Against Intersectionality: A Warning to Young Communists
In the last few years communists have struggled against the bourgeois academic onslaught of identity politics, with us, the CPGB-ML, going so far as to pass a motion at the last congress making open advocacy of identity politics grounds for expulsion. The reasoning of this is simple: identity politics is bourgeois and divides groups of people, particularly workers, through dichotomy, pitching black people against white people, men against women, able bodied people against disabled people, etc.
This dualistic dead end does not unify workers on common ground, namely that of class, and by extension socialism. Furthermore, it lends itself to leaving the common enemy of workers, the bourgeoisie, utterly unscathed. In fact it merely operates as a means of deflecting the blows of working people away from capitalism and instead leads them to the path of entrenching chauvinism, prejudice and cannibalising their own class, rather than uniting it upon economic lines.
The further danger with identity politics, including intersectionality, is that, whilst utterly depending on bourgeois content (i.e. the prevailing capitalist cultural and academic concepts and ideological framework), it all too often dons the garments of socialist form, yet obscures, relegates or outright discards class.
Our friends and so called “Marxists” who follow this garden path, now attack us wholesale (generally on social media platforms) as racists, sexists and particularly as so-called transphobes. They have taken to resuscitating the old-school slur of tankie, and have coined the acronym ‘TERF’. We must familiarise ourselves with such catchwords and phrases of our class enemies and understand their meaning and their content as glib as that may be.
This is but a cursory summary of our political argument against identity politics so far. As it has been more thoroughly elaborated in other polemics by our party, published elsewhere, our intent in this piece is to give a breakdown and philosophical critique of the concept of intersectionality specifically, which has previously been correctly described as a bedfellow of identity politics, yet innocently and in a sense erroneously used as a frequent synonym for identity politics.
Intersectionality is a paradigm that is subjective in nature and notably eclectic and non-empirical, as it does not derive from any systematic study of social or physical data but is entirely conceptual. It is used to ‘analyse’ how various social strata (including but not limited to: race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed, disability, gender and even in some rare instances, class) are discriminated against by various vaguely defined ‘systems of power.’
It has increasingly become apparent to us, that many a Socialist outfit, even those who claim the mantle of Marxism Leninism, such as the Young Communist League (YCL), much to our despair embrace not merely identity politics but specifically intersectionalism as a paradigm for analysing British and also other imperialist countries, especially the American society today. We should also note that many have rejected it, including Trotskyites and the mother organisation of the YCL, the Communist Party of Britain, and for a time the Morning Star, some of whom have written very good critiques against it. However, we wish particularly to address a specific criticism levelled against us after the compilation of three articles into a pamphlet published by the CPGB-ML, entitled Identity politics and the transgender trend. The critique by ‘Comrade Doubtful’ serves as a good all round representation of the ‘intersectional Marxist’ critique of our party and reads as follows:
“The party has chosen to brand all Identity Politics as liberal by applying its own definition. Using its own definition, it can easily brand all those it disagrees with and hide behind liberal straw-men. They idealistically claim that individual elements and positions are representative of the whole group of people. Because of the liberal nature of the definition, they also foolishly reject the idea of intersectionality and the possibility that any recognition of identity in politics can coincide with Marxism. To support this idea, they have chosen a handful of ridiculous liberal and unrepresentative sources on which all their arguments are based.”1
Here our friends, quite conveniently for self-professed Marxists, ignore that intersectionality has not been deduced from society using dialectical materialism but instead invented by the bourgeois lawyer Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term intersectionality whilst trying to understand and amend the flaws of the American justice system. Specifically, Crenshaw was trying to elaborate how black women can suffer the ‘double-jeopardy’ of oppression on grounds of being both black and a woman, and the court and law not recognising this:
“Intersectionality was a prism to light dynamics within discrimination law that weren’t being appreciated by the courts… In particular, courts seem to think that race discrimination was what happened to all black people across gender and sex discrimination was what happened to all women, and if that is your framework, of course, what happens to black women and other women of colour is going to be difficult to see.”2
Whilst we recognise this is an admirable enough struggle (to better the lot of some under the conditions of imperialism) it is just that: reformist in nature; especially as for Crenshaw this was a matter concerning legal categories of people within bourgeois American law. This also makes sense of Crenshaw’s absorption of ‘standpoint theory’, which places primary emphasis on individual perspectives of people from marginalised communities.
