Don’t Trust Anyone Over 53?

The task to be accomplished is not the conservation of the past, but the redemption of the hopes of the past. – Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer – Dialectic of Enlightenment

In a couple of recent posts Vanishing American II has justly chastised those modern-day Jack Weinbergs of the right who seek to blame baby-boomers as a group for our current woes. Denouncing the “nasty rhetoric, based… on some kind of visceral resentment and animus” of one anti-boomer commentator, in his post Dear Boomer-bashers Mr. American II ably rebuts the notion of our generation as the prime source of all political and cultural evil.

Unfortunately, VA II then proceeds to fall into a similar stance of generational finger-pointing, now, however, directed against the boomers’ parents. Thus:

… this PC nonsense wasn’t started by the Boomers. It was started by the previous generation. You know, the ones who elected LBJ. The ones who pushed the Civil Rights movement. The ones who took over academia for the Left. The ones who gave the Cultural Left a stranglehold on the media. All of these things were achieved by the generation born in the 1925-1945 period.

If you want a generation to hate then the generation born 1925-1945 is well worthy of your hatred.

While I’m reluctant to lump VA II in with the anti-boomers, unfortunately all of their comments seem to reflect the same ignorance of the history of American populist identitarian struggle over the course of much of the 20th Century and, worse than that, echo the left’s version of the history of that period in which the massive defensive struggles of the white working and middle classes largely disappear.

The decades from World War II until the 1980s saw intense social conflict over the transformation of the United States.  Not surprisingly, this process is now portrayed as one in which only the “progressives” – the civil rights movements, the new left and liberalism in general – had any real agency.   At best, the defenders of the traditional American nation end up portrayed as a mob of faceless, mindless “deplorables” when they are noticed at all.

While these struggles were overwhelmingly locally-focused – over neighborhood and school boundaries, public recreational spaces, urban re-development, busing, property taxes, crime, and school books – all directly resisted in one way or another the processes through which America was re-made.  (These intensely local roots were at once the source of their strengths and eventual failure.)

Looking back, the breadth and militance of these struggles is almost hard to believe – from what Arnold Hirsch calls a state of “chronic urban guerilla warfare” in Chicago in the 1940s to the inspiring mass mobilizations, boycotts and riots of Boston’s “Southies” (and “Easties”) against busing in the 1970s.

So, when saboteur365 says regarding the baby-boomers: “Not all of us were left wing, hypocritical zealots. Just most of us” he is not simply wrong but also complicit in the left’s re-writing of history – privileging the new left (mainly drawn from the youth of the elite and upper strata of the white middle classes) over the populist right which represented a far larger segment of our people.

My objection to the alt movement’s historical amnesia is not, however, simply motivated by self-defensiveness (as a boomer myself) by an abstract desire for historical accuracy or even by the recognition of the respect we owe our forbears.  In fact, we have a tremendous amount to learn from the rise, the at least partial successes and the ultimate disappearance of these movements.

The general failure of the anti-system right to orient toward and learn from the movements of the past is a sign of its apolitical (or at best, pre-political) nature.  Up to now, we have functioned mainly as cheerleaders and scolds rather that real participants, often hiding behind a fundamentally abstentionist understanding of “metapolitics”.

By far the most valuable thing about Trump’s rise is not what he will accomplish as president (as we are coming to see more and more each day) but the re-emergence of a mass populist movement of the right.  Understanding the experiences of our past is a necessary element in determining how we orient toward this movement, working to build it and, at the same time, to radicalize it.

So… here’s some homework:

While books on the movements of the left vastly outnumber those on the populist right, there are a number of important studies of this period which are worthwhile correctives to the dominant narrative (although one often has to read around the authors’ leftism).  Here are a few things to start with:
Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s – Ronald Formisano
Canarsie: The Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism – Jonathan Rieder
Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 – Arnold R. Hirsch
Behind the Backlash: White Working-Class Politics in Baltimore, 1940-1980 – Kenneth D. Dur
Philadelphia Divided: Race and Politics in the City of Brotherly Love – James Wolfinger
The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing – E. Michael Jones –  This is an important book and one of the few on the topic that doesn’t require a “subversive reading”.  As interesting as it is however, it desperately needs a merciless editing and would be far more useful at half its almost 700 page length.
Race, Riots, and Roller Coasters: The Struggle over Segregated Recreation in America – Victoria W. Wolcott
Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation – Matthew F. Delmont

A Note on the South: One will notice that I’ve largely ignored the experience of the struggle in the South during this period. This is partly due to my rejection of the apartheid order, but also to the fact that its political lessons seem much less relevant today than those drawn from the rest of the country. That said, the story of “massive resistance” is not without interest. Here are a couple of things to start with:

Massive Resistance: The White Response to the Civil Rights Movement – George Lewis
Massive Resistance: Southern Opposition to the Second Reconstruction – Cliff Webb

Can’t Resist…

… one more post on Based Stick Man, who I gather has ended up not being charged by the city of Berkeley for his role in defending pro-Trump demonstrators there from attacks by the usual antifa thugs.

