Friday, 5 December 2014

About Left Unity

Left Unity is a political party which aims to get back to the "spirit of '45", i.e. the kind of approach taken by the Labour government elected just after the Second World War, which established the NHS among other things.  It's called Left Unity because it aims to avoid the kind of splits which beset the Left, leading to, as it were, turbulence rather than laminar flow.  I'm not going into my actual political beliefs in this respect but suffice it to say that the approach taken by Left Unity is substantially compatible with what I want for society in this country.  That doesn't make me left wing but I don't want to go into that right now.  Also, Sarada is standing for a post in Left Unity and as her partner, I would like her to win, even though she might get a lot of flack in that position.
You might think that because I support the aims of Left Unity I would be a member.  After all, in my time I've been a member of CND, the Green Party, Education Otherwise, the Church of England, Friends of the Earth, various animal liberation groups and so forth, because I was prepared to compromise my principles enough in order to work with other people together for a common aim.  However, I have no plans to join Left Unity, and there are two reasons for this.  Someone might come along and tell you what one of them is but I won't be doing that.  I want to concentrate on the other reason.

On their website, Left Unity describe themselves as " a new kind of party, with feminism, socialism, environmentalism and anti-racism at its heart."  I think you can probably see where I'm going to go with this already.

A member of Left Unity would, I hope, see themselves as anti-racist, environmentalist, socialist and feminist.  I am in fact anarchist but that's not necessarily a barrier to working with socialists, any more than socialists and fundamentalist Christians can't work together against Sunday trading.  They can forget their differences and unite to ensure people are not forced to do paid work on a holiday, and in fact this has been done in the past.  I also hope I'm anti-racist, although of course I am inevitably racist as that's ineradicable due to my white privilege.  That does of course mean that I will fail to understand or have an intuitive or informed feel for many issues involving ethnicity.  Environmentalism is also something I can get wholeheartedly behind, although the word strikes me as a little insipid.  I used to see myself as deep Green, and for me the word "environmentalist" calls to mind things like conservation organisations which offer free turkey dinners in Xmas raffles, mentioning no names.

There was a wildlife campaigner in South Africa who once drove over some giant tortoise shells on display outside someone's house who was trying to sell them in order to stop them profiting from killing.  They were of course poached.  However, at the time the only person at home in the house was not the person running the business but his wife.  This may not have happened, but I can easily imagine his wife becoming the victim of domestic violence as a result of that incident.  This is probably something the campaigner didn't think about, or he may have thought that since she was living off those profits (which is another assumption) she deserved to get beaten up by her husband.  The consequences of that incident are of course all in my imagination, and I may have got it wrong.  I am probably making assumptions of my own about this.

Therefore, this guy, I'm going to say, was environmentalist but not feminist, and not pro-feminist, and the reason I'm assuming he wasn't pro-feminist is that he did not seem to be concerned about the woman's welfare or even aware of the probable (probability meaning rational degree of belief) consequences of destroying the bits of murdered animals because of her being a woman.  Notice this however:  I am also making possibly sexist assumptions about her.  She may have been the business owner.  She may have been adequately able to defend herself against her husband.  Or she may have been the dominant partner in the marriage.  Therefore I'm being sexist.

Back to Left Unity.  It has described itself as a feminist party.  This immediately and rightly excludes me, because I cannot be a feminist.  I can be pro-feminist of course, but look at the assumptions I may have just made.  It's a deficiency to me that however strongly I may have resisted and however reluctantly I was forced to comply with a gender of which I had no wish to be a part, I have been socialised as male and I have benefited from male privilege even if I may have suffered from being on the wrong side of cisgender privilege (which obviously exists by the way).  It's also true that one can work with a group without being part of that group and that being trans might give me insights and the ability to contribute from a new angle which could in itself be liberating for all involved.  However, the fact remains that most women are ciswomen, meaning that the single largest oppressed group in society, and therefore the most important, is ciswomen.

I could also work with feminists, in theory, and I probably do.  When I do that, I will unwittingly be working against liberation because of what I am - a male-socialised person.  It is completely impossible for me to help actively.  An example might be that I would tend to interrupt people more than a ciswoman does, or be more prepared to change the subject in a discussion.  There will be a host of other things that I will do which are unhelpful and "counter-revolutionary".

Therefore, I will not join Left Unity because I have no place in it.  This is not a negative thing, because I have a vision, which will doubtless never be realised, or Left Unity as a ciswoman-only party, i.e. a properly feminist one, which works together properly rather than divisively, understands the issues from direct experience of being oppressed by them and has a proper class-consciousness as members of the female gender due to its universal Geworfenheit.

You may disagree of course, and say that a women-only party would be half the potential size and therefore less effective.  It might well be half the size but that doesn't mean it will only be half as effective.  The point is that although there would be some internalised misogyny in such a party, I'd be prepared to bet that it would be a lot less sexist in its operation and policies than a party which has either men or transwomen in it.  I find the idea of a women-only socialist party very encouraging, exciting and positive.  I would also expect it to be more effective for the lack of patriarchal baggage in it, although of course it wouldn't be entirely absent.

Therefore, there are two reasons why I won't be joining Left Unity, and this is one of them.  I will mention the other one if you exhort me to join, and I'm not playing games here, I just don't want that kind of attention, believe it or not.  Anyway, happily all three of the candidates for speaker are socialised as women and will therefore have less false consciousness and unhelpful behaviour, so that's all good.  Obviously I'd like Sarada to win - that's the patriarchal distortion in my own consciousness brought on by the disgusting institution of marriage though, so feel free to ignore it except as an illustration of how insidious sexism is.