Queer Liberation is Class Struggle

2010 January 8
by Other

This piece was written by JOMO, a member of the Black Orchid Collective.

my friend, Sarah Hopkins, made this flag after we watched "Flag Wars," a film about middle class, white gay men gentrifying a black neighborhood. The rainbow flag became a symbol of gentrification, so we realized we need to make our own flag which symbolizes working class, queer liberation.

my friend, Sarah Hopkins, made this flag after we watched "Flag Wars," a film about middle class, white gay men gentrifying a black neighborhood. The rainbow flag became a symbol of gentrification, so we realized we need to make our own flag which symbolizes working class, queer liberation.

In the past two years, the issue of gay marriage has dominated the scene of queer struggles. Some of us are actively supportive, others, grudgingly supportive, and more others who rail that yet again, queer struggles are being monopolized by assimilationist, middle class versions of normality and family: “We are the same as you, except for in bed.”

Some supporters of gay marriage point to the economic benefits of marriage. Working class and poor queers need marriage to help alleviate their poverty; immigrant queers need marriage to get US citizenship. I agree. Yet, let’s not forget that many queers will never get married because of their suspicions of state institutions. Granting gay marriage doesn’t guarantee that immigrant spouses get visas or are free from ICE harassment. Also, around us we see families for whom marriage has not helped alleviate the race and class oppressions that they face everyday. While it may be true that gay marriage does benefit some immigrant couples, oftentimes this comes as an afterthought rather than a decisive theme of gay marriage struggles. It is undeniable that the struggle for gay marriage has been dominated by white, middle class queers who support the Democrats and are ashamed of those of us who don’t fit in their status quo.

One may see gay marriage as a reform to be won to open up space for more gains for queer liberation. Indeed, if gay marriage was simply a tactic within a broader strategy that integrated class, race and queer struggles, perhaps it wouldn’t cause so much anxiety among radical queer circles. In the absence of a broader strategy and vision however, all our hopes get pinned on this one struggle and the questions become stressful, burdensome and intense: Are we betraying our roots? Are we fighting for the society we envision through this struggle? Exactly what is this broader vision of queer liberation that gay marriage is a reform toward?

That the issue of gay marriage has dominated and overshadowed other important discussions that should be had among queer radicals shows that there has been a lack of strategy and vision of queer liberation that integrates anti-racist, anti-patriarchy, class struggle and anti-ableist perspectives. While academics have churned out thousands of books on queer theory, spinning our heads dizzy with abstract lingo, those of us on the ground have not similarly churned out our own theory and practice of queer struggles. This is not to say people have not led successful and important campaigns around queer liberation. However, the strategy and vision has not been clearly articulated and insufficiently theorized for it to be replicated and generalized in different places and conditions. The result is the domination of liberals, with their pro-capitalist, liberal racist, ableist, “tolerate us” ideologies.

 

The limits of middle class ideology

One glaring question is: Where is the working class in our strategizing and vision of queer liberation?

What kind of politics has defined queer liberation in such a way that has led to the erasure of the working class, which composes the majority of US society and the world?

Most queers are workers. That means the queer struggle is also a class struggle. Why hasn’t it been seen as such?

How do we organize as workers to demand queer liberation? Who are our friends, and who are our enemies? Will the union bureaucracy or the rank and file lead the movement?

These questions lead us to examine how middle class politics have dominated queer organizing. This domination has led to the erasure of working class and poor queers. This is not simply a coincidence.

Middle class academics have produced middle class theories to understand our oppression. In the post 1960s era, with the demise of class struggle politics, identity politics have taken reign. Similarly, the failure of revolutionary groups to take up gender and sexuality as decisive parts of the class struggle has meant that academics had the free reign to monopolize queer theory.  As a result, middle class academics could get away with claiming that class struggle politics has nothing to do with queer politics because they confused the class-reductionist and often heterosexist politics of degenerate Leftist sects with the struggle of the working class itself, including its many queer members.

The result of all of this is that our movement is left with a shallow analysis of “intersectionality” rather than a full strategy by which the oppressed –  people of color, women, queer folks, people with disabiliteies — can unite to fight our common enemies.  Among progressive circles, the idea of “intersectionality” has been taken up by the non profit industrial complex (NPIC). In the absence of working class organizations like revolutionary organizations and thriving unions, academia and the NPIC have become the dominant progressive institutions today. The theories they espouse understandably have lasting impacts.

It is commonly explained, that “our oppressions intersect.” That race, class, disability oppression (the –isms) all come together to support one another. When activists reference these intersections, it is usually a call for different identity based groups to work together, to counter a divide and conquer. It is also an attempt to recognize the specific struggles of each identity-based oppression. The intentions are good, and serve initially as a useful lens for understanding various experiences, yet fall flat as an organizing theory.

The erasure of class in the intersectionality theory is most clearly expressed through the replacement of class oppression with the defanged term, “classism.” Rather than advocating for class struggle of the working class and the poor taking over the means of production and the running of society, the “classism” analysis is an attempt to raise the consciousness of the rich, to be NICE, FRIENDLY, SENSITIVE to their poorer brethren. Under “classism” ideology, working and poor folks become the rich man’s burden, not an agent for change in our own right. In fact, the organizing that arises from such an ideology is as condescending and patronizing toward working class and poor folk as the snobbishness it aims to criticize.

At its worst, intersectionality theory compartmentalizes our identities — we are a “class” compartment, lying next to a “woman” compartment, lying next to a “people of color” compartment, and then a “person with disabilities” compartment, and the list goes on. In reality, we aren’t neatly arranged compartments segregated and then intersected. That each of those individual compartments is further divided into those with more and less institutional power is also erased. In reality, we are a mesh of working class, queer, gendered, differently abled and colored people. We don’t naturally have more allegiance to the queer segment of ourselves than the colored segment – we are all of it at once. We hate the white supremacist queers, as much as we disdain the ruling class people of color or labor bureaucracy who will readily sacrifice us for their own self interest. We also don’t naturally have more allegiance to the queer middle class than we do to the rank and file straight workers.  Our self-conception is more complicated, and our liberations, more explosive.

I have heard vague calls for queers to work with labor. Yet, broadly speaking, what is labor? By labor do we mean the labor bureaucracy or the rank and file? Also, what is queer? Is queer the assimilationist white, rich, patriarchal gay men or the transfolk denied jobs for their gender expression? When queer works with labor, who exactly are we talking about?

