[Marxism] Class and race and gender

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Thu Jun 24 06:13:45 MDT 2004


Philip Ferguson> > Comrades such as Lou Paulsen and Carroll Cox seem to
totally dismiss the
> > significance of racialised and class differences among women.  However,
> > these are by no means insignificant.
>
Lou Paulsen> *sigh* I didn't think the question of whether there were
significant
> racialized and class differences among women was in dispute.
>
PF> > Some US comrades also have an extremely bad - I will avoid using the
'c'
> > word - habit of extrapolating from the US onto the other imperialist
> > countries and assuming that our imperialist societies must merely mirror
> > the US, because the US is so spectacular, and therefore telling us how
> > to conduct Marxist politics in Britain, NZ etc.
>
LP> Hey, don't restrain yourself from using the word 'chauvinist' on my
account.
> You might have a point.  I probably should have toned down my response to
> Pearn some.  I was writing after he had called José a middle-class liberal
> and was a bit excited, but that's an explanation, not an excuse.
>
> Now, I don't believe that the US is "spectacular" in any political way.
> Rather the reverse.
>
PF> > Or making snide
> > comments about how things must be in Britain, NZ, often without even the
> > benefit of having even holidayed over here.
>
LP> I suppose it would only make matters worse if I said, "but I saw those
> movies."  I apologize for the hobbit references.
>
PF> > So just like the US tries to boss around the lesser imperialist
powers,
> > we have Marxists in the US telling Mike Pearn and Ian Pace and others
> > how it must be and how Marxists must go about things in Britain, and
> > then having the nerve to use the 'c' word about people like Mike who
> > demur and who say, well, actually comrades, it's not quite like that
> > over here.
>
LP> I will try to be less arrogant in the future.  On the other hand, you,
Phil,
> were the one who wrote that Carroll's ideas were 30 years out of date,
> citing NZ phenomena as the evidence, whereas he lives here, not there; and
> Ian wrote several things about the dominance of "liberal feminism" in the
US
> which I believed to be simply mistaken.  In any case, I thought that with
> regard to this "liberal feminism" issue, on which I responded to Pace, I
had
> adequately stated that I was drawing on the situation in the US, which Ian
> had started writing about himself.
>
PF> > *Some* US comrades need to wake up, stop hiding behind race and
gender,
> > drop the arrogance, and look at trends in other imperialist countries.
> > Not least because, I suspect, our more evolved imperialist societies
> > show you the future of your own.
>
LP> I wish I thought that the US was at all "evolving" in the direction of
being
> like NZ as you describe it, but I don't.  I am inclined toward seeing NZ's
> development as an exception, conditioned by geographic and economic
factors.
> Do you think this is wildly wrong?  I would be very interested, in any
case,
> in hearing people's assessment of the 'trends' in other imperialist
> countries - with particular reference to the post-1991 period.
>
Fair points made by both of you to some extent, I think.  I speak about
'liberal feminism' in the US on the basis of living there for two years in
the 1990s, and visiting there regularly, often several times each year; also
liberal feminists from the US are very prominent in the British media, and
seem through their PR-driven qualities to dominate the debate in Britain,
together with those British feminists who take their cue from the US.
Certainly many aspects of American culture are highly prominent over here.
I would *really* like to hear the perspectives of some continental European
feminists on these matters, are there any who subscribe to this list and
have any thoughts?  Or generally, Marxists in the non-Anglo Saxon imperial
countries?

A few related thoughts: the differences in economic and political culture
between the relatively social-democratic countries of Western Europe (of
which Britain is a semi-detached member) and the high-capitalist US (how
Canada, Australia and New Zealand fit into the picture I don't feel
qualified to speak on, vague impression I get is that Canada and New Zealand
tend slightly more to the social-democratic model, Australia is more like
Britain/US, but that's just a hunch) is palpable.  I make an important
distinction here between liberalism (in the sense of a socially liberal
ideology but which has no real issue with unregulated free market capital on
the US model) and social democracy (in the sense of a model of more
regulated capitalism, with more extensive welfare provisions, etc.).  Maybe
US 'conservatism' is the real anomaly here (liberalism without the socially
liberal aspect, also infused with some loathsome quasi-mystical moralism
from the Christian right), as a reaction against the Clinton years; the
differences between 'liberalism' and 'conservatism' in terms of the real
issue of protecting the rights of capital are essentially cosmetic.

As Phil said, 'liberalism' as we have come to know it presents high
capitalism with a human face (and tries to rationalise that it is precisely
high capitalism that offers the best possibilities for social liberalism);
gives it a make-over in the hope of disarming left-wing criticism.  That's
why it's more insidious than the conservatism, which at least doesn't hide
its true nature.  My feeling is that the US wants (through economic and
political blackmail) to push the rest of the developed world towards the
liberal rather than the social-democratic model (and that's part of the
ideology behind Rumsfeld's 'Old Europe' and 'New Europe' as well as these
countries' relative acquiesence with US imperial designs in the rest of the
world).  Marxists can, I think, reasonably defend the social democratic
model of Western Europe against that of the US without falling too deep into
the perils of reformism (I realise some make take issue with this), as a
step in the right direction though which obviously falls very short of the
ultimate overthrow of the capitalist system.  Social democracy *is* in some
sense undermining high capitalism rather than giving it a new lease of life,
which liberalism does.  I should add that I am quite sure that Blair is a
liberal rather than a social democrat.

Anyhow, I'm simply interested to know the thoughts from those in, or with
extensive experience of, continental Europe, Japan and elsewhere as to how
these issues manifest themselves there (and as to how issues of class, race,
gender, etc., work in correspondence or conflict in those countries). The
Netherlands has often struck me as perhaps the most 'Americanised' country
in Western Europe after Britain, and while retaining some social democratic
elements, can be a model of the perils of liberalism (in the rise of Pim
Fortuyn, who one should note also wished to abolish public spending on
health and education, I believe).

Best,
Ian








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