https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/books/mt/mt2-ebook.pdf (reformatted, will use this for the thread)
https://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/books/mt/mt2_3.pdf (OG version)
Part I : Editor's Introduction
1.1 Republishing notes
Alyx Mayer and Felix Brown would like to express comradely thanks to the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons (MIM Prisons) for their scan of the original
MIM Theory documents, and their work in continuing the spirit of MIM. MIM were the first Maoist group in amerikkka to take a firm stand against heterosexism, and contributed hugely to Third Worldism, an “alter-globalisation” movement and discourse surrounding the destruction of the First World. The editors do not necessarily endorse everything contained within, but we do think that it provides a valuable point of debate and departure, and are republishing this document for its historical value.
Typographical and presentation modifications have been made in the interests of readability. All graphics have been replaced in kind. The text itself remains unmodified apart from an occasional, clearly marked, editor’s note.
If you notice any spelling or grammatical mistakes in this edition of MIM Theory, please notify us by email: contact -(@)- alyx.io; RE: “MIM Theory mistake"; include the issue and page number so we can make the necessary corrections to subsequent revisions.
About MIM Prisons
MIM (Prisons) is a cell of revolutionaries serving the oppressed masses inside U.$. prisons. We uphold the revolutionary communist ideology of Marxism-LeninismMaoism and work from the vantage point of the Third World proletariat. Our ideology is based in dialectical materialism, which means we work from objective reality to direct change rather than making decisions based on our subjective feelings about things. Defining our organization as a cell means that we are independent of other organizations, but see ourselves as part of a greater Maoist movement within the United $tates and globally.
Imperialism is the number one enemy of the majority of the world’s people; we cannot achieve our goal of ending all oppression without overthrowing imperialism. History has shown that the imperialists will wage war before they will allow an end to oppression. Revolution will become a reality within the United $tates as the military becomes over-extended in the government’s attempts to maintain world hegemony.
Since we live within an imperialist country, there is no real proletariat—the class of economically exploited workers. Yet there is a significant class excluded from the economic relations of production under modern imperialism that we call the lumpen. Within the United $tates, a massive prison system has developed to manage large populations, primarily from oppressed nations and many of whom come from the lumpen class.
Within U.$. borders, the principal contradiction is between imperialism and the oppressed nations. Our enemies call us racists for pointing out that the white oppressor nation historically exploited and continues to oppress other nations within the United $tates. But race is a made-up idea to justify oppression through ideas of inferiority. Nation is a concept based in reality that is defined by a group’s land, language, economy and culture. Individuals from oppressed nations taking up leadership roles within imperialist Amerika does not negate this analysis. The average conditions of the oppressed nations are still significantly different from the oppressor nation overall. As revolutionary internationalists, we support the selfdetermination of all nations and peoples. Today, the U.$. prison system is a major part of the imperialist state used to prevent the self-determination of oppressed nations.
It is for this reason that we see prisoners in this country as being at the forefront of any anti-imperialist and revolutionary movement.
Notes to this issue
2.1 MIM’s pseudonyms
In the previous republished volume of MIM Theory (A White Proletariat?), the editors decided to remove the pseudonyms of each article’s author(s) as they appeared in the original text. In this volume, however, members of MIM are mentioned throughout the articles in various instances, for example, to present facts/stats collected by a member of MIM other than the article’s author(s), or to intercommunicate back-and-forth between authors in an article. Instead of removing, or rewording these instances, they are kept as they appeared in the original text.
MIM is an underground party that does not publish the names of its comrades in order to avoid the state surveillance and repression that has been historically directed at communist parties and anti-imperialist movements. “MC”... means “MIM comrade”, or a Party member; “MA” means “MIM associate.” - MIM Theory 1: A White Proletariat?, p. 2
i.e.: MC5, or MC99
2.2 Additional credit
A special thanks to the proofreaders who helped catch the spelling and grammatical mistakes we overlooked, in addition to pointing out formatting errors and flaws, and making other helpful suggestions to improve readability:
Part II : Gender and Revolutionary Feminism
In this issue of MIM Theory, MIM seeks to explain how it sees gender oppression, especially in the First World. Building on Lenin’s theory of imperialism, which united theories of class and nation in one coherent unit, MIM asked whether or not gender oppression fits in so neatly with the theory of imperialism.
In the last issue of MIM Theory, MIM showed that the white working class is not exploited. It simply cannot be counted on as an ally in the struggle of the oppressed nations and proletariat to overthrow imperialism. MIM does not see any debt the world owes to the white working class as workers except to help it get past its parasitic past and move forward into a peaceful, harmonious society free of nation, class and gender conflict. This debate continues in this issue’s letters.
The first step in asking a similar question about gender required throwing aside conventional thinking in so-called feminist circles in the United States. This thinking held that it was incorrect to struggle over women’s issues at all—not so much because women’s issues were to be ignored as they were in the day Marx and Engels wrote about the issues, but because struggle amongst women or between women and men was supposedly incorrect. Instead of struggle, the therapist’s opportunist-money-making point of view has come to dominate the women’s movement in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. By this view, no woman’s view of her oppression should be challenged, since all women are sisters in oppression and all women’s views are correct.
The overall issue of gender led MIM back into history—especially the history of the Chinese Revolution and the history of the U.S. women’s movement in the 1960s. MIM came to unfavorable conclusions about the state of the First World women’s movement today, based on its accomplishments and practice.
After looking around, MIM came to the conclusion that, like First World labor, First World women are mainly oppressors, not oppressed people. Fully realizing that many critics of MIM say it is impossible to change the world without a majority of people on your side, MIM explained that it has full confidence in the majority of the world’s people—Third World laboring classes.
That is to say the obvious. Now comes the hard part. Contrary to what makes sense from a purely theoretical point of view, in this issue we will look at applications of theory in struggle before we look at theory itself. This is necessary in part because many people consciously or unconsciously believe that theory has no place in the women’s movement. As we shall see, some so-called feminists have raised opposing theory and science to a principle of the women’s movement. Hence, this issue starts with relatively recent struggles and historical achievements of women’s liberation and then proceeds to more general theory.
In this issue, MIM also takes a slight detour back into the issue of the bourgeoisification of the Amerikan working class. In “A White Proletariat?” MIM accidentally left out an article and some charts on the position of the white nation working class. Recognizing that perfectionism needlessly delays revolutionary advance and that no MT can ever be totally complete, MIM is happy to correct its error in this issue and include some other material from our readers as well.
3.1 A Rating for Enver Hoxha
In elections in March 1992, the last remnants of the communist revolution in Albania, which came to power in 1944, were thrown out of government. Albania is now a plain capitalist country like Greece.
The successors to communist leader Enver Hoxha in Albania after 1985 were outright capitalist-roaders, who instead of following the trail blazed by Mao and the Gang of Four in China, took Albania to its current economic crisis and capitalist restoration. However, MIM gives Hoxha a grade of 70% like Stalin, but for different reasons.
Regarding the historical evaluation of the first stage of Albania’s revolution during World War II, MIM can have no major objections to Hoxha’s work. Hoxha led the communists to kick out the fascists, collectivize agriculture, nationalize industry and liberate women.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hoxha provided a genuine service to the international proletariat by leading, with Mao, the critique of the Soviet revisionist takeover. Hoxha and Mao defended the memory of Stalin against the Khruschev revisionists, who changed Soviet policy in order to oppose armed struggle in the Third World and run the Soviet economy on a profit basis.
For this alone, MIM gives Hoxha a lot of credit. Most communist parties in the world and all the others in Eastern Europe went along with the Khruschev revisionists to one degree or another, although communists in Asia and Africa in particular leaned toward Mao. With the experience of one major capitalist restoration after a successful Marxist-Leninist revolution, Hoxha summed up history and formed part of the correct pole in the international communist movement. (For example, there had been one restoration before in Hungary that crushed the revolution in its infancy, but the Bolshevik Revolution was unique in going down to defeat after decades on the socialist road.)