Furthermore, ‘Comrade Doubtful’ states, quite foolishly, that the CPGB- ML in their publicised polemic reject ‘the possibility that any recognition of identity in politics can coincide with Marxism.’ This is false. We understand identity based on immutable human characteristics. But we also understand, based upon the philosophical standpoint of dialectical materialism, that our consciousness is rooted firmly in our social being. It is our opinion therefore that oppression such as racism is a real social phenomenon that became useful and persists in society due to the underlying economic interests of the ruling imperialist class.
Had the author ventured to read beyond the first section of the CPGB- ML pamphlet (Identity politics and the transgender trend) they would have come across the following idea:
“It is understandable therefore, that some may perceive the subordination of their identities to the class struggle (the fundamental contradiction) as being somehow repellent. Further confusion arises, as mentioned above, because these various contradictions do not appear to be equal.
Comrade Doubtful’s accusation therefore is revealed as an unfortunate and typical case of language being used unscientifically – the concept of ‘oppression’ is pasted onto every contradiction in our society by identity politics, whilst Marxism Leninism uses such terminology with precise scientific intent. And so many a fresh-faced Marxist Leninist is alarmed to learn that they suffer not from oppression but from prejudice – a contradiction amongst the masses – or (as with ableism) from a class issue, and these comrades cannot help but feel offended by the apparent downgrading of their personal and subjective experience.”
The key here is that the identities and their form particularly, as elaborated by intersectionality, are derived from subjective experience. And whilst this may very well relate to oppression and prejudice, ‘experience’ is hardly quantifiable data. Marx was very prescient in stating: “All science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”
This is especially key in this case of understanding the difference between prejudice and oppression. This position held by the intersectionalists also promotes the idea that those people of marginalised groups supposedly have unique interests that socialism cannot fulfil. Therefore, we must ask our ‘socialist’ intersectionalists: why has intersectionality not deduced socialism as a necessary step in resolving these contradictions? Why must our intersectional ‘Marxist’ friends force this unholy union?
So we must come to understand more thoroughly intersectionalism itself before we truly understand the dire flaw of trying to meld it with Marxism. Patricia Hill Collins, for example, has described intersectionalist theory as an ‘…analysis claiming that systems of race, social class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, and age form mutually constructing features of a social organisation, which shape Black women’s experiences and, in turn, are shaped by Black Women’.3
What is incredibly easy to glean here is that, in the first instance intersectionality separates various ‘experiences’ into systems and categories of ‘oppressions’. Secondly, class (that a Marxist would describe as the relationship between societal groups engaged in production and the means of production themselves) is reduced here to just another oppression equal amongst a myriad of others. Collins opines that intersectionality seeks to embrace ‘the working hypothesis of the equivalency between oppressions’.4
These ‘systems of power’ are related, but discrete, they postulate, and ‘intersect’, but do not necessarily have the same source or origin: “each one of us derives varying amounts of penalty and privilege from the multiple systems of oppression that frame our lives”5 states again Patricia Hill Collins about what she refers to as a “matrix of domination”. The chief preoccupation of intersectionality, therefore, is to analyse how these quite separate (but intersecting) ‘oppressions’ affect the individual – and by extension how to take these ‘power dynamics’ into account when fighting for increased social equality or individual justice.
In other words, intersectional theory seeks to quantify the individual ‘level of oppression’, to grade and compare these levels of oppression – or conversely ‘privilege’ – of every individual human being. Above all, this means in practice to categorise the level of ‘privilege’ of differing groups of workers themselves. This concept of privilege is particularly important as it means to transfer responsibility and ‘guilt’ for forms of discrimination from the ruling class (who have in fact pursued such social policies to deliberately divide and weaken the working masses) on to the ‘less heavily oppressed’ sections of workers themselves.
In taking these overlapping forms of discrimination into consideration and how the varying intersections differ from individual to individual, intersectionality bases itself, and indeed prides itself, on the innumerable subjective experiences of individuals. In effect, whilst other forms of identity politics focus on individual forms such as feminism or black separatism, intersectionality is much like a Roman pantheon of these forms and grows by the day as new genders, sexualities and fetishes are canonised.
