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Split from AFed and "Privilege Theory as a new starting point..." thread

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Nov 1 2012 14:49
Split from AFed and "Privilege Theory as a new starting point..." thread

towards the ass-end of that thread:

laborbund wrote:
Auto wrote:
So in short I do believe that we need to find a way to deal with issues related to gender, race, disability etc - and feel that dealing with these things is of vital importance to our cause, not just a sideshow. I am just unsure that privilege theory as it stands can do that. I'd also like to say that even though I don't necessarily agree with privilege theory, I think that it is good that we are debating it. Far better than sweeping these kind of issues under the carpet.

I like this statement. How do others feel about moving the focus of our discussion to this?

So I would break down the topic this way:

- through that thread and in numerous other places the inadequacies of privilege theory have been well articulated

- still, it seems that privilege theory/practice arises in response to real problems regarding issues of gender, race, sexuality, disability, etc.

- these problems are NOT simply a matter of personal behaviors and attitudes; they have STRUCTURAL components - still, they manifest themselves in personal interactions, even within the anarchist movement

- how do we address the problem of reactionary attitudes and behaviors manifesting themselves within the movement? effectively, and without the pitfalls of privilege theory?

- how should we address things like patriarchy and racism as structural problems? when it comes to the class war, many suggest that the workplace is a great place to attack the enemy; is there such a strategic way to attack patriarchy or white supremacy? (note: this may vary based on country)

If anybody feels I've constructed the problems and questions improperly or incompletely, please contribute.

I said earlier in the first thread that I emphasize working class self activity because the working class is located at a spot in the relations of production best suited to make the rev. For a bunch of reasons. I also like the idea of class struggle because it appears to hold out the best possibility for addressing things like patriarchy, racism, etc. Because the success of the working class is contingent on class unity, which can't be achieved with all these cleavages in the class. You can't have a white, male working class revolution, it just won't work because you're leaving out a majority of the working class. So, it seems to me that the class struggle necessarily has to be an anti-racist, anti-sexist struggle. These things aren't tangential from the class struggle; they lie at the core of it. So we gotta do better.

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Nov 1 2012 16:02

I guess in strategic terms, a difference between exploitation and oppression is how it's experienced and confronted. With 'economic' struggles*, we confront agents of capital (landlords, management etc). The enemy appears as the representative of a (class) structure. But with say, sexism or racism, it's often experienced from other workers - colleagues, customers, partners, comrades - who aren't immediately or obviously acting out a structural role. Can you march on an agent of patriarchy in the same way you can march on the boss as an agent of capital? Maybe - march on a stalker | gulabi gang

* scare quotes as even 'bread and butter' struggles are often as much about dignity, power and other things not reducible to economics

steve y
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Nov 1 2012 22:16

Admin: split to here.

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Nov 1 2012 22:36

Stevey, I think this post would go better in the other thread as it's referring specifically to the discussion document and this thread has split from that.

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Nov 2 2012 00:45
Joseph Kay wrote:
I guess in strategic terms, a difference between exploitation and oppression is how it's experienced and confronted. With 'economic' struggles*, we confront agents of capital (landlords, management etc). The enemy appears as the representative of a (class) structure. But with say, sexism or racism, it's often experienced from other workers - colleagues, customers, partners, comrades - who aren't immediately or obviously acting out a structural role.

I agree with this.

One area of difficulty is that a lot of experience of oppression feels very intimate or personal, as it is connected to love, sex, reproduction....
I am a lot less comfortable talking about this in public than I am talking about strikes.

In terms of collectivising struggle, there is a difference between a workplace dispute, where possibly hundreds of people work together doing the same job, and struggle, say, against injustice within the family.

A lot of the struggles of the early women's movement were around confronting these "personal" problems and fighting the taboo that they mustn't be discussed in public. Recently I was talking to a relative, and she was talking about bad treatment she received in hospital having her first baby. She was very upset about it, even though it was over thirty years ago. She explicitly said it was sexism. This was one of the areas that the women's movement organised and fought battles around. I wrote this and then deleted it because I felt awkward bringing it up.

