Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone Reply

The piece-meal approach and the political need for categorization also leads the left to valorize people in terms of their membership in various oppressed and exploited groups, such as “workers”, “women”, “people of color”, “gays and lesbians” and so on. This categorization is the basis of identity politics. Identity politics is the particular form of false opposition in which oppressed people choose to identify with a particular social category through which their oppression is reinforced as a supposed act of defiance against their oppression. In fact, the continued identification with this social role limits the capacity of those who practice identity politics to analyze their situation in this society deeply and to act as individuals against their oppression. It thus guarantees the continuation of the social relationships that cause their oppression. But only as members of categories are these people useful as pawns in the political maneuverings of the left, because such social categories take on the role of pressure groups and power blocs within the democratic framework.

The political logic of the left, with its organizational requirements, its embrace of democracy and the quantitative illusion and its valorization of people as mere members of social categories, is inherently collectivist, suppressing the individual as such. This expresses itself in the call for individuals to sacrifice themselves to the various causes, programs and organizations of the left. Behind these calls one finds the manipulative ideologies of collective identity, collective responsibility and collective guilt. Individuals who are defined as being part of a “privileged” group — “straight”, “white”, “male”, “first-world”, “middle class” — are held responsible for all the oppression attributed to that group. They are then manipulated into acting to expiate these “crimes”, giving uncritical support to the movements of those more oppressed than they are. Individuals who are defined as being part of an oppressed group are manipulated into accepting collective identity in this group out of a mandatory “solidarity” — sisterhood, black nationalism, queer identity, etc. If they reject or even deeply and radically criticize this group identity, this is equated with acceptance of their own oppression. In fact, the individual who acts on his or her own (or only with those with whom s/he has developed real affinity) against her or his oppression and exploitation as s/he experiences it in his or her life, is accused of “bourgeois individualism”, in spite of the fact that s/he is struggling precisely against the alienation, separation and atomization that is the inherent result of the collective alienated social activity that the state and capital — so-called “bourgeois society” — impose upon us.

Because leftism is the active perception of social struggle as a political program, it is ideological from top to bottom. The struggle of the left does not grow out of the desires, needs and dreams of the living individuals exploited, oppressed, dominated and dispossessed by this society. It is not the activity of people striving to reappropriate their own lives and seeking the tools necessary for doing so. Rather it is a program formulated in the minds of leftist leaders or in organizational meetings that exists above and before people’s individual struggles and to which these latter are to subordinate themselves. Whatever the slogan of this program — socialism, communism, anarchism, sisterhood, the African people, animal rights, earth liberation, primitivism, workers’ self-management, etc., etc. — it does not provide a tool for individuals to use in their own struggles against domination, but rather demands individuals to exchange the domination of the ruling order for the domination of the leftist program. In other words, it demands that individuals continue to give up their capacity to determine their own existence.

From Wolfi Landstreicher’s From Politics to Life: Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone

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