Arthur Miller’s screenplay for the 1996 film adaptation of his 1953 play The Crucible dramatises a political reality absent from the original production. It takes place during an exchange between the chief witness for the persecution, Abigail Williams, and the visiting deputy governor overseeing the witchcraft trials in Salem.
The teenage girl, emboldened by her newly privileged position, points a self-interested finger in the direction of a sceptical investigator, Hale, and accuses his wife of dabbling in the dark arts. Stone-facedly, the inquisitor, Danforth, flattens her with the retort that she is “mistaken”, stating unequivocally that a reverend’s wife could never consort with the devil. The game is up. Abigail requires no further prompting and leaves Salem under cover of darkness.
What Miller had witnessed first-hand during the anticommunist witch hunts instituted by Senator Joseph McCarthy, and later incorporated into Nicholas Hytner’s film, is the deception perpetrated by those in power: creating narratives that feed off fear, self-interest and hysteria while the ruling class and its gate-keepers remain aloof and secure.
As citizens flail around, turning on one another in an effort to be saved, or nobly sacrificing themselves to preserve integrity, behind the smoke and mirrors the state retains its sure grip on the levers of power. What better way to perpetuate their privileged position than to weaken the enemy through tried and tested methods perfected throughout history: dissemble, divert, divide and conquer?
It is through this prism of manufactured chaos that the current phenomenon of trans ideology should be viewed.
Not a ‘rights struggle’, but a concerted push from the top down
Regardless of its vociferous grassroots support in the petri-dish of university campuses, to ignore the origins of trans ideology in government, big business and the media is at best remiss, and at worst collusion. Acknowledging that identity politics is yet another manoeuvre by the establishment aimed at diverting political engagement down the route of liberalism is not enough. We must, as a matter of duty, challenge the empty orthodoxies that prevail across our institutions; the unveiled threat to free speech and the trammelling of workers’ rights.
Indeed, “In ten years, laws, company policies, school and university curricula, sport, medical protocols and the media have been reshaped to [elevate the concept of] self-declared identity over biological sex.” (Trans. When Ideology Meets Reality, Helen Joyce, OneWorld , 2021)
Such a sea-change could not have been implemented so swiftly, so thoroughly, without a powerful and well-funded lobby, and the campaigning group Stonewall UK has exceeded its brief in this regard.
The tide may well be turning against the wilder excesses of the charity. Certainly, some key government departments, the BBC and some businesses have left the Stonewall ‘diversity champions’ scheme. As public opinion wakes to the glaring safety concerns emerging from self-identification, the wave of self-righteous groupthink, shored up by campaigns of intimidation and threats to livelihoods, is yet to peter out. There have been and will be casualties.
The vilification and intimidation of Kathleen Stock
One of the more high-profile figures to have suffered at the hands of what can rightfully be called a hate mob – or, as feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel described them, “misogynist totalitarians” – is academic and writer Kathleen Stock, who taught philosophy at the University of Sussex from 2003 until 2021. She was forced out of her post because of her ‘incorrect’ views.
While we cannot and do not claim to be acquainted with, or likely in agreement with, all of Professor Stock’s views, it is interesting to examine her reported statements, which apparently have proven so controversial as to warrant her dismissal.
Stock’s concerns about the ramifications for women, when material realities such as sex are ignored, became more pressing when it appeared that legislation endorsing self-identification was being rushed through in England without due consideration for its impact upon women in “medicine, sport, science and education”. (Material Girls, Kathleen Stock, Fleet, 2021)
Not only were the consequences for women of this transgender ideology and legislation being sidelined, but in some cases women’s rights were being “actively undermined” by the very feminist academics who claim to uphold them.
From 2018 onwards, Professor Stock’s self-published blogs, which set about examining the very real threat to women and girls from an extreme gender ideology bent on privileging a belief in psychological perception above material reality (sex at birth), garnered not only disapproval from her fellow academics but malice. An increasingly aggressive campaign was launched, initially to misrepresent or to vilify her views and later to have her silenced altogether and removed from her university teaching post and expelled from the Sussex campus.
