Weinstein, Trump...Feminism or Class Struggle?

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jk1921
Weinstein, Trump...Feminism or Class Struggle?
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Another very good piece that shows the problems and limitations of the approach to these questions be taken today. But, I wonder if some of the old conceptions have since been surpassed? Women as the slaves and sex objects of their men? Marriage as a prison where men dominate women? Of course, some of this still exists, but capitalist development during and since the post-war reconstruction period (along with the attendant social movements) would seem to have made that situation not nearly as universal today. In the developed world today divorce rates have skyrocketed, soemthing which can have multiple meanings, but at the very least women are no longer quite the prisoners of men that they once used to be. Moreover, in more recent years, we are seeing the emergence of new kinds of social phenomena in the period of neo-liberalism, like the socially useless male--unemployed and virtually unemployable, households where the woman is the primary bread winner and thus yields some power over the men in the family (in part becasue under neo-liberalism traditionally feminized jobs are among the few that show tendencies towards growth: so-called "pink collar" work, health care, nursing, care work of various kinds, etc.). In any event, the situation is not as clear cut as in the days of Engels' Origins or Bebel's The Woman Question.

In addition, whatever the misdeeds of a Trump or Weinstein, it is clear that bourgeois society has developed an interest for whatever reason in the social problems of domestic violence, sexual violence, etc. In fact, as part of the "cutlure wars" these issues have been elevated to the top of public consciousness with the "Me Too Movement," etc. so much so that there is now a developing backlash against the pendulumn having been swung too far, i.e. the idea that all women should be believed when they accuse a man of misconduct and to question a woman's claims amounts to victimizing her all over again.

Both sides of this near relgious quarrell were on display in the US with the rancor over the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination. In the early going, the anti-Kavanaugh forces in the Democratic Party appeared to be on the offensive, thinking that the Me Too momentum would carry Kavanaugh and thus Trump to defeat, but once more and more outlandish sounding accusations were made against him, the tide appeared to turn and Trump capitalized on this with a political master stroke: reminding women that that could be their husbands, brothers, sons in the dock facing potentially life ruining false accusations with Democrats appearing to want to scrap hundreds of years of Western jurisprudence demanding that men now must prove themselves innocent--a virtual impossiblity in a "he said, she said" situation. 

This opens up other questions for us that the article does not touch upon. As communists whose goal is human emancipation we abhor interpersonal violence and abuse of any kind, but where do we stand on standards of guilt and innocence, etc? It would seem to me that things like "innocent until proven guilty," "proof beyond a reasonable doubt," etc. --all of the legal protections for individuals flowing through English Common Law into the founding constitutional documents of the United States--while creations of the bourgeoisie and often only ever honored by it in the breach--are nevertheless important advancements in human freedom. Today, those principles do seem to be under threat, as much by a kind of "ends justify the means" mentality of the left as by an authoritarian right. The emerging mentality seems to be on the order of: 'If some innocent men suffer, that's acceptable, because we have to right the greater wrong of women's oppression as a gender."

Women's abstract oppression as a group takes precedence over the individual rights and protections of concrete men facing the repressive power of the state (which the left now appears to want to yield to punish its adversaries.) All of this is of course ironic as one of the founding issues of modern liberalism (at least in the US) was the fight against harsh punishments for black men often falsely accused of sexual assault on white women (the death penalty for rape was still given even into the 1960s). In this sense, the suspiscions of the political right that the New Left today (or is it the New, New Left?) itself represents a dark authoritarian instinct inherited from Stalinism are not entirely unfounded.

So maybe then, our guide should be more the early Marx (On the Jewish Question) who probed these issues of political rights vs. human emancipation, as we sort through the right Marxist orientation to the thorny issues being raised today around gender, sexuality, race, etc. (so-called "identity politics") and how they relate not only to the working class' struggle against captialism, but the broader human patrimony of which it seems to me the rights and protections of the age of democratic revolutions are a part, but which today are often maligned not as protections of human freedom, but as shields for the privielged to escape responsibility for their personal misdeeds. Of course, what makes a concrete person "privliged" seems to be open for debate and constantly whillted down in the modern day oppression olympics.

