Flat White

Triggering Jeff Sparrow

15 October 2018

4:02 PM

15 October 2018

4:02 PM

Like his hero Leon Trotsky during the Russian revolution, contemporary Marxist ideologue Jeff Sparrow has got the irrits with the Trump-voting working classes not being revolting enough.

A noir-clad Sparrow told a draughty Trades Hall hallway at his book launch (Trigger Warnings: Political Correctness and the Rise of the Right) last week that most of the Left still blamed the inertia of the masses for their failure to bring about the downfall of capitalism in the age of Trump.

“Throughout the sixties and the early seventies, most progressive activists had seen ‘the people’ (however that term was defined) as the solution to a sexist, racist oppression associated with the wealthy and the powerful.

“Increasingly, though, many progressives identified the masses not as the answer but as the problem, a foolish and slightly terrifying reservoir of cultural and political backwardness.

“This disastrous perspective – an implicit confirmation of the case being made by conservative culture warriors – would play an important role in the right’s ongoing successes.”

If Trump – and others like Trump – can turn hostility to political correctness into a winning slogan, how should the left respond? In the face of a vicious new bigotry, should progressives double-down on identity politics and gender theory? Must they abandon political correctness, and everything associated with it, to reconnect with a working class they’ve alienated? Or is there, perhaps, another way entirely Sparrow asks rhetorically?

“In a grim political climate, progressives can feel isolated. It’s easy to huddle in the spaces where left-wing ideas retain some purchase and bemoan the backwardness all around. Many liberals have, in fact, internalised right-wing ideas about the conservatism of the masses.

“They see the public as a dark reservoir of racism, sexism and bigotry; they present progressive politics, first and foremost, as a way of preventing the populace vomiting up their supposedly hateful prejudices.”

In Trigger Warnings, Sparrow purports to challenge both progressive and conservative orthodoxies alike in his search for “a new kind of politics”.

However, reading this book’s turgid Green Left Weekly dramaturgy may fracture your skull with the same certainty as the sudden intervention of a Mexican ice pick.

Terence Maher is a former editor of The Melbourne Times.

Illustration: Stolen from that off-leash park for the pets of leftist millionaires, The Wheeler Centre. Property is theft after all, hey kids?

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