An Phoblacht March issue… February 28, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
IN THE MARCH 2014 ISSUE
Justice Minister’s credibility in shreds
Garda scandals reveal urgent need for change, says Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Defence
Concerned Parents Against Drugs: ‘People power’ – 30 years on
Sammy Devenny – 50-year seal on investigation into 1969 killing by RUC
Case against Donegal republican John Downey collapses
Ombudsman probes RUC cases – Greysteel ‘Trick or Treat’ and Castlerock loyalist massacre investigations re-examined
Matt Carthy, Midlands North West EU candidate – No mouthpiece for austerity
Eoin Ó Murchú says: Shatter must go – but so must Callinan too
Trevor Ó Clochartaigh: Pobal na Gaeilge ‘Dearg le Fearg’
Ballymurphy Massacre: Irish Government finally backs families’ justice campaign
Sinn Féin Ard Fheis 2014 in Wexford, home of the 1798 Rebellion
Cén fáth bheith faiteach faoi neamhspleáchas na hAlban?
ETA arms move ‘very significant’, says Gerry Adams
‘Water Meter Man’ – One activist’s stand against new tax
5 new nuclear power stations to face Irish coast from Britain
Remembering the Past: The Curragh Mutiny and James Connolly’s opposition to partition
Fish farms: Robert Allen goes West to see the campaign to ‘Save Bantry Bay’
Bad Politics: Peadar Whelan on how mainstream unionism is pandering to fringe loyalists
Book Review: A treasure trove on James Connolly and the British Army’s tall tales of the Tan War
And much more . . .
The female voice… February 28, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Feminism, The Left.
A thought-provoking lecture given by Mary Beard for the LRB a week or so ago and one well worth thinking about. In it she discusses the way in which women’s voices are excluded by a range of factors from the general (and socio-political) discourse. She talks about how in antiquity ‘A woman speaking in public was, in most circumstances, by definition not a woman. ’ and how a raft of gendered assumptions entered into the picture (low voices – manly, courage, high pitched voices – unmanly, cowardice, etc). Her argument is multilayered. She notes that:
This is the tradition of gendered speaking – and the theorising of gendered speaking – of which we are still, directly or more often indirectly, the heirs. I don’t want to overstate the case. Western culture doesn’t owe everything to the Greeks and Romans, in speaking or in anything else (thank heavens it doesn’t; none of us would fancy living in a Greco-Roman world). There are all kinds of variant and competing influences on us, and our political system has happily overthrown many of the gendered certainties of antiquity.
And this has both a political aspect and a very contemporary social media one…
Of course, we don’t talk in those bald terms now. Or not quite? For it seems to me that many aspects of this traditional package of views about the unsuitability of women for public speaking in general – a package going back in its essentials over two millennia – still underlies some of our own assumptions about, and awkwardness with, the female voice in public. Take the language we still use to describe the sound of women’s speech, which isn’t all that far from James or our pontificating Romans. In making a public case, in fighting their corner, in speaking out, what are women said to be? ‘Strident’; they ‘whinge’ and they ‘whine’. When, after one particular vile bout of internet comments on my genitalia, I tweeted (rather pluckily, I thought) that it was all a bit ‘gob-smacking’, this was reported by one commentator in a mainstream British magazine in these terms: ‘The misogyny is truly “gob-smacking”, she whined.’ (So far as I can see from a quick Google trawl, the only other group in this country said to ‘whine’ as much as women are unpopular Premiership football managers on a losing streak.)
In a context like this it becomes a situation where for women the very act of speaking becomes one which is hedged in by this tangle of preconceptions, assumptions and diversions so that the essence of that speech, the message that is sought to be imparted is lost entirely, or at the very least muted. And we’ve all seen this, the unconscious and sometimes conscious marginalization of women in discussion and debates, the tendency to defer to men, to seek the ‘last word’ from them. My thought was that if they didn’t get how problematic that was then chances are they didn’t get anything at all.
One of my least cherished moments was at a meeting of politicians – all supposedly ‘progressive’ – where as a bystander I saw what could only be described as the males overdosing on their own testosterone and the females sitting impatiently waiting for them to be done. What was remarkable to me was that rather than a discussion of equals it was one where there was a meta discussion taking place between the men and directed to one another in the form of jokes and asides and the more serious formal discussion – engaged in by the women – was effectively sidelined.
