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We Need To Talk About Lenin: Lionel Shriver, Identity Politics and the Loss of The Left

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Australia. You’re a shitting disappointment. This is true, of course, on several counts which begin but do not end with settlement. But we hardly have time to scrub all our rotten gut of history has upchucked, do we? Let’s just look hard at a small stain of the last month and try to fix that one before it spreads all over the national rug.

In recent weeks, conditions were good for a decent popular conversation about something quite important: “identity politics”. (If you’re confused about what that means and why it’s important, I’ll explain it to you in a bit. If you already know what it means and would prefer not to have your opinion tested on the matter, I give you the advice I long have to persons offering me Liberal How to Vote cards: jog on, fuck-o.) Well, we didn’t have a decent popular conversation, did we? We chiefly made very loud noises about who was most silent, and then several of us congratulated Caroline Overington for saying nothing much very lightly about hardly anything at all.

In the past few weeks, two prominent persons have made unfavourable review at Australian literary events of “identity politics”—roughly, a way of thinking that supplants the idea of economic class with that of cultural identity, but we’ll get to a fuller and more tedious explanation shortly—and these comments have been much-discussed.

One was popular writer Clementine Ford. At the Feminist Writers Festival, she said, “I think identity politics are important and necessary, but I think that sometimes in our current activist circles we can become a little obsessed with the identity part of things, and not necessarily the progression part of things”. The other was popular novelist Lionel Shriver. In what has now become the subject of international report, this middling speech warned that fiction was diminished by the current mania for identity.

I’ll return to these declarations, their revelation and retorts shortly. But, for the present: it’s quite a popular view that a fixation on identity is ruining everyone’s prosperity, productivity and/or freedom. It spoils everything, apparently! Literature for Shriver. Feminism for Ford. If you believe The Australian, which I rarely fucking do, the very stuff of “civic life” is ruined by our focus on…right, I’ll explain it now. It’s going to take a minute. But, given that so many of you are so fucking absorbed in the matter of decrying or deifying this identity politics thing, maybe you should fucking know what it means. Especially before you tell me that Caroline Overington did not, in fact, take anything more than a thin libertarian dump in the pages of The Australian. God, that was awful.

This will involve a madly abbreviated history of pre identity politics politics. But, if I don’t do it quick and dirty, all you’ll have is Paul Kelly on hand. And I am pretty sure that guy lost his historic marbles in a neoliberal game of Bunny Hole. I mean to say. Kelly says that identity politics arose on the left as the result of the “failure of Soviet communism”. And, look, I won’t get into how that can’t be true at all for reasons of space-time and Trotsky. But permit me to say (1) calling identity politics an exclusively left response to life is rot. (I mean have you seen how “politically correct” Cory Bernardi can be? Don’t call him a racist, if what you mean is Islamophobe. Don’t dare feed him Halal food! Respect his nuanced identity preferences and food intolerances!) and (2) if you want a really great account of the rise of fragmented identity politics, you should read the late Ellen Meiksins Wood, or ask your genuinely leftist friends for a pointer to THE VAST BODY OF WORK from the left about how identity politics came, regrettably, to be. Again, I’m just your quick, dirty guide.

Okay. Here’s my brief, shitty summary of the rise of identity politics; that thing, expressed as trigger warnings, “calling out prejudice online”, conspicuous compassion and corrections to language, seen either as a way to (a) diminish Robust Debate or (b) ennoble the hitherto oppressed.

And if you’re getting impatient with me or are eager to Call Me Out Online early, here’s a spoiler: I don’t think identity politics can achieve either of these things.

You’ve heard the phrase “the bosses and the workers”, right? From the mid-19th century until about 40 years ago, most western people with a political consciousness, whether left or right, saw this as the primary social distinction. One either earned profit or was in the direct or indirect work of amassing profit for others. If you were a person of the right, you thought that this was the natural, or at least the desirable, order of things. If you were a person of the left, you thought that it was neither.

The left, once entirely in the business of ending the distinction between boss and worker, now turned its attention to upturning other power relationships: homophobia racism, sexism etc.

With the emergence of universal suffrage, medical and criminal bureaucracies, colonisation (and its unpleasant descendants, globalisation and financialisation) and heaps of other complexes, “the bosses and the workers” no longer sufficed to reflect what had become very evident identity differences between persons in the west. Capitalism—that system of organisation that demands a boss and worker relationship—was now seen as less than a totalising force.

The left, once entirely in the business of ending the distinction between boss and worker, now turned its attention to upturning other power relationships: homophobia racism, sexism etc. Capitalism was seen not as the defining or sustaining force for such cultural and social inequality, but just another thing to whine about. Just another thing with which, to use the current popular language, oppression would “intersect”. This was due in part to the post-war prosperity large numbers of people in the west enjoyed. For a time, capitalism had been tamed and—if you’re under 30, you won’t BELIEVE it—many people could afford an education, a child and a home.

Of course, the western world had not been perfected in this boom time, and persons of hitherto marginalised categories were entirely justified in demanding their name card at the civic buffet. Why aren’t there more people of colour at university? Why can’t a woman be a parliamentarian? Why must a homosexual person have their pleasure codified and punished?

These are not small things. No siree, Babs. If you go about pretending that it’s just some fucking coincidence that most of those privileged of power owe it all to hard work and talent and nothing to the advantages of their historically esteemed identity category, you’re delusional and/or contracted by Rupert Murdoch to hold such stupid beliefs. And, before you Call Me Out Online, yes, I have checked my privilege. I know that I am only able to write this palaver to a modest audience because of my identity category. Clearly, talent, and, indeed, the skill of journalistic brevity didn’t get me here. Being white had a lot to do with it.

So, while it is in my view and that of anyone with a functional human brain that marginalised persons had not just the right but the ethical obligation to claim their equality within a society that now legally promised it, some shit happened. The so -called laissez-faire western economic policies of the early 1970s declared that capitalism should just be left to its own devices. I am not going to get into how this form of shit thinking is not actually, as it claims, a hands-off approach to capitalism, but one that demands very particular intervention by the state. And I am not even going to talk about how it requires the poverty of so-called “developing” nations. Because you’re already bored as shit. But, for those one of you still reading, this is what happened: while we weren’t looking and busily (as we ought to have been during a nice relaxing interlude) exploring our selfhood and identity categories, capitalism turned nasty again.

So. We held on to the (intoxicating) habit of exploring our identity categories—and these became even more important to many of us as national distinctions fell away—and we forgot about that whole bosses-and-workers thing.

Let’s fast forward (god, please, Helen) to 2008 when the premier beneficiaries of “laissez-faire” economics demanded a big welfare cheque and actual millions of people in the west found themselves homeless—and we should say hello to The Australian’s least favourite economist here, Wayne Swan, who saved us from the aftershock of this growth-quake by applying the opposite of laissez-faire principles. He gave low-income earners some money to spend. You know. Guy got an award from a prestigious centrist banking magazine and everything, but let’s call him a left-wing rat bag for saving Australian capitalism, shall we?

