The identity politics phenomenon sweeping across the Western world is a divide and conquer strategy that prevents the emergence of a genuine resistance to the elites.
A core principle of socialism is the idea of an overarching supra-national solidarity that unites the international working class and overrides any factor that might divide it, such as nation, race, or gender. Workers of all nations are partners, having equal worth and responsibility in a struggle against those who profit from their brain and muscle.
Capitalism, especially in its most evolved, exploitative and heartless form - imperialism - has wronged certain groups of people more than others. Colonial empires tended to reserve their greatest brutality for subjugated peoples whilst the working class of these imperialist nations fared better in comparison, being closer to the crumbs that fell from the table of empire. The international class struggle aims to liberate all people everywhere from the drudgery of capitalism regardless of their past or present degree of oppression. The phrase ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’ encapsulates this mindset and conflicts with the idea of prioritising the interests of one faction of the working class over the entire collective.
Since the latter part of the 20th century, a liberally-inspired tendency has taken root amongst the Left (in the West at least) that encourages departure from a single identity based on class in favour of multiple identities based upon one’s gender, sexuality, race or any other dividing factor. Each subgroup, increasingly alienated from all others, focuses on the shared identity and unique experiences of its members and prioritises its own empowerment. Anyone outside this subgroup is demoted to the rank of ally, at best.
At the time of writing there are apparently over 70 different gender options in the West, not to mention numerous sexualities - the traditional LGBT acronym has thus far grown to LGBTQQIP2SAA. Adding race to the mix results in an even greater number of possible permutations or identities. Each subgroup has its own ideology. Precious time is spent fighting against those deemed less oppressed and telling them to ‘check their privilege’ as the ever-changing pecking order of the ‘Oppression Olympics’ plays out. The rules to this sport are as fluid as the identities taking part. One of the latest dilemmas affecting the identity politics movement is the issue of whether men transitioning to women deserve recognition and acceptance or 'whether trans women aren’t women and are apparently “raping” lesbians'.
The ideology of identity politics asserts that the straight white male is at the apex of the privilege pyramid, responsible for the oppression of all other groups. His original sin condemns him to everlasting shame. While it is true that straight white men (as a group) have faced less obstacles than females, non-straight men or ethnic minorities, the majority of straight white men, past and present, also struggle to survive from paycheck to paycheck and are not personally involved in the oppression of any other group. While most of the world’s wealthiest individuals are Caucasian males, millions of white men exist who are both poor and powerless. The idea of ‘whiteness’ is itself an ambiguous concept involving racial profiling. For example, the Irish, Slavs and Ashkenazi Jews may look white yet have suffered more than their fair share of famines, occupations and genocides throughout the centuries. The idea of tying an individual’s privilege to their appearance is itself a form of racism dreamed up by woolly minded, liberal (some might say privileged) ‘intellectuals’ who would be superfluous in any socialist society.
Is the middle-class ethnic minority lesbian living in Western Europe more oppressed than the whitish looking Syrian residing under ISIS occupation? Is the British white working class male really more privileged than a middle class woman from the same society? Stereotyping based on race, gender or any other factor only leads to alienation and animosity. How can there be unity amongst the Left if we are only loyal to ourselves and those most like us? Some ‘white’ men who feel the Left has nothing to offer them have decided to play the identity politics game in their search of salvation and have drifted towards supporting Trump (a billionaire with whom they have nothing in common) or far-right movements, resulting in further alienation, animosity and powerlessness which in turn only strengthens the position of the top 1%. People around the world are more divided by class than any other factor.
It is much easier to ‘struggle’ against an equally or slightly less oppressed group than to take the time and effort to unite with them against the common enemy - capitalism. Fighting oppression through identity politics is at best a lazy, perverse and fetishistic form of the class struggle led by mostly liberal, middle class and tertiary-educated activists who understand little of left-wing political theory. At worst it is yet another tool used by the top 1% to divide the other 99% into 99 or 999 different competing groups who are too preoccupied with fighting their own little corner to challenge the status quo. It is ironic that one of the major donors to the faux-left identity politics movement is the privileged white cisgender male billionaire George Soros, whose NGOs helped orchestrate the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine that gave way to the emergence of far right and neo-nazi movements: the kind of people who believe in racial superiority and do not look kindly on diversity.
There is a carefully crafted misconception that identity politics derives from Marxist thought and the meaningless phrase ‘cultural Marxism’, which has more to do with liberal culture than Marxism, is used to sell this line of thinking. Not only does identity politics have nothing in common with Marxism, socialism or any other strand of traditional left-wing thought, it is anathema to the very concept.
‘An injury to one is an injury to all’ has been replaced with something like ‘An injury to me is all that matters’. No socialist country, whether in practice or in name only, promoted identity politics. Neither the African and Asian nations that liberated themselves from colonialist oppression nor the USSR and Eastern Bloc states nor the left-wing movements that sprung up across Latin America in the early 21st century had any time to play identity politics.
The idea that identity politics is part of traditional left-wing thought is promoted by the right who seek to demonise left wing-movements, liberals who seek to infiltrate, backstab and destroy said left-wing movements, and misguided young radicals who know nothing about political theory and have neither the patience nor discipline to learn. The last group seek a cheap thrill that makes them feel as if they have shaken the foundations of the establishment when in reality they strengthen it.
Identity politics is typically a modern middle-class led phenomenon that helps those in charge keep the masses divided and distracted. In the West you are free to choose any gender or sexuality, transition between these at whim, or perhaps create your own, but you are not allowed to question the foundations of capitalism or liberalism. Identity politics is the new opiate of the masses and prevents organised resistance against the system. Segments of the Western Left even believe such aforementioned ‘freedoms’ are a bellwether of progress and an indicator of its cultural superiority, one that warrants export abroad be it softly via NGOs or more bluntly through colour revolutions and regime change.
Tomasz Pierscionek is a doctor specialising in psychiatry. He was previously on the board of the charity Medact and is editor of the London Progressive Journal.