Further to Hoxha’s credit, he joined Mao in press releases backing the Cultural Revolution in China and the theory of continuous revolution. This brings us to 1976, the death of Mao Zedong. By this time, Hoxha had already given more than 30 years of correct leadership to the international proletariat.
Before Mao’s death, Hoxha held all the views necessary to be a member of MIM today—no small feat given the influence and power of revisionism all around the world. It is only the last years of Hoxha’s life —1976-1985— that MIM quarrels with, and MIM believes that the mistakes Hoxha made were honest mistakes for the most part. The lies he made to the communist parties of the world regarding Mao Zedong and Hoxha’s flip-flops can be interpreted as the necessities faced by a leader in state power surrounded by social-imperialists and renegades like Deng Xiaoping. MIM understands the difficult situation Albania was in after the death of Mao.
MIM does not make essentially nihilist-idealist criticisms the way anarchists and Trotskyists do. No revolution perfectly matches ideals. To not support a revolution because of this fact is utter political immaturity characteristic of intellectuals and the petty-bourgeoisie. In Hoxha’s case, however, his line was criticized by the Maoist pole after 1976. There was someone in real life who had a better line than Hoxha’s, but Hoxha ignored and mistakenly opposed the correct line espoused by the Maoists.
If no one had developed the theory of continuous revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat and no one had told Hoxha that there was a bourgeoisie in his party, then we would have to say that Hoxha had a historical record of somewhere between 90% and 100% correctness. As it happened though, the Maoists told him he had a bourgeoisie in his party forming continuously, and after the death of Mao, Hoxha decided it wasn’t true and returned to Stalin’s theory of class struggle. This major error is why Hoxha can only rate a 70% evaluation.
Today it is clear that Hoxha’s own successor, Ramiz Aha, himself was the top bourgeois leader in the PLA. Hence, Mao was right and Hoxha was wrong. It was not easy to do a more thorough study of the Soviet Union than Mao did. With the historical experience of the Soviet Union and China’s own rich historical experience, Mao was in a position to come to the correct conclusions regarding how the vanguard party relates to the means of production and class struggle under socialism.
3.2 Labor Aristocracy Continued
Informing Spartacist League of What Marx and Engels said about Bourgeoisified Workers
by Scarlet Pumpernickel
Regarding the criticism by the Spartacist League’s Workers Vanguard (W.V.) (see MIM Notes 60 or MIM Theory #1), W.V. states that MIM reveals its “deep, anti-Marxist pessimism about the possibilities for class struggle in the United States,” because of the MIM’s stand on the labor aristocracy in the United States. There are two points to be considered in this statement by the W.V. First, what is a “correct” Marxist position on the labor aristocracy? Second, what is “class struggle”?
Here are some references on the first point:
Lenin cited Marx and Engels on developments in the British labor movement— “Tactics of the class struggle of the proletariat,” 1914:
All this should be compared with numerous references by Marx and Engels to the example of the British labor movement, showing how industrial “prosperity” leads to attempts “to buy the proletariat,”(1) to divert them from the struggle; how this prosperity in general “demoralizes the workers;”(2) how the British proletariat becomes “bourgeoisified”—“this most bourgeois of all nations is apparently aiming ultimately at the possession of a bourgeois aristocracy and a bourgeois proletariat alongside the bourgeoisie;”(3) how its “revolutionary energy” oozes away;(4) how it will be necessary to wait a more or less lengthy space of time before “the British workers will free themselves from their apparent bourgeois infection;”(5) how the British labor movement “lacks the mettle of the Chartists;”(6) how, “owing to Britain’s monopoly, and as long as that monopoly lasts, the British workingman will not budge.”(7)
Lenin also had this to say in “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism,” 1916:
These two trends, one might even say two parties, in the present-day labor movement, which in 1914-16 so obviously parted ways all over the world, were traced by Engels and Marx in England throughout the course of decades, roughly from 1858 to 1892... In a letter to Sorge , dated Sept. 21, 1872, Engels informs him that Hales kicked up a big row in the Federal Council of the International and secured a vote of censure on Marx for saying that “the English labor leaders had sold themselves...” In a letter to Kautsky , dated Sept. 12, 1882, Engels wrote: “You ask me what the English workers think about colonial policy. Well, exactly the same they think about politics in general. There is no workers’ party here, there are only Conservatives and Liberal-Radicals. and the workers gaily share the feast of England’s monopoly of the world market and colonies.”
That these ideas, which were repeated by Engels over the course of decades, were also expressed by him publicly, in the press, is proved by his preface to the second edition of The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1892. Here he speaks of an “aristocracy among the working class,” of a “privileged minority of the workers,” in contradistinction to the “great mass of working people.” “A small privileged protected minority” of working class alone was “permanently benefited” by the privileged position of England in 1848-68, whereas “the great bulk of them experienced at best but a temporary improvement...” “With the breakdown of that (England’s industrial) monopoly, the English working class will lose that privileged position...” The members of the “new” unions, the unions of the unskilled workers, “had this immense advantage, that their minds were virgin soil, entirely free from the inherited ‘respectable’ bourgeois prejudices which hampered the brains of the better situated ‘old unionists.'
But under the surface the movement (of the working class in England) is going on, is embracing ever wider sections and mostly just among the hitherto stagnant lowest strata. The day is no longer far off when this mass will suddenly find itself, when it will dawn upon it that it itself is the colossal mass in motion.”
As for the meaning of “class struggle,” references:
As to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle of the classes, and bourgeois economists, the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production; (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society...
- Letter from Marx to Joseph Weydemeyer, March 5, 1852
The ultimate object of the political movement of the working class is, of course, the conquest of political power for this class, and this naturally requires that the organization of the working class, an organization which arises from its economic struggles, should previously reach a certain level of development.
On the other hand, however, every movement in which the working class as a class confronts the ruling classes and tries to constrain them by pressure from without is a political movement. For instance, the attempt by strikes, etc., in a particular factory, even in a particular trade to compel individual capitalists to reduce the working day, is a purely economic movement. On the other hand the movement to force through an eight-hour, etc., law is a political movement.
- Letter from Marx to Friedrich Bolte, Nov. 23, 1871.
And in an article for Bernstein, Engels says:
For a number of years past the English working class movement has been hopelessly describing a narrow circle of strikes for higher wages, shorter hours, not, however as an expedient or means of propaganda and organisation, but as the ultimate aim... One can speak here of a labor movement only in so far as strikes take place here which, whether they are won or not, do not get the movement one step further.(8)
The W.V. obviously does not know what it is talking about as far as what a Marxist position is, and it is unlikely that W.V. will ever consider what the founders of scientific socialism had to say concerning the origins of the labor aristocracy.
The problem the W.V. and other opportunists have with the labor aristocracy is this:
the majority of the workers in an advanced capitalist country receive and have been receiving privileges and benefits paid for from a portion of the superprofits extracted from laborers in other countries, particularly in the Third World. For years, especially since World War II, Amerikan workers have been living “high off the hog” and supporting the exploitation of the Third World. Now that the monopoly capitalists are in a mad rush to export capital abroad in the form of “runaway” shops, national chauvinism is on the rise, which leads to... what?
Finally, what “struggles” of the U S. workers? Since 1950, union membership has declined from about 30% of the workforce to about 15%. No one in the labor “movement” has done or will do anything to protect the immigrant workers, especially “illegals.” We therefore should consider the U.S. labor aristocracy as useless, at best. Lenin said in a preface to Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism that the labor aristocracy will play the role of the “Versailles” in a war against the “Communards.” This is already happening as evidenced by the increase in physical attacks against non-whites.
MC5 adds: From the quotes that Scarlet Pumpernickel has reproduced from Marx, Engels and Lenin, the only question left on the issue of the historical legacy behind our position is the precise size of the labor aristocracy. The Spartacist League is typical in believing that it is very small, while MIM believes that it has grown apace with the extraction of surplus from the expanding ranks of the international proletariat. The labor aristocracy is still a minority of workers on a world scale, but the majority of workers in the First World. Engels’ remark that there is no labor party at all in England is very telling in this regard even for his period of time. He did not regard the problem as a small one at all.