The majority of the world is the rank and file of the working class, not the union bureaucrats. The majority of queers are not middle class and white. In fact, union bureaucracies and queer middle classes have betrayed us in their grab for their own power, making shameless alliances with the very forces that exploit our labor and erase our identities. We are mostly working class, rank and file, queer people of color and that’s who most of us see when we look into the mirror everyday. Any attempt to build an “alliance” between labor and queers needs to begin from this starting point.  An “alliance” or “intersection” should not even be necessary, it is only made necessary by the fact that the union bureaucracy dominates “labor” and the gay elites dominate “queerness.”  If we can break down these twin dominations then it will be much easier to build an “alliance” because most queers already are labor and many laborers are queer. This involves struggle and organizing.

Queer Struggle is Class Struggle

Selma James is a Marxist feminist who wrote the seminal piece, “Sex, Race and Class,” among other feminists texts that reclaim women’s liberation from middle-class, racist ideology. She and others in the Global Women’s Strike were pioneers in organizing Wages for Housework, demanding that women who engage in the often invisible and devalued reproductive labor, be compensated for their work as laborers in capitalist society. I draw heavily from their perspectives toward women’s liberation to understand queer struggles as also manifestations of class struggle, hoping to expand beyond the heteronormative theories that nonetheless, were so groundbreaking at the time.

To adapt James: the queer struggle need not wander off into the class struggle. The queer struggle is the class struggle.

Rather than dissecting who we are and dividing ourselves into neat compartments that await token representatives to “intersect” our oppressions for us, is it possible for us to see that these oppressions are manifestations of class oppression? Our experiences and oppressions as women, as queers, as folks with disabilities, cannot be separated from the capitalist structure of society.

The old, white, male revolutionary left would have us think that class struggle was only in the factories. In “Sex, Race and Class” Selma James decisively shows that the class struggle extends beyond the factory. Unwaged labor done by housewives in heterosexual families, provide the reproductive labor that is essential for the system to maintain itself. Whether it is bringing up the next generation of workers through nurturing children, or replenishing the labor of their partners through the maintenance of the home and the bare necessities, housewives conduct the work that is often invisible, but necessary for the continued and intensive looting of labor by the capitalist.

The emphasis and dogged maintenance of the heterosexual nuclear family is a product of capitalism. All who violate it are criminalized. To the extent that women and queers challenge the eternity of this heteronormative institution, we are not wanted.

Queer Families

The heterosexual nuclear family ensures that the responsibility for reproductive labor can be contained within the household, stripping the state, or the capitalist bosses of any responsibility for maintaining their workers’ health, sanity, desires. Besides being an institution that replaces society in meeting the material needs of workers, the heterosexual nuclear family also serves other emotive purposes.

As John d’Emilio describes, the nuclear family under capitalism is supposed to function as an affective site, a “personal space” that is an escape from the stresses of public work life, that helps workers to deal with the alienation they experience on a day to day basis. We are taught to believe that even though works sucks during the day, at least you have your cozy family to return to. The fact that many blood families are actually dysfunctional, patriarchal, homophobic, or damaging to our self esteems, in large part also a product of the stresses of daily living under capitalism, is besides the point. We are often told that it is something to be tolerated since it is the only imagined site of reliability and comfort that we can count on in a dog eat dog world. We are taught from young that aside from blood, other relations are tested and many don’t survive. The reality is, every relationship is tested and stressed under capitalism and we cannot escape the alienation in a definitive manner, nuclear family or not, without struggle.

Queer liberation is deeply tied to the existence of non-heteronormative families as legitimate families with access to social services, jobs, education, shelter and support. These families go beyond gay marriage even though the latter could arguably serve as a useful reform.  Our need to encompass struggles for different families has to do with the fact that the possibility of total rejection and abandonment by our blood families and communities, a loss of financial and emotional support from them, has been a real fear for many of us. Some of us are pleasantly surprised by families that have accepted and loved us nonetheless, and yet more others have been brutally disappointed. Regardless, in light of theories that will continue to see our trangressions of heterosexual norms as a sign of individual mental instability, a community that affirms our desires and needs is all the more necessary. Chosen families, non-heteronormative families, are not merely luxuries, they are needed for our very real, daily survival.

Yet under capitalism, these families are illegitimate. Single mother households, or households with people with disabilities, or extended families with elderly and young dependents, or communities that take in non-blood relatives as their own, struggle to survive off of welfare checks or minimal paychecks. These families do not readily and predictably churn out the future, obedient disciplined workers that will deliver their bodies to capitalism, in exchange for a pittance of a wage. Our rejection of capitalist discipline is written off, as our cultural inadequacies. Perceiving our labor as unwanted and untrustworthy, capitalists reject us from the economy and ship us off to prisons, nursing homes, mental institutions or into the informal economy of the streets, still managing in the process, to extract some profit for themselves through our oppression.

Middle class ideology cannot liberate us because it reiterates capitalist attacks on our chosen, non-heteronormative families. It will teach us to reject the families we have, and to settle for the more nuclear, more hetero, the more “responsible” family. Yet another non profit will offer us job training programs for the worst, cheapest, most demeaning service sector jobs and expect us to be thankful. Clinton’s welfare act did just that and masqueraded itself as a well-meaning “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” program. This is couched in terms of us learning “life skills,” learning to be responsible citizens under a capitalist system, to unlearn our rebellion. Yet there is no understanding that many of us disdain these programs and these jobs, not because we are lazy, but because class oppression at the workplace, in the service sector is not a desirable alternative. That we would find a minimum wage job ruled by an increasingly heavy- handed managements, demeaning and undesirable, is then blamed on us: We are undeserving, lazy and untrustworthy.

It is not a surprise that Stonewall took place on the streets, in the dingiest bar that made its business serving queers  ostracized from other parts of the city. Fierce queers, many whom were people of color and sex workers, worked the streets and came out in defense of it. Where jobs in the formal economy shut out queers, particularly transfolk, the streets and its informal economy was and still is, seen as the only place to find money, and family. Where hormones are too expensive and inaccessible because our needs are seen only as elective options by the insurance industries, then street versions make for sufficient transitions. However, the rise of AIDS among queer communities in the 1980s is a reflection of the challenges of street lives, of poverty, and of a lack of accessible comprehensive healthcare, lest we should over-romanticize its dangers. The complete neglect of the state, the rhetoric of blame that rained on queer communities as a result of the AIDS epidemic, shows how our survival cannot happen without a fight.

