The Poverty of Identity Politics

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jef costello
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Jun 21 2018 20:29

If a colleague appeared white and described themselves as such, would you insist on referring to them as black if you found out that they had a black parent?

If you found a colleague was gay would you refer to him using feminine pronouns?

If you found out a colleague was born with a different gender would you use those pronouns?

If a colleague prefers that people use their middle name rather than their first name would you use it anyway?

At its best referring to someone by a different pronoun is being gratuitously unpleasant. If you feel you are striking a blow for some kind of truth then perhaps you need to think about what it is you think that you are defending and against whom. And if you are thinking "well what's to stop someone deciding that they are a smurf/attack helicopter etc?" then maybe you need to think about how much respect you are giving to a trans person if that is your first thought about what is not an easy decision

I remember at school a friend and I met our new form tutor, he introduced himself using his full name, I used the shortened verion of my name. So the teacher used my full name and shortened my friend's name. We didn't feel oppressed but we did immediately think that he was a dick. It was completely unnecessary and I can't imagine having to put up with that on a regular basis and it isn't half as difficult as it is for a trans person.

Now I am concerned about surgery and I do wonder if it is always a good idea due to issues like body dysmorphia and further things that quite frankly I don't know enough about to really question but make me feel uncomfortable, but I think that that is a very separate issue. Ultimately if someone wants a different, name, pronoun or identity then I don't feel there is a good reason to try to upset them about that choice by refusing to accept it.

ticking_fool
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Jun 22 2018 06:02

Ok, dysphoria and dysmorphia are actually very different things and the conflation of the two, particularly in relation to eating disorders, is such a common anti trans trope that it sometimes passes for common sense in people who don't know the issues.

Trans people don't have a distorted sense of our bodies, we're very, very aware of what they look like and what is incongruent with our sense of self. We're dysphoric about our gender (experiencing distress because of the incongruity) not dysmorphic about our bodies in the way many people with ed (eating disorders) might be. This why the treatment is different - people with ed need to learn to perceive their body as it is. They will often respond well to psychiatric drugs and therapy in getting to this point. Neither of these will help a dysphoric trans person. Only addressing the incongruity does that because we don't have a problem with our perception, we have a gender identity that does not match our assigned gender. That is irreducible to something else.

birdtiem
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Jun 22 2018 08:20

I wasn’t going to bring this up, particularly since the response to my first post in this discussion was already hostile, but since this thread is going in a million different directions and mostly just seems like people talking past each other, I’m not sure chipping in at this point is going to make things worse. And if there is some way to come to a different understanding of this and resolve some of my confusion, that would be awesome.

First, let me just restate the following: I agree that deliberately mis-gendering someone when you know they are trans is a form of bullying, trans people should be recognized as the gender they identify with and have access to the corresponding services/facilities, etc. I think my issue here is more in the ‘theoretical’ realm.

I’m really struggling with accepting the concept of gender identity as I have seen it presented. All my efforts to understand what is actually meant by this concept have just ended up solidifying my discomfort with it, or – I guess more specifically – the way that it is universalized, i.e., “cis-people have a gender identity that is congruent with their sex”.

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I don’t feel any…idk, “organic” (?) identification with some kind of feminine gender. I mean, my adult personality has been irreversibly shaped (I kind of want to say “warped”) by a process of gendered socialization that began as soon as I was born, and where sexualized bullying and really devastating kinds of shaming were employed in response to behavior that was seen as being outside the bounds of prescribed “femininity”, so that fitting in with gendered expectations was literally a question of survival. Unfortunately, those experiences were formative in my psychological development – with the consequence that many aspects of my adult personality can be traced directly back to those experiences (e.g., putting the needs of others ahead of my own, constantly feeling like I need to apologize for myself, the sense that my value as a person is inextricably linked to how other people perceive my physical appearance, the inability to be assertive without feeling guilty… I could actually write a novel, but I will spare you).

So again, I’m not denying that trans people have a distinct gender identity that is separate from gendered socialization and biological sex (obviously they do). But I’m questioning the notion that having this kind of 'gender identity' is universal, or near-universal, among people in general (with the implicit difference just being that, for most people, it is 'congruent' w/ whatever). Like, I don't understand why this seems to be accepted so uncritically, because - to my mind - that conception has a lot of really questionable implications.

And I feel like the response to this is just going to be something like “wah wah, cis-privilege”, but being female in a sexist society is not my idea of a privilege.... At any rate, I’m genuinely interested in peoples’ thoughts, hopefully without vitriol or assumptions that I’m operating out of some nefarious motive; I'm not.

