Definitive reading list for Black and Anarcha-feminism

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wojtek
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Mar 5 2011 19:34
Definitive reading list for Black and Anarcha-feminism

I'm hoping to do a critical analysis of the TV show 'The Wire' focusing primarily on Black Feminism and Anarcha-feminism. I've read Rivkin and Ryan's 'Literary theory: an anthology' which has many seminal essays on Feminism/ Gender Studies, Queer Theory, and Marxism:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/toc/0631200290/ref=dp_toc?ie=UTF8&n=266239

I'm fed up of quoting Marxists, but I'm at a loss at where to begin with regards black and anarcha-feminist study and its theorists. There are a lot of books that AK Press distribute, but again I don't know which are any good.

Can anyone help me please?

Regards.

Black Badger
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Mar 5 2011 22:28

Not to be too pedantic, but referring to certain essays and thinkers in feminist, gender, and queer theory as "seminal" is a bit, er, patriarchal (it refers to sperm/semen). You might consider calling them "germinal" instead.

Lorenzo Komboa Ervin and Ashanti Alston would be the best place to start looking at black anarchism. L. Susan Brown has some interesting ideas on anarcha-feminism.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 5 2011 23:15
Black Badger wrote:
Not to be too pedantic, but referring to certain essays and thinkers in feminist, gender, and queer theory as "seminal" is a bit, er, patriarchal (it refers to sperm/semen). You might consider calling them "germinal" instead.

not to be too pedantic, but prefacing pedantry with 'not to be too pedantic' doesn't lessen the pedantry. unless this is a parody of political correctness, in which case well played!

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Khawaga
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Mar 5 2011 23:23

bell hooks is a good place to start.

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flaneur
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Mar 6 2011 17:17
Joseph Kay wrote:
Black Badger wrote:
Not to be too pedantic, but referring to certain essays and thinkers in feminist, gender, and queer theory as "seminal" is a bit, er, patriarchal (it refers to sperm/semen). You might consider calling them "germinal" instead.

not to be too pedantic, but prefacing pedantry with 'not to be too pedantic' doesn't lessen the pedantry. unless this is a parody of political correctness, in which case well played!

I'm not racist, I have a black friend.

Tex
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Mar 7 2011 21:01

As far as black feminism is concerned I've found these readings to be useful in expanding my rather limited knowledge of the subject:

The Combahee River Collective, “A Black Feminist Statement”

Hazel Carby, “White Woman Listen! Black Feminism and the Boundaries of
Sisterhood”

Audre Lorde and, as Khawaga pointed out, bell hooks would also be good authors to try.

I hope this helps.

wojtek
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Mar 15 2011 22:07

thanks for the recommendations, I'll get started soon.

wojtek
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Oct 1 2011 10:40

I decided against doing it in the end, because well I'm a white guy living in Manchester, England (hardly in a position to be an authority) and the fact that I've since read a few academic critiques of the program which by far surpass my knowledge of Marxist economics. I remember this article being very good though, but unfortunately I can't access it as I'm not a subscriber:

John Kraniauskas, ‘Elasticity of Demand: Reflections on The Wire’, Radical Philosophy 154 (2009): 25–34

Quote:
Joseph Kay wrote on the 'Macho Posting on Libcom and Solfed' thread:

Bit of a tangent, but can anyone recommend any decent libertarian communist feminist /anarcha-feminist writing? Cos I'd be interested what it is (I find the Marxist feminism I've read too productivist and the anarcha stuff I've seen too herbalist...), and also we could add it to the libcom library.

Martha A. Ackelsberg's 'Free Women of Spain' about the Mujeres Libres is brilliant.

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Oct 1 2011 17:00

Hey wojtek, i haven't got time to write something longer, but what I would do is suggest you look at the stuff on DarkMatter journal written on the wire. I personally really like this journal but it is neither anarchist nor marxist. It is mainly anti-racist stuff on it. But i think you should really look at it

wojtek
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Oct 3 2011 23:02

sweet, have bookmarked!

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 3 2011 23:43

Ok, this will be a bit meandering, but none of the stuff i've read really seems libertarian communist to me. this could well be me not reading enough or the right stuff, but...

- the Marxist stuff like Dalla Costa, Fortunati et al tends to shoehorn women into 'production' in order to fit them into workerist Marxism. this strikes me as the wrong answer to the right question (how do women fit into a male-dominated workers' movement?). it's a while since i read Federici, but the history seemed questionable to me (e.g. if women were disciplined as domestic baby makers following the black death, way before capitalism, how come this explains the role of women in capitalism, when in Capital, Marx spends ages detailing the sweatshop conditions of female workers?). Maria Mies' book (patriarchy and accumulation...) is on my list and may fill in this gap though. On the plus side it's materialist and class-focussed, and seeks to investigate the gendered dimension of social relations.

- the 'triple oppressions'/'intersectionality' type stuff which seems to come from Angela Davis/bell hooks, but i've mostly read via NEFAC. the problem i have here is that it tends to either argue the relative significance of competing oppressions, or instead argue there can be no 'hierarchy of oppressions'. this seems to try and argue class politics on a liberal terrain of independent and interacting 'oppressions' rather than an analysis of social relations. class is not just one in a series, it's a structuring principle which has reconfigured the gendered and racial relations it inherited (or in the case of race, helped create via slavery). the Marxist stuff is better here, but as i say, seems to shoehorn women into 'productive workers' to fit them into an reductive, workerist class analysis.

