Members of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), a group founded in London to support a miners’ strike, winter 1984-85. (LGSM /Bishopsgate Institute)
By J. P. Galindo, Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist).
English translation provided by Camilo Lazo for The Red Phoenix.
One of the titanic tasks that Marx and Engels faced on their way to building a new materialist philosophy was to proclaim the end of the immutable concept of nature. From their earliest philosophical works, both criticized the idea of a once-and-for-all world as we know it, and strove to analyze the ways in which nature constantly flows, moves, and transforms. This is the essential basis of dialectical materialism, according to which apparently contradictory and independent elements are crossed by a multitude of shared or complementary characteristics.
In other, and more modern terms, we would say that nature and its relationships are “non-binary” as we cannot reduce them to fixed contradictory pairs: day/night, summer/winter, etc., as there are multiple intermediate gradations that “flow” between the two (the indefinite moment of twilight, for example), transforming some things into their opposites through the accumulation of small quantitative changes (the light that gradually decreases at sunset, in our example) until reaching the general qualitative change: from day to night, from one thing to its opposite.
The self-same process occurs in the transition between the isolated individual and the totality of individuals that we call the mass society. This mass is made up of a multitude of more or less large groups united by some shared qualities among the individuals that form it, which may be more or less evident or abstract.
When these links of affinity acquire a political profile, oriented mainly to defend or expand the rights of the group, they acquire the rank of “identities” and their members can assume the role of “activists” of their identity (although they can be not mutually exclusive, but cumulative). Thus, the same individual can belong to the LGBT community, to the vegan community, to the racialized collective. This political aspect of identities has its raison d’être in linking social groups located in positions of power with specific identities (in the case of Spain this is usually summarized as the “heterosexual white male”), and how this dominant position affects the rest of the groups and identities of society, under the premise that the dominant ideology in a society is that of its dominant class and, consequently, the identity of the ruling class is imposed on the rest, marginalizing or persecuting them in many different ways.
Following this perspective, some post-structuralist analysts, philosophers and ideologues (Foucault, Deleuze, Butler) have argued, in the second half of the 20th century, that the struggle of marginal identities against normative identities (those who establish the general norm for society) had greater revolutionary potential than the old class struggle, since the concept of social class is “transversal” (that is, it encompasses a multitude of identities) and therefore hides or indefinitely postpones the just demands of certain minority groups.
However, there are essential differences between the class struggle and that of identities that make them impossible to equate. The class struggle is not the claim of any minority group, but the organized movement of a social majority capable of threatening the continuity of the current economic, political and social model, and is organized to achieve it in a revolutionary way. Identity struggles, on the other hand, are by definition the demands of minority collectives or groups, excluded in some way by the dominant ideology, but which can be resolved within the prevailing system as they are not incompatible with the very existence of capitalism, as the movements of the last decades have shown that work to create a “friendly” capitalism (environmentalist, inclusive, feminist, anti-racist) but equally exploitative and parasitic.
We are, then, before different but not contradictory fronts that can be complemented as differentiated strategies and tactics. The strategy, the organized advance towards a final objective, cannot attend to the concrete questions that arise at each step. That is the task of the tactician, capable of applying practical solutions but which do not necessarily represent direct advances towards the strategic objective, although they do facilitate the path.
The ultimate goal of Marxist-Leninists is social revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, and their strategy to achieve this involves different tactics at different times, taking into account the development of the productive forces, the level of political consciousness of the masses and their organization, the movements of the national and international bourgeoisie, etc. At the present time and circumstances, with a harsh bourgeois offensive underway against the popular classes and with a massively disorganized and brutalized proletariat, the struggle of marginalized identities against the oligarchy and its dominant ideology is not only not an obstacle to our strategy, but it represents a tactical support to it. But it is very important not to confuse both.
The tactical support of communists to minority protest movements is part of our movement of accumulation of social forces against capitalism, because the more extensive the opposition to the bourgeoisie and its social regime, the more powerful the revolutionary advance of the proletariat will be. However, we are aware that their claims cannot be resolved within the current narrow capitalist framework because any progress in this direction leads to partial reforms, to “friendly capitalism” that “listens” to its citizens and “attends” to their demands. The only real and permanent solution is through the revolutionary destruction of the capitalist mode of production and its social relations.
It is not a matter, then, of considering the groups that claim their identity as enemies of the revolution for “diverting forces” (for this we must first have a strong revolutionary movement) or of substituting the revolutionary strategy of the struggle of classes for that of identities. What is necessary, however complex it may be, is knowing how to use both fronts, strategically and tactically, to undermine the strength of the common enemy.
Correctly oriented (radically anti-capitalist) identity politics are a valuable tactical support of the revolutionary proletariat, while the revolutionary destruction of the capitalist regime and its social forms is the only strategic solution to bourgeois discrimination. The first are framed within the general movement of the second, develop in the revolutionary process, and reach the resolution of their contradictions only in the social transformation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Unity, as always, equals strength.