[Ron Andrews jest anglieskim działaczem komunistycznym, organizacji Revolutionary Praxis ]
Identity Politics of gender is anti-materialist
Politics and Culture reflect society and the left and progressives are not immune from society and without political, ideological and theoretical struggle to understand and build a communist leadership then the progressive forces, socialists, would be communists can succumb to the ideology and the cultural trends of the ruling class.
Communists must study the developments which occur in society at all levels, that includes cultural as well as on the economic base. Many have fallen into economism and ignored the cultural aspect of capitalist society. The monopoly capitalist society, that is imperialism is in a state of parasitic decay, and the imperialist culture is itself decadent, degenerate, nihilistic and chaotic as a result. This type of culture is promoted by liberalism which the left and progressives have over the last few decades adopted. The promotion of identity politics as a substitute for class politics, and this has been extremely damaging. We are told by many leftists that we must embrace and promote anti social ideas of unrestrained personal freedom, hedonism, subjectivism and pursuit of luxury. Instead of building a movement for collective development, collective struggle, socialised production and cooperation.
Many young people today in their desire to end oppression but who are unable to grasp a materialist outlook, and for many the ending of discrimination and prioritising selective oppression becomes a central priority. These individual oppressions have been the focus of academic discourse and today the working class and the organisations it once fought in such as the trade unions have become particularly weak. It is in this intellectual environment that post modernist ideology has replaced materialism among many on the left. This struggle for recognition of individual identities or group identities has competed to curry favour with the capitalist state and open the path of careerism for the petty bourgeoisie. Instead of recognising oppression of the masses and exploitation of the working class and the necessity to transform the whole system through revolutionary politics we are presented with reformism basing itself on a hierarchy of oppression. It accomplices the liberal ideology of individual freedom above society and collective needs. This adoption of post modernism has promoted the idea that anything which is a supposed challenge to the ‘norm’ is revolutionary or any marginalised group or individual is revolutionary, it is basically lifestylism. Replacing the universal understanding of social change through class struggle by the working class we are presented with separate identities which must deserve exclusive attention and which ignores the multitude of oppression under class society and capitalist-imperialism. It has led to divisiveness and the abandonment of the working class. This in turn has led to some workers who are particularly marginalised in economically depressed areas reacting with a toxic form of identity politics which has been negatively applied to them as ‘white’,’hetro’ and Male. Post modernist identity politics has been clearly divisive. It is particularly popular among academics in the west and among the petty bourgeois and middle strata campus students today. Many will go on to seek management and corporate jobs which requires an individualistic and outlook of self promotion, so the ideology of identity and individual struggle is well reflected in this and is expressed in post modernist thought. The theorists who have come to fall under the umbrella of Post modernism include Derrida, Foucault, Said, Heidegger who all rejected universalism, and totality in favour of ‘deconstruction’ of the world into separate fragmented differences, disconnected and rejecting scientific truth in favour of cultural relativism and subjectivist idealism. It is Descartesian ‘i think therefore I am’ and not observing the objective biological reality.
An ideology which has been embraced by many leftists and liberals is that of ‘Queer Theory’ leaving the derogatory name aside, it is a reactionary theory. It has embraced much of the decadent features of imperialist culture as radical or revolutionary at the detriment of women and their rights. Emerging from de-constructionist and post-structuralist theories from the 1970s onwards it has seen society through the spectrum of sexuality, gender and deviance. It is separatist and anti-assimilationist and to quote one of its theorists David Halperin ‘Queer is by definition whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers. It is an identity without an essence.’ In other words undefinable and against any socially accepted norms. It rejects transforming the material reality we are objectively in.
Emerging from this intellectual current is the ideology of ‘Transgenderism’ in which a male or female can claim that they are of the opposite sex by virtue of how they subjectively ‘feel’. This is nothing new, and many societies have such people who dress and behave in manners and customs which have been socially and culturally associated and designated to the opposite sex of the individual subject concerned. This has been the result of patriarchy which has existed for thousands of years and has led to the gender system which oppresses woman, gender is the relationship between the sexes. While patriarchy emerged long before capitalism, it still remains and has contributed to the survival of capitalism especially in the countries oppressed by imperialism. In the capitalist countries themselves patriarchy can be rendered irrelevant with modern technology and women’s ability to control their reproductive system, however capitalism perpetuates various forms of patriarchy and oppression of women. The degenerate culture of imperialism which promotes pornography, prostitution and glamour roles is particularly oppressive.
