October 06, 2012
The Heresiarch on abortion and assumptions:
The Guardian’s feminist-in-chief Suzanne Moore tweeted that… “the Tories will not win their war on women.” Two incredibly lazy but widespread assumptions combine in the notion of a “Tory war on women.” Firstly, that the divide on abortion is primarily political (and left-right) rather than moral, and that the pro-choice position is progressive, and the pro-life one reactionary. Secondly, that the pro-choice case is the pro-women, feminist one, and its opponents are motivated by hatred of women, or at the very least by an inherently misogynistic desire to control women’s lives...
There is indeed a gender divide on the abortion debate in Britain, and it is especially stark in relation to the question of term limits. A YouGov poll in January found that of the 37% of Britons who favoured a lowering of the 24 week limit (34% supported the status quo) the majority were women. In total, twice as many women as men (49% as opposed to 24%) wanted to see a lower limit. There was also an interesting age difference: among the younger age group (18-24) support for a lower limit stood at 43%, whereas in the two older age groups it was 35%. Strikingly, support for a reduction to 20 weeks or below was highest among people who expressed a preference for Labour rather than the two other main parties - which again fits ill with the concept of a “Tory war on women.”
For a snapshot of some more, rather instructive, feminist thinking on the subject, see also this.
And Theodore Dalrymple on the late historian and Stalinist Eric Hobsbawm:
A writer of my acquaintance once turned down an invitation to dinner with Hobsbawm (who rarely refused any honour or privilege that the unjust capitalist state could offer him) on the grounds that if Hobsbawm’s political wishes had come to fruition, he would have had his proposed guest shot in short order. A man who could think until late in his life, as Hobsbawn did, that the murder of 20 million people would be justified if it brought about a socialist utopia, would hardly balk at the death of a single bourgeois guest.
In my experience, Marxists prefer to be judged, if judged at all, by their theories and rather fanciful abstractions, and by their pretensions of moral elevation - all conveniently bleached of realism and messy human detail. And so, when not simply lying, their conversation turns to the potential of communism - communism in theory - never actual communism, i.e., communism in power. But the practical and psychological implications of egalitarian utopias aren’t exactly hard to fathom. Unless, that is, one takes care not to notice certain things or think in certain ways, and then goes on not noticing with growing sophistication. And I suspect that sophistication – a practiced unrealism - is driven by something very nasty indeed.
There are of course those who read Marx and Engels while somehow ignoring the salacious references to “revolutionary terror,” the “murderous death agonies of the old society” and the “complete extirpation” of “reactionary peoples” – i.e., thee and me - as if the horrors that followed had nothing at all to do with the urges to which they give intellectual license. An abstracted, sanitised belief in Marxism – detached from its consequences - isn’t just an oversight. It requires colossal bad faith, especially among the intelligent.
To read Marx and Engels - to say nothing of Trotsky and his enthusiasm for guillotines and the prospect of beheading people who didn’t wish to be communists – to read such material and somehow not grasp where that thinking goes isn’t just a failure of critical wherewithal. It’s a contrivance. Just as some contrive an indifference when faced with Engels’ eagerness to see “the disappearance from the face of the earth not only of reactionary classes and dynasties, but also of entire reactionary peoples.” A global class genocide that would be, in his words, “a step forward.” Hobsbawm, like many others, traded his probity for vanity. He chose to be seduced. And if people still want to play at Angry Marxist™ - and it seems some youngsters do - they might at least be honest about it.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.