Frankie Goes to Wasilla

September 14, 2008 at 9:30 am (elections, Feminism, rcp, United States, voltairespriest)

OK, so it’s Frank Furedi. OK, so I shouldn’t be surprised, and maybe I shouldn’t bother reading Spiked Online anyway. But this really is utter, arrant nonsense of the most vacuous kind. Turning away from his occasionally interesting essays about the growing obsession in the UK, the ex-RCP’s guru now focuses his attention on US politics, specifically Sarah “Moose Hunter” Palin, John McCain’s pantomime choice of running mate.

Palin has (quite understandably) been subjected to a firestorm of criticism by liberal writers and Democratic politicians, not least for her ultra-reactionary social views, and stances on foreign policy that put her well to the right of George Bush. Republicans meanwhile have sought to defend her on quasi-feminist grounds, with some accusing Barack Obama of outright sexism when he made his widely misquoted and decontextualised “lipstick on a pig” comment. Certain conservative commentators appear to be suffering from amnesia when it comes to recalling their own ad hominem attacks on female Democrats – and their children – in the past. It is within this context that Furedi writes his article.

He defends Palin. Not only does he claim that feminists have signed up to a “vicious internet-driven witch-hunting club against Palin”, he also appears to think that the attacks on the anti-abortion, creationist, state-trooper-victimising governor of Alaska are symptomatic of a wider malaise. Specifically, Furedi states that:

The virulence of the language used by the anti-Palin crusaders reflects the contempt with which the American cosmopolitan elite regards common people. Such explicit denunciations of ordinary people’s morality and lifestyles by self-confessed progressive or liberal commentators are rare today, at a time when American culture professes to be non-judgmental and tolerant – certainly such vicious stereotyping would be condemned if it was directed at minorities or any other section of society apart from ‘rednecks’. That is why, normally, such top-down contempt is expressed through euphemisms and nods and winks.

In other words, the fire being directed at Palin’s right-wing stances on social issues is symptomatic of a pampered liberal elite picking on the working man or woman by sneering at his/her beliefs and morals. Sound familiar? The same theme, albeit differently expressed, could be taken from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan or any number of other hard-right wing commentators in the USA. Coming from a self-professed “libertarian humanist” like Furedi, it is just bizarre.

Furedi even makes clear in the article that his own beliefs differ from Palin’s on issues like abortion. Leaving aside what may or may not be revealed by the fact that Furedi feels the need to make this explicit at all, it would seem that he has made something of a kindergarten level political error. Under the system of free choice that Furedi advocates, Palin would still be free to live as Bible-literal a life as she so wishes. Under the system that Palin would like to institute, women who have abortions would be criminalised. This is not an esoteric debate, and real lives are at stake in it.

There are many debates at the moment about what constitutes a left-wing political outlook on the world, as people on the Marxist left and beyond seek to define themselves following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decline of social democracy. In recent years, we in the UK have most often seen this in the realm of foreign policy, especially in the cases of Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq. In reality however, this debate has often descended into pantomime, with “anti-imperialists” and the “pro-war left” equally to blame. My personal favourite was the bizarre denunciation by Nick Cohen of that evil organisation Amnesty International, but there are ample and equally risible examples of hyperbole on both sides. The question of how progressives relate to working class communities that will often be more socially conservative than an overwhelmingly middle class, urban and university-educated left, is another real one which must be answered. Furedi’s article, however, is not of value as a contribution to that debate.

41 Comments

  1. Andrew Coates said,

    Interesting to see how low Furedi have descended, and not (in the interests of being a must-read commentator) even original or funny at that. If someone sets themselves up as a stereotpycial Christinista fright, then it’s hardly surprising that they get…stereotyped. In any case I suspect that there is some stereotyping of the American masses going on here: amongst the common people everywhere there are many who do not like a tight-fisted money grabbing (as I say below) loud-mouth.

    Btw: Cohen’s denounciation of Amnesty was a low-point. Does he actually know any of them? They are some of the best of the best. Were I a victim of political persecution I would rather have them on my side than Cohen’s mates in the Henry Jackson Society or his pote the exhibitionist clumsy-with-the-facts BHL.

  2. voltairespriest said,

    It’s not even terribly clear what deeper point he thinks he’s making, other than that:

    a) The average working class American is a thick redneck who votes for the most reactionary set of views on offer;

    b) That’s OK;

    and c) Therefore the left and the centre-left don’t have the right to criticise reactionary politicians, as they represent working class, oppressed people.

    In that sense he’s being more politically correct than he lets on, caving in to 80s identity politics in the defence of a right-wing politician. Weird stance for such a supposed iconoclast.

  3. David Jackmanson said,

    In other words, the fire being directed at Palin’s right-wing stances on social issues is symptomatic of a pampered liberal elite picking on the working man or woman by sneering at his/her beliefs and morals. Sound familiar? The same theme, albeit differently expressed, could be taken from Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Reagan or any number of other hard-right wing commentators in the USA. Coming from a self-professed “libertarian humanist” like Furedi, it is just bizarre.

    Why? You’ve advanced nothing to demonstrate that Furedi is actually wrong, merely asserted that his argument is similar to that of people you don’t like. (Which is the correct definition of an ad-hominem fallacy – it doesn’t just mean personal abuse, as you appear to think it does).

