Archive | April, 2014
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‘Amazon – a Modern capitalist microcosm’

22 Apr

The left-communist group the Communist Workers Organization have published an article on Amazon and its working conditions. It is quite heavy going but well worth the read as someone who used to work there myself.

Amazon employs 100,000 permanent people in 89 of these warehouses around the world. Starting off as an internet bookselling business, Amazon has expanded into almost every commodity area of the personal consumer. It was floated on the stock market in 1997, since when its turnover has gone up 420 times to $62 billion in 2012. And to the continuing surprise of most commentators it continues to register an ever higher share price (at over $400 it has increased ten times since the launch). The surprise about its rapidly rising share price is that Amazon has yet to register an annual profit. For those who argued in the 1980s that only the bottom line (i.e. the profit) counted, this is a surprise, but Amazon has risen at a time when speculation is the name of the game. According to its supporters its shares are being bought not because Amazon is currently profitable but because it is expanding so rapidly all the profits are ploughed back into new warehouses[1] (sorry, “fulfilment centres”) which in their time will give Amazon such a global retail monopoly that it will be able to name its price for everything and thus become immensely profitable. Not bad for a company that actually produces nothing itself. The argument for investor confidence is a bit like that used by European imperialists during the scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century. The actual colonies that were acquired were never profitable but they were acquired on the basis that one day they would be (and if one country did not grab them than another would).

Fraser Glenn Miller

21 Apr

A little over two weeks ago a neo Nazi called Fraser Glenn Miller (also known as Frazier Glenn Miller or Fraser Glenn Cross) went into a Jewish care home in Kansas City and shot and killed several people. This Nazi had posted on the Stormfront website and various other Nazi websites such as VNN forum for many years during which he racked up several thousand racist and antisemitic posts as ‘Rounder’. He was in his 70s and, like another notorious Kansas resident, Fred Phelps, had devoted his entire pathetic waste of a life to far-right views.  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors extreme right activity in the USA, at least a hundred murders have been linked to the Stormfront website, which claims to serve the ‘white nationalist’ (a euphemism for Nazi) community, including the child-killing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik.

Anti fascist groups had tried to warn authorities about Miller for many years; although he had grassed up his comrades during a 1980s terrorist trial during which he was charged with mailing ‘declarations of war’ to authorities and other Nazis across the USA and the possession of hand grenades. Despite saying he regretted his actions, he only did this to escape prison and still openly held his real views, which he said he would ‘take to the grave’. His card was marked as a fucking grass, too loathsome for even the majority of Nazi scum; because of his informing he was a pariah from the so-called ‘white nationalist’ movement – following his release, he then spent years trying to rehabilitate himself among neo-Nazis and largely failed.

Incredibly, he was allowed to teach a class (link broken) to a group of students at Missouri State University about ‘Jewish supremacism’ during which he went off one at a student he later referred to as a ‘skinny kike‘ (link broken) and told the girl that he hated Jews and always would, because of ‘what your people have done to mine’. According to his own account few people challenged his views.

One person who definitely didn’t challenge his views was the mayor of Marionville who told a newspaper about how Miller was ‘very fair and honest and always respected his elders as long as they were the same colour as him’, and once wrote a letter on Miller’s behalf ‘spreading his warnings’ about how the medical industry was ‘making a few Jews rich by killing us off’.

It wasn’t as though he was exactly reticent about spouting them either – he ran for Congress, wrote books, produced appallingly written racist screeds which he dropped on people’s lawns and rang up Jewish charities to rant at them for raising money for Jews in Ukraine when ‘they are the ones sucking all of the money out of the country’.

What happened in Kansas City shows the danger of being complacent about the far right, and the fact that you simply cannot rely on the state or other authorities to protect you against the fash, and more often can rely on them to repress or victimize you or worse, for antifascist activity. Recently more closer to home six anti-fascists were acquitted in a trial relating to a BNP demo last year, but the police tactics used have served to criminalize people taking part in anti fascist demonstrations. You cannot rely on the state which is why demanding state bans completely misses the point – it also allows these scum to claim a martyr status.