Recognizing that any struggle needs strategic allies, where do we turn to? Middle class ideology, through the state and the non profit industrial complex, advocates to save us from ourselves, and help us overcome our queerness, abandoning our chosen families in the process. Even the progressive non profits advocate for us through back room deals with the state or the Democrats, who have proven only to be the worst, two-faced betrayers of queer liberation. If we can agree that such resolutions are unsatisfying, who then can queers who engage in the informal economy, for whom the streets is home, turn to for our collective liberation? How can we make the struggle against discrimination of transfolk at workplaces, the struggle for better wages and more desirable jobs, a real struggle on the streets, and not mere legal reform negotiated in back room deals that too many of us are shut out from?

Homophobia and Transphobia is also Class phobia

For all its talk of fostering creativity through competiton, the capitalist system is the most repressive in stifling the creativity and motivation of its workers. It insists on seeing us merely as cogs in a system, devoid of thought, emotions, and desires. When queers are discriminated in the hiring process for being too gender deviant, too campy, too out, it is because we jarringly disrupt the capitalist fantasy of a brainless, emotionless, machine-like worker. We are punished for showing that there really isn’t a division between the public life in the workplace, and our private lives as sexual, emotional, gendered beings. We bring our private lives into our public lives, the workplace, either because we have no intention or no way to hide who we are.

The attack on queer expressions of gender and sexuality in the workplace under capitalism is an attempt to strip us of our agency, creativity, sexuality, intelligence. Yet these same traits are the ones that queer and straight workers alike utilize to get through the grueling workday. We improvise our jobs with lessons learned from years of experience or stories exchanged by reliable co-workers; We hold ourselves to an integrity at the workplace that bosses keep pushing us to betray: we refuse to snitch on our co-workers, we help the slowest and newest workers get through so they get paid like all of us; We also know better than the next new manager where all the safety hazards in the workplace are, or how best to organize the work. All these aspects of labor cannot be found in the employers manuals, but are lessons transmitted through conversations in the break rooms or on the job, or during rants in the clock-in stations. Just as queer workers are seen as too outrageous for our transgressions of what is normal at the workplace, so are these invaluable conversations seen as too bold, too unruly by an inhumane capitalist system.

These demands for our freedom, from gender expression to workplace control, go beyond the contract, or our wages. At their best, these are demands that arise from our desire as workers to see the workplace not merely as sites of alienation, but also as extensions of who we are and our relationships. Currently, it is only the top echelon, the CEOs who get to put their own unique, personalized stamp at their workplace. These desires challenge the fundamental basis of capitalist control over our labor. For that reason, they are beyond the confines of trade union politics and cannot be successfully negotiated through the contract. It is the daily struggles of the rank and file workers where such tension is experienced and so it will be through our daily, independent, and militant action that this tension can be overcome.

Patriarchy


Under capitalism, patriarchy serves the dual functions of devaluing female labor, particularly that of women of color, as well as appeasing oppressed male labor. The gender binary, the patriarchal family and heterosexual marriage are key manifestations of patriarchy that affect the everyday lives of working people.

The gender binary limits and enforces the division between male and female genders, subjugating the latter under the former. Historically, male workers, particularly white men, have been attributed of rationality, scientific knowledge, and power relative to women workers. Women, the supposedly lesser sex, are cast with hysteria, emotions, instability, needing male supervision and control. Women of color have been devalued in society, the targets of racism and sexism, and their labor, the most devalued. Our cheap and accessible labor has provided capitalism an unending pool of female workers who will accept low wages.

The fraternity of male supremacy also institutionalizes this division to prevent male workers from questioning their own oppressions — there is always someone worse off.  Through the process of slavery and white supremacy, the U.S. ruling class realized that it could keep white workers under its thumb by giving them better wages and other benefits denied to Black workers. It encouraged them to reflect on the fact that, as miserable as they may be, at least they’re not Black.  Similarly, too many male workers congratulate themselves for not being sexualized, objectified and devalued as women workers under the capitalist system. There is always someone worse off. Under this binary, gender benders, trans workers cannot find a stable liberated place. To the male supremacists, the transwomen have betrayed their gender, and transmen desecrate the male gender. By their crossing, both render the division undesirable, indefensible and transgressible.

Our mere existence as queers do not imply naturally that we are anti-patriarchal or anti-capitalist, yet our existence threatens this binary under capitalism and it is up to us to bring forward a politics that utilizes this power. Through a queer politics that also draws from anti-patriarchal struggles, we challenge the notion that women workers need to be subservient, or that male workers need to cling on to the chains of their imprisonment. We can smash the gender binary everywhere we go, and through that, dismantle the systems that are premised on its existence.

As the capitalist system abandons previously thriving and unionized American cities to exploit cheaper labor elsewhere, deindustrialized cities are full of unemployed and poor people of all genders. Lisa Duggan’s luminal essay[1] suggests that where white privilege and male privilege had once guaranteed white folks and men a sense of entitlement on the basis of their race, gender and citizenship, today’s capitalist race to the bottom strip these benefits and present instead unemployment and welfare as the few viable options. In lieu of these losses, white male workers either acknowledge the need to stand side by side with other oppressed workers, or they resent their loss and seek to reinforce that sense of superiority and entitlement. One may argue that Vincent Chin and Brandon Teena were victims of a last grasp at masculinity and its privileges in deindustrilaizing cities.

Brandon Teena was a transman who was raped and murdered in cold blood in 1993, in Lincoln Nebraska after his transgender identity was revealed. His story was depicted in Boys Don’t Cry, as well as the Brandon Teena Story. Lisa Duggan situates what happens to Teena in the context of the deindustrializing Lincoln, Nebraska. In the absence of jobs and presence of abject poverty, those who transgressed boundaries were subjected to violence. They threatened an existing order that could not deal with any trepidation. She insightfully says,

A politics that cannot grasp the constraints, coercions, pressures and deprivations imposed through class hierarchies and economic exploitation, or that fails to imagine the realities of rural, agricultural and other non-metropolitan lives, cannot possibly speak to the Brandons in our midst. Brandon needed a labor movement, a working class politics, a critique of economic cruelties.[2] (emphasis mine)

Duggan’s quote and its analysis are important because it discusses homophobia and transphobia not simply as an incomprehensible form of hate by straight folks, but rather situates it in the context of deindustrialization, poverty, and pressures that such economic deprivation creates for all folks who live in that environment. This is important for us to understand, not to excuse the violence of the perpetuator’s crimes, but rather to understand its origins so we can fight back and change the conditions that created it. An incomprehensible hate cannot be destroyed and neither can it be transformed, but through mass struggle, an economic condition and its pressures that lead to transphobia and homophobia can potentially be changed.