- the stuff from international relations i've come across seems to argue the state is masculine, but even when rejecting essentialism argues the state is constructed in the image of man. so it seems to be a bit of cul-de-sac (i'm not that well read here, so may be missing stuff, but key texts like 'bananas, beaches and bases' tend to focus on the exclusion of women from accounts of IR and thus the 'masculine' construction of the discipline). it seems to me more likely to be the other way around; with the rise of states a certain set of attributes became structurally required and counterposed to those required by the domestic sphere (aggression vs care etc), which gave rise to the gender binary (i've called this 'halving the species'). that's just a hypothesis at the moment, i'd guess anthropological literature would be the place to look here. there's a book 'moon sun and witches' i've got on my list that might help, but any recommendations much appreciated.

- the construction of masculinity in the image of the state is exactly the kind of thing i'd expect anarcha-feminism to be all about. but what i've read seems preoccupied with herbalism and reclaiming 'intuition' against 'patriarchal' reason and logic. now it's entirely possible i'm reading the wrong stuff, so again, any recommendations here gratefully received, but tbh what i've found has been bad anarchism and bad feminism imho. edit: i've just found phil dickens overview which may help remedy this impression.

Basically my hunch is that libertarian communist gender theory should be materialist without being reductive (i.e. not labelling 'women's work' value productive); should be properly historical, tracing the emergence of gender roles with the state and how these were and are still being transformed by capital; and thus should theorise gender as a historically emergent dynamic of social relations rather than an independent intersecting variable or an essential invariable. But i haven't really come across anything that points in this direction.

ticking_fool
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Oct 4 2011 07:31
Quote:
Basically my hunch is that libertarian communist gender theory should be materialist without being reductive (i.e. not labelling 'women's work' value productive); should be properly historical, tracing the emergence of gender roles with the state and how these were and are still being transformed by capital; and thus should theorise gender as a historically emergent dynamic of social relations rather than an independent intersecting variable or an essential invariable. But i haven't really come across anything that points in this direction.

There's a lot of feminist history that does point in those directions but it hasn't cohered to the point where it's retheorising gender, certainly not in a libcom direction. This may in fact be a good thing as theory has tended to be a bit straightjacketing in the ways that you point out and things are just horrendously complicated. Having lots and lots of very specific histories is probably the most useful thing right now, although not the easiest to navigate. Have a look at Gerda Lerner's Creation of Patriarchy on the origins of patriarchy in ancient Mesopotamia (born at the same time as the state) and Anna Clark's Struggle for the Breeches about the role of gender in early English industrial struggle for really good examples. There is quite a bit of it, but my mind is addled this morning.

As for theory, I'd bump the Maria Mies up the reading list, it really is very very good and have a look at Carole Pateman's The Sexual Contract which examines the way that gender relations were written in and rendered invisible in the original idea of the social contract and the founding ideologies of capitalism.

Federici's actually worth another look as well, I think she does manage to move beyond the rest of the Wages for Housework lot. The idea that women become the new commons and that a new alliance between the craft guilds and the merchants reshapes gender relations in a new capitalist form is pretty powerful, although she does overstate the autonomy of women prior to this. You could argue that her idea of a patriarchy of the wage becomes a new site of struggle continually defined and redefined as capital grows and changes. The struggles within the guilds she describes are similar to the struggles Clark describes in the factories centuries later.

wojtek
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Oct 5 2011 03:39

I've ordered 'Quiet Rumours: an Anarcha-Feminist anthology', but in the meantime there's lots here on anarcha-feminism which I'm going to slowly make my way through:

http://zabalazabooks.net/1936/07/19/womens-liberation/

tastybrain
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Oct 5 2011 04:42
Joseph Kay wrote:
- the 'triple oppressions'/'intersectionality' type stuff which seems to come from Angela Davis/bell hooks, but i've mostly read via NEFAC. the problem i have here is that it tends to either argue the relative significance of competing oppressions, or instead argue there can be no 'hierarchy of oppressions'. this seems to try and argue class politics on a liberal terrain of independent and interacting 'oppressions' rather than an analysis of social relations. class is not just one in a series, it's a structuring principle which has reconfigured the gendered and racial relations

Are gender, race, and class not somewhat "independent and interacting"? I mean rich black people face racism too. I don't think class is just "one in a series" but isn't that basically what "there can be no hierarchy of oppressions" means? Each category is not necessarily comparable or equivalent. My "analysis of social relations" would probably lead me to something akin to "independent and interacting 'oppressions'". Are you implying by your last sentence some sort of class-as-the-structuring-principle-of-everything theory?