There’s a lot more I want to say about this case and the wider social implications of it. There are certain groups and individuals who I think should look very hard at their actions and statements over the last few years and their role in creating a climate where these types of threats could be ignored or at least not taken altogether seriously. Another time though.

No fucking pasaran.

Jellyfish in intensive care after coming into contact with David Cameron

19 Apr

He he

Pride's Purge

(satire?)

A jellyfish was recovering today after it came into close contact with the Prime Minister David Cameron as he chillaxed in the sea with other salt water invertebrates.

The jelly fish’s painful encounter with the venomous creature came as it went for a swim off popular Arrieta beach on the Spanish island of Lanzarote.

But there appeared to be little sympathy for the sea creature after it ignored local advice about the dangers of going near the extremely poisonous prime minister.

The bright red coloured gelatinous zooplankton – a keen swimmer and patron of the Chipping Norton lido outdoor pool in his Oxfordshire constituency – has been staying at the resort with his wife Samantha and children at a £200-a-night yoga retreat since Tuesday.

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Related articles by Tom Pride:

A picture of David Cameron in drag

Cameron announces emergency game of badminton to deal with fuel crisis

CAMERON – drama queen of the desert?

David Cameron presents more macho image with fishing and bare-chested photos

Google…

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Trans exclusionary ‘radical’ feminism – a dangerous and anti-working class ideology

9 Apr

Note: Following some constructive criticism I have deleted part of my post which referred to intersex people. Thanks for the feedback.

What do you think about when you think of the word feminism? Do you think of the suffragettes or the women and men who fought in the 19th century for women’s property rights, for women to have the right to divorce their husbands and for rape to be punished as a crime rather than simply being a man’s right? Do you think of the women fighting against gang rapists in India or fgm in other developing countries?

I’m guessing you don’t think about a reactionary nationalist ideology that fights to demonize a marginalized and frequently despised group of women rather than fighting for the rights of women under a brutal system that is still sexist, discriminatory and still finds ways to divide women and men against each other whether it is by cutting services and benefits which predominantly affect women such as child benefit or funding for domestic violence shelters, or by finding ways to pay women less for similar jobs while making it increasingly impossible for single parents to raise a family on one income. At the same time men who experience, for example, sexual assault or childhood abuse often find it even harder to get support and frequently face the idea that a ‘real man’ should just toughen up.

Contrary to what some in the ‘labour movement’ say, often to create political rationale for their attitudes to rape or other what are seen as ‘women’s issues’ but are actually class issues – equal pay, sex work and the treatment of the most exploited workers, anyone who gives a shit about the working class should be a feminist because without women you can only ever have half a revolution. The majority of people who work in some of the worst most dangerous jobs and in the jobs with the least protection such as domestic service and of course, sex work (but that is another post) are women. And when we get home we are the ones who are predominantly doing the housework and looking after the children.

Given this it is apparent that the view still unfortunately dominant in some circles that ‘the working man’ is the only worker worth bothering about is both damaging and inaccurate. it is also the case that any sort of ideology that seeks to stigmatize an already despised and hated group of women and police the boundaries of who is allowed into this ‘community’ is not feminism and has more in common with nationalism.

I am talking of course about ‘radical feminists‘ who take pride in promoting prejudices against people who they view as men pretending to be women, ie transgender people, and in harassing and intimidating them, even to the extent of outing them to employers or even schools in the case of younger teenagers. Rather than the issues that are mentioned above, it is this that they consider the most important issue facing women today.

Why call it nationalism?

These people have become referred to as ‘trans exclusionary radical feminists’ or TERFs. They claim that they want to destroy gender roles which they claim exclusively harm women as a class as opposed to men as a class,  and to do this, women must organize among themselves to ‘fight patriarchy’. Leaving aside the problems with this (what about, for example, intersex people, or for that matter the pressures of capitalist society and the expectation of men to just shut up about their problems leading to eating disorders and the like being ridiculed and under researched?) The TERFs, instead of ‘destroying gender’, enforce a rigid and exclusionary definition of it and are more concerned with keeping out ‘infiltrators’ than actually being any use to anyone.