A small group of extreme ‘trans activists’ received little push-back to their campaign of intimidation, as Stock was subjected to personal attacks: “I went to work as normal, and saw stickers all over my building about ‘the transphobic shit that comes from Kathleen Stock’s mouth’.” Following lockdown, she walked through the main subway onto campus to see it lined with posters calling for her to be sacked: “Fire Kathleen Stock … Kathleen Stock is a Transphobe … We’re not paying £9,250 for Transphobia with Kathleen Stock”. Worse was to come.
“They started setting off flares … and later took a picture of a man in a balaclava, all in black … The imagery was obviously intimidating; holding a banner saying ‘Stock Out!’ while setting off pink and blue flares because those are the colours of the transgender flag.”
Following these vicious personalised attacks, Stock received advice from Sussex police to stay away from the campus for her own safety, and, ominously, to have CCTV installed at her home.
Sussex university vice-chancellor Adam Tickell appeared to offer public support to this longstanding and highly-esteemed staff member, when he issued a statement: “We cannot and will not tolerate threats to academic freedoms and will take any action necessary to protect the rights of our community.”
This came only after a media furore had blown up at the hounding of a mild-mannered academic by an aggressive Sussex student group of trans-fanatics. His half-hearted utterances were not intended to reassure Stock, or, one could argue, the wider and silenced majority, that Sussex university was willing to do anything meaningful to uphold its own charter and respect freedom of speech.
Such window-dressing from a PR-conscious university came as little surprise to Stock herself, who had documented the institutional capture orchestrated by Stonewall’s diversity champion’s scheme, described by her as a “business model” that “prioritised promoting a narrow conception of what they would call trans rights”.
According to Stock, a “terrible, pseudo philosophy” has been drip-fed into the weft and warp of university life with the thoroughness and alacrity of a cult. Masquerading as a proponent of equality and diversity, inclusion and kindness, Stonewall has manifestly impeded academic rigour, freedom of speech and workers’ rights – all under the aegis of ‘fighting for the rights of trans people’.
Such ‘rights’, says Stock, are in fact already recognised by “national institutions, government departments, the CPS, the EHRC, almost all of our universities, schools and local authorities”. [Of course, this is to ignore the partial and false nature of ‘academic freedom’ and ‘human rights’ under the class rule of the bourgeoisie, which everywhere seeks domination, not freedom and whose tired utterances about ‘defending human rights and girls’ education’ are always ready on their lips while the poison in their hearts is directing the genocide of entire nations that resist their rapacious plunder … But let us pass this over for now, for the sake of argument].
So why the hysterically-pitched demands for further protections of this tiny (until recently almost non-existent) group? It is almost as though ‘trans rights’ were being used as a Trojan horse to facilitate another agenda.
Sussex UCU’s shameful joining of the attack squad
There is a telling moment in Julie Bindel’s online interview with Stock when Bindel smiles ruefully and suggests that they clarify for their listeners what the role of a trade union should be. She is aware, of course, that the death-knell for Stock’s teaching career at Sussex was not only her own union’s failure to express support for one of its members, but its active participation in the witch hunt against her. (Kathleen Stock: I won’t be silenced, Unherd, 3 November 2021)
It is not as though the University and College Union (UCU) is incapable of responding to the harassment and bullying of members. The union’s Bristol branch issued a fulsome statement in support of sociology professor David Miller in October 2021 when he was sacked for allegedly propagating antisemitic views when he spoke out against zionist ideology. Cited in Motion: Academic Freedom and David Miller were the university’s own royal charter, the 1988 Education Reform Act, and the 1998 Human Rights Act. All of these documents are supposed to guarantee the right of the freedom of expression for university staff within the law.
