The Poverty of Identity Politics

678 posts / 0 new
Last post
Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
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

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
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

Rob Ray's picture
Rob Ray
Offline
Joined: 6-11-03
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".

rat's picture
rat
Offline
Joined: 16-10-03
Nov 29 2018 19:21

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

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
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.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
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.

AndrewF's picture
AndrewF
Offline
Joined: 28-02-05
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.

Uncreative's picture
Uncreative
Offline
Joined: 11-10-09
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.

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
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.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
Jan 14 2019 12:27

I think this is really good analysis...

https://youtu.be/T0GHBrEK3sE

Konsequent's picture
Konsequent
Offline
Joined: 1-11-11
Apr 25 2019 20:20

Was reminded recently of this terrible thread, specifically the part where we endlessly discussed what are trans issues and what are class issues. Some of the trans members of rabl recently attended a trans march and distributed this leaflet as a sort of friendly intervention, to recruit to the class struggle, to encourage people to think of their "trans issues" as "class issues" on the grounds that this would offer better solutions. The leaflet was a bit of a rushed job as we weren't sure until days beforehand whether to bother, but you get the gist. The person who wrote it hadn't read this thread but it is pretty much the kind of thing I was banging on about a few pages ago. Considering rabl has a disproportionate number of trans members (none of whom are involved in "trans politics") I think it made sense to go. I believe it was a better way of engaging with the march than ignoring it (as we did last year) or decrying it as counter to our aims.

The response was positive/curious.

jondwhite's picture
jondwhite
Offline
Joined: 23-10-12
May 20 2019 10:49

I want to upload the text
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wokeanarchists-against-anarcho-liberalism-and-the-curse-of-identity-politics to libcom library
Can admin advise as this was previously moved then deleted.

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
May 20 2019 10:52
jondwhite wrote:
I want to upload the text
https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/wokeanarchists-against-anarcho-liberalism-and-the-curse-of-identity-politics to libcom library
Can admin advise as this was previously moved then deleted.

We don't want it in the library because it's reactionary garbage being pushed by a tendency which we consider to be going against key anarchist principles. Why do you want to upload it?

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
May 20 2019 11:46

Libcom are entitled to refuse this text as a library document if they so choose, although it was, or would have been, justified as a linked text in the earlier part of this otherwise lengthy critical discussion which inevitably remains open to disagreement amongst many anarchist and other communists. jondwhite is a bit late in the day with this now and should perhaps have joined in with his own views earlier rather than relying on this second-hand previously discussed text. jondwhite has his own axe to grind over these issues within the spgb and could still better express his own views on the related spgb conference report thread on libcom. Still it never looks good for libcom to simply remove threads it doesn't like as though they never existed!

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 20 2019 16:07

I'm sure there other places which would be delighted to host it. It has a lot of common ground with some of the stuff Jordan Peterson says. Maybe it belongs somewhere like that.

R Totale's picture
R Totale
Offline
Joined: 15-02-18
May 20 2019 18:31

Yes, I'd appreciate it if jondwhite could explain exactly what they find of value about that particular text. Obviously you don't have to be an anarchist to find something written by anarchists worthwhile, but it does seem a particularly odd text for a non-anarchist to want to share - if it was the other way around and one group of impossibilists wrote a particularly incoherent text having a go at other impossibilists I don't think I'd have much interest in trying to share or rehost it.

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
May 21 2019 08:32

Has anybody shared this article in this thread yet? It seems relevant.

http://www.datawranglers.com/negations/issues/96w/96w_peretti.html

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
May 21 2019 12:48

While I agree, the politics in the "woke anarchists collective" text are poor and very sloppy, giving little coherent criticism of identity politics... linking it to people like Jordan Peterson is just bloody daft.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
May 21 2019 15:08
Serge Forward wrote:
While I agree, the politics in the "woke anarchists collective" text are poor and very sloppy, giving little coherent criticism of identity politics... linking it to people like Jordan Peterson is just bloody daft.

Well Serge, I read it as a joke, a pretty funny one at that!

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
May 21 2019 15:22
Serge Forward wrote:
While I agree, the politics in the "woke anarchists collective" text are poor and very sloppy, giving little coherent criticism of identity politics... linking it to people like Jordan Peterson is just bloody daft.