Which means that when Beard asks the following it resonates with me very strongly:
Do those words matter? Of course they do, because they underpin an idiom that acts to remove the authority, the force, even the humour from what women have to say. It’s an idiom that effectively repositions women back into the domestic sphere (people ‘whinge’ over things like the washing up); it trivialises their words, or it ‘re-privatises’ them. Contrast the ‘deep-voiced’ man with all the connotations of profundity that the simple word ‘deep’ brings. It is still the case that when listeners hear a female voice, they don’t hear a voice that connotes authority; or rather they have not learned how to hear authority in it; they don’t hear muthos. And it isn’t just voice: you can add in the craggy or wrinkled faces that signal mature wisdom in the case of a bloke, but ‘past-my-use-by-date’ in the case of a woman.
I hope that last is changing, if only very slightly and with agonising slowness, and there may be a few straws in the wind that indicate that it is. It’s difficult to judge – and I have to be careful that my own age doesn’t inflect my observations here – but it does seem that older women are becoming an increasing part of the societal backdrop and where – for example in the media, when their voices and faces are excluded there is much more a recognition of same and a backlash against it.
Beard also points to the way in which some women negotiate this issue – and in my view, rightly points to the enormous problematical aspects of same.
Those who do manage successfully to get their voice across very often adopt some version of the ‘androgyne’ route, like Maesia in the Forum or ‘Elizabeth’ at Tilbury – consciously aping aspects of male rhetoric. That was what Margaret Thatcher did when she took voice training specifically to lower her voice, to add the tone of authority that her advisers thought her high pitch lacked. And that’s fine, in a way, if it works, but all tactics of that type tend to leave women still feeling on the outside, impersonators of rhetorical roles that they don’t feel they own. Putting it bluntly, having women pretend to be men may be a quick fix, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.
But then as has been evident all too often online it’s often irrelevant whether a woman adopts a certain persona and role or not but the very fact that she is a woman. As evidenced by social media:
Some of these same issues of voice and gender have to do with internet trolls, death-threats and abuse. We have to be careful about generalising too confidently about the nastier sides of the internet: they appear in many different forms (it’s not quite the same on Twitter, for example, as it is under the line in a newspaper comment section), and criminal death threats are a different kettle of fish from merely ‘unpleasant’ sexist abuse. Many different people are the targets, from grieving parents of dead teenagers to ‘celebrities’ of all kinds. What is clear is that many more men than women are the perpetrators of this stuff, and they attack women far more than they attack men (one academic study put the ratio at something like 30 to 1, female to male targets). For what it’s worth (and I haven’t suffered anything like as much as some women), I receive something we might euphemistically call an ‘inappropriately hostile’ response (that’s to say, more than fair criticism or even fair anger) every time I speak on radio or television.
That statistic alone, if accurate or even if only half or a quarter or a tenth accurate, of 30:1 attacks online on women is dispiriting in the extreme. And it raises a parallel question, what is wrong with men (and a small minority of women) who carry them out? What is it in their psychological make up that they feel it is appropriate to act in ways that offline would be regarded as sociopathic at best? And worse still, what of this attitude inflects their offline interactions with women?
And Beard makes some very pertinent points about the reality as against the perception of social media and its effectivity and those who use it for hateful purposes:
It’s driven, I’m sure, by many different things. Some of it’s from kids acting up; some from people who’ve had far too much to drink; some from people who for a moment have lost their inner inhibitors (and can be very apologetic later). More are sad than are villainous. When I’m feeling charitable I think quite a lot comes from people who feel let down by the false promises of democratisation blazoned by, for example, Twitter. It was supposed to put us directly in touch with those in power, and open up a new democratic kind of conversation. It does nothing of the sort: if we tweet the prime minister or the pope, they no more read it than if we send them a letter – and for the most part, the prime minister doesn’t even write the tweets that appear under his name. How could he? (I’m not so sure about the Pope.) Some of the abuse, I suspect, is a squeal of frustration at those false promises, taking aim at a convenient traditional target (‘a gobby woman’). Women are not the only ones who may feel themselves ‘voiceless’.
Beard draws a line between the societal exclusion of the female voice and online media and the offline world too. And again she makes a clear point about the political aspect of this.
