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09/11/2001 WE REMEMBER

"Fear is the foundation of most governments." - John Adams

"Despite the constant negative press covfefe" - Donald Trump


Decided to make this another thread as it's an interesting question and topic. Open to everyone else as well, whether you agree or disagree.

How do you reconcile being "on the left" and having a disdain for identity politics? To me, it seems to be all the left is about.

Because, contrary to popular belief, identity politics is not the original raison d'être of the liberal and socialist political institutions of the early twentieth century, even if a sizeable tranch of the contemporary left peddles identity politics as their primary product. There's certainly enough people around who do not automatically cleave to it to make it so.

The 1945 Labour cabinet - the historical example I draw most from to frame my politics - was not interested in identity politics and would have not dignified it with a response. It didn't exist back then in the sense that we currently understand it, and the Labour government was too busy dealing with actual, real-life problems that were urgent and called into question the existential continuity of the UK. This included: post-War reconstruction; forming NATO; initiating independent nuclear armament; minimising communist incursion and influence in Western Europe; managing as peaceably and effectively as possible the decolonisation and independence of imperial colonies (most notably India and Israel); constructing the first substantive nation-wide social security; and ensuring that British industry did not collapse and that we did not succumb to the asphyxiation of sovereign bankruptcy as result of the War.

They managed all this with vigour, aplomb and muscular efficacy (just as the Macmillan Conservative administration later did) because they were intellectual minds of the first-rate, were bound (for a number of individuals) by both the common experience of the First World War and serving as part of the National government in the Second World War, and a generation, in their youth, that was the product of the last epoch of Victorian Britain - a period that undoubtedly put great emphasis on national interest and British civic virtues, as well as a nascent trade unionist and socialist movement. The threads that bound disparate groups were stronger than any one person.

They were compelled by the overwhelming duty of office and to the nation. They didn't do division and exclusive politics, and they were able to talk about social unity, social equity and social mobility in concrete terms informed by a wealth of experience, as a mixed group consisting of both the (actual) working class and middle class from across the country.

Were they perfect? No. Did they do everything they did without vigourous disagreement and monumental implementation problems? No. Certainly those on the right have criticisms of that whole period in terms of politics (valid arguments about paternalism and the later problems of trade unionism and industrial relations). Nonetheless, they bypassed these problems because they knew what was meant by statesmanship. They knew what was meant by service to one's country. They knew what it was like to suffer the strain of war and potential defeat - and what they had been greeted by governments of the time upon return from the First World War.

What does intersectionality have to say about them? It merely dismisses them as white males, steeped in privilege and therefore unworthy of praise (or, at the very least, so compromised that their works pale). It ignores their achievements, their tenacity, for a lot of them their struggles attempting to overcome their impoverished working class backgrounds, or their unblemished service as soldiers and officers on the battlefields of Western Europe, North Africa and Asia - without which the UK would have succumbed to the yoke of fascism almost 80 years ago. So why should I pretend this form of politics, that is inherently divisive, has any place in the left, in the UK or in the West if it so clearly disregards the successes and history of its own precursor movement? And in a post-Brexit UK when no party, it seems, can articulate a vision of national purpose and unity - identity politics is anethema to those goals.

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There are 8 Replies

Can we take a moment to clearly and concisely define what we're talking about when we say, "identity politics"? I've been reading think piece after think piece about the failings of the left because it focuses on identity politics, but I've admittedly had a hard time understanding what exactly makes the left's politics "identity politics," while the right's focus on "Christian values," "protecting confederate heritage," and "protecting *our* culture" is somehow not considered identity politics. So what do people actually mean when they use the term?

Posted December 7th by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

The dictionary definition is good enough: forming exclusive identity-based political stances or groups in opposition and to a certain extent to replace traditional party politics and undermine common civic culture and liberal democracy's fundamental principles of isonomy and equity.

I'll happily include the isolating strains of white nationalism and identitarianism as part of identity politics (although I don't necessarily blame them for formenting their views as an act of reciprocity against extreme anti-European or anti-white views, depending on your location in the world). The notion of Christian values as an exclusive formation (i.e. as a consideration above all else) would also fit the bill. I don't have time for either of those as well.

Preserving the history of the Confederacy isn't because it is not exclusionary and you're not being oppressed by it, no matter how much mental gymnastics you go through.

Edited December 7th by Arch
Arch
 

So do you not necessarily blame, say, black people for taking up a "black identity" in America, or the gay community taking up "gay identity" in the country given the history of systemic exclusion?


