Tag Archives: organization

Race, Identity, and Solidarity in the Fight Against State Violence

Photo: 'Millions March' in Downtown Oakland

Photo: ‘Millions March’ in Downtown Oakland

December 13th and November 24th

The Millions March, a national solidarity event with the Black Lives Matter movement that took place on December 13th, compels me to address the political dynamics of that nationwide event in order to open a dialogue about the objectives and tactics of the movement.  At the beginning of the march, one of the leading speakers called on White Allies of Black people to refrain from speaking on the bullhorn and from marching at the head of the protest; the purpose of this rule was to ensure that black and brown voices were emphasized throughout the march – a theme that was present throughout the march and throughout this movement as a whole.

When we arrived at the Oakland Courthouse, the leaders urged black and brown protesters to stand together on the steps leading to the courthouse and for white protesters to remain at the bottom. When the list of speakers was over, the lead speaker of the march implied in her words that the march was over and that people should head back to the site of the initial convergence to engage in Healing Circles. As the mass of protesters began to move, a black protester announced to the marchers that the march was not over. Indeed, the majority of protesters remained on the streets of Oakland hours after the spectacle at the courthouse.

Now – let’s pause for a moment and rewind three weeks to November 24th, 2014 – the night of the non-indictment of Darren Wilson. On this night we also experienced a powerful display of black, brown and multiracial solidarity; this night, however, was slightly different than the Millions March.  People, more or less spontaneously, filled the streets the night of November 24th; during the beginning of the rally on 14th and Broadway, black protesters lead chants of “Black Lives Matter” while people danced in a circle; electricity filled the air as protesters carried out an unpermitted march from downtown Oakland to the 580 Freeway entrance on the north side of Lake Merritt; at some point in the evening, a brave group of young people took over the 580 Freeway, blocking the westward flow of traffic.  The people who carried out this first freeway blockade were a mixed racial group of people; black protesters were certainly represented in the mix, contributing to the dynamism of the action; brown, asian and white protesters also filled the gravel laden lanes of the highway.  All protesters were clear in their messaging: black lives matter, and police violence must end.

Our intention is to explore the way in which movements such as that experienced by us in the winter of 2014 can contribute to the development of a revolutionary situation in the US; further, we see the questions of racial empowerment, identity and solidarity to be of central importance in building movements against state violence and building revolutionary organizations.

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Bay Area Class Struggle History: Women INC. & Women’s Liberation

Women INC and Women's Liberation

Click here to download a 0.5MB PDF of the original article from the February 1970 issue of Radical America magazine

There has been a failure in both the women’s movement and the labor movement to provide a holistic revolutionary perspective on women’s oppression and liberation in this country. The largely white, middle class, mainstream women’s movement has neglected working class women and women of color and the particular ways race and gender impact their class position within the division of labor. A huge basis for contemporary black feminism was this lack of race and class analysis by the feminist movement. Groundbreaking pieces, such as Michele Wallace’s Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman and the Combahee River Collectives Black Feminist Statement provided an analysis of race, gender and class that was missing from both the women’s movement and the civil rights and black power movements.

The labor movement, which did have women workers in it, also failed in its analysis and demands to recognize the particular way women were exploited as women workers. Often their experiences as female proletarians were neglected through sexism and class reductionism.  Issues that women faced, such as sexual harassment, unequal pay, and job security, were ignored by union bureaucrats, organizers, and fellow male rank and file workers. When women’s involvement in labor struggles is discussed in history it is usually when they are playing supportive roles as housewives, and organizing in housewife committees and women auxiliaries. This work is important and should be historically recorded and analyzed, but this work often still reflects a gendered division of labor. Women’s role in class struggle is shown to be supporting the male proletariat by doing the necessary reproductive labor to sustain strikes. A historical account of women organizing as women workers is harder to come across, even though women have always been a part of the proletariat, and have engaged in militant class struggle.

Radical America Women Issue

Click here to download a 4.7MB PDF of the entire February 1970 women-focused issue of Radical America magazine

Below is a very important historical account of women’s liberation struggles that focuses on two bay area women organizations from the 1970’s. One is a caucus of women paper workers in a rebel union called Women Inc., which formed as a response to the union’s refusal to address the women workers’ demands and grievances; the other, Women’s Liberation evolved out of the student and racial movements as a response to the male-dominated leadership. Although both organizations came out of different demographics, Women Inc. a working class group and Women’s Liberation a middle class student group, both organizations formed on the basis of sexual identity to organize against sexism, oppression, exploitation and discrimination that permeated the labor struggles and social movements. A close study of both of these organizations will be helpful in our own analysis of the particularities of women’s oppression under global capital, and will help us as we wage revolutionary struggle for women’s liberation, and that of all oppressed people!

Please check out this rare and fresh bay area feminist history!

Women’s INC. and Women’s Liberation

Over the last few years and until recently unknown to each other, there have arisen in the Bay Area two groups of women whose goals are the end of discrimination, exploitation and oppression of women.  One is a general, the other a specific social movement. One has evolved out of the middle-class radicalizing student milieu, the other out of a rebel trade union. They have their inception in a widespread condition of unrest reflecting the cultural drift of women’s emancipation, dissatisfaction with things as they are and hopes for a new scheme or system of living. Having adopted values of equality and self-determination, women have formed new conceptions of themselves which are incongruent with the positions they occupy, their inferior social status relative to men. Some aspects of the movement strongly resemble those of nationalism. ‘Those who initiate the movement usually have had distressing personal experiences in which they have been made to feel inferior and as not privileged enough to enjoy a respectable status. Their wounded self-feelings and their desire to re-establish self-respect lead them to efforts to improve the status of the group with which they are identified.’ (1) I believe that these two groups have a far-reaching significance; that one represents the form, the other the essence of what will be a fundamental part of the socialist revolution and must be understood as such. I believe that the exploitation of women in the production and reproduction of life is a basic cause, the essence, of discrimination which in turn is a form of psychological oppression. Continue reading