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Jun 22 2018 09:40

birdtiem #454

It would be surprising to me if any two people agreed exactly on any theoretical concept (despite the appearance that they often do). We usually agree when there are enough points of similarity, or we feel trust in someone else’s judgement.

I find it hard enough to understand my friends’ points of view never mind people of different sex or sexual inclinations. Working class feminism I’ve supported though think ‘helpful’ men can be undermining. Some years ago I refused to represent my year group, who were overwhelmingly women. It made no difference, as the only other male in the year became the rep. He was a Leninist (no surprise there). Sometimes I just accept the things people say on trust.

Our social conditioning runs very deep. We generally wish to co-operate, be part of a group, and when in doubt will often follow the crowd. Witness libcom’s occasional mobbing of unpopular posts.

Sorry this is not very helpful though knowing there are shared experiences/perceptions is better than a carefully constructed little ideological bubble to slip into and feel safe - until ‘reality’ uses us like a football.

Mike Harman
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Jun 22 2018 10:04
birdtiem wrote:
I think my issue here is more in the ‘theoretical’ realm.

I’m really struggling with accepting the concept of gender identity as I have seen it presented. All my efforts to understand what is actually meant by this concept have just ended up solidifying my discomfort with it, or – I guess more specifically – the way that it is universalized, i.e., “cis-people have a gender identity that is congruent with their sex”.

I mentioned this in an earlier post, but I don’t feel any…idk, “organic” (?) identification with some kind of feminine gender. I mean, my adult personality has been irreversibly shaped (I kind of want to say “warped”) by a process of gendered socialization that began as soon as I was born, and where sexualized bullying and really devastating kinds of shaming were employed in response to behavior that was seen as being outside the bounds of prescribed “femininity”, so that fitting in with gendered expectations was literally a question of survival. ..

So again, I’m not denying that trans people have a distinct gender identity that is separate from gendered socialization and biological sex (obviously they do). But I’m questioning the notion that having this kind of 'gender identity' is universal, or near-universal, among people in general (with the implicit difference just being that, for most people, it is 'congruent' w/ whatever). Like, I don't understand why this seems to be accepted so uncritically, because - to my mind - that conception has a lot of really questionable implications.

Trying to answer this not because I'm confident on this point, but because I struggle on this stuff as well and it helps to clarify.

First of all what you've described here is very similar to how I've seen some people describe non-binary gender identity:

From this post:

Suzannah Weiss wrote:
That definition’s pretty broad because being non-binary means different things to different people. To me, it means that I reject the whole concept of gender. Growing up, I never felt people were wrong when they called me a woman, but it felt like a label imposed on me rather than one that fit.
...
I personally identify as a non-binary woman because, to me, this identity acknowledges both that I don’t have an innate identification with any gender and that I’ve been socialized as a woman.

The other way I've seen this discussed is through pre-colonial ideas of gender - since various societies had concepts for third or fourth genders, and strict binary gender was often an imposition of colonialism (alongside laws banning homosexuality):

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/hide-and-seek/201707/gender-variation-and-same-sex-relations-in-precolonial-times

So strict 'binary' gender is not universal nor innate, but it does shape experiences and some people feel more or less comfortable with the assignation, and not all of the people who don't feel comfortable with it are trans.

Unfortunately a lot of discussion of non-binary gender identity is reduced by people like Angela Nagle to "tumblr liberalism's ever exploding lists of hundreds of genders" or comparisons to otherkin, whereas it has a pretty firm historical basis.

Then, 'gender critical' feminists will say similar to that first post about rejecting the concept of gender, but reject the idea of both trans and non-binary identities, because they say that gendered oppression is actually based on sex and that claiming a gender which doesn't reflect natal sex assignment is in fact reinforcing the idea of gender itself.

On the surface I can be like "yeah let's abolish gender" but then society does have gender expectations and does not treat people well who don't conform to them, and then we get back to the practical implications of this (toilets, prisons etc.). So for me non-binary and trans gender identities really are in practice attacking the gender binary, while various survival mechanisms like 'passing' might appear to reinforce it, but... survival mechanisms are really not what causes all the other shit.

For a bad analogy, we want to abolish wage labour, but we don't attack people who individually work for wages. We want to abolish gender, but we don't attack individual gender expression. Some of the activities we undertake alienated as wage labour now we'd continue to do more or less as 'productive human activity' in a communist society - but they wouldn't be work. Similarly ways that gender is expressed now (various feminine or masculine behaviours) would continue to exist, but without the gender binary to restrict who they're available to.

