Understanding Intersectionality, Capitalism, and Communism

Understanding+Intersectionality%2C++Capitalism%2C+and+Communism


I am, in writing this article, attempting to articulate five very important points:

1.How beliefs are institutionalized, such as believing Communism is bad,

2. How social /cultural issues are connected to economic / political issues, such as capitalism yielding classism while class, sex, and race are intimately connected,

3. to challenge why you may believe Communism is bad,

4. explain how Socialism is, in my opinion, deomonized because it calls for the unraveling of intersectional systems, and

5. stress the importance of understanding intersectionality to better understand how oppression functions.

When we examine society at its root to pinpoint the cause of its bad fruit, we tend to analyze oppressive systems (racism, classism, sexism, ableism, etc) as separate from the society and its cogs (integral part of a whole), rather than in relation to the society and its cogs. We fail to realize that systems of oppression were constructed as adjuncts to their counterparts, and, without their counterparts, would not be nearly as effective. Racism, sexism, classism, and ableism are intimately connected components of a society shaped around the failure of one group and the flourishment of another. The Communist Thesis, as provided by Karl Marx and written by Frederick Engels, brilliantly demonstrates this disparity:

“…in every historical epoch, the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange, and the social organization necessarily following from it, form the basis upon which is built up, and from which alone can be explained, the political and intellectual history of that epoch; that consequently the whole history of mankind ( since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership ) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting exploited, ruling and oppressed classes; that the history of these class struggles form a series of evolutions in which nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class – the proletariat – cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class – the bourgeoisie – without at the same time, once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions, and class struggles.”

Marx, seven times in this thesis, mentions the word ‘class’. As a white, cisgendered, heterosexual male in a eurocentric, hetero-patriarch-normative society, classism was the only form of oppression Marx was able to experience. (Remember, oppression is the result of a supremacist ideology + structural dominance + discriminatory acts). If one were to replace ‘class’ with ‘race’, ‘race’ with ‘gender’, ‘gender’ with ‘sexuality’ and ‘sexuality’ with ‘sex’, re-reading the Communist Thesis each time with the new word replacement, two things become apparent:

  1. the intersectionality between all oppressive systems, and
  2. that the power those possess to oppress derives from the inextricably wound systems and their relation to capitalism;

from these two conclusions come a third, haunting conclusion that Marx was alluding to in the first paragraph of the Communist Manifesto (“A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism…”):

  1. Communism is demonized because it calls for the dismembering and subsequent destruction of all systems that work in conjunction to keep the oppressors oppressive, and the oppressed as victims of the oppression.

INTERSECTIONALITY OF ALL SYSTEMS

Intersectionality, coined by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw in her 1989 essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics”, is a term used to describe to intimate connections between oppressive systems, with the subject of oppression at the centre of collision or intersection.

“Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused from cars traveling from any number of directions, and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a black woman is harmed because she is at an intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination, or race discrimination… but it is not always to reconstruct an accident: Sometimes the skid marks and the injuries simply indicate that they occurred simultaneously, frustrating efforts to determine which driver caused the harm.”

Though Crenshaw advocated for the consideration of intersectionality in law cases and all forms of feminism, it is important to consider the role of intersectionality in all instances where injustice and rampant immorality may be of concern. Crenshaw used intersectionality at the microcosmic level – individuals as victims of oppression. When we consider intersectionality at the macrocosmic level – populations as victims of oppression – it becomes clear what populations of people are targeted. In America, if you are not a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, able-bodied and able-minded male, you face some form of oppression, whether it be through systemic gridlocking (racism, sexism, ableism, classism, etc.), or institutional behaviors (xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc).

RACISM

Racism, in American society, is a system that allows for the systemic suffering of people of color.

SEXISM

Sexism is a system that upholds male dominance in societal structures – home, workforce, government, marriage, etc.

ABLEISM

Ableism is a system that upholds the idea that those with minor physical and/or mental handicaps are inferior.

CLASSISM

Classism is a system of oppression stemming from the discrimination of a lower social class from a higher social class.

In addition to these systems, institutionalized behaviors such as transphobia, homophobia, xenophobia, islamophobia, etc. are present and very persistent. These systems and behaviors are all fruits deriving from the roots deeply imbedded in the oppressor’s garden.

A black, lesbian, woman faces INTERSECTIONAL oppression. There are systems conjured solely to keep her gridlocked in the position she is in.

A Muslim male with acute schizophrenia faces INTERSECTIONAL oppression. There are systems conjured in society to keep him gridlocked in the position he is in.

A transgendered female who is of an impoverished background faces INTERSECTIONAL oppression. There are systems conjured solely to keep her gridlocked in the position she is in.

All systems that structure our society are interwoven, interlocked, and intersectional.

