The threats of Post-modernism, Identity Politics and Idealism against left working class and feminist politics and the defence of female free speech

Update: new, snappier title based on feedback. S.K.)

This article is the first in a series of essays that I will publish exploring in greater depth some of the initial themes that I raise below. My contribution is sisterly and comradely and I hope that it is heard. Sara Mayo (A.K.A. Sa Kollantai), 25.05.18

The problems of the left, the non-representation of the working class in politics and society and the devastating dominance of Identity Politics, Post-modernism and Idealism holding us back

Defend Female Free Speech
No more Female Erasure

Introduction

On remembering (the final verse of Miners by Wilfred Owen, 1918):

The centuries will burn rich loads
With which we groaned,
Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids,
While songs are crooned;
But they will not dream of us poor lads,
Left in the ground.

I read these lines engraved in nature’s own material on the commemorative plaque to the Miners in Maesycoed, Pontypridd, every time I walk past. Instead of continuing straight up the hill to home I stop to take it in again, so long as it is dry and I’m in no rush. Artists like Wilfred Owen and the sculptor who made the piece on which the poet’s tribute to the miners is engraved are true soul creative rebels who celebrate, commerate and pay revolutionary tribute to the hard experiences of the working class in a way that is far more genuine and meaningful than the pretty rhetoric of much of the professional left; a subgroup or community of people in the subculture disdainfully known as ‘social justice warriors’ by the alt-right and unfortunately a significant proportion of disillusioned former leftists including working class people who are not political activists ‘proper’, but are nevertheless acutely aware that our class has no political representation and are angry about that fact.

Instead, the professional left and its supporters in the unions, the universities (academics and students), socialist and anarchist groupings / parties and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and charities etc., despite their collective best efforts and (sometimes) honest intentions, in general remains incredibly disconnected and remote from the real, lived, day to day, complex, messy and uncensored all swear words allowed experiences, lives and communities of working class people.

What is worse, the professional left remains largely oblivious to how much it has long been co-opted into the safe controlling, hands of the capitalist establishment and why this simple fact explains why the professional left is incapable of actually building mass movements against the system (their role instead is to block such developments in reality and to maintain their own power base(S)), or its inability to stop any of the capitalist austerity counter-reforms, let alone actually win reforms and make material advances for our class, whilst revolution itself is inconceivable to these self- appointed and / or installed ‘left ‘ leaders’ who persist in their delusional activist bubbles without stopping to check what’s going on OUTSIDE their self-perpetuating cliques and cultic gangs of rejected and lonely online geekoids who parrot exactly what their leaders tell them to do, obedient members that they are to their secular religion{s}.

What a devastating portrait we have before us! What are we to do about it, eh?
Well the professional left are being challenged by an ever growing number of working class women and men and this essay is an attempt to contribute to these collective efforts, led ably by Radical and Socialist Feminists who are finding unprecedented levels of unity in our common goal of opposing sexist reaction.

So, to minimise the risk of painting an overly pessimistic picture of the existing state of affairs, let me start by redressing the balance and pay tribute to the contributions made so far by the growing bands of feminist sisters and brothers too who are currently leading the resistance, in sharp contradistinction to our so-called left leaders in Labour, The Socialist Party, The Anarchist Networks, The People’s Assemblies, our union branches and even Feminist Networks etc. etc.I personally treasure every single genuine class fighter, every brave socialist feminist, every true revolutionary and honest, principled campaigner that I meet and know and there are many of you and that is what gives me hope. In the face of yet more capitalist reaction, I see working class women and working class communities in inner city London, for example, leading resistance and organising, against all the odds, whether it’s the Grenfell and affected areas community organising (out of necessity, not as a life-style choice of the privileged student, it must be noted), or the many fine feminist women I have met recently through the Women’s Place is on the platform and the Let’s Talk about Sex’ feminist campaigns who are determined not to be intimidated, defamed, bullied and even assaulted for daring to express our hard-won democratic right to meet publicly to discuss our concerns about the Gender Recognition Act.

In South Wales we have the advantage of our strong socialist and working class heritage which has always flamed alit, no matter how dark it has actually been the last few decades – within my lifetime that is – I’m nearly 38 and was born four years before the start of The Miners’ Strike of 84/5, in 1980; yet the toxic, thought-terminating rise of liberal, post-modern university based Identity Politics has even reached and polluted South Wales, as we have no shortage of higher education campuses and professional activists (usually on mysterious incomes, not obtained through waged work)here and it is seriously inhibiting and weakening our capacity to organise collectively against capital and start to overcome the sexual, racial and national divisions which beset our class.

