Trans Marxism: The Music of the Future

By Raya

Trans Marxism is a term that is being discussed with increasing frequency in socialist spaces. As queer individuals turn to the revolutionary movement, we are seeking ways to make our mark, to adapt the traditional methods and ideas of the left to our particular experiences, and to use the theoretical tools we encounter to theorize our lives. But what does it mean to have a Trans Marxism? Not simply in the descriptive sense that the present author is both a non-binary person and a Marxist, but in the more general sense of how the emerging Trans Marxism can act as a distinct theoretical paradigm within the Marxist project. To a certain degree this theoretical project is tied to identity, to the creation of trans affirming spaces in the socialist movement and the understanding of how the hegemonic transphobia of bourgeois society has impacted revolutionary movements and organizations, and to the development of trans and non-binary cadres to fight against oppression and for human liberation.

On another level, Trans Marxism means the application of the theoretical tools developed by Marxism— historical materialism, dialectical philosophy, and Marxist economic theory—to the history of the queer community, the experience of being trans in capitalist society, and the structure of transphobic oppression in the context of class exploitation. One thing we desperately need as a queer revolutionary movement is a thoroughgoing historical materialist examination of trans history —and liberal attempts to theorize transphobic oppression always fall short because of their inability to offer the kind of class analysis that Marxism provides. Furthermore, it is reasonable to suggest that dialectical materialism becomes an extremely intuitive philosophy precisely when the question of trans and non-binary individuals is brought to the fore (with the slogans "beyond binaries” and “no binaries” that are being raised in regards to gender being excellent summaries of dialectical thinking even to comrades who have never read a word of Marx or Hegel). It’s also worth pointing out that Marxist dialectical philosophy is simply incompatible with the existence of a rigid gender binary; the existence of such would disprove essential Marxist precepts and the very existence of trans, non-binary, and agender people validates the dialectical method of thought.

Beyond that however, something that doesn’t get discussed as often is Trans Marxism signifying the understanding that Marxism itself is a project of transition. In his preface to Finance Capital, Rudolf Hilferding suggested a division between Marxism as a scientific method of understanding the world and socialism/communism as a political movement. This view de facto prevailed throughout the 2nd International, where it was largely taken for granted by the ‘orthodox’ leadership that Marxism was simply a question of philosophical ideas set in stone and could be separated from the practical work of building up the party and trade union apparatuses, advocating for social reforms, and conducting electoral campaigns. Understanding Marxism as being in process of transition, as constantly testing its own validity through the revolutionary process and as existing as a product of a certain historical moment (namely of the proletarian class struggle to overthrow capitalism), means a total break that view. A Trans Marxism is a Marxism that cannot be separated from the political movement, that can truly exist only in the course of struggle, and is a realized in terms of concrete socialist organizing more than it terms of a set of abstract beliefs. In that sense, Trans Marxism is the rightful successor of Rosa Luxemburg’s and V.I. Lenin’s efforts to unify socialist theory with socialist practice, of Trotsky’s permanent revolution and transitional program, and of Marx’s famous declaration in the Theses On Feuerbach that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

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