But the more I have looked at the threats and insults that women have received, the more I have found that they fit into the old patterns I’ve been talking about. For a start it doesn’t much matter what line you take as a woman, if you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it, it’s the fact you’re saying it. And that matches the detail of the threats themselves. They include a fairly predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder and so forth (I may sound very relaxed about it now; that doesn’t mean it’s not scary when it comes late at night). But a significant subsection is directed at silencing the woman – ‘Shut up you bitch’ is a fairly common refrain. Or it promises to remove the capacity of the woman to speak. ‘I’m going to cut off your head and rape it’ was one tweet I got. ‘Headlessfemalepig’ was the Twitter name chosen by someone threatening an American journalist. ‘You should have your tongue ripped out’ was tweeted to another journalist. In its crude, aggressive way, this is about keeping, or getting, women out of man’s talk. It’s hard not to see some faint connection between these mad Twitter outbursts – most of them are just that – and the men in the House of Commons heckling women MPs so loudly that you simply can’t hear what they’re saying (in the Afghan parliament, apparently, they disconnect the mics when they don’t want to hear the women speak). Ironically the well-meaning solution often recommended when women are on the receiving end of this stuff turns out to bring about the very result the abusers want: namely, their silence. ‘Don’t call the abusers out. Don’t give them any attention; that’s what they want. Just keep mum,’ you’re told, which amounts to leaving the bullies in unchallenged occupation of the playground.
It’s misogynistic process where such behaviours are if not excused allowed to persist.
She doesn’t offer a clear path forward, perhaps because there isn’t one. Instead she argues that:
We need to think more fundamentally about the rules of our rhetorical operations. I don’t mean the old stand-by of ‘men and women talk different languages, after all’ (if they do, it’s surely because they’ve been taught different languages). And I certainly don’t mean to suggest that we go down the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ route. My hunch is that if we’re going to make real progress with the ‘Miss Triggs question’, we need to go back to some first principles about the nature of spoken authority, about what constitutes it, and how we have learned to hear authority where we do. And rather than push women into voice training classes to get a nice, deep, husky and entirely artificial tone, we should be thinking more about the faultlines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse.
What I’m pointing to here is a critically self-aware ancient tradition: not one that directly challenges the basic template I’ve been outlining, but one that is determined to reveal its conflicts and paradoxes, and to raise bigger questions about the nature and purpose of speech, male or female. We should perhaps take our cue from this, and try to bring to the surface the kinds of question we tend to shelve about how we speak in public, why and whose voice fits. What we need is some old fashioned consciousness-raising about what we mean by the voice of authority and how we’ve come to construct it. We need to work that out before we figure out how we modern Penelopes might answer back to our own Telemachuses – or for that matter just decide to lend Miss Triggs some hairpins.
Consciousness raising. Questioning the fault lines and fractures that underlie dominant male discourse. And all that those entail. Her vision and her part-solution are egalitarian and necessary. They link into clearly progressive areas but they remained focus on one key issue in a structure that is by any standard oppressive/repressive.
And then… as if by magic… it was seemingly over… February 28, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.
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…surely has to be the response to the controversy in the North this week. Not least the fairly sharpish withdrawal of that threat of resignation. The thought that keeps returning to me is how unlikely the protestations from all sides are to ignorance of this. I’d tend to think that the assumption most interested in this area had was that something very similar, if not indeed identical, had been agreed whether formally or otherwise years back. Whether this was all about the electoral optics..? Hard to disagree, for once, with the following person’s views…
Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore cautioned politicians against reopening tortuously agreed compromises.
“We cannot allow the past to destroy the peace and stability of the present and the prospect of a better future for generations to come,” he said.
This Week At Irish Election Literature February 28, 2014Posted by irishelectionliterature in Irish Election Literature Blog.
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A Rugby themed letter of encouragement to Fine Gael Dublin Bay South members ahead of this years Local Elections.
And I’ve posted loads more Local Election leaflets …. although theres a backlog, more always welcome.
Apologies that there is No Quiz this week, I didn’t have the time….
Ukraine and the shape of politics to come February 27, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in International Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
Thanks to Jim Monaghan for posting this link to a very clearly written piece on Ukraine that cuts through a lot of the rhetoric we’re being subjected to on that subject from points various, whether the mainstream accounts of what is happening or elsewhere. It’s main points, that Ukraine isn’t a clear cut example of fascism versus an embattled democratically elected government, or said government versus the IMF or whatever is very necessary to keep front and centre.
