- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Tuesday, 13 August 2013 05:03
- Written by Von JJ. D.
Ich wurde als Masisi geboren. Ich bin ein unmännlicher Homosexueller.
Meine sexuelle Orientierung wurde mir bei meiner Geburt gegeben. Ich hatte nicht die Wahl, zu sein, wer ich bin. Aber ich werde mich weder für mein Geschlecht noch für meine sexuelle Ausrichtung schämen.
Haiti ist ein gefährlicher Ort für Homosexuelle. Erst Kürzlich gab es Proteste gegen uns. Ein Mob von religiösen Demonstranten mit Stöcken, Macheten und Steinen bewaffnet, hat zwei Männer im Zentrum der Stadt zu Tode geprügelt.
Dies geschah am Ende eines Marsches gegen Homosexualität, organisiert von sogenannten moralischen Führern. Sie sagen, wir treten ein für die Rechte. Rechte von denen sie sagen, dass wir (die Homosexuellen) nicht das Recht haben, sie zu haben. Aber wir sind Menschen!
Ich selbst bin ein Student und komme aus einer armen Region, ich habe immer in Angst gelebt. An der staatlichen Universität erlebte ich Diskriminierung und wurde gezwungen, diese zu verlassen, weil meine Professoren sagten, sie könnten einen Homosexuellen nicht unterrichten, weil sie dadurch mit ihren religiösen Überzeugungen in Konflikt geraten. Jetzt besuche ich eine kleine Universität, wo die meisten meiner Professoren aus der Diaspora und Ausländer sind. Sie akzeptieren mich, wie ich bin und lassen keine Diskriminierung zu.
In meiner Nachbarschaft erlebte ich eine Menge Gewalt und so waren wir gezwungen, in einen anderen Stadtteil zu ziehen. Ich wurde von einigen Männern geschlagen, als ich gerade einmal 15 Jahre alt war. Sie sagten, ich wäre ein Tier. Sie schlugen mich mit Stöcken und Steinen. Ich dachte, dass ich von diesen Männern getötet werden würde.
Nach diesem Vorfall sagte meine Mutter ich müsse vorsichtiger sein und so habe ich das Haus fünf Monate lang nicht mehr verlassen. Aber eines Tages war ich gezwungen es zu verlassen, um in die Apotheke gehen, um einige Medikamente für meine Schwester zu holen. Sie hatte Fieber.
Als ich auf der Straße war, sah mich ein Mann und er begann mich anzuschreien, er nannte mich einen „Masisi". Eine große Menschenmenge versammelte sich, und hat mich gestoßen, Müll auf mich geworfen und mich geschlagen und getreten. Ich hatte solche Angst.
Ich entkam und ging nach Hause.
Meine Mutter nahm mich, ging mit mir zur Polizei und sagte, sie wolle eine Anzeige machen, weil ihr Kind angegriffen wurde. Sie sagten, ich sei ein Pädophiler und dass ich verhaftet werden würde. Der Polizist nahm mich mit in ein Hinterzimmer der Polizeiwache und verlangte Oralsex von mir. Ich weinte und schrie. Meine Mutter schrie sehr viel und die Polizei ließ mich gehen. Nach diesem Vorfall waren wir gezwungen, wieder in ein anderes Viertel zu ziehen.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Monday, 18 March 2013 22:04
- Written by Mallory Ortberg
Warning: graphic images included. The Stuebenville "Rape Crew" was exposed by Anonymous hackers, who leaked the photo in this post after authorities tried to suppress the prosecution. Since the original leak, one after another major media outlet (CNN, ABC, NBC, US News, Fox News) has defended the "Rape Crew," disussing the promising lives they had ahead of them, without even mentioning the woman who was raped. This first appeared on Gawker.
One way to report on the outcome of a rape trial is to discuss the legal ramifications of the decision or the effect the proceedings may have on the life of the victim. Another angle reporters can take is to publicly worry about the "promising future" of the convicted rapists, now less promising as a direct result of their choice to rape someone.
"Incredibly difficult, even for an outsider like me, to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures, star football players, very good students, literally watched as they believed their lives fell apart...when that sentence came down, [Ma'lik] collapsed in the arms of his attorney...He said to him, 'My life is over. No one is going to want me now.' Very serious crime here, both found guilty of raping the sixteen-year-old girl at a series of parties back in August."
CNN also played footage of both convicted rapists tearfully apologizing in court. Harlow went on to describe in detail an emotional exchange between Ma'lik Richmond, one of the defendants, and his estranged father.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 20:43
- Written by Eve Mitchell and Tyler Zimmerman
This article by Eve Mitchell and Tyler Zimmerman is part of an ongoing discussion about what type of theories and strategies can lead to the liberation of women as part of the all around struggle for communism and human liberation. It is a direct response to an earlier article by Nat Winn titled "Not for herself alone: beyond the limits of Marxist Feminism." The Mitchell/Zimmerman piece originally appeared on the Gathering Forces blog. Other parts of the discusion are here and here.
For Herself, and Therefore, for the Class: Toward a Methodological Feminism
by Eve Mitchell and Tyler Zimmerman
Recently, Nat Winn, a member of Fire Next Time and Kasama weighed in on a discussion of Marxist-Feminism begun on the FNT blog originally by Ba Jin and ZoRa B'Al Sk'a and with a response by Eve Mitchell of Unity and Struggle. We welcome the energetic engagement by all parties including those commenting on the Kasama blog on what remains one of the most critical questions of our time: the content and forms of women's liberation.
The scope of Eve's response did not go beyond clarifying the relationship between Federici and James, and discussing broadly the Marxist-Feminist methodology, including the Wages for Housework campaign. Nat has challenged the practical implications of Wages for Housework which is supposedly linked to the political failings of Marxist-Feminism.
What may at first sight appear in Nat's response as merely strategic difference (for instance, whether or not there should be an emphasis on intervention in struggles around reproductive freedom versus that over domestic and reproductive work), belying it is the crucial question of method that must be unpacked.
In Nat's comments, we observe an unnecessary antagonism being drawn between two completely valid arenas of struggle; the content and form of reproductive labor on the one side and reproductive freedom on the other (there is no coincidence in the double use of "reproduction" here which we'll expound further down). The origin of this antagonism is located between a splitting of the subject and object. This is done through a dualistic reading of "economics" and "politics," or, to use the terms Marx employed in the "Preface" to A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy, "base" and "superstructure." But there is an immanent unity between subject and object as well as between base and superstructure and what Marxism represents is precisely the unification of these categories. The tragedy of orthodox Marxism is that it represents a reification of them; that is, regarding an abstract duality of the subject and object as a real thing that plays out in the real world in terms of forms of organizing and concrete political orientations.