Which comes to this:

RABL wrote:
Feminist transphobes attempt to deny the reality of how patriarchy operates by dismissing misogyny experienced by trans women and transfeminine people as not actually misogyny, as they only define this oppression as misogyny when it’s experienced by cis women. Seemingly irrespective of how similar the roles are that we inhabit, it is only a feminist issue when it’s experienced by these feminists narrow definition of a “real” woman. Similarly, when some advocates of a certain trans politics put misogyny experienced by afab trans people under the heading of “misgendering” without noting the additional misogyny, this dismisses the patriarchy’s inherent cissexism, and ignores the structures that build our identities in reality.

https://wearetherabl.wordpress.com/2016/07/22/falling-star-countering-gender-essentialism-with-sex-essentialism/

Sisters Uncut's approach to their gender inclusion policy, which essentially includes anyone who might experience misogynistic violence regardless of their actual gender identity (i.e. including cis women, trans women, trans men, non-binary people, but not cis men) takes a similar approach on the practical implications of how misogyny operates.

birdtiem wrote:
And I feel like the response to this is just going to be something like “wah wah, cis-privilege”, but being female in a sexist society is not my idea of a privilege.....

The article about intersex people vs. TERFs was helpful for me understand what this means and what it doesn't. I think privilege is terrible word for this, it usually means in these contexts 'having a reasonable expectation that a certain set of things won't happen to you', not that you are literally privileged. Took me a while to figure out, but as discussed way back in the thread there is a theoretical basis to 'privilege' discourse which is not just oppression olympics stuff, so you have to read past 'privilege' to what people are actually saying - and when it's sensible, it's usually talking about the reality of how systems of race and gender are enforced.

Trans Advocate wrote:
For example, one article mentioned by an intersex friend critiqued the term “cis privilege” by caricaturing it as meaning “having a female body is a privilege.” Clearly this is false: because of patriarchy, female bodies are sexualized, framed as weak, and subjected to surveillance. Lots of nonintersex cis women dislike getting periods or feeling constantly at risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Having a female body is not a privilege–but it is also not how trans advocates define cis privilege at all. Trans people actually define cis privilege as “the benefits one derives from being seen as a ‘real’ and ‘natural’ member of one’s identified sex” (lack of public scrutiny of one’s primary and secondary sex characteristics, being able to use a public bathroom with relative ease, having ID that matches one’s identity, etc.). Nor do trans people deny, as the linked article claims, that cis people also suffer from gender policing. Someone who identifies as a woman yet who is very butch in her gender expression can suffer from bathroom panic, and a male-identified person who is quite feminine may well face a great deal of street harassment.

http://transadvocate.com/an-intersex-perspective-on-the-trans-intersex-and-terf-communities_n_14539.htm

Spikymike
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Jun 22 2018 14:09

Looking back over this thread (and some others) and it's subsequent fixation with gender, thought I'd say that the problem with (mainstream?) 'identity politics' is that in so far as they involve the interrelated range of identities beyond that of gender to include at least 'nationality', 'ethnicity', 'religion' and of course 'class' that there are both 'left' and 'right' wing (rather than 'good' or 'bad') political versions that from a communist perspective maintain some underlying similarities and overlaps such that they can be perceived to reflect other antagonisms between the Left and Right of capitalism rather than a distinctive opposition to the fundamental basis of capitalism as a system of value production, class exploitation and competition. Still leaves open many of the other detailed points in dispute but does reflect the very different starting points of some contributors. OK carry on 457 and counting down!

sawa
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Jun 22 2018 17:43

I dunno if its good or bad but got gendered correctly a lot more on strike today than I do at work. =P

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Jul 2 2018 20:00

The general problem with discourse about "identity politics" is that it's usually used to mean "things I (the speaker) think are wrong", or simply addressing non-class oppressions such as racism, patriarchy, and queerphobia in general. If you set up "identity politics" to mean "things which are bad and don't work" then obviously you come out with the result of "identity politics is bad". The op sets up "identity politics" as "ignoring the class dimension of social struggles". In the definition of what they are criticizing the op implants an error, meaning that the op has defined "identity politics" from the outset as being an wrong. This isn't an analysis, it's just mongering a bias definition. For example, as a radical I oppose liberalism. I could give this definition of liberalism; a political philosophy that supports the exploitation of the working class by the capitalist class. I could then point out that the exploitation of the working class is bad and since liberalism by definition is for such exploitation it is bad. I haven't actually analyzed, or refuted anything by doing this. I have just constructed a definition that makes my argument for me.

ZJW
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Jul 18 2018 07:42

In the current issue of Brooklyn Rail (Field Notes): 'The Aggressiveness of Vulnerability' by Pavlos Roufos: https://brooklynrail.org/2018/07/field-notes/The-Aggressiveness-of-Vulnerability .
(Libcom controversy mentioned.)

