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.

My first impressions of Deep Green Resistance

The book opens with a preface by Derrick Jensen where he summarizes the problem, which is that industrial civilization is killing the planet. He quickly names the strategy of Deep Green Resistance which is: “to deprive the rich of their ability to steal from the poor and the powerful of their ability to destroy the planet (p.15),” as well as “defending and rebuilding just and sustainable human communities nestled inside repaired and restored landbases (p. 16).”

Then Chapter 1, “The Problem,” by Lierre Keith, expands on that introduction, by explaining some necessary facts about civilization and the dying planet. Two hundred species a day are dying, the oceans are losing their plankton and filling with plastic instead, and global warming has “passed the tipping point (p. 22).” Civilization is inherently unsustainable, because it’s based on the consumption of resources that are running out.

This book is very hard to read, and I’m getting through it very slowly. It’s well-written and well-researched of course, but it’s not an uplifting book—it’s a book that cuts through the denial and puts the ecological crisis right in my face where I can’t look away from it. It makes me question my own role in this. Could I actually become brave enough to do what it takes to really defend my own landbase from environmental destruction? So far I have done nothing but play my part as a cog in the Capitalist machine. I get up every day and go to work for Capitalism, and I consume its products and pay interest to its banks. I do this because I don’t have much of a choice in the matter—if I didn’t then I wouldn’t have a roof over my head or food to eat. And even if I had the means to buy some land, live off the grid and grow my own food, that would be an individual solution that would not stop civilization—it would only remove me from it. What DGR is calling me to do is to actively participate in stopping civilization, and that is not an easy thing to think about.

One of the reasons I wanted to read this book is because I know that the Left is lost and confused and ineffective at fighting capitalism, to the point where I don’t even know what the Left is supposed to be for anymore. The Left party in my area has completely alienated me by pandering to neo-liberalism and promoting the agency of the individual instead of a material analysis. In a desperate bid to be electable, the Left has become the Right. I am politically engaged but in the last election I couldn’t even vote for anybody. The Communists have all but disappeared, and now even the social democrats don’t look any different from the center-right. (The social democrats used to be at least left of center, even though they were never very far to the left.) I’m always searching for strategies and analyses for improving and creating a real Left—one that truly poses a threat to capitalism. I think I may have found it in DGR. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but something that I’ve been thinking about is that, if industrial civilization is killing the planet, then it doesn’t really matter if the proletariat seizes the means of production, because we will still meet our end eventually when we run out of natural resources from which to produce our consumer goods. We need to actually end production, not just change ownership of it. I have no doubt that the implementation of Communism would slow down overconsumption and put us on a more reasonable track, but a culture that is based on the consumption of non-renewable resources is going to have to end eventually even if materials are shared equally while they last. What this means is that I have turned out not to be a Communist, even though I think their analysis is excellent and they have some really great ideas.

In Chapter 2, “Civilization and Other Hazards,” Aric McBay talks about the negative characteristics of civilization. To name only a few of them, civilization is globalized, mechanized, militarized, patriarchal, hierarchical, and capable of making the planet uninhabitable. I found his writing very refreshing in the sense that he tells the actual truth about what is going on in the world and it is rare to see this sort of truth being spoken. One of the points I found most interesting in this chapter is the point about civilization having to import resources from other, non-civilized lands. Any city has to import resources from the surrounding land, and any civilized country has to import resources from less developed countries. As McBay explains,

“Further, any way of life based on the importation of resources is also functionally based on violence, because if your way of life requires the importation of resources, trade will never be sufficiently reliable: if people in the next watershed over won’t trade you for some necessary resource, you will take it, because you need it. So, to bring this to the present, we could all become enlightened, and the US military would still have to be huge: how else will they get access to the oil they need to run the economy, oil that just happens to lie under someone else’s land? The point is that no matter what we think of the irredeemability of this culture’s mass psychology or system of rewards, this culture—civilization—is also irredeemable on a purely functional level (p. 59).”

