Get stuck in
The perpetual grovelling and apologising in the face of the bogus anti-Semitism smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn reached new depths last week with the humiliating apology of Richard Burgon MP for stating the blatantly obvious that Zionism is an enemy of peace.
Instead of standing by what was and is an accurate statement, he fell into line and apologised, in step with heroic strategy of appeasement at all costs that our fearless leaders have adopted. As is always the case, apologising makes it look as if you have done something wrong. It gives confidence to the bullies, who have made you apologise for doing or saying nothing that is inaccurate in the first place. It gives the impression that the left is weak and cowardly and consolidates the grip that the right in the Parliamentary Labour Party and the trade union bureaucracies have over Corbyn.
Unless ordinary rank-and-file party members rise up and come to the aid of the leadership, the Corbyn project is destined to end in tears. Whether it is as a result of Jeremy being forced to stand down or a Corbyn-led Labour government being brought down from within before it can implement any meaningful changes is dependent on political developments. What is clear is that, in either inevitable scenario, any progressive reforms - so desperately needed by so many millions of working class people in this country - will be blocked. The aims and objectives of the anti-austerity movement will not have been achieved, and we will be back to square one.
The consequences of black September last year are coming back to haunt us. First there was the unanimous acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, including the 11 examples, at the Labour Party national executive on September 4. Does anyone remember the statement that Jeremy tried to move that he was forced to withdraw? It should not be “regarded as anti-Semitic to describe Israel, its policies or the circumstances around its foundation as racist because of their discriminatory impact, or to support another settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict”. The full impact of the collective political cowardice that totally isolated the democratically elected leader is now being felt.
As are the decisions that were imposed by the misuse of the bloc vote by the trade union bureaucracies at conference a fortnight later. The decision to prevent debate on open selection has meant that unaccountable elements in the PLP remain unaccountable. That has led to increasing attacks on the leadership without the perpetrators having to answer to the membership. The reason for the imposition of a new method of electing a new leader, with more power vested in the trade union bureaucrats, becomes increasingly clear.
As does the suspension, pending a disciplinary investigation, of Chris Williamson MP, on entirely spurious grounds.
The whole ‘Corbyn project’ is at a critical juncture. The choice is quite simple. The usual suspects in the PLP and their unaccountable counterparts in the trade union bureaucracies take back control and topple Jeremy Corbyn or the mass membership becomes a mass movement and stops them. At the present time only a minority of the membership is in any way active. It is critical that minority becomes the majority.
There are no end of issues to be raised at a branch and constituency level. Resolutions supporting Chris Williamson, condemning the gross exaggeration of the anti-Semitism problem, pointing out the outrageous behaviour of Dame Margaret Hodge and contrasting it to the treatment of Chris Williamson, arguing the case for natural justice, due process and equal treatment for all. These and many others need to be discussed at local level and carried through to the national conference. And reopening the debate on open selection is of vital importance.
The old left has let the side down badly in its pitiful response to the bogus anti-Semitism smear campaign. The degrading and humiliating strategy of appeasement and apology is a painful embarrassment that is totally counterproductive. Conniving with the right to prevent discussion on open selection has been and is an absolute disaster.
It is time for those new forces on the left, with their self-respect and backbone still intact, to stand up and be counted. The Corbyn project can still be saved, but only if we all get stuck in and help him out.
I read with sorrow Amanda MacLean’s article, ‘Decoupled from reality’ (Weekly Worker April 18). Like so many contributors to the ‘debate’ around transgender rights Amanda quickly moves from an argument ostensibly about unintended consequences that the Gender Recognition Act may have for the rights of cis-woman, to one that presents trans activists as out to get cis-woman and effectively questions trans, non-binary and intersex people’s right to exist - or only exist as some sort of second-class woman or man or as a sufferer of a “crippling condition”.
A central part of the creation of this narrative is that evocation of the concept of ‘genderist’ or ‘gender ideology’ - a theory that Amanda never really defines. She rather loosely alludes to it being “postmodernist” and that it claims that “transwomen are literally women”. It becomes a straw doll, with words put in trans activists’ mouths, that then can be knocked down.
An example of this is Amanda’s critique of scientific research that suggests that sex might be a wider spectrum, which she implies, without evidence, is somehow driven by “gender ideology”. She then goes on to dispute this new research with reference to a book written over a half a century ago - JZ Young’s The life of vertebrates was first published in 1962!