They reserve most of their poison for transgender women who they accuse of changing their sex because they are perverts and potential rapists who want to get access to ‘women’s spaces‘. They claim that they want to destroy traditional gender roles because they are bad for women, but then go on to try and police the boundaries of what being a woman is, by saying that if you were born a man you could never become one and the only possible reason to is because you are a potential rapist, although they refer to the objects of their loathing by calling them ‘castrated heterosexual men’.

If you were born female and want to become a man, well then your just confused or brainwashed when you should have just been a lesbian (even if you are attracted to men) or at worst you are a ‘traitor’ who is trying to gain access to ‘male privilege’.

Bizarrely, they claim that these people are part of a plot to ‘destroy lesbians‘ (although they are not averse to working with groups who are virulently anti gay and propose trying to cure homosexuality) and claim that bisexuality and the increased use of sex-toys such as dildos is another aspect of this ‘plot’. If this sounds unbalanced that is because it is, but unfortunately prejudiced attitudes towards bisexual and transgender people are not always that uncommon in the gay and lesbian community, I remember my first ex saying that she was upset how nobody could just ‘be a homosexual’. But the TERFs go further than this – they say that lesbianism is being ‘destroyed’, they raise the spectre that everyone will be forced to change their gender, and that women’s cultural scenes such as the now infamous Michigan Womyn’s Festival, notorious for not allowing transgender women to enter, will become ‘colonised’.

Lurid possibilities such as the ‘end of the butch identity’ as butch lesbians will become men instead of staying as they are (what about trans men who are gay?), despite the fact that this itself can be seen as an attempt to fit into stereotyped gender roles, and the idea that trans women only change their gender to spy on women’s toilets, are brought up, along with stories of ‘stabs in the back’ and conspiracy theories involving the idea that transgender people are all willing agents of patriarchy.

when i was involved in the LGBT  scene I sometimes encountered a view that bisexual women are just performing for the benefit of straight men and that people need to ‘choose’ between one or the other and ‘make their mind up’ as if this is anything to do with them at all. Sometimes bisexual women were treated with scepticism like they were either straight and going through a phase, or they weren’t really bi and were just trying to impress guys.

The ‘radical feminist’ ideology builds on these prejudices and of a reactionary tendency of feminism that has been there longer than many people want to admit. In 1914 the WSPU, who had been the most militant wing of the suffragette movement, dropped their demand for equality and became fervent supporters of Britain’s war against Germany. Mussolini’s fascist movement also included some women attracted by its initial demands for equality and attacks on ‘traditionalism’.

In the 1970s a book was published called ‘the transsexual empire: the making of the she-male‘ by Janice Raymond. This work is essentially the TERFs’ equivalent of the Protocols in that it gave their views an ‘intellectual’ appearance and was influential in codifying their beliefs into a logical sounding system rather than just irrational hatred. It was, unfortunately, somewhat influential, and its author went on to successfully push for the US government to deny people gender reassignment surgery and other medical care – even cancer treatment.

In this book it was stated:

All transsexuals rape women’s bodies by reducing the real female form to an artifact, appropriating this body for themselves …. Transsexuals merely cut off the most obvious means of invading women, so that they seem non-invasive

“Transsexually constructed lesbian-feminists show yet another face of patriarchy. As the male-to-constructed-female transsexual exhibits the attempt to possess women in a bodily sense while acting out the images into which men have molded women, the male-to-constructed-female who claims to be a lesbian-feminist attempts to possess women at a deeper level, this time under the guise of challenging rather than conforming to the role and behavior of stereotyped femininity”.

Raymond also said that

“I contend that the problem with transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence”

The language in this screed and the undisguised hatred in the statement that all transsexuals are raping women’s bodies by appropriating them is not something a normal person would associate with feminism. It’s…something else. The equation of the individual body with ‘the body of the nation‘, saying that we are all ‘raped’ by whoever the enemy is, is a concept common to the most reactionary forms of nationalism.

