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Monday, September 27, 2004 

10 Degrees to the Left of Center in Good Times, 10 Degrees to the Right of Center if it Affects Them Personally

This shit came to the Progressive Student Alliance's email account and was forwarded to Knoxnet - take the wackiest folks on Counterpunch, throw in the editor of the Socialist Worker and the add all the rightwing democrat-activists you know (the party needs to be more active, but not too radical sort) and you have some idea of what it is. Michael is its moderator.
Message From Stacey Diamond
I am not going back to PSA, sadly, because they seem to have a big group this year. One, a new guy was there who had very good points and he wasn't familiar with the "process". I couldtell by the look on his face, like 3 times, he was in the middle of talking about very good announcements he had and was cut off and told it wasn't time for that on the "agenda." They could have cut a new guy some slack. The next problem and Michael you are guilty of doing this too, unless you can afford to buy someone a new car you DO NOT in any way shape or form tell them they need to "save money" what money??? to get a new emission, muffler or whatever for there car. How can a group that is supposed to be looking out for the common man/woman be so rude to new people and make such stupid remarks about one's ability to get a new car. Talk to TVA's Bill Baxter, who thinks global warming is a myth if you want to talk about pollution and chill out about the "process" now and then.
Just to be clear, the PSA is not a centrist organization, or even a broad united front of all who identify as left of the ultra-conservative forces on campus. We are however a united front of progressive persons on campus, and gladly welcome people into our non-sectarian midst so long as they play nice in that aforementioned coalition. Moreover, we take the job of getting over the humps that many traditional "leftists" in this country have refused to tackle, sometimes even recognize as serious issues. Among them would certainly be issues of gender, race, nationality and sexuality. PSA promotes an environment of inclusion of those that the rest of society systematically dehumanizes and sees the great value of their thoughts despite the fact that our larger society devalues such opinions in numerously complex ways every day.

One of the key ways we do this is by enforcing a feminist process. For those unclear on what is meant by this, I'll keep it simple. Oppression doesn’t rectify itself. So Patriarchy = boys get taught to speak up, that they are important, smart and have valuable ideas, while on the flip side girls are taught that they are valuable because they can do needed things - like uncompensated domestic and reproductive labor, or cleaning up after the meeting - but not important enough to receive training equal to that visited upon their male counterparts in the skills of debate, critical thinking, writing, and leadership. Racism works in similarly insidious ways, identifying one’s ethnic or racial background as “other” and reinforcing the dehumanization forced upon the less powerful group on a daily basis. Rigid sex roles and gender norms stigmatize queer folk as deviant perverts for having extremely natural and universal feelings of attraction and love. Let me pause to point out that this is not to say that women cannot be good leaders, or that gay folks cannot have a healthy, meaningful sex lives. Resistance is always present in the face of oppression, but the dominant meta-narrative would have us believe that all problems have been corrected – we are at the end of history you know – and that these occurrences are just the natural way of the world.

It is on this point that the PSA’s message and the dominant ideology differ greatly because 1) we recognize that these phenomena are real, 2) that they interact to create a complex and needed web of social stratification, and 3) the baggage these phenomena create is not left at the door when folks - both the privileged and those with the lived experience of societal oppression - walk into a "progressive" meeting. So when a new white guy decides that the ice-breaker should focus on flyers he's printed out instead of something personal about every other person in the room, or shares a really long personal story during a go around on a completely unrelated matter, or has 4 announcements about what he wants people in the room to do with/for him outside of the meeting to get his egomaniacal rocks off, he's gonna be told to shut the fuck up and other people are going to get a chance to speak.

Right-wing populists (back in the day we called them fascists) everywhere would be proud of Stacey's charge that members of the PSA are "elitist." A wheel tax or worse yet emission testing would oppress working people, but a complete lack of viable public transportation isn't a working class issue. Asthma isn't a working class issue. The American machista culture which dictates that working class men “needing” gas guzzling pick-up trucks isn't an issue of importance for the working class. The billions being made off of an oil industry that keeps car manufacturing tied to the nearly ancient (the 1880s right?) technology of the internal combustion engine has nothing to do with bourgeois hegemony. There is no intersection between working people's struggles and the struggles for sound environmental policy and sustainable development. Just as there is no intersection between class, race, gender and sexuality.

Wrong. Capitalism is a complex, multilayered, interwoven social superstructure that is constantly in flux, and its methods and justifications are not sacred, they are convenient. So are these arguments against the PSA. Sure there are going to be problems holding together a multi-foci coalition when not everyone comes to the table because PSA is a feminist or anti-racist or pro-worker or anti-war group. But if a complex ideology of liberation, an imerging hegemonic perspective if you will, cannot be offered to and shaped by progressive intellectuals – the S does stand for Student you know – then where the hell can one be forged? So you keep pitching your single issue ideology and maybe we won't loose all the gains folks have had to die for before my kids are in high school, but in the meantime fuck you 'cause we're gonna keep building a social movement that can actually challenge for power in ways that have the potential for real change.

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