[Marxism] Good critique of Walter Benn Michaels's NLR article

Tyler Zimmer zimmer.tj at gmail.com
Sun Sep 6 23:28:51 MDT 2009

>  A good critique would take what he actually says
> and show how some of it is empirically wrong and politically a bad tactic.

Well, what he sloppily insinuates about income inequality and New Left
movements being the cause of it, is easily refutable.

But as far as tactics are concerned, I'd say that totally distorting the
political trajectory anti-racist social movements with the explicit purpose
of discrediting them, is a pretty awful tactic for building a broad-based

I read the PinkScare critique. How doesn't that provide a critique of "what
he actually says"?

On Sun, Sep 6, 2009 at 2:15 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:

> brad bauerly wrote:
> > I am sorry but that is not a good critique of Benn Michaels.  Like yours
> > Louis it too is filled with strawperson arguments based on things that he
> > never said.  I am not going to get into specifics of his arguments, which
> I
> > personally think he does not present very well, because it is clear that
> > most are unable to maintain simple reading comprehension whenever someone
> > mentions race and gender.  A good critique would take what he actually
> says
> > and show how some of it is empirically wrong and politically a bad
> tactic.
> > I have yet to read such a critique and zero interest in writing it.
> I don't think it is possible to mount a good critique of WBM (although I
> tried) because he speaks out of both sides of his mouth. His article
> reads like Jim Sleeper in one passage and like Rosa Luxemberg in
> another. That is his stratagem. He wants to be published in NLR rather
> than in Dissent Magazine.
> But when he says that anti-racism and anti-sexism are not part of the
> "left", then he really betrays his backward tendencies. As I pointed out
> to a fellow named Will Shetterly who has been taking up WBM's cause on
> my blog, there's a long line of "class" trumping race or gender on the
> left, usually however published in Dissent rather than NLR. Here are
> some snippets that I posted on my blog. Tomasky, a rascal if there ever
> was one, sounds most like WBM:
> 1) Jim Sleeper: I stuck to my claims, including an insistence that more
> than a few whites are readier to let go of the old racist coordinates
> than are some blacks, who have sought a perverse kind of comfort in
> guilt-tripping whites by finding racism in every leaf that falls.
> (http://www.jimsleeper.com/?p=13)
> 2) Todd Gitlin:
> MR. WATTENBERG: And you think the left now has taken their eye off the
> ball. Is that more or less the idea?
> MR. GITLIN: I think that many people, perhaps most on the left, orat
> least most who are visible, have gone down a path in which theyare
> obsessed with what differs between them and one — one crowd and another.
> They are more obsessed with what divides them than what they have in
> common with the rest of humanity.
> MR. WATTENBERG: Who would these groups that engage in identity politics
> be, for specifics?
> MR. GITLIN: Many of them are so-called racial or ethnic minorities, or
> groups who are organized around their narrow group interest. They’re not
> all on the left, by the way. I mean, there’s also a right-wing version
> of identity politics, which is –
> full: http://www.pbs.org/thinktank/transcript235.html
> 3) Michael Tomasky:
> Imagine! The principle of diversity supported by a mostly Republican
> group to such an extent that Congress was taken aback. The
> revolutionaries dropped it, left it to the courts. These corporations
> were in fact making a common-good argument to the revolutionaries:
> Diversity has served us well as a whole, enriched us. And it’s not just
> corporate America: All over the country, white attitudes on race,
> straight peoples’ attitudes toward gay people, have changed dramatically
> for the better. These attitudes have changed because liberals and (most)
> Democrats decided that diversity was a principle worth defending on its
> own terms. Put another way, they decided to demand of citizens that they
> come to terms with diversity. So it can work, this demanding.
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