Feminism

Belabored Podcast #139: Fighting Harassment on the Farm

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 18/11/2017 - 10:56am in

We talk with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers about organizing to fight sexual harassment of farm workers.

Richard Coughlan Lays into Farage for Confusing Jews with Zionism

This is another, very well-informed rant by Richard ‘the Dick’ Coughlan. Coughlan’s a stand-up comic in his other job, and his videos on YouTube presumably are in the same style as his comedy shows. As you can tell by his signature farewell at the end ‘May God be less’, he’s also quite a militant atheist. I don’t support his atheism, but I am reblogging this because, like many of his other videos on race, it has some very important things to say about prejudice, and how things are really different from the way they’re presented by the Right.

In this video, he’s mostly concerned with attacking Nigel Farage for confusing American Jews with Zionism and the Israel lobby. Farage has his own show on LBC. The other day he took a call from ‘Ahmed’, who said that it was peculiar that everyone was talking about the way Russia interfered in the American elections, but no-one was talking about AIPAC’s and the Israeli’s interference. The man parodied in the Judge Dredd strip as ‘Bilious Barrage’, agreed, and said it was down to the fact that there were 6 million Jews in America. He then went on to talk a little more about how powerful and influential the Jewish lobby in America is.

Coughlan points out that this isn’t very much as a piece of racial prejudice, but it is nevertheless dangerous, as Farage has confused American Jews and the Zionist lobby. He’s afraid this will act as a kind of dog-whistle to promote anti-Semitism further amongst those with racist and far right-wing views. So Coughlan goes on to show how profoundly mistaken Farage is. Most Jews in America are profoundly liberal politically, and many are deeply critical about Israel’s religious and political constitution, and the treatment of the Palestinians. Israel’s biggest supporters aren’t Jewish Americans, but American Christians.

But before he gets on to this issue, he talks about some of the other news about the far right he finds amusing or irritating. Such as the fact that the blogger, Peter Sweden, has a YouTube channel, in which he devotes a nine minute video to discussing a kebab he bought in Norway. He also talks about Milo Yiannopolis briefly getting a job with the Daily Caller, presumably another right-wing media outlet. But he didn’t last there long. He was sacked, and the person, who hired him was also sacked. The Caller, Coughlan goes on to say, has some truly horrendous people working for it. But Yiannopolis was too much even for them.

I can’t say that I’m surprised Yiannopolis got sacked. But it probably has nothing to do with Milo’s own, very right-wing political views, where he’s attacked Blacks and non-Whites, feminism and ‘SJW’ – Social Justice Warriors – in general. No, it’s far more likely they got rid of Milo because of his comments defending paedophilia, comments which he later retracted. Sort of. Before recognising that he was also a victim through being abused by a Roman Catholic priest when he was 14.

Coughlan points out that Israel mostly attracts the support of very hardline, racist, anti-Islamic individuals and organisations like the English Defence League, Jihad Watch, Gert Wilders, Pamela Geller, and the hardline American Conservatives. The biggest organisation lobbying for Israel in the Land of the Free is the CUFI – Christians United For Israel. This was presided over by the Roman Catholic bigot, John Hagee, before his death, and had Jerry Falwell, the extreme right-wing Christian evangelist on its board. It has 2.5 million members. AIPAC – the largely Jewish Israeli lobbying group, is more influential, as it has more powerful and influential members. Here he runs through a list of American politicos. But its actual membership is much smaller -100,000. American Conservatives love Israel, because Israel’s a profoundly Conservative nation. In the 2012 elections, 65 per cent of Israelis favoured Mitt Romney. But extremely politically Conservative Jews, such as Pamela Geller and Jonah Goldberg, the author of Liberal Fascism, aren’t representative of American Jewry as a whole.

Coughlan points out that about 22 per cent of Jewish Americans aren’t religious. This is so high a percentage, that the census has had to create another category specifically for them. There are now two entries for Jews – one for religious Jews, and another for non-religious. American Jews are also overwhelmingly liberal. 65 per cent of them vote Democrat. The majority also support a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue, and 66 per cent believe that Israel and an independent Palestine could co-exist peacefully. It’s just that their leaders don’t want to. 44 per cent of American Jews are opposed to Israel building further settlements in Palestinian territory. As for the theological view that Israel was given to the Jews by the Almighty, only 40 per cent of American Jews believe this. Which contrasts with the 82 per cent of American Christian Evangelicals, who think this is the case. And 77 per cent of American Jews have an unfavourable view of the orange simian creature, now skulking in the White House.

Regarding Israel’s religious constitution, 43 per cent of American Jews want synagogue and state to be separated. A further 20+ per cent want there to be more separation between synagogue and state, but not a total separation. He also notes the rise in Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism. Last year, in 2016, only 21 per cent of American Jews felt anti-Semitism to be a problem. This year, 2017, it has risen to 41 per cent.

And on social issues American Jews are very liberal. 90 per cent of American Jews, whether religious or not, support gay marriage and LGBT rights, as opposed to 50 per cent of Americans in general. They are also for gun control, against global warming, and do not support the war in Iraq nor the War on Terror.

Coughlan then discusses the size of the various Jewish denominations in America, and the political stance of the largest, the United Reform Judaism Union. 35 per cent of American Jews belong to Reform Judaism. The next largest Jewish denomination in America are the Conservatives, with 18 per cent, and then the Orthodox, with 10 per cent. The president of the URJU is Rabbi Robert Eric Yoffre. Yoffre ran unopposed as leader between 1996 and 2012. He’s very much in favour of equality, social justice and tolerance and religious dialogue, having spoken at Christian and Islamic religious conferences. But most people probably haven’t heard of him. And despite the size and numerical importance of this gentleman’s denomination, when he goes to Israel he is not treated as a rabbi. Because Israeli law does not recognise Reform Judaism as a denomination.

Coughlan states before he begins his discussion of real political and religious views of American Jews that he doesn’t intend to say anything about Israel, either for or against. This is simply about the facts about American Jewish opinion, as gleaned by polling groups like Pew Research.

