Brief Comment on Integrative Radicalism

Just as modernity made overcoming class conceivable, it also made overcoming racism conceivable. By the same token, it made overcoming sexism, authoritarianism, and other ancient systems of domination seem achievable. Marxism focused on economic class as its central category. Nationalism made ethnicity central. Radical feminism made gender central, and anarchism made authoritarianism central. Each grasped part of the elephant that enslaves the majority of humanity.

To conceive is not to actually achieve. We can imagine a world without these systems with more clarity than ever, but how to realize such revolutionary goals seems less clear than ever.

Of all of these radical philosophies anarchism seems to me to be the most consistent, but as Marx pointed out, the historical conditions made the immediate abolition of the State impossible. So far, none of these systems have been entirely overthrown, but all of them have become delegitimized over time, except capitalism.

The real problem of the Left, as I see it is that the State is now being superseded by the transnational power of capital. It can no longer be either taken over by proletarian revolution, nor reformed a la social democracy. And yet, abolishing the State as anarchism argues still seems likely to unleash even more rapacious forces from capitalism and racism.

I don’t believe there is a single Archimedean point that can act as a fulcrum to overthrow any single one of these systems, since they are all intertwined. What we need is a multi-systemic analysis. One of the best early texts that makes this argument is the Combahee River Collective Statement created by black lesbian socialist-feminists in 1977, “The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking.”

This statement goes on to use the term “identity politics” but it’s clear from the conception of “interlocking” oppressions that it isn’t reducing “identity” to a single pole of either lesbian or black or poor, but rather sees identity as complex.

Another text that has been critically important to me is the book “Liberating Theory” by Michael Alibert and Robin Hahnel.

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