From the Vampire Castle to Duck Dynasty: The Ideals of Identity Politics and How it Functions

by Michael Rectenwald on December 22, 2013

As if a vindication of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, about a year ago, the Guardian ran a story about a photography exhibition that aimed to demonstrate that a practice supposedly as “neutral” as photography could be intrinsically racist. For those who’ve read any theories of photography, from Roland Barthes on, the notion of photography’s naïve realism as constructed and problematic is hardly surprising. But the exhibit explored in particular a Polaroid film used in the 1970s and intended for apartheid South Africa. The article made a strong case for the exhibit’s claim that the limited light range of Polaroid’s film rendered black persons invisible, who happened to be in front of the camera’s lens, and thus that the film and its producer, as well as all the photographers who used it, were implicated as supporters of South African apartheid. Such historical archaeologies as this are extremely important for making visible oppression that has been occluded by practices that supposedly hinge on vision itself, but which nevertheless rest precisely on intentional blindness. Any politics premised on a repudiation of such findings, or that devolves from the reproduction of such blindnesses, is deeply flawed, and necessarily, and fortunately, fails.

Yet this photographic white washing of history struck me as significant not only for what it suggested about the erasure of blackness in history, but also, perhaps counter-intuitively, for its implications regarding class in capitalist social relations, and its mediated (mis)representations. For what captures the status of “class” in capitalist societies more aptly than the optics of invisibility? And what is rendered more invisible than class in a society that does everything imaginable to make visible everything else? As Red Hughes pithily put it in a post on a Facebook:

The conscious activity of the ruling class, as well as the “unconscious” economic processes of capitalist relations, produces a group of people whose labor power is exploited by this society. This society’s defense mechanisms naturally work to conceal any unified interests of this group, by concealing its overall existence, by dividing it into subgroups, and by emphasizing the supposed common interests these subgroups would have with non-exploited groups.

What strikes me as important about this passage is not only its emphasis on the invisibility of class, but moreover, its allusion to the optics that produces this invisibility. What renders class reality invisible, in part, includes the division of working-class persons into subgroups that actually share an underlying class commonality, and the “common interests” that such subgroups supposedly share with those outside of their class. That is, the statement points to the ways in which identities — identities no doubt potentially important for and constitutive of a revolutionary political body — can nevertheless be mobilized to obscure an otherwise visible category, rendering it virtually non-existent by the operations of visibility itself.

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A recent article on North Star by “Red Maistre” argues that the differences produced by capitalist relations should be regarded as generative of revolutionary politics:

The world [that] may have presented itself as one more or less happy whole of essentially identical people now begins to tell multiple tales of tragedy, struggle, and occasional victory. And these stories, like the oppressions they wrestle with, are connected through history by the chains of necessity.

I have no objection to this point, which has been presented as antithetical to my take on identity politics. Ironically, in an article otherwise respectful of differences, Red Maistre ends up lumping me in a category of those who draw from the work of Friedrich Nietzsche to attack identity politics. While I am no stranger to the work of Nietzsche, the notion that my critique of the politics of identity might, by association I suppose, draw from the work of Nietzsche, is ludicrous. My criticism of identity politics has nothing to do with Nietzsche’s (or anyone else’s) problem with “ressentiment” or “slave morality.” Nor do I associate subaltern identity or even identity politics with either slave morality or ressentiment. If anything, my view might be said to be a critique of identity politics for falling short of the necessary negation, for not having strong enough politics of ressentiment or negation, and rather than breaking down oppression, serving instead to reify the categories against which oppression is levied. My argument more likely draws from and is analogous to that made by Marx in his argument with the Young Hegelians in The German Ideology. Rather than a battle against religion, Marx argued, we should be engaging in a battle against the conditions that make religions necessary. That is, rather than fighting against concepts that constrain or oppress the subject’s thinking, self-image, or identity, we should be fighting against the conditions that make such concepts or ideations possible or necessary. The capitalist system has enormous capacities for reconstitution and accommodation, one day favoring this, the next that identity, and also for serving up opponents mobilized against each other in a Hobbesian war.

However, contrary to what Red Maistre asserts in his piece, my argument is not against identities per se, which would be a ridiculous notion on its face. Under existing conditions, subaltern identities exist and to suggest that they simply go away is tantamount to blaming people for their own oppression. As Red Maistre points out it also suggests that subalterns as such cannot fully participate in social life. Of course, that this is the case is also part of the reason that identity politics exists in the first place.

But my argument is against a politics of identity en se, a politics of identity as an end of politics, rather than as a part of an ultimate politics to overcome capitalism. My critique of identity politics is not that identities themselves must be “liquidated” before class politics can proceed apace (although I do maintain that identity represents a one-sided aspect of human potentiality and that it, like the division of labor and the class itself, must eventually be negated and overcome). Rather, my argument is that, in the meanwhile, and as stopgaps in class politics, or out of despair for the class struggle against capitalism, identities can and have been used by a politics of identity to keep class politics from even registering on the horizon of political visibility. This is not the same as suggesting that identity is ultimately an insubstantial façade that must give way in the name of class. This is to say that identity politics, that which suggests that some necessary connection subsists between class, politics and identity, can and has been used as part of diversionary tactics away from an ultimate negation of commodity relations, the class, and subordinated categories of all kinds. Identity politics obscures a commonality within difference, and elevates identity difference to a political meaning that it does not deserve. To say this is not some simple “class reductionism.” It is to descry the relations and operations of identity in connection with class, not to boil down identity into class as such. Identity, it notes, is resistant to such class subsumption. If anything, it recognizes identity at a structural level, more so than does identity politics itself.

While easy, the case of Barack Obama should prove illustrative of the problems with identity politics, but not merely as a person of color who is also a member of the ruling class. Rather than mobilizing the class as a representative of an oppressed and super-exploited group within that class, as the Obama narrative suggested, Obama has served as a decoy of identity, a decoy that has been used precisely to divert change potentiality into a Democratic Party cul de sac and away from substantial politics. That is to say, identity and its rhetorics have been deployed as a substitute for a politics that grasps such identities as parts of a broader class oppression and exploitation. As in many other cases, in the case of Obama, identity politics has elevated identity to supremacy in political meaning, serving as a trompe-l’œil by suggesting that “race” has a necessary political meaning. But “race,” like other identities, has no necessary political meaning. It is thus a faulty gauge for the politics of identity group members.

More broadly speaking, in fact, as Jonathan Munis and I argued after the second election of Obama, in the United States,

the immediate producers have always been divided across the two-party system, and thus disunited and rendered virtually inert… The Obama coalition, as official media dubs it, has successfully maintained a vice-like grip on ethnic minority workers, as well as organized white workers. Meanwhile, the Republican Party continues to disorient unorganized white workers and rural populations more generally, on “cultural” and purported “privilege” grounds… Meanwhile, appeals in the opposite direction are made to professional and educated white liberals, who are flattered and ingratiated for their “progressive” identity politics by Obama and the Democrats, and are likewise encouraged to malign their natural class counterparts among the white working-class Republicans. This combination of self-flattery, ingratiation and denigration is precisely aimed at ruling out cross-party politics and results in the cultural and political isolation of white workers currently atomized and co-opted by rightist nostalgic [identity] politics. In short, together, the Democrats and Republicans have engineered a remarkable division of the working class along the lines of identity politics, which is a relative evil for precisely this reason. (emphasis added)

That identity and cultural politics have been mobilized as a means to alienate and antagonize, to produce rifts and to engage in vilification, is easily demonstrable. The case of Duck Dynasty is only the latest installment in a long, disgusting tired litany of identity and cultural politics, which is nothing if not a gift to the ruling class as it works to put its own construction on the working class. Liberal and “progressive” politics feeds right into such efforts, albeit unwittingly. Such identity and cultural politics function to produce class as an identity (and as an abject identity at that), rather than showing it for what it is, a positionality within the relations of production. That’s right; class is not, at base, an identity, because there are no particular characteristics that attend to persons in the working class, and members of various identity groups can likewise occupy the working-class positionality. The working class is not an identity group; it is the occupation of a position of necessary subordination to and service of capital in the reproduction of capital and the alienation of the class from both the means and the ends of production. This cannot be said unequivocally for identities, which may migrate beyond the class, and seek to form alliances that are antithetical to the class’s interests, and thus to the politics of ultimate emancipation. This identity politics includes, of course, the efforts of the right to identify white workers with class interests antithetical to their own.