While in my youth I loved a good riot, in my old age I am less and less a fan of fighting in the streets.  However, given the active embrace of political violence by such a broad swath of the left and the passive acceptance of it by most of the rest, I realize the right has no choice but to literally fight back and I am inspired when I see someone take the initiative to do so, especially in such a creative and politically successful way.

The failure of the Trump movement to consistently defend itself physically and the all-too frequent refusal of police departments to really confront disruptive and violent leftist counter-protestors has created a situation in which the left has come to believe that it owns the streets. Let us hope that Based Stick Man will be the beginning of the process of proving that this is not the case.

Privilege – It’s a Dog’s Life

I came across an interesting article at the journal ephemera(1) by Annamari Vänskä(2) Because I Wuv You – Pet Dog Fashion and Emotional Consumption. Although I was initially unsure whether or not it was meant to be a spoof à la Alan Sokal and others, I’m convinced that it is actually meant to be taken at face value.

The article has several lessons:

First, if you Theory things up enough you can make the obvious seem, if not profound, at least pretty complicated and the simply ludicrous sound more deeply so.

Second, certain academics really do debate some crazy stuff. Thus, in true “posthumanist” form(3) the author seriously engages the issue of privilege among animals:

Some argue that pets are privileged animals: that they are favoured, remain close to humans and occupy a hierarchically higher status than other non-human animals (Thomas, 1983: 100-120). Others see pets as degraded animals: while an ‘animal’ is conceptualised as wild and self-sufficient, the ‘pet’ lacks these qualities (Fudge, 2008).

The author aligns herself with the “privileged” school:

The pampered pedigree pooch embodies the triumph of capitalism: it does not only embody the fantasy of nature as controllable and malleable by the human hand, but also the fantasy of a liberated new consumer, a model posthuman citizen who enjoys its postromantic relationships with humans.

She concludes her article with a call for action (in the usual academic sense) – critique and study:

The co-consuming pet dog thus also opens up a space for a critique of animal hierarchies. The pet dog, which is conceptually not an animal, is superior to wild and farm animals. The pet is a privileged animal, favoured due to its similarity to humans.

and

The fashioned pet dog summarises Orwell’s idea that ‘all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others’ and encourages further research that gives tools for undoing the unjust dichotomies between pets and other animals.

I’m convinced, of course, but still a little unsure how to overcome those “unjust dichotomies between pets and other animals.” Perhaps I’ll stop feeding my dog and let him scrounge like the rest of his less-privileged counterparts. For now, at least, I’ve hung one of those white puzzle pieces on his collar and I expect him to have some serious discussions of the matter with his friends down at the dog park. I know it will be a challenge, but I am hopeful that they will be able to find a way to be good allies to the local coyotes.

Third, and on the serious side, capitalism commodifies and corrupts every relationship – human or otherwise. When I’m done indulging my smug, know-nothing side, I have to admit that the article is not without value. In fact, if one can read around the tiresome posthumanist theorizing, it is still a useful case-study in the way in which the capitalist system permeates and transforms our everyday lives.

(1) ephemera “encourages contributions that explicitly engage with theoretical and conceptual understandings of organizational issues, organizational processes and organizational life.”

(2)The author is, among other things, “the Adjunct Professor of Fashion Studies at the University of Turku and Adjunct Professor of Art History and Gender Studies at the University of Helsinki.” Somehow, I’m not surprised.

(3) As the author tells us: “Posthumanist approaches aim to challenge classical humanist anthropocentrism and its dichotomies – such as human / animal and nature / culture – the uniqueness of ‘the human’ as the crown of the creation, and the position of the human as an autonomous, rational being in contrast to irrational, instinctual ‘animals’ (Wolfe, 2009). In this article, posthumanism is understood as a set of questions and as a tool for dealing with those questions, when ‘the human’ is not the only autonomous, rational being who knows or consumes.”