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Jul 18 2018 10:28

Will probably try and give this a more through reading-through and responding to later, but on first glance it feels very appropriate that this piece a) does a bit of a shoddy job with citations (just give me a link directly to the article you're discussing, don't just say it's on libcom somewhere ffs), and b) more seriously, uses an invented quote to distort the argument it's meant to be representing - I expect stuff in quote marks to be a direct quotation, use multiple quotes or ellipses if necessary, but I'm not convinced that you can put "leftist laundering of sexual assault" as a quote when the article actually wrote "rather than critique this fabricated moral panic, KAN’s dubiously sourced analysis gives it a leftist laundering" - so, accusing her of giving the laundering to the rightwing moral panic over free speech, which is not the same thing at all.

Spikymike
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Jul 19 2018 09:49

The 'brooklynrail' article linked in post #460 by ZJW is certainly worth a read. Haven't read Angela Nagle's book or taken much notice of the libcom criticism of it so cannot comment on that, but it reminded me in part of some earlier criticism by the former 'Nihilist Communists' in arguments regarding the role of academics and professionals in radical social movements and seemed to reflect some of the discussion in this earlier piece here: https://libcom.org/blog/the-politics-affirmation-or-politics-negation-18112008, whilst acknowledging the failure of mainstream Social Democratic 'class reductionism' and the 'vanguardist' politics of their left supporters. Probably reflects experience in the USA more than here but still relevant to the discussion on libcom.
Edit: It appears to have struck a raw nerve with the libcom admins one of whom has taken to responding on the other longer Nagle thread to some perceived inconsistencies in the article by in part digging back into the history of the USA socialist movement of 1904. I suppose this is best left there for those still interested.

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Jul 19 2018 18:16

Anyway, on the subject of critiques of stuff that can be called "identity politics" if you want, has anyone read this critique of afro-pessimism? Got around to it recently, I have to admit I've not read enough Wilderson or Sexton to know if it misrepresents them at all, but thought it did a good job of criticising the specific approach that prioritises stressing the differences between different identity positions/forms of oppression over looking at ways to potentially build solidarity (sorry if that's not hugely coherent but I'm tired). I'd argue that that criticism is best understood as going along with a critique of the political logic of the representative/managerial role, but that's just me.

Mike Harman
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Jul 19 2018 20:28

I did read it. I haven't directly read any Wilderson though. He's briefly cited in Cedric Robinson's Black Marxism (which I'm in the middle of reading) on some of the origins of racism (Wilderson's big argument is that anti-blackness preceded the transatlantic slave trade iirc and therefore because it preceded capitalism it could also outlast it). And I've seen him cited by others here and there.

With that limitation, it looks pretty spot on to me. Wilderson says himself his theory has literally no practical application - i.e. he's not positing a problem with a solution but more an unbridgeable chasm, which I guess is at least honest but then you're left with nowhere to go.

I think this is important:

Annie Olaloku-Teriba wrote:
Seemingly without an economic base, racism has increasingly been treated as a purely social relation; distinct and extricable from class. Consequently, Marxist scholars have instead typically approached the question of ‘race’ through resistance, emphasising solidarity as instances in which the barrier of ‘race’ has been overcome to achieve working-class unity. This has meant that an interrogation of the crises to which racialisation responds has been largely left by the wayside. It is into this conceptual space that Afro-pessimist literature inserts itself.

Also the way she brings up Fanon and Biko. i.e. the growth in popularity of afro-pessimism is nurtured partly via the weaknesses of a lot of writing on race and class (for example crass comparisons between chattel slavery and wage slavery as opposed to a proper interrogation of their relationship and other forced labour systems). Those weaknesses are then used to strengthen the hypothesis that 'communism' or whatever is unable to extricate itself from 'anti-blackness'.

So, one way to inoculate against those things is to work back to Fanon, Biko, Sivanandan who had useful analysis of race, colonialism (and with Sivanandan post-colonial migration flows) in order to try to close the gap which afro-pessimism fills, and by doing so you end up with a strengthened understanding of class and race and one which lends itself to practical application.

The discussion here is relevant: https://libcom.org/library/when-race-burns-class-settlers-revisited-interview-j-sakai Sakai is another person who steps into the historical and conceptual gaps left by a lot of history and theory of the US workers movement - by focusing on racism in the Flint Sit Down strike which is not often discussed, or something like the East St Louis riot which was really a massacre and part of a massive outbreak of racial violence right at the same time of the revolutionary wave, not sure there is any communist treatment/analysis of that event at all. Although Sakai's conclusion is the near-impossibility of solidarity from white americans, as opposed to Wilderson which is everyone on the planet who isn't black, makes Sakai look optimistic...