I also hesitated because the division of the public world as male and the private, home world as female is a deeply ideological division, not a true one, and I didn't want to come across as saying that class politics are about big public events like strikes, and feminist politics are about private events like childbirth, as women have a massive participation in "economic" class struggle as well.

sawa
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Nov 1 2012 23:38

Admin: split to here.

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Nov 1 2012 23:39

That's a really good post, FM. I think you've hit the nail on the head.

I don't know how many people have watched the documentary Living Utopia, but the interviews with members of the Mujeres Libres about the work they did before and during the revolution has always struck me very deeply. They talk of how they spent time organising classes for other women, providing information and education, aimed at wearing down the subservient attitudes many women had internalised at the time. Freeing them from the predetermined role assigned to their gender.

The thing that really strikes me about their work, in the light of the current discussion that we are having, is that they were not just organising around what we would now call 'gender issues' as a separate, private and self-contained thing, but had a far wider goal. They wanted to overcome the gender division so that women could take their rightful, equal place in the revolution and in the new society. Sadly it seems many male revolutionaries at the time couldn't see it as more than a 'distraction' from their idea of the revolution.

I think this matches with what fingers is saying in her last post, that there is a perceived division between our 'personal' social experiences as individuals of different genders, nationalities, races etc, and the overarching story of the class struggle and the overthrow of capitalism.

I think what groups like the Mujeres Libres realised was that this is and always will be a false divide. Our class stretches across all these groups and if we are to make a revolution as a class then all members of that class must have a fair and equal participation in that revolution. This is why I see this debate as central to Anarchist politics. We cannot tear down the hierarchy between boss and worker without also dismantling any and all hierarchies that divide the class.

Now as I said in the other thread, I am still unsure whether privilege theory will give us the tools to accomplish this, but if not we shall have to work out some other way of achieving the goal. Because if we can't do that, what chance does the revolution have?

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Nov 2 2012 01:08

I just asked my mate about the division between the personal experiences and the overarching story of the class struggle and he said that every big thing is made up of little things.

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Nov 2 2012 01:27
sawa wrote:
I'm not in Afed but thought the discussion document was good and was saddened to see such a dismissive response on here, and hey guess what a new thread thats moved on from what women think cos as always men know best.

Hey sawa the thread has been split but that doesn't mean the other one is deactivated or anything. Please post your ideas. I thought splitting the thread was a good idea as some people were so negative and I thought we might be able to have a more productive discussion on a new thread. But the other thread is still there.
I find the dismissive thing horrible as well but some people are trying to engage with the topic now. Please don't be put off by some people's attitudes.

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Nov 2 2012 11:19

Right here is a back to basics observation, class politics attempts to unite, while identity politics seeks differences, its seeks separation of concerns, and it reality it divides. The upshot is that with identity politcs/privilage theory fractures occur along the horizontal plane, class attempts to cause cleavages horizontally in reality two theatres of struggle are along different axes. These are the two axes that define the difference between class struggle characters and a whole host of other characters from radical liberals, reformists to the far right. The emphasis of different struggles has been a dominant theme of much 'radical' politics for the last number of decades.

How we unite as a class without falling into the dividing practices of identity is something that I don't think where are anywhere near solving in the near future. And with say the anarchist mileu they are at constant loggerheads with each other.

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Nov 2 2012 11:27

Can steve y and sawa's posts be moved to the other thread to which they are responding?
http://libcom.org/forums/anarchist-federation/afed-privilege-theory-new-...

This thread seems to me to be a positive and practical development out of the other thread and could be quite useful and interesting.

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Nov 2 2012 11:45
Mr. Jolly wrote:
Right here is a back to basics observation, class politics attempts to unite, while identity politics seeks differences, its seeks separation of concerns, and it reality it divides. The upshot is that with identity politcs/privilage theory fractures occur along the horizontal plane, class attempts to cause cleavages horizontally in reality two theatres of struggle are along different axes. These are the two axes that define the difference between class struggle characters and a whole host of other characters from radical liberals, reformists to the far right. The emphasis of different struggles has been a dominant theme of much 'radical' politics for the last number of decades.

