Against Equality

by stavvers on September 4, 2013

Originally published here

I am sick of bigots standing in the way of liberation struggles. Whether feminism, anti-racism, advocacy for people with disabilities, queer rights, trans rights and so on, they smirk and they go “Personally, I believe in treating everyone equally, so no special treatment for you”. It’s bullshit, and anyone with a semi-formed analysis can see straight through that nonsense.

They whine and they moan when people demand to be treated like fucking human beings, eliding the fact that oppression exists by pretending that they’re that much of a shit to everyone. And maybe, just maybe, they are that much of a shit to everyone. It doesn’t stop the fact that their behaviour hits some people harder than others, a fact which has never occurred to them, as in their feeble blinkered outlook it’s impossible to understand what it’s like to be anyone else that isn’t a bellowing turd.

I’m sick of hearing about equality from governments, a bunch of self-nominated gatekeepers with no clue whatsoever of what the word actually means. They scrawl something down on a piece of paper and decry any responsibility when it turns out that people are actually shit. The same goes for any organisation with an equality policy. You say the words, and expect them to  become true. This might work in some kinds of magics: the true name of the demon is not “equal opportunities” and no matter how many times you say it, it isn’t going to be banished.

But most of all, I am absolutely fucking sick of activists banging on about equality. It betrays a devastating lack of imagination. From marriage equality to demanding better representation in boardrooms, all that is being requested is to maintain the power structures which bind us, while allowing a few more individuals to become masters.

So what if 50% of women become MPs? The system is still thoroughly broken. We still have gatekeepers, we still have masters. So what if queer people can serve in the military? We still find ourselves in a position wherein arbitrary groups are murdering each other based on an argument between some rich people in a faraway room are having. So what if people from marginalised groups get to be the CEOs? The most of us still toil, alienated from the fruits of our labour while those at the top become ever more powerful.

Fuck equality. I don’t want to be equal to people as utterly fucked as me. I want to be free. I want for us all to be free. I want us to be free from these structures which clip our wings, causing us to live hand to mouth, constraining the way we live and love, scapegoating those who are even more fucked. I want us to be free from being represented, and representing anyone else. I want us to be free to be: to exist in the way we want to without hate, without fear.

I want to be able to want, and to get.

I wonder, sometimes, what it is that people who beg for equality actually want. Do they think it some sort of transitional demand, with liberation as the actual goal? If so, they should know by now that going with cap in hand and begging something small only gets you something smaller. Or are they largely happy with the way things are, comfortable in their privilege if only one or two small tweaks were made? If so, they are complicit.

Either way, I am exasperated by this talk of equality. Don’t ask for equality. Demand liberation. Those who benefit will think us unreasonable, because they are happy profiting from our suffering. And that doesn’t matter a bit. They’ll never give us what we need, no matter how nicely we ask. Grind the fucking master’s house to dust.

Have we really declined so much that self-appointed leaders will settle for scraps and declare victory? We cannot allow this. Let us liberate ourselves from our attachment to equality.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson September 4, 2013 at 1:48 pm

The more democratic rights we win, including equality, the clearer it become to all that our core problem is not the lack of rights, but capitalism. (Not original with me, it’s somewhere in Lenin, and quite wise, standing the test of time)

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Ravi September 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm

The fight for equality is an important one for any progressive minded person. To demand equality on some issues is to tackle the discriminatory laws enforced by the state. So immigration controls are an obviously contentious issue because despite the fact that they enforce the second class status of whole swathes of the population, very few advocates of equality will draw out the full implication of their commitment by arguing for open borders.

Some issues are confused as being about quality so disability rights, rather than demanding the removal of discriminatory practices by the state is really a demand for greater resources by the state so they can participate to same degree as those without disability. That is a worthwhile thing to argue for but should not be confused with oppression the political denial of someone’s right to be treated equally.

And while liberation is what we aim for it is too unmediated to connect with the way most people look at the world. It is a very old argument on minimal – maximal goals and how to transition between them. The fight for equality while ultimately can be contained within the existing system does prepare working class people not to accept any division in their ranks when confronting employers and the state. That is why it should not be counter posed to liberation. A class of workers divided along sexual, racial or sexual orientation lines is far easier to contain than one that has overcome those divisions. We don’t overcome those divisions by ignoring the fight for equality.

