conflict, abuse, & lenin

today (1/9/2021) i learned that the original “bros before hos” leftist shmuck was, in fact, lenin.

like, literally. lenin.

and that him being That Guy was part of what drove the bolshevik/menshevik split.

i’m fascinated, and i think it’s actually pretty important – thus this post. be forewarned: there’s a certain amount of leftist trainspotting involved, but if you’re a movement person it will all feel very familiar.

here’s what seems to have gone down in what’s been called “the bauman affair”:

Continue reading conflict, abuse, & lenin

tsvishn tsvey dibukim, oder in der krizis iz arayn a dibek

i don’t often use this space to just write my way into things, but it feels like the right thing tonight.

to be clear from the top: this is a deep appreciation of the kultur-kongres’ centennial production. they did an amazing job under less than perfect circumstances and i enjoyed the hell out of it. and because it was a good, solid, well-thought-out production, af mame-loshn, it reminded me what i actually want from yiddish theater, and from yiddish productions of our classics.

i want a queerer dibek.
i want a trans-er dibek.
which is how ansky wrote it.

Continue reading tsvishn tsvey dibukim, oder in der krizis iz arayn a dibek

just temporarily putting these here so i can write what i’m supposed to be writing today without them getting in the way.

(1) the main thing wrong (politically/ethically; morality is just dishonest theology) with andrea long chu (as a thinker/writer; i don’t know her any other way) is that she’s a heideggerian (this needs a two-part parenthetical too; yes, i’m a bit compulsive today).

(2) the relationship between the terms in marxism-leninism is the same as the one in judeo-christianity, and serves basically the same purposes.

these are unrelated thoughts, for which fact i am grateful.

“a piss stop on the way”

for gay stamina month, here’s my old comrade bob kohler zts”l writing in Come Out in 1970 about the kids who hung out at christopher street & 7th avenue – the ones who fought at stonewall and aren’t celebrated by name; the ones who hung out at the piers (and still do, despite gentrification and redevelopment); the ones who west village homosexual homeowners and tourists call the cops on; the ones who GLmaybeBfakeTneverQ NGOs have never given a shit about.

these are sylvia rivera and marsha p johnson’s people. STAR people. “street gay” => “street queen” => “street transvestite” => “street transgender” ~> some kinds of trans folks, but not the nice kinds. not the kinds that want to wrap themselves in the flag, talk to the cops, be entrepreneurial, or march alongside cops and corporations in a parade pretending that Everything Is Just Fine. and not the kind who think Identity is what matters.

the piece is also the earliest place i’ve seen “mopped” and “read” in print, though i’m sure they were used much earlier. bob used to talk about these kids leaving stuff they’d lifted at his store on christopher street. they were his friends, and some of them, especially sylvia, were his comrades in the Gay Liberation Front (till it stopped being a workable space for trans folks) and many other projects down through the decades.

bob, unlike so many of the other gay men who were in the streets 49 years ago during the stonewall riot, never stopped being a radical faggot. he knew that as long as the kids he wrote about here were “so fucking afraid – in a world they never truly made”, he could not rest. he knew that until we truly make the world we live in, none of us can.

This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

i wrote this a little while ago, but today seems like the right day to post it. today is the 75th anniversary, according to the christian calendar, of the װאַרשע געטאָ אױפֿשטאַנד, the warsaw ghetto uprising. there’s so much to say about that heroic act of resistance, and the years of less-commemorated struggle that came before and after it, but other folks have been saying it for years. look, if you haven’t already, at the wonderful writing of irena klepfisz (in poetry and prose), the songs and poems of shmerke kaczerginski and avrom sutzkever, the memoirs and interviews of marek edelman… it’s a day to think, as well, about the things that we can – that we need to – learn from those struggles. in that spirit: honor to their memories – koved zeyer ondenk – כּבֿיד זײער אָנדענק

like a lot of us – jewish radicals; antifascists of all flavors; folks thinking about concrete resistance to state violence – i’ve been thinking a lot about the jewish partisan fighters of the 1930s and 40s lately. this year, i’ve seen their memory invoked, in many ways, far more often than in the previous decade. i’ve done plenty of that, too, in my contribution to this year’s Radical Jewish Calendar Project, among other places.

but lately, especially after a conversation just before the new year (5778, not 2018) with my dear friend and comrade malcolm, i’ve been thinking about how we talk about partisans, which partisans we talk about, and what we do and don’t say. and i’ve been getting a little worried. this is a bit of an exploration of how this history is used, guided by walter benjamin’s warning that antifascists must think about the past knowing that even the dead will not be safe from our enemies if they are victorious (and that our enemies have not ceased to be victorious).

if you want a tl;dr, just skip to the end. there are conclusions drawn.

Continue reading This Is an Old War – You Better Know What You’re Fighting For

notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)

this is the season when i’m working all the time on a purimshpil, and can’t really get anything else done. but this has been nagging at me, so i’m clearing it out of my (metaphorical) drawer.

properly, it’s a postscript to something i’m trying to write out about the current importation of israeli terminology for differences among jewish communities into the u.s. jewish left. unsurprisingly, i’m not a big fan, not least because i don’t see the kind of highly consolidated, deeply racialized two-category system that exists among jewish israelis as something that exists in this country. and the mizrakhi/ashkenazi binary that describes it seems more of a hinderance than an aid to understanding the messy, contradictory lines of racial and class position that do deeply divide u.s. jewish communities. but that’s another post.

this is some preliminary thoughts on one of the things that came along on the way: the question of what we’re talking about when we talk about “ashkenaz”. and, ultimately, whether the term as it’s used makes any sense at all. TL;DR: no.

i’ve still got quite a few questions about this-all, and i’ll lay a few of them out at the end, in hopes that some of you can shed some light in various places.

a postscript
for my grandfather, jules / yidl nukhm schrager,
who said “what do you mean, ashkenazi? i’m a galitsianer!”

