By 2 Hamilton members, 1 Toronto member
Over the course of the last several decades, anti-oppression politics have risen to a position of immense influence on activist discourse in North America. Anti-oppression workshops and reading groups, privilege and oppression checklists and guidelines, and countless books, online blogs and articles make regular appearances in anarchist organizing and discussion. Enjoying a relatively hegemonic position in Left conversation, anti-oppression politics have come to occupy the position of a sacred object—something that expresses and reinforces particular values, but does not easily lend itself to critical reflection. Indeed, it is common for those who question the operating and implications of anti-oppression politics to be accused of refusing to seriously address oppression in general. A political framework should be constantly reflected upon and evaluated—it is a tool that should serve our struggles and not vice versa.
Against this backdrop, this article aims to critically engage with the dominant ideas and practices of anti-oppression politics. We define anti-oppression politics as a related group of analyses and practices that seeks to address inequalities that materially, psychologically, and socially exist in society through education and personal transformation. While there is value in some aspects of anti-oppression politics, they are not without severe limitations. Anti-oppression politics obfuscates the structural operations of power and promotes a liberal project of inclusion that is necessarily at odds with the struggle to build a collective force capable of fundamentally transforming society. It is our contention that anti-oppression furthers a politics of inclusion as a poor substitute for a politics of revolution. The dominant practices of anti-oppression further an approach to struggle whose logical conclusion is the absorption of those deemed oppressed into the dominant order, but not to the eradication and transformation of the institutional foundations of oppression.