Welcome! This is Part I of a post about some of the strategies (lines of thought and recommended actions) I’ve come across from bourgeois philosophers and other academics on social media regarding euro-american “feminists” defending Hillary Clinton against the Trump campaign.
The first strategy I’ll be focusing on is what I call the ‘white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton’. This is the way that bourgeois philosophers and white academic “feminists” carry on in a way that implies that feminists ―without qualification― should defend Hillary Clinton against the Trump camp while opportunistically doing one or both of the following: They either smuggle in the idea defending Hillary Clinton against the Trump camp means that feminists living in the euro-american nation state should vote for Hillary Clinton and/or they downplay that Hillary Clinton is a leader of the gender aristocracy and a key executor of the euro-american imperialism that oppresses most of the world’s women. This, along with some background and context, will take up all of Part I.
The second strategy I’ll be focusing on will be the main topic of Part II and is what I call ‘pimping anti-fascism’, which is the disingenuous idea that people in the euro-american nation state voting for an imperialist like Hillary Clinton is, in the current context, a “strategic” move by euro-american liberals and co-opted oppressed-nation nationals “against” fascism.
I’m spending time on this because the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton and pimping anti-fascism naturally suggest themselves to bourgeois philosophers as they each exemplify some of the core characteristics of bourgeois philosophy: idealism, first world-chauvinism, individualism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism. These and similar strategies come up, again and again from the bourgeois liberal camp whenever they want to co-opt feminist and anti-fascist struggles to serve imperialism since they express the social identity of the class of people served by economic imperialism.
But before going on, here’s some background and context, useful for understanding the rest of the piece.
Background and Context
First-world chauvinism unites euro-americans against the rest of the world. The basis of this unity ―the basis of the political solidarity of euro-americans against the rest of the world― is euro-american imperialism and the settler colonialism, including the legacy of slavery, genocide, and land theft that founded it. What this means is that historically, and thinking in terms of euro-americans as a national group composed of different classes, euro-american national unity in support of imperialism and neo-colonialism trumps both working class and gender solidarity with non-euro-americans.
Historically, and thinking in terms of euro-americans as a national group composed of different classes, euro-american national unity in support of imperialism and neo-colonialism trumps both working class and gender solidarity with non-euro-americans.
This claim isn’t about the subjective views of individual euro-americans ―not even those who have committed class/nation/gender suicide with an actual practice combating first-world and euro-american imperialism in support of internationalism and freedom for all ―it is a claim based on the documented history of chauvinist euro-american working class and euro-american “feminist” struggles in the euro-american nation state, euro-american labor protectionism, the imposition of neo-colonialism (the concrete form of white-power in the form of bourgeois democracy) over non-euro-americans at home, and euro-american support of economic and military actions undermining the national democracy and economic development of former colonial peoples abroad. These realities of euro-american chauvinism are rigorously documented, accessible, and readily referenced in works like White Women’s Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, Divided World, Divided Class, Labor Aristocracy, the Mass Base for Social Democracy, and others. And it is these same realities that provide the framework for the non-bourgeois critique of the justification and lines of reasoning offered by bourgeois philosophers and bourgeois academics for the political activity of euro-american liberals, including white “feminists” and other neo-colonial people’s co-opted to support imperialism. They help us understand why these groups militate for, promote, and vote for imperialist leaders who mobilize fascist forces in the Third World to secure favorable economic conditions for euro-american multinationals and the continued prosperity of the minority of the world’s people at the expense of everyone else. And, as we’ll see in Part II, these realities also help us make sense of the disingenuous ways that bourgeois liberals pimp anti-fascism to defend imperialism including the most fascist elements of settler neo-colonialism domestically, and fascism abroad.
Feminism and White “Feminism”
To understand the non-bourgeois perspective on the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton we should first get clear on feminism. Feminism is an internationalist ideology and social practice in the service of those who want to abolish gender oppression. It recognizes that gendered women are oppressed as a group by gendered males and connects the struggle against patriarchy to struggles combating other types of power inequality, like class and nation. In the era of patriarchy, feminism can’t be neutral in the same way that in the era of imperialism justice can’t be color blind: To be a feminist is to be unequivocally on the side of most of the world’s women who aren’t insulated by the privileges of imperialism -to militate for their freedom as a group from gender, class, and national oppression.
The gender aristocracy is an elite class of gendered women, mostly in the first world, who collude with patriarchy in exchange for privileges secured by imperialism by means of the gender, class, and national oppression of the world’s women.
White, or bourgeois liberal “feminism” runs counter to this: It is a bourgeois liberal ideology and associated social practice that expresses the identity of the gender aristocracy, an elite class of gendered women, mostly in the first world, who collude with patriarchy in exchange for privileges secured by imperialism by means of the gender, class, and national oppression of the world’s women. It is on the side of a privileged minority of the world’s women and serves their interests as the chief ideological tool to justify both chauvinist complacency toward the continued and expanded gender oppression of most of the world’s women and militating for it.
Defending Women or Defending Patriarchy and Imperialism?
In the space of intra-imperialist presidential politics between imperialist social-democrats (of the type that formed the base for the Bernie Sanders campaign -although sanders himself is just a neo-liberal democrat), traditional imperialist neo-liberals (like Hillary Clinton), and domestic fascist mobilizers (like Trump), patriarchal misogyny ―along with classism, racism, and other hateful belligerencies of oppression are common in the language of euro-american public discourse and serve the political ends of these groups. For example, the Trump campaign and the domestic fascist base they mobilize, the tamest elements of which are the Republican Party, have made claims to legitimize rape culture to downplay their candidate’s leaked confessions about his experiences carrying out sexual assault where he proudly recounts how he imposed himself on women against their will and recommends his tactics for sexual gratification to other euro-american elites. It is no surprise then that Hillary Clinton is frequently attacked along gender lines by other imperialists competing with her for positions of power in the euro-american nation state. The criticism of this practice cannot, in a way consistent with anti-imperialist, internationalism, and feminism, be tagged onto either a call for support and or a vote for an archetypal imperialist like Hillary Clinton. To understand why this is the case, we must look more closely at some of the hateful belligerencies that characterize the fascist wing of euro-america, now mobilized by Trump, misogyny and color-explicit racism (as opposed to the color-blind racism of typical, liberal, euro-american neo-colonialism). These hateful belligerencies also bear commenting on further since they are some of the principal things euro-american bourgeois liberals, including academic “feminists” focus on when mounting their pro-imperialist opposition to Trump.