We'd like to say a little bit about the importance of Marx's conception of labor and unity of subject-object. Only then will the political divergences with Nat come into relief.
Marx's conception of labor and the unity of the subject-object.
Marx's early philosophical texts directly fleshed out his conception of self-, or life-activity, which later in works like Capital, he discussed simply as "labor." In "Estranged Labour," Marx writes,
"For in the first place labour, life-activity, productive life itself, appears to man merely as a means to satisfying a need — the need to maintain the physical existence. Yet the productive life is the life of the species. It is life-engendering life. The whole character of a species — its species character — is contained in the character of its life activity; and free conscious activity is man's species character. Life itself appears only as a means to life." (76)
Self-activity, or labor, is universal; meaning it exists in all modes of production. Further, it is defines our humanity. It is the ever-expanding process of satisfying our needs, introducing new needs, and developing new ways of fulfilling our needs. Labor encompasses everything from our jobs under capitalism to tilling the land under feudalism to creating art and poetry to having sex and raising children.
But labor is not just what we do; it is our ability to choose, reflect upon, and change our labor process. Labor is our process of changing the external world and our internal selves. Later in "Estranged Labor," Marx writes,
"It is just in the working-up of the objective world, therefore, that man first really proves himself to be a species being. This production is his active species life. Through and because of this production, nature appears as his work and his reality. The object of labour is, therefore, the objectification of man's species life: for he duplicates himself not only, as in consciousness, intellectually, but also actively, in reality, and therefore he contemplates himself in a world that he has created. In tearing away from man the object of his production, therefore, estranged labour tears from him his species life, his real species objectivity, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that his inorganic body, nature, is taken from him." (77)
Here Marx's conception of the subject-object becomes clear. The external physical world is acted upon by humans, (labor is subjective), but the physical world is also an objectification of human labor, or self-activity (labor is objective).
Marx restated this concept in a polemic against the German "materialist" Ludwig Feuerbach. In the "Theses on Feuerbach," Marx argues that sensuousness is not something merely subjective, perceptive, and one-sided, as Feuerbach postulated. It is also objective and used toward the transformation of the external world. Human beings are both thinking subjects of the world but also objects of their own creation through labor. This is what Marx calls the metabolic relationship between man and nature.
While the subject-object dialectic is universal–meaning it exists in all modes of production–under capitalism, this process is interrupted. Our self-activity is no longer unified with our conscious will, and the subjectivity of our self-activity is turned against us. We do not produce for use, and do not have access to our multi-sided needs and corresponding activity; the world we have created is not our own but alien to us, or estranged from us. In contrast, communism is the movement toward uniting the subject and object, or the completely free state of conscious self-activity in which we produce for use; as Marx states in "Estranged Labour," we make our life-activity itself the object of our will and consciousness (76). A lot more can be said about this. For more elaboration, see the Unity and Struggle post, "The Communist Theory of Marx."
Politics and economics, a duality or a totality?
The base/superstructure concept adapted by orthodox Marxism has reified the subject-object split. It sees the "base," or economy, in a structuralist/sociological manner that exists independently of human initiative and which determines all activity and thinking. So capital, wages, and money are mere objects. On the other hand, "superstructure," or politics, is understood as subjective and confined to ideas or an abstract kind of activity that isn't metabolic with nature but divorced from it and determined by the base.
Marx never had a dualistic understanding of these categories and posited quite conversely that "economic categories are only the theoretical expressions, the abstractions of the social relations of production." (Poverty of Philosophy, MECW 6, 165) For Marx, capital, wages and money are the various phenomenological forms of alienated labor; they are subjective and objective social relations in disguise, not ahistoric things as political economy conceives. The economy and politics, or capital, wages and money can only be separated logically because concretely and in the real world they exist as a social and dialectical whole.
A dualistic conception of economy and politics ignores Marx's emphasis on living labor and fails to understand the unity of subject-object.
The splitting of the intrinsic unity of the subject-object and the dualistic reading of base/superstructure creates a dynamic where struggles around work are seen as narrow and economistic.
Struggles that emerge broadly around the wage, and which are not always simply about getting higher wages for a small group of workers, are not automatically economistic. And struggles that take place outside workplaces are not automatically political. For example, it was precisely the "economist" types who sought women's liberation through selling their labor-power during second wave feminism. Such a strategy was predicated on capital's fundamental social relations and confined gendered alienation to a question of receiving "equal wages for equal work."
This economism is typified precisely by a disconnect between the struggle to maintain access to abortion and the struggle against the gendered division of labor. This typically looks like mass protests that emerge to keep abortion legal without consideration not only for what sections of the class have access to sexual/reproductive healthcare but why there's a contradiction between many white women who are oftentimes coerced into keeping children and black women who face forced sterilization.
Economism refuses to challenge the racial and other important divisions within the class and which allow it to be recuperated by the movement's "official" leaders, by capital, the State, and the value-form. This also implicates various problematic forms to combat the encroaching hand of the State over women's bodies whether it be by petitioning, lobbying, symbolic protests, etc. Demands against the State are just as easily absorbed by the ruling class into new forms of rationality as demands for higher wages directed to employers, and many forms wind up acquiescing the fight before one actually begins.
When we enter the factory gate, or the domicile kitchen, we don't leave the political world behind us. Likewise, when we exit, we don't leave the realm of economics. There are manifold "political" dynamics that manifest at work, that implicate race and gender, from the wage scale, to the division of labor, to sexual harassment. Such factors not only undercut the specific, local, or sectoral interests of workers engaged in that workplace but become generalized features of class life institutionalized by the State. Similarly, outside of work, in the streets where women are fighting to maintain access to abortion have all kinds of economic implications.
Given this, the abstractions "economics" and "politics" cannot be separated. Our sense is that it is partly the job of communists to tease out the political implications of various spontaneous struggles that emerge, whether they take form at work or in the streets.
Marxist-Feminism, production and reproduction, labor and capital: finite or universal?
The methodology of orthodox Marxism, whereby the subject and object are split into a determining base (object) and a determined superstructure (subject), necessarily has consequences for how the content of women's liberation is to be understood. And this framework is exactly why reproductive labor and reproductive freedom are counterposed. For Nat,
"women's liberation from a communist point of view has to do with unleashing the capacity for every woman to be able to reach her full human potential in a society where human knowledge and technology along with natural resources are shared in common."
"women's liberation [is]...far beyond a discussion about waged and unwaged labor and an economic struggle for wages for housework."
