Marxist feminism or petty moralism?

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sun Nov 6 20:27:22 MST 1994

On Sun, 6 Nov 1994 hfspc002 at wrote:

> On Sun, 6 Nov 1994, Justin Schwartz wrote:
> > I don't believe this is a productive way of talking.  It reminds me of
> > the old Stalinist way of talking on which some views or positions are
> > "objectively" Trotskyite-Fascist (this was an old Stalinist insult, not a
> > notion I would endorse) or whatever. It it individualizes in exactly the
> > wrong way. The main problem we have to deal is, I agree, not Bad
> > Attitudes, but that includes unconscious Bad Attitudes. The problem is
> > institutional oppression, and a ritual of accusation, guilt, confession,
> > and repentance won't change that. We can assume, perhaps not wholly
> > accurately, but close enough, that everyone on this list struggles actively
> > for change against racism, etc. Anyway our tacit and perhaps unwilling support
> > for a racist etc., system--I mean that of the people on this list--isn't
> > the key to its survival. I hate it when people on the left consume their
> > energy and divide our weak and divided forces by going through this
> > meaningless and stupid ritual which changes nothing. Sure, it's easy to
> > guilt trip white male leftists (and in individual cases they may deserve
> > it), but that's no substitute for forcing the government to stop
> > demonizing poor Black teenage women or pulling education and health
> > benefits for undocumented workers.
> Well, I'm not sure what you disagree with in what I said then.  The
> problem as I see it is one of recognizing difference (racial, sexual, or
> otherwise) and of recognizing the part we play in making difference
> oppressive.  I don't say these things to guilt trip white male leftists
> nor to engage in purification rituals.  I say these things to try to
> change the cycle of self-righteousness and blame that your original
> statements seem to be engaged in.  And in particular to challenge the
> nineteenth century Enlightenment ideology of "egalitarianism" that it
> seemed to be assuming.  The point is that we are not created equal, and we
> ignore that at our own peril.

Self righteousness and blame? You must have me confused with somebody
else. Anyway I reinterate that any part you or I or anyone on the entire
risible left that exists in the country has in making "difference"
oppressive is nugatory. That doesn't mean its excusable, but it's
self-destructive self-flagellation to focus on that. I'll second what John
Hollister said, with two qualifications. One is that I think that
institutional oppression is a worse and deeper problem than mere hate, and
the second is that I think it's silly to accuse people of flaunting or
going along with privilege for getting married, etc. Of course white
males, etc. do enjoy undeserved advantages, but you have to be careful
about which these are. Be that as it may, the issue is to change the
system, and ourselves in doing that, not the other way round.

A small historical point. The Enlightenment, which I do think of as a
pretty good thing, was in the 18th century. And the point of egalitarian
Enlightenment slogans, which I did not invoke, was not to whitewash
oppression by denying "difference" but to insist that the "different"
should not be oppressed because of their difference. Personally I prefer
Enlightenment ideology and rhetoric to postmodernism, but to each her own,
as long as we can make ourselves mutually understandable. And don't presume
I'm not different.


More information about the Marxism mailing list