I don't know, I think you can link thinly-veiled transphobia from anarchists with very public transphobia from reactionaries without looking daft. I'd even go as far as to say that ignoring the links between reactionary views being pushed by some anarchists and the likes of Peterson is what's actually daft.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
May 21 2019 18:26
Noah Fence wrote:
Serge Forward wrote:
While I agree, the politics in the "woke anarchists collective" text are poor and very sloppy, giving little coherent criticism of identity politics... linking it to people like Jordan Peterson is just bloody daft.

Well Serge, I read it as a joke, a pretty funny one at that!

It'd only be funny if the idpol supporters didn't routinely link critics of identity politics with right wing, chauvinistic, misogynistic and transphobic tossers.

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 21 2019 20:37

Clearly my sense of humour is a little niche but if you are going to trot out a confused mess of a word soup, yet again ranting about something you can't define, then you might expect to have the piss taken. Also, if you are going to use the same talking points as the reactionaries, safe spaces, triggering etc, then you are wilfully inviting comparisons. If you want your objections to exactly the same things the right complains about not compared to their objections, then explain the difference. Explain, don't whine.

Interesting point, complaining about call out culture and then going on to call out Freedom Press. Presumably there is some personal beef there. Tbh the whole thing sounds like a petulant tract of some kind of beef. I bet there's a story there.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
May 21 2019 20:54

Fleur, I've literally got no idea what are you talking about.

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
May 21 2019 21:03

At the risk of opening a can of worms, I feel like the anti-idpol lot do a pretty good job of that themselves, Serge.

A case in point: how many on the left (including many anarchists) raved about Angela Nagle's book? And in it she literally recycles fascists' descriptions of themselves and right-wing talking points about campus free speech panics. People still defend her, even after public events with Sargon of Akkad (now famously of UKIP) and calling for closed borders.

Or, perhaps even more likely to cause a row, you've got people like Helen Steel, so gripped by her transphobia that she's sharing articles on Twitter about how George Soros is funding the 'transgender movement'.

I mean ffs, if the 'anti-idpol' lot don't want to be linked to the right then they need to do a better job of not sounding like them when they make their arguments (which, in Nagle's case, I'm not sure she particularly cares about tbh)

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 21 2019 21:10

It's not very hard. If you are going to use the same language as the right, snowflakes, triggering, safe spaces, call out culture, blahdy blahdy blah, then explain explain exactly what your problem is because the woke anarchists are madly struggling with that. The disgruntled anti idpol anarchists seem to whine incessantly about things that anarchists aren't doing, like pink washing capitalism or women on banknotes etc. If you're making the same complaints about the same things, try and spell out what your angle is, because I really don't fucking know the difference between them whining about safe spaces and the right doing the same thing. That text is a jumble of contradiction and half truths. The best reaction to it is to take the piss because what a bunch of numpties. (I say bunch, I'm actually imagining 2 or 3 people with a personal grudge.)

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
May 21 2019 21:15

To be fair, this train wreck of a thread started because someone threw a tantrum about being asked to call someone by their preferred pronouns. If you don't want your anti idpol politics to be read as a dog whistle for whatever petty prejudices may be lurking, try and get a coherent argument going. I prefer to think of the woke anarchists as a joke because, fuck me, the alternative is really rather sad

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
May 21 2019 23:32
Ed wrote:
At the risk of opening a can of worms, I feel like the anti-idpol lot do a pretty good job of that themselves, Serge.

A case in point: how many on the left (including many anarchists) raved about Angela Nagle's book? And in it she literally recycles fascists' descriptions of themselves and right-wing talking points about campus free speech panics. People still defend her, even after public events with Sargon of Akkad (now famously of UKIP) and calling for closed borders.

Or, perhaps even more likely to cause a row, you've got people like Helen Steel, so gripped by her transphobia that she's sharing articles on Twitter about how George Soros is funding the 'transgender movement'.

I mean ffs, if the 'anti-idpol' lot don't want to be linked to the right then they need to do a better job of not sounding like them when they make their arguments (which, in Nagle's case, I'm not sure she particularly cares about tbh)

I agree Ed, all those examples are really bad. Though when you say "anti idpol lot" that sounds a bit all encompassing and again, whether intentional or not, tars everyone with the same brush used for people like that Sargon of Asshat et al.

Mike Harman
Offline
Joined: 7-02-06
May 22 2019 11:53
Serge Forward wrote:
I agree Ed, all those examples are really bad. Though when you say "anti idpol lot" that sounds a bit all encompassing and again, whether intentional or not, tars everyone with the same brush used for people like that Sargon of Asshat et al.