Misogyny is to patriarchy as the color-explicit racism of white supremacy is to imperialism. Both are natural, necessary features of these specific, historically identifiable systems of oppression and can be said to permeate the social totality of these systems. What this means is that the hateful belligerence of misogyny is immanent in patriarchal societies just like the hateful belligerence of white-supremacy is immanent in imperialist societies founded on the settlerism and colonialism that defines the history of the “West”. And it means that misogyny and white-supremacy can manifest themselves at any time ―like during an election, during a rape trial, during a routine traffic stop, during a faculty meeting― and they are excusable, unremarkable, hand-waved away as uncommon “extremes” and legitimized not by the victims of misogyny and white supremacy (except in cases of internalized oppression) but by the normalizing force of the totality of these systems as concretely embodied in institutions and norms that are patriarchal, in the case of misogyny, and imperialist in the case of white-supremacy and which powerfully condition the behaviors of those who benefit materially from those systems.
Misogyny is to patriarchy as the color-explicit racism of white supremacy is to imperialism.
But then the choice is clear: under a power hierarchy like patriarchy you can either side with feminism in opposing misogyny or you can uphold the patriarchal structures to which misogyny is necessary. The same goes for a power structure like imperialism: you can either side with internationalism in opposing white supremacy or you can uphold the imperialist structures to which white supremacy is necessary. By militating for, promoting, and voting for an imperialist leader who mobilizes a variety of fascist, neo-liberal and feudal forces in the Third World and victimizes countless numbers of the world’s women while securing favorable economic conditions for euro-american multinationals and the continued prosperity of the minority of the world’s people, the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton decides this in practice on the side of patriarchy and imperialism.
How does any of this connect with bourgeois philosophy? The oppressive social relations that constitute settlerism, imperialism, and patriarchy (outside of class, national, and gender suicide) delimit the social identity of the people who benefit from them. And in the case of political liberalism imposed by military and institutional force in settler colonial societies, the tension between imperialism and internationalism, between feminism and patriarchy is decided on the side of oppression through color-blind racism (in the case of imperialist national oppression), and white “feminism” (in the case of patriarchy). This “taking sides” is just what it means to be a beneficiary of imperialism and patriarchy, it’s “reasonable”, it’s “enlightened” and completely natural for those operating from the standpoint of the bourgeoisie, and is codified in bourgeois philosophy. So, the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton intersects malignantly with bourgeois philosophy in terms of expressing the social identity of people who benefit from patriarchy and imperialism. And it puts bourgeois philosophy into practice by calling for above the board support of patriarchy and imperialism on a global scale.
The White “Feminist” Posture of Privilege
The white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton exhibits many of the key characteristics of bourgeois philosophy: idealism, first-world chauvinism, and uncritical engagement with liberalism (individualism comes into the picture too, in the way that bourgeois philosophers react to the critique of these claims and associated actions ―see below under “Bourgeois Philosophers React”). And, like bourgeois philosophy in general, it comes off as the type of mansplaining typical of the interactions of first-world and euro-american women toward the rest of the world’s women and highlights the position of privilege from which these “feminists” advance their recommendations. Mansplaining isn’t often thought of in this way by euro-american women, but since it’s a power and privilege phenomenon and since gender privilege under patriarchy is a hierarchy of power, it’s perfectly applicable to describing the chauvinist attitudes and strategies of euro-american and other elements of the gender aristocracy, and the general bourgeois liberal patriarchy who assume the male role in relation to non-euro-american women because of the power and privilege secured for them by imperialism.
One of the ways mansplaining is carried out in practice is the habit of “talking over” women which basically means that men noisily assume an unwarranted posture of expertise that centers their wants and desires, while failing to take women into account in their ideation ―even when the affected women are in the same room or when women are principally those for whom the issue matters― such that their recommendations are often outlandishly prohibitive or hurtful toward women and or completely irrelevant to them, and are conspicuously out of place or inappropriate to women who know better and are better qualified. This “talking over” aspect of mansplaining is connected to the privileges secured by patriarchy since it can, and often does in political discussions of power, shut down active participation of those who voice concerns, ideas, arguments or any alternatives in opposition to the social structure enabling the mansplaining by loudly drowning them out with male-centered concerns in ways that are re-enforced and exonerated by the norms and institutions that shape the patriarchal status quo.
It’s not so different in the case of white academic “feminists” and their defense of Hillary Clinton against the misogynist attacks of the Trump camp when fiendishly linked to a vote for imperialism and/or downplaying that Hillary Clinton is a leader of the gender aristocracy and key player in global imperialism. For instance, the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton centers the liberalism of a minority of privileged women who benefit from imperialism and gender oppression by “talking over” ―i.e., completely ignoring or shooing away― the non-liberal, anti-imperialist, feminist concerns of the women most affected by Hillary Clinton’s brand of imperialism. And the recommendation that feminists, whose goal is the advancement of the interests of most of the world’s women should vote for an imperialist leader of the gender aristocracy whose goals are maintaining euro-american imperialism is diametrically opposed to the goals of feminism, and comes off as backwards and completely out of place to non-euro-american, non-first-world women who are better informed than the world’s most privileged academics about the evils of euro-america’s “feminist” imperialism.