Sexism causes poverty. This is utter identity politics. This is as weird, and almost the same, as saying that a bad attitude causes poverty.

Anyhow. What we saw happening after 2008 is many people in the west—but not in still comfy Australia—return to the language of the workers and the bosses. Record numbers of people attended Bernie Sanders rallies to hear a cranky old avowed socialist put the economy at the top of his agenda. Hundreds of thousands of young people joined UK Labour to vote for a cranky old avowed socialist, Jeremy Corbyn.

Forget that these guys are imperfect; which is, I guess, to say suspend your identity politics. Instead, think about how stark economic agenda now appeal to young people. Think about how Bernie Sanders answers cries of “Bernie” with “It’s not about Bernie!” Think about how there is a return among a diverse group of newly impoverished young westerners to the ides that capitalism is a totalising system, even as some of us remain wed to the old ideas that identity, and not class, is the truly central thing. Now, these young people don’t believe that capitalism’s defeat or mediation will lead to the total end of homophobia, racism etc. But they do believe that capitalism touches us all in a way that these other complexes do not. This is called solidarity. Which is what the fragmentation and pick-n-mix priorities of identity politics—what some people call intersectionality—makes impossible.

Now, there are still plenty of people who think that complexes like sexism and racism are just as forceful as capitalism in creating inequality. One of them is, or appears to be, Hillary Clinton. Both she and her husband play a good game of post-crash identity politics and they say things like “sexism causes poverty”. And they, and others like them, say that women’s increased participation in the labour force will be good for the economy. As though there are any fucking decent jobs remaining.

Sexism causes poverty. This is utter identity politics. For mine, and for a re-emerging group of people, this is as weird, and almost the same, as saying that a bad attitude causes poverty, which is what folks in The Australian are wont to. There is one thing that causes poverty, and that’s capitalism. I mean to say. Even the merest look at the machinery of capitalism will reveal its dependence on dearth. You don’t have the growth which The Australian keeps telling me is “natural” without the diminution of large groups of people—whatever identity category they happen to have at any point in history. There is no profit without poverty, unemployment and unpaid domestic labour. That’s just the way the thing works. And we could get into a way to civilise it, but shit, no one is reading. Go and get yourself some Keynes. I can’t be expected to cover everything, especially as I am (a) not that bright and (b) haven’t even got to Tuesday of last week yet.

So what we have now on both “left” and right is a group of people who think, basically, that capitalism is fine, capable of delivering prosperity, education, health etc. to all. Even people who say that wealth inequality is a problem don’t really think that capitalism is responsible for this. Poverty is just another unfortunate identity category that may intersect with others.

On the matter of “free speech”, Caroline Overington writes “I can’t be silent”. But fuck, I wish she would.

This is the thinking that brief period of post-war prosperity gave us. On the right, a la Overington and Shriver, the thinking goes that everyone has legal opportunity now so if you want, for example, to write great literature you shouldn’t let anything as “ridiculous as self-pity stand in your mighty way”. Why aren’t indigenous Australians writing books? Not because of their staggeringly high illiteracy rates which are, in any case, the result, according to The Australian, of morally corrupt fathers who just can’t get their shit together. But because they haven’t learned the art of genteel restraint and daily self affirmation in a tasteful mirror, such as Overington has. Who only got her job through hard work and natural talent.

(And also by being the journalist who exposed Norma Khouri, an author who fabricated details of an Islamic honour killing in order to sell books. It’s great that Overington performed that investigation. It’s also pretty funny that she is currently arguing with a Muslim woman about how little her authentic Muslim woman’s voice matters, when the inauthenticity of Khouri’s Muslim woman voice clearly mattered a lot.)

So, that’s what we have on the right: a bunch of people who think Those Less Fortunate should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, all the while ignoring the very 101 fact that the economic principles for which they so ardently advocate demand the amputation of bootstraps in some identity groups at birth, if not before.

But what we have on the now maturing “left”, a la Ford and Yassmin Abdel-Magied who wrote the most notable response to Shriver, is a commitment to identity politics. It’s pretty interesting that Ford, a writer who has consistently employed her gender identity category and experience of online harassment as the foundation for her thought, has newly disavowed identity politics—an inconsistency noted by the impressive Nayuka Gorrie in the one outstanding piece I have read on the entire identity politics “debate”.

Twerkers of the world. I’m not telling you to wear a sombrero. Frankly, it’s racist and you’d look like a dill.

Of course, Ford is entitled to change her views. If she has recently elected to detach herself from a personally based politics and describe the mechanics of a system with scant reference to her own experiences, I eagerly await this evolution. I would be very happy to read a popular feminist or leftist writer informed less by emotional storytelling and references to that reviled identity category “white men” and more to social structures. Bring it on. But, I understand that this politics, which has just begun to recede, remains very popular and I do understand that writing about one’s own encounters with terrible things is tempting.

And this is the temptation to which Abdel-Magied acceded. While I utterly understand the anger that she felt while listening to the intellectually unremarkable Shriver complain that she was being “silenced”—silenced for a fee and to a packed auditorium—I find Abdel-Magied’s sentiment impossible to describe as “left”.

While, it is certainly good to make a noise while some very well-paid person is claiming persecuted innocence, it is not, as Overington and many others see it, “left”. It has certainly been a tactic of the left. It is not, however, the founding principle of leftism.

It’s a good intention, obviously. And I think for Overington to charge Abdel-Magied, a twenty-something brown chick who I reckon might weigh about 45 kgs in a wet hijab, with “censorship” and responsible for a nation-wide “chill” that will detonate all that is noble about art etc. is bullshit. I am gobsmacked by the positive reception that greeted this twaddle.

On the matter of “free speech”, Caroline Overington writes “I can’t be silent,”. But fuck, I wish she would.

This is not, of course, to advocate for the mandatory silence of the right’s intellectually inert. I am not a brick from the monolithic “left” Overington describes come to shatter her fine concentration. I am a different kind of brick from a different kind of left. The kind a growing number of people in the west have begun once more to consult—perhaps a movement that has inspired Ford to make her first public attempts at critiquing identity politics; a movement, or movements, that focuses on fragmentation at the expense of solidarity. Let me assure Caroline and her marginalised class that they will not be deprived of—what was it?—the “cornerstone of liberty” by me.

Even if I felt morally entitled to demand Overington’s silence, which I do not, her freedom to provide two-bit exegeses of the worst eighteenth century thinkers in a vanity newspaper is assured. This newspaper, that, despite its slim and still-dieting readership, not only does not discourage but demands declaration like “I will not be silent on the matter of free speech” from its writers. Nearly all of them expert in adopting the very same posture of persecuted innocence—“Stop silencing me!”—of which they accuse “the left”.