A Little More on “No Platforming”

No-platforming is a coercive set of tactics designed to silence an individual or group. It involves censorship, but censorship can be subtle or systemic while no-platforming is narrow and blatant. It utilizes strong-arm tactics promoted not by an authoritarian government but by a group of people. It is a more democratic way of shutting people up. The term apparently originated in the 1970’s in Britain, where it was at first narrower in execution and target (exclusively against fascists of the old-school variety). Like most social phenomena, the practice predates coinage of the term. – Hearth Moon Rising – No Platforming Hurts All of Us

In doing a little background reading on “no platforming” I came across this post on a Wiccan blog, discussing the issue of “campaigns by trans activists to silence and marginalize Dianic Witches.” Initially I imagined a snarky comment of my own about the potential dangers of no platforming a witch but upon reflection realized that that would be disrespectful, smug and not really very clever.

Instead, it’s actually worth listening to what the author has to say, particularly because it has a very familiar sound:

Blacklisting is the most familiar no-platforming tactic. It was used during the McCarthy era by the US government and unofficial anti-communist groups to deny writers, actors, artists, and academics the opportunity to perform, exhibit, publish, or teach. It has been used in recent years to ban Dianic feminist Witch Z Budapest from venues for leading ritual and to try (unsuccessfully) to keep Australian feminist Sheila Jeffreys from publishing her book Gender Hurts. A closely related censorship tactic is that of the organized boycott…

Then there is the targeting of advertisers with boycotts to get articles suppressed from magazines, the manufacture and mindless re-blogging of incendiary untrue accusations that can be easily researched, and the deletion of WordPress blogs, Tumblr blogs, Facebook accounts, and Twitter accounts that have not violated any stated policies but which nevertheless offended some anti-feminist. You’ll have to take my word for it at this point or will be here all day – there are too many examples even to fill a large book. Obviously these strong-arm censorship tactics cannot be blamed solely on the Pagan community but are part of a wider anti-feminist culture, with trans women usually the purported beneficiaries. Trans women who speak out against these tactics are strongly criticized or even no-platformed themselves.(1)

I must admit that the radical feminist wiccan world is alien to me, as it probably is to most of the readers of this blog.  Still, it’s worth remembering “First they came for the Dianic witches but….”

(1) Note that the “feminists” referred to in the post above are what are sometimes dismissively referred to as TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) whose crime is that they reject the notion that gender is merely a social construction.

It is indeed a strange world when acronyms like WBW (Women Born Women) need to be invented and an even stranger one when people are persecuted for believing that there is truth to the concept behind it, but for this view they have been utterly demonized – placed in the same category (those who must be silenced) as all of the rest of the world’s “deplorables.”  The typical tone of the anti-“TERF” polemics is the sort of hysterical ranting all too common these days – reflected, for example, in the article “Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism” is violence or in another blogger’s recent assertion – “Trans exclusionary radical feminism is racist, it is western colonialism—it is fascism.”  And we all know what that can mean

The Civil War Left

sumnerattackedbypreston1No, not that Civil War… And, OK, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic but, on the other hand, maybe not.  After all, it’s true that the antifa violence at Berkeley a few nights ago was not really so shocking in itself.

There’s always been that part of the left which claims that the government is “fascist” regardless of who is in office.  Thus, the so-called “Refuse Fascism,” about which much is being made by commentators on the right, looks and sounds just like the same old Revolutionary Communist Party “coalition”, complete with the usual apoplectic rhetoric: it’s “Refuse and Resist,” “Not in Our Name” and “The World Can’t Wait” re-branded for the Trump presidency.

Similarly, for decades before they became the “black bloc” at anti-globalization actions, obnoxious anarchist provocateurs were an annoying presence at Bay Area demonstrations.

And so we know that, like the poor, the ultra-left will always be with us and, when they get the chance, they will act out in all of their usual infantile ways.

Up until recently, however, ultra-left antifa violence was directed at extremely marginal types – the Klan, the National Socialist Movement, etc.  Now everything has changed since, after all, if Trump is Hitler, then all of his supporters must be fascists (“little Eichmanns”?) against whom any violence is permitted. Consequently the usual attempts at shouting down speakers or otherwise disrupting events(1) have progressed to vicious physical assaults on ordinary individuals guilty of no more that wearing a MAGA hat or merely having a ticket to an offending program.

Of even greater concern is the tacit connivance in this on the part of elected officials, as well as the support for it expressed by sectors of the relatively moderate left.(2) Meanwhile, even among the left critics of the Berkeley riot there has been much rejection of the violence on pragmatic grounds but deafening silence when it comes to acknowledging that it might be simply wrong to intimidate and physically attack those with whom you disagree.(3)

Ominously, the bitterness of the current political climate is reaching deep into people’s daily lives. The notion of civil political discourse seems to have vanished, at least among leftists and politics has become a topic raised at one’s own risk, at least if one didn’t vote Hillary. (See, for example, Bay Area Conservatives Keep Meetups Secret Fearing For Their Safety.)