The Intersection Between Bourgeois Philosophy and White “Feminism”
The security of imperialist privilege revealed in the mansplaining of euro-american “feminists” and the general culture of indifference to violence against women who are victims of imperialism creates a space for the unfettered application of the principles of bourgeois philosophy in the white “feminist” defense of Hilary Clinton. Principles like idealism, which, if you recall, is the tendency to evaluate ideas and practices, and to structure debates all in terms of a purported absolute truth and absolute value rather than relative to an aim in a context. Idealism is a bourgeois prejudice because the purported “absolutes” here are not the types of things that can be detached from the social relations that form the basis for the relative determination of thought, and amount to expressing a way of being, conditioned by class, national and gender privilege. Idealism is relevant here because feminism isn’t the type of thing that can be decontextualized or used in an uncritical way in a world divided by class and national oppression principally motivated by the people and politics of the first world. Feminism, like philosophy itself, cannot be invoked without asking: feminism for whom? Otherwise the suggestion that “feminists”, without qualification, should “defend Hillary” and tying that to a vote is uncritical and opportunistically relies on the ideology of the imperialist, patriarchal status quo ―on the understanding of the dominant forms of gender politics in a bourgeois liberal settler society upheld by institutional force, and of the class of gendered women who benefit from those politics. In this case, it is the first-world, mostly euro-american gender aristocracy.
Feminism, like philosophy itself, cannot be invoked without asking: feminism for whom?
Another principle of bourgeois philosophy that features in the white “feminist” defense of Hilary Clinton is first-world chauvinism: the adoption of ideologies and practices designed to justify, reinforce, and prolong first world oppression of the rest of the world. It’s something that grows natively from the comforts and privileges afforded by imperialism to its constituency, and is reinforced and perpetuated by the institutions and superstructures of imperialism. Some of its important characteristics are narrow nationalism/anti-internationalism, first world exceptionalism, apologetics for crimes committed by imperialist governments, deliberate distortion of the relative status of first world people in relation to the rest of the world in favor of first world people, deliberate ignorance of the subsidies extracted by first world people from the rest of the world, and deliberate ignorance of the fact that these subsidies are unjustly acquired at gunpoint ―in other words, it colludes with the militarism of the first world countries.
Calling for a vote for Hillary Clinton under the banner of “feminism” is just this type of chauvinism pure and simple, since it is a vote for continued imperialism against most of the world’s women perpetrated by one of the world’s leading imperialist warhawks. There’s nothing feminist about this when you consider that in her tenure as an executor of imperialist militarism, and as a career politician for euro-american imperialism, Hillary Clinton has been instrumental, if not directly responsible for carrying out class and national attacks on both non-euro-american women abroad and non-euro-american women domestically (more about this in Part II). It’s quite the opposite: Hillary Clinton’s concrete practice and that of her supporters is diametrically opposed to the internationalism of feminism and to the welfare of most of the world’s women. To position this as “feminism” requires a powerful, self-serving chauvinism, a hateful belligerence like racism and misogyny, that privileges first-world and euro-american women ―on the same level as the “eliminative antisemitism” characterized in Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust, or to the “manifest destiny” that fueled the genocidal expansion of euro-american imperialism during the 19th century.
This first world chauvinism manifests itself, for instance, in the underhanded slogan that “Hillary hate is rooted in sexism” which infantilizes non-euro-american women and silences the righteous grievances of the oppressed against an archetypal warmonger. It may be true that Hillary hate on the part of first-world men, republocrat politicians and the imperialist media is rooted in sexism. But to uncritically and opportunistically remain silent about non-sexist critique of Hillary Clinton and therefore lump the feminist anti-imperialist critique of Hillary Clinton on the part of non-first-world women and men in with the “critique” of republocrat men and the imperialist media to achieve political gain for first-world and euro-american women is blatantly chauvinistic and a clear instantiation of the white “feminist” posture of privilege towards the rest of the world. It is narrow nationalism/anti-internationalism because the slogan erases non-sexist causes of Hilary hate radiating out of the third-world. It’s first-world exceptionalism because it makes it seem as if the limits of political discourse defined by first-world imperialists and the imperialist media exhaust the critique of Hillary Clinton and other gender aristocrats. It is a deliberate distortion of the relative status of first world people in relation to the rest of the world in favor of first world people because it makes it seem as if the elite class of gendered women represented by Hillary Clinton are the victims of patriarchy rather than key players collaborating with patriarchy in exchange for privileges secured by imperialism by means of the gender, class, and national oppression of the world’s women. And it represents collusion with first-world militarism because Hillary Clinton is a leader of imperialist militarism who has brought death and destruction to the women and men of Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria during her tenure as an imperialist politician.
First-world chauvinism manifests itself, for instance, in the underhanded slogan that “Hillary hate is rooted in sexism” which infantilizes non-euro-american women and silences the righteous grievances of the oppressed against an archetypal warmonger.
The first world chauvinism of those advancing the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton also manifests itself through the uncritical idea that “feminists” without qualification should “support women with power and influence”. This is putting the cart before the horse. Under imperialism and patriarchy people and women who support imperialism and collude with patriarchy are rewarded with power and influence. It means that power and influence under patriarchy and imperialism isn’t a good criterion of what counts as a figure worthy of “feminist” defense -unless you’re the one profiting from those things. But more importantly, it’s narrow nationalism/anti-internationalism because it expresses a bias for the privileges enjoyed by first-world women. Also, it’s first-world exceptionalism because it normalizes the narrative of the imperialist gender aristocracy that the euro-american nation state is a competitive space where women and others in general distinguish themselves as leaders in politics, solely through natural talents and abilities and dogged determination rather than by using all of that in the service of the unjust, violent operations of capitalist neo-colonialism and patriarchy and being rewarded for it. It is a deliberate distortion of the relative status of first world people in relation to the rest of the world in favor of first world people because it makes it seem as if the type of power and influence represented by Hillary Clinton is something casually available to everyone -as if Hillary Clinton “just happens to be” powerful and influential. The truth is that Hillary’s power and influence is founded on genocide, slavery and war, historically perpetrated by a relative minority of the world’s people and which has enabled the creation of a class of powerful and influential oligarchs like the Clintons who are unlike most of the world’s people in their social identity and privilege and who vie for political control of the euro-american war machine in the cycle of euro-american politics. Finally, going on about the “power and influence” of Hillary Clinton is collusion with first-world militarism because the power and influence of euro-america and of euro-america’s imperialist class would not exist without the violence and suffering inflicted on the world’s people by euro-america’s armed forces since the inception of the settler regime. What the chauvinism of the white “feminists” tries to erase is that to be on the side of women in the first half of the 21st century means to be on the side of most of the world’s women WHO AREN’T in positions of power and influence and to support leaders whose work has benefited this group materially against patriarchy and other related structures that hold most women in bondage. The ill-gathered privileges of first-world gender aristocrats and the bloody example of Hillary Clinton and other imperialists like her are neither the standard nor the goal for women’s liberation globally.
