Tag Archives: Women

Sexual Violence and the Greek Left

Greece women protesters
Trigger Warning: Discussion of Sexual Violence
Looking toward Greece and Egypt as advanced sectors of the world proletariat in high levels of political struggle, we see that sexual and gender contradictions amongst the revolutionary masses inevitably surface. Situated in the US in a non-revolutionary context, we are wise to pre-empt the organizational and political antagonisms prompted by contradictory strata amongst the proletariat. In dealing with the principle gender contradiction of heterosexuality, reproductive rights and sexual violence against women rank as fundamental issues around which multi-gender revolutionary organization must fight. While the left must respond to issues with mass resonance and cannot manufacture movements, it must be ready to commit when conditions arise. It seems that in Greece, the time is overdue for the left to grow the pro-women dimension of their struggle. In this regard they can learn from recent Developments in Egypt. 
 
In the US, where no mass movement of any type currently exists, let alone a mass feminist, women’s, and/or queer one, leftists must be steadfast in marginalizing misogynistic behaviors and individuals from its ranks and developing mechanisms for accountability and transformation of people who betray backward gender politics and personalities. Places like Greece and Egypt are glimpses into our own future, if our class is to arise in intransigence. Lets study our gendered destiny more closely, as we continue to scrutinize the overtly political aspect of struggle against the capitalist state. 

Sexual Violence and the Greek Left

by Mhairi McAlpine

As anyone who reads this blog, particularly the updates from Greece will know, this is incredibly difficult time in the country’s history.  The veil of democracy which hides an authoritarian and despotic government is threadbare, and the rise of an openly fascist party, combining thuggery on both the streets and in the parliament makes for a dangerous environment for left activists.  In such conditions there is a temptation to sideline internal issues within left organisations in the interests of challenging the issues at hand, but the rise of Chysti Avgi didn’t come from nowhere, it tapped into regressive social ideologies within Greek society, which passed under the radar before the crisis and which the Greek government has capitalised on.

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Classroom Struggle with their latest Newsletter!

The TEACH Committee (formerly Occupy Oakland Education Committee) has been in existence since Nov. 2011. From their inception they have led marches for public education, created & circulated curriculum with class struggle content, built resistance to rampant union busting by Oakland Unified School District, and led an occupation of a shuttered elementary school from which they ran a free People’s School summer program.  This committee, composed of unionized and non-unionized educators, organize independently from hierarchical institutions (namely unions) while also intervening within unions to advance the struggle for quality public education.
They offer their 4th and latest Newsletter which is now called Classroom Struggle. This publication is comprised of articles on: the decision behind the name change, the effect recent elections had on public education in Oakland, the importance of contracts for education workers, analysis of teacher strikes in Sri Lanka and Namibia, and an after-school worker experiential piece. All these articles appear on this committee’s blog —  classroomstruggle.org (formerly education4the99).  Issues 1-3 are also archived as well education struggle articles from around the web. Thanks and ALL POWER to the PROLETARIAT!
Please Print and Distribute!

Power to the Women and Therefore the Class: Bread and Roses / Pan y Rosas

Many women of a feminist and marxist perspective are gathering this weekend to educate  each other and build solidarity/community amongst each other. We give a shout out to them all and must say that we are inspired by this crucial work. Power to the Women and Therefore the Class!

Determining a program for women’s liberation that can actually be into practice is no easy task. AS has been trying to figure it out throughout our short history as a collective. One thing has injected a fair amount of insight, a concrete manifestation of many of the theoretical conclusions we had started to come to grips with. That is the internationalist socialist women’s organization, Pan y Rosas.

A comrade of ours visited Argentina a while ago and ever since her return has been agitating AS around the politics of Pan y Rosas (Bread and Roses). So far, we are very impressed, and even though their strategy leans more toward the electoral than we think is merited, we have profound respect for their application of theory to practice which focuses on the women sector of the working class without embracing a “sectoralist” perspective that divides this work from that of the male sector.

PyR is an all-women’s socialist group connected to a Trotskyist party, the Partido de Trabajadores Socialistas (Socialist Workers Party). In extremely patriarchal countries like Argentina and Mexico where reproductive rights are nearly non-existent and femicide is a huge and growing problem, PyR has implanted itself within factories and other workplaces to build women’s agency as workers and as women. They resist the boss and the state, in the process defying established gender norms and building women’s solidarity rooted in Third World reality.