How we unite as a class without falling into the dividing practices of identity is something that I don't think where are anywhere near solving in the near future. And with say the anarchist mileu they are at constant loggerheads with each other.

But, mate, what we are trying to talk about is, some of the division within the proletariat are real, they do exist, and we need to fight them, and we need to work out how, urgently. Saying privilege politics are wrong, identity politics are wrong all the time doesn't help. It's an urgent question. Could we just address it?

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Nov 2 2012 11:54

All Im saying is that over the last few decades where identity has been the dominant radical politic, for good and for bad, you end up with a fractured political and competing space, thats all, its kind of a truism.

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Nov 2 2012 11:57

Ok, but we need a politics that addresses sexism and racism within the class struggle, and within our lived experience, that's what I'm asking people to talk about.

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Nov 2 2012 12:12

And thats not what I'm talking about? I am certainly aware of deep seated problems that we are fractured as a class, for a whole host of reasons, one of them being the pursuit of identity politics over class unity. This is almost certainly to do with both the some content, demographics and general perceptions of what constitutes class politics, but its also because class politics is a minority position, even within the larger radical political space, where identity rules.

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Nov 2 2012 12:13

Agree with Fingers. All working class people have to live in the real world where identities are not chosen (at least not initially) but thrust upon us. There are no hypothetical "pure class" individuals that somehow exist outside the spheres of gender, race, etc. While I disagree with the specific frame of privilege, I think its very dangerous to use terms like "identity politics" in a denigrative way. I know terms like "the sphere of subjectification" are abstract, Foucauldian double-dutch, but the reality they refer to are entirely real and concrete.

The struggle for the political recomposition of the class and that for the overcoming of the divisions, hierarchies and stratifications of gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity and all the other specific oppressions are not two distinct processes, but are inescapably one struggle. So if identities are part of the lived reality of class, then we have to address this politically and practically, the same as any other issue relating to recomposition. We need to have a political praxis that addresses identity and oppression, even if that's not what people understand by "identity politics" when they use that term as a swear-word.

But, and this imo is also a crucial point of departure, we can't see the relation between the struggle against sexism, racism, homophobia, etc as part of the struggle for class recomposition in an instrumental way. i.e. that the former are simply a means to achieving the latter as ends. Rather we need to understand the struggle against particular oppressions, in the here and now (not to be postponed til after "that glorious day") as both means and ends in themselves, that is that they are prefigurative of the kind of libertarian society we are aiming to create.

I'll return to answering the specific questions in the OP in a bit.

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Nov 2 2012 12:49

Yeah, I second Ocelot and FM. Especially identity being thrusted upon people (there is a bit in a Fanon essay [ Racism and Culture ] where he says he didn't even know he was black until the break out of WW2 when first more white people came to Martinique [being racist to the inhabitants] and secondly he moved to France. Also the infamous 'The fact of blackness essay' (which apparently is a bad translation and should be read as 'the experience of blackness'). It is the ol' experience vs. structure* thing again isn't it?

I think hidden behind what Mr. Jolly is trying to say there is a history that we need to look at a little bit more. If you look at anti-racist and feminist movements in the U.K. they come out of the socialist movement. So how did we get from there to what we have now (Maggie Thatcher held up as a feminist icon, professional 'community leaders' that claim to speak for all muslims, all blacks, all christians etc, etc). I'm not sure about the answer to this (I don't know enough about the history), but I think we would do ourselves some good to go back and see what happened in the first place (could the hegemony of the USSR over 'class politics' have had a detrimental affect on all of this?).

The button often badgers on about Wendy Brown's States of Injury. I finished reading it recently. There are some great nuggets in there. But I forgotten them embarrassed . I will try get my notes typed up today and hopefully share some of the love.

* itself a really bad dichotomy that I think we need to get away from.

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Nov 2 2012 13:38

Would it be mistaken to frame the goal as the elimination of "identity" from the political equation?