To be on the side of women in the first half of the 21st century means to be on the side of most of the world’s women WHO AREN’T in positions of power and influence and to support leaders whose work has benefited this group materially against patriarchy and other related structures that hold most women in bondage.
Quite recently hero, and leading ideologue of first-world chauvinist white “feminism” Sally Haslanger went out of her way to throw women who are victims of euro-american imperialism under the bus in an piece that was championed, and distributed without criticism by the usual racist troupe of academic philosophers on blogs and on social media. The point here is not to critique that piece in grim detail but to highlight how Haslanger exemplifies the gender aristocracy’s first-world chauvinist posture of privilege and everything that is harmful about the hateful belligerence of white “feminism” toward the women whose exploitation and oppression forms the material basis for their privilege.
In the piece Haslanger levels apologies for euro-american imperialism under the guise of feminism in paradigmatic first-world chauvinist fashion by trivializing Hillary Clinton’s instrumental role in bringing exploitation and death to the women of Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria during her tenure as an imperialist politician by claiming that she just has “hawkish values”. To those not insulated by first-world privilege and for whom first-world chauvinism isn’t a social identity, it’s like talking about the slave-owning founders of the euro-american nation-state as merely having “slave-ownerish values”. Or claiming that Donald Trump just has rape culturish values. For those documenting the obvious, these things are true: Hillary has hawkish values, the founders of the euro-american nation state had slave-ownerish values and Trump has rape-culturish values. This is just what it means to be a euro-american. What makes the claim that Hillary Clinton has hawkish values into a tool of gender oppression in the service of the first-world gender aristocracy is that Haslanger uses it to trivialize imperialist violence against non-first-world, non-euro-american women in the same way that gendered males indulging in the normalization of rape culture do when they claim that sexual assault is just “boys being boys”. The chauvinist double standard of critiquing violence against women when it’s in the interest of first-world, mostly euro-american women and treating it as either a harmless nuisance or an unavoidable fact of life when it detracts from the gender privilege of this gender aristocracy is just a small part of the hateful belligerence toward the women of the world exhibited by Haslanger in this piece.
But the hateful belligerence of first-world chauvinism covers the entire piece since the prompt Haslanger is answering and has accepted as legitimate makes no mention of the relationship of the euro-american nation state and the people who benefit from it to the rest of the world’s women. When she speaks of non-euro-american women it’s in the neo-colonial terms of white-power as if non-euro-american women have a stake in making sure the “the nation” ―the euro-american nation state― isn’t “torn apart”.
The mythology regarding the euro-american nation state being “torn-apart” will feature in Part II of this piece since it’s one way for people who have always been at peace with the most fascist elements of euro-american society to shill for a vote for their preferred method of implementing fascism abroad and administrating the reach of the fascist elements of euro-america domestically. The point is that for Haslanger, “Muslims, Mexican immigrants, African-Americans (-I.e., Black people), the poor, the disabled”, are political talking points for the continuation of neo-colonial bourgeois democracy founded on imperialism and the fascist elements that go with it. This is nowhere more cringe-inducingly evident than when the dog-whistle for euro-american militarism sounds in the form of the “question” of “national security”. Instead of using this space to stand up for women who don’t benefit from imperialism and combat the militarism of euro-america that destroys the lives of countless women in the global south, Haslanger goes out of her way to center the privileged lifestyles of first-world women and play up the importance of the gender aristocracy in the civic operation of the euro-american nation state.
It’s narratives like Haslanger’s that highlight the powerful and appalling way in which the white “feminist” posture of privilege intersects with gender privilege in patriarchal societies founded on imperialism while revealing a social identity grounded in the material gains made by the violent disenfranchisement of women who are the victims of imperialism. It’s called the white “feminist” culture of indifference to violence against non-euro-american, non-first-world, non-liberal women. Consider that a particularly despicable, but general feature of patriarchy is Rape culture: a social feature of patriarchy pertaining to male privilege regarding sexual assault where sexual violence (including things like groping, stalking/doxxing, rape, murder) and the violation of women’s bodies is normalized. It includes, but is not limited to victim blaming, trivializing sexual violence (including sexual violence in prisons, because of war, and in academic and professional settings), denying that sexual violence is widespread and normal, treating people from a given class, nation and gender solely as objects for sexual pleasure, and classifying some sexual violence as “good” and other sexual violence as “bad” in ways that serve the national and class interests of gendered males. Because when it comes to imperialism, bourgeois liberal “feminists” behave in just this way in relation to most of the world’s women, the general way that white “feminists” and other sectors of the first-world gender aristocracy confront the plight of non-euro-american, non-first-world, non-liberal women amounts to an analogue of rape culture, a culture of indifference to violence against mostly non-euro-american and non-first-world women: a social feature of patriarchy pertaining to first-world, mostly euro-american, women with regards to the gender privilege secured by imperialism where the exploitation and oppression of non-first-world women is normalized. It includes, but is not limited to victim blaming, trivializing imperialist violence (including sexual violence, and violence in prisons and detention centers, as a consequence of war, and in academic and professional settings), denying that imperialist violence is widespread and normal, treating gendered women from a given class and nation as objects for cultural, sexual and political gain, and classifying some violence as “good” and other violence as “bad” in ways that serve the national and class interests of first-world women.
