The Poverty of Identity Politics

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Serge Forward's picture
Serge Forward
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May 22 2019 16:55
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do you not see any common ground between the Woke Anarchists/idpol critics and the talking points of those right-wing tossers?

Of course there's common ground but it's as meaningless as emphasising common ground between the idpol supporters on libcom and those alt-right wankers also steeped in their own identity politics.

Mike Harman
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May 22 2019 18:59

Ed: here are some very specific examples of the way some left anti-idpol rhetoric reproduces right wing talking points.

Serge: yes, but that's as meaningless as calling anti-racists nazis because they both discuss white supremacy.

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May 22 2019 21:05
Serge Forward wrote:
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do you not see any common ground between the Woke Anarchists/idpol critics and the talking points of those right-wing tossers?

Of course there's common ground but it's as meaningless as emphasising common ground between the idpol supporters on libcom and those alt-right wankers also steeped in their own identity politics.

Well, not really though, is it? Let's go over this again and compare my examples with your hypothetical counterpoint:

  • Angela Nagle: repeats right-wing moral panic about left-wing students shutting down free speech on campus, repeats right-wing attacks on non-binary gender identities, repeats right-wing calls for closed borders because migrants are a threat to native workers' conditions
  • Helen Steel: shares article repeating right-wing anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Jewish financier bankrolling the 'transgender movement'
  • Poster on this thread: repeats right-wing transphobic meme mocking people with non-binary gender identities
  • Woke Anarchists: repeats right-wing buzzword 'virtue-signalling' used to criticise/undermine expression of sympathy with oppressed groups, repeats right-wing claim that the politics of oppressed minorities is "feeding the far-right"

Your hypothetical counterpoint (to these specific, real world examples) is that this is as significant a similarity as 'idpol supporters' and nazis both being focused on identity.

But there's a difference here: the examples I'm giving from the 'anti-idpol' crowd aren't similar just in the most general, abstracted way (i.e. 'the Black Panthers talk about race, and the KKK also talk about race'); they are similar in the sense that they're infected with the same buzzwords/catchphrases ("virtue signalling", "did you assume my gender?"), the same talking points (migration 'problem', free speech, transphobia, etc) and the same narratives (left threaten free speech/academic freedom, Soros funds trans activism, etc) as those coming from/originating in the right and sometimes even far-right.

Again, this doesn't mean those people are nazis; but when Fleur says some of this stuff wouldn't look out of place on some Jordon Peterson fan club chat, I can't see how you could argue she's wrong. And when you complain that "idpol supporters [...] routinely link critics of identity politics with right wing tossers", I look at the above examples and think, 'well, how are those arguments not, in some way, linked to those of right-wing tossers?' They definitely look more strongly linked than 'Black Panthers talk about race, KKK talk about race' anyway.

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May 22 2019 23:57
Serge Forward wrote:
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.

So "anti" id-pol isn't actually a single viewpoint but more of a spectrum of ideas which deserve a more intelligent form of consideration than just dismissive insults you reckon?

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May 23 2019 11:14
Rob Ray wrote:
Serge Forward wrote:
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.

So "anti" id-pol isn't actually a single viewpoint but more of a spectrum of ideas which deserve a more intelligent form of consideration than just dismissive insults you reckon?

I've never sought to define "anti idpol" because people oppose it for different reasons, mostly reactionary but sometimes from a genuine pro-revolutionary standpoint. But it's hardly a spectrum and we're talking about enemies not allies. The point I was trying to make was equating people like the "woke anarchists" (even with their poorly argued views) with some fascist is just wrong.

For the record, I agree with many of ed's earlier comments.

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May 23 2019 14:35
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I've never sought to define "anti idpol" because people oppose it for different reasons

Well that's the thing isn't it, what people call "ID Pol" is incoherent because its primary use is for lumping together whatever an individual/group happens to not like into one easy pile of things that shouldn't happen.

Had an argument with someone from another group who disagrees with your analysis of intersectionality? ID pol. Want to be able to say trans women are men in drag and don't like being told to fuck off because hey, you have a class analysis? ID Pol. Feel like organising gets disrupted by middle class people playing oppression bingo? ID Pol. As though political debate, getting called out for bigoted behaviour and edgelord dilettantism are all part of the same grand problem and somehow a new phenomenon.