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Oct 5 2011 08:22
wojtek wrote:
I've ordered 'Quiet Rumours: an Anarcha-Feminist anthology', but in the meantime there's lots here on anarcha-feminism which I'm going to slowly make my way through:

http://zabalazabooks.net/1936/07/19/womens-liberation/

if you wanted to post up any of those articles which are decent into our library (into the women or feminism tags) that would be great

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Oct 5 2011 13:12
tastybrain wrote:
Are gender, race, and class not somewhat "independent and interacting"? I mean rich black people face racism too. I don't think class is just "one in a series" but isn't that basically what "there can be no hierarchy of oppressions" means? Each category is not necessarily comparable or equivalent. My "analysis of social relations" would probably lead me to something akin to "independent and interacting 'oppressions'". Are you implying by your last sentence some sort of class-as-the-structuring-principle-of-everything theory?

what is a "class-as-the-structuring-principle-of-everything theory"?

thing is, i don't give a shit about rich people suffering racism, or glass ceilings or any of that crap. accommodating it into a theory is accommodating liberalism imho. when women are denied access to birth control, or proles face racial/gendered discrimination or violence, or the division of labour relies on a gendered second shift etc, these things are class issues because they pertain to the needs of the class. theorising them as separate but interacting accepts the reductionist 'class = white, male economic struggles' caricature of liberal and other critics. for example just yesterday i heard someone in a public meeting explain anarchism as 'against sexism, racism, classism', i.e. liberalism being against bad oppressions rather than a class analysis of society. so i think even the best class struggle arguments are arguing on a liberal terrain if they go for 'intersectionality', because the premise is a series of oppressions even if the argument tries to stress the significance of class.

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Oct 5 2011 15:19
tastybrain wrote:
Are gender, race, and class not somewhat "independent and interacting"? I mean rich black people face racism too. I don't think class is just "one in a series" but isn't that basically what "there can be no hierarchy of oppressions" means? Each category is not necessarily comparable or equivalent. My "analysis of social relations" would probably lead me to something akin to "independent and interacting 'oppressions'". Are you implying by your last sentence some sort of class-as-the-structuring-principle-of-everything theory?

Agree in large part with JK's post, but just want to add my thoughts. Class is based on exploitation, gender, race, sexuality etc. are based on oppression. As working class we can all have a shared experience of exploitation, but experience of oppressions are blocked for people that do not directly suffer under that particular oppression. Of course, this means that the way exploitation is experience is conditioned by oppressions, but, and this I think is the significant point, class allows us to talk and organize across various oppressions. Class does indeed structure various oppressions, but that means from an organizing point of view that it is the glue that (should) keep us together.

tastybrain
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Oct 5 2011 17:32
Joseph Kay wrote:

what is a "class-as-the-structuring-principle-of-everything theory"?

thing is, i don't give a shit about rich people suffering racism, or glass ceilings or any of that crap. accommodating it into a theory is accommodating liberalism imho.

I don't think we should be organizing around glass ceiling stuff or around rich minorities who are discriminated against. We should, however "accommodate into our theory" the fact that racism and sexism are not always directly reducible to class/capitalism.

Joseph Kay wrote:
when women are denied access to birth control, or proles face racial/gendered discrimination or violence, or the division of labour relies on a gendered second shift etc, these things are class issues because they pertain to the needs of the class. theorising them as separate but interacting accepts the reductionist 'class = white, male economic struggles' caricature of liberal and other critics.

Well of course "class" isn't just be about white male economic struggles! In a workplace white men, P.O.C., and women are all exploited and all engaging in a class struggle. However, discrimination against women and P.O.C. is not always strictly part of the capitalist agenda/caused directly by capitalism. It seems disingenuous to simply say "it's all a class issue" when in fact women/POC of all classes face this sort of discrimination (in different ways and contexts, of course) and not all members of the class face something similar. To me this implies that confronting racism and sexism is something that only needs to happen if it is necessary in the course of the class struggle. I mean, on the "macho posting on Libcom/Solfed thread, someone said that she was afraid to bring up issues of sexism that weren't directly tied to class or the workplace because they would be dismissed. There are times when the capitalist class is more "progressive" racially or gender-wise than the workers, such as "hate strikes" in WWII that broke out when black workers were introduced or the white working class anti-Chinese rioting in 1877 in San Francisco. I do think race and gender have a somewhat independent character, and if we don't acknowledge that we risk minimizing them and risk implying that we don't care about them as problems in their own right worth confronting if there is no direct or obvious connection to class (or even if you risk alienating some white workers).

Joseph Kay wrote:
for example just yesterday i heard someone in a public meeting explain anarchism as 'against sexism, racism, classism', i.e. liberalism being against bad oppressions rather than a class analysis of society.

I agree that "classism" is a ridiculous concept (that there is "discrimination" against working class people instead of a system which exploits them)...but a class analysis of society does not have to throw out racism and sexism as being problems in their own right even when they do not flow from/interact with class in any obvious way.

EDIT: I mean, if race and class are not somewhat independent, why do we get mad at people for talking about "Jewish bankers"? Is it just because it's a bad analysis of capitalism or because it's antisemitic?

