(Note: United States-centric. Might not apply to other countries.)
Why do you think there’s been a rise in authoritarianism in the left?
Men, machismo, and male violence. Manarchy is the gateway to authoritarianism.
Maybe because the new patriarchs, rather than fully lash out at the system oppressing them, are still partially invested in maintaining their place in the patriarchal pecking order. They want the revolution but they still want to use wimmin. Like abusers, or like the abusers they are, they are so angry about the raw deal the ruling class and the old lefty patriarchs left them that they want an outlet for their murderous rage and see in wimmin that outlet, that scapegoat. Because he is so mad about being stamped on, he clings to his own boot more passionately and eagerly stamps our faces.
But that would seem to suggest that this is inevitable, and perhaps it is. Not sure. I mean, you could even argue that late stage capitalism is why pornography became so violent. I think we’d need to look at actual sociological data to track the correlations…
When a man is so obsessed with violent fantasies, anarchism makes no sense to him. So he’ll become a tankie instead, where his machismo is better sated. To remain anarchist I suppose he would still have to be resolutely for the underdog, and maybe not all men like being the underdog.
But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe some people think it is explained by agent provocateurs. Sure, but if that’s the case then they’ve gotten away with it in the context of a lot of normalized machismo.
Manarchism is definitely a widespread problem, because patriarchy is a widespread problem. The patriarchy makes life dangerous for wimmin, resulting in the entrenchment of a male movement, a stag-nation. It’s a feedback loop. And clearly, as long as wimmin cannot gain a foothold into anarchist theory (it is possible to gain notoriety as an anarchist theorist even while practicing separatism), then anarchism will lose all its revolutionary and liberatory potential.
How did identity politics take over class analysis?
Class amnesia. Partly through giving in unreflectively to the values implicit in capitalist society and partly our own refusal to read history, especially from primary sources. The result is class amnesia. The working class, the racially oppressed, and the wimmin — almost all of us… We went back to sleep.
Feminists have analyzed many times the ideologies that emerged as a backlash against feminism:
- queer theory
- identity politics
- gender studies
- scientific sexism or biosexism in the form of neuroscience, evopsych, psychiatry, etc.
It is hard to trace exactly how identity politics entered anarchist politics for the very complex reasons that modern anarchist history and the context of events (especially those that do not take the spotlight) within the anarchist world are not often recorded on paper, but identity politics has been thoroughly documented in feminism. Some wimmin suggest that identity politics was intentionally designed to fracture our movements with infighting. Marxist feminists, radical feminists, and post-left anarchists have repeatedly cast their doubts on identity politics as holding any redeeming qualities. Yes, they are right, identity politics is merely a caricature of what we’re all about and is very much a distraction. The earliest critiques of identity politics that I have seen came from radical lesbian feminists. These same lesbian feminists holding classes in academia warned of the rise of postmodernism, queer theory, and gender studies into mainstream academentia, which soon replaced them. Embrace, extend, extinguish is the approach that malestream academics seemed to take to deal with these radical educators.
Noam Chomsky has said that academia is no place for radical politics. That was sometime in the 90s and 00s, long after universities bowed to their capitalist masters. The radical lesbian feminists of the 70s enjoyed greater academic freedom in both England and the United States. Mary Daly even held special classes that were female-only. She and others like her, using this freedom, must have provoked the ire of the establishment. It was enough already that wimmin were in academia, but then they were bringing the revolution to young female students. One can almost imagine the men in boardrooms saying: Something had to be done!
But what we do know is that the 80s was a recession. Lesbian feminists point out that universities became increasingly privatised, and as this happened they weren’t able to teach anymore. Therefore it seems that as universities became more subject to capital, all threats to capital (including lesbian feminism) would need to be neutralized. I might add that over the decades this trend has continued, where all students are increasingly viewed as threats to the social order who must be more tightly controlled with security cameras and a police presence on campus.
I think identity politics has managed to take root in movements which are patriarchal rather than matrilineal. Identity politics seems almost made to replace feminism. The future of wimmin is the future itself, and we can trace our lineage in wimmin. Men who are too concerned with overturning society with their bare hands and not too concerned with building an intergenerational movement cannot themselves preserve history. Patriarchy has an inherently bad track record of making actual progress — as Mary Daly said, the patriarchs have a kitty litter box routine of re-searching, and re-covering. The result is that these movements more easily manipulated by the ruling class ideology because the adherents are young, lost, reinventing the wheel, and often dominated by arrogant males who think they know everything. This influence of patriarchy allows for convenient thought stoppage like identity politics and authoritarianism to take hold.
I think the reason identity politics is such a useful way of subverting struggles for liberation in general is that it taps deep into the nature of how capitalism and patriarchy itself impacts our lives. At capital’s and patriarchy’s mercy, human life is devalued and we are alienated from each other, pitted against each other, and cannot empathize with those who are being exploited the most. Identity politics ensures that we cannot challenge this system because lose perspective, too busy putting everyone else first and overfocusing on individual behaviors rather than oppression as a system.