    You (along with most people of the ZOMG PALIN IS EVIL!!1! variety) have ignored the fact that the Vice-President has no power over abortion policy in the USA whatsoever, and you’ve also quoted nothing from Furedi to suggest that he supports the election of Palin.

    I think that Furedi is absolutely right to criticise the attacks on Palin’s lifestyle. Lifestyle should be a no-go area for either side. Progressives and leftists have a lot more to lose than rightists when the lifestyle of candidates is seen as a valid area for political discussion.

  4. voltairespriest said,

    Eh?

    He’s in effect calling for a moratorium on criitcising her Christian right beliefs (and yes, that obviously spills over into lifestyle) – and you think that’s all right?

    What Furedi is trying to do, is to argue that the left should campaign with one hand tied behind its collective back, because being reactionary is somehow a natural aspect of the oppressed working classes. His argument is nonsense, not to say extraordinarily patronising to working class people in the USA and elsewhere. It’s not an “ad hominem” attack to say so.

    PS – if you’re going to try to be a smart arse about the use of terms then please get it right. I said “ad hominem attacks” not “ad hominem fallacy”, and therefore my usage was permissible.

  5. stroppybird said,

    “Vice-President has no power over abortion policy in the USA ”

    She could become the president .
    She is also in an influential position to support anti abortion campaigns.

    “lifestyle”

    The iss Volty is making is that she is free to live her life based on superstitious nonsense. What she would do though is deny similar rights to others such as the right of women to control their own bodies. Look at what she did re rape kits , she made it difficult for victims to get justice. And given that it involved a cost thats more likely to impact on young or working class women. The point to make is she is not supportive of working class women .

    Also when has abortion become a lifestyle issue anyway? Or education and the idea that creationism is a valid subject to be taught alongside science, other than as part of RE?

    Or views on abstinence being pushed that lead to unwanted pregnancies as young people are kept in ignorance and fear of contraceptives.

    Or is it lifestyle as it affects women ?

  6. David Jackmanson said,

    He’s in effect calling for a moratorium on criitcising her Christian right beliefs (and yes, that obviously spills over into lifestyle) – and you think that’s all right?

    No he isn’t. Not at all. Have you read the Furedi article? The specific attacks on Palin that he criticises are:

    1) ‘After the birth of her fifth child, she was back in the office after a few days’, complains Sally Quinn of the Washington Post. Jane Smiley, the Pulitzer Prize-winning essayist, asks: ‘How does [Palin] square her role as a mother and a politician?’

    2) Take the good Reverend Debra W Haffner, who finds it ‘hard to imagine how a new mother of a five-month-old baby, no less one with special needs, is running a state, no less a national campaign’. In a distinctly mean-spirited tone, she adds: ‘Maybe it’s gotten a lot easier since I had mine.’ This woman of the cloth, who describes herself as a ‘minister and a sexologist’, has no problem with denouncing Palin for putting her career ahead of her family. ‘My family values – and the decisions I’ve made throughout my career – have always put challenging times in my family first’, Haffner boasts. From Haffner’s perspective, a mother pursuing a serious career means putting children and family second.

    3) Jane Smiley castigates Palin for her ‘bitchy and arrogant point of view’, which is apparently a ‘characteristic of all conservative women’. ‘The bitch is in there’, observes this signed-up member of the otherwise sophisticated American Academy of Arts and Letters…Jane Smiley took it upon herself to question Palin’s right to have a child at the ripe old age of 44. Smiley the prescriptive inquisitor asks: ‘If she produces a child at 44, I want to know if she believes in birth control.’

    4) ‘I think getting knocked up when you’re 44, at the peak of your career and [when you] already have four children, is more than slightly narcissistic’, writes the blogger Molly Lambert. Lambert also seems to believe that Palin has only herself to blame for the fact that her youngest child has Down’s Syndrome. ‘I am not saying that being old gets you a retarded baby, but it certainly doesn’t help’, she observes helpfully.

    5) In its ‘Top Ten Most Disturbing Facts and Impressions of Sarah Palin’, the popular liberal magazine AlterNet seems adamant that Palin ‘takes unnecessary risks with the health of her child’. Progressive America, it seems, is now in the business of moralising about how a mother ought to manage her pregnancies. Palin apparently has ‘taken unnecessary risks in the delivery of her child’, and as far as AlterNet is concerned she is not fit to be a mother, never mind a serious political candidate…For AlterNet, Palin’s ‘uber-motherhood’ is a façade since she is the ‘right’s version of what a strong woman should look like’. Evidently, right-wing women can be treated as white trash by an otherwise morally refined and ‘progressive’ online publication.

    6) This sentiment is echoed by Bonnie Fuller on The Huffington Post, who asks if Palin is ‘ready to take the mantle of the worst mother of the year’.

    7) For Bonnie Fuller, one of Palin’s crimes is her attempt to ‘normalise’ her daughter’s pregnancy.

    8) ‘She opposes sex education and her daughter is pregnant’, writes the Democratic Party’s favourite academic George Lakoff.