Not only is this *very* difficult but it's also likely to be painful for everyone involved. These roles and identities are often part of our self image and hard to let go of regardless if we're the 'oppressed' or the 'privileged'.

There will always be people who dismiss any incident or examples of biased or dominating behaviour but there is also a risk of the opposite. These roles and identities are important to people in lots of ways and there will be times when people reinforce their identities by shifting focus to them which I think is harmful.

I'm sure we all know people who are incapable of seing sexist, racist or otherwise dominating behaviour as well as we all know people who see oppression in the slightest glance, raising of voice or turn of phrase.

I was once accused of being racist at a bus stop as I happened to look a split second to long at a guy who I though looked great and had an unusual sense of style. I've also sensed women thinking I'm checking them out when I'm just zoning out looking in the wrong direction. These are impossible situation you can't do much about them, nor can you really fault the people misreading my behaviour.

I'm just babbling about this as I think that despite my previous comments that the affected know best about their issues there are also mechanisms that make the opposite true.

Got to cut this short and drink 'champagne' with my mother to celebrate my brand spanking new daughter. I would have added more sane and balanced stuff I promise.

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Nov 2 2012 14:52
Cooked wrote:
Got to cut this short and drink 'champagne' with my mother to celebrate my brand spanking new daughter.

Congratulations Cooked!
That explains the return to Sweden, pappaledighet and subsidised childcare. tongue

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Nov 2 2012 14:37
Cooked wrote:
Would it be mistaken to frame the goal as the elimination of "identity" from the political equation?

There is that Maya Gonzalez essay Communization and the Abolition of Gender, plus I guess the theorisation of working class identity amongst the communisation current, but I think that is sending this thread off in a different direction, since this is more practical and strategically orientated.

I'd like to come back to the questions, but I'm not sure how much input I can give, though I've some ideas and will try later. We're also talking about changing social relations as well as interpersonal relations within groups too.

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Nov 2 2012 16:13
laborbund wrote:
- how do we address the problem of reactionary attitudes and behaviors manifesting themselves within the movement? effectively, and without the pitfalls of privilege theory?

Solidarity begins at home (or something). On a practical level, if you are active in an organisation (regardless of specific strategic frame - i.e. whether it's a dual organisational-style specific political organisation, or a political-economic org) that has radical social change as an objective, and challenging specific oppressions as part of that, then you need to have a practical framework for challenging oppressive behaviour by group members (to each other, or to others), otherwise you have no chance of having any influence on these struggles in any wider context. Physician, heal thyself, and all that.

The most obvious practical questions are the most extreme ones. Does your organisation have an agreed procedure for how to respond to the situation where a charge of rape, sexual assault or domestic violence is made against a member? If not, why not? We have to accept, that as much as we would like to tell ourselves that anarchist orgs regroup some of the most "enlightened" sections, of the class, the reality is that we are all the products of the society that made us, and gendered and sexual violence is endemic in that society. So, sooner or later, all groups will have to deal with such incidences. Failure to do so as properly and as fairly as possible, is fatal.

Below the level of conduct and discipline for egregious acts meriting dis-association (and, potentially, other sanctions) There are a number of other practices I can think of.

Organisational self-awareness. If your organisation has a crap gender balance or a rubbish racial/ethnic mix, you can deal with this in a number of ways. The wrong way is to never publicly mention it, or discuss it. The very worst is to try and justify it in some contorted way. The only productive way to deal with it is to be open about it and accept that it is a problem - even if you have to be honest and say that you don't have the answers yet as to why this is, or what you're going to do about it. Sounds crap, but the alternatives are worse.

Caucusing. One of the effects of oppression is it undermines peoples confidence to put their own input and agendas across in meetings that are heavily dominated by "normative" values and their bearers. Consequently creating space for women-, queer- or people of colour- only meetings can be a useful counter to the domination of the org's meetings by white, male, university-educated loud-mouth politics nerds. Hopefully, as well as other useful functions, some of the products of these discussions can be fed back into reforming the culture and politics of the general org.

