The Poverty of Identity Politics

685 posts / 0 new
Last post
ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Jun 1 2019 02:16

Identity politics in creating an absurd alphabet soup. You try incorporating 2SLGBTQQIA into a conversation that won't be met with a glazed stare back at you.

Maybe I let my Marxist class definitions lapse but sometimes I think of people as just that, people.

I thrive on their individuality and diversity but at the end of it all, they are all people.

And I find it rather pointless and divisive to build a league table of which of us is the most or least oppressed as a group.

I recall Proudhon:

Quote:
TO BE GOVERNED...
"... is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harrassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality!"

I don't wish to make it any easier for them to define who I am by categorizing and ticking myself into their little boxes any more than I am forced to.

Juan Conatz's picture
Juan Conatz
Offline
Joined: 29-04-08
Jun 1 2019 03:36

I don't understand getting worked up about things like that. Government report acronyms? Really? That's what gets your blood boiling?

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Jun 1 2019 04:12

Canadian government reports are a little wordy and that's before they are translated into French, Mohawk, Cree, Inuktitut etc. Lots of words, lots of acronyms, nothing which would have come out of anyone's actual mouth, activist or otherwise.

Otoh, over 4000 missing/murdered Indigenous women. That's a lot of dead women, before you even get into the racism, the police corruption etc. This is a massive story. Tbh I didn't really notice the acronym, it wasn't the stand out story in this article. The 4000+ MMIW is what people should really be angry about.

Some people prefer to define themselves, to identify themselves in one way or another or many ways. What's the problem with that?

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Jun 1 2019 05:14

What did 2SLGBTQQIA translate into Cree in the report? Is it reader-friendly for them?

And I do not intend to minimize the pain and tragedy exacerbated by the purposeful silence that has occurred over the years.

I was addressing the language which diminishes the humanity of real people. (I even think MMIW is questionable)

I'm well aware of the persecution of native peoples in Canada which also has a history of forced removal of indigenous children described as cultural genocide by another government report.

Re- my comment on league tables, I once wrote an article on indigenous suicides, and singling out one community from another would not have been helpful in comprehending the scale or the common cause of the problem. I'm not advocating we ignore particular features or specific concerns and neglect certain urgencies and priorities that has to be taken.

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2015/no-133...

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Jun 1 2019 05:40

It certainly diminishes the humanity of real people to tell them that they can't refer to themselves in any way they prefer to refer to themselves.

This was literally breaking news this evening. Seems bizarre to me that such a huge story about 4000+dead women would be a jumping off point to gripe about identity politics. Seems a bit petty. Incidentally, all the other chatter I've seen online about it tonight has been about the actual substance of the leaked parts of the report.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
Jun 1 2019 05:57

Even if your concern about the intricacy of the acronym is legitimate(and I’m not saying it is, though I agree it’s a bit of a mouthful), what the fuck has that got to do with this conversation? Once again, it’s conflating solidarity amongst comrades with the activities of authorities/liberals/whoever separate entities from those involved in class struggle.
It’s really indicative of desperation when the argument is reduced to ‘look, they’re using stupid acronyms, so identity politics is completely exploded, ner ner ner ner ner!’

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
Jun 1 2019 09:28

What's the gender balance like in the SPGB?

Auld-bod's picture
Auld-bod
Offline
Joined: 9-07-11
Jun 1 2019 09:29

Do not wish to derail the thread, though wish to add that the Canada story is not really new, on 9 April 2015 - the BBC World Service: Assignment: Canada’s Red River Murders.

Fleur on April 10 2015, reported CBC radio coverage.

Unsurprisingly the numbers have climbed since 2015.

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Jun 1 2019 10:51

"It certainly diminishes the humanity of real people to tell them that they can't refer to themselves in any way they prefer to refer to themselves."

I wonder just who did come up with this 10 letter acronym

I did do a quick google without any success but noted that in this press release, it is only the Commissioners that use the acronym. The community spokespersons simply referred to women and girls.

http://www.mmiwg-ffada.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/News-Release-Congra...

The only self-description I saw was by medical professionals
https://www.change.org/p/support-the-creation-of-a-2slgbtqia-and-fertili...

Regards Jim's jibe, I think all groups associated with Libcom would acknowledge a great disparity in gender diversity within them.

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
Jun 1 2019 13:56

So it's mainly middle-aged white men then. Has the SPGB ever discussed why that's the case?

Fleur
Offline
Joined: 21-02-12
Jun 1 2019 14:53

The story is not really new, Auld Bod but the leaking of the report was. AJ must have posted that up almost as soon as the Guardian went to press with it. And it's been an issue for way longer than 2015.

Honestly, who gives a toss who came up with the acronym? It seems a petty point to make. If you read government reports they are full of acronyms. It's not the substance of the thing. However, there are protocols in addressing First Nations and probably one or more of the many First Nations people who were involved in this inquiry probably had input.

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Jun 1 2019 15:07

The response of ajjohnstone to the Guardian article is poor, considering it talks about a horrific atrocity. His point about exponentially increasing identity acronyms would be fair enough if he hadn't ignored the substance of that article.

