16/06/2018 by socialistfight
Posted: 10 Jun 2018 10:47 AM PDT
by Frank Brenner
This comment was posted the other day on our website. It relates to the SEP’s position on #MeToo.
Have you read today’s entry in this continuing saga of All Sex Scandals* Are Political Scandals? While an interesting history involving Charlie Chaplain, it swerves into delusion by the implicit comparison with Weinstein. It of course continues to ignore the fact that the vast majority of posters of #metoo-tagged experiences are in the working class. The success brought to Jessica Chastain by association, apparently, wipes out the millions of incidents exposed by working women (and some men) during this wave of communication.
I agree with the comment and wanted to add something about yet another obscene WSWS article on this subject matter, this time on Harvey Weinstein’s arrest in New York a couple of weeks ago. The article is obscene in the same way their article on the Cosby trial was – it has not a word of sympathy for Weinstein’s alleged victims but it has a lot of sympathy for Weinstein.
Once again there is the harping on due process in a thoroughly bourgeois legalistic manner. Due process is indeed a democratic right, but so is consent, about which the WSWS has absolutely nothing to say. In none of these articles will you find any discussion, or even mention, of sexual abuse or misogyny.
Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. They quote – uncritically – Weinstein’s lawyer, Benjamin Brafman as follows: “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch in Hollywood and to the extent that there is bad behavior in that industry, that is not what this is about… Bad behavior is not on trial in this case.” A couple of paragraphs later, the WSWS writer, David Walsh, reiterates Brafman’s point: “As Brafman indicated, the distinction between ‘bad’ behavior and criminal behavior is being ignored.”
How odd to hear a supposedly Marxist publication quote approvingly a highly paid fixer for the legal problems of the rich and famous like Brafman engaging in what’s known in public relations as spin. While it’s true that in the cascade of sexual misconduct accusations that have come out of #MeToo, there have been some where the line between what I’ve called being a prick and being a predator has gotten blurred, this is precisely NOT true in Weinstein’s case.
The charges for which he was indicted in New York are for rape. And in fact, 13 women have so far come forward to accuse Weinstein of rape, while more than 80 have accused him of sexual harassment. All these accusations may be false or unprovable in court (which, let it be noted, is not the same thing), but as accusations they go way beyond “bad” behavior, as do the various women’s accounts of their encounters with Weinstein. We are not dealing here with somebody who allegedly engaged in inappropriate touching or told some off-color jokes. Weinstein is in a whole other league.
But it’s the remark about the casting couch that’s even more noteworthy. “Mr. Weinstein did not invent the casting couch …” This kind of cynical comment is what you’d expect from a well-heeled legal hack, but since when do Marxists buy into such cynicism? The casting couch is, and always has been, an abomination. For Marxists that matters hugely in how we understand a case like Weinstein’s. We don’t simply take this for granted. That’s what bourgeois ideology does: the casting couch is like the poor, it will ‘always be with us’. In falling over itself to defend an alleged sexual predator like Weinstein (or a convicted one like Cosby), the WSWS parrots this ideological garbage.
Of course, like any other accused Weinstein has a right to due process. But like Cosby he is able to afford the best legal counsel money can buy. We are not talking about some poor unknown who is being hauled before the courts and railroaded to jail – the real violations of due process that go on every day in American courts. We are talking about a member of the elite, a plutocrat, who has the resources to make sure he gets his day in court, and then some. That the trial will be a media circus is totally predictable, but that doesn’t necessarily preclude Weinstein getting what passes for a fair hearing in the bourgeois justice system. OJ anyone?
A far greater legal concern is the way in which women who bring sexual assault accusations to court are subjected to character assassination in order to undermine the credibility of their accounts, which is a major reason why (to cite RAINN, a leading anti-sexual violence organization), out of 1000 rapes, 994 perpetrators will walk free. About this terrible and ongoing miscarriage of justice, the WSWS has nothing to say. But it does make a point of expressing its disapproval for Weinstein’s accusers: “If anything undermines sympathy for the women involved, it is their perpetual insistence on responding in the most vengeful and socially blinkered manner.” This pontificating betrays not a trace of empathy for what it must feel like to be sexually violated.