 

d-man
to jk

I'm not sure this is about marshalling the oppressive powers of the state (or, protection of the state and more rights for women), so much as the infliction of damage to reputation, which to a company, as radical feminist legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon says, means everything (far more than any actual.costs from a real trial). She also noted that when a company fires some embarring employee (due to rumors against him), this is just the exercise of the normal already exisitng right of the employer to fire workers for any random reason. So insistence on 'bourgeois democratic rights' won't help us much anyway I fear. I haven't read MacKinnon, but it seems (obviously) she is not satisified with existing law (statue of limitation, the treatment of women who do chose to take matters to court) and its actual implementation. And for a radical feminist, the whole "metoo" thing is not radical at all, so long as prositution and pornography continue to be defended (often by the same 'identity politics' people).

Having listened a bit more to them, I don't think we cannot include radical feminists into the recent bad identity politics.

Btw, a 2017 translation of Krupskaya's The Woman Worker (1899): http://www.scottish-communists.org.uk/files/the-woman-worker.pdf

"Bourgeois professors shamelessly go into print to assert that prostitutes are not slaves but are people who have chosen to take that road! It is the same hypocrisy that insists that no one prevents a worker from leaving a given factory where it is impossible to breath, what with the dust, poisonous vapours, heat, and so on. They “voluntarily” remain working there for 16 to 18 hours a day."

 

 

d-man
edit

Seems there is no edit-button.

I meant to write: "I don't think we can include radical feminists into the recent bad identity politics".

 

jk1921
I agree that "bourgeois

I agree that "bourgeois democratic rights" are of little protection today for most people. But I am not sure things like "innocent until proven guilty," "due process," reasonable time limitations on prosecutions and individualized judgement fall into that category exactly. They are first principles that may derive in some cases from the historical needs of the bourgeois class to defend itself against arbitary feudal authority (although some of these principles are even older than the bourgeoisie), but one can also see them as acheivements of human history, the forward march of human freedom (if you want to be Hegelian about it) or just principles of fundamental fairness in human interactions. Obviously, these things wouldn't operate exactly as they do in bourgeous society under communism (although what about the period of transition?), but they seem to nevetheless constitute foundational principles of a fair and just society nonetheless. One could even invoke a Biblical principle here, or the Golden Rule: "Do onto others as you would have done unto you." Its another way of saying that to be a truly human society, one must strive to to see things from others' perspectives, or colloquially stated, "put oneself in another's shoes." Perhaps, Rawls' "veil of ignorance" is relevant here? But that requires a certain level of abstraction from one's pasrticular indentity to find a common point of interest with others. Lilla indentifies that as ones interest in common "citizenship," while for Marxists its the collective interest of the working class (which serves as a surrogate for the general human interest under capitalist conditions). But can we really reduce all of our interests to material ones defined by class? Do we still need a notion of citizenship?

In any event, it seems it is just these principles that are under threat from the bourgeois left today, whether it is in the form of identity politics, i.e. it is impossible for you to relate to me, becasue you do not have my concrete experience as an X." Or in the kind of utitlitairan ethic developing on the movmement left, where one's innocence of particular wrongs is not necessarily going to save you from being denoucned in the pursuit of broader, abstract goals of social justice. For all the right-wing hysteria about "socialism" today, there is a certain grain of truth in the detection of a neo-Stalinist ethic making a resurgence in the Me Too movement, but also in anti-racist, anti-fascist movement politics, where entire groups of people are condemned for the actions of some of "their kind," or are assumed guilty because of some intrinsic characterisitc about them, in the interest of changing broader social mores around these issues.

 

d-man
Homer Badman

Actually (if you're interested jk1921) the WSWS, as one of the few revolutionary marxist groups, has consistently upheld your alluded principles in its coverage of MeToo, stressing the bourgeois and rightwing character of this "movement" (which the next day, if e.g. Sanders were elected president, could easily be turned against the left of capital). Your linkage to Stalinist traditions seem off-base to me though. The WSWS also points to the hypocritcal silence of the bourgeois press about the sexual assaults in migrant detention centers against poor women. However, and I think you actually admit my point, in practice there is no defense against trial by public/social media, except sue for defamation. But then you become entangeled in your principles, because that option would contradict another democratic right, namely freedom of the press/speech (which again, the next day, could be used be to censor powerless victims or leftwing publications). Unfortunately you seem to be only left with impotent moralist appeals to "fundamental fairness" against "utilitarian ethics".