If, then, women's liberation goes beyond labor, what we are dealing with is a framework that is ahistorical. Patriarchy is not something that statically exists separate from the mode of production; under capitalism patriarchy takes the form of gendered alienation, the gendered division of labor, etc. We cannot understand patriarchy without a critique of political economy and vice-versa. Furthermore, the form of reproductive labor under capitalism, which is gendered, exists in a unity with controlling our bodies as a means of production, and determining what kind of labor-power capital needs. This coincides with a racial division of labor which we've discussed above.
There can be no "reproductive freedom" if reproductive workers aren't freed from the gendered division of labor, i.e. unless there is a coordinated attack against the multifarious forms of alienated labor. Under the capitalist gendered division of labor, women's uteri and women's bodies are both means of production of labor-power that they are radically separated from. This condition is reinforced by the State in many forms, from limiting women's access to abortion and forced sterilization, to austerity measures that force women to increasingly bear the burden of caring for young, elderly, and disabled members of the class.
In relegating the gendered division of labor into an objective "base," and similarly assigning reproductive freedom to subjective "superstructure," Nat sets up a false dichotomy that can have devastating practical consequences. According to Nat,
"There has been an aversion to [the fight over reproductive freedom] in Marxist Feminism, perhaps because it is not a strictly 'working class' struggle. But this to me is a rigid type of Marxism which narrows everything down to the relation between labor and capital. To me this is a mistake. A revolution isn't a narrow economic act, it is a complex struggle involving real world alignments, consciousness, and political struggles. When we ignore real politics we stay isolated."
Again, labor/self-activity/production is posed as either objective economics on the one hand or subjective politics on the other. Further, this rests on a fundamental misunderstanding of Marx's conception of "labor." In contrast to this dualistic framework, we can return to Wages for Housework and the Marxist-Feminist methodology.
Wages for Housework emerged out of very real struggles of women in the post-war period and departed from the theory of the role of reproductive labor as a whole, struggles that find their historic origin in the split between productive and reproductive labor. The split of these two was necessary toward the development of the capitalist division of labor (which had a visible gendered content). In previous modes of production, reproductive labor was not so distinct, and individuals were not radically separated from the means of production and confined to a single sphere of work. This passage from Mariarosa Dalla Costa's and Selma James' "The Power Women and the Subversion of the Community" is not only illuminating but quite emphatic:
"In the same way as women are robbed of the possibility of developing their creative capacity, they are robbed of their sexual life which has been transformed into a function for reproducing labor power: the same observations which we made on the technological level of domestic services apply to birth control (and, by the way, to the whole field of gynaecology), research into which until recently has been continually neglected, while women have been forced to have children and were forbidden the right to have abortions when, as was to be expected, the most primitive techniques of birth control failed." (30)
Here, Dalla Costa and James confirm that labor and capital aren't narrow, they are universal categories. Certainly they've been narrowed in the orthodox Marxist tradition from Kautsky to Althusser, both in their theoretical scope and in their practical conclusions. But labor isn't just wage labor and capital isn't just factories. Labor and capital express the universal antagonistic movement between living labor and dead labor which is capital. This dynamic is one where things control us rather than us controlling things, between monotonous, one-sided work in the division of labor and the social relations between things we make. This is the picture Marx gives us from "Estranged Labour" to the "Critique of the Gotha Programme" and nowhere does he see labor and capital as reductive by any stretch.
Reproduction constitutes all those various labors that are essential to maintaining human beings and which are also historically developed; where the "nature" of humans change as they deepen their consciousness and many-sided labors, as opposed to a narrow naturalist and fixed conception of reproduction (babymaking).
We are told by Nat that "the discussion was suffocated in its scope because of its confinement within in a certain 'workerist' conception of how to look at women, sexuality, reproduction, and liberation." Nat counterposes and unnecessarily polarizes defending abortion versus struggles over reproductive labor and this is done precisely with the dualistic understanding of "base" and "superstructure" rooted, again, in the split of the subject-object. This also has bodily implications: where a woman' hands are concerned, it is economic, where it concerns her uterus, it is political.
Nat points out that Wages for Housework was not relevant in the 60s and 70s (and is still not relevant today) because it has never had popular currency with women engaged in struggle. Nat writes:
"Ultimately I think that women's liberation from a communist point of view has to do with unleashing the capacity for every woman to be able to reach her full human potential in a society where human knowledge and technology along with natural resources are shared in common.
To do that there needs to be a break away from the traditional role of women, namely traditional roles of giving birth to and raising children and other domestic roles.
Now due to the development of global capitalism since the 1970s, but also due to the fight of women at that time against traditional relations, there has been a break away from tradition.
The Wages for Housework tendency was correct in stating that a break from the home in and of itself would not liberate women or destroy capitalism. However, it was wrong politically to not unite with what was correct. We need to recognize the necessity of such a demand when placed within an overall communist vision of women's liberation."
We agree with Nat that women needed to break the isolation of the home in order to develop their communist potential, and that Wages for Housework never caught on. We also agree that revolutionaries should develop a strategy that both understands the current conditions and is informed by the self-activity of the class. But our approach is distinguished specifically by Marx's subject-object dialectic.
The Marxist Feminists understood the relationship between the objective conditions of society and the subjective self-activity of the class. They used this understanding to develop a programmatic strategy that would resolve contradictions within the class in favor of revolution (and abolition of gendered value relations):
This was a time in which capitalism was in crisis, and needed a strategy to overcome crisis (which later materialized in strategic shift from Keynesianism to neoliberalism). Entering into the workforce and receiving higher wages there would only allow capital to subsume increased labor-power, which would solve the crisis in the interest of capital. Wages for Housework would have caused increased devastation to capital by forcing capital to concede profits for unwaged domestic labor. In other words, the Marxist-Feminists argued that equality politics would add labor to women's plates instead of forcing capital to relinquish profits for work already being done. On top of this, Wages for Housework would have broken the isolation of the home and the patriarchy of the wage. Again, this strategy is based on the subject-object dialectic.
In contrast, Nat's arguments against Wages for Housework (and for engaging in reproductive rights struggles) is based on the assumption that when a programmatic strategy is not popular, it is not relevant and should be abandoned: "In fact, the ideas of Marxist Feminism have never caught on among large sections of women outside activist circles."
Are things valid only to the extent that masses of people say they are? Is Marxist-Feminism invalid because it has not been a banner waived or slogan employed by millions of women? We don't think Nat is implying this, but in its logical extension are found a host of problems, including working within the various trade union bureaucracies or the Democratic Party, or that revolutionaries should fight for all sorts of things just because they are popular. In any case, it seems that here Nat is conflating the subject and object, arguing that the current activity of the class, whatever the form, is the objective conditions of capitalism. The practical implications of this methodology is to "meet the class where they are at...and leave them there," meaning the current activity of the class dictates the program, strategies and tactics, instead of dialectically informing them.