Not really though is it. Sargon of Akkad is a UKIP candidate, and therefore obviously right wing. That Angela Nagle was happy to have a friendly debate in Dublin where she emphasised their mutual agreement on many points, as well as writing an anti-immigration screed in American Affairs damns both Nagle and her supporters.

Some people who praised the Nagle book when it came out have distanced themselves from her more recent escapades since, some have not, for those who've distanced there's also the question of whether they've re-examined the way that book was constructed or not, or 'forgotten' their enthusiasm. During some of the Nagle debacle she also lined up with 'anti-imperialist' journos Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton (Assad apologism etc.) trying to make out criticism of her book as support for American intervention in Syria (yes really).

Then there are the people still defending Nagle in 2018 (ed. Paul Mattick jr no less) https://libcom.org/blog/who-s-got-bad-faith-reply-pavlos-roufos-moral-pa... Or promoting her book as one of five in their resources lists
https://helensteelbookfairstatement.wordpress.com/author/helensteelbookf...

It would be really great if there were clear lines between all these things, but there is not (and of course you could find lots of anti-Nagle stuff written by left-liberals/social democrats, but instead of that we have supposed left communists doing sub-Andrew Doyle).

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
May 23 2019 09:45

Some presumably 'anti-idpol' political criticism from a Left-communist rather than, and distinct from, a right-wing viewpoint here:
https://libcom.org/blog/mistaken-identity-review and
https://libcom.org/blog/class-perspective-women-question-24042019
Some of the terminology in that last piece might not be current usage on libcom but I think we can all understand what is meant there by ''institutional feminism'' or '' democratic feminism'.
As I suggested in some of my earlier comments on this discussion thread some anarchist and left-wing 'intersectionalism' fails to clearly distinguish it's approach from what might best be described as the predominant 'establishment' or 'liberal' and reformist versions of 'identity politics' ( beyond narrow gender issues) preferring a strategy that simply tails end that in practice.

Ed's picture
Ed
Offline
Joined: 1-10-03
May 22 2019 15:58
Serge Forward wrote:
I agree Ed, all those examples are really bad. Though when you say "anti idpol lot" that sounds a bit all encompassing and again, whether intentional or not, tars everyone with the same brush used for people like that Sargon of Asshat et al.

Well, not really. Imo I'm using two separate brushes; it's just the tar that's a bit similar.

So you've got far-right racist wankers like Sargon of Akkad/whoever else; they're obviously far-right racist wankers. But the 'anti-idpol' lefties/anarchos; they're not far-right racist wankers, but they're happy to use the same language, the same arguments, but ***magically transformed*** to be 'from the left'. Certainly not 'the same', but certainly some common ground.

So, as well as my previous egs of Helen Steel sharing 'Soros is funding transgenderism' articles or Nagle being Nagle, go back two pages on this very thread and you've got a poster unironically using a transphobic meme with origins in far-right internet culture. Is that poster far-right? No, hence why we haven't banned them when we would've banned a Nazi or whatever. But they're happy to circulate the in-jokes and, therefore, the common assumptions about the left/non-binary people that make the joke work. Again, not 'the same', but certainly some common ground. Is it wrong to point that out?

Similarly, when Fleur says the Woke Anarchists text has "a lot of common ground with some of the stuff Jordan Peterson says" and you complain that "idpol supporters [...] routinely link critics of identity politics with right wing tossers", my question is: do you not see any common ground between the Woke Anarchists/idpol critics and the talking points of those right-wing tossers?

I mean, the examples above are clear enough imo (the first two in terms of significance of the individuals, the third in terms of just how common it is) but, as Fleur points out, even the Woke Anarchists text itself is full of it: "Identity politics is feeding the far right", "anarchism is being hollowed out in a rush to virtue-signal", "identity politicians" are "confined to the ‘safe space’ of people like them". The Woke Anarchists lot talk about how 'identity politics' (whatever that means as they never give any examples) is infecting anarchism; my response would be that it's the language and talking points of the right that's infecting anarchism and the Woke Anarchists text is just one example of it.

Which, again, is not to say they're 'the same' or tar them with the same brush, but just point out there is a worrying amount of common ground and that anyone who calls themselves an anarchist should think about why that is rather than have a go at the people pointing it out.