This piece is so robustly anti-woman that it reminds those of us from parts of the world ravaged by people like Hillary Clinton for the benefit of people like Haslanger that the discourse on feminism cannot be left in the hands of these apologists for imperialism. That they cannot be allowed to set the terms of philosophical and political work that affects most of the world’s women, and that feminist philosophy is so much more than can be conceived by the minority of the world’s most privileged women.
Uncritical engagement with liberalism
Another feature shared by the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton and bourgeois philosophy is uncritical engagement with liberalism. One of the characteristics of uncritical engagement with liberalism is treating the limits and prescriptions of liberalism as standing beyond all criticism and recognizing no alternatives to liberalism and its structures. It’s nice to be privileged enough and protected by euro-america’s military to indulge in this way of being. But because of the inequities of global economics perpetuated by the imperialist governments for the benefit of first world people, liberalism ends up being a game that only a minority of the most privileged people in the world can participate in and it excludes most of the world’s people in terms of consideration, relevance, and aspiration. As such, participation in politics, economics and in promoting the general will of people who don’t benefit from imperialism can’t depend exclusively or even principally on the structures of liberalism. But uncritical engagement with liberalism collapses “democracy” to bourgeois democracy and treats it as an end in itself irrespective of the real deleterious effects it may have on people who don’t benefit from imperialism and patriarchy, which also happen to be most of the world’s people adversely affected by imperialist wars.
In general, when compared to absolute monarchy and hereditary privilege and other feudal structures of rule, liberal democracy and its methods of popularly electing political leadership by means of a vote are a good deal. It’s also a good deal in cases of colonialism and settlerism because the struggle for national democracy apart from the systems imposed by colonizers is essential to the liberation of nations from colonial rule. On the other hand, when liberal democracy and its methods of popularly electing political leadership stifles choice and provides no avenue for expressing the political will of nations, classes and women who oppose imperialist war, fascism, and patriarchy, then it’s not such a good deal and people –in this case most of the world’s people not served by the structures of liberalism, must find other tools for carrying out their will and for building societies that serve their interests. This just means that from a non-bourgeois point of view, democracy is not an end in itself because, as in the case of the euro-american regime’s system of bourgeois democracy, under imperialist patriarchy it can come to a point where it not only fails to help people who don’t benefit from class, national, and gender injustice, but it can be a red-herring that distracts away from effective strategies for change while counterproductively focusing the efforts of those who oppose imperialist war, fascism, and patriarchy on actually strengthening the institutions that bring that bring these evils about.
In the case of the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton, uncritical engagement with liberalism comes principally in the form of the dogma that the euro-american regime’s system of bourgeois democracy is not only a space for advancing feminism but that it is the ONLY space for feminists to effectively do so now. At the current time -and in this imperialist election cycle, there are no official, non-first-world chauvinist avenues in euro-america’s system of bourgeois democracy to advance feminist ideology and carry out feminist practice. Feminist practice must be carried out outside of and against the institutions of bourgeois democracy -whose purpose, first and foremost, is to secure continued benefits for euro-american gendered men, and their cohorts among the gender aristocracy.
The uncritical attitude limiting feminist opposition to patriarchy to imperialist electoral politics in a system of patriarchy works hand in hand with first-world chauvinism. The chauvinism becomes clear when we consider that most of the world’s women who suffer under euro-american imperialism haven’t had a say and will not, based on euro-american elections, in whether they will be bombed by Hillary Clinton for the material benefit of banks, multinationals and all people living in the first world. Consistently, the views of the people who have been and will continue to be bombed by Hillary Clinton fail to feature in the evaluation of her as a figurehead worthy of “feminist” defense among the liberal, academic gender aristocracy. Nevertheless, the structures that limit electoral choice to murdering, maiming, and exploiting non-euro-american, non-first-world women and men by means of imperialist war led by either a neo-con like Hillary Clinton or the same but led by a fascist mobilizer each in the service of first-world people are uncritically, and selfishly promoted by first world liberals and liberal “feminists” as the sole way to meaningfully oppose patriarchy and carry out feminist practice.
The reality is that the structures that that exclude the women and other groups of people principally affected detrimentally by any outcome in a bourgeois “democratic” showdown between a warmonger like Hillary Clinton and a fascist mobilizer like Trump are not the ways to advance feminism: When we look at the history of gains in terms of rights and opportunities made by women and non-euro-american people in the first-world generally during the 20th century through a proletarian, feminist, internationalist, non-bourgeois lens, we see that it’s the history of organizing and agitation outside of electoral politics. We see that the electoral politics of euro-american imperialism has lagged behind the activism of women and non-euro-american people with grievances against the euro-american nation state and that the history of LGBT, Black, and Xicanx rebellion and internationalism without the ballot box has played a central role in pressuring the euro-american government to grudgingly make concessions within the neo-colonial framework out of fear of armed insurrection.
But there’s still much more to do because patriarchy and imperialism continue to terrorize most of the world and are spearheaded globally by european and euro-american imperialism and their bourgeois liberal constituency. The hard work of putting an end to these evils cannot neatly be finalized by voting in the imperialists’ elections but by educating people about the deleterious effects of imperialism and building popular support for the type of struggles abroad and within the imperialist countries that can achieve more than neo-colonial concessions from imperialism and secure lasting progressive change globally. It means fighting winnable battles against institutions like the police, the prisons, and the euro-american “justice” system; against imperialist war and its leaders (like Hillary Clinton); against the mobilizers of domestic fascism (like Donald Trump); and against the popularizers and apologists for imperialism in the media and academia. And it is these unofficial, unsanctioned, often scrappy methods that because of the global balance of power, are now the space for advancing feminist practice by oppressed people.
