Living the Dream after the Plebiscite and amongst the Alt-Right


In this episode Dave (@withsobersenses) and Jon (@jonpiccini) catch up with Simon Copland (@SimonCopland) ‏ again. We talk about how despite the plebiscite being a fantastic victory the Left (for lack of a better term) seems determined to see it as a defeat and what the impact of this is. Simon also talks about going to, live tweeting from and then writing about a recent Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux talk and his thoughts about how the struggle against reaction can be renovated.

Things we mention include:

Simon Copland – Racists on speaking tour: rethinking our response

Alison Pennington – On the Plebiscite: Beyond Defeatism, Moralism and the Politics of Scarcity

Red Action – Declaration Of Independence

You can find Simon’s work here and our older episode with him here

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Music by Idles

4 thoughts on “Living the Dream after the Plebiscite and amongst the Alt-Right

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  1. A lot of things to react to here, various things I was reminded of during the course of the discussion:
    On victimhood, I’ve not read much of it beyond a few chapters, but Sarah Schulman’s Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility, and the Duty of Repair seems like a really fascinating exploration.
    I also thought Tom Whyman’s recent piece on “generation snowflake” was very good:
    The victimhood thing also reminded me of recent discussions about trans issues (are terfs a thing in Australia, or do you just send them over here like with Germaine Greer?) – an image of women as permanent victims in need of protection is obviously pretty central to trans-exclusionary feminism, leading to utterly batshit stuff like portraying women’s prisons as being essentially “safe spaces” that need to be protected. On the other side, I guess a lot of Simon’s points about the portrayal of queer/trans people as victims would apply to a lot of pro-trans arguments too.
    On no platform, I think that discussions of tactics in the abstract are generally not that helpful, but in particular the handwringing liberal centrist perspective on no platform is really bad – what we really need is *a materialist perspective* that doesn’t just talk about “speech” in the abstract but looks at the resources needed for various speech acts to be heard, because that then opens up the potential to understand no platform (or at least some instances of it) as a profoundly democratic, bottom-up approach that calls into question and allows popular participation in decisions about how resources are used, decisions that are normally quietly made behind closed doors.
    If you’ve not heard of them already, I think Football Lads & Lasses Against Fascism are a really interesting attempt at a revival of 1970s/80s style antifascism:
    On the libertarian to nazi pipeline, there’s this:
    I also think the figure of Pinochet is really important for the “libertarian” alt-right imagination – for the sort of people who think the nazis were really socialists, Pinochet was a true free market, Reagan’n’Thatcher approved libertarian.
    On working with people to offer a way out of far-right groups, I thought this interview was really fascinating:
    They do say “cadre” a lot though.
    Anyway, those notes are pretty incoherent, but those are some thoughts that went through my head while listening.

    1. Hey nothingiseverlost thanks for the comments and links – I’ll check them out. And yes the debate in the UK between radical feminists and feminists who support trans-liberation is starting to heat up here. Still pretty small

  2. Guys, this is not a good episode.

    I’m usually a big fan of the show! But had some real reservations this episode, firstly in relation to the discussion of “resilience”.
    It’s not a term that I love mainly because if its neoliberalising impulses where a an individualised capacity to tolerate circumstances of exploitation and oppression is celebrated or foregrounded over the urgency of ameliorating those conditions. Couldn’t an argument of resilience be used to say that rather than arguing that the working class is exploited and campaigning for higher wages that rather we should celebrate the capacity for survival that workers demonstrate under these conditions?
    The second thing is that the abuse that queer and trans kids were being subjected to in particular throughout the plebiscite campaign is part of a larger political project by the right which has used those particular kids as scapegoats. What this means is that queer and trans kids aren’t only facing the kind of half baked, pubescent homophobia and queer phobia that their peers might express . They are experiencing the effects of a large, deliberate, adult campaign which uses them as a scapegoat for the broader left movement in general. So while I agree that an anti-bullying focus certainly does not have the the affirming and positive and emancipatory focus that the safe schools program is founded on and I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t be re-framed as purely a defensive strategy, the jab about states of injury seemed to me under the circumstances pretty unfeeling.
    This brings me to my final concern which was your gloss of the production of notions of child in the last few centuries. In general terms what you say is accurate but there’s quite a lot of nuance missing which I think influences what I see as the problem with your discussion of the safe schools debate. The notion of the child as you describe it is probably better understood as the notion of childhood as a particular age of life and in particular as a relation to wage and non-waged , that is reproductive, labour. I agree that this largely develops a under conditions of western modernity but I think that the important part of this relationship is not so much its bourgeois commitments – although they definitely are there – but its production of a period of life in which waged work does not exist or not exist. So this means that the production of childhood as a concept is one that ties in very importantly with the kinds of demarcation of the waged and non-waged labour chronicled by say Silvia Federici. What this means is that while the notion of the child certainly aligns with bourgeois morality, what I would argue is far more important in this concept is the fact that it is a protected category, and for this reason it is a protected category that individuals can slip out of. For example there are many people young people who fit into the age bracket of the child but who for various reasons of deviance or abjection do not experience that special protection. This happens most of most commonly through poverty, race or gender transgression. Furthermore the particular model of childhood that is offered by a western capitalism modernity is not the only way of conceiving of young people as possessing a special value or a special vulnerability. Therefore your critique of the think of the children narrative is in a way playing into exactly the same logic that you want to criticise in that you are reproducing this notion that childhood is something that especially protected only through the lens of a a special kind of market capitalism driven by wage labour and and animated by white bourgeois values. And this is simply not true.