One of the key points in this is made by the author of the piece, Mark Ames, when he writes:
In Ukraine, there is no populist left politics, even though the country’s deepest problem is inequality and oligarchy. Memories of the Soviet Union play a big role in turning people off to populist-left politics there, for understandable reasons.
But the Ukrainians do have a sense of people power that is rare in the world, and it goes back to the first major protests in 2000, through the success of the Orange Revolution. The masses understand their power-in-numbers to overthrow bad governments, but they haven’t forged a populist politics to change their situation and redistribute power by redistributing wealth.
The latter paragraph is a consequence, it seems reasonable to suggest, to the dynamics extant in the first paragraph. With no popular left alternative, not even a vaguely social democratic one, of any real size – and a look at the wiki page on the composition of the Ukrainian parliament is instructive, it’s as if Ukraine has a large party right of Fine Gael, and another right of Fianna Fáil and another a bit like a cross between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and the social democratic left is unrepresented though there is a CP representation and a heap of Independents (sounds familiar?) – it is locked into a situation where radicalism will almost of necessity be expressed increasingly to the right of the spectrum and in then most noxious ways possible.
The depressing aspect of this, and Ames points clearly to it, is that there is a sense of collective mass action and the potential in it, but that it is directed and shaped to deliver a means of ejecting governments, but not to ensuring that their successors are any better. It’s as if they are in a political loop where there is a degree of agency to the people, in so far as they can go through the same motions, but progress achieved appears minimal.
Ames makes one other troubling point.
The front-center role of Svoboda and the neo-fascists in this revolution as opposed to the Orange Revolution is, I think, due to fact that the more smiley-face/respectable neoliberal politicians can’t rally the same fanatical support they did a decade ago.
That has an importance well beyond the borders of Ukraine. Indeed in my darker moments I wonder if politics in this state, and elsewhere in Europe, may be heading in a not dissimilar direction, where because the centre of gravity of political activity in the so-called ‘mainstream’ has tilted so far to the right the left as an option, in any of its forms, is now fading.
It’s actually not that difficult to see a situation emerge where the predominance of the centre right and right of centre parties here – which is an unarguable fact across the history of the state, is strengthened further towards the right. And particularly in relation to governance.
SF and others on the left… February 27, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
A piece in the Phoenix this last week considers the relationship between SF and the left. What relationship you might well ask, or what left?
Though before getting to that it does note that Peadar Tóibin faces renewed issues regarding Clare Daly’s motion on abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormality which is likely to appear as the magazine puts it ‘any day soon’. Then it also notes the ‘lionisation’ of Mary Lou McDonald in portions of the media (and we saw one E. Harris making positive noises about her too). As it correctly states, at least in my view, this is very much about who McDonald isn’t, i.e. one G. Adams.
As to SF and the left? In this instance it is on foot of the Ard Fheis call by Adams calling for an ‘alliance of the left’. The Phoenix suggests that this ‘may have an effect with half a dozen left Independent TDs in discussion this eek about their own proposals for collaboration in the local and perhaps European elections’.
Adams’ initiative goes to the heart of a dilemma that faces these individuals – Halligan, Murphy, Pringle, Borughan, Nulty and (Finian) McGrath.
It argues that:
The prospect of SF and a group of six or more Independent left-wing TDs forming a loose alliance – coupled with demands on LP members to break from FG – could have a seismic effect.
And yet, it also notes the problems. According to it Halligan is ex-WP, and interestingly according to the Phoenix ‘has regular sessions with WP leader Sean Garland during the latter’s weekly visits to the Dáil’. Murphy is ex WP and DL, hardly a legacy to incline her to a ‘loose alliance’ with SF. While the others in that cohort of left Independents are either neutral or left Republican I wonder if there’s any chance at all of them working with SF? Doubtful I’d have thought, what do others make of it?
You may have missed this earlier: From the selection in the Left Archive…Big Flame and Ireland February 27, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.
…a document that went up in the past.
As part of getting people acquainted and used to the extended Left Archive we’re going to link every week to previous documents that have been posted there that may be of interest. Here’s Big Flame, a very interesting UK organisation of the 1970s and early 1980s. Some will find its analysis of Irish left and Republican politics intriguing.
