What Marxists Should Learn from Black Feminists

I’ve been reading This Bridge Called My Back, and re-reading the Combahee

women of color against bourgeois pigs

women of color against bourgeois pigs

River Collective’s statement, which is known for its important contribution towards an intersectional understanding of the Race/Gender/Class triad of oppression.  Their take on the racialized and gendered nature of class is right on:

We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.

They also self-identify as socialists:

We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses . . . We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation.

These women had a nuanced view of what socialist revolution should be about.  Many in the marxist movement absolutely miss what these black feminists hit squarely on the head – that the revolution is about one class against another, but that this revolution is meaningless if oppressions & contradictions within the class (racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc) are not dealt with.

On the one hand, there are those who focus entirely on a seemingly race-less and sex-less “working class” being pitted against the bosses.  Included here are many trotskyist & anarchist formations.

On the binary opposite side of the spectrum are those who focus on the oppression of “people” and how these “people” (presumably class-less black people, women, queers, students, etc) will be those who make the revolution.  Included here are mostly maoist formations . . .

On yet another hand, those who do acknowledge and uphold the intersectional approach often lack a revolutionary strategy & program for making revolution, and focus mostly on the experiences and identities of oppressed groups (women of color, queer, etc).  Often times these intersections are like linear lines criss-crossing at fixed locations, with little said about the historical evolution of these simultaneous oppressions, and how they developed out of each other.  Many of this persuasion may be found in academia, or in non-profit organizations.

What are we left with?  A pretty empty vacuum of revolutionary politics.  A sad state to say the least.

So, what’s the challenge?

To develop a strategy, theory, program, and organization which speaks to the experiences of all oppressed people, and which sees the ending of oppression as a class struggle – with the all-important caveat that this class struggle be full of color, gender, and sexuality – but a class struggle nonetheless and not some struggle of abstract, utopian, class-less “revolutionary people.”

The piece “Sex, Race & Class” by Selma James speaks more to the organic intersections of the triad of oppression, and is a good complement to the Combahee River Collective’s classic statement.  Enjoy 😉

-L.

The Combahee River Collective Statement

Combahee River Collective

We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974. [1] During that time we have been involved in the process of defining and clarifying our politics, while at the same time doing political work within our own group and in coalition with other progressive organizations and movements. The most general statement of our politics at the present time would be that we are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression, and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives. As Black women we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.

We will discuss four major topics in the paper that follows: (1) the genesis of contemporary Black feminism; (2) what we believe, i.e., the specific province of our politics; (3) the problems in organizing Black feminists, including a brief herstory of our collective; and (4) Black feminist issues and practice.

1. The genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism

Before looking at the recent development of Black feminism we would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women’s continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation. Black women’s extremely negative relationship to the American political system (a system of white male rule) has always been determined by our membership in two oppressed racial and sexual castes. As Angela Davis points out in “Reflections on the Black Woman’s Role in the Community of Slaves,” Black women have always embodied, if only in their physical manifestation, an adversary stance to white male rule and have actively resisted its inroads upon them and their communities in both dramatic and subtle ways. There have always been Black women activists—some known, like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frances E. W. Harper, Ida B. Wells Barnett, and Mary Church Terrell, and thousands upon thousands unknown—who have had a shared awareness of how their sexual identity combined with their racial identity to make their whole life situation and the focus of their political struggles unique. Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters.

A Black feminist presence has evolved most obviously in connection with the second wave of the American women’s movement beginning in the late 1960s. Black, other Third World, and working women have been involved in the feminist movement from its start, but both outside reactionary forces and racism and elitism within the movement itself have served to obscure our participation. In 1973, Black feminists, primarily located in New York, felt the necessity of forming a separate Black feminist group. This became the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO).

Black feminist politics also have an obvious connection to movements for Black liberation, particularly those of the 1960s and I970s. Many of us were active in those movements (Civil Rights, Black nationalism, the Black Panthers), and all of our lives Were greatly affected and changed by their ideologies, their goals, and the tactics used to achieve their goals. It was our experience and disillusionment within these liberation movements, as well as experience on the periphery of the white male left, that led to the need to develop a politics that was anti-racist, unlike those of white women, and anti-sexist, unlike those of Black and white men.

There is also undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives. Black feminists and many more Black women who do not define themselves as feminists have all experienced sexual oppression as a constant factor in our day-to-day existence. As children we realized that we were different from boys and that we were treated differently. For example, we were told in the same breath to be quiet both for the sake of being “ladylike” and to make us less objectionable in the eyes of white people. As we grew older we became aware of the threat of physical and sexual abuse by men. However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening.

Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression. The fact that racial politics and indeed racism are pervasive factors in our lives did not allow us, and still does not allow most Black women, to look more deeply into our own experiences and, from that sharing and growing consciousness, to build a politics that will change our lives and inevitably end our oppression. Our development must also be tied to the contemporary economic and political position of Black people. The post World War II generation of Black youth was the first to be able to minimally partake of certain educational and employment options, previously closed completely to Black people. Although our economic position is still at the very bottom of the American capitalistic economy, a handful of us have been able to gain certain tools as a result of tokenism in education and employment which potentially enable us to more effectively fight our oppression.

A combined anti-racist and anti-sexist position drew us together initially, and as we developed politically we addressed ourselves to heterosexism and economic oppression under capItalism.

2. What We Believe

Above all else, Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s may because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever consIdered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, Indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western hemisphere. We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.

This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.

We believe that sexual politics under patriarchy is as pervasive in Black women’s lives as are the politics of class and race. We also often find it difficult to separate race from class from sex oppression because in our lives they are most often experienced simultaneously. We know that there is such a thing as racial-sexual oppression which is neither solely racial nor solely sexual, e.g., the history of rape of Black women by white men as a weapon of political repression.

Although we are feminists and Lesbians, we feel solidarity with progressive Black men and do not advocate the fractionalization that white women who are separatists demand. Our situation as Black people necessitates that we have solidarity around the fact of race, which white women of course do not need to have with white men, unless it is their negative solidarity as racial oppressors. We struggle together with Black men against racism, while we also struggle with Black men about sexism.

We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialists because we believe that work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses. Material resources must be equally distributed among those who create these resources. We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and anti-racist revolution will guarantee our liberation. We have arrived at the necessity for developing an understanding of class relationships that takes into account the specific class position of Black women who are generally marginal in the labor force, while at this particular time some of us are temporarily viewed as doubly desirable tokens at white-collar and professional levels. We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.