Radical feminism names the oppression of women as a system where men use their power over us to extract resources from us—whether it is domestic or sexual labor or reproductive labor or the actual children that they impregnate us with. Deep Green Resistance takes this analysis a step further. The extraction of resources from women goes hand in hand with the extraction of resources from the Earth. The powerful extract resources from the oppressed, in every situation where there is oppression. Because civilization must take resources from other lands in order to survive, civilization is inherently oppressive. It cannot operate without extracting someone else’s resources. It cannot operate without oppression and destruction.

McBay mentions the Aral Sea being destroyed by the industrial irrigation of the USSR. It’s interesting that a Communist government can do just as good a job as Capitalism does at destroying the environment. It won’t really matter who’s in charge any more when we can’t drink the water or breathe the air. In addition, male Leftists can be just as misogynist as men on the right because they don’t necessarily listen to feminists. A real, effective Left needs to take into account not just the sharing of resources and the re-distribution of wealth, but also care for the environment and equality for women. I am not interested in a Left where equality is for men, and where exploitation of women and the environment goes unquestioned.

I’m very much interested in Deep Green Resistance though, and I will keep on getting through this book, no matter how unpleasant it may be to face these things.

Great interview with two radical feminist midwives

Mark and Lynna do some really great interviews. I blogged the interview with Dirt and I’m also blogging this interview with Michelle Peixinho & Mary Lou Singleton, two radical feminist midwives who are really good examples of woman-identified women, and they have a wonderful and refreshing anti-capitalist and environmentalist viewpoint. I just loved this interview and I’m going to share here some highlights and my thoughts on them.

The interview begins with the obvious topic of birth, since the two of them are midwives. They talk about how childbirth has become medicalized and turned into a scientific and mechanical process controlled by men. Birth is not treated as a natural process that works well due to women’s biology. The medical establishment treats women as patients and decides for them how to give birth. Women are not allowed to control the process nor tap into their own knowledge of their bodies. They are also given synthetic hormones even though women produce these hormones on their own.

Michelle became interested in midwifery due to giving birth herself and finding the medical establishment really terrible. She found the doctors were authoritarian and intimidating and made her feel childlike. As a survivor of incest, this authoritarian attitude that doctors displayed toward her body was triggering. She didn’t even know she could give birth outside of the hospital until luckily some friends told her she could get a midwife and she jumped at the chance. She is very positive about the experience of giving birth outside of a hospital with the care of a midwife. She felt it allowed her to exercise her own bodily sovereignty and in having control over the birth process she felt it had a positive impact on her health and her parenting.

Both women are survivors of sexual abuse and found that when they gave birth it helped them to heal since they learned to be in awe of what their bodies and do and finally learned to love their female bodies instead of hating them. They want to help other women to feel the same bodily sovereignty and the power women have to create life.

In the U.S.A., the health care system is a capitalist system, so it does not provide what is most healthy for people. Instead it focuses on turning a profit. A for-profit health care system is not a health care system at all—capitalism is inherently unhealthy. There is money in pathology so hospitals are more likely to manufacture pathology where there really isn’t any. This leads right into the marketing of gender identity disorder. The medical system in the U.S.A makes a profit whenever they treat people for G.I.D because it’s a very costly treatment. Mary Lou says she used to feel dysphoric about her body and would wear baggy clothes and bind her breasts, and she could have easily fallen into the gender identity trap and gotten all sorts of synthetic hormones and unnecessary surgeries just for having the normal experience of hating one’s body. In this culture, we are all made to hate our bodies. Human bodies are commodified and sold, and corporations deliberately cause us to hate our bodies through advertising campaigns so that we will buy the products they create to “fix” them. Capitalism creates problems where there aren’t any so they can sell us the cure.

Body dysphoria isn’t just created by capitalism though, it’s also caused by sexual abuse and rape culture. All women are violated by the patriarchal culture we live in whether it’s through direct sexual abuse or exposure to sexual harassment and pornography. Lots of women react to this by trying to hide their femaleness or escape out of it. It’s no surprise that this would happen.