When researching the document, which was donated by a reader – for which many thanks, I discovered that it was already scanned and online, albeit in three parts, at this Big Flame site, along with what appears to be the near totality of their documentation. But given that I did scan it, and information is free, it seems like an appropriate addition to the Archive regardless – wbs.
This is a fascinating document issued by Big Flame, the initially Maoist group originally based in Liverpool and founded in 1970. Big Flame was in intent closest to the Italian Lotta Continua group, and during an eclectic history between 1970 1984 attracted a varied range of support, even to the extent of seeing an anarchist grouping merge with it.
The history of Big Flame can be found here, and John Sullivan gave an overview of the organisation here. But a flavour of their approach is given by the frontispiece:
We are a Marxist organisation; but we are not Maoists, Stalinists or Trotskyists. We see ourselves as inheriting a revolutionary Marxist tradition which includes many revolutionaries, but we see their writings as the collective voice of the particular period of class struggle that they were involved in. It’s a tradition which also includes the revolutionary actions of working class people throughout history. … Big Flame groups exist in Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and London. We are active in hospitals, car and other factories; among housewives, tenants and students. We also work in the Troops Out Movement and Chile Solidarity Campaign. Nationally, our work is co-ordinated through Waged Workplace, Education, Women’s and Ireland Commissions, and overall by a National Committee
As the frontispiece also notes:
Big Flame is a revolutionary socialist organisation. We are publishing this pamphlet on Ireland because we hope it is of use to the Irish revolution. The class struggle being fought in Ireland is of absolute importance of the Irish working class, for the English working class and for working class power everywhere. Yet it is hugely misunderstood, even on the left here. We must understand the importance and content of that struggle. The struggle of our brothers and sisters in the Catholic ghettoes of the Six Counties of Ireland occupied by our bosses’ army is our struggle too. We hope that this pamphlet helps understanding of the mass struggle of the Irish working class and helps in building the Troops Out Movement which is currently the focus of Big Flame’s activity around Ireland. The TOM is the main weapon we have. That is why we have worked with it since its foundation. We work in the interests of the Irish struggle. Our struggle is in common.
The document is of particular interest since it seeks to give an overview of the conflict. Across 32 printed pages it deals with a variety of issues, ‘A Question of Class’, ‘Loyalism and the Orange Order’, ‘The Secret War’ and includes interviews with a variety of individuals. These include interviews with nationalist women and men in the North and a member of a relief committee.
In terms of positioning the document argues…
…we in Big Flame say that the important organisations in Ireland – the organisations from which will come any revolutionary movement – are the Provisional Republican movement, the People’s Democracy and the IRSP. We say this because these are the three main organisations that have shown any understanding of the Northern struggle and its leading role in the Irish revolution.
It dismisses both the Socialist Workers Movement and the Official Republican Movement, though conceding that the latter ‘could play a role in the immediate defence of the Republican areas’.
The IRSP it posits has been insufficiently clear that it considers the national struggle to be paramount.
In relation to the Provisionals it notes:
Whether the left-wing in and around the Provisionals can emerge as the conscious and organised vanguard of the Irish working class, that remains to be seen. At some time it will require a clear break with the petit-bourgeois tendencies in the movement. But for the time being – with the prospect of civil war – there seems little chance that this clear break will happen.
And it makes an interesting claim when it suggests that:
Recently an armed group who follow the political line of People’s Democracy, the Revolutionary Citizen’s Army, has been formed. The effect this could have on PD’s role in the struggle could be significant.
Another interesting assertion is the following:
The Officials were then, and still are, dominated by members of the Irish Communist Party.
In sum a useful document that indicates at least some of the perspectives from the United Kingdom during the mid-1970s.
“long air and raggy jeans ” February 26, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
And he shouted: “Minister, you look up at us and you say how dare those people with the long air and raggy jeans have the audacity to challenge you?”
Welfare ‘reform’ in the UK and public support. February 26, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Austerity, British Politics, The Left.
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Also worth noting there is an interesting non-Scotland related question – YouGov repeated a question from last April about the government’s welfare reform package as a whole, freezes, caps, bedroom tax, etc. Back in April 2013 56% of people said they supported them, 31% were opposed. Now 49% support them, 38% are opposed – so still more in support than against, but a significant movement over the last year.
A depressingly high figure of support, but suggestive of a situation where reactionary measures can be pushed back against and that public opinion is far from set on such matters.