Marxist-Feminism, like Marxism itself, is the distillation of the experiences of working class women. Where else does theory come from but those experiences? What was Marxism if not the logical content of the working class movement considered in its totality?
Programmatic strategies for women's liberation today
As stated in "Marxist-Feminism vs. Subjectivism: A Response to Fire Next Time", there is no problem in asking if Wages for Housework is relevant today. However, this must be done through grappling with the subject-object dialectic.
On the one hand, we must look at the objective conditions of capitalism and how that manifests in a gendered way today. One side of this Nat explains, including recent legislative and right-wing attacks against women's access to abortion. In the comments to Nat's post, commenter Liam Wright adds to this to include street harassment, rape and gendered assault. To this we would add super-exploitation in feminized workplaces, from nonprofits and schools to street sex work/prostitution and maquiladoras. We have explained above how these issues are at once both economic and political.
We would also include unwaged reproductive labor in the home (the majority of housework is still done by women in the home). However, the character of labor in the home is different today than it was in the 60s and 70s. A contradictory result of second wave feminism was that many of the things that women traditionally did in the home have been broadened out and entered into the circulation of capital. For example, the introduction and expansion of the fast food industry has on the one hand offered some relief to women but on the other, established a new sector of highly exploitative workplaces. This is both a win and a loss for women and therefore the class. It is also relevant that many more women are in the workforce these days; according the the U.S. Census, in 1960, only 15% of women worked full time, and in 2010 this number was up to 43%. This is not to say that struggles around unwaged, reproductive labor are irrelevant, but that workplace issues are far more relevant for women today.
The other side of the subject-object dialectic includes looking at the subjective activity of the class. Nat points toward mobilizations to defend abortion/women's health clinics. While these struggles are absolutely worth paying attention to, they are simply not representative of a generalized activity of the class. A large majority of the class is not mobilized at this time.
These expressions in content are a small sector of the class engaging in liberal methods to stop anti-abortion bills and restore funding to nonprofits. This strategy does not illuminate the State's interest in capital and patriarchy. Instead, it relies on the State to be women's protector, and ensures women's exploitation and eroded communist potential through protecting women's "right" to sell labor-power in nonprofits.
In the comments, Liam Wright points to Slut Walk as another strata of women's self-activity. While Slut Walk was a bit more broad, it was a series of permitted marches that culminated in open mics where people shared stories about being raped, sexually assaulted, stalked etc. There was no confrontation with the State or capital. In some ways, Slut Walk sought to break down the public/private split (women's bodies and sexuality is reserved for the private reproductive sphere), yet it did so only to rebuild women and reaffirm their subjectivity. This is important work that is necessary in building up women's ability to stand up to patriarchy and in developing a social fabric woven from the objective conditions of gendered alienation. This consciousness-raising activity, a historical carryover from the strategies of the 60s and 70s, is a hugely important aspect of our work as organizers and revolutionaries. However, consciousness-raising does not substitute for direct confrontation with patriarchy, and therefore capital and the State.
To be clear, we are not arguing for political abstention from liberal or reformist struggles, or consciousness-raising circles, when they are expressions of the self-activity of the class. However, a principled intervention would not be to participate in legislative reform but to argue for a strategies that would seek to damage capital, break down gendered antagonisms within the class, and forefront the demands of women. This is precisely what the Marxist-Feminists did during second wave feminism.
This gets back to Nat's fundamental question: what forms of activity should we practically engage in today?
Based on the analysis above, we would argue that Wages for Housework does not seem like a relevant strategy today. Instead, here are some examples of concrete areas of struggle that speak to the objective experience of women in the U.S. today:
- Grassroots clinic defense takeovers and/or nonprofit worker committees/unions that build solidarity across worker-"client" lines. This model would build on the work of the Jane Collective, socializing the skills women need to control their own bodies while taking advantage of the de-skilled advances of capital (for example, in general everyone who works in an abortion clinic, right up to the front desk girl, knows how to perform a manual abortion and there are no specialized skills needed for a large majority of medical abortions). This model could be broadened out to things like hormone therapy, HIV and STI treatment, and health care in general for the class.
- Neighborhood groups engaged in tenant struggles with the capacity to deal directly with violence against women in the community.
- Parent, teacher, and student alliances that struggle against school closures/privatization and for transforming schools to more accurately reflect the needs of children and parents, for example on-site childcare, directly democratic classrooms and districts, smaller class sizes, etc.
- Sex worker collectives that protect women from abusive Johns and other community members, and build democratically women- and queer-run brothels with safe working conditions.
- Workplace organizations in feminized workplaces like nonprofits, the service industry, pink collar manufacturing, etc., or worker centers that specialize in feminized workplaces and take up issues and challenges specific to women.
Having said all of this, we want to stress again that any strategies we call for are premature, given the lack of generalized movement among working class women today. Of course, it is still important to struggle in ways that we see as best given the circumstances. However, it is impossible to know whether these activities are the best strategy for today without collective self-activity in opposition to gendered value relations. We raise this to say that it is actually possible that wages for housework is a relevant demand. Only the self-activity of the class will clarify this for us. It is not the task of communists, as Marx once famously said, to write recipes for the cookshops of the future.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Friday, 08 March 2013 23:28
- Written by Kasama
Woman Rebel, a documentary film by Kiran Deol first released in 2010, follows the life of Selu, a woman commander in the People's Liberation Army. The documentary follows her life through the course of the Nepalese revolution. This documentary ends with the peace process, and discussion of what the counter-revolution has meant for the women of Nepal are outside the scope of this documentary.
The DVD for public showings is also available for sale here.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Friday, 08 March 2013 16:00
- Written by Nainakala Thapa
Nainakala Thapa, a leading member of the All Nepal Women's Association (Revolutionary) discusses the liberation that women won through the people's war, and the changes that have come in the post-people's war period. This interview comes from the Winter Has Its End and BASICS News Canada reporter teams. -eric r
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 19:19
- Written by Gary Leupp
The following first appeared on the Counterpunch website.
Thus you can be the president of an imperialist country, carrying on as normal, killing from the Af-Pak borderlands to the Sahel, presiding over much evil, and still pose as a cutting-edge advocate of human rights, in this case declaring that “if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” Powerful words equalizing hetero- and homosexual loves...
Obama selects his causes carefully, politically. It’s good he has, in his own understated way, paid tribute to the Stonewall uprising. I’m sure many thousands are Google-searching that term since the speech, maybe some feeling inspired by what they learn. But as we revisit the Stonewall experience, should we not also recall how the Obama administration arms the police in countries like Saudi Arabia where gays are flogged, lashed or executed? And should we not note that the campaign for gay rights, however important, is no substitute for a campaign to topple U.S. imperialism, the endless source of war?
