Over the last year I’ve become a regular watcher of the Katie Halper Show, presented by the eponymous US comedian, filmmaker and co-host of the Useful Idiots podcast with Matt Taibbi. Unlike that equally excellent YouTube show, the New Yorker’s own podcast is much more freewheeling in nature, with an eclectic mix of guests, some of whom rarely feature in the more established left-leaning podcasts in the United States, where debates about class politics and socio-economic matters are eclipsed by an obsession with the minutiae of American identity and culture war politics.
While the show is mainly focused on domestic news in the US it is still worth a watch for an international audience, its slightly iconoclastic, slightly tongue-in-cheek views contrasting with the authoritarian conformity characterising many of the online discussions by American progressives (for which, see some of the hyperbolic commentary offered on the otherwise worthwhile Young Turks or the patronising sneering of The Majority Report).
One longs for a similarly smart podcast on the Irish left. And the republican-left in particular. Instead we have mainstream media shows parroting the neoliberal talking points of the establishment parties. And defending the indefensible actions of a dysfunctional coalition government that is more concerned with its own well-being, and that of its financial allies and backers, than that of the citizenry in its care.
Personally, I prefer the old-school US concept of “Progressivism” to the idea of “Class versus Identity Politics”.
While the Classical progressive movement of the late 19th early 20th century was far from perfect, one advantage to it was its that it was relatively inclusive to a variety of issues. Certainly there were issues such as labor unions, children’s rights, food prices, housing issues, and others like women’s suffrage and barely nascent Civil Rights. However, there was a lot of interest in issues that weren’t/aren’t well served by a dogma that says it must always and ever be framed as a class issue or a racial justice issue or a women’s issue. Some of these include things like government transparency (by this they meant mostly book-keeping issues of Federal, State and Local Funds), infrastructure, national food security, environmental conservation. There certainly were conflicts within such as Mother Jones’s flagrant hostility towards women’s suffrage as she say it as a “false bourgesie issue” and felt that most suffragists were not concerned enough with the poor. (I feel she came to overly sweeping conclusions over a bad first impression with some suffragists, but either way.) So it wasn’t always perfect cooperation-Rose colored glasses must always be treated with skepticism, and it embrace a few causes that didn’t go well such as Prohibition of alcohol. (A lot of the Temperance movement was really a reaction against extreme problems with alcoholism and drug addiction that came after The Civil War.)
Personally, I care about a number of issues that don’t neatly fit under either the “class” or “identity” bracket, and have spent most of my life as a political animal at least somewhat focused on them. Also I like the ability to progressives to see education as at least in large part as a national issue, rather than having it be 100% about class politics.
I do care about labor unions and workers rights, and have always at least broadly considered myself a feminism.
However, when with most of the political stuff I’ve been involved with persistently draw criticism from both advocates of “class politics” or “identity politics” alike for not looking at the issue only through what they see as “the correct way”……………I definitely like the inclusive broad tent nature of “Progressivism” as it was classically understood in the US better than both the “Class politics should be dominant” or the “All politics is identity politics” schools of thought.
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