I mean. To say. If you want to write your mighty work of right wing ideology, stop whining that small brown women are trying to silence you and do it.

No. However much I crave Caroline Overington’s silence, I’m not demanding nor do I have the power to demand it. But that’s the point, innit? Just as I, a broke-ass writer who has extinguished all hope of modest wealth or influence after 20 years of publicly telling the right’s intellectually inert to get fucked, I am fairly powerless. I am as powerless to jam the right wing media apparatus as I am to convince Abdel-Magied that the reason she was not asked to deliver that keynote address was not loathing for her identity category alone.

Of course, that racism plays a part. But, the totalising unity of the capitalism the “left” has forgotten to be angry about is there, too. And not just as an intersection, but as a foundation whose form and expression adapts over time. Today it’s a return, by institutions like The Australian, to Enlightenment principles—and I have been guilty of upholding such bollocks myself—which treat the world as a high school debate club where all one needs to do is speak reasonably, to let others speak in turn. But, capitalism also finds its expression in identity politics itself.

Now, whatever I say about the very fragmented and destructive nature of identity politics and however you feel that it is your moral duty to “call out” people wearing sombreros, the fact is, the strategy is in trouble. It’s in so much trouble, people who have built careers out of its elaboration are doubting it. And it’s in trouble because frankly, right wing writers like Overington—and, please, don’t tell me she’s from the centre when she is plainly a classical liberal to her core—or Shriver unintentionally make a bit of a point when they say that the “left” has paralysed itself with its zeal for correct language, appropriate costume party attire etc. Because it has.

And this is not to say for a moment that I think you should desist in attempting to understand the experience of all identity categories in the world—even though such a task is actually impossible. But, it is to say that you can’t wish a diverse, flexible and respectful world into existence without considering that there is a totalising, inflexible and passionless basis first to overcome.

To eschew the fragmentation of identity politics and to build a true “left”—not the thing that Overington or even many of her critics describe—doesn’t mean becoming a monolith, and thereby acceding to the “neutral” identity that people like Overington believe exists. It just means acknowledging that there is a monolith, which is not going to be smashed or even civilised unless you all acknowledge its existence together.

Twerkers of the world. I’m not telling you to wear a sombrero. Frankly, it’s racist and you’d look like a dill. But, I am suggesting that you temporarily lose interest in Shriver’s “right” to a hat. Let her have her unremarkable “silence” at a well-attended cultural event. Let us have that world we were promised but are yet to win.

58 responses to “We Need To Talk About Lenin: Lionel Shriver, Identity Politics and the Loss of The Left

  1. Razer again, pontificating on identity politics. I am drawn to Helen’s flaring and consuming ardour, intrigued by what’s got her goat this time.

    “There is one thing that causes poverty, and that’s capitalism.”

    The global governance experiment between 1917 and 1989 demonstrated conclusively that poverty is most effectively and substantively decreased by predominantly capitalist societies. Many tried to escape Eastern Europe. Escapees to the East were limited mainly to a few deluded, Cambridge educated dilettantes unhappy with intellectual stuffiness in England.

    Margaret Thatcher demonstrated that stagnating societies can deliver relative wealth and prosperity quickly if socialized forms of corporate governance were replaced with private incentives.

    Identity politics is an interesting phenomenon, in that its proselytizers seem intent on explaining their circumstances by reference to their origins rather than their preferred outcomes. A bit like trying to advance using a rear view mirror. A scion of a successful, echt white family will naturally have many advantages in life. Nouveau arrivals impede comparable attainment if consumed by internal analysis. Life wasn’t mean to be easy, as a 1970s PM liked to remind his detractors, but nothing will improve while stuck in navel gazing mode.

    ” … just another thing to whine about.” Razer got that right. Her articles are often informative insights to the world of arcane social analysis, with occasional entertaining flashes of intemperate Tourette’s, but without illuminating pathways to a better future. Writing “palaver” from an outer suburb for small audiences, instead of making more money by alternate means, is no way to attain the lifestyle she seems to crave. I look forward to the next installment.

    1. The world hasn’t seen communism. It has seen dictators that use it is a platform to setup and maintain their oppressive regimes. I think communism can only scale up to the size of a P&C committee, and even then it gets a bit dodgy.

    2. Goodness, Andrew! You’re very insightful. Are you a psychiatrist, to know my true desire, even unacknowledged by me, so well, or just a creepy high school English teacher in the habit of getting a little too close to his students?
      Ew. Seriously. Careful with the “here’s the lifestyle you really crave” pronouncements. And the particular references to my life and how I live it. It’s just a bit off, mate. Keep the negging and the Eye in the Sky act for the over-40s singles bars. It doesn’t work so well in text.
      As for your IMF approved appraisal of capitalism’s supply side victories. You can take that view. Many don’t. Even Krugman, a person absolutely committed and central to the Clinton program of laissez-faire, is now disowning it. Stiglitz. Piketty. Blyth. I mean, shit. Even Lagarde has publicly denounced the Chicago and Austrian schools (that she keeps enacting their policies notwithstanding).
      Stiglitz in particular is very good, as a former World Bank chief, in questioning not only the data collection on global poverty (China is conveniently used to endorse the policies of an institution from which it has never benefited) but the ethics of permitting the WB to write its own report card.
      We’ll see though, won’t we. You can keep saying that we have Never Had It Better. The people of the Appalachian ghetto don’t seem to agree. The north of England isn’t with you. An entire generation of Australians who came into maturity post-crash (or was 2008 just a market correction?) and have no hope of home ownership might find a problem. We can argue data and, of course, I would not make such pronouncements if I had not figures and merely “suspicions” that the middle class is disappearing. But. Time will tell. Good luck with the capitalism advances everywhere in victory propaganda.

      1. Clearly Andrew regrets the deal he made with the young Labor Party over that tariff bill which enabled the Harvester Decision. Or does he see that as a shiny example of capitalism lifting people out of poverty? Doesn’t really gel though with his praise of Margaret Thatcher. Of course Deakin was always a bit keen on identity politics himself – very enthusiastic about White Australia.

      2. Thanks for your reply.

        Apologies for the gratuitous remarks about your material circumstances and ambitions. I was riffing irresponsibly off perceived hints in some of your earlier articles. I stand corrected.

