Monday, April 11, 2011


  1. I think he's wrong about "the left" abandoning the things that concern "ordinary people". Isn't feminism all about the basics - reproduction, sustenance, safety and mutual aid, housing, food, education, health care. What he's overlooking is that white men deserted the left and they were important to holding gained ground. White men of the working class gave away a lot of gained ground in order to spite women and black folks. To stick it to "the welfare queen" and "the underclass", white men of the working class committed class treason and allied with the capitalists. And so much ground was lost.

    it wasn't the struggle of oppressed groups against violence and oppression that weakened the left, it was the large slice of white male working class who wanted to keep oppressing - gays, lesbians, women, brown and black people - who weakened it, both by desertion from the working class struggle against capital (they put their hopes into upward mobility instead) and through direct aggression against the majority of the working class. This slice of the white male working class might have hated the "liberal establishment" and the bourgeois intellectuals, but they hated the "welfare queen" far more.

    And now intellectuals want to blame black people and women for how much the reaganite white working class men hate them, for not winning them over, for "alienating" them by refusing to be oppressed and by asserting their own reality as that of the "ordinary people", the majority, the working class itself.


  3. @Molly
    Of course there are points in the video, the response to Ken Loach's question about sectarianism, where Chomsky mentions the racist history of the American worker's movement -- in this context accusing it of 'sectarianism' is quite interesting. I wonder if the problem is with this term 'post-material' in general -- describing women's rights, gay rights, environmental activists in this way. Isn't the right response not to accept this division of 'material' (white working class)issues on one side and 'non-material' (blacks, women, gays, environment) on the other?

  4. "where Chomsky mentions the racist history of the American worker's movement -- in this context accusing it of 'sectarianism' is quite interesting."

    yes, i don't mean to slam chomsky at all; at this point one sees, after decades of being subjected to insinuating questions etc, that he tends to reply to interrogations in ways that are designed to pop the bubbles of self-importance of his interviewers and challenge their assumptions. and he was careful to stress the importance of women's and gay rights struggles, not to say they were inimical to or distracting from the "bread and butter" - which is the cliché of the blacklash - but just as point of comparison. But I think it was an ill judged answer. I know that he knows that the left and labour movement was split by racism in the US, by "the southern strategy" and by the racing of the welfare state in propaganda, and the appeals to patriotism and American exceptionalism etc.. But this meme shared by Walter Benn Michaels and Sarkozy, this "the failure of multiculturalism" meme in Europe that is the anti-pc and anti-"identity politics" meme in North America (and that's not an accidental nomenclature, since its black feminists who valorise the term "identity" and whose achievements and radicalism, are indicated for attack but without the possibility of naming since the racism and sexism has to be disavowed) has gotten out of hand and I don't think it's safe even in Chomsky's careful hands.

    yes, this implied division -somle mythical ordainry white people have ordinary material needs, everyone else's needs are somehow special or extraordinary and symbolic in a way the needs of this ordinary white family for a certain lifestyle is not.

    Watch the wallace shawn play above - his reading of The Fever. It's simple and devastating. And touches upon the ideology of this division. And is just brilliant, and note that this was read in NY, off b'way in 1999. It angered critics of course, who ridiculed it, but here is wallace shawn the son of THE liberal NY establishment, having learned important things from the revolutionaries of Latin America and being able to explain them, without any veils, and directly, to a bourgeois NY theatre audience. We have forgotten exatcly how much our nbow derided movements challenging white supremacist patriarchal capitalist imperialism had achieved. We are taught to poo poo and ridicule those achievements, and then to forget them entirely, to think of them as errors rather than victories - moral and political.