This broader outline of the function of identity politics has been necessary for descrying how it functions within the “left,” whatever that may be. The wider function of identity politics must be understood before any miniature politics — a mere a tempest within a teapot I might add — can make the slightest bit of sense. The animus or supposed “vampirism” of identity politickers on the left, which is sometimes directed at Marxists who critique it, derives from this broader source: the persecution of subaltern identities by rightists who are trained by capital relations to produce themselves as such, and are trained to produce the denigrated groups as such, as well. Similarly, the leftists are trained to produce themselves as such, and to produce their denigrated opponents as such, as well. To say that these parallel forms of identity production and denigration mirror the master slave dialectic is to state the obvious; nevertheless it is notable that the categories are mutually constitutive. And it should be clear that their negation as such, as denigrated categories that is, could never be accomplished on the basis of identity alone.

{ 203 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl Davidson December 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm

It is certainly true that ‘class’ is a relation to production, and not an ‘identity group.’ But isn’t our aim to make a class ‘in itself’ also a class ‘for itself,’ ie, conscious of what it is, ie, its mission. its relation to all other classes and the nature of the ‘radical chains’ that bind it. How would that kind of revolutionary class consciousness differ with identity? I wouldn’t say they were the same, but they would seem to merge, no?

You say:

‘But “race,” like other identities, has no necessary political meaning.
It is thus a faulty gauge for the politics of identity group members.’

‘Race’ indeed has an intrinsic political meaning, especially in this country, where most politics are racialized or ‘race politics.’ The use of ‘Willie Horton’, Sister Soujah, and the Reverend Wright are only a few of the recent cases in point. ‘Race’, apart from the human race, is a social-control mechanism designed to keep all subalterns under the master’s boot. ‘Identity politics’ goes with the oppressor as well as the oppressed. Though often rendered invisible by the ‘blindspot’, both white and male identity politics are often the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

You also say:

‘This combination of self-flattery, ingratiation and denigration is
precisely aimed at ruling out cross-party politics and results in the
cultural and political isolation of white workers currently atomized and
co-opted by rightist nostalgic [identity] politics.’

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘rightist nostalgia.’ But I’d argue that a key factor holding these workers back is not so much that they are atomized, but that they are deluded into thinking they are part of a larger imaginary, the ‘white race.’ That is the kernal and secret of the bourgeoisie’s rule in this country since its beginnings. And it is also it’s Achilles Heel.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 4:48 pm

“You say:

“‘But “race,” like other identities, has no necessary political meaning.
It is thus a faulty gauge for the politics of identity group members.'”

My point here is that there is no necessary connection between racial identity and a person’s espoused politics. Thus, there is no *necessary* connection between racial identity and politics. Of course there is a probabalistic relationship, but not a necessary one. Numerous and obvious examples make this clear: Clarence Thomas, Stanley Crouch, Barack Obama, etc.

The point about rightist nostalgia is the appeal made to white workers on account of *their* identities as white and their sense of losing something in the identity wars. The last point you make is exactly what I refer to: “This identity politics includes, of course, the efforts of the right to identify white workers with class interests antithetical to their own.”

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Carl Davidson December 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm

I’m making a stronger statement. The ‘white race’ is necessarily political, and has been ever since it was invented.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Of course, that point is made in the piece. That’s the whole point of referring to “Duck Dynasty” — the rightist, white identity politics. My aim is to be symmetrical in my criticism of identity politics.

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Carl Davidson December 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

Good, we agree on this

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 6:58 am

Why would you want to be symmetrical in your criticisms of dominant-group identity politics and oppressed-group identity politics?

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Michael Rectenwald January 1, 2014 at 5:59 am

Because all forms of identity politics are limited and exclusionary, and identity politics is often misleading and reactionary, no matter what identity is being promoted. Read the piece.

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Aaron Aarons January 2, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Yes, by all means, resistance by Latino immigrant workers against being rounded up, imprisoned, and deported is just as “misleading and reactionary” as is the resistance by white people against their becoming another minority (although the largest one) in, e.g., California. Of course, you’re not saying explicitly that there is no difference, but only arguing against those who say that there really is a meaningful difference.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm

“How would that kind of revolutionary class consciousness differ with
identity? I wouldn’t say they were the same, but they would seem to
merge, no?”

A class for itself is still not an identity as such. It takes its significance not from some identity, but from its power as the immediate producer of capital. Identities can and must be enrolled in the class for itself, but the class itself does not amount to an identity. To turn a class into an identity is to reify it and to run the very risks that identity politics poses to class politics in the first place, as argued in the piece.

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Carl Davidson December 22, 2013 at 5:05 pm

‘Class itself’, yes, is not an identity; nor does it ‘amount to’ one; it’s a relation to production. But when millions are demanding, ‘All power to the working class,’ it’s something more than that. It’s workers who have managed to identity their mission in history, and fight to bring it into being. When we sing ‘the Worker’s Flag Is Deepest Red,’ we mean something more than our relation to production, no?

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I would call this “class character,” rather than identity. Why? Because of the exclusionary nature of identity, which class politics does not presuppose. Identity is more constricted than class character in that the former presupposes some characteristics of the members, often time physical markers, sometimes behavioral markers. And, class politics includes those outside of the class as well, the allies of the class.

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Carl Davidson December 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm

‘Class’ can certainly be exclusionary in the particular. One can be a worker, a peasant, a small producer, or a capitalist. One rare occasions, one person can be all at once, but usually not. But I’m making a different point.

I start with the notion of ‘conflicted consciousness’ on the matter, a concept borrowed from Hegel, Gramsci and WEB DuBois. Viewed singularly, any given human consciousness is a hologram of colluding and contending interests, identities, core values and beliefs. It contains both the ‘I’ of reflectiveness and the ‘me’ shaped by our social transactions.

I prefer it to ‘false consciousness,’ (a term Marx never used, by the way, and Engels only used it once, in passing) because that ‘false’ implies a ‘true consciousness,’ which, in my opinion, is a slippery slope to both metaphysics and a backward elitism.

All this is my way of holding that it’s not ‘class’ VERSUS ‘identity’. One’s class interest is shaped by one’s relation to production, while one’s identities–and there are a lot of them–are shaped by one’s family history, intimate relationship status, position in a social order, biology and so on. Values are often embedded at an early age by family and church, and new values can replace older ones over time.

To understand and change consciousness, we must grasp both class and identity, and a good deal more besides.

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Guest December 22, 2013 at 5:17 pm

1. You still say that “identity” is a limitation on human potential. Even if

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Yes, largely by virtue of the fact that identities are constructs of history and the historical conditions. That is not to say that one abolishes this one-sidedness, but rather that one becomes more than this one-sidedness. It’s one sided largely based on its production by the dominant. (Sorry, I don’t know if you were going to complete the thought registered by “Even if.” But that’s what I have to say to the point I think you’re in the process of making.)

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm

1. You still say that identity is a “one-sided aspect of human potentiality” and speak of concepts that constrain or oppress the subject’s thinking, self-image, or identity”. Could you clarify what you mean by that? Since it sounds as if identity of any type is a handicap to being a thriving human being (whatever you think that means). You say that identity will disappear with the overthrow of a capitalism and does not need to be directly negated now, so you are not really against it, only against politics. But you are still asserting that this is the end point, and what is set up as the end point will inevitably tend to color our practice and theory. So in a sense, it is not insignificant to the wider discussion.

2. The problem, in my view, with the politics of the Democrat party is less that it substitutes race with class than that it substitutes both with the assimilationist politics of liberal imperialism which seeks to deny the realities of both contradictions.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Frankly, I am referring in particular to the use of Obama by the Democrats, not to the Democratic Party’s usual ploys, although identity politics is surely in their arsenal.

Yes, identity is in some sense limiting. I believe as Marx argues somewhere that the point is not what we are at present, which surely is curtailed by capitalist social relations, but what we can become. This is why Marx wrote in favor of freedom instead of “equality,” because “equality” is always already limited by bourgeois conceptions of equality. Why draw equality on the basis of a curtailed humanity?

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Sorry, but speaking of “curtailed,” I am going to have to leave off this discussion for now. I was up late finishing the piece and I’m quite exhausted.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Limiting towards doing what? To do anything (whether learning to play a sport, to love this or that person) is to limit oneself. Life itself is finite, after all.

And I view freedom as the ultimate goal, not equality (though achieving equality is a necessary condition to that end). But freedom, to me, signifies allowing for the greatest possible number of ways of life (a less static word then “identities”, perhaps) that can be made to live with each other. Which both seems more desirable, and probable, then the fantasy of a world simply emptied of them.

(and with that, we can talk later)

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I can’t speak for Michael, but I think he would say that freedom in a worker’s state would necessarily entail rights of self expression. That isn’t the point of contention. Neither is it the contention that Marxism professes a fantasy of existence devoid of “ways of life.” To the contrary, the de-commodification of the products of our labor is the pre-condition of the de-commodification of our selves (collective and individual).

The ruling class’ control of identity politics has become a prime management tool in the era of neoliberalism. The capitalist class has need for the mass illusion of democracy, so it has availed unto itself the political means to subsume dissent into its own arsenal. This would not be the first time in history that rulers have achieved auto-repressive cultural institutions and measures.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Are these examples of critique, or subsumption of critique? http://www.blackagendareport.com/

http://www.globalwomenstrike.net/

If the latter, how so?