        My “IMF approved appraisal of capitalism’s supply side victories” is, as you say, a view I can take. Ditto yours, obviously. My interest is the etiology of those who think alternative economic models are worth considering, given the substantive evidence to the contrary over the last century. And while no one these days wants to endorse simplistic end-of-history theories Fukuyama-style, nor excuse the misery of 1930’s deprivation explored in novels like Grapes of Wrath, or contemporary impoverishment such as the so called Appalachian “big white” ghetto that you reference, the economic difficulties of current times seem to derive in part from ill thought through government interventions. The events of 2008 (for which some banks should have been prosecuted) would not have occurred so substantively if the Clinton administration had not encouraged the FannieMacs to extend housing loans to those unable to afford them, which inflated the housing bubble and provided global leverage opportunities that investment banks, supported by irresponsible rating agencies, exploited greedily. Similarly, overspending and budget irresponsibility by social democracies in Europe and Japan over the last decade or two have cramped natural growth, with central banks in Europe and Japan trying to force-feed growth through private investment by creating negative interest rates for government bonds, with perverse results such as increased private savings and an investment strike, and (in Japan’s case) costly currency appreciation as real interest rates increased, something the BoJ a few days ago tried to correct by signaling an end to negative bond returns. These interventionist policies have created what many think is an asset bubble, which, combined with excessive government debt, may lead to a very substantial correctionary crisis, thereby giving the non-capitalist true believers further ammunition for more costly dirigisme. Simplistic remedies for complex problems will likely make things worse.

        Your comments about Stiglitz, Piketty et al are interesting, in that Stiglitz did much to remedy naive belief in Smith’s invisible hand by stressing the importance of information asymmetries, but it is doubtful his proposals for greater government intervention would work, give the costs of such intervention, and the impediments to information transfer they often cause. Piketty’s work on income distribution has been substantially contested. Similarly, the Australian trend towards lower proportionate home ownership is driven significantly by over-regulated land control and release policies by the state governments, which have bid up unnecessarily the price of existing housing stock, and need to be corrected to allow new entrants affordable entry. That allowed, I doubt the middle class is going anywhere in a hurry.

        Thanks for the tips about over 40s singles bars. Being 24, I have learnt from teenage days in the gym to be wary of the old one two from aged grinners appearing in the middle distance, and avoid that milieu. You should do the same.

        But back to the starting point: more strength to Lionel Shriver’s rebuttals of diversionary and fruitless identity politics.

        1. Yes! Of course! It was state intervention. There are no contradictions internal to capitalism and brokers were impelled not by the natural movement of the market but by government decree to hand out NINJA loans.
          Get off the prawns, son. And, you know, get off articles that bear my byline. Unless, of course, you tale a little pleasure in spruiking your Rational Man demand-side shtick, which I suspect (I know) that you do.
          FWIW, you should, as a fan of the rentier, uphold the “right” of your peers to do their identity politics. This is, as I said, an expression of capitalism. And for as long as a left is so bad that piddling arguments like Shriver’s (and, come on. If you think, as you appear to, that hers was some sort of bold intellectual statement and not a cut-and-paste of the sort of rot one can read on the worst journals of sceptics, then your capacity for thought is not so vast as your use of grown up media words like “substantive” would provoke some to believe) appear “substantive”, your precious capitalism is safe in its luxury bed of ideology. You should be thanking these kids, not deriding them.

          1. Ouch. Hotter than a flaming radiator. I’ll end comments on the Razer byline, & notch up an example of the closing of the journalist mind.

    1. Hi, Peter. Unfortunately, not everything can be written for everyone all of the time. It’s not that you are from a different planet. It’s just that you do not happen to be interested in contemporary left politics. Which is fine.
      I do understand that it could be seen as “elite” addressing only a small audience of people interested in political discussion that happens at book festivals. And it IS completely elite, of course. But there has been a lot written about this stuff and I knew there was a significant, but not huge, audience for it.
      I’m just trying to keep a record of what is going on in so-called “progressive” politics at Australian cultural festivals. I totally get that some people are not going to be interested in this, but I know that some people are interested enough that it’s worth writing about and placing it in a broader historical context.
      Just think of it like the gardening column I write in another publication! It’s not actually an insult to those not interested in fertilising their roses to write about this practice! Different strokes, and all that!

      1. Helen, just because Peter couldnt make sense of what you said doesn’t mean that he’s not “interested in contemporary left politics”. I’m very interested in identity politics and many of the other socio-political things you write about, and I do (generally) read you all the way to the end, but by god it’s hard work sometimes.

        And to Peter: get yourself a cup of tea, turn off other distractions, and read it again slowly. Or maybe a handful of uppers and read it out very loud very fast. One or the other.

  2. In short, tl;dr. Waded through the absurd description of a generation so affluent that they can waste their time studying “Post-modern cis-gendered lesbian Progressive pottery tactics in community organizing” while snapping $600 IPhone selfies from the latest Soros funded grass roots protest as “impoverished.” Wheezed along until she came to praise Yassmin Abdel-Magied, the authoress (just to piss them off) who has written the worst article *evah*. Had to give it up at that point, because, except for her recognition that there’s damn little difference between Left and Right (in any country), her lack of a grip on reality was giving me flashbacks to Pravda coverage of Western Decadence.
    I’m sure she’ll find work at RT or Al-Jazeera, but only as a fiction writer.

    1. Sean. I appreciate that reviewing things you haven’t read is now a widespread practice and far be it from me to deny you this pleasure. But, I did read what I have written and am able to tell you that I didn’t “praise” Yassmin at all. I guess if you think that there are just two sides to an argument, that anything short of calling her an Uppity Little Miss is praise. So, what did you do? Did you Crt+F for the phrase “terrible Muslims ruining our culture” and when you found it wasn’t there, just supposed that I was another bleeding heart?
      Not that I think you’ll read or understand anything here, because you made up your mind yonks ago about What is Right and What is Wrong and will permit no argument in between. But, the mania for identity in the west started a long time ago. We can locate this to May ’68, really. Before both you, probably, and I were born. This moment is called the “cultural turn”. You can look it up. I am confident that you won’t.
      As I explained in the article you didn’t read but to which you were sufficiently angered by to dismiss, the present generation is left with this post-Marxist, post-material identity politics from a period that everyone but you acknowledges was a boom, now over.
      You can say all you want that young people have never had it so good. But figures on wage stagnation, homelessness, debt and other measures do not support your argument. We are in a time of economic downturn. We have been since, oh, what was it, 2008. Do you remember anything special about that year?
      If it pleases you to make the same jokes I remember hearing in the 1980s (“land rights for gay wales” was a popular t-shirt at the time) and dismiss a movement like Occupy, which led to the rise of Bernie Sanders and has actually little to do with identity politics, fine. But, the change is coming anyhow, mate. The world is on fucking fire. It’s cute that you mistake this blaze for light from an iPhone screen.

      1. Well said. All of this argy bargy is mere persiflage. Lots of people are rereading Marx post 2008. Clearly modern capitalism is embedded much further in the State now than in the 1850s, but a lot of his arguments are still relevant. Anyone who thinks capitalism can and will solve poverty doesn’t understand capitalism.

  3. I too have always thought labeling Paul Kelly a “journalist”
    was a bemusing instance of identity misaffixed.

    I’m not even sure he’s able to convincingly get into the head of fictional one.