I’ll just mention another recurring trope in WSWS articles on #MeToo – guilt by association. Hillary Clinton and Kirsten Gillibrand are used for that purpose in this article. We might as well denounce the civil rights movement because LBJ passed the Civil Rights Act.
One point I want to underscore is made in the comment above: that the WSWS “continues to ignore the fact that the vast majority of posters of #metoo-tagged experiences are in the working class.”
As it happens, on the same day (May 23) the New York Times carried a lead story on Weinstein’s arrest, it also carried another story titled: “Low Paid Women Get Hollywood Money to File Harassment Suits”. It’s a story that anyone concerned with the rights of working class women would have been eager to cover. Here are the opening paragraphs:
“Gina Pitre had come to dread working at WalMart. A manager, she said, used to touch her inappropriately and make suggestive comments. Ms. Pitre, 56, who earned $11.50 an hour fulfilling online orders in D’Iberville, Miss., said she felt degraded and angry.
“Ms. Pitre saw a television news segment this winter about how female Hollywood stars and producers had started Time’s Up, a group to help women combat harassment. A related initiative, the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, connected Ms. Pitre with a lawyer and is helping fund her lawsuit against WalMart and one of its managers.
“Hollywood, it appears, is starting to make good on its promise to focus on women outside the limelight and broaden the #MeToo movement.”
So far 2700 women have contacted the fund with harassment complaints, many coming from the arts industry, federal government, education, health and (like Pitre) retail. The fund puts these women in touch with lawyers who might be willing to take their cases. It also provides them with $3000 to pay the initial lawyer’s fees, and as much as $100,000 if the case eventually goes to trial. It also put Pitre in contact with Our WalMart, a worker advocacy group, to develop a publicity campaign to broaden the impact of the court case. This led to an open letter to WalMart’s CEO which Pitre co-signed with film actress Susan Sarandon, calling for a revamp of the company’s harassment policy.
This story came out 3 days before the WSWS article on Weinstein’s arrest. They said nothing about it – and that is deliberate. They are willfully blind to sexual abuse, to the violation of the rights of millions of working class women. So blind in fact that they suppress information about the resistance some of these women are putting up as a result of #MeToo. But when it comes to the legal perils of a rich and powerful man, the WSWS is eager to speak out.
One final point I want to make: In the comments section of this and other WSWS articles on #MeToo a few critical voices have pushed back against the usual chorus of sycophants. Trying to make sense of how a supposedly revolutionary socialist party could take such a deplorable position, one commenter speculated that this was actually case of “conditioning” readers to become members of a cult, the idea being that if you’re willing to swallow something as outrageous as this, you’ll be ready to swallow anything. There are certainly cult-like features to the way the SEP operates, and it’s always a telling sign when a political formation encourages sycophancy. But one doesn’t have to resort to a conspiracy theory to figure out what’s going on here.
The SEP are sectarians, it’s a disease that’s taken hold in the very marrow of their politics. And the one thing sectarians hate (even more than having their sectarianism exposed) is any spontaneous upsurge of the masses. They react to it with instinctive hostility. #MeToo is such an upsurge. It has all kinds of problems, as spontaneous movements always do. And it takes place in the absence of any widespread radicalization of the working class, which is in a way the biggest problem.
But that’s the point about spontaneous movements – they don’t come into existence out of some planned political strategy, they emerge naturally, as it were. The pressure of the masses’ frustration at the oppression and indignity of their lives hasn’t been able, as yet, to find an outlet on class issues, so instead it breaks out in reaction to the pervasiveness of sexual abuse. To a sectarian that feels almost like an existential threat – hence the visceral hostility and fear of the WSWS rhetoric on this issue. It will be the same way when spontaneous movements of workers emerge.
The author also recommends:
The WSWS article on Weinstein’s arrest: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/05/26/wein-m26.html
The NY Times article: “Low Paid Women Get Hollywood Money to File Harassment Suits”: