Demolition and revolution have a bit in common. Sometimes they are necessary and often, necessary or not, we find it hard to bring ourselves to accept it. We have lived in that house, in that system, for too long and we do not want to move out. We love it despite the drafts, despite the hazards, and despite the fact that it is coming down on its own anyway, and that it has proven disastrous for those living in and around it. Once we decide to get rid of the house, or the system, we have to resist the urge to do the obvious.
I say this because so often we look at our societal ills and make the obvious, and correct, assumption that the foundation of our problems are class and wealth inequality. In making that assumption we find ourselves wanting what is so clear to us at first blush, just knock out that foundation. Knock out that foundation and none of the other ills of society, ills whose origins, if not current causes, are rooted in class and wealth. What happens though when you just attack the foundation of the building? It topples over on you, and that is what will happen with a revolution if you just go after class and wealth.
Over and again I read so-called progressives, liberals, and revolutionaries telling us the problem is just class and wealth and we have to avoid getting caught up in identity politics, which we are told we are foolish for paying attention to. We are told, usually by straight, white, cis men that we are being played for suckers. We are told to attack the foundation of class and not the floors of religious, gender, race and sexual oppression built on top of it, as if all that will not come toppling down on our heads if we do that.
It is not like history has not provided us examples. How often has a revolutionary, or even just a reformer, come along to save us from the scourge of class boundaries just to have the racial, or gender, or religious ones still in place to reinforce the old system again? Just toppling the building means making rubble for the next Robespierre or Joe Stalin to bury the bodies in.
No, when taking down a building we need to take it down from the top down. Ideally in rapid succession, but if all that baggage of race, gender and religion are not dealt with first, or at least at the same time as, the class issue, then they become a hazard to the long-term health of our society.
I know not every “class first” revolutionary is someone gripping their privilege tight, but they are empowering those that are and making the chances of meaningful changes difficult to impossible. So the next time you feel the urge to tell a person of color, a gay man, a trans woman, or a religious minority their issues are holding back the revolution I want you to think about what it is you are hoping to accomplish and remind yourself that their issues are the revolution.
Pax et Amor;