No such support was proffered by the UCU Sussex chapter in the case of Kathleen Stock. Instead, the branch called for an investigation into “institutional transphobia” at the university. In the light of the abusive treatment meted out to Kathleen Stock at the hands of trans extremists, coupled with the fragility of the case against her, one can only assume that Sussex UCU saw attack as the best form of defence for its indefensible position.
The UCU branch challenged Sussex university on its abnegation of the institution’s stated values, demanding that it should “ensure the dignity and respect of trans and non-binary staff and students … enshrined at the core of the university’s culture”.
As Stock, herself a lesbian, has observed, quite how any trans or non-binary student or staff member could feel that their dignity was being traduced or their person threatened in Brighton, one of the most “queer-friendly places in the world … on a campus with trans and non-binary spaces … trans or non-binary support groups on LGBT issues … a staff network … a Centre for Sexual Dissidence … and a Centre for Gender Studies” is baffling. Indeed, one could argue that the heterosexual or sexually abstinent community might feel more threatened by the aforementioned ‘centre for sexual dissidence’.
A connection can be made between the destruction of the large trade unions in the early 1980s, the automatic tethering of those unions to the imperialist Labour party and the nepotistic hard-faced careerists who now extol ‘kindness’ from their leading positions in what remains of our trade union movement. Such careerists are now acting as handmaidens to a multimillion-pound lobby group hellbent on weakening class-consciousness and working-class organisation.
Meanwhile, general secretary of Sussex UCU Jo Grady has boasted of installing “Terf-blocker software” on her Twitter account and, in a Twitter clash with Paul Embery, countered the latter’s perfectly sensible point that the left needs to return to class politics by responding: “Those who view the struggles of women, LGBTQ+ or disabled people, migrants or BAME communities as secondary have no place in our movement. This isn’t just politics; it reveals how they value people. It’s their political praxis.”
This is particularly ironic as the extreme trans-ideologists not only attack the rights of women, heterosexual men, rational science, sociology, medicine, biology, material reality and philosophy, but they in fact also reinforce sexual stereotypes – and, of course, come to ideological and physical blows with lesbian and gay people. All in the name of their ‘individual right’ to waive reality.
Little wonder that Stonewall acolytes proudly insert the tag #NoDebate onto their posts – subject their fantasies to even a modicum of scrutiny, and the whole house of cards unceremoniously collapses.
These should have been red flags to the UCU’s national organisation, if not to the mesmerised members of Grady and Stock’s own branch, now lost in the sea of ever-decreasing circles of identity politics. But then it was the UCU that produced a policy statement, as bizarre as it was risible, in which the union supported anyone’s right to identify into whichever gender, race or disability they chose – Praise be!
And this they call ‘supporting the struggles of women? Supporting the struggle against racism?’ To deny that discrimination on the basis of sex, nationality, religion or skin colour exist? For if they are ‘identity choices’ then they are not real. Ergo, discrimination is not real. Or it is a conscious choice of the victim. Clearly, such views are as far away from understanding the real economic nature of the oppression and exploitation, the impoverishment and misery of the working masses as heaven is from the earth.
Ladies and gentlemen, here we come face to face with the epitome of the hyper-individualist, capital-driven marketplace of ideas, distancing us ever further not only from one another, but even from reality itself. That trans ideology has taken such deep root in our society is testament to how hard it has been implanted among us by a ruling class finding a new way to push its old agenda: confusing and dividing the working class.
While the masses of working-class people have shown that they are not easily to be persuaded that a person can simply choose to be a different sex, young people in universities are being force-fed this rigmarole in order to divert them from contributing their intellectual skills to the class struggle. In this way, the divide between poorer and better-off workers is being greatly reinforced – to the disadvantage of all.
Our response must not be to avert our eyes in fear, nor to join the Punch and Judy culture wars show, but to patiently explain to our fellow workers on both sides of the trans debate how and why we are being misled. This painstaking work can and must be done if we are to unite the maximum possible forces for the real struggle that must be fought: the class struggle for socialism.