  4. First:
    If you’ll allow a 75-year-old (white) male to be just a little in love with you, I would be ever grateful.
    Second:
    Every member of the Left should read your dissection of the right-wing cant which prevails.
    For my part I will be copying it and passing it around.:
    Third:
    Thank you for introducing me to Noyuku Gorrie. She, liker you, is a journalistic gem.

    James Gillard

    1. JG. I easily absorb all plainly declared love.
      Hey. Nayuka Gorrie is pretty great, isn’t she? To my shame, I hadn’t read her until last week. I think I’ve now viewed her every published piece and I think she’s a top grump. With the advantage of youth. SO cranky and so bright.

  5. Thanks Helen. I always come away from your columns with my default settings challenged. I love your style, your content, your perspectives: you make me laugh, frown and think differently. (This also includes your gardening columns.) Keep up the awesome work – I’m not aware of anyone else who writes similarly (they may be out there but I haven’t come across them).

    1. My comrade Yasmin Nair writes a lot of similar stuff. And she’s much more learned than me. Ditto for Guy Rundle . (Although we disagree amiably about a lot.) But you would probably love Zizek. Read him.

  6. Most of the wittering on the left and right is for the sake of anger-endorphin rushes. You are right. There is very little substantive argument and absolutely no ideas for change. I think the right listens to the left and the ones who read books try to find the basis for their thinking. The trail seems to lead back to Marx if you give the left the credit of innovative thought. But few on the left have actually read Marx. The real basis is ephemeral memories of thinking you could attribute to Christ, as some thinkers on the right correctly point out. The left is shit. They haven’t had a constructive idea in years. You are always going to be furious with them. Capitalism has indeed subsumed them.
    You are right. Capitalism causes poverty. Yes, it can eleviate poverty. But it produces it in bulk and does so with the compliance of the state; the state without which capitalism is impossible. If you are capitalist, you must remember and elviate the poverty that capitalism causes. And why not? Capitalism and the state are almost one, yin and yang. Why can’t we just say so. Capitalism is organic, not abstract. It is alterable and obviously plastic. It can be made into anything we want.
    Why isn’t it?

    Because we expect Capitalism and the State to be a machine that produces our joy in life, without our inherent participation. There is no such system. But every model of civil organisation promises exactly that. I think identity politics is another fit of a disatisfaction with a system that has promised purity without engagement, and people are again going to bang things about and make a noise.

    Nothing will change. People do not make a commitment to thinking of solutions. They complain.

  7. In short what I mean is that; we are ready to accept the massive changes we must engage by iphones and the internet, but we lack the ability to devise a new system for living. In general we are in capable of even starting the conversation. We can certainly point out the various humiliations we place on people who are different from us, but we can not address poverty as an obvious and chronic effect of the system we have chosen. We can fight so a gay couple can marry if they can support each other. The government will champion this as its achievement. Its really just house cleaning. But we can not address issues of drugs and education that drive people down and make the situtions of marginal people worse.

    Capitalism produces wealth and poverty.
    Capital is impossible without the state.
    State is the custodian of the capitalist system.
    Therefore it is incumbent on the state to eleviate poverty, persistently and purposefully.
    The actions of the state are directed by the voters ( yes they fucking well are )
    The voters are therefore responsible for the eleviation of poverty.
    Poverty in capitalists society is a failure of each citizen, and an indication of their indifference to suffering.

    1. I like “eleviate” – a portmanteau word meaning to raise up and diminish simultaneously, kind of like going to heaven. But “alleviate” probably works better here.

    2. “The actions of the state are directed by the voters ( yes they fucking well are )”

      ahahah, lol, lmao, and might i add: rofl. i don’t recall being asked if we should continue being capitalist. do you just imagine the whole nation will just rise up, nothing to lose but their chains and all that? were you born yesterday?

  8. I’m 80 next birthday. My parents were adolescents/ young adults when the depression occurred and its impact on how they lived their lives and raised me was enormous. One thing they learned from these experiences (and taught me) was ” the boss is always a bastard and can never be trusted”.
    I think it’s still true.

  9. Always interesting, but goodness me Helen, you could use a competent editor. Although, one has to say, the long complex argumentative style (not to mention your fine use of intensifiers) fits so well into the oeuvre of the left.

    You’re completely correct to say (I think) that class solidarity comes first. Fragmented identity politics tends to lead nowhere and, by it’s very nature, holds itself up to ridicule and the faux outrage of the right.

    (Be careful though – Caroline may come and slap your face).

  10. Having read Shriver’s speech, I was surprised by how rubbish & dull it actually was. Her main thesis seemed to be – student unions in some places around the world are a little batshit crazy (duh!) and that some critics use the politics of identity in their critiques (double duh!).
    Pretty bland stuff really. And failed to address one of the core ideas of the term ‘cultural appropriation’; that their aren’t enough non-whitey voices, and if the only non-whitey representations and cultural artifacts we receive are produced by whitey’s then that is problematic. Can I get a triple duh?

    I’ve always thought property is theft, I am now starting to think that maybe identity is too.

    Nice writing Helen, ramble on.

  11. I first heard you and heard about you on the conversation hour on ABC, and i thought you had some interesting things to say so now i read you in this publication,and this piece was pretty good except you tend to take bloody ages getting to the point sometimes,but hey no one is perfect so i will soldier on trying to decipher your various ramblings which sometimes feels like getting stuck in a labyrinth and after a while sheer panic sets in until finally you see sunlight and decide not to kill yourself after all.

    1. You are not obliged to read me. Just as I am not obliged to explain the historical emergence of a way of doing “politics” in the 500 word piece that might better serve your needs. Some things, especially things about which there is much debate, need loads of words to explain them. It could be that this is sometimes just the case, and not the fault of the particular writer making it.
      But. Heck. Confusing the character of a person for the thing that they are writing is very identity politics.

  12. Either you’re writing is getting better or it’s breaking through some cells. I waded in looking for reason to shake my fist at the screen and came out agreeing with you. My initial response to Yassmin Abdel-Magied was to accept her critics before the pile-on made me go back and re-read it, re- interpreting it as an angry emotional response to Lionel, not a piece about what fiction writers can and can’t write. I stopped going to writers festivals because of the high risk of illusions being shattered when the author opens their mouth, Lionel won’t be the last in that regard.

    Identity politics seems like a difficult business since change either requires positive discrimination or selling ethnocultural empathy which is hard to do if you’re on the outside and want to write anything other than misery lit or inspirational memoir., Right or left you’re going to get pigeonholed as a cultural warrior if you try and claim exclusivity. It was probably not her intention, but it certainly helps Abdel-Magied’s profile if not the actual cause of disenfranchised writers, and that’s not a bad thing.