Yet, contrary to what middle class chauvinism would have us believe, homophobia and transphobia are not just the realms of deindustrailized cities and the working class. The recognition of the existence of homophobia and transphobia within working class communities is simply a sober assessment and recognition of the challenges we have to overcome in concreting organizing toward a vision of a working class queer liberation. As Joanna Kadi says, the caricature of the homophobic worker is also a fantasy of elitist queers who have either have had no meaningful contact, or simply outright disdain and class hatred for the working class. Middle class folks and their urban chauvinism would have us believe that queers outside of metropolitan areas are subject to even greater hate crime, or violence from their communities. These folks have no ways of understanding the myriad ways in which our families and communities have also expressed their love and support for our chosen lifestyles and partners. Bound by less rigid social etiquette norms that rich folks are socialized into, our working class families are less inclined to hide what they believe. This doesn’t mean we are more or less homophobic, simply more vocal about whatever it is.  When the spotlights shine on the question of working class homophobia, what is instead left invisible, is the institutionalized heteronormativity, racism, ableism and class oppressions that have destroyed more queer lives than hate crimes ever have. The military, the abject healthcare system that increase our risk of HIV/AIDS, unemployment, and police brutality are only some examples. Let us not forget that the blood is on the hands of the capitalist ruling class and the middle class that create, support and enforce those policies.

Will we be degenerating into a class reductionism by situating queer struggles within class oppression?

Are we in danger of saying “Queers and Straight, Unite and Fight?” along the same lines that the Communist Party once envisioned for Black workers? The vision of “Black and White Unite and Fight” put black workers demands as secondary to white worker demands, claiming that black workers had to silence their struggles against racism for a façade of unity. Instead of demanding white workers overcome white supremacy,, black workers were accused of dividing the class through their resistance against their racist co-workers. For our purposes, how do we avoid the same class reductionist strategies that call for an undemocratic popular front between queer workers and a by-far heteronormative labor movement?

There are some precious lessons to take from the Black Power movement. In her piece, James discusses how Malcolm X, a figure whom many would associate only with Black nationalist politics, was able to hit at the crux of working class struggle. To quote her:

Intellectuals in Harlem and Malcolm X, that great revolutionary, were both nationalists, both appeared to place colour above class when the white Left were still chanting variations of “Black and white unite and fight,” or “Negroes and Labour must join together.” The Black working class were able through this nationalism to redefine class: overwhelmingly Black and Labour were synonymous (with no other group was Labour as synonymous-except perhaps with women), the demands of Blacks and the forms of struggle created by Blacks were the most comprehensive working class struggle.[3] (emphasis mine)

Where class is racialized and oppression exacerbated along racial lines, then race was also another redefinition of class. The League of Revolutionary Black Workers was one such example. Based in Detroit in the late 1960s, the LRBW was a Black autoworkers organization that was independent from the union bureaucracy. They saw that the union bureaucracy, in its collaboration with management, was unable and unwilling to fight against the racism that Black workers were facing. They were always the last ones hired and first ones fired, and subject to extremely dangerous working conditions because their lives didn’t matter to the capitalists and the union bureaucracy. The LRBW took independent action on the shopfloor, such as wildcat strikes, to fight for their safety, through a message of Black workers struggle against racism. When the demands were achieved, it was a victory for all of the working class. The Black struggle is the class struggle.

How can we form organizations today that take up the struggles that queer workers, both employed and unemployed, face at the workplace and in doing so, further the struggle for all of the working class? So that our victories are also class victories?

The need for a working class queer liberation theory and practice is not just an academic foray. It is a necessity for us to reach out beyond the abstract lingo of queer theory, beyond the annals of academia, urban centers and progressive non profit scenes. If we are to appeal to queers who are working class, are people of color, are differently abled, and who may not even identify as queer but, whose love lives, sex lives, gender expressions and family formations are all queerly out of heteronormativity, then we need to articulate a politics that reflects this diversity.

Drawing from the words of the Combahee River Collective, working class queers across race, ability and gender have to be responsible for our own liberation. We have to build power in such a way that those who accuse us of dividing their heterosexist labor movement, or their white, middle-class queer movements will have to realize  that “they might not only lose valuable and hardworking allies in their struggles,” but that they might also be forced to change their habitually heterosexist ways of interacting with and oppressing working class queers.
In 1978, the Black lesbian feminists of the Combahee River Collective said,

We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.[4]

We do well to learn from that history to build on our theory and practice on a queer liberation that weaves in anti-racist, anti-patriarchal, anti-ableist class struggle politics.

Power to queers, and therefore to the class.


[1] Lisa Duggan, “The Brandon Teena Case and the Social Psychology of Working-Class Resentment, ” New Labor Forum 13(3)2004

[2] ibid

[3] Selma James, “Sex, Race and Class,” <http://libcom.org/library/sex-race-class-james-selma>

[4] Combahee River Collective Statement, <http://circuitous.org/scraps/combahee.html>

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    All I can say is DAMN, this is an outstanding essay. It draws on a lot of vital political traditions – Selma James, STO’s Black Worker-White Worker, Paul Romano’s American Worker pamphlet, the Combahee River Collective, etc. All of these are exciting in their own right but I’ve never seen all of them brought together in such a coherent and powerful synthesis. Great job Jomo. I particularly like how you describe the rebellion against discipline and alienation on the shop floor and how bending gender and being flamboyant challenge this discipline. I hear in that part a lot of distilled echoes of your struggles working with queer homeless youth and more recently doing workplace organizing. This is very refreshing, it succeeds at doing what you call for, which is to break out of the academic box of queer theory and to develop theory and strategy for queer liberation from a working class perspective.

  • Mikey

    Agreed – this is a fantastic essay that proudly sits alongside the contributions of Selma James and others. It does for queer liberation what James did for women’s liberation – provide concrete strategies for integrating queer liberation into class struggle, without subordinating one to the other.

    It reminds me of a post over Advance the Struggle recently. That post, “Still waiting on a Marxist analysis of Race,” included an essay by Adolph Reed attacking the class basis of recent “anti-racist” work by folks like Tim Wise. Reed did an excellent job of exposing the middle class liberalism of those folks who want to keep race and class separate from each other. Doing so is a middle class strategy, where folks can ease their consciences by “working on their racism” while ignoring the fundamentally intertwined relationship of race and class. This lets middle class folks feel better about themselves while ignoring the need to struggle against class oppression.

