Social morality and the propaganda machine combine and feed each other in a game of hypocrisy and barbarism. This week the media reaction to a slap at the Oscars, the silences of feminism over Ukraine, the claims of European farmers or the drifts of the anti-war movement in Russia, made it clear to us: nothing but inhumanity and decadence can be expected from the ruling class nor the petty bourgeoisie.
Table of Contents
- The banality of essentialist morality
- The inhumanity of feminist war morality in the face of the abuse of women and girls of subaltern classes
- The impotence of pacifist morality and nationalist defeatism
- Material glimpses of an alternative morality
The banality of essentialist morality
The Smith family goes to the Oscars
The Oscars ceremony. Everything is designed to become an exaltation of “diversity”, in other words an exaltation of the various identitarianisms with which the Democratic Party played at rebuilding its base during Trumpism. On stage, Chris Rock dispenses small humiliating aggressions that etiquette forces to be taken as “jokes”.
Until he offends actress Jada Pinkett, who does not hide her disgust. Her partner, Will Smith, who is playing the role expected of those present – to keep a “thick skin” and smile at everything – suddenly feels the fury rising. He gets up and slaps the comedian in a perfectly cinematic way before returning to his seat and twice shouting at him to “keep [Smith’s] wife’s name out of his fucking mouth.”
The incident boosts the show’s audience by over half a million people. The media machinery is set in motion as a moral tribunal ready to make use of all the tools of the new state ideologies which, since the sixties, have been affirming that “the personal is political”.
This is easy to do in Europe. In Spain, the first country to turn feminism into a state ideology, El País quickly jumped into the pool of “toxic masculinity” and all the official media followed suit. In Great Britain, the BBC quickly followed suit. But in the U.S. the identity game is a bit more complex and does not avoid the immediate political agenda when it reflects certain class interests as we will see shortly.
The imperative to “defend a black woman”
Senate hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, began on the 21st. The Republican party turned the ritual into an attempt to put on trial the “woke” ideology that the judge is deemed to represent, attacking her in passing for her alleged soft hand on child sexual abuse – an implicit reference to the Qanon conspiracy theory.
Something that would have been outrageous at any other time and would have been used as a partisan argument to show the very low moral and cultural level of the senators, was again interpreted in the Democratic press from an identitarian point of view. Without showing the slightest modesty about the goals and driving force behind feminism and racialism, the conflict was presented from a frankly class-based point of view: the Senate hearing would be the living representation of the discrimination suffered by black women with Ivy League degrees from the petty bourgeoisie when they aspire to managerial positions.
Moreover, much of the condemnation was immediately reserved for Democratic senators for not coming to the aid of Biden’s nominee. Only Senator Cory Booker would have saved the day by doing what he was supposed to do: putting aside all other considerations and “standing up for a black woman” under attack.
So when the American mainstream media set up their public morality courts to try Will Smith, the supposed “toxic masculinity” was put aside: wasn’t he defending “a black woman”?
The dangerous moral banality of identitarianism
1 The first morally scandalous thing in this incident has been the very argumentation of the scandal. Unashamedly, the identitarian “moral judges” began by pointing out that the “complexity” of the situation stemmed from the fact that its three protagonists are black. Because, as one commentator celebrated with amusement, “in identity equations everything adds up and everything subtracts, but by sharing traits, we get a draw”.
In other words: identitarian morality does not judge behavior, it judges membership in imaginary communities. One is right for being of the right and convenient race, sex or gender… and to its own spokesmen this seems the most natural thing in the world.
2 Secondly, by openly joining Judge Jackson Brown’s hearing, the interests underneath such a moral apparatus were made explicit: for racialism and (intersectional, of course) feminism, whatever serves the interests of the various identitarian segments of the petty bourgeoisie in obtaining rents or access to state capitalist leadership in any sphere is good.
Until just yesterday, a male coming out in defense of his partner was “toxic masculinity” in an action that “stole the voice” of women. But with Judge Jackson Brown insufficiently supported by Democratic senators, the tables are turned and “standing up for a black woman” becomes a universal moral imperative.
