I've linked to this post on a so-called nuanced class analysis on the Liberation blog before. Yesterday I had another look and John Bernstein has replied to the comments, including mine.

I am furious. Let's have a look at his comments.

Collectivism: Sandra negatively associates collectivism and freely provided
social services with state institutionalisation. Such a view very much fits in
with the dominant ideologies of our times. So, the common-sense view of today is
that ‘collectivism’ is a dirty word. This anti-collectivist discourse became
mainstream when neo-liberal governments swept to power in the West during the
1980s. New Right governments, such as the fourth Labour regime in NZ, were able
to convincingly portray the state as inefficient, wasteful, as well as
draconian, and to label ‘collectivism’ as being an anathema to all those who
uphold freedom and choice.

How incredibly convenient. Yes he is right that Roger Douglas et. al. made collectivism a dirty word in the 1980s and there are definitely powerful groups still underminig collectivist efforts now. I accept that as I have never met John Bernstein outside of the Liberation blog and presumably he read my linked post before he replied, I could come across as fitting into a right wing 'box' given I disagreed with extended state provision of childcare.

But I'm not and it's no understatement to say I am furious at being put in a box. Oh yes her, neo-liberal at heart.

end of story. No need to look at the actual problems with institutions being involved with our very young on a really large scale.

Let's try another quote from John's comment:

The ‘utopian’ demands I presented, of free 24-hour childcare and free
quality restaurants, is a vision that would seem bizarre and disconcerting to
most of today’s liberals and leftists. Although, as Maia has earlier pointed
out, free childcare ‘is’ (well actually ‘was’) a standard demand of the women’s
liberation movement. Unfortunately, many feminists and liberals have now
retreated into the politics of ‘realism’, looking for solutions within the
parameters of existing structures. So, rather than challenging the family
structure as a centre of oppression and repression, many of those who recognise
women are oppressed now celebrate women’s role in current structures. Of course,
women’s role as the dominant caregivers of children and their grossly
disproportionate role of carrying out domestic duties should be acknowledged and
highlighted. But, liberation and emancipation will not come from elevating such
roles, but instead from offering concrete demands that point towards a
transcendence of such roles.

How patronising. Apparently none of these 'feminists and liberals' used their intelligence to make choices based on their realities and the communities within which they lived. No, they just 'retreated'. Like so many wet and wimpish tadpoles. Ah the lesser sex. They never wanted to play with guns properly anyway.

Then there is this bit taken from someone called Firesone. The bit that makes me realise that I should have read Marx himself a while ago because I see a glaring, neon flashing light of a hole in this quote from Bernstein:

'Marx was on to something more profound than he knew when he observed that
the family contained within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later
develop on a wide scale within the society and the state. For unless revolution
uproots the basic social organisation, the biological family—the vinculum
through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of
exploitation will never be annihilated.'

I think this point of view refuses to engage with the very challenging paradox of family. The family, in any of its compacted or extended forms, is both that which oppresses and that which liberates. I never ever mind paying tax towards the domestic purposes benefit which allows for persons experiencing oppression within their family situation to start new lives. I have seen the biological family uprooted and I have not seen the tapewqorm of exploitation annihilated, quite the opposite. I have known children with over a page worth of 'families' and as many again of different schools. I think that Bernstein's attack on the choices many women have made for their sites of struggle glosses over so much as to make it an empty statement. I have seen women and men fight for the right to adopt children within same-sex relationships and make other strides to create their own families, free of the oppression which comes from a narrow view of 'family'. I don't think it was radical and certainly not utopian when I kept my own name after legally marrying. There are aspects of traditional marriage which horrify me, the way in which such a fuss is made of the bride and of the whole shebang being according to some women actually for the mother of the bride. We stepped out of all of that, breaking a few hearts temporarily as a result.

We still need to fight very hard against violence towards women and one of the oppressive parts of some family values is that horrible thing of staying together for the children. I do wonder how any parent could love their daughter and yet still tell them this thing when they arrive on the doorstep battered. It is still happening.

I do not believe that we reduce oppression by blowing open the entire construct of family. Obviously I do lack utopian vision because when I think of times when this has sort of happened I think of even more repressive regimes - the Romanian orphans, the slave trade in America. Family also offers the possibility of growth together, support in the face of disaster, the incredible journey of watching a new generation emerge.

While I've been writing this post, I've been up and down countless times to my daughter who is running a temperature (No I haven't given her pamol, but I'm happy to vent forth sometime soon about big pharma, one of the most oppressive and powerful groups in the entire planet. My utopia won't involve those brutes). It's not oppression. It's work and I'm pleased to do it. Obviously there are sites of power and oppression around illness and family. Who will take the day off work tomorrow if she has not recovered? What about the wider workplace and family care issue? In the UK I remember Tony Blair talking about childcare for ill children to keep the economy going (why else?). Moron. Yes, family life presents situations which don't respond well to an economics-based model. I think it would be quite easy to track changes in publicly available childcare against economic imperatives. The match is pretty good.

It's a lovely thing, swanning around with words. Blogland has provided a great platform for us all to swan around with words. If you read the next Liberation post, you will meet a supposed guru called Slavoj Zizek. From the linked post, I think we are talking emperor with no clothes country. I would love to know what others think.


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