Speaking of politics, does your org mention your opposition to sexism, racism, etc in your Aims & Principles and maybe a special paper or two dedicate to "women", etc as a special subject, but not appear anywhere else in your political positions and strategy documents? This doesn't necessarily mean you have to include tokenistic mentions in every document. But it is worth at least occasionally posing the question whether it's reasonable to have, say, an industrial strategy document that doesn't mention sexism or racism in the workplace or unions. Similarly, is there space in your org educational calendar allocated to discussing these issues? When a new person joins the organisation how and when will he or she encounter or be made aware of the org's politics in this domain?

I'm sure there are many other practices and questions to be added to the above, but I'll leave that for starters and move on to:

laborbund wrote:
- how should we address things like patriarchy and racism as structural problems? when it comes to the class war, many suggest that the workplace is a great place to attack the enemy; is there such a strategic way to attack patriarchy or white supremacy? (note: this may vary based on country)

How is subjectification produced at the social or structural level? Certainly, like any other aspect of the social under capitalism, more and more is being reproduced through the market and commodity nexus. But subjectification carries out its work on consciousness and the body, consequently there is a much bigger role for the institutions of state and civil society, and the field of cultural production, much of which we encounter outside our specific workplace (if we have one). So combatting the promotion of racist, sexist, etc. ideas, prejudices, images promoted by the media and advertising can be part of the struggle (e.g. direct action against Youth Defence anti-abortion billboard hoardings in Ireland).

You are right that you have to shape your strategy to the particular institutional configuration/composition of the particular state or society you live in. In Ireland, for example, the feminist struggle of course runs up particularly against the Catholic church, the constitutional ban on abortion, etc. That's not to say that if we ever succeed in destroying the grip of the church on society and legalise abortion, that we will have got rid of sexism and patriarchy by any means. But the struggle has to start with what's in front of you, so to speak.

The problem, of course, in fighting the "culture wars" to change social attitudes, is that you risk being drawn into operating exclusively within the bourgeois horizon that separates "political issues" from "economic" ones - i.e. the risk of losing the class perspective and being sucked into the "battle for the hearts and minds of the public", as if the constitution of society was already a matter of simple opinion or will of the majority. There are ways to counter this, but anyway, I've gone on far too long already, and I have to wrap up for now.

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Nov 3 2012 10:46

Definitely I think the elimination of identity should be our eventual goal, in the sense that race, gender, sexual orientation, etc are restrictive categories that impose roles and expectations on us and therefore need to be abolished. In the here and now we want to recognise that we have certain identities imposed on us, and that by being identified in these ways we face specific problems. But coming to identify with these categories is what gets us bogged down in identity politics, so in that sense we want to avoid identity immediately. However dealing with those problems is no more identity politics than any other specific struggle is. I don't think it's any more identity politics for workers who are women to strategise with each other on how to deal with sexism, than it is for workers to strategise within their own industry, or as temps, or as parents, or as service users. The problem, I think, is in seeing these categories as who we are.

Mr. Jolly, your comments concern me. Maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick but they remind me of the way that often when a woman points out sexism in the movement she's accused of being divisive by some people rather than that the sexism being seen as divisive. The cause of the division is the sexism, not the pointing out of it.

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Nov 2 2012 19:41
Shorty wrote:
Cooked wrote:
Got to cut this short and drink 'champagne' with my mother to celebrate my brand spanking new daughter.

Congratulations Cooked!
That explains the return to Sweden, pappaledighet and subsidised childcare. tongue

smile
Well it was more like the decision to move boosted our fertility. But hell yeah I'm looking forward to six months off with this girl!!!

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Nov 3 2012 13:19
Konsequent wrote:
Mr. Jolly, your comments concern me. Maybe I've got the wrong end of the stick but they remind me of the way that often when a woman points out sexism in the movement she's accused of being divisive by some people rather than that the sexism being seen as divisive. The cause of the division is the sexism, not the pointing out of it.

