Analysis of the political situation

I wrote this blog-post about the political situation on the progressive side of politics, how ‘we’ got into the situation we are now in. Have a read!

Analysis of The Political Situation for Progressives


Yeah, agreed.

This guy said it pretty bluntly:

Also, nice bit of writing.
That must have taken a while.

I like the way I said it better. I struggled to sit through that guy’s deranged shouting months ago. We need to win people over and who wants to listen to people like that? (Not me that’s for sure).

Been trying to write it for weeks, just chipped away whenever I had spare time. Also working on a critique of identity politics specifically, but that seems to require more reading yet.

Well, a bit over 3 million people actually.

I think Pie and you are both referring to the same thing. I liked both, but for different reasons.

Your post felt to me like a description of your own recent acknowledgment of this as a problem. You expressed it in the context of hard left history which would be hard for many readers to relate to, though I appreciated it as one more angle from which to describe the situation.

Pie, by contrast, is a comedian; a satirist with a blatant personal leaning towards the left, using his comedic rants to poke at the lefts own failures to avoid authoritarianism. If it makes you uncomfortable, it should - he’s shouting that the emporer has no clothes.

Personally, I’ve had a growing sense of unease about the way that the left as been expressing itself for the last few years. Identity politics is an emergent characteristic of the left, rooted in intersectionality, which in the abstract sounds logically reasonable, but in the cut and thrust of real politics turns into victim culture and a race to the bottom where we have to add up oppression points to decide who can speak, and critical analysis by anyone else is scorned. This is a nightmare world where evidence, logic and reason gets to just go fuck itself, while the political elite continue to strip away our liberty and privacy amidst escalating financial inequality. This is the 18C debate for example.

So, for me, the Pie video struck a chord.

“The left did this. I did this; people like me. When are we going to learn?”.

“Since when did anybody ever win the hearts and minds of people by insulting them?”


I don’t think that ‘the left’ is a coherent thing. Blaming ‘the left’ blames a whole lot of people who don’t buy into the aggressive identity politics that has arisen over the last few years. That was why I took time to go over the recent history of the left, in part to show its fragmentation and to also explain how it got to where it is now.

I have been engaging in debates with people holding to identity politics positions for 18 years or so, it isn’t a new thing in itself. It has grown in both visibility and aggression, in part because of the decline of other types of left wing politics, in part because of the organic nature of the Internet.

People are in constant contact with people they don’t know and only know as a tweet or single facebook post that went viral, they don’t know them as individuals, just a bad idea. So someone posts an ignorantly sexist comment to facebook, gets stacksed on by feminists who interpret it in its most sinister light, get angry and post in anger at the person who said something sexist, which in turn gets used to portray feminists as over-reacting and angry. The worst bits of every position gets amplified because it goes viral / makes good copy for Buzzfeed etc.

There is a great essay that came out not long after the US election from a trans activist who explains a lot of the misunderstandings between minority activists and others. It is well worth a read:

Prejudice, political correctness and the normalisation of Trump

For me there is a line that needs to be walked between supporting feminists, anti-racists etc and criticising identity politics as a political theory (is it coherent enough to be a theory? I don’t know). Bigotry still has a massive influence on society, especially those marginalised by it. Everyone has the right to fight for equality and needs support where we can help.

Discussing identity politics with a feminist activist friend (who votes Pirate these days) who comes from a socialist feminist position, identity politics was a way bigger force around the late 1990’s according to her. It just wasn’t so prevalent because the debates were limited to feminist conferences in meat-space and the more extreme positions didn’t go viral on social media.

I’m pretty sure identity politics is rooted in the bigotry that causes racism, sexism, queerphobia etc. People get oppressed as a group, so experiencing the same shit, they unite to fight against it. It’s limitation is that it never looks beyond the identity to the broader context of politics. Intersectionalism is a much newer concept than politics around identity. To me, it seems to want to talk about all forms of discrimination besides class, at least in its modern form.

People on the left, as I alluded to at the start of the essay, have a much greater tendency to view the other as something new and interesting, not something to be scared of. Identity politics isn’t an emergent quality of ‘the left’ but people on the left are more likely to be concerned about people that are marginalised because they are less likely to be scared of ‘those aborigines’ or whatever.

Authoritarianism has been a big part of the left for 99 years? The Soviet Union was hardly a liberal society that tolerated difference. There has always been divisions between the libertarian and authoritarian left, that have ended in bloodshed more than once (this is why I don’t like the left being viewed as a monolithic thing). A lot of anarchists were killed during the Russian revolution and if you ever want to start an argument between Bolshevik types and Anarchists, mention Kronstadt (just walk away after, your eyes will glaze over with obscure historical point scoring). The authoritarianism of the identity politics brigade is just the latest form and at least it isn’t as shit as unconditionally supporting Stalin. :unamused:

I think the best thing to do in this regard is to work out coherent criticisms of politics around identity and try to win those people over to take the heat out of the digital yelling. It isn’t like most of them are deeply ideologically committed to their positions (beyond actually fighting the bigotry), they are just the loudest expressions of opposition to bigotry that are around at the moment and therefore the most visible.

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Very interesting read. It strikes the nail on the head even if I wish that “moving forward” section was a bit bigger and more specific. Then again, I can hardly blame you for not having all the answers.

I particularly enjoyed the nod to Trump. Almost missed it.

When I said that identity politics was rooted in intersectionality, I wasn’t talking about the proximate triggers, I was saying that the supporting theoretical framework for identity politics is intersectionality.

It is one of them. To paraphrase @JohnAugust on a Facebook post a while back ‘I don’t think the groups internal politics is as monolithic as it’s opponents like to imagine.’

We have been using ‘identity politics’ to refer to the specific phenomena of marginalised minorities uniting as a group against their marginalisation. It is a very limited definition and omits various identities that people hold to in all sorts ways outside of that definition. It is a pretty big tangent (which I am working on dealing with directly with a planned blog post sometime in the nearish future), so I will illustrate broader ideas about identity with a couple of quick examples. People who identify as Australian are part of a nationally based identity group, people who identify as Christian also see themselves as a religiously based identity group.

Intersectionalism refers specifically to the idea that various (marginalised) identities overlap to describe someone’s position in society more accurately than a single identity. So a black woman in the USA suffers from disadvantage as both a woman and a black person. They combine to make her more systemically disadvantaged than a white woman or black man, or so the theory goes.

However, people identifying as queer for example, may or may not be racist, may or may not be sexist etc. Just because they are part of a marginalised identity group doesn’t mean they see other identity groups as worth defending or acknowledging.

A subset of the LGBTIQ community have adopted intersectionalism to address inequalities within the overarching identity. Others have a more Marxist class based analysis which incorporates other forms of inequality within the identity of ‘the working class’ and see divisions between the LBGTIQ and the heteronormative communities as divisions perpetuated to keep the working class divided. Both acknowledge the marginalisation of different identities but have different ideas about what it means for their praxis. Some only care about queer rights and think everything else is irrelevant.

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Slowly riled.


Decriminalize money laundering. It’s just an instrument of blackmail by populist governments.

Also a government is not a judiciary.

Separation of church and state.

A politician can earn money. Repeat, a politician can earn money. I don’t know, maybe lobbying itself can be a career.

Any policy worth it’s salt should have around 70-30 spread to the contrary.

One law that states that one is innocent till proven guilty.

Journalism is not a judiciary. Go figure.