    One effect of this, Reed points out, is that, “Leading professional antiracist Tim Wise came to the defense of Obama’s purged green jobs czar Van Jones by dismissing Jones’s “brief stint with a pseudo-Maoist group,” and pointing instead to “his more recent break with such groups and philosophies, in favor of a commitment to eco-friendly, sustainable capitalism.”

    In effect, all this talk about anti-racism from Wise, while ignoring class, leads to supporting a reformed capitalism.

    This essay does a similar service, pointing out how focusing on “intersectionality” is a way for middle class academics and NGO workers to ignore the need to fight class oppression.

    The article on A/S is here: http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/still-waiting-on-a-marxist-analysis-of-race/

  • http://www.exposeyourselftomarx.blogspot.com DougN

    It could be because I haven’t read any of the material referenced in the article, but I can’t see why, “Black and White, Unite and Fight” would be considered a bad idea or a bad slogan.

  • http://gatheringforces.org Krisna

    Hey Doug,

    In and of itself I don’t think it is a bad slogan. The problem is the historical implications of it. Various white-dominated socialist and communist parties threw up that banner ostensibly to link the struggles of black and white workers. The problem was that it meant any time black workers began to make race-specific demands to challenge the racial manifestations of class, they were told they were dividing the movement.

    This is relevant for women in the black movement of the 1960s who were being told that feminism was for white women and that by struggling against patriarchy within the black movement they were dividing it. By the men accusing the women of that had it completely backwards. It was actually the men who were dividing the movement by refusing to support demands that would have benefited the whole movement (if we consider women a fundamental part of that whole).

    Likewise, C.L.R. James argued that black demands always benefited white workers and the general class whether they take the form of basic civic rights like universal suffrage or more informal but far more important ways like when black workers fought against racist company and union hierarchs. When black workers slowed down the line, even the white workers got a chance to chill.

    Again, saying black and white workers or queer and straight workers should unite isn’t a bad thing at all, but if it means black folks and queers must supplicate their specific struggles and demands in order to preserve a false unity, then that is no unity at all.

  • cg

    JOMO, this is a really fantastic piece. There is a lot going on. I don’t have anything to add, but wanted to focus more on this nuanced critique of intersectionality, which I found particularly helpful. Intersectionality is deployed not just in NPIC, but almost aggressively in academia, particularly in queer studies and womens studies. In my own queer theory class this year, we were asked the question: why are queers and women the only ones who have to take up issues of intersectionality? I think this question points to the tension JOMO lays out: First of all, by reducing oppressions to DESCRIMINATIONS, struggles for liberation are obfuscated. Instead of PoC, poor and working folks, queer folks, women, and folks with disabilities learning about struggles for our own liberation, we are instead told to fight to convince middle and upper class white folks not to hate on us. This is always unsatisfying, and I think creates the crisis of ineffectiveness that would bring about the question of why certain groups “have to” take up intersectionality, yet why is it always an unsatisfying analysis. This also points to the ongoing tension in academia around disciplinary boundaries that say that certain questions, for example of queer or gender lib, can happen in the classroom, as long as they stay in the classroom. Instead of these departments being used as starting placed for development of community and theory for queer and anti-patriarchal activism , queer folks and women are told they can only gain legitimacy in academia if they just write, but don’t struggle. The ghettoization of women and queer studies into the university I think is another example of middle class chauvinism, reinforcing the notion that the “concerns” of women and queer folks are only for middle class, white people to consider.

    My question is, if the intersectionality analysis is formulated and promulgated in the NPIC and the academy, how has it come into usage in left/radical activist circles? Right now we seem to be at a moment where white, middle class activists take up the queer struggle in a deferential, indentity-oppression way, similar to how some white activist groups treat people of color. However, many of these white, middle class activist groups also have members who are queer and working class; when reduced to identities that need to be respected, appreciated, and protected, instead of being at the forefront of struggle, queer, poc, and working class voices are silenced in middle class organizing.

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  • http://advancethestruggle.wordpress.com The Fish

    Just gotta say that I really appreciate the scholarship and deep engagement with the subject on display here. Understanding the specific ways that race gender, sexuality are the substance of class (as Selma James began provacatively in the essay quoted above) may be THE question for marxist theorists today. JOMO shows with queer liberation the way that this work can be done, especially by drawing out the implications of the findings for struggle. Feelin’ it!

  • http://www.bringtheruckus.org geo

    Great article!

    For reference, check out the pamphlet by A. Rausch put out by STO in 1980, entitled “IN PARTIAL PAYMENT: Class Struggle, Sexuality and the Gay Movement” (Urgent Tasks No. 7).

    At: http://www.sojournertruth.net/ipp.html

    Quote: “The gay movement’s existence outside, for the most part, of strug­gles in the workplace and factory is another limitation that exists. If all gay people woke up lavender, as one long-time activist said, then the struggle would immediately change character.”

  • hamoid

    im about to leave a more thorough comment, but just want say that regarding this:

    “Are we in danger of saying “Queers and Straight, Unite and Fight?” . .. For our purposes, how do we avoid the same class reductionist strategies that call for an undemocratic popular front between queer workers and a by-far heteronormative labor movement?”

    the best counter-narrative to the heteronormative labor movement i have EVER come across was the alliance of gays and lesbians (i dont remember mention of other queers) with the welsh miners in Britain in 1984. there is an excellent account of it in an issue of Radical America from the 80s.

    a gay/lesbian solidarity organization formed to support the miners and the miners even invited them to lead one of their marches. at one miner came out of the closet after getting to know the gay activists who visited the mining town on a regular basis to show support. anyway, try to find that issue of Radical America, it was amazing.