    9) [O]ne reproductive advocate employed by the Allegheny Reproductive Health Center in Pittsburgh writes: ‘My own sicko scenario: Trig is Bristol’s baby.’

    Nowhere in the Furedi article will you find similar quotes where he “call[s] for a moratorium on criitcising [Palin’s] Christian right beliefs”. They don’t exist. What Furedi is clearly calling for is a moratorium on personal attacks on Palin. Palin’s Christian Right beliefs should be criticised and defeated in argument.

    The [point] Volty is making is that she is free to live her life based on superstitious nonsense. What she would do though is deny similar rights to others such as the right of women to control their own bodies.

    That may well be what Volty is arguing, but Furedi’s article does NOT argue against that. Furedi argues against personal attacks on Palin.

    Look at what she did re rape kits , she made it difficult for victims to get justice…The point to make is she is not supportive of working class women .

    Precisely. A far better line of attack than the personal attacks Furedi quotes.

    Also when has abortion become a lifestyle issue anyway? Or education and the idea that creationism is a valid subject to be taught alongside science, other than as part of RE?

    Or views on abstinence being pushed that lead to unwanted pregnancies as young people are kept in ignorance and fear of contraceptives.

    None of these issues are lifestyle issues, and Palin should be attacked on them. The attacks quoted in Furedi’s article ARE lifestyle issues, and those attacks should be utterly off limits.

  7. David Jackmanson said,

    PS – if you’re going to try to be a smart arse about the use of terms then please get it right. I said “ad hominem attacks” not “ad hominem fallacy”, and therefore my usage was permissible.

    From the link to Wikipedia you provided:

    In the past, the term ad hominem was sometimes used more literally, to describe an argument that was based on an individual, or to describe any personal attack. However, this is not how the meaning of the term is typically introduced in modern logic and rhetoric textbooks, and logicians and rhetoricians are in agreement that this use is incorrect.

  8. stroppybird said,

    I agree that there should not be attacks on whether she is a good mother, but if there is hypocrisy then thats fair game.

    I mean if she isn’t supportive of mothers working, particularly working class ones, and she does then thats hypocrisy. She has resources to be able to do it. Id be interested on her views on state childcare, maternity and paternity leave etc. If they were contradictory then its fair enough to highlight its do what i say not what i do.

    Look at Thatcher, she never supported women and pulled up the ladder beneath her.

    Making those points would show whether she does speak and represent ordinary women in the US.

    Re her daughter being pregnant. Well there is an issue there. What is her view on sex education and contraception? Does she believe abstinence works? If so, and is her daughter seemingly went along with it, doesn’t it show it doesn’t . That kids will still sneak around .

  9. Voltaire's Priest said,

    David;

    As used by academics, not in colloquial terms, where the phrase literally means “on the person”, and therefore is regularly used in the way that I did. You’re flogging a dead horse, and really making yourself look quite silly and petty in doing so.

    Further I agree with Stroppy. You can’t differentiate between “lifestyle” and “politics” so easily with someone like Palin when their politics is largely composed of making judgements on other people’s lifestyles (when, that is, she’s not advocating ground war with Russia or claiming that global warming isn’t man-made, etc). She’s a rank hypocrite and she deserves exposure for that.

    Finally, you clearly haven’t understood the central point of my dispute with Furedi, which is that he clearly thinks reactionary views are part and parcel of the working class in the USA. That is utter nonsense, and it is that false premise from which the rest of his bizarre article flows.

  10. David Jackmanson said,

    I agree that there should not be attacks on whether she is a good mother, but if there is hypocrisy then thats fair game.

    Morally I suppose, but I think political tactics are important too.

    I mean if she isn’t supportive of mothers working, particularly working class ones, and she does then thats hypocrisy. She has resources to be able to do it. Id be interested on her views on state childcare, maternity and paternity leave etc. If they were contradictory then its fair enough to highlight its do what i say not what i do.

    Fair enough. I can’t find anything online about this but I’d be surprised today if anyone could realistically expect a married couple to support a family without two incomes.

    Making those points would show whether she does speak and represent ordinary women in the US.

    Yes. Far better than the personal attacks criticsed by Furedi.

    Re her daughter being pregnant. Well there is an issue there. What is her view on sex education and contraception? Does she believe abstinence works? If so, and if her daughter seemingly went along with it, doesn’t it show it doesn’t . That kids will still sneak around.

    I understand she is pro-abstinence in sex-ed and pro-contraception. The Feminists For Life organisation, of which she is a member, takes no stance on non-abortifacient contraception, despite this lying attempt by Democratic Underground website poster chrisblask to claim otherwise.

    It’s one thing to say that Governor Palin’s policies would be ineffective. I think keeping her daughter out of the debate is still a good idea.

    As used by academics, not in colloquial terms, where the phrase literally means “on the person”, and therefore is regularly used in the way that I did. You’re flogging a dead horse, and really making yourself look quite silly and petty in doing so.

    The point is that you used the ad-hominem fallacy (in its correct definition) in your attack on Furedi. You claimed that because Furedi’s argument is (allegedly) similar to Limbaugh, Hannity et al, Furedi is wrong. You didn’t address the argument at all.