Taking Apart the Left Business Observer
Concerning the letter by Doug Henwood (MIM Theory #1, “A White Proletariat?”) of the Left Business Observer.
1. The author seems to be saying it is the fault of the people like MIM and other “leftists” that the white workers are voting for Duke. This is a very interesting twist of reality. Without having the luxury of being able to take a poll, we can only assume that the majority of people who consider themselves on the “left” share Doug Henwood’s views vis-à-vis Maoism. Probably as many as 90% of these people would agree with Doug Henwood. Now, these people all have connections going back 20 or more years, and all have access to a great deal more resources than the juveniles in question. Not only that, but they have been hawking their line for a long, long time. These, after all, are the same people who convinced everyone—or nearly everyone—to work for Jesse Jackson four years ago.
If “fault” is to be found for the political backwardness of white workers, should it not therefore be placed at the doorstep of the Doug Henwood’s, the democratic socialists, the social democrats, the this and the that?
In other words, if Doug Henwood really believes that the white workers can be won over to a “left” program, then why on earth doesn’t Doug Henwood et. al. put one out for all to see? [Scarlet Pumpernickel faults MIM for the same thing. MIM is getting closer to having all the pieces of research needed. After the next MT issue on the intersection of class, nation and gender and another upward spiral of struggle, we’ll see what we can do. —MC5]
This is not a new issue with the “left.” The fact is that the “left” has not been able to do anything for 20 years.
Why? Because, first of all, it is bankrupt. It doesn’t believe in anything. And it is the section that doesn’t do any “research.” As a matter of fact, the views represented by Doug Henwood go back to the revisionism of Karl Kautsky. Come on Doug Henwood, check it out; you sound like a smart person.
For Doug Henwood’s information, there was a strong labor aristocracy during the 30s, when white workers might have had real potential. How, then, can the labor aristocracy disappear under conditions of an increase overall in the standard of living of the white workers?
2. Doug Henwood seems to object to the observation that more than $10 is a “whopping” wage, asking the author of such a statement, “What planet are you on...?” The real question is: What planet is Doug Henwood on? Within the confines of the USA there is a growing section of workers who earn the minimum wage of $4.35 or less. Many work for $1.00 an hour. To these people, $10 is a small fortune. As a matter of fact, $10 represents the amount of money many of these workers would receive per day in their native country. These workers, are of course, immigrant workers, especially so-called illegal aliens. Contrary to the opinion of people like Doug Henwood, this group of workers is not the “sub-proletariat,” but in fact the real proletariat in the United States. As J. Sakai shows, these workers, especially Mexican workers in the Southwest, predominate in the garment and agricultural industries—that is, Doug Henwood, these workers feed and clothe the nation. Periodically you will read about the inhuman conditions these workers slave under—some of them even imprisoned on certain farms. Often, the bosses do not pay them because the bosses know that these workers cannot complain. Furthermore, since taxes are taken out of their paychecks, and since they do not have any political or “human rights,” you would think that people like Doug Henwood would be in the forefront in defending these workers under the slogan: “No taxation without representation!”
3. Doug Henwood asserts that Maoism is dead. Can Doug Henwood please explain to those of us who ain’t too bright precisely and exactly what that means? What is Maoism, for example?
a) Maoism to begin with is the application of the science of People’s War to defeat a stronger enemy. Of course, this is not really new. The Germans beat the Romans some centuries ago in the Black Forest with nothing but spears. And of course, the minutemen beat the redcoats during the Revolution of 1776. In any case, is this part of Maoism dead? In that case, then all the people of the world should not bother trying to throw off the chains of imperialism.
b) Mao Zedong developed the theory of Marxism-Leninism to a higher level in the works “On Practice” and “On Contradiction” and “On Correct Handling of Contradictions Among the People.” Could Doug Henwood please show us how this is dead?
c) Perhaps Mao Zedong’s views on economics are dead. For example, that a poor, backward, semi-colonial country can throw off its dependence on foreign capital, and, by relying on the masses, achieve a self-reliant economy, free from internal or external debt, in which inflation cannot arise and in which the standard of living of the masses can gradually increase. Perhaps these views are dead.
d) What about internationalism, which is part of Maoism? Within several years after liberation, the Chinese sent in half a million volunteers to assist Korea in its war against U.S. imperialism. No one else did. How could Mao be so stupid as to think that such a point of view would have any validity in today’s world?
e) What about the struggle against Soviet revisionism, which Mao led? This, of course, must also be dead. After all, it wasn’t Soviet revisionism that led to the demise of “communism”—it was all Stalin’s fault!
Well, the list could go on. Could Doug Henwood please explain to us “juveniles” what, after all, is dead?
This just in off the wire:
LIMA, Peru (AP)—The Raucana shantytown is a walled fortress with Guard towers. Its residents are safe and happy, but the government isn’t. There is little question the slum was founded by Shining Path rebels and efforts by the government to get rid of it—and when that didn’t work, to win the loyalty of its residents—have failed
- National Employment Digest, San Diego, 3/14/92
And the article goes on to explain how the PCP [Ed. note: PCP, the Peruvian Communist Party, or “Shining Path.”] organized 1,200 families to seize private farmland and created a shantytown that “has become one of the best organized and cleanest slums in Lima.” The residents are divided into sectors, with their own public kitchens, meeting houses, main square and water well. The people pool money and time to buy food and cook. There are round the clock patrols so that there is almost no crime. Efforts to evict the masses have failed.
The “Shining Path,” Doug Henwood, is Maoist, and it doesn’t look dead to me!!!
One last thing: Doug Henwood ends the letter with “wake up and think or in 1997, President Duke is going to throw your ass in jail.” This sounds like wishful thinking on the one hand. What are you suggesting, Doug Henwood—that we accommodate ourselves to fascism so as not to bothered? Sounds like it.
Helping Realize Surplus-Value
From a multinational corporation’s point of view, it may not matter if Third World parts or resources are assembled or used by workers paid non-exploited wages in the First World, because the profits from the Third World aspect of the business are so great. Of course, if a capitalist is buying the Third World parts at First World prices from another multinational to be assembled by First World workers, then it does matter. Such firms will go out of business or serve the role of white collar administration of work with orders from the other companies seeking help in realizing surplus value, at the cost of sharing the surplus value that would otherwise be lost.
The question underlying all this is: Why would the capitalist pay First World workers non-exploited wages? One answer is that as the surplus value gets spread around, Amerikan capital takes the view of the multinational corporations that consider overall profits and political realities.
Another reason is that First World laborers are like the managers and sales people of Marx’s day. Amerikans are the white collar workers of imperialist world headquarters. These workers help the imperialists realize their surplus value. The fact that they help realize the surplus value does not mean they are the source of that surplus value
J. Sakai summarized this trend very well:
The historic trend has been to sharply dilute the role of productive workers even in vital industries. In food products, for example, the percentage of total employment that is non-production (managerial, supervisory, technical and clerical) rose from 13% in 1933 to 32% in 1970. A similar development took place in the chemical industry, where non-production employees rose from 16% of all employees in 1933 to 37% in 1970. In manufacturing industries as a whole the percentage of non-production employees went up from 18% to 30% in 1950-1980.
When we look at the overall distribution of employed Euro-Amerikans, we see that in 1980 white-collar workers, professionals and managers were 54%—a majority—and service employees an additional 12%. Only 13.5% were ordinary production and transportation workers.(9)
Sakai’s figure on over half of white workers being white collar is very important, not just to refute Trotskyist mythology of the manufacturing worker as dominant. When over half of the waged/salaried work force is white collar that exerts a pull on the smaller sector of white workers in manufacturing—the sector people think surplus value comes from. To keep white workers in manufacturing, capitalists must pay salaries that compare favorably with salaries in other jobs, jobs that predominantly help the capitalists realize surplus value.
Capitalists hire non-exploited workers for political reasons (in the sense of concentrated economics) which take their form in the fact that labor power is not unified in one international market. Reality is military/political separation of various markets for labor power and a white administration of production. The Amerikan labor force is an economic and military army of tens of millions, helping the imperialists realize surplus value.
1. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1965), vol. 1, p. 136.
2. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 218.
3. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 290.
4. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 124.
5. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 127.
6. Ibid., vol. 3, p. 305. Also, Engels to Marx letter, February 5, 1851; December
17, 1857; October 7, 1858 and April 8, 1863; and two letter from Marx to
Engels, April 9, 1863, and April 2, 1866.
7. Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence (Moscow: 1965), vol. 4, p. 433.
8. H.W. Edwards, Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base for Social Democracy (1978), p.
9. J. Sakai, Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat, 1983, p. 138
[The following is an excerpt from a letter to MIM. The rest will appear in future issues on the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the supposed failure of communism. For now, this excerpt touches on issues raised in MIM Theory #1, “A White Proletariat?”]
Next point—the working class in America.
Although, as you point out, the American working class is not revolutionary at this time, you fail to recognize the revolutionary potential of the American organized proletariat. As a result, you dismiss the entire American working class as a “non-revolutionary worker-elite.” However, the opposite is true.
This type of action toward the American proletariat, and unions in particular, leads to sectarianism. You can’t get the American workers to accept your program, so you dismiss and ignore them. This is a fundamental weakness in your program. Your sectarianism could lead to political isolation and disintegration. And that is a blow to every socialist political movement, when comrades (of any stripe) become demoralized because of isolation.
Sectarianism can also lead to bureaucratic centralism, which destroys internal party democracy, as well as contradicting democratic centralism: freedom of discussion and unity in action.
And this sectarianism translates into a contradictory “Third World proletariat” milieu. The proletariat in the “developing” neo- and semi-colonies of the world is historically linked to the proletariat of “advanced” capitalist and imperialist countries. Both the “First World” and “Third World” proletarians are capable of carrying out social revolutions. They need each other, such is the root of the call for world revolution, not “socialism in a single country,” the brainchild of Stalin.
The proletariat in backward and developing countries can only achieve those basic democratic tasks, common to Europe and North America, through a socialist revolution. However, the Stalinists and other reformists are incapable of carrying out these demands. A division of the working class, either by race or by political borders, results in a loss for all of the working class.
Saginaw Bay Marxist Study Group
Supporters of the Trotskyist Fourth International
March 29, 1992
Apparently, the writers have not had a chance to read MT #1 “A White Proletariat?” People who have seen this magazine know that MIM has already addressed the fundamental issues raised above.
MIM is aware that once the Communist Party (USA) gave in to Khruschev revisionism in the 1950s, the struggle against Trotskyism was politically disarmed. To make up for those errors perpetrated principally on the youth, MIM makes a point of addressing individual Trotskyist polemics. Other Trotskyists are welcome on these pages in future issues, especially to address MT #1 and Kostas Mavrakis’ book On Trotskyism. It is in this way of confronting Trotskyists that MIM has recruited some ex-Trotskyists. We won’t promise our readers anything though, because MIM rarely finds Trotskyists who care enough about what they are doing to take the trouble to read some things from the side they have been condemning for decades (along with the anti-communist media). Trotskyists also generally share a penchant for sloganeering and cheerleading, which is another reason why we won’t be surprised if they can’t say anything about the substantial work written on the subjects. If the writers are an exception to the rule, we apologize in advance.
The writers are very typical of the kind of Trotskyist mistakes that Kostas Mavrakis so thoroughly refuted. In particular, one will notice that the argument makes criticisms without reference to any concrete evidence. The idealist Trotskyist method goes something like this: can you imagine 100% communist success? If Mao, Stalin or other communists have not accomplished the final communist victory it must be on account of their errors. Trotskyist reasoning is a lot like religious reasoning concerning the Ten Commandments. Reality is criticized by how it stacks up against a preset list of dogmas (ideas), instead of how it stacks up against other realities.
The Trotskyists say, “You can’t get the American workers to accept your program, so you dismiss and ignore them.” In a way that is true. It is impossible to win an entire bourgeoisified class to our program and we don’t expect to. If we did, we’d sound like Bill Clinton and the Trotskyists, who both pitch to the same crowd with the same basic demands of expanding white worker privilege at the expense of Third World workers.
The Trotskyist words sound critical but they show no understanding of reality in history. It was the Stalinists of the U.S. Communist Party of the 1930s that had over 100,000 members and organized the CIO. It was the Stalinists that organized the best unions of this century. It is the Trotskyists who now fawn on the sad remnants of those unions.
The Trotskyists were a sideshow in the 1930s then as they were again in the next major upsurge in the 1960s, which was led by Maoists like the Black Panther Party, SDS and the revolutionary feminist Redstockings. Hence, the communists in the tradition of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao already have the demonstrated capacity to organize oppressed workers. The reason is simple: the Marxist-Leninists in the traditions of Stalin and Mao analyze things scientifically and come up with the right strategies and tactics instead of forever condemning reality for not measuring up to ideals.
The writers add to their backward reasoning by saying that MIM’s alleged political isolation is proof that the white working class is exploited! What a way to throw class analysis out the window! It’s just like Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) reasoning. You don’t have 50% of the voters? Then you better go back and modify your analysis of who is oppressed. Include those white middle-class demands in your program, say these kinds of opportunists. The only difference is that the DSA or Jesse Jackson opportunists would not claim to be Marxist and would probably be honest enough to call the people concerned “middle-class” when most Trotskyists would pretend Bubba Duke-voter is an exploited worker. Probably South Africa’s DeKlerk would agree: You don’t have the majority of white voters on your side in the whites-only referendum? Better modify the referendum wording or risk isolation from the apartheid.
People working in MIM know that MIM has never been isolated from the oppressed in this country from its birth and circulation as a xerox leaflet in prisons. In addition, if the Saginaw Bay group is new and not a Spartacist League front, then it is also “isolated,” even more than Trotskyism has been historically from all Third World revolutions. Does that mean new revolutionary groups should not form, because they start new and small? By that reasoning, Mao’s party — started with about 20 people — never would have gotten off the ground. That kind of “liquidationist” reasoning, as Lenin called it, is also a great excuse to give up revolutionary politics. People who share that kind of reasoning will join the Democratic Party, the Greens or anything else big that is in their faces.
As for division within the working class, that is not the doing of MIM, because that was accomplished by the white workers well before MIM ever existed. MIM reminds the writers that it is the white nation voters who voted in majorities for David Duke. It is also the white workers who continuously slam the workers from Japan and Mexico. When the Amerikan workers do rise out of economism, they do so to pass laws against imports or immigration. That’s their kind of class struggle. Reality is that white workers in this country protect their material interests against Third World workers all the time and they have succeeded in appropriating surplus labor from the Third World as a result.
What would the writers say about apartheid? If the good jobs are reserved for whites, would the revolutionaries there be wrong to deny that white workers have a material interest in revolution? Would the writers then accuse the revolutionaries of being isolated from white workers? MIM says hog-wash. In Azania as in the rest of the world, the Third World proletariat will crush imperialism. No, the First World and Third World proletarians do not “need each other.” It is only the First World workers that need Third World workers in order to continue to lead their parasitic First World life.
Finally, it is a sad joke that today in 1992, the Trotskyists, as they did more than 50 years ago, are still talking about the “socialism in a single country” problem. Will they ever get concrete? Stalinists and their descendants the Maoists are the ones who have led revolutions in several countries and the Trotskyists have only had an assist (as basketball players would say) in one revolution. One man in one country for one brief period does not a revolutionary movement make.
Letters to MIM Theory
I look forward to receiving the rest of what you’ve written on the RCP. I must tell you forthrightly that, although I agree in part with a few of the criticisms that you raise of the RCP, on the whole I think you’re on the wrong track. Many of the characterizations in the “Third Draft” are simply inaccurate, and, on areas where you are somewhat on target, the RCP has often already carried out self-criticism.
As for the criticisms the RCP has raised of Stalin and Mao (and even of Lenin and Marx), I think that they are doing exactly what needs to be done— engaging in critical debate. Again, on this point also many of your characterizations are not accurate.