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 5:51 pm

“Yes, largely by virtue of the fact that identities are constructs of history and the historical conditions”: What social human reality is not ?

“It’s one sided largely based on its production by the dominant.”: This suggest that the powerful create the oppressed, like the parents or craftsmen that they have often pose as. It denies the fact that oppressed have always been more than what the their oppressors have named them to be, and with their own agency, can participate in the production of their own sense of identity.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 5:58 pm

No, not the persons, but identities as such. Of course there is a dialectical relationship.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Are you granting that the oppressed help produce their sense of identity, for their own ends?

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Of course.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Then what is necessarily wrong or lacking in their identities? For if it’s the fact they are historical or finite, it shares that flaw with everything human. And if you are not saying that the dominant simply produces identities, I am not sure what mean by the other flaw you mentioned, unless we are to believe that people need oppression to develop and express themselves.

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Michael Rectenwald December 22, 2013 at 6:22 pm

See below. It’s not just “their” identities. It’s all identity, based on the fact that all of us are curtailed on the basis of capitalist social relations.

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm

You seem to be using humanism to justify the un-humanism of the capitalist order.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:30 pm

How am I justifying capitalism?

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:33 pm

“…unless we are to believe that people need oppression to develop and express themselves.”
Wading into the psychological realm need not be a self-serving misadventure. Every human exists in the context of the struggle to reproduce one’s “own” labor power. The oppressiveness of existence itself is defined by class relations. So yes, there is a dialectical view that one would not be oneself without oppression.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Social life would operate differently without oppression, yes. Which is different then saying that human beings would cease to create and reproduce identities without master looking over their shoulder. That does not seem to have been demonstrated to me, as of yet.

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:01 pm

The pseudo-intellectualism of
identity politics certainly is a defining characteristic. Overall, it is
a self-validating construct. As a method, it isn’t
falsifiable. Tellingly, the ruling class uses the same analytic means to
justify its existence. After all, the division of humanity into two classes is the original identity project.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Both parties work to obscure capitalist class rule and the structures of settler colonialism by promoting an illusory sense of national unity and bourgeois ideological common sense. They seek to “whitewash” the white supremacist history of the United States, justify continued colonial aggression against people of color in the periphery in the name of “democracy”, and minimize the way racial inequality continues to operate. By means of the false homogeneity of embattled liberal nationhood, they seek to keep the accumulation of capital going, even as economic contradictions intensify and the empire suffers setbacks abroad.

The Democratic party is an example of a politics of weak, not strong difference. They do not seek to intensify existing divisions, but to manage them. That is why they are bourgeoisie movement, not their minimal acknowledgement of the reality of race

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

The focus of the Democratic Party makes the case that identity politics is a slippery slope, given to control by the ruling elites. All this talk about racial “equality” by self-styled dissenters occludes the reality that in order to save itself, the black bourgeoisie are integral to the cultural re-making of image of ‘democracy.’

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 6:35 pm

When Fisher and Dean attack “identity politics,” they are attacking working class struggle, groups like Incite!, Global Women’s Strike, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and the work of scholars like Dean Spade, Andrea Smith, Cherrie Moraga, Patricia Hill Collins, Quito Swan and Nelson Maldonado-Torres, but also Hezbollah and other anti imperialist organizations. You on the other hand mean, by “identity politics” nothing but , certain aspects of the rhetoric of the Democratic Party’s pr, the pageant of the bourgeois class war, which has nothing at all to do with the radical politics practiced by working class people, the feminist, anti imperialist and identity politics of these groups and scholars which is unrelentingly hostile to the Obama administration and not taken in by its propaganda on any topics least of all imperial civilizing mission and class struggle.

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 6:41 pm

“the Democrats and Republicans have engineered a remarkable division of the working class along the lines of identity politics, which is a relative evil for precisely this reason.”

Racial politics in the US and elsewhere in the core do not merely divide the working class they hierarchize the working class and reward a section (white people) for its complicity with the ruling class and its assistance in dominating the rest of the working class, There is no parallel between white identity politics and any other kind of communitarian solidarity in class struggle. White identity politics is ruling class aggression, while every other kind of identity politics is a challenge to it.

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 6:59 pm

“White identity politics is ruling class aggression, while every other kind of identity politics is a challenge to it.”

Really? Would that include Gloria Steinem’s employment by the CIA?

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

DO you consider Gloria Steinem’s liberal bourgeois feminism also a form of ‘identity politics’ but not white identity politics? I would have thought Ms Magazine was an example of the liberal universalism behind which white identity politics (alone among identity politics) can hide

How about if I said “white identity politics (including imperial core nationalism and white imperial feminism)”?

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 7:30 pm

That gets closer to the mark, to be sure. White identity politics is business as usual; the free market; “our interests.” So it is hidden in plain sight, and ought to serve as a warning of the perils of identity politics. But it’s hidden so it can, but for the class conscious un-earthing of its mechanisms and history.

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 7:39 pm

why should it serve as a warning of the perils of identity politics, It is very successful for the ruling class.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 1:16 am

The ruling class will use identity however it suits them and in whatever ways work. White identity politics is indeed a major part of ruling class mobilization of identity, but only a part. As I say in the article, identity politics is used to split the direct producers along party and cultural lines. To do so takes more than white identity politics — although admittedly this is a major aspect of the entirety.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 3:31 am

And the oppressed will use identity, however it suits them, and in whatever way it works, as a means of becoming conscious of their surroundings, expressing their desires (which are never merely economic), and as a means of breaking whatever silences and false unities have been imposed upon them.

And this has in fact always been happening. Without the anti-colonial and ant-racist struggle,for example, revolutionary politics would have been far more limited in the twentieth century than it in fact was. Identity has roles beyond the one it is confined to in the rhetoric of the modern Democratic party machine.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm

And if the ANS had understood apartheid as not only racial but class-based, and as part of the relations of class, they wouldn’t have made deals with the ruling class and established a black bourgeoisie whose interests are antithetical to the majority of black workers in South Africa. If they would have recognized that the relations of race were underpinned by class relations, they wouldn’t have reproduced those same relations after apartheid and with the limited restructuring of South African society that they ultimately approved, and which leaves a greater divide in wealth, a greater poverty between the ruling class and the rest of S. Africa, than existed even during apartheid itself.

The point is not that identity politics has no efficacy. The point is that it is necessarily limited and often if not always backfires, for the reasons I have given in this article and the previous. Name one identity politics campaign that resulted in a world of equality.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:16 pm

And Class politics that ignores and denies race (among other forms of contractions) will be necessarily limited too. Yet no one here has argued for forgetting about class.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm

Who said class should ignore or deny race? Read the introduction to the article. But the example of South Africa proves better than anything that identity politics that fails to understand race in terms of class relations necessarily fails.

Neil December 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

“And if the ANS *[sic]* had understood apartheid as not only racial but class-based, and as part of the relations of class, they wouldn’t have made deals with the ruling class and established a black bourgeoisie whose interests are antithetical to the majority of black workers in South Africa. If they would have recognized that the relations of race were underpinned by class relations, they wouldn’t have reproduced those same relations after apartheid and with the limited restructuring of South African society that they ultimately approved, and which leaves a greater divide in wealth, a greater poverty between the ruling class and the rest of S. Africa, than existed even during apartheid itself.”

I am by no means a fan of the ANC in power, however I feel I must defend them from the charge of ignorance, stupidity and naivete implicit in the above quote. Marxist theory (and politics) was well developed in the South African liberation struggle and although ANC policy generally subscribed to a two stage theory of revolution it did not shy away from class analysis. Whatever the causality it was not lack of understanding that led to the neoliberal turn (or betrayal if one prefers) that followed the end of apartheid.

For those interested below are a few papers giving some idea of the Marxist historiography of South African society and its intersection with politics:

An extract from a seminal historical text:
http://www.wolpetrust.org.za/main.php?include=texts/capitalism.html

Two later reviews of the history of South African Western Marxism:
http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/files/5nash.pdf
http://www.marxists.org/subject/africa/saunders/making-past/ch16.htm

And two relatively recent analyses by veteran Marxist South African intellectuals:
http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za/files/Legassick%20SA%20poli%20econ%20today.pdf
http://www.uff.br/iacr/ArtigosPDF/19T.pdf

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Rhetorical Saboteur December 24, 2013 at 2:03 pm

“Name one identity politics campaign that resulted in a world of equality.”

Ummm name a world not affected by white bourgeois identity politics? Name a place untouched by colonization / imperialism…ill wait…

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Rhetorical Saboteur December 24, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Also its funny to see white folk argue about the ANC / ANS / or South Africa, and yet who did these same critiques vote for at home since forever? ???

Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm

is white identity politics more hidden than any other identity politics? if so it is the critics of identity politics who are responsible – for labelling the current Democratic party’s pageant “black identity politics” instead of “white identity politics”.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Since the Democrats need their black voter base as well as a substantial share of the white vote in order to win elections, they need to mute the black/white dichotomy. The identity politics they appeal to is United Snakes patriotism, which is a muted form of white identity politics that doesn’t explicitly exclude non-white U.S. citizens.

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KevinHornbuckle December 22, 2013 at 9:22 pm

typo: meant But it is hidden so it can’t…

I will have to get back to this discussion later. Chores are pressing. I believe it is a fruitful line of inquiry.

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 7:22 pm

(Funny I recently tweeted the youtube clip of her discussing why she preferred the CIA as funders to the ford foundation)

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Carl Davidson December 23, 2013 at 2:06 am

Any given individual’s consciousness contain multiple interests, values and identities. It does no good to conflate our identities–as Americans, as members of a ‘white race,’ as ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ genders. Nor can we abolish ‘all identities’, although we can deconstruct some and replace them with others. The ‘Irish’ became ‘white,’ a reactionary turn, but the reverse, replacing ‘white’ with ‘Irish-American’, can be a progressive turn. Some identities are constructs of an oppressor nation (USA American), and oppressor race (white) or an oppressor gender (masculine), while others are of the oppressed–African-American, Black, feminine. In some cases, one can contain the identities of both oppressor and oppressed in a single conflicted consciousness, with additional conflicts connected to one’s class relations.

As an organizer, one of my tasks in the practice of the ‘mass line,’ is to draw people out on these matters, so I might gather up all the contradictions in their conflicted consciousness, learn some new things myself (I am one with a conflicted consciousness, too), and then try to find a progressive path, mobilizing all positive factors in our thinking, isolate the negative, so we can move toward a more ‘awake’ and all-sided revolutionary consciousness.

My ancestors were largely Scots-Irish on the frontier, escaping dire poverty in Ulster, with a fierce loathing of the Brits and the upper classes generally. But once here, they also became ‘white,’ and some, a sizable minority, worked as Indian killers and slave-catchers. Others hated the slavocracy more than they disliked Blacks, and took up arms with the Union to destroy the slave system, spilling much of their own Scots-Irish blood in both armies in the process. Yes, identities are limited and shaped by history, as we all are. We are both shaped by our identities and the shapers of them. As workers, as a class rather than as an identity, we are our own emancipators, but in doing so, we do best to cast our lots with all of the oppressed, of whatever class and strata, and win them to our side as best as we can.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 12:57 am

I’m curious about your apparent assertion that the Scots-Irish had “a fierce loathing of the Brits”, since I thought they mostly identified with the British against the indigenous Irish. But maybe that was only true later, after the time that your ancestors left Ulster for the U.S., or even for the pre-independence colonies. Can you offer any further info on this?

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Carl Davidson December 26, 2013 at 11:32 am

The conflict between the Scots, especially between Presbyterians and the Church of England is longstanding and complex. English oppression was largely the reason for the Scots being pushed to Ulster, there to be used as a buffer against the Catholic Irish. but they still had their own battles wih the crown as well, which were especially fierce in the 1600s, leading many to migrate again to the new world in the 1700s. From WikI:

‘The first of the Stuart Kingdoms to collapse into civil war was Ireland where, prompted in part by the anti-Catholic rhetoric of the Covenanters, Irish Catholics launched a rebellion in October. In reaction to the proposal by Charles I and Thomas Wentworth to raise an army manned by Irish Catholics to put down the Covenanter movement in Scotland, the Parliament of Scotland had threatened to invade Ireland in order to achieve “the extirpation of Popery out of Ireland” (according to the interpretation of Richard Bellings,
a leading Irish politician of the time). The fear this caused in
Ireland unleashed a wave of massacres against Protestant English and
Scottish settlers, mostly in Ulster, once the rebellion had broken out.
All sides displayed extreme cruelty in this phase of the war. Around
4000 settlers were massacred and a further 12,000 may have died of
privation after being driven from their homes.[30][31] In one notorious incident, the Protestant inhabitants of Portadown were taken captive and then massacred on the bridge in the town.[32]
The settlers responded in kind, as did the British-controlled
government in Dublin, with attacks on the Irish civilian population.
Massacres of native civilians occurred at Rathlin Island and elsewhere.[33]’

There are a number of books on the subject. But George Washington was known for wanting Scot-Irish recruits into the Continental Army sue to their antipathy to the Brits.

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Nelson Maldonado-Torres answers a lot of these hackneyed white-“universalism” revanchist talking points http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7PbXJuh4hk

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

After some consideration here, must say I don’t really get how Obama practices “identity politics” What identity? I assumed it was meant “African American” identity but that really makes no sense. He practices class politics and very expertly and is incredibly successful for the ruling class. And the pr of Obama campaign didn’t evoke black identity or align with black American organizations, On the contrary the campaign was ostentatiously universalist, what used to be called “integrationist”, and liberal individualist – judge Obama by the content of his character, the campaign urged implicitly, vote for Obama, you too you white people, because he’s “Presidential” :centrist” and (so the persona was designed), a lawyer with concern for law and the constitution, and you are not racists. If that is “identity politics”, then really this debate is perfectly superfluous and kind of inane. No communists or working class activists are behind these democratic party spectacle shenanigans.

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Alphonse van Worden December 22, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I find more and more any Black person who has the effrontery, in the eyes of too many white pundits identifying selves as left, to enter mainstream politics is accused of “identity politics”. This has become the crime of being political white Black. It also seems to be used to besmirch Black people when they vote for Black political candidates, as if the reason for consistently Democratic Black voters to have chosen Obama over McCain must be because Obama is Black, In fact the game of race marketing to Black members of the electorate has failed right wingers again and again in America though it succeeds so well with White voters. Black Americans do not vote for Black conservatives – Obama was exceptional and it was not because he was running for President but because he was successfully packaged as a progressive. He was designed with the veneer of progressive politics, branded to evoke an African American radical and social democratic tradition he had no connection to, but this was more to fool white progressive and liberal voters, That’s not “identity politics”; that is marketing.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 12:30 am

I will answer this tomorrow. I will say for now that if you can’t see how Obama’s race was mobilized to convince voters that he represented “progress,” and “forward” political movement, I don’t know what I can say that will convince you. “He was designed with the veneer of progressive politics, branded to evoke an African American radical and social democratic tradition he had no connection to, but this was more to fool white progressive and liberal voters, That’s not “identity politics”; that is marketing.” That is precisely the deployment of identity as identity politics.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 2:22 pm

” I will say for now that if you can’t see how Obama’s race was mobilized to convince voters that he represented “progress,” and “forward” political movement, I don’t know what I can say ”

I’m just saying if this – the production of image in marketing – is what you mean by ‘identity politics’ then what you are saying about identity politics is in part trivial and obvious and in part wrong.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:25 pm

I don’t have time to engage with you all day. In part, I think you, along with some others on here, are arguing in bad faith. You asked “by whom” was Obama’s identity deployed as such. But at the same time, you admit that it was part of a marketing campaign. Who deploys marketing campaigns? The marketers. Who are the marketers here. Well, obviously, the Democratic Party. But on a more structural level, we have to connect that party to the ruling class interests whose interests it manages. The state under capitalism is the managerial class of the ruling class, and that class is the capitalist class, as Marx stated quite clearly. Are you going to suggest now that the notion of a “ruling class” is a conspiracy theory? Well if so, you have just moved yourself out of the field of socialist politics and into something else.

As for your bit about apartheid, read my comment to Red Maistre, below. Nothing proves the failure of identity politics more than the ANS failure to see apartheid as underwritten and premised on class society. Otherwise, why would they have made deals with the capitalists to “restructure” S. Africa after apartheid, to establish a black bourgeoisie, and to reproduce the very class relations that kept the majority in poverty. That poverty has only INCREASED and the divide between the vast majority and the capitalist class WIDENED since the end of apartheid. Nothing demonstrates the limits of identity politics better than this.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

You don’t have to engage with me at all, I am commenting on an article you published, that is you deliberately made public in a place with a mechanism for reply. If this distresses you, don’t air your opinions in this manner.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Right. I’m basically done with you. You and Red Maistre are liberals and not socialists. You don’t see the basis of history as the class struggle. Why are you even here on North Star?

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm

But if Obama and his ruling class backers are the practitioners of the identity politics you are deploring then they are not a failure., They are a tremendous success. They have achieved all their goals.
You are avoiding the concrete in ways that allow for all this innuendo.
But at least now I know that by “identity politics”, you mean simply the struggle against white supremacy (and not the struggle to maintain it.)