Of course, from the point of view of uncritical engagement with liberalism and the posture of privilege of the advocates of the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton, these alternatives are “juvenile”, “ineffective” and a “waste of time”. And because of their first-world chauvinism the opportunities and methods available to non-euro-american, non-bourgeois people for achieving change come off as laughably “unsophisticated” to know-it-all bourgeois academics preaching from on high. A quick look at the history of white “feminism” reveals that this paternalistic chauvinism is nothing new to the first-world, white “feminist” movement, since it’s one of the core values espoused by its founders who viewed themselves as more “advanced” than First Nation women simply because they espoused settler liberalism:
Most white reformers in the 1880’s and 1890’s, including Fletcher, Quinton, and Willard, initially had no doubt that civilization would improve Indian women’s lives; rather than have to do backbreaking labor while their menfolk loafed, they would experience the joys of domesticity; they would be protected from sexual exploitation within monogamous, nuclear family structures; and they would become citizens of a home-loving republic and receive the blessings of democracy, even without the vote. In short, Indian women were to be given the gift of patriarchy, with all the protection it afforded.
―From the chapter on ‘Assimilating Primitives’ in White Women’s Rights, p. 119.
Things are not so different today, when euro-american settlers continue to claim that the “civilizing” structures of settler-colonial liberalism are the only “effective” and “sophisticated” methods for non-euro-american, non-bourgeois liberal people to exert their political will, such that even those who cannot participate in first-world liberalism, and are its principal, and most unfortunate victims are “gifted” with the “protection” of white “feminist”, bourgeois liberal first-world people, who deem it fit that they should be bombed by a woman. The alternative to this type of chauvinism and to the structures of liberalism that offer only varieties of first-world oppression along imperialist lines is clear: people interested in abolishing gender, national and class oppression ought not to vote for euro-american imperialism and should focus instead on building institutions that express the social identity of people who don’t benefit from these systems, including the regime’s electoral system, while generating traction among neo-colonial populations domestically and globally for the type of revolutionary structural social change that bourgeois liberalism can never bring about, and that its ideology, codified in bourgeois philosophy resists so strongly.
There’s much more to say about the connection between bourgeois philosophy and the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton but this ought to be enough to show that the core features of bourgeois philosophy lend themselves nicely to the anti-feminist, pro-imperialist mindset that seeks to promote Hillary Clinton as the “feminist” choice.
Bourgeois Philosophers React
Before concluding this post, I want to touch on another fundamental feature of bourgeois philosophy that manifests itself when taking up these issues with bourgeois philosophers: individualism. I make claims pointing out problems with the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton from a non-bourgeois standpoint all the time on Twitter. Understandably, bourgeois philosophers become defensive when confronted with this non-bourgeois, non-liberal way of thinking about what they think is “progressive” politics.
The claim bourgeois philosophers recently took issue with on Twitter is that the first-world-chauvinism of those advancing the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton betrays the hateful belligerence of first-world chauvinism on the part of white “feminists” for the plight of non-euro-american, non-liberal, non-first-world women. They offered a “not-all” account like the “not all men”, “not all white people”, “not all cops” defense mounted by people who benefit from the status quo and who think patriarchy, white supremacy and neo-colonialism are doing a “good job overall” and that just a few kinks need to be worked out, a few bad apples need to be “better trained”, etc. This type of reasoning is a good example of how harmful the individualist dogmatism of bourgeois philosophy can be to those seeking to make gains combating first-world chauvinism in practice, so I’m going to say more about it.
The main thing is that their “objection” is a red herring. In other words, for bourgeois philosophers, it’s not a matter of “demonstrating” that the move from the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton to first world-chauvinism is “too hasty” or “poorly grounded” based on scientific, psychological, or even philosophical considerations because this “objection” is not made in good faith (it’s just “concern trolling” ―see below). Far from being a substantial claim about the grounding of an inference, the not-all tactic is a way for the bourgeois philosophers employing it to say “I don’t like what you’re saying, it challenges me in ways that make me feel uncomfortable and this is the best I can do without undermining my privileged stance”, and betrays their unwillingness to listen to voices unlike their own and to dodge critical thought. Recall what was said at the outset: The claim that the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton is an expression of the hateful belligerence of first-world chauvinism is a claim based on the documented history of chauvinist euro-american working class and euro-american “feminist” struggles in the euro-american nation state, euro-american labor protectionism, the imposition of neo-colonialism (the concrete form of white-power in the form of bourgeois democracy) over non-euro-americans at home, and euro-american support of economic and military actions undermining the national democracy and economic development of former colonial peoples abroad. As such it’s not the type of claim that can be confirmed or denied by the systematic investigation of the subjective attitudes of individual bourgeois liberal “feminists” to see whether they “truly” harbor hateful, belligerent attitudes (possibly articulated in declarative sentences) towards non-first-world women. The only thing that could invalidate this claim would be a documented history of internationalist proletarian, feminist solidarity on the part of euro-americans for open borders, national self-determination of oppressed nations, defense of proletarian feminist leadership in third world liberation movements and consistent anti-militarist opposition to the euro-american regime’s attacks on the national democracy and economic development of former colonial people’s abroad. Unfortunately for the countless victims of imperialist violence perpetrated by the likes of Hillary Clinton and Obama and their presidential predecessors, none of this is the case.
