NIBS Red Review #2 – February 2017

Robert Jensen, The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men, Melbourne, Spinifex Press, 2017
jensen

U.S radical journalist Robert Jensen’s latest book ‘The end of Patriarchy’ is a great little introductory primer outlining the case for radical feminism. At a short 165 pages, and written in easily accessible style with all technical terms clearly explained, it would make a great gift for somebody new to feminist ideas. The book is particularly relevant for men who want to be better allies in the feminist struggle and who often badly need to hear and heed Jensen’s message – indeed, I include myself, someone who has struggled with many of the issues discussed.

One of the great strengths of the book, I believe, is Jensen’s clear definition of key terms, such as the basic difference between ‘gender’ and ‘sex’ – that is, ‘sex,’ understood as the biologically determined category of male and female, in contrast to ‘gender’ which, Jensen suggests should be understood as the socially constructed ‘meanings attributed to sex difference’. I believe this is particularly important in the context of the often confusing way in which such terms are used within much contemporary feminist debate. Of course, Jensen is well aware that even this basic distinction is controversial with some arguing that sex itself is a social construction. Jensen, however, disagrees and, I think, makes a persuasive case for the distinction, as well as its importance within broader discussions.

The heart of the book is an attempt to persuade men of the continuing damage done to women by patriarchy – that is, ‘a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.’ And, perhaps more importantly, sensitively prod each of us to consider the ways in which we may participate in, and help to reproduce it. While Jensen effectively cites many of the alarming statistics, particularly the shocking prevalence of rape and sexual assault (which are likely to underrepresent the true scale of the problem), I often found some of the more anecdotal evidence just as persuasive – precisely because it rings so true.  As somebody who has spent a lot of time around male football change rooms, for example, Jensen’s insights into the routinely aggressive way in which men often talk about women, resonated. Powerful too was his description of anti-violence seminars in which men are asked what actions they have taken in the past week to minimise their risk of being sexually assaulted – a question which, of course, is meet with uncomfortable silence or lame jokes. When women are asked the same question, hands are immediately and urgently raised!

Through such means Jensen is able to build his case that, notwithstanding the history of liberal feminist reforms, patriarchy stubbornly persists. Aside from direct violence against women, Jensen follows a long line of radical feminist thought in suggesting that patriarchy is powerfully manifested through pornography and the wider sex industry. Contrary to the common belief, for example, that porn is simply a ‘natural’ expression of male sexuality magnified by the internet, Jensen challenges us menfolk to view it as ‘one way in a patriarchal society that male dominance is eroticised, that male power is made sexually exciting.’

Of course, for many people engaged in contemporary feminist debate this book will be controversial, to put it mildly. Jensen makes strong critiques – though always in a respectful and sensitive way – of the trans-gender movement which, he argues is one manifestation of a prevalent but problematic form of liberal and post-modern feminism. Jensen claims to know from personal experience what it is like to feel out of step with prevailing gender norms, and thus to understand something of the experience of transgender people. But, he argues, the best way to respond is to embrace “radical feminism’s long-standing resistance to patriarchy” and its polarised gender norms. It has to be said, however, that on this issue Jensen is swimming against a very strong political tide. Still, one hopes his book is able to provoke some fruitful dialogue and debate about these difficult and divisive issues.

As somebody who is deeply concerned about the ecological crisis, Jensen makes several very interesting arguments for why overcoming patriarchy will be essential if humans are to live both in long term harmony with each other and the planet.

Though very challenging, this book is an important intervention. It left me with the sense that patriarchy is one of the most profoundly destructive and deeply ingrained forms of oppression today. And yet it also left me with a renewed sense of the importance of working to overcome it, both personally and politically. Highly recommended.

Review by Jonathan Rutherford

The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men by Robert Jenson is available at NIBS for $25. Copies can be posted out (inc mail charge) on request – contact us here.

 

Left Q/A: What does Left & Right when cooperation is required to fix the planet

Steb fisher poster.jpg

We are facing a fundamental change in the way we need to see the world as humans. Up till about 100 years ago the planet was relatively empty of humans and competitive systems of politics and economics were an effective, if at times wasteful, way to colonise all parts of the planet. The planet is now full and so the competition between, left and right, conservative and liberal, communist and capitalist and within all the global markets has run into limits. What are these limits and how do we organise to live within them?

Come hear Steb Fisher, Honorary Research Fellow and Sessional Lecturer in Environment and Sustainability, elaborate on these issues, followed by Q/A.

Admission: $5 Nibs members, $7 non-members

Pre-book tickets at Bella Union here

Left Q/A: Rethinking socialism for sustainability

Thursday 23rd February, 7pm.

Bella Union Bar, 54 Victoria St, Carlton (upstairs, Trades Hall).

Price: $7 (NIBS members), $10 (non-members). Pre-Book here.