Women are the majority of the paid proletariat, and most of the time, they are unpaid workers in the home (“the proletariat of the proletariat”). PyR sees women’s oppression in its totality, fighting patriarchy in all its manifestations without falling down that slippery slope of stage-ism wherein the primary task of feminism is perceived to be settling the score with men of their class, as a precondition to fighting the enemy shared by all genders: capital. Let’s hope that their male comrades are not abstaining from the struggle for women’s liberation under the false notion that according to the principle of “self-determination” only those directly effected by a particular form of oppression have a right or duty to fight against it.

PTS, the multi-gender trotskyist party, has its own video/news network called TV PTS  set up and has covered much of Pan y Rosas’ activism. In this video, a media mogul, Ricardo Fort, meets the resistance of his mostly woman workforce. He is also the owner of a factory where most of the workers are women who face terrible conditions and sexual harrassment. This patriarchal capitalist going down!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aqw5wNxmSrM

more PyR in action:

And finally, here is a response to the Pan y Rosas program by our comrade Sasha Yanga. Translation of program and this reflection to come in dedicated post, we just couldn’t wait to big up Pan y Rosas and put it out there that AS is engaging feminism from a proletarian perspective:

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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

To the Budget Cut Movement: No More Ignoring State Violence

by Rebelde

The anti-budget cut movement and struggle for public education in California over the last year has inspired worldwide resistance, and has brought in a lot of new people who have never organized or been political before. The March 4th movement provided an outlet for people to get involved and educate themselves about the budget cuts; it also created a base to build off for the next cycle of struggle. Since March 4th conferences have gone down and a new date for mass action has been picked: October 7th… but will October 7th be qualitatively different than March 4th? Will more sectors of society be brought in? Will struggle deepen and become more militant? As the economic crisis deepens and affects more and more people internationally, there is a real need for a militant perspective examining why the budget cuts are happening, who is causing them, and who is suffering from them.
So far the education sector has largely lead resistance to the cuts, on college campuses specifically, but these cuts go far beyond the universities. It is not just education that is being destroyed; social services, such as free and/or affordable healthcare are being cut; there are massive foreclosures and a lack of affordable or public housing; unemployment remains high. Anyone can see that these cuts aren’t just affecting students, but the working-class as a whole. While all these cuts are happening in the public sector the top corporations and banks were immediately bailed out by the Federal Government as soon as their financial instruments evaporated in the bubble pop. If it wasn’t clear to you before that this system was based off of exploitation and a class divide between the rich and the poor, massive bailouts to the capitalists and bankers while we are left to struggle for the basic necessities of life should make it clear.

Police attack people protesting the racist murder of Oscar Grant. - July 9th, 2010, Oakland

These budget cuts are also occurring during a time period of massive state violence to communities of color and queer people; the passage of the anti-immigration bill SB 1070 is causing and supporting more profiling of immigrant populations and ICE raids; the Oscar Grant movement has exposed the police’s continual assault against Black women and men that stems from the days of slavery; and there is consistent harassment and murder of queer and gender oppressed people. Is a budget cut struggle solely confined to defending education enough to really fight the cuts and the crisis? Is it enough for the people most affected by it to be brought in? No. We need a larger analysis that identifies the true enemy, the capitalist system, which relies on other systems of oppression (patriarchy, racism, & homophobia) to target and discipline people of color, women, and queer folks to keep divisions within the class that makes uniting and resisting harder.

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feminism through class struggle

USAflynnElizabeth Gurley Flynn is one of the most important labor leaders in American history and helped lead the Bread and Roses strike when she was only 23 years old. This strike had 30,000 immigrant workers, mainly women, who struck against horrific conditions and political oppression against other wobblies.

http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/5202/rebelgirl.html

Calcutta Sex Workers March on May Day

Here’s a report (with video) discussing the recent May Day Protest in Calcutta where sex workers marched demanding the legalization of sex work.

India May Day

The question of sex work is touchy in general, but amongst the Left and Feminists in particular.  There are groups denouncing those who seek de-criminalization of sex work in the Bay Area due to the entanglement of human trafficking which they claim goes unchecked if sex work is decriminalized.

These Indian sex workers are demanding the right to be able to earn a legal wage in return for their work.  If they were to get this, wouldn’t it represent a more accessible terrain for class struggle on their part?