He then continues his attack on Farage by stating that his conflation of ‘Jews’ with the Israel lobby will act as a dog-whistle to anti-Semites with stupid conspiracy theories about Jewish power and influence. And while he’s at it, he also wonders why Farage is no longer talking about Brexit. He should, because he spent 20 years campaigning for it, as well as being massively in favour of Trump. But now it’s a complete failure, supported only by bitter, racist Little Englanders.

As for stupid conspiracy theories, Farage’s conflation of the Jews with the Israel lobby may only be a small piece of prejudice, but he wonders what’s next: Farage raving about the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, perhaps? This is the notorious Tsarist forgery, which supposedly revealed that there was a massive Jewish conspiracy to enslave gentiles around the world. It was concocted by the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana, or Department 4, to convince the Tsar to increase the persecution of the Jews further. It’s a deeply malign document that has inspired racists and Nazis since its publication, such as Oswald Mosley in Britain and Adolf Hitler in Germany. Coughlan then concludes that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are so important, that he’ll probably produce another video debunking them.

This is video is really good, as it gives the facts and figures to support some of the arguments I’ve put up before now, stating that Judaism and Zionism are entirely separate, and that many Jews are deeply critical of Israel. The veteran Jewish critique of Zionism and the Israeli lobby, Professor Norman Finkelstein, has made the point that historically support for Israel was very much a minority opinion amongst Jewish Americans. Many Jews in America and over here support the Palestinians and the campaign for their civil and political rights, joining groups like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction campaign against Israel. And in Israel itself there are proud Jews, who also protest against the house seizures and demolitions, the construction of the illegal settlements, and the brutalisation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their ancestral lands.

This probably explains the sheer venom of the Israel lobby, and its organs in the Labour party, in persecuting them, as well as gentile critics of Israel. I’ve pointed out time and again how the majority of people suspended and expelled from the Labour for anti-Semitism were nothing of the sort. They were very largely decent, anti-racist men and women, who hated anti-Semitism as another form of the racism they detested. They opposed Israel, or at least the brutalisation of the Palestinians, because they saw Israel as a White, European settler state, based on the same racist, imperialist and colonialist attitudes towards indigenous peoples, that has led to the brutalisation of other indigenous peoples and the theft of their land by Europeans across the globe.

However, the Israeli lobby both here and in America has libelled and vilified these people as anti-Semites, even when its obvious to everyone else that they aren’t. Those so maligned have included self-respecting Jews, who have themselves been the victims of real, anti-Semitic abuse or assault. This does not matter. Zionist and pro-Israel organisations, like the horribly misnamed Jewish Labour Movement and the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, have adopted a tortuous definition of anti-Semitism, which deliberately conflates it with opposition to Israel. And so it doesn’t matter how genuinely anti-racist a person is, whether they have a positive view of Jews, or simply have no strong opinion of them one way or another. Or if they’re Jewish, how observant they are, or otherwise self-respecting. Simply for denouncing Israel’s attack on Jews, they’re attacked as self-hating and anti-Semitic. And many people, including the British comedian Alexei Sayle, have noticed that the majority of the victims of the witch-hunt in the Labour party over this issue have been Jewish.

It looks very much like it’s because these organisations know how weak their position is, and how repugnant very many ordinary people, including Jews, find their persecution of the Palestinians. And so to keep up the image that Jew = Zionism/ Israel, as dictated by Likudnik doctrine, they have to try to marginalise and vilify those who deny it. And that means particularly persecuting Jews.

One of the books that was published a few years ago on the Israel Lobby noted that the lobby affected American elections through the funding of political candidates by organisations and Jewish businesses. AIPAC and similar groups give ample funds to pro-Israel candidates. And where an aspiring congressman or senator is critical of Israel, they will donate heavily to their opponent, thus ensuring that they will lose the election.

But as Coughlan has shown, not all American Jews support Israel, or at least not its maltreatment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Some American Jewish businessmen even donate to Palestinian charities and organisations, as well as Israeli. One of them is featured in the book Bushwhacked, published a few years ago, which exposes everything nasty and corrupt about George Dubya. This gentleman is included because he stands out against the bigotry and intolerance of the Bush administration.

Others have pointed out that Christian Zionism is much larger, and has a very theological agenda. It’s adherents believe that in order for Jesus to return to Earth in the Second Coming, the Jews must return to the Holy Land and Israel restored. This will culminate in a final battle between the forces of good and evil. Twenty years ago the forces of evil were the Communist bloc. Now it’s Islam. These people are a real, terrifying danger to world peace.

And the Israel lobby also has a profound connection to real anti-Semites going right back to the Nazis and the Ha’avara agreement. As anti-Zionists like Tony Greenstein and very many others have documented, the pioneers and leaders of the Zionist movement were all too willing to deal with anti-Semites, because they believed that increased anti-Semitism against diaspora Jews would benefit Zionism by encouraging more Jews to emigrate to Israel. Hence the Judischer Rundschau, the main Zionist newspaper in 1930s Germany, hailed the infamous Nuremberg laws, and urged its readers to wear their yellow star with pride. This was before the Holocaust, which the magazine did not foresee, but it’s still chilling nonetheless. And the head of the Zionist movement in Hungary during the War, Kasztner, allowed the Nazis to deport a greater number of Jews to the Death Camps than may otherwise have occurred, because he hoped that they would also spare some and send them to Israel instead.

But if you dare mention these historical facts, you’re an anti-Semite.

And more recently, the real Nazis and anti-Semites connected with Trump’s administration, like the Alt-Right ‘White Zionist’ Richard Spencer, have very strongly supported Israel. Spencer’s even been on Israeli TV. And Sebastian Gorka, a former member of Trump’s administration with extensive connections to the Hungarian Fascist right, has also been one of the guests at the Herzliya conference, the annual jamboree for the Israeli military. Many real Fascists and anti-Semites support Israel because they see it as another way of getting rid of their domestic Jews, by forcing them to emigrate there.

Judaism is certainly not synonymous with Zionism. And some Zionists and Zionist organisations will collaborate with Fascists and anti-Semites against diaspora Jews, in the hope of boosting their country’s population.

Politics and ‘the totality of natural relations’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 15/11/2017 - 5:00am in

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Blog, Feminism

The crises of capitalist globalisation manifests as worker precarity in the industrial world, the extractivist threat to rural livelihoods in the global South, epidemic levels of domestic violence, regional wars and global warming. But people’s political responses to this world-systemic compromise of life-on-Earth tend to be limited by their own experience and vantage point. Even the social movements speak to each other from what dialectician Bertell Ollman calls different ‘levels of generality’.

