The Poverty of Identity Politics

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Fleur
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May 29 2018 16:49

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May 29 2018 16:57
Mike Harman wrote:
I have a similar impression to you. If we're right and spoonie is 'support-group-ish' then not sure it necessarily counts as 'politics' though, any more than a parenting support group counts as 'politics' in itself (there could obviously be the full gamut of good to shit advice and political views expressed through those groups).

Well yeah, support groups don't really count as politics. I have encountered enough people ("liberals", not communists or anarchists) who seem to think they do though, which gives them the ability to take the place of politics. Similarly, for example, I don't really have a problem with people setting up co-ops, it's when you go to an anarchist meeting, as someone earlier in the thread had, and it's on the agenda, that I think something's gone wrong.

I've seen this with queer groups. Admittedly in Leeds the death of Queer Mutiny (a group which initially put on queer squat parties, got gradually more political and outwardlooking over time, but then folded in a wave of white guilt over "taking up space") preceded the increasing number of support groups catering to every subsection of queer identity. So I can't blame the lack of political engagement amongst self-identified radical queers on the fact that the support groups exist, but socially these groups do seem to have filled the vacuum left by something which for all its faults was at least a political organisation (in the sense that it did actions, took positions, engaged with political questions).

Might be obvious to us that support groups aren't politics, but a lot of the left, including a lot of anarchists, seem quite focused on "creating spaces", often ones that are exclusively for a particular identity, and are therefore called "safe". I'm willing to believe that a safer spaces policy, ie a list of what isn't acceptable behaviour and a plan for what to do about it, can make a space safer for what that's worth. However the belief that allowing only people of a particular identity into a space will make it safer is a myth pushed by abusers of that identity.

For a while I thought that these places could at least be somewhere to agitate, like maybe in the same way as you'd talk to people at your workplace about your shared grievances at work, talk to people in your block about shared grievances with the landlord, the support group could be a place where you encounter other people who experience the same oppression as you with a view to moving the conversation on to what can be done about it collectively. I'm less and less convinced of this for a number of reasons.

Partly because the groups are rarely "people who experience x oppression" but usually "people who identify as x" and as oppressions don't map neatly onto identities it doesn't really work as a starting point. Partly because support groups (as well as support-group-ish "movements") more often consider the creation of a "safe" supportive space to be an end in itself. But mostly because I'm less and less convinced that even organising around a shared oppression is a useful starting point.

Like, if my boss is being homophobic to me then I need to look to my coworkers for support, if my landlord is being homophobic it makes more sense to look to my neighbours for support, because though they might not experience homophobia our boss/landlord is our common enemy. Meeting up with other people who experience homophobia from a variety of people and saying "what are we going to do about it collectively" doesn't work that well.

I think we can learn a lot about the intersections between gender and race and sexuality and how they impact the way that we experience capitalism. These should be considerations when thinking about how we go about class struggle, rather than creating groups based around the categories we've been shored up into.

Mike Harman wrote:
So that seems like a useful distinction but I'm not sure the affirmation vs. negation dichotomy (not sure if you're specifically thinking of the old Joseph Kay blog or in general here) covers getting a ramp installed somewhere or the right sort of hoist purchased at a school. Is it negation because it removes the specific barrier to access in that case? But then would removing any kind of institutional discrimination be negation? Doesn't feel like the latter is the case. Are accessibility improvements often fought via rights discourse? Definitely they are.

Yeah I was thinking about that blog when I wrote that bit. Tbh until this chat here with you, I haven't thought very much about how my thoughts on identity apply to disability. It's clear to me that I wouldn't be queer if it wasn't for heteronormativity, so I'm not looking to be affirmed in my identity, I just want it to be a non-issue which means an end to the social constructs that other me. In terms of strategy for, say, getting a ramp, I'm generally under the impression that finding out who you're making your demand of, finding other people who also have demands to make of them, and making the demands together/backing each others demands is a good way to go, rather than trying to find enough other people who want a ramp for example.

Mike Harman wrote:
have tried to go a bit easier with stuff I don't know anything about (which is why I don't really have an opinion on spoonie-ism except that I don't think it should be used as a single example to represent all political activity around disability or illness).

Quite right, and I think you're doing better than me on that.

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May 29 2018 16:58
Craftwork wrote:
Yeah, we get it. You "anarchists" prefer HR departments over workers with the "wrong" views(!)

You want to live in a fluffy society, in which no one is offended and no one has the right to offend, despite it meaning that you yourself loses the ability to offend or challenge people's long-held beliefs.

I'm going to add more questions, I know you already have a lot but I'd like to know... If you're boss is misgendering your coworker, do you stand by your coworker or by your boss?

Also, does your answer depend on your coworkers genitals? Say your coworker is a man, with a penis, and your boss thinks that he's so effeminate that it's funny to call him a woman to insult him, is your reaction different to if your coworker is trans and your boss refers to them as their originally assigned gender? Does it matter how your boss is making your coworker feel uncomfortable?