The intersectionalists pride themselves in not creating a framework of analysis that has a ‘hierarchy of oppression’ (i.e. avoiding referring to and acknowledging the really existing division of society, into a numerically insignificant but economically overweening and monopolistic class of owners of the means of production on the one hand, and the toiling masses of wage slaves, on the other).
But here and for this reason we can trace the accusations of intersectionalists such as Collins, who hold that there are ‘multiple systems of oppression’and therefore that we Marxists are ‘class reductionist’, back to Foucault and post-modernism.
Foucault chimed “Neither the caste which governs, nor the groups which control the state apparatus, nor those who make the most important economic decisions direct the entire network of power that functions in a society.”6
True, as individuals they do not, but as a class, the ruling bourgeois most assuredly do make these decisions, and have done so since they wrested power from the feudal nobility before them.
And so our intersectionalists and post-modernists glibly bemoan the findings of Marxist methodology and expel the very material relationship between the political and social superstructure and economic base, and thus the primary contradiction of labour and capital itself. And this when 8 multi-billionaires have between them more productive wealth than the poorest half of humanity!
Marxism is not merely the theory of socialism or class war but a philosophical system from which socialism is one rationally derived solution to the pressing economic, social, political and environmental problems facing the monopoly-capitalist system of production. This philosophy is dialectical materialism. Intersectionality bears no such rational essence, and offers no solutions, for as we can now see, intersectionality has its roots in post-modernism – a deliberately concocted bourgeois-academic ‘antidote’ to Marxism, a pauper’s broth of eclecticism.
So the Intersectionalists in their striving for justice and equality, by means of cleaving the class into various simplified and overlapping dichotomised relationships (that apparently share no common ground or origin), fail to understand the relationship between the social and political superstructure and the economic base, or worse, they reject it. And in rejecting a material reason for real and perceived societal injustices, do they therefore believe these inequalities are age old, static or innate? The intersectionalists do not understand dialectical motion, conflict, development and decay any more than they understand materialism.
What the intersectionalists therefore deny is the thesis that oppression based on class underlies the real but secondary oppression based on race or sex (and other oppressions they postulate). We would state that the class question is fundamental in that it affects the overwhelming majority of humanity as a direct result of capitalist exploitation in class society – and as such racism and sexism under capitalism are born of this contradiction between labour and capital.
Here is precisely where the intersectionalists misunderstand our analysis as class reductionist when in fact we understand quite clearly the grotesque excesses of bourgeois domination, and as such, we see that victims of racism and sexism often suffer disproportionately from prejudiced fellow workers but most importantly from bourgeois state oppression. But the point truly lost on the intersectionalists is the scientifically established fact of the matter; that the oppression of workers, their exploitation, is based upon their relation to the means of production. This they deem vulgar – David Roediger, another anti-Marxist pundit laments:
“The point that race is created wholly ideologically and historically, while class is not wholly so created, has often been boiled down to the notion that class (or ‘the economic”) is more real, more fundamental, more basic or more important than race, both in political terms and in terms of historical analysis.”7
On the same basis should we decry the fact that hydrogen is the most preponderant element of the universe and that heavier elements are derived from its combination under pressure? For the intersectionalists the question is clearly moral, individualistic and thus subjective. For Marxists, these are merely objective observations of material reality. The nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium that occurs within the sun has the power to give and take life – yet to understand the material reality and dialectical relations of this we require scientific investigation. The same scientific investigation must be applied to human civilisation, imperialism, war etc.
Intersectionality maintains the basic principles of the individualism of identity politics. Unable to overcome its inherent separatism, it embraces Collins’ mantra: “No one group has a clear angle of vision. No one group possesses the theory or methodology that allows it to discover the absolute “truth”.”8
Collins therefore makes it clear, that in the view of intersectional ‘theory’, there is only subjective truth held by the individual. Yet our intersectional ‘Marxist’ friends wag their fingers scathingly at us whilst they delve into this quagmire of post-modernist idealism. Collins’ assertion merely borrows classic post-modernist grab. Let us hear the words of Lyotard:
““Traditional” theory is always in danger of being incorporated into the programming of the social whole as a simple tool for the optimisation of its performance; this is because its desire for a unitary and totalising truth lends itself to the unitary and totalising practice of the system’s managers. “Critical” theory, based on a principal of dualism and wary of synthesis and reconciliations, should be in a position to avoid this fate.”9 (Our emphasis. Is it possible to set out deliberately on a more anti-Marxist, anti-Materialist, anti-dialectical footing?)
