File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/marxism-international.9710, message 243

Date: Mon, 13 Oct 1997 10:15:21 +0100
Subject: Re: M-I: multicultural bourgeoisie

In message <l03102805b066de789cb5-AT-[]>, Doug Henwood
<> writes
Quoting me, to ask
>Just what is this modern, PC bigotry?
What I mean is when anti working class prejudice is thinly veiled in the
radical terminology borrowed from the left, whether anti-racist or anti-

For example, in Britain football (what you call soccer) fans were
vilified for the supposedly racist and macho yobbishness in a sustained
campaign that led to the introduction of sealed enclosures on football
terraces (wire mesh cages, that barred the fans from the ground and from
supporters of the opposing teams).

Such was the heightened atmosphere of scare-mongering about the evil
fans that any measures could be taken against them. Officers of the
secret services infiltrated unofficial supporters clubs like the Chelsea
headhunters to entrap them in a series of cases that were, thankfully,
thrown out by sympathetic juries. The final disaster came in 1987 when
the Sheffield police, worked up to a lather about the hooligans from
visiting Liverpool, kept forcing them into the pens, despite protests
that they were being crushed. Like many, I watched on television as
people at the front of the pens were crushed to death against the wire
fencing, while the police were still forcing them in at the back.

Such was the campaign of vilification against the football fans that
they had been criminalised. The terms in which they were criminalised
were politically correct: they were called macho, racist yobs. So
vicious was the press campaign that the Sun newspaper, Britain's best-
selling daily, carried stories the following day accusing the Liverpool
fans of urinating on their dead comrades, and robbing them - all
manufactured Sun-style in the bars at Wapping. In Liverpool piles of the
Sun were publically burnt by outraged fans. Ninety seven people were

Let me bore you with two other examples of what I would call politically
correct bigotry, where anti-working class prejudice is prettified in the
language of anti-racism or anti-sexism.

The first is Catharine Mackinnon's book Only Words, which makes a casse
against free speech with regards to pornography. In particular she
objects to the idea that pornography is 'Only Words'.'Saying "kill" to a
trained attack dog is only words' she writes (p9). A telling metaphor.
Even if one accepts that pornography is an imperative command like the
injunction 'kill', can we really accept that men are 'attack dogs'?
Elsewhere, Mackinnon cites a Yiddish proverb - 'a stiff prick turns the
mind to shit' (p12). This, I suggest is sheer prejudice and bigotry.

In The Tyranny of the Majority (Free Press 1994) Bill Clinton's first
choice for the post of Attorney General, Lani Guinier, whose nomination
was thwarted by republican criticisms, makes a case for safeguarding the
representation of minorities. Guinier rejects the accusation that her
views are alien to American democracy by citing the co-author of the
Federalist Papers, James Madison: 'What must be found in a republican
Government, where the majority must ultimately decide, [is] that no one
common interest or passion will be likely to unite a majority of the
whole number in an unjust pursuit' (p4). Following Madison, Guinier
states 'I explore decisionmaking rules that might work in a multi-racial
society to ensure that majority rule does not become majority tyranny'
and further 'I pursue voting systems that might disaggregate The
Majority so that it does not exercise power unfairly or
tyrannically.'(p5) She continues:

'In the end, I do not believe that democracy should encourage rule by
the powerful - even a powerful majority. Instead the ideal of democracy
promises a fair discussion among self-defined equals about how to
achieve our common aspirations. To redeem that promise, we need to put
the idea of taking turns and disaggregating the majority at the centre
of our conception of representation. Particularly as we move into the
twenty-first century as a more highly diversified citizenry, it is
essential that we consider the ways in which voting and representational
systems succeed or fail at encouraging fairness.' (p6)

However, Guinier's appeal to the constitutional writings of James
Madison illuminates the problem in her argument. Madison is not
referring to the tyranny of a racial majority over a disadvantaged
minority. Instead the rhetoric that lends itself to Guinier's argument
derives from Madison's desire to protect a minority of property holders
from the tyranny of a majority of the propertyless. The need to
disaggregate the majority for Madison means that a property-holding
elite that rules through the medium of democracy needs to keep the
propertyless classes divided against each other rather than united
against them.

Today it is not possible to elevate the rights of a propertied minority
over the majority as Madison wanted to. But it is possible to undermine
democracy in the name of the rights of a racial minority. Guinier's
concern to 'disaggregate The Majority' is supported by a wealth of
recent writing on race that treats the white majority as the
pathological race, like Theodore Allen's The Invention of the White Race
and David Roediger's The Wages of Whiteness. Elite hostility to 'hard-
hats' and the 'Moral Majority' once mobilised to guarantee the rule of a
propertied class, has led to concentrated attacks on fringe white
religious and political groups like the Branch Davidians and the
Michigan Milita. These attacks on The Majority fit in with an elite need
to rule by dividing the working class along racial lines.

James Heartfield

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