The Drones Continue to Kill
Obama Endorses Stonewall?
by Gary Leupp
At first I wasn’t sure I had heard right. “…Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.”
Does Obama, I wondered, mean that Stonewall? Or is there some battle by that name I’ve never learned about?
It soon became clear, that yes, he was referring to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like everyone else under the law.”
This is significant, I thought. A Reuters report this morning notes that “Obama’s inclusion of gay rights—still opposed by many conservatives—among his list of priorities might have been unthinkably divisive as recently as his first inauguration in 2009.” It would at least have been unthinkably risky for a traditional, centrist politician with an instinctive inclination towards compromise.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Sunday, 20 January 2013 18:32
- Written by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson
The following comes to Kasama from Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson, a prisoner and member of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter. As always, Kasama shares this piece for discussion. No endorsement of its analysis is implied.
Wimyn Hold Up Half the Sky! On the Question of Wimyn's Oppression and Revolutionary Wimyn's Liberation versus Feminism (2008)
by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson
“Women comprise one half of the population. The economic status of working women and the fact of their being specially oppressed proves not only that women urgently need revolution, but also that they are a decisive force in the success or failure of the revolution.” - Mao Tse-tung, Peking Review, 1974
We acknowledge that presently, the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) lacks a substantial femyl membership. Because of this situation some mistaken views have developed concerning our position on the questions of wimyn’s oppression and liberation. That we lack a femyl presence right now in no way reflect our views on these fundamental questions. Actually the major cause of this predicament is the uncommon circumstances under which our Party was founded, namely, by brothas who are isolated away from sistas by their confinement in various U.S. prisons. Another contributing factor is that unfortunately very few prison activists have maintained active ties with wimyn prisoners, with the result that these sistas’ ideological and political educations and active involvements in social justice struggle has been minimal. However, we are in the process of taking affirmative measures to remedy these situations. And along with these efforts it is also imperative that we set out our line and position on wimyn’s oppression and liberation with special attention given to the plight of New Afrikan wimyn.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 05:34
- Written by A World to Win News Service
7 January 2013. A World to Win News Service. The outrage in Delhi and other Indian cities (among women of all social classes and many men too) against the violent gang rape and subsequent death of a 23-year-old Delhi student is most welcome. This righteous response was met with tear gas and beatings from the Indian state. At the same time, to quell some of the protest the government has set up a fast track court and five men of the six accused have now been charged with rape, sequestration and murder. Usually, it takes years for a rape case to come to trial. Deliberation around the sixth is whether to try him as a minor or an adult.
The indignation over this crime has created a national sense of shame and a conversation in India: About the pitiful reaction to violence against women from the government, its courts and law enforcers. About how rape has gone on virtually unpunished, how blatantly anti-women British colonial laws from 1860s did not change after independence until a brutal rape case lead to the formation of a women's movement in 1983 and to the laws currently in effect, how the emphasis in Indian culture is not the violent attack on a woman's body but the honour that is stolen from her husband, how the police often themselves rape victims who report rape, how many politicians running for office have been accused of rape, how rape is ingrained in Indian culture, how families try to hide rape and tell daughters to accept it as part of the price for being a woman, and how earlier infamous rapes cases got swept under the rug after promises by authorities to ''sensitise'' judges, police, lawyers and other authorities who deal with rape victims.
Violence, oppression and male domination of women exists worldwide in all societies. It originated when patriarchy, the family, private property and classes came into being and persists in both "modern" and traditional ways, and often both at once. It is endemic to the functioning of all systems of exploitation. Only the forms are different and vary according to how different countries are integrated into the overall imperialist system of exploitation and oppression that dominates the globe.
Women (and their bodies) are viewed as lesser beings that should be covered for their sinfulness and punished in a myriad of humiliating and violent ways, as objects of sexual pleasure and as commodities. Women endure murder or rape by husbands, family members or partners, bride-burnings, honour killings, prostitution, degradation by a global pornography epidemic, female genital mutilation, rape by an occupying army or militias, rape of female soldiers by male soldiers of the same army, forced abortions of unwanted girl foetuses and death or illness from illegal abortions. See AWTWNS121126 for statistics on the prevalence of rape in Western countries like the U.S., UK and France and the also prevalent view that the woman is somehow at fault.
The article we are reprinting below is from Tehelka.com, an online progressive weekly Indian magazine. It captures well the violence women face in India. Towards the end of the article, the author expresses concern with an attitude that permeates the government when criticised for its lack of dealing with rape and violence against women. The authorities respond by saying ''cops' attitudes were merely a reflection of the society they came from''.
Fundamentally there is a great deal of insight in that government quote, but here we have an important difference with the author. The institutions of the state of the ruling classes cannot be adjusted in such a way that they can be relied on for fundamental social change. Police are a concentration of the kind of society they serve, the social and economic relations their job is to protect. Women are dominated by men because of the workings of the whole exploitative system. The ideas, culture and police apparatus are part of the superstructure that developed around the existing system, whether in "modern" capitalist societies like the U.S. or U.K. or countries in the third world. The ideas, values, and social relations are a reflection of how that system and society functions and serve to keep the ruling classes in power.
Inequalities and oppressive divisions between men and women as well as between classes, castes (an important particularity in India) and different nationalities can only be eliminated in a society organized around entirely different principles.
Change never comes about without intense struggle to fight injustice and bring more and more people into resistance against the existing ruling classes. It is with this kind of resistance that people can raise their sights and see the need to fight for a revolutionary solution. The fury in India should be applauded and go further to that fundamental ''reckoning''. Overthrowing India's ruling classes and establishing a new revolutionary state power is an essential step in eliminating the oppression of women in all its forms.
Why did it need an incident so unspeakably brutal to trigger our outrage?
By Shoma Chaudhury, Managing Editor, Tehelka.com, December 20, 2012
The surging outrage at the gang rape of a paramedic in New Delhi this week is welcome and cathartic. But it is also terrifying. There's a fear that this too shall fade without correctives. But there is also a question we must all face: why did it need an incident so unspeakably brutal to trigger our outrage? What does that say about our collective threshold as a society? Why did hundreds of other stories of rape not suffice to prick our conscience?
The harsh truth is, rape is not deviant in India: it is rampant. The attitude that enables it sits embedded in our brain. Rape is almost culturally sanctioned in India, made possible by crude, unthinking conversations in every strata of society. Conversations that look at crime against women through the prism of women's responsibility: were they adequately dressed, were they accompanied by a male protector, were they of "sterling character", were they cautious enough.