Perhaps more worrying than Amanda’s intemperate words and seemingly outdated understanding of biology is her seeming complete lack of awareness of the origin and political use of the phrase ‘gender ideology’. Several academics, including Roman Kuhar and David Paternotte, have traced the development of the concept as a response to the advancement of woman’s rights within the United Nations and its agencies in the mid-90s. For the first time the UN recognised sexual and reproductive rights, and the term ‘gender’ was adopted. The Vatican was riled - worried that this would advance access to safe abortions and LGBTQ rights.
They set up a unit that worked closely with Dale O’Leary, an American anti-feminist, in order to study and counter feminist and queer thought. Drawing on and misrepresenting the work of a diversity of feminists and queer theorists, such as Judith Butler, Shulamith Firestone and Simone de Beauvoir - and then blending it with the work of John Money, the controversial sexologist, and a bit of mangled Marxism - they developed the theory.
In an article in Crisis Magazine, a reactionary Catholics website, Dale outlines her understanding of ‘gender ideology’:
“Radical feminists took the idea of gender and combined it with their social constructionist (postmodernist deconstruction) ideology. According to this theory, biological sex might be a given, but ‘gender’ - one’s perception of self - is a social construct and therefore can be changed.
“Radical feminism applied the Marxist theory of class struggle to the relationship between men and women. According to this theory, women were the first oppressed class and men used the biological sex differences to invent motherhood as the task of women and marriage as a way to secure their power over women. Freedom from this oppression could supposedly be achieved by identifying the ways in which language and culture oppress women and deconstructing the cultural supports for recognition of the differences between men and women.
“This deconstructing of ‘gender’ is behind the radical feminist war on marriage and motherhood, and their fanatical support for lesbianism and abortion on demand.”
Dale O’Leary concludes: “We have to defend patriarchy - which if you think about the word is men imitating the ‘Father from whom every fatherhood takes its name’. God was a Father before he made any fathers. We have to defend the natural division of humanity into male and female.”
Since around 2012 there have been campaigns against gender mainstreaming, sexual education, LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights that have utilised the concept of ‘gender ideology’ in Croatia, Germany, Italy, France, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. The war on gender has also become a powerful force in the Americas. It is thought to have been decisive in the failure of the peace referendum in Columbia, and in Brazil it aided the election of the fascist president, Jair Bolsonaro. Finally it was utilised by Donald Trump in the run-up to his election as president of the United States. ‘Gender ideology’ is a straw doll theory utilised by the Christian and far right in order not only to oppress transgendered people, but also lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and cis-woman.
The rationale for this tactic of targeting transgender rights is explained by Meg Kilgannon at the 2017 Values Voter Summit - an annual conference organised by the rightwing Family Research Council in the United States. Kilgannon observed: “For all its recent success, the LGBT alliance is actually fragile and the trans activists need the gay rights movement to help legitimise them.” According to Kilgannon, “Trans and gender identity are a tough sell, so focus on gender identity to divide and conquer … gender identity on its own is just a bridge too far. If we separate the T from the alphabet soup we’ll have more success.”
An important part of this strategy is to make common cause beyond the Christian right: “The feminists make eloquent arguments that gender identity really is the ultimate misogyny and the erasure of women,” argues Kilgannon. “And lesbians in the group are concerned that trans and masculine girls is a form of lesbian eugenics.”
It really is time for Amanda MacLean, and other (although thankfully a minority) feminists to recognise that not only is their campaign against transgender rights malevolent, but it undermines all the advances that have been won by LGBT people and all women, whether cis or transgender, over the last 50 years or so. Amanda MacLean may be happy to return to 1962, when the ‘natural division of humanity’ was taught and policed. When uppity woman, along with those of us who have the “crippling condition” of being trans or queer, were imprisoned or sectioned.
I, for one, don’t!
I found Amanda Maclean’s article on genderist ideology most fascinating.
I’ve been interested in gender issues and sexuality ever since a comrade (and trades council secretary) told me in 1981 that he would be the third person in Britain to have a sex-change operation. He said that he would soon be in the papers. The Eastern Daily Press did a very sympathetic article, whilst The Sun had an article on page 3 headlined: “Union brother says call me sister.” He also told me that he would have to live as a woman for a year before he could have his operation. This explained his permed hair and his diet, which included eating large quantities of cheese.
Whilst transvestites make up a large percentage of the male population, only a very small percentage feel the need to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
It’s a pity that Amanda Maclean did not mention the wide range of male sexuality and fetishes. For example, a lady regularly advertises in the Wisbech Standard/Cambs Times her specialist correction and cross-dressing services.