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Oct 6 2011 00:26
tastybrain wrote:
We should, however "accommodate into our theory" the fact that racism and sexism are not always directly reducible to class/capitalism.

nowhere have i said "racism and sexism are directly reducible to capitalism". quite the opposite in fact (e.g. the hypothesis of masculinity being constructed in the image of the state, which would be several thousand years before capitalism).

tastybrain wrote:
It seems disingenuous to simply say "it's all a class issue" when in fact women/POC of all classes face this sort of discrimination (in different ways and contexts, of course) and not all members of the class face something similar.

so it's not a class issue if it doesn't effect everyone the same? unemployed people aren't concerned with wage demands. low wage workers may be fighting unpaid overtime, whereas high paid workers may be fighting for time off instead of wage hikes. even the most economic demands are not homogeneous, because the class isn't homogeneous.

tastybrain wrote:
but a class analysis of society does not have to throw out racism and sexism as being problems in their own right

again, i am not "throwing out racism and sexism" i am arguing they are explicitly class issues insofar as they pertain to the needs of the class (so birth control yeah, glass ceilings not so much).

the problem seems to be when i say 'class' you're reading 'economics'. this is certainly the case with the 'intersectional' stuff i criticised. if you reduce class to economics then yes, class analysis is reductionist. but class is not reducible to economics, it's about capitalist social relations. these have economic components (wages, conditions), gendered components (divisions of labour, control of bodies, sexual objectification via various means), racial components (outright racial discrimination, division of labour, migration controls...) as well as others. All of these things are class issues insofar as they pertain to the needs of proletarians.

The problem is by treating class as another in a series of oppressions to be opposed - usually in opposition to the worse position of a 'hierarchy of oppressions', what is significant about class is missed. This is not that class is the 'primary oppression' and race and gender are to wait until 'after the revolution' (a common straw man), but that class is not an 'oppression' at all, but a relationship of dispossession which overdetermines and restructures pre-capitalist social relations (including gender, the ethnic/racial 'Other' etc).

This forms a fault line in society and a potential for revolutionary rupture. the proletariat has that potential in a way 'women' or 'P.O.C' as a category do not. this in no way precludes struggles around sexism or racism, because they are struggles of proletarians.

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Oct 6 2011 01:40

Drawing a distinction between oppression and exploitation mentioned by J.K then picked up by Khawaga is a great distinction to work this out with. Intersectionality I actually find really useful as a theoretical and practical (though, obviously as a white male, not too practical for me personally) tool for understanding this sort of complexity. The literature on it is of course massive and there is no 'intersectionality is x' but I think bell hooks and Audre Lord are pretty good on it.

I largely like your last post J/K, but I got a little bit of a disagreement here,

Quote:
but a relationship of dispossession which overdetermines and restructures pre-capitalist social relations (including gender, the ethnic/racial 'Other' etc).

It is a small problem, but one none the less. I don't think these are 'pre-capitalist' modes of oppression. It seems to me that this creates a bit of an arbitrary teleology and a historicity I don't think they necessarily warrant*. I would instead just call them non-capitalist social relations. After this I wouldn't say it 'restructures' (again, this implies an initial structure) but is instead actually part the parcel of the structuring of these social relations. How I think an intersectional approach could help us here is to see the ways in which exploitation and oppression(s) work in tandem, refracting one and other.

*Racism has its roots in empire, colonialism and slavery for example.

tastybrain
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Oct 6 2011 02:13
Joseph Kay wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
We should, however "accommodate into our theory" the fact that racism and sexism are not always directly reducible to class/capitalism.

nowhere have i said "racism and sexism are directly reducible to capitalism". quite the opposite in fact (e.g. the hypothesis of masculinity being constructed in the image of the state, which would be several thousand years before capitalism).

tastybrain wrote:
It seems disingenuous to simply say "it's all a class issue" when in fact women/POC of all classes face this sort of discrimination (in different ways and contexts, of course) and not all members of the class face something similar.

so it's not a class issue if it doesn't effect everyone the same? unemployed people aren't concerned with wage demands. low wage workers may be fighting unpaid overtime, whereas high paid workers may be fighting for time off instead of wage hikes. even the most economic demands are not homogeneous, because the class isn't homogeneous.

tastybrain wrote:
but a class analysis of society does not have to throw out racism and sexism as being problems in their own right

again, i am not "throwing out racism and sexism" i am arguing they are explicitly class issues insofar as they pertain to the needs of the class (so birth control yeah, glass ceilings not so much).

the problem seems to be when i say 'class' you're reading 'economics'. this is certainly the case with the 'intersectional' stuff i criticised. if you reduce class to economics then yes, class analysis is reductionist. but class is not reducible to economics, it's about capitalist social relations. these have economic components (wages, conditions), gendered components (divisions of labour, control of bodies, sexual objectification via various means), racial components (outright racial discrimination, division of labour, migration controls...) as well as others. All of these things are class issues insofar as they pertain to the needs of proletarians.

The problem is by treating class as another in a series of oppressions to be opposed - usually in opposition to the worse position of a 'hierarchy of oppressions', what is significant about class is missed. This is not that class is the 'primary oppression' and race and gender are to wait until 'after the revolution' (a common straw man), but that class is not an 'oppression' at all, but a relationship of dispossession which overdetermines and restructures pre-capitalist social relations (including gender, the ethnic/racial 'Other' etc).

This forms a fault line in society and a potential for revolutionary rupture. the proletariat has that potential in a way 'women' or 'P.O.C' as a category do not. this in no way precludes struggles around sexism or racism, because they are struggles of proletarians.

I think I agree with you about the difference between class and oppression in general. I think class can produce the subjective experience of oppression but certainly does not in all cases. However, I would add that as an anarchist I am against oppression as such so I will support "struggles around sexism or racism" not simply "because they are struggles of proletarians" but also just because they are wrong...and even if someone who is not a proletarian (some shopkeeper for example) is the victim of sexism and racism I would still oppose it. Not to say that workers can't revolt against against a female or non-white capitalist but that I will oppose "oppressions" no matter who is perpetuating them or being victimized by them.