  • hammoid

    i got an email from a list serve once from a gay man who was a long time member of one of the main trotskyist organizations in the US. he felt that the issues he raised about sexuality were being marginalized in his organization. i replied to him personally and asked what his main concerns were around sexuality. i asked him how he, as a lifelong marxist, assessed the glbtq position in the class structure and what implications that has for working class organizing (eg is there a “queer sector” of the working class). he replied saying those were great questions that he never even thought about before, and then proceeded to forward me documents on what had been his focus regarding sexuality during his time with this trotskyist organization. i was blown away when i opened the attachment to find 6 polemical articles arguing in favor of Man-Boy Love.

    while we criticize the patriarchal, middle class heteronormative structures of mainstream institutions (like universities and the workplace) and counterhegemonic ones (like radical groups), shouldn’t we put some heat on queers themselves who focus on less than central questions? queer folks should take the lead on producing queer marxist class struggle praxis. i dont know, maybe what im saying is bordering on blaming the victim, but i actually do think the victim plays some part in their victimization in most situations. developing praxis for your own liberation is the meaning of self-determination. queer folks seem to have denied themselves the most powerful tools available to them – the marxist method.

    the major crisis of Marxism today is less, in my opinion that there’s too many straight white males that embrace marxism, but that not enough black, brown, yellow, queer, and woman people do. thats what is so refreshing about this piece, because i know Gathering Forces is mostly people of color, gender balanced, and has queer members. hopefully this is just a first step toward a more complete queer liberation praxis that is fused with every other section of the working class. the Radical America article about Gay/Lesbian – Blue Collar unity in the 1984 British Miner’s strike is dope and i couldnt recommend it enough.

    but now i would like to put the question to you all that i did to the man-boy love dude: where in the division of labor do we see the highest concentrations of queer folks? what are the implications for our organizing?

    ps thanks for a great article and getting our wheels spinning on this crucial question.

  • JK

    Thanks for this essay JOMO! There’s a lot to think about here, but I want to respond to cg’s comment about the ideas of intersectionality in activist circles as well as academia. My experience was as part of a small contingent of radical anarchist-feminists who were in college together and were also part of an anarchist community group dominated by class-reductionist white men. We learned about intersectionality in a (mostly) “defanged” academic context with little reference to capitalism or the need for revolutionary politics. My understanding of intersectionality was that it sought to de-compartmentalize how race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class shape people’s lives, and so could be a very powerful tool in doing just what JOMO calls for: showing how the queer struggle is a worker’s struggle. My radical feminist classmate and I were able to bring those ideas to our anarchist group in a more revolutionary form, basically expressing the same ideas that you quote from the Conbahee River Collective, and I think our group was much stronger for it. I guess I think that the ideas of intersectionality can be quite useful as long as they are not divorced from an anti-capitalist analysis, and don’t necessarily have to lead to the sort of “privilege” politics that cg refers to.

  • JK

    Also, I love love love the flag!

  • ps.lo

    JOMO,

    I have become aware of queer-theory within the past 1-2 weeks. My new girlfriend is queer and I find that I resonate very well with her ideas, and in fact I find that I support the goals of this movement.

    I would like to make a comment about one thing you wrote:

    “We hate the white supremacist queers…”

    A mentor of mine taught me not to be “anti” anything. I also believe that hate does nothing but encourage further hate. I have befriended many white-supremacists/racists and sexists, and through my compassion and understanding have been able to dialogue with them about there views so that I could see things from their perspective, give them an opportunity to speak their minds to an open-minded person, and also give me the opportunity to share my points of view on the matter. After listening to their sometimes over-the-top extremely hateful and uninsightful ranting, or perhaps understandable points of view, I speak with them from my heart and express that we are all one. If one suffers we all suffer. If one bleeds we all bleed. Etcetera.

    I appreciate your eloquence and thorough research in what I feel is a very important movement, and wonder if you yourself find folly in your expression of hate, or whether you truly do hate, “white supremacist queers…” Building bridges is important. It allows people from both side to meet in the middle, and eventually mix together. Tearing down bridges, through hate, only guarantees that hate continues to exist.

    Just my thoughts.

    Thanks for everything!

  • http://gatheringforces.org/ BaoYunCheng

    In response to ps.lo, I hate and I’m anti-oppression because I have love for my own skin, I have love for those similarly oppressed. It’s because those who create/uphold/practice oppression hate me and my kind so much that I hate. I’m fighting to create a society where current oppressions and hierarchical divisons cease to exist, so that I won’t have to feel like I’m selling out my own kind like a house negro when I ‘love’ my enemy. In reality, I have nothing in common with my oppressor, who treats and perceives me like I’m less than human, that I’m expendable, and it’s this basis of my oppression that my oppressor feels secure, wealthy, powerful. Because of this dynamic, I will never dialogue with capitalists, racists, sexists, homophobes, and ableists, because dialoguing means recognizing and conceding some degree of legitimacy to the oppression they perpetuate.
    I’d say that those who do dialogue, those who do attempt to understand where the oppressor comes from and aims to be an intermediary between oppressed and oppressor, assumes the role of an Uncle Tom, a house negro, a “white supremacist queer.” These folks sell out the majority of oppressed so that a minority can benefit- in the end, no one benefits at all because white supremacy hurts white workers, white queer folks, by elevating them slightly higher than other oppressed groups but not liberated from workplace and gender oppression that underlies society as a whole (not to mention in times of capitalist crisis, even these slightly higher benefits for white workers and queer folks are taken back).
    Again, I don’t think anyone is saying let’s hate for hate sakes. Hate is a product of generations of oppression, of generations of ‘representatives’ of us betraying us, selling us out, and this hate is really a recognition that we deserve to be loved, we are human beings, we deserve the liberties exercised by our oppressors.
    And I think as organizers, we strive to channel this love for own kind/hatred for oppression into an organization/movement that tears down the system.

  • http://solidarity-us.org Isaac

    this is really excellent, may I repost it on the Solidarity website with link to GF? It’s thought provoking and I don’t have anything more to add right now except two other readings:

    “Feminism at Work” looks at the strategic, organizing implications of “intersectionality” towards class solidarity in the workplace: http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/456

    If you haven’t read the USFI resolution on lesbian/gay liberation, I recommend it – a few years old but I believe it’s an excellent international overview: http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article177

  • JOMO

    Hey Isaac, thanks for engaging with this piece. I have yet to respond to these questions but am preparing to. I am reading the various articles linked.
    It would be fine for you to repost the article on Solidarity. Thanks

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    I’m sympathetic to the response that the intersectionality analysis is a key tool for building coalitions among different groups of oppressed people. It is certainly better than a class reductionist, race reductionist, or gender reductionist approach to organizing. However, it seems that the intersectionality analysis ends up injecting an inherent instability and tension into these coalitions. On what basis do you choose a campaign to focus your resources on? Yes, everything is connected, but HOW specifically? Do you choose a campaign based on class and then bring in race and gender? Do you choose a campaign based on gender and bring in race and class? Does everyone do their own thing and just come together for celebrations of unity?