Capitalist individualism has reached its full ideological zenith in the digital, plastic age of the social media blend of campaigning and self-promotion where narcissism, historical ignorance and vacuity are the most celebrated characteristics of popular culture and pseudo-intellectual online sub-cultures, combined with an elitist insistence on obscure, invented jargon unrecognisable to the average person on the street in working-class communities (imagine asking a random person ‘Are you CIS or trans?’ or perhaps instruct them ‘to check your privilege’ and consider the likely responses – let’s be generous here – ‘Eh?’ – bewilderment is the best you could hope for in this hypothetical scenario).

Left-wing activists barely understand just how remote they actually are from the people they claim to lead and represent. This is illustrated by the machinations currently taking place inside all of the ‘left’ parties in the U.K. where both Labour and Green Party officials, for example, are busy suspending and expelling their usually but not exclusively female members for the thought crime of not accepting the daft and meaningless slogan ‘Transwomen are Women’ and daring to question such a reductive, empty statement and articulate women’s concerns about our hard-won sex based segregated spaces like Women’s Refuges, changing areas, intimate health services (only female nurses conduct the cervical smear, for example, because the state acknowledges our right to human dignity and privacy – a right that equally applies to biological men), prisons, changing rooms and toilets.

In an increasingly hysterical, totalitarian climate which is in reality profoundly anti-intellectual for it prohibits the free discussion of females to discuss what it even means to be female, rare are the leftists who are now prepared to make the statements that I have made above.

With a characteristic lack of moral, political and social backbone, it is much easier, convenient and above all popular within activist circles for socialists, anarchists, communists etc. to keep their heads down, dismiss yet again women’s concerns (the left has a long, inglorious history of doing this, including the repeated silencing and marginalisation of female activists who report male sexual, physical, psychological abuse of female party / grouping members), rolling their eyes at the absurdity of it all (some trans activists claim there are hundreds of different genders which they and their mates have made-up and forced onto everybody else), adopt the new language to be polite, lecture others and become complicit in the silencing of women who face being no platformed as if we were the moral equivalent of fascists for daring to question and yes contradict trans ideology.

Meanwhile, there are a wide range of views in the tiny trans-identified community on this topic yet this diversity of views is not reflected by the increasingly cultish trans activist online community (please note that there is no denial or erasure of their existence as has been absurdly claimed by some trans activists) who tend to represent the most affluent and middle-class of the trans community (think of Bruce / Caitlin Jenner or the many Trans-identified American Youtubers who have amassed an incredibly large following on the basis of nothing more than their personal testimonies/ dramas rather than any actual, substantive, well-researched, evidenced based presentations on the issues at stake) – in sharp contrast to feminist online campaigners and fine trans-identified activists who support our right to organise and who also crucially campaign offline, as well as online.

There has been a flowering of new and older radical and socialist feminist activism in response to these developments. Radical Feminists such as Cathy Brennan, the American human rights lawyer, was one of the first to raise the flag of alarm at the potential clash of rights between two distinct groups. Brennan is calm, well-reasoned and sober but such has been the ferocity of mischaracterisations, bullying and abuse of Cathy that now many leftists are too afraid to actually read and / or watch Brennan’s documentaries for fear of being labelled a ‘TERF’ (a trans exclusionary radical feminist), or read or cite Julie Bindel or Shelia Jeffreys or even Germaine Greer!

In particular, I’d like to highlight the contributions of Madeline Burns, the lesbian rights student activist who produces some of the best researched, argued and presented vlogs (Burns YouTube videos are always slick and very entertaining) in answer to such questionable trans ideological concepts such as the shameful ‘cotton ceiling’ theory which argues that ‘trans women’ (that is, biological XY males who are transgender) have the ‘right’ to sex with lesbian women (adult biological female XX ones, that is) and that the penis is now ‘female’, eroticising their ‘she-dicks’ and verbally threatening gender-critical feminists with these ‘she-dicks’ , thus erasing lesbians ( to reiterate – adult human XX females who are exclusively sexually attracted to other females). The Lesbian Rights Alliance in the U.K. believe that this is the worst time for lesbian visibility in U.K. life since the 1950s whilst all women potentially face these sexualised, violent threats from persons who have XY chromosomes and often have their male genitalia intact – except now we can’t ask about genitals as this is somehow ‘hate’ speech rather than the recognition of the mutual rights of two potential sexual partners to bodily autonomy and the individual right to say no to sexual contact and not have to justify it. It is remarkably reminiscent of rape culture.