To see how these seemingly disparate movements – socialist, decolonial, women’s, and ecologicalare internally related to each other, tools of analysis are needed that go all the way down to the materiality of our bodies.

Today, socialists observe working class politics disoriented by job losses to offshore manufacturing zones, as well as by the so-called ’emancipation’ of women into part-time employment. The automated AI future is unlikely to de-materialise into justice and sustainability. Environmental policy resting on market formulae and the tech fix of ecological modernists is superficial and circular. As Barry Commoner, one of the world’s first eco-socialists noted: ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’.

Productivist instrumentalism inevitably cuts through nature’s metabolic web leaving disorder and entropy behind. In our times, capitalism meets its limit – in ‘nature’. The possibility of a fairer world, indeed, the future of life-itself, is highly uncertain now. Marx noted that capital destroys its own material basis as it goes – what James O’Connor named the ‘second contradiction’. But does the master discourse of political economy do justice to questions of race, sex-gender, or species difference? Not really. Eco-socialist theory remains largely eurocentric, androcentric, and anthropocentric in framing.

In fact, eco-socialism has a very old pivot; a primary contradiction in the ideological dualism of Humanity over Nature and its corollaries – man over woman, white over black.

Ecological feminists have been challenging the Humanity/Nature rift for decades. They began in the 1970s with women’s organised opposition to nuclear power, deforestation, and toxic agroindustry. Connecting local with global politics, these struggles were transnational and they defied established notions of progress. German women built on theoretical foundations laid by Rosa Luxemburg. On other continents, the idea of ‘an ecofeminism’ occurred spontaneously, as women tried to protect the conditions of everyday life from the collateral damage of militarism and economic growth.

Speaking out from diverse ethnicities and classes, these grassroots activists borrowed various languages to make sense of their new politics – from Gaia or Pachamama imagery, to ecriture feminine, to socialism. With insights empirically grounded in daily care labour, ecofeminists contested both ‘equality’ feminism, as well as the explanatory adequacy of deep ecology, unreflexive marxisms, and not least, the liberal academic field of environmental ethics.

So the book Ecofeminism as Politics: nature, Marx, and the postmodern was written; inviting thinkers and activists to focus less on the interface of ‘labour with capital’ and more on the interface of ‘labour with nature’.

In a time of system crisis, the standard androcentric and eurocentric concept of labour must be problematised; the more so, if eco-socialists seek unity with women’s and decolonial movements. Hitherto existing socialist theory focused on relations of production, but this vantage point must be extended to include structurally unspoken ‘relations of reproduction’. Ecofeminist thought is indispensible to building such political bridges; it embodies them, having emerged from the crux of worker’s, decolonial, women’s, and ecological struggles.

In the 1970 to 1980s, a ‘domestic labour debate’ among socialist feminists from Mariarosa Dalla Costa to Heidi Hartman unmasked the role of unpaid housework in providing use values, and contributing directly to surplus value. Their efforts were ignored by accumulation scholars. Ecofeminists would re-scope the geopolitical extension and temporal scale of the old domestic labour debate. Now reproductive labour gets defined more broadly, with human society embedded in the totality of natural relations. The quantitative dialectic of socialist feminist political economy is qualitatively sublated by the adoption of an ecocentric lens.

This embodied materialism highlights the free appropriation of women’s labours, indigenous labours, and all ‘naturalised’ matter-energy flows subsumed by global capital.

The capitalist patriarchal system has traditionally positioned and silenced women as ‘closer to nature’ – mere caregivers and food growers, outside of exchange value. Yet these reproductive labours – ‘natural and social’ – are foundational to any society. Through such hands-on work, a parent in the global North learns to sustain cycles of biological growth in small bodies. Similarly, the skillfull subsistence labours of peasants and gatherers in the global South attune to living cycles in the landscape. This protection of ‘metabolic value’ in natural processes is both identical, and non-identical, with the creation of use values to meet human needs.

In thermodynamic terms, the destructive linear logic of industrialisation is countered by the circular logic of reproductive work. The latter’s inter-generational time frame is intrinsically precautionary; its intimate scale maximises responsiveness to matter-energy transfers in the human-ecological fusion. Socio-economies that dovetail with the totality of natural relations do not externalise waste as pollution, or costs on to ‘others’ as exploitation. Meta-industrial labour at the domestic and geographic peripheries of capital is an irreducible prerequisite of its functioning. However, such labour is in principle, autonomous and eco-sufficient.

Workers who catalyse life-on-Earth, discover and internalise a vernacular epistemology, one that will be enacted structurally and strategically as a ‘meta-industrial class’.

Exemplars of metabolic regeneration are everywhere. In Brasil, a vibrant Landless Workers’ Movement practices food sovereignty. From Indonesia, the peasant union Via Campesina claims ‘our way of life is cooling down the Earth’. English housewives and grandmothers volunteer repair of the Thames River catchment. US lesbians tackle global warming by promoting veganism. In India, Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya School saves seeds from pharmaceutical patenting and in Africa, a network of anti-extractivist villagers write their own ecofeminist manifesto for the COP climate summit.

Right now, the vantage point of peasant and indigenous peoples in the global South is the most energised perspective in the movement of movements against corporate globalisation. Projects like the World Social Forum, Systemic Alternatives, and Radical Ecological Democracy, testify to this historical agency. Moreover, middle class environmentalists are taking inspiration from Ecuador’s legislation of Mother Earth Rights. There is a new wave of feminist awareness too, despite a repressive neoliberal divide-and-rule that makes girls compete against each other for the ranks of privilege. A ‘rediscovery of care’ and the ‘green economy’ is readily absorbed into the logic of GDP.

Unless there is a critical trans-valuation of the totality of natural relations, women’s lib or decolonial moves will express a defensive self-serving ‘identity politics’.