    What I’ve seen happen many times is that people try to answer these questions on a moralistic instead of a strategic basis. In other words, they ask “who is the most oppressed” and say we should work on “their” issues first. There are several problems with this:

    1) it can lead to the “oppression Olympics” where folks have to compete to explain why they are the most oppressed and why the group should focus on their issues. This can be demoralizing and humiliating and it can also lead to unproductive and abstract debates like whether Black or Brown folks are more affected by white supremacy today. Questions like this can only be resolved through a concrete analysis of social relations not through personal anecdotes about who has been more traumatized (I am all for personal anecdotes and collective healing, but these need to be integrated back into a long term strategy to actually stop the oppression that causes the trauma in the first place).

    2) As JOMO lays out, each oppressed group does not necessarily identify with a specific defining “issue”, demand, or campaign. Just because the prison industrial complex affects Black folks doesn’t mean that every Black person will see this as the top priority for what organizing needs to happen. Demanding jobs, stopping budget cuts, or ending Israeli apartheid might be just as important.

    3) Related to this, the intersectionality analysis sometimes overlooks what Javier from Advance the Struggle calls the “independent internationalist agency of people of color/ oppressed people.” In living breathing oppressed communities you don’t just have different identity based groups that need to come together through intersectionality and coalition building. You also have lots of militants in particular oppressed communities who want to be tribunes of the people, taking up all issues and fighting all forms of oppression as part of a long term revolutionary vision. This means that militants may actually wish to take up a cause that is historically more identified with another identity group rather than their own. Shouldn’t this be encouraged rather than discouraged?

    4) As revolutionaries we need to take up struggles at least partly based on which layers of society are moving right now. We need to block with militant layers who are moving because they will shake things up and loosen/ open up space for other layers to move in the future. We need to choose our campaigns at least partly on this, not on an abstract calculus about who is most oppressed. The fact is that it is often the most oppressed who move first anyway (for example custodians at the U. of Washington moved before Grad students) but it doesn’t always play out that way. Also, once a group moves and you build deep relationships with that group in struggle you can’t just abandon them when the struggle subsides, you need to keep building relationships to prepare for the next upsurge. So for example Democracy Insurgent is majority queer folks and we are involved in labor organizing with the custodians. When the protests around gay marriage were popping off this fall we couldnt’ play a key role cuz we had our hands full with the labor work and couldn’t just peace out. So instead we integrated an analysis of queer liberation into our labor work and JOMO’s piece is partly a result of those reflections. We hope we are building the basis for future labor struggles around queer liberation in the workplace, including struggles that many of us will face on our own jobs.

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  • K.C.R

    I think a really important task for queer socialists and all socialists is to keep challenging and rethinking understandings of class, gender, race, sexuality, etc.

    In the past (and too often in the present) socialists have deployed these categories as wholesale units, that soon cease to become relevant…the quaint “housewife” in the Marxist-feminist domestic labour debates…the imagery of factories and industry as the bastion of the working class that can alienate those in say the informal, care, or service economies.

    Unfortunately, this work of deconstructing and reconstructing identities and subjectivities has too often been turned over to the Foucauldians and Derridians and Butlers of the world, who will never theorise with a socialist vision in mind.

    There is no reason that this kind of work cannot be performed within a materialist framework and a socialist orientation. But it is our task to do it, and if we don’t, the post-modernists will long reign the humanities.

    For a great example of what I’m talking about, see the book by Buxton and Bezanson “Social reproduction: Canadian feminist political economy challenges neo-liberalism”

  • JOMO

    Some random thoughts that came up through discussions w people in and around U/S and the questions that folks have raised on the comments. I hope we can work toward having a fuller discussion on the tasks and vision of queer class struggle movement and theory — outside of f-ing academia and into the streets and workplaces!!! These are rough thoughts that I want to bring up:

    - To talk about class struggle as including those who have not submitted to capitalist discipline because they cannot, or refuse to. Apart from the white gay men who are fetishized as “the pink dollar” or the posterchildren of liberal companies, many queer folks will continue to fall into this camp. Queer youth especially, given that heterosexism will drive many out of biological families and support structures, and youth unemployment/exploitation, much less queer youth unemployment/exploitation is high.

    - How to talk about the alliance that needs to be built b/w those who reject/are shut out of capitalist discipline, and those who are oppressed by it in workplaces?

    I think it is important to talk about these in terms of how people are materially oppressed, but it is also important to talk about this in term of consciousness and mental liberation.

    It is a contradiction how many progressive non profits will talk all day about the need for there to be mental liberation for people through art, poetry, etc. This focus on art, creative expression etc focusses on people as members of a community/racial group/identity group etc, but seldom as workers. In other words, when progressive scenes talk about labor, it ends up ALMOST ALWAYS being about wages, and NEVER or seldom about the mental liberation workers should experience ON THE JOB.
    I think further theorizing on the Jamesian/Marty Glabberman concept that capitalist discipline on the job consists NOT ONLY of material oppression (in the form of wages) but also in the form of freedom and creative expression and social relations (that can potentially help them run the workplace more efficiently.) I think further theorizing on how this relates to gender might also be a way we can more substantially talk about the need for unity b/w those who are shut out from capitalist discipline (thru unemployment) and those oppressed by capitalist discipline, so class isnt just defined by being in the heart of the means of production. Likewise, class struggle should expand beyond immediate material concerns to mental liberation. [by mental liberation I mean broadly the ability to build real human relations that arent hampered by capitalism, creative self expression, sexual desires, etc] In addition, what organizations need to be formed to facilitate this unity?

    - Caring work — on one level the expression of compassion and love– is hampered and under-valued under capitalism by capitalist patriarchy and class exploitation. The relationship b/w worker and “client” are also hampered by this capitalist discipline. There is a huge field of workers who do this form of labor that remain unwaged, ununionized, unrecognized as legit members of class struggle. Can we theorize caring work organizing as a way of opening up space for new values of love, compassion, self expression, etc to be expressed? What demands would facilitate this in campaigns?

    - Queer liberation is not simply liberation for a narrow group of people. Queer identity is constantly expanding and changing because peoples’ desires and sexual identities are always changing and moving. Hammoid points out above that if workers wake up lavender, then the world would be a different place. How would it be different, I think, is a key question! You also ask, what role in the division of labor do queer workers play? I think these 2 questions are very connected.

    In my understanding, part of the project of theorizing a class struggle queer liberation, is to point out how heterosexist and transphobic values in dominant society are tied to the forms of production of capitalist society. In having a class analysis of patriarchy, many of us would agree that its role in workplaces serve to divide the workforce by giving men a sense of superiority and power over women as opposed to uniting in solidarity w women for similar class demands. This superiority is also replicated in the household where women are socialized to be subordinate to male needs.