It's not just the extreme savagery the young girl suffered that has jolted everyone therefore. Running beneath that is the affront that it could happen at 9.30 pm, while a decently dressed woman was with a male friend, in a well-lit tony south Delhi neighbourhood. This certainly accentuates the impunity that's set in. But it also lays bare the maddening subtext that blunts our responses at other times. The assumption is that rapes later at night, in places more secluded or less privileged, and of women who may be alone or sexily dressed are less worthy of outrage because they feed into two pet ideas India holds: that a woman asks for rape either through her foolishness or promiscuity. In some way or the other, she is fair game.
There are other deep examinations this rape forces on us: what do we consider violence? Does it really need a woman to be tossed out naked on a road with her genitals and intestines ripped up for us to register violence? Why does gang rape horrify us more than mere rape? Why do rapes of Dalits ["untouchables"] or tribal or Northeastern women not shock the nation into saying "enough is enough"? We do not distinguish between bearable murders and unbearable murders; why does rape come graded in such debasing shade sheets?
Rape is already the most under-reported crime in India. But beneath that courses a whole other universe of violence that is not even acknowledged. It's not just psychopathic men in a rogue white bus who can be rapists: it's fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, friends. Almost one in every two women would have a story – perhaps told, perhaps untold – of being groped, molested or raped in the confines of their own homes. If they dare speak of it at all, they are told to bury and bear it. Take it as a part of life. To name an uncle who has been molesting a minor niece would be to shame the family. And marital rape – that stretches the very imagination. It's a mark of our bestial ideas about women that even judges often suggest that rape survivors marry their rapists to avoid the hell of life as a single woman rejected by society.
There are, therefore, three reckonings this horrific rape forces upon us now. How can India change its endemically diseased mindset about women? How can strong deterrences be built against rape? And how can contact with the police and justice process not be made to feel like a double rape?
Harsher, swifter punitive measures are definitely needed to puncture the idea of immunity that's built up around rape. Fear of consequence is a powerful tool. But that can be only one aspect of the correctives. What is equally needed is a government-led gender sensitisation blitzkrieg at every level of Indian society: in schools; in anganwadis [courtyard shelters, started by the Indian government in 1975 to combat child hunger and malnutrition]; in pop culture; in village shows; in the police, legal and judicial fraternity. Even "sensitisation" is too patriarchal a word: what we need is a determined drive towards modernity. Indians have an inherent impatience for process. We prefer the drama of retributions: demands for lynching and capital punishments. Set aside for a moment the larger argument against death penalties, we forget to ask, who will take these cases to a point where judgements can even be handed out?
Earlier this year, Tehelka published a sting investigation on how senior cops in the National Capital Region think about rape. It made for bone-chilling insights. But there was absolutely no action from the establishment. The argument went that the cops' attitudes were merely a reflection of the society they came from. Nothing should make us more fearful than that.
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 11:55
- Written by Ish
The following is a comment Ish made in response to the latest article by Curtis Cole on how communists should be participating in the queer liberation struggle. We publish it here as its own post.
I think marriage equality is an acceptable reform, a democratic right that queer people deserve as much as straight people. When New York State got marriage equality a couple years ago I was happy, I admit, even though I don’t see it affecting my own life very much. But I’m just not excited by themovement for marriage equality….and more specifically it doesn’t strike me that it offers, other than as a kind of counterpoint, a way for revolutionaries to engage the gay, lesbian, trans, and/or queer communities. And so while I think it’s important to critique the left’s record on gay liberation, as I have certainly done before, I’m not sure I agree with comrade Cole that this movement is the best place for the left to be, or the most relevant place to understand the left’s failures or progress.
First, the social conservatism inherent in fighting for marriage is not just abstract. For instance in many places where people could claim domestic partnership rights — property, visitation, etc — gay couples who do not chose to transition to formal marriage could lose those rights. While the removal of one form of dehumanizing discrimination can be celebrated, it’s clear that marriage equality quite clearly extends oppressive capitalist property relations into the queer world, proving what Marxists believe about marriage, property, oppression and the state, and I find this hard to celebrate uncritically. It’s hard to forget the many straight revolutionary couples I’ve known over the years who refused marriage because they didn’t need the state to confer legitimacy on their relationships.
What I have noticed is that the wing of the gay movement that is most interested in marriage equality is the liberal wing, 100% in the thrall of the Democratic Party, whereas those in the gay community, and here perhaps queer community is more accurate, questioning marriage equality seem to be raising more interesting and more radical notions about queer identity and also about political struggle. To me, the marriage equality movement is profoundly liberal. Why did the liberal gay and lesbian community leadership choose marriage, as opposed to anti-discrimination in employment or housing, as a priority for political action? The gay establishment certainly chose a path of least resistance since the anti-discrimination struggle would have forced them to address the inclusion of transgendered people: many in the gay establishment have already indicated a willingness to jettison the transgendered for political expedience’s sake.
(And far from Obama coming out as a “pro-queer” president, what I think he came out as is a capitalist politician who knew a quick way to buy millions of votes with cynical grandstanding. Obama made a political calculation that helped him win an election. Obama’s actions on removing DADT discrimination in the military actually successfully bought support for U.S. imperialism in the gay community. I have seen this repeatedly.)
Leftwing lesbian intellectual Sarah Schulman writes (http://www.prettyqueer.com/2012/05/09/the-problems-inherent-in-marriage-itself/):
“The continued distorted representation of our lives in mainstream arts and entertainment coupled with pervasive familial homophobia, pressured many LGB people into abandoning or perhaps forgetting about the goal of an expanded society. In a sense we were “bullied” into letting the society change us. The bait was that the more we appeared to mirror heterosexual family structure, sexual mores and consumer patterns, the more they would accept us. In this way, instead of changing society, society changed us – and – on the surface- we now have lost a great deal of our specificity and are so recognizable to straight people that even the most powerful heterosexual in the world, Barack Obama is confidently unthreatened enough to endorse equal marriage rights.
What this does not address, however, are the problems inherent in marriage itself. we all know that 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce. So, clearly marriage is not working as an institution. Now that gay people are fitting themselves into a dysfunctional box in order to win approval, our futures will surely be as strewn with disappointment, legal battles and failure to conform that heterosexuals endure, even with their constant advocacy by film and television, and the profound privileges given to them by their families. In this way we are living in the gay version of the 1950′s. But the 1960′s are just around the corner. Inevitably these conservatizing trends will again explode into a new sexual revolution, collective living, and a desire for liberatory feminism. I just hope I live long enough to see it.”
Although he doesn’t break from thinking about these issues in terms of reforms, AIDS activist Ian Awesome writes (http://hivster.com/?p=6315) about the limitations of marriage equality and the class problems inherent in it:
EVERYTHING Sucks. Not Just Marriage Inequality.
The benefits of getting married in the US are legion. If you’re married you can put your spouse on your health insurance. Is your lover a foreign national? No problem! Marry them and they can stay. Inheritance rights are wrapped up in the issue of marriage– afraid your family will steal the estate that should go to your partner? Get hitched! These reasons, and many more, are the ones that get thrown against my disdain for spending resources on marriage equality….But is marriage really the way to accomplish those goals? Think about it. Should we really be telling people that the only way they can be with their loved ones is to enter into a binding, state-validated contract?…Isn’t the real problem there that we need immigration reform?
Health care is an obvious one. I had a prominent blogger actually say to me that she was working for marriage equality so that she could get health care through her wife’s plan. Ok. It’s legit to need health care. However, I can’t help but think that in of itself is silly. The only way for us to get medical care is to… romantically commit to someone for life? What? Isn’t the real problem that we need universal health care?
I could go on and on. Homeless queer youth! Suicide! The scalping of AIDS patients by big pharmaceuticals! And yet the conversation is centered around how soon I could potentially throw a bachelor’s party.
That’s not right.
No! No Benefits For You Until You Get Yourself A Man!
See, the problem with marriage is its exclusionary nature, as the queer community has clearly taken note of. We’ve been excluded from it for so long perhaps the majority of us have not realized that we’re not the only people who go without these benefits bestowed upon those who choose to marry. …
Pay No Attention To The Fat Cat Behind The Curtain
Why are we, then, so focused on marriage? It’s not immediately clear… until you look at LGBT leadership. Or rather, gay white male leadership. In our vast, diverse group of individuals that touches every single culture on this planet there seems to be a dearth of “commoners” who rise to positions of power and authority in the organizations who are supposed to be advocating for our interests….If you look at the leadership of most major organizations, it’s pretty homogeneous. Rich white gay men are calling the shots. What do they care about universal health care? They have their own. Income inequality helps them stay ahead and they are no more likely to assist the common queer in being successful, healthy, and happy than Mitt Romney. All they will give us will be marriage….In fact, you might even say that these rich gay white men and the corporations that fund their organizations don’t want true income equality and universal health care. After all, that might require they pay more taxes.
Shhh. Just think about getting married instead. Isn’t that nice?
Another World Is Possible! I Think I’ll Live In It Without Marriage.
A lot more thought-provoking arguments can be found at the queer site Against Equality (http://www.againstequality.org/about/marriage/).
Gay marriage apes hetero privilege and allows everyone to forget that marriage ought not to be the guarantor of rights like health care. In their constant invoking of the “right” to gay marriage, mainstream gays and lesbians express a confused tangle of wishes and desires. They claim to contest the Right’s conservative ideology yet insist that they are more moral and hence more deserving than sluts like us. They claim that they simply want the famous 1000+ benefits but all of these, like the right to claim protection in cases of domestic violence, can be made available to non-marital relationships.
We wish that the GM crowd would simply cop to it: Their vision of marriage is the same as that of the Right, and far from creating FULL EQUALITY NOW! as so many insist (in all caps and exclamation marks, no less) gay marriage increases economic inequality by perpetuating a system which deems married beings more worthy of the basics like health care and economic rights.
While I wouldn’t say I oppose marriage equality, I find these arguments from the left exciting, and I think here is discussion revolutionaries should be engaging in. Is the marriage equality movement actually radicalizing young people? Or doing something else?
- Category: Feminism & Sexuality
- Created on Tuesday, 13 November 2012 13:14
- Written by Curtis Cole
We received the following submission from Curtis Cole. We hope that the article opens up diverse channels of discussion on the relationship between Queer liberation and communism and how communists participate in a key liberating struggle. Posting the article does not mean endorsement of its arguments.
Consolidating History: The Path for Marriage Advocates
by Curtis Cole
Here, in the United States, the results of the most recent marriage equality votes in the contending states of Maine, Minnesota (against a constitutional ban), Maryland, and Washington displayed fantastic results (all victories).So now the question for the queer community is: how to consolidate these gains and move forward in the remaining states, while the question for the revolutionary community ishow to participate.
The heterosexual revolutionary left never had a solid foothold in the queer liberation movement. Instead most of the revolutionary groupings, from Trotskyist to Maoist, were content with joining in with the bourgeois jeers. However, fortunately, attitudes change along with the time. Now the left has been more active. While still only on a superficial level the question on the minds of the developing revolutionaries is what their “modis operandi” should be.
Despite the seesaw game of set-backs followed by victories, marriage equality at this stage in the struggle will press forward; where victory has been won, consolidation, where lacking, rejuvenation. The downtrodden will gather more signatures, initiate more petitions, raise more money, and, headed by their bourgeois leaders, try once more in another four years.
While this is what the largely liberal constituency will undertake is this what the revolutionary constituency should follow? The answer is deeper than a simple “yes or no”. Indeed to reach a mature conclusion one must analyze the reasons for defeat, the course of struggle, as well as the future of revolutionary agitation in a post-Marriage equality America.
A Majority Supported, a Majority Defeated
While the results of the elections in the contending states favored equality, and a queer supporting president was re-elected, it is important not to lose sight of the present; many queer people still lack marriage rights and the victories must be defended. Yet to earnestly understand we must know how the development of such struggles germinate and grow. Looking at defeat, will help us gleam this truth.
We have all seen the poll numbers at one moment or another. Time after time we see on television or on the internet that the majority of Americans endorse same-sex marriage. Much of the time this support carries over into individual state votes where when it comes time to campaign we see the majority supporting same-sex marriage along with the pro-marriage groups out-raising their bigoted opponents. So the question remains-why do most of these initiatives end in defeat?
No single answer for this is to blame. For an example: back in 2009 my home state-Maine-had high support prior to the election yet once the voting began they found themselves into a ditch, defeated. What is the cause for this outcome? We can look at the stilted pro-marriage ads, which often lack originality and emotional appeal, along with the fear mongering slurs rushed out by anti-marriage foes. We can examine crooked campaign tactics, support from individuals and groups which abide by their own agenda, and even people themselves if we wish to become bitter; ignorance satisfied by a few human right crumbs given by the state. Yet ultimately I think the atmosphere of homophobia which still lingers like a heavy mist, is a primary culprit.
In this list is a reason many might not suspect, however: the revolutionary left.
Why are they a reason? How they could be, you might rightfully ask. How could dozens of sects with no actual power, on either the national level or even the grassroots level, be to blame for the slow ostracize battles where the topic is something as widespread as the “gay marriage” debate?