For feminism in particular, identity politics, whether or not they are specifically trans identity politics, is effective at promoting the assumption of sex neutrality by either erasing the distinction between the sexes or making that distinction meaningless with a cacophony of equally important other oppressions, specifically men’s oppressions, that allow men to compete in a points based Oppression Olympics. If wimmin are forced to compete with men for the Most Oppressed trophy in order to be heard, the men are going to get all the trophies and the wimmin are going to go home. Not because men are more oppressed, but because the game is rigged.
But it seems as though anarchism was almost meant to be married to identity politics, rather than feminism. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the anarchist movement’s approach to oppressed groups is nauseatingly liberal (the ruling class ideology!). An already white male dominated movement in the West, which saw little to no other influence, and apparently tokenized some wimmin and people of color. Not much to speak for a movement that’s apparently about liberation. Perhaps the non-white, non-males concerned with liberation did not see the need to call it anarchism? (In any case, I see the necessity in having a coherent theory which opposes all hierarchy and exploitation.) Anarchism, with its endemic sexism — even Emma Goldman’s comrades in her time did not respect her — is also inherently sex neutral at best, because anarchism proper makes many assumptions about human beings in general and this archetypal human being is modeled after white men. (Now it’s becoming obvious why wimmin and people of color don’t take much interest in anarchism.) Traditionally, anarchism wants to liberate the working class and all human beings, but in its beginnings did not see the need to differentiate them.
Later on this was somewhat fixed when people created different tendencies of anarchism based off of their status as wimmin, people of color, sexual orientation, love of nature, religious beliefs, method of struggle, etc. So, people took their lessons from anarchism and remixed it into their own interpretation, which allowed anarchist theories to fit their lives rather than the other way around. However, the problem comes when everyone interacts with each other… We still live in a class society, so dominant classes win, even over ideas. Certain groups are heard more than others. (To be fair, not all anarchists are on board with identity politics. It would be wrong to say that all anarchists represent the same beliefs.) Some anarchists are more welcome to participate in the broader movement than others. Having such a wide range of beliefs under one banner and one flag is quite the accomplishment, for one thing, but also means unity is only as strong as our tolerance for disagreement.
Our tolerance for disagreement was undermined, however, when every anarchist space was a mandatory “safe space”. There were valid reasons for making anarchist spaces safe for every oppressed non-white non-male. After all, disagreement and tolerance offered no protection from harassment if people had differing opinions on ethics and oppression, and some anarchists retained their investment in things like racism and sexism. Many anarchists did not like the PC police, but it was better than nothing. To this day, anarchists still practice anti-oppression and have seemingly unilaterally converged on a list of protected categories. (As it happens, this coincides with the rise of “SJWs” on the Internet, but SJWs are often liberals.) This was the crystallization of identity politics for mainstream/malestream anarchism. It wasn’t long before gender and queer theory followed suit. (Postmodernism, however, has never particularly enthralled anyone but it did seem to contribute to the decline of anarchafeminism.)
I speak of anarchism, but I would soon find that the same thing was also happening to liberals and authoritarian socialists. However, to me the most distressing story is the story of how anarchism lost itself. Safe spaces and callouts and sex neutrality created the necessary conditions for anarchists to start policing themselves. In my opinion, class conflicts were ignored; race and sex must have been ignored because the rules were applied to everyone equally. The usual absurdities of SJWism apply, but with more clusterfuck. Being racist while black, for example, is met with the same severity as being racist while white. Also, being mean to your oppressor created friction and confusion because we’re all supposed to be equals. People had to learn 101 stuff like the fact that you can’t oppress your oppressors. People couldn’t tell the difference between abuse, oppression, and just being rude. It was possible for a white man to play Mr. Feminist and be able to call out someone, even if that person was not white or male.
Social justice culture trained people into saying that they can be “oppressed” as individuals. My understanding is that oppression happens to groups, classes, and castes, not individuals. You can certainly say as an individual that you are oppressed, but not as an individual rather as a member of a group. And abuse happens to individuals, which accumulates into oppression if it is systemic. Therefore, the sentence, “You are oppressing me” is annoying and nonsensical. Individuals cannot oppress, they can only abuse. Groups, classes, and castes in society oppress, through systematic abuse carried out by individuals.
Collapsing people’s perspectives of the macro (The System) into the micro (individual behavior) enables and justifies abusive behavior, especially when language gets interpreted as violence. There were some very complex problems that people openly struggled to work out, which perhaps were underestimated. People were not happy about this. But the hosts of safe spaces simplified things by encoding behaviors and banning certain words and expressed thoughts. This made other people lose their shit and give up on identity politics. It would be to no avail, because safe spaces became a standard in anarchist spaces. They became both ubiquitous and a means of control — thought policing. It seems that anarchists invented their own crowd control. The open exploration and curiosity was gone, and possibilities for dissent narrowed.
Naturally, as Western anarchism lost its own libertine character and devolved into anarcho-tankieism, they would find it easy to justify violence against thought criminals. It seems to me that it was men who led the charge on that. Unfortunately in the last couple years this form of tyranny has become acceptable, and it was identity politics that paved the way. Identity politics is the commodification of oppression into a power game where the rulers always win. Anarchism is becoming a men’s rights movement (MRM).
The only real solution is real, radical, anarchist feminism.