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Marxism & Question of Identity
Sat Dec 10, 6:30 PM
In Defense of Reason & Lamakaan
The question of identity, its relationship with class and politics has long remained an issue of controversy. The debate has seen the progressive circles divide into several camps. There are people who believe that Marxism is inherently economic deterministic and therefore is unable to understand the question of identity. There are also people who believe that Marxism is capable of solving the question of class exploitation but we need 'other ideologies' for resolution of the problem of myriad forms of social oppression. The latter approach can be called a 'two systems approach', in other words, exploitation and social oppression constitute two different systems and therefore require two different ideologies for understanding them and eliminating them. Then there are people who maintain that Marxism is indeed capable of understanding the question of identity and identity-based social oppressions as they do not exist in a vacuum but in a society structured by class and exploitation.

The essential question boils down as to what is identity? What is its relationship with class? Is each and every identity always-already a site of social oppression, or, does it become a site of oppression in a historical process? How is social oppression related to class exploitation? Is it a relation of complete independence, or, is it a relation of relative autonomy?

In the wake of the rise of various forms of identity politics which are dangerously undermining various mass struggles in India and elsewhere and in view of how identity politics almost everywhere is giving impetus to right-wing politics, it is imperative to ask the above questions afresh and respond to these questions from a revolutionary perspective.

It is precisely this concern due to which we have invited Abhinav Sinha to give a talk on 'Marxism and the Question of Identity. He has written on the issue extensively, especially regarding caste and gender, and has delivered lectures on this issue in India and elsewhere. We hope that we will be able to engage in a fruitful discussion on the question.