The Clare Spark Blog

October 20, 2009

News From The Social Justice* Front

Image (65)1. The latest Radcliffe Quarterly (Summer 2009) lauds Harvard grad Susan Faludi (illustrated); she is a progressive with strong working-class sympathies, anti-imperialist credentials, and a prolific, prize-winning author on feminist issues. Faludi applies the mother-daughter template to the current disaffection between 1970s style feminism and the younger women who spurn the older generation. Thus we meet a writer who one would think would use class analysis as a tool but instead fastens on generational conflict as explanation for today’s confusion on the woman question. Oddly, she is reportedly irritated by those 19th century feminists who laid the foundations of the welfare state (they were building on Locke’s concept of “the moral mother,” and then  “domestic feminists,” proponents of “sphere ideology,” dreamed that the whole world would become “homelike”). Many of these progenitors of statism, in their time, were active in related purity reform movements, including abolition (a cause not mentioned in the Radcliffe Quarterly). It should be mentioned here that the “domestic feminist” line has been aggressively challenged by [anticapitalist] socialist feminists, some of who (e.g. Mary Ryan) think that when women’s labor was more visible, they had higher esteem. And yet Faludi writes for The Nation, a bastion of progressivism that arguably was the logical outcome of nineteenth century domestic feminism.

2. Catholic activist and nun Karen Armstrong writes in favor of God in the journal Foreign Policy, protesting that only religion can curb “human nature” and bring peace to a war-torn world, made worse by atheism and foreign hostility to moderate, “balanced” groups that are provoked into fundamentalism (for an example she mentions the Muslim Brotherhood as part of her general advocacy of social justice movements).

3. Verso (the book publishing offspring of New Left Review) is publishing the first English translation of Shlomo Sand’s sensational book claiming that there is no such thing as “the Jewish people,” hence no Jewish claim to the soil of Palestine. I read Anita Shapira’s review essay in the Journal of Israeli History (March 2009),  and was sorry to see a defense of cultural nationalism; curiously she does not review the ongoing communist-New Left lines that Zionism is racism, hence inimical to socialism and the unity of the international working class (communist line), or that Zionism is a typically evil expression of the colonizing, land-grabbing West (the New Left line): both these spawned Shlomo Sand. Shapira’s essay was informative on such matters as the bogus Khazar origin of Jewry (a theme of Sand’s book), but she has not uttered the last word on the meteoric rise of Shlomo Sand, who has wandered off his specialty, French history, into the history of a fake “Jewish people,” to the applause of every antisemite who can read.

   Pace Professor Shapira, Israel does not exist today solely because of Zionism (the messianic, redemptive mission of the Jews to restore their ancient homeland) which had limited support outside of the unassimilated and impoverished Jews of Eastern Europe), but, probably more importantly, because of Cold War competition between the West and the Soviet Union (see my blog, the willingness of Israelis and other Jews who joined them to take large casualties in the 1948 war, and possibly because numerous countries who voted for the partition of British Mandated Palestine in 1947 saw the Jewish state as a way to get rid of their troublemaking Jews (something I gleaned from the papers of Ralph Bunche, who was the recipient of confidences offered by UNSCOP diplomats). These factors could have been the thrust of Shapira’s article were she not primarily engaged in a Zionist defense of Israel’s legitimacy.

     When Bunche commented on the impossible task that awaited him as United Nations representative to UNSCOP (the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine), or when he functioned as Acting Mediator after the assassination of Bernadotte, he framed the conflict partly imitating the claims of blood-and-soil Zionists: that the Jews had an ancient attachment to the land of their origin. Bunche, however, ahistorically made the Palestinian Arabs similar in their argument (ignoring the multiple peoples who had taken position of the contested land over the centuries, not to speak of recent Arab immigration attracted to better-paid labor as Jews modernized their limited spaces ).** With his incorrect framing, he could see no way out of the insoluble conflict that he had been asked to resolve, and which persists today in much of the media. Not so Karen Armstrong, who looks to the reconciliation of tradition and modernity in Islamic theology as exemplified by the early Muslim Brotherhood: Armstrong does not worry about sharia law as promoted by the Brotherhood. As for Susan Faludi, she seems to me to be more left-wing than feminist in her rejection of proto-progressive nineteeenth-century feminists. Perhaps Obama’s rejection of the Daniel Boone male stereotype that she favored in an op-ed piece in the NYT, June 15, 2008, gives us a clue as to her core beliefs. As I have written here before, 1970s feminists were accepted to the degree that they could be absorbed into “anti-imperialist” New Left politics–a politics that supported the United Nations and Rooseveltian “internationalism.”

*By “social justice” I refer to redistributive justice, the opposite of [bourgeois] commutative justice that favors equality of opportunity, not levelling. Proponents of “social justice” span from moderates and social democrats to Marxist-Leninists, but also could include “anti-imperialist” cultural nationalists and irredentists. 

**Arabs were consistently against not only a Jewish state, but any increase in the Jewish population whatsoever. They viewed the Shoah as caused by Europeans, and insisted that the countries that had abused their Jewish populations take them back, as if that was a possibility for the thousands who had fled the Soviet bloc. The anti-Zionists of the Left have ever urged the Jews to “disperse” and relinquish their religion in favor of a universalist, socialist identity.

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