  13. Love your stuff, Helen, and rants about the Left and Right are not only good fun but important. But, Lionel Shriver is a NOVELIST, not a political scientist or ‘commentator’ and what she was talking about – for those who haven’t read her speech, which is probably just about everyone – was the job of being a fiction writer and how part of that job involves inventing characters. And that inventing characters who are not oneself is an integral part of LITERATURE. And she was defending the importance of that. She was not saying she has been ‘silenced’. In fact she was saying the opposite – that she refuses to be silenced.
    PS haven’t read the Overington piece and now won’t bother.

    1. This is an important point, thank you! She’s a writer talking at a writing thing.

      This article walks a wavy and tricky line. I think the people most likely to get angry about it hopefully got lost along the way. As is their want often.

    2. Yes. But the whole thing, very widely covered in world press, is now a proxy for political argument. On both sides.
      Which is why I wrote about it. Kind of the whole point. I.e.: if you think that what happens at a cultural event (an identity event) is likely to impact the social, you’re wrong. Did you not see my last line?

  14. Thanks Helen, Great stuff – I’ve dutifully noted Zizek, Jasmin Nairs, and Richard Seymour’s names – perhaps I could take James Gillard off your hand (78, though)
    Robyn O’Bryan

  15. Thank you, Helen. I always find your essays thought-provoking. I’d just like to make a few comments, as I struggle with the idea of strictly a class analysis where I find myself as a woman of colour asking, where do people like me fit in? When might people of colour share in rewards and opportunities, along with the burdens? I agree that the dominance of individual stories as supposed activism has the effect of narcissism as they may say nothing about broader structure and inequality. The dominance of ‘identity’ can also become atomising and individualising, rather than promoting collective action and solidarity. However, stories about social processes can give insights into ‘structure’ and ‘systems’ that are only as ‘real’ as the people who create them through social interaction and processes. If we gain an understanding of how microsocial processes operate as the daily practices in workplaces, the community and so on, we may better understand the persistence of various forms of inequality. How are resources, rewards and opportunities distributed? Who decides? For example, we have had equal opportunity laws and policies for over thirty years now, and we continue to wonder why the same structural and systemic inequalities persist. (Perhaps capitalism is the reason, but perhaps any system of distribution can have the same inequities.)

    Iris Marion Young (1990) wrote in JUSTICE AND THE POLITICS OF DIFFERENCE about the difference between rhetorical consciousness and practical consciousness. The former is about people’s ability to recite the policies about workplace fairness and justice. But their practice that is embedded in ‘structure’ tends to replicate unexamined and perhaps unconscious assumptions about ‘others’ (insert identities). Young argued that we need to examine situated interactions (formal and informal) to better appreciate how EEO is subverted. The other writer whose work attends to both identity (recognition) and distributive justice is Nancy Fraser (1997) JUSTICE INTERRUPTUS. I really like how she proposes a way by which social policies can attend to both recognition and redistribution by rejecting what she calls affirmative policies and choosing transformative policies. She argues that affirmative policies that are traditionally the choice of policy makers tend to treat identities as either ‘sameness’ or essentialising of difference, and distribution which is targeted to particular groups then generates claims of ‘special treatment’ and resentment. She proposes transformational approaches that examine how the boundaries are created between so-called normal and marginal identities, with consequences for distributive justice. She proposes multiculturalism as a transformational approach to identities with socialism to attend to distributive justice.

    Anyway, sorry for going on at length. I hope I’ve not misunderstood your essay.

    Thank you.

    1. Hey, HDC. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
      I am not advocating for a “strictly class analysis” (I’m using quotation marks here not to be a dick, but just to address your question very directly) and, in any case, I think such a thing would be impossible. The world and the people in it are very complex and I could not actually, and would not ethically, prescribe a single approach.
      What I am suggesting (and this is not exactly an extreme or original claim) is that the matter of economic class, despite the best efforts of 99 percenters, has been all but eclipsed in what passes now as left discussion.
      While I utterly understand YAM’s response to Shriver (and again, I want to say to those defending Shriver as some sort of intellectual beacon: FFS, anyone can make fun of a handful of US college students. That many US college students, especially those at state institutions and not at posh places like Oberlin, are protesting student loans never seems to get any attention. But, you know, some rich kid talks about sushi and, bang, the front page) and I don’t think she did it to elevate herself, I want to ask: why is this so important? Yes, I know that racism is very real and yes, the privilege that white people conceal from themselves and misunderstand as talent is annoying as heck. But, I do wonder how, and why, these moments play out.
      First, a whole bunch of people, on both sides of this Shriver thing, feel like they have done something. It is supposed to be this big moment of consciousness raising. I have spoken privately with people and read all the guff, and I am sort of amazed by the importance people attribute to this moment. Some people think it’s a blow for free speech and others think it’s a blow against white supremacy. I see it as an argument that happened at a book festival. And any attempt to connect this moment to questions bigger than “where do you stand on social media?” seem underdone.
      So, where were all these fans of free speech when metadata retention laws passed? I mean, some of these journalists finally wrote about one of the biggest impositions on our freedom when they found it affected them, but otherwise, some of the people now advocating very publicly for Shriver’s right to speak were fucking NOWHERE when the government passed law to keep a record of everywhere I’ve been at all times. And, where are all these intersectional feminists when it comes to the NT intervention? I am not just pulling that ongoing brutality out of my arse, by the way. I consider it to be The Moral Question For Our Time, I really do. Many black people have just about every aspect of their lives controlled in the NT and this matter just remains unquestioned and undisturbed. How does it happen? How did particular ABC broadcasters not lose their jobs over the reporting that permitted this thing to happen across the past ten years?
      And, how did we come, when addressing racism, to focus almost exclusively on cultural and public representation? The exception here, of course, is asylum seekers. But even here, I see the terms of the debate being ordained by a very particular orthodoxy. We do say: let them come. And, I agree, yes we should. But what we no longer say is: let them stay. I.e. stay in their countries of origin as we all would prefer to, given the option. So, unlike Vietnam War activism, we no longer say “let’s not go to war”. And we haven’t done that for 14 years, after the anti Iraq war protests. It’s like now we accept that there is just going to be a war and our nation will be involved in it and so, heck, we may as well just beat ourselves up for being individually racist and say “compassion” a lot and hope that if we talk like Christians, that things will get better.
      Like, it’s at the point where you are seen as insensitive when you actually want to say “no more war” or “no more lopsided trade”. You just are supposed to deal with what your neighboruhood, or whatever, and our involvement in this war is simply not a question. The only question is “where do you stand on asylum seekers?” The question becomes about me and whether I would have an asylum seeker in my home, for example. And it is here about individual morals, whether of me (or you or anyone) or of politicians, and not about broader approaches to keeping people alive, because the only question is about on-water operations. So “let them come”/”go back to where you came from” is the only conversation in town.
      And people draw a line between cultural representation and lived reality. The thinking sort of goes that if people like YAM (and again, she’s not responsible for any of this) had “A voice” then everything would be dandy. But I look at places where representatives of marginalised identity categories DO have a voice, and there is no better example than the diversity-packed Democratic National Convention, and I then I look at the background of those events. Like, we have Clinton, one of the people in the world most responsible for causing people to flee their home countries, but, it’s okay, because she has a really diverse group of speakers, and she is “anti-bigotry”.
      I am anti-bigotry, too. On a personal level, I want to work with people of varied cultural backgrounds. I find, for selfish reasons, that this enriches me and it is my hope, as a media worker, that my ongoing contact and correspondence with people of colour improves my work and what my industry provides. And I am being candid about this as something that I do both selfishly (we all act selfishly) and in a more humanitarian sense. But I am super wary of “celebrating” “multiculturalism”. I get why people do it. I get why everyday people say, “our country is better when it is diverse”. And, you know, that’s my belief, too. But, for mine, such a view is so dependent on western liberal people wanting to be reflected better. It’s like the Burkini protests. I think so many white people got upset about that because it didn’t show the west back t itself in the way that it preferred. You know, like the “not in my name” style of protest.
      For me, the question is not how nice we are, or how benevolent the west can be. (And I am a cynic so I am never surprised when the west reveals itself in its full brutality. I mean. Does anyone even know anything about “free” France?) It’s like, why the heck can’t we leave other nations alone? But, we intervene and destroy them with trade and with war, and then our argument is that we need to treat the asylum seekers, which we created, better.
      Which of course we do. But, this is just a sticking plaster. It is more than just how nicely we treat asylum seekers, and how much time diverse people have on literary stages. It is, again, a sort of class analysis that is needed here. As you know, the brown people of the world are an underclass. Their labour and their destitution (the international reserve army of the unemployed) is what gives us in the west our wealth. We don’t fix this at literary festivals. Or at the DNC. But, we tell ourselves we do.
      So everyone always says to me in analyses of the type (if they are not saying that I am stupid, or a racist who wants to silence brown women; not that I am complaining, because this is just what you have to deal with if you have any kind of public voice at all) “you can do two things at once”. But, no one is. And I really don’t think it is possible to do the identity and the class thing, or the cultural and the social thing, very well simultaneously at present.
      I wouldn’t never suggest (out of sheer realism) that we simply ignore our identity differences, and the particular privileges that these can confer or deny. I am not advocating for sameness. I am simply pointing out that there is a monolithic sameness to which we must be similarly opposed. Which is not the same thing as saying we should be the same.
      Again, thanks, Heather.

