Bill Maher, Karl Marx, and “identity politics”

BY:Joe Sims| May 3, 2017
Bill Maher, Karl Marx, and “identity politics”

U.S. capitalism was constructed on a racial social division of labor. As Marx said in Capital, “labor in the white skin cannot be free so long as labor in the black skin is branded.”   We would add to that formula gender. American inequality has long been premised on discrimination based on color and gender as means of generating extra profit and diving the class against itself.

Why then the ongoing attack on “identity politics”  the most recent example coming from Bill Maher and CNN, who urged Democrats to ease up on identity politics, which he claims is prioritized over economic concerns.

We’d argue that both have to be addressed, and that along with jobs must come affirmative action and other measures to provide training and skills necessary for advancement and job security.

Without both, the class will be divided and Republicans will continue to win.  And by the way isn’t their hypocritical emphasis on the so-called “white working class,” an expression of identity politics? Don’t get me wrong: white workers are suffer exploitation and are catching hell with the rest of the working class.  To build unity, the issues of the entire class have to be addressed: race, gender, sexual orientation, cannot and will not be swept under the rug. Sorry Bill, identity and class matter.

Comments (9)

Will | June 08, 2017 at 7:00 AM

Eugene Debs:
> “I have said and say again that, properly speaking, there is no Negro question outside of the labor question—the working class struggle. Our position as Socialists and as a party is perfectly plain. We have simply to say: “The class struggle is colorless.” The capitalists, white, black and other shades, are on one side and the workers, white, black and all other colors, on the other side.
When Marx said: “Workingmen of all countries unite,” he gave concrete expression to the socialist philosophy of the class struggle; unlike the framers of the Declaration of Independence who announced that “all men are created equal” and then basely repudiated their own doctrine, Marx issued the call to all the workers of the globe, regardless of race, sex, creed or any other condition whatsoever.
As a social party we receive the Negro and all other races upon absolutely equal terms. We are the party of the working class, the whole working class, and we will not suffer ourselves to be divided by any specious appeal to race prejudice; and if we should be coaxed or driven from the straight road we will be lost in the wilderness and ought to perish there, for we shall no longer be a Socialist party.
Let the capitalist press and capitalist “public opinion” indulge themselves in alternate flattery and abuse of the Negro; we as Socialists will receive him in our party, treat him in our counsels and stand by him all around the same as if his skin were white instead of black; and this we do, not from any considerations of sentiment, but because it accords with the philosophy of Socialism, the genius of the class struggle, and is eternally right and bound to triumph in the end.”

    Joe Sims | June 08, 2017 at 2:03 PM

    Thanks Will. The great Debs glossed over it seems Marx in Capital: “Labor in the white skin cannot be free so long as labor in the black is branded.”

BH | June 04, 2017 at 4:02 AM

Socialism would solve the Affirmative Action problem. AA while fronted as a program to help minorities just embitters white people who think they are left out because of wrongs that happened in the past they had nothing directly to do with. Socialism would give everyone willing and able to work meaningful productive employment regardless of their race or gender or sexual orientation.

Leo J | May 09, 2017 at 11:17 PM

“We’d argue that both have to be addressed, and that along with jobs must come affirmative action and other measures to provide training and skills necessary for advancement and job security.”

I agree that these issues of identity must be addressed but for the same reasons what Marx wrote was that the proleteriat would rise as a whole, meaning we come together. And in regards to affirmative action – today we don’t solve the underlying core issue of districts being poorly funded or there being a playing field that is unequal. Rather than provide programs to pick from a group of minorities to diversify institutions we should attack the core issue and create institutions that’ll be equal to all from birth to death.

Additionally, identity politics would be solved after the class struggle is resolved. Like Marx wrote about social conditions affecting one’s views and also dividing us it is clear that when there is equal, just and unbiased that way social conditioning will be halted and people who are conditioned to hate and be spiteful will be informed and would obtain class conciousness.

Dave | May 08, 2017 at 4:49 AM

Venezuala anyone?

Jaded Prole | May 08, 2017 at 10:54 PM

Yes, our unique backgrounds and issues matter but class is the bottom line that unites us. This poem from the worker poetry journal Blue Collar Review gets to the meat of it —

Zombies long silent awake
shaking in a chaos of fear and obsessions —
can they see or hear
beyond identities —

Women focused on resisting misogyny
mistrusting men

Blacks confronting racism
mistrusting whites

Latinos, Muslims targeted immigrants
fearing everyone

Youth frantically thumbing their cellphones
searching for hope and a way forward

Democrats resenting the left, the young, truth-tellers
loving the CIA

Families split — an ugly chasm of mythologies

Can we unite beyond subcultures
beyond peer groups, beyond
long held illusions, sectarian perspectives and
alienating tribal loyalties?

Can we recognize ourselves
in each other? Find a common language —
grasp the reality of class
that unites us beyond our differences
beyond invented narratives?
Can we come together beyond resistance
a movement for ourselves
for each other?

The future our future
depends on it.

    Leo J | May 09, 2017 at 11:10 PM

    This is great

Craig Gaulzetti | May 03, 2017 at 4:24 AM

Comrade Sims, thanks for this! We need to constantly evolve our tactics to bring about socialism in the United States. In the same may Marx’s adage, “Workers of the World Unite!” evolved to reflect the material conditions into, “Worker and Oppressed Peoples of the World Unite!”, we need to fight for women, African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Immigrant groups, our LGBT comrades and anyone who suffers under the oppression of the capitalist system. It’s chauvinist to ignore and belittle the oppression of our fellow citizens just because they don’t fit into a vulgar interpretation of a 19th century Social Democratic take on things. Of course, the working class is always going to be a key component to making our world a better place- but it’s only through alliance with our brothers and sisters of all oppressed groups that we’ll be able to change the world for the better.

Honestly I think an over emphasis on the economic question meant the defeat of Bernie Sanders in the primary, By avoiding the issues of race, gender discrimination and immigrant and abortion rights- of course the majority of progressive elements in our country supported the more moderate (in terms of economic policy) Hillary Clinton. The struggles particular to all oppressed peoples must be our struggle if we’re going to truly defeat the extremists, the most reactionary elements in our country, and the far right.

Beth Edelman | May 03, 2017 at 6:55 PM

To the point and on time! Ideas that divide and split the movement were given a healthy dose of unity in the past few weeks. They were capped by May Day demos that supported the rights of immigrant workers threatened with deportation and criminalization. To build a movement all sectors of the class and people must be respected.

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