For me "anti ID Pol" is just a really crap way of addressing our issues tbh. It's not about consistently targeting bad or self-indulgent behaviour within the movement or comprehensively analysing the gaps and stresses in modern organising, it's fetishising a mythical unified past where we all knew the Real Enemy and could leave some of our collective house cleaning until after His defeat, so let's all just knuckle under eh? It's an a-historic whinge dressed up as critique.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 14:18

jondwhite

We, the supporters of the class social revolution, the anarchists, the libertarian socialists, the supporters of the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin and Otto Rule should form our own discourse. This discourse should be directed against identity politics. This should be said directly and frankly.

Identity politics is against key anarchist principles.

The anarchism of Bakunin, the Anarchism of Bialystok and Warsaw, Kronshtadt and Barcelona in the 19th and first third of the 20th centuries, during its Golden age, was a militant class teaching. It is based on non-cooperation with public authorities (including courts and labour commissions), direct action and various forms of resistance of the poor majority.

Anarchism means freedom to discuss any issue without censorship.

Anarchism is a hate speech directed against rich owners and officials.

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May 23 2019 14:33

Case in point.

Meerov's claiming "dead beards against ID Pol" here but he's not identifying anything specific he wants to change other than being able to say whatever he wants without consequence. Presumably this doesn't apply to fascism, or white supremacism, meaning the stipulation is actually that I, Anarchist should be able to discuss any issue without censorship. As though anarchists like Bakunin weren't and aren't capable of dangerous bigotry.

In fact if Bakunin were about today and still as anti-semitic as he was then you bet he'd get a shitload of criticism — and with good reason. That's not ID Pol, that's modern anti-racist action.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 14:56

Bakunin is not an idol to me. He was a great rebel, a theorist of anarchist workers ' resistance and an international brotherhood of workers. At the same time, he had authoritarian ideas and spoke ill of Jews. This was answered by Russian bakunists of the early 20th century, about 50% of whom were Jews. They responded by the fact of their joining the ranks of Bakunists. I am supporter to talk with him and i like to criticize him and not to deny to the publication of his texts.))

"white supremacism," --- But proponents of identity politics find it everywhere. It's impossible to talk about anything in an environment there there are a millions of restrictions.

Spikymike
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May 23 2019 14:58

'Identity Politics' (covering the full spectrum of identities beyond just gender) is a reasonable description of much of the content, form and strategy of capitalist political organisations and should be ruthlessly criticised by libertarian communists. An awareness of how class is structured and changes over time is essential to this, together with a political strategy that addresses the material divisions within the working class with a view to moving beyond those divisions rather than reinforcing them. No one says that is an easy task and some of the arguments within 'our movement' (if it can be called a movement) have been about how to do that without simply ending up as the tail end of the left/liberal wing of capitalism in an attempt to distinguish us from the more obvious right wing nasties currently doing the rounds. Clearly some of the differences about that are more sharply drawn by some here than others.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 14:59

" still as anti-semitic" ---- Yeah, but don't tell me about it. I have never met so many anti-Semites as among the supporters of identity politics, insulting me for that I am a "white Jew" (Ashkenazi).

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May 23 2019 15:03
meerov21 wrote:
Identity politics is against key anarchist principles.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 15:04

what's wrong with this photo??

meerov21
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May 23 2019 15:13

Mujeres Libres were not a feminist. On the contrary, it was officially an anti-feminist movement.
Mujeres Libres: "We are not- and were not then feminists. We were not fighting against men. We did not want to substitute a feminist hierarchy for a masculine one. It's necessary to work, to struggle, together because if we don't we'll never have a social revolution. But we needed our own organisation to struggle for ourselves."

You can verify that by finding out their statement. They also considered themselves part of a single family of anarchist organizations.

And besides, in most cases, anarchists - men and women - fought together in anarchist organizations then, without being singled out in separate organizations.

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May 23 2019 15:29

Meerov, I don't see the point in getting into a semantic argument about the meaning of the word 'feminism' (I don't know any anarchist/socialist feminists who "want to substitute a feminist hierarchy for a masculine one") with you. Regardless, you didn't say 'feminism', you said 'identity politics'. The politics of Mujeres Libres was, without question, based in significant part on their identity as women (hence the name). Look at your own quote: "we [women] needed our own organisation to struggle for ourselves".

What did this organisation do? Lets see:

Quote:
they created networks of women anarchists. Attending meetings with one another, they checked out reports of sexist behaviour and worked out how to deal with it. Flying day-care centres were set up in efforts to involve more women in union activities.

They did lots of anti-sexist propaganda work, again targetting women:

Quote:
The ideas that grabbed them the most? Talk about the power men exercised over women... There would be a kind of uproar when you would say to them, "We cannot permit men to think themselves superior to women, that they have a right to rule over them".

I could go on and on. So whether I accept your or Mujeres Libres' definition of feminism, it seems clear that however you describe their politics, it was a politics completely attached to their identity and experience as women.

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May 23 2019 15:43

Moreover, if you wanted to raise your eyes beyond the shores of Europe, you could also look to La Voz de la Mujer (Woman's Voice), an anarchist feminist newspaper from 19th Century Argentina.

Quote:
La Voz de la Mujer described itself as “dedicated to the advancement of Communist Anarchism.” Its central theme was that of the multiple nature of women’s oppression. An editorial asserted, “We believe that in present-day society nothing and nobody has a more wretched situation than unfortunate women.” Women, they said, were doubly oppressed - by bourgeois society and by men.

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As with Emma Goldman, Louise Michel and Voltairine de Cleyre, it differed from the mainstream feminism by being a working class movement which placed the struggle against patriarchy as part of a wider struggle against economic and social classes and hierarchies.

So is this 'identity politics'? Or is it allowed to be anarchism?

Edited to add:
I still maintain that 'identity politics' is a dumb term, which means whatever the user wants it to mean and I use it here just out of sheer exhaustion and exasperation with having the same discussion for years on end. I would actually prefer we used the term 'intersectional anarchists/communists/whatever' and 'class reductionists' since that seems like a more precise description of what we're talking about.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 15:51

1) I think it's rude to force something on women if they reject it. Mujeres Libres rejected feminism because, as they have seen, it very often (though perhaps not always) leads to separatism and aggressive conflict with men. They weren't feminists. If a woman says no, it means no. On the contrary, they considered themselves as a part of a large family of anarchist organizations and advocated fighting alongside men.

2) But you're partly right, there's no point in arguing about words. I do not see great harm in creating women's or ethnic\language branches of the anarchist social revolutionary and class movement, but only if they fight together, if they reject any separatism (like Mujeres Libres), and if they set common goals and follow the ideas of libertarian socialism\communism.

3) However, I have a suspicion that this is not the best solution. I criticize the idea that men and women, Jews and Arabs, Blacks and Whites create specific groups where others are not allowed. And in the most cases, anarchists in revolutionary Russia, Italy, Spain, France in the great days of anarchism did not do so. I do not imagine that I would create separate groups for Jews-anarchists where Russians are not allowed. It would be very offensive and unpleasant.

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May 23 2019 16:26
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And in the most cases, anarchists in revolutionary Russia, Italy, Spain, France in the great days of anarchism did not do so.

The Mujeres Libres

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created networks of women anarchists. Attending meetings with one another,

Rob Ray's picture
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May 23 2019 16:50
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Bakunin is not an idol to me. He was a great rebel (etc) ...

I don't care in the slightest whether he was an idol to you or not. He was a theorist who made some good points and some very stupid ones. Some of his views were abhorrent, and I was pointing out briefly the irony that your anti ID Pol screed picked him out specifically as an ideological source for your imagined pure anarchic tendency, as the fact his anti-semitism would find it much more difficult to fly in today's anarchist circles is a case in point of the improvements we've seen since his day from taking anti-racist and anti-colonial thinking (for example) more seriously.

All that said, if you've disappeared so far up your fundamentals that you've ended up arguing that an all-female organisation dedicated to women's liberation isn't feminist then I don't know what you're even worried about, you can solve your issues just by redefining whatever group you come across.

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'Identity Politics' (covering the full spectrum of identities beyond just gender) is a reasonable description of much of the content, form and strategy of capitalist political organisations and should be ruthlessly criticised by libertarian communists.