    Further I agree with Stroppy. You can’t differentiate between “lifestyle” and “politics” so easily with someone like Palin when their politics is largely composed of making judgements on other people’s lifestyles

    Yes you can. You can attack Palin’s policies and the effect they would have on others, without personally attacking Palin in ways similar to the nine examples that Furedi provides.

    Finally, you clearly haven’t understood the central point of my dispute with Furedi, which is that he clearly thinks reactionary views are part and parcel of the working class in the USA. That is utter nonsense, and it is that false premise from which the rest of his bizarre article flows.

    What part of Furedi’s article, or other work, can you quote to demonstrate that he believes that? And where in your original post did you say that you think he belives that?

  11. David Jackmanson said,

    She’s a rank hypocrite and she deserves exposure for that.

    It’s a sign of the degeneration of politics when people talk about “exposing” others than about how best to promote their own point of view. Politics isn’t about who “deserves” what, it’s about how to win.

  12. voltairespriest said,

    Yes – and one way to win is by telling the truth when your opponent is a hypocrite. Why don’t you address Furedi’s central point?

  13. David Jackmanson said,

    Yes – and one way to win is by telling the truth when your opponent is a hypocrite.

    Really? I disagree. I think it’s a great way for the politically impotent to convince themselves that they are right, but it achieves little in the real world. I think the best way to win is to convince people that they would be better off if progressive government policies were in place. The personal hypocrisy (or otherwise) of people running for office is largely irrelevant.

    Why don’t you address Furedi’s central point?

    I think I am. I think his central point is that

    …when it comes to picking a candidate for the vice president of the United States, I am less interested in the individual’s mothering identity than in her policies.

    and further, that attacking her identity is counter-productive.

  14. voltairespriest said,

    No, the point underlying what he says is that a progressive “liberal elite” shouldn’t be telling a conservative working class what to do. He’s bought into the US right’s narrative, which is why he accepts that attacking Palin is somehow “not fair” and that feminists who disagree with her are “witch hunters”.

    Anyone who thinks that the Republicans would be so squeamish is deluding themself. Furthermore, if you really do believe that attack politics doesn’t win, then I suggest you examine the 2004 Presidential campaign and think again.

  15. David Jackmanson said,

    …he accepts that attacking Palin is “not fair” or that feminists who disagree with her are “witch hunters”.

    No, he doesn’t. He says:

    I find the attacks on Palin for her role as a mother so nauseating, too. As an advocate of choice in reproductive matters, and in the conduct of personal morality, I strongly disagree with Palin. However, I find myself in the strange position of disagreeing even more with her critics, who seek to dehumanise her and cast her in the role of a twenty-first century witch.

    The people he calls witch hunters are the people he quotes making personal attacks on her. I don’t know how he could have made that clearer.

    the point underlying what he says is that a progressive “liberal elite” shouldn’t be telling a conservative working class what to do.

    I think Furedi’s point is that the “cosmopolitan elite” has great contempt for those members of the working class who do not share their assumptions and cultural norms, and demonstrate that contempt in ways like the personal attacks on Palin that he quotes. Even though he “strongly disagree[s] with Palin”, it follows (in my opinion) that such personal attacks damage any effort to oppose Palin’s views and policies.

    I don’t understand why such a basic truism of political tactics inspires such anger at Furedi.

  16. David Jackmanson said,

    Furthermore, if you really do believe that attack politics doesn’t win, then I suggest you examine the 2004 Presidential campaign and think again.

    I assume you are referring to swift-boating. Perhaps you can direct me to research showing that people who intended to vote for Senator Kerry did not do so as a result of the attacks on his Vietnam record.

    And if attack politics are so effective, why did attacks on President Bush not lose him the 2004 election? Why did swift-boating work, and Fahrenheit 911 fail?

    Anyone who thinks that the Republicans would be so squeamish is deluding themself.

    Show me where I said anything of the sort.

    It’s not about what Republicans will or won’t do. It’s about what is the most effective way to convince people to accept or adopt progressive political attitudes.

  17. voltairespriest said,

    Who’s “de-humanising” Palin? Pointing out that she’s not only a reactionary but also a hypocrite is not “witch-hunting”, it’s truth-telling. Actually what puzzles me is why you (and Furedi) are so very angry at liberals and the left when all they are doing is standing up for themselves. Furedi isn’t talking about overt sexism, of which as it happens there has been very little directed at Palin, contrary to Republican claims.

    On the latter point, no I am referring to Kerry’s lack of will to attack a “war president” over Iraq, even though it was obviously a disaster fought on the basis of a tissue of lies. He also refused to take on Bush in any really front-footed way, and lost as a consequence.

  18. David Jackmanson said,

    Actually what puzzles me is why you (and Furedi) are so very angry at liberals and the left when all they are doing is standing up for themselves.

    Not sure how you can interpret my reasoned arguments as being “so very angry”. Again, Furedi quotes 9 personal attacks on Governor Palin, and I think he believes (and I know I do) that these attacks are utterly counterproductive in the struggle to win people over to a progressive viewpoint.

    Attacking someone personally is not the same as “standing up for” yourself. Standing up for yourself is about stopping people taking away your freedom to live your life as you choose. The personal attacks on Governor Palin do nothing to make that happen.