So the HM piece for me is taking the right approach for critiquing this stuff (i.e. trying to put forward a better analysis of racism and its relationship to class, as opposed to decrying that racism is being discussed at all).

Bit weird seeing the defence of Rania Khalek in there, I've mainly heard of her via having bad opinions on Syria.

edit:

Just to add. 'anti-blackness' or 'anti-black racism' while it might be closely linked to afro-pessimism doesn't necessarily imply the same ontological standpoint. There are specificities, particularly in the US but also the colonisation of Africa where racism against black people has taken a particular character, which is different in form to racism against south Asians, east Asians, and anti-Semitism. Huge difference between pointing out some differences, and making those difference the centre of an analysis.

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Jul 19 2018 21:54
Mike Harman wrote:
Bit weird seeing the defence of Rania Khalek in there, I've mainly heard of her via having bad opinions on Syria.

edit:

Just to add. 'anti-blackness' or 'anti-black racism' while it might be closely linked to afro-pessimism doesn't necessarily imply the same ontological standpoint. There are specificities, particularly in the US but also the colonisation of Africa where racism against black people has taken a particular character, which is different in form to racism against south Asians, east Asians, and anti-Semitism. Huge difference between pointing out some differences, and making those difference the centre of an analysis.

Yeah, the Khalek bit stood out to me as well, although I guess you can still no-platform an obnoxious person for all the wrong reasons, And generally I'd have reservations about the way she seems to set "anti-racism" (bad) against "anti-imperialism" (good).
Also I'd think that trying to apply "anti-blackness" in Africa would run into serious limitations very quickly - just like how xenophobia against "white" EU migrants is a massive issue here, I get the impression that anti-migrant sentiment is a big issue in South Africa (see here for instance), and a conceptual framework derived from the very particular circumstances of the US seems pretty useless for trying to navigate that.
Anyway, what I was trying to get at with the point about representative/managerial logic is that I suspect one of the big political uses of this kind of idea is that it's one more way that aspiring representatives/leaders/managers of struggle can discredit critiques or opposing ideas by presenting them as the work of outside agitators - in situations where you can't shut your critics up by dismissing them as white anarchists, white vegans or whatever, it must be handy to have the additional option of being able to say that your nonblack POC rivals just don't and can't get it. That's my fairly cynical take on it. FWIW, I can't remember if I ever managed to read it all the way through, but I remember No Selves to Abolish doing the rounds a while back as a very ultra-left/insurrecto-influenced take on afro-pessimism, no idea if it's any good though.

Mike Harman
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Jul 19 2018 22:11
R Totale wrote:
[And generally I'd have reservations about the way she seems to set "anti-racism" (bad) against "anti-imperialism" (good).

Yes this seems a bit odd, especially given South Africa's independence from the UK by the time Steve Biko was active. There was decades between South African independence from the UK and the end of apartheid, and a century and a half between US independence from the US and the civil rights act. You can describe both as settler-colonial states but they weren't colonies when these struggles were going on.

R Totale wrote:
Also I'd think that trying to apply "anti-blackness" in Africa would run into serious limitations very quickly - just like how xenophobia against "white" EU migrants is a massive issue here, I get the impression that anti-migrant sentiment is a big issue in South Africa

Yes and also tribal divisions within post-colonial states, which itself came out of colonial regimes of management- like the repression of Luo-majority regions in Kenya by both Jomo and Uhuru Kenyatta https://libcom.org/library/reflections-kisumu-massacre-1969 (and reading about those, I wonder how much the post-1970 framework of race relations was modelled on those colonial management structures too).

R Totale wrote:
Anyway, what I was trying to get at with the point about representative/managerial logic is that I suspect one of the big political uses of this kind of idea is that it's one more way that aspiring representatives/leaders/managers of struggle can discredit critiques or opposing ideas by presenting them as the work of outside agitators - in situations where you can't shut your critics up by dismissing them as white anarchists, white vegans or whatever, it must be handy to have the additional option of being able to say that your nonblack POC rivals just don't and can't get it. That's my fairly cynical take on it.

Yes I don't have examples of Wilderson doing this at all, but I'm sure people invoke him to do this regularly, and given he claims his theory doesn't have any practical use, maybe this is hiding a particular practical use of it which is a lot less radical than the theory tries to be.

R Totale wrote:
FWIW, I can't remember if I ever managed to read it all the way through, but I remember No Selves to Abolish doing the rounds a while back as a very ultra-left/insurrecto-influenced take on afro-pessimism, no idea if it's any good though.

Haven't read it but will try to take a look. I think it brings up a tension between 'X oppression could theoretically be abolished but you'd still be exploited by capitalism' vs. 'X oppression cannot be solved without the abolition of capitalism' which you sometimes see people making both arguments at the same time.