Trans advocates object to these concerns and instead maintain that it is ‘hate speech’, ‘transphobia’, ‘trans-misogynistic’ and ‘bigotry’ for lesbians to insist on maintaining their sexual boundaries. A basic tenet of feminism is the belief in the human right to voluntarily chose your sexual partner(S) and for full female bodily autonomy (males should also have these rights of course; We support human rights, but it is unfortunately the case male sexual violence against women is real, endemic, global and with a very long, documented history which is why as women we focus on women in our campaigns).

It is incredible how quickly and easily leftists are to disregard these most fundamental of principles. The debate is confusing to almost everybody concerned but what it comes down to is this – sex.

Transactivists hide behind exclusive vocabulary, disdain for the masses and the active corporate, establishment funding of their campaigning efforts and argue in retort in logical absurdities such as ‘biology is irrelevant’ (ask your doctor, if you have doubts that your sexed chromosomes and internal organs, which cannot be modified by treatment or surgery, are important for determining the form of your medical treatment, like childbirth, cervical and ovarian cancer or prostate cancer for men, if you have any remaining doubt about the realness of sex based characteristics).

Instead women, and men, who just as the trans identified community, cannot escape our sexed, material bodies any more than they can by thinking yourself out of it. I did not chose to start bleeding aged 11 and become ashamed of my own body, nor did I choose to be born with a cervix which needs testing every three years for pre-cancerous cells and I most definitely have not chosen to experience sexist bullying and name-calling as a result of my sexual activities (‘Slut’, ‘slag’, ‘slapper’ etc), nor the number of men who have sexually exploited and mistreated me and so on. And on.

Our biology is an essential component to understand our life experiences because it is the materiality of our bodies via our reproductive capacities and sexuality which male-dominated Capital exploits for profit via the sexual division of labour. Silvia Federici in her 1975 article ‘Counterplanning from the Kitchen’ puts it plainly and in a way that if published now, rather than 1975, would in all likelihood get denounced as ‘transphobic’ as it maintains the feminist position that we are exploited as a sex and that being female has nothing to do with sex-based stereotypes of behavour and rules imposed by patriarchy’; instead us women have never actually had the opportunity to freely develop our personalities with male assumed as the natural state (and equally white as the assumed natural state of being by racist white thinkers and scientists etc.):

For years capital has told us that we are only good for sex and making babies. This is the sexual division of labour and we refuse to eternalise it, as inevitably happens when we ask: “What does being female actually mean; what, if any, specific qualities necessarily and for all time adhere to that characteristic?” To ask this question is to beg for a sexist reply. Who is to say who we are? All we can know is who we are not, to the degree that through our struggle we gain the power to break with our imposed social identity. It is the ruling class, or those who aspire to rule, who presuppose a natural and eternal human personality – it is to eternalise their power over us.’

Silvia Federici, arguing against left critics of the international Wages for Housework campaign in her 1975 article ‘Counterplanning from the Kitchen’, republished in her book ‘Revolution at Point Zero’.

It is shocking, however, how many radical feminists from the pro sex-work school of feminism , including Federici’s long-time Wages For Housework collaborator Selma James, an otherwise incredibly admirable woman and feminist fighter who, nevertheless, recently argued at a Cardiff People’s Assembly meeting last December (2017) where James was the main speaker and during the free discussion which followed, there took place a ‘debate’ on these issues, and unfortunately Selma denounced radical and socialist feminists such as myself for questioning and critiquing the sexism of much trans ideology by accusing us of ‘a form of racism’ by not accepting male self-identification with problematic ‘gender’ roles. Whilst myself and another activist were able to challenge James about this, the chair quickly shut down the discussion, effectively allowing the bullying, defamation and slander of feminists such as myself and many other women out there who share our concerns but do not vocalise them publicly out of fear of the consequences. This is a profound shameful mess. I sincerely hope dialogue can continue between these strands of socialist and radical feminism because whilst it is increasingly difficult, it remains vital that we strive to achieve this.