It's not reasonable, it's muddy as hell, that's the problem. It makes no distinction between liberal glass ceiling politics (eg. put a woman in the White House) and liberatory politics aimed at building a more cohesive and powerful working class (eg. addressing how and why working class women are frequently sidelined from decision-making in struggle, why BME people are often more vulnerable than white people when organising, etc etc). That's part of its nature as a phrase used right across the political spectrum.

Everything you're saying about awareness of class structure, material division and going beyond division is totally uncontroversial, but you can't just wish that we be in one place when we're in another. We aren't "beyond" racial division, gendered oppression etc and difficult as the conversations around those intersecting problems might be, trying to declare "okay everyone shut up and get along now" is less Moses than it is Canute.

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May 23 2019 16:40

Oh boy.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 21:39

1.I don't care in the slightest whether he was an idol to you or not. He was a theorist who made some good points and some very stupid ones. Some of his views were abhorrent, and I was pointing out briefly the irony that your anti ID Pol screed picked him out specifically as an ideological source for your imagined pure anarchic tendency, as the fact his anti-semitism would find it much more difficult to fly in today's anarchist circles is a case in point of the improvements we've seen since his day from taking anti-racist and anti-colonial thinking (for example) more seriously.

I have little interest in how anarchist groups that share an identity policy and see almost nothing but racial and gender issues will read Bakunin. I am in favour of completely abandoning these traditions and breaking up with such groups. Moreover, some people here in Eastern Europe and a number of Asian countries look at many things differently. Bakunin's opinion is more valuable to me than the opinion of a number of American anarchists associated with identity politics, because he was able to create large social revolutionary movements, and you do not know how. On the other hand, I see that not all anarchists in Europe and the United States like identity politics and we can be friends with such people.

But let me tell you what you said about anti-Semitism made me smile sadly. I have never met so many anti-Semites as among the American left and even anarchists. I've been under constant anti-Semitic attacks as a "white Jew" among the people you're talking about.

2. All that said, if you've disappeared so far up your fundamentals that you've ended up arguing that an all-female organisation dedicated to women's liberation isn't feminist then I don't know what you're even worried about, you can solve your issues just by redefining whatever group you come across.

I don't know what all-female organisation you're talking about. Mujeres Libres officially rejected feminism. I answered the rest above.
I do not see great harm in creating women's or ethnic\language branches of the anarchist social revolutionary and class movement, but only if they fight together, if they reject any separatism (like Mujeres Libres), and if they set common goals with other men and women and follow the ideas of libertarian communism.
From another side I have a suspicion that this is not the best solution. I criticize the idea that men and women, Jews and Arabs, create specific groups where others are not allowed. And in the most cases, anarchists in revolutionary Russia, Italy, Spain, France in the great days of anarchism did not do so.
Individual people or some individual groups thought different path, but it wasn't mainstream. It is better not to divide the movement by gender or ethnicity

3.. I do not deny that there are problems of family violence or ethnic oppression. However the idea of social class struggle was Central to all social revolutions, from the Commune of Paris to Kronstadt, from Barcelona and Aragon and the bakunist sections of the First international, numbering hundreds of thousands of activists, to Worker's councils of Budapest in 1956 and Worker's councils of Tehran 1979. There were NO other social revolutions.
Therefore, all other issues related to gender or ethnicity should be integrated by the social movement, but they are not the main ones and should not serve the disintegration of the movement.
Whether you like it or not, all the social revolutions we know have been class revolutions, creating Working Councils (or other forms of working self-organization), which were their core. That's all we need to know.
It's not that Bakunin has pure anarchism, and you have a dirty one. The fact is that Bakunin, the anarchists of Bialystok and Barcelona made social revolutions, and you don't and your "anarchism of identities" is useless.

P.S.
The problem is that all social revolutions were class revolution: Under any geography (Russia 1905-1907 and 1917-1921, France 1871, Italy 1920, Spain 1933-1939, Hungary 1919 and 1956, Iran 1979) and in all era. Even in the Middle ages, revolutionary movements, sects, which in one way or another advocated communal power and equality, were class movements and fought for the poor against the rich (Pavlikian, Anabaptists and others) and that was the core of social movements. Of course, the issues of equality of peoples and equality of women and men were also there. This is important, but these things have been integrated and subordinated to broader class and communal goals.

meerov21
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May 23 2019 19:42

Okay, I want to ask you something else. Suppose those you call right-wingers should be stripped of their right to speak. I'm not going to defend the right wing, but I have another question.

