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How do you reconcile being left-wing and being critical of identity politics (@85)?
Posted: Posted December 7th
Edited December 7th by Arch
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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