The “not-all” claim on the part of bourgeois philosophers is a signature bourgeois individualist move and what it succeeds in doing is disingenuously conflating levels of analysis along individualist lines in such a way that people who benefit from imperialism and patriarchy come out on top: it takes a claim where the values of a class of people (in this case the people who principally benefit from and militate for euro-american imperialism in connection to patriarchy) are identified based on patterns of behavior as a matter of course because that way of thinking is useful when determining strategy for overturning structural injustice on a broad scale and pretends to collapse it to a subjective claim that helps the people who benefit from that injustice to continue to do so. Individualism centers individuals in matters of society and history, including patriarchy and imperialism, under the conceit that bourgeois liberal institutions have “pinned down” the details of social justice and that it’s just individual people and their attitudes that need to be coached into not messing it up for everyone else. In this way people the world over waste their time and effort chipping away at individual biases and praising individual heroics without once striking a blow to the institutional, structural core of global injustice. It is concretely harmful to the efforts of groups of people who oppose imperialism and patriarchy because it keeps them from mounting an offensive by centering attention on subjective mental features of individual people who benefit from imperialism and patriarchy as if these important deciding factors in whether as a group, the beneficiaries of imperialism and patriarchy are instrumental in bringing about things like war, political, economic, and sexual violence. These evils are structural features of global capitalism and patriarchy, and can only be combatted at the institutional level in terms of nation, class, and gender. Rather than empowering groups of people who don’t benefit from the collusion between imperialism and patriarchy to free themselves from the tyranny of bourgeois liberalism, to organize and mount an offensive against the structures of global capitalism and patriarchy that has a chance at succeeding, individualism indulges the privileges of imperialism among groups of people who profit from it by centering them and enabling a self-serving “good guy” narrative about themselves under the dubious pretense that as individuals they are “guilt free” even when their social practice determines a group, which by any measurable standard, does nothing but tightly rehearse the activities of groups of people who have historically militated and rallied for imperialism and colluded with patriarchy.
And this brings us to one last thing about individualism of this “not-all” type in connection to the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton: It’s part of the repertoire of the popular, bourgeois liberal, and neo-colonial tactic of “ally theater”. Ally theater is a vocal, attention-grabbing, but dishonest outward show of support for the plight of the people oppressed by systems like patriarchy and imperialism (and others) on the part of people who benefit from those systems that disempowers the oppressed by downplaying the articulation of their social identity, the identification of the problems they face and strategies to for change by centering the subjectivity of the oppressor ―which is impotent from the point of view of combatting structural injustice ―in a way that it allays the individual feelings of guilt of people who benefit from structural injustice and complements the self-serving mythology that their bourgeois liberal ideology and values are benevolent. Ally theater includes “white tears”, “male tears”, etc., ―the practice of the unjustly privileged presenting themselves as victims of non-existent oppression and disadvantage to center attention on themselves and distract the oppressed from carrying out work at the institutional level that will undermine the basis for the oppressor’s privilege. Ally theater also includes “concern” trolling ―the practice of the unjustly privileged posturing as an ally or a potential ally of the oppressed who just happen to have some solidarity-inhibiting “concerns” regarding everything that oppressed people do and can do to liberate themselves from oppression. In western philosophy, it is a popular rhetorical method that serves to derail philosophical discussion of topics that challenge the concern troll’s social identity and place of privilege.
Now this isn’t a post about the philosophy of political solidarity -but I will say this: The ideas of political solidarity coming from bourgeois philosophy -like say, those of Sally Sholz, begin with bourgeois “individuals” and justify upholding double standards in the favor of one-sided arrangements along the lines of political liberalism. The very fact that the theory of the united front (the way that revolutionary women’s, proletarian, and peasant movements have united disparate, and otherwise antagonistic groups against european and euro-american imperialism and patriarchy) doesn’t feature in the bourgeois literature on these topics is a dead giveaway that such philosophizing isn’t out to serve those with a practical interest in building alliances to achieve non-bourgeois-liberal goals.
The ideas of political solidarity coming from bourgeois philosophy begin with bourgeois “individuals” and justify upholding double standards in the favor of one-sided arrangements along the lines of political liberalism.
Such accounts provide the philosophical foundations for the tactics neo-colonial ally theater by uncritically promoting the dogma of liberalism that bourgeois “individuals” make “conscious” choices to “engage” in political activity and claim that such “individual choices” form the “rational foundation” of political solidarity. Individualist account like this not only get it wrong, since social identity is the basis for political solidarity among the oppressed, but also privileges the standpoint of the oppressors for whom solidarity with the oppressed is can be ineffectively reduced to the type of choice that Sholz incorrectly believes is central to all who unite against a common evil. In fact, such an account misses the entire point of political alliance building between the different classes ―even those at odds like, say, the national bourgeoisie and the proletariat- because what unites these classes (the basis for the rationality of the choice, if we’re going that route *rolls eyes*) in the national struggle against imperialism is their social identity as neo-colonial, anti-imperialist. The fact is that social identity stratifies oppressions and the practical business of determining which oppression, when abolished, goes furthest towards abolishing the others is both conscious/scientific and political. But nevertheless, the basis for unity exists as social identity defined against the principal system of oppression, whatever it may be (in the first half of the 21st century it is the national question, the question of imperialism). Being unable to conceive this situation with the resources available in the bourgeois tradition, and centering on the predicament of the minority of the world’s most privileged people whose social identity is expressed by individualism, bourgeois philosophers inject “the conscious choices of individuals” into the mix to patch up the holes, but end up with a story that leaves out the real basis for political solidarity of most of the world’s people.
The ontological landscape of oppression stratified by social identity disqualifies individualism as a general way of accounting for the political solidarity of the oppressed.