PoppySellyOak
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Jul 19 2018 23:57

Hmmm sth that just came across my mind. There probably are some gay/lesbian youths at council estates, right? Do they make "safe spaces" for themselves, avoid people that use offensive language and insist on "not being offended"? Or maybe these gay people have totally different ways by whom they deal with "homophobia" - they have their own ways, and middle class people have their own ways of dealing with it too.

If you tried to hold speeches about various "phobias" (like you do here) in slums, how would you end, what do you think? On the other hand, you would probably be just fine if you would do that on some college campus. Hmm, maybe that has something to do with social class?

Also, maybe, just maybe, "transphobia", "homophobia", phobia this or that - is language used by certain sort of people, maybe certain social layer of people? Just thinking..

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Jul 20 2018 12:45

Thinking about it, I wonder if it's possible/worthwhile to tease out a tendency towards solidarity-building approaches to different identity positions/instances of oppression vs one that approaches those differences in an atomising and essentialist way. So, you can set up "political blackness", inter communalism and Fred Hampton's rainbow coalition v afro-pessimism/the specificity of anti-blackness, but then also:
-The Asian Youth Movement's use of "Asian" as a non-religiously-aligned, international term vs the race relations/top-down multiculturalism tendency to stress "the Muslim community", "the Pakistani community" and so on (wish I could remember exactly where I got this point from, could be Kenan Malik, could be that one Aufheben article, might have been someone around the IWCA);
- Trans inclusive feminist organising like Sisters Uncut/the Irish abortion referendum vs approaches that, to put it mildly, focus on the specificities of cis women's experiences and deny the possibility that there might be any overlap with trans women's;
- could also contrast "queer" as a term that, for all its problems, I think can be used to do some of the same work as "political blackness" vs the LGBTQIA/QUILTBAG/MOGAI approach of listing different identities that are understood as separate, and so potentially antagonistic - not that I think that anyone who prefers saying LGBT to queer is necessarily a reactionary or anything, but I do think that one framing is more potentially vulnerable to stunts like "get the L out".

Dunno if that makes any sense, or if someone else has theorised this already, but I think there might be a common thread there that could be of use.

Mike Harman
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Jul 20 2018 12:49
R Totale wrote:
FWIW, I can't remember if I ever managed to read it all the way through, but I remember No Selves to Abolish doing the rounds a while back as a very ultra-left/insurrecto-influenced take on afro-pessimism, no idea if it's any good though.

It's at least useful to see a take from someone who's familiar with both communisation stuff and afro-pessimism talk about both, for example:

No Selves to Abolish wrote:
Put differently, when read through an afropessimist logic (as I understand it), what is vital in the queer, anarchist or communist tendencies toward self-abolition is generally not their theorisation of race, which often remains unsatisfactory, [19] but their tendency to locate the means and aims of revolutionary struggle in the immediate self-abolition of and by their respectively oppressed group per se.

So if communism is proletarian self-abolition (i.e. abolishing both capital and the working class, not raising the status of the working class), then because it is a process of abolition then it is more compatible with the abolition of other oppressions. http://libcom.org/library/communization-abolition-gender is one that talks about this from the gender standpoint.

Where a lot of people run into problems, is that they don't see communism as proletarian self-abolition (but as some variation on really existing socialism) and theorise tensions between class/identity on that basis. On the 'class' side this is what pisses me off the most about Adolph Reed, but it's equally applicable to writing on gender and race which assumes the continued existence of capitalism. And there's a third difference between a 'pro-revolutionary' discussion of current movements and organisations against capitalism (something which tends to be excised from a lot of communisation stuff), vs. one which has reforming capitalism as its goal.

Have also seen Ta Nehisi Coates described as an afro-pessimist (not sure how true this is though, is he just pessimistic?), and he's got a massive readership. Haven't read these responses but https://libcom.org/library/birthmark-damnation-ta-nehisi-coates-black-body for one. But Coates as a liberal fave seems like an easier target than Wilderson.

Mike Harman
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Jul 20 2018 13:06
R Totale wrote:
Thinking about it, I wonder if it's possible/worthwhile to tease out a tendency towards solidarity-building approaches to different identity positions/instances of oppression vs one that approaches those differences in an atomising and essentialist way. So, you can set up "political blackness", inter communalism and Fred Hampton's rainbow coalition v afro-pessimism/the specificity of anti-blackness, but then also:
-The Asian Youth Movement's use of "Asian" as a non-religiously-aligned, international term vs the race relations/top-down multiculturalism tendency to stress "the Muslim community", "the Pakistani community" and so on (wish I could remember exactly where I got this point from, could be Kenan Malik, could be that one Aufheben article, might have been someone around the IWCA);.