Increasing numbers of people agree that capitalism can’t solve our environmental challenges. Many argue that this constitutes a powerful case for reconsider socialism. But, if so, how does socialism need to be rethought and re-envisioned in light of these same challenges? Come listen and interact with two leading thinkers in this space, Hans Baer and Terry Leahy, discuss their ideas.

 

Speakers: Hans Baer (Senior Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Social Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne) & Terry Leahy (lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Newcastle, Australia)

Book Launch – Geoff Mosley – Repaying my debt

Thursday 30th March at 7pm
mosley-cover-photo_newgeoff-1Dr Geoff Mosley – RepayingMy Debt – A Conservationist Tale

Trades Hall, 54 Victoria Street, Carlton, VIC 3053

Repaying My Debt – A Conservationist’s Tale ($30.00)

To be launched by Geoff Goode…………..

In this extensive memoir Geoff Mosley tells of his early
formative years spent in the famed Peak District of the UK. The book gives a good account of what life was like during those turbulent years (1931–50) before moving on to his student days. Trained as a geographer Geoff tells of his early adventures abroad, his time spent completing National Service and then his embarking on further travel to Canada and New Zealand before eventually settling in Australia in 1960.

It was here in Australia that Geoff was to make his mark as a conservationist of both national and international significance. The Australian Conservation Foundation and Geoff’s involvement with it from its earliest days is part of this detailed story. There is also a personal story of a busy life with a growing family and the sacrifices made along the way. A tireless worker still, these pages also outline his message on how to save the Planet from the excesses of today.

RSVP

Date and time: Thursday 30th of March 2017, 7pm @ The International Bookshop, Melbourne

Please RSVP here nibscoordinator@gmail.com or phone 03 9662 3744

New NIBS Opening Hours

Hi all,

We have made some slight changes to our opening hours on Friday and Saturday this year – we are now open from 12-5pm on both days. Opening hours are now:

Tuesday – Thursday: 12pm – 7pm

Friday – Saturday: 12pm – 5pm

Closed: Sunday & Monday

Cya in the shop!

 

 

Left Q/A: The populist right and the anti-globalisation backlash: how should the left respond?

Date: Thursday 2nd Feb, 7pm (doors and bar open at 6:30pm)

Venue: Bella Union Bar,  Level 1, Trades Hall , 54 Victoria Street (corner of Victoria & Lygon Streets), Carlton South (enter via Lygon Street)

Brexit, the election of Trump, and the rising popularity of several other ‘populist’ right figures around the world, calls for much reflection and debate on the left. Come listen to and discuss these crucial issues with panelists from various left traditions.

Panelists include:
Arran Gare (Philosopher, Swinburne Uni, author The Philosophical Foundations of Ecological Civilization),
Sue Bolton (Councillor for Moreland, Socialist Alliance),
Graham Dunkley (Vic Uni, author of ‘One World Mania: A critical guide to free trade, financialisation and over-globalisation‘)
Louise O’Shea (Socialist Alternative)

NIBS Holiday Close-Down

Hi all,

NIBS will be open, as normal, until Friday 23rd December

We will then close down from 24th December to 30th January.

We will reopen on Tuesday 30th January at 12pm.

We wish all our supporters and customers a happy festive season and a new year full of creative and enjoyable activism as we struggle for a better world.

Jonathan

Red Review – December 2016

No 1, December 2016, Marko Beljac. 

Richard Seymour, Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics, (London, Verso, 2016).

The neoliberal era, to no small degree, has been characterised by an assault on democracy. cobyn

Viewed discretely neoliberalism assails public education, public housing, public transportation, public enterprise, even public space be damned, in short anything with the word “public” in front of it.

This is because in whole neoliberalism represents an attack on the public, and an attack on the public requires an attack on democracy. One manifestation of this attack on the public is the hollowing out of formerly mass based political parties, which increasingly function as branded electoral machines selling imagery and symbols to the public as the “masters of mankind,” to use Adam Smith’s phraseology, privately pursue their “vile maxim,” namely “all for ourselves and nothing for other people” what sometimes is called “the profit motive.”

The masters prefer hollowed out political parties for they are more amenable to their control. In the absence of a mass social base electoral machines ultimately are at the beck and easy recall of capital, as that walking and talking brand, Kevin 07, no doubt still is unable to recognise. So we had New Labour, New Democrats and the all the frothy rest.

Strangely, to the well-heeled that is, the public, that ignorant and meddlesome outsider, is increasingly assertive. Through Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Bernie Sanders in the US, Nuit Debout in France, the Indignados and Podemos in Spain, and mush else besides we see the public clamouring for more sway in the way society is governed.

A glittering academic career waits for thee who can write a PhD explaining this strange phenomenon to the masters, whilst outlining a way to assuage the beast without affecting the interests of the overseers too unduly. Less glamorous, but of more human value, would be an analysis of this happening of the people for the left as we continue the struggle to reverse the neoliberal tide.

Richard Seymour’s book, on the ascent of Jeremy Corbyn to the Labour Party leadership, is a welcome and splendid contribution to the defence of the public as it is one based on rich analysis and insightful historical context.