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C. Derick Varn September 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

“From each according to their ability, to each according to the their needs” is the guiding premise, and despite all the “progressive-minded” talk about equality, the point is that society should be designed in a way in which inequality and difference are irrelevant. When people talk about equality here, they are talking about formal equality before the law. Abstract equality. If they are not talking about that, I have no idea what they mean because all other concepts of equality that are not about formal bourgeois equality, then I do not know what they mean.

This is not to say that economic inequality or marriage inequality is a good thing, it is that the goal of even a socialist society is “from each according to their ability, to each according to the needs” not an exact division of the surplus labor value, or just formal equality before the law which is a mere idea, but to move beyond need to even talk about equality or its lack at all.

Stavvers, in her more blunt language, is just echoing that point of “The Critique of the Gotha Program.” It is a big and very practical point too, actually. Liberation based on unclear and contradictory ideas often seem to have really unclear outcomes.

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J.B. September 4, 2013 at 9:19 pm

You could turn all this around and say “even if we overthrow capitalism, homosexuals will still be harassed” or “you can have a non-capitalist society that is still patriarchal.” I’m not sure it’s useful to set these goals against each other. Yes, we want to end capitalism, but we also want what comes next to include the end of patriarchy, the end of homophobia, the end of racism and the end of coercive state structures. If some people want to focus on winning these battles now under capitalism, then these are fights that will not have to be fought within a post-capitalist society. Progress is a good thing.

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sdarcy September 5, 2013 at 7:03 pm

Just to add a marxological point the discussion: When Marx says, ‘from each according to ability; to each according to need,’ he is making a point in favour of equality. If (to use one of his examples) one person has two dependents, and another person has none, then giving the same resources to both is a way of disadvantaging the person whose family has greater need. In so doing, we treat them unequally by treating them ‘the same.’ Differences of need or ability have to be offset by differentiated access to resources and different expectations about types and degrees of compensation, or else inequality will result, he claims.

It’s true, though, that Marx expresses the point in a potentially confusing way, because he deploys the concept of equality in two different ways (sameness; and egalitarian remediation to compensate for differences of need or ability).

So — although this is, to repeat, a marxological point, not a substantive one — Marx was personally, and as a thinker, less committed to “liberation” (“I want to be able to want, and to get”) than to communist “equality” (“from each according to ability; to each according to need”).

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C. Derick Varn September 6, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Actually, to make an counter-Marxological point, Marx is making a pretty clear claim that human equality is not even conceivable in the current capitalist except in the formal, already existing sense. That is clear from the critique of the Gotha program. Liberation and equality, the way they are used in a liberal sense, really are not either helpful for this point. Liberation is liberation from human need and social alienation, not the freedom to do whatever in the vulgar libertarian sense. We agree on that. What we seem to disagree on is if battling for liberal equality in actually at that meaningful to making equality irrelevant or “communist equality” (I think we are essentially describing very similar things so to get hung up on that is sort of off point). The problem is that communist equality and liberal equality have been conflated in the minds of many socialists–they were in LaSalles time and they are still now. We must insist that there is a difference.

Maximal program, minimal program, reform, or no… there is a fundamental difference even if I grant your definition of equality… it is not legal, formal equality before the law, nor is it treating everyone equally. Those notions start to collapse in on themselves from dialectical contradictions that do not get resolved.

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sdarcy September 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm

At the end of my first paragraph, I meant, “types and degrees of contribution,” not “of compensation.”

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Todd September 6, 2013 at 12:38 am

“Fuck equality.”

Yah! Fuck equality! Equality of rights, equality of pay, equality of the right to vote, equality to marry whoever you damn-well please; fuck all that garbage in the face of a Maximalist Demand for Utter Freedom Now!

So was this just frustration and blowing steam on your part, Stavvers, or are you seriously going to say “Fuck your equality!” to a gay couple who just want to get married without having to travel somewhere else to get it done or a black family that wants to exercise the right to buy or rent a house wherever they want without some assholes muttering about property values?

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Carl Davidson September 7, 2013 at 12:13 pm

Well, let see. I’m old enough to recall when the ‘Wants Ads’ for jobs in the daily papers were in four sections: Help wanted, while male, Negro male, white women and Negro women. If equality, including equality before the law, is so trivial, anyone want to go back there?

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John Gulick September 12, 2013 at 6:26 am

It’s not either/or. Advocate for and fight for legal equality when making demands on the bourgeois state, and in communities and organizations that you own and control, institute positive liberty with corresponding entitlements and obligations. Walk and chew gum in the dual power world

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