Why this Campaign and what we want to Achieve with it.
The need for the “Against Exploitation and Oppression: A Women’s Movement for Us!” campaign became evident after analysing the so-called feminist movement today, principally in our region. Our criticism of this supposed movement begins with a major contradiction. On the one hand, we see the apparent victorious celebration of feminism everywhere in liberal bourgeois society: in the bourgeois education system, coming from banks and even in retailers such as H&M. On the other hand, the feminist movement in Germany and most other imperialist countries absolutely fails to offer women*, especially the most oppressed women, the support and political empowerment they need to stand up and claim concrete victories against the patriarchy today. These two contradicting aspects must first be understood separately before proposing our campaign as a way forward.
* By woman, we imply the Marxist definition of the term, meaning a socially-constructed category having developed with class society. This historical-materialist conception rejects the vulgar notions of gender and biological sex.
In class society everyone lives as a member of a particular class, and every kind of thinking, without exception, is stamped with the brand of a class.
– Mao Zedong, On Practice (1937)
Mainstream “Feminism”: Patriarchy in Disguise
Upon analysing the widespread phenomenon of “pop feminism” in Marxist terms, which means to analyse it in terms of its actual social role in the production and reproduction of capital on the terrain of class society, it becomes evident that it is essentially the most superficial manifestation of bourgeois, liberal “feminism”. Within this “feminism”, the principal measure of progress is the position of women generally, regardless of class, within bourgeois institutions. Even in these restricted terms, there is a very long way to go, however even such a narrow victory is only relevant for a small elite of predominantly white women. Proletarian women will continue to be especially exploited as proletarian women because that is what capitalism-imperialism by nature does: systemically produce and reproduce vulnerable groups in the proletariat, semi-proletariat and peasantry worldwide to enable maximum exploitation and thereby maximum profit and accumulation.
Practically, liberal feminism offers to a small section of privileged women the chance to integrate into the top of various institutions of patriarchal imperialism as tokens of progress, while at the bottom of the same patriarchal, imperialist system, women of the working class and oppressed nations continue to face increasingly precarious conditions, harassment and violence. This imperialist dynamic finds its most extreme expression at the front lines of anti-imperialist struggles, where the imperialists and their running dogs have proven their readiness to systematically use rape, murder and even forced sterilisation against women who get in the way of potential profits. However, it is clear that the resistance of oppressed women cannot be forever held at bay. For this reason there is liberal feminism as a cynical response of the ruling class to the tireless struggle of women for liberation. In recent decades, the imperialists have decided to promote women among their own ranks, be it in the State and its various parties, their institutions of ideological training such as the universities, in corporate hierarchies and even the in military. Now every woman with sufficient privileges can find a place within this patriarchal system side-by-side with men and find a role in harassing women on welfare, reproducing patriarchal ideology, exploiting women workers or even assaulting other women under military occupation. When understood on a global level, it becomes evident that mainstream, liberal feminism is in fact no feminism at all, but merely an instrument for the integration of a minority of women’s neoliberal interests into a stronger patriarchal imperialism. Practically, its purpose is to break international and working-class solidarity in the women’s movement by appealing to the particular interests of predominantly white bourgeois and petty-bourgeois women to further secure maximum profits.
The Crisis of Feminist Activism
However, the above is only one end of the so-called “feminist movement” today. There is a better side that consists of small groups of dedicated, morally-motivated activists looking to raise the level of the movement beyond liberal feminism to criticise the system that we live in. Against mainstream bourgeois feminism we face an enemy, whereas with the activist scene, we struggle with well-intended individuals lacking the class-perspective necessary for critical thinking and making change.
History shows us that the women’s movement has only ever been capable of transforming society when rooted in the broader workers’ movement, in which it took a leading role in the most brilliant chapters of human history, such as the Russian Revolution or the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Unfortunately, since those times, the development of feminism in the imperialist centers has taken a long and winding path through “radical feminism” and then “post-modern feminism” (as well as other less significant trends) to cut itself off from the working-class movement. Although radical and post-modern feminism have major differences, with the latter developing partly out of criticisms of the former, they share two practical aspects: gender-separatism and the retreat into the universities. The powerlessness of feminist activism today is largely the result of these two factors.
Although gender-separatism peaked in the heyday of radical feminism, it has survived as a dogma in feminist organising. Of course, the women’s movement must consist of women, but it must also concretely connect with the struggles of the working class and oppressed nations to be a relevant force in the era of imperialist capitalism. Patriarchal oppression emerges from the mode of production. To simply see men as the source of the patriarchy and to organise on that basis points to a very superficial understanding of patriarchy.
Gender-separatism has combined with the steady retreat of feminism into the universities to make feminism even more powerless. When the women’s movement is connected to the international struggle of the proletariat, we see women organising themselves, striking and taking up arms. Even in the time of radical feminism, the level of militancy and daring was still relatively high. With the retreat into the universities and disconnection from the working class complete, the inevitable cementing of activists’ consciousness as petty-bourgeois further changed their practices and goals. Whether it is openly admitted or not, the principal work of the gender-separatist, student-centric feminist activism of today is effectively limited to creating “safe space” for women. Organising revolves around the creation of various safe spaces either on campuses or among mostly students tied to some campaign for a progressive reform. Not surprisingly, these efforts lack the mass mobilisation to win the reform and all that happens is safe space. Safe space is a legitimate need for women surviving under the patriarchy, but its limits and side-effects cannot be overlooked; there is no safe space for the Bangladeshi woman garment worker wondering when the factory is going to collapse over her head, for the Indian woman who had a hysterectomy to prevent getting raped when at work harvesting sugar cane, or for the Palestinian woman who has to undergo harassment multiple times by armed occupiers every time she needs to run her errands. Under the violently patriarchal State and imperialism, there exists no real safe space for any woman in the world except for those secured at the top echelons of the ruling capitalist class. Only privileged, mostly white, petty-bourgeois student activists can afford themselves the illusion that they are really creating something safe for women at the cost of turning their backs to the brutal reality faced by mostly women of colour belonging to the working class and oppressed nations. To stand up for these ignored women is the least safe thing an activist can do; it is to dive into the life and death struggle against imperialism.
Gender-separatism and the retreat into the universities have succeeded in disconnecting feminist activism from the majority of the women that it claims to be fighting for and made it into something that is there mainly for its own activists and their subculture. They have removed feminism from the struggles of the working class and oppressed nations and put it in a petty-bourgeois setting ignorant of the reality of imperialism, its effect on women and the revolutionary necessities for its defeat. By this means, feminist activism finds itself in a crisis: at best, it demands some progressive reforms from the patriarchal, imperialist State, but since it is in no position to appeal to the masses of women for the struggle, it fails. At the same time, it strengthens the tendency against international and working-class solidarity established by liberal feminism due to its petty-bourgeois perspective. Both these streams end up subordinated to neoliberalism, as neither have even the imagination to make anything more than economic demands that suit the interest of a minority of women on the global scale, all while denying the reality of class. Even when the fundamental rights of women are threatened, the activist response is usually limited to the immediate struggle rather than connecting and coordinating with the womens’ movement internationally for some long-term revolutionary vision.
A Fresh Start
Based on this assessment, there is little to salvage from the feminist movement in the FRG today. Perhaps some activists critical of petty-bourgeois ideas in the movement would eventually initiate a revolutionary project, but to sit and wait for this to happen would be a disservice to our class. The counter-revolutionary gains of revisionism and neoliberalism have cemented anti-working-class ideas everywhere, including in feminism, and they will not go away by themselves. The only solution is to build a new movement with a political line relevant to women who want revolution, namely working-class women and women from oppressed nations. For these women, there is no feminist movement in the FRG.
The first necessity for this project is to dare to be concrete; to dare to openly say who are friends and who are enemies, to dare to have clear revolutionary goals and to take the concrete steps to achieve them. The ambiguity of abstract radical phraseology and big-tent movementist politics serves only as a hiding place for anti-working-class opportunists looking to eliminate any proletarian position.
So let us be concrete: the core of the new women’s movement must be working-class women and women of oppressed nations. In the socio-economically segregated FRG, virtually all women of oppressed nations are proletarian and make up its most exploited section. These women had to leave their countries principally due to imperialism to come to the FRG to do the worst paying jobs that no one wants to do. These women are the revolutionary core around which the entire class can be mobilised. To fail to anchor the movement among these women means to have no mass base for class-consciousness and this inevitably leads to alienation from the masses and back into incorrect petty-bourgeois ideas. Therefore one class-conscious working class woman is worth 100 students! With these women, we also have an immediate connection to oppressed nations and their struggles here and abroad. This serves as a base for the development of proletarian internationalism and eventual anti-imperialist work coordinated with revolutionary women and men abroad.
The enemy is clear: imperialism; the highest stage of capitalism and the eve of social revolution. No one understands the concrete meaning of these words more than proletarian women. They experience the moribund state of capitalism everyday through a life marked by hard work and pathetic pay with usually no break at home either. Often enough, they also know what it is like to face imperialist violence and to be treated as lesser human beings wherever they go. Their allies in the struggle are all those prepared to fight against imperialism, including men, whereas the enemy imperialist camp has no shortage of women. Gender is not a line of separation between friend and enemy; whoever sides with the imperialist bourgeoisie is the enemy. Proletarian women do not even have the time to be fooled by the enemy imperialist State and its lying Parties promising reforms for them. They know too well that in this social order, they are at the bottom and are left feeling totally powerless.
To activate the great revolutionary potential of proletarian women, we must not waste their time with anymore deceptions. We must directly help them in overcoming the political economy of poverty that keeps them too busy and too poor to take the time for political education and activity. We must serve them in their daily struggles, take on their perspective, and provide the guidance they need to see the inter-relationships in their proletarian experiences. We must teach them practical political skills so that they may empower themselves through revolutionary organisation and action. Only then can proletarian women begin to build their own organisations for mutual support, political education, revolutionary action and ultimately the seizure of power by their class.
The theory for the political education of proletarian women and the ideological basis for the new women’s movement is proletarian feminism. Proletarian feminism is the only feminism that begins with the real world situation today: imperialism. Only proletarian feminism can set out the tasks of revolutionary women in the proletarian world revolution, all the way to classless society. Proletarian feminism offers no clear road map to women’s liberation, but as a dialectical-materialist, practice-oriented theory, it offers the basis and general strategy for its continuous development through the struggle, for the struggle.
The first task for the development of this movement is the creation of proletarian feminist leadership with a sufficient ideological level, practical experience and discipline to continue building up the movement. A movement without proletarian leadership is incapable of acting in a way that raises the political level of the masses beyond the most spontaneous and economistic demands. Without leadership, there is no clear strategy, goal or even coherence. Tailism and the dying out of the spontaneous movement are inevitable. Only proletarian feminist leadership can go to the masses, concentrate their ideas and grievances, and return to them with a clear plan relevant to the masses. Thus we must first appeal to the most advanced women of our class, activate them politically and struggle with them ideologically to produce a first generation of revolutionary proletarian feminist leadership to carry forward the women’s movement.
“Against Exploitation and Oppression: A Women’s Movement for Us!”: Uniting the Proletarian Feminist Vanguard
Through the “Against Exploitation and Oppression: A Women’s Movement for Us!” campaign, we plan on gathering potential proletarian feminist leadership out of two largely overlapping groups: working class women and women from oppressed nations. For working class women, propaganda must reflect their working class life, identify them as belonging to the working class and make the connection to capitalism as a system of exploitation. For women from oppressed nations, propaganda must communicate the reality of imperialism in a way that they can relate it to their own experience of oppression. From our social investigation, anti-imperialist ideas have shown to be also very widespread among working class women and men not from oppressed nations. This means explicit anti-imperialism is also an advanced but appropriate starting point for political engagement with the masses generally.
With the correct mass base and corresponding politics, we avoid the pitfall of reproducing the problem characteristic of so much feminist activism today: developing alienated groups of privileged, middle-class, mostly white women stuck in petty-bourgeois thinking, who cannot do anything more than beg the patriarchal, imperialist State for some nice reforms. Feminism must stop being a thing of privilege, it must become proletarian and a real political force by rooting itself in the masses of women and taking a leading role in the world proletarian revolution.
The “Against Exploitation and Oppression: A Women’s Movement for Us!” campaign will be long, intense and consist of many phases. Its goals are clear:
1. To take the active initiative through mass work to politically activate working class women at every opportunity.
2. Develop roots among working class women by being present where they live and directly supporting them with their struggles and the challenges of the political economy of poverty.
3. Development and defence of the proletarian feminist line against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois “feminisms”.
4. Build the foundations, namely the leadership, for future proletarian feminist organising.
DEATH TO IMPERIALISM AND THE PATRIARCHY!
LONG LIVE PROLETARIAN FEMINISM!
LONG LIVE THE PROLETARIAN WORLD REVOLUTION!