Jim, you seem to be suggesting political ideas are worthless if the identity of those who hold them is not 2SLGBTQQIA and that sounds a bit silly. The ideas of the SPGB are not bad because they may have a gender imbalance in their membership but because... their politics are a bit crap.

Jim
Offline
Joined: 30-04-06
Jun 1 2019 15:46

I'm trying to work out why SPGB posters seem to have an issue with 'identity politics'. Is it because they're all old white men or are they just worried about losing votes to the Women's Equality Party?

I'm not suggesting the value of any political ideas can be found in the identities of those who hold them and that lengthy acronym is obviously daft (which will be why it's not in common usage).

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
Jun 1 2019 16:44
Quote:
are they just worried about losing votes to the Women's Equality Party?

Ouch! Ok, that’s pretty funny, but a bit harsh, eh?

ajjohnstone
Offline
Joined: 20-04-08
Jun 1 2019 21:17

"So it's mainly middle-aged white men then. Has the SPGB ever discussed why that's the case?"

Care to explain why every other organized group on Libcom faces the exact same issue, Jim. The problem is shared by all and the SPGB is not unique. (middle-aged is actually flattering - I myself would have said elderly)

We have at least endeavoured to debate the problem at our last conference but it has not been fully resolved, imho. The issue is not being ignored even if the outcome is not one that suits yourself.

Nor should he conflate my post with any that another SPGB may have contributed. SPGBers despite what some say are not clones. We are not the Borg.

Comments that I some how hold no anger about the persecution of the First Nations in Canada are misdirected. I already mentioned an article by myself on indigenous suicides,

https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2015/no-133...

And have blogged on SOYMB about the abduction of First Nations children by the Canadian State from their communities.

My concern is that by applying such elaborate acronyms takes away their very humanity and that they are being labelled by the State, rather than thought of as real individuals. Very much opposite to the criticisms I face here of being uncaring.

And, of course, I rely on the media for information, not being on the ground with direct access to sources.

The fact that I did not highlight the tragic circumstances was that I saw no need to preach to the converted and took it for granted that we all deplored what is happening. I drew attention to one aspect that I thought was related to the topic of the thread title...Auld-bod tells me I was wrong and I was off-tangent.

Auld-bod's picture
Auld-bod
Offline
Joined: 9-07-11
Jun 2 2019 10:24

ajjohnstone #676

‘I drew attention to one aspect that I thought was related to the topic of the thread title...Auld-bod tells me I was wrong and I was off-tangent.’

My last post was not directed at you. It was simply informative.

The subject of identity politics is a minefield, as everyone I know has multiple ‘identities’. I think it unlikely there is such a thing as a ‘core’ identity. This explains why people with ‘good politics’ can also have sexist/racist ideas. We try and rationalise our views, though who can really enter their own field of vision? Can we really predict the trajectory of our actions and beliefs? Not always. Let me give examples from an excellent post:

https://libcom.org/history/racists-reds-revolt-clyde-1919

Manny Shinwell organising sailors on the Clyde uses racist arguments against black and Chinese crews working on British ships. The post ably explains the context in which these events took place. Now did Shinwell, a son of Jewish immigrants, only in retrospect recognise the folly of the tactics he used? It would seem so.

Examples of ‘socialist internationalism’ are cited: Arthur MacManus, John Maclean and (by implication) James Connolly.
Later Connolly died an Irish martyr in 1916; Maclean died as famous for his Scottish Republicanism as his Marxism; MacManus died in 1927, having been an active member of the BCP and the Comintern. He remained relatively true to his internationalism (he was at the founding conference of the League Against Imperialism).

Can you support internationalism and be a republican and/or anti-imperialist? Appears to me, the life we live draws out our responses, and our core beliefs are often more plastic than we care to admit.

Noah Fence's picture
Noah Fence
Offline
Joined: 18-12-12
Jun 2 2019 19:50
Quote:
Appears to me, the life we live draws out our responses, and our core beliefs are often more plastic than we care to admit.

Probably the most thought provoking sentence on this thread.

Edit: I retract that statement. Thought provoking though it undoubtedly is, having just read through the entire thread, there are a number of other comments that gets the mind churning over - indeed, the fucking bullshit that some people are subject to just because of a particular aspect of their identity really is mind blowing.
The winner though, the thing that really has the mind boggling, is the omission in the OP of any examples of idpol going for the throat of anarchism, and the subsequent continued omission of same when the poster was pressed on the matter.

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Aug 25 2019 09:49

So looking back to my earlier posts #641 and #659 thought I'd get another plug in for these helpful 'back to basics' texts:
https://www.gegen-kapital-und-nation.org/proud-be-so-what and
https://www.gegen-kapital-und-nation.org/en/some-remarks-on-homophobia-a...

link
Offline
Joined: 22-12-10
Aug 25 2019 20:30

“Liberté, Égalité, Proprieté for all?