The concept of Transgenderism claims to move beyond oppressive gender norms. It asserts that gender can be chosen, is fluid and can be neutralised. This is completely anti-materialistic and subjectivist. The objective material reality is that there is a difference in the reproductive systems of female and male humans which has had an impact on the lives of woman under systems which rely on patriarchy such as capitalism. There is also a recognised minority of people who do not fit exactly into either male or female categories, these people are known as inter-sex and this has nothing to do with Transgenderism which mentions very little of these people, and the vast majority do not identify as Transgender. They may be more female or more male but share some reproductive systems of the other sex also. The gender system is a cultural construction but as a result of the division of labour thousands of years ago by which the first class society developed and it was possible due to the differences between the sexes, it therefore has a material basis even though it is now an oppressive remnant of the past. The gender relationship cannot therefore be subjectively wished away or transcended out of existence, it must be overthrown with capitalism as part of the liberation of women which must be integral to the proletarian revolution. The concept of Transgenderism today asserts that a person can change their gender at will with or without surgical intervention. In the majority of cases ‘male to female’ Trans people are straight men and have insisted that they are equally a ‘woman’ as real woman who have been bought up oppressed as woman and socialised under the gender relations as women. This fallacy is dangerous and has witnessed men identifying as women demanding to hold positions representing of specifically for women. The British government plans to introduce a new Gender Recognition Act which would make it legally recognisable for a man to be a ‘woman’ because he decides to be. This would give them access to woman only spaces such as changing room facilities, which many working class woman decades ago fought for the right to have. There has been a small number of cases already where male prisoners who now say they are woman demand to be moved to a women’s prison. Anyone who raises concerns around these issues is denounced as ‘transphobic’ and all discussion is prevented, often by violent trans activists who have attacked women’s rights campaigners. In some sports men who identify as women are allowed to take part in tournaments exclusively for women, which due to physical differences give them an unfair advantage over the real women. Sports professionals who have opposed this such as Sharon Davies and Martina Navratilova have been threatened and abused on social media and accused of ‘transphobia, for defending the right of women to compete on an equal basis with each other. This movement clearly cannot be in favour of overcoming the oppression of women which the gender system facilitates and is perpetuated through capitalism. There is also a disturbing trend among some trans activists to promote the ‘Cotton Ceiling’ which attempts to coerce Lesbians into sex with men who identify as women. It goes without saying that this offends and is opposed by Lesbians, they are homosexual not gendersexual. There is also a small number of ‘female to male’ Transgender people the majority of which were actually Lesbians. These younger \lesbians today who feel confused about their sexuality and gender are often convinced by psychiatrists and the medical profession that they are actually men in women’s bodies. Homophobic and sexist attitudes still dominate the psychiatric profession it would seem.
The gender stereotypes which are imposed from birth on people are oppressive and stunting to both men and women are often adopted by those who identify as Transgender and in some cases in a stereotypical fashion. Take for example the degenerate celebrity Bruce Jenner who no doubt enjoys competing for spaces on glamour pages of magazines to rival the women in his family. It is not surprising that in such an alienating society as capitalism which continues to impose rigid roles on people that they should attempt to escape in such an individualistic and subjectivist way. They cannot escape through subjectivism and swapping one role for another. There is also the pressure which is placed upon young people and children now to undergo a ‘sex change’ as a result of the promotion of ‘transgenderism’. This has led to children and adolescence, many of whom are gay, to be prescribed hormone blockers or for adults to be on hormones for life. Attempting to change children physically throught the use of drugs is nothing new and was often used in the past on girls who were too tall or today on kchildren who are deemed not to exhibit enough attension. The pharmaceutical industry has been one of the main lobbyists on behalf of ‘Transgender’ medical ‘treatment’ as they have obviouslt now found a niche in the market which can provide a continuous stream of potential profits.
