Class reductionism generally refers to one of two things:
- 1) An actual position held by some on the far-left, usually of a communist bent, which ignores or downplays axes of oppression other than class, seeing all forms of oppression as capitalist manipulation.
- 2) A strawman used by liberals to attack leftists, often socialists. Such people are often referred to as 'brocialists' or 'brogressives', both pejoratives for young men (usually white) who supposedly hold these beliefs.
The term gained prominence with the emergence of Bernie Sanders in American politics, specifically the Democratic caucuses of 2016 and 2020, as his supporters threw their weight behind policies such as Medicare for All. While Bernie's economic policies are socially-democratic and generally considered progressive (in terms of the American political spectrum), his relationship with organisations such as Black Lives Matter is somewhat more strained.
It came to describe a tendency, within the left, to display 'non-class blindness', as it were, when it came to axes of oppression in a capitalist society, only focusing on economic affairs and not touching on the specific struggles of women, racial minorities, the LGBT community and others. This is opposed to an intersectional approach in which multiple forms of subjugation are studied, and how they intersect is discussed.
The problem, of course, is the same as that of colour-blindness; ignoring lived experiences and data indicating minorities often lag behind in capitalist economies risks leaving severe inequalities. For instance, since black people often suffer at the hands of the police, it is necessary to resolve police brutality alongside the black-white wealth gap, rather than only addressing the latter. Women also require attention in terms of, say, abortion rights and rape culture - improving their economic status won't necessarily fix these oppressions, leaving them 'equal' on class terms with men but not equal in the grand scheme of things. Unfortunately, class reductionism also sometimes veers into racism, with Nazbols being one heinous example.
Although a few people do hold this position, it is also used as a strawman - as noted above - to reply to left-wing critics of liberal angles on identity politics. The leftists argue that, rather than socialists being class reductionist, liberals are actually class negationist, and use the charge of 'class reductionism' selectively in order to discredit policies that seriously threaten the status quo, and cynically weaponise identity for the sole purpose of appealing to the sensibilities of wealthier Democrats. One example is Hillary Clinton asking whether breaking up the big banks would cure racism, sexism, help the LGBT community, etc. While economic relief alone wouldn't fix all the problems of American society, Sanders never claimed it would - and Clinton ignores the fact that African Americans, for example, suffer disproportionately from predatory lending, thus making measures that clamp down on this go some way to helping them.
The terms race reductionist and gender reductionist are also used, albeit less commonly, to refer to those right of social democrats who attempt to reduce kyriarchy down to race and gender-based oppression as well.
A good framework acknowledges all oppressions - both class-based and non-class based - to ensure that, in the better society that emerges from reform, no one is left behind.