against 'entrenched identities'

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Tue Jun 23 05:26:27 PDT 1998


Your defense of identity politics, and attack on its critics, turns on a confusion. You argue that since capitalism other oppressions create identities of certain sorts, it's just no different from premature conservative (genuine conservative, not "left conservative") assertions of color blindness to attack a politics based on and oerganized around these identities. This is absurd, as can be seen from the following _very close_ (though not perfect) analogy: capitalism and other oppressions create racism, so it would be wrong to oppose racist organization (white identity politics).

Now obviously I am not equating white racism, etc. with women's, Black, etc. identity politics. My point is a logical one, that it does not follow from the fact that X is created by capitalism and such that X is a valid and respectable form of political activity within it. Capitalsim, white supremacy and patriarchy do create and constitute as identities their subordinate groups, but organizing resistance around those identities is not necessarily the best or smartest strategy.

I think taht what is called for is a dialectical approach, as it were. We have to respect both the paerticularity of particular oppressed groups and the need for universality, for making a new identity that stresses the commonality of those oppressed by the interlocking oppressions of bourgeious society. This has to be more than a coalition of groups taht jealously guard their own identities. It has to be real solidarity, a sense taht these groups constitute in a sense _one group_. Otherwise it is too easy to play divide and conquer.

Contrary to what you say, I have never met, in real life, anyone on the left who believes that the struggles of women, Blacks, gays, etc. are seconday, mere diversions from the main class struggle, things that can be put off until "after the revolution." I don't even believe anyone on this list believes anything of the sort.

Btw, Yoshie, the books are ready and out for purchase at my house. Come before Friday and you can get an early shot at them. Bring your own boxes.


On Tue, 23 Jun 1998, Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:

> In my conception of communism, there won't be any such things as whiteness,
> maleness, heterosexuality, etc., nor will there be 'identities' that have
> been subordinated to the above, _after_ the successful abolition of
> capitalism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc., for there won't be any
> social relations and ideology that would give rise to either.
> 'Identities' are social facts that have been historically constituted by
> structures of oppression, and as long as oppressive social relations and
> ideologies remain in place, there will be 'identities,' whether we like it
> or not. Abolishing 'identities' requires abolishing the structures that
> have created _both_ dominant and subordinated 'identities.' Arguing against
> 'identity politics' without recognizing this fact is similar to the use of
> the rhetoric of 'color-blindness' by conservatives who hate affirmative
> action.
> Yoshie

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