And so we reach the nexus of intersectionality: the post-modern roots of intersectionality have no desire to submit to the majority, to the collective whole. Postmodernists actively embrace the ‘principle of dualism’, the permanent and immutable state of irreconcilable contradiction of society (within the working class, in the case of intersectionalism). They are ‘wary of synthesis and reconciliation’ – unity, on the basis of class solidarity.
This is utterly anti-communist. Yet our ‘doubtful’ critic states we: “idealistically claim that individual elements and positions are representative of the whole group of people.” When it is quite clear that the foundations of intersectionality are utterly liberal to the point of its stated aim, as conceived by Lyotard and others, being to cleave the struggle for the emancipation of women and the liberation of oppressed peoples and nations from imperialism from that of the broader class struggle in favour of persisting ‘dualism’!
This is reminiscent of Stalin’s concise summation of Anarchism as addressed in the pamphlet Anarchism or Socialism: “The cornerstone of anarchism is the individual, whose emancipation, according to its tenets, is the principal condition for the emancipation of the masses, the collective body. According to the tenets of anarchism, the emancipation of the masses is impossible until the individual is emancipated.”As such the interests of the broad masses are substituted for the individual in anarchism, a decidedly petit-bourgeois notion no different to the chief tenets of intersectionality.
Let us now turn our attention to Marxist philosophy, materialism specifically. We must understand that the workers themselves are imbued by their environment, the material and social conditions of imperialism with varying degrees of chauvinism and prejudice, which surround them within their society as a direct result of their economic relations and the widespread transmission and prevalence of bourgeois ideology.
This ideology is foisted upon them by their toxic upbringing within bourgeois education, media, religion and other means of disseminating ideology through the institutions of class society (the superstructure). The ideas of the workers (and indeed the capitalists) are by and large forged, therefore, by the economic base of society as this is the chief material foundation that determines the prevalent ideology.
In the early phase of rising industrial capitalism, this dominant ideology is classical ‘liberalism’, and during the highest stage of capitalism (and also its last) known as imperialism, aggression, decadence and degeneration are key economic features and reflected in the prevalent ideologically traits of this most parasitic ‘neo-liberal’ era.
So when intersectionalists crassly bandy about terms such as ‘whiteness’ and ‘white privilege’ as privilege theorists such as David Roediger do, they actually lose much of the nuance in racism. Racism in capitalist society, especially imperialist society, varies in form from nation state to nation state.
Racism in Britain is qualitatively different to that of racism in France, particularly in its choice of victims or its form if you will, be it the youth of Algerian origin beaten by police in Marseilles, or the impaired life-chances (education, employment, racist beatings, etc.) of a youth of Jamaican origin, (whose parents and grandparents were drawn from the colonies to work in post-war Britain) in Brixton, for example. But this is no surprise when the content is lost entirely in unscientific language, muddied in the abstract and not raised to the concrete. Racism, we Marxists hold, is born of the material conditions arising from economic imperialism and embellished by the forms of bourgeois nationalism that arise from it, both of which have precise scientific meaning relating to the economic base and class.
Dialectics holds and reality confirms through our daily experience (Yes. I use the word experience. Science is of course a summation of our species’ collective experience, but tested against material reality) and scientific understanding, that nothing is eternal. Social forces are in continual motion and so therefore are cultures, habits and conceptions of justice and thus, truth itself is relative and changes as material – economic and social – conditions evolve.
Dialectics therefore denies absolute truth, except for the abstraction of motion, of change itself. If this dialectical principle is accepted, then it is clear that Lyotard’s ‘eternal’ and ‘irresolvable’ contradiction of dualism will inevitably come to an end.
Intersectionality, by contrast in its praxis, claims to have arrived at a universal prescription for ending oppression… But this is entirely false! Intersectionalism offers no guide to action (as Marxism evidently does) and gives rise to programmatic spontaneity and eclecticism. Those using intersectionalism as a ‘guide’ to inform their praxis range in their prescriptions from ‘requiring the population to be ‘nice’ (a subjective concept in itself), non-discriminatory and to learn the ‘correct’ pronouns by heart, to those trying to graft on their new and faddish intellectual bauble to a semi-Marxist base.
