Class struggle or ‘identity politics’?

 
BY: Scott Hiley| July 12, 2018
Class struggle or ‘identity politics’?
QWhy is your party engaging and giving legitimacy to identity politics? Class before identity! Identity politics only serves to split the workers against each other at the delight of the bourgeoisie! Please fight to unite the working class instead of dividing them. If you call yourselves Marxist-Leninists then please act like Marxist-Leninists and not some left Com silliness. Slogans like "against male supremacy" and "against white supremacy" only serves to isolate males and whites and turn them away from your movement. While I'm sure that that's not the intended message, that IS what the message will be to the majority of workers who are white and/or males.
AHi Jack,

Thanks for writing in.  Short answer: we are building working class unity.  Racism, sexism, national chauvinism, discrimination against LGBTQ people: these are the things that divide and weaken the working class.  That's why they are such powerful tools in the hands of capital.

Capitalism isn't just an economic system.  It's a whole organization of society based on inequality between the class that produces value (workers) and the class that appropriates it (capitalists).  That social organization includes other forms of inequality, which shape how capitalism works and reinforce the rule of the capitalist class. For example, white supremacy arose within capitalism as a result of, and justification for, the expropriation, enslavement, and genocide of non-Europeans.  Other forms of inequality (like male supremacy) existed long before capitalism, but are now pressed into service by the capitalist class.

In other words, people experience the basic reality of class in different ways. A woman worker, a Native worker, a trans worker face assaults on their safety and dignity above and beyond those shared by male, or white, or cis workers. The same is true for a woman CEO, a Native venture capitalist, or a trans investment banker with respect to their male, white, and cis colleagues.

But most members of oppressed groups are not CEOs, venture capitalists, and investment bankers. They are workers--our comrades, our brothers and sisters. When we say "an injury to one, is an injury to all", it's not just a nice sentiment. What harms one section of our class, harms all of us because it breaks down unity and diminishes our ability to fight back. Equality is the only possible basis for solidarity, so the struggle against racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination is a fundamental part of class struggle.

This is a basic part of Marxism, not some newfangled 'Left com silliness', as you put it.  It's not a coincidence that the Soviet Union was the first country to give women the right to vote, or that Cuba has the world's second-highest proportion of women in its legislature.  It's not a coincidence that the that the South African Communist Party was at the center of the anti-apartheid struggle, or that the labor movement in the United States made its greatest gains when it brought together the fight against racism and the struggle for workers' rights.

So, to sum up, we commit ourselves to fighting white supremacy, male supremacy, and other forms of oppression not despite being a revolutionary working class party, but precisely because that's what we are.  If people feel alienated or threatened by that position, then they're not ready to join in our work.

Thanks for writing in.

Photo: a mural in Washington, DC commemorates the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers' strike, which brought together labor rights and civil rights. Original 1968 photo by Ernest Withers; mural by French artist JR.  Image by Glyn Lowe, under license from creative commons.
Author
    Scott Hiley has taught French, literature, history, and philosophy at the high school, college, and post-graduate levels.  A member of CPUSA since 2010, he is active in struggles against austerity and for education justice and labor rights. His articles have appeared in the People's World (US), the Morning Star (UK), and l'Humanité (France). He lives in a rural town in upstate NY.

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