Sunday, July 15, 2007

"Strange bedfellows"

So, an interesting tangent developed toward the end of the comments in this thread. I can't really sum it up here and do it justice, I don't think, but I wanted to open it up to a wider question, as it relates both to that side conversation and the original post. This is particularly for the activists: How far does realpolitik go, for you? Who, if anyone, are you -not- willing to work together with under -any- circumstances, even if it's a question of "the enemy of my enemy"? Under what circumstances -are- you willing to work with...well, name your line in the sand. What's up for compromise and what's non-negotiable, for you? What are your most important goals? How do you determine whether a given group or individual is not merely really alien to your own cause/worldview but actually inimical at the very root?

And: how do you go about building coalitions?


Meredith said...

You know, I'd love to answer that question, but I don't really know. As I said in my last post, I'm still trying to figure out if there's even a group standing behind me or not.

Anonymous said...

I think for me, it's a question of what they're trying to do with it.

The confusion arising from the anti-porn feminists allying with the Religious Right comes not from the fact that they have the same aim of getting rid of porn (and sex industry in general) but from the complete clash of what they expect to achieve by it.

The Religious Right will naturally seek to write laws that have the effect of constraining women's sexual expression - their anti-porn laws will serve their own purpose, and not that of (anti-porn) feminists, which is to liberate women from sexual expectations. Thus, any alliance by anti-porn feminists with the religious right is going to result in the anti-porn feminists finding themselves supporting a worsening of the condition they hope alleviate.

Simply doing away with porn in itself wouldn't necessarily have either effect (each side would hope that in the aftermath, their desired social outcome would result). However, the act of doing away with porn, in the real world, is done by using laws, and the ways in which laws are composed have broader impact. A law composed by one group would have a different overall effect on society from that composed by a group with different aims.

If my group want to achieve some goal, in the furtherance of our overall aims, and some other group wants to achieve the same goal because of their overall aims, it might be assumed that, on that one issue, we would be allies - but if the other group has aims that are in direct opposition to my group, then we need to fight them just as much on the shared issue (to make sure that the goal is achieved in a way that favours us and not them) as on any other issues.

Daisy said...

Thanks for extending the discussion, BD! :)

Sage said...

Wow, what an amazing thread back there! I'm sorry I missed out on the discussion. (For the record, I like parts of Dworkin AND Greer, but don't think I like all of anybody or else I'd just refer to that person regularly instead of writing my own stuff.)

As for the question here, I'll work with absolutely anyone with a similar goal at hand. I'll work with SUV-solo-drivers on feminist issues and I'll work with anti-abortionists on environmental issues, and hell, I'll even work with cigarette smokers and alchohol-abstainers. When it comes to getting stuff done, I easily put all differences aside and focus on the task in front of us. I just hope others are so willing to work with me.

Alon Levy said...

I have to unask your question. In theory it doesn't make sense, for the same reasons explained in the other threads. For example, does the alliance in question increase political capital reserves that will be used against my stated goals? Is the alliance with a moderate group, such as mainstream conservatism, or with an extremist one, such as communism or Dominionism? If it's with an extremist group, does the group have any potential to take over (as Dominionists do) or not (as libertarians don't)?

In practice, the radfem/fundamentalist alliance on porn isn't a very good test case, because neither side is serious enough about politics to be helpful or to return the favor. To use (old) SAT language, anti-porn activists : political alliance :: Bush cronies : public administration.

belledame222 said...

I'm not really limiting this to the antiporn feminist/RRR thing here. It's a practical question for activists of various stripes.

belledame222 said...

For example, does the alliance in question increase political capital reserves that will be used against my stated goals? Is the alliance with a moderate group, such as mainstream conservatism, or with an extremist one, such as communism or Dominionism? If it's with an extremist group, does the group have any potential to take over (as Dominionists do) or not (as libertarians don't)?

But yes, those are the sorts of questions I was driving at.

well, and also: if you're hitching your wagon to a more powerful star, that partly answers the question of why -you- want to do it; the question still remains, whose agenda are you really furthering more, what's in it for the larger group, etc. etc.

R. Mildred said...

Does giving them the option of joing my treehouse club or being horribly brutally maimed in a rabies infect biomechanical threshing machine count as a form of coalition building?

Simply doing away with porn in itself wouldn't necessarily have either effect (each side would hope that in the aftermath, their desired social outcome would result).

Well you're assuming way too much good faith on everyone part in that alliance, becuase you basically had two groups, both from the same socio-economic groups and classes, and both of whom were convinced that getting rid of porn would do its part in making America into their respect sort of New Jerusalem.

The problem with that alliance is less that there's a problem with alliances per se, but that when you find yourself siding with some of hte most revolting amoral, sophistic, stuck, self important, self righteous and just plain evil scum bags in American politics, you probably need to recheck you theories and action plans somewhat.

It's equivalent to the Centristish dems (Obama for instance) doing the horizontal mamba with the far right, and then going on and on about how they have to be far right, and why it's so important that you get far right dems in rather than anyone else because through the magic of transubstanciation, those dems will magically not leave the government a giant festering den of far right wingers should the dems actually get enough of an overwhelming majority that they can't fucking bullshit with a straight face anymore about how they have to keep their motherfucking powder dry, to the degree that the left wing dems will be completely unable to get anything done anymore than they were able to when the far right republicans ran the place.

