in defense of identity politics

just wanted to say that i’ve been to some kind of mountaintop today, having discoursed for 9 hours with the best and brightest from my chosen sector of the US universe of activism. there’s a lot to say that i would never go anywhere near talking about in this blog-text, but i’ll say this:

in my life i’ve often succumbed to a critique of non-reidistributionist political movements, i.e. political interest groups that are not explicitly addressing class/capital from the get-go. so doing, i unwillingly have hopped in bed with the sort of wanker who’d imply that “class” is somehow more “real” than “race,” or as if one suffers more for being poor than one could suffer for being a woman, or a Sunni, or transgendered, or a heretic, etc.

of course, only idiots (read: “marxists”) would buy this imbecilic either/or. was there really no oppression before there was class? are there really no meaningful identities other than those instantiated vis a vis our given mode of production? actually, this “debate” boils down to being a fallacious, back-door reiteration of old-ass Western Philosophical blah-blah. it’s idealism versus materialism, really…”marxists” think that class is real because the economy is real, which ironically mirrors neoliberals’ treating The Market like it’s a natural force. it’s also entirely and entirely undialectical conclusion – other students of Marx would argue that class is both a material relationship and the discourse thereof, thereby looking for ways in which other identity discourses might themselves take on material guise…. but shucks, that’s crazy talk for most. the hegemonic marxism doesn’t think discourse is “real” enough to investigate, thereby abandoning both affirmative movements or repressive actions perpetrated in sexual, gendered or racialized terms. in light of this, we’re left hoping that racism will vanish since we’re refusing to acknowledge its existence. or we’re rocking absurd backflips trying to show how everything everywhere is actually always only about political economy.

why all of this ranting? certainly not because i engaged in a theoretical conversation about power and social movements with the big guys today…..oh, no. despite the bluster, leftie status is not so much ideological in this crowd as it is a long, pissy contest of who was selling which newspapers where in 1972.

no, the reason i bring this up is cuz i encountered a genre of persona today that seems to be the “labor guy” (yes, gendered male) version of vulgar marxism. and it made me realize that the way in which “marxists” reduce the whole world to economic functioning, these tough guy class warriors ultimately hover conservatively around there own idea of effecting change in the same way they doubtless see the whole damned universe orbiting their cocks. i don’t want anything to do with that.

so in the same way that i’m not going to learn to speak tough guy, i won’t again do anything that might embolden the analogous monism of base/superstructure cat piss. cuz that’s what it is, it’s cat piss.

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3 Responses to “in defense of identity politics”

  1. jen Says:

    Here here! Well said, my materialist friend, well said. Seriously.

  2. Dave3544 Says:

    jen said it best: here here.

    I’ve always tried to be skeptical of anyone or mode of thought that tries to tell us how it “really” is. Acknowledging that our conversations have been so random, flowing, and influenced that I’ve probably contradicted this statement a thousand times. But I’ve said it before that I abandoned labor history because I couldn’t handle the overarching belief that what the working class “really” wants is to overthrow the capitalist system and control the means of production. Much of labor history is an examination of the forces that hampered, denied, and prevented this goal from being realized. I disagreed that this was actually the goal of the American working classes and that other identities, as myriad and fluid as they are, had just as much to do with frustration of class-consciousness as anything the ruling classes may have done. While I know recognize that there is a rather large body of scholarship advancing these ideas, at the time I couldn’t see a future in academia for a guy from the Oregon history department who wanted to dissent from the mainstream.

    As for our labor movement…can a guy from Oregon work to overthrow this power structure? The problem with identity politics, at least for us white males from Oregon, is we resemble the very assholes we wish to overthrow. What I want is not a new structure based on identity, but ideas. But then, who doesn’t? And then, if identity politics is used to overthrow the entrenched power structure; if it gets used as a tool, then the exploitation is the same, just in the name of liberation, yes? And I think we’ve all had enough of that to last us some time.

    Ramble on, ramble on.

  3. Jen Says:

    Need not be either/or, right? And, Dave, our generation of radicals would not put you in the asshole category – even when taking identity politics into account. We have to acknowledge some things based on identity but that doesn’t throw out the class. But all of it’s too overwhelming, no? I look it as there are lots of people looking at different perspectives from the environment, identity, class, religion, etc. – all important cuz we can’t do it all — or can we? I’m glad you’re doing labor. Tough times for labor right now. yoy.


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