FOR INTERSECTIONAL CLASS STRUGGLE
The Left is in a bad position.
The Right has us completely fucked.
And, if we’re being real, we have completely fucked ourselves.
We need a stroke of genius.
In my narcissism I’m going to propose to have found one.
THEY HAVE US ON THE DEFENSIVE
Trump has the Left under relentless assault. We are constantly defending oppressed groups. He is constantly blasting out rhetoric and executive orders that force the Left to rally around various oppressed identities, or whip up the Left, in its strategic ignorance and emotional volatility, to place absolute focus on those issues alone. It’s self-defeating because it just doesn’t resonate with most people. We might have big protests against Trump, but the fact is, for all the people participating in the protests (myself included), there’s a big silent majority who are disaffected with both sides, who view the protests are just more partisan Democrat bullshit.
in response to the wave of public protests targeting President Donald Trump, telling MSNBC: “You are wrong to look at these crowds and think that means everyone wants $15 an hour.”
“I actually think the real energy is not just with the base. These are apolitical people that are turning out,”
“It’s all about identity on our side now,” she continued. “They want to show, ‘He does not support me. I support you, refugee. I support you, immigrant in my neighborhood. I want to defend you.’ Women who are rejecting Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are saying ― they’re saying this is power for them. ‘Donald Trump doesn’t take me seriously? Well, I’m showing you my value and my power.’ And I think it’s like our own version of identity politics on the left that’s more empowering.”
In the months since the election, many Democratic leaders have talked about bridging what some see as a gap between progressives who care about identity politics and progressives who care about economic populism. Palmieri’s remarks to Todd weren’t exactly in that spirit.
WE NEED TO BE ON THE OFFENSIVE
We were strongest when we were uniting the entire country around a class agenda.
That was during the Sanders campaign.
That was during the 2008/9 recession, during Occupy Wall Street.
That was during the Kshama Sawant campaign, during the $15 minimum wage campaigns.
BUT WE CAN’T TRANSITION DIRECTLY
Merely making the argument to the rest of the Left, that we need to rebalance our focus, that we need to do a better job including class, while Trump is so vigourously attacking us on the front of oppressed identities, will not resonate.
Even though Sanders did a great job bringing up class issues in the recent Sanders-Cruz town hall debate, it won’t really progress into anything with momentum beyond being a one-shot event unto itself without some way of fusing with the continuous, largely identity-based protest movement against Trump.
So that’s what we need to do: fuse. Instead of fighting to give more space to class politics within the protest movement, instead of arguing that there’s too much identity politics, instead of pushing against anything, we fuse. We don’t work against the momentum. We work with it.
Besides, it’s not like including both would actually be a bad thing, right? It is, actually, what we should do. My complaint was never that it was wrong to bring up oppression at all, my complaint was against people who have no class or economic analysis or focus or organizing while perhaps posing as leftists, my complaint was against socialist groups who claim to place class as central while doing zero or nearly zero class organizing, my complaint was against Democrats and others who use identity as a weapon against class struggle and internal dissidents. Yes, these are things that actually do happen all the fucking time and fuck anyone who tries to tell me they don’t, you don’t know my life.
MAKING CLASS AND IDENTITY IDENTICAL
For one thing, it’s not even like some dishonest move to make class and identity identical.
The working class is full of people belonging to oppressed identities.
Oppressed identities mostly consist of people belonging to the working class.
And let’s be real: the working class IS an oppressed identity.
Things like Black liberation, LGBTQ liberation, women’s liberation, these all ultimately mean nothing without full working class liberation, including the full reform list of universal healthcare, quality wages, housing, paid time off, transit, education, and everything else, but also ultimately workers’ control of the workplace and democracy over politics and the economy entirely.
And of course workers’ power can’t be a real thing unless it’s a genuine equal thing that stands up for every person of every group, or you’re still perpetuating a low-key class society.
Likewise, corporate liberalism takes people’s well-intentioned desire for social justice and channels it toward a class-blind reductive identity politics.
We can defeat both of them through class politics, which successfully takes the wind out of both of them by pulling people to an alternative they find intuitively much more attractive instead — but to do so, we have to break through the extremely thick, reductive, one-sided identity politics on the Left.
But we won’t do it so much by arguing against it directly. We have to understand that this one-sided identity politics on the Left right now doesn’t come out of nowhere, but is a product of Trump’s extremely ferocious attacks, so people cannot really be blamed. We can also understand it as a product of an intentional, evil, deceptive ruling-class corporate liberal project, but that’s a hard argument to make, no matter how overwhelmingly true it might be.
(This means that the Real Enemy are the wealthy corporate liberals themselves, not their legions of moralistic, class-blind, identitarian useful idiots on the Left, even though their legions of useful idiots may be complicit in the abuse — they are themselves also victims of the abuse and also need to be liberated from it.)
We defeat both of them not by arguing against identity politics, but by fusing with the healthiest forms of it, and channeling that identity politics toward class struggle.
We do this with the slogan INTERSECTIONAL CLASS STRUGGLE.
We bring this slogan to every single protest against Trump, and Trump’s policies, and Trump’s attacks. We scream this slogan everywhere.
We then place ourselves in a position where we can connect with people whose first contact with politics is identity but who may be open to class politics as well, instead of cutting ourselves off from them, and can educate and crystallize them toward a deeper radicalization on a class and materialist basis, to the point that we can get them making the argument to others whose politics are based largely on identity:
Not only does class struggle require intersectionality,
actually intersectionality requires class struggle.
This will act as inocculation in them, not only against Trumpism which claims to stand for the working class while attacking intersectionality, but also against neoliberal Democrats who claim to stand for identity while attacking or ignoring class. You can’t have one without the other, and the more we entrench this consciousness in people, the more it will begin playing out by itself and build a momentum of its own, countering the nightmare vicious cycle of Trumpism-vs.-neoliberalism, false alternatives reiterating and feeding off of their own incompleteness and one-sidedness and incoherence.
What’s cool about this slogan is we can actually mean it. And of course it is context-sensitive. It will resonate more with the people who are already interested in intersectionality. To Middle America, who is more interested in universal healthcare, and who is already more intuitively, unconsciously intersectional (the way they say it is just not being racist), we don’t have to use that jargon which will of course sound unfamiliar and alien.
For a new reductionism — where class and identity are reduced to each other!