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Oct 6 2011 18:34
Arbeiten wrote:
I don't think these are 'pre-capitalist' modes of oppression. It seems to me that this creates a bit of an arbitrary teleology and a historicity I don't think they necessarily warrant*. I would instead just call them non-capitalist social relations.

i see what you're saying, but they're not just non-capitalist, the sequence matters imho. i.e. capitalism was partly built off the back of the slave trade (that lancashire cotton didn't grow itself), gender binaries preceded capitalism but were transformed by it and so on. i don't think historical development is the same as teleology. and i would say it's a cumulative, historical process, i.e. slavery served a purpose, then became obsolete with capitalist development, leaving a legacy of race which persists in varyious ways. that's not to imply a simple stagism, or linear development, but to acknowledge what actually happened. maybe we're trying to say the same thing here.

tastybrain wrote:
However, I would add that as an anarchist I am against oppression as such so I will support "struggles around sexism or racism" not simply "because they are struggles of proletarians" but also just because they are wrong...and even if someone who is not a proletarian (some shopkeeper for example) is the victim of sexism and racism I would still oppose it.

Ok, this will sound a bit provocative, but i'm not against oppression. i'm for libertarian communism. i may feel sympathy for a shopkeeper facing racist abuse. indeed, if i saw a bourgeois lying bleeding in the street i'd probably give first aid without a second thought. but those basic instincts of mutual aid aren't the basis for my politics. i think a 'series of oppressions' analysis tends towards cross-class alliances, because if there's a series of oppressions it makes sense to ally with one 'oppressed group' against another 'oppression'. politically i'm only really interested in class needs (including economic, gendered, anti-racist etc). i think intersectionality tries to do a similar thing, but cedes too much in terms of the framing of the question.

[ASIDE] Actually, as it seems mostly a US phenomenon i wonder how much it has to do with the requirements of practical politics. am i right in thinking there's a fair amount of issue/identity-groups in the US? is intersectionality an attempt to build alliances between them along class lines? i'm just speculating, but just wondering if there's a logic behind it other than the one immediately apparent. [/ASIDE]

Another way of looking at this is the logic with class is to abolish classes by escalating class antagonism. but the point with sexism or racism isn't to wage sex wars or race wars, but precisely the opposite: to attenuate the significance of these categories by reducing antagonism and discrimination (aiming at abolishing any associated stereotyping/social expectations based on them). i'm kinda chanelling Zizek here:

Zizek wrote:
The third thing to take note of is the fundamental difference between feminist/anti-racist/anti-sexist etc. struggle and class struggle: in the first case, the goal is to translate antagonism into difference ("peaceful" coexistence of sexes, religions, ethnic groups), while the goal of the class struggle is precisely the opposite, i.e., to "aggravate" class difference into class antagonism. So what the series race-gender-class obfuscates is the different logic of the political space in the case of class: while the anti-racist and anti-sexist struggle are guided by the striving for the full recognition of the other, the class struggle aims at overcoming and subduing, annihilating even, the other - even if not a direct physical annihilation, class struggle aims at the annihilation of the other's socio-political role and function.

all i'd add is the goal of anti-racism isn't necessarily 'full recognition of racial identities' (liberal multicultural identity politics), but could be abolition of the category of race altogether. but this is still done via a very different logic to class struggle abolishing classes.

tastybrain
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Oct 7 2011 05:35

My bad, double post

tastybrain
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Oct 7 2011 05:34
Joseph Kay wrote:
Arbeiten wrote:
I don't think these are 'pre-capitalist' modes of oppression. It seems to me that this creates a bit of an arbitrary teleology and a historicity I don't think they necessarily warrant*. I would instead just call them non-capitalist social relations.

i see what you're saying, but they're not just non-capitalist, the sequence matters imho. i.e. capitalism was partly built off the back of the slave trade (that lancashire cotton didn't grow itself), gender binaries preceded capitalism but were transformed by it and so on. i don't think historical development is the same as teleology. and i would say it's a cumulative, historical process, i.e. slavery served a purpose, then became obsolete with capitalist development, leaving a legacy of race which persists in varyious ways. that's not to imply a simple stagism, or linear development, but to acknowledge what actually happened. maybe we're trying to say the same thing here.

tastybrain wrote:
However, I would add that as an anarchist I am against oppression as such so I will support "struggles around sexism or racism" not simply "because they are struggles of proletarians" but also just because they are wrong...and even if someone who is not a proletarian (some shopkeeper for example) is the victim of sexism and racism I would still oppose it.

Ok, this will sound a bit provocative, but i'm not against oppression. i'm for libertarian communism. i may feel sympathy for a shopkeeper facing racist abuse. indeed, if i saw a bourgeois lying bleeding in the street i'd probably give first aid without a second thought. but those basic instincts of mutual aid aren't the basis for my politics. i think a 'series of oppressions' analysis tends towards cross-class alliances, because if there's a series of oppressions it makes sense to ally with one 'oppressed group' against another 'oppression'. politically i'm only really interested in class needs (including economic, gendered, anti-racist etc). i think intersectionality tries to do a similar thing, but cedes too much in terms of the framing of the question.

