SOCIALISTS ON DAMORE

Reminder that our next meeting, Socialists on Damore: Discrimination, Labor Rights and Bullshit Biology, will be held Monday, November 13th from 7-8:45pm. We will meet in the usual location, 114 W. 26th, 9th floor, followed by some drinks at Black Door across the street.

The meeting will revolve around a group discussion about the many issues surrounding the case of James Damore, the Google engineer who was fired after internally publishing an anti-diversity memo. We’re not discussing the memo or Damore himself, per se – that’s been covered everywhere already – but the political questions surrounding them.

In this meeting we’ll have a few participants speaking first before opening the discussion to the whole group. As in previous meetings, we have also prepared some discussion questions, but for time reasons we won’t try to cover all of them.

As background to the discussion, we recommend the following short readings:

  1. Why Can’t Silicon Valley Solve Its Diversity Problem?, The New Yorker, November 2016. The tech industry has pervasive issues with hiring—and retaining—women, black, and Latino employees. Now a bevy of startups hopes to expand the recruiting process.

  2. Silicon Intersectionality, Current Affairs, October 2017. How big business came to love sounding progressive while protecting status and privilege.

  3. Corporations are cracking down on free speech inside the office — and out. The Washington Post, August 2017. With the firing of James Damore, Google reignited longstanding debates about speech and work.


Here are the Discussion questions for the meeting:

Discrimination

  1. What forms of discrimination are prominent in the tech industry, and what recourse is there when it happens?
  1. What are the limitations of relying on HR and the industry itself to address discrimination?
  1. What motivates Google to oppose Damore’s discrimination against women in tech? What motivates socialists to oppose it? How do those motivations differ?
  1. With a stronger Left presence in tech, like labor unions or the threat thereof, what could be done about cases of discrimination in the tech workplace?

Diversity

  1. How are tech companies adopting diversity efforts to advance corporate interests?
  1. How or why is this concept particularly pervasive in the tech industry, in comparison to other industries?
  1. What’s the significance of the fat that diversity efforts in the tech industry only speak to professional and managerial workers?
  1. Workers must often adhere to a nebulous “corporate culture.” Who creates this culture? Who enforces it? How much influence do workers have?

Labor Rights and Organizing

  1. How does Damore’s memo relate to debates around free speech? To what extent is his memo political speech?
  1. What are some examples of bosses firing workers for their political views? How do labor unions mitigate that?
  1. Do Alt Right sympathizers in the tech workforce, like Damore, pose a problem for potential labor organizing efforts? How should a union position itself with respect to such workers (who may themselves be members)?
  1. Should socialists defend Damore and others like him when their companies fire them?

Biological Determinism

  1. Damore’s pseudoscientific claims about biology, a kind of biological determinism, were used to justify discrimination against women in tech. What are other examples of such biological determinism being invoked by the Right?
  1. What are the limitations of opposing the Right’s biological determinism by meticulously debunking their claims? What do we do if, in certain cases, the science is actually on their side?

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