To return to the legal scholar radical feminist I referred to above, she is against the common notion (even among self-proclaimed feminists) of "consent" (because it basically stacks the burden of proof on the victim); or for instance, if one had pleasant sex last night, nobody ever said: I had "consensual" sex last night. My point is that it is even giving too much credit to MeToo if one believes that it is really (radically) feminist, or effectively attempting to change the law. And the point is also that the goals for actual changes in the law are often still left undefined, or face great legal difficulties.

[To the forum-admin: the title-thread doesn't link to the article, as was the case in the past: - http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/201809/16573/weinstein-trump-feminism-or-class-struggle]

The ICC goes a step futher by saying that even if new laws or harsher penalties were introduced, this would hardly solve the problem (because it is rooted in material conditions, ever reproduced by capitalism). That could be true, but then as jk1921 mentions, what about the working class "policy" during the period of transition in regard to these questions?

jk1921
d-man wrote:

d-man wrote:

But then you become entangeled in your principles, because that option would contradict another democratic right, namely freedom of the press/speech (which again, the next day, could be used be to censor powerless victims or leftwing publications). Unfortunately you seem to be only left with impotent moralist appeals to "fundamental fairness" against "utilitarian ethics"

There are "rights" and there are "norms," the boundaries between which bourgeois culture is wrestling with today in the era of populism. But the question I am trying to pose is whether or not we need an appeal to something beyond mere "interests," as anything can be justified if the standard is whether or not it serves an interest. If eradicating sexual misconduct is in the interest of social justice than if shaming more men, even some who are innocent, reduces sexual misconduct, it is justified. But obviously the fact that social justice has been advanced is some cold comfort for the men falsely accused. Social justice runs up against fundamental fairness in human dealings. Utility in achieving an abstract ultiamte goal, trumps social reciprocity between concrete human beings.

If you want a Stalinist link, think of the Bukharin show trial. A true believer in the revolution to the end, Bukharin is said to have penned a final letter protesting his innocence of the actual crimes charged against him, but accepting that the Revolution may require his death (I'll have to check the precise source on this). A colder utlitarian logic based on abstract interest couldn't be imagined (and it didn't even advance the revolution, which was already dead). 

If you want a more recent dliemna, think of the discussion over the conflict between "TERFS" and LGBTQ activists. One poster here suggested that if a particular identity dispute eroded proletarian unity, it should be downplayed, because proletarian unity is paramount for the revolution. But of what value is proletarian unity, if it requires repressing someone's fundamental humanity? Is this a moral question or an empirical one relaed to interest? Could the proletariat even be said to be united, if it has to repress part of itself to get there?

You are right that appeals to morality or the law are impotent under capitalist conditions, but does that mean we can do without a concept of morality? But what would it based on if not interest? Fundamental fairness in common citizenship may be ideological and illusory under class soceity, but does that mean the principle is itself wrong?

d-man
wrongfully accused

Apperently in his student days e-celeb rightwing figure Cernovich was accused of rape (can't remember if he stood trial). He told this story himself on a podcast, of course he claimed innocence, (again iirc) as he told it, he fell a sleep (probably at a party) with a woman, who started to hump against him (whilst asleep?), then next, out of embarresement she accused him of rape, all the press believed her and he was almost ruined but somehow managed to come out of it fine. And from that day forth his goal was revenge on the media and establishment. As he told it, this is the underlying drive of all his action ever since.

The most-used analogy is to mob-lynchings of blacks (accused of assaulting white women), as you well know, and not to the highly-orchestrated Stalinist showtrials. We're speaking now just about the unfair ruination of someone's reputation (and source of income), still terrible in some cases enough to be driven to suicide. If that is the problem you wish to see addressed, then advance some concrete propositions beyond vague handwringing about democratic citizenship. Though I wish you'd change the topic.