What Wears Us Down: Dual Consciousness and Disability at Work

By Two Toronto Members, One Hamilton Member

Anarchists have in recent years taken up the topic of disability in our political analysis and activism, which is a positive development. The historical resistance of disabled people to segregation, institutionalization, poverty, and oppression has yielded strong political theory from which we can learn, and social movements in which we should participate. To avoid confronting disableism ignores its profound implications for the entire working class.

Historically and presently, anarchist orientations toward disability are extremely varied. While a clear refutation of Social Darwinism and eugenics can be found in Kropotkin’s writings on Mutual Aid, some of his contemporaries and followers promoted these backwards and vicious ideas. Presently, anarchist orientations range from the extreme disableism embedded within anarchoprimitivist thought, to an almost exclusive emphasis on identity politics and intersectionality from the social movement activist milieu, to the vulgar class reductionism often encountered within the anarchist communist tradition. Our goal is an understanding of disability that avoids class reductionism, while remaining firmly based in class struggle politics.

There remains a great deal of ambivalence, discomfort, and contradiction in our actions surrounding disability. Able-bodied working class people often times actively participate in the oppression of disabled people, while at other times standing in solidarity with their struggles. In working toward building strong working class resistance, these divisions and contradictions within the working class must not be stepped around, but examined and addressed head-on. Stating ‘we are all disabled’, or ‘we may all be disabled some day’ are insufficient; what’s needed is an examination of disableism’s broad manifestations in the class.[...] read more