Identity Politics

glevy at glevy at
Tue Aug 8 22:47:17 MDT 1995

> Leo wrote:

> Now, the fact that Marx mentions the superexploitation of child and women
> labor and the role of colonialism and imperialism in the primitive
> accumulation of capital in _Capital_ is hardly even the beginnings of an
> analysis of gender and racial categories.
> There is no analysis in _Capital_ on how and why female labor is kept in a
> marginal an poorly paid position, much less of the difficulties faced by the
> women workers in doing both domestic and wage labor.

What Leo writes above is essentially correct. However, if we are to
understand Marx's ideas concerning gender and race we should not look to
_Capital_ alone but to Marx's other writings and his political activism as
well (although Leo goes on to give one example concerning Marx's
politics, that, by no means, is the complete story).

> Moreover, if one wants to examine the depth and insight of Marx's analysis of
> racial and ethnic categories, surely the starting point must be the one text
> where he does so at any length -- "On The Jewish Question." In this context,
> he clearly argues for complete assimilation, for the complete elimination of
> a specifically Jewish community. (These passages are tinged with
> anti-Semitism.)

Yes, "On the Jewish Question" is "tinged" (an understatement) with
anti-semetism.  When was it written?  Was it a product of a "young Marx"
or a "mature Marx"?

Concerning race, doesn't one also look at what Marx wrote on Ireland,
India, US Civil War, etc.?

The issue that Leo poses, though, is a real one ... and this thread is
finally going somewhere.

Many Marxists -- I would call them *vulgar Marxists* -- subsume all
identities under the umbrella of class. When one identifies oneself as a
worker, a woman, an African-American -- this is not an example of false
consciousness.  People (women) are oppressed by gender.  People (e.g.
African-Americans) are oppressed by race.  To tell these people that they
should just identify themselves by class alone is absurd.

A non-vulgar Marxist analysis attempts to understand the exploitation of
people by class *and* their oppression in other ways by gender, race,
ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.  These non-class forms of oppression
are *real* and have to be explained *and* related to the nature of
capitalism and exploitation.


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