When Bob Avakian says that Maoism without Leninism is nationalism plus bourgeois democracy, he is not speaking of Mao so much as he is speaking of much Maoism that did not integrate itself very well with Marxism-Leninism. As you undoubtedly know, much of the Maoist movement of the 60s was very much oriented toward radical bourgeois democracy (and anarchism), mainly because of its social roots in the student and oppressed nationalities movements.
Everyone has to start somewhere, of course, and the energy and spirit of those movements remains an inspiration, but I believe that what Avakian was trying to do was to sum up that experience in a broader historical framework. Furthermore, it’s not clear that what he is doing is at this point “laying down the law” on how we should understand all these things, as he is raising some provocative theses toward the creative development and application of historical materialism
Your quoting of Bob Avakian to the effect that the Gang of Four were “perhaps not as good as Stalin,” shows the main problems of your general approach, namely that you seem unable to understand irony and sarcasm. Clearly, what Avakian meant was that, sure, the Chinese revolutionaries could have used Stalin’s methods to eliminate Deng and crew, but this would not have politically armed the masses. Indeed, it’s clear from your Stalin study pack that you haven’t understood this point—and that’s what Mao’s all about as far as I’m concerned: answering the question, how do the masses become the conscious makers of history?
One does not have to disavow Stalin entirely to understand that he really did: over time and in difficult conditions of course, politically disarm the masses. I have just finished reading the new biography of Stalin by Dmitri Volkogonov. Before you get up in arms saying that the author is thoroughly bourgeois in outlook, please rest assured that I know this and that I am able to read between the lines. However, my point is that, as one reads more and more about various things what Stalin undoubtedly did, one has to ask the question, what the hell does this have to with building socialism and encouraging the transition to world communism? We’re never going to get anywhere until we learn to such questions. By the way. I also don’t see the charge of “Trotskyism” as very helpful. On the other hand, you may find the Volkogonov bio interesting on this score, because it really does show how personally ambitious and conceited Trotsky was, how much of his enmity for Stalin had to do with the fact that he (Trotsky) could not grasp why such a “mediocrity” (Stalin) had a more advanced position in the party than the true genius of the revolution.
I should add, too, that pointing to some of the New Left origins of the RCP does not turn me off. I came to Mao through Sartre, and I still think we have plenty to learn from his Critique of Dialectical Reason, as well as from the works of Marcuse and other “philosophers of the New Left.” I believe in a historical materialism that learns from many sources and struggles—indeed, I believe that this is what historical materialism fundamentally is.
Well, I’ll cut this off for now, because it will be a little while before I can really develop some comments on your positions. However, I must say, again forthrightly, that it was irresponsible for you to write such things as “it still must be stressed that the RCP is not the main enemy.” I’m glad that, in your view, the RCP is “getting better.” Frankly, I think that they are somewhat further away from left economism than you are. I like some aspects of MIM Notes, especially the letters and replies, but I think there’s some delusions of grandeur at work even in your adoption of the MC# tags. The point of a revolutionary newspaper is to expose the bourgeoisie and other elements of reactionary society in a way that allows the masses to take up these issues as their own and to get prepared to radically change society. In their emphasis on the Revolutionary Worker as the main weapon, I think the RCP is doing an excellent job in this task. None of this means that you shouldn’t develop Maoism as you see fit, but it is scary to me that you would even think that it needs to “be stressed that the RCP is not the main enemy.” Please think again.
A Midwest correspondent
This is definitely a theoretical debate that needs to be addressed within the pages of MIM Theory. It’s a difficult letter to reply to because there are really three main actors involved—MIM, the RCP [Ed. note: Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, a First-Worldist cult highly influential on the international consolidation of First-Worldist communism as practiced by the RIM; Revolutionary Internationalist Movement], and the Midwest correspondent. We are happy to have this kind of discussion, because we find that those who continuously struggle and study are the people likely to choose MIM over organizations offering comfort, stability and a definite place in a structure that politically disarms the member.
It’s very tempting to respond to this letter as if it were from the RCP, but it is not and in fact contains some distortions of the RCP’s positions. Any RCP spokesperson who would like some space to address MIM Theory readers on any questions is welcome to do so on these pages in future issues.
Some of the things MIM has already written about the Black Panther Party (BPP), the student movement and the white working class—and MIM’s differences with the RCP—are especially relevant to addressing the Midwest correspondent. In passing references to “social roots in the student and oppressed nationalities movements” our critic leaves out the tacit reference point—the white working class. The question of the white working class is something that the critic does not address at all, but it is implicit that s/he feels the failings of some movements were its failure to address
the white working class.
On the subject of Maoism “without Marxism-Leninism,” the critic incorrectly distorts the context of the RCP’s statement. It was not a historical summation of communist movement history in the West. The context was a theoretical discussion knocking down Stalin and Mao on a number of points.
In any case, assuming that the critic’s characterization of the RCP line were correct, there are and have been a lot of anarchists since the 1960s who flirt with Mao. That is no excuse for calling Maoism virtual anarchism, bourgeois nationalism or anything else without Marxism-Leninism, anymore than it is an excuse for calling Marxism revisionism because so many trends claim his mantle. In fact, there are far more varieties of revisionism and incorrect trends influenced by Marxism-Leninism claiming the banner of Marx and Lenin than there are claiming Mao. Our readers can ask MIM for a summary on the types of groups in the United States that claim to be Marxist-Leninist. When people become informed of the history of splits in the communist movement, it will be clear that the critic’s claims have no basis in fact.
It is more historically accurate to say that Marxism-Leninism without Maoism is bourgeois democracy, because without the developments that Mao pioneered, there is no way to fight capitalist restoration. The results in Albania show that the result is bourgeois democracy! The fact that our critic upholds Mao against Stalin but then goes on to trash Maoism with Marxism-Leninism seems to indicate that the critic is more interested in criticism for its own sake than consistency, something idealist critics are liable to do. (One way out of concluding that the critic is inconsistent is to assume that the critic is a Trotskyist. Trotskyists would have less bad to say about Mao than Stalin, but they would also use Marx and Lenin to criticize Mao.)
We can only assure the critic that our members have the full right to participation within the party. That includes the right of criticism and voting on proposed criticisms. There is no need to believe any anti-communist propaganda about communists as monolithic and unthinking people; hence there is no need to assume that communists are likely to shut down their critical faculties. Quite the contrary, people inside parties are more likely to face continuous proletarian challenge and struggle than people outside parties. The party’s requirement of centralism—that there is one line put into practice— itself is a guarantee of struggle, as people are not likely to want to see the whole group take the wrong line.
As for the BPP, MIM believes that before they were smashed by the state the Panthers were more Maoist than the RCP, especially from a dialectical materialist perspective. That is to say we don’t accept the historical charge of bourgeois nationalism against the Panthers coming from people who do not have the political economy of the white working class down right.
Since the RCP, USA’s public self-criticism on the matter of downplaying Mao’s contributions, made in the RIM journal, MIM doubts very much that the RCP Central Committee would defend itself the way our critic defends the RCP. In addition, we can’t expect our critic to realize that MIM had been making the same criticism of the RCP for years before the RCP made its self-criticism in recognition of Comrade Gonzalo’s correct line supporting Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism. The critic should have gathered some of that conflict in MIM’s differences with the RCP over its interpretation of Leninism.
On the point of MIM’s conflicts with the RCP beyond theoretical practice, the critic also makes indignant claims without knowing anything about the history of conflict between the two groups. The critic could not be aware that some MIM supporters were citing Engels on the need to spend more time polemicizing than fighting the bourgeoisie. They also cited Stalin on “mercilessly delivering blows” against other trends claiming the same banner of socialism. We hope our readers will understand that few people besides MIM and the RCP people in question are in a position to know what was correct to say along those lines, because MIM is not about to go into detail on these questions for casual readers like our critic, especially since it is not clear who we have more unity with, the critic or the RCP.
