[Marxism] Jill Meagher, Reclaim the Night and sectarianism (or not)

Nick Fredman nick.fredman at optusnet.com.au
Sat Dec 1 16:45:05 MST 2012

On 1/12/12 9:42 AM, "Philip Ferguson" <philipferguson8 at gmail.com> quoted
Jill Bluestocking:

>  This is not to attack or undermine the progressives who participated in
> Reclaim, either as organizers or attendees. I was one. There are many
> potential advantages to participation: offering left-wing ideological
> leadership to a diffuse movement, learning on the ground about the social
> background and political orientation of the attendees, and so on. But there
> are also serious dangers. Leftists cannot approach such movements with
> uncritical support, in the hope that we will win people to leftism by our
> sheer enthusiasm for their cause.

I met Louise O'Shea, the author of the article which started this thread,
yesterday when she and two other Socialist Alternative members attended a
Socialist Alliance educational day in Melbourne and played what I'd
characterise as a critical but constructive role in the discussion there.

I don't think Louise was aware of the sharp comments I'd made here when she
initiated a lunch-time discussion with me about this debate (the Salt
comrades do seem to be following the debate that's began around proposals
I've made for SA 

I don't want to verbal Louise but it was pretty clear to me she was adamant
there was no possibility of any progressive content in any events sparked
(an initial "peace march") or boosted (Reclaim the Night) by Jill Meagher's
rape and murder, because the corporate media totally dominated the agenda
(and in this pretty much saying the "the social background and political
orientation of the attendees" as Jill puts it was irrelevant) and defended
abstention by the socialist left from any such events, including a refusal
to attend them. This is presumably the opinion of at least the majority of
the Salt leadership.

While Jill Bluestocking is "defending" Louise's article, whatever that means
(defending her right to publish it? That's hardly in dispute), she's putting
forward the opposite political line, of participation. And one that, in
stressing that involvement should be on a critical and socialist basis,
should be applied to any union and social movement campaign (however we
might debate what that means in practice in particular instances). The
implication is also of course that there is progressive content in these
activities. It's positive that members or soon to be members of Salt have
been open about there differences (if not always noting that these are

I tried to point out to Louise that her article displayed a more general
problem that I often get annoyed about: the far left too often projects a
simplistic, conspiracy theory view of the corporate media as a singular
enterprise run from Rupert Murdoch's office, and which decides in a board
meeting an agenda for each issue appropriate to Rupert's class interests and
beams this into the uncritical brains of working class dupes. Therefore
consciousness can be read off from the mass media.

But as our own experience in workplaces, communities and movements, and
decades of empirical media studies research into the structures and
practices of the media and into how audiences react to media messages,
should tell us that while ruling class interests structure and limit the
general outlines of media discourse, actual messages are much more varied,
complex and contradictory that the immediate bourgeois interests of the day,
and that audiences always critically react to media messages.

A concrete analysis of the issue in dispute should tell us that due to
decades of women's rights campaigning, however quiescent in recent years,
large numbers of people are aware of, and/or are open to, broader and more
radical interpretations of violence against women, than those dominating the
corporate media. This is reflected in the focus and views of the attendees
and the organisers of the recent events (regardless of the single instance
of one organiser of one Reclaim the Night rally thanking the police on Face
Book, a near irrelevancy again exaggerated and taken out of context in Jill
Bluestocking's post). Louise, in sharp contradiction to the purported focus
of her political tradition, is obstinately refusing to recognise relevant
social and political processes "from below".

Yesterday there was another response to Louise, by Kamala Emmanuel, posted
at http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/52964. 

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