The foregoing observations on the essential character of neoliberalism are of no small relevance as Seymour identifies this public mobilisation, not so much socialism, as the essence of the Corbyn phenomenon in the UK. Crucially, the Corbyn mobilisation does not mean that the left “is suddenly vibrant and full of beans and power.” Rather, “in circumstances, which defy analogy, there is a chance for radical politics to make an utterly unexpected rebirth.”

Seymour notes that Corbyn has been opposed not just by the tabloid Murdoch press but also the left liberal media, and he catalogues with detail the offensive waged against him in The Guardian and The New Statesman. Those of us interested in a rebirth of radical politics in Australia would do well to make note of this.

We tend to associate the rise of Corbyn to a popular tsunami that overwhelmed the constituency party, or branches as we say in the antipodes, but Seymour shows how, and more importantly why, key trade unions provided critical support for Corbyn.

Seymour observes that, “throughout the period of Blairite dominance,” unions “had been sinking into an existential crisis.” This was because their “social depth had declined, the legislative climate has remained abysmal, industrial action has sunk to all-time lows, levels of manufacturing have continued to decline and the private sector is overwhelmingly non-unionised.”

The unions turned to Corbyn because they had to. Although Seymour focuses his analysis on the political wing, and discusses the industrial wing of the labour movement largely in the context of internal Labour Party affairs, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the rebirth of radical politics requires the rebirth of a grassroots union movement dedicated to waging class struggle at the point of production.

So long as the asymmetry of power between labour and capital obtains at the workplace the neoliberal era will endure. A mass based and democratic political party of the left might be necessary but it by no means is sufficient.

Seymour, rightly in my view, tends to deemphasise the radical nature of Corbyn’s policies. To be sure Corbyn is a long standing socialist campaigner, but many of his policies fit the Keynesian mould, an indication of how rightward the political culture has tacked, with some added commitments to nationalisation in limited domains. The programme of Corbyn’s mentor, and predecessor, Tony Benn, known as “the alternative economic strategy,” was more radical. For instance, it included stronger commitments to industrial democracy and workers’ self-management.

But, as Seymour states, Corbyn represents a rebirth. We have yet to relearn to crawl let alone walk once more.

Seymour writes incisively of the problems that Corbyn’s project faces. He notes that the Labour Party remains weak, and still is wedded to a conception of success understood in electoral terms.

But success needs also to be understood in organisational and ideological terms, Seymour relates. One of the key reasons why the left finds it difficult to slay the neoliberal dragon is because it lacks a viable and coherent ideological counter narrative. A rebirth of radical politics must not only mobilise the public at the organisational level but it must also feed into renewed intellectual vigour.

One problem, even though he writes pre-Brexit and Trump,that Seymour discusses is right wing populist appeals to racist and other assorted vulgar sentiment. In the 1964 Smethwick by-election, Seymour writes, the Tories defeated Labour with the slogan, “if you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour.” The Tories of course cared not a jot for Sid Abbott and the travails of his blessed house, but racist and nationalist mobilisations are understood to be potent weapons for the attack on the public and unless this weapon is blunted radical politics will not ripen to maturity.

Another problem, not addressed by Seymour, is social democracy’s requirement for present and future economic growth. This growth imperative needs to be balanced, if not countermanded, by ecological considerations. A tough sell even in the best of times.

Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders demonstrate that a rebirth of radical politics and the rolling back of the frontiers of capitalism requires an insurgency from below, an insurgency from within the left and the labour movement. Such an insurgency is the essential midwife for the rebirth of radical politics.

I cannot but highly recommend Seymour’s book to those interested in bringing something akin to Corbyn’s rebirth of radical politics to Australia.

New Jacobin Out Now: The Party We Need

Description from Jacobin website:

“When we were planning our new issue many of us didn’t take the prospect of a Trump presidency too seriously. The lead that Hillary Clinton had built seemed insurmountable — and, beyond the backing of organized labor and other Democratic Party stalwarts, she had the support of every major sector of American capital.

It’s with some luck then that our fall issue focused on the bigger picture. And at 170 pages, we managed to do just that, with only a bit of unnecessary prognostication.

We wanted to give readers a glimpse of the myriad visions of Jacobin contributors who are looking to the future and working for change. The issue covers the rise and fall of the Socialist Party of America — “the party we lost.” We also explore why we were never able to build a sustainable labor party, as well as what at last building “the party we want” would look like. Finally, we asked a host of activists and scholars what “the party we need” should be organizing for in the here and now.”

Online NIBS Gift Vouchers – Now available

A NIBS gift voucher would make a wonderful present for your progressive (or not so!) friends and family this Christmas.

To order a print off a gift voucher now simply click on the button below and you can choose a printable gift voucher for an amount that suits your needs. The voucher than can then be given as a gift and redeemed at the bookshop in Carlton.

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