Preserving the history of the Confederacy isn't because it is not exclusionary


Sorry, I think I'm derailing your thread, but I'd argue that it is when "preserving" that history means re-writing that history, and that inherently valuing a twisted revisionist version of your own history while dismissing another group of people's history while you have the bulk of economic and political power does come off as oppressive. It highlights how little the people in power value you and your experience, if you're not part of that (in this case) white Southern group. If you're, say, black in the South, the "preservation of the Confederacy" has inherently come at completely dismissing your history and an entire people's experience. You can't say, "This is not exclusionary, but also, slavery wasn't that big of a deal and you're trying to steal away our heritage by arguing it was."

Edited December 7th by Jet Presto
Jet Presto

So do you not necessarily blame, say, black people for taking up a "black identity" in America, or the gay community taking up "gay identity" in the country given the history of systemic exclusion?

Yet its the end of the world when white people do it too? Guess what? White people are a group with interests as well. We are a global minority at 6.5%. We have real issues affecting white communities. We have actual racist anti white policies like affirmative action. We face discrimination too (people assume we have privilege, that is a form of discrimination).

Sorry, I think I'm derailing your thread, but I'd argue that it is when "preserving" that history means re-writing that history, and that inherently valuing a twisted revisionist version of your own history while dismissing another group of people's history while you have the bulk of economic and political power does come off as oppressive. It highlights how little the people in power value you and your experience, if you're not part of that (in this case) white Southern group. If you're, say, black in the South, the "preservation of the Confederacy" has inherently come at completely dismissing your history and an entire people's experience. You can't say, "This is not exclusionary, but also, slavery wasn't that big of a deal and you're trying to steal away our heritage by arguing it was."

The only revision going on is the fake meme that it was just about slavery. The south was a different culture that wanted to be its own nation (just like the United States). Before slavery, it was the nullification crisis that they disagreed with the overreaching federal government on. YOU are the revisionist.

"Therefore the tariff was only the pretext, and disunion and a Southern confederacy the real object. The next pretext will be the negro, or slavery, question." - Andrew Jackson 1833.

But I guess it's easier if you are a white guy ridden with white guilt to take an opportunity to virtue signal how against the mistreatment of other races you are (as were confederate leaders/heros like General Robert E. Lee) by painting it in a false light.



Posted December 8th by #85
#85

Because, contrary to popular belief, identity politics is not the original raison d'être of the liberal and socialist political institutions of the early twentieth century, even if a sizeable tranch of the contemporary left peddles identity politics as their primary product. There's certainly enough people around who do not automatically cleave to it to make it so.

While you might have a disdain for it, your voting bloc doesn't and by siding with them, you play into that. You can give lip service against it but you are still helping their agenda be carried out.

This included: post-War reconstruction

This is a good thing. Marshall plan had better results than Treaty of Versailles.

forming NATO

I personally don't think NATO should exist and wish an immediate withdraw.

initiating independent nuclear armament

I'm pretty anti nuclear. We will end up killing ourselves with the shit, imo. I don't even really like nuclear energy.

minimising communist incursion and influence in Western Europe

This I can obviously get on board with, but I would argue that this goal has failed.

managing as peaceably and effectively as possible the decolonisation and independence of imperial colonies (most notably India and Israel)

Not sure how I feel about colonization. Certainly don't see a problem with it in the past. Prehaps it's not needed now. Western countries are certainly being "colonized" by immigrants today.

constructing the first substantive nation-wide social security

I don't think this is a good thing, either. I doubt that system will last for our generation to see its payouts.

They were compelled by the overwhelming duty of office and to the nation. They didn't do division and exclusive politics, and they were able to talk about social unity, social equity and social mobility in concrete terms informed by a wealth of experience, as a mixed group consisting of both the (actual) working class and middle class from across the country.

Given this would you consider yourself a nationalist?

What does intersectionality have to say about them? It merely dismisses them as white males, steeped in privilege and therefore unworthy of praise (or, at the very least, so compromised that their works pale). It ignores their achievements, their tenacity, for a lot of them their struggles attempting to overcome their impoverished working class backgrounds, or their unblemished service as soldiers and officers on the battlefields of Western Europe, North Africa and Asia - without which the UK would have succumbed to the yoke of fascism almost 80 years ago. So why should I pretend this form of politics, that is inherently divisive, has any place in the left, in the UK or in the West if it so clearly disregards the successes and history of its own precursor movement? And in a post-Brexit UK when no party, it seems, can articulate a vision of national purpose and unity - identity politics is anethema to those goals.

