“Identity politics” and class: a reply to Stephen Kinnock

By a rail worker and RMT activist

BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 31:  British MPs Stephen Kinnock arrives at a debate over Brexit hosted by YouGov on May 31, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Britain will hold a referendum on June 23 over whether to remain in or leave the European Union.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock has called for the Labour Party and the left to stop “obsessing about diversity” and “playing the game of identity politics”. My response:

1. If you want to move the left away from “identity politics”, appeals to “the white working class” is not the way to go about it. Appealing to the concerns and interests, real or imagined, of the “white working class”, specifically as white, is precisely a form of “identity politics”, and a deeply dangerous one at that. The alternative to “identity politics” is class politics, not “identity politics that includes white identities”.

2. The Labour Party shouldn’t attempt to “stand up for all in our society”. It should “stand up for”, and be an unashamed partisan of, the working class. That means acknowledging, not eliding, the diversity of that class, and recognising that some working-class people face particular struggles against oppression that the whole class has an interest in fighting.

3. In fact, there is no such thing as “the white working class” anyway. There are obviously working-class people who are white, including amongst the worst-off sections of the working class. But the idea of a “white working class” as a distinct and discrete element, which has particular interests and faces particular struggles on the basis of its whiteness, is a reactionary myth.

4. The idea that Labour, the party of the “Controls on Immigration” campaign mug, and the record in government of Jack Straw and David Blunkett, has been too accommodating to the struggles of migrants and BAME communities is frankly obscene.

5. Stephen Kinnock, who stands proudly in the tradition of New Labour, which continued, and in places accelerated, the same Tory policies that have led to massive inequality, and disaffection amongst many Labour voters, has no right to comment on this matter without taking account for and reassessing that legacy.

6. When the two most toxic political tendencies in the labour movement, Blairism and Stalinism, are articulating the same idea, as they now are over approaches to immigration, you can be sure that the idea is poison.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply? theclarionmag@gmail.com

2 Comments

  1. Identity Politics is a dead end for social cohesion it was long ago hijacked by professional diversity entrepreneurs offering a range of dubious diversity services* with vaguely defined objectives which only ever perpetuate through new and creative interpretations of racism and bigotry. The end result is a vicious loop of unfalsifiable claims that only ever reset to the point where the purchase of further diversity services from the same commercial entrepreneurs is the default solution.

    * Paid seats on quangos, committees, enquiries, policy boards and other talking shops. Sensitivity training. Multicultural workshops. Vague “community” projects hiring associates of the entrepreneurs. Consultancy Services. Minority group advocacy. Minorities/Equalities officer etc etc…

    1. Couldn’t agree more. The diversity industry based on identity politics has become a racket for career-minded entrepreneurs and socially aware schmoozers who worm their way into the ‘therapeutics’ of multiculturalism. This is a long way from the black, LGBT and Women’s Liberation movements of the 60s and 70s many of which identified with the wider working class struggle for emanciaption from capitalism. There was no question of them ever searching for a comfortable ‘niche’ within the capitalist system.

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