  16. I was actually at Helen Shrivers presentation at the Brisbane Writers festival. I enjoyed her talk immensely and when a small brown lady walked out with her friend I thought she had been caught short and needed to go to the toilet. Seems I was right.

    1. Who is “Helen Shriver”? And, who are you to find a young writer justifiably shitty ridiculous and in need of a wee?
      I mean, good luck to you and your condescension. You’re entitled to your “voice”. We all are though, aren’t we? In theory, at least.

  17. right as usual, helen. in the comments too; perhaps we can get off this identity politics thing, it’s tiresome and nothing has progressed much since the 60s. if we want to see how the Left lost that moment, Chris Marker’s extraordinary film A Grin Without a Cat pretty much nails it. and as for the chap in the comments who trots out the tired old saw about capitalism raising people out of poverty in the 20th century, read some Hobsbawm. we have exploited global resources like never before in that benighted period and the poor got a little while the rich got a lot. but in terms of numbers, China and Russia raised far more out of poverty than the capitalist countries did. but i too would love a little editing, Helen… i would be happy to volunteer for nothing (having been a professional editor for 25 years) and offer one in the eye for the profit motive, because your shit need to get out there and get through to folks

      1. I will not use others’ labour free of charge. If you would like better writing and more editing, I recommend a program of socialist revolution. You do know our industry is in tatters, right? And that you read this for nothing?

        1. I do appreciate your writing & your subject matter becaus it’s stimulating & interesting, and I am sympathetic to a lot of of what you have to say but I do think you’re a contrarian & I think you’re logically a bit all over the shop, Ms Razor, in this instance (eg skipping gaily from Wayne Swan to Trump, Hilary Clinton & Corbyn.) I’m of Irish background & I loathe the stereotypical St Patrick’s Day version of Irishness writ large worldwide on that day but I acknowledge that the gross green beer & “leprechaun” hats etc came from Irish America & thence to the diaspora & back to Ireland, itself. Cultural appropriation? Racism? Yes and no. Mexican hats? Maybe and maybe not. Who couldn’t love
          Mariachi, for just one example? Does a sombrero merely equate with a negative racist stereotype or is it more complex than that? Or perhaps more simple and more innocent and warm? I’m curious that you avoided the central ideological problem of cultural appropriation, instead styling it as ” identity politics”. There’s an intriguing distancing in that terminology. As for YAM’s response to Lionel Shriver’s fairly anodyne talk, not having been there but having now read both text and response, I do think YAM’s Guardian article was immature, self-centred, somewhat histrionic, & not terribly useful in re effecting social change, especially given she allowed herself to hear barely 20 mins of it before staging her walk-out.

  18. I once described Hunter S Thompson’s writing as loaded with breathless ellipses, culturally referenced metaphors and hyperbole. Your writing, Helen, has similar manic, acid-dripping paragraphs but with one defining difference. You have something worth saying. And I enjoyed it enormously.

    On the other hand, Lionel Shriver’s speech was written in sneaky pale beige. She craftily sets up straw men to confuse the public such as, “…ideologies recently come into vogue challenge our right to write fiction at all.” When of course the issue is writing with sensitivity to culture rather than the stereotypes that drive me crazy with boredom.

    Then she swans off down the path of illogicality and irrelevance by bringing up the Bowdon College Mexican party incident. Mere seconds of Googling would have found this statement by Bowdoin’s president, Clayton Rose, “It also has to do with the facts and circumstances of this situation, which I can’t speak to for privacy reasons.” So there’s more to the story than Mexican party hats.

    So thank you for your article. I wasn’t bored once.

  19. While I agree with the view that capitalism is the universal inequality creator, I disagree with the idea that the “left” has been fractured and side-tracked from addressing the problems with capitalism by identity politics. Obviously anecdotal, but pretty much every social justice type person is anti-capitalist, be they socialists, anarchists or whatever.
    Perhaps this view that there’s an over focus on identity comes from the commodification of social justice movements, leading to the promotion of voices that don’t centre on capitalism as one of the main components of that oppression. It’s difficult to commodify something loudly decrying commodification. But it seems like, at the grass roots level, there is much more of an anti-capitalist focus than, perhaps, popular media would care to acknowledge. I don’t think a coincident focus on intersectionality is antithetical to that, and I’d argue that intersectionality, of which class is very much a part of, is actual the path to mending the fractures previously formed by isolated identity politics. It’s not identity politics that creates fracture, it’s singular identity politics, as opposed to the pluralism that comes from intersectional theory and practice.
    I’d also say that this shift toward personal stories and experiences isn’t just about provoking emotion, but a way of combating the limitations of quantified analysis of inequality, largely directed by institutions that have their own biases and inequalities. In fact, I’d say promotion of personal experience of oppression has prompted many institutions to actual conduct those quantified analyses on issues that had previously been invisible.