As Amanda says, sex is very important. Sex nearly destroyed the British Socialist Workers Party over its mishandling of the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape allegation. Sex has recently destroyed the International Socialist Organisation in the USA. But the ‘left’ is very prudish when it comes to matters of sex. The splits in the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) are over the attitude of its sections towards sexual politics and feminism. Ironically, the CWI is opposed to prostitution in the same way that rightwing Christian fundamentalist are. They don’t understand that most women become escorts because escorting pays better than working on a supermarket checkout.
It is therefore very apt and brave that the Weekly Worker can publish such a fascinating article by Amanda Maclean on Genderist Ideology. More articles on sexual politics and so-called post-feminism would be of great interest to me, and possibly other readers.
United Voices of the World, the trade union representing strippers working in clubs across the UK, is appalled by the duplicitous ‘sting’ operations orchestrated by the Women’s Equality Party in Sheffield and Manchester, which are targeting legal clubs, interfering with workers’ rights and violating women’s right to privacy.
In a misguided, self-appointed, mission to ‘save’ dancers, the WEP continues to put livelihoods at risk, while ignoring the explicit wishes of the women involved. As a feminist trade union, we are extremely alarmed by this practice, will continue to support our members in clubs across the country and offer solidarity to all dancers affected by this harmful behaviour.
In recent months, the WEP has contracted men to access clubs, undercover, and pay workers for dances. These included two former policemen, who are regular punters at Spearmint Rhino, Sheffield. Unbeknown to dancers, and against rules clearly displayed around all strip clubs, the WEP’s contractors used hidden cameras and Google glasses to film dancers fully or partially nude. They then passed on the sensitive footage to their handlers at the WEP and, potentially, others.
Filming people without their explicit and direct consent is not just immoral: sharing footage of naked women, obtained without consent and with the explicit aim to undermine and harm them, constitutes harassment and misuse of private information under UK law. As feminists and trade unionists, we are appalled by the fact that the WEP decided to violate women’s rights by using what could amount to revenge porn in order to further their obsession with shutting down legitimate and legal workplaces. United Voices of the World will be seeking legal remedies for our members. We demand that the WEP and its collaborators destroy immediately all footage obtained illegally inside clubs and apologise to the dancers.
Dancers have made it clear that they don’t need rescuing, They need a workplace where they can earn a living to support themselves and their families. Women choose to work in strip clubs for the same reasons people choose a wide variety of jobs: funding university studies, family needs, a disability and a scarcity of other work options. All of them are working because they need to make a living under increasingly difficult conditions - extortionate housing costs, inaccessible and inadequate benefits, lack of childcare and falling wages in other industries.
We demand that the WEP cease its campaign of harassment and intimidation against dancers in Sheffield, Manchester and elsewhere. If the WEP wants to help women, they should campaign against austerity measures and poverty wages - reducing women’s job options, as they are attempting to do, is not only unhelpful, but harmful. If they want to help dancers working in clubs, they are welcome to join UVW’s unionising efforts, listen to women and support them on their own terms.
We are a members-led trade union, organising low-paid, precarious and, predominantly, migrant and outsourced workers all over the UK. UVW supports members fighting for better pay and conditions and, often, for equality with directly employed workers. UVW became the first union in the country to end outsourcing at a university when it forced the LSE to bring all its cleaners in-house after organising the then largest cleaners’ strike in UK history in 2017.
In 2018, UVW members in the sex industry started organising for workers status and recognition of their rights at work, as well as for the full decriminalisation of sex work. Workers are best placed to advocate their own rights and safety at work, and dancers across the UK are working with their trade union to ensure that protections from harassment, intimidation and exploitation are in place. UVW is currently seeking recognition in a number of clubs in order to represent the workers’ collective interests.
United Voices of the World
“This was, of course, in the days when Sinn Féin was still socialist ...”, explains Dave Douglass (Letters, April 18).
Of course, that very much depends on your definition of socialism, Dave. The late Richard Montague - a former activist in the IRA during his younger years, until he came across the Socialist Party of Great Britain - described the Sinn Feigners as simply another party of reformists seeking to run capitalism. And it always has been the case, ever since its foundations and through all the ensuing twists and turns. Any lip service to socialism was ideological milk and honey to sweeten the nationalist poison.
National boundaries may be altered - may even disappear - but such constitutional rearrangements can in no way abolish the misery of the many. The trading arrangement of the UK capitalist class is an irrelevant issue from a socialist point of view. It is a dispute between rival capitalist class interests.
Sinn Feign is a prisoner of dogmas inherited from yesteryear. If their seven Westminster MPs took their seats they would counter the 10 Democratic Unionist Party MPs, but they decline to do so, as they are not prepared to go through the empty formality of swearing allegiance to the crown - even though they are happy enough to extend their handshakes to the royals.