    Pointing out that she’s not only a reactionary but also a hypocrite is not “witch-hunting”, it’s truth-telling.

    So is saying:

    ‘I think getting knocked up when you’re 44, at the peak of your career and [when you] already have four children, is more than slightly narcissistic’, writes the blogger Molly Lambert. Lambert also seems to believe that Palin has only herself to blame for the fact that her youngest child has Down’s Syndrome. ‘I am not saying that being old gets you a retarded baby, but it certainly doesn’t help’, she observes helpfully.

    what you call truth-telling? Because it doesn’t sound like that to me. Please explain how an attack of this nature helps leftists, progressives or women to stand up for themselves.

  19. tcd said,

    There is some truth, that Democrats thinkt hat dumb whites don´t vote for them because they are too backward and obsessed with Guns God and Gays.

    Actually, if the Demcorats offered genuine redistribution, then maybe somepoor whites would vote for them instead of finding sanctuary int heir white identity,pretty mucht he only thing left to them in a system which,ultimately, the Democrats, above all else, ensure never ever offers an alternative-class.

    btw I do not endorse Furedi, but actually I think the US “liberal elite” does exist, and by having hegemony on what passes for the “left”, drives away the masses of the working class.

  20. David Jackmanson said,

    tcd, well that’s the other thing hanging over this debate. I’m not sure why some socialists put so much energy into wanting to see Democrats elected when it’s absolutely certain that the Democrats don’t have (and never will have) anything to do with the working class taking power.

    The Democrats aren’t even very good as reformists, let alone socialists (which of course they don’t claim to be – it’s the socialists who allow themselves to be seduced by the Democrats).

    It’s a tricky question: How could you create an alliance between those with progressive opinions re abortion, gay liberation etc and the working class who would benefit from getting rid of capitalism (or even just curbing it enough to raise workers’ wages significantly)?

  21. Nuke Matgamna said,

  22. Sue R said,

    I can’t believe that Michelle Obama boycotted the Ground Zero ceremony in New York. Does she realise that she may be the First Lady?

  23. Voltaire's Priest said,

    Not sure how you can interpret my reasoned arguments as being “so very angry”.

    Bless.

  24. jogger said,

    The US elections are just showing us the final stage in the political degeneration of what remains of the ‘pro-war left’, who are treading the same path to the extreme right as Furedi and his chums took a decade ago. We have Hitchens and Cohen raving on about Palin’s victimisation in the same tones as Furedi. Both are now chummy with the deranged David Horowitz – Cohen has a piece in Frontpage where he praises Horowitz’s wisdom. The total hypocrisy of these people is shown when we consider that Palin’s views on subjects like abortion are actually more conservative than those of the Islamofascists that the great War for the Enlightenment has been fought against over the past seven years. Christian theocrats and sotfcore fascists like Horowitz are apparently soldiers in the battle for secularism…

  25. jogger said,

    Oh yes, and then there are the Maoists-turned-neocons from Australia around the Last Superpower website, who think that Iraq is a model for the Middle East, call global warming a pseudo-left swindle, and think John Howard’s policies on Aboriginal issues were sound. Shouldn’t you also be writing for Frontpage, Mr Jackmanson?

  26. David Jackmanson said,

    Post in response to jogger was put in moderation, probably because of too many links. So I’ll just give one example – I’m not sure how many neocons celebrate the Maoist revolution in Nepal.

    Anyone who chooses to rationally confront arguments which don’t conform to the orthodoxy of the self-proclaimed owners of the term “Left” is welcome to have a look at Strange Times (the new Last Superpower blog) – click on my name at the top of this post – and discuss things with us.

  27. tcd said,

    It’s a tricky question: How could you create an alliance between those with progressive opinions re abortion, gay liberation etc and the working class who would benefit from getting rid of capitalism (or even just curbing it enough to raise workers’ wages significantly)?

    It won´t happen overnight. The mistake of many on the marxist left (I don´t refer tor eformists here because their objective is different) is to think something which neithe rMarxnor Lenin nor any other classical marxist ever thought: that they are seaking deep down for what the masses “really want”, and that if they shoutit enough, and with enough propaganda, and the right dose of crisis, then “average joe” will become a marxist, and see that they reallywere all along.

    but this was never the mehtod of marx or lenin. Marx said that in any society the dominant ideolgoy si that of the ruling class, and he didn´t mean usperficially, he meant it in a profound sense, b necessity the majority of workers today in the whole world actiely buy into one or another borugeois ideology (individualism, or reformism, or populism, or nationalism, or racism, patriarchy etc.). This won´t jsut change because capitalism collapses and some marxist intelectuals shouted nice phrases very loudly.

    No. Our task (I speak for marxists here David which I do not know if you are or not) is the co-ordinating across sector of the struggles of the majority of workers and oppressed who are struggling today. It is to ifnd a common poltiical programme for that minority, and to argue with them strongly about the need to leave behind narrow ocncentration one one sector, and to be part of a mvoement to change society, as the only way they can long term improve their situation.