I am not saying we should enter into cross-class alliances. I am saying that I suspect many female, LGBTQ, and non-white proletarians experience their oppression as something distinctive from class, that is heaped on top of class. Saying that "it is all connected to class" and "we support you because your struggles are the struggles of proletarians" doesn't change the fact that they face a whole set of problems that white/straight/cis/male proletarians don't face. If you say, "yeah, yeah, we care about all that oppression stuff cause you're workers too" that might sound as if these issues are marginal to your politics and you don't care about them in and of themselves. Which you sort of did say but I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and hoping you meant "no cross-class alliances" rather than that you literally "don't care about oppression".

Joseph Kay wrote:
[ASIDE] Actually, as it seems mostly a US phenomenon i wonder how much it has to do with the requirements of practical politics. am i right in thinking there's a fair amount of issue/identity-groups in the US? is intersectionality an attempt to build alliances between them along class lines? i'm just speculating, but just wondering if there's a logic behind it other than the one immediately apparent. [/ASIDE]

Dunno, maybe. I am not really involved in "identity groups" or even anarchist circles that much. Then again, the only "identity group" I could be a part of would be one of those mostly white "solidarity with ____ " groups which usually just end up being racist wink

Joseph Kay wrote:
Another way of looking at this is the logic with class is to abolish classes by escalating class antagonism. but the point with sexism or racism isn't to wage sex wars or race wars, but precisely the opposite: to attenuate the significance of these categories by reducing antagonism and discrimination (aiming at abolishing any associated stereotyping/social expectations based on them). i'm kinda chanelling Zizek here:
Zizek wrote:
The third thing to take note of is the fundamental difference between feminist/anti-racist/anti-sexist etc. struggle and class struggle: in the first case, the goal is to translate antagonism into difference ("peaceful" coexistence of sexes, religions, ethnic groups), while the goal of the class struggle is precisely the opposite, i.e., to "aggravate" class difference into class antagonism. So what the series race-gender-class obfuscates is the different logic of the political space in the case of class: while the anti-racist and anti-sexist struggle are guided by the striving for the full recognition of the other, the class struggle aims at overcoming and subduing, annihilating even, the other - even if not a direct physical annihilation, class struggle aims at the annihilation of the other's socio-political role and function.

all i'd add is the goal of anti-racism isn't necessarily 'full recognition of racial identities' (liberal multicultural identity politics), but could be abolition of the category of race altogether. but this is still done via a very different logic to class struggle abolishing classes.

Yeah I don't really disagree about class being a whole different beast. But I am seriously considering the idea that some kind of positive identity is necessary in a transition to a post-race, post-gender (?) world, even some form of identity "nationalism"... I mean its all well and good for white people to say "oh yeah, the goal is for race not to matter or be a real thing anymore" but I think when one's identity has been shaped by victimization, exclusion, etc there is a real need to be proud of one's culture, oneself, (whatever that may be or however it is perceived) in order to get to the point where we can all start treating each other/interacting with each other as equals and slough off ethnic/racial identity itself... even though we as anarchists feel like it should all be chucked out the window in one go, that proposition is very different depending on the cultural/racial/ethnic/gender categories one occupies.

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Oct 7 2011 07:45

Interesting points by everyone. I think I agree with JK's distinction between class struggles and anti-racism/sexism struggles etc

I'd say though I think racism/sexism etc should be oppossed regardless of the class of the victim. To claim you don't care makes it seem you think such views are acceptable or irrelevant, certainly to someone outside of libcom circles anyway. If a manager, say, is getting racist abuse I'm not genna sit there and say 'it's irrelevant s/he is a manager', that would be counterproductive not to mention completely immoral.

Even in a libcom society I think some prejudice will still exist and it will be important to oppose it, there will be no proletarians then but that doesn't mean struggle against oppression won't be needed.

With regards to cross class collaboration, what about something like the Montgomery bus boycott, would people be in favour of excluding say a manager/boss if they had wanted to join in the boycott? that would seem to me to weaken the chances of that boycott being successful but I'm open to hearing why it would not be a good idea.

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Oct 7 2011 16:42
tastybrain wrote:
I think when one's identity has been shaped by victimization, exclusion, etc there is a real need to be proud of one's culture, oneself, (whatever that may be or however it is perceived) in order to get to the point where we can all start treating each other/interacting with each other as equals and slough off ethnic/racial identity itself...

this is a slightly different question, and an interesting one. my gut feeling is that 'class pride', 'black pride' etc are reactionary slave moralities, but i can see the argument they're moments in a process of overcoming those identities (first asserting equality in order to diminish the significance of the distinction). I'd say it's important to regain self-worth if you're the victim of racism, sexism, bullying or whatever, but i do think it's a trap to affirm that self-worth in the terms set by the oppressor. seems too close to the united colours of benneton liberalism Zizek warns against for my liking.