And then you have the irony of it all that the actual power that could give the left wing leverage would require allying more heavily with the immigrant rights movement - which no "respectable" left wing organisation will touch with a ten foot barge pole, lest the repugs are mean to them and give them wedgies (or something).

There's people you don't want to be able to ally with, even for concrete goals, and some you do even without clear concrete goals.

Alon Levy said...

I don't know in general, but the example you give of Obama is actually of a useful political alliance. In the diary you link to, Obama says governing from the base isn't necessarily a good idea; the 2006 election proved him right. So far, he seems to be the sort of person who knows how to form temporary alliances on issues of public administration, while having a solid progressive record himself. That in the long run tends to be more effective than Rovist partisanship. The partisans get booted as soon as their inability to make the trains run on time causes train derailments, while the cooperators, the Teddy Kennedies, stay for decades and slowly drain the ability of the other side to maintain party unity (the Republican leadership had to beg Senators not to cosponsor bills with Kennedy).

Incidentally, immigration is an issue most politicians don't care about, which is why they're all over the map on it. The only thing Republicans know how to do is cut taxes and increase defense spending, while railing about foreign policy problems they're too crude to solve. The only thing Democrats know how to do is increase social spending, typically on the most inefficient programs any mind in the first world could come up with, and rant about health care problems they're too chicken to solve. Immigration is out of both sides' radar, which is the only reason the Senate could even consider a decent reform bill in the first place.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One of the things that I try to keep in mind is judging both what people say and what they do. (Or perhaps what they want.)

For example: in my broadly defined mish-mash of a religious subculture, there are a *lot* of groups that are all about the "We need to protect our religious freedoms!" jobbie. And they frequently want us all to club together and do stuff, and get very angry at people who don't (often in the "you're not *really* a ..." mode), but the thing is, they are lying about my religion when they talk about the beliefs that "we" have, or the practices, or whatever, and if I wanted to conform to someone else's religious orthodoxy to get along I'd get much less flak from the world at large if I went Dominionist rather than fluffy pseudo-Wiccan.

Which isn't to say that I won't coalish with that fluffy pseudo-Wiccan on something we do agree on, but it's ... is the coalition being built explicitly on principles that are opposed to me and mine? If the aforementioned person and I decide to work together on the problem of, say, antibiotic-laden factory farming, each for our own reasons, that's one thing, but the moment that person comes out with "... because as good vegan pagans we can't abide the cruel deaths of these children of Teh Gawdess", the stompy boots come out. I'm here for my reasons; you're here for yours; so long as your reasons don't expect compliance from me, we're good.

toughstuff said...

hey there! sorry to ask this so awkwardly, but do you have an e-mail contact where i could ask you a question directly?


KH said...

This thread came & went while I was traveling in the east (of Capitol St), but I'd make 1 comment: I actually had in mind two distinct questions. The 1st is the 1 you describe here: under what conditions should we enter into coalitions w/ people w/ whom we may have deep disagreements? But there’s also a 2nd problem having to do w/ ideological convergence. The 2 questions are separable. It’s possible to do coalition politics w/o converging ideologically w/ your coalition partners, & you can ideologically converge w/ a group w/o cooperating w/ it in any practical political project.

Nevertheless, there’s often a gravitational force drawing coalition partners, consciously or unconsciously, to view each other in a benign light, minimize their differences, even to apologize for each other’s unappealing traits. As w/ pets & spouses, members of a coalition often begin to look like each other, even against their own better judgment.

The 1st question raises interesting problems of practical reason, but I was really mostly concerned w/ the ideological convergence of ostensibly opposed groups & points of view.

Wrt the 1st question: anybody reading this thread is likely to be, in some respect, a minority w/in a minority. At least I am. So you’ve got 3 options. First, withdrawal, inner emigration, silence. Second, purely expressive politics w/ no expectation of practical effectiveness, expounding your truths either in the hope that they’ll have an effect in some indeterminate future or for their own sake. Third, cooperation w/ groups w/ whom you may have significant differences. In nothing I said in the earlier thread did I mean to imply that the 3rd option is somehow inherently suspect; more often, I find myself arguing against the notion that there’s some special virtue in abstaining from the messy business practical political action. People often have to, & should, cooperate w/ people they dislike. I’m no Savonarola in the matter.

But I do think you should take care always to remember w/ whom you’re cooperating, to see them clearly & not whitewash or apologize for their unappealing qualities. In the previous thread, I thought it was a mistake to describe the segregationism of Southern white supremacists as an expression of some kind of unobtrusive, live-&-let-live, mind-one’s-own-business attitude. There may have been an interesting point in there, but the claim as stated fosters ideological convergence with people who’re inalterably hostile to some basic human values.

Winter said...

I wouldn't be prepared to work with the religious right on anything and I don't think my group would either.

KH said...

Well, I might make an exception if Hitler showed up tanned & rested after his long Argentine vacation.

But even less would I extenuate the oppressive intentions of religious or racist reactionaries. The apologetics are what bother me most. If you're intent on lying down w/ the Devil, at least have the integrity to call him by his rightful name.