Down with Brocialism and Manarchism!

So something I’m rather proud of even though there is no real way to take credit for it, is that I invented the term “Brocialist” which has started to become common usage on the Left. It was right after “Manarchist” was becoming popular and me and some people online were talking about an equivalent for the WSWS.org type sexist-socialists out there, so I suggested “Brocialist.” And the rest is history. Now by “invent” I should say that I came up with “Brocialist” independently and I had never heard the term used before that moment by anyone else. I fully acknowledge the possibility that someone else could have come up with it before I did, I just never heard it before then and have only seen it become used by others afterwards. Of course there is no way I can possibly prove that I invented “Brocialist” unless I want to dig through thousands of reddit threads and comments to find that discussion. But I’m glad to see that the term took off and is being used in the good work of calling out misogynists and male privilege in the socialist movements.

Cause as the utter implosion of the British Socialist Workers Party has shown these are very real and serious issues within the socialist movements world wide; brosocialism and the underplaying of the important issues of women’s oppression and feminism is pervasive and is a major problem. This can be seen on many levels, from the SWP’s mishandling of rape allegations (which with the recent resigning of the accused rapist Martin Smith from the SWP, things might finally be moving in the right direction there, but we’ll see), to the predominately white male dominated Socialist and Anarchist organizations generally, to all manner of sexist group and meeting dynamics, to the actual theoretical justification given by some brocialists for the dismissing of women’s oppression issues as “identity politics”, “middle class politics” and “divisive”.

Now as others have pointed out, it is true that many of the greats in the Marxist and Socialist tradition, as well as Anarchist tradition, have been women. Its not just all Marx, Engels and Lenin. But just think of all of the untold Rosa Luxemburgs, Alexandra Kollantais, Elizabeth Gurley Flynns and Clara Zetkins that there would have been if past socialist and community parties had dealt with their internal misogyny in a more serious and consistent way. There is a historic precedent here that needs to be combated against, to energetically make room for women, and all marginalized and oppressed identities and groups, in socialist organizations through active “privilege checking” and other means.

My starting point here is that I am in full agreement with the general Marxist and Socialist thesis that the unity of the working class through the overcoming of all its divisions of race, nationalities, genders, sexualities, religions and so on, to fight effectively against the ruling elite, is the goal. But it is the how which is the important part. How do you actually and effectively build that kind of working class unity. Cause you most certainly not do it by pretending that these real existing oppressions and privileges don’t exist. What oppressed person in their right mind would want to join and unite with others in a socialist or any other kind of organization that doesn’t acknowledge and treat their lived experiences of oppression with the utmost seriousness and a willingness to combat them.

We understand as Marxists that our material circumstances effect us psychologically. That is the whole basis of the idea of class consciousness. So why have some of us been so slow to acknowledge that the context of growing up in very real and different material circumstances of race, sexuality, gender and how they are treated under capitalism, can have a similar meaning to our consciousness? Contextual awareness is incredibly important in Marxism, as well as the best of identity politics and intersectionality theory, and the context of today is an incredibly oppressive society that effects different peoples differently.

For see we have to acknowledge the world that we live in and are organizing within. This is a world of the most disgusting levels of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, and more. We cannot pretend that we are immune to this context. All because you are a card carrying commie and have a Malcolm X t-shirt doesn’t mean you, or any of your comrades or your ‘party’ as a whole, are above the influences of this oppressive system that birthed you. Your red card isn’t a get out of privilege free card.

I’m obviously here not precluding solidarity or the very real need for cross race/gender/sexuality/etc alliances along class lines. I’m just pointing out the very real hurdles that need to be honestly confronted and overcome to do so. And if it means to prove yourself as an honest and sincere fighter of sexism and racism and all oppression and that you are taking these issues to heart, that you are actively “checking your privilege” by every thinkable means, while being humble about it and not expecting a frackin trophy for it, then so be it.

The revolutionary left – whether socialist, anarchist, communist – is still largely white and male. This is changing and rapidly getting better, but its still an important issue. To overcome it we need privilege checking and all other means to make safe spaces for all oppressed groups to develop their radical agency. All those white and male revolutionaries out there can become useful comrades in these struggles, not just mere “allies” but real fighting comrades. But to do so they need to overcome their own background, assumptions and privileges, and keep on doing so. Brocialism, like Manarchism, is an infectious disease that has to be constantly confronted and addressed. Some self-awareness on everyone’s part can go a long way in these regards.