Barring the full force of socialist education imposed on them by institutional force, for the people who orchestrate and benefit from imperialism and their apologists and ideologues in academic philosophy, the class, national, and gender suicide required for solidarity with the oppressed requires sacrifice, discipline and unappealing choices when compared to the daily privileges afforded to them by their complicity with imperialism. But this isn’t generally the case for the oppressed, even the petit bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie, since their existence and the basis for their engagement in revolutionary activity with the leading classes and groups is their social identity as groups, held back by imperialism. And what is more, the commitment to class, national, and gender suicide among the oppressors isn’t the type of thing that can be achieved by opportunistically playing up their individualist prejudices by means of bourgeois philosophy. It’s better to just suck it up treat every instance of leadership by non-first-world and/or non-bourgeois-liberal people as an exercise in re-education and treat the individualist hang-ups of the bourgeoisie as a type of unhealthy affliction to be overcome for the benefit of all. The ontological landscape of oppression stratified by social identity disqualifies individualism as a general way of accounting for the political solidarity of the oppressed. And it means that individualist accounts can at best be mild, therapeutic ways for oppressors and others existentially “on the fence” to indulge in abstract reasoning about their way of being, but with little efficacy when it comes to carrying out class, national and gender suicide, accepting the leadership of the oppressed and making alliances to defeat imperialism and patriarchy. With ally theater, you have a range of methods on the part of people who benefit from imperialism and patriarchy that serve to distract and derail the efforts of people who don’t benefit from imperialism and patriarchy to build alternatives to those systems. And with the individualism of bourgeois philosophy on the question of political solidarity you have an uncritical, chauvinist justification for those methods that nurses the worst conceits of bourgeois liberalism among the group of people who most need to be challenged to sacrifice their class, national and gender privilege to build alliances with the oppressed.
Opposing both Patriarchy and Imperialism
An important part of foregoing critique is the analysis of the relationship of misogyny to patriarchy and of white-supremacy to imperialism which reveals that under a power hierarchy like patriarchy you can either side with feminism in opposing misogyny or you can uphold the patriarchal structures to which misogyny is necessary. And that the same is true for a power structure like imperialism: you can either side with internationalism in opposing white supremacy or you can uphold the imperialist structures to which white supremacy is necessary. We’ve seen that the call to vote for an imperialist like Hillary Clinton on supposedly feminist decides this issue in practice on the side of patriarchy and imperialism while at the same time illuminating the limitations of the dogmatic adherence to the liberal institutions of the euro-american nation state as tools for carrying out feminist practice.
In the context of patriarchy and imperialism, any attempt to split misogyny and white-supremacy from the structures and institutions that gives rise to them is to legitimize those structures because, given the way that power and socialization work, institutional power always wins out. If institutional power didn’t always win out, there’d be a history of individualist, libertarian, anarchist, and other bourgeois liberal movements successfully expelling european and euro-american imperialists from former colonies, rejecting the neo-colonial model and building independent power through institutions that serve the interests of women and other oppressed groups. None of this is the case. And yet it must be possible to oppose both misogyny and white-supremacy, i.e., it must be possible to oppose both patriarchy and imperialism in practice otherwise this is truly the best of all possible worlds. This is how you do it: denounce first-world chauvinism and uphold feminist internationalism at every turn by attacking misogyny in the same breath as you attack the gender privilege of first-world people, secured by imperialism, that normalizes it.
For first world “feminists” it means becoming a feminist. And that taking the side of most of the world’s women and no longer throwing a bone to the gender-aristocracy and to patriarchy by centering their gender, class, and national privilege secured by imperialist violence against non-first-world women and demagogically positioning it as “feminism”. For euro-americans generally and other groups privileged through euro-american imperialism it means rejecting opportunism and ally theater and to cease centering and positioning the bourgeois liberal life and values you know (and which feel “intuitively natural” and “right”) as worthwhile goals for the people you oppress and exploit to subsidize that life. It means rejecting idealism, individualism, first-world chauvinism and uncritical engagement with liberalism in practice by accepting the leadership of the people whose exploitation and oppression the material lives of first-world people are founded. It means committing class, national, and gender suicide -not in an introspective, bourgeois sense that complements the prejudices of the privileged, but to reach a “point of no return” through the practice of building and defending institutions that serve the interests of the oppressed. And ultimately in the case of imperialist elections it means being critical of the liberalism and its institutions as a tool for advancing the practice of feminism and liberation from imperialism and boycotting them. Rather than voting for patriarchy and imperialism, it means doing the hard work of educating people about the concrete harm that the collusion between patriarchy and imperialism effects on most of the world’s people and building popular support for the type of struggles abroad and within the imperialist countries that can achieve more than neo-colonial concessions from imperialism and patriarchy and secure lasting progressive at a global level. Test your commitment to feminist internationalism by fighting a winnable battle against the police, the prisons, or the euro-american “justice” system; organize under the leadership of people who know better than you about the realities of euro-american imperialism and patriarchy. Do the same against imperialist war and its leaders (like Hillary Clinton); against the mobilizers of domestic fascism (like Donald Trump); and against the popularizers and apologists for imperialism in the media and academia.
Summary and Conclusion
So, we come to the end of Part I. We’ve seen that, far from being something that serves the interests of the world’s women who don’t benefit from euro-american imperialism and patriarchy, the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton is both an affirmation of and a call to defend the status afforded to a class of mostly euro-american women living in the first world who collude with patriarchy to secure the privileges of imperialism. We’ve also seen how the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton comes naturally to bourgeois philosophers since it intersects with the principles of bourgeois philosophy and expresses the social identity of people whose material life is founded on the historical and continued oppression and exploitation of most of the world’s people. We also surveyed some of the methods of neo-colonial ally theater and how they manifest themselves in the practice of bourgeois philosophers when faced with the non-bourgeois critique of the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton. These methods are elevated to theory expressing bourgeois life in the individualism of bourgeois philosophy that infects bourgeois accounts of political solidarity. To avoid the chauvinism of the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton it’s important to boycott imperialist elections, and to focus on any one of a myriad of winnable battles against patriarchy and imperialism under the leadership of people who don’t benefit from the status quo and are not seeking to gain concessions from patriarchy and imperialism at the expense of everyone else.
In Part II, will focus on ‘pimping anti-fascism’ ―the disingenuous idea that people in the euro-american nation state voting for an imperialist like Hillary Clinton is, in the current context, a “strategic” move by euro-american liberals and co-opted oppressed-nation nationals “against” fascism. This is a popular line that has been expressed in one form or another by people who advance the white “feminist” defense of Hillary Clinton and others who have material interest in perpetuating imperialism, including the continuation of its most fascist elements in the euro-american nation state.