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When ‘self-defence’ becomes a license for anything at all.., July 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

…is the thought that comes to mind reading this from the Guardian.


I get the argument that on the thin sliver that is Israel there are legitimate self defensive measures. Unfortunately as the events of years, months, days and weeks demonstrate, there are also entirely illegitimate, counter productive and abysmal ‘self defensive’ measures.

Btw, just to be clear the events in the linked report happened ten years ago.

Ultimate role? July 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, The Left.
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This piece here from a short while back on the differing trajectories of LGBTQ and women’s rights on Slate caught my attention. Stern argues that the perception is now that the former is/are a ‘dignity’ issue(s), and therefore has greater traction while the latter is ‘all about sex’. I’m still thinking about that contention and whether I tend to agree (even taking into account the differences between different states globally). As a preliminary I think the broader and local contexts are significantly different for a variety of reasons so the trajectories will almost inevitably differ, but any and all other thoughts gratefully accepted – though important to note that Stern couches his analysis in a belief that these are not competing but complementary rights.

But there’s one quote that really stands out:

[US Supreme Court Justice Anthony] Kennedy, like a plurality of Americans, clearly views abortion as morally wrong. In one horrifyingly condescending passage from Gonzales v. Carhart, Kennedy infamously wrote that abortion must sometimes be banned to help women understand their “ultimate” role as a mother.

I find that a remarkable statement, whether contextualised with abortion or not. How does it work?
That the only valid purpose in a woman’s life is to be a mother, or that it is the only significant purpose, or that it outweighs all others? All women? Some women?

And what about men, how are they to be led to understand their presumably ‘ultimate’ role as fathers, and if that’s not their ‘ultimate’ role why is it not, and what is?

Wishlist for Left Archive… July 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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…it’s that time of year when we ask for copies of documents from organisations that are not yet represented in the Archive…

As always one that would be very handy to flesh out our CPI (M-L) collection would be a Red Patriot from 1979, a year when according to subsequent Red Patriots there appears to have been contention within that party that was reflected in a different line expressed in that publication.

Then there are the Red Republicans who may, or may not, have produced material. More feminist publications are essential, and we’re interested in broadening the historical scope of the Archive, currently we’ve very few documents that pre-date the 1960s, but the Irish Left didn’t sprint into being then, anything but, so if you have, or know of documents from before that any information would be very welcome.

And any thoughts from you as to what is missing would be very welcome.

You may have missed this earlier: From the selection in the Left Archive…Ireland: Rising in the North, 1981 from Big Flame July 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive.
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…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. This week,Ireland: Rising in the North 1981 from Big Flame.


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.

For the rest please go to the Left Archive here.

Gender roles and children’s films… July 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism.

Mentioned on The Incomparable podcast recently was an interesting analysis by Lili Loofbourow of the New Inquiry about Brave from a while back which I find very persuasive, not least in its description of just how alienating viewing films can be for women and girls given very constrained gender roles.

I’ve a daughter and she’s of an age where she’s going through this. It’s striking to me how – for example – she doesn’t want to admit to boys that she likes the animated series Ben 10 (an excellent SF show in its own right in my view) which she does and wasn’t led to by me, even though that has a very strong central female character. And why? Because it is regarded as ‘for boys’ and admitting to like it is in some sense not right. Don’t get me started on the princess thing either – which irritates me from the point of view of constrained gender roles, political ideology and aesthetics. Simply put it’s startling how much of that trope there is directed at children.

A point that was somewhat depressing in the Incomparable podcast was the admission by all the men involved in that particular podcast that they had daughters. It does make me wonder what about those who don’t, are they quite as aware of the societal pressures at work here?

And it’s not just about princesses, though we could make a start there… July 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism.

And given what was posted earlier, here’s a piece on Slate that argues that women (and it’s women it’s arguing about) should stop being ‘tortured about pink and princesses’.

It is a given that if you are a mildly feminist mother (or father, but more mother), you are going to do everything within your power to steer your daughters away from anything that has the stink of “girly” on it. I shudder to think how many pink ruffled onesies, gifts from less enlightened relatives and sexist friends, have gone unworn because America’s feminist mothers could not stand to dress their 3-week-olds in the color of oppression.

I don’t know. Again as the father of a daughter there’s a bit of me inside that finds the massive emphasis on pink and princesses depressing (and indeed the massive emphasis on blue and black for boys equally so). I’m not against ‘girly’ though that’s a term whose meaning and application we can parse out in multiple ways.

