Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

On Identity Politics

If you're a Leftist even thinking in terms of "identity politics" you need to ask yourself: Would you lump all activism on homelessness, drug and alcohol related causes, mental health related issues, battered womens' shelters, LGBT youth kicked out of the family home, squatter culture, Roma and traveller issues, refugee housing, and suchlike as "indigency politics"? Would you then emblematise that by the most strident & callow moralism of the bourgeois post-adolescent dilettantes any Leftist cause attracts? Would you neglect the bulk of activism trying to tackle physical issues--like food & shelter--to characterise this "indigency politics" by everyday moralism like pulling someone up for scorn of "gypsies" or "freeloaders" or "junkies"? Would you then problematise the mode of activism so conjured as alienating those unaffected by such issues, blaming their reactionary entrenchment & outlashing on this "indigency politics" activism? Would you argue that for a Leftist party or movement to be successful it must eschew this "indigency politics"? Would you say that in order to achieve the goals of socialism, we must abandon this jejune politics so obsessed with the destitute?

If you would not, then you must ask yourself why? Is it not because an "indigency politics" so conjured would be transparently just a rhetorical gambit to isolate out all activisms on a specific but loosely defined front and delegitimise them? Is it not because the reactionary entrenchment and outlashing against "indigency politics" would be transparently just a counterattack on socialism for challenging the Rightist's "I'm all right, Jack" anti-socialism? Is it not because you can't be a socialist who advocates not challenging such anti-socialism--who's socialism for, after all, if not people destitute in exactly this sort of way? Is it not because the strident & callow moralism that jumps on stigmatising terms would be being centred & problematised as The Problem of "indigency politics" precisely because the opposition to all activisms on that front is rooted, in no small part, in the stigma, the prejudice justifying refusal of empathy? Is it not because the term itself would be transparently an exploitation of that prejudice, tapping into the belief that the destitute are unworthy to focus attention on defences of them that can be argued unjust--born of selfishness, activists from the abject groups having a chip on their shoulder, expressing unwarranted entitlement, seeking special treatment, being shrill and uppity and over-sensitive and unrealistic? Is it not because the very purpose of conjuring this spectre of "indigency politics" would be to undermine socialism as a whole by scapegoating those abject groups as the cause of its defeats, its failures to persuade the Rightists of its principles?

For a Leftist to buy into that scapegoating by accepting the rhetorical gambit in the notion of "indigency politics" would be to turn against a core principle of socialism: that the destitute must not be just left to fend for themselves. Is this any less true of "identity politics"? I don't believe it is. I don't believe that socialism can really be called socialism without having at its core a principle that the subaltern must not be just left to fend for themselves. It is not merely a liberal principle of tolerance by which lynching or gaybashing or domestic abuse are rejected as bigotry enacted. It is a socialist principle that the community protect those disempowered by unjust power structures, surely. Hence the "social". A socialism taking recourse to a 19th century focus on economic class, abandoning the 20th century development into anti-fascism, is not full socialism. If you're a Leftist thinking that "identity politics" is The Problem, ready to compromise on your anti-fascism in that respect, you may not be doing so due to your own bias re those abject groups affected, but you're buying into the Rightist rhetoric born of their bias. And to do so can only render your socialism unfit to purpose.


Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Socialists have been concerned about these issues at least since Marx wrote “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.” The problem with identitarianism is that it serves the bourgeoisie, as can be seen by the liberals who insisted working class women should support Clinton because of her social identity rather than Sanders, whose policies would do far more to help working class women and men of all hues.

6:52 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

My favorite critic of the form of antiracism developed by black bourgeois academics in the Ivy League is Adolph Reed, a black American socialist who Katha Politt rightly called, “the smartest person of any race, class, or gender writing on race, class, and gender.” He has a short piece about the problem with bourgeois antiracism here:

6:55 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

"[T]he most strident & callow moralism of the bourgeois post-adolescent dilettantes" does not preclude aforesaid being considerably post-adolescent and having built an academic career on theorising their morality.

7:25 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Or, OK, "dilettante" probably suggests otherwise but it doesn't preclude them settling into the role and becoming a different type of expedient emblem.