This does make sense and the best person I've seen talk about it is Sivanandan. There is this: https://libcom.org/library/all-melts-air-solid-sivanandan mostly aimed at Stuart Hall but his earlier work critiquing race relations etc. is really helpful in seeing how the two have been pitted against each other historically. There was a decent article summarising this posted just recently, will post if I can remember where it was.

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Steven.
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Jul 20 2018 14:35
PoppySellyOak wrote:

Hmmm sth that just came across my mind. There probably are some gay/lesbian youths at council estates, right? Do they make "safe spaces" for themselves, avoid people that use offensive language and insist on "not being offended"? Or maybe these gay people have totally different ways by whom they deal with "homophobia" - they have their own ways, and middle class people have their own ways of dealing with it too.

Yeah if you don't actually know any LGBTQ people and have to just ask hypothetical questions about gay people who maybe live on council estates, then that's probably a good sign that you haven't got a clue what you're talking about, and take a lead from LGBTQ people themselves.

Mike Harman
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Jul 20 2018 16:26
R Totale wrote:
Thinking about it, I wonder if it's possible/worthwhile to tease out a tendency towards solidarity-building approaches to different identity positions/instances of oppression vs one that approaches those differences in an atomising and essentialist way.

Dunno if that makes any sense, or if someone else has theorised this already, but I think there might be a common thread there that could be of use.

Found the article I was thinking of.

The Siva quote in here:

Sivanandan wrote:
The ensuing scramble for government favours and government grants (channelled through local authorities) on the basis of specific ethnic needs and problems served, on the one hand, to deepen ethnic differences and foster ethnic rivalry and, on the other, to widen the definition of ethnicity to include a variety of national and religious groups - Chinese, Cypriots, Greeks, Turks, Irish, Italians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs - till the term itself became meaningless (except as a means of getting funds). This ‘vertical mosaic’ of ethnic groups, so distanced from the horizontal of class politics, then became even more removed by the policies of ‘left’ Labour councils who, lacking the race-class perspective which would have allowed them to dismantle the institutional racism of their own structures, institutionalised ethnicity instead. And it was left to a handful of genuinely anti-racist programmes and/or campaigns, such as those against deportation, police harassment and racial violence… to carry on the dwindling battle for community and class.

And from the article itself:

Jules Joanne Gleeson wrote:
In their emphasis on the separation of groups (lesbians and trans women, with no overlap permitted), these groups are framing themselves as against the grain of the current order, while in fact working toward contemporary capitalism’s tendency to drive apart and ‘domesticate’ political struggles. There is nothing new, in other words, in the desire for a specific identification, with a view towards ensuring greater favour from the state, and clarity for the purposes of securing institutionalisation, and funding. We should not see transphobic political lesbianism as simply a throwback, but as an outgrowth of conditions where political horizons have become limited to collaboration with the state.

https://newsocialist.org.uk/lesbians-going-their-own-way/

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Reddebrek
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Jul 20 2018 17:43
PoppySellyOak wrote:

Hmmm sth that just came across my mind. There probably are some gay/lesbian youths at council estates, right? Do they make "safe spaces" for themselves, avoid people that use offensive language and insist on "not being offended"? Or maybe these gay people have totally different ways by whom they deal with "homophobia" - they have their own ways, and middle class people have their own ways of dealing with it too.

Well speaking from personal experience most of the openly Gay kids in my age group from the estate ended up leaving my town to get lost in the big cities on account of the abuse they received. I flew under the radar and tried something similar but had to come back when it didn't work out.

Thankfully the younger generation have built a sort of support group to deal with any abuse they get so they're staying put or leaving for other reasons. That and a few fitters and electricians on the docks and refineries coming out forced the area to come to some sort of terms with it.

I also don't know why you think working class queers or anyone really is ok with associating with bigots who don't like or respect them? Do you just tag a long with people you don't like and who don't like you?

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Aug 15 2018 18:05

Not read it all yet cos it's long, but this from Wessex Solidarity looks good:
All right let’s have it then! (That debate about gender)
Also everything I see about Asad Haider's book makes it look pretty thoughtful, for instance this and this. It'll probably be years before I get around to actually reading the thing itself, though.

sawa
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Aug 16 2018 17:05
R Totale wrote:
Not read it all yet cos it's long, but this from Wessex Solidarity looks good:
All right let’s have it then! (That debate about gender)
Also everything I see about Asad Haider's book makes it look pretty thoughtful, for instance this and this. It'll probably be years before I get around to actually reading the thing itself, though.