(In my own experience, the hostility of the other side is so intense that any political conversation among our small group of Trump supporters at the office now feels more like a clandestine meeting of the Communist Party workplace cell than a group of friends just shooting the shit in the break room.)

And so we have reached a point at which half of the country is considered not only merely wrong but actually evil by the other. We are the enemy to be intimidated and silenced – there can be no co-existence and no peace. We are obviously nowhere near there quite yet, but ultimately this is the mentality of civil war.(4)

Notes:
(1) Certain sectors of the left have a penchant for “no platforming” and have been all too willing to use it against dissenters in their own ranks, as the TERF’s (“Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists”) have found out. Still, this is a far cry from the physical violence now celebrated by much of the left when it is directed at opponents to the right.
(2) See Prominent Leftists Celebrate Anti-Milo Yiannopoulos Violence at Berkeley.  One hardly needs to re-visit the story of the repeated attempts to prevent Trump rallies during the campaign, but if you do, see Moveon.Org Vows to Continue to Disrupt Trump Rallies or What’s the Use in Disrupting Donald Trump?.
(3) A good example of this is an article at Huffington Post, The Debacle At Berkeley in which the author ably argues that the black bloc’s actions were counterproductive, but goes on to say

I am not interested here in having a moral argument about violence in the abstract, or the line between destruction of property and assaults on people. Let’s save that for another time…

(Unlike many others, he at least acknowledges that this is an issue.)
(4) There is an worthwhile post in this regard at the interesting and well-written blog Delayed Mail mainly reflecting on the editorial response of pro-slavery newspapers to the dawn of the new year in 1861 and the prospect of a Lincoln presidency – New Year’s and the Superficiality of Secession. While I suspect that I disagree deeply with its author, it is well worth a read.

The System’s Useful (and Violent) Idiots

Police officers came prepared in riot gear and about 100 outside agitators aimed at causing chaos came armed with sticks and rocks. Some set off fireworks in the middle of Sproul Plaza. Others threw objects at UC police.

And as the violence escalated, officers pulled back…. Police gathered on the balcony demanding that the crowd disperse, but made no moves against the protesters. – CBS SF Bay Area News Police Tactics During Violent UC Berkeley Protest Questioned

In thinking more about the recent events in Berkeley and reading some of the other commentary that pointed to the the failure of the administration to prepare and the inaction of the police, I was reminded of an essay I had read some years back by Don Hamerquist(1) – Fascism and Anti-Fascism, which appeared in Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement (2002, Kersplebedeb Publishing)

The state can tolerate a certain level of anti-fascist illegality on our part just as well as it can look the other way at certain actions of the fascists. Currently, many of our “street” victories do seem to involve tacit police cooperation at a certain level; implicitly sanctioning, or at least not confronting, our tactics and deliberately choosing not to investigate and prosecute at the level which would easily be possible….. [W]hen I read Red Action’s self-congratulatory descriptions of its confrontations with English fascists—and I have seen similar reports from various ARA [Anti-Racist Action] sources—I don’t see any recognition that such success could only occur for a significant time period with police acquiescence at the minimum….

Hamerquist goes on to warn his fellow antifas that serving as a tool of the ruling class so obviously will have negative consequences in the long run:

Keep in mind that in our confrontation with the fascists, the side that is identified with the state is ultimately going to lose politically although it may appear to be winning some street fights.

Doesn’t sound like they were listening…

(1) Hamerquist is an interesting thinker whose activism goes back to a period in the CP in the 60’s, followed by a move into the new left. He spent years in the Sojourner Truth Organization as one of its main ideologues (along with Noel Ignatin – now well-known as “whiteness” historian Noel Ignatiev). Since the collapse of the STO, he has continued to write and his thoughts on “fascism” are influential within a certain sector of the “anti-fascist movement” today. (See, for example, Threewayfight and this discussion at the now-defunct Bring the Ruckus.)

Once you get past their conflation of everything to the right of George Bush into one variant or another of what they call fascism (and they even argued over whether or not Bush himself was a fascist) the discussion within this milieu of the development of the anti-system populist right is not without interest, especially since they break with the traditional left view of this movement (whatever you may label it) as simply a tool of the ruling class. Instead, they recognize its autonomy in class terms and its subversive (and perhaps even revolutionary) character. While this is really the subject for another post (or two or three…), I will just point out that while this crowd is committed on the surface to resisting both the ruling class and those they have identified as “fascists” (thus, the “three way fight”), in practice they serve as the street thugs doing the dirty work of the ruling class much in the way that the SA did in the closing days of the Weimar Republic, albeit on a much smaller scale (for now).