is a sexy love story that women are into—that’s how they brand it. But the character Ana is ridiculously naive, she is in college and has never had an orgasm before—as if! She is presented as downright childlike. And Christian is an abuser who controls her. The same dynamic is at play here that is presented in porn. Men are dominant and seek women who are powerless, youthful and naive. Men groom the childlike women to do exactly what they want. This is really the foundation of patriarchy—the unequal relationship between older, dominant men and younger, submissive women—and we are supposed to find this inequality sexy.

This film will serve as grooming material for the next generation of girls. They are told this is a sexy, edgy film for women, and they will go see it and learn to sexualize their own submission. I’m not trying to say that this film alone with groom them. The entire culture brings us the same message over and over. It’s this film along with everything else—particularly internet porn, but also a lot of other media.

I looked at the Fifty Shades line of products out of curiosity. It is a full line of sex toys, many of them standard items like condoms and lube, and of course BDSM items such as rope and restraints. They have named the items in specific ways to market them. Some of the product names are “Totally His Soft Handcuffs” and “Ultimate Control Handcuff Restraint Set” and “Promise to Obey Arm Restraints.” So the sexiness of submitting to an abuser is written right into the product names.

We live under capitalist rule. The capitalists create our culture through the media and the branding of the products they sell. You’ll notice that they aren’t trying to sell equal, consensual relationships—they’re just trying to sell abusive sexuality. They are saturating our culture with it so that all of us will sexualize abuse.

By the way, you can even buy Christian Grey’s tie. You know you live in a capitalist patriarchy when they are selling us a cheap version of a tie worn by an abuser in a bad film as if it’s a thing you’d want to use to turn you on during sex. I’m sure they outsourced the actual manufacture of the tie to a poor country to be sewn by underpaid garment workers—companies in North America don’t actually make anything, they just create brands. I can’t imagine anyone getting turned on by having their partner wear a cheap tie made in an overseas garment factory and branded by a bunch of assholes who think that male violence against women is sexy. This situation just makes me want to projectile vomit.

50 shades

I’ve said that many of the items in this line of products are standard sex toys. What do you want to bet that these items will cost more just because they’re branded as 50 Shades of Grey gear? I mean, one of the items they’re selling is tape to tie people up with. I bet the 50 Shades tape costs way more than the exact same roll of tape that you could get at a hardware store.

The commercialization of sexuality never leads anywhere good. I am a firm believer that sex doesn’t have to cost anything at all—it’s something you and your partner have all the necessary equipment for on your body. And if you do experiment with props and equipment, the best stuff to get is not overpriced crap that has been branded by a bad film, but things that are good quality and will contribute to a healthy and joyful experience.

There is no left in North America part II

Tonight I had the night off so I got to read some more Deep Green Resistance. I went back to Chapter 3 again, which I read once before but didn’t write about yet—I felt I needed to read it again before it could really sink in. This chapter is called Liberals and Radicals and it’s written by Lierre Keith. It’s really full of thought-provoking stuff—just reading about four or five pages makes me sit back and think, then take some notes, then think again. At one point while reading, I started enthusiastically pounding my fist on the table. My partner, alarmed, asked “What’s wrong?” and I said “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just agreeing with Lierre Keith.”  😉 (My partner thinks it’s rather amusing that I have begun claiming that I want to blow up civilization. She knows I am a lazy ass who can barely get off the couch, so what are the odds I’m going to blow anything up? Anyway…)

Part of this chapter explains what liberalism is, especially the liberalism of the United States. Liberalism believes that the individual is the basic unit of society and promotes the sovereignty of the individual within the free market. The United States of America was built on liberal ideology and white male landowners who stole other people’s land and labour to create private wealth. The government exists to protect their private property and to enforce their contracts. Keith did an excellent job describing the liberalism of the United States and this helped me to understand why there is no left in North America. Here is an important quote from this section:

“The big split between liberals and the true left came in the 1940s: as liberals took up an anti-Communist position, the actual leftists were purged from liberalism, especially from labor unions and the New Deal coalition. From the beginnings of classical liberalism, liberals have embraced capitalism. Indeed, classical liberalism was foundational to a capitalist economy. Hence, unlike in Europe, there is no real left in the U.S., as a true left starts with the rejection of capitalism. There is no political party in the U.S. that represents a critique of capitalism. Congress is essentially filled with two wings of the Capitalist Party.

After the disaster of the Great Depression, liberalism shifted to the idea of government intervention to regulate business in order to assure competition and to enforce safety and labor standards. This was an attempt to make capitalism work, not to dismantle it. This approach is very different from state socialism, in which the state owns (not regulates) the means of production (and which has produced its own environmental and human rights disasters)” (p.68).

Like, holy fuck, actual leftists were kicked out of unions in the 1940s? No wonder there is no left in North America! Can you imagine kicking leftists out of unions? This explains so much about the state of unions around here. And after that came the McCarthy era where anyone suspected of being a communist was imprisoned or fired from their jobs. This totally makes sense when you consider what we have now, which is, indeed, the two wings of the Capitalist Party. When citizens of North America go to the polls, they have a choice of voting for either someone who wants to completely deregulate big business or someone who wants to make capitalism a tiny bit nicer. There is no such thing as actually naming capitalism as a problem and organizing against it, except for in radical groups. And of course, since the entire government is in favor of capitalism and exists to serve the interests of the ruling class, there is no such thing as voting an anti-capitalist politician into government. A true left will never be electable in North America.

I still know hardly anything about what it means to really be on the left. In high school I read Les Misérables, and I was full of rage at the class system, and I decided that Jean Valjean was completely justified in stealing food to feed his sister’s children, and that his imprisonment was a crime perpetrated against him by the ruling class. I do not consider it theft if a poor person steals from the rich. The only thing that is morally wrong is that he was poor in the first place. When I turned 18 and an election came along, I read the platforms of the three major political parties, and I knew immediately that I was going to vote for the one that wanted to strengthen social programs. I remember getting into an argument with a friend who claimed that the only incentive people have to work is the possibility that they could get rich; that without the possibility of wealth, no one would have any motivation to do anything. I thought this was a load of fucking bullshit, and I argued that rich people are lucky, not hardworking, and that they don’t deserve to have way more than the rest of us. Eventually I figured out that my opinion was called “left” and my friend’s opinion was called “right.” But around here, the farthest to the left we get is the people who want to make capitalism a little bit nicer by strengthening social programs, and I’m beginning to understand that this is not left at all. Social programs merely make capitalism work—they give the working class just enough stability that they can continue to work for capitalism, but we are still oppressed by the system. A real left is built on an anti-capitalist foundation and its goal is not to make capitalism work, but to make it stop.

I really, really, really need to read some Marx. I don’t think I’m a communist, I think I’m a DGRist, but I definitely need a Marxist education to understand what the left is supposed to be. It’s terrible that I’ve never been taught this before. And someday I need to get my ass off the couch and get around to blowing up civilization. 😉