Excluding ACG was right

Letter by Jim James (longtime subscriber, first time writer in) by email

There are social dynamics and hierarchies in anarchist and peace movement groups that often work harder to undermine what the stated aims of these groups are, than capital, the state, or whomever.

However, showing a brave commitment to fighting one of the most pernicious, socially respectable and harmful forms of oppression in society today, is certainly not one of these malignant factors.

Both-sidesing the debate around transphobia is OK for South Park and the debateosphere, but works out less well in real life.

Therefore I (and I expect most) applaud the actions of the Anarchist Bookfair in London – either we are all in against oppression, or we may as well not bother.Don’t feel too sorry for the TERFs ‘deplatformed’, they have plenty of other spaces.

Editor response:

Thanks for writing in, Jim. For folk who are new to this topic, you are referring to the news report and editorial in the last issue (PN 2669) on the decision by the Anarchist Bookfair in London (ABiL) to exclude the Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) from the bookfair.

It wasn’t just the ‘wrong-thinking’ minority in the ACG who were excluded from the bookfair, it was also the majority in the ACG, who have views on trans rights that the ABiL organisers see as acceptable – their crime was not to have expelled the ‘wrong-thinking’ minority.

For folk who’re not familiar with the word ‘TERF’, it originally stood for ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminist’, but it’s now used more widely.

As I understand it, from a militant trans rights perspective, a person can strongly oppose employment, housing and other kinds of discrimination against trans people, can use the pronouns trans people have indicated are correct for them, can stand up against violence towards trans people, and so on, but still be called a ‘TERF’ if they don’t sign up to the whole of militant trans rights thinking.

It seems that one crucial ‘wrong idea’, from this perspective, is thinking that gender (behaving, feeling and thinking ‘like a woman’ or ‘like a man’) is not an identity that you’re born with, but something that is socially-constructed and, for women, generally limiting and oppressive.

British sociologist Alice Sullivan is one of many gender-critical feminists who see the word ‘TERF’ as a ‘dehumanising misogynist slur’ in the way that it is generally used by militant trans rights activists.

Radical feminist Claire Heuchen wrote about the word in the Guardian: ‘Online, it often it appears alongside violent rhetoric: punch a Terf, stab a Terf, kill a Terf. This language is used to dehumanise women who are critical of gender as part of a political system.’

I’ve seen a lot of similar examples. The word ‘TERF’ doesn’t seem to me to be very far away from calling your political opponents ‘vermin’, laying the ground for direct violence against people with the ‘wrong’ ideas on trans rights.

Therefore, from now on, I will not allow this word to be used in PN to describe people with gender-critical views.

This does not mean people will be excluded from writing in PN if they – outside of PN – use this word.

I am completely with you, Jim, on the need to be ‘all in’ against oppression, but there is a big gap between us in how to move ahead in that struggle. – ed

Topics: Gender