Intersectionality, class politics and ‘identity politics’

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17/08/2018 by socialistfight

Image result for Intersectionality, imagesIntersectionality is a bogus way of understanding human oppression – that is lodged in the mode of production, the social relations that spring from having to sell your labour power to a capitalist to live.

In June 2013 the All that is Solid blog posted an article on this subject, Privilege Checking and Reflexivity:

“When it comes to the subject of socialist politics, I still believe class is where it’s at. I subscribe to the notion that, to use the old language, class is determined and conditioned by the relationship to the means of production. If you depend on selling your labour power in return for a wage or a salary for a living, you’re in. This encompasses a large number of diverse people, from home owners to council tenants, from PhDs to NEETs, and all genders, all races, all sexualities. Our class collects within itself gradations, differences, inequalities and outlooks. The way we experience ‘being working class’ is conditioned by gender, ethnicity, and sexuality. In turn, how these are lived is also conditioned by class. This is why the labour movement everywhere takes equality and diversity seriously – to adequately reflect and represent the interests of working class people in the workplace and wider society, it must be representative of them too. And, in general, I think it does a good job. The labour movement, after all, is us.

But because of difference and inequality within our class, so defined, I am not willing to chuck privilege checking overboard. Socialist politics has to be alert to these variations if it is to win people over. And it cannot operate with an economistic definition that addresses itself to our class solely around wages, trade unions, cuts, and says we, the socialists, are the proper proles. Simply because precious few working-class people think about and identify themselves in those terms. Therefore, to think about how we deal with divisions within our class and how we go about addressing them to build a critical mass of politicised working people, we need to pay attention to how we can produce accurate knowledge free of distorting biases that informs the sorts of social change we would like to see. “ [i]

We recognise the source of all human oppression is lodged in the social relations of production; the worker must enter into a humiliating relationship with the employer to sell his or her labour power to live. This is competition for jobs and promotions etc. with other workers is the source of all reactionary prejudices in the working class; misogyny, racism, ableism. prejudice against LGBTI, etc.  We must always combat it in ourselves and in the labour movement in general whilst never allowing claims of special oppression and intersectionality to be used against the labour movement by demands for special privileges or to inhibit full and free political discussion and conflict.

Of course, we recognise all working class men tend to oppress all working class women, white people tend to discriminate against black people, native workers tend to discriminate against immigrants. But there should be no workers’ pleas of waiting for the revolution to tackle these questions within the working class itself. Multiple oppression is everywhere but Marxism recognises its source as capitalism itself and not simply in mistaken ideas and prejudices; we look to solve the cause whilst fighting the symptoms the better to defeat that cause. [ii]

In his 1903 publication, What is to be Done? Lenin set out the principle we must observe here:

“In a word, every trade union secretary conducts and helps to conduct “the economic struggle against the employers and the government”. It cannot be too strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrat’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.” [iii]

Notes

[i] All this is Solid, 4 June 2013 Privilege Checking and Reflexivity http://averypublicsociologist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/privilege-checking-and-reflexivity.html

[ii] In Defence of Marxism has a good article on this question, Marxism vs. Intersectionality, by Jessica Cassell, 13 July 2017, https://www.marxist.com/marxism-vs-intersectionality.htm

[iii] Lenin, What is to be Done? 1903, https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1901/witbd/iii.htm

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