women,  2014 © romana klee | Flickr
EssaysFeatureSex & GenderThe Left

FEMINISMS OF THE LEFT: Politics and Strategy

There is a long and confusing collection of names for those who are both leftists and feminists: Marxist feminist, socialist feminist, materialist feminist, black feminist, feminist socialist, anarcho-feminist… and so on. And straddling the line between socialist and liberal feminists, would be social welfare feminists. In the 1960s and 1970s in the heyday of the women’s liberation movement, when “feminism” was too tame a word, the mainstream feminists were social welfare feminists. They supported abortion rights of course, and equal pay for equal work, as do all feminists, but they also supported public childcare and welfare. Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine are examples. But the movement declined, and at the same time that so many activists were moving into careers and families, American politics was moving right, into neo-liberalism — and it took mainstream feminism with it. …

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Quartz crystal © Macroscopic Solutions | Flickr
CapitalismEssaysThe Left

Seven Steps toward Enlightenment: The Case of the French Killings

When a crystal breaks, it breaks along lines of pre-existing weakness. Thus traumatic assaults, like the one in Paris, can serve as X-rays into the body politic that endures them. Certainly, the US invasion of Iraq, a response to 9/11, serves as a paradigm case of how a terroristic attack can provoke the blind aggressivity otherwise obscured and disguised in the self-professed guarantor of world peace. By examining the range of responses to the massacre at Hebdo, we can learn something more about ourselves, and perhaps correct our mistaken stance. In my view there are seven levels of response to these attacks, each a mixture of ideology and truth, progressing closer and closer to something comprehensive and just, albeit also elegiac and incomplete. …

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A vigil in Luxembourg for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack, featuring one of its controversial covers ©  Valentina Calà | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

Is Solidarity without Identity Possible?

On the Charlie Hebdo attack

The time I saw Charb in Paris was January 24, 2010, the day of the crowded commemoration of the French philosopher and activist Daniel Bensaïd at La Mutualité. During the speeches, Charb kept drawing and projecting vignettes about his comrade Daniel, whose book, Marx: Mode d’Emploi, he had illustrated a year earlier. In the deep sadness that filled the big room his vignettes constantly reminded us of Bensaïd’s subtle humor, of his little malicious smile with which he used to charm us all, slowly helping us to heal the loss. Director of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Charb was one of the ten cartoonists and journalists killed, together with two policemen, in the ferocious attack of January 7, 2015. …

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An IDF officer places new Israeli flags on the graves of IDF soldiers. © Israeli Defense Forces | Flickr
Essays

Death, Destruction, and the Israeli Turn to the Right

One of the most depressing aspects of the current war in Gaza is the repetition of images in discourse about the conflict. “Defensive Edge,” “Pillar of Defense,” and “Cast Lead” all bleed into each other. Images of death and destruction recur across patriotic monikers that stand as a monument to the limited inventiveness of the national copy writers. Nothing much seems to change. And yet, with every iteration of death and destruction, Israel’s political culture turns more and more to the right.

This is felt most acutely by Israeli Arabs, but is also being increasingly felt by left-wing Jews in Israel. There are, of course, striking differences between the two experiences. …

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"Left" stretched beyond reason © Naomi Gruson Goldfarb using SmartArt
EssaysThe Left

What’s Left?

A response to Jeremy Varon

Jeremy Varon’s interesting and important response raises three questions: 1) What do we mean by a “Left”? 2) How are we to understand the New Left’s break-up and, specifically the relation of the women’s movement to that break-up and 3) How are we to evaluate the Left today? Let me start with the third and work backwards.

I do not believe we can properly speak of a Left today. Jeremy’s view of a plurality of different movement working independently but parallel to one another avoids all the important questions. A Left needs coherence and direction. It needs leaders, organizations, its own counter public-spheres, some sense of the values that distinguish it from the mainstream. It needs a coherent analysis of such basic ruling class institutions as the Democratic Party, the universities and the so-called public sphere. Obviously I am not advocating a vanguard party, or a mass party of the Debsian sort. But to speak of the huge diversity of present protest movements that might be termed progressive as a Left stretches the term beyond reason. …

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Street art clenched fist © another sergio | Flickr
EssaysThe Left

Shifting Geographies Rather Than Defections

The debate on feminists and the Left continues

We share Zaretsky’s desire to understand the trajectory of the Left past, present, and future. We disagree with him over the nature of the Left itself and with his account of the dynamics of political change. Where Zaretsky looks to the long duree and to political breaks as sources of current decline, we argue that the Left was always a more protean political formation in which lines of affiliation and disagreement were porous and changing. Finally, we insist, that if we are to understand the fate of the Left we must put it in dynamic relation with the actions of capital. Without expanding the political field, we mis-specify the geographies of political action — then and now. …

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Women Say NO To Torture, Outside The Third Guantanamo Hearing (Washington, DC), 2007 © Jim Kuhn | Flickr
EssaysLiberal Democracy in QuestionThe Left

Look Out Kids: On the New and Next Left

A reply to Eli Zaretsky

Bundled into Eli Zaretsky’s unmistakable claim that second wave feminism was substantially to blame for the undoing of the 60s-era Left is another curious charge: that no American Left exists today, or has for a long time [“Rethinking the Split Between Feminists and the Left”]. In their response, Ann Snitow and Vicky Hattam expose the flimsy basis and maladroit construction of the first charge [“The Women Did It?”]. While adding to their case, I address mostly the second. I do so not as one who “was there” in the 1960s but as both a scholar of the period and an activist since the 1980s in what I’ve always considered the Left. Zaretsky’s rebuttal of the Snitow/Hattam response further confuses his original argument while modestly improving its terms. I deal with it briefly at the end.

Uniting both of Zaretsky’s claims is a dismissive view of the experiences and perspectives of others. Second wave feminists might feel proud of their efforts to establish battered women’s shelters, health and day care collectives, rape crisis centers, alternative schools, peace camps, and more accepting versions of the family. …

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