    IMO only such a movement, a vanguard party, can be ready to win a serious number of struggles, and tor ally behind them a decent periphery of supproters. Of course we can´t manufacture objective conditions, but when the objective conditions for struggle exist, the radicalisation of the masses, the spreading of a wave of struggle, and the ability to turn it into a long-term movement confident in itself and prepared to take on the bosses and the state, all depends on organisation, co-ordination, and winnign victories, and without unity across sectors (which in itself is political as opposed to merely economistic) you will not have this, and you will never speak to the mass of the class.

    So again, my personaly opinion of your question is that no, it won´t happen tomorrow, it needs 5, 10. 20 years of struggle, argument and implanatation amongst those minority who >b>do strike, who do resist oppression, in order to build a movement capable of leading a mass working class base.

    At least this is my understanding of how real revolutions hppened in the past, and htis is why I deifne myself a Leninist.

  28. ghost said,

    David, I went to your group’s site and clicked on election 2008 and found this:

    ‘Sarah Palin produced a stunning performance when she spoke at the Republican Convention yesterday. She scared the pants off the pseudo-lefty blogospehere. When put to the test, McCain’s “idiotic” and “uniformed” choice of running mate revealed herself to be more than a “confused fundie airhead”. Turns out he knew what he was doing. It’s panic all around.’

    Are you taking the piss?

  29. Voltaire's Priest said,

    That is rather my point about where David (and, I rather suspect, Furedi) is coming from. Say it ain’t so, David.

  30. CH said,

    While you’ve already been thoroughly ‘pnwed’ by David Jackmanson here, I’ll reiterate the basic point that you’ve (probably purposefully) misundestood Furedi’s argument. He has no time for Palin’s political views, but also finds the vicious bile aimed at the Republican VP nom to be elitist and overly personal. To me, this seems pretty simple. There are ample grounds on which to criticize Palin and McCain, but the fact that she had a kid then went back to work, or likes to hunt, or is from a small town, aren’t among those.

    The fact that the upcoming presidential election is even something resembling close is a testament to the off-putting smugness that oozing from the Democrats. While only a small chunk of the US population are real ‘rednecks,’ among big-city elites there’s a real assumption that anyone who lives in a flyover state is an evil hillbilly. And that viewpoint is reflected and even encouraged in a lot of discussion among Democrats these days.

  31. David Jackmanson said,

    tcd, thanks for your reply. Yes, I’m a Marxist, and would like to see a revolution that abolishes wage labour.

    I’d say that at the moment Marxists are so scattered and weak that the sort of vanguard party you describe is a long way off, even if many Marxists abandon the errors that you point out (I think correctly). Certainly I think that Marxists have to ask themselves WHY people adopt ruling class ideologies – it obviously is perfectly rational for them to do so. Even if working people in the Western world were actively considering revolution, it’s not a good bet for them at the moment.

    Our task…is the co-ordinating across sector of the struggles of the majority of workers and oppressed who are struggling today. It is to find a common poltiical programme for that minority, and to argue with them strongly about the need to leave behind narrow concentration on one sector, and to be part of a movement to change society, as the only way they can long term improve their situation.

    One of my assumptions is that these “strong arguments” won’t even be heard unless Marxists have already shown themselves to be reliable allies. This is going to mean working with people who are working class and want to stand up for themselves, but also have reactionary views on (say) racism, sexism, gay rights etc. The main thrust of these arguments is going to have to be why it is in everyone’s interests to unite. It’s not all one way either. We’ll also have to argue with feminists, gay rights advocates, non-white people and convince at least some of them that uniting with the working class (many members of which they often fear as reactionaries) is necessary.

    Perhaps ghost might want to describe what he or she thinks is incorrect about the Strange Times article s/he has cherry-picked one paragraph from, and lay down what s/he thinks is the correct line instead. That would be more productive than sneering about the views expressed. And I’m not sure what Volty’s “point” is. Is it that someone who doesn’t automatically fall into line with personal Palin-bashing. Perhaps both Volty and ghost managed to ignore this part of the Strange Times article on Palin:

    I’m an atheist, I support abortion rights, sex education in schools (and all the rest of it). Nothing about Palin’s views panics or depresses me though. Some of her views are very backward and I would argue against them. But the mocking contempt from people who call themselves “leftwing” and “progressive” is unforgivable. It reflects an attitude toward the people which leaves me cold. I don’t want to be ruled by prigs like that either. No thanks!

  32. David Jackmanson said,

    Is it that someone who doesn’t automatically fall into line with personal Palin-bashing is beyond the pale?

  33. entdinglichung said,

    Furedi wrote: “The virulence of the language used by the anti-Palin crusaders reflects the contempt with which the American cosmopolitan elite regards common people.”

    reminds me slightly of another “theoretician” and his campaign against “Rootless cosmopolitans“: “unbridled, evil-minded cosmopolitans, profiteers with no roots and no conscience… Grown on rotten yeast of bourgeois cosmopolitanism, decadence and formalism… non-indigenous nationals without a motherland, who poison with stench… our proletarian culture.”… “What can A. Gurvich possibly understand about the national character of a Russian Soviet man?”

  34. David Ellis said,

    America gave us Uncle Tom. Now they give us Auntie Sarah. What use would a system be if it couldn’t recruit scabs eh Jackassson?