7:30 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Are you referring to academics in general there? If so, I completely agree. Among the reasons I like Reed is he sometimes leaves the ivory towers to work with unions. The greatest influences on left identitarianism are Derrick Bell and Kimberle Crenshaw, whose main contact with working people, so far as I've been able to find, was having them serve brunch.

I'm not quibbling with everything you say here, and I admire "indigency politics". But I think it's necessary for a 21st century socialist to think about the ways neoliberals use identitarianism. Here's what a white British socialist, David Harvey, said in A Brief History of Neoliberalism:

“Neoliberal rhetoric, with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms, has the power to split off libertarianism, identity politics, multi-culturalism, and eventually narcissistic consumerism from the social forces ranged in pursuit of social justice through the conquest of state power. It has long proved extremely difficult within the US left, for example, to forge the collective discipline required for political action to achieve social justice without offending the desire of political actors for individual freedom and for full recognition and expression of particular identities. Neoliberalism did not create these distinctions, but it could easily exploit, if not foment, them.”

7:52 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Academics in general? Maybe. I reckon Sturgeon's Law applies in the non-fiction genres as much as the commercial fiction genres--though where he used "crap" (or was it "crud"?) I'd go for "wank". My attitude to much of the canon of Western Philosophy, for example--Plato, Anselm, Descartes--is pretty much, "Nope, that's just wank." There are sound stances in there though--Spinoza: not wank--and I doubt they'd have gotten thrashed out without the genre culture. Same goes for latter-day academia.

Re the Harvey quote: c.f. my own reference to the "liberal principle of tolerance" versus community protection of the abject in whatever form. The wishy-washy feel-good liberal propriety you end up with after the abject spend a good few decades saying, "Fuck this!" is just what the mediocre middle brow middle classes always use in place of ethical nous. And propriety exists to be exploited, AFAIC, in no small part in order to justify whatever is expedient to the bourgeois ego. I see nothing unique to this specific flavour of propriety, just novelty in what, for now, constitutes impropriety. Spinning it as rooted in counter-abjection individualism is, IMO, a handy diversion from the universality of people being too damned prissy.

Bottom line: if you're a recovering alcoholic ex-homeless person who gives a shit, you have to identify as such to run an AA meeting; fighting the stigma of alcoholism as part of that means, as you succeed, bourgeois propriety adjusts and you get prissy liberal moralists being shallow and tedious about never stigmatising the alcoholic tsk tsk. We don't root that in an "indigency politics" and lament the recovering alcoholic ex-homeless person identifying as such, fighting the stigma, like that's just self-serving liberal individualism rather than a requisite step in helping others like them. Even if it's said alcoholic themself being moralistic about it, any academic critic of "indigency politics" decrying the identification rather than the moralism would just be talking wank, AFAIC. If prissy moralists being prissy moralists is of such import to them that they're arguing it trumps the practical necessity of standing up and saying, "Hi, I'm X and I'm an alcoholic," they have their head up their arse.

3:35 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Sure. That ain't the problem. The problem comes when your recovering alcoholic ex-homeless person uses her social identity to justify privatization measures that fuck most alcoholic ex-homeless people. Then someone needs to object.

Let's get simple here. Left identitarians insisted people should vote for Clinton because she was a woman. I want to believe Brits saw the problem with this argument with Maggie Thatcher, but I seem to be wrong. In the US, the identity argument was used to promote yet another neoliberal who had nothing to offer the working class. The result was many people who had voted for Obama and who voted for Sanders in the primaries said, "Fuck that shit" and stayed home or voted for the only other option they had in our antiquated two-party system, Baron von Cheeto.

I gather you've run into people who think class-based politics excludes opposing racism and sexist. Reed talks about their Manichean views in the post I linked to above. The notion is bullshit. Among the things that neoliberal identitarians apparently cannot grasp is that a class-based approach disproportionately helps women, GLBTQ folk, and PoC because those communities are disproportionately poor. But an identity-first approach does fuck-all.

Well, actually, it doesn't do fuckall. It helps identitarian academics get jobs teaching identitarianism. But for the rest of us, the gap between rich and poor of all colors just continues to grow.

4:20 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

I'm focusing on US politics because that's what I know best, so apologies if you think our Democrats and our Republicans are both capitalist wankers who don't give a fuck about working folks. Most years, I agree with you. This year, Sanders was offering something different, and he shocked the neolibs with his popularity. He'd be president today based on the polls because he consistently cut deeply into Trump's base by focusing on economics, which Clinton generally ignored.

When Sanders was excluded by the anti-democratic Democrats thanks to closed primaries and the threat of superdelegates, we ended up with what we've got today, the least-liked candidate in US history barely beating the second-least-liked candidate in our history. There've been a lot of smart analyses of why people voted as they did. This, from SlateStarCodex, notes something that does not fit the identitarian narrative: "Trump made gains among blacks. He made big among Latinos. He made gains among Asians. The only major racial group where he didn’t get a gain of greater than 5% was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population."

4:29 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Same goes for "identity politics" like, say, if you're a recovering small town suicide-risk who gives a shit, and in order to help current small town suicide-risks, you have to identify as a Sodomite in order to record an It Gets Better video--one that would've spoken to you the way the bulk of happy-clappy Pollyanna ones would not. Being forthright and uncompromising about my Kinsey makes me part of that process over the last few decades whereby the stigma has gone in certain circles, but I'm taking no blame for the apparent inability of prissy moralists not to reduce existential ethics, at every turn, to bourgeois propriety. This is not my "identity politics". It's their lazy abrogation of ethical nous.

Insofar as I happily ID myself by the hatemail's coinage of "THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!" (sic) that's fuck all to do with my personal freedom. It's a matter of revoking the license historically assumed and exercised by other individuals to make life shit for folk like me, a license still assumed and exercised in a whole lot of places. Mostly it's a requisite step in the process of living as shaped by me giving a shit. I give a shit and so I make an IGB video. I give a shit so I write fiction and poetry of a similar thrust. If one queer kid doesn't kill himself because my scribblings helped them deal, that's like an AA sponsor helping someone stay on the wagon. Where socialism has a fuckload of battles to fight on behalf of a fuckload of abject groups, I've picked my battle on the basis of savvy and skills developed by experience, in the same way that an AA sponsor has. Anyone backseat driving my life with a lament about this being "identity politics" is, as I say, no different to me than if they applied "indigency politics" as regards my hypothetical counterpart. I might listen to them more patiently than a prissy moralist, but at the end of the day, my response is gonna be, "Nope. That's just wank, that is."

4:38 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

Who is saying anyone should not identify? Sanders identifies as a Jew. King identified as black. Adolph Reed identifies as black. In the 1930s, the Communist Party USA knew that defending the Scottsboro Boys would do nothing to advance communism, but it would help beat Jim Crow, so that's what they did. Martin Luther King was a democratic socialist who constantly spoke about poverty—that didn't stop him from working to end racism. (A King quote that liberals never repeat: "In the treatment of poverty nationally, one fact stands out: there are twice as many white poor as Negro poor in the United States. Therefore I will not dwell on the experiences of poverty that derive from racial discrimination, but will discuss the poverty that affects white and Negro alike.")

Our Republican Party has a wing of gay folks, the Log Cabin Republicans. To their credit, they defeated the idiotic Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy that the Democrats under Bill Clinton put in place which kept GLBTQ military people in the closet. Do you think queer Americans should vote for Republicans because of the Log Cabin Republicans? Do you think working women should've voted for Clinton in the primaries even though Sanders was an infinitely better candidate for working women? If your answer is yes, you believe in identity politics. If your answer is no, you simply believe what damn near all of us believe, that you shouldn't hide who you believe you are.

5:18 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

From here it looked more like Sanders was fucked by the entrenched USian fear of anything even remotely resembling actual socialism. I saw a bit of gender war acrimony but it was less "Yay a woman!" (until she was up against Trump) more an increasing alienation re Sanders supporters being seen as tedious fucks in a typically SWM way. I didn't think either side came out of it at all well, tbh, but whatever: that read as essentially a side-issue to Democrats just being too chickenshit to step outside their comfort zone.

I could be projecting that comfort zone out of UK politics, tbf, the PLP being obsessed with Corbyn's unelectability, but I'd hazard Clinton being Wall Street's darling carried a bit more weight than her gender. I mean the Dems aren't progressive, just somewhat progress*ed* conservatives, and given a choice of corporate establishment political dynasty over actual socialism, I was surprised Sanders got as far as he did, tbh. Had identity politics been a real factor, I'm not sure why an analogous symbolic weight of Sanders being Jewish wouldn't be just as valid a nonsense to drive things his way. With both liable to be subject to prejudice too--anti-Semitism & misogyny--it looks to me like the real decider here was the Dems being a centre-right party mostly constituted of folk who shat themselves at everything Sanders stood for. The "first female president" stuff played more as smug complacency in the Machine working the same way as ever.

6:26 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I'd say your definition of "identity politics" as "voting for X b/c you're X" is a narrow definition that's not the way the term is being bandied about now. It's clearly in use in different ways in different contexts, in no small part b/c yer average punter isn't reading airy academic discourse on the subject to treat it as a rigorous concept. The original post was actually kicked off by an assertion of three distinct meanings, increasingly broad and increasingly transparent as reactionary rejections of a particular subset of single-issue activisms: PoC; LGBT; feminist; suchlike.

6:42 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I'd say from the simple wikipedia definition, it's fairly transparent why this is so. There it's defined as "political positions based on the interests and perspectives of social groups with which people identify." There's no mention of voting there, not even a mention of party politics. A political position would include simply saying, "Torturing LGBT kids to try and make them straight is fucked the fuck up." Any activism against torture camps irrespective of governmental politics could be classed as identity politics by that definition. E.g. setting up a support group for survivors. Practically, such a thing needs a venue. If you're hiring it you need funds. If it's a public space, those who support torture camps are going to object. As you do the shit you have to do to get this support group running, all of that is identity politics by that definition. Which returns us to the original post.

7:10 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

You're right about Democrats but wrong about Americans—Sanders' socialism didn't hurt him, and it may be why he got some support from Republicans. There's an idiot meme being pushed by the Clinton camp that the polls were wrong, but the aggregate polls at sites like one that I followed, RealClearPolitics, were accurate: Clinton was always within the margin of error for losing except for a week or two of her post-nomination bump, while Sanders polled about 10 points better against Trump than she did throughout the year. Even at the point when the Democrats succeeded in stopping him, the polls of the general public said he was the much stronger candidate.

The reason the more popular candidate lost the nomination is Sanders was much more popular with America's largest group of voters, the independents. The Democratic establishment hated him, so they pushed him out of the way and actually promoted Trump because he seemed like the Republican Clinton could most easily beat. Their gamble almost worked, but our archaic Electoral College did her in. Had the Dems gone with Sanders, the quirks of the Electoral College wouldn't have mattered.

7:56 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

The whole "Bernie Bros" thing was a bullshit story driven by the Clinton camp, who spent a million dollars on a proect called Correct The Record, which paid people to go online and share the official talking point. They played a similar game when she ran in 2008, only then they talked about "Obama Boys", an especially tone-deaf epithet if you know anything about our racial history.

Sanders' Jewishness didn't get much play because Sanders Democrats aren't identitarians. But after he was out of the race, some of us began pointing out that it made as much sense to claim we were sexist as it did to claim the Clintonites were antisemitic.

Where the Clintonite narrative falls apart is when they blame racism for the reason people who voted twice for a black President and supported a Jew in the primaries did vote for the white status quo candidate and instead went with a white outsider who promised to do something about eight years of things getting better for our rich and worse for the rest of us.

Mind you, I have no illusions about Trump. But I can't blame working people who only had two choices under our system: stay home or vote for the other candidate. That's the only way our system lets us say, "Fuck that shit."

You're completely right that the Dems under the neoliberals are a center-right party. Some leftists here have started calling them the alt-center.

7:57 am  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

And yes, I did oversimplify how identitarianism works. It's not meant to turn people completely away from their inclinations; it's only meant to sway them. That's why the identitarian arguments were entirely made by the Clinton camp. Sanders feminists said they didn't care about her gender; they hated her politics, and Sanders antiracists said they were just fine with the Jew because he spent his life fighting for black folks.

Also, I don't mean that the average American has a clue what identitarianism is. They just know that Clinton was promising them the first female president while both Sanders and Trump were, in very different ways, promising them economic relief.

All that said, I agree that targeting any community is bullshit. That's why socialists regularly help people regardless of whether it'll promote socialism. Eleanor Marx wrote something I like in a short piece about the difference between socialist and bourgeois feminism: "There is no doubt that there is a women’s question. But for us – who gain the right to be counted among the working class either by birth or by working for the workers’ cause – this issue belongs to the general working-class movement. We can understand, sympathise, and also help if need be, when women of the upper or middle class fight for rights that are well-founded and whose achievement will benefit working-women also. I say, we can even help: has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?"

Well, if I've made any claims you'd like links for, say so. If not, thanks for the discussion. Catch you later!

7:58 am  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Actually, never mind the oversimplification; it sounds to me now like you're not really talking about "identity politics" at all, but rather about party politics, and a particularly ethically bankrupt tactic thereof, whereby the Clinton camp (i.e. a bunch of neoliberal party hacks, whether actively involved in the campaign or passively rallying to the grand cause of No Change) tried to exploit bourgeois propriety, the progressed conservatism that develops in society's adjustment to successful anti-abjection activism, as a smokescreen by which to appeal to self-interest.

Which: yes. But this is fuck all to do with the anti-abjection activism that term has come to signify.

That's to say, what I'm talking about is the political stances necessarily adopted by members of abject groups to fight their corner. What you're talking about is a subset of the stances adopted by members of the bourgeoisie in order to pander to particular demographics, said subset being limited by which particular demographics count, and by the integrity of the stance. I.e. a stance aimed to address the interests of battered women in need of shelter wouldn't count; a promise to repeal DADT would. The former is not a gesturally pseudo-feminist issue but a bona fide full socialist stance. The latter is a sop to LGBTs papering over the ethical bankruptcy of a party far more harmful to LGBTs in other ways. Largely, I'd argue it comes down to "What can we offer in line with the bourgeois propriety [established in the wake of anti-abjection activism] that will perform a pious lip-service support of X & thereby lure them to support us?" That tactic is functionally indistinguishable from the same tactic working with reactionary rather than progressed propriety and pandering to e.g. the Christian Right with stances on "religious freedom". Or opposition to gun control would be a classic example of this sort of pandering as a universal tactic. Where it targets PoC or LGBT or whatever, some of the panderers may be, or have been, members of the abject group, but they are by definition assimilated or assimilationist as bourgeoisie politickers. Many will just be party policy apparatchiks to whom the only question re gun control and DADT stances is "Is it expedient?" I can see why you might feel mercenary neoliberal tactics of appealing to particular abject groups as now expedient in light of progressed conservatism warrants isolation out as "identity politics" but it is not what I'm talking about, and I'd say the rhetorical charge of the term makes it an immense own goal if you're trying to thwart that tactic. You want to wise the abject up to how an anti-socialist establishment is trying to co-opt the ground won by the sodalities of anti-abjection activisms that constitute the struggle for full socialism, this term obfuscates who it is that's the agent here, what they're doing and why.

3:35 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

I could agree that I've been talking about the way parties use identitarianism as a tool to divide us, but identitarianism has other implications. Some people use identity to demand a favor along the lines of "Help a brother out" or to market something to imply that authenticity is more important than quality. The other uses don't concern me much because the ones I can think of now only have a personal effect.

But in politics, the first question is which identity is the true identity. Are women nutjob conservatives like Trump, neoliberals like Clinton, or democratic socialists like Sanders? Even if you only take representatives from within a community, are black people conservatives like Herman Cain, neoliberals like Obama and Ta-Nehisi Coates, pragmatic socialists like Adolph Reed, or uncompromising socialists like the writers at Black Agenda Report?

Identitarians tend to have shallow understandings of politics, so the appeal to identity is effective. A prominent bourgeois US feminist wrote an article claiming she was a socialist who believed in what Sanders stood for, but she was voting Clinton because of her identity. People like her don't know history so they don't know that most people lifted into power adopt the policies of the powerful, which includes shafting the rest of us.

Now, it's possible "identity politics" has a slightly different meaning in the UK. We are often separated by a common language, and I know your racists have tried to legitimize their racism by claiming it's identitarianism. I don't think our racists use the term. I picked it up from the writings of leftists like Adolph Reed and Walter Benn Michaels. If people like Vox Day have used it, I haven't noticed it.

To end this with a reference to our genre, Vonnegut nailed identitarianism long ago. It's a belief in the importance of granfalloons.

4:18 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

What that term has come to mean, in contrast to this particular targeting of stances, is I'd argue not the stances adopted to win over the abject but the stances adopted by the abject themself--again necessarily adopted to fight their own corner but crucially often as part of the larger struggle for full socialism, down to including support actions for other abject groups.

C.f. the LGSM giving support to the striking miners being victimised by Thatcher, recognising in their impoverishment and criminalisation by Thatcher's action and Murdoch's agitprop the perennial abjection of the working class. I.e. The "identity politics" that drove those queer activists to be queer activists demonstrably by that instance need not be insular, but can (and did there) drive a recognition of the need for a sodality of the abject in general & a recognition of a potential action toward that.

The original pre-LGSM activist group (I can't remember the name) focused wholly on queer interests absolutely fits the bill of that wikipedia definition, and that's absolutely now the sort of activism being lumped together as "identity politics" outside the narrower field of Leftist discourse in which perhaps your definition is still viable. Like it or not, for the layman overhearing the Leftist (and Rightist) discourse in the wake of the election, "identity politics" signifies not party political pandering, but the politics of anti-abjection in general, as practised by the abject and as perverted into bourgeois propriety, progressed conservatism. It's indistinguishable from the rhetoric of PC and SJW--the emblematisation of this whole struggle by the bourgeois moralistic ritualisation thereof. Like those terms, as it's used to challenge the neoliberal co-option, it catastrophically becomes a rhetorical tool for the Right to delegitimise the actual anti-abjection activism it refuses to distinguish.

The pre-LGSM would now, I guarantee you, be dismissed as identity politics by many. Even at the point where an LGSM came into existence & were active, fighting in the corner of an embattled corner of the working class, the charge of identity politics would be leveled at the original group if it remained in action, also fighting its own corner. As it would at all other such groups fighting their own corners. Disregarding the necessity for any individual to pick their battle and the reality of many fighting on multiple fronts b/c they are in fact doing so in the aim of full socialism, the label becomes a way to spin that as selfish factionalism. So, if a Leftist tries to use it to thwart the neoliberal panderings, it backfires. Talk of pandering and party politicking and expediences, even bourgeois propriety and you might get somewhere. Drop that term on an anti-abjection activist out for full socialism, hit them with all the baggage it now carries rhetorically delegitimising their activism, and it functions simply as a Rightist attack. It denies their full socialism like a dismissal of that AA sponsor, casting them as not part of the broader struggle to deal with all social issues by derogating the front they're fighting as "indigency politics".

4:23 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I'd say it's less a US/UK divide in meaning, more a matter of fundamentally academic discourse of the Left versus the meaning it takes on in popular dissemination. "Identitarianism" lacks the (co-opted) rhetorical power, I'd note. It's to obscure and so jargonistic that anyone hearing it would have to look it up. The problem w/ "identity politics" is that the layman can instantly attach a meaning to it and does--and has. Unfortunately, it's not the meaning that's preferable. It's just "that's when Those People get all strident and uppity about their Special Issues."

4:41 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

LGSM's name is explicitly anti-identitarian. It's not Lesbians and Gays Support Lesbian and Gay Miners or even Lesbians and Gays Support Miners Who Identify As Allies. It's about allyship in the original sense of the word, people with different beliefs and identities who share a common goal.

I agree "identitarianism" is an academic word. That's why academic racists have tried to claim it. But it's useful for discussing the way a self-proclaimed socialist like Sady Doyle will support someone she believes to be of her identity rather than someone who, as she has explicitly stated, has her politics.

Since your focus here seems to be on queer folk, do you think conservative queers are traitors to their identity? I would argue that they're just loyal to their class.

4:56 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

The mention of "granfalloons" is actually a good example of how the particularities of anti-abjection activism are denied. Just being a Sodomite, this say, doesn't align me with all other LGBT people: that's a granfalloon. But that's bollocks when we get down to the nitty gritty of making an IGB video specifically targeted at present-day kids in exactly the same sort of situation I was in as a teen--stuck in a small town, in a housing scheme roughly analogous with the US "projects", dealing with the ugliest flavours of masculinity by which the working class are kept in check w/ homophobia and anti-intellectualism. Making that vid, I was going in with an "identity" that's very much multi-dimensional, as driven by the dimension of class as by the dimension of sexuality. Those working class queer kids are absolutely in the karass territory for me, as much as the alcoholics are for an AA sponsor. To speak to them, to try and help them by this route necessarily ends up in something that could be reductively painted as merely an expression of "identity" in one dimension. To do so though is actually to impose that bollocks on me, to refuse to acknowledge the reality of how I identify and how that factors into the picking of my battles in the larger cause, to refuse to see the element of class struggle, deny me any identity other than gay. Which... fuck that shit.

5:14 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

Conservative queers is an oxymoron, I'd say. Queer is inherently excluded from & in opposition to the normative. If they're assimilated/assimilationist, they're gay. I mean, they can claim the "queer" label, I guess--I can't stop them--but it's a bullshit recuperation of the reclaimation.

I see nothing mutually exclusive about them being traitors to the sodality of that specific abject--traitors to the broader sodality of all abjects indeed (within which I include the working class)--while also being loyal to their class. I don't see it in terms of betraying personal identity but rather in terms of abject groups and the full socialist imperative of sodality.

5:24 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

And I'd note: yes, LGSM is explicitly anti-identitarian, but it's explicitly hinging its allyship on identification as member of an abject group. And it is historically a direct product of the politics of the time and place crystallised around one dimension of identity. The key point is that membership of such a sodality does not preclude activism outside that sodality on another front, nor indeed the activism of that sodality itself concertedly directing itself collectively to another front.

5:36 pm  
Blogger Hal Duncan said...

I'd also note that IIRC that action by the LGSM was trigger for the participation of the miners in the Pride March in London a year or two later, arguably a previously class-based "identitarianism" becoming then reciprocally "anti-identitarian". Scare quotes b/c really I don't think either activisms are really best described in these 21st century terms. Rather, one sodality recognised a greater sodality born of socialist principles; the other, rooted in a culture historically undermined by being hoodwinked into abjection of the queers, woke the fuck up because of this and engaged itself more fully in the socialist cause. The latter was a profound step forward for LGBTs but it was as much a significant step in the liberation of the working classes from protocols of acceptable masculinity that fuck them over.

5:52 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:59 pm  
Blogger Will Shetterly said...

You may've pointed to the problem with identitarianism when you note that identity is multidimensional. A concept coined in the US should acknowledge that: intersectionality. But it was coined by a bourgeois black woman at Harvard who was only concerned with the intersection of two identities, race and gender. Since then, left identitarians have tried to work class into their understanding, but class in the US is not a social identity: the poor do not want respect; they want to stop being poor.

We agree that people band together in the face of oppression. That's self-interest, not identity politics, as one of the most famous oppressed social group of the 20th century illustrates: after the Holocaust, two groups of survivors went to Israel. The identitarians believed the struggle is Jews versus goys, and therefore driving the Palestinians from their land and subjugating those in the occupied territories is right. The others, who I'll call the universalists for lack of a better name, believed everyone should be treated well, regardless of their identity.

I also agree the friendship between LGSM and miners came because they worked together. That happened with union struggles: groups realized they had more in common with their fellow oppressed than with their oppressors, even when the oppressors were part of their social identity.

I suspect we can drop this now because I completely agree with your paragraph beginning "And I'd note".

Whenever I post a comment here, I'm a bit amused that the last thing I have to do is obey Blogger's command to choose an identity.

8:01 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home