On Idpol Reductionism and Anti-Imperialism
You notice two Black people having a debate. One of them says “racism in America is dead! Look! We even had a Black president!” and the other says something along the lines of “Racism is still alive and well in this country, it has only evolved, and is expressed in different ways than it has been in the past”. Who do you believe? Who do you listen to? Who is right? No matter which side you choose, you are speaking over the voice of a marginalised individual, correct? Scenarios like this one, are just one of the many faults of Identity Politics Reductionism or “Idpol reductionism”.
What is Idpol reductionism? This concept can be loosely defined as centering the validity or correctness one’s analysis based on that person’s oppressed identity, be it race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. For example, “that person is Black, so they automatically know what’s best for Black people” or “she’s a woman, and even though her feminism is trans exclusionary, she must know what she’s talking about”. Analyses like these are dangerous liberalism, and only blur the class character of our current capitalist society. Even further, thinking in this way can and often does over-complicate geopolitical issues, namely, the war in Syria.
How does idpol reductionism work against the struggle against imperialism? Leftists in imperialist countries have a responsibility to nations oppressed by imperialism, to defend them from imperialism in any and every way possible. This could be as complex as sending fighters to fight alongside guerillas in the thick of the struggle, or as simple as organizing an anti-war/anti-US intervention protest.
However, the western media is tricky, and will do everything in its power (and has so far been successful) to demonize oppressed nations, so that people in imperialist nations like the US turn a blind eye or even applaud US intervention in foreign countries. Like when liberals applauded the bombing of the Syrian air base because Assad allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people. Or how the liberation of Aleppo by the Syrian Army, from Al-Nusra terrorists, “moderate rebels”, was presented as a bad thing. Idpol reductionism ignores the material conditions of geopolitical events, stating that if a person from outside of the event says something that contradicts with something said by an individual within the event, then the affected person is automatically correct. But if we apply this same logic to say, the Cuban revolution, the bourgeois Cubans living in Florida are just as correct as the revolutionaries who fought in favor of the proletariat (hint: they aren’t). The same contradiction can be found using the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. I’m sure White South Africans and Black South Africans will both tell a different story about what apartheid was, however, we know that there is a difference between the wants, needs, and experiences of people in any given nation. This form of liberal reductionism is inconsistent and constantly works in favor of the oppressing class by blurring the material conditions of a given event or society.
This is why it is important for us to orient our analyses of geopolitical events and struggles in relation to the fight against imperialism opposed to idpol reductionism. All of our stances should be influenced by anti-imperialism (and dialectical materialism), because as Leftists in the west, our major contradiction is in relation to imperialism. Our personal feelings about a particular leader or nation do not matter when that nation is under siege by imperialists. The identity of who is speaking does not influence the correctness of their statement. What influences the correctness of a position is whether or not it is a materialist analysis, whether or not it’s marxist analysis, and in geopolitical issues, what the analysis’ relation to imperialism is. If your position on an oppressed nation mirrors the sentiment of imperialists and denies that nation the right to self determination, it is a bad position.
The only correct position, is the anti-imperialist position.
Hands off Syria!
Hands off Yemen!
Hands off the DPRK!
No war with Iran!