Raymond pointed to a ‘sociological’ view of what she calls ‘transgenderism’ – in addition to referring to transgender people throughout the book as ‘he’ or ‘she’ in quotation marks, she claims that gender reassignment operations reinforce traditional gender stereotypes, which may be partially true for some people – it would be nice to live in a world where nobody felt that women can’t do traditionally ‘masculine’ things for example (although this is nothing to do with transgender people, who are a tiny minority of the population), but at the same time admits that the number of people having surgery is ‘largely static’ and goes on to attack people who ‘mix and match’ gender roles or don’t fit in to these categories, a completely contradictory standpoint!

However with the growing acceptance of transgender people in society has come a growing recognition among many that these categories are unhelpful. In addition, if anything reinforces gender stereotypes it is likely to be the criteria medical professionals use for whether someone can have this sort of surgery, not the person themselves. Her book has been said to have done more to increase transphobia than any book ever written. If you really want to download it and have a look for yourself, it’s on Google.

However, while she made a ‘scientific’ study of the issue and claimed, at least, to be opposing the idea of traditional gender roles (while promoting the idea that gender could never be changed, and that only women could be harmed by such ideas), individuals such as Sheila Jeffreys  and Cathy Brennan have taken the nationalist element even further. Jeffreys calls herself a ‘political lesbian’ and claimed that ‘all feminists can and should be lesbians‘ and central to their arguments is the view that trans women in particular are trying to get into ‘women’s spaces’. Others such as Guardian columnist Julie Burchill have expressed their views in far cruder terms, talking about ‘having your cock cut off’, ‘trannies’ and ‘bedwetters in bad wigs’.

I remember going to a talk when I was a lot younger about the difficulties in transitioning and the speaker talked about what was known as the ‘trans bladder of steel’ and the difficulties he found in using public bathrooms because of the fact that he looked too much like a man at that point to use a women’s bathroom but could not use the men’s bathroom because he had not had the operation yet and was embarrassed and frightened of the reaction he might receive. 

I take the view that the majority of people are probably bi or at least that socialization forms a large part of who people end up sleeping with – that many apparently straight people would probably be more open to sleeping with the same sex if it was not for societal expectations and unconscious prejudice, so OK – but ‘should’? I used to think that I was gay for a long time. The homophobic abuse I received at school made me for a long time sort of cling to that identity even when I started to have feelings for men but could not admit to myself that is what they were. Demanding that people suppress their sexuality in pursuit of some ‘political’ goal is not just insane, it is hugely damaging, and seems almost unimaginable. The idea that lesbians will disappear or be forced to change their gender is equally so – due to cutbacks, it is increasingly difficult for transgender people to get surgery on the NHS, let alone the idea of forcing people to have such surgery because they are gay. 

To many reading these views must seem bizarre and unbelievable – why are some people so completely obsessed with everyone else’s genitalia and what they choose to do with them?

Unfortunately they are all too real. They have had a real life impact; Raymond successfully lobbied the US government making it extremely difficult for transgender people to access medical care after surgery, even for conditions such as cancer, because this is viewed to be a result of the surgery, and Brennan’s group Gender Identity Watch has been lobbying the UN to deny them legal protections.

Inevitably it is people who cannot afford to pay who are hit the hardest by these reactionary measures. These people are quite happy to line up with ‘ex-gay’ organizations such as the ‘Pacific Justice Institute‘ in pursuit of their agenda. To argue as the TERFs do that transgender people are ‘tools of patriarchy’ is a despicable line of argument when they are a vulnerable and extremely stigmatized minority who face ignorance and casually prejudiced attitudes from employers and members of their communities including family members, reactionary views promoted by some forms of religion, attacks from the far right and in many countries, the state itself. This movement is more about defining and defending an exclusive national identity in which ‘womanhood’ or ‘lesbians’ are the nation rather than a racial group, than liberating women or for that matter, anyone else.

At a friend’s recommendation I am putting some links to transgender support groups in case some people read this post and want to speak to someone.

London FTM
Trans London
http://www.connexions-berkshire.org.uk/lgbt

Peaches Geldof RIP

7 Apr

She has died far too young, I think that I am only a few months older than her. And anyone making jokes can fuck off, as can the BBC telling us all to ‘get in contact with our views on what happened.’ Sick.

