Tag Archives: Identity Politics

Jerry Barnett on Identity Politics

It’s a few months old now, but this piece by Jerry Barnett “Identity Politics is Killing Solidarity and Fuelling Fascism” on the Sex & Censorship blog is still worth a read.

But the Labour Movement, the foundation of the old left, effectively collapsed during the 1980s and 90s for a variety of reasons. The left dwindled, and found new power bases: no longer in factories or council estates; instead in academia and the public sector. It lost touch with working class people, and lost interest in poverty. It instead adopted identity politics, dividing people by race, gender, sexuality just as it once united people across these lines. It became whiter and more middle-class, and gradually came to represent the interests of white, middle-class people above all others. Step by step, from the 80s onward, the left took on the attitudes of the old fascist movements, seeking to divide society into isolated, opposing groups of people.

Barnett also laments the rise of neo-puritanism, once the preserve of the Christian Right, which has now taken root in part of the left.

The conclusion is sadly predictable

Is it surprising, therefore, that poor whites would now also choose to unite around their racial identity? Is the rise of Donald Trump or of Nigel Farage so surprising in this climate? This new ascent of the fascist right was clearly preempted and driven by the rise of fascist politics on the left. We have no chance of resisting the rise of of the far-right in Europe and America if we adopt fascist methods and ideas ourselves. We need to rediscover the solidarity of the old left: we must stand shoulder to shoulder with those who suffer, however much – or little – they resemble ourselves.

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What’s needed now are real left-wing radicals

Nick Cohen writes in The Spectator about how the left’s problem with anti-Semitism is a symptom of a deeper problem and suggests what Labour needs now is a takeover by real left-wing radicals.

Perhaps anti-Semitism is not taken as seriously here because the Nazis stopped at the Channel and we never had to live through our own version of Vichy. But there is a more contemporary reason for the failure to tackle it, or even admit its existence, that could unravel social-democratic politics.

Most Jews are white. And across the middle-class left, it is held that racism is not racism when it is directed against whites in general and that entitled aristocrat of our age, the straight white male, in particular. The dangers for centre-left parties should be obvious. In Europe and in Donald Trump’s America, the white-working-class base of social-democratic parties is falling away. Voters will carry on leaving if they keep hearing expensively educated voices tell them in perfectly constructed sentences that they are the oppressors who must be overthrown. Why should a white man with miserable job and no prospects tolerate a left-wing elite that casts him as an overprivileged villain? If I were in his shoes, I would loathe the lies and point-scoring and want nothing to do with such politicians.

A ‘left-wing’ egalitarianism that takes so little notice of class is fake. Like a ‘left-wing’ foreign policy that is on the side of the reactionary and obscurantist, it will first infuriate and then fail.

But he fears that when the left abandons the currently-fashionable middle-class identity politics, what will replace it won’t be the genuine radicalism that the centre-left needs, but a timid acceptance of a consensus set by the Tories

Like a case of dysentery, the Corbyn moment will pass. My fear is that it will be replaced not with a serious commitment to reform, but with the terrified conformism that characterised the Labour party after Tony Blair became leader. Labour will be so desperate to prove it is strong on national security that it will agree with whatever the generals and security services propose. It will be so desperate to appear economically reputable that it will endorse rather than oppose the stagnant system the Cameron government has presided over.

Nick Cohen is sounding more and more like a stuck record on this issue. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t right.

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The TV Evangelist Social Media Model

One consequence of the growth of social media is that the most successful way of building a big online following goes something like this:

  • Find a partisan audience and tell them what they want to hear.
  • Adopt a confrontational or preachy manner that’s guaranteed to get up the nose of your chosen audience’s outgroup.
  • Use the inevitable backlash from that outgroup to boost your own signal.

We’ve seen it from people all over the ideological spectrum from right-libertarianism to leftist social justice activism. It’s the tried-and-tested method of the tub-thumping TV evangelist. It works, but it comes with a social cost. “Othering” entire demographics never ends well no matter who’s doing it, even if some criticism of that demographic’s stereotypical behaviour is justified. It makes us forget our common humanity when we divide ourselves up into ingroups and outgroups. Not only does inject a form of party politics into places where it doesn’t belong, such as workplaces and social spaces, but it makes it far easier for those with insufficient empathy to justify doing horrible things to people.

Then we see Donald Trump doing the same thing. And the size of his platform makes him genuinely dangerous.

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Let Justice Be Done Though The Liberal Heavens Fall

Nick Cohen is on form again in Standpoint over the events in Rotherham and Cologne, and the apparent divide-by-zero error sufffered by some parts of the left.

My colleague David Paxton looked at these and other examples of fear of the far-Right and aptly described them as a “noble lies, told to prevent us idiot yokels from becoming a mob. People are stepping out from their job descriptions and moonlighting as censors.” He might have gone further. The refusal of the police and public authorities to follow the law they are meant to uphold demeans the societies they are meant to serve.

They see Britain as a 21st-century Weimar Republic where the smallest incitement could lead to pogroms and tyranny. The white men and women around them are not fellow citizens but closet fascists, who must be kept in ignorance for fear that they will dress up in black leather and attend torchlight parades. In these circumstances, abused girls aren’t victims, but inconveniences who must be suppressed for the greater good.

He again stresses how the current incarnation of identity politics which puts communities and their sometimes self-appointed leaders ahead of individuals is not fir for purpose for today’s highly diverse society.

We should stop playing shabby games of ethnic favouritism with the victims of crime, which should never have been played in the first place. Whether a child is abused by a white celebrity or Pakistani thug, or a migrant taking advantage of unknown freedoms, says nothing about whites or Pakistanis or asylum seekers, and everything about them. We should do what we should always have done and insist that equality before the law is the best way of integrating newcomers as well as being a blessing in itself.

Nick Cohen is sounding more and more like a stuck record on this subject. But that doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

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Clique Politics

Good quote from Damien Walter on Twitter

There’s always a perfectly reasonable inner logic to clique politics. Which allows members to feel like victims when their victims speak out

When you observe any political clique from the outside, regardless of what ideology or identity they follow, you tend to see very similar patterns; especially projection, and the demonisation of chosen out-groups. They’ve spend so long in their self-contained echo-chambers they lack the collective self-awareness to see themselves as others see them, and they see their opponents in terms of simplistic caricatures.

Is your polltics part of a clique?

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