D wrote:
I'd say though I think racism/sexism etc should be oppossed regardless of the class of the victim. To claim you don't care makes it seem you think such views are acceptable or irrelevant, certainly to someone outside of libcom circles anyway. If a manager, say, is getting racist abuse I'm not genna sit there and say 'it's irrelevant s/he is a manager', that would be counterproductive not to mention completely immoral.

this is why i made a point of saying i'd give first aid without a second thought to some rich person lying bleeding. just as i'd intervene in a racist attack without ascertaining the socio-economic status of the victim (assuming i could do so without endangering myself unduly etc, no rambo shit). and indeed, racism and sexism do afflict the ruling classes too. look at the glass ceiling, or the way female MPs are routinely shouted down in Parliament. but my point is that by incorporating humanitarian concerns or ruling class 'oppression' into a libertarian communist analysis, you're incorporating liberal assumptions (i.e. overlooking the different logic of class).

so as a libertarian communist, i don't give a shit about the glass ceiling but i do about unequal wages. it might well be tackling the latter also addresses the former. lucky them. but i don't think this is a question of separate oppressions intersecting, but of fighting for class needs, some of which are economic, some of which are gendered, some of which are anti-racist and so on. i mean capital also alienates the bourgeoisie, but i'm not really bothered about it.

basically there's a massive pressure on communists to distance ourselves from the politics of class warfare and frame it in liberal-friendly terms of being against bad oppressions. but that pressure is a pressure to omit precisely what is subversive in class antagonism. so we should be unashamedly class struggle, and absolutely refute the false accusations that this means 'waiting until after the revolution' to address racism or sexism, or ignoring them altogether. it doesn't, and whenever it has that hasn't been a failure to grasp 'intersection' but a failure to fight for the class (e.g. the CNT weren't fighting for the class insofar as the Mujeres Libres needed to form to put female proletarians needs on the agenda).

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Oct 7 2011 17:14
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i don't give a shit about rich people suffering racism

Well, maybe this should be rephrased a bit. In my view, we should care about "rich people" suffering racism at least as long as it is the working class who is targeting them with racism. Surely one of the tasks of communists is to struggle, theoretically and practically, against the prejudices and misconceptions of our own class?

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Oct 7 2011 17:54

Well it's bluntly phrased for effect, but the point stands that if you try and argue for class politics in a 'series of oppressions' framework then you've lost the argument before it begins.

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Oct 7 2011 22:03

yeah sorry, I didn't mean to say teleology, when I reread it I realized it shouldn't have been there. I think we are basically on the same page as far as how these things develop in tandem, but I would still argue for non-capitalist social relations for terminological clarity (excusing the teleology terminological par obviously).

On the other stuff being discussed. I would say fuck the glass ceiling, but the issue of a black bourgeoisie suffering racism, I would be against it as a matter of sheer humanity. It seems to me calling someone a "n***" or anything else is to denigrate someone to sub human status. The only time I had to think quite hard about this was the conviction of Ali Dizaei. As a top brass in the Met I wasn't sure whether I gave a shit, but in the last instance I still think what happened to the guy was bullshit (head of the black police officers union, basically got stitched up).

On your thing about 'slave moralities' J.K. I never had you down as such a Nietschean! But I agree with you that it is a phase that one has to go through. An interesting read for this issue is Franz Fanon in his Black Skin White Masks. In the chapter the fact of blackness. The chapter begins with a black guy coming from martinique to paris. In martinique racism was not an issue, so Fanon just thought he was a man like any other man. After the experience of racism, he obviously questions all of this. About half way through this chapter he begins to talk about how he found his inherent blackness. however toward the end of the chapter he renounces this for exactly the reasons discussed above. It is also interesting in its historical context because he is implicitly critiquing pan-africanists of the time who would affirm an essential blackness.

On Zizek and multiculturalism, though I like his initial critique of 'liberal' multiculturalism, I think he throws the baby out with the bath water on anti-racist and multicultural politics. Maybe it is my knee-jerk anti-Zizekisms, I just always get the feeling that behind everything he talks about in the last instance he just wants us all to be mini Lenin's and Robspierre. I'm also not sure whether we need to prefix (feminism, multiculturalism etc) with liberal. For me it is just liberalism democracy plain and simple, there is nothing feminist (or whatever) about it.

One last thing. Glass ceilings. There are some interesting feminists that point to the wider circuits of exploitation and oppression this is all tied up in. Who looks after these womens children when they have them? Invariable terribly paid women migrant workers. I have read a few things about this before I will see if I can dig some up.

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Oct 8 2011 00:44
Joseph Kay wrote:
tastybrain wrote:
I think when one's identity has been shaped by victimization, exclusion, etc there is a real need to be proud of one's culture, oneself, (whatever that may be or however it is perceived) in order to get to the point where we can all start treating each other/interacting with each other as equals and slough off ethnic/racial identity itself...

this is a slightly different question, and an interesting one. my gut feeling is that 'class pride', 'black pride' etc are reactionary slave moralities, but i can see the argument they're moments in a process of overcoming those identities (first asserting equality in order to diminish the significance of the distinction). I'd say it's important to regain self-worth if you're the victim of racism, sexism, bullying or whatever, but i do think it's a trap to affirm that self-worth in the terms set by the oppressor. seems too close to the united colours of benneton liberalism Zizek warns against for my liking.

