Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

I identify with post leftism, but not the post left take on "identity politics"?

+6 votes
I identify with almost every aspect of post leftist anarchism, but I am really wary of the post left take on identity politics. In regards to identity politics I don't think that all people who share an identifier have the same experiences or can be assumed to hold the same stance on certain things, but I feel that things like race, class, queerness, disability, and etc are related to very important lived experiences and oppression that shouldn't be ignored?? I don't believe that social justice is an attempt to silence unpopular opinions from white dudes or whatever. Not quite sure if I'm making sense. Are there any folks that are involved with social justice and are also post leftists that might be able to offer some advice or clarification or alternatives??
asked Aug 31, 2014 by anonymous
funky@, i'd like to make it a third nodding of the head regarding your reply to rs666. it really hit home for me.

AF, i can relate to your experience(s) as well. i plan to keep your observations in mind when the 'positive thinking'/"why can't you just go along with...?" mantras get thrown at me next time. i want to develop a peaceful, yet direct way to approach it...because many times that kind of thing happens with family, and it feels like i relive the same experience...not really wanting to rock the boat while simultaneously feeling ready to blow...i want a different way of reacting that can hopefully deepen the dialogue.
i try to avoid mantras like that in general, because if im unhappy about something those mantras just make me really pissed off. As insidious as it sounds, when i engage in conversations with people i generally try to control the content of discussion for practical reason,  im only willing to get into small talk to a certain extent....

ive used anarchist critique to make conversations a lot more practical, and i generally try to shut down and negate dumb generalizations people make about men, women, children, teenages, ect., because they are always self-serving narratives. But when i say "shut down and negate" i don't mean yelling at them, i mean forcing people to question whether the stupid things they said was actually true, questioning their assumptions in a way they can't argue with it. It's really tricky and i've been practicing this now for a few years
good stuff, rs666.

i agree it takes a lot of practice (and probably a sense of playfulness and patience) to interrupt thought patterns like that. i plan to keep working on it. thanks for a bit of inspiration.
as i've chewed on this a bit more, i would say the catharsis wasn't so much the realization that people silence one another in such subtle ways, but both the release of some, and the potential of releasing more and deeper, (unwittingly) internalized effects of that silencing and the expectations upon which such silencing is grounded.
the inspiration runs both ways, and my ultimate goal is to create those same feelings of inspiration that i felt in reading anarchist writings for other people, im glad that this is a forum where "post-leftism" and stirnerist ideas are dominant

with a lot of effort, anarchism will become a very beautiful revolutionary underground

1 Answer

+6 votes
This is something I've had trouble with myself. Here are a couple of things I've thought about in recent times:

Identity politics is forever stuck in a loop of acknowledgement. In the 60s you can see that a big issue was to get white people to ACKNOWLEDGE that this thing called 'white privilege' exists. Identity politics now does not attempt to go further than that, but still 'grows' in its own dimension. For example, with the uprising in Ferguson you see social justice warriors on tumblr whining about 'white anarchists fetishizing riots.' Rather than look at uprisings as potential to fight against these terrible systems of oppression that you mention, the ideological tool that is identity politics just gives them a difficult-to-argue, intellectually lazy means to express their liberal politics. Since the internet is so big, this never has to end. There will ALWAYS be 'fucked up' people to feel self-righteous against.

The 'post-left' people I encounter still try to be aware of the way society privileges them, don't get me wrong. But to focus on it and fetishize it ultimately implies that one doesn't want to get rid of the shitty oppressive system, one just wants everyone to acknowledge that it exists.


Also: you may be critical of the 'one big identity' phenomenon, which is good. But identity politics yields to that type of thinking all the time. The "Ally" phenomenon is a good example of that. Realizing that one is privileged and therefore can't possibly understand anything about the experiences of one not privileged, said people work to be their 'allies:' meaning to support the cause uncritically.

This one, to me, is more insidious and intentionally terrible. Resistance and opposition always has a dominant narrative, usually institutionalized by an opposing party, non-profits, or NGO's. If one is to be an 'ally' to 'women' for example, one is basically uncritically adopting whatever popular narrative exists in those circles. If, in this case there are women who disagree with these institutionalized narratives, they are considered 'not feminists' or something like that. Rather than try to be 'ally' to a totally diverse range of perspectives (some of which are totally enemies to each other), it makes sense to work with people who you feel some kind of affinity with. Identity politics, I feel, inherently leads to this kind of thinking. One has to think hard about it to break free from it.
answered Sep 1, 2014 by flip (4,790 points)
yea, absolutely what flip said.
the question isn't whether racism, etc *exist* (to deny that would be insane), but rather whose will do we follow in reacting to it?  
http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/dot-matrix-on-the-road-with-cws
in this article i tried to point out that CWS, while a valiant effort in formalizing consciousness raising for white people around racism, also formalized a white guilt approach, one in which the attendees were encouraged NOT to trust themselves. i find this approach deeply flawed and inherently christian (harsher words i cannot say! ;) ).
(CWS is not so present anymore, but in the bay area at least its impact continues...)

as i have said in different ways many times in the past, to me the tragedy/farce of the question is that the options are to accept the identity politicians, or to ignore racism/sexism/etc.
surely we can come up with something better than either of those non-starters?!?
Is The Catalyst Project related to CSW, or rather did it branch off it?

Which ajoda was that in (great article by the way dot! I read it years ago)?
yes, the CP (lol) was started by CWS members who were a) taking over the CWS project from the lone woman who had been running it up til then (and who started it), and b) broaden the reach of the project (which was directly antithetical to the vision of the founder, who said in my hearing that bringing other issues -- like feminism -- into a discussion about racism was a distraction and an example of avoiding the harsh truth of racism. (which of course, could be true! but is pretty brutal as a blanket statement.)
re ajoda: thanks! i don't remember which issue. around 58?
dot- i like how you broke that up into small paragraphs, making sure that each CWS organizer couldn't argue with it
...