Let me ask you, who has the right to speak?

...for example, in campuses? Can I give you some examples?

1. Leninists (or Stalinists, Maoists, Trotskyites)?

2. Proponents of conservative Islam and\or militant organizations of the Islamists like Hamas, Hezbollah?

3. Critics of abortion and\or conservative Christian organizations?

4. Hillary's Supporters for global corporations and neo-liberalism?

5. Zionists?

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May 23 2019 19:37

It’s kind of funny how the right wing anti SJWs, who perpetually rant against identity politics, do so without any awareness of how almost everything they say is based on identity - they hate on various identities such black people, Muslims, trans people, women etc, and of course whine on about their victim status as white men. Then there’s the complaints about free speech while they go to great lengths to block the free speech of the left and the funniest of all, accusations of ‘triggered!’ and ‘snowflake’ whilst being incredibly sensitive to anything that even slightly opposes their world view, such as the YouTube channel that made over a hundred videos complaining about the pro woman agenda of a single Marvel movie. If that’s not the behaviour of a triggered snowflake, then I can’t imagine what is! The irony is just astonishing!!!
Now I’m not saying that’s what’s happening on this thread, that would definitely be going too far, but is there perhaps a little whiff of it? I’d say so.
What is so difficult about seeing the difference between the cringey, cancel culture, authoritarian nightmare of extreme liberal idpol, and recognising the particular modes of oppression that certain members of the working class are subject to based on their identity and reacting appropriately to those modes of oppression in a specific rather than general way?

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May 23 2019 19:38

Look, meerov, I thank you for turning up and making the whole discussion even more pointless than we ever could have imagined, but at the very least, if you're going to start a discussion around free speech absolutism, please start a new thread. Any discussion of free speech absolutism on this thread will be deleted.

Noah Fence wrote:
What is so difficult about seeing the difference between the cringey, cancel culture, authoritarian nightmare of extreme liberal idpol, and recognising the particular modes of oppression that certain members of the working class are subject to based on their identity and reacting appropriately to those modes of oppression in a specific rather than general way?

Indeed, Noah, it would seem to be exactly that bloody obvious. Alas, here we are...

meerov21
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May 23 2019 19:48

Look, meerov, I thank you for turning up and making the whole discussion even more pointless than we ever could have imagined, but at the very least, if you're going to start a discussion around free speech absolutism, please start a new thread. Any discussion of free speech absolutism on this thread will be deleted.

Ahahah)) What a charm. But Didn't this in thread people discuss freedom of speech too?

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May 23 2019 19:48

Noah, I just unpublished your post as it was off-topic. As I said in my previous post, if you want to discuss free speech absolutism start a new thread.

Edited to add: just saw your edit about cross-posting. No problem!

meerov21
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May 23 2019 19:58

I made new thread "free speech" here http://libcom.org/forums/general/freedom-speech-23052019

But I don't know how to put the Noah comment there , and whether I should do it.

Spikymike
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May 26 2019 09:45

Rob Ray, Well we would have a job on our hands trying to get libcommers to 'shut up and get along' especially if the discussion was related to any sort of 'identity politics' (658 posts on this one and not the first whilst much else gets ignored) and I haven't and wouldn't try to do that. I have consistently posted critical comments on this issue including recommending various longer positive texts that have appeared on libcom around gender issues, but will continue to 'chip away' at some of the other mostly anarchist assumptions about the relationship of 'oppressions' and 'class' within capitalist society and the need to clearly distinguish communism from both liberal/left and right wing capitalist politics. I am not meerov21 or the Woke anarchists so maybe try to avoid treating all critical comments the same.

ajjohnstone
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May 31 2019 23:31

“The national inquiry’s findings support characterising these acts, including violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as genocide.”

2SLGBTQQIA people?

two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual

Not a activist/journalist description but an official Canadian government report definition.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/31/canada-missing-indigenous-...

radicalgraffiti
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Jun 1 2019 00:47
ajjohnstone wrote:
“The national inquiry’s findings support characterising these acts, including violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA people, as genocide.”

2SLGBTQQIA people?

two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual

Not a activist/journalist description but an official Canadian government report definition.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/31/canada-missing-indigenous-...

what is your point?