Capital is ideologically pragmatic and promiscuous, but it adheres faithfully to the Humanity over Nature myth that legitimates masculinist entitlement and western technological domination. Such hegemonies are nurtured by individual minds over centuries of libidinal dissociation and sublimation. Ecofeminists use transdisciplinary tools to trace the lived phases of this discursive power from – unconscious embodiment – to conscious subjectivity – to individual action – to class positioning – to economic institutions – to cultural narrative – and back again into the unconscious. Marx’s structural dialectic is necessary, but not sufficient for deconstructing our conjuncture in its several orders of generality.

The tough call is that thinking across disciplines collides with the securitisation or social containment agenda of the bourgeois university and its departmental hierarchies. Sociologists may assert their field is ‘sui generis’ and read talk of human embodiment in nature as biological reductionism! Political economists may eschew professional attention to individual experience as ‘moralism and unscientific’! Yet it is important not to reify ‘structures and systems’; these are simply abstractions distilled from the observation of personal attitudes and actions.

A failure to triangulate knowledge-making in a way that mediates different vantage points and conceptual levels, risks the mystification of positivist economics.

So to conclude: an ecofeminist emphasis on the totality of natural relations opens the way for a respectful conversation between the social movements. It does this by throwing new light across given Marxist constructs of class, labour, and value. Situated at perhaps the deepest level of generality – that is to say, at the material interface of human ‘labour with nature’ – meta-industrials offer a critical epistemology and a political praxis that is immediate. Here is a model of relational care and sustainable provisioning to learn from.

The post Politics and ‘the totality of natural relations’ appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/11/2017 - 2:33am in

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”.

“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.

Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. Last month new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).

Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?

Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.

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Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it's never easy to fight for what we believe in”

Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy

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‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 14/11/2017 - 2:33am in

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”.

“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.

Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. Last month new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).

Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?

Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.

Sideboxes
Related stories: 

Hong Kong democracy activist Agnes Chow: “it's never easy to fight for what we believe in”

Jazz singer Lisa Simone opens the World Forum for Democracy

Topics: 

Civil society

Culture

Equality

Rights: 

CC by NC 4.0

Priti Patel and the Shady World of Right-Wing Lobbyists and Thinktanks

Hat tip to Michelle, one of the great commenters on this blog, for letting me know about this article.

Priti Patel has finally done the decent thing, and resigned following the revelation of her highly secretive visit to Israel, where she met met leading politicians, while telling everyone she was just on a holiday. Part of the reason behind Patel’s little trip seems to have been to get the British government to divert some of the money it gives for international aid to Israel, so it can spend it on the IDF’s continuing occupation of the Golan Heights. This is territory which Israel nicked from the Syrians during the Six Day War.

Israel is already massively supported by Britain, the US and the EU, where it is treated almost as a member, despite not having formal membership. The IDF is one of the main instruments of the country’s brutal repression and ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Arab people, the Palestinians. During its independence campaign in 1948, the Israeli armed forces were responsible for a series of massacres, rapes and beatings against the Palestinians. The most notorious of these was Deir Yassin. But that was only one massacre out of many. Very many. Israeli soldiers killed people sheltering in a mosque, shot and threw handgrenades at women and children, and in one horrendous incident killed a group of Palestinians, who were coming towards them to offer them rice in the hope of getting some mercy. The IDF today enforces the brutal apartheid regime against the Palestinians, including the fouling of cisterns and wells to make the water undrinkable, and the demolition of houses and seizure of property by Israeli colonists.

I have no desire whatsoever to see my government give aid money to the IDF. And I very much doubt I’m alone.

This isn’t about anti-Semitism. I am very much aware that there is and always has been a very strong Jewish opposition to the ethnic cleansing and terror, which not only includes American and European Jews, but also Israelis such Ilan Pappe and human rights organisations such as BT’salem. Anyone, who dares to criticise Israel, is smeared and abused as an anti-Semite. But many anti-Zionist Jews, or simply Jews critical of the occupation of the West Bank and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, feel that they are particularly singled out for abuse and vilification. Tony Greenstein, a veteran anti-Zionist and anti-Fascist campaigner, has quoted in his blog the left-wing comedian, Alexei Sayle. Sayle, the son of Jewish Communists, has said that it seems to him that the majority of people smeared as anti-Semites in the Labour Party were Jews.

Returning to Patel, an article by Adam Ramsay on the Open Democracy site, reveals that she has very extensive links to some very shady right-wing lobbying groups and thinktanks.

Before she was elected MP in 2010, Patel worked for the PR form Weber Shandwick, whose clients included British American Tobacco. Not only does the company produce a highly addictive and lethal drug, it also has links to the dictatorship in Myanmar and child labour. The article notes that some of the PR company’s employees were uncomfortable dealing with BAT. Not so Patel. She was perfectly relaxed.

BAT in their turn fund the right-wing think tanks the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute for Economic Affairs. In 2002, while Patel was working there, Weber Shandwick merged with the Israeli lobbyists Rimon Cohen, whose clients include the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, the illegal Migron settlement on the West Bank, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Whom Patel coincidentally met on her jaunt.

Weber Shandwick’s clients also included Bahrein, and just months after her election, the Bahreini’s flew her there to meet some of their ministers. This is a Gulf kingdom widely criticised for human rights abuses. In 2012 she went on another trip, this time to the United Arab Emirates, as part of the All Party Group, which went there. She made two return trips in 2013 and 2014. The first time she went with the World Consulting and Research Corporation, based in New Delhi. This outfit describe themselves as a brand equity and management organisation. The second trip was courtesy of Sun Mark Ltd., who are regular donors to her office. Weber Shandwick also added the Dubai firm Promoseven to its list of clients about the same time it merged with Rimon Cohen.

In 2014 she also attended a meeting in Washington, courtesy of the right-wing, and highly secretive British think tank, the Henry Jackson Society. The meeting was organised by AIPAC, the very powerful Israeli lobbying organisation in the US, about security in the Middle East. As for the Henry Jackson Society, they are so secretive about the source of their funds that they withdrew it from two parliamentary groups, rather than reveal where it comes from. Earlier this year the Charity Commission announced they were investigating it following allegations that it was being paid by the Japanese government to spread anti-Chinese propaganda.

Patel’s holiday to Israel also seems to have been sponsored by Stuart Polak, the former head and honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel. In 2009 Peter Oborne wrote a piece about the extensive influence the CFI has in the Tory party. Ramsay also notes that trips to Israel funded by the CFI and similar groups are the most consistent entry in the MPs’ and MSPs’ register of foreign interests.

