In this article its author James Hunter makes the case that, while identity politics has its place, used in the wrong way it can distract people from the more basic issue, which is class.
By James Hunter
Somalilandsun- Rich people exploit and oppress poor people. Always.
Rich nations exploit and oppress poor nations. Always.
When I say always, I do not mean that poor people and poor nations absolutely never benefit from the rich, but taken as a whole, the transactions between the rich and the poor are always to the advantage of the rich and to the disadvantage of the poor. So long as there are rich and poor, this will not change.
These are the two fundamental facts that always need to be kept in mind with regard to the world political situation. Anything that distracts our attention from these simple facts is not in the interest of the poor. Real economic liberation must begin with the creation of an economic structure that does not permit enormous material wealth, and decision making, discrepancies between people. The current system is irreparable in this regard.
Upper-middle-class people who consider themselves progressives tend to focus a lot on identity politics. There is of course, a germ of truth in the assertions made by these progressives. Obviously Blacks and Whites should be treated equally; people of all religious persuasions, or no religious affiliation at all, should be respected; men and women should have the same rights, as should people of all sexual orientations. When real discrepancies are identified, the issue needs to be addressed and rectified. However the kind of emphasis that is now given to identity politics tends to serve as a distraction from the two most important issues: imperialism and social class.
A poor black woman has much more in common with a poor white woman than with a rich black woman. The interests of a poor black man and a poor white man are almost identical when it comes to economics, and in both cases, these are not the interests of the wealthy of either race. Hopefully we will continue to make strides with regard to the liberation of people with the full range of sexual orientations, but the political interests of poor gay men and poor lesbian women are much closer to the political interests of poor heterosexual men and women than to wealthy gays or lesbians.
Exploited and colonized nations share a common interest with one another that they do not share with their exploiters.
The wealthy individuals, with few exceptions, look down on the poor whatever gender, orientation, or race they may be. They are seen as dirty and crude, and it is assumed that their lower position in society is due to their own inadequacies. Only those who have never had any contact with the wealthy can doubt this.
Wealthy individuals and nations have always maintained their privileged position through the strategy of divide and conquer. Men are pitted against women. One religion is pitted against another. One nationality against another. One race or ethnic group against another. One sexual orientation against another. They have been successful, and to this day they reap the benefits of their success. They get the poor to serve their meals to them, to clean their houses for them, to do their unsavoury work for them, and to fight their wars for them. And in the economics sphere the wealthy get the poor to provide them with goods and services without the poor participating significantly in the decision-making about how the wealth should be created and without their receiving an equitable share of the wealth that is created by their work.
If this long story of exploitation and oppression is ever to end we need a new type of identity politics: one that strives to overcome the false dichotomies that have been created by society — good women against bad men; good Blacks against bad Whites; good gays against bad straights, good Christians against bad Muslims, or the other way around. The same sort of divide and conquer techniques must also be challenged with regard to nations. So long as exploited nations fight against one another and fail to unite against their exploiters, their situation will not improve.
Until the socially and economically disenfranchised of all nations and identity groups cease attacking one another, and learn to support each other, the wealthy will have their way.