Intersectionality nevertheless maintains the dualism Lyotard spoke of, and so for good measure has embraced the many dualisms of various forms of identity politics. These are barren idealist notions, and hence impotently secrete a total dead end in praxis. In this, intersectionality echoes the totally metaphysical and irrational notion of ‘history without a subject’, favoured by Althusser (another French post-Marxist poster boy) and Fukuyama’s risible idea of ‘the end of history’; both deplorable efforts to negate class struggle and deny the logic of historical evolution.
Intersectionality as a ‘tool’ is embraced by as broad a church of political pundits and political agitators as those it claims to represent, fifty shades of liberal if you will. Most damaging, their survival as a petit-bourgeois movement is contingent on the absence of a robust proletarian class struggle, and its propagators staunchly oppose the rise of a militant class-based politics.
This is of course its utility to bourgeois society, which recognises it as friend, not foe. As such this ideology hails not from the depths of the proletarian class struggle, nor the deduction of scientific laws from nature. Rather, it hails from the most venal and morally bankrupt sections of the intelligentsia. The class content and character of the concept of intersectionality is evidenced in the thorough embrace of it by the superstructure of British society, be it armed bodies of men, the police and military, or by the great institutions of finance capital themselves, banks, corporations, building societies etc. One only need glance at the list of Stonewall’s ‘top 100 employers’ to confirm this. NATO itself is prone to delivering its messages of war and conquest, while draped in a rainbow flag.
A genuine understanding of society as we have established requires the recognition of its class nature. We must then understand that one class, the capitalist class, is dominant. It uses its dominant position to enforce its ideological hegemony upon British society.
Yet as we have deduced from nature and society, social forces change. Marxism holds that when the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the current relations of production – which in our present case are private property relations – they ignite an era of social revolution.
And so turning our attention to dialectics, we can see that social life exists in continual motion, that this motion is never static, but one in an eternal process of destruction and creation, the old giving away to the new but coexisting for long periods – like socialist and capitalist forms of economy, nations and states, amidst the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary tumult. The dialectical method tells us we must regard life as it actually is, but having understood it as being in continual motion, we must therefore ask of this continual motion, where does it lead?
We have seen in the cycle of destruction and creation of social life, the birth and growth of the proletarian class from being a small minority in a predominantly peasant world, to becoming the most numerous class on the planet. In doing so it has gained strength and feeling that the monopoly capitalist class are irreconcilably opposed to its most urgent and pressing needs, with the proper understanding, class consciousness and militant organisation, the working class will undoubtedly go on to win its political supremacy also.
By contrast, the bourgeois class has shrunk relatively, and has become a moribund burden, which rots and becomes more decadent by the day. Despite its relative economic and political strength today (in the sense that the proletariat, at least in Britain is unorganised, while it is economically and politically dominant) it will sustain defeat due to its decay. Thus arises the dialectical proposition: that which grows stronger by the day is rational, and that which rots and decays is irrational and must concede to defeat.
Intersectionality simply does not deduce its ‘ideas’ from nature and society. Being idealist it instead paints caricatures, simple dichotomised relationships based on enigmatic human characteristics. In the case of racism, intersectionality deems only black people, in imperialist countries – to be capable of understanding or entitled to talk about their oppression due to its tenets absorbed from ‘standpoint theory’ and consequently ‘privilege theory’ as promoted by the likes of Collins.
Being the immediate targets of racism, however, does not make them the only victims. Marx stated in Capital (Volume I): “Labour in the white skin cannot be free if in the black it is branded.” Understanding the meaning of this profound idea is key for the working class – black and white alike. By enlisting one section of the working population to discriminate and assist in the increased relative oppression of another section of the population (be it on the grounds of sex, race, religion, national origin, or some other tenet), the ruling class divides and weakens the resistance of the working class to its economic subordination and exploitation in total.
This was true of the Irish industrial workers in Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and London. It is true of the racism that grew out of slavery in the US and Americas, and persistent with laws of segregation, and beyond their abolition, under British and US Imperialist rule. It was true of the colonies of the European power, which observed a strictly codified system of racial apartheid (South Africa was not alone in this regard). It was true of the communalism fostered between Hindu and Muslim in India by the British, that persists under the Indian capitalist ruling class, and it is true of the ongoing anti-immigrant hysteria in Britain, the US and throughout the EU imperialist group of nations, whipped up by national media and politicians of all bourgeois hues (Tory, Liberal and Labour alike, we should stress).