And as was put to me the other day, it’s amazing how even the overt political connotations of kings and queens and princes and princesses is problematic in relation to y’know, the small fact we live in a democracy – however imperfect. Problematic? Sure, if only because of the massive simplification that that then engenders in the understanding of political processes at an early age, one which depends on hierarchical structures. You think I’m exaggerating? Recently my daughter when asked who she thought the Taoiseach was replied ‘the ruler’. Fine, she’s five going on six – that is a logical extension of how she understands power is exercised – but how does that feed into understandings of the world around her?

The article continues:

Why is it any likelier that your daughter is going to end up thinking that a prince will save her than it is that my son will think he should kill bad guys? Why is one of those fantasies considered harmless and the other damaging?

I’m not convinced. Let’s put the political to one side. There’s further problems ahead. Consider the issues about the nature of princesses (certain more recent Disney one’s excepted), and hitherto issues as regards passivity, expectations as regards princes and completion and so on.

And that point about Disney underlines how these issues are actually so problematic that in Tangled and Frozen the tropes are taken out, examined and reworked to some considerable degree.

But those go only half the way, in almost a parallel of how where there’s a nod towards girls, as with versions of Nerf guns directed towards them – perhaps a sort of echo of the influence of the Hunger Games – it’s amazing how pink steals in in the designs. And sometimes that obliterates all else. Lego Friendz, pink and purple and lilac coloured lego ‘for’ girls is a perfect example. Almost parodically there’s this, where the girls are working or what have you and the male figure is lounging outside their ‘house’.

Granted I’m not wading in to prevent my daughter from dressing up or playing with My Little Pony though you might be surprised how often spaceships and aliens figure in a sort of genre shifting where and when its possible. And while not much of a fan of Peter Jackson’s curious reworking of The Hobbit I find myself applauding the creation of a female elf – not least because although neither of the films has had a showing in the house for the daughter that caught her eye in the trailers and the absence of female elf warrior was a source of disappointment to her in the original text when read to her over the past month or so.

In a way this is about choices, about expanding the role and scope of play so that it isn’t channelled into constrained and constraining expectations as to what gender roles are or should be. Or as a comment under the Slate piece puts it – and in doing so gets to the heart of it for me:

Because things are sold to kids as the “normal” , ie “boy’s” version, and the pink girls version. 

And that’s the problem.

Fixing it? Well, I’d hesitantly suggest it’s not about preventing the manifestation of princesses – that’s a given for quite some while to come short of a fundamental rearrangement of the society. But it seems to me that it is about not being tied to the expectation that a girl shouldn’t want to kill the bad guys, or at least – this being U rated, lock them up. Or to put it another way, that she should be encouraged at all times to understand she has choice both to have and exercise agency.

What you want to say – 30th July 2014 July 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As always, following on Dr. X’s suggestion, it’s all yours, “announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose”, feel free.

Candidate co-option July 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

It’s a while now since the elections, both European and Local, but one thing that has struck me looking back on the results is how co-opted candidates didn’t appear to have enormous success.

Now, let’s be clear, that’s not the fault of those who were co-opted, or even (mostly) of the parties who co-opted people. Circumstances sometimes simply dictated that the elected person has to step down and/or smaller parties simply lack the personnel to be able to contest elections both at home and abroad.

However, there were at least one or two instances where a successful candidate stepped away from a seat in their term and simply retired. I point no fingers and name no names though one party with the initials L and P didn’t cover itself in glory in that regard.

This is, by any measure, a bizarre eventuality, running for an elected position is something not to be undertaken lightly and in one or two instances where long time politicians contested and held seats only to leave front-line politics entirely is problematic.

But putting that aside from a purely tactical position it didn’t work well at all. And it does suggest that the optimal situation is for a successful candidate to retain their seat.

Hardly a surprise, that. Voters need to build up a sense of who is representing them – particularly those at the European Parliament. Indeed it could well be that the sheer distance that particular forum is from voters on a day to day basis, as distinct from geographically, means that it is only at elections that they get a chance to assess and, in a way, legitimise those who are elected. Once they’re gone that’s grand – from their perspective, but they don’t want that process short-circuited by political machinations subsequently. I think while not necessarily entirely logical it is understandable. And in some respects perhaps that’s the only way it can work given the low interest in the European Parliament between elections.

It will be telling if the current crop of successful candidates decide to remain in situ across the life of the European parliament.

