What Neoliberalism Cannot Give Us

By A.Nicole Alarcón

For many years to come, the 2016 election cycle will likely be remembered as one of the most defining events in contemporary American history.

Not only did the election result in the nomination and confirmation of one of the most violent capitalists in our society as president, it brought to the forefront the overwhelming, immediate need to address seemingly benign ideologies in place that support the systems of oppression that stem from capitalism.

This is not to say that systems of oppression hadn’t existed or been enforced in our society before the election; rather, systems of oppression existed long before the 2016 election cycle and continue to exist today. These systems of oppression include racism, ableism, xenophobia, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia, sexism, classism, and many others meant to systemically harm marginalized folks.

For people of color, LGBTQ+ folks, immigrants, undocumented folks, refugees, disabled folks, folks with disabilities, working class folks, women and femme people, indigenous people, and many other marginalized peoples, the election cycle’s horrors presented nothing new and further cemented the long existing reality: the two-party system does not care about marginalized folks. Republicans and Democrats alike do not represent marginalized folks, nor do they attempt to dismantle the systems of oppression that directly stem from capitalism. In fact, both political parties uphold these very systems of oppression through their embrace of capitalism.

For the purposes of this article, I would like to briefly examine the active complicity and collaboration of the Democratic Party in upholding oppressive capitalism through neoliberalism ideology. Neoliberalism is defined as being a “modified form of liberalism tending to favor free-market capitalism.” The Democratic Party’s wholehearted embrace of neoliberalism has upheld capitalism and the multiple systems of oppression that stem from its existence. Capitalism as an entity has been maintained since the violent colonization by European imperial powers in the late fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries. Capitalism is inseparable from colonialization.

Within our contemporary society, capitalism depends on these various forms of oppression to propagate class inequality and economic violence on marginalized peoples. There has not been a collective agenda within the Democratic Party to combat these violent systems of oppression that affect marginalized folks, such as: wealth inequality, institutional racism, state sanctioned violence such as police brutality and incarceration, environmental racism (like the continued poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water), continued violence against indigenous communities (like the state violence against water protectors at Standing Rock), imperialism domestically and abroad, ICE raids and deportations, and more.

Therefore, neoliberalism cannot and will not give us liberation from systems of oppression that stem from capitalism. It has fueled systems of oppression and inequality within the United States. It does not allow for the collective mobilization and liberation from systems of inequality and oppression. This of course begs the question: “What will dismantle capitalism and the many systems of oppression that stem from it?” The answer is socialism.

We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms to achieve equitable distribution of resources, meaningful work, a healthy environment, sustainable growth, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.”

(Democratic Socialists of America, http://www.dsausa.org/about_dsa)

Socialism’s ideological framework allows for folks to combat the many systemic attacks on marginalized folks through anti-capitalist work, particularly through its advocation for economic justice, reproductive justice, racial justice, undocumented and immigrant justice, refugee justice, LGBTQ+ justice, disability justice, and many other forms of intersectional activism. Black feminist and scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw introduced the term “intersectionality” to describe the intersections of oppressions, specifically that of racism and sexism against black women, and how they relate to identity and power. The term has been used to bring light to many of the intersections of oppressions that folks face within their lived experiences. Actively practicing an intersectional approach within the socialist framework allows marginalized folks to engage in class politics in a way that does not separate class-struggles from our lived realities. As Crenshaw notes in her essay “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,”: “Through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us and negotiate the means by which these differences will find expression in conducting group politics.”

As poet and civil rights activist Audre Lorde has said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives.” While multiple systems of oppression all overwhelmingly stem from capitalism, the systems of oppression affect every person much differently due the multiple identities that encompass a person. As a queer, Xicanx, femme person, I navigate the struggles of my daily life much differently than other folks. When we organize and mobilize in the coming days, we must keep in mind the multiple systems of oppression we are combating to end capitalism. We must recognize these multiple systems of oppression, because we are fighting much more than just capitalism alone.

As we continue to navigate the toxicity of neoliberalism and a capitalist society, we must continue our revolution through an intersectional framework and a socialist framework. We are in this struggle together, comrades: “Nobody’s free, until everybody’s free.”(Fannie Lou Hamer)

Amanda Alarcon is a socialist, graduate student, and student organizer at the University of Tennessee.

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