Rest in peace lass. 😦

The Trigger Warned Syllabus

5 Apr

Excellent piece on trigger warnings in academic syllabuses here which links in to a lot of what I have said about it

tressiemc

Apparently universities are issuing guidelines to help professors consider adding “trigger warnings” to syllabi for “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” and to remove triggering material when it doesn’t “directly” contribute to learning goals.” One example given is Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” for its colonialism trigger. This from New Republic this week.

I have no desire to enter the fray of online discussions on trigger warnings and sensitivity. I have used trigger warnings. Most recently, I made a personal decision to not retweet Dylan Farrow’s piece in the New York Times detailing Woody Allen’s sexual abuse. I was uncomfortable shoving a very powerful description at people without some kind of warning. I couldn’t read past the first three sentences. I couldn’t imagine how it read for others. So, I referenced the article with a trigger warning and kept it moving.

But, I’m…

View original post 469 more words

twittersectionalists and the commodification of dissent

5 Apr

I have hesitated for a while before writing this post, partly because I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to put and how I could put this without offending people, partly – to be honest – because I was quite nervous about what would the response be given the way that I have seen people react to criticisms of this topic in the past. Partly because I am quite wary of focusing so much attention on a clique for whom ‘starting a hashtag’ (ie writing something on Twitter) is a pinnacle of political achievement rather than the other more important work that organizations such as Boycott Workfare and Disabled People Against Cuts are doing.

But I was finally prompted to write this by a few things. If you are sad enough to spend lots of time on Twitter you may have noticed a campaign called CancelColbert about a comedian who had taken the piss out of Daniel Snyder, the proprietor of a sports team in the USA called ‘redskins’ (which has been accepted to be a racist term for quite some time) trying to claim that he wasn’t racist, setting up a charitable foundation for Native Americans and likening this to someone saying ‘the Chingchong Dingdong foundation for sensitivity to orientals’ wasn’t racist towards Chinese people.

‘CancelColbert’ claimed that he was racist even though his intentions had been satirical – although Suey Park, the person who started the campaign later backtracked and claimed her campaign had been satirical.

It may have been insensitive but in any case it was the way that Suey Park went about it that I found most revealing – as well as the things that she didn’t mention and did not criticize, some more aspects of which I will get to later.

Shortly after this campaign started she gave an interview to the Huffington Post which I have linked to below. I suggest that you watch the whole thing. Towards the end the interviewer came across as a bit of a dick – talking over her and calling her stupid which to my mind just helped her argument that her critics were just privileged white liberals. But it is what she said at the start that was quite revealing – expressing outrage that someone could compare this type of racism against native Americans to orientalism.

I don’t see a problem with comparing the two because they both clearly need to be opposed. What exactly is the problem with saying that the two types of racism are both wrong and if someone says that so and so isn’t racist it’s like someone saying that something really obviously racist is racist? An example – last year a couple of mates of mine were turned away from a bar because ‘they looked like pikeys’. What is the problem with turning round and saying ‘that’s like refusing to serve someone at a pub because they look like a Jew’ or ‘that’s like not serving someone because they’re black’. There is clearly no problem with it at all, even if the person saying it is a privileged white man.

As a class we are facing huge attacks on our living standards which threaten gains won a century ago in the social wage and in working conditions. We have people in work going to food banks. We have people being forced to choose between eating and heating their homes, we have vulnerable people starving to death because of the collapse of what little ‘safety net’ still existed because of the actions of Tory and Labour governments. In the USA 80% of adults are close to the poverty line. There are attacks on education and proposals to lengthen the school day so that parents are forced to work longer.

Inevitably in such situations the extreme right is capitalizing on the desperate situation, especially in mainland Europe and the mainstream parties while preaching tolerance and hysteria against parties like ukip are carrying out racist and anti immigrant policies like keeping kids in detention centers run by G4S and deporting students about to do exams. Sexism and racism of all kinds are making a comeback and attacks on disabled people are up, not helped by the increasing stigmatization and social isolation created by government policies – Tory and lib dems despite how they now try to distance themselves from each other.

In such situations it has never been more essential to resist any sort of attack and any attempt to create divisions.

