I guess regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’m not a puritan. In fact, I tend to be very libertarian on sexual matters, which as often as not rubs up against prevailing attitudes on the left, and is probably to be blamed at the heel of the hunt on my long-term interest in Reichian psychology. Old Wilhelm may have been a bit bonkers, but he did have some most fascinating ideas.
Anyway, we return to the question of sexism on the left. Andy tried this the other day, only to be derailed by an endless stream of commentators shouting “No! Look at this!”, but that’s no reason to have another try.
May I say in advance, therefore, that I’m not objecting to anyone getting their leg over. What I object to is, firstly, abuse of power, or what passes for power on the left (vide G Healy) and, secondly, hypocrisy. A good example of the latter would be Hoxha’s Albania. Uncle Enver’s homosexuality would be neither here nor there had he run a sexually enlightened government, but he didn’t. But if we dig a little further into our contemporary left, we find layers upon layers of hypocrisy.
So we’re going to try a little thought experiment. And, bearing in mind the laws of defamation, let’s stick to hypotheticals.
Imagine, if you will, a far-left organisation that sets great store by its sensitivity to matters of oppression, and is especially gung-ho about its opposition to sexism. Now imagine that this perfectly decent stance is constantly being undermined by aspects of the group’s internal culture.
Let’s say there is a very senior cadre who is notorious for his wandering hands, at least when he’s had one too many. This is an open secret, to the point where, if he visits your branch, comrades crack jokes about locking up the women. Has this ever been the subject of an internal inquiry, even by the notoriously supine control commission? Dream on.
Let’s say that you have been approached by not one but several young female comrades who feel uncomfortable around a longstanding cadre because of his persistent habit of talking to their cleavages. (This, by the way, is something I make a conscious effort to never do. I was brought up to believe that it’s only good manners to look a woman in the eye when you’re talking to her.) Since you take this kind of thing seriously, and are worried about the group’s failure to retain young female recruits, you would love to support them. So imagine how you feel when you have to tell them that nothing can be done, and they would be best advised to stay quiet and try to avoid this comrade.
Let’s say that you are aware of a number of cases where ambitious female comrades have achieved positions in the hierarchy, due not to what talents for the job they may possess but due to who they are fucking. Meanwhile, talented women are passed over when it becomes known they are unavailable.
Let’s say that there are a few men in a number of localities who take pride in shagging any young female recruits to their branches, as much for their status as for any sexual enjoyment. (The anthropological equivalent of monkeys sticking their asses in the air.) This actually damages the group in that these young women rarely stay any length of time. But it is impossible to do anything about this, because these men are in good standing with the leadership, and moreover are more than usually outspoken in their PC puritanism.
Let’s say the group has a culture of institutional bullying, where women are not given more consideration, but generally speaking less.
Let’s say that this group had supporters in the Scottish Socialist Party during the Sheridan trial, who were involved in ugly scenes at SSP meetings where women who failed to support the Dear Leader were abused as “bitches” and “cunts”, amongst other witty epithets. Imagine that, rather than dealing with this abuse, the group’s publications blow smoke about the SSP having succumbed to “feminist puritanism”.
Now let’s say that this group runs periodic anti-sexist campaigns among the rank and file, aimed at browbeating comrades for their supposed thought crimes. This practice closely mirrors the sort of thing that used to go on in the American Maoist movement, where perfectly defensible measures to integrate minorities often degenerated into white comrades being forced to self-criticise their unconscious racism. And it’s about as productive, not to mention allowing some comrades to bury their own dodgy records under a mountain of sound and fury.
Let’s say the group has a number of stentorian über-feminists comfortably ensconced in its permanent leadership. They are well aware of the sort of shit that goes on, and you would think they would take steps to set their house in order. But that might mean jeopardising their comfy berths, so they prefer to spend their time writing tomes on “raunch culture” and ridiculing working-class women for wearing push-up bras.
Let’s say this imaginary group, while turning a blind eye to the practices detailed above, regularly expels rank-and-filers for alleged sexual misconduct. Indeed, it does so in such numbers that, were we to take the disciplinary records at face value, the group would appear to be chock-a-block with sex pests. By an amazing coincidence, the vast bulk of people expelled on these grounds turn out to be political dissidents. It has been alleged that this is a deliberate tactic taught to organisers, who can thus avoid dealing with the political substance of any dissidence while blackening the dissident’s character. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Now let us imagine for the sake of argument that this group is inviting us to spit blood over somewhat sexist comments by Asian councillors in Tower Hamlets, and to join in a great frenzy of synthetic outrage at George Galloway expressing opinions that are utterly typical for a man of his age and background.
Cynical? You bet.