The Left as it exists currently is extremely guilt-ridden and moralistic, often ashamed of and apologetic for its class struggle orientation. As a result, even socialist organizations end up chasing after single-issue causes and demographic-specific oppression issues not merely with equal emphasis, but actually with greater emphasis than a class struggle focus. This practice and sentiment needs to be purged. It needs to be clarified unequivocally that this is a betrayal not just to the working class but to the oppressed themselves, because an approach that leans toward greater emphasis on a class struggle focus is actually more intersectional than a focus which gives more attention to demographic-specific issues than to class.
A needed sarcastic smackdown regarding the Democrats’ defeat was delivered by Ross Wolfe at The Charnel House:
But muh rainbow coalition of marginalized identities will smash the kyriarchy as we sprinkle magic diversity pixie dust over everyone and create a shiny liberal Starbucks utopia.
Left-liberal “progressives” did this to themselves. This is exactly what retreating into cultural (i.e., identity) politics, while abandoning class as the basis for a socially transformative coalition, gets you.
The main problem in the life of any oppressed group (or, we should begin relearning to say, any doubly-oppressed group, since the entire working class is oppressed) is actually not likely to take the form of the oppression special to their own specific demographic.
The main problem in the life of any doubly-oppressed group is usually, how am I going to eat? This is not speculation but backed up by polling data.
It’s true that every day, for example, every Black person faces the possibility of police violence. It’s also true, however, that every day, every Black person faces the definite obstacle of having to acquire money for food, rent, healthcare, and transit, etc. This can be extended in various ways by various analogies to women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and all oppressed groups.
It might sound insensitive to say that the main problem facing most women is actually not sexism. Obviously sexism is a huge problem and it’s not like it shouldn’t be opposed. But it’s actually more intersectional, more feminist, to oppose the problem which is a bigger problem for more women than sexism. The bigger, more immediate life-and-death problem facing most women is economics, money, the standard of living, capitalism. Of course it’s difficult to even separate capitalism and sexism, given that the way capitalism operates is so sexist and the distribution of money can literally be quantified as sexist in the form of unequal pay. Still, the most pressing problems facing most women are the most problems facing most men: how do I eat? How do I pay rent? Do I have a job, how do I get to it? Healthcare? How do I pay the expenses of kids or prevent kids from happening?
This is not to say demographic-specific demands should never be raised. This is to say that the Left should shift its emphasis and core messaging towards a greater imitation of the success achieved by the pivot in emphasis toward class struggle and economic demands undertaken by the Sanders campaign and by socialist Seattle city councilor Kshama Sawant. It’s not black-and-white: raise demands, or never raise them. It’s about frequency and proportion — how much do you raise them, how much time and space and focus do you give them? — a question of balance.
A truly more intersectional coalition message would place a primary emphasis on class struggle and economic demands, while still raising demographic-specific demands, precisely in order to reflect the fact that economic problems are the primary, biggest problems of doubly-oppressed groups, and in fact economic problems even affect doubly-oppressed groups more than the rest of the working class in general. There is also a different context for how and where such demands would be raised — rather than waging a rainbow of a million single-issue campaigns, the Left might focus resources on class organizing and fight for diversity, inclusion, tolerance, and against discrimination in the context of the workplace, etc, and then return to trying to affect laws at the political/national level once we have actually built a mass labor base to have a real impact upon them.
What I am trying to do is push back against a de-classed, over-specialized form of intersectionality that displays no interest in building class unity or an ability to work with ordinary people. Who is this type of intersectionality actually geared towards? Is it towards middle-class academic elites of oppressed groups, as have often been proposed? Actually I think the truth is even worse. In truth I think this non-proletarian form of “intersectionality” (is it really intersectionality if it doesn’t include the working masses?) is actually geared towards the upper-middle class demographic of academia and NGOs, and thus rather than being some kind of oppressed comprador bourgeoisie project (though it may sometimes be that), is actually mostly embraced by a white, sometimes male upper-middle class scene. Obviously it is not geared towards the actual working (and non-working) masses of doubly-oppressed groups, who might as well exist on another planet from these effete intra-Left disputes and may literally never hear the word “intersectionality” in their lifetimes.
Against the expectations of moralistic activists, people who focus on class or economic demands may actually develop a much closer relationship with people and communities of doubly-oppressed groups than activists who focus on special demands specific to those communities ever do.
If economic problems are the most pressing daily problems of doubly-oppressed groups, then it stands to reason that people who have been putting effort into economic demands, the labor movement, or the socialist movement have actually already objectively been implicitly members of the women’s movement, the Black struggle, the LGBT movement, the immigrants’ struggle, and possibly others, regardless of whether they have even realized it or not, regardless of whether or not they have raised any demands explicit to those groups or even given those groups a thought. The connection is material rather than intentional.
Why am I arguing for something that sounds like class reductionism? After all in my model, you could theoretically make no demographic-specific demands and actually come out as more intersectional than otherwise! It’s because currently on the Left, the pull toward the failed rainbow model, towards over-emphasis of demographic-specific demands and total ignorance and abandonment of economic and class demands is so fucking strong, that we would literally have to argue for something that seems like (but only seems like and actually isn’t) class reductionism to even end up with a compromise result of a 50/50 emphasis. The current playing field is totally unbalanced and unfair toward identity politics that I have to be “unfair” in the other direction to balance it back. The funny thing is, though, my arguments actually are true and fair, and again class emphasis is actually more intersectional than demographic-specific demands.
If “intersectionality” is mostly an excuse to throw the “non-oppressed” Other under the bus at every turn, to shut down a person’s participation in conversation despite them probably belonging to the working class, there is nothing intersectional about it. Nothing is intersecting. No one is connecting. People are fighting instead of uniting. Fuck that intersectionality. It is an intersection of anti-solidarity alone, an intersection of every possible iteration of division, an intersection of every possible form of non-intersection. It is self-contradicting in its very nature and definition. Intersectionality as it currently exists is anti-intersectional.
Instead of uniting the rainbow we shatter and fragment across every possible color. It’s time to get over the intense denial and psychological compartmentalization of the nonetheless abundantly present reverse hatred against any non-oppressed group implicit in identity politics.
Hillary Clinton could not even capture a majority of white women. As a winning strategy that is more likely to attract large amounts of working-class people of doubly-oppressed identities, rather than small layers of people on the activist fringes of those identities, class intersectionality’s shifted emphasis toward cross-demographic class struggle and economic demands is superior to the contemporary Left’s primary, overbearing focus on demographic-specific demands.