Marx Talks Logo
Emma Norton

A Marxist critique of identity politics

Socialism 2023

“This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression.” So reads part of the statement of the Combahee River Collective of Black feminists in 1977, written to distance themselves from the broader left and wider struggles for liberation. Since then, acknowledged or not, “identity politics” and its cousin “intersectionality” have come to dominate the left’s thinking on oppression. This talk will examine the pitfalls and shortcomings of identity politics, privilege theory and intersectionality. It will ask whether Marxism, with its emphasis on structural oppression, working class struggle and solidarity, offers a way forward to liberation, against the pessimism and sectionalism of identity politics.