A political contribution which we feel we have already made is the expansion of the feminist principle that the personal is political. In our consciousness-raising sessions, for example, we have in many ways gone beyond white women’s revelations because we are dealing with the implications of race and class as well as sex. Even our Black women’s style of talking/testifying in Black language about what we have experienced has a resonance that is both cultural and political. We have spent a great deal of energy delving into the cultural and experiential nature of our oppression out of necessity because none of these matters has ever been looked at before. No one before has ever examined the multilayered texture of Black women’s lives. An example of this kind of revelation/conceptualization occurred at a meeting as we discussed the ways in which our early intellectual interests had been attacked by our peers, particularly Black males. We discovered that all of us, because we were “smart” had also been considered “ugly,” i.e., “smart-ugly.” “Smart-ugly” crystallized the way in which most of us had been forced to develop our intellects at great cost to our “social” lives. The sanctions In the Black and white communities against Black women thinkers is comparatively much higher than for white women, particularly ones from the educated middle and upper classes.

As we have already stated, we reject the stance of Lesbian separatism because it is not a viable political analysis or strategy for us. It leaves out far too much and far too many people, particularly Black men, women, and children. We have a great deal of criticism and loathing for what men have been socialized to be in this society: what they support, how they act, and how they oppress. But we do not have the misguided notion that it is their maleness, per se—i.e., their biological maleness—that makes them what they are. As BIack women we find any type of biological determinism a particularly dangerous and reactionary basis upon which to build a politic. We must also question whether Lesbian separatism is an adequate and progressive political analysis and strategy, even for those who practice it, since it so completely denies any but the sexual sources of women’s oppression, negating the facts of class and race.

3. Problems in Organizing Black Feminists

During our years together as a Black feminist collective we have experienced success and defeat, joy and pain, victory and failure. We have found that it is very difficult to organize around Black feminist issues, difficult even to announce in certain contexts that we are Black feminists. We have tried to think about the reasons for our difficulties, particularly since the white women’s movement continues to be strong and to grow in many directions. In this section we will discuss some of the general reasons for the organizing problems we face and also talk specifically about the stages in organizing our own collective.

The major source of difficulty in our political work is that we are not just trying to fight oppression on one front or even two, but instead to address a whole range of oppressions. We do not have racial, sexual, heterosexual, or class privilege to rely upon, nor do we have even the minimal access to resources and power that groups who possess anyone of these types of privilege have.

The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist. As an early group member once said, “We are all damaged people merely by virtue of being Black women.” We are dispossessed psychologically and on every other level, and yet we feel the necessity to struggle to change the condition of all Black women. In “A Black Feminist’s Search for Sisterhood,” Michele Wallace arrives at this conclusion:

We exists as women who are Black who are feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle—because, being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world. [2]

Wallace is pessimistic but realistic in her assessment of Black feminists’ position, particularly in her allusion to the nearly classic isolation most of us face. We might use our position at the bottom, however, to make a clear leap into revolutionary action. If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.

Feminism is, nevertheless, very threatening to the majority of Black people because it calls into question some of the most basic assumptions about our existence, i.e., that sex should be a determinant of power relationships. Here is the way male and female roles were defined in a Black nationalist pamphlet from the early 1970s:

We understand that it is and has been traditional that the man is the head of the house. He is the leader of the house/nation because his knowledge of the world is broader, his awareness is greater, his understanding is fuller and his application of this information is wiser… After all, it is only reasonable that the man be the head of the house because he is able to defend and protect the development of his home… Women cannot do the same things as men—they are made by nature to function differently. Equality of men and women is something that cannot happen even in the abstract world. Men are not equal to other men, i.e. ability, experience or even understanding. The value of men and women can be seen as in the value of gold and silver—they are not equal but both have great value. We must realize that men and women are a complement to each other because there is no house/family without a man and his wife. Both are essential to the development of any life. [3]

The material conditions of most Black women would hardly lead them to upset both economic and sexual arrangements that seem to represent some stability in their lives. Many Black women have a good understanding of both sexism and racism, but because of the everyday constrictions of their lives, cannot risk struggling against them both.

The reaction of Black men to feminism has been notoriously negative. They are, of course, even more threatened than Black women by the possibility that Black feminists might organize around our own needs. They realize that they might not only lose valuable and hardworking allies in their struggles but that they might also be forced to change their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women. Accusations that Black feminism divides the Black struggle are powerful deterrents to the growth of an autonomous Black women’s movement.

Still, hundreds of women have been active at different times during the three-year existence of our group. And every Black woman who came, came out of a strongly-felt need for some level of possibility that did not previously exist in her life.

When we first started meeting early in 1974 after the NBFO first eastern regional conference, we did not have a strategy for organizing, or even a focus. We just wanted to see what we had. After a period of months of not meeting, we began to meet again late in the year and started doing an intense variety of consciousness-raising. The overwhelming feeling that we had is that after years and years we had finally found each other. Although we were not doing political work as a group, individuals continued their involvement in Lesbian politics, sterilization abuse and abortion rights work, Third World Women’s International Women’s Day activities, and support activity for the trials of Dr. Kenneth Edelin, Joan Little, and Inéz García. During our first summer when membership had dropped off considerably, those of us remaining devoted serious discussion to the possibility of opening a refuge for battered women in a Black community. (There was no refuge in Boston at that time.) We also decided around that time to become an independent collective since we had serious disagreements with NBFO’s bourgeois-feminist stance and their lack of a clear politIcal focus.

We also were contacted at that time by socialist feminists, with whom we had worked on abortion rights activities, who wanted to encourage us to attend the National Socialist Feminist Conference in Yellow Springs. One of our members did attend and despite the narrowness of the ideology that was promoted at that particular conference, we became more aware of the need for us to understand our own economic situation and to make our own economic analysis.

In the fall, when some members returned, we experienced several months of comparative inactivity and internal disagreements which were first conceptualized as a Lesbian-straight split but which were also the result of class and political differences. During the summer those of us who were still meeting had determined the need to do political work and to move beyond consciousness-raising and serving exclusively as an emotional support group. At the beginning of 1976, when some of the women who had not wanted to do political work and who also had voiced disagreements stopped attending of their own accord, we again looked for a focus. We decided at that time, with the addition of new members, to become a study group. We had always shared our reading with each other, and some of us had written papers on Black feminism for group discussion a few months before this decision was made. We began functioning as a study group and also began discussing the possibility of starting a Black feminist publication. We had a retreat in the late spring which provided a time for both political discussion and working out interpersonal issues. Currently we are planning to gather together a collectIon of Black feminist writing. We feel that it is absolutely essential to demonstrate the reality of our politics to other Black women and believe that we can do this through writing and distributing our work. The fact that individual Black feminists are living in isolation all over the country, that our own numbers are small, and that we have some skills in writing, printing, and publishing makes us want to carry out these kinds of projects as a means of organizing Black feminists as we continue to do political work in coalition with other groups.