Leftists, of course, are not a significant cause. Yet I rush to add them because too often is the Left’s history of homophobia hidden under the rug. Racism, women’s rights, anti-war, all of these causes the Left took up yet not queer rights. Hundreds of years of agitation wasted. A waste which even permeates into modernity: while the marriage equality activists undertook the rigorous, and even dangerous work, of laying the foundations for equality where was the revolutionary left? I will tell you: cadres and long term revolutionists were attempting to agitate in the Labor Aristocracy, infiltrate and wrest control of reformist trade unions, and participating in small-scale, largely “feel good”, anti-war coalitions such as UNAC. Drunken in their own spheres of relative acceptance few dared to venture out and assist in radicalizing new converts in a struggle which had been raging above ground for decades now.
Fused together as a whole we now can begin to see all the threads which lead to defeat. We can now see the path of struggle.
Now that we know where the largely heterosexual revolutionary left was we can move down onto the grassroots level, to the conditions in regards to actual agitation.
If you are like me than you have spent some time volunteering with your local equality group. If this is the case than you also know how lucky you are if you see any revolutionaries participate (even rarer if those revolutionaries are non-queer). To take an example: while I was volunteering in my state’s capital the leader of the local group was none other than a die-hard Democrat. The other volunteers, it is not surprising, were either a mixture of liberals or “Green Party” supporters (what I like to call radical liberals, for laughs). Only once, when canvassing, did a volunteer introduce himself as a “radical leftist.”
To even find any other revolutionaries in my state one would be forced to search in the wider activist community. Doing this I would perhaps locate a handful of Anarchists, only a few of which were queer, none of which, aside from myself, which believed in a new direction enough to try and radicalize outside of their niche.
Such is my point; the field has been abandoned to the reformists.
The Path Forward
So what needs to be done? Despite the “doom and gloom” feel of events nothing is static. More of the mainstream revolutionary community is slowly trickling towards the queer liberation movement, affected as they are by a handful of agitators in their ranks. Assuming the pacific stranglehold of complicacy is shattered and more heterosexual and queer revolutionist themselves become active, what do we, as a queer revolutionary re-groupment, advocate?
As in the past the answer to this is multifold and must be broken-down bit by bit.
A prevailing attitude among the revolutionary left is the question of why they should support marriage equality. After all, is not marriage a bourgeois institution? Does not legalization of such marriage serve the ruling class’s intentions?
I firmly believe that nothing is set in stone. While marriage, in itself, is certainly a bourgeois institution the revolutionary left cannot simply dismiss queer cries for equality. After all, if a revolutionary followed this train of thought one could easily dismiss past revolutionary participation in the civil rights movement as “bourgeois” because the entire concept of human right to begin with is bourgeois; after all, surely a white woman and a black man marrying is not essential to racial equality, right? Such is still reinforcing marriage.
I doubt any revolutionary would agree as many seem to possess more understanding of racial equality than they do of queer equality. No, such duplicitous thinking is a poisonous weed. Abandonment of revolutionary participation in the queer movement, as was participation in the Black liberation movement, is tantamount to betrayal of proletarian interests.
This is even truer when one considers the vital material necessities which are at stake to queer workers. Same-sex marriage is not simply a status debate but an economic one. Marriage carries thousands of benefits ranging from such categories as sickness, taxes, and visitation. The queer working class wants these demands and wants the ability to live their lives together on equal footing with their heterosexual peers. Denying such workers their demands on the basis of “its bourgeois” is thinly veiled heterosexism and queerphobia at its worst.
Carrying this concept further it is important to remember that revolutionaries, in their current state, cannot dictate to mass movements, especially those with the relevance as marriage equality. Detractors can moan all they wish but the fact remains that the movement is happening. The base-line demand for this movement is same-sex marriage and this goal is not going to “go away” or change form until queers demands are met.
Because of this revolutionaries should be participating and highlighting the roots of queer oppression to the largely queer liberal volunteers. Revolutionaries should be revealing the forms capitalist oppression used against queer people, they should be engaging the non-revolutionary and informing them of marriage’s history, the nature of capitalism, and the history of the once radical gay liberation movement, prying them away from reformism.
America after Marriage Equality
There was once a time in history when the then recently emerged gay liberation movement was headed by revolutionaries and radicals. Yet due to their overwhelming queerphobia the Left refused to assist the burgeoning movement and in due time reformists and liberals of all shades co-opted the cause. However, with the modern upsurges and forward momentum the left has a chance to redeem itself. They have a chance to sweep into the marriage debate, radicalize voices, and attract new converts.
Assuming this transpires what would be the result? Assuming revolutionists are active, perform their duties well, and aspire with the movement and stand with the queer community until the end winning marriage equality, what happens?
Two things happen: a whole generation of mostly young activists is radicalized, older people enlist in the revolutionary struggle and the battle against marriage as an institution begins.
The first concept does not need much, if any, exposition; currently the left is weak, the queer equality movement is in full swing and leftist participation is dependent on capturing new blood to engorge the “Party” ranks which in turn lead to a queer community with a new goal, a new direction in mind.
It is the second concept; however, that probably needs some explaining: the battle against marriage can begin. What does this mean?
Revolutionary communists know that marriage is a bourgeois institution. One which we have sworn to fight as it helps uphold the capitalist mode of production. As we moved past our petty-bourgeois musings about same-sex marriage, however, and conceded to helping the queer working class grab what is theirs, we also educated the masses in our epistemology. Most importantly we allowed all people, regardless of attraction, to feel the confining nature of sealed monogamous relationships. We knowingly allowed homosexuals to partake in marriage, thus saving it from continued decay, because we could not deny our brothers and sisters the same rights we enjoyed. We did this so we could convert new energy for the destruction of marriage.
As any parent must understand, weathering a child’s tantrum can be a headache. The same is so of movements which desire conservative outcomes (marriage), of movements which no matter how we might wish it, we cannot force them to change their goals. However, as the parent knows that the quickest way to end the tantrum is to give the child what it wants, we as communists know that the surest way to repair our image is to revolutionize this otherwise reformist wave. We know that after the storm, when the hordes of gay and lesbian couples realize what a travesty marriage is, the workers who once fought for inclusion in this societal tradition will eventually be on the same level of consciousness as their heterosexual counterparts: marriage being not in their interests as a collective.
Another unexpected result of this unfolding would be the decline of identity politics among the queer community. For far too long such a scourge has affected the community dividing the queer workers from their non-queer counterparts. Satisfied as the queer workers may be with marriage such ideologies would dwindle as a major roadblock towards their integration vanishes. Partly because the main divide between the two vanishes the decline of identity politics, of “my need is more important than your need”, will gradually break as well.
Once this conclusion has been reached, and all sectors of the working class are on the same page, the battle against marriage, against a major pillar of the bourgeoisie’s favored productive mode, can begin in earnest.