Until yesterday, the feminist and racialist “new stand-up comedy” was sacred, an expression of “freedom” and “change”. It didn’t matter if it smelled of indoctrinating Goebbelsianism to the point of nausea. The preacher could humiliate whoever he or she wanted in order to assert the creeds and scholastic casuistry emerging from university departments. They were sheltered under the impunity of “humor”, the vanguard trenches of the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie.
These days it is no longer convenient any more and the identitarian moral discourse spins: it is all right if women and especially black women have what until now they called “thin skin” and jump at a supposedly humiliating joke: “we are only human, and so are the people who love us” sentenced one of the star columnists of moral issues in the New York Times.
Identitarian morality has no other guiding principle than the usefulness of behavior for the seizure of power within the ruling classes. It is not a universal or humane morality, it is a tool of social climbing for specific segments of the bourgeois classes. And they don’t bother too much to hide it.
The inhumanity of feminist war morality in the face of the abuse of women and girls of subaltern classes
As is obvious, the final winner of the federal judgeship is strategic and symbolic for the American racialist and feminist petty bourgeoisie, but also for the entire Democratic Party. So the media of that country, as always, spread the headlines to the entire world press which, as we have seen, tried to “adapt” arguments and morals to suit the boss.
But we cannot overlook the fact that all these media, from the New York Times to El País, passing through the BBC or Le Monde, are the captain ships of the Invincible Armada of “Western” war propaganda.
Not that there has ever been any contradiction between feminism and militarism. On the contrary, as communist militants like Luxemburg, Zetkin, (Sylvia) Pankhurst or Kollontai denounced, they have gone hand in hand since the origins of the movement, through the first and second world wars first and the cold war later, up to the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or, now, Ukraine.
But here the principle of instrumental utility and morality applies as well. In preparation for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, reaching an agreement with the Taliban to maintain access to public education for girls became US imperialism’s new fig leaf. Its role was as instrumental to the withdrawal as it had been to the occupation. And if there were any remaining doubts, now, when the Taliban have predictably closed the schools to girls, the State Department simply “trusts” that the Afghan government will “reconsider”… with no feminist mobilization or outrage.
Was there a scandal? Nope. Minor news in the media. All the passion devoted in its day to the occupation -when the war effort could promise some extra distribution of cadres and in fact distributed hundreds of millions of dollars and euros among feminist NGOs- has faded away.
Now it is time to celebrate the patriotic militarization of Ukrainian women and their ferocity in massacring Russian soldiers. Who cares about the fact that forced conscription, both masculine and feminine, has opened a real hunt for the “deserter” who does not want to participate in the imperialist slaughter, whether male or female?
The same goes for racialism: now it is time to celebrate the opening of borders to refugees and deny the obvious: the discriminatory treatment towards other refugees, including refugees leaving Ukraine with a different nationality… and skin color.
It is not just a matter of denouncing the blatant and usual hypocrisy. The fact is that the commodifying morality of hegemonic feminism, evident in its relationship with prostitution and surrogacy, becomes actively complicit with the horror in the context of war. And not only because of the flourishing “surrogacy” industry that a part of Euro-American feminism and gay identitarianism have fattened and praised as a “social good” for Ukraine.
But because it is absolutely inhumane to make artificial moral distinctions about the different ways in which trafficking for prostitution is preying on refugee women from subaltern classes both at the border and in the host countries.
One cannot consistently condemn and denounce the mafias trying to recruit if not kidnap young refugee women and at the same time approve – albeit silently – as “voluntary transactions” the contractual forms of self-selling that range from informal prostitution to arranged marriage portals for smallholder farmers who want to “buy” a submissive wife.
Both show well the extent to which feminism is incapacitated from its innermost moral core to defend or improve the situation of underclass women. It is the very essence of capitalist morality that they take for granted: the sacredness of “voluntary exchanges,” the ideological centerpiece of the capitalist religion that allows the sale of labor power and wage exploitation to be argued as fundamentally egalitarian and just.