Any group campaigning for equal rights is demanding nothing else than the recognition of its members as full citizens of the nation and as equal competitors. Bourgeois society with its promises of equality before the law and general competition seems more than happy to oblige. But even if all legitimisations for their oppression were to be removed or at least considerably mitigated, their identities would retain the potential for the same violence with which they were originally inscribed. Even when it does not manifest itself in outright hatred, terror, or destruction, the stigma of difference itself remains unchanged. It can be (re)produced at will and directed once more against its bearers. For all these reasons, adapting to the demands of bourgeois society is hardly ever an efficient means of emancipation.”

Thought I would just highlight this conclusion of one of the texts that spikeymike listed. It’s a perspective not commonly expressed here on libcom as I know but at least it aims to present a political argument based on an analysis of reality. Few of the proponents of identity politics on here do that, far too many posts rely on simply dismissal if not outright abuse and bullying. Even bourgeois anti-bullying campaigns in schools do more to stop bullying than what is achieved here.

Yes I understand we all want to see a society that is equal and where this is equality and respect for all individuals whatever they are and whatever they do. However, the current social compaigns by the ruling class that are generally labelled political correctness are clearly a product of the assimilation of radical political approaches of the 60s and 70s towards feminism, anti-racism and libertarianism. Many libcomers fail to take an analytical approach to these developments and their politics remain completely at an emotive level

Spikymike
Offline
Joined: 6-01-07
Sep 1 2019 11:25

Maybe written from a bit 'outside looking in' - but still a pretty well balanced article from the spgb that attempts to address the relationship between 'class politics' and 'identity politics' if only at the level of 'ideas' rather than any detailed analysis of the material underpinning of each (which I have criticised elsewhere). Suspect it won't please all spgbers let alone some here.
https://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2019/no-138...

Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
Offline
Joined: 14-01-04
Sep 1 2019 12:40

Thanks for that Mike. Yes, some hits and misses but definitely worth a read.

AnythingForProximity's picture
AnythingForProximity
Offline
Joined: 27-12-17
Sep 2 2019 04:18

Another good short text that makes some of the same points as the articles linked to by Spikymike is A autonomia é favorecida pelas lutas identitárias? by the Brazilian anarchocommunist group humanaesfera, which also recently provided its English translation:

http://libcom.org/library/autonomy-advanced-identity-struggles-humanaesfera

freedomabolition's picture
freedomabolition
Offline
Joined: 11-10-19
Oct 11 2019 12:18

I don't think what people describe as "identity politics" is actually a real phenomenon, I think it is a misinterpretation of a different political phenomenon which doesn't define identities, but rather identifies social groups that have been defined by social and economic segregation.
Groups like African Americans in the United States have an economic and social situation that is in fact different and less well off than other groups like European Americans. The same goes for women. These groups have historically been discriminated against and now must contend with social and economic structures that transcend state power, which still have the power to discriminate against these groups, and still have cultures which normalize discrimination of these groups, in such subtle ways that they are not even thought of as being discriminatory by those who have not take the time and initiative to analyze the situation.
The fact that some of the affected groups are still struggling with a physical legacy of economic inequality, like for instance collectively controlling less capital within their networks allow them as much social mobility as groups which benefited from the history of discrimination, means that members of these groups should be given advantages through political systems to counteract the disadvantages that they face against members of the groups who benefited from the history of discrimination.
The history of discrimination is real, and to ignore the fact that social groups were created with advantages and disadvantages as a result of this history is an ignorant, irresponsible, and dangerous distortion of the truth.

link
Offline
Joined: 22-12-10
Oct 13 2019 23:02

I am not very sure of the point that freedom/abolition is making about identity. As you say there are social and economic groups within capitalism that are oppressed and discrimination against but these groups have some features of a common identity so I see little difference in talking about identity politics or group identities.

My problem with this view of groups is that whilst there are common features there are also features which tend to differentiate ideas within those groups and as conflict emerges then this differentiation is exacerbated. In other words a common fighting platform is a problem and in fact individuals within these groups tends to hold individual position and objectives for their situation.

When you write that the groups now must contend with social and economic structures that transcend state power, I think you are misunderstanding the state The state we have now is a product of capitalist and exists to manage those social and economic structures that exist so again it is unclear what you are getting at here.

Finally, I would agree that 'to ignore the fact that social groups were created with advantages and disadvantages’ is wrong. These things do indeed need to be recognised and understand so that a new society can be built but the important question is who can get rid of capitalism and the capitalism ruling class worldwide. If you read the earlier contributions you can see that my argument is that only the working class can do this.

Women, Black people, Asians, Australian Aborigines and any nation you care to mention are made up of working class, middle class and ruling class individuals whatever generalisations about relative wealth are possible. This fact will inevitably generate conflict within campaigns for equality and this ultimately means that such group campaigns are inevitably reformist campaigns demanding small changes and improvements to capitalism ie not revolution, not the elimination of capitalism.

So if your perspective is to improve capitalism , then fine, but if you wish to get rid of capitalism then supporting such narrow group or identity based campaigns is what is irresponsible and dangerous.