All workers, all victims of capital, are capable, with the help of scientific socialism, of understanding this truth – that it is in their interest to fight racism -and uniting behind the necessary theory, as well as of implementing the strategy and tactics, of class struggle and class war.
Liberalism, born of the industrial capitalist period, has given way to the ideology of the period of imperialism, often known as ‘neo-liberalism’, which serves the interests of the finance and monopoly capitalists of Britain. This change itself has taken place because of the change of material conditions – specifically the rise of finance capital. In order to maintain their control over the means of production, and the working class, the monopoly bourgeois class openly embraces identity politics, intersectionality as well as other reactionary ideas such as racism as a means of dividing the workers and toiling masses of the globe it economically exploits. As Marx states in the German Ideology:
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”
Therefore we can see that in the struggle to change material reality, man’s ideas change. Idealism, and in this case the intersectionalists, hold however that the reverse is the case (the enforcement of pronouns is a case in point). Indeed, it was not the whore who conceived Babylon, dear reader, but Babylon that conceived the whore! Is this distinction important to the intersectional Marxists?
The struggle between ideas, of course, constantly plays out in society as we see here, for example, between intersectionality and dialectical materialism. This is however merely a reflection of a society ridden with contradictions between classes, between nations and between the old and the new.
With intersectionality encouraging its adherents to value above all else their own narrow and subjective experience, it is incapable of quantifying material reality due to its discarding empirical investigation, let alone the scientific investigation of Marxism.
And as such, intersectionality is thoroughly bourgeois and idealistic in its content. Its overwhelming obsession with subjective experience means attaining a full picture of society is impossible due to its individualistic outlook as epitomised by Collins’ tenet of “No one group possesses the theory or methodology that allows it to discover the absolute “truth”.”
Furthermore, lost in the ‘web of overlapping oppressions’ or Foucauldian ‘matrix of domination’ they fail to follow any of them to their source, the economic base of society. Instead, fellow workers are accused by the intersectionalists of exploiting“privilege”. This totally ignores the most salient facts that this relative privilege does not constitute the economic basis of exploitation, and that any such privilege for groups of workers rests upon capitalist economic relations and therefore comes at the bitter expense of emancipation – that is it presupposes and rests upon the continued existence of exploitative capitalist society. The favoured or privileged wage slave is still just that: a wage slave.
Intersectionality heaves us into a morass of obscurity of intersections that are only conceivable to individual victims. At best, different groups (black, disabled, gay, transgender, muslims, ect.) and organisations can be ‘allies’. Marxist philosophy by stark contrast asserts that all workers, all victims of capital, are capable with the help of scientific socialism of understanding and uniting behind the necessary theory, as well as of implementing the strategy and tactics of class struggle and class war.
As discussed above, concepts such as justice and equality are only temporary and relative truths. Intersectionality provides nothing more than a subjective framework of analysis of society, at best it speaks of justice or vague terms of empowerment, or in Crenshaw’s case seeks to amend certain bourgeois institutions. In practice amongst the broader populace it seeks ‘safe spaces’ or the policing of language in relation to minority groups.
By contrast, Marxism provides a philosophical framework that lead us to the rational conclusion that progress will come to human civilisation by means of abolishing the primary contradiction of the exploitation of labour by capital through social ownership of the means of production and a planned economy, brought into being against the interests of the tiny parasitic exploiting class by means of a most righteous and just (from the standpoint of the proletarian masses) revolution.
Through a planned socialist economy the general wealth and wellbeing of the masses can be drastically improved through job security, free healthcare, universal education, decent affordable housing and so on, and as such the concrete conditions that give rise to bourgeois prejudice amongst workers would cease to exist and thus will be followed by a corresponding change of ideals over time, and hastened by the class rule, by the laws, and by the example of the leadership of the majority working class.
Historically this has been well established by the splendid records of socialist countries such as the Soviet Union in regards to the relations of oppressed groups such as women and the numerous nationalities that had been oppressed under the yolk of the Russian Empire. Leading Afro-American civil rights campaigners from Paul Robeson to Otto Huiswood and Harry Haywood all wrote extensively of their inspiration, while fighting for civil rights in USA, when witnessing the transformation from colonial subjugation to free culture and brotherhood that was occurring in the USSR.
The conditions of this change had been brought about as consequence of the October Revolution, the replacement of the capitalist economic base and superstructure with a socialist economic base and proletarian dictatorship and superstructure. But dialectical materialism is beyond the intersectional grasp, let alone historical materialism – so let’s pose the question for them: what is the record of intersectionality when it comes to revolution- to transformation of the lives of workers and the oppressed?
Of course the intersectionalists fail in this task, for them the ‘white cis-gendered man’ is inherently evil in their eyes and cannot possibly understand the plight of the straight black man, who in turn cannot possibly understand the plight of the lesbian black woman, who in turn cannot understand the plight of the trans woman. Well, of course, if one discards the class contradiction as the primary contradiction one can find no common ground – just the unhealthy ‘competition of oppressions’, to coin Michael Ferranti’s apt term! Such are the mental gymnastics of our pernicious anti-communist friends.
The intersectionalists are enamoured only with subjective reasoning and with aid of their pet (and totally abstract) formula they believe only they, as isolated atoms with the moral superiority of the ‘most oppressed,’ can therefore change reality, society and themselves. This foundation to their philosophy raises it no further than the individual strains of identity politics it is claimed to advance upon.
Intersectionality cannot be redeemed by coupling it with Marxism, as in reality it is a complete negation of the latter. They are polar opposite outlooks. As revolutionary materialists our work cannot be separated from the revolutionary practice of the masses, as is the work of the intersectionalists. These friends are incapable of uniting the interests of the part with the interests of the whole. Further, in claiming to advocate the interests of the part, at the expense of the whole of the working class, they in fact isolate these sections of the class from the mainspring of their liberation subject to the whim of spontaneity, of fraudulent exploiters who make their living by entrenching fragmentation, sectarianism and communalism. This line can only lead inevitably to reformism and capitulation to the bourgeois class that obliges to empty promises of ‘respect towards difference’, the same as the imperialist order that appears eager to fulfil vague demands at ‘inclusion’, ‘tolerance’, ‘diversity’, more pluralist, participatory democracy as an alibi for bombing those who lack in it.
The intersectionalists and idpolers accuse us of ignoring the ‘material reality of oppression’ of the different strata of the working class – of course we understand different strata face different material conditions as well as different oppressions and prejudices. We would go further. We all, every individual, faces differing degrees of ‘oppression’ and difficulty from every aspect of societal and material relations (what about diabetics? Those with cardiovascular disease?…). But our theory must serve the purpose not of grading our difficulties and wallowing in them, but of overcoming them and uniting us in struggle to build a more, just, equitable and sane world.
Thus, we adamantly oppose creating black sections, for example, within our party, or indeed within trade unions. For the demands of ‘black’ liberation (what is black? Volumes could be written on subdividing the ‘black’ population in itself) and women’s emancipation are demands that belong to the class as a whole. Men should struggle for and advocate for women’s equality and ‘white’ people should advocate and struggle for the strictest anti-racism in all social and political matters, as should all others. A firm proletarian stand is to represent the vast majority at all times and in all situations at the highest level.
Our doubtful ‘friends’ however, led as they are by a bourgeois moral compass, fail to appreciate the power and scope of the ideological weaponry of scientific socialism and its methodology. The tenets of Marxism are as powerful, vital and relevant today as when they were penned, if they would just take the trouble to study and understand them, and cannot merely be adapted, revised or grafted onto an idealist, post-modernist relativist base, as the advocates of intersectionality pretend to have achieved.
Returning to the original critique of the doubtful ‘comrade’, our friendly pundit posited “The party (CPGB-ML) has chosen to brand all Identity Politics as liberal by applying its own definition. Using its own definition, it can easily brand all those it disagrees with and hide behind liberal straw-men.” We hope dear reader that we have convinced them of the liberalism of all identity politics. As for our own definition, referring back to our earlier quotation of Marx we must wade through the abstract and assert the simple and concrete facts.
Understanding this, intersectionality, and identity politics by extension, rests on a handful of key components:
First, its analysis of society and perceived injustice are derived from immutable individual characteristics of humanity: skin tone, disability etc. without regard or relation to the economic base of society. As such, its tenets are derived from a superficial reaction to bourgeois moral prejudices, and not from any scientific understanding or analysis of what constitutes oppression or prejudice, or the relationship between individual and class interest.
Second, these characteristics arbitrarily confer upon or deny individuals ‘privilege’ within society to a lesser or greater extent without regard or relation to the economic base or the phenomena and superstructure that arise from this, such as the relation between imperialism, bourgeois nationalism, or working-class unity, when understanding racism within an imperialist state or the relation between imperialist states and oppressed nations.
Third, the analytical basis of intersectionality rests upon subjective ‘experience’ or absence thereof, so denies a common understanding between groups and denies a working theory that elaborates the relations of individuals and groups to the superstructure and economic base in totality, Consequently it deprives the proletariat of any guide to action other than subjecting the whole to the part, while leaving the imperialist class entirely unscathed, and in pride of exploitative place! (In focusing on the intellectual will of the individual, the petit-bourgeois similarity with anarchism, and indeed its natural compatibility with Trotskyism is striking).
We should also note again that intersectionality, unlike Marxism, is deprived of any relation between its disjointed ‘theory’ and any practice taken up in its name. It is outstanding for its ahistorical and asocial perspective and total absence of any pretence of scientific investigation. Marxist theory, in total contrast, is informed by its deep historical, economic and social analysis, and by the testing of its tenets in practice.
Last, to emphasise concisely the liberalism of intersectionality, we point out that it rejects the chief tenet of historical materialism as established in the Communist Manifesto:
“The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
Entrenched in the social and political superstructure as intersectionality is, its literature is for the academic university acolyte, particularly of the humanities and their outgrowth of bourgeois sponsored departments in women’s studies, queer studies and so forth.
Being entirely innocuous to the interests of the exploiting bourgeoisie, but most harmful to the interest of the proletariat who need, above else, unity to wage a successful struggle against exploitative society, intersectionalism is rapidly propagating through capitalist society, much like its forebear post-modernism.
This theory, luxuriating in academic circles, has none the less fallen into the hands of young men and women, largely college students, wanting to change the world –which in and of itself we welcome. But the tool is not up to the job, and in fact is hampering their original desire to be of service to humanity. Trying to marry intersectional analysis with Marxism is a grave error. In an imperialist nation such as Britain (where a split has been fostered in the working class and the upper stratum is politically represented by an imperialist Labour party that has waged a hundred year war against revolutionary communism among the workers), it is understandable that many young communists learn their Marxism from a sociological or other academic background. As such, they must learn to read and study the classics of Marxism, rather than imbibe the anti-Marxian prejudices of their liberal and Trotskyite teachers. How many of these pupils will now be able to separate the liberalism from the Marxism remains to be seen.
The issue we now face, irrespective of ‘good intentions’, is that a considerable mass of charlatan intersectional ‘Marxists’ have gained the upper hand amongst the YCL (in itself a small and increasingly irrelevant organisation, but this is a sign of the success of the bourgeois trend in society at large) and others who predate upon the liberal tendencies of those entering the movement, their individual grievances, which retards their Marxist education. Furthermore, such ‘intersectional Marxists’ proclaim themselves to be the true bearers of liberation ideology, and in as much as they encounter young activists, they actively discourage others from apprehending the teachings of Marxism, by interposing their opportunist quackery, sloganeering and utilising the aggressive petty-bourgeois approach of university debating society obfuscation, rather than engaging in honest, open and forthright debate.
In conclusion, we maintain our thesis that bourgeois society and the bourgeois state have in the imperialist nations afforded the greatest extent of personal freedoms and liberties for the individual that is possible in economic and social life under capitalism – at the expense of and off the backs of the great toiling masses of the globe – particularly the Asian, African and Latin American masses, but also in the wake of the soviet counter-revolution, the re-colonised formerly socialist nations .
We are quite clear that the collective emancipation of the masses is a prerequisite for the true emancipation of the individual; it is now for us to organise the proletarian masses of all strata and sections under the flag of socialism, under the banner of proletarian internationalism, in the common interest of all working peoples.
3 Black Feminist Thought, Collins 2000, p. 299.
4Collins 1997, p. 74.
5Collins, 2010, p. 234.
6Foucault, 1981, p. 95-96.
7Roediger, 2000, p.7, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class
8Collins, 1991, p.234-5
9Lyotard, 1979, The Postmodern Condition