The article concludes

Much has been written about the weakness of the current Conservative government, as exhibited by this scandal, Boris Johnson’s blunders, and last week’s resignation of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon amid allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. But here is the problem. When governments are falling apart, special interest groups run riot. Flagrant abuses usually happen at times when minor abuses are normalised. What other powerful lobby groups are pushing ministers around? How did it get to the point that Patel thought she’d get away with this?

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/adam-ramsay/we-cant-ignore-patels-background-in-britains-lobbying-industry

It’s a good question, though you’d have to work extremely hard to find out. The Labour MP Colin Challen wrote a piece years ago in Lobster reporting that half of Tory funding remains mysterious. As for the Adam Smith Institute and the Institute of Economic Affairs, they’re extreme right-wing think tanks that provided much of the ideology of the New Right during Thatcher’s grotty rise to power and period in office. They want to privatise everything, including the NHS and schools, as well as social security. I know. I’ve got the IEA’s pamphlets about the last two. The IEA also produced another pamphlet addressing a question vital to today’s women: Liberating Women – From Feminism. Which has been the line the Daily Mail’s taken almost since it was founded.

Mike yesterday put up a piece commenting on the strange verbiage of Patel’s resignation letter, and the reply from Theresa May. Both contained passages stressing that Patel was usually open and transparent about her business. Mike commented that neither of these letters actually looked like they’d been written by the two.

Mike comments that neither May nor Patel have acted transparently and openly, and we still don’t know what Downing Street’s role in this whole affair may have been. The Jewish Chronicle suggests it’s rather more than May and Patel are telling.

He concludes

This matter has demonstrated that Theresa May’s government has no interest in transparency and openness. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The minority Prime Minister will be hoping that it will go away, following the resignation of the offending minister.

It won’t.

We need to know exactly what happened, when it was arranged, with whom, who knew about it, who was there at the time, what was said about it afterwards and to whom, and whether all the information has been made public. My guess that it hasn’t.

Recent events involving Boris Johnson have shown that ministers cannot expect to be able to lie to us and expect us to accept it. We need the facts.

And if Theresa May can’t provide the answers, it won’t be one of her ministers who’ll need to resign.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/08/priti-patel-resigns-resigns-doesnt-theresa-may-have-the-guts-to-sack-anyone/

And Patel’s trip to Israel is just one secretive lobbying trip, paid by some very shady people, of many.

It’s time this government was forced out, and some real transparency put in place.

Making a Killing

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 08/11/2017 - 7:00am in

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War is a profitable business—for some—and this post ponders how terrorism is also a profitable business.  Even before the 12 August Guardian article showed, in a damaging light, that the Thatcher government exploited Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait in order to sell arms (then defence procurement minister Alan Clark described it as an “unparalleled opportunity”), there was a discredited claim that Trump (and Raytheon) profited from the Syrian airstrikes in April.  Even though the April airstrikes were justified as counter-terrorism measures against Syrian chemical airstrikes, and state terrorism does not traditionally fall within terrorism, it has been clear that some governments, businesses, and individuals make money off of war.  This begs the question: why wouldn’t terrorism be just as profitable?

The question posed in this post is ‘who benefits from the label of terrorism’?  My very basic understanding of political economy begins with asking ‘cui bono’?  I combine this with my Feminist Security Studies (FSS) research agenda, which aims to identify and dismantle power hierarchies by investigating who or what these hierarchies benefit and seeing, hearing, and working with/alongside those that these hierarchies harm.  In my mind, the tracing out of who benefits and the goal of FSS come to a similar endpoint.

Daring to ask who benefits from terrorism risks looking sympathetic towards terrorists or as if I am denying the harms the violence perpetrates.  But instead of engaging this political and moral quagmire, I want to take a step back to think about the ‘politics’ of terrorism—where ‘politics’ and ‘political’ means engaging the contentious and unsettled as a way of exploring power.

The first political point to make is that terrorism is a hugely loaded term and even the majority of Terrorism Studies scholars see it as a pejorative.  There is no agreed upon definition of terrorism.  It is often associated with non-state and, very often, non-Western violence, making it a discourse and not just a term.

Secondly, by noting that terrorism is a discursive label, then the politics of terrorism labelling leads to intense condemnation and the removal of legitimacy and credibility from its perpetrators.  There is value in this discursive maneouver—something is gained for those who use it.  This leads to some much larger questions:

  • When an act of violence is labelled terrorism, and this is generally accepted, and a response to it is also accepted, then who benefits?
  • Are all acts of violence that become labelled as terrorism befitting of that (highly contested and completely unsettled) terminology?
  • Is the terminology unsettled exactly because it rests upon power hierarchies, and not just in who gets to do the labelling but in who the terrorist is assumed to be—not white, not Western, not associated with a state? (Although, the conversation is finally shifting after Charlottesville…)

The gains this labeling process makes are immense—whether that is the acceptance of extreme counterterrorism measures or whether that is in economic profit.

Much of the work on economics and terrorism looks at the economic drivers (push factors) of people (mainly men) into terrorism or it looks at the cost of a terrorist attack on the targeted (mainly Western) country.  This sells a particular narrative: terrorists are men coming out of a youth bulge in the developing world and have a vindictive need to target the West. (Although, see for instance Kimmel’s great piece on gender, economy, and terrorism).  Thus far, such a narrative/explanation is fairly expected and the presumptions in it have been unpacked and deconstructed.  Yet, what remains to be explored is how much the instrumentalisation of the terrorism label has profited governments, defense contractors, and the weapons industry.

The War on Terror was estimated to cost $5 trillion as of October 2016.  The “cost” is thus because it is a war financed by Treasury bonds; therefore it is the next generation that must pay it back.  But every time there is a cost, someone benefits.  This, to me, appears to be a foreclosure as Butler defines it: an “erasure and negation that determine the field of appearances and intelligibility of crimes of culpability.”  What is foreclosed is that while wars may be written up as tragic but necessary, unwanted but just, politicians, weapons manufacturers, fund managers make gains in the (culpable) drive to war or, furthermore, in the response to terrorism.