CAPITALISM, SYSTEMS OF OPPRESSION, AND POWER

A basic understanding of capitalism is necessary to grasp the relationship, or intersectionality between capitalism and structural oppression. Capitalism, as defined by Google, is “an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” capitalism.org defines capitalism as “a social system based on the principle of individual rights; politically, it is the system of Lassiez – faire [ideology in which the government practics a ‘hands off’ the economy policy]. Legally, it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production, its result is the free market.”

While Google’s definition is neutral and the latter definition is overtly in favor of capitalism, anti-capitalist’s disdain for capitalism lays not in the theory, but in the application of capitalism to corporate behavior, and the execution of capitalist ideals by corporations. Christy Rodgers, writer for Dissident Voice, illustrates this anti capitalist sentiment in her adumbration of Jerry Mander’s Six Arguments for the Elimination of Capitalism, provided in his book, The Capitalism Papers.

Amorality – increase of individual and corporate wealth is the only core principle of capitalism. Recognition of any social concern or relationship to the natural world that transcends the goal of increasing capital accumulation is extrinsic to the system.

Dependence on growth – capitalism relies on limitless growth, but the natural resources essential to wealth production are finite. Super-exploitation is exhausting those resources and destroying the ecosystems of which they are a part, jeopardizing human survival as well as that of other species.

Propensity to war – since the only goal is to accumulate rather than distribute wealth, resources that produce wealth must be controlled; therefore war is inevitable.

Intrinsic inequity – without any constraining outside force or internalized principle of social equity, capital accumulation leads almost exclusively to more accumulation, and capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

Anti-democratic – democracies are corruptible: wealth can purchase most of the representation it needs to get the laws necessary for further accumulation and concentration of wealth. This means that as the concentration of wealth increases, democracy is degraded and ultimately destroyed.

Unproductive of real happiness – human happiness and wellbeing are demonstrably tied to other factors besides capital accumulation. Extreme poverty is clearly unproductive of happiness, but so is wealth, past a relatively modest level. Happiness is most widespread where there are guarantees that basic needs will be met for all, wealth is more equitably distributed, and bonds between people and the natural environment are still stronger than the desire to accumulate wealth.

Rodgers and Mander readily admit that these arguments, while axiomatic, are neither new nor exhaustive. Yet still, in this briefing of the anti capitalist thesis, it becomes clear the dark side of capitalism. One integral argument Rodgers and Mander neglect to propose, however, is the unbridled intersectionality between all social institutions capitalism, in its iniquitous nature, calls for:

“…the whole history of mankind (since the dissolution of primitive tribal society, holding land in common ownership) has been a history of class struggles, contests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes…”

Class discrimination and subsequent oppression predates all systemic oppression based on race, gender, and sexuality; history provides overwhelming evidence to support this fact. (Race was created and integrated into society during the 18th century.) Class, race, and gender have become inextricably wound, though, over time. The system we are under is predominantly ruled by white, straight, men. The overwhelming ratio of people fitting this criteria as political and social figures compared to those who do not fit that criteria as social and political figures is not particularly surprising. We, obviously, are under a eurocentric, hetero-patriarchal normative system. Capitalism supports this, as it was one of the earliest systems of oppression. Capitalism yields classism. The ruling class is not determined solely by access to means of production and income, but also race, gender, ethnicity, and sex.

DEMONIZATION OF RADICAL SOCIALISM

Across history, Communism has been the focal point of nearly all movements from subjugation to liberation. From the Russian Revolution to the Black Liberation Movement, socialist ideals were clung to by the oppressed. These historical movements, most notably the Black Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement were infiltrated by deterrence programs, such as COINTELPRO. Prominent leaders of the movements who advocated for the integration of socialist ideals into the government – such as Assata Shakur and Angela Davis – were wrongfully charged, tried, and jailed for crimes they did not commit. They were also, concomitantly, mocked and demonized in the media for their ideologies. These pieces of history eerily heed Marx’s very first sentence in the Manifesto of the Communist Party: “A specter is haunting Europe – the specter of Communism.” Over 150 years later, this specter, it seems, has spreaded into all countries that partake in global capitalism.

Here in America, Communism is demonized in the media, political institutions, and social institutions. To call yourself a Communist on these grounds is to ask for ostracization. We must ask ourselves, why is Communism regarded as demonic and dangerous? Why are we taught in school to be fearful of the mere mention of Communism, Marx, or Engles?

“…a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class – the proletariat – cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class – the bourgeoisie – without at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinctions, and class struggles”.

Communism is taboo in American society because it calls for the unraveling of the tightly wound systems that work to intersectionally oppress those not of the ruling race, gender, class, sex, etc. The downfall of capitalism would inevitably yield the downfall of all corporations that use their economic and social influence to discriminate based on race, gender, sex, creed, etc.

 

 

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