This is just the beginning of this discussion. I can’t claim to be above the above criticisms or of even saying anything even all that original here. In fact I don’t even believe I’m capable of offering the final answer or program on this question, just to help keep the discussion going. Heck, if you noticed, I didn’t even really go into at all what “privilege checking” actually practically means and entails, that I do recommend readers do their own research on that. But anyway, Marxism is a living, breathing theory that must be in constant dialogue with the world and be open to change. And it is exciting to be part of a time when it would appear that Marxism as a theory is starting to stretch its wings again.

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About redpleb

I'm a socialist, an activist, a worker and an all around troublemaker here in New Jersey. You can find me on twitter @RedPleb
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16 Responses to Down with Brocialism and Manarchism!

  1. Dave says:

    Can I ask why you think the WSWS is sexist?

    • redpleb says:

      They dismiss all issues related to women’s oppression as “identity politics” and they have a distinct habit of coming to the defense of accused rapists, never their victims. Tim Wohlforth, while still leader of the Workers League the WSWS predecessor, once famously said that, “The working class hates hippies, fa#$@ts and women’s libbers, and so do we!” and their attitude seems to have not evolved one iota since then. I think if anything has been proven by the SWP-UK debacle is that the difference between “non-feminist” socialists and sexists socialists tend to work out in practice as a whole lot of nothing.

      • “They dismiss all issues related to women’s oppression as “identity politics” and they have a distinct habit of coming to the defense of accused rapists, never their victims.”

        See, that’s quite simply counterfactual – but entirely typical for the people who use daft and divisive terms like “brocialist”. Just because the WSWS (of which there are many legit criticisms) refuses to engage with issues like women’s oppression *using the terminology and logic you prefer*, or because they attempt to analyze media reactions to something like the Steubenville rape case without resorting to self-righteous hysterics does *not* mean you can simply label them as sexists. Can you find a single piece of text on the WSWS that suggests that women are in any way inequal to men, or that equality between people of all genders is not the goal of socialism?

        Similarily, to say that they have a habit of coming to the defense of accused rapists is not only unbelievably offensive and defamatory, but also something you cannot back up with a single bit of evidence – unless you count “they disagree with me” as evidence that they support rapists. Can you point at a single sentence on the WSWS that would suggest rape is in any way acceptable? Saying that rape should not be a crime? No, you can’t. All you can point out is cases of the WSWS talking about socio-political context and reminding people that the perpetrators of such crimes are human beings whose actions are influenced by the world they live in, not incarnations of pure evil. Do you think that’s wrong? Fine. Is it the same as supporting rapists? Hardly.

        You should give some serious thought to how you label others when all they have done is disagree with what is, whether you like it or not, a political strategy based on identity. Just because some of us think such a strategy is neither intellectually nor practically useful does not give you license to paint us as criminals and bigots.

      • Tony P says:

        “… coming to the defense of accused rapists, never their victims”

        “ACCUSED rapists” and “their victims”. Do you spot a problem here? If we accept as a given that the person saying they have been raped has in fact been raped, it is entirely without foundation to accept the person being ACCUSED of the act is guilty without a fair hearing.

  2. Hello.
    First of all: English is not my first language. Sorry in advance for the bad writing.

    Although it covers an important issue that plagues revolutionary organizations, your article comes out a little divisionist for me. Not because feminism is divisionist in itself, but because it just comes up with adjectives for anarchists and the WSWS, do not explain why they deserve this adjectives, and then it doesn’t offer any concrete suggestions on what to do.

    I know you just want to keep the discussion going and you don’t intent to give the final answer, but it seems to me that the way you choose to start the discussion will lead it to divisionism and/or sectarism. As much as I like the terms Manarchism and Brocialism (they are fun!) I don’t think a discussion that begins with name-calling can end in any other way.

    Well, this is it for now. I hope I don’t sound rude, because I don’t mean to be, but sometimes somethings get lost when you are not writing in you language. I’m truly interested in this discussion, and that is what drove me to comment here.

    Truly yours,
    Emil.

    • redpleb says:

      That’s all quite fair criticism. But I moment at this very moment there needs to be some dividing lines drawn and seriously so. Sexism is a real issue in the broader left as a whole, and unless a concerted effort is constantly being made against it by an organization, we can safely assume that it will fall back under the dominant sexist culture that we live under. I think any group that is dismissive towards real issues of women’s and racial oppression has to be called out.