I'm starting to learn a little bit about Mosely. I think he would have done better than Churchill at the least. I think Europe would certainly be in a better place if certain events occurred differently in the 20th century. Obviously you being on the left would disagree but I don't see why someone on the right in any form would.


Posted December 8th by #85
#85

So do you not necessarily blame, say, black people for taking up a "black identity" in America, or the gay community taking up "gay identity" in the country given the history of systemic exclusion?

No, not really, I don't blame them for interpreting it as such, and it's a product of culture as much as it is any historic oppression.

I do think they'd be wrong in arguing that they are being systemically excluded or oppressed however, in that there still remains no compelling case to demonstrate this beyond ideologues shouting down their opposition.

Sorry, I think I'm derailing your thread, but I'd argue that it is when "preserving" that history means re-writing that history, and that inherently valuing a twisted revisionist version of your own history while dismissing another group of people's history while you have the bulk of economic and political power does come off as oppressive. It highlights how little the people in power value you and your experience, if you're not part of that (in this case) white Southern group. If you're, say, black in the South, the "preservation of the Confederacy" has inherently come at completely dismissing your history and an entire people's experience. You can't say, "This is not exclusionary, but also, slavery wasn't that big of a deal and you're trying to steal away our heritage by arguing it was."

It's fine, no derailment.

How is preserving Confederate symbols or monuments (of which I am well aware they are not exactly contemporary) as civic features, or history as a whole, actively oppressing you or your interest group? How is it denying the narrative - and a ubiquitous one at that - that slavery was and is undeniably and inherently a bad thing? The presence of Nazi edificies and their works - of which there are a lot in the civic landscape of Germany - does not oppress or deny the narrative of the Jews, or any other distinct group persecuted by the Nazi regime. Indeed, it's necessary to place these features in context to fully understand that narrative.

This isn't really a particularly robust argument of yours, not least as I've heard variations of it in a non-US context elsewhere. It's mainly you begging the question about an inexorable capability of people to "oppress" (ill-defined in terms of mechanism) historical narratives with symbols and features considered offensive, when the very elements you paradoxically rail against are very much part of that narrative.

Posted Tuesday by Arch
Arch
 

I'll have to respond to you later 85.

Posted Tuesday by Arch
Arch
 

While you might have a disdain for it, your voting bloc doesn't and by siding with them, you play into that. You can give lip service against it but you are still helping their agenda be carried out.

No more than any agenda that I might disagree with as an established position within the Labour party. On the whole, identity politics is not its central concern or propellant, even if it unfortunately tolerates it, if not actively condones it, most of the time.

That's the realities of voting; you don't vote for perfect representations of your individual views, you vote for those who you feel most closely represents it and can do so competently.

My list of Labour government policies and activities wasn't really a list of things you had to agree with in terms of politics (because I knew you wouldn't) - and there's quite a bit there I don't agree with either, the same views as you. I posted it as a recognition that they, along with the generation of politicians all around Europe, had important things to do and rectify (even if they weren't right all the time) and they did it mainly in good faith and with sincere intentions, without massaging a grievance culture; on the contrary the post-1945 spirit is one positively associated with aspiration and the notion that the state of affairs would get better with hard work and perserverance.

Given this would you consider yourself a nationalist?

No. To borrow from Orwell, I am not interested in putting the prestige of the nation blindly above all other considerations, nor force antagonistic exchanges for the sake of satisfying said prestige.

I am confident in the rituals, symbols, history and landscape that define, as tightly as it is able to define, what it means to be British, and more specifically, what it means to be English, and that they are needed in order to understand liberal democracy and civic engagement in the UK.

I'm starting to learn a little bit about Mosely. I think he would have done better than Churchill at the least. I think Europe would certainly be in a better place if certain events occurred differently in the 20th century. Obviously you being on the left would disagree but I don't see why someone on the right in any form would.

Mosley was an absurd figure and a quisling. The BUF never had anywhere near the popular support that would have seen a Mosley-led administration, after the New Party failed to win a single seat in the 1931 general election.

There is no question, in my mind, that Churchill was the figurehead needed to represent Britain and its interests in that hour. The only way you would disagree and think otherwise in preferring Mosley over Churchill is if you were proposing we accepted Hitler's false peace as Mosley supported, and therefore engaging in apologetics for the Nazi regime and European fascism as a whole.

Posted Tuesday by Arch
Arch
 
Reply to: How do you reconcile being left-wing and being critical of identity politics (@85)?

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