Saturday, 18 October 2008

Identity Politics and welfare not warfare - views from two Campsie members...

Persepolis –A discussion on Identity Politics.

Campsie branch recently showed the film "Persepolis" in Kirkintilloch Leisure Centre (we meet there on the Second Saturday morning of the month at 10.30am.)

Pamela Page reviews:

Persepolis is an angry, yet simultaneously joyous and inspirational, animated film based on Majane Sartapi’s autobiographical graphic novel of the same name.

I highly recommend the film! It is funny, quirky and great entertainment on many levels - but rather than give a review I am going to discuss it in terms of how I think it can help Socialists understand the importance of Identity politics.

The story follows a young girl as she comes of age against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution.

Socialists can certainly identify with a lot of Marji’s rebelliousness - especially at the start when we see the mass protests against the Shah. Even after the Islamic fundamentalist’s take over and her Communist uncle is jailed - her spirit is not crushed. Marji refuses to stay out of trouble whether it’s secretly buying Western heavy metal music, wearing unorthodox clothing or openly rebutting a teacher’s lies about the abuses of the government.

As the film goes on we start to see how women are doubly oppressed by the regime.
There are many obvious examples in the film. One recurring theme however, whether in Islamic fundamentalist Iran or in West, is the very real threat of sexual violence, rape as a weapon of war and sexual slurs as common parlance.

In one scene Marji’s mum has a mild altercation with a guard of the revolution in a supermarket car park. He shouts at her contemptuously “Women like you I bang like whores and throw in the trash!”

In another scene she warns her young daughter not to speak out against the regime in class. It is illegal to kill a virgin she tells her daughter so they will ‘have to’ rape her first!

Fearing her arrest for her outspokenness Marji’s parents send her to a school in Vienna, Austria.

Sexual slurs are echoed over and over again when she is in the West. ‘Slut’, ‘Whore’ and ‘prostitute’ are commonly, and casually, used.

Marji feels intolerably isolated in a foreign land surrounded by people who take their freedom and peace for granted while making her feel ashamed of being Iranian.

Marji becomes enraged when her ‘politically aware’ friends dismiss politics as meaningless because it is not an abstract academic enterprise for her. In her experience these issues are life and death. Her country is at war!

Highlighting how some people face multiple oppressions - whilst others are entirely unaware of their own privilege.

As socialists we need to be careful not to dismiss people’s experiences in this way and seek to understand the converging oppressions that people face. Unless we believe that class alone shapes someone’s identity.

I am particularly interested in a feminist analysis of the film because as a woman – I can’t but know that Patriarchy exists – it is part of my day to day experience. Therefore Marji’s anger struck a chord with me when her experience is dismissed by those in a privileged position.

In this regard I believe that socialists have to be vigilant against lazily accepting sexist rhetoric against women politicians - Sarah Palin being the most recent example - just because we disagree with their politics.

In my view Socialists have to strive to understand identity politics if we are to be taken seriously in wider society about ending oppression. Rather than mimicking those oppressive attitudes ourselves.

We need to recognise that if we were to have a socialist revolution tomorrow – without an analysis of identity politics – we would still have sexism, racism, homophobia, islamophobia, western elitism and many other prejudices.

That is not the world that I am fighting for.

Marji’s granny advises her as she goes into exile ‘Be true to yourself and never forget who you are!’ Wise words.

Welfare, Not Warfare

Ron Mackay has been a socialist all of his life. A retired teacher, he has been arrested for his principles of non-violence and anti-nuclear weapons. He can be found playing sax at most anti-war and pro-socialist demonstrations.

Photo originally appeared here:

The old socialists used to say " you can't have guns and butter". You can't have warfare and welfare. The 3 main parties at Westminster are infact a variation of one - the party of warfare. Every aspect of welfare, health, education,the social services and the arts face cuts while expenditure on wars and preparation for wars is soaring. Trident at present costs millions and renewed trident will cost even more. Developments at Aldermaston and elsewhere, where our nuclear,chemical and biological research is carried out, adds to the emormous drain on our resources.
In the Glenrothes election the (3 in 1) war party will struggle against the S.N.P. The media,essentially exclusively capitalist, will hype up the sham battle between the different strands of the war party. The S.N.P. , tho' more progressive than the main war party, only serves to distract from the socialist policies which give the only real answer to the present crisis.

Lincoln got it wrong - you can fool an awful lot of people for a very long time but we must struggle against the forces dedicated to warfare. The alternative is to sleepwalk towards W.W.3. Socialism is trhe only hope for humanity. Our goal is not easy but essential.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more Roy.

Persopolis sounds like it is not to be missed.