Skip to main content

A #BlackLivesMatter movement dilemma: Struggle for identity or class politics?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
On May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a white American police officer has killed George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was on a broad day light; the police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck like a coward trophy hunter. There were 18 complaints against Chauvin, the killer police officer. He is the first white officer to be charged for the murder of a black civilian in Minnesota.
Eric Garner was killed by another white police officer in New York on July 2014 17. "I Can't Breathe" were the last words of both George Floyd and Eric Garner before their death. These are among many institutional murders that sparked worldwide protects against racism. It revealed the inherent and institutional structures of racism in USA. The last words of George and Eric; "I Can't Breathe" did not die with them. These words became anthems of anti-racism protests and social justice movements worldwide.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement which has emerged during 2013, continues to campaign against racism within and outside USA. The #BlackLivesMatter movement derives its inspiration from historic political struggles for equality, liberty and justice. It continues to represent the legacies of historic anti-colonial struggles, civil rights movement, other progressive and radical social and political movements.
The protests across USA, European and other cities across the world depict racial discrimination, frustration and despair of the people of colour in the face of pervasive racism in different parts of the world. The Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities face different forms institutionalised discrimination and structural violence in their everyday lives in different parts of USA, Europe and Asia.
The white supremacy as an ideal owes its origin within the historical events of transatlantic slavery and European colonialism that still informs and underpins racial and other forms of discrimination within and outside the western world. Therefore, movements like #BlackLivesMatter carries global significance.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement has also opened up wounds of all other forms of discrimination in different societies across the world.
The discrimination against Muslims, Kashmiris, lower caste Dalits and tribals in India, non-Bengalis and religious minorities in Bangladesh, Ahmadis, Baluch, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan, discrimination against Tamils in Sri Lanka, Rohingyas in Myanmar, Tibetans and Uighur Muslims in China and other forms of discrimination based on gender, sexualities, dress and food habits are unadulterated realities of our unequal capitalist world.
The forward march towards an egalitarian and non-discriminatory world depends on people’s resolve to fight against all forms of discrimination based on prejudice. There is global upsurge of right-wing politics and reactionary movements, which patronise the politics of hate and othering. 
It breeds discrimination, violence and inequalities in different parts of the world. The liberal and right-wing commentators offer Eurocentric Lockean social contract as an alternative to re-establish peace and social order based on ideals of hierarchy and domination.
The progressive, democratic and emancipatory political forces and their movements are divided on different ideological sectarian lines. The social cultural, religious, racial, gender and economic divisions in the society echoes within the weak and divided emancipatory political struggles. 
#BlackLivesMatter movement has also opened up wounds of other forms of discrimination in different societies across the world
Many radicals, socialists and progressive movements consider identity politics the cultural logic of failed capitalism. They argue that identity politics destroys the unity of the working classes and marginalised communities fight against capitalism system.
In reality, these two ideological trends of progressive and radical movements need to understand that race, ethnicity, gender, and class intersect with each other within a capitalist system. Intersectionality helps to understand the existence of multiple and overlapping forms of exploitation, violence and oppression. This realisation is important to develop clear emancipatory political strategies.
The intersectionality of race, gender, class, caste, sexuality and other marginalised communities are important indicators to understand different layers of exploitation and oppression within the hierarchy of capitalist systems. The different forms of identities-based discrimination, oppression and exploitation exists not in separation but in unity with different structures and processes of capitalism.
The politics of intersectionality ignores the role of pre-existing unequal social relations in shaping conditions of production and reproduction within capitalism. The failure of class politics and defeat of revolutionary movements during 1990s led to the rise of intersectionality as an approach to understand exploitation and discrimination based on personal characteristics of individuals i.e. race, gender, sexuality, caste, region, territoriality and ethnicity. The postmodern and post-structural theories provide the ideological foundation to intersectionality identity politics.
The idea of intersectionality attempts to find alternatives within existing capitalist system that reproduces the gender, caste and race-based inequalities and exploitation that results in precarity and proletarianization. The existing archetype of intersectionality debates and discourses have failed to locate the fluidity of power relations and sites of struggles against identity based violence, exploitation, dominance and discrimination within and outside the communities. 
The intersectionality approach to movement is ahistorical as it does not look at the inherent and historical roots of different forms of exploitation with capitalism. So, deradicalization is an inadvertent outcome of intersectionality as a political approach to emancipatory struggles.
The critiques of intersectionality do not reject and disregard the realities of multiple forms of power structure that exploits, discriminates and kills on the basis of individual identities. The ideas of identities are not just about atomised, abstract and individual self-reflections. It also involves individual identity’s organic relationship and interactions with environment and fellow beings.
Individuals build relationships with others to fulfill one’s own desires and needs that gives meaning to their lives. This generates the foundation of collective identity based on voluntary but natural relationships. These relationships are territorialised and de-territorialised by multiple identities created and destroyed as per the requirements of the neoliberal capitalism under globalisation.
For example, the identity issues of displaced person, refugees, internal and external migrants etc. are direct or indirect products of capitalism. So, there are material conditions, that shape identity politics. The mindless criticisms of identity politics are also dangerous. It is important to separate two different ideological trends of identity politics.
The growth of European reactionary nationalist politics led by the British Nationalist Party and English Defence League in United Kingdom, UKIP in England, the National Front in France, New Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary are classic examples of reactionary identity politics that promotes cultural logic of failed capitalism.
The politics of higher caste Hindus led by BJP in India and white supremacists in Europe and America are reactionary identity politics, which needs to be discarded. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) follows both regressive and progressive aspects of identity politics which adds to the complexities of identity politics. 
The four centuries of globalisation led to the normalisation of precarity, and the emancipatory labour and trade union movements have become wage bargaining movements promoting representative careerism in the name of affirmative actions. Such approach helps in hiding the institutional discriminatory practices of capitalist structures led by the patriarchy of white supremacists in Europe and Americas and Brahmanical Hindu caste order in Indian subcontinents.
The Dalit and tribal movements in India, LGBTQ movements, anti-racist movements, women’s movements and indigenous communities’ movements to save their land, livelihood and forests are emancipatory identity politics. Therefore, it is important to embrace progressive aspects of identity politics, develop intersectionality and transcend differences as a political strategy to strengthen emancipatory struggles for liberty, equality, justice and fraternity.
The progressive ideological engagements with intersectionality politics can reduce the isolationist approach of identity politics. It is impossible to fight racial, gender and caste discrimination without fighting capitalism. The academic left and their privileged politics must get on with it without creating further mirage of theoretical complexities.
The struggle against racism, patriarchy, caste, sexism and all other forms of discrimination and exploitation are struggles against capitalism. Let the everyday realities of people with their subjective and objective conditions guide an organised and united struggle for alternatives to all dehumanizing structures of capitalism.
Finally, as the significance of the #BlackLivesMatter movement goes global with its open and inclusive approach, it is important to call for a borderless revolutionary internationalism based on experiences of local sites of struggles against all forms of inequalities, injustices and exploitation. The local, national, regional and global alliance of revolutionary collectives can only help in democratizing the world and ensure peace and prosperity for one and all.
---
*Coventry University, UK

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

India sees 62 journo deaths, 4th highest, amidst pandemic: Swiss media rights body

By Our Representative The Switzerland-based media rights body Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) has noted that India is the fourth most affected country as far as mediapersons’ death on account of Covid-19 is concerned. According to Blaise Lempen, secretary-general of PEC, the global tally of casualties among media persons in the Covid-19 pandemic has reached 1,036 journalists in 73 countries till date.

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”