Feminist Strike?

CWO Introduction

Last year we commemorated International Women’s Day by celebrating the role women played in the vanguard of the Russian Revolution exactly 100 years before (see Celebrating International Women’s Day 100 Years On at leftcom.org). Even there we found that;

working class women not only played a major part in the revolution but did so in class terms – something opposed by Russian middle class feminists in the various women’s suffrage organisations.

No-one can deny the continuing oppression of women who are now the majority of the world’s working class, and no-one can deny the appalling violence against millions of women across the world from rape to murder and female genital mutilation. However these are not just a women’s issue and this is where feminism sells women short. As we wrote in our basic document For Communism

By ignoring the division of society into classes, feminism disguises the contradiction of interests between bourgeois and proletarian women and thus reveals itself as a reactionary cul-de-sac. The struggle against the oppression of women is for us no “affair purely for women”, but, on the contrary, equally a means and a pre-condition for the production of class unity. The revolutionary organisation must take all requisite steps to ensure the full participation of as many women as possible in the communist movement. There is no socialism without the liberation of women, no liberation of women without socialism.

It is in this spirit that we offer this translation from the Spanish collective blog Nuevo Curso as a contribution to the critique of “identity politics”.

Feminist Strike?

“To accept that the working class is really a mosaic of "identities" is to take that division and perpetuate it.”

On 8 March a "feminist strike" is being called. Feminism is not about defending equality between men and women, feminism is a very specific ideology that defends the existence of a political subject, "women", that transcends social classes.

That's why, when feminism was born, it was met with a radical critique from Marxists, with Rosa Luxemburg taking the lead. The celebration of 8 March as a universal day of struggle and fraternity of the entire working class, putting working women in the forefront, came out of the battle between the left wing of the International and feminism. It was then a matter of celebrating a day of demonstrations and demands of the class as a whole on a world level, holding up as a banner the joint interests of working men and women: the attainment of universal suffrage for men and women (Feminists asked for the vote for only women from wealthy classes) and equal pay for the same work.

Today they are calling us to join a feminist strike, playing with the ambiguity between feminism as a pure vindication of equality and feminism as a political ideology. The number and diversity of participating groups and platforms does not allow us to know clearly what this "feminist strike" is meant to be about. So we must ask ourselves some questions:

Is it a women's strike? With women coming together from the Boards of Directors of the top companies, female factory and office workers, female judges, female riot police, senior female politicians and female university professors, a "women's" strike would be an inter-class activity whose only possible objective would be to affirm a political subject, "women", above and beyond social classes. The obvious logic of what feminism means as an ideology is a platform of “common interests” of the exploiters and the exploited based on their common oppression as women. The problem is that such, "common interests" are exposed by the antagonistic interests of class. The interest of the bourgeoisie as a class today is to lead society into misery and war. To find common ground with this or that part of the bourgeoisie, over oppression of any kind, places us behind banners that in the medium term will lead us into civil strife and in the long term into imperialist war.

Is it a strike by workers? The first question is whether women workers really have specific interests different from those of the working class as a whole. And the truth is that we cannot imagine what they might be. We are all the same in the eyes of capitalism that makes us a class: pieces of meat useful for generating surplus value, nothing more. The interest of the working class as a whole is to end wage labour; and the way to do that is by confronting the concrete forms of exploitation and all inequality or oppression derived from it. Whether it be precariousness, the various kinds of discrimination we have to endlessly suffer, or the culture of segregation that divides us, doing away with all that crap is in the direct interest of the whole class. It always has been and always will be.

Do precarious workers have specific interests different from those of fixed hours workers? Or from workers of different races? And those with different passports? Of course, the existence of racial, physical or administrative differences is used by capital to try to divide us by discriminating more against one or the other. Only Christianity fetishises suffering, and the more of it, the better. To accept that the working class is really a mosaic of "identities" is to take that division and perpetuate it. Is a strike of precarious workers really the best way to fight precariousness? Is a strike of workers consisting only of one race the best way to fight against racism? No. The most effective way to fight for working class interests is to unite as a class. Nothing can be gained by allowing ourselves to be divided artificially by the system that we have to fight.

Is it a strike of all the workers led by workers? The bourgeoisie loves to see the working class as a group of atomized individuals because “divide and rule” is the way they maintain their system. The evolution of feminism in the US (the "second" and "third” wave of feminism) has served to construct a very sophisticated ideology that destroys the idea of class, redefining it as a mosaic of "identities", often contradictory, and always tending to inter-classism.

To divide men and women into categories, to give each one a different role, to make classes within classes, opens a wound which the bourgeois strategy of "divide and rule" infects.

Inevitably, as we have seen in the USA, this conception of the class as "a sum of identities", born out of an academic world that always examined us like an entomologist examines a colony of insects, opens the door to the creation of mythology and blame which foments a hellish spiral of division. For example, in the USA, blaming the average worker, redefined as "uneducated white man of middle and low income", for all the horror and discrimination on which the American bourgeoisie based its power, has served to push a significant section of the working class, fed up of a left that openly despises it, into the arms of Trumpist nationalism.

Is it a "partial struggle"? The truth is that there is no such thing as "partial struggles." With the proletariat, there is no contradiction between the "immediate objective" and the "final objective." All its political manifestations, from the smallest strike to the revolution itself, are linked by a thread visible to anyone who wants to discover it: the affirmation of human needs against the logic of capital, the last possible form of exploitation. That is why communism is not an alternative organisation of the division of labour, it is the end of the division of labour; it is not the attempt to substitute one ruling class for another, it is the end of social classes; it is not a mere re-organisation of work, but the end of the slavery of wage labour ... and that is why class is not the substitution of old identities born of the needs of a splintered society - such as the nation, gender, race or the profession- but its dissolution into a single generic human identity.