‘Sex and Gender’ are used interchangeably by trans activists and an increasing range of state and corporate service providers / companies as if they are the same but this is not the case – it is a fundamental abuse of the English Language to conflate a biological category (sex) with a sociological concept ‘gender’ – which in itself was actually originally simply a grammatical term which opportunistic scientific businessmen appropriated to rationalise and justify the invention of medical treatment and surgery of what was previously known as ‘trans-sexuallism’ in the U.S. in the late 50s to claim that there is such a thing as a ‘gendered’ personality (Jeffreys, Gender Hurts, 2013) when most sociologists acknowledge that these concepts of gender are based on stereotypes which are socially and culturally specific and not universal.

The majority of the U.K. population know barely anything at all about trans ideology yet it is spreading rapidly throughout U.K. state and corporate services, above all, education. People have the right to ask questions, raise their concerns and have full uncensored access to evidence based research including the safety of prescribing hormonal blockers to children.

The growth of this bizarre, highly individualistic and self-centred idealistic (that is non-materialist) ideology is alien to the collective, community and work[lace based solidarity and organisational traditions of the socialist, feminist and labour movements and it but a telling symptom of our increasingly atomised, lonely and isolated society where the previous bonds of community have weakened as a result of the triumph of market forces over a previously combative working class here.

The level of strikes is at its lowest point since the foundations of the unions in the first place and there are no signs of this decline reversing anytime soon with the income and lifestyle gap between workers and the corporate bosses and the corporate union leaders at its greatest.

And what is the left doing in response to these appalling conditions for our class?

Prioritising an admittedly tiny group of individuals’ questionable psychogical needs over and above every single issue impacting our class. It is a sign of a luxurious life if your main political concern are policing the correct use of pronouns and having your made-up gender identity validated over the life and death day to day struggles over working class mothers struggling to feed themselves and their children and keep a roof over their heads and not be economically forced into prostitution because the state refuses to recognise your unpaid emotional, sexual, social and economic labour raising families and socially reproducing the next generation of workers to capital.

The rapid growth and spread of the trans cult can be explained by both the usually unexamined corporate, bio-tech and plastic surgery industries funding it – industries, alongside the sex’ industry’ – which have long profited from women’s bodies – the rapacious demands of the capital market knows no bounds – and the pernicious influence of ruling class philosophies, above all ‘post modernism’ and the singular failure of the left to develop a coherent, anti-capitalist vision as both Zizek and Mark Fisher have argued.

The organised left was first corrupted by the capitalist class at least a century ago – the key betrayals being the social democratic parties’ (including Labour here) rejection of international revolution in favour of supporting their own national capitalist class in World War 1, then the failures and betrayals of Stalinism and the Bolshevik leaders and the endless missed opportunities of leftists of just about every kind, including the anarchists who handed state power back to the capitalists from the workers who had taken control of Barcelona 1936 whilst resisting Franco and fascism.

This historical reality is the material basis for the left’s ongoing political inability to relate and connect with, let alone mobilise the working class to defend itself against attack, let alone attempt to overthrow the ruling classes of the world. In this vacuum identity politics has replaced class struggle and neutered, co-opted and twisted feminism out of recognition into the brave new world of corporate ‘intersectional’ feminism which has proved so acquiescent to the demands of the most vociferous and unreasonable of trans activists and their corporate sponsors. Male domination has continued abated and the myth of masculinity and the strong man continues to fail men, above all working class and poor men, who are tricked into thinking that their alleged right to have power as men over ‘their’ women and children is somehow an adequate compensation for their exploitation as worker, in a comparable way that both white women and men are tricked into feelings of racial ‘superiority’ used to justify slavery and ongoing white domination, above all in the very state structures of all the imperialist capitalist countries.

Masculinity serves neither the interests of women or men or children just as racism is an unacceptable tool to justify colonialism, slavery and routine discrimination on the basis of skin colour and / or nationality. Only capitalism and other class based economic systems benefit from sexism, racism and other sources of division, be it nationalism, homophobia, religion and so on. It is time for a revolution against this world and its debased profit system. It is time for the masses to make history, or even better, herstory, again and sort out our ‘leaders’ once and for all and make ourselves heard.

Sara Mayo
25/05/19

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