Just on that psychological distance it will also be interesting to chart the progress of some of the newly elected MEPs whose ability to shape the narrative here will be significantly less than might have been hitherto.

But the world was out of joint, and we have set it right July 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in The Left.

Fascist Voices by Christopher Duggan, is a useful history of the rise of fascism in Italy following the First World War. Duggan uses a range of sources, but primarily those written by those in Italy in diary or memoir form, in order to outline the development of fascism from marginal force to its destination as the state power and its subsequent demise. It’s a depressing tale in many respects, not least for the sheer ordinariness of many of those voices. And it’s curious too because reading it one gets the sense that while fascism remained a force in Italy subsequent to the Second World War there seems to have been a distinction between it and more modern manifestations of national socialism such as Golden Dawn in Greece. Perhaps that was because of the nature of Italian fascism, or perhaps because the deep state in Italy was, well – deeper – than in Greece. But there’s also a sense that somehow at street level

Anyhow, one interesting passage is an outline of the age profile and social and class composition of fascist squadristi in the early 1920s.

Duggan writes:

[they] were young, frequently very young. Piazzesi was eighteen when he went on his first raids. Teoni had to wait until February 1922 before enrolling in the Arezzo fascia, but even then he was barely sixteen. As the carefully posed photographs of fascist squads taken ni those years show, their members were often of a similar age. One study has suggested that around 25 per cent of militants in the fascist movement were under twenty-one. Another has found that nearly 90 per cent of the squadristi in Bologna and 83.5 per cent of those in Florence were aged between sixteen and twenty-seven , and that while the great majority of the squad leaders were demobilised junior officers, more than half their rank-and-file followers were not old enough to have fought in the war.

Fascinating as that is, what of this?

The overwhelming majority of squadristi came from the ranks of the middle classes: landowners, entrepreneurs, professionals, civil servants, white-collar workers, students and the self-employed. In the study of Bologna and Florence less than 5 per cent could be classified as working class. Given the age profile, it is not surprising that students made up a particularly large percentage of the squads. In Bologna and Florence more than a quarter of the squadristi were enrolled at university, and 17 per cent… in secondary school.

And this was, as if that doesn’t demonstrate, a class war.

Duggan recounts an exchange between social democrat politician Emilio Lussu and a friend of his who was a university student about the nature of the squadristi:

-what brigands?
-the peasants.
-Were the peasants attacking or were they attacked?
-No, we were attacking. And we managed to beat them. Their land of cokaigne is finished. Imagine, each peasant was earning up to 40 lire a day.
-And now?
-Fourteen lire. Whish is still too much… do you know, immediately after the war, when I walked in the street with my medals, they laughed in my face?
-And that’s the reason, today, why you reduce their pay to 14 lire and cut them to pieces?
-Oh! It’s easy to criticise. You needed to have been living with us. The peasants were dressing like me, and the cowman’s daughter was more elegant than my sister.
-Let’s not exaggerate. But still, this seems to you sufficient provocation to justify hunger and death?
-But the world was out of joint, and we have set it right.

Yet it’s also notable from Duggan’s research that the fascists made every effort to break any manifestation of workers autonomy. For example, they also attacked Catholic workers organisations and continued to do so – no doubt in part because they would tolerate no competition.

It sometimes seems to me that there’s been insufficient examination of not just fascism, but the manner in which it was able to relatively successfully co-opt political support in Germany and Italy during the inter-war period. Any examination of the melting away of both social democrat and communist lefts during that period raises questions. These were, of course, brutally repressive regimes, but… they were also at significant points regimes that were tolerated and more by a broad swathe of the population from all classes.

Without drawing futile comparisons between fascist/national socialist states or between and bourgeois democracies it is perhaps useful to consider how relatively easy it appears to legitimise state structures, something that has an importance today.

And their roots are fascinating too. Duggan notes that in Italy the left, and in particular the Socialist Party, was after the First World War fragmented and in a much less commanding position than the right thought. He argues that the rhetoric of revolution in the post-Bolshevik period was hollow, and suggests that ‘[the SP] knew well that [despite the rhetoric] there was no serious prospect of the Western powers allowing a Bolshevik-style regime to be formed in Southern Europe’.

That too is an intriguing thought and that too has more contemporary resonances.

The Consequences of Flag Wars in the North July 29, 2014

Posted by Garibaldy in Sectarianism.

Hard to know what to say to the news that a man has drowned trying to take down two tricolours from an island within a majority Protestant village (the flags had been reported in the news recently, with a local SF MLA calling for their removal)

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