In any case it is notable that Park who is quite happy to go on about ‘creating a hashtag’ and helping stuff trend (ie retweeting/posting stuff on Twitter, big fucking deal, plainly the next Che Guevara) is friendly with the vile openly racist and islamophobic Michelle Malkin.


Malkin was quite happy to put her name to oppose a memorial to the flight 93 highjacking because it would feature a crescent shaped row of trees and OMFG A CRESCENT IS A SYMBOL OF ISLAM SO THIS MEMORIAL IS SECRETLY A MEMORIAL TO THE TERRORISTS BECAUSE LIKE ALL MUSLIMS ARE TERRORISTS. In several posts on twitter Park praises Malkin describing her as ‘reasonable’ (I wonder what many Muslim people, or Japanese people whose internment during world war 2 she regards as justified, would reckon about that?) And they frequently retweet each others posts attacking ‘liberals’ and so on.

Suey Park is from Lake Zurich, a suburb of Chicago where the median household income is $110k, compared to $57k for Chicago and $51k for the US as a whole – makes you think doesn’t it?

Inevitably a theme these people return to again and again is to go on about how class based politics is outdated, and relegate the social relations of capitalism to simply being ‘classism’ ie prejudice based on accent, clothing and other characteristics associated with the ‘working class’. Rather than the conflict between classes being essential to capitalism and wage labour, exploitation and the profits and inherited wealth of the ruling class being intrinsic to the entire system, now its just sidestepped and rather than forming the basis of economic relations in the world it would be fine if there were some more people with northern accents in boardrooms.

It’s a perspective on class struggle which by their own terms is always relegated to a lesser status anyway, resulting in a situation where Michelle Obama can be regarded as more ‘oppressed’ than say an unemployed steelworker who happens to be white.


New Statesman
contributing editor Laurie Penny, described by the Daily Telegraph as ‘the loudest and most controversial female voice on the radical left’ for example has recently been attacking the left about how bitter they are about successful women who are too focused on their careers.

This is someone who like many of the so-called ‘dissent entrepreneurs‘ has taken advantage of the growing trend towards the professionalisation of politics and the opportunities presented in the wake of various protest movements – occupy Wall street being one of them – to build a personal brand, to make money out of a veneer of radicalism.

She was quite happy to address the horny handed toilers at the Oxford Union and describe herself as a ‘revolutionary socialist’ but who nonetheless by her own admission was part of the ‘top 10% of society’ – Laurie having gone to the prestigious Brighton College and then to Oxford University, this is depressingly accurate. The fact that she has nothing but good things to say about privatization advocate, New Labour shill and former head of Wellington College Anthony Seldon makes it very clear where her class interests lie.

These people are not part of the left in any sense. In this context it is not surprising that any idea of fighting the ultimate discrimination and the entire system of social relations based on exploitation of the working class becomes relegated to merely being ‘classism’ which presumably someone like Alan Sugar could still experience today for not having been to Eton. It is quite easy to imagine HR departments adopting this sort of stuff in large companies in a way that seems politically correct but doesn’t actually change anything to do with the way the company operates, except to make the devisers of the policy feel good about themselves.

Take her mate Molly Crabapple, one of the fellow members of the so-called ‘commentariat’ and illustrator of her books, sneering at the suggestion that Venezuelan opposition is in any way backed by the USA and selling her paintings of revolutions she wasn’t involved in for $10000, telling everyone we need to ‘monetize our hotness’ and if we didnt know how we were ‘dumb’, while claiming we don’t live under real capitalism!

image

According to Molly (trigger warning: capitalism)

    I am an entrepreneur. I fucking love entrepreneurship. But society as it is now cannot function if most people are entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurs need employees.  They need infrastructure.  They need people to assemble their iphones. To condemn people, as I sometimes see done, to severe financial fuckery, for being the average working stiffs who make the world run, is privileged bullshit I can’t stomach. We ALL have a common cause in fighting the corrupt, anti-competitive oligarchy in power.

This isn’t about whether you wear designer shoes or hate the smell of weed or can’t stand fucking hippies and their drum circles.  Its about whether you support an anti-capitalist fuedal-lord grifter class that privatizes their profits but socializes their losses

How about ‘anarcho-parliamentarians‘ selling ‘e-revolution’?

