Monday, October 05, 2015

Systems of Oppression and the Far Right

i have been giving some thought to a kind of rhetorical pose that has always annoyed me, of juxtaposing the damage done by systems of oppression (racism, national oppression, patriarchy, homophobia, etc.) and the far right. This has been obvious to some extent recently in the internet commentary surrounding a certain anarchist author who is alleged to be a fascist infiltrator — some people are now citing problems in articles this guy has written, to show how it “was obvious” to them all the while that he didn’t have good anti-racist politics. As if that somehow relates to whether or not he is an infiltrator, or a fascist.

To me, this belies confusion about what the far right is, and its relationship to systems of oppression. As if the racism and sexism and cissexism and homophobia most of us carry around with us even if we try to get rid of it, is really the same kind of phenomenon as belonging to a far right organization.

Without too detailed an argument, i can think of an analogy.

Imagine you are thrown in the middle of a very large body of water. You might drown. Being in the middle of the ocean or one of the great lakes with no possibility of making it to shore just by swimming, you’re in serious trouble. This trouble surrounds you, and on a “structural” level it puts very real limits on your ability to survive. Dealing with this should be a priority.

This situation, with its overarching all-encompassing nature, is like the systems of oppression people have to contend with.

Now let’s imagine there is a hungry person-eating shark in the water, in your vicinity. That’s the far right.

Does it make sense to sit around wondering which is the greater threat? Or to say, “Let’s think of the shark as if it were an extension of the ocean, or the ocean as an extension of the shark”? How is that going to help you? Should one not care about treading water, finding a life preserver, hailing a passing boat, all because of the shark? No. But similarly, the threat of drowning doesn’t mean the shark may not be a big problem. The shark is not some indifferent structural element, but if it bites you, a fat lot of good that will do you.

In other words, they’re both things that will have to be overcome. If we can.

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