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[(en) Identity Politics - Capitalism in Action!]

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Date Sun, 08 May 2005 21:30:14 +0300
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Reply-To: a-infos-en@ainfos.ca

From Rebel Worker Paper of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Network
Vol.24 No.2 (188) May-June 2005 PO Box 92 Broadway 2007
NSW Australia rworker@chaos.apana.org.au
Subs: Airmail $25(Aust.)pa , in Australia $12 Aust. pa
Identity Politics - Capitalism in Action!
I'm not going to spend time explaining Australian capitalism or
how it adversely affects the ordinary working person; this is
something that most people involved in some form of "alternative
politics" already seem to understand. But what is lacking is a proper
theoretical understanding of the role that identity, or social
group-based, politics actually plays within capitalism.

Australian capitalism uses division to maintain itself. It tries very
hard to split us into opposing groups based on gender, ethnicity,
sexuality, etc. It attempts division at every level, separating states
and regions with football matches, and even individuals on the basis
of mundane arguments such as whether Ford or Holden is better.
More recently the Howard Liberal government has engaged in a
campaign of division focused on welfare recipients somewhat
reminiscent of the Nazi Party's propaganda war on Jewish people
during the '30s.

Naturally, whilst we are all opposing each other, and are divided,
we are unable to effectively change anything. But just in case we
still have a lingering desire to make a change, we are offered
recycling and enviro-based pseudo-activism so that we can feel like
we are making a change. It is in the best interests of Australian
capitalism that we all remain divided by layer upon layer of
identity-based differences.

RACE

During the arrival of Europeans into this country over successive
generations, Australian governments virtually wiped out the
Aboriginal people. What remains of the Koori people is a very small
percentage of the total Australian population and, as such, they are
unable to make any effective change on their own. It is in the
interests of Australian capitalism that Kooris have a fierce national
identity to separate them from the "white people". The distrust of
white liberals and white politicians is something rife within Koori
identity politics.

GENDER

The relationship between men and women in Australia has been
severely damaged by the separatist excesses of the bourgeois
women's movement in the late 1980s and 1990s. Conveniently,
capitalism has thrived on increased divorce rates and the tendency
of men and women to live separately, creating new markets for cars
for women, home units for single people, etc. Of course, this has
lead to a declining birth rate and raised concerns about where the
next generation of working drones is going to come from - hence
we are now foisted with the 'pro-family' politics of the
National-Liberal coalition.

SEXUALITY

Someone's sexuality is someone's personal feelings. It is not
relevant to anyone but the person involved, and those persons they
sexually interact with. Australian capitalism seeks to create ghettos
of Gay people by inadequately protecting Gays from the
homophobic views and attacks of some members of the
heterosexual "community". Mainly as a by-product of blunt
necessity, a great many Gay people have traditionally been
liberally-minded and tended to see beyond the differences in people,
thus promoting a better understanding of their own sexuality within
a hostile homophobic community. This, of course, is traditionally
the enemy of capitalism. To break down the barriers between
sexualities or, indeed, to acknowledge that such barriers are simply
irrelevant might mean that other barriers between working people
might also break down. By encouraging a gay identity as a means of
self-protection and as a form of pride in one's self, gay people are
encouraged to divide themselves from other workers and spend
their lives attaining a capitalism-approved (consuming) "queer"
identity.

Identity-based political groups (often for example Trotskyist-type
groups) pose a political solution to Australian capitalism in an
identical fashion: they follow and assist capitalist ideas. This does
not mean that they do this intentionally; for the most part they are
well meaning but they are still helping capitalism along.

RACE

A great many persons involved in identity politics spend time on
the "white" liberal side of Koori identity politics, seemingly
oblivious to the fact that Koori indigenous law is completely
patriarchal and, in many ways, just as authoritarian as Australian
capitalism. Persons involved in this form of politics often follow the
"black consciousness" approach, encouraging community amongst
indigenous Australians as a separate group.

GENDER

Bourgeois feminism permeates virtually every left wing group,
seeking to establish separate groupings within each of these - a
counter culture exclusively for women. This, it is generally claimed,
is necessary to counter the patriarchal tendencies of every left wing
group (whether they actually exist or not) and a great deal of time is
taken up philosophizing about whether such things are taking place
and what form they take ... all, of course, reinforcing the division
between men and women already fostered by Capitalism.

SEXUALITY

Sexual politics are often a regular feature of identity-based
solutions. These groups feel that it is important that Gay people
have their own exclusive input into the group and form their own
sexuality-based grouping. But the approach of Capitalism is to
divide us carefully within groups and to maintain tensions between
us. Otherwise, we might try and see past our differences (and as
human beings they will always be numerous), and try to find what
we have in common; persons involved in identity-based politics
would argue that they are doing just this. However, where they
create any division, or exclude certain people solely because of their
race, gender or sexuality (i.e. because they are not a koori, not a
woman, not gay), they will always work in the interest of Australian
capitalism.

CLASS

So what type of grouping is there that does not divide us in any
way? What do we all have in common outside these shallow
capitalist-created social groups? All members of the working class
work, seek work, or are supported by the benefits of work in order
to live (welfare is provided by taxes from Australian workers,
students are supported by their working families). All members of
the ruling classes control work and contribute nothing to it.

The fact that we subsist on the basis of work as a class is the one
thing that we all have in common, whether we are Kooris, men,
women, etc., and it is here that we can find the only common
ground with which to deal with Australian capitalism.

So why do so many people spend time engaged in the politics of
identity? The reasons are varied but by and large I think it is
because it is safe to do so. No real change ever takes place and
social uprisings such as anti-war movements are very quickly
simply ignored by capitalism as they have no solid basis upon which
to force real and lasting change. So what if 3 million people march
in the streets, tomorrow they will be back home feeling good about
themselves, the news services will be able to increase their ratings
(i.e., make more money) by reporting it, and it will be forgotten. Of
course, if workers in the factories refused to make guns or filled the
bullets with flour, or the wharfies refused to load the ships with war
toys for Iraq and 3 million people marched in the streets to protect
them from the capitalists trying to use force to get their own way,
something would change. Providing the strike spread to other
industries (it didn't just happen in isolation) and was maintained,
Australian capitalism would have no choice but to capitulate. (For
that matter if it spread among workers throughout the world there
would be no wars at all.)

Of course, nothing like this will ever be possible whilst we
continue to accept that identity-based politics is anything but a con
job, and that a great many well-meaning political groups are
attempting to encourage change in precisely the reverse direction to
that which will bring it about. Identity Politics is an approach that is
doomed to constant failure. If it wasn't, capitalism wouldn't allow it,
and so many bourgeois people, who have a lot to lose by real
change, wouldn't be engaged in it.

Without beginning with what we have in common - rather than
trying to find it later from "broad coalitions" of groups that are from
the start structurally-based on exclusionary and fortress-like ideas -
we are simply chasing our tails and John Howard and his mates are
laughing their arses off as identity-based groups help capitalism
divide working people.

Sean
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