In 2006 the Bush “White House’s National Strategy for Combating Terrorism confidently announced that the United States had ‘broken old orthodoxies that once confined our counterterrorism efforts primarily to the criminal justice domain’” as the military took over responsibility for domestic counter-terrorism.  In order to ‘catch up’ with the military and to regain responsibility for counter-terrorism, the police “purchased military equipment, adopted military training, and sought to inculcate a ‘soldier’s mentality’ among their ranks” (Rizer and Hartman 2011).  With the militarising of the police come costs: body armour, attack helicopters, military grade equipment—“bazookas, machine guns, and armoured vehicles (mini-tanks)” (Rizer and Hartman 2011), and surveillance technology.  And these costs flow back to the military-defence complex as profit.

Articulating that there are some who may benefit from terrorism treads on very uneasy ground.  Terrorism is narrated as the ultimate crime—immoral, heinous destruction that targets the innocent.  As such a loaded concept, it is then possibly difficult to suggest that the West particularly profits from it.  To clarify: it is not that Western actors profit from an attack on the West intentionally, but it profits by playing into the label, condemnation, and the necessity of responding to the violence that has been identified as terrorism.  The profit comes in the response.  The need to keep profiting and to keep gaining in profit is circular: profiteers in this instance will need terrorism to keep happening or for violence to be continually named as terrorism in only the particular instances that create profit.  And this maintains a cycle of security/insecurity, protected/precarious, profit/disruption that maintains a neo-imperialist, gendered global hierarchy that operates across different ‘levels of analysis.’

It is this dichotomous cycle of who is ‘made’ secure by declaring ‘that violence’ perpetrated by those ‘people,’ who are now made (further) insecure that needs unpacking from a political economy and feminist security studies perspective.  It is a deeply intersectional problem: the discursive activity of ‘terrorism’ is racialised and gendered and, thus, what is the profit to be made off of this activity?  And how does this continue a cycle of harm?  There is something to be seen in the unpicking, unpacking, and shaking out of these questions.

The post Making a Killing appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

Fabian Pamphlet on Workers’ Control In Yugoslavia: Part 3 – My Conclusion

Continued from Part 2.

In parts 1 and 2 of this post I described the contents of the above Fabian pamphlet on Workers’ Control in Yugoslavia, by Frederick Singleton and Anthony Topham, published in 1963.

The authors attempted to show how, despite a very lukewarm attitude to the idea at the time, workers’ control could be a viable possibility for British industry. The authors’ noted that the very limited gesture towards worker participation in the nationalised industries had not gained the enthusiasm of the workforce, and in the previous decade the Tories had had some success in attacking the nationalised industries and nationalisation itself.

They argued that there was a tradition within the British Labour movement for workers’ control in the shape of the Guild Socialists and Industrial Unionism. The Fabians, who had largely advocated central planning at the expense of industrial democracy, had nevertheless put forward their own ideas for it. Annie Besant, the Theosophist and feminist, had argued that the workers in an industry should elect a council, which would appoint the management and foreman. This is quite close to the Yugoslav model, in which enterprises were governed through a series of factory boards elected by the workers, which also exercised a degree of control over the director and management staff.

The pamphlet was clearly written at a time when the unions were assuming a role of partnership in the nationalised industries, and had agreed to pay pauses. These were a temporary break in the round of annual pay rises negotiated by the government and management as a means of curbing inflation. This actually runs against Tory rhetoric that Britain was exceptionally beset by strikes – which has been challenged and rebutted before by British historians of the working class – and the unions were irresponsible.

The role of the factory or enterprise council in taking management decisions, rather than the trade unions in Yugoslav worker’s control also means that the trade unions could still preserve their independence and oppositional role, working to defend the rights of the workforce as a whole and present the grievances of individual workers.

The two authors acknowledge that there are problems of scale involved, in that the Yugoslav system was obviously developed to suit conditions in that nation, where there was a multiplicity of small enterprises, rather than the much larger industrial concerns of the more developed British economy. But even there they suggest that these problems may not be insuperable. Management now consists of selecting for one out of a range of options, that have already been suggested by technical staff and planners, and the experience of the co-operative movement has shown that firms can be run by elected boards. Much of the idea that management can only be effectively performed by autocratic directors or management boards may actually be just a myth that has developed to justify the concentration of power in their hands, rather than allow it to be also held by the workers.

They also note that the Yugoslav model also shows that the participation of workers in industrial management can lead to greater productivity. Indeed, the South Korean economist and lecturer, Ha-Joon Chang, in his books has shown that those industries which are wholly or partly owned by the state, or where the workers participate in management, are more stable and long-lasting than those that are run purely for the benefit of the shareholders. This is because the state and the workforce have a vested commitment to them, which shareholders don’t have. They will abandon one firm to invest in another, which offers larger dividends. And this has meant that some firms have gone bust selling off valuable assets and downsizing simply to keep the shares and, correspondingly, the managers’ salaries, artificially high.

They also present a good argument for showing that if workers’ control was implemented, the other parties would also have to take it up and preserve it. At the time they were writing, the Liberals were talking about ‘syndicalism’ while the Tories promised an Industrial Charter. This never materialised, just as Theresa May’s promise to put workers on the boards of industry was no more than hot air.

But some indication of how popular genuine worker participation in management might be is also shown, paradoxically, by Thatcher’s privatisations in the 1980s. Thatcher presented herself falsely as some kind of heroine of the working class, despite the fact that she was very solidly middle, and personally had nothing but contempt for the working class and working class organisations. Some of that image came from her talking about her background as the daughter of a shopkeeper. Another aspect was that in her privatisation of the utilities, she tried to persuade people that at last they too could be shareholders in industry. This was not only to the general public, but also to workers in those industries, who were offered shares in the newly privatised companies.

This experiment in popular capitalism, just like the rest of Thatcherism, is a total colossal failure. Newspaper reports have shown that the shares have largely passed out of the hands of working class shareholders, and are now back in the hands of the middle classes. As you could almost predict.

But the process does show how what popularity it initially had depended on Thatcher stealing some of the ideological guise for privatisation from Socialism. She had to make it seem that they would have a vested interest in their industries, albeit through holding shares rather than direct participation in management. She had no wish to empower the workers, as is amply shown by her determination to break the unions and destroy employees’ rights in the workplace. But her programme of popular capitalism depended on making it appear they would gain some position of power as individual shareholders.

