apologies to commenters

I am so one of the techno-illiterati that I didn’t realise comments were being saved for me a moderate box – what an idea! I thought nobody was looking at my blog at all and therefore was going to take my sorry arse off and start yet another blog. So now I know where you are hiding I will reply and rejoin the (in)human race.


Sectarianism: we do it because we love it

I was in an unpaid improv performance group. Before every gig, as a warm up, we’d jump up shouting: We do it because we love it.

I’ve just been knocked back from yet another attempt to get bits of the left to talk to each other. Why, I ask myself and the world at large, why doesn’t the left get it? While we’re so disunited New Labour can keep on keeping on with its attacks on the working class. Why don’t they see it?

And I’m forced to conclude that left goups want unity but only if they can be right all the time. And individuals love the buzz you get from a well-aimed kick to the gonads: “Ha, got you there!”

We do it because we love it. it’s what makes our days bright and our nights bearable. We’re not going to stop. Why am I kidding myself?

That page 3 Thing

Since it has been brought into the argument, and as one of the instigators of the original campaign, 25+ years on, I’d like to revisit that Page 3 thing.

The early 80’s Thatcher had just come to power. ‘Ditch the Bitch’ was the kind of popular anti-Thatcher slogan that focussed on her gender rather than her class, and conflated working class frank sexism with outspoken working class expression. (An earlier version of that was ‘Ted Heath is a queer’.)

The Yorkshire Miner, paper of Arthur Scargill’s most militant area of the NUM, ran a regular topless page 3 girl. We argued, I still think rightly, that such sexism, implying a lads-only labour movement, undermined the unity of the fightback against Thatcher. All credit to Dave Douglass, then of Yorkshire NUM, who took the battle into the heartland of working class militancy and sexism, and won.

I think we were vindicated in the Great Strike of 1984/5, When  women of the pit communities were the backbone of the struggle. You could argue fairly that it was their pivotal role in the strike, rather than our puny propaganda offensive, that decisively changed the consciousness of the labour movement on sexism: militancy was no longer presumed to be the province of the lads alone. It would be a false counterposition, I think. The material obviously weighs heavier than ideology, but ideas do have their place.

So where does the argument stand today?The argument about sexism in the labour movement has largely been won. I am not denying persistent material inequalities. Nor am I precluding reactionary attempts to roll back these gains. but women’s equality is now the default assumption. Sexist language is frowned upon. When we took up the issue of the Miners’ page 3, we were going against the tide; it flows the other way now.

Does sexism still exist in the labour movement? Of course.

Are there individual boorish men in exalted positions in the movement? Yes indeedy.

Is sexism used as stick to beat yesterday’s heroes- turned today’s villains? Undoubtedly.

Do victim-feminists protest too much? Get a grip. Yes, the remarks were crass: you’ll tie yourself in knots trying to defend them.

Were they ‘indefatigable’ George’s worst moment? Not by a long shot.

Girl fight!

I didn’t witness this myself, as I went to a single-sex convent school, but my younger co-ed comrades assure me that a girl fight was a great playgound attraction. And so it is too with our grown-up playgrounds.

I still think fondly of Germaine Greer’s feminist attack on Suzanne Moore’s ‘wobbling cleavage and fuck-me shoes’. And her sisterly assault on ‘coconut’ Monica Ali for daring to write about Asian women in Brick Lane when she is only half Asian and university-educated to boot!

In traditional playground warfare, the lads were aware that it’s not really done to hit girls – however much they’re asking for it. And certain moves – hair-pulling, eyeball scratching, ripping out piercings – are no-go. But girls when they fight are so dirty! Excellent all-round entertainment.

How different from the world of left politics!

Georgeous Arse!

The offending quote from the Georgeous One:

“Take Kylie Minogue. For a singer she’s always been not a bad looker.I voted with the majority for a change when her rear was the year’s champion sight. I even bought my woman Kylie’s range of underwear” 

It has been defended along the lines of, if not ‘political correctness gone mad’, then ‘we are guilty men’ for admiring a nice arse. I don’t think it’s just heterosexual men either. Women, straight, bi, and lesbian, have admired it. Kylie is a gay icon, I wouldn’t be surprised if many gay men also took an interest.

Kylie’s arse doesn’t just grace the pages of ‘Nuts’. It has featured in women’s, gay, and family entertainment magazines. In the world of commodity fetishism and fetish consumerism, it approaches the universal value. When the banking system breaks down, perhaps we should exchange token’s of Kylie’s arse as the universal equivalent.

Let me tear myself away from the vision of billions of Kylie’s arses, to the question of sexism from our mouthpieces.What strikes me – and I’m not the only one – is the embarrassing nafness of the comment. It’s not witty, it’s barely articulate. Yet it wasn’t just tossed off at a pub table. It is a national newspaper column. George, whatever you say about him, knows about presentation: he is the consummate rhetorician.So why would he say that?

