No, That's Not Identity Politics

There has been a lot of talk about identity politics after the Clinton’s loss in the general election. Liberals continued their attacks and, likely purposeful, distortions on what many on the left have been saying.

In no way is anyone on the left suggesting that Democrats have been too strong on the issues of sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia. If anything, we have been consistently critical of the Democrats for having only superficial support for those struggles and the inability of liberalism to truly confront the institutions that perpetrate and reproduce these injustices. Any party fighting for justice for all needs a much stronger platform and to be involved in direct action and solidarity.

But that isn’t identity politics, it is civil rights.

And while that may be the case, actual identity politics should not be so easily brushed aside by the left either. Organizing around an identity can be and feel safer, and this should never be overlooked. This point must be understood and defended by the left, while still building an overarching working class party. The “identity politics” of liberals is a focus on identity to obscure and distract from actual policies and to keep their party as nothing more than a more diverse Republican Party. There were many examples of this following Bernie Sanders’ tweet saying the politics of candidates matters.

We must not see certain identities as the entirety of who someone is and what they stand for. This homogenizing of groups erases their political agency. It is extremely important to elevate marginalized voices, but not solely on specific identities, politics are still important and calls for being objective are calls for the status quo. This is why we should be elevating the voices of revolutionaries in besieged parts of Syria, not simply because they are Syrian, but because they are Syrians fighting injustice. We do not stand with those on the side of the oppressor any more than we would the murderous Sheriff Clarke and his campaign against Black Lives Matter.

Within struggles we must not restrict our or reject other’s participation because of their views on other issues, this is sectarianism. Nor do we ignore their views, this is opportunism. Instead, while we continue to link arms we challenge them.

It is telling that The Water Protectors defending the Standing Rock Sioux’s water supply and sacred ancestral land have been mostly ignored by those attacking people like Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton put out a mealy mouthed statement asking for everyone to get along and Samantha Bee used the arrest of Jill Stein to make a joke while completely ignoring the Water Protectors being arrested and attacked by police. Because what they won’t do is stand against the economic interests of the elite.

A socialist party rooted in the working class must make these struggles central to the party with a clear connection to the fact that for true emancipation of the working class, social and cultural rights are as important as the economic rights only achievable through the abolition of capitalism.