    Of course I’m only speaking from my limited perspective, and maybe I’m just in a bubble that isn’t representative of the rest of the left.

    1. Sorry this: “Obviously anecdotal, but pretty much every social justice type person is anti-capitalist, be they socialists, anarchists or whatever.”
      was meant to be “every social justice type person I know”

    2. The evidence that the “left” has become liberal is overwhelming. Basic understanding of labour rights, for example, is even off the Labor Party agenda like never before. And just because your comrades say they’re “anti -capitalist”, this makes no real sense if there’s not an informed capitalist critique at its basis.
      There are literal thousands of articles describing exactly what I have. Corbyn is a true (imperfect) leftist and look at the liberal critique he’s receiving. It’s all identity politics. He’s a racist etc Look at the charges (entirely fabricated) of Sanders. Look at how the Greens bury even their Keynesian policies beneath a whole lot of guff about same sex marriage. Everyone is a liberal. I’m not the only one in a leftist minority making this point.
      I have already explained how intersectionalism makes capitalism just another thing. It is a bad fit for anti capitalist solidarity. A critique of capitalism is not a critique of humans. This is very clear in Marx.
      Man. Being left is not about kindness.

  20. “So, that’s what we have on the right: a bunch of people who think Those Less Fortunate should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, all the while ignoring the very 101 fact that the economic principles for which they so ardently advocate demand the amputation of bootstraps in some identity groups at birth, if not before.”
    Well there you have the hear & heel of it: bootstrap amputation at birth, ( prenatal even) and then apply catch-22 – bootstrap pulling failure and don’t bother me with your footwear deficiencies.

  21. Thanks Helen. I always come away from reading your columns with a different perspective. Love your style, wit and challenge(ingness). You make me smile, frown and ponder (this also includes your gardening column, btw). Onya!

  22. Bravo HR. It’s a godawful mess. Seems there are those who see it and aren’t afraid to call it, and those hoping that all the signs of the impending armageddon are just coincidences. I am both enraged/engaged and depressed at the same time.

    If the intent of your essay, in a hopeless attempt at summary, is that “the main game is the struggle against the inevitable effects of capitalism, and everything else is a sideshow and distracting from the main game”, then I couldn’t agree more. I know you said much more besides, but I enjoy those rabbit holes you take us down.

    I am seeking a re-badging of the debate, so we can get our shorthand right. Save time for future. May I suggest ‘The Right’ just describes every privileged bastard who sucks at the teat of capitalism and their born-to existence, ‘The left’ is every numbnut that is happy to be distracted by rubbish arguments of little consequence (include all among the chattering classes and the chardonnay socialists – do those terms mean anything, I’ve heard people use them). And finally ‘THE LEFT’, to describe those who recognise that it is capitalism that is the problem and the need for a solution is coming to the point where it is really existential.

    Just one comment regarding Andrew Deakin’s offerings, I would suggest that capitalism just benefitted from being the dominant political structure during a time of great wealth creation in the 20th century. I have seen very little that proves, or even provides evidence that the great expansion was capitalist-caused. Correlation not being causation, capitalism may have just been lucky, in the same way that John Howard and Peter Costello were in Australia during the great boom that they pissed up against the wall.

    Andrew buying the line that house prices are a function of over-regulation of land controls is a worrying sign of having swallowed the great corporate lie with nary an engaged synapse. I’m hoping for better from your generation Andrew. Investigate that lie, and find out out at least 7 ways why that is the least of the issues regarding house prices.

    I hate where we are headed, and I have no solutions. It’s a problem. By the time you start to understand what is going on, you’re too damned old or tired or worn down to do anything about it. And that all comes from someone who ranks somewhere up in the obscene privilege part of the chart.

  23. Ummm…. has anyone here actually met Ms Abdel-Magied? She’s hardly 45kg wringing wet in any clothing. About 6 feet tall and works on an oil rig. Smart, funny, passionate.

  24. Went the Trotskyist road for years/ Revolution Betrayed essential reading/.
    Morphed into a sect we did -crashed and burned on the rocks of a true test – the Miners Strike in UK- and what did we draw out from the class nature of the sacking of Whitlam in 1975?
    Maybe one good thing being the length of the tentacles of the CIA when it comes to US imperialism and the complicity of the likes of Hawke in their project .The trade union leadership headed of the moves for General Strike.
    I am thinking the solution to poverty is overcoming the problem which is people haven’t got enough money..give everybody in Australia say $20000 a year – capitalism was created by everybody past and present . In one sense it belongs to all. Commonwealth so to speak been privatised.Everybody contributes and so everybody is entitled to a share-nobody is entitled to die of hunger or homelessness .Nobody is entitled to lack equal opportunity.
    Back to the old schoolyard communism of when we wre kids- Fair Shares For All as a slogan- If Peace Land and Bread did it for The Russian Revolution -Fair Share for All should challenge the Austerity ramparts of Capitalism .
    Basic Universal Income as a demand could be a way to start knocking bricks out of the ramparts as opposed to banging our heads against brick walls as thing grow even more dire.

    1. I do not, for the fundamental love of maths, understand how UBI could work. Think of the first home buyers’ grant. It caused inflation in that market. The UBI would do the same. Except, for every market. Retailers and others will hike prices, reasoning (reasonably) that people can afford to match them. How on earth could UBI not produce inflation? It won’t change the difference in purchasing power between a rich person and a poor person one bit and it treats “money” as this universal truth, that somehow has no real world purchasing context.
      So, like the GST, it has a regressive outcome. Poor people, who have no savings or investment, cop inflation. The investor class don’t really notice the inflation, because one can spend just so much on actually living. And a guy at Goldman Sachs gets the same subsidy as a single mum. WTF?
      This is a bullshit way of overcoming (badly) the fear we have of “entitlements”. It just seems dumb.

    2. A return to full employment would do me- you know, like governments agreed to when they signed the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights. When full employment was understood to be a full time job at minimum wage for any and all who wanted one.

      I’d rather see a Job Guarantee than a universal basic income. For starters, it would be targetted to those who actually need it, rather than given to everyone whether they need the assistance or not.

      It would kickstart the economy and could be pulled back on if and when it became inflationary, which would be when everyone who wanted a fulltime job at minimum wage had one. And it’s not as though there isn’t plenty of work to be done.

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