That day in 1990 that Mandela came out of prison, hot on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ongoing self liberation of Eastern Europe, was the greatest symbol of how much the world had changed, how powerless the old, heavily armed power structures had turned out to be in the face of the people. In the decades since we’ve seen the old guard frantically trying to and mostly succeeding to re-establish their old securities, turning Mandela and others like him from a symbol of revolution into a cuddly father figure of liberal democracy, whose success in overturning an evil regime had no consequences for our own societies. That’s why Blair and Cameron, the same kind of politican that opposed Mandela in the Apartheid era, one the leader of a party that up to his release from prison called him a terrorist, the other a war criminal now feel able to praise Mandela without shame.
LP: That brings us back to the crux of the question, which is – are we asking too much? Is it a waste of precious time if we demand that a revolution be ‘perfect’ before it begin? That’s the issue that I’ve seen raised time and again when it comes to powerful men within movements and sexism or sexual violence, or to matters of fair representation, often by those seeking to defend or excuse the violence, but not always. If someone is a galvanising figure – like Brand – or an important activist, like Julian Assange, should we then overlook how they behave towards women?
Because of course, there are elements of socialisation at play that make it almost inevitable that powerful men within movements who are attracted to women will have a great many opportunities to abuse that power, especially because those movements so often see themselves as self-governing. One of the biggest problems with the crisis in the SWP was that the victim, W, was offered no support in going to the police with her complaint of rape and assault. The fact that she might have expected better treatment from the Met, with their track record of taking rape less than seriously, than she received at the hands of the Disputes Committee, says a great deal.
I believe that socialism without feminism is no socialism worth having. Clearly we need to be strategising a way to have both pretty damn quickly.
RS: As I see it, the problem was posed most acutely by Occupy. They appealed to the 99 percent, the overwhelming majority of working people against the rich 1 percent. And I sympathise with that: you can’t hope to win unless you bring an overwhelming majority with you, because the Party of Order is too powerful otherwise. And I agree that class is what unites the majority.
But, how do you unify people who are divided not just by nationality, region and prejudice, but by real structural forms of oppression like sexism? The old (white, bourgeois male) answer is to say, “don’t talk about ‘divisive’ issues, ignore them for now, they’re secondary”. They’re merely ‘identity politics’. They’re somehow not as material as class. Judith Butler put her finger on what was wrong with this – what is less material about women wanting to work less, get paid more, not be subject to violence, not be humiliated? And why should class ‘compete’ with race or gender? Aren’t they contiguous? Austerity is a class offensive, but is it a coincidence that cuts to welfare, the social wage, disproportionately affect women and black people? And at any rate, it won’t work: if you try to impose a ‘unity’ that depends on people shutting up, they will just drop out. Gramsci was right: you can build broad alliances, but only if you genuinely incorporate the interests of everyone who is part of that alliance.
So, in place of a unity in which the oppressed preserve a tactful silence, we need a complex unity, a unity-in-difference. This is what ‘intersectionality’ means to me. It is the only strategy that will work. We aren’t asking too much; we’re demanding the bare minimum that is necessary for success.
ATDAS: “You don’t understand the Republicans we have in the South, and in Texas. You know of Northeastern and Left Coast Republicans. Even Midwestern Republicans–especially Bob Dole–actually think that sick and disabled people, even if they are poor, should be able to get the health care that is good for them, without having to beg. That’s not the case with Republicans down in Texas. Republicans in Texas think that if you can’t pay the doctor out of what is in your pocket and from the insurance policy you bought, then you need to go beg at your church. And only after you have begged at your church, and begged sincerely and abjectly enough, might your church find itself paying for you out of Christian charity–the benefit of which is to save their souls, not your body!”
ATDAS: “They don’t like Medicaid. They don’t like Medicaid because it short-circuits this process. You get treated but you don’t have to beg for it. The only reason they vote for Medicaid–and Texas only votes for grinchy Medicaid–is that the rich doctors of Dallas and Houston who contribute so much to the Republican Party think that Medicaid means that they don’t have to dig into the pockets of their practices to support charity care.”
That’s the hidden not so secret behind the Republican/Teaparty hatred of Obamacare (and any other healthcare and social security programmes): they empower people, make them less dependent on their employers or churches for handouts, their betters losing the leverage they have over them. Any form of social security directly threatens the power of the ruling classes, as they provide opportunities for people outside their control. They’d rather see people die unnecessarily than lose that control.
By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.
“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.
“In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.”
While the cancelling of debt was one goal of this Rolling Jubilee project, the real goal was education:
“Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.”
Many people think of a debt something as sacrosanct, something they have to pay off in their entirety, not something that can be negotiated. Just knowing that it can be, can empower a lot of people to do so.
“I am pro-life,” she told a University of Texas at Brownsville crowd on Tuesday. “I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry about their children’s future and their ability to provide for that future. I care about life and I have a record of fighting for people above all else.”
You see, the point of shouting Ray Kelly off the dais isn’t to get rid of “stop-and-frisk,” which these students are sophisticated enough to understand as merely symptomatic of greater injustices and inequalities in American life. No, the point is to get rid of Ray Kelly, to make the point that he has nothing to say that’s deserving of public consumption, that he is a wicked fellow who ought to be drummed from public life, his opinions, like those of most of us, to be shared grumpily over beers with no one to listen but the other cranks and kooks drinking in the middle of the day. The point is to shame Brown University—admittedly, a difficult task, since the university in the form of its administration is, as noted, shameless—for inviting the weasely little fascist onto the stage in the first place.
More than ten years ago I already blogged on how the Argentinians treated some of their war criminals, those fuckers who helped torture and disappear tens of thousands of people during the military dictatorship and who had gotten largely away with it. Not that physical violence is desirable in this case, but we shouldn’t overlook the value of pure spite and grudge holding.
There are too many people who are making the world a worse place getting unjustified respect and financial rewards for doing so, whether it’s police chiefs like Kelly endorsing racist and hateful stop & search policies or the more common creep who cheerlead such policies. It’s all the little Eichmans being oh so reasonable and polite in making their case for destructive, cynical policies, like Matty Yglesias arguing that we shouldn’t worry about Bangladeshi textile workers dying when the factory collapses on top of them, because “different countries have different safety standards”. In a just world, such odious views should see him shunned by all well thinking people; instead things like this are quickly forgotten and he remains free to to write vaceous posts about the next tragedy.