Our Third Draft of criticism of the RCP explicitly says that it is an attempt to deal with broader questions of line. It is not a summation of the conflicts between our organizations in practice, which is a sensitive topic, so MIM finds the critic guilty of not investigating, maybe even meddling.
The critic may also be surprised to learn that MIM reads bourgeois biographies of Stalin, a forthcoming review of which will be in a future issue of MT. Perhaps if s/he had read the Stalin Pack more carefully s/he would have noticed. However, no amount of reading history can remedy a fundamentally idealist approach to reading history. Bourgeois historians have been doing it for centuries and show no sign of relenting.
MIM also reads Sartre and in fact distributes some Sartre. We believe that at least as of the 1950s, Sartre’s grasp of materialism was better than the critic’s. Sartre clearly demarcated against Trotskyism, especially in its idealist historical method of criticizing the genuine revolutionaries.
It is especially ironic that the critic finds it appropriate to criticize Maoism as anarchism, bourgeois nationalism and bourgeois democracy, criticize Stalin and then say, “I also don’t see raising the charge of ‘Trotskyism’ as very helpful.” Perhaps this sentence, which echoes Avakian, is an admission that the critic doesn’t know what Trotskyism is? Well maybe if supposed Maoists were clearer on things like the differences between Trotskyism and Maoism, they wouldn’t be guilty of importing so much anarchism and bourgeois democracy into their supposed Maoism, so once again the critic contradicts him/herself. For its part, MIM educates all its recruits on the different supposedly communist trends out there and includes a brief summary describing them in the bound volume of its own publication MIM Notes. Unlike the RCP, MIM would not make a member out of a recruit who could just as well be a Trotskyist.
Anyone who knows the history of the communist movement in the Western countries knows that Trotskyism and anarchism play a bigger role in the imperialist countries than they do in the oppressed countries. The failed Spanish revolution, the near-revolution in France of 1968 and the problems that the critic alludes to in the United States in the 1960s are all clues. Rather than compromising with these trends on issues of principle with the hope of winning them over, MIM finds it necessary to criticize them.
We have no disagreement that the RCP should “be engaging in critical debate” over Stalin and Mao. If MIM thought that was what the RCP was doing, it would call for unification with the RCP.
It is the RCP’s ...
• stand on the Gang of Four, Jiang Qing in particular,
• its criticism of Stalin and Avakian’s statement against charging people with Trotskyism as if it didn’t make a difference,
• its idealist positioning of the principal contradiction in relation to the anarchy of production,
• its refusal by at least some spokespeople of the 1980s to call the RCP “Maoist,”
• its attacks on the BPP as bourgeois nationalists,
• its stands on the united front, stages in revolution and the white working class
• and its half-way self-criticized stand on smashing busing
... that make MIM suspicious that what is going on with the RCP is not dialectical materialist criticism but simple nihilist-idealist criticism.
Well that’s the low-down-and-dirty one paragraph summation of a huge set of issues, but it should point toward what the real issues are here. From the vague generalities about criticism written by the critic, MIM was not able to do much more in this response.
Perhaps the critic could clarify the following points for future MT issues. How is MIM “left-economist”? MIM sees no value to Amerikan working class economic struggles whatsoever except that they bind the white working class more tightly to the imperialists. There is no organization with a clearer stance on this question, even if the critic does not like it. We expect no gains from white working-class economic struggle and we don’t even think a revolutionary struggle of the white working class is necessary for imperialism to die, because the source of revolution is rooted in the oppressed nationalities, something MIM again agrees with Comrade Gonzalo on in terms of the international situation, including the principal contradiction. Meanwhile, the RCP program is filled with references to the economic conditions of the white working class. The RCP makes all kinds of noise about breaking with economism, but it will never break with the worst kind of economism—imperialistchauvinist-economism—unless it does a correct analysis of the white working class along the lines offered in the previous MIM Theory.
Finally, we see you are against our numbered pseudonyms, but what are you for? Please address how our delusions of grandeur compare with the RCP’s personality cult? Is it that you are for anonymous leadership entirely? If so, how would that jive with according a role to vanguard leadership and holding that leadership accountable to the proletariat? MIM would rather have a personality cult than anonymous leadership that amounted to total liquidation of the vanguard party’s role, so it remains to be seen if MIM agrees more with the critic or the RCP on this point.
Overall though, assuming the critic considers him/herself a Maoist, the most important point to make in response to our critic is that, especially in imperialist countries where budding international communist movements have originated with student and intellectual social roots, we must distinguish between historical materialist criticism on the one hand and nihilist-idealist criticism on the other. This basic point of approach will separate Maoism from Trotskyism and anarchism. Our critic should send us a buck for an excerpt from Sartre on the point.
Prisoners Take Up Theory Questions in their Lives
MIM has discovered that within U.S. borders, prisoners are consistently the group most likely to study political views and undertake revolutionary struggle. That does not mean that prisoners are all ready to take up armed struggle for communism tomorrow, but person for person, the prisoners are the most responsive of all social groups to the idea of revolution.
MC11 undertook to learn from and struggle with the prisoners regarding MIM Theory #1 and some of the issues involved in MIM Theory #2.
The first issue we covered was what the chances are that white people will rise up with the same determination as Third World people to overthrow imperialism.
When asked the same question, the prisoners are, as expected, pretty unequivocal:
“None!” “Not likely that collectively white people will fight imperialism because it is set to insure that they will be taken care of.” “Impossible! Why? Because white people from a historical perspective have always sought to exploit and dominate Third World countries. And to rise up against this type of aggression is not in the interest of the capitalist/imperialist.”
One prisoner’s response to MIM Theory #1 follows:
Enclosed are ten 29 cent stamps for the “MIM Theory.” I’d send more but I’m always short of stamps due to my various projects. I liked it in that it addresses the question of working-class struggle in the U.S. I was very impressed with J. Sakai’s book and I see you are too. I think that capitalism is in a period of economic transition as it downsizes in workers employed, increases exploitation (i.e., productivity) and is more mobile than ever in its transfer of jobs, and the physical means of production towhatever country has the cheapest labor. I am also interested in more analysis on the current nature of imperialism. In any case, please send me future issues of MIM Theory.
Here is one response to the question on whether women’s groups which offer “rape counseling” spread fear about crime (a few answered simply yes; no one said no):
Yes, especially utilizing stereotypes and such—although I have no direct experience, one would only need to check out a few “wimmin” centers’ reading materials.
And in response to why white women and the court system disproportionately convict Black men for rape:
That is just another reason to discredit us brothers and to lock us up or even kill us. It also supports the illusion that black men crave white women.
The white woman and the court system disproportionately convict Black men for rape to further humiliate, degrade, belittle, stereotype and destroy the Black men and Black people period. Be it true or false.
MIM also asked prisoners whether they thought social workers and psychiatrists are effective. Many simply said “not at all,” or “no way.” The response so far unequivocally supports MIM’s belief that psychiatry and social work, which are supposedly used to “liberate” people’s minds and help them deal with their problems, are in fact tools of oppression wielded either to force people to “adjust” to the horrors of capitalism, or to shoot them full of drugs in the hope that their sense of outrage will disappear. This is part of our ongoing investigation into the effect of social work and psychiatry on different groups of people. MIM invites people to contribute accounts of personal experiences or general opinions of social work and psychiatry to help expand our analysis. The following are two responses from prisoners.
Psychiatrists are funny to me. No white psychiatrist can probe into the mind of a Black man or woman or child. I feel that white psychiatrists should try and analyze their own crazed minds. Social workers are home wreckers. They elevate themselves by breaking up homes of a so-called minority.
You are looking for something to write about inside these prison walls about the social workers and committee of psychiatrists. I do not know if you are aware of me being in lock-up for the past three years, most of it in MCU (Maximum Care Unit) because of my so-called attitude toward the prison rules along with this so-called “info” indicting me for acts around this prison.
I sometimes suffer from very bad asthma, so I have to come in contact with these so-called “people.” I have suffered from this since I was born. I was given a very high dose of stero, that was causing many unconsciousness mind problems. I wrote these people a letter to look into my complaints. The medication put some in psychopath emotional disorder to think.
