The Poverty of Identity Politics

537 posts / 0 new
Last post
Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 24 2018 14:18

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
Offline
Joined: 22-09-03
May 24 2018 14:18

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
May 24 2018 15:01
Quote:
anti-anti-identity politics

Next up on Channel 5, When Taxonomy Goes Bad — the terrifying tale of how a nebulous complaint spawned an army of antis, leading to the annihilation of understandable English.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
May 24 2018 16:09

So thought I'd also mention this earlier blog post and discussion as relevant (also crosses with aspects of the weightier G.M.Tamas text recently highlighted on this site).
https://libcom.org/blog/the-politics-affirmation-or-politics-negation-18112008

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
May 24 2018 16:32
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
anti-anti-identity politics

Next up on Channel 5, When Taxonomy Goes Bad — the terrifying tale of how a nebulous complaint spawned an army of antis, leading to the annihilation of understandable English.

But that's what the the position is here of Mike et al.: not an open endorsement of identity politics, just that all criticism of it is basically right-wing.

So then instead of calling for open critique of identity politics, the other side (including me) should perhaps call ourselves anti-anti-anti-identity politics.

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
May 24 2018 16:35

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
Offline
Joined: 22-09-03
May 24 2018 16:49

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 24 2018 16:54

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 24 2018 16:55

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
May 24 2018 17:45

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fall Back's picture
Fall Back
Offline
Joined: 22-09-03
May 24 2018 17:50

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

R Totale's picture
R Totale
Offline
Joined: 15-02-18
May 24 2018 18:23
Noa Rodman wrote:
But that's what the the position is here of Mike et al.: not an open endorsement of identity politics, just that all criticism of it is basically right-wing.

I can't speak for Mike, but assuming I'm part of the et al, it's more "not an open endorsement of identity politics, just an attempt to get critics of it to define what the phenomena they're trying to criticise actually is", which turns out to be like pulling teeth.

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Noa Rodman's picture
Noa Rodman
Offline
Joined: 4-11-09
May 24 2018 18:48

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 24 2018 20:22

admin - Assange comments split to https://libcom.org/forums/news/assange-25052018

Black Badger
Offline
Joined: 21-03-07
May 25 2018 00:39

Admins: can you make this Assange conversation its own thread? Thx

admin - yes

Sadie
Offline
Joined: 24-12-17
May 25 2018 07:18

I think it’s unhelpful to conflate “identity politics” with reformism as such, which seems to be the working definition this thread has ended up with, they’re overlapping but distinct categories. For instance, a lot of your “banknote feminists” are unquestionably reformist but also pretty scathing about identity politics if you have the misfortune of interacting with them on social media, while plenty of people who engage in what I’d call identity politics have nothing but contempt for the banknote feminists.

I tend to think of identity poltics as being politics that primarily analyses through and organises around categories of identity (gender, sexuality, race, class in the sociological sense, etc.). The problem with this isn’t necessarily reformism, since doing this doesn’t actually necessarily imply any particular position on capital and the state but that it’s fundamentally limited as a form of analysis. Focusing on abstractions can lead us into some messy situations, e.g. the unholy row that often results when feminist spaces with a women only policy try to figure out how to account for non-binary folks and trans men. A clearer materialist analysis that focuses on exploitation, oppression and building counter power is needed in those situations but the response from a lot of people in the movement seems to be instead to write off any attempt to really understand how patriarchy, white supremacy, etc. function in wider society and in our movements as identity politics, while conflating identity politics with reformism in a way that is innevitably going to get people’s backs up.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
May 25 2018 10:40

A good post from Sadie to bring our discussion back on track. Only a sound materialist analysis is often exactly what is missing in much of the everyday practice of identity politics as Sadie describes it above with the result that it is impossible not to see an intimate connection between such politics and reformism. Anarchist and communist politics as a minority swimming against the current have to struggle hard to remain critical of all this and not simply tail-end others campaigns. We might have other disagreements as to the meaning and practice of 'counter power' in terms of a materialist and class analysis don't know.

Sadie
Offline
Joined: 24-12-17
May 25 2018 11:05
Spikymike wrote:
A good post from Sadie to bring our discussion back on track. Only a sound materialist analysis is often exactly what is missing in much of the everyday practice of identity politics as Sadie describes it above with the result that it is impossible not to see an intimate connection between such politics and reformism. Anarchist and communist politics as a minority swimming against the current have to struggle hard to remain critical of all this and not simply tail-end others campaigns.

Hmm, there are times when it’s good to engage in campaigns for reform on a critical basis though. E.g. on queer issues, a lot of campaigning is around specific reforms (equal marriage, GRA reform) that are at best kind of limited and not necessarily what anarchist and communist queers would prioritise given the choice, but they’re often what’s immediately winnable. We have to meet the class where it is and push for what we can win while trying to draw out the more radical tendencies and possibilities of any given campaign in the same way that we would for, say, a strike against the imposition of a new contract. Where you draw the line on points of principle or avoiding “tail-ending” is always a bit of a judgement call.

Quote:
We might have other disagreements as to the meaning and practice of 'counter power' in terms of a materialist and class analysis don't know.

By counter power I mean the organised ability of our class to fight against capital, the state, patriarchy, white supremacy, all of which I’d see as fundamental to the class struggle, that may or may not be an idiosyncratic definition, idk. A “proletarian” movement that neglects the interests and needs of marginalised sections of the class is ultimately going to end up pretty reactionary, but the class basis of it is important.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 25 2018 12:08

Yeah the Repeal the 8th vote today is an example.

Is there a 'direct action' approach to abortion rights? Well the article includes examples of people who illegally imported and distributed abortion medication, self-administered medication at home at risk of 12 years imprisonment, but no-one should have to do that and it's not pre-figurative in any sense.

I read somewhere a while back (can't find the article so the following might have glaring inaccuracies) about someone who managed to run an unofficial (and possibly illegal) PrEP trial in London which saved dozens of people's lives before it started to be available more widely. There are health clinics run for undocumented people in the UK as well due to the hostile environment ID checks and up front charging in the NHS.

Self-organised clinics within capitalism (or even something like MSF) are going to be inferior to what you can get on the NHS, it's not even like growing food on an allotment or something. They're a response to both class weakness (up-front NHS charging for migrants is a precursor to it being rolled out for everyone and other restrictions) and division - a lot of people support in abstract the idea that 'illegal immigrants' shouldn't get expensive NHS treatment, even if highlighted cases around Windrush might have started to poke some very tiny cracks in the idea of what an 'illegal immigrant' actually means).

The referendum campaign is also a symptom of weakness, there's no need to have such a campaign in the UK because abortion is already legal, but this is a bit of a tautology.

The WSM article also mentions how when the Irish Labour Party did badly in elections, they spun it as a defeat for the repeal campaign, but that in fact it's all gone ahead despite a right wing government. That doesn't mean that referendums are 'direct democracy' or anything, but it shows an ability to force reforms without relying on elections as such. There are probably some aspects of the campaign which are extremely NGO-ish, but Strike for Repeal was one of the much better things around the Women's March this year.

Also I doubt anyone is under any illusions that this would be a social democratic step towards communism, it's clearly trying to expand the 'social wage' in terms of health provision, and decriminalise people exercising bodily autonomy. But those will be contingent on funding and provision which aren't a direct result of the repeal (assuming the repeal goes through today).

But, it will definitely help the conditions of a lot of people, and it might increase confidence to take on other fights - which I think goes back to the Malatesta quote - not reforms as an evolution towards communism, but as battles which are either won or lost and which can be won or lost in different ways.

radicalgraffiti
Offline
Joined: 4-11-07
May 25 2018 12:31

a pay rise is a reform, but i dont see people denouncing strikes as reformist

R Totale's picture
R Totale
Offline
Joined: 15-02-18
May 25 2018 12:44

Another recent practical example: during the last big Labour antisemitism row, Jewdas came out with some very pointed criticism of the Jewish "community leadership" like the Board of Deputies, criticism that, excitingly for those of us who're into class politics, explicitly discussed the BoD's class position and material interests: https://www.jewdas.org/enough-is-enough/

In response, the Board of Deputies president essentially denied their Jewishness and accused them of antisemitism: https://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/jonathan-arkush-claims-jewdas-is-a-source-of-virulent-antisemitism-1.461817

Hopefully, we can all agree that the latter is a reactionary appeal to identity and that we should support socialist and anarchist Jews against conservative bourgeois ones. But I don't think it's that helpful to frame our critique in terms of "identity politics", because Jewdas *also* have a politics that's heavily based around their Jewishness, so if our response is just "grrr, bloody identity politics wankers", then it's not immediately obvious whether we're aiming at Jewdas or the Board of Deputies or both.

On the other hand, if we use that situation to talk about why we as anarchists oppose the logic of *representation* (we do all have a critique of representation, that's something we all agree on, right?), then not only is it much clearer which side we're aiming at, but that also serves as a starting point to make a more interesting/radical critique of Jewdas for their softness on the Labour Party, because we can talk about the ways that Corbyn's role as head political representative of the working class actually parallels the BoD's, and how ultimately the working class doesn't need Labour any more than "the Jewish community" need the BoD. I still don't see what talking about "identity politics" offers that discussing communist/anarchist critiques of representation doesn't.

I mean, there might be other problems with some forms of politics that appeal to identity that aren't tied to the logic of representation, like pacifism or whatever, but if so I still think it'd be better and clearer to talk about those specific problems rather than just using a vague catch-all term like idpol.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
May 25 2018 16:01

Maybe a bit of an aside but I don't think radicalgraffiti's suggestion that pay rises are reforms even though some strikes may be associated with reforms is overly helpful. See for instance my comments in this discussion here:
https://libcom.org/blog/reform-possible-reformism-guaranteed-22122011
Mike Harman seems to be tracking my related posts on other threads - all good, keep it up!

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 25 2018 17:11
SpikyMike from https://libcom.org/blog/reform-possible-reformism-guaranteed-22122011 wrote:
Clarity would be helped perhaps if we distinguished state legislation, laws, regulations, codes of practice and so on, in which most people understand reforms to be expressed in a practical way, from the everyday class struggle over wages, social benefits and working and living conditions. The two are of course interlinked but calling material improvements such as a wage increase or an increase in unemployment benefit or better working conditions or better living conditions a 'reform' when they may or may not be associated with any state law or regulation seems to muddy the waters.

Yeah I'm not sure there's a clear line. When the state raises the state pension age, that is a 'social wage cut', a lowering of the pension age would be a 'social wage increase'. I think it required an act of parliament to change the state pensions age, (google says the Pensions Act 2011).

Cuts to Education Maintenance Allowance, PIP assessments, Job Seekers Allowance - some of these will require legislation, some will be executive or government departments.

Another example is the public sector pay cap. That's a policy, which translates into a wage cut. There was a 'reform' of this policy which led to the police getting a pay raise and no other public sector workers (something aided by the Labour Party who have been banging on about more police funding): https://www.ft.com/content/c1b7187a-97b4-11e7-a652-cde3f882dd7b

So legislation doesn't seem like a good test for reform or not, whether something requires legislation is largely determined by the government.

Some things don't really cost the state anything to provide (equal marriage, to some extent the GRA both fall into this category) vs. say disability benefits or trans healthcare which would. I think that's a big contributor to the Tories being prepared to grant both ('socially liberal* and fiscally conservative' *with mass deportations).

It would save the state money to close all prisons and detention centres, defund police and ICE, cancel Trident renewal etc. but they're not planning to do that any time soon.

Wage rises from a private company, not sure it is useful to call those 'reforms' but a strike for a straight wage increase is firmly contained within the logic of capital - it's a struggle for concessions not a transformation of social relationships.

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 25 2018 17:27

I am actually not being sarcastic here but can anyone actually define the kind of identity politics that has caused such conflict among anarchists? Organizations split, schisms, arguments, etc over what exactly. Absolutely promise no snark here.

I get that the liberal identity politics - banknotes etc- has no place in anarchism but I don't believe that is happening anyway. So, what exactly is the behavior people are referring to, when they complain about identity politics in anarchism? In not too heavily theoretical language if at all possible, I would like a straightforward explanation.

Agent of the International's picture
Agent of the In...
Offline
Joined: 17-08-12
May 25 2018 18:07

This thread was started by someone claiming anarchism is "descending into this ever more complex morass that is identity politics", including specific posters on libcom.org. Even baboon seems to be in agreement, saying "I'm sure I've seen by some on here". Yet neither of them, nor anyone else for that matter, wants to take the time to provide examples of what they are talking about, or demonstrate how anarchists are "descending" into this "complex morass". So what really is the point of this whole thread?

I'm hoping someone answers Fleur's questions, but I have a feeling that's not going to happen.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 25 2018 21:17

WSWS batting for Polanski, who pled guilty to statutory rape against a 13 year old, against #metoo now, because some of the women speaking out against rape are rich liberals (as opposed to Polanski who is obviously a pauper):

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/05/21/cann-m21.html

WSWS wrote:
To their credit, some participants at the festival in Cannes have spoken out clearly against the Hollywood #MeToo witch hunters.
French-Polish director Roman Polanski, in Cannes with his new film, Based On a True Story, compared the campaign around #MeToo to a form of hypocritical “mass hysteria.” He told Newsweek Polska: “I think this is the kind of mass hysteria that occurs in society from time to time.”
Director Terry Gilliam, whose latest film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote closed the festival in Cannes, recently compared the #MeToo movement to mob rule: “The mob is out there, they are carrying their torches and they are going to burn down Frankenstein’s castle.”

The Cannes experience demonstrates once again there is nothing democratic or progressive about the demand for gender or race quotas. These are maneuvers by already privileged middle class layers looking for more privileges.

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 25 2018 21:38

Woah, what possible political capital would anyone expect to to gain from defending a man who drugged and raped a child?

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 25 2018 21:47
Fleur wrote:
Woah, what possible political capital would anyone expect to to gain from defending a man who drugged and raped a child?

They have an entire section on the 'sexual misconduct witch hunt'. I had not seen any of this until today: https://www.wsws.org/en/topics/mediaCategory/sex-witch-hunt/

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 25 2018 22:08

Jfc. Just waiting for their thinkpiece on the persecution of Comrade Harvey Weinstein.

Also, Terry Gilliam was vocal in support of of Johnny Depp when Amber Heard divorced him for physical abuse.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 25 2018 22:12

Why wait? End of last year they were apparently putting out about one a week:

WSWS wrote:
What is involved here? Setting aside the superficiality and frenzy of the media, what is the politics of the Weinstein scandal?
[..]
Of course, boorishness and crudity are not illegal and the allegations of assault and rape remain just allegations at this juncture. Like everyone else, Weinstein has constitutional rights, including due process and the presumption of innocence. If there is evidence of criminality, he should be prosecuted.

However, when a lynch mob begins to gather, it is always wise not to jump in and participate. Everyone deserves a trial in which he or she can mount a self-defense.

On the basis of bitter experience, one certainly has the right, even obligation, to be suspicious of the Times, the New Yorker and the pressure-cooker atmosphere that has been almost instantaneously generated, or summoned up.

There is a lengthy history of sex scandals in America (and Hollywood—Charlie Chaplin and others), none of which has led in a progressive direction. The sex scandal is a mechanism through which other issues are resolved, often to the satisfaction of powerful economic interests and generally with the result that politics is pushed to the right. The Clinton-Lewinsky affair, manipulated by the right wing and a subservient media, took center stage in American political life for nearly two years and almost led, in what was an attempted coup d’état, to the removal of a twice-elected president.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/10/12/wein-o12.html

WSWS wrote:
The sexual misconduct campaign began in the Times and New Yorker with the alleged misdeeds of Harvey Weinstein. Everyone could presumably be induced to dislike the fat Hollywood mogul. But this was simply part of the softening-up process, a means of catching people off guard.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/11/28/marc-n28.html

WSWS wrote:
Each day, the “Me Too” movement, described by its cheerleaders as a “national reckoning” or “national conversation,” takes a new victim. Transgressions that may have occurred as far back as a half-century ago are being recalled and deemed worthy of brutal punishment. Shameful rituals of allegations and pathetic apologies are being enacted. Long careers are ruined in a matter of minutes. The accused in many cases are men in their mid to late seventies, some of whom have records of decades of distinguished contributions to the arts. They are not even informed of allegations against them until after their dismissal. Asking to substantiate the veracity of an accuser’s claims is proof of “rape apology” or outright guilt.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/09/pers-d09.html

Here's what they have to say about identity politics:

WSWS wrote:
The Democratic Party, supported by all of the various left-liberal and pseudo-left trends, is particularly aggressive and vociferous on this score. Identity politics, the self-centered, upper-middle-class obsession with race, gender and sexual identity, has become one of that party’s principal pillars.

As opposed to earlier periods, today the question of race is not associated with civil rights, with a major program of social reform, with improvements in the social conditions of the working class as a whole and certainly not with socialism. The debate on race is largely built around demands for the allocation of greater economic resources to sections of the black petty bourgeoisie. There is a marked and noticeable absence of democratic demands and sentiments within the leadership of these upper-middle-class movements.

https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/08/30/pers-a30.html
The thousands of people getting shot by police or at the border every year, the millions in prison and deported, all must be a conspiracy to benefit the black petty bourgeoisie.