The Poverty of Identity Politics

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Ed's picture
Ed
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Nov 29 2018 10:37

Serge, I realise you just find Mike Harman really annoying but what he's saying isn't that different from what others on this thread have said i.e. 'identity politics' being contrasted with 'class struggle' is actually just a vague idea that means 'things people on the left talk about which I don't like I want them to talk about class struggle' (i.e. they're talking about talking about class struggle).

But then what happens when we start to actually 'talk about class struggle' i.e. struggles of workers who fought for migrant workers to be paid the same as everyone else linked earlier in the thread or Sisters Uncut fighting cuts to domestic violence services, or people campaigning against police violence? From my experience, these magically become 'not identity politics' even though the experience of class in those struggles can't be separated from the particular identities of the working-class people involved (and, indeed, are often central to the reason there was even a struggle in the first place).

So that's the difference between 'talking about class struggle' and 'talking about talking about class struggle'. Now stop being such a grump wink

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Nov 29 2018 11:29

Grrr... I'll grump if I want to sad

Unless I'm misunderstanding you, I would say that's the wrong way round. The examples you give are certainly features of class struggle but it's that they sometimes get boiled down to 'all about identity' in other words, 'identity politics' rather than different facets of class struggle. It's not the issues, it's about focus and how people perceive those issues, I think.

And yes, I do find Mike Harmon really annoying grin

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Nov 29 2018 12:20

That's where the vagueness comes in though, because most class strugglists who'd pick up on identity as a factor don't make it "all about" identity, as a practical measure they work identity into the framework of what they're doing about class.

On this thread specifically for example Fingers has been pretty consistently excellent in making this distinction and has repeatedly been talked past by people banging on about "Identity politics" as though her experience of having to work her tactics around organising with black and female co-workers in a precarious position are some sort of odd blind spot on an otherwise rigid rule.

Alot of the absolute worst whinging on this thread has mentioned intersectionality as the big bugbear because middle class student liberals, who mostly do fuck all outside of the internet, sometimes use the idea of black/queer/gender oppressions as an excuse to be disruptive, judgmental and useless shits.

But this is a totally blockheaded approach to take, because it allows sensible and vital concepts, like understanding where your comrades are coming from and how to engage with them constructively in class struggle, to be permanently co-opted by the very dickheads being whined about. If you want to have a go be specific, aim it at the people being dickheads, rather than huffing around demanding that people pipe down about what they see and feel about the struggles they face "cos ID-Pol".

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Nov 29 2018 19:21

At least now we're talking about 'talking about talking about class struggle'.

Mike Harman
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Nov 30 2018 11:39
Serge Forward wrote:
Who said I'm outraged? There you go again. I do wish you'd stop falsely ascribing feelings or ideas to people. It's piss poor.

What do you think is more of a problem?

1. Someone reproducing an alt-right meme on here.
2. Someone pointing that out.

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Nov 30 2018 13:27

Good grief. Firstly, until you gave a 'know your meme' link, I was unaware of that being a right wing meme as I never spend any internet time looking at right wing websites. It beats me why so many non right wing people do. Second, the pointing out of the meme isn't a problem unless pointing it out is intended to discredit everything else the person says rather than actually tackle those things directly - ie you used a saying commonly used by right wing people therefore everything you say is shit. That's how it was done here and that seems to be the way things are generally are done on Libcom these days and Libcom is the poorer for it.

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Nov 30 2018 13:53

Personally if I'd accidentally fallen into using a right-wing meme and someone pointed out to me thats what it was I'd be thanking them for the heads up.

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Nov 30 2018 18:09
Serge Forward wrote:
Good grief. Firstly, until you gave a 'know your meme' link, I was unaware of that being a right wing meme as I never spend any internet time looking at right wing websites. It beats me why so many non right wing people do.

So, as far as i understand it, thats kinda the point of the right wing memes (all political memes, actually), to get slogans and ideas and discussions and so on out into the general population without having to rely on people visiting their websites and to try and influence the common sense narrative and frame discussions, etc. Like an online version of political stickers, you dont need to go to a meeting to stumble across one. Clearly works quite well, better than stickers do. Ive not been on any far right websites in a long time, but im familiar with their memes and lines of argument.

Edited to remove irrelevant waffle based on my mistaken belief that part of Serges post referred back to something i said ages ago somewhere else.

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Nov 30 2018 18:59
Serge Forward wrote:
The examples you give are certainly features of class struggle but it's that they sometimes get boiled down to 'all about identity' in other words, 'identity politics' rather than different facets of class struggle.

Well, I think we'd both agree that they are examples of class struggle where identity is a central factor (i.e. being a woman, regardless of class, is central to the struggle for DV services, it's not 'just class struggle' even if it is still definitely class struggle, if you see what I mean). But as Rob says, that's the problem with anti-'identity politics' arguments (I put it in inverted commas because I personally hate the term and I only use it coz it seems to be the one foisted upon anyone who takes an intersectional approach to class politics): they're so vague and don't actually seem to refer to anything that any pro-'identity politics' groups are doing in particular (hence the 'talking about talking about class struggle').

Serge Forward wrote:
Second, the pointing out of the meme isn't a problem unless pointing it out is intended to discredit everything else the person says rather than actually tackle those things directly - ie you used a saying commonly used by right wing people therefore everything you say is shit. That's how it was done here and that seems to be the way things are generally are done on Libcom these days and Libcom is the poorer for it.

I mean, Mike wrote about double the amount of words responding to a separate point made by the same poster so I don't think it was pointed out "to discredit everything else" they said as their other points were also responded to separately. At the same time, if in the middle of a discussion between communists one of them uses a far-right slogan, not in an ironic 'isn't this such a stupid slogan' kind of way but actually just in its straightforward meaning, I think it's fair enough to pull them up on it.

This is what Mike did and this is what you're having a go at him for. It's fair enough that you didn't know it before, but you do now. The fact that someone like you, whose politics and experience I've got a lot of respect for, is whinging about this because you happen to not like the person who's pulled them up is baffling to me.