Some of my true comrades saw this was not me, so they all came together to stop me from dealing with these doctor killers, how they send me out of their deaf hospital rooms with the HIV patientsnot that anything is wrong with them they know that this drug as in South Dakota’s genocide to destroy the revolutionaries inside the prison walls.
I’ve told these people at my last hearing about this matter to see if they are gonna let me out of MCU, but they did nothing but gesture towards me. I very much understand my struggle, so my comrade, please forgive my and try to understand my points... Stay strong.
[Ed. note: The above prisoner’s language mistakes have been corrected to improve clarity.]
MT#1 had the following errors:
• Chapter 2.5: MIM does not regard south Korea as a country, but rather a region of Korea under an illegitimate government installed by U.S. imperialism.
• Chapter 2.5: “Also, manufacturing wages may catch up with the West while overall income may decrease.” MIM meant that the manufacturing wages of Third World countries might catch up with U.S. manufacturing wages. However, other wages in the Third World country could decline. Also, while Third World wages may grow to be a bigger fraction of U.S. wages, that can happen while the total wages and income gap between the Third World and the United States expands.
• Chapter 2.5: “Luckily for the bulk of the world’s population, China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh all saw tiny improvements in per capita income between 1980 and 1988, though in some cases they also had widening income gaps. Despite these improvements, these countries were still falling behind the superexploiter countries, which got richer even faster.” MIM meant to say that China for example saw increasing internal inequality, a bigger gap between itself and the superexploiter countries and an increase in its per capita income.
However, MIM gives Hoxha a grade of 70% like Stalin, but for different reasons.
Women’s Lib: What Works and What Doesn’t
4.1 The Road To Women’s Liberation: Idealism vs. Materialism
Feminists looking at the gains for women in the countries that had revolutions in the tradition of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao divide into two camps. One camp of feminists is unfavorable to the communist-led revolutions. On the surface, the reason they give is that women in those countries did not achieve complete equality.
Another camp of feminists is very favorable to the genuine socialist revolutions. These people focus on the gains women made in the revolutions.
Underlying the difference in views is usually one simple difference in approach—idealism vs. materialism. The idealists say social change is a simple matter of having the right ideology, religion or attitudes. When comparing reality to the perfect ideals, you know where you stand. By this approach, the revolutions in Russia, China, Albania and so on look bad.
The materialist approach stresses that the status of women is a real world phenomenon and what matters is what happens in the real world, not what feminists think in their heads. The materialist feminist not only has a goal of equality for women, but s/he also cares about finding the most effective path to get there.
Idealist feminists from the West usually show a patriotic bias in evaluating feminist movements in other countries. That means they wish the feminists in revolutionary countries would use methods like the ones they use in their own countries. Typically, the idealists believe that the feminist aspect of the communist revolution in China did not deal enough with psychology, lesbianism, free love or whatever it is that the idealist Western feminist focuses on his/her own country.
In order to have it their way, the idealist feminists usually ignore history and cultural differences. Hence, the task of the materialist feminist is to show the silences in idealist feminist history. When those silences are made explicit, it becomes clear that idealist feminism should be renamed pseudo-feminism, a prop of the patriarchy.
In the 1920s, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin opposed “feminism,” while supporting women’s liberation.(1) He did not live long enough to see that the revolutionary legacy he left did more for women’s liberation than any other movement. To this day, some people calling themselves Marxist-Leninists say that they oppose “feminism.” They don’t realize that after 75 years of history the verdict is in on materialist feminism vs. idealist feminism: idealist feminism has been as useless as Trotskyism in bringing progress, because of the same basic failed approach.
It is true that no society in modern history has equality for women. Hence, communists like Lenin and Jiang Qing knew that women still had a long way to go in their revolutions. However, the communists cannot let the pseudo-feminists get away with claiming the banner of feminism. The revolutionaries of this century have earned that banner while the idealists have simply dragged it through the mud.
We proceed by pointing to the positive accomplishments of women as revolutionaries especially in China and Albania. Then we show the negative accomplishments of the pseudo-feminist movements that tried to do without the theories, strategies and tactics of Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
Whether it be the anarchist feminist movement in Shanghai of the 1920s, the “sexual politics” forerunners in China, the “take back the night movement” in the contemporary United States, the spread of anti-battering women’s centers, the application of psychology to women’s issues in the First World or work through the channels on battering and sexual harassment, pseudo-feminism has been a horrific dead-end for women. It’s time to sum up that history and get on to the road of Maoist revolution, the most effective way forward for women.
Note: V.I. Lenin, The Women Question, New York: International Publishers, 1951.
4.2 National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC)
1275 K Street N.W. Suite 750
Washington, DC 20005
New York Times 10/25/91, p. A5
What if 14 women, instead of 14 men, had sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas?
As long as men make up 98% of the U.S. Senate and 93% of the U.S. House of Representatives, women’s voices can be ignored, their experiences and concerns trivialized
- Excerpts from the NWPC advertisement
What if groups like NWPC did not waste their time lobbying an imperialist Senate of 98% men expecting a feminist victory?
The truth is NWPC’s concerns were not ignored in the Thomas confirmation hearings. They were aired on national television for days. Rarely does any real struggle of the oppressed get such attention. WPC’s lobbying attempts fail because they are designed to fail. The goals are vaguely conceived and the strategy is absolutely no good.
What if groups like NWPC worked for Maoist revolution instead? In one generation in China (1949-1974—before capitalism was restored) the country developed from a society that allowed buying and and selling of women as slaves to a society with 22.6% women in its highest government body of 2885 members(1)—the rough equivalent of the top 700 Congressional, military and business leaders in the United States. (Remember that the United States’ population is one-quarter the size of China’s.)
Since the United States would not start in as bad a position as China did before its revolution, it is likely a Maoist revolution in the United States would bring even more than 22.6% women to top leadership posts. Yet with the failure of generations of the NWPC-type strategy in the United States, the United States of 1991 is still way behind the China of 1974, as evidenced by the figures on Congress the NWPC provides.
In 1949, the infant mortality rate in Shanghi was 150 deaths per 1000 births. In 1972 it was down to 12.6, lower than the infant mortality rate of 18.1 for whites in New York City in 1972.(2) Those concerned with women’s well-being understand that this is a statement on the health of women in the two countries; these figures stand despite the fact that the United States is several times wealthier than China.
China under Mao also abolished the use of women’s bodies in advertising, not to mention nude pornography. All this and much more was accomplished in 25 years.
When capitalism came back to China it came back after defeating the effort of a communist woman, Jiang Qing, to take the top leadership role in China. It has meant the return of pornography, sexist ads, prostitution, cosmetics, skyrocketing rape rates, and a decline in rural health care coverage and the percentage of women in government. This is all the more reason that MIM mourns the arrest of Jiang Qing in 1976 by capitalist-roaders. At the same time, MIM resolves to learn and teach the lessons of history and continue the struggle Jiang Qing led for women’s equality.
1. William T. Liu ed., China Social Statistics, 1986.
2. China: Science Walks on Two Legs, Science for the People (New York: Discus Books, 1974) and Serve the People, Victor and Ruth Sidel, Macy Foundation, 1973. Also see the chapter on women in “The Political Economy of Counterrevolution in China: 1976-1988” (MIM).
4.3 Albania and Women
With the results of Albania’s second round of voting on March 29, 1992, the Socialist Party lost control of the government.(1) Previously called the Communist Party or the Party of Labour of Albania (PLA), the Socialists had controlled Albania from 1944 to 1992.
With the death of Mao Zedong and capitalist restoration in China in 1976, Albania’s communist leaders took to the capitalist-road themselves, despite their avowed denials. Ironically, they took to criticizing Mao for saying that when a communist party is in state power, it forms a bourgeoisie in itself that must be struggled against.
Today, it is painfully clear that Albania’s PLA did contain a bourgeoisie, one that allowed the ultimate in pro-Western capitalist restoration, crowned in March, 1992. Mao was right about communist parties, while Trotskyists, Hoxhaites and others who refused to admit that the bourgeoisie worms its way into communist parties in power are now proven as wrong as can be. Whether it be Gorbachev, Yeltsin or Albania’s Communist Party leaders, it was the supposed “communists” who led the restoration of openly pro-Western, pro-market capitalism in the Soviet bloc. They were the bourgeoisie in the party Mao was talking about when only a minority of communist parties (but a majority of communists) would listen. The history of the Soviet bloc proves once again that Mao’s greatest contribution to Marxism-Leninism was the theory of continuing class struggle under socialism and hence the need for continuous revolution and struggle against the bourgeoisie in the party.
Before Albania’s communist leaders explicitly denied Mao’s scientific thought in 1978 and while the PLA still opposed Soviet revisionism, Albania made many great steps forward. These gains are being tossed aside even as we write this, but they are still worth learning from. Unlike most Eastern European countries that installed communist governments with direct military conquest by Soviet armies during World War II, the Albanians defeated Hitler independently, and installed their own communist government.
Feminists looking at Albania can learn two things. One lesson is that once again no country in the world has yet achieved equality for women, a goal for the final achievement of communism. Another lesson more often overlooked, however, is that some movements for women’s liberation are quicker and more successful than others.
Before the Marxist-Leninist revolution, the traditional conditions of Albanian women were more dreadful than most women in the West can imagine:
In Albania, many women were forced to cover their faces in public, were sold as child-brides through pre-arranged marriages and were subject to physical punishment and even death at the hands of their husbands or fathers if they disobeyed. In Albania, only a few hundred women worked outside of the home.(2)
Albania has a population of about three million today.
In this situation the communists stepped in and brought Albania from conditions for women far behind the West and put them ahead of women in the West—all this in a generation and a half. They started by organizing women to engage in armed struggle against Hitler’s occupation armies. 6,000 women joined the fight.
A mere 34 years later, in 1978. and before Albania definitively took to the capitalistroad, women made even greater strides in the battle for political power. Not only were there now hundreds of thousands of women working instead of just hundreds, women held hundreds of the very top positions in government:
Women made up 33.3% of the deputies in the highest government body, the People’s Assembly, in 1978. Women are 26% of the members of the Supreme Court, 41.2% of the leaders of the mass organizations and 25% of the party members.(2)
By contrast, at the same time in the United States, the U.S. Congress was less than 1% women.
The professions saw women advance from a society with no education for its predominantly peasant population to a society where women had education and used it in their jobs.
In addition to the quantitative advances women made, there were qualitative ones. Women received 15 paid weeks of maternity leave and three months each year until their children were three. Workplaces arranged breaks for women to care for their babies, not to mention free prenatal and postpartum care. In addition, daycare spread widely to allow women to work. Women also gained the right to divorce and state protection for children in the event of divorce.
All these gains were cut short with the slide of the Albanian Revolution into revisionism, state capitalism and now outright pro-Western style capitalism. Feminists can only mourn the loss in previously socialist Albania and look forward to the next revolutionary communist upsurge there, guided by Mao’s theory of continuous revolution.
1. Boston Globe 3/31/92, p. 13.
2. Rosie O’Connell, “Women and the Family Under Socialism,” Workers’ Herald
2/82, Vol. 3, no. 1.
3. Redstockings, Feminist Revolution, NY: Random House, 1978, p.98.
4.4 What Didn’t Work in China
On the road to liberation in China, many, many feminists made the correct choice and joined the Communist Party (CCP) led by Mao Zedong Their decision contributed to the Revolution of 1949 and the advancement of feminist struggle after that.(1)
It is important to look at feminist politics in China both before the Maoist revolution and after. Pseudo-feminist critics of Mao’s CCP are silent on the question of what happened to the non-Marxist feminists before 1949. They said a lot of things that pseudo-feminists are saying today and like today’s pseudo-feminists, they failed in their efforts.
The women’s movement in China started at least as early as 1912 with petitions and demonstrations for equal rights including the right to vote. By 1922, Communist Wang Hui-wu criticized her comrades in written articles for allowing their women’s movements to be taken over by warlords. (Warlords were local authorities, militaryprince-fiefdom-bosses before China was unified as a single country.) Hence, from the beginning there was a class struggle within the women’s movement.
The communist women of the 1920s also thought that some of the feminists of the day had a way of destroying social change movements from within:
They were equally concerned that the women’s rightists not dissipate their energies in battles between the sexes when they should be girding themselves for class warfare. Some would mock the notorious Miss Han Ying who promoted the “hate system” which turned women against men on the erroneous assumption that their enemy was the male sex rather than an oppressor class composed of men and women.(2)
One of the problems of the oppressed is that their history gets erased or written in inaccessible places. Part of the result is the constant re-invention of the wheel. The idea that men are the supreme enemy is not a new idea restricted to the United States since the 1960s. The idea was in currency in China in the 1920s as well. Where did Han Ying and the whole anarchist feminist movement take Chinese women in the 1920s and 1930s? Nowhere.
Actually, MIM today believes that men are the enemy. It is even possible that at some point in history they may become the principal enemy. But right now, men and women are both still starving by the millions and dying in wars; targeting men sexually as if they were the all-powerful enemy is unrealistic.
One Western pseudo-feminist critic of China’s revolution, Suzette Leith, describes one of the communist women close to the foundation of the CCP named Hsiang Chin-yü who had to fiercely criticize certain kinds of “feminists” at the time:
Hsiang’s sharpest criticisms were for the “romantics,” young girls who espoused free love and placed highest emphasis on individual liberty and happiness. Hsiang labeled these girls dangerous and undisciplined.(3)
As forerunners of today’s pseudo-feminists who criticize men for their individual tastes in romance, political women of the 1920s raised such self-serving behavior to a principle. The Western-educated Chinese women demanded that educated Chinese men discard their traditional wives and start over by marrying for “love,” presumably “love” of educated women.(4) Then as now, the competition for men beneath the surface was concealed, but plain enough to the scientist of revolution.
A high point of women’s liberation for pseudo-feminist Leith came when the Nationalist army (the pro-landlord, pro-U.S. army that opposed Mao’s People’s Liberation Army in the civil war) liberated one woman from her communist husband. Another high point for Leith occurred when a communist husband was killed so that the oppressed wife could manage to escape.(5) Transferring her own decadent Western imperialist culture to China, Leith makes a gigantic leap of logic in examining divorce in China:
The enthusiasm with which peasant women sought out divorces indicates that they, like the girl students, perceived themselves as primarily sexually rather than economically oppressed, in struggle not with the landlord but with the male.(6)
What matters to Suzette Leith, who is preoccupied with the decadent imperialist family, is not that women in China were starving by the millions, but that sexual freedom be attained. Ironically, even in the case of the two women Leith cites as oppressed by communist men, the women in question went on to stay in the Communist Party. They didn’t go the individualist, sexual politics route.
MIM would like to be able to make a simple case for women’s liberation, especially by pointing to accomplishments of Maoism, and avoid having to say that sexual freedom is subordinate to freedom from starvation, homelessness and militarism, but decadent women like Leith make that impossible. They insist that we dot the “i” and cross the “t,” so MIM does: sexual oppression is not the principal contradiction in the world today, and it hasn’t been in China’s history so far this century. The sexual struggle is subordinate to class and nation struggle.
It is necessary to prioritize struggles that way because Leith makes comments that peasant women are not oppressed by landlords and that they look on the Nationalist (pro-landlord) Army as liberators. In the first place that is a lie as demonstrated by tens of millions of peasant women who joined the communist cause. In the second place, it is not even real feminism. The proof is in the society that people like Leith turned to—Taiwan. Mao Zedong’s People’s Liberation Army drove the remnants of the Nationalists out of Mainland China and into Taiwan. Later we will see what the result of efforts of pseudo-feminists like Leith’s have achieved for women in Taiwan. We can’t leave that job to Leith, because she is so idealist she no where takes responsibility for the outcome of her kind of politics.
Leith concludes her study by saying that Hsiang was loyal to the CCP “rather than to her sex.” MIM concludