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11

md_ wrote

I won't question why a person self-described as an "Entrepreneur" (see bio and the end of the post) wants to chastise the New Left for becoming the worst kind of reformist.

Honestly, I have no idea what turn Identity Politics took in the US, and if they are so out of control like the two most recent posts here argue they are. So I won't comment about the US. Where I am politically active in, Identity Politics are "reformist" or "begging the state" only insofar as we demand abolition of restrictive laws (eg recently abortions were decrimisalised), and we oppose naive "protective" laws like "hate speech legislation" that give new powers to the state. And both can be done without participating in the electoral process.

So, whatever is the problem with Identity Politics in the US, I remain, as of this time, unconvinced that it's an inherent problem with Identity Politics.


Anecdote time:

The toxic rancor of racism was found in our own ranks, by God!

Several years ago, when a lesbian comrade in an internal self-evaluating assembly spoke up about the nasty comments relating to her sexuality she's been hearing inside the affinity group we were both participating at the time, of course she was dismissed, and one other former comrade (former, because he has now turned into autonomist-nationalism) was so adamant that

a) there's no homophobia within our ranks, how could there be, we are anarchists!

b) even if there are traces of homophobia within our ranks despite us being anarchists, that's because the society is much more homophobic and it influences us, so instead of accusing your comrades of homophobic behaviour, focus on the society's homophobia

Now, while it's true that it's society's homophobia influencing us, I don't know why this guy expected her to feel comfortable being active in that group and working against societal homophobia, while she was receiving homophobic treatment within the group. I think that was too much to ask from her.

Pardon me then, but I think this Evan Stern pretty much makes the same argument: there's so much racism out there in the society that we should oppose, so why are you focusing on individual comardes' racist behaviour?

Well, why should I accept all the racist behaviour of my comrades and "suck it up" because we have a society to change first? And how can we change the world if we refuse to even sit down and think about our blindspots? Remember "kill the cop in your head" from Anarchy 101? Unless you do that, you will end up reproducing hierarchy and authoritarianism, without even realising you are doing this.


PS: I will agree with the unpenetrable jargon though. Often it's comparable to Das Kapital in terms of undecipherability. I think that writing workshops could be a meaningful addition to the anarchist self-education curriculum.

PS2: I should point out that I think that Identity Politics are necessary, but they are definitely not sufficient. There's a lot they can't capture, and they need to be supplemented with other frameworks. But same goes for class-based or individualist analyses. They can't capture what Identity Politics can.

-6

anarchist_critic wrote

I don't know if the homophobia your friend suffered was real homophobia or idpol "homophobia", but we aren't going to get far with anything if we only work with people who are 100% pure and unaffected by social prejudices. If you've got a choice between drinking highly poisoned water, mildly poisoned water, or dying of thirst, I think most of us would drink the mildly poisoned water. And if we're anti-pollution activists then we'd focus on the highly poisoned water first, especially if it's less controversial and easier to solve.

internal self-evaluating assembly

Yeah, that's part of what's wrong with idpol. "Kill the cop in your head" means rejecting people telling you what to do. Anarchist politics stems from the id, not the superego. There's no point in getting rid of cops in your head if your comrades are acting as freelance cops instead.

racist behaviour

Again there's a huge difference between real racism and idpol "racism". I'm not saying you should put up with sieg-heiling neo-Nazis or people regularly spouting outright slurs or telling you to go back to wherever. But white people doing what they feel like, without overt prejudice but without "checking their privilege", is not racism. You may think it reflects racist structures or is structurally racist but your friends/comrades aren't responsible for macrosocial structures they don't control - if it's not individual racism then it's not their fault. "Behaviour" does not exist, it's an illusory construct of bourgeois psychology. What really exists are desires, affects, existential projects, and meaningful actions based on desires, affects and existential projects (and also blockages of affect and complex knots which result from these). Working with other human beings is difficult. They think differently, desire different things, have different assumptions and resonances. To work with other human beings means to make a lot of allowances, to coexist with a lot of differences. This can be reduced somewhat by only working with people with whom we have high levels of affinity, but even then, social life involves dealing with difference (for everyone, not just the "privileged"). We need to get a lot better at tolerating each other and resolving differences non-conflictually, the current norm of demanding total compliance with each person's own agenda based on group identity-claims is a recipe for the collapse of all meaningful relationships, as we're seeing in practice. Social life works better when we don't make demands on ourselves and one another to avoid all kinds of unintended offence and complicity and indirect harm, and instead relate to each other through affinity and common struggles, and direct our anger outwards instead of taking it out on one another.

Also there are a lot of options besides either tolerating or purging/quitting. Argue with them, challenge them gently, use NVC-style arguments, reason with them, ask them why they think that, make fun of them, retaliate in kind and turn it into a competition. I've used some of these strategies a lot and they're far more effective than zero-tolerance.

2

md_ wrote (edited )

but we aren't going to get far with anything if we only work with people who are 100% pure and unaffected by social prejudices

Um, who said that's the goal? Telling your comrades not to make racist comments is not the same as giving them a purity test before you start working together.

Unless of course you mean that they should never be called out for racist behaviour.

Yeah, that's part of what's wrong with idpol.

Internal evaluation assemblies are not an "idpol" thing. It's where anarchist organisations evaluate their actions, output, and state of the group in the year that ended, and plan for the next year.

Unless you are a hardcore individualist, that's not policing.

Also there are a lot of options besides either tolerating or purging/quitting. Argue with them, challenge them gently, use NVC-style arguments, reason with them, ask them why they think that, make fun of them, retaliate in kind and turn it into a competition. I've used some of these strategies a lot and they're far more effective than zero-tolerance.

But that's what happens - you point out a problem, you take it up to your self as the target of the racist or homophobic comment to explain at length why it was such, and you are beholden to the rest of the group to understand and work towards changing. Honestly, the balance of power is tipped the entire other way than you are making it to look like.

God, either you participate in a really badly functioning organisation (especially if you think making fun of your comrades is a communication strategy), or you are making shit up.

Even assuming that those things in the article and in your comments are real events and not just the perception of normal social interactions by someone who apparently wants to draw swastikas but be welcome in anarchist circles (wtf!?), then you still haven't shown that those are inherent to Identity Politics.

-1

anarchist_critic wrote

but that's what happens

That's maybe what happened ten years ago before idpol took root. These days it's instant accusation, "I don't have to tell you why it's racist because muh experience muh privilege", humiliating displays of apologetics or else you're out.

and you are beholden to the rest of the group to understand and work towards changing

Only if they convince you that it actually is racist (or whatever). Submitting to other people's perceptions has never been part of anarchism.

especially if you think making fun of your comrades is a communication strategy

Hell, you must live a really boring straight-laced life. Humour is often effective in taking the sting out of potentially hurtful situations. Most people are put on the defensive a lot less by someone showing through humour that what they just said is silly or inconsistent with their beliefs than by being confronted about it. Anyway part of being a close friend is being able to take the piss out of each other and not get offended.

someone who apparently wants to draw swastikas but be welcome in anarchist circles (wtf!?)

I haven't seen the artwork in question, but I can list a large number of cases where drawing a swastika is anarchist:

  1. you're drawing artwork of a clash between fascists and antifa and you put swastikas on the fascists
  2. you're drawing parodies of fascists
  3. you're drawing serious artwork about historical fascism
  4. you're drawing anti-police graphics and you put swastikas on the badges or riot shields
  5. you're attacking capitalism so you draw a swastika composed of corporate logos
  6. you're drawing a futuristic sci-fi dystopia with fascist features
  7. you're drawing a world where all political groups have their own communities, there's a fascist group and they have a swastika
  8. you're drawing artwork about ahimsa or Iranian culture or native Panamanians who use non-Nazi swastikas
  9. you're making abstract images free association style, drawing random images and one of them comes out as a swastika
  10. you're making a collage of all the most offensive images you can find

I don't see why any of these would mean you're a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser or any less anarchist than anyone else.

Hell, even if you're drawing a crossed-out swastika or a swastika being smashed, you're gonna have to draw a swastika.

If anyone who draws a swastika is a Nazi then anyone who draws a circle-A is an anarchist and this means every company which has put a circle-A on one of their edgy products is anarchist. It also means that anyone who wears a headdress or a mohican is Native American. That's how ridiculous your argument is.

1

jadedctrl wrote

There's no point in getting rid of cops in your head if your comrades are acting as freelance cops instead.

Saying that if external forces nudge you in the right direction “there's no point in getting rid of cops in your head” is really disingenuous. It takes concentrated effort through external stimuli to get rid of them, period. It can be books, videos, or mates (which you call “acting as freelance cops”), whatever. That's the only way it happens. Don't pretend you just woke up enlightened one morning.