What the leftists again and again call "partial" struggles are no such thing. Class struggle tends to breakdown and dissolve all the false frontiers that serve as an excuse to divide us through various oppressions. Class struggle does not separate the workers by gender or by nationality or by anything else. When these movements against oppression assert themselves, when the flag of nationalism or any other type of false front is put before the class, then it is being diluted, and with it, the only opportunity to throw once and for all this decadent system, with all its oppressions and barbarisms, into the dustbin of History.

Nuevo Curso, 3 March 2018


Thursday, March 8, 2018


désolé pour mon français, je ne peux vraiment pas m'exprimer en anglais.

Si on peut être d'accord avec le questionnement de Nuevo Curso sur la grève des femmes, l'exposé est un exemple de confusion sur le mouvement féministe.

Disons premièrement que tous les groupes de lutte populaires sont traversés d'intérêt de classe, celui des femmes aussi.

Il s'agit donc pour nous communistes, de cerner les revendications qui répondent aux besoins des personnes visées dans ces groupes de luttes.

Dans le cas des femmes, qui se battent depuis le début du capitalisme avec la déclaration des droits de l'homme en 1791 excluant les femmes; elles réclament des droits "bourgeois", droit à l'éducation, droit de vote, parité dans la représentation etc, on ne peut pas être contre cela. On ne peut que juste l'appuyer en démontrant ses limites. Être contre, c'est être contre aussi ce droit dans notre propre organisation communiste. Qui plus est, sous la dictature du prolétariat, les ménagères ne pourront pas être dirigeantes comme disait Lénine.

L'article explique que le féminisme transcende les classes sociales et c'est vrai, puisque les femmes n'ont pas le même accès aux sphères sociales, économiques et politiques que les hommes. Mais ce n'est pas une raison pour dénigrer le féminisme. Au contraire, à nous, de le décortiquer et de répondre et appuyer les droits des femmes et leurs besoins. Appuyer le droit des femmes à devenir femmes d'affaires et exploiter d'autres femmes, c'est mettre en contradiction la bourgeoisie qui leur refuse et même si ça paraît contradictoire, nous sommes dialectiques! Nous sommes capables aussi d'en dénoncer les conséquences. Appuyer la parité des femmes dans le parlementarisme bourgeois ne nous empêche pas de dénoncer le parlementarisme bourgeois!

Nuevo Curso explique que la deuxième et la troisième vague du féminisme au États-Unis a servi à construire une idéologie sophistiquée qui détruit l'idée de classe [ma traduction]. Pourtant, le féminisme noire avec Angela Davis et bell hooks mettait de l'avant aussi la notion de classe sociale. Il y a surement des critiques à faire sur le féminisme noire, mais ce n'est pas en le dénigrant qu'on va y arriver.

L'article est confus aussi en amalgamant nationalisme, racisme et identités à l'oppression des femmes. Il ne dit absoluement rien, non plus sur les revendications des femmes. Une nation est un territoire bourgeois, une femme est un être humain opprimée et fait partie de la classe ouvrière (plus 60% de la classe ouvrière dans le monde sont des femmes) et ont des besoins particuliers répondant à leur fonction de reproduction.

L'article méprise aussi les femmes universitaires d'où ne peut sortir que des inepties. Là aussi, il y a des courants universitaires à critiquer, rien ne sert de les dénigrer. C'est justement parce que les femmes ont eu accès aux études supérieures dans les 50 dernières années que les femmes ont pu s'organiser et comprendre leur oppression et gagner sur plusieurs fronts des droits. Summun du mépris, l'artice accuse le mouvement féministe d'avoir poussé la classe moyenne américaine à voter pour Trump. Faut le faire!

Nuevo Curso se demande si la grève des femmes rassemblent des policières anti-émeutes, des femmes sur les conseils d'administration de compagnie, des femmes juges. Pourquoi pas, il y a des policières victimes de sexisme et d'agressions sexuelles, on pourrait ajouter aussi les femmes dans l'armée. Accepter que cette situation se maintienne en ne la dénonçant pas ne nous aident certainement pas. Mais dénoncer cette oppression envers les femmes ne nous empêche pas d'ajouter que la police et l'armée sont des institutions répressives de l'État bourgeois!

Bien sur on est d'accord que le capitalisme ne reconnaîtra jamais la présence sociale, économique et politique des femmes, ce n'est pas profitable pour lui. Le maintient de la division sexuelle du travail entre production et reproduction est essentiel pour la bourgeoisie. Préparer la révolution communiste, c'est aussi dénoncer l'oppression de toutes les femmes et inclure leurs droits et besoins dans nos statuts organisationels.

Pour finir une liste :

Droit à l’égalité avec les hommes : droit à l’éducation, droit de vote, droit d’être élue, parité dans la représentation, parité du droit de parole, droit de faire des affaires, présence dans l’histoire, égalité salariale, droit au divorce, abolition de division sexuelle du travail, partage des tâches ménagères.

Droits selon leurs besoins : droit à contraception, liberté sexuelle, reconnaissance face à la justice, liberté vestimentaire, droit à l’avortement, contrôle de leur corps, congé de maternité payé, accès à tout travail et à toutes les sphères sociales, comité non-mixte, service de garde, cantine publique, justice transformatrice, reconnaissance de leur rôle dans la reproduction.