There’s another aspect to this though – the whole idea of ‘cultural appropriation’. As I have written about in previous posts by attempting to establish a hierarchy of oppression privilege theory ends up doing the opposite of what was intended – undermining solidarity by encouraging ‘activists’ who are from the world of academia and understand the terminology being used, which is so often used as a way to exclude people – to compete with each other over who is more oppressed, ‘call out’ people for being privileged etc – without a thought to what happens outside their bubble like someone writing on Twitter is the most important thing in the world.

One of the ways in which this theory has taken a more unpleasant direction is that of ‘cultural appropriation’. Anything from belly dancing to wearing dreadlocks to having a beard to English people celebrating St Patrick’s Day could be viewed as an example of ‘cultural appropriation’ and therefore an example of colonialism and racism.

The rationale for not doing things is that it is ‘taking someone else’s culture without permission’. The worrying thing about this is that it promotes an essentialist view of culture as something that ‘belongs’ to a particular people that is fixed and that other people who are not from that culture need to ask permission (from who?) Before adopting it. People have been accused of ‘stealing’ styles of art, literature, food etc from other cultures – a view of the nature of culture that you would expect to see from a different side of the political spectrum.

In this piece called ‘why I still can’t stand white belly dancers‘ the author essentially accuses anyone who goes belly dancing for fun without her permission of racism and of taking something that is not theirs. But belly dancing spread across Europe via Turkey and the Balkans and the Arab world hundreds of years ago and it is no surprise that people should have adopted it. People go belly dancing for the same reason they go to salsa or any other type of dancing – to have fun. Expecting the culture not to change and declaring that only certain races of people can take part in certain things displays a disturbing view.

Taken to its extreme it leads to the view that white people ‘don’t have an excuse‘ to be homeless, because they’re all so fucking privileged.

Here’s a video of an English woman teaching Irish dancing to Indian people. Who’s appropriating who here and how do we stop it?

And don’t even get me started on the mohican hairdo debate.

The majority of people on the extreme right declare that they only want to preserve their culture and race. They have another term for people who ‘appropriate’ other cultures – they call them race traitors. In fact, during the 1930s and 40s, the Nazis accused the Jews of ‘plagiarizing‘ their culture from the Germans and simply copying their traditions from other cultures, and for example, forbade Jews from performing works by German composers and from having German flags outside their houses.

More recently groups like Bloc Identitaire in France have taken a similar line saying that white people are oppressed and their culture is appropriated. Far right websites are full of comments decrying black people’s involvement in classical and heavy metal music – wrong skin color so they shouldn’t even be doing it. They’re not going belly dancing or wearing beards or eating all that multi culti food. Presumably they’re fine because they’re not trying to ‘appropriate’ anything.

You might ask why would you even care about such irrelevances – the majority of this ‘debate’ involves people firmly ensconced in their bubble with no interest in, or connection to, working class concerns – Laurie Penny the so called revolutionary socialist won’t even have the NUJ recognized at her own workplace – and thinking that reposting stuff on Twitter and ‘calling people out’ is ‘activism’ but to be honest it is what many people who are getting involved in left politics for the first time will encounter and it can end up doing one of two things – put you off the left for life or turn you into a complete dick, or both.

In addition the professionalisation of politics exemplified by the ‘dissent entrepreneurs’ is an extremely dangerous trend and one that ultimately ends up benefiting very privileged people who are familiar with identity politics theory and the language and culture of ‘activism’ – already in the states there are internship programmes for which having been an ‘activist’ is required – the ultimate cooption of dissent.

Saying that this is a problem and saying that the ultimate discrimination is economic, that fighting for day to day improvements in people’s lives and the possibility of something better is not like being some sort of dinosaur who claims that ‘homosexuality is a bourgeois deviation’ and it’s just fine for people to be sexist and racist until after the revolution. All these things are class issues and at a time when we are facing huge attacks on our living standards throughout the world why don’t we focus on collective solidarity and what unites rather than divides us. And kick out opportunists who see our struggles as a business opportunity.