Craftwork wrote:
It's obvious who's a man and who's a woman - there are clear differences in physiology (it's called sexual dimorphism). Only a very small portion of the population are intersex.

The arrogance of people who are sure they know what other people genitals look like. Consider the possibility that there are trans men that you've mistaken for cis men, and trans women that you've mistaken for cis women, and that those you've clocked as trans aren't proof that you can clock every trans person.

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May 29 2018 17:27

Link and baboon has had a lot to say on identity politics, anarchism and libcom over the last couple of months or so on the ICC discussion forum. But unfortunately they aren't brave enough to argue their case on here, simply because they don't have any.

Rather than proving the "poverty of identity politics", the leninists and leftcoms have exposed just how impoverished and ludicrous their notion of "historical materialism" they adhere to, and ultimately how pathetic and useless they are to the proletarian cause they claim to champion.

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May 29 2018 17:23

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May 29 2018 17:24
Noa Rodman wrote:
The scientific bankruptcy of the definition of one of the key concepts of "identity politics" (there are whole departments on "gender" studies are there not?) is quite relevant I would say. I don't want to hound you with questions, particularly from TERFs, but can you define what gender is without relying on stereotypes?

Genders are the sets of expressions of human behaviour and appearance that we use for shorthand in grouping and identifying people. As a social phenomenon, gendered oppression is a serious problem that faces many of us. The rigid definition of "man" and "woman" as defined by genitalia has resulted in many people being placed in social categories that are extremely uncomfortable to the point of self-harm and suicide.

The bioessentialist nature of these sets is largely unknown, being part of the emergent complexity of neurons and chemicals, but there is some evidence to suggest that, although a social expression of human motivations, it may not be entirely socially constructed. This is not to say that our biology necessarily predetermines who we are, but can possibly influence it, at least in some portion of the human population.

Fleur
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May 29 2018 17:25

Can you answer my question first, you know, posit an opinion? Go on, go out on a limb, you've been dancing around this thread without committing yourself, be bold! Explain what you mean by identity politics. You can do it! I believe in you! *

*Actually, I don't but let's suspend disbelief for a moment.

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May 29 2018 17:28

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May 29 2018 17:33

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May 29 2018 17:38

Hmm. Sounds TERFy.

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May 29 2018 17:56
Fleur wrote:
I admire your effort, jospanner but you're wasting your time here. Noa doesn't actually believe that gender is even a thing and he thinks that being trans is a sexual preference, no relation to gender identity. He did a whole fucking thread on it *eyeroll emoji*

Note to Admin, during the site redesign please bring the smilies back. Ta.

oh yes it was quite incredible https://libcom.org/forums/general/talking-about-lovesex-forums-15112017

edit oh apparently emojis dont work at all here? i guess Unicode is not supported

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May 29 2018 17:55
Quote:
Rather than proving the "poverty of identity politics", the leninists and leftcoms have exposed just how impoverished and ludicrous their notion of "historical materialism" they adhere to, and ultimately how pathetic and useless they are to the proletarian cause they claim to champion.

I don't know why this is being pinned on just leninists and left-communists... Serge Forward is as far as I know a "libertarian communist" and they are throwing around the t-word very liberally. I would wager that this is very much more a problem with anglo-leftism than specific groups within the left.

And its honestly jarring to see how split the vote is on craftworks first comments.

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May 29 2018 17:53

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May 29 2018 18:27
Fleur wrote:
Can you answer my question first, you know, posit an opinion? Go on, go out on a limb, you've been dancing around this thread without committing yourself, be bold! Explain what you mean by identity politics. You can do it! I believe in you! *

*Actually, I don't but let's suspend disbelief for a moment.

Did I claim to have "my own" opinion? I don't care if "I" don't have one.

Fleur
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May 29 2018 18:38

If you don't have an opinion, why are you taking up so much space in a conversation? I cba to count how many posts you've made, you started a whole damned thread on Michael Rectenhold and identity politics. This is pretty fucking weird behavior for someone with no opinion on the subject.

You are obviously just being a massive troll and a bore but I don't believe that you have no opinion on a subject you have been talking about for days, you just refuse to express it, for whatever reason.

Mike Harman
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May 29 2018 18:48
Konsequent wrote:
co-ops

I won't have a go at someone who starts or works in a co-op (unless they become an employer...), but I will criticise it when it's put forward as a general strategy. It's not a bad analogy for support groups.

Konsequent wrote:
For a while I thought that these places could at least be somewhere to agitate, like maybe in the same way as you'd talk to people at your workplace about your shared grievances at work, talk to people in your block about shared grievances with the landlord, the support group could be a place where you encounter other people who experience the same oppression as you with a view to moving the conversation on to what can be done about it collectively. I'm less and less convinced of this for a number of reasons.