All feminism shares this ideology which in the end is summed up in the affirmation of the reality or possibility of a ” just wage “. Only a part, descending from the debates of the “second wave” of North American academic feminists, today hegemonic, takes it further by extending it to new fields of commodification starting with the body itself and sexuality. They are undoubtedly more coherent with their initial assumptions, but to be coherent with an anti-human ideology is no virtue.
The impotence of pacifist morality and nationalist defeatism
The inanity of the moral landscape these days does not end with feminism and racialism. The rest of the petty bourgeoisie movements also play their part in the bleakness. This is evident among farmers and drivers when they protest against inflation without neglecting to remind us that paying the minimum wage is detrimental to their wealth, but also when they celebrate the reduction of fallow land in the EU despite being fully aware of its results for public health and the very sustainability of crops.
But it is also evident among the well-meaning and even heroic sectors of the Russian petty bourgeoisie opposed to the war. Russian anti-militarism, instead of seeking out the workers and merging with the resistance to the war and its consequences that is stirring in the workplaces, has clearly expressed its inability – if not its active and conscious resistance – to step outside the framework of the class in which it was born: the intellectual petty bourgeoisie.
The result is an exacerbation of the pacifist and Tolstoyan components of their discourse. It suffices for them to play at moralizing individualism and self-immolation behind the “beautiful gesture” of portraying themselves alone in a public square full of policemen with a little “No to war” sign. This reduction of politics to moralizing aestheticism, of Christian matrix, which happily faces 3 to 5 years in prison, expresses in reality a deep political impotence. The sterility of the “citizenist” bet is nothing but the falsely egalitarian version of the usual classism.
Nor is the result of the massive Russian migration to Georgia, Armenia, Turkey or Central Asian countries during these weeks any better. Most of them, more than 60,000 have sought asylum in Georgia. They are mostly students and young people from the corporate petty bourgeoisie. Marked by nationalism, their rejection of the war has mutated in more than a few cases into its opposite: support for the Ukrainian government in the war. Defeatism, when it is not revolutionary, is warmongering on the other side.
And there, again, feminism, which is part of the war ideology of both the US and the EU, once again plays its role: what are you going to do in Georgia against the war other than stage anti-Putin rallies? Nothing better than invoking magical ancestral feminine forces to stop a slaughter. Why waste your time approaching the same workers’ struggles they shunned at home?
Read also: Can Russian anti-militarism end the war in Ukraine?, 6/3/2024/pre>
Material glimpses of an alternative morality
Meanwhile, in Russia, despite the heavy war propaganda apparatus, massive layoffs as a result of sanctions and increased repression throughout the country, we begin to see workers’ struggles that had been paralyzed with the outbreak of the war coming back.
The first of these that we managed to detect and register: nurses and drivers in Vladivostok. That is to say, a strike that moves forward uniting in a single assembly different contracts that also employ different categories, each one with a majority of a different sex and with different presence of workers of different races and ethnic groups. Wow!
What makes workers a universal class is not only that they are defined as a class by being exploited under the same social relation in all the countries of the world, but that the situation in which it places them leads them to assert in every struggle, however small, universal human needs.
This universality tends on the one hand to affirm the primacy of universal human needs, raising in fact – more or less consciously – the need and possibility of a new social organization in which satisfying them is the guiding principle.
On the other hand, as workers recognize a common interest based on shared and universal needs, it tends to break, in each strike, the thousand categories, pigeonholes, identities and little drawers with which the ideology distilled by the system -and its unions- tries to fracture and confine them.
That is to say, the bases of a universal morality overcoming all oppression and discrimination are opened every time a struggle, however modest it may be, emerges. Moreover, workers’ struggles, in order to prosper, need to develop that morality that overcomes what thousands of years of systems of exploitation with their thousand forms of oppression and discrimination have left us. For workers as a class -and therefore for its most conscious sectors at all times- morality and consciousness go hand in hand and in the limit, converge in the same thing.
That is the only guiding light and moral horizon possible today. From the ruling class as from the petty bourgeoisie in all its factions and occurrences nothing else can be expected but inhumanity and decadence. After all, the growth of the system which privileges them has long been increasingly antagonistic to human development.