      • I don’t desagree with you on that: any group that is dismissive on those issues must be called out. My criticism was on the effectiveness of calling WSWS and anarchists out only by the name-calling. I don’t think it’s effective, and most importantly, I don’t think it offers any perspective to men and women in those organizations. It doesn’t give men a way of checking their privilege and it doesn’t offer women ways to engage this struggle within their organizations.

        I hope I am making myself clear. And I hope you keep writing on this subject.

  3. humanadverb says:

    “…they attempt to analyze media reactions to something like the Steubenville rape case without resorting to self-righteous hysterics does *not* mean you can simply label them as sexists.”

    Sure I can, but I’m going to label *you* as sexist instead.

    Having an emotional reaction to rape is, for me, a pretty basic prerequisite for being human, and characterizing it as “hysterics” (yes, a historically gendered term) does neither you nor your politics any favors, Jonas.

    All that other stuff you said is crap, too.

    • And you are not capable of making a distinction between one’s personal emotional reaction and the political concepts one advocates? People who are in favour of the death penalty are also coming from an emotional place. The people who vote for the Golden Dawn in Greece are coming from an emotional place, too – in fact “I feel threatened by foreign rapists” is a major argument for Golden Dawn supporters. The death of 3000 people on 9/11 should provoke a major emotional reaction in anyone – but is that emotional reaction by itself a good basis for a political response to the causes of said tragedy?

      Should a website dedicated to socio-political analysis write from that emotional perspective? The WSWS is not someone’s personal blog; it’s absurd to suggest that because its writers choose to write analytically from a political perspective that means that they don’t personally have an emotional response to a horrific crime like rape.

    • Jess says:

      Thank you for having some common sense, humanadverb. Once he said “hysterics” I knew he was a lost cause.

  4. Fran says:

    “actively “checking your privilege” by every thinkable means”

    Is that why you, a man, joined in with a load of other men to bully me, a woman – crushing what little confidence I have gained in my time as a revolutionary?

    • redpleb says:

      During my time as mod on /r/socialism I banned so many people for so many reasons, that I can’t possibly guess which one are you. Whether you are a bigot, a troll, a bully, a reactionary or you were actively abusing and threatening the lives of other people on the sub, but I’m sure I was justified in doing so cause I never banned anyone without good reason. But I’m allowing this comment here for really one reason only. Because I want to be seen for the straw that broke the camels back. I’d been thinking about stepping down as mod for a very long time, but when I saw your comment, after all the more recent drama I’ve put up with, I had had enough. If this is how people view my efforts to rid the sub of bigots and bullies, then why bother. You all deserve CometParty as your only mod now for all I care.

  5. Tzintar says:

    Yes this problem of inconsistency needs to be solved. Those who are attempting to do it are doing it in an unbalanced way. Men are trying to solve it from their side and women from theirs. Its not going to work. Men can try and fix themselves, but their mirror is a male mirror. For women its functionally the same for slightly different reasons. You can see that both sides will always fall back to what they know. It is my opinion that “actively “checking your privilege” by every thinkable means” is not possible without outside help. So who is going to make a commitment to change the failed approaches? belle hooks suggests a joint effort male to female, female to male for the principle that we are all we have! She explains that wealthy white women dump their husbands rather than stick it out to work past the patriarchy, while their poorer black counterparts have to reform their husbands because they are all that they have got. What I am saying is that we on both sides of the patriarchal privilege equation, male and female, live in a “walk away from the fool” mind set. Getting past the habit of the patriarchal living means facing the horrible people we become through living it.

    So maybe what needs to happen is that men and women should try intentionally challenging each other in a socio-political relationship circumstance before getting married. Setting up a way outside marriage to practice overcoming this problem is an idea that some have tried. To stay in a working relationship more intense than a marriage for the purpose of developing understanding and breaking this living social political problem seems a worthy challenge. This means a willingness to not only deal with this shit, and its many ramifications but willingness to turn on the fan and let the shit hit it just so it can be understood better up close and personal.

  6. Pingback: “Brocialism”? | The Red Plebeian

  7. Condemn brocialism and manarchism – get a flood of butthurt comments from brocialists and manarchists!

    As far as the World Sex-offender Web Site goes, Joseph Green never met a rich White male rapist he didn’t like.

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