  35. tcd said,

    David Jackmanson:

    One of my assumptions is that these “strong arguments” won’t even be heard unless Marxists have already shown themselves to be reliable allies. This is going to mean working with people who are working class and want to stand up for themselves, but also have reactionary views on (say) racism, sexism, gay rights etc.

    what do you mean working with?

    fundamentally the issue here is not social views, but economic struggle. you can work with anyone in economic struggle for their rights and pay as workers, against the bosses.

    you can´t go straight to sectors who aren´t in struggle and who there is no real prospect of being in struggle. you could joint he workplace and see what are the prospects etc., start trying to get together some who mgiht want to struggle, but you can´t really go to them talking about poltiics in that case.´

    when there are strikes and factory occupations etc., obviously you don´t ask for the social views of those carrying them out as a condition for supporting the struggle.

    at the same time, this doesn´t mean telling lies to beautify the right-wing elties who push forward these views. in most cases the “liberal elite” is also pretty reactionary ont hese issues at their root, appealing for “tolerance”, but ultimately never arguing for the militant self-defence of these groups by themselves. also “toelrance” si degrading. Martin Luther King andMalcolm X didn´t beg for “tolerance”, he demanded respect, and knew that black people had the right and the power to wint his for themselves by struggle. the best womens and gay rights activists also know this
    not at the expense of fighting for gays, women,and non-whites.

    so regarding “working with” workers who have some reactionary views, that´s inevitable, because in every workers struggle, many involved will have backwards social views (and yes, I mean backward, not jsut “different”.Backward as in wrong).

    however as for just winning over the mass of the class, who as I said have bought in various kinds of reactionary world views like individualism/nationalism/religion/ptriarchy/racism etc., and who aren´t in struggle,personally my view is that you won´t wint hem for marxism. you might wint hemif you reject marxism but then every reformist today has already done that, and these same people now belong to that ery bankrup centre left which you criticise today.

    Also the vast majority of gays, women, and non-whites in the world are working class, and these are the ones who suffer reaction the hardest. I would rather be strugglign with these minorities, trying to wint hem over to a class-based perspective (and remember the majority are workers already!) to form a decent sized movement to challenge captialism, which can then take the leadership of the class as a whole, than going straight to the mass of the depoliticised or right-wing class and selling out the msot oppressed and exploited people int he world inthe hope of finding a quick answer. there is no quick answer, marxism is the abolition of exploitationand oppression, it is changing society and that means challenging the common sense of the majority. at first, the majority won´t just change because we say it. they might ust do so int he future, when objective ocnditions make mass struggle inevitable, if we have a decent sized vanguard worth listening to. personally I think that collecting this is the task today.

  36. Voltaire's Priest said,

    While you’ve already been thoroughly ‘pnwed’ by David Jackmanson here

    Eh? Whilst I’ll freely confess to not knowing what “pnwed” is, I presume it means “shown up”, “done over” or some such. Assuming that’s the case, I fail to see how it’s true, The article on Last Superpower about Palin is very revealing of David’s likely real position when it comes to Palin, and that’s clearly where he – and Furedi, with whom he appears to share a position on this question – are coming from. It’s typical Euston crap, as we say in the UK 😉

  37. jogger said,

    What Last Superpower means is half a dozen washed up ex-Maoists cheering on US imperialism from the sideliunes and recycling the memes of the libertarian right on questions like global warming. These people have no influence on the Australian left – indeed, they are regarded as something of a joke by those who have encountered them. They did make a few desultory efforts to hand out pro-war literature a few years ago, but have since retired to cyberspace. This is what happens when you adopt a First Campist perspective and regard the actually existing left and workers’ movement as irrelevant or indeed an impediment to historical change. It is instructive to visit the Last Superpower website (the old one, not the new blog) and look at the thread on John Howard’s neo-liberla industrial relations policy, which was thrown out after a massive struggle by Australian workers and the subsequent election of Labor (who bad as they are did campaign against Hjoward’s worst policies). Last Su[perpower didn’t have a problem with Howard’s industrial relations policies. Far as they’re cocnerned uni9ons are an impediment to economic growth, and the revolutionary potential of capitalism. At some unspecified date in the distant future, of course, an imaginary working class will overthrow capitalism – until then, though, it’s full steam ahead with neo-liberalism. There’s another thread on the old site where a member of the Last Superpwer group responds to questions about the repression of the union movement in ‘liberated’ Iraq by praising the arest of a elading Iraqi trade unionist, because he had sabotaged the democratic revoltuion by travelling abroad and speaking out against US occupation. Once again, an abstract commitment to an imaginary working class trumps solidarity with a real movement of real workers. This is where First Campist politics inevitably leads. Maybe, unlike Hitchens et al, Last Superpower never actually believed in working class self-organsiation – after all, there was always a strong vein of idealist authoritarianism in Maoism.

  38. charliethechulo said,

    Good stuff on Palin from the New York Times:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/us/politics/14palin.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin

    …via the excellent Butterflies and Wheels.

  39. Exile said,

    Abortion comes under the Roe V Wade judgement of 1973. The only way a president could alter it would be to either push for a constitutional amendment – which Congress would be unlikely to pass – or pack the Supreme Court. Roe came out during Nixon’s time and since then the GOP has had Ford, Reagan and Bush father and son in the White House. Roe still stands – why worry?

    Even if it was overturned all that would happen is that abortion would become a matter for the states, which is the situation in Mexico. Liberal states would have liberal abortion laws and conservative states wouldn’t, which is what democracy is supposed to be all about. As things stand you have abortion laws basically written by a Supreme Court because Congress is too scared to act and the states are quite happy to leave things that way. When Sarah Palin had the chance to call her legislature into special session to discuss an abortion restriction, she refused to do it. So stop mithering and learn to relax: nothing is likely to happen.

  40. voltairespriest said,

    Actually, the Supreme Court is more finely balanced than it once was. Whilst the majority of Americans support abortion rights to one degree or another (thus again giving the lie to this stupid “Sarah Woman of the People” nonsense), fundamentalist opponents of the right to choose are far better organised in the US than they are here. I’d be concerned not so much about an immediate end of Roe vs Wade, but rather by a kind of “death by a thousand cuts” where the rightto choose is salami-sliced away to the point of meaninglessness.

    And if playing political hardball with the likes of Palin is necessary to arrest that processs then so be it.

  41. Red Maria said,

    The claim that the majority of Americans support abortion rights to one degree or another is highly questionable.

    According to a 2007 CBS News poll, the majority of respondents either favoured restricting abortion only to cases of rape, incest or danger to the mother’s life or absolute abolitionism.

    A 2005 LA Times poll found that 41% favoured making abortion illegal with a few exceptions and a further 12% favoured making abortion totally illegal.Polling shows a decisive shift in favour of the pro-life position.

    The percentage of Americans describing themselves as pro-choice has declined by 10 points since 1995 whereas those describing themselves as pro-life has zoomed up by 16 points.

    Hardly surprising, then, that support for abortion rights seems to be a vote loser. A 2006 Zogby poll revealed that “candidates who make abortion rights an important part of their election platform may find themselves swimming against the current of American political thinking.”

    The poll found that on 16 of the 20 questions a majority of respondents took an anti-abortion positionAssociated Television News President Brad O’Leary who commissioned the poll said: “There is absolutely no way a presidential or a congressional candidate running for office can grow their base if they insist on championing the abortion issue.”

    In 2006 an astonishing 44% of South Dakotans voted for near total abolition of legal abortion in a hotly contested ballot which saw the croesus rich US abortion lobby throw everything at its defeat. They shouldn’t rest on their laurels, however. There are good reasons to believe that many more South Dakotans would have supported the measure if it contained exemptions for rape cases. Now pro-lifers are campaigning for a revised abortion ban, measure 11, which does have such exemptions but would still ban around 98% of abortions and could well prove successful at the ballot box.

    There’s no dobut about it. In the US pro-lifers have the pro-choice lobby on the run and both sides know it. Hence the increasingly vitriolic tone of pro-choice rhetoric and hence the pro-choice lobby’s recourse to political and legal strategies which would circumvent democratic decision making on the matter: electorates have a tricky habit of not doing what they’re told.

    But the tactic of stacking UN and EU committees with political appointees who will conveniently find a right to unlimited abortion in the most innocuous treaty language; relying on international activist judges to do similar things; getting unelected, unaccountable UN bodies, NGOs and foreign governments to pressurise other governments to change abortion law over the heads of their electorates, even disgracefully using foreign aid as leverage to acheive this aim is a risky one for the pro-choice lobby.

    Aside from the obvious lack of confidence in their cause’s popular appeal, they could find that people may take exception to decisions on such fundamental issues being taken away from them and reposed in the hands of the unelected and unaccountable. Some attribute the success of the pro-life movement in the US with resentment at the sweeping Roe v Wade judgement for doing precisely that.

    Ramesh Ponnuru’s view is that it was the exposure of the horrors of partial birth abortion which prompted the decisive swing in American public opinion against abortion. Even as he struck down the Partial Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional in 2004, Judge Richard Casey described the procedure as “gruesome, brutal, barbaric and uncivilized.”

    Yet another factor is the growth of Charismatic Christianity. But the main appeal of pro-life and one which is rarely grasped by doctrinaire pro-choicers who, foolishly, are more concerned to smear their opponents than understand them, is a simple idealistic proposition: the foetus is one of us and deserves the same protection that we all enjoy.

    In the US, the pro-life movement (and it really is a movement there) is proof of the old adage, nothing succeeds like success. It really is organised, large-scale and remarkably diverse and it really is a force to be reckoned with.

    Not so in the UK, of course. The British pro-choice movement has been gifted with some of the most inept, politically dumb and arrogant opponents it could hope for. For not being able to organise an orgy in a brothel, a piss up in the proverbial brewery, for salvaging defeat from the jaws of victory, UK pro-lifers – more specifically a batshit antipodean dame with a tin pot title and money to throw at long lunching former Tory communications chiefs – must take a bow. Come the inevitable catastrophe in a few months time, Abortion Rights really should have the grace to send her a bouquet of flowers. She’s their best asset.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: