Do We Need a Communist Feminism?
Three young comrades had the following discussion in a chat group after reading a draft of an article for our new pamphlet, The Communist Fight Against Sexism, entitled “Communism, not Feminism, Will End the Oppression of Women.”
C: I disagree with the title. That communism will put an end to sexism and many other problems is not a new idea. I think that we repeat this kind of title too often in Red Flag. In this historical moment a title like this will bring us more problems than opportunities.
The article describes the development of the feminist movement and it seems that the only thing we say is that only by mobilizing for communism can we win. This is only half of the truth. I think that feminism is necessary inside the party to combat the sexist attitudes of our members.
Communism is a long and painful process that will depend on the way the internal contradictions of the movement are dealt with. If there aren’t efforts that claim the struggle of the minorities, the opinion of the historically privileged groups will be easily imposed on the rest. (We can even see this today in the party.)
N: I disagree. Inside the party we don’t need to have a feminist struggle, but instead to struggle against sexism. Neither feminism nor sexism—we must fight against sexism and it’s clear we can only win that struggle by fighting for communism.
C: Feminism is not the opposite of machismo. Is the term sexism still valid? Is oppression mainly over something biological?
There is a great diversity of feminisms as the article mentions. If our line is an example of the development of communist theory, we could construct a new category, our own feminism.
It seems to me very dangerous not to recognize the importance of the claims of the oppressed sectors beyond the category of class.
Yes, post-modern feminism is subjective because its activists normally don’t suffer class oppression. But it seems to me to be an error not to emphasize how all oppressions working together keep capitalism functioning. Today the proletariat that the system depends on is oppressed by class, race and gender.
A: I disagree. In fact, communism will put an end to sexism and many other problems. If it’s not communism with our political line, what will it be? Socialism, a pseudo-left party, reformist or progressive groups, etc.?
No. We need communism, the communism that we present to the working class, which we analyze, which we sharpen, which we practice. This is the new news that we present to our class brothers and sisters.
On the question about why feminism won’t put an end to sexism, I don’t consider that a problem. I know feminists and some of them are activists, and when we talk, I clearly say that I’m not a feminist even though I’m a woman. My friends don’t get upset, however, because of the serious differences in our political positions the discussions are limited.
However, when I have discussions with men about feminism, they make interesting points from their practice and analysis. Again, I don’t think this will be a problem.
I don’t think we should be feminists inside the party. If there are sexist attitudes among our members, we have to have a political struggle with them, like any other attitude. This will cause some friction, but that’s where self-criticism comes in.
I don’t think that communism is a long and painful process. On the contrary, communism gives us sustenance so that we can make this communist society possible. Sure we have internal contradictions, and they vary. Sometimes they cause us to retreat. Sometimes they help us advance. But this is our struggle. It’s understanding and it’s practice.
Our class is suffering because of all the evils of capitalism. We know that many times over, so let’s do the most we can as communists. We must know that only communism with its members around the world and their contradictions are capable of looking much farther than any other political line.
C: Rejecting the theory and practice of the current feminist movement is not a dialectical response to the social movements that have arisen since the fall of the socialist bloc. We should think in a dialectical negation of feminism and all the identity movements, taking the best aspects of what has developed in the last few years and applying them in a better way to communist organizing. Instead of thinking about how correct our position is we should think more about what we can learn.
Los Angeles, January 20, 2017
Super-Exploitation: the Material Base of Sexism
The recent editorial on sexism was excellent but has a serious weakness that readers may have overlooked: it downplays the super-exploitation of women.
It says that sexism has always existed in class societies (true) and that capitalism has intensified it (also true). But why has capitalism intensified it?
We need a materialist analysis, to explain how capitalism generates sexism, and to know how to end it under communism – by ripping up its roots, its material base.
The article says the material basis is private property in general (which existed before capitalism). Although super exploitation is mentioned, it’s to say that it drags down the wages of men.
So let me make it clear: I believe that the material basis of capitalist sexism is the super exploitation of women workers. This includes their underpaid labor in production and their unpaid labor in the home, in terms of childcare and husbandcare.
Communism will definitely end all this. It will abolish the wage system and with it the whole notion of “cheap” labor. And by collectivizing housework and childcare, it will liberate women from ‘kitchen slavery.’
I read a report by some bank that estimated that the average woman worker has a 100-hour work week (if you include housework and child care). This sounds about right – two regular jobs. I made some crude estimates as to how much the US bosses save by underpaying for production and not paying for work in the home. It comes out to several trillion dollars per year!
That’s a lot of money. The entire bloated US defense budget is not even a trillion. Add to that the profit from women exploited overseas (where wages are even lower) and the depressing effect on men’s wages and the trillions pile up.
However the bosses can’t extract trillions of dollars from millions of women workers without some infrastructure. That infrastructure is sexism.
This letter has a blog supplement (icwpweb.wordpress.com) in which I make the case that super exploitation explains almost every aspect of capitalist sexism.
—Comrade in North America
Our Duty is to Crush Capitalism and Its Borders
Human beings have been migrants since their ancestral origins in Africa, before borders and countries were invented.
We met with two young people from El Salvador about the caravan of Central American migrants to the United States. They commented that people flee from the conditions of poverty and violence imposed by gangs and that it is capitalism that creates poverty and human misery that encourages flight.
But misery that is worse than receiving too few goods from social production in order to survive is the misery that in order to live we have to work for someone else (the capitalist). We need to put an end to the system of wage labor, to put an end to the bosses.
Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, quickly traveled to Mexico and met with Foreign Minister Videgaray demanding that the caravan be stopped. Immediately, President Peña Nieto declared emphatically that he would not allow the illegal and violent entry of the migrants as this would violate the sovereignty of the country.
The rulers of Mexico and Central America are instruments of repression against the working class. While they declare themselves defenders of migrants in the United States, the rulers of Mexico deport the same number of Central American migrants, and the rulers of each Central American country reject the workers who emigrate from the surrounding countries. Only by overthrowing them will the class of modern wage earners, the proletariat, be able to establish brotherhood/sisterhood, without borders, without bosses, without racism or sexism.
The press and television do not speak of the failure of democracy and of the “free market” as causes of the workers’ flight.
It is not easy for us to come into contact with these migrants to personally bring them our solidarity and above all our ideas of emancipation of the working class from the capitalists. However from Red Flag we send our ideas and solidarity to them. In our workplaces we will promote liberation for them and all other exploited and oppressed people of the world.
The search for survival is not enough, the search for self-interest. The duty is to our whole class, the rest of the workers, who cannot flee from the hell of their region and from where they are, will have to achieve their emancipation. Workers of the world LET’S UNITE, let us crush capitalism and its borders.
—Comrade in Mexico
Mexican women workers feeding Central American migrants in the caravan
We Can No Longer Put Up With Capitalism
In the face of the extreme poverty that threatens the lives of the majority of Hondurans, large caravans have been formed to go to the empire’s southern border.
Honduras is the poorest country in the region. Forty percent (40%) of the population lives on ONE DOLLAR per day. Spontaneously and as an act of solidarity in the face of the desperation of not having the means of subsistence, groups of neighbors have come together in different sectors of the country and, with great difficulties, have formed different caravans, mainly of young men and women, as well as children and seniors. Since October 13, they have headed for the southern border of the U.S. Empire. An estimated 6,000 people make up this first caravan.
In response, the head of the empire is threatening the puppet president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and intimidating these migrant groups whom he treats as criminals. He will send his army to bring order to the borders. But these immigrants no longer care and are determined to confront the system that has put them in a life-and-death situation.
There is no doubt that this massive mobilization has repercussions in US politics. It is seen as a symptom of weakness on the part of President Donald Trump, in the face of the November elections (for the Senate and House of Representatives) because he is unable to stop the advance of these caravans of migrants, mainly from Honduras.
These massive social mobilizations have already overwhelmed people, organizations, and political parties. The lesson that can be drawn is that society can no longer put up with the exploiting, corrupt, discriminatory, and oppressive capitalist system.
The government is now trying to deactivate the organization of many other caravans and has made free bus transportation home available in Guatemala and Mexico. It promises to give work to people who leave the caravans and wish to return to Honduras. But what is happening is that every day new groups of people are being formed who will be following the same route as the first in new caravans.
This shows the need for the masses to fight for a more just society in favor of the oppressed, and for this to be prepared politically to put an end to this system and to build a more just system that serves the interests of society. That is the communist system that will put an end to private property and provide its inhabitants with all the means of collective production to meet the needs of society as a whole.
—Comrades in Honduras
“So many people in South Africa are open to communist ideas”
I joined ICWP 3 years ago at one of the international conferences held here in South Africa. I was invited to a meeting by comrade M, about whom I didn’t know much, apart from the fact we are from the same street and we support the same soccer team.
I was introduced to the Red Flag. I read it without much understanding. It was at the meeting after I was given Mobilize the Masses for Communism that I got the sense of what ICWP was and what communism really was. What most of us knew about communism is what the Soviet Union was, but as the comrades clarified what they were fighting for, I was inspired and I agreed with what they were saying.
Not all of it, especially “the world without money.” It was so foreign to me that I didn’t even think it was a possibility. But with deeper understanding of the material basis of capitalism as I continued with attending other meetings, I realized this communist world comrades mobilize is achievable.
Ever since then I have been part of the collective and struggle to mobilize the masses in South Africa. We have had success, failures, but most importantly we continue to learn from both of these experiences. We have grown to have three collectives in Port Elizabeth: the youth collective, workers’ collective and the Zwide neighborhood collective. We have been able to make contacts with mine workers in Marikana who continue to receive the Red Flag.
We have established contacts in a university in Cape Town, though the work here has been relatively slower than we would’ve liked. Nonetheless, we have made contacts with 3 students. One of them, from Lesotho, is definitely keen on joining the party. Last time he went home, he went with 50 Red Flags. He said he would distribute and he is on ICWP members’ group on Whatsapp. We have also established contacts with students in a University (Port Elizabeth).
We have challenges or weaknesses. We have made contacts with so many people in South Africa who are open to communist ideas. Our weakness is we have not been able to make follow up and consolidate those contacts we have made. This remains one of the pressing issues we are struggling with and trying to improve upon. Ever since the May Day we have made progress on it though it remains a challenge because we know we can do more.
—Comrade in South Africa
South Africa—industrial workers reading Red Flag