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 2:49 am

Sorry, but the conscious sellout of the Black working class by the petty-bourgeois, Stalinist-backed ANC had nothing to do with “identity politics” but was a typical, if extreme, example of popular front, stage-ist, politics at work. In fact, the Black Consciousness groups, who were more justly described as practitioners of “identity politics” than the ANC could have been, were not, AFAIK, part of the sell-out, at least in a major way.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 4:26 pm

there just seems to be a lot of slippage about this term “identity politics”, three signifier monty, innuendo as RedMaistre said, the referent moved around under the shell of blackness. Because, for example almost everyone will agree that “identity politics” refers to practices of protagonists based in *their own* identity, yet you bring forward as an example of it the politics of the masses of the American electorate who are not black engaged purportedly in politics based in someone else’s (Obama’s) black identity; with various manoeuvres of this sort, integrationism, anti-apartheid, EO and affirmative action are all suddenly gathered under “identity politics”, and you seem to be condemning the struggle against white supremacy and for civil liberties itself (as a “distraction” from things of more urgent import for white people). Obama – who practices ruling class class politics – is brought forward as exhibit A for the bad qualities of “identity politics” from a working class perspective, while an actual practitioner of politics grounded in her Afra-Latina identity by her own description, Rosa Clemente, who ran against him with McKinney, who would serve as example of entirely different phenomena, inspiring, radical, and decidedly to be joined and supported by communists, is not discussed. But somehow the conclusions drawn from the example of the Obama campaign – which does not really answer to your description of it, either – are meant to be applied as proof against the efficacy of the strategies and accuracy of analyses of groups like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement or the Silvia Rivera Law Project,.

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 7:46 pm

It seems like what you really want is some kind of full-on race war a la Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter, with different people grouped into various identicamps duking it out for survival.

Michael’s article rightly points out the way that various identity-constructs (even allegedly “subaltern” ones) can be manipulated and deployed for reactionary political ends. Thus the political instrumentalization of identity groups, which takes place in a somewhat more veiled way in mainstream American campaigns.

Let’s take a more obvious and pernicious example, though: What is something like New European Conservatism if not the xenophobic assertion of identity? Observe:

[W]e must embrace this European sense of the tragic, not as something negative, but rather as an opportunity to see history as an endless flow which will offer us opportunities, if only we can grab them. In order to do this, we must forge something new. This means creating a new, pan-European identity which will guarantee that we do not repeat the bloody mistakes that came between our various peoples in the past…[There are] historical precedents for this idea, showing that when threatened by outside forces, Europeans have always demonstrated their willingness to put aside their differences to confront a greater threat…[W]e must not ignore the issue of character when evaluating who is worthy to be a part of our new ethnostate – simply being of a common racial background is insufficient on its own…[T]he only way forward is to establish a new European identity and rediscover our pride in who we are.

This is to say nothing of the neo-fascist Identity, Territory, Sovereignty coalition that sprouted up back in 2007.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 2:59 am

WTF are you talking about? Pan-European xenophobia is an expression of identity of an oppressor population, just as supposedly “non-racial” United Snakes nationalism and patriotism are. This is the opposite of identification on the basis of shared oppression.

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Michael Rectenwald December 26, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Right, there are many different kinds of identity politics. My point has been that it’s not the best means of overcoming even identity subordination.

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 7:36 pm

I always thought Bill Clinton was “the first black president.” Shows what I know.

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Père Naphtha December 22, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Since I didn’t include this earlier: My apologies for mistaking your silence about Fisher’s Nietzschean argument as an endorsement.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 12:34 am

Thank you. I have read Nietzsche extensively, but as one reads an opponent.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:35 am

If Obama era liberals were actually about the politics of racial divisiveness, they would be promising, and enacting a massive redistribution of wealth to American people of color, instead of overseeing quite the opposite, and consciously avoiding using the word redistribution of wealth in even a “color blind” way.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm

The whole point of the discussion of Obama and identity politics in the article is that it is a *ruse*. This is the best example of how identity politics ends up going nowhere, because it assumes, as did many voters for Obama, that his “race” and rhetoric guaranteed something about his politics, which it obviously did not. Perhaps you’re missing the point here; identity politics, I am saying, has some efficacy, but the problem is that, failing to reach the level of class relations, it necessarily and ALWAYS falls short. In the case of Obama, the whole campaign, based as it was on the supposed connection of Obama to some social democratic politics coming from a African American tradition, was nothing but a diversion.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:21 pm

You seem to think that I am here to defend Obama.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Hardly. But you seem unable to admit that “race” can be used as a decoy, as a part of a scam. That’s the problem with “identity.”

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Class can be used a part of a scam too, as the pseudo-socialism or of the Nazis or the socdem of the Cold War demonstrated. So it’s not a unique problem.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Please.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

In fact, Nazism was/is the most egregious form of identity politics. It shows at base why “identity” is not a trustworthy basis for politics.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Nazism appealed to the “volk” not the class.

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Guest December 23, 2013 at 5:27 pm

“Workers Awake”

Labor vs the parasites…

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 5:28 pm

“Workers Awake”

Labor vs. the parasitic you-know-who…

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 7:27 pm

Not even labor as such, but specifically German labor. This already shows how petty nationalist identity blocs betray the politics of the Workingmen’s International: a worker from France and a worker from England should have no quarrel with a worker from Germany, but against the global rule of the bourgeoisie under the aegis of capital!

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm

This was nationalist and based on the “volk” of the nation, an identity politics campaign if there ever was one.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 8:35 pm

The “volk” identity, in turn, appealed to a class alliance including certain strata of German workers, offering them the prospect of material benefits from a policy of chauvinism and imperialism in return for collaboration. It was certainly not a socialist politics, but it was politics of class all the same, intertwined with one of race/nation.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 8:40 pm

The class interest of workers does not always realize itself as socialism, just as this or that exercise in group identification does not always coincide with leftist politics. This is how fascism and social democracy have historically been able to out maneuver radical movements: Reward some workers with relative material privilege and the ideological-symbolic pleasures of full participation in nationhood. Varying degrees of marginalization, at the very least, for the rest.

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 9:02 pm

unsure whether you’re just an idiot or if it’s that you actually refuse to understand

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Dan December 23, 2013 at 9:43 pm

He’s an idiot.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 3:06 am

You should look in the mirror when you say that, Comrade Wolfe.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

The point is not that identity politics has no efficacy. The point is
that it is necessarily limited and often if not always backfires, for
the reasons I have given in this article and the previous. Name one
identity politics campaign that resulted in a world of equality.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Whether a movement has created “a world of equality” seems an unreasonable high standard to hold any form of revolutionary politics to.What solely class based struggle has created such a result? If it has, I must have missed it.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Of course you’d say that. As you’re basically a liberal.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Explain to me how class politics has fulfilled the stranded you are setting for identity politics.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Are you a socialist, or are you not? If you don’t believe that the
ultimate struggle is the class struggle, then I have nothing more to say.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

Yes I am, but I am unsure how this answers my question.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm

I don’t think so. You don’t seem to agree with the basic premise that the history of the human race is the history of class struggle. Instead, for you, it is the history of identity struggle.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I am still curious how this explains why class struggle fulfills the standard (bringing about a world of equality) you reject “identity politics” for failing

And “the history of the human race is the history of class struggle” and “the history of identity struggle” are not mutual contradictory statements.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm

It is demonstrable that class relations underpin all inequality. This is the Gordian knot that must be untied. That is not to say that other divisions will just magically disappear, but that simply these cannot be undone without the primary issue of class relations being demolished. Are you not a Marxist?

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm

But unlike the Gordian Knot of historical fable, it can’t be solved with one cut. Because as soon as one looks closely at it, it is shown to be made up of multiple other Gordian knots (race, gender, etc.). Because the economic is never merely about the economic. So speaking of a single weak point seems besides the point to me.

Which goes back to how class struggle has so far succeeded in a way that “identity” politics has allegedly failed: bringing about a world of equality. For the world remains unequal even now. We need to measure success by a more finite stranded.

I am not certain anymore what being a Marxist (outside of a party context) exactly entails, beyond working with the ideas of a certain family of traditions, so you may choose or decline to call me that. Goals seem more important than means. In the former, we apparently differ.

Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 3:10 am

Actually, it’s both. In fact, for the first 99% of human history, there were no classes, and no identities except of small groups of hunter-gatherers.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

It still remains unanswered what “Identities”, which are never merely static, but because they are within history, dynamic, prevent people from doing, leaving aside whatever oppression they may face.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:33 pm

The point of distinguishing *class* from identities is in fact to demonstrate what class is *not* and how it is different from identity, and to show the limits of identity politics when it is understood as an *end* in itself, a *for itself* class, which it is not. It is not a for itself class, because it is not based on the abolition of the basis social inequality — capitalist social relations. The only *ultimately* effective *for itself* class is the social class, as the case of South Africa should make eminently clear. As I said, name one identity politics campaign that has delivered a world of equality. Of course, you could say the same about socialist campaigns — which would put you right smack dab in the camp of liberalism.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:36 pm

However, I don’t believe you’re actually arguing in good faith here. Are you a socialist, or are you not? If you don’t believe that the ultimate struggle is the class struggle, then I have nothing more to say.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I would say that I am. I believe the ultimate struggle is against capitalism, and there are multiple fronts in that struggle. Class enjoys a certain primacy of structural place among them, but it can not be separated from the nexus of other social contradictions.

However, if you don’t think I am, then it would all the more a shame that you can’t convince me of the correctness of your position.It’s not people who are already socialists you need to persuade, but the fence sitters and the wavering as well.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Class doesn’t “‘enjoy’ a certain primacy.” There’s nothing “enjoyable” about being exploited for a lifetime. But that’s beside the point. The point is that this “primacy” isn’t merely some discretionary allowance granted to class based on being “grandfathered-in” as such. Rather, its “enjoyment” of primacy is based on the fact that identity subordination will necessarily continue under class society. And further, identity is clearly not a trustworthy basis for emancipation even from identity subordination itself, largely for the reasons I point out in the article. The ruling class can easily interchange the subordination of one identity for another, all the while perpetuating a capitalist society under which the vast majority are exploited and oppressed. Further, identity can be construed in ways that undermines class politics, by subverting the real material interests of even of the identity groups supposedly being promoted, as was the case for blacks with the promotion of Barack Obama, and as numerous black activists and political commentators have made clear.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 3:18 am

And hasn’t support by workers for various “Labor” or “Socialist” parties subverted the interests of the groups, i.e., workers, supposedly being promoted?

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

you’re just not succeeded in your passing off this veiled racist sophistry; it is you who have bad faith and bad purposes.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:44 pm

What? you’re calling me a racist now? How fucking ridiculous. You’re nothing but a provocateur and a clown.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:45 pm

You are in the corner and have lost the argument, cannot address the case of the ANS and S. Africa, and thus you pull out your liberal, vampire card, and start calling your opponent a “racist.” How typical and ridiculous.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 5:25 pm

What is the case of South Africa? There is a party which buckled under pressure from empire but succeeded in abolishing some of the most egregious racist impositions. You are clearly tying the project of enfranchisement and the abolition of passes and formal legal racism to the failure to carry out the dispossession of the ruling class in South Africa and the imperial core and the rest of the world as a way of denigrating the achievement of black South Africans and the whole black freedom struggle worldwide and reproducing these hackneyed hints ‘they’re better off on the plantation! they just want to lord it over eachother! they prey on their own!” etc etc. Otherwise there is no possible reason for you to attribute to “identity” rather than imperialism (and you white Americans’ failure to restrain your government) the compromises and defeats of Black South Africans’ freedom struggle.

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

This is all bad faith imputation and projection. Nothing of the sort was said by Michael. Obviously, there is still a ruling class in South Africa. Admitting this does not diminish the achievements of overturning apartheid. But it does allow one to see, clearly and lucidly, that the ANC (and even Mandela himself) has been responsible for strikebreaking and crackdowns on labor, including majority black workforces, in South Africa since that time.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 3:31 am

Sorry, but you lost me here. As I pointed out above, the (petty) bourgeois ANC, supported by the Stalinist (i.e., popular-frontist, stageist) SACP, sold out the militant, anti-capitalist Black working class. Of course, imperialist capitalism is ultimately to blame for conditions in South Africa and elsewhere, but their ability to stabilize their rule and undermine socialist working-class militancy in S.A. depended, as it often does, on the help of collaborators who have credibility among the oppressed.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm

To call me a racist is beneath contempt, and utterly outrageous. I am going to see about getting you banned from this forum.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm

It makes sense that someone railing about the; “identity politics” of the African National Congress also believes there are no racists or only those who openly identify themselves as such,

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 12:29 am

OK, Molly.

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Alphonse van Worden December 24, 2013 at 12:55 am

OK what? You are a white man who is exercised unreasonably about the slight racial diversification of the global ruling class desperate to find an excuse for your frwtfulness about it. Very transparent.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 1:05 am

OK, you are a troll and a complete fraud, that’s what. Who are you to talk of privilege, oh scion of the ruling class? I warn you not to try and do what you’ve done to your previous opponents. We could use a bit of your inheritance for the setting up of cooperatives.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 1:08 am

And I don’t care about the diversification of the ruling class, although that’s the extent of your interest in politics.

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Alphonse van Worden December 24, 2013 at 3:22 am

You warn me? Not to criticize you because the girlfriend of Berlusconi’s ambassador to the US told you a fable about who I am and my vast fortune? You warn me not to try to do what I have done to my previous opponents – which is what, changed their minds? Taught them something? Exposed their bluffs? Occasionally learned? I’m going to see about getting you banned from my computer screen.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 3:34 am

I understand you do a lot more than “criticize.” And I understand that you are not an honest interlocutor arguing in good faith. I see you sent a small posse as backup as well.

My warning is this: if you attempt to do real harm to me in the world through slander or other means, your fortune will decrease, and I will spread the bounty among my socialist friends for investment in cooperatives.

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Ross Wolfe December 24, 2013 at 10:42 pm

banned from my computer screen

You really are a tedious fraud and a hypocrite, Ms. Klein.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 1:09 am

How’s that Playboy Bunny channel money working out for you?

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Alphonse van Worden December 24, 2013 at 3:17 am

Michael you’ve been cozened I’m afraid to say. But even had I any Playboy Bunny channel money, your ad hominems would not irebut my comments, make yours any more valid or your attack on “identity politics” less reactionary.

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Aaron Aarons January 2, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Perhaps unlike others who criticize the ANC, I am “exercised” by the incorporation into the South African ruling class or, more often, into middle management, of Blacks who have been able to use their history as opponents of that ruling class to disorient the Black working class in the interests of that same ruling class. A prime example is Cyril Ramaphosa, former head of the National Union of Mineworkers and now a wealthy capitalist and Deputy President of the ANC.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Statement: I am done with this particular discussion, as I believe that at least one of the primary antagonists here is arguing in bad faith and is actually just a liberal pretending to be a socialist. I have a basic adherence to a Marxist socialist understanding of the world, that the history of the human race is the history of *class* struggle, not identity struggle. I have suggested that identities can be enveloped within class, but that identity politics en se, in itself, for itself, as if *for a class*, is mistaken because it does not comprehend the basis of social relations in the world as capitalist social relations. I’m done here because, by implication at the very least, because I pointed out the failures of identity politics, I have been called a racist. This is the most outrageous charge of all, and proves that at least one of the interlocutors here has a problem with the class analysis, diagnosis and prognosis for the world. That is the problem in a nutshell.

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Will Shetterly December 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Being called a racist for critiquing identity politics may be impossible to avoid. Cultists love denouncing their opponents as part of the problem they believe they will solve.

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Ross Wolfe December 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm

Indeed.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

It’s a leap to assume that I may be “liberal”(which one can be without knowing it), but it is even a bigger one to say that I am arguing in bad faith, as a troll, as opposed to one with an earnest interest in the argument.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I wasn’t referring to you. I had my doubts, but I think you are reasonable. I do think this other person is frankly merely a provocateur. He implicitly called me a racist.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Explicitly, please,. Don’t tell me you think the existence of racists and racism is a conspiracy theory?

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:10 pm

You’re merely a provocateur and your implication is utterly unfounded, beneath contempt, and the typical ploy of someone backed into a discursive corner with no other way of escape. Sorry, you’re not going to intimidate me that way. Racism exists, and I have found that those who hurl the invective “racist” are often hiding something.

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Alphonse van Worden December 23, 2013 at 5:16 pm

There are racist arguments and racist texts. You are making one, Your comments are either innuendo or tantrum. I have tried to actually engage you seriously but you cannot give a straight answer to the simplest things, and you are obviously pretending you cannot perceive your own sophistry. Your remarks really reek of white resentment.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Nonsense. It’s you who cannot answer to the failures of identity politics, when in fact they are numerous. You’ve never addressed the case of the ANC, discussed below, for example. I’ve answered your questions about Obama. It’s obvious to all but the most biased, those incapable of seeing how “race” can be deployed for regressive ends. That’s the problem with identitarians. They assume essentialist notions about “race,” gender and other identities, and then accuse those who do not buy these essentialist notions of being racist or misogynist, or abeist, or what have you. You are a denizen of the vampire castle. But I am not going to be your victim.

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Dan December 23, 2013 at 6:35 pm

Excellent piece. It is disappointing how little charity is shown by some of the commenters here.

I have noticed an unfortunate pattern to these sorts of arguments of the importance of class to the understanding of oppression under the social conditions of capitalism. Any argument, no matter how much it emphasizes the importance of overcoming other forms of oppression – be it racism, sexism, homophobia or ___ (insert identity here that is oppressed), so long as it highlights the qualitatively difference nature of class, becomes vilified.

I saw your piece not as an attack on identity politics, as more a criticism of the way it can lead to the obfuscation of a deeper, structural, mode of expliotation that will exist even it all forms of identity prejudice could be removed from the social..

Exclusionary tactics are frequently used in these arguments, such as the classic straw man critique, the ad hominen character assasination. It seems more important to bring into question someone’s argument than it does to actually engage with the argument itself. This is the worst sort of ad hominemnonsense, and a pernicious way of thinking about the world, predicated on the idea is that there are certain sub-groups within a society whose historic victimhood makes their judgments immune to criticism; and there are others whose historic privilege makes their members legitimate targets of whatever derogations you like.

Unfortunately, Michael, there is no way out of this impasse, for there is a resulute and willful ignorance on the part of those criticizing you.

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Dan December 23, 2013 at 6:37 pm

*correction* It seems more important to bring into question someone’s character rather than engaging with the argument itself.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 8:55 pm

What is interesting to me is the repulsion of reason that this tribe
ascribes to. If one explains how identity is unreliable and why, and
points to cases of its misuse for reactionary ends, they still cannot
seem to grasp that identity politics is not the sphere in which to wage
the war. They think it’s just a matter of choosing the “correct”
identities to support, forgetting all the examples of how identity has
been deployed to the detriment even of the very groups supposedly being
promoted. When one points out the difference between class and identity
on analytical grounds, and shows how the class position can be occupied
by numerous identities, they nevertheless maintain that class is just
another identity. If one opposes them on the basis of logic, of course,
this would be criticized as a form of euro-centrism and the pomo
critique of reason. There’s no way forward except without these people.

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Dan December 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Agreed. I think Lasch (following Adorno), would call this a symptom of the culture of narcissism. Fisher is right; there is a vampiric logic to identify politics. It seems like a zero sum game with a vengeance, where the objective isn’t actually emancipatory, but a provincialist land grab. This is the legacy of neoliberal’s triumphing of pseudo-individualism, it amounts to vainglorious navel-gazing. And as this occurs, austerity continues and another vampire, who has won the complicity of the first licks its lips.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 12:23 am

As it turns out, one of my antagonists in the comment threads here is an agent provocateur of some (ill)repute. This AIphonse character is actually a woman named Molly Klein, an heiress and daughter of the former president of NBC. She makes it her mission to attack Marxists who disavow identitarian politics.

That’s the word on the internets; she’s either a lunatic, an agent, or someone
with a guilty conscience for having more money than all the Marxists in
the world, combined. She goes by the following nom de plumes: Alphonse
van Worden, MrHermsprong, le colonel chabert and about a million other names, so the says a secret correspondent who went out of the way to friend me on Facebook just to warn me, as this Molly Klein has been harassing this person for a long time.

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BLanK December 24, 2013 at 12:44 am

A tedious liberal attention-seeker also known as Qlippoth in addition to the other pseuds you list…

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cordeliers December 24, 2013 at 3:04 am

Your response to being exposed and bested in a comment thread is a call for censorship – which you seem to have deleted subsequenly – followed by a largely fictitious ad hominem attack based on the whisperings of a “secret correspondent.” This reveals more about your own integrity than that of your critics.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 3:31 am

I was hardly “bested.” Perhaps you have a reading problem as well.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 3:37 am

More than one person has corroborated this whispering, which is hardlly a secret.

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cordeliers December 24, 2013 at 3:39 am

I know this whispering to be false in nearly every particular. Gossip reverberating in an echo chamber is not corroboration.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 3:40 am

Right. I’m going to trust the collaborator for having or telling the particulars, and not the several people who I know and trust, in addition to the stranger who sought me out for no other reason than to give fair warning. Why don’t you and your fellow trolls go somewhere else, where you’re not already found out?

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Dan December 24, 2013 at 3:43 pm

Is this another alias for Molly?!!

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Père Naphtha December 24, 2013 at 3:54 am

“They really should examine their own house first. I refer here to the kind of policing of the category of “working class” that marked the Old Left and that, with exceptions, continues to mark Marxist politics at present. Are students “working class?” Are graduate teaching assistants “workers?” Are academic Marxists “workers” – or even real “Marxists?” Can a petit bourgeois intellectual really understand the working class? These questions reflect the identity politics that subsists in many Marxist milieus.

The extirpation of such identity policing within Marxism itself is much more important politically than the battle with the identitarian left. As Ross Wolfe writes, “It shouldn’t matter who people supposedly ‘are.’ All that should matter is the kind of transformation they hope to effect in the world.”

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=11411

How is your curiosity about the class background of Alphonse consistent with the approach you called for here?

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:05 am

It’s not *her* class background I am concerned with, it’s her class ALLEGIANCE.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:07 am

Incidentally, I had no curiosity about this person, other than why she cannot respond to reasoned argument. Otherwise, I was basically careless — until several people pointed out some unsavory history, which ought to give any of her associates pause.

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Père Naphtha December 24, 2013 at 4:13 am

I see. But the alleged facts you offered only concerned her background, not substantiations that she is actually an agent provocateur, as opposed to someone who disagreed with you.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:15 am

I can’t substantiate that without giving away the persons who shared the information.

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Père Naphtha December 24, 2013 at 4:19 am

Saying someone is an agent provocateur seems a fairly serious charge to wave around without substantiation.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:20 am

There is a a long history. She has a problem with Marxists and once she latches onto one, her campaign is to slander them with charges of racism, misogyny, and so forth. She tries it with me and she will be sued. That’s a promise.

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Aaron Aarons January 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

So you’re going to use the racist, sexist, bourgeois courts to respond to charges of racism and misogyny? But unless she makes specific factual assertions against you that are clearly false, and not just characterizations of your ideas, you’d better sue in U.K. courts with their ridiculous libel laws, rather than in U.S. courts, where that particular shred of the First Amendment is still upheld.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 3:12 am

Good idea.

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Lori_Price_CLG December 24, 2013 at 4:26 am

Why doesn’t Molly Klein use her real name?

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Lori_Price_CLG December 24, 2013 at 4:29 am

We can’t have ‘COINTELPRO’ redux on this board. Agents serve only to disrupt…

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Will Shetterly December 24, 2013 at 3:17 pm

I don’t know if I’ve encountered Ms. Klein, but my own clashes with social justice warriors led to the discovery that some of them use many pseudonyms. Perhaps they’re all Ms. Klein.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:09 am

I can see why Fisher left this pit of vipers after his parting remarks, never to return…

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Père Naphtha December 24, 2013 at 4:10 am

I also agree that comment sections can be rough.

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 4:12 am

It’s not the arguments, but the imputations about character, and intentionality, that are rough. Once again, it comes back to identity, as if the content of what someone said is their identity alone, pure and simple. I’m a white male: guilty as charged. What I say has no substance for such readers other than this. Identity is a trap.

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Ross Wolfe December 24, 2013 at 10:39 pm

You can tell Molly Klein needs help, not by her behavior on this thread, but because of the idiotic shit she says/writes. Seriously, have any of you guys ever read her article on multiculturalism that’s up on Monthly Review?

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 2:48 am

The Spectre of “Multiculturalism”
http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2013/klein030613.html
Excellent article, IMO. Thanks for the reference. However, it’s not about multiculturalism, but about anti-“multiculturalism” as a cover for European supremacism.

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Aaron Aarons January 2, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Actually, Ms. Klein’s article is pretty good, if not perfect, and I recommend it. BTW, I made this same reply here a week ago, but it was censored, perhaps because it included an actual link to Klein’s article, The Spectre of “Multiculturalism”, which can be found by searching the monthlyreview.org site.

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Dan December 24, 2013 at 9:22 am

This has become really toxic. Its a pity that political discourse has been soured to the point when making some really uncomtroversial claims ends up in hyperbolic madness. This Molly Klein figure sounds like she needs help.

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Aaron Aarons January 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I’m eagerly awaiting your decision to follow his example.

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Michael Rectenwald January 2, 2014 at 4:59 pm

So says an admitted viper. You’ll wait a long time before identitarians intimidate me into submission. Not going to happen.

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Lori_Price_CLG December 24, 2013 at 5:04 am

Dr. Michael Rectenwald is not racist. In fact, he actually taught at Historically Black College and University, to help African American students.

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eli January 2, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Oh god, this is one of those answers that a white person gives that make the rest of the people in the group wince, and go, “no, no, no…..”

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Lori_Price_CLG January 3, 2014 at 4:33 am

Wince away, Eli! My response was for the busy little COINTELPRO bees who’ve buzzed about this thread.

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joeblob January 3, 2014 at 5:02 am

Your comment is obnoxious and shows how ill-informed you are. COINTELPRO destroyed the lives of many, mostly Black, activists. To compare this moronic comments section and critics of this nutty author to FBI agents/informants is embarrassing. Crack a book and stop making the Prof out to be the Great White Hope.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:33 am

Give it up, troll. You’re obviously part of the vampire legion sent her by Molly Klein and her sock-puppet brigade. Give it up. She’s been outed for the fraud that she is on this site.

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Lori_Price_CLG January 3, 2014 at 6:37 am

‘Blob,’ if/when you’re born all over (as that’s the only way it’s gonna’ happen) and you write an essay of the caliber of Dr. Rectenwald, you can instruct people to ‘crack books.’
COINTELPRO destroyed the lives of left-wing political activists, period — race was not the prime directive. Regardless, my reference to COINTELPRO was invoked because of the high volume of obvious infiltrators and/or trolls in this thread — see, for example, the outing and banning of the ‘Alphonse/
van Worden/MrHermsprong/le colonel chabert aka Molly troll.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:39 am

Thank you. This “blowjob” is not qualified to wipe my ass.

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Guest January 3, 2014 at 7:21 am

Incorrect, one of COINTELPRO’s biggest successes was dismantling the Black left. You are ahistorical.

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Stop lying molly December 24, 2013 at 9:26 am

Paul Klein, who was boss of NBC.and who made money out of pay per view channels (like Playboy)?

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NYT sez December 24, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Here’s what the NYT has to say about Molly’s background, NBC and the Playboy Channel. Stop lying Molly. http://www.nytimes.com/1998/07/13/business/paul-l-klein-69-a-developer-of-pay-per-view-tv-channels.html

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Alexander Miller December 24, 2013 at 11:12 pm

This proves absolutely nothing, there are doubtlessly dozens if not hundreds of Molly Kleins, and frankly these personal attacks, internet detective work and trying to drag in people’s personal lives is really nasty and distasteful.

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joeblob January 3, 2014 at 5:04 am

If Northstar wants to be taken seriously, they should never publish this wacko again.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:20 am

Right Molly.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:28 am

If North Star wants to be taken seriously, it will rid this site of these pestiferous flies, supporters of the lunatic, Molly Klein, a complete fraud, an heiress of a the ruling class, a libeler and slanderer of Marxists, a beneficiary of the the cable broadcasting of the Playboy channel, some sort of stock trader, and a near psychotic with a hard-on for all Marxists because apparently she cannot deal with being less “radical-than-thou” and thus must try and levy outrageous charges of “racism” against reputable writers.

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Ross Wolfe December 25, 2013 at 6:03 am

hilarious

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Michael Rectenwald December 24, 2013 at 3:50 pm

I’ve already made my case. You, however, are inure to logic and reason in general. Good bye.

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Michael Rectenwald December 26, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Yes, that should be “ANC.” I was typing in a flurry there a few times and had ANS on my mind from another context.

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wow January 2, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Based on the comments section alone, this writer is off his rocker.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:42 am

Go to bed, Molly. Isn’t it late in the Canary Islands, or in whatever ruling-class hideaway you reside and plague the community?

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Lori_Price_CLG January 3, 2014 at 6:54 am

Ergo, if race isn’t the cogent, driving factor–one is deemed ‘insane.’

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

Right, these “people” are nothing but identity peddlers and race mongers. They have no real analysis, just a bunch of outlandish charges. This is what Fisher was referring to. Meanwhile, “they” are all a bunch of white, ruling-class clowns. That is, if there is ore than one of them.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 3:21 am

Actually, when I read the piece, I thought it was a parody of academic jargon-laden nonsense, akin to the Sokal hoax. The essay is a piece of garbage.

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Michael Rectenwald January 3, 2014 at 6:23 am

I see Molly Klein has entered with several sock puppets again defending herself and besieging all defenders of this rather innocuous piece of writing. This board is rife with vampires and vipers and other identitarian pests and whackjobs who imagine any criticism of identity politics is tantamount to racism. This ludicrous charge led by this utterly discreditable person and legion of half-wits is ruining this site. I will speak to the editors again.

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Lori_Price_CLG January 3, 2014 at 6:49 am

Yes, apparently, it’s a veritable plethora of socks–enough to stuff a drawer.

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Dan December 24, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Typical identity troll. Always always always has to make this about the identity of the person, and not the argument. In doing this, they deliriously speculate, in a mad flurry of paranoic resentment.

Its funny how because ‘white folk’ are supposed to be privilege they have to be wrong about everything these cultists don’t like. They are the ones who have issues with race.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I believe there’s a strong correlation within the left milieu
between support for the ANC as the “[sole?] legitimate representative of the South African people” and support for Democrats, and Barack Obama in particular, in U.S. elections, although the former position was also held by the U.S. SWP and Workers World Party, who generally (especially the former) don’t support voting for Democrats.

Disclosure: I’m ‘white’, ethnically a ‘Jew’. I’ve been a left critic of the ANC and the SACP since the 1980’s, when I was active in the anti-apartheid movement at UC Berkeley, and I publicly called the new regime in S.A. “apartheid in blackface” as far back as 1994. I’ve never, since I first voted in 1963, voted for anybody who had the word ‘Democrat’ (or ‘Republican’) accompanying their name on the ballot. (I’ll admit I did vote a couple of times for members of the Democratic Party in non-partisan local elections, so I’m not pure.)

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Guest December 26, 2013 at 10:00 pm

What does my color have to do with what I am saying? As for who I vote for, I’ve never voted for a Democrat, or a Republican, of course.

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Aaron Aarons December 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Typical white troll. Always always always has to deny that one’s privileged position in the racial hierarchy might, even unconsciously, affect one’s thoughts about the importance of race in the social order.

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Michael Rectenwald December 26, 2013 at 9:57 pm

How do you know that “Dan” is “white?”

See, once the identithy trap is set, there is no escaping it. Even the relatively anonymous have identities ascribed to them.

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Aaron Aarons December 31, 2013 at 10:32 pm

While I feel pretty confident that the entity “Dan” is a projection into cyberspace of a white man, it would perhaps have been better for me not to speculate about the carbon-based life form behind the silicon-based life form named “Dan” and instead refer to “Dan” as a “white-supremacist troll”. (I only included the word “typical’ because of “Dan”‘s ridiculous use of it. In fact, the majority of white-supremacist trolls don’t masquerade as leftists.)

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Michael Rectenwald January 1, 2014 at 5:54 am

Your speculation is typical of identitarians. Perhaps you should look in the mirror to see what it is you are projecting.

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Dan January 1, 2014 at 11:36 am

You are the racist, and simply a moron for using such terms over something so trivial as an article. The fact you make so many racial assumptions, and the fact you show a strong distaste for white people, makes me think you are some kind of anti-white subaltern supremacist yourself; not looking for racial equality, but a new hierarchy with white people at the bottom.

It takes a special kind of stupid to conflate criticism of identity politics with racism, and shows how small minded tribe-thinkers such as yourself vitiate the meaning of racism, when using it in such trivial and childish ways.

It is funny how it seems, you wish to take ownership of the term racist, and deny it can be used to describe the hatred of white people that is evidently motivating your pathetic attempts at argument.

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Michael Rectenwald December 23, 2013 at 8:18 pm

“I am not certain anymore what being a Marxist (outside of a party context) exactly entails.”

That’s the best, most sincere, and veracious statement you’ve made since our first encounter. Perhaps you should study Marx in order to investigate the theory of Marxist socialism before attempting to disprove its contemporary interlocutors. You don’t seem very clear about Marxist ideas and how they make problematic your claims for identity. Nor can you seem to see, despite the numerous historical examples, how limited, misleading and downright reactionary identity politics can be. Further, you insist that “class” is just one function in a big grab bag of identity oppression, but you can’t provide an analysis of identity oppression whose undoing will end oppression in general. Or are you only interested in some kind of liberal reformism? If so, you’re in the wrong place.

As for our goals, I have made mine clear. Your more proximate goal seems to be to undermine the basis of socialism in a socialist forum. That’s interesting.

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Père Naphtha December 23, 2013 at 8:29 pm

It would be a funny type of Liberal Reformer, one would think, who would have sympathies for Che, Malcolm X, Mao, or the Naxalites…

If I seem unclear about the Marxist ideas you say make my position problematic, perhaps it’s because history since Marx has made them problematic, considering that socialist politics has always advanced, when it has advanced at all, alongside many predications.
But if you think I need to be educated, you can help by answering this question I keep asking:”Which goes back to the question of how class struggle has so far succeeded in a way that “identity” politics has allegedly failed: bringing about a world of equality. For the world remains unequal even now. We need to measure success by a more finite stranded.”

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