Also haven't read it all as it is long and I am tired. But this part just seems inaccurate and romanticises strikes.

Quote:
While we’re on the subject of class.

Taking a principled and reasoned position doesn’t oblige me to endorse the actions of any individual or group. Working Class people have been shutting down meetings of bigots and authoritarians for over a century but gate-crashing a picket by workers in dispute is out of order. This is because industrial disputes are the only weapon our class has against the bosses. Picket lines are an expression of Working Class strength and solidarity, so the only valid reason for approaching one is to support the workers in struggle – regardless of the politics of individuals. Anything else is scabbing. In the IWW we say “no politics in the Union”, we fight for all workers and we’ve picketed for the right of trans workers to choose which bog they use. The lesson of the Miners’ Strike is the necessity of total class solidarity in the face of a concerted attack, it doesn’t even matter what the fight appears to be about; the ruling class are hardly going to let you in on their long term plans. You will gain nothing by cross-class alliances because the bourgeoisie don’t care about you. They will be happy to sell you for a little more than they paid, which in this case is fuck all.

Industrial action is not the only weapon we have . It is an important and strategic weapon we have to increase class power but the content does matter. Historically there have certainly been several incidences of racist strikes for racist demands. For example say dockers striking in support of Enoch Powell in 1968. And yellow unions exist and syndicalism was coopted by fascists in Italy and Mussolini.
It does matter what a strike is about and we should be taking a lead from the opressed group involved where relevant.
If there was an anti migrant strike then we should be taking a leed from migrants and POC.
If there was a strike or action short of a strike say against trans workers using the toilets we are most comfortable using or against transgender service users acessing services then I would likewise hope folk would listen to trans workers and /or service users and certainly not support such action let alone uncritically.
Nor does being on strike mean an individual or group is immune from criticism if they are acting in a bigoted and oppressive manner.
God I wouldn't even want to be immune from criticism if I am on strike again as that would be ridiculous.
Whether it is strategically useful to confront a bigot such as a TERF on a picket line is a different question and depends on context. But why would you make a rule never to confront a TERF on a picket line. How many trans folk are made to feel unsafe and literal security or even our jobs could be under threat if active TERFs are standing on picket lines. How is a trans worker supposed to organise then?

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Aug 16 2018 22:18

The key meaning here is that real change ie revolution, can only come about in the practice of a revolution by a property-less and non-oppressive class. So yes, it is important to understand sexism racism, transphobia and how capitalism oppresses individual groups, but all the movements based on these oppressions have not got rid of capitalism.

+100 This is my text about it
https://libcom.org/forums/history/two-main-currents-anarchism-02092017

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Aug 16 2018 22:54

Yeah in history there have been anti-working class strikes and pickets and hypothetically anything could happen in the future but that isn't the issue here.

The picket referred to was the picturehouse dispute, a genuine class conflict most of us supported. Regarding the individual targeted, I've heard variously that she is not a TERF but attended a meeting of TERFs at the request of her branch, or that she put some TERFy things on the internet. No matter, there are plenty of times and places to criticise an individual trade unionist's politics and the picket line is not it. The only winner here is the boss - who may be a TERF for all you know.

It's hard enough getting people out on strike, they aren't all anarchists, but they are workers acting in common cause, if we lose that, what are you going to replace it with?

Whether it was strategically useful to interfere in this way is a question you'd need to put to the workers in this dispute.

Mike Harman
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Aug 17 2018 00:23
Edward Ludd wrote:
Regarding the individual targeted, I've heard variously that she is not a TERF but attended a meeting of TERFs at the request of her branch, or that she put some TERFy things on the internet.

I've also heard she isn't a Picturehouse worker but instead a trade union officer. Whether it's the right situation to confront someone like that is one thing, but trade union officers making a visit to a picket line aren't the workers on strike either.

Fleur
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Aug 17 2018 01:10
Quote:
So yes, it is important to understand sexism racism, transphobia and how capitalism oppresses individual groups, but all the movements based on these oppressions have not got rid of capitalism.

I'm pretty sure that no movement has ever got rid of capitalism yet, trying it out with a movement which is inclusive might be worth giving a try smile

sawa
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Aug 17 2018 07:08

And if a union branch is requesting members of officals attend transphobic meetings by terfs then that is all the more worrying and probably or should be against the unions rules. Again how will trans workers be able to organise in our workplaces if officials are transphobic. How are we supposed to stand up to transphobic bosses and transphobic employer's policies?

Mike Harman
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Aug 17 2018 13:58
Edward Ludd wrote:
Mike Harman, how did you manage to quote me when the post failed? I don't get this at all

1. Because I'm an admin
2. Because I didn't realise the post had been marked as spam and that no-one else could see it.