You have, I don't think anywhere I have said that there isn't sexism in anarchist groups. Policies on sexism/homophobia/racism et al. are crucial to libertarian organisations and need to be spelled out in no uncertain terms, the national UK orgs are think are getting up to speed with this stuff. My observation, purely was a wider question about identity politics, its popularity and why it is often at odds with class struggle politics, I was not commenting on how we organise in class struggle groups.

I suppose a larger question is why are women so badly represented in class politics.

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Nov 3 2012 18:24
Mr. Jolly wrote:
My observation, purely was a wider question about identity politics, its popularity and why it is often at odds with class struggle politics, I was not commenting on how we organise in class struggle groups.

Ah ok. In which case I'd be interested in how and why your attitude to fighting sexism differs when it comes to a wider context. Is fighting sexism outside the movement always identity politics in your opinion? I don't think it is, but I outlined above what I see as identity politics and what I think is the problem with it and I'm interested in your take on it. As you've said you're against identity politics because it divides vertically rather than horizontally, as if cross-class collaboration is an inevitable result of women, for example, organising against the ways in which capitalism manifests itself in their lives.

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Nov 4 2012 23:04
Arbeiten wrote:
The button often badgers on about Wendy Brown's States of Injury. I finished reading it recently. There are some great nuggets in there. But I forgotten them embarrassed . I will try get my notes typed up today and hopefully share some of the love.

Very very good book, I'll share some muddled thoughts.

One of the major things I took from this book was that the emergence of liberal feminism/liberal anti-racism, the politics of representation for minority/oppressed groups is not entirely removed from the nature of the demands were made during the early-mid 20th century labour struggles. By which I mean, as a consequence of the emergence of a welfare state, the site of struggle for [feminist] demands being wrapped in an economic reliance upon the state [e.g child benefits] and generally the gendered segregation of labour and sexist stratification of society as a whole. Why does/did the labour movement continually fail to address and dismiss "women's issues" as such and not see them as class issues?

Struggles for equality require the state to define what is equal and unequal the individual's "freedom" or "right" to exist. Framed in this manner freedom/equality struggles become subsumed in the politics of the individual, and entirely compatible with the "left-wing of capital", (e.g. promoting the idea of having more women in positions of power as a sign of progress), letting the structures of gendered and racial oppression off the hook.

One of the things I take issue with is using the term "identity" as if it's a single kind of idea or politics, when clearly it isn't, and frequently it's used as a dismissal of anything which attempts to get us (as a "movement") to discuss issues like sexism/racism/prejudice within the movement. It causes divisions precisely because as a result we can't talk about it, so whilst I find the concept of "identity" loaded and problematic, I think self-organised and exclusive groups of those from self-identifying "oppressed" groups are sometimes necessary.

On a personal level I find it very difficult to talk about racism in a large group of white comrades, and I find I can talk more freely and openly if I'm discussing it with someone else who understands exactly what I'm on about. Sympathy is okay, but solidarity is better. Whilst we live in a world where racism is a form a structural violence tied up in power relations, the history of colonialism, the contradictions of the state and global capital as a material reality, we're naturally going to accept that solidarity within our own groups has a deeper meaning because of our affinity.

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Nov 5 2012 08:20
Konsequent wrote:
Ah ok. In which case I'd be interested in how and why your attitude to fighting sexism differs when it comes to a wider context. Is fighting sexism outside the movement always identity politics in your opinion?

Again no, the two are not the same. Feminism like socialism or anarchism has many flavours and I don't agree with some feminist thought and praxis, while I embrace others. Feminists, for example, that push an essentialist, mystical purity of gender difference, is a cultish form or identity politics. Anyway my statement about fractured nature of class and how identity plays a part in that can be seen in say how these operate within our class, not with our wee movements. An obvious example is how Respect party, a 'left wing' party plays on identity to gain power, much like the national front with its privileging of whites. Obviously neither offers working class people potential escape trajectories, quite the opposite, both push varying degrees conservative politics, celebrate anti liberatory practices and ideas, and more worryingly they divide us from our common interests creating a view of the world that separates us along the lines of identity and culture. This shift has been quite striking over the last 20 years, from secular groups of say young asians of all faiths, or none, fighting against boneheads and structural racism, to today with faith schools and lobbying for halal meat take us on a journey of difference and separation. Its no coincidence that the BNP has moved from ideas of race to ideas of culture and identity as their site of operation.

