"if you don't have a strategy, you're part of someone else's strategy."
– a. toffler
"What can we do today, so that tomorrow we can do what we are unable to do today?"
– Paulo Freire
We urgently need to rethink the Left. In the trade unions, in the campaigns that spring up, in strikes (and we should not that strike days continue to be low and may remain so for some time yet) and social movements there needs to be a much stronger, better coordinated, anti-austerity, socialist, radical, anti-capitalist voice.
It has to be open, democratic, undogmatic and capable of reconciling difference. It has to be internationalist, anti-racist, a staunch champion of women’s liberation and LGBT rights. It has to be flexible about organisational forms. This is anathema to some groups on the Left and that probably explains their current woes. It also has to be generous and able to admit that it doesn’t have a monopoly on wisdom.
Vanguard parties that venerate Lenin/Lenin’s work aren’t the only way to organise ourselves.
So many people say we need to get creative in our organising, but how can we do this?
What this new group/organisation/congregation/coalition/whatever would need:
We don’t need another static group, or another dogma, or another monolithic anything. We need a way to get more people together discussing stuff.
One group that is trying to get different lefties together under one roof is the Anticapitalist Initiative - more tomorrow.
There is ongoing debate about how much of human behaviour stems from biology, how much from conditioning and socialized expectations, and how much from choice. It’s probably not a good idea to dismiss any of the three. Although they are vastly different from being LGBT, Bipolar disorder and some forms of autism have been demonstrated to have some form of biological causation or linkage, so there are certainly precedents. So we play the opposite response: “it’s genetic.” Well, maybe it is, at least in part, but neither chosen lifestyles nor biologically-driven identities of themselves validate or disqualify value in a human being. In the long run, we might not exactly be comfortable with the implication of imparting all things biologically-connected with legitimacy. Imagine a finding in which pedophilia is shown have some genetic trigger. Certainly, many predators describe a compulsion they feel is intrinsic and beyond their control, so it’s not unthinkable that there could be a biological component. But it would be repulsive to excuse the molestation of children for this sort of reason. And at that point, consistency fails.
So biological causation only proves that we exist. We cannot depend on it for rights or to change hearts and minds. We cannot rely on it to find pride in our lives. It’s fascinating, marginally validating, but it does not provide the standard against which we measure ourselves as humans. Biological predestination is a poor measure of who is entitled to human rights or whether or not someone has a legitimate right to be. We recognize that people deserve respect, freedom, access to employment and services, and to be treated as equals regardless of any disability, poverty, class, body image, level of education, faith and several other factors that are not inherently predetermined. The “choice invalidation” argument seeks to undermine far more than the acceptance of LGBT people. Discrimination does not occur purely because of the colour of someone’s skin — rather, colour is one of many indicators that are used to trigger presumptions about an individual’s culture, lifestyle, behaviours and tendencies. You hear this excuse all the time: “I have nothing against them, but you know what they’re like….” Prejudiced people are blind to their prejudice because they’ve seduced themselves into believing that what they’re reacting to are associated choices and not really the trait itself, when they’re acting on the unspoken and often inaccurate smorgasbord of inventions that go with it. When we insist on biological validation, we are playing along with an ideology that makes soft excuses for bigotry, rather than confronting the impulse to discriminate.
And for that matter, how much of the “born this way” argument boils down to people feeling like they have to make excuses and seek societal forgiveness for existing, rather than pointing the finger back at bigotry?
The concept of human rights, of course, was supposed to address the extent to which hatred between diverse human communities manifested. Human rights legislation was a response to the dramatic and horrific manifestation of hatred during the mass genocide that occurred in Nazi Germany — but it also recognized that mass extermination is not a new phenomenon, and that modern society cannot be fooled into believing that it would never occur again. The principle is that all people should be treated as equals, but we know from experience that if we leave it up to everyone’s discretion, enormous imbalances happen. Even with human rights legislation, there are glaringly different ways that privileged and non-privileged classes are treated. So human rights legislation is structured in a way that identifies various classes that should not be used as bases to include or exclude — to accept or to hate — people. The classes are, of themselves, neutral (for example, “race” covers white people as much as anyone else), so contrary to another modern myth, there are no “special rights.” It becomes the role of the judiciary to balance the rights of the minority with the rights of the majority. In an ideal world, of course, we would all realize that all are created equal, but in practical reality, reminders have to be codified into law, because there is always disagreement about who should be treated fairly and what the limit to fairness should be. At the furthest extreme, without rights legislation requiring the legal system to take occurrences seriously, it becomes common for people to excuse violence or murder of minorities as being somehow justified or inconsequential, thereby devaluing the lives of the victims.
At some point, we need to realize that risk-conscious, responsible, respectful and genuinely consensual behaviour need to be the standards by which we measure people — by their actions, rather than any assumptions associated with any traits… even those that are not necessarily intrinsic, genetically-determined ones.
yes, thank you!
this is covered pretty well in a Common Cause (campaigning for better awareness of values and framing in campaigns) blog post called Trade-offs in the gay rights movement
we have to watch the language we use!