I don’t think it displays his contempt for women, or women singers, or Kylie herself, so much as for his audience. Sharp-suited, globe-trotting, silver-tongued George is trying to present himself as ‘one of the lads’, a man of the people, ‘bloke down the pub’. He misjudged it direly, but the point is the attempt. This is what he thinks the man in the street wants to hear. Presumably it is not aimed at his muslim constituents, to whom he presents his tee-total, religiously observant face. He is aiming at a perceived blokeish audience. George is all things to all men.

What he is to women is more complex.

The Split of Kylie’s Arse

last weekend the left hit bottom. Five separate ‘unity’ initiatives were on show: five separate and competing voices crying ‘I am the one and only’. There is in addition at least one more – the United Socialist Party – meeting this week.On the website of Socialist Unity Network (supporters of Galloway’s Respect Renewal, but the most open forum for unity partisans) what is the talk of?

You guessed it – Kylie’s arse.

Butt me no butts

of course none of the participants would say that this tiny but shapely butt is more important than the climate chaos that has swept away thousands of lives in Bangladesh, the war in Iraq and at home against civil liberties, the miserable fall-out of the tottering over-extended banking system…no, for they are all agreed capitalism isn’t working; it is once again threatening the future of humanity. They know where their priorities are.

looking into the split

My necessarily partisan take on the ‘Split of Kylie’s Arse’: Galloway and some tame trots split crying bureaucratic manipulation by the SWP. The SWP anti-democratic? Surely not! The SWP retaliated by claiming a ‘witchhunt’, corruption and intimidation; that the split was class-based, with the splitters representing communalism, clientism and business interests. Galloway corrupt? Respect a cross-class alliance? Who would have thought?

As part of its bid to belatedly hoist the red flag, Respect-SWP has discovered abortion rights, gay rights and anti-sexism. They quote a piece from Galloway in the Daily Record, in which he comments with faint praise on said Kylie’s derriere.

Kylie’s Arse a Mousetrap?

This has opened a huge rift. Promising the left’s equivalent of the Mousetrap: this one will run and run. The comments on the report runs into the several hundreds. So reassuring we know our business, our arse from our elbow, as it were.

How to avoid talking out of your arse

The current collective consciousness on the left around oppression is such a miasma of postmodern, subjective, sentimental, victimised, emotive dreck. I feel a certain responsibility for having added my bit to the heap. Here by way of restitution, I offer the following insights painfully gleaned over a lifetime of politcal twaddle.

1. Membership of an oppressed group does not confer authority. It does not guarantee authenticity. It does not make you right. You should be judged by what you say and do not by what you are. I offer in evidence my Cabinet of the Oppressed: Margaret Thatcher (women’s rights), Robert Mugabe (racial equality), David Blunkett (disability), Osama bin Laden (international relations), Golda Meir (special responsibility for minorities), the entire Gandhi dynasty (democracy and anti-corruption). Feel free to nominate others to strengthen our inclusivity.

2. Being a VICTIM does not make you right. You may be worthy of sympathy, redress, sensitive consideration, but it has no bearing on the quality of your argument. Reality is dialectical: the victim becomes the oppressor, and vice versa.

3. History is not a licence to kill. An atrocity is an atrocity, however badly treated the perpetrators, wwhatever legitimate grievance they may have. I give you Nazi Germany, Dier Yassin, 9/11, Beslan…

4. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend. people and nations change sides; alliances shift. If you base your position on tactical considerations, you will end up incoherent. We endlessly repeat the argument that it was the West who armed Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. The argument applies equally to us. We may lack the fire power, but we give hostages to our future enemies if, for example, we lie about the repressive regime in Iran simply because it is threatened by the US: it will come back and bite us.

5. If you feel it, suspect it. If it feels good… wait a minute. Outrage is the crack of left polemic. There’s that flaming high – oh it feels so good! All too soon, you come down. You regret giving in to the seductive flame. You feel a bit bad,  a bit ashamed, a bit depressed. Someone flames back. It feels good to join the fray again – a bigger hit. And so it goes on and on and on..Emotion brings an aura of authenicity. If you feel it, it must be real. Aint necessarily so. The evolutionary point of emotion is to move you to action. Sometimes it’s rash, dangerous to move. Except in a literal emergency, it’s better to think first. Left polemic is full of pseudo-emegencies, where the adrenalin pumping makes it feel like life and death, but nothing is lost by taking time to consider.

6. You have to laugh or else you’ll cry. The situation of the left today is a tragic absurdity, if you lose your sense of humour, you may as well shoot yourself.