    Where this episode gets really bad, thought, is how it deals with the questions of race and white nationalism. This was really disappointing!

    There is often a kind of distinction within leftist movements between those who think about class and those who think about race or other forms of identity. As an antiracist anticapitalist, I find that incredibly damaging, because it forecloses so many possibilities. I have often looked to your podcast as an example of a class based analysis that is at the same time very thoughtful about its engagement with other aspects of oppression. This episode really let down that quality in my view.
    I am gonna be mean so I want to preface this by saying again how much I respect and value your work.

    But your comment alleging that Osman Faruqi is wrong about the level of racism in Australian politics – PS he subsequently was doxed off Twitter – was terrible! Isn’t the fact of that happening some powerful evidence countering your analysis? You don’t address that at all in the discussion except to say “oh yes of course it’s terrible.” Yes of course it’s terrible, but as political analysts we need to do a little bit better than that and say, why did this terrible thing occur? What are the conditions of possibility that allow something so terrible to occur? And furthermore what are the implications of a political movement that is able to remove political commentators with whom they disagree from the public sphere through the mobilisation of hate and fear?

    The next thing is that when you talk about the necessity of a material analysis rather than relying on the political class’s moralism, this is correct. And, by the way, I very much take Jon‘s point that the racism that is so often blamed on “the masses” emanates from the political class and is in general not taken up even within electoral politics. (In general, I would have liked to hear more from Jon throughout as I’m not sure he was quite as on board with the “suffering white working class” vibe this episode went with.) But you talk about the importance of this analysis, which which you argue for very ably, and then you move on from suggesting the material analysis is very important to what is essentially the hearts and minds argument!! This argument which goes: oh the poor white working class they feel so isolated and alienated and no one has ever been kind to the! All we need to do is show them some love and affection and we will change their hearts and minds. How is this a material analysis? This is precisely the liberal analysis of fascism!
    The argument that you are subscribing to about the provenance of racism in the Australian politics is that the precarity of work and rising housing prices in a what is essentially a kind of middle Australia – an imagined white struggling suburban class- is the reason that we experience racism in Australia. This is simply not good enough from what should be a class aware political analysis!!

    ALSO, there exist radical, anti-racist critiques of the notion of cultural appropriation – you should know about these if you want to criticise this framing. ALSO, the proliferation of online indentity “woke” politics does not come from an elite!! ALSO… well a lot of things. But please, make it easier for me to argue with my friends who say that anticapitalists can’t talk about race!

    1. Hi Anastasia, thanks for this critique. We will try to take these up in a future show.

      On your last point I did want to make one comment.
      On one hand I want to double down on my argument that reactionary politics mobilize real concerns ( the general misery of late capitalism) and a radical politics must try to mobilize these concerns in a different direction (without collapsing into or compromising with the racist form the reactionaries use). As such it is wrong and not useful to understand the ideological orientation of the great mass of people as fixed.

      However I think you do really identify a fatal weakness in our argument in that we didn’t address the sets of material privileges the racial hierarchy within the working class gives to sets of workers (‘White Australians’) and that this can’t be ignored or wished away. I see this as similar to how whiteness is theorised in the US context by Ignatiev et al. I’ll try to take this up in the future show too.

      Lots to think about.

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