This type of medical intervention is no different to what gay people are subjected to in the Islamic republic of Iran which declares homosexuality punishable by death. It now has the highest rate of ‘male to female’ operations in the world. The proposed Gender Recognition Act in Britain is little different to the type of legislation which exists in Iran for re-labelling those who do not conform to gender stereotypes in the run up to their operations. What may we ask is the difference between either claiming to change sex through surgery and hormones and cosmetic surgery which many woman undergo for breast augmentation? They too suffer from a subjectivist ‘feeling’ that they are not somehow woman enough. It is thoroughly misogynist and reactionary a product of the capitalist culture which commodifies women’s bodies. Changing gender identity does not change biology.
The surgical method of ‘gender transition’ is also an example of capitalisms practice of attempting to surpass the limits of the ecosystem and laws of biology. The planet is now in an ecological crisis caused by the unlimited growth of commodities as a result of the capitalist mode of production. Through the misuse of technological knowledge there has emerged a new religion among the ruling class of ‘Transhumanism’, which essentially overlooks all scientific laws and claims that our own application of technology can overcome all physical limits without any cost. The ideology of Transgenderism is embraced by this new religion as well as more traditional religious beliefs such as eternal life and the ability to reverse the ageing process, both of which are completely at odds with dialectical materialism. This hopelessly optimistic faith in technology being able to overcome anything is a mechanical deterministic outlook and is essentially the theory of productive forces. Socialist China fought against this outlook in the 1950s and 60s and overcame difficulties relying on struggle and the people themselves not as technology as the be all and end all which could determine success. It is bizarre then that some leftists including Maoists and various Marxist Leninist groups in North America support this anti materialist ideology of Transgenderism. It is opportunistic and liberal. Many young people today have been bought up completely from the Clinton and Blair eras, if we take the example of US and Britain. The onslaught of the individualistic ideologies in neo-liberalism has had a profound affect on the consciousness of many young people. They have grown up in a society saturated in the idea of ‘choice’ of market commodities, ‘freedom’ in terms of pursuing economic freedom and the cut throat job market, especially for university graduates who wish to compete for managerial and corporate positions and careers, viewing this self preservation as the only hope for avoiding the worst circumstances that can befall many workers. Confronted therefore with oppressive phenomena in our society it is not surprising they will choose such subjectivist forms of political activity and ideology as expressed in identity politics like Transgenderism. This has now extended to certain people they identify as an oppressed section of society when clearly they are not. We can now witness white men identifying as black women and able bodied people identifying as disabled, some go as far to have limbs removed. There was one case in Canada where a man claims to be a six year old girl!
That of course does not mean that people who do identify as Transgender are all reactionary or all misogynistic. Many are victims of capitalism and patriarchy and suffer persecution and violence as a result of bigotry. They should be defended against such attacks and have their democratic rights defended as everyone else should. It is the ideology of ‘Queer theory’, ‘Gender fluidity’, ‘Transgenderism’ which must be criticised and struggled against. The liberation of woman and gay people from capitalist oppression will end the persecution and alienation of those who feel they cannot conform to rigid gender roles, in reality nobody can completely conform to this. Progressive women’s groups and feminists should also be defended against attacks by Trans activists who are in fact upholding men’s oppression of women. This includes opposing the Gender Recognition Act, which would remove rights from real women. Communists must uphold the materialist outlook and not support any trend of liberalism especially as such trends will often be at the defence of the statusquo however radical they may disguise themselves as.
London, April 2019
Anon. ‘On Not Being Allowed into Leftist Spaces’ on Socialist Feminist Network blog
Fernbach, David. ‘The Spiral Path: A Gay Contribution to Human Survival’
The Independent from 12th December 2015 ‘Transgender father Stefonknee Wolscht leaves family in Toronto to start new life as six year old girl’.
Jeffreys, Sheila. ‘Sex-swap Kids Being Abused’ on Sheila Jeffreys blog
Jeffreys, Sheila. ‘The Politics of the Toilet: A feminist response to the campaign to ‘de-gender’ a woman’s space’ on Sheila Jeffreys blog
Jeffreys, Sheila. ‘Unpacking Queer Politics’
Jenson, Robert. ‘Life Without Limits: The Delusion of Technological Fundamentalism’ on Resilience.org.
Tunks, Kiri. ‘The Left must Fight For Women’s Rights’ on Socialist Feminist Network blog