Well in countering oppression I think one is more or less forced to confront it on the oppressor's terms. Self worth is something that only needs to be created when it has been taken away, so the affirmation is necessarily the mirror image of the initial oppression. Also, for many groups, like American Indians, the identity and culture they are affirming is something which existed prior to the oppression and is something to them which is inherently worth preserving...I don't know, it's a complicated question. I certainly, on a personal level, don't really like "identity nationalism". As I said, I think it's easy for you or I (I'm assuming you are not experiencing any "oppression" besides class, correct me if I'm wrong) to say "throw out all ethnic/cultural/religious/etc nationalism, its all bad". I mean, in a very real sense we are part of the dominant culture so its easy for us to "reject our culture" or our identity because not much is at stake and nothing really changes in how others treat us. I have a real problem with the default, knee-jerk anarchist/communist response that treats all positive affirmations of identity as leading inevitably to nightmarish post-colonial stalinism at worst and fuzzy capitalist liberal ideology at best. There are some forms of what we might consider "nationalism" (Black Nationalism, for example, or American Indian tribal identity) that do not automatically equate with support for a nation-state. Indeed, American Indian identity nationalism has been in conflict with the U.S. state ever since it existed and continues to be so. Not that we should go too far the other way and automatically assume every oppressed person is interested in identity politics, but we shouldn't mindlessly condemn it in every case either.

I didn't grow up in a time and place where being Jewish made one a target for victimization and harassment, but if I had I could easily see myself adopting some sort of "identity politics" (the affirmation of the Jewish identity as positive, etc) as a defensive measure. Being "proud" of one's religious affiliation, culture, or ethnicity doesn't necessarily entail reactionary thinking or cross-class alliances. Even a figure like Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, who retains his Black Nationalism more or less unchanged since his Panther days, makes it explicit that "black faces in high places" will not solve any of the problems of the black proletariat.

Once we are in a place where there is genuine equality, these types of distinctions will naturally become less and less important. But we cannot get there unless we accept that racism, sexism, and homophobia are deplorable in and of themselves. The rhetoric of "well yeah its bad cause it divides the class" is not going to reassure "oppressed" workers that a mostly white, mostly male anarchist movement can actually be a vehicle for them to abolish their oppression. And this is not about cross-class alliances. I don't think we should be picketing companies for not having a non-white/female CEO. It's about recognizing that "oppressed" workers face a whole additional set of problems alongside their class position, and that they might feel the need to address those problems in ways we might feel reinforce essentialism or whatever but in fact are necessary to get everyone to the point where we can all be equal and comfortable with each other. Anyway, saying that you're only interested in combating these problems because they divide the working class is a dangerous argument. In some situations you might very well alienate more white racist workers by declaring your anti-racism than the groups you would bring into the movement by doing so. In this case, anti-racism divides the workers more than racism. Nonetheless I feel we should stand against it purely as a matter of principle.

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Oct 9 2011 13:13
Quote:
tastybrain wrote:Being "proud" of one's religious affiliation, culture, or ethnicity doesn't necessarily entail reactionary thinking or cross-class alliances. Even a figure like Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin, who retains his Black Nationalism more or less unchanged since his Panther days, makes it explicit that "black faces in high places" will not solve any of the problems of the black proletariat.

Interesting point. I haven't read anything by Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin or Franz Fanon and will put them both on my list.
My feeling is that we have to make some distinctions between having an identity and "identity nationalism".

So as society considers me to be a woman and i experiance sexism including a gendered experience of class exploitation as a woman, i find the identity of woman useful in the fight against oppression and gendered expolitation, and so sometime prioritise (working class) women - for example i have found (non-bourgeouise) womens groups to be useful for working out my ideas about gender and organising against sexist oppression and exploitation. I seek out writing, music and art by women, not because i don't see value in what men say and do, but because male voices tend to be the predominate ones in our culture (and the anarchist movement) and i want to hear the full converation. I'm interested in womens history as well as more generally working class history. The same applys to lesbian / LGBTQ groups, culture, and history. I don't think I reify or essentialise gender any more than your average straight man does in their daily life though, as identity can be constructed unconciously as well as conciously.

I think there are limits how useful identity is in the process of liberation though. Where an identity becomes universalised this presents a problem (for example not recognising that the experiances of woman vary greatly depending on class, culture/religion, disability, race, sexuality, trans status, where you live in the world, etc). Rigid or essentialised conceptions of identity can also be problematic. And identity is only useful if it is open to internal criticism and deconstruction – for example when talking about cultural/racial identity, women from that culture need to be able to criticise sexist aspects of the culture, and not all parts of the culture or history of an identity will inspire liberation. I would characterise “identity nationalism” as having some of these negative aspects.

I think this is a reasonably decent article on identity and class struggle: http://anarchalibrary.blogspot.com/2011/09/identity-politics-and-anti-politics.html

I agree that

Quote:
racism, sexism, and homophobia are deplorable in and of themselves.

I want total liberation (which would mean the destruction of gender and race as well as class), and i think that libertarian communism revolution is a prerequisite to do this, but also that libertarian communism can only occur if sexism and racism are tackled effectively in the mean time. I'm certainly not talking about cross-class alliances here, I'm not interested in how many black CEOs, female judges or queer mps there are, or how the ruling class treat each other.

I don't think that seeing racism, sexism, etc as oppressions to be fought diminishes the importance of class struggle. I agree with JK's distinction between class exploitation and oppressions in that capitalism is the underlying structure that needs to be overthrown before any kind of equality can occur anyway, and capitalism shapes racism and sexism and i think we need to be clear on that. However i wonder how the needs of the class can be accertained without some sort of intersectional approach. Its also a case of means and ends, in that i would want people to oppose a female boss because she is a boss not for some sexist reason, for example.