This excellent pamphlet has recently been published by the Anarchist Communist Group:
The Politics of Division: An engagement with identity politics
A contribution to the debate
To be human is to negotiate a balance between individual identity and collective action. We are each simultaneously individuals and social animals. This pamphlet does not seek to negate identity. Identity is important to our humanity, as well as being a major focus for oppression. What it seeks to do, rather, is to place revolutionary politics in the collective sphere. When anarchist-communists echo Kropotkin in saying “What we proclaim is The Right to Well-Being: Well-Being for All!” we are advancing a vision for a free society, the society we want to build.
In recent decades politics has moved a long way from expressing what it is we want to achieve and has instead refocused on expressing who it is I am and what I believe my heritage or essential characteristics to be, and this is often an emotive and painful issue, especially where, as so often, there has been a history of oppression and subjugation. While these are indeed important enquiries and will of course inform each individual’s perspective on what needs to change in our quest for a better society, this pamphlet argues that to be effective revolutionary politics must be about that shared future we seek to build. What makes each of us an anarchist communist – or whatever vision it is you might hold – is that set of values we will build the future upon.
This pamphlet is presented with respect for our many struggles and in anger at our many experiences of oppression, determined that our collective efforts will build a better future.
Price £3 inclusive of postage.
In light of this publication, we felt it was time to time to dig into our archives, dust these posts down and give them another airing:
Just what do we mean by ‘identity politics’?
“The term identity politics has become a bit of a lightning rod in the anarchist/radical movement, with some saying it should be a central part of what we do while others say it’s a distraction from class struggle. Looking back through some of the previous posts I’ve made on here, you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m firmly in the latter camp. It’s true that class struggle politics does inform a lot of my activity but I’m starting to seriously question what it is I’m supposed to be defining this against when it comes to political priorities. I’m coming to the conclusion that identity politics is used to describe such a wide range of issues that it’s becoming meaningless as a useful term. If anything, it’s become a bit of a slur for areas of political activity that some want to dismiss. Using the term as a slur basically ends up either shutting down a debate and/or polarising people to the point where it’s impossible to have any kind of useful discussion.”
“There’s a perception that anarchism has little to offer working class people. What we’re trying to do is to develop a way of getting anarchist ideas across to people in a jargon free way that they can relate to and start to act upon. It may be a subjective feeling that we have but we feel that there are more barriers than there need to be in achieving our aims. One of those barriers is the polarised debate over identity politics and working class anarchism. What we want to do with this pamphlet is start the process of identifying those barriers and then removing them.”
Cultural identity, class and change
“If cultural identity is fixed, it begs this question – how has humanity evolved to where we are today? Surely the history of humanity is about cultures meeting, adapting and evolving as a consequence ? As cultures meet, interact, borrow from each other and evolve, the sense of identity that’s bound up with belonging to a culture inevitably changes. The evolution of humanity is a dynamic process so by definition, the development of culture will also be a dynamic process with the consequence that to a greater or lesser degree, a sense of identity will always be fluid.”
Difficult definitions – ‘white working class’ and ‘white privilege’
“This piece is written by someone who is a) working class and b) happens to be white but who emphatically rejects being described as ‘white working class’. What follows is an exploration of why I find use of the term a problem while acknowledging the historical advantages the native working class in Britain have been able to enjoy as a result of being allowed just enough access to the spoils of empire to be brought off from revolutionary radicalism. Advantages that as neo-liberalism has taken over pretty much every aspect of our lives, are starting to disappear in the face of increasingly precarious working and housing conditions for more and more of us. A precarity that’s bringing a growing number of so called native Britons down to the level of super-exploited migrant labour.”