Universities today are dominated by notions of identity developed in a broad range of academic disciplines, from subaltern studies to critical race theory to intersectional feminism.
This panel seeks to examine these identity discourses in relation to Marxism and the history of the world proletarian movement. Can we conceive of Marxism as an aggregation of identities? How do Marxism and identity discourses respectively articulate the relation between oppression and exploitation? What are the consequences of the rise of identity discourses on organizational forms, including that of the vanguard Party? Are identity discourses idealist or materialist? Can identity discourses be reconciled with Marxist dialectics? Or do they rather evacuate dialectics in favor of a metaphysics of difference? Is social class an identity? How does Marxism treat various forms of oppression – of women, of nations and national minorities, etc.? Can identity discourses organize a genuine politics? Does Marxism simply aspire to gather diverse particular identities – subjects as they currently exist – in a common state project? Must Marxism incorporate supposedly ‘positive’ non-Marxist ideas in order to periodically ‘update’ itself? Or should the universality of political, military, and organizational line rather be grasped in terms of a summing up of objective history and the revolutionary experiences practiced by the masses on the basis of objective conditions?
The panel will examine identity discourse and Marxism both generally and in the context of communist political mass work in both India and the United States.