    Likewise, the delegitimization of queer relationships in the workplace, either through brutal suppression or through individualizing it as a fetish/personal abnormality, means that a heterosexist conception of family is protected and maintained at the workplace; The heterosexist conception of a family under capitalism is one that does reproductive labor (the upbringing of a new generation of workers) for free because kids are an extension of our biology. To the extent we are supposed to take care of ourselves based on our own paychecks, we are told we need to be solely responsible for our kids cos they are an extension of us. Queer families and relationships are not bounded by biology, and neither is it based on the concept of huddling as a narrow, static, two-some in a big cruel world. Our very existence as transitioning, changing identities and relationships threaten the concept that reproductive labor should be done freely out of fixed biological relations. Our solidarity as queers rejected by heterosexist society who perceive us as abnormal, might mean that we take care of one another as family, and we may likely demand a salary at the workplace that covers the needs of our ever expanding family. Reproductive labor will not be free, on the basis that kids [aka the next generation of workers] are our biological responsibility; Instead, our politicization against the heterosexism of many of our workplaces may serve as a starting point for our politicization against the fact that our salaries do not cover the needs that our queer family members need, to survive and grow in this society. ..

    Rough thoughts, in the spirit of trying to think through some of these questions openly and would appreciate any feedback/thoughts!

  • http://www.queerswithoutborders.com/wpmu Deric

    Wow. Just stumbled on this essay accidentally and the analysis and comments are fucking amazing. Thanks, Jomo! I wonder if you’ve read any of the class struggle anarchist stuff on intersectionality? J. Rogue and I wrote a piece that tried to put intersectionality to use, but addresses the “classism” crap by synthesizing it with class struggle anarchism (asking the question: What can anarchists learn from intersectionality? and What can proponents of intersectionality learn from anarchists?).

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on it or correspond about it. If you’re interested, I’d love if you emailed me.

    http://www.anarkismo.net/article/14923

    Solidarity and excellent work!

    -Deric

  • http://spiritualdesert.blogspot.com/ Mamos

    Hi Deric, thanks for your comment and for the link. I was hanging out with folks at the Class Struggle Anarchist Conference and I just had a good conversation about some of the issues you and J. Rogue’s peice raises so I figured I’d respond here while it’s fresh on my mind.

    Basically, I agree with your critique of how the Left has historically assigned “primary” and “secondary” struggles. For example a lot of class reductionist Marxists and Anarchists made class primary and race and gender secondary “special oppressions” and in reaction to that various currents of the New Left like second wave feminism made either race or gender primary and class secondary. Both approaches are off. Race, class, and gender are part of one social process and cannot be easily separated out in lived experience and social struggle. Jomo’s piece makes this point as well.

    I also agree with your critique of orthodox Marxist understandings of an economic “base” unilaterally determining a cultural “superstructure.” However, I don’t think that anarchists and feminists have been the only ones to critique this. Currents of anti-state and libertarian Marxism have made similar criticisms and have argued that economic and cultural relations mutually influence each other becuase Capitalism is a set of social relations not just an economic system. In other words, capitalism is alienation, hierarchy, and social control, not just unequal distribution of wealth so the abolition of capitalism requires a change in social relations, not just a new mode of production. To make this more concrete, Capitalism could not exist without patriarchy and white supremacy; they are part of the same set of modern social relations that oppress us, and a revolution against capitalism requires a simultaneous revolution against patriarchy and white supremacy; they are the same revolution.

    Finally, I also agree that intersectionality can be limited or liberal without a solid analysis of and rejection of capitalism and the state which Anarchism can provide. I think libertarian/ autonomist Marxism can provide this as well because these perspectives are also against the state and Capital.

    Here’s where I would part ways with with your argument. You point out that intersectionality shows how race, class, and gender struggles are related in the lived experiences of oppressed peoples today. This is certainly true; they are one social process. But how did this process emerge historically? There is something about intersectionality that seems ahistorical to me. I might be missing something and if so please correct me, but it seems that the theory lacks an analysis of how, for example, white supremacy emerged over the past 500 years out of colonialism, slavery, and the primitive accumulation of capital. Or how pre-capitalist forms of patriarchy were revamped and recreated as the peasant family was destroyed and the capitalist family model (including new forms of compulsory heterosexuality) were created to enforce the reproduction of the working class.

    Perhaps you wouldn’t disagree with these kinds of historical analysis; some aspects of your essay suggest the need for such analysis. But from what I’ve read at least it’s been largely Marxist feminists like Selma James and Sylvia Federici who have attempted this kind of historical analysis, not Anarchist theorists or folks who argue for intersectionality. I think James and Federici would reject a lot of the traditional Marxist baggage you correctly critique like the base/ superstructure dichotomy and would probably reject a lot of what you call Marxist/ socialist feminism. They see race, sex, and gender and one social process but they attempt to develop a historical, and dialectical understanding of how this process develops through struggue, revolution, counter-revolution, etc. instead of just a moral criquqe of how interlocking systems of domination oppress us in the current moment. I’m not downplaying that moral critique, it’s essential, but it is limited without that historical understanding.

    Understanding how all of this shit developed is crucial for understanding how we can smash it today. For example, if white supremacy was created 500 years ago that means that shit can be ENDED soon, it’s not something innate to human beings, it was created a specific point in time and it can be destroyed at a specific point in time. Knowing the historical origins of forms of hierarchy helps us see the contradictions and weak points within the intersecting systems of domination and how we can unite on the terms of the most oppressed in order to abolish all forms of oppression.

    The that key question for us today is how to make these kind of historical analyses relevant in struggle so that they don’t just become an idealist or academic form of autonomist Marxism; we need to develop practice from this theory, and new theory from practice, and that’s what Unity and Struggle and a lot of other readers of Gathering Forces are working on.

    I think this method is what the best of the revolutionary autonomist Marxist method offers us today; Marxism has developed a lot since the crude base/ superstructure analysis of Engels and the 2nd international, and has already incorporated some of the best insights of Anarchism, feminism, and intersectionality while criticism and rejecting unhelpful or oppressive aspects of these traditions. It is this kind of new synthesis that I see Jomo’s article expressing and I see us trying to work out and develop in practice.

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  • http://jenrogue.wordpress.com/ Rogue

    “At its worst, intersectionality theory compartmentalizes our identities[...]”

    I’m confused; too me, that is exactly what intersectionality argues AGAINST. It specifically argues a queer theory analysis of identity and systems of power… what the author is describing sounds to me like identity politics.

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