4. Black Feminist Issues and Projects

During our time together we have identified and worked on many issues of particular relevance to Black women. The inclusiveness of our politics makes us concerned with any situation that impinges upon the lives of women, Third World and working people. We are of course particularly committed to working on those struggles in which race, sex, and class are simultaneous factors in oppression. We might, for example, become involved in workplace organizing at a factory that employs Third World women or picket a hospital that is cutting back on already inadequate heath care to a Third World community, or set up a rape crisis center in a Black neighborhood. Organizing around welfare and daycare concerns might also be a focus. The work to be done and the countless issues that this work represents merely reflect the pervasiveness of our oppression.

Issues and projects that collective members have actually worked on are sterilization abuse, abortion rights, battered women, rape and health care. We have also done many workshops and educationals on Black feminism on college campuses, at women’s conferences, and most recently for high school women.

One issue that is of major concern to us and that we have begun to publicly address is racism in the white women’s movement. As Black feminists we are made constantly and painfully aware of how little effort white women have made to understand and combat their racism, which requires among other things that they have a more than superficial comprehension of race, color, and Black history and culture. Eliminating racism in the white women’s movement is by definition work for white women to do, but we will continue to speak to and demand accountability on this issue.

In the practice of our politics we do not believe that the end always justifies the means. Many reactionary and destructive acts have been done in the name of achieving “correct” political goals. As feminists we do not want to mess over people in the name of politics. We believe in collective process and a nonhierarchical distribution of power within our own group and in our vision of a revolutionary society. We are committed to a continual examination of our politics as they develop through criticism and self-criticism as an essential aspect of our practice. In her introduction to Sisterhood is Powerful Robin Morgan writes:

I haven’t the faintest notion what possible revolutionary role white heterosexual men could fulfill, since they are the very embodiment of reactionary-vested-interest-power.

As Black feminists and Lesbians we know that we have a very definite revolutionary task to perform and we are ready for the lifetime of work and struggle before us.

[1] This statement is dated April 1977.

[2] Wallace, Michele. “A Black Feminist’s Search for Sisterhood,” The Village Voice, 28 July 1975, pp. 6-7.

[3] Mumininas of Committee for Unified Newark, Mwanamke Mwananchi (The Nationalist Woman), Newark, N.J., ©1971, pp. 4-5.

THE COMBAHEE RIVER COLLECTIVE

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33 responses to “What Marxists Should Learn from Black Feminists

  1. Vivid Visionary

    Ok. I’m glad this was posted. I wanted to touch for a bit on the introduction that was written, in particular on the falsification of the Maoist position and the concept of what a revolutionary people really means.

    The Paris Commune, which I’m sure you are all familiar with and uphold, was the first socialist revolutionary attempt. Yet, the communards did not identify themselves as “workers” and on that basis build revolutionary unity. They referred to themselves as “the People” and all those opposed to the revolutionary uprising as counterrevolutionaries.

    A “revolutionary people” is not some mythological, classless group, but REAL human beings who take up the fight for human liberation. Rather than identifying as Jimmy Higgins and the spontaneity that’s bound up with, it means working people, Black people, gay people, Latino people, and all oppressed people uniting around the revolutionary politics of the proletariat. This isn’t a call for denying class and how it is interwined with other oppressions, but for a unity around overcoming all those social divisions, not uniting around one of them. When Marx (and Mao) developed the concept of the Four Alls, this was part and parcel of that concept. Because uniting around an identity, be it a worker or a Black person, can’t transcend bourgeois right and can’t struggle to achieve those Four Alls (and, consequently, communism), we need to unite around the politics of the proletariat (as the class liberating humanity). Identity politics, which is the cause of uniting around a particular social identity, doesn’t appreciate the totality of social relations and the need for a broad revolutionary movement to overcome ALL of those relations.

    In addition, we Maoists see a revolution as a class struggle, but in a somewhat different sense than the (I believe) workerist orientation embedded within AS’ politics. Let’s make this clear: a proletariat and a bourgeoisie exists. But proletarian politics and bourgeois politics have never involved the creation of two homogeneous blocs representing those politics. In other words, socialist revolution has never and will never be a question of workers vs bosses, in a world where class dynamics are far more complex, and where a revolution will undoubtedly require certain levels of broad social alliances. At one point, Marx wrote that capitalism would narrow society down to two forces: the workers and capitalists and that a revolution would by necessity be a polarization between these two forces. But, thats not what happened in the Paris Commune, Soviet Union, China, Cuba or any other social revolution claiming the mantle of working class power. What should be critically discarded has now become an article faith for many sincere revolutionaries. Yet historical experience and current reality doesn’t fit within old and tired dogmas.

    Revolutionary politics do not directly rise from economic relationships. There are levels of representation and mediation, not a mechanical, linear relation. If the world really was a case of “workers vs bosses”, and if socialist revolution took that character, then the most important (and maybe only?) class struggle would be in the workplace…between workers and bosses. Yet, don’t we regard the struggle against police brutality, against the war in Iraq, for immigrant’s rights, for universal healthcare, more inclusive education, as class struggles as well? I think so. And I think they are class struggles because they allow people, mainly working people but also those from other sectors, to challenge the system’s social relations, question it, and, engage in proletarian class struggle. And I don’t they engage in proletarian class struggle because they are workers, but because the struggle, if led correctly by revolutionary communists, comes to represent two radically different societies and two different classes: socialism and capitalism, the working class and the capitalist class. The struggle for women’s rights (and abortion), for science, and better wages/working conditions can come to be broad political struggles that people take up, based around the unity of an emancipatory politics…not a narrow workerist identity.

    Socialism is about politics, not demographics. And proletarian politics, in particular, is about the liberation of all people, not just one’s self or one’s own class. I think that vision (once again) can’t go beyond just another form of class domination and oppression. What Karl Marx identifies in the working class, as a class at the center of social production social relations, is the ability to represent itself and, in the process the universal (all of society).

    I mean, we all consider the Black Panthers as a genuinely Marxist revolutionary force in the 60s and 70s, right? And this is where I fail to understand why AS attempts to break that struggle down in terms of “workers vs bosses”, and THAT notion of class struggle. They organized the lumpen, a social group that has historically been shunned by Marxists, simply by using a stupid old dogmatic formula Marx wrote a long-ass time ago. Their struggle never took the character of workplace struggle against the bosses, but primarily against national oppression, imperialist war, socialist revolution and liberation struggles worldwide, as well as the particular conditions Black people faced as the result of their historical racial (and, if you will, national) oppression.

    This is what I have to say so far on the introduction. Now, I’m gonna sit back and read this article before I write on it. I sincerely hope the folks from AS can engage these points and not simply dismiss them under another pretense. It was frankly frustrating to see STP and the folks from FRSO putting out long comments and developing strong arguments and having the folks from this blog ranting on against them or developing responses which skirted their actual points. Let’s do this thing right.

  2. “This is what I have to say so far on the introduction”

    Yet, you actually have said nothing about about the introduction. You have set up strawmen arguments and knocked them down. Simple isn’t it?

    It’s frankly frustrating that this avoidance of arguments in favor of red herrings seems like such a regular occurrence. C’mon Vivid, engage with the introduction and what it says – there’s more in there than the sentence about maoism. Can you hang?

  3. Vivid Visionary

    Geez.

    Look, those are the two points I’ve decided to engage with so far, not only because they involve Maoism, but because they have a lot to do with how AS frames things and debates.

    If you disagree, its all dandy, but engage what I said.

  4. The contradiction is that the questions you “deal” with are addressed in the introduction:

    “On the one hand, there are those who focus entirely on a seemingly race-less and sex-less “working class” being pitted against the bosses. Included here are many trotskyist & anarchist formations.”

    Keep beating the strawman if it makes you feel better, but try to engage arguments if you’re interested in developing theory and practice.

  5. Vivid Visionary

    And, just because I don’t engage your views or articles or whatever in a manner YOU think appropriate, is no excuse to write me off.

    I’m obviously not going to write about everything, that’d take too long.

    I was asked to write a reply to my thoughts on this article, and this is what I’m beginning with. If folks can’t respond in kind to my points, I won’t waste my time.

  6. It’s not about MY preference, it’s about the objective reality of the post . . . it touches on the tendency to homogenize everything into the binary of “workers v. bosses” and then goes on to develop that further. So when you address the supposed “workerism” it’s objectively setting up a false argument.

    Just sayin.

  7. Vivid Visionary

    Yes, and I saw that. But I’m not addressing your intentions, or your motives, which are no doubt as sincere as the next radical, but on your objective politics.

    Anyways, let me address that point. It reads: “On the one hand, there are those who focus entirely on a seemingly race-less and sex-less “working class” being pitted against the bosses. Included here are many trotskyist & anarchist formations.”

    I want to make clear that I agree with this statement, but that it’s not what I’m arguing. While this comment is focused on contradictions WITHIN the working class, I’m talking about class and social alliances for socialist revolution based on the unity around communist politics. This is why I raised the issue of a revolutionary movement carried out by a revolutionary people, not simply black, white, brown, gay, etc., workers (and the workerism tied into that). I very much see that you don’t deny the other oppressions besides class and reduce things to a class struggle between a race-less and sex-less working class. But I still see that, regardless of this understanding you have, the workerism is embedded in how you downplay “revolutionary people” and the Maoist position.

    Please engage the original post.

  8. a-ha, so you’re saying that revolutions are, by definition, multi-class movements?

    This seems problematic. On the one hand it’s obvious that people who are not working class in BACKGROUND have and will continue to participate in revolutionary organizing, it’s confusing to think of how cross-class alliances will play out in the real world.

    For instance, someone coming from a bourgeois class background being won over to proletarian politics is much different than than the bourgeoisie as a whole, or even significant fractions of it, being strategically alligned with the working class.

    What strategic blocs of capitalists do you see as being allies for socialist revolution in the US? Obama? Black politicians/senators/congress folks? Owners of media (Fox, BET, NBC)? I’m seriously asking cos I can’t think of any myself, so maybe you can clarify your position on class alliances and collaboration by providing some examples.

  9. “I’m seriously asking cos I can’t think of any myself, so maybe you can clarify your position on class alliances and collaboration by providing some examples.”

    A couple of notable examples are the Paris Commune, mentioned above and the Chinese Revolution. In the commune, most of the small business owners were socialists, it was policy to respect private property, and 1/3 of the Commune Council were not considered “proletariat” at the time [the were teachers, journalists, professional politicians]. The Chinese Revolution of course were mostly peasants, but there were many workers, middle class and even former bourgeoisie involved.

    It would be wrong to call such alliances “collaboration” since they were not won over on the basis that they would have an equal say in defining strategy. The political leadership always stayed in the hands of the proletarian revolutionaries, but the goals were presented as a forward movement towards the emancipation of humanity, not a “workers” revolution, but a revolution in which all would benefit, except for those who wished to benefit disproportionately through exploitation. In fact, the Commune’s stated goal was the “Universal Republic.”

    The Russian Revolution was a different case, but it still makes the point. The Bolsheviks were able to win over some sections of the rural petty bourgeoisie, and not the urban middle classes but not for lack of trying. They ended up being an example of class vs. class, with disastrous consequences. Because they dismissed the potential of the peasantry, they expended no serious effort to organize them, allowing others to do so, like the Social Revolutionaries, sometimes with antagonistic politics. I think it’s worth re-considering how differently, and perhaps better, the chances of socialist construction would have been if they had been less economic determinist in their approach to peasantry.

    I think when we look more closely at other revolutions and revolutionary attempts we will find less homogeneity than we expect.

    “What strategic blocs of capitalists do you see as being allies for socialist revolution in the US?”

    I don’t think this question has to be answered in advance. I personally don’t see how it will shape up either, but the main point is to have an orientation that does not rule it out. What kind of alliances are possible can only be answered in the concrete moment. In the meantime we do need to build strong, independent revolutionary organizations with roots in working class lives and struggles, but also with influence and friendly relations in other sectors.

    At the moment, revolutionaries don’t have any such weight, so in any current relationship with powerful bourgeois forces, collaboration is not as great a danger as being subsumed.

    Going back a bit, the introduction made this point which I think is worth exploring: “Often times these intersections are like linear lines criss-crossing at fixed locations, with little said about the historical evolution of these simultaneous oppressions, and how they developed out of each other.” This has always been something about the intersectionality thesis that I have also found inadequate. In the book Orientals, Robert G. Lee made the point that “oriental” men were defined by their “feminine” ways which explained their subservience to power. In this way, race, gender and class didn’t intersect, they mutually defined each other.

    This is why class struggle includes these issues as vital ones, but in a society like the US, where there is some degree of social mobility, it is also the basis for class and sectoral alliances, at least tactically in the short term.

  10. Vivid Visionary

    Yes, of course.

    I think all social revolutions in human history have been attempted and succeeded with class alliances. The real issue is what class was leading that struggle. The French revolution was a bourgeois revolution, but was it really led by a homogeneous bloc of bourgeois folk? Or was it really an alliance with a huge peasantry and other sectors? The rising bourgeoisie was a tiny faction, yet it led the revolution politically and ideologically (and united millions around THAT vision of a new society). I’ll take the example of the French Revolution, Paris Commune, Soviet revolution, Chinese revolution, etc. I think these historical experiences show the lack of depth and deeply dogmatic vision that sees revolution as a struggle between two homogeneous blocs of people.

    I’m not in a position to say WHICH class alliances can give best fruit (in terms of advancing a revolutionary movement). I think that question misses the essence of my argument and is something which I can’t predict; material and political conditions in the wake of a revolutionary breakthrough or other political situation will dictate which alliances are necessary and which are not. But, as I’ve maintained, this IS a class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in terms of what vision and society is being struggled out for, rather than the sociological composition of the two sides (which will contain folks from many sections of the people even while it maintains a mostly working class/oppressed character in that sense).

    But, let’s look at the reality of the situation in the U.S. If you only attempt some form of “working class” unity, it will fail. If you can’t win over large sections of the people, such as doctors, scientists, radical intellectual, small businessmen, etc., people who not only have a form of material stake in revolution but are (most importantly) willing to fight and die for the cause, you won’t win. These people will be crucial to the rebuilding of a new society. And, in light of this, I think it’s important to point out that yes, many struggles do take up the character of antagonism between two sections of the people, even if its between two sections of working people. As a short example: Jena. The crucial importance of that struggle is how it united Black people from ALL strata, white people from different strata, and (overall) people from many different classes and sections around the question of white supremacy and racism. This POLITICAL struggle was opposed by the many chauvinist and racist white people in the South and around the US, and I think it’d be criminal to downplay its political nature (and how people rallied around politics, not an identity or demographic) to a question of uniting white workers with Black workers. Does anyone see the problem with this? I think this is where the workerist position leads, even if AS doesn’t promote this or uphold it. I think it leads to some wrong conclusions.

    I think the discussion is flowing a lot better now. Looking forward to more tomorrow.

  11. Vivid Visionary

    Oops, didn’t see Zerohour’s post till after I was done with mine.

  12. I want to retract what I said about the Bolsheviks. There was significant peasant participation and it was wrong to diminish that. I still hold that it’s true the Bolsheviks conceived of their struggle as “class vs. class”, with peasants only playing a supporting role for the workers, but the peasants did not see it that way, they saw the revolution as a means to assert their interests and exercise political power they had been historically denied, and that does matter.

  13. I want to retract my comment on the Russian Revolution. Although I still hold that a shortcoming in Bolshevik strategy is that they envisioned their revolution as “class vs. class” [Lenin being the notable exception], there was significant peasant participation and it was wrong to downplay that. Overall, the Bolsheviks considered the peasants to be a support element for the workers, peasants saw in the revolution a means to assert their interests which they had historically been denied and that does matter.

  14. This debate has been mildly interesting, but I wish it pertained to the piece above more directly. Vivid it seems like you have come into the blog space with aggression and assumptions about AS’s politics, and have started the discussion off with a Maoist vs. AS debate. It’s kinda lame you come on writing AS’s politics off as workerist before you have even read the piece. It seems like you want to come on here and make whatever point you want, how irrelevant it might be and demand that we engage with YOUR points, eventhough your points don’t address the points the article and the introduction is trying to raise. You haven’t even read the piece yet. What’s up with that?

    You dismiss AS’s politics as being workerist and assume that our definition of class struggle would be some narrow struggle between the ‘workers and the bosses’, but you are absolutely wrong. Engaging in revolutionary class struggle through homogenizing oppression and exploitation and seeing it as a struggle between the workers and bosses is incredibly narrow and does not speak to the realities of oppression that most people face, including womyn. We are trying to rebuild the classical marxist idea of class struggle so that it deals with the experiences that people face, especially womyn, who face a different kind of exploitation and oppression then the male proletariat, worker, lumpen,.ect. Violence, and sexualized violence is a daily reality for most womyn internationally, and this takes place in the home by their partners, on the streets by cops, in the workplace. Patriarchy and its current manifestation within capitalism superexploits womyn in the current international division of labor, where womyn are exploited in factories, paid less than the male proletariat, forced into sex work, and still made to do all the unwaged housework. Womyn’s oppression, especially womyn of color, is much more complex and cannot be fought by just championing the narrow idea that struggle is ONLY engaged between workers and bosses, and advocating a revolutionary program that states equal rights for all workers. Doesn’t really engage with the realities that I started to mention above, and nobody is advocating that.

    The point of this article, which I hope you have read by now is to answer these questions and forge a class struggle that doesn’t erase the particularities of race, gender, and sexual oppression in this country, but fully integrates them into a revolutionary program. But this can only be done through class struggle and connected back to the capitalist system. The capitalists have used patriarchy to help sustain capitalism through womyn’s unwaged reproductive labor, as well as to divide the working-class. Men spend more time dominating womyn, because this is what they are socialized to do, instead of uniting with them against the system. Men direct their frustrations at their womyn instead of the state. This works to the advantage of the capitalists. The same logic of sexism is used with institutional racism. The capitalists have used racist ideology to influence white workers and people to believe that the black / brown man is inferior to the white man, and therefore the white man tries to dominate the black/brown man in much the same way that the man dominates womyn. As revolutionary people we need to understand these complexities as we engage in class struggle.

  15. Vivid Visionary

    I came here with no anger at all. This discussion is going good between Zerohour, Hijole, and myself. If you’d like to contribute to that, please feel free.

    • Rebelde’s post is a contribution to the discussion of the black feminist piece as it relates to class struggle. I suggest people read and discuss her contribution, as it contains some important insights. More to come soon . . .

  16. Vivid Visionary

    Yes, I’m sure it is. But the comrade comes in an begins to make assumptions about my motives AFTER we’ve already begun a good discussion.

  17. hammer and sickness

    “Issues and projects that collective members have actually worked on are sterilization abuse, abortion rights, battered women, rape and health care. We have also done many workshops and educationals on Black feminism on college campuses, at women’s conferences, and most recently for high school women.”

    workerism???

    “The psychological toll of being a Black woman and the difficulties this presents in reaching political consciousness and doing political work can never be underestimated. There is a very low value placed upon Black women’s psyches in this society, which is both racist and sexist.”

    the above has to be considered an extremely identity politics statement, and presumably the likes of Vivid would dismiss it as a narrow self interested self absorbed example of the antithesis of proletarian/communist consciousness. presumably any petite bourgeois white maoist could reach this conclusion as easily as a black working class lesbian because he has the correct political line.

    the point the authors are making is precisely that no preceding political movement has EVER prioritized black working class women (especially queer ones). this DESPITE the fact that they represent the MOST proletarian layer of the proletariat.

    now why would all these marxists (not just maoists, but as the intro stated, trotskyists and anarchists too) fail so miserably to not only prioritize the deepest proletarian layers in their platforms/programs, but ALSO fail to politicize them, incorporate them into their ranks, and train with them to not only provide intellectual and leadership tools but LEARN from them too . . . in short, why wouldnt they approach them as intelligent human beings willing and able to struggle against their acute oppression? my answer? racism sexism, which not only fuck up our ideology and culture but create vast distances between one end of the working class and the other. the lack of organic contact, in fact the contact being experienced as hostility, is the main obstacle to a movement by and for the working class as a whole. the real “class alliance” that has to be forged is the intra-proletarian one.

    when vivid says “this IS a class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in terms of what vision and society is being struggled out for, rather than the sociological composition of the two sides” it sounds a lot like Debbs saying “socialism has nothing special to offer the negro.” the proletariat – and the most proletarian of the proletariat, let us recall, is the woman of color – has something very very special to gain from socialism, namely, exclusive right to political power (aka “dictatorship of the proletariat”).

    in the US in 2009, a revolution with the goal of establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat (remind me, is mao down with that?) will not find an ally in any other class. luckily, there this is not a complicated debate since there is basically no other class in existence in the US, let alone one that would remotely benefit from a revolution led by the proletariat in the US. most maoists i’ve talked with have a hard enough time accepting that all/most workers have a vested interest in socialism, so its always been curious to me how it is that they are able to embrace hypothetical petite bourgeois sections (small businessmen) even as they dismiss working class ones (aristocracy of labor). but that little maoist contradiction aside even our so-called “middle class” is mostly proletarianized at this point, although they are such a privileged layer of the class (commanding such high wages) that they should not be our starting point. yes the exceptional ones “motivated by great feelings of love” (che) can and do defect to our great benefit (see how non-workerist?), but generally speaking we should start with the most obvious candidates: working class women of color. first unite the advanced…

    there are obvious challenges to this, which the black proletarian woman tells us about above. we cant stall on all the other fronts (students, organized labor, immigrants, etc) until the black women mobilize, but we should listen and learn and try to build militants from the deepest section of the proletariat whenever possible. for once, they should be a priority. and quite often in US working class history, they have taken the lead, only be left alone in the cold way out front, recieving no back-up from the rest of us selfish cowards. we should be inspired by black proletarian women’s “narrowness,” not scorn it.

    a socialist movement based in the white male section working class naturally would be located spatially and in terms of the division of labor far away from the black female section. for example, why didnt the IWW organize very many blacks? not because they had racist ideology (quite the opposite), but because they were the INDUSTRIAL workers of the world, and in the early 1900s, there were basically no black industrial workers (owing to capitalist imperatives with a legacy in a slave economy). blacks were doing agricultural work, almost entirely in the south. if they were in the north, they were in homes as domestics and other informal service work.
    despite a strong commitment to anti-racism and internationalism in THEORY, practically speaking, they were a predominantly northern US white worker organization due to the demographics of the labor force accumulated around the constant capital embedded the core (north) of a core country (USA).

    “A political contribution which we feel we have already made is the expansion of the feminist principle that the personal is political. In our consciousness-raising sessions, for example, we have in many ways gone beyond white women’s revelations because we are dealing with the implications of race and class as well as sex.”

    in short, what im saying is that it is hypocritical for Vivid to go on and on about how what matters is seeing proletarian politics as a totality and to deny the value of the identity of its particulars . . . which in the case of black women workers’s experiences are actually the fundamentals (patriarchal slavery) of the bourgeois totality that we all suffer.

  18. Wow vivid what a paternalistic, power move you just made. So you get to come in here and dictate the terms of the discussion. “If you’d like to contribute to that, please feel free.” Whoa I am sorry I didn’t know I needed your permission. Also you need to check your tone. You want me to comment and contribute to your discussion on your terms and I don’t play like that. You came in here with assumptions about AS’s politics that’s all I had to say. I could really care less about your motives. But I think it is utterly foolish to comment on a piece you haven’t read at ALL, and then call AS’s politics workerist, which they are not, and this piece above us is an example of that. I wanted to expand on your accusations about our politics by ACTUALLY engaging with the piece, and raising questions about womyn’s oppression and how to engage in class struggle without falling into traps of workerist politics. What did you do to engage with the points I was making that were drawn from the blog that was posted. You didn’t engage at all you just tried to dictate what I should say and tell me how to contribute to the discussion without engaging with what I said. That is some dominating bullshit. And maybe it would do you some good to read up on patriarchy, and the points that the black feminist were making that we are trying to learn from.

    If you can’t check your aggression, and feel the need to control all the discussion and not even bother reading the points that are raised from the articles then I suggest you get out of this space.

  19. It’s interesting to see the attacks coming on against me, when Zerohour was making the exact same points here.

    So, what is this about? Me? Or the actual politics of what we’re discussing.

    And, btw, I’ve read the article, and, while I don’t think it’s pathbreaking or anything (it simply states the need to recognize the class, sex, and race as interlocking systems of oppression), I do think it raises some valid points that I will relate to soon.

    hammer and sickness said:
    “when vivid says “this IS a class struggle between the proletariat and bourgeoisie in terms of what vision and society is being struggled out for, rather than the sociological composition of the two sides” it sounds a lot like Debbs saying “socialism has nothing special to offer the negro.” the proletariat – and the most proletarian of the proletariat, let us recall, is the woman of color – has something very very special to gain from socialism, namely, exclusive right to political power (aka “dictatorship of the proletariat”).”

    What you have to say by quoting really has nothing to do with what I meant. It certainly didn’t mean that women of color have nothing to gain from socialism. On the contrary, I meant that because socialism is in the interests of the majority of humanity, we can’t confine ourselves to a narrow understanding of how revolution works.

    Obviously, a revolution in the US which does not fundamentally base itself in the struggles of Black proletarians and Latino proletarians will simply not succeed. Not because they are “special” but due to their super-exploited position within the belly of this beast. But, as I’ve emphasized in my above posts, oppressed people in struggle, in order to successfully repolarize society into a favorable revolutionary situation, will need to win over large sections of folks from other classes who are down with this radical change; broad social alliances NOT on the unity of an identity, but a political vision seeking to overcome all oppressive social relations, including the one between men and women.

  20. Cutting through the thick, there is a frustrating “lack of engagement” on the A/S posters themselves with what they’re exactly putting up here. What are we exactly learning from Black Feminists when they put forward the concept of intersectionality? What does it necessarily mean to have such a concept available – what does it say about the totality of social relations? I unfortunately find that A/S in many of its posts, like this one, rather than having a Marxist structuralist viewpoint which sees mediated social relations as totalized whole under the logic and form of capital, often take upon a instrumentalist-historicist method that always reconfirms the dead letter dogma of the class rhetoric, i.e. the logic of “in the last instance” class as determining character.

    Instrumentalist logic must always fall upon the mythological narrative of conspiracy of the Bourgeoisie, and therefore consistently impoverishes itself in its own thought. Isn’t this in fact what Rebelde’s comments show? The workers’ get divided upon the lines of identity by the “capitalist” and the boss always get richer – the “false consciousness” of the workers’ doesn’t allow themselves to see their ‘historical’ interest. And all too familiar and old line, which is why the attempt here to try to situate the concept of intersectionality and the black feminist epistemic within that line can only provide analysis which is nothing very special, its the same “Trotskyist” response which was railed against in the A/S intro, just with more attention on some particularities. Let’s also note, what we can call the “actually existing” Trotskyist groups out there already do exactly that, but maintain their class reductionist approach anyways.

    Structuralist critique is essentially opposed in one crucial way of method to instrumentalist analysis – it abstracts its problem and tries to understand the dynamics of social-relationships devoid of contingency. Only then can we map on a narrative (for Marx it was the narrative of historical materialism and the emergence of the proletariat) and begin to understand reality as concrete.

    The narrative of the Proletariat needs to be situated upon such an analysis, if its not, it merely is identity politics of another kind.

    Before going more into that thought, lets just think for a moment about what are “identity politics.” Identity politics are an expression of politics that emanates from immediate and experience of the self, or collective selves. The ‘politics’ therefore stand upon being situated within the matrix of social relations. All experiences of the people living under capitalism are valuable to us, even that of the bourgeoisie, because its from this we can understand the dimensions of all these social-relationships. Experiences are important to the lives of all people too, because they are our experiences, its how we’ve come through our own selves to understand the world and how we felt it out.

    The validity of this type of expression of politics isn’t whats at question nor which of them is better, and I don’t think that is what Vivid is trying to do either – he is criticizing, whether you think its fair or not, the elevation of identity of class as key to struggle. [Its worth noting that has seemed to been the case, hasn’t it been A/S who has consistently drapped “nationalist struggle” as ultimately bourgeois or championed the concept of “class expansionism?” Even bringing students under the frame of the identity of workers?] The question is solely, is that ever been enough? And it quite obviously hasn’t been and shouldn’t be, revolutionary politics begins with the risk of self, gambling your life for the other or as Che put it you know revolutionaries are motivated by love.

    Getting back to the Proletariat – well lets give it one thought, its already been proposed we drop it altogether…replace it with the concept of Multitude and struggle to take place within the commons. I may want to incline to agree with Hardt and Negri’s prescription solely because of the dizzy spells I get when the concept of the Proletariat merely gets a sociological reading from many Marxists – who is it, where is it, etc. Always the same exact questions that have been asked continually by the lot of American Marxists in particular, and that type of question (while practically necessary) is becoming a bit of a bore.

    I’ll submit perhaps, that rather than having a sociological character, the Proletariat is a political subject derived from the critique of capital itself. The Proletariat is important, allegorically, as a revolutionary subject because it is a particular universal; that as a “historical class,” nothing to lose (besides its attachment to life), it represents the possibility of full emancipation of all of humanity from all existing oppressive social relations.

    As Jaques Ranciere puts it, “The Proletariat are neither manual workers nor the laboring class. They are the class of the unaccounted that only exists in the very declaration they are counted as those of no account…the Proletariat is not so much a class, but a dissolution of all classes.”

    This leads me to a short statement on “the People,” why we Maoists still remain so a head of the curve and foresightful. Lets just begin with the very simple claim, there is no “people” as such, their existence is historically constituted by a political subject or in otherwords – “The United Front under the dictatorship of the Proletariat” (awkward clumsy phrase) can simply become ‘the People.’

  21. As I understand it, the concept of “workerist identity politics,” as explained by our maoist friends, says that getting people to identify as “workers” is the key to developing class consciousness amongst working class people from all racial and gender groups. Generally this is associated with class-reductionism, which is the tendency to smash every form of oppressions/experience into a simplistic schema of class structures. Class explains absolutely everything, in other words.

    The problem is that our maoist friends have tried to force arguments of folks posting on here into this pre-conceived notion of what we mean when we talk about class struggle, class consciousness, and the working class.

    Now let me try to emphasize my own position

    As STP puts it, identifying solely as a “worker” has never been enough. But nor has this ever been put forward by myself or anyone else on here. In fact, it’s impossible to identify as a “worker,” because there has never existed a raceless, sexless worker. White, industrial, male workers are fit into the international division of labor in large part due to their racial/gender/national composition, and so are working class black women.

    However, as Selma James puts it in her piece on Sex, Race & Class (which coincidentally NOT A SINGLE maoist has commented on) “To grasp the class interest when there seems not one but two, three, four, each contradicting the other, is one of the most difficult revolutionary tasks, in theory and practice, that confront us.”

    Do white male workers and black female workers in the US have a common interest in class struggle, revolution, socialism, and communism? I would argue, Yes. However, not without struggle amongst themselves as sectors of the working class – with the most oppressed having to challenge the privileged position of those at the top of the working class hierarchy.

    It’s the relation between these sectors of the class (gender, racial, citizen/non-citizen, position within the world system, etc) that constitutes the totality of class relations, and its a consciousness of one’s self within this international division of labor that is so crucial for the development of class consciousness. This is what should be understood as the importance of “class identity,” and understanding of one’s self in relation to others such that solidarity is fostered and healthy relationships of love built upon the ashes of what was formerly oppressive alienation from one another.

    Men struggling against patriarchal view towards women which denigrate them as objects, people of color building community amongst themselves, and struggling against racism with working class white folks, working class folks of all colors/genders building transnational organizational links with workers in other countries, etc. These are crucial components of a real class struggle should be about – this is what revolutionary class consciousness produces, and is produced by.

    Note that nowhere in the previous paragraph is there anything simplistic about “workers versus bosses.” But also note that all the struggles listed above are crucial components of workers struggling against bosses, and most importantly the working class struggling against the capitalist class as a whole.

    STP states: “[Its worth noting that has seemed to been the case, hasn’t it been A/S who has consistently drapped “nationalist struggle” as ultimately bourgeois or championed the concept of “class expansionism?” Even bringing students under the frame of the identity of workers?] ”

    Well, in the final analysis nationalism is ultimately bourgeois. In as much as it remains nationalism and isn’t in the process of becoming internationalism (ever read Fanon?), and in as much as it is not developing a class and gender consciousness, then it loses its progressive character – assuming it began with one.

    The idea of class expansionism? Do you even understand what is meant by this? As I understand it it’s not even a developed concept, but rather a pithy, provocative way of rejecting class reductionism while developing a more complicated and nuanced understanding of the ways in which class relations amongst people influence and in many ways determine racial/gender/sexual relations. This doesn’t happen in the mythical “last instance,” but in many instances throughout the course of any given day, in any given place.

    Students as workers? Well, yes. But not narrowly understood as seen in the comments on the student post. Students occupy a particular position within the division of labor which allows them to be, as a mexican comrade once put it, a “thermometer” of class consciousness. As students begin to move, based on their temporarily undefined position within the class structure (which can contribute to their willingness to struggle) often other sectors of the working class follow along.

    STP closes:“The question is solely, is that [class identity] ever been enough? And it quite obviously hasn’t been and shouldn’t be . . . ”

    Has what been enough? This is where your concept of workers continues to be a strawman argument. Of course no simple identity as a raceless/sexless “worker” will develop revolutionary theory & struggle. However, struggling for solidarity amongst the sections of the working class, and as a process developing a consciousness of itself as a class (and not individuals becoming conscious of themselves as abstract “workers”) is what will develop revolutionary theory, struggle, and organization. This is a painful process which involves sectors of the class struggling against patriarchy, racism, and national-chauvinism amongst themselves in order to better fight against the class enemy. This is what marxists can learn from black feminists. This is what is brought up in the analysis, and in the quotes which are pulled out, and which STP seems to have missed, unfortunately.

    “revolutionary politics begins with the risk of self, gambling your life for the other or as Che put it you know revolutionaries are motivated by love.”

    Ugh, dude, isn’t women & men struggling against patriarchy within the class, and as a crucial part of class struggle a gamble? Yes. Doesn’t it involve the development of “love”, both for self and for the other? Yes. So how is this missing from our analysis? what’s the contradiction? I think it lies in your method.

    • I just wanted to comment very quickly about “no maoists” posting on the Selma James piece. Get the fuck over yourself honestly, I mean the fucking nerve. This is a blog that I reply to based upon points of struggle, I don’t need to force comments to any post you deem worthy. Talk about posturing, I’m not going to get baited like that.

      • wasn’t meant as an insult bro, but it is true that nobody took the time to respond to that post, which IMHO is probably the post that concentrates the most points of struggle. Selma James’ piece is what inspired the term “class expansionism” in the first place, and she goes into the contradictions amongst the working class, and looks at how gender/racial oppression are organically linked to class hierarchies. Very interesting, thought provoking, and definitely worth the time to check out.

    • So I’ve got the time now to go into this attempt of patient persuasion. This “attempt” basically recalls all the arguments I laid out prior how the understanding intersectionality is still rooted into the identity rather than taking up an abstracted view of all social relations in a totality.

      In fact this understanding of intersectionality can simply change be transferred logically to any other identity and the same type of identity politics would proliferate – maybe it isn’t the “working class” who is “sexless” but its women who aren’t “classless,” just switch it all around and you can raise a meager defense as Patient Persuasion does for your type of identity-centered conception of intersectionality.

      What’s the problem? It ultimately, against the spirit of the concept of intersectionality, offers a subjective narrative on the basis of the reproduction of these social relations. What is necessary is analysis without subject, beginning at the level of abstraction to view all the structural relationships of these social relations and how they determine and influence each other.

      This response also clearly excavates an actual class reductionist line and is certainly little to no different than the theoretical line of other Trotskyist organizations like the ISO – in defending the concept of “class expansionism” and attempting to refute my criticism of class reductionism in the political line of A/S, “Patient Persuasion” ultimately signals why there is class reductionism in the work by fessin’ up to how class relations both “influence and determine” race and gender oppression. But this isn’t necessarily the case and why we should look at social relationships and their ideological field as overdetermined by each other rather than being “determined in the last instance” by class.

      Secondly, situating national oppression, women’s oppression, and oppression of queer people solely within “class heirarchies” is really nothing more than ignoring the relative independence that these types social relations have outside of class relationships – women’s oppression has been far longer historically rooted in our society than the development of capital. Homophobic and heterosexist culturally can’t be claim to be an extension of class relationships, but is ideologically rooted in the historical oppression of women.

      Probably more worrying here is that Patient Persuasion actually misuses the concept of “class heiarchies” as a way of re-situating these struggles as something that we gotta keep within our house. BUT THAT ISN’T HOW SELMA JAMES USED THE CONCEPT. Selma James used the concept in order to critique struggle that is only posited as class oriented, to the point where she declares that there can be NO Vanguard of a class because there are independent interests and aims of different segments of a class, necessitating different forms for different sections of the working class.

      In fact the point of the concept of “class heiarchies” is to not have a one house policy for struggle and is against Leninist Vanguards.

      • what does all this really mean?

      • Carlito,

        It all really means that the attempt here to understand Intersectionality fails – AtS still locates all these questions in relationship of class and not as relative dependent and independent sights of oppression and interpellation. There is no provided basis for privileging class so far over race, gender, and so on.

        It also shows that AtS didn’t actually understand the Selma James’ piece point when it spoke about class hierarchies necessitating the need for independent organizations of struggle for different sections of the working class – and rather what AtS takes from that is an “keep in the house” mentality about it.

  22. Its posturing. So what is the implication that “no Maoists” responded to the Selma James piece? The implication is very simple, by proxy of not ‘responding’ to the piece, we ourselves don’t take the piece seriously. I honestly find this kind of disgusting form of baiting.

    I had read that piece and the comment section, and maybe there is a reason there aren’t responses to it – because it immediately tries to bait and goat such a response, and the comment section really shows well because its impoverished.

  23. Pingback: What Marxists Should Learn from Black Feminists « At Home He's A Turista

  24. I like this statement, and the James piece as well. People may already know these books, but there’s some similarly good material from other parts of the 60s/70s women’s liberation movement, in the books Dear Sisters (it’s a collection of pamphlets and other movement documents) and The Feminist Memoir Project. The book Red Feminism by Kate Weigand might interest folk too, it’s more academic but it’s a history of debates on “the woman question” within the US Communist Party – I was surprised that there some really pretty good takes on gender and class there.
    Anyway, nice blog post.
    take care,
    Nate

  25. Pingback: pressed up « the wall

  26. Pingback: Clothes and language « The Fourth Dimension

  27. Pingback: Bay Area Class Struggle History: Women’s INC. & Women’s Liberation « Advance the Struggle

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