As for your assertion that we need to abolish identity, I think that a rather problematic proposition. It suggests that identity is by default a repressive ontological categorisation. But such identities actually can create new and novel forms of human interaction which can be very liberatory for those involved. The assertion by say some Queer theorists that the category of the homosexual is only a repressive force, or that gay marriage is an oppressive force denies the flip side, the creative potential of these categories and arrangements for those involved and their ability to create new and beautiful ways for humans to interact and love each other. Silence is not an ideal I find particularly appealing, indeed I find the whole idea of abolishing identity is naive and quite offensive to be honest.

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Nov 5 2012 15:48
Mr. Jolly wrote:
As for your assertion that we need to abolish identity, I think that a rather problematic proposition. It suggests that identity is by default a repressive ontological categorisation. But such identities actually can create new and novel forms of human interaction which can be very liberatory for those involved. The assertion by say some Queer theorists that the category of the homosexual is only a repressive force, or that gay marriage is an oppressive force denies the flip side, the creative potential of these categories and arrangements for those involved and their ability to create new and beautiful ways for humans to interact and love each other. Silence is not an ideal I find particularly appealing, indeed I find the whole idea of abolishing identity is naive and quite offensive to be honest.

I don't know if I'd go as far as "offensive", personally. But I think as a slogan - "for the abolition of identity" - would be at best confusing, and at worst...

Well, let's put it this way, by analogy with class. For communists our ultimate goal is the creation of a classless society - i.e. we are "for the abolition of class". But if we only raised that slogan, before any other messages about our politics, then people could get very confused. Particularly if they made the assumption that we were advocating ceasing all talk of class in the here and now. That would be the utopian approach - i.e. we aim to abolish class, so let's start by pretending it doesn't exist in the here and now. Naturally we can say, "of course we're not utopians", but people aren't necessarily going to know that or assume it from the outset.

But I think beyond that, I'm not at all sure about even raising it as an ultimate goal. Abolishing oppressions built around identity? Certainly. Combatting rigid, essentialist or other constraining definitions of identity? For sure. But my instinct also would be to frame the aim as liberating identity from oppressive determinations and freeing space for a (polymorphous?) proliferation of new, mutant, original identities. Differentiation without separation.

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jura
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Nov 5 2012 18:43

Intrigued by Refused's and Arbeiten's posts, I looked for Wendy Brown's book. If anyone wants it, get it here: http://libgen.info/view.php?id=446024

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Nov 5 2012 23:24

OCR'd version (could do with being formatted)1

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Nov 6 2012 11:09

Yeah on the abolition of identity, I agree with it as an 'aim' but I'm not so sure its can ever actually happen. So that afterwards we live in a world without identity.

Basically I think that language plays a major role here and I'm basically Lacanian on this. As Adorno said “Contradiction is non-identity under the aspect of identity". Our entry into the social world involves assuming an identity that that is a meconnaisance (misidentification/selfidentification) and creates the illusion of a unified subject. Our entry into the social world is an entry in the world of language where signifiers are always seperate from the signified.

Of course there are those (i.e. Zerzan) who actually advocate an end all forms of identity. But he takes this seriously and advocates and end to "Symbolic Culture" i.e. language.

Basically what I'm saying is you can't have a social world without language, and you can't have language without identity. And this is an inescapable bad thing. As long as language exists, or as long as we exist in language, we will be trying to get out of its binds, trying to move beyong identity, but I don't think its a task that will ever be finished.

For what its worth, (especially if you are reading this thread and have no idea what this talk of identity means,) John Holloway is quite good an interesting on this. He poses identity as the seperation of the 'done' from the 'doing'. I'm not sure this is legitimate but its worth a read. John Holloway on Fetisihism and Identity