Right I think something like online whisper networks around sexual harassment comes under this category, in that they will mostly exist at the level of an industry / employer / cluster of employers involving people who work together to some extent. The linked article literally says "They alleviate an untenable condition; they do not actually address it." (i.e. by providing people involved a list of people to avoid, not actually removing those people from anything), and they grow out of necessity rather than design. However I think we can say in these cases that they do sometimes lead to action like the Jacob Appelbaum site where testimonials were collected: http://jacobappelbaum.net/. Also these are groups based on trust, and not necessarily identity. Of course what is essentially informal workplace organising around sexual harassment then being attacked by WSWS as ruling class women jockeying for power is even more disappointing (see links upthread somewhere).

Konsequent wrote:
Partly because the groups are rarely "people who experience x oppression" but usually "people who identify as x" and as oppressions don't map neatly onto identities it doesn't really work as a starting point.

I mean we see this with local BLM/adjacent groups in the US, when photos get posted of demos or meetings, it's clear most are multiracial activist organisations against police violence, not remotely 'black identity' groups. However the amount of effort that goes into characterising them as 'black identity groups' is quite a lot. Also even if an org does consist entirely of black people, doesn't make it a black identity group either.

Konsequent wrote:
Like, if my boss is being homophobic to me then I need to look to my coworkers for support, if my landlord is being homophobic it makes more sense to look to my neighbours for support, because though they might not experience homophobia our boss/landlord is our common enemy. Meeting up with other people who experience homophobia from a variety of people and saying "what are we going to do about it collectively" doesn't work that well.

This feels like the difference between DPAC/Sisters Uncut who organise around service provision, compared to something like Pride. People protesting police/MI5/UKIP presence (as invited participants in the marches, in case anyone's not caught up) on pride marches is good, but ffs how do you even get to that point.

Konsequent wrote:
I think we can learn a lot about the intersections between gender and race and sexuality and how they impact the way that we experience capitalism. These should be considerations when thinking about how we go about class struggle, rather than creating groups based around the categories we've been shored up into.

And apart from that, if people put a bit more effort into these things, there would be less need (perceived or real) for identity-based organising due to chauvinism/disinterest in existing orgs.

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May 29 2018 18:50

I've noticed attacks on 'identity politics', more from the stalinist left in terms of groups and social media pages.

I think however this is because those groups associate 'indentity politics' (and safer spaces etc) with anarchism (for arguments about how right that is, and if its a good or bad thing, skip back to page 1 of this thread).

So like, maybe the authoritarians don't have more 'serges per capita', they just see it as a useful way of attacking the anarchists, and persuading people to come over to their 'serious' groups. Hence are more open about it in public facing stuff.

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May 29 2018 18:50

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May 29 2018 18:55
Fleur wrote:
I don't believe that you have no opinion on a subject you have been talking about for days, you just refuse to express it, for whatever reason.

I said I don't have "my own" opinion. I can have others' opinions, but you are not interested in hearing the opinion of others.

edit: which btw is clearly why you're the one who is trolling me.

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May 29 2018 19:06
radicalgraffiti wrote:
Fleur wrote:
I admire your effort, jospanner but you're wasting your time here. Noa doesn't actually believe that gender is even a thing and he thinks that being trans is a sexual preference, no relation to gender identity. He did a whole fucking thread on it *eyeroll emoji*

Note to Admin, during the site redesign please bring the smilies back. Ta.

oh yes it was quite incredible https://libcom.org/forums/general/talking-about-lovesex-forums-15112017

edit oh apparently emojis dont work at all here? i guess Unicode is not supported

☠ Full Unicode Support Or Death ☠

edit: Hey wait.. the emojis seem to work AOK.
edit again: ok, just the skull and crossbones seems to work for me. better than nothing tho!

Anti-identiy politics = [sadly these emojis do not display on the libcom forums]

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May 29 2018 20:31
Agent of the International wrote:
Rather than proving the "poverty of identity politics", the leninists and leftcoms have exposed just how impoverished and ludicrous their notion of "historical materialism" they adhere to, and ultimately how pathetic and useless they are to the proletarian cause they claim to champion.

Like LeninistGirl, I don't find this very useful. Some of the most important proponents of women's/black/gay/etc. liberation and organizing, e.g. in the US, were directly inspired by Leninism and identified as Leninists or followers of Lenin, for better or for worse (i.e., including the nationalist/separatist forms of "identity politics" that I think are totally inimical to working class emancipation). The "anti-idpol" camp on here quite obviously includes anarchists. And for what it's worth, my own political positions are very much indebted to the ultra-left tradition. There just doesn't seem to be a clear line from one's positions on the party, state or trade unions to one's positions on trans issues or autonomous organizing of various sectors of the class. And decent people with terrible politics can be good trans allies, while trans people can have terrible politics, too.

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