The performance of the utilities following privatisation has shown that they are not better off under private management, regardless of the bilge spewed by the Tories and the Blairites in the Labour party. Under private management, these vital industries have been starved of investment, while the managers’ salaries and share price have been kept high again through cuts and increased prices. It is high time they were renationalised. And the nation knows this, hence the popularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party.

And it’s possible that, if it was done properly, the incorporation of a system of worker participation in the management of these industries could create a real popular enthusiasm for them that would prevent further privatisation in the future, or make it more difficult. Who knows, if it had been done properly in the past, perhaps we would now have a proper functioning steel and coal industry, as well as the other vital services like rail, electricity, gas and water.

Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 06/11/2017 - 8:30am in

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In high school, like many young women, my friends and I developed a fascination with witches. Years before we knew what feminism was, a sense of foreboding had developed among us, about our place in the world and our power relative to adults and to our male peers.  As ambitious teen girls wary of how we were perceived in the adult world, we sought solace in the idea that we could harness a secret and subversive power to change things. After school we concocted potions, conducted rituals and created secret languages. For a time we believed in magic.

Unknown to us, in her ground-breaking book, Caliban and The Witch, Silvia Federici argues that the witch hunts of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries served to create and enforce a newly established role in society for women, who were consigned to unpaid reproductive labour to satisfy the needs of an ascendant capitalist order. Published in 2004 and based on a research project started in the 1970s with Italian feminist Leopoldina Fortunati, Federici draws upon an eclectic mix of historical sources, re-reading the transition to capitalism from a Marxist-feminist viewpoint.

Federici presents a close reading of the European witch-hunts, in order to re-appraise the function and nature of primitive accumulation in the transition from feudalism to capitalism. Her most important contribution in this regard is to reveal the mechanisms by which production was separated from reproduction, and how the resulting sexual division of labour had to be created and enforced through extreme violence. This account of primitive accumulation challenges Marx and other subsequent interpretations of the transition to capitalism as a progressive and necessary shift in social relations. Federici foregrounds the experience of women (painted as witches) and colonised people (the metaphorical Caliban, from Shakespheare’s Tempest) to show that this was in no way a progressive moment in changing social relations and that at every stage of capitalist expansion, new rounds of primitive accumulation involving violence and expropriation of land can be observed.

One of the most devastating parts about reading Caliban and the Witch is the recognition of everything that women lost in terms of social power in the transition to capitalism. Witches embodied everything “that capitalism had to destroy: the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt” (p. 11). Federici documents the changes in women’s social status, how they were encouraged not to walk alone on the streets or sit outside their homes, how ale-brewing (traditionally women’s work) came to be seen as men’s work, how the word gossip shifted its meaning from ‘friend’ to acquire a negative connotation (also see Hanna Black who has written more about the etymology of the word gossip in this context here). This all formed a part of the “intense process of social degradation” women were forced to undergo, in order to be remade in the image of capital (p. 100). 

One revelation of this book is that in numerous ways, women refused to take their place in the emerging capitalist reordering of society, just as they refused the reconstitution of the body as a machine. Women tore down hedges and fences and reclaimed the commons, they engaged in non-reproductive sex and led peasant revolts. They met at night on hilltops, around bonfires, stole food and clothing, and they gossiped. Federici argues that the witch hunts, rather than representing the last dying breaths of feudal order and the attendant superstitions of feudal societies, were a tool to discipline and shape the emerging working class and hence were integral to the transition to capitalism. Federici concludes that only by ignoring the experience of women, slaves and indigenous people in the transition to capitalism can primitive accumulation be viewed as progressive. The women singled out for public burning were often poor peasants accused by their landlords or other wealthy community members of witchcraft, which Federici links to documented instances of poor women begging for or stealing food. As Federici notes, “the witch-hunt grew in a social environment where the ‘better sorts’ were living in constant fear of the ‘lower classes’” and their potential for insubordination (p. 173).

Throughout the book Federici shifts between centuries, sometimes bringing us all the way to the present, in order to show how this violence continues in the form of structural adjustment programs and in new rounds of land enclosures in developing countries. In seeking to uncover a “hidden history that needs to be made visible” Federici foregrounds the “secret” of capitalism, women’s unpaid reproductive work, slavery and colonisation (p. 13). The use of violence in the witch hunts, allowed the state to establish a level of control over women’s bodies and lives that was unprecedented, as seen in the rise of census taking and population monitoring, and the demonising of abortion and contraceptives. Federici further argues that “the persecution of the witches was the climax of the state intervention against the proletarian body in the modern era” and that the “human body… was the first machine invented by capitalism” (pp. 143, 146). That the violence of slavery and colonisation in the New World was parallel to the patriarchal violence of Europe is a difficult argument to make and is one of the more unconvincing parts of Federici’s book. The relation between early capitalism and slavery and genocide is an area well explored by historians and critical race scholars, which could have been better utilised to extend the appraisal of primitive accumulation from the point of view of colonised people and slaves.

The members of this semester’s Past & Present Reading Group had diverse reactions to Caliban and the Witch. The book stimulated lively and important discussions about feminist re-readings of history, questions about the nature of feudal life, and critiques of Federici’s comparison between patriarchal oppression and white supremacy. Most of all Federici inspired a desire to question many other theories of history, to take her analysis even further back in time and trace developments in ideologies of racism, white supremacy, misogyny and witch hunting prior to early capitalism. The group ultimately received the book as it was given, that is, as a ‘sketch’ of a theory, needing further exploration and refinement, but powerful nonetheless.

The horrifying scale and brutality of the witch hunts is difficult to comprehend, especially given their status as “one of the most understudied phenomena in European history” (p. 163). In an ironic twist of fate (and clearly inspired by Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch), my friends and I embraced the idea of magic without fear that the charge of witchcraft would lead to our torture and death. Perhaps this is because today women’s unpaid reproductive labour is so immutable, capitalists no longer perceive witchcraft to be a threat to the sexual division of labour within firmly capitalist social relations of production. However, this does not mean that new, if at times more subtle forms of subordination and control of women aren’t apparent. On the contrary, renewed attacks on reproductive rights and rights to bodily autonomy, the violation of livelihood rights by mining and agricultural companies in developing countries, and the daily assault by the state on indigenous lives in Australia and black lives in the U.S, all work in different ways to reaffirm the marginalised status of women and people of colour (Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, has written powerfully on this subject and others here).

Caliban and the Witch is a reminder that it is the task of feminists and Marxists alike to demand that the sphere of reproduction and continuing forms of colonialism be seen as key sources of value for capitalism and therefore as key sites of struggle against it.

Many thanks to Gareth Bryant, Dinesh Wadiwel and Miriam Thompson for their insightful comments on this post.

The post Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch appeared first on Progress in Political Economy (PPE).

The Flippant Jokes about Sexual Harassment – Partly Due to Public School Education?

Earlier this week, Mike put up a post commenting on this week’s cover of Private Eye and an off-colour joke about sexual harassment by Michael Gove and a letter Labour’s Dawn Butler had written to Theresa May, condemning not only the culture that turns a blind eye to the sexual harassment of female staff at best, and at worst actively condones it, but also finds the whole subject hilariously funny.

Private Eye’s cover is a joke about the venue for the next meeting of the Tory party: it’s a sex shop. And Gove’s joke was about how an interview on the radio was like entering Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. In both cases you weren’t likely to emerge with your dignity.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/11/01/why-are-people-turning-the-tory-sexual-harassment-allegations-into-a-joke/

Last night, the BBC news comedy show, Have I Got News For You, made the same joke as the Eye, with the same picture. This week’s host, Jo Brand, got an enthusiastic round of applause, however, when she rightly pointed out that to the women, who had suffered such harassment, it wasn’t a joke but a very unpleasant experience.

So why turn it into a joke? Why dismiss it so flippantly? I’m aware that some of it probably goes back to the old double standard, where men are expected to be sexually active and predatory, while women are condemned as whores if they behave the same way. I’m also aware that attitudes may be better or worse towards it amongst different societies. For example, a book I read on Japan in the 1990s said that the Japanese didn’t take the issue seriously at all. There was even a nightclub in Tokyo called Seku Hara, or something like that, which is the Japanese for ‘sexual harassment’. And in parts of the Islamic world, it’s also regarded with amusement as ‘Eve teasing’.

I’m also very much aware that people will make jokes about all kinds of things, no matter how dark or tasteless, such as sexual abuse, disability, murder, rape, and so on. In these instances sexual abuse is just another subject amongst these to make tasteless jokes about.

I am also very much aware that there is, or there was until very recently, an attitude that those subjected to such abuse should just grow a thick skin and endure it. I can remember reading one piece by a female journo in one of the right-wing papers, possibly the Mail, back in the 1990s. She said that when she started working in journalism, female hacks regularly had to deal with lewd comments and jokes, and wandering hands. Women just had to endure it and get used to it. It was even beneficial in that it spurred them on to become better journalists.

You can see there the ‘macho management’ attitude that was common in the Thatcherite ’80s. I’ve heard tales of how the hacks working in various papers were called into the office every morning by their editors to be insulted and belittled on the grounds that this would make them better journalists. I think it was abandoned long ago in the 1990s. Though the attitude just seems to have shifted to the unemployed, who are insulted and belittled at Jobcentre interviews, while their ‘job coaches’ ring them up at odd hours to insult them further, all on the spurious grounds that they are ‘motivating’ them.

But I also wonder how much of this attitude goes back to the public schools. I’ve blogged before about how bullying, and sexual abuse including rape, was common amongst the feral children of the rich. A number of readers commented on this piece, and wrote about the stories they’d heard from their friends of horrific abuse in the schools for the British elite. You can read some of these tales in Danny Danziger’s book, Eton Voices, reviewed in Private Eye when it came out in the 1980s, and reprinted in Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion, edited by Francis Wheen. Punch also reviewed the book shortly before it folded, commenting that the abuse described was so horrific that if Eton had been an ordinary state school, it would have been very loudly denounced by the Tories as part of a failing and brutally neglectful state school system.

The younger boys in public schools were subjected to all manner of physical and sexual abuse by the older boys. But the public school ethos seems to be that they were expected to take it, and not blub. They were to ‘play up, and play the game’. Now this is part of the ‘rules of the schoolyard’, as Homer Simpson put it in an episode of the cartoon comedy back in the 1990s. Bullying goes on, but you don’t break ranks and tell the teacher, or else you’re a sneak. But it is slightly different in British state schools over here. Bullying goes on, but it is not supposed to be tolerated. Whether it is in fact depends very much on the individual head master/mistress/principal. I’ve known headmasters, who were very definitely strongly against it. Others much less so.

Public schools are supposed to be the same, but the attitude revealed in Danzier’s book suggested that Eton, and presumably the others, in fact tolerated it. The reviews almost gave the impression that despite the disgust by many of the interviewees about how they had been mistreated, the dominant attitude was almost that it was just jolly schoolboy japes. Nothing more. Don’t worry, they’ll get over it. One ex-public schoolboy told me that the attitude is that after you’ve been bullied, you go on to bully the younger boys in your turn as you go up the school.

And power is very much involved. I’ve also been told by those, who have gone through the system that the elite send their children to the public schools not because they necessarily give them a better education – and indeed, stats show that actually state school kids do better at Uni than public schoolchildren – but because it gives them access to the same kind of people, who can help their careers.

It’s about the old boy’s club, and the old school tie.

Which, together with the abuse, means that the boys preyed upon are expected to take it, because one day their abuser will be able to do something for them in turn, in politics, finance, business, whatever.

Which sounds exactly like the mindset behind the abuse here. Powerful men, who tell those they’re preying on that they’ll help them out if they just submit to their advances. But if they don’t, they’ll never work again.

Private Eye, in itself, isn’t a radical magazine. it’s founders – Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Richard Ingrams and co. were all solidly middle class, ex-public schoolboys. As is Ian Hislop. With a few possible exceptions, the Tory cabinet is solidly aristo and upper-middle class, as is the senior management at the Beeb.

Which probably explains why the Eye and Have I Got News For You yesterday night decided to treat the subject of sexual harassment as a joke, even if Jo Brand, as a feminist comedian, made it very clear that to many women it wasn’t funny.

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