Continue reading notes on “ashkenazi” (a postscript in advance)

some slightly out of context notes on ‘tikkun olam’

yeah like i don’t think i would intrinsically mind if a journal wanted to call itself something out of mātauranga Māori but the fact that it’s the most unreadable do-nothingist self-justifying lazy dreck must be super irritating. – cannibality, on Tiqqun –

to me – cranky jewish 4th-generation secular leftist – the name is actually the least problematic thing about Tiqqun. and that’s because it’s actually perfectly consistent with their particular apocalyptic quietism.

“tikkun olam” (as the zionists render it) / “tiken oylem” (as yiddish speakers say it) [see note 1 below] has become a synonym in jewish liberal circles for /some ambiguous form of social justice through a jewish religious-cultural lens/ over the past twenty years, but that’s an entirely new meaning for it. jill jacobs (a liberal zionist rabbi well-regarded in the circles that use ‘tikkun olam’ most) has an interesting and detailed tracing of the term’s uses through time here (intended as a positive account), but the arc is very simple.

up to the 1970s or so, the term’s only political content is in a few places in the mishnah, where it designates small legalistic shifts that ease the conditions of the worst off, in order to ‘repair/maintain [tikkun] the social order [olam]’ without structural change. in the 1970s and 1980s, a new meaning for the term was invented more or less out of the whole cloth by a specific set of young liberal rabbis, and publicized through their participation in New Jewish Agenda, the main national progressive jewish organization in the u.s. during that period.

these rabbis – arthur waskow and michael lerner – were looking for a spiritual vocabulary for their liberal (or, at best, progressive-except-palestine) politics. like many assimilated ashkenazim, their vision of authentic jewish spirituality basically meant hasidism, and the 16th-christian-century lurianic kabala that is the source of much of hasidism’s formal theology. and that’s where they found the phrase “tiken oylem”.

Continue reading some slightly out of context notes on ‘tikkun olam’
war-lesbian wrote:

it’d be good to have an explanation for why, at least in my experience, you tend to see more camab nb people in certain ~queer~ scenes and social circles (usually cafab trans dominated ones), compared to “binary” trans women. 

i guess i would speculate that

  1. cafab people like to have a monopoly on womanhood (even when they dont identify as women)
  2. it’s probably easier to convince camab nb people that they have privilege over u since they’re less likely to understand their experiences through the lens of transmisogyny (and this is no doubt a deciding factor in “qualifying” for these spaces)
  3. there’s a decent chance that these are trans women who have yet to come to terms with their womanhood, or are even being pressured away from identifying as women, so they are probably hurt and confused and everything else that comes with being closeted, making them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation
  4.  camab nb people are possibly(?) more likely to present in a visibly gender non-conforming “queer” (but ultimately feminine) way, meeting the rigorous aesthetic (read: fuckable) standards imposed by these sorts of groups
  5. related: dont have that “camab person who started taking estrogen after puberty” bod non trans women are obviously so uncomfortable with
  6. and, most importantly – in my limited experience, are more likely to identify as bi or exclusively male-attracted
radtransfem replied:

We leave
(read: driven out)

and then i chimed in:

i partly agree with @radtransfem. but/aaaand, there’s also this inconvenient thing where nb trans women are pretty actively unwelcomed from most social spaces set up specifically by/for trans women.

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what about that star, anyway?

about the “star of david” / “magen david” as a jewish symbol…

tl;dr: yes, the idea that it is an old or universal jewish emblem was completely fabricated by the zionist movement in the 20th century.

after a conversation with a friend & comrade about the chicago dyke march drama of this summer, i finally tracked down the essay i vaguely remembered about the history of the six-pointed star as a jewish symbol. it’s by gershom scholem, the great historian of jewish mysticism, religion, and symbology (and a zionist liberal who rejected his family’s secular leftism). it was written for the right-wing u.s. jewish magazine Commentary in 1949 and later expanded into a book. i’m going to try to track down a copy of the longer version, but nothing i’ve seen about it gives any hint that the basic story it tells is different from what’s in the essay.

so here, summarized from scholem’s “The Curious History of the Six-Pointed Star”, is the story of the invention of a symbol…

scholem’s conclusion from all of this: “The upshot of the matter is this: in the very days of its greatest popularity the Shield of David was a meaningless symbol of Judaism; and the Judaism of those days, in turn, tended to be meaningless.”

Continue reading what about that star, anyway?

of fascists and marshals

or, one thing that happened at foley square on may day.

for the non-new-yorkers out there: we’re at the harmonious point in the five year cycle of cooperation and hostility between the mainline labor unions and the immigrant workers’ organizations (workers’ centers; country/region-of-origin anti-imperialist organizations; &c). what they agreed on this year was not to march, but to hold a three-hour rally in a historically significant park in the middle of the courthouse complex next to the financial district. a place no one goes who doesn’t work in finance or law enforcement, unless they have a court date or have just been released from the tombs. it’s very close to chinatown, but you’d ever know it by who walks down centre street. but at least the music between the endless series of speakers (some of them fantastic organizers and inspiring when not blasting muffledly through a giant stack of speakers) was pretty good, the weather was pleasant, and the socializing was lovely…

at about 6:30 pm, a group of 20-odd fascists appeared at the northeast corner of the park. i was told that they had marched down from union square, where antifa folks had prevented them from attacking another mayday event. i’d seen them perhaps half an hour earlier as they approached the park; i was on my way to get dumplings and didn’t see what happened in the interim.

Continue reading of fascists and marshals

ראָזעלע זושוק האַלעװי