Identity politics is killing the left. Feminists can turn the tide

The other day I posted about how I thought it was time feminists abandoned their affiliation with the left, seeing as the left has abandoned all but the thinnest pretense of affiliation with feminism.

But on reflection, that seems the wrong way up. To walk feminism away from the left is to identify the left with the faction that has taken it over, namely the jihadis of identitarian ‘social justice’ – to say that yes, this is the left and the whole of the left, and that Owen Jones is right to accuse those who diverge from its catechism of being ‘centrists’ or even – gasp – right-wing. But it’s not true. There are many sensible, thoughtful, idealistic people on the left who don’t buy into the crazy. Who don’t even buy into identity politics, who are still with Martin Luther King rather than Ta-Nehisi Coates, who see this narcissistic, atomising arms race of special pleading for what it is: the graveyard of solidarity and the end of the left as a tool for real change. As, in fact, a capitulation of leftism to radical individualism, a pampered whingefest for those far enough up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to be able to put aside more visceral concerns such as obtaining food, shelter, or safety from violence and focus instead on fine-tuning their exquisitely unique and special identities and the specific oppressions they imagine to obtain from being the uniquely suffering creature they are.

Identity politics could perhaps be characterised as a post-Christian spasm, a 21st century search for meaning in pain. But the competition it engenders between its believers, as they jockey for position as most-oppressed, taking selfies of their own martyrdom, mean that far from being a basis for the kind of solidarity that could change the world, it is deeply inimical to any kind of solidarity. No group must speak for any other; each group fractures ever further into sub-groups, sub-identities; the final result is a universe of lonely sufferers, screaming into the internet void for someone to acknowledge the special intensity of their pain.

It’s hard to effect meaningful political change if no-one can agree on what the change should be, and when everyone is more concerned with their feelings anyway. So instead of left-wing politics you have a thin layer of eternal cultural revolution designed progressively to atomise what’s left of our culture ever further to appease the whingebags. Under that thin layer of revolution lie the same commercial systems and power structures as ever. Pretty shit revolution if you ask me.

I should add at this point that I’m not really in favour of radically transforming anything these days. But if I were a leftist I would be, and in that case I would be getting increasingly concerned about the paralysing effect of identity politics on the ability of idealists to organise, rally others to their cause and effect political change in relation to that cause. As is often the way, feminists have been the canary in the mine, and a growing number of female voices have begun to push back against the stultifying impact of identitarian self-absorption on women’s ability to argue clearly and coherently for those feminist issues (and they are legion) that still need addressing.

The brutality of the vitriol and threats of excommunication feminists have faced from the majority of the left now in thrall to identitarian ideas is a testament to what is at stake here: two mutually exclusive ways of thinking. Identitarian narcissism and class analysis cannot coexist. Where the left has traditionally campaigned based on the power in collective solidarity, identity politics is a movement of radical individualism, whose logical endpoint is a world where each individual identity is defined by its differences from each other identity, and as such class solidarity of any kind is impossible. This is the death of the left. (This is also why the Morning Star is the only periodical that regularly challenges trans ideology – communists sense the danger to their worldview in submitting to it).

As an aside, if you’re reading this as a conservative and thinking great, the left can fuck off and die then, don’t be so complacent. Identitarianism is coming for all the forms of collective identity you hold dear as well. Faith, nation, the family, you name it: the snowflakes want it all to burn on the altar of ‘inclusivity’.

But I digress. Though I’m not really of the left any more it saddens me to watch this tsunami of self-absorption-masquerading-as-radicalism devour, splinter and paralyse a movement that was about social solidarity and transformation for the better. So, as the radical feminists are at the forefront of the fight-back against the apotheosis of SJW madness in the form of transgender rights, I call on them to repudiate identity politics and begin the process of expelling this virus from the left. Take the movement back.

It will mean letting go of the temptation to get into ‘more oppressed than thou’ competitions, fighting the urge to tell people to check their privilege, and ditching the notion that there is any special and mystical about the experience of women that takes precedence over our potential, all of us, to share common humanity. But it also brings a liberatory revival of the ability to talk about human universals, and maybe – just maybe – might offer fresh arguments that can help break the current deadlock between feminism and trans ideology, in favour of something saner, that provides space to be respectful of the distress experienced by trans people without the totalitarian desire to abolish feminism and women, not to mention biology, homosexuality, science and objective fact.

Author: The Sparrow

I’m UK-based. I’m interested in the political and cultural side-effects of globalisation, the replacement of class politics by identity politics, and the emerging backlash against the regressive left. I was a radical lefty once upon a time, though these days I'm just interested in following arguments wherever they go. I voted Leave, in the interests of positive, engaged globalisation within a democratic framework, though I'm a bit exasperated at how it's going so far. I’m a fan of liberty, free speech, home winemaking and practical feminism.

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