Michelle talks about how trans activists use the phrase “assigning gender at birth” in a nonsensical way. Midwives are accused of “assigning” a “gender” to infants when they are born and that this makes them “bigoted.” But midwives don’t assign a gender to babies, they observe what their sex is, and then society assigns a gender based on their sex. They would prefer that no one assigns any gender to the baby at all. In fact, midwives don’t even normally state the sex of the baby because the mother can tell for herself, so there is often no discussion of sex or gender at all at the birth. When trans activists suggest that midwives are assigning a socially constructed gender role to a baby that is completely daft. Mary Lou says that at lots of the births she has attended, the family doesn’t even ask about the sex, they are just happy the baby is here. The idea that a midwife can “assign” a sex to a baby is as silly as the idea that she could “assign” fingers or toes to the baby.

Midwives are told they are “exclusionary” because they are not involving men in the birth process. But the birth process truly has nothing to do with men. Men are trying to insert themselves where they do not belong. It’s just silly to think that men can give birth. Trans men can give birth because they are female. How bizarre to give birth while identifying as a man! There is nothing more female than giving birth to a child.

An interesting point about a mother who is pregnant with a female child is that the female fetus has ovaries inside her body already, so the pregnant woman has not only her own ova inside her but the ova of her potential grandchildren. What a fascinating concept! It’s so beautiful to hear knowledgeable women talk about female biology and how amazing it is. These two are passionate and loving toward women as a class and toward our bodies. It’s like a breath of fresh air when we’re surrounded by so much hate and lies surrounding female bodies.

These two women are interested in herbalism and like to talk about natural remedies. I partially agree with this and partially disagree. We tend to romanticize nature and treat herbs as a magical remedy for health problems. Some herbs can have healing properties and some can have no effect at all and others are poisonous. Just because something is herbal doesn’t automatically make it healthy or effective. I definitely agree with them on their overall attitude which is that we rely too much on synthetic “health products” and technology, and need to return to what is natural and healthy. But we shouldn’t go backwards and ignore medical science, what we really need to do, in my opinion, is create a health system that is not capitalist, that promotes health for the sake of promoting health and that conducts unbiased research with the goal of discovering truths, not making money. This would give us a balance between being grounded in nature and also researching ways to be healthier through human intervention. The “health system” we have now is designed to create profit for pharmaceutical companies and this is definitely not making us healthy.

Mary Lou and Michelle have an exceptional understanding of the way women are oppressed because of our sex. They know that women have the power to create life and men control this power in us as a part of their domination over the Earth and its people.  We are oppressed based on our biological functions and men’s desire to control them.

They talk about how it is very telling who trans activists are attacking. Even though men and the medical establishment understand human biology and the difference between male and female, trans activists are not attacking them. They are only attacking woman-identified women such as midwives, feminists, and lesbians. Trans activists are very obvious about their misogyny and anti-feminist goals.

It is really refreshing to hear people acknowledge out loud that we have reached end stage capitalism and our whole society is relying on technology that isn’t going to last. We know that the Earth has limited resources and that either we will stop capitalism or it will destroy us. This causes widespread fear and trauma among the planet and its people. It’s obvious why people want to disengage from the natural world and why we are dissociating and feeling disembodied. The environment is poisoned and even breast milk is poisoned because we are made of the Earth around us. We can’t get away from the toxins at this point. I haven’t read the Deep Green Resistance book but I believe that I will probably agree with them. It is fruitless to talk about any social issues while ignoring the fact that capitalism is ending and taking everything out with it, and that needs to be our focus.

Michelle and Mary Lou do not think it’s possible to be born in the wrong body, and neither do Mark and Lynna anymore, although they did transition previously. People are suffering and trying to make sense of a crazy world but going on a lifetime of synthetic hormones doesn’t provide a solution. Michelle wants people to be happy but is not convinced that this is a healthy response to the kind of pain we’re all suffering on this Earth right now. I agree. The person who is traumatized will often engage is destructive behaviours to avoid dealing with the trauma. It’s a common response but the coping mechanism is not an identity that needs to be validated.

Mark ends the interview with this beautiful quote: “We need to stop this madness of being “born in the wrong body” and doing all these things to align ourselves when the alignment is already in you. You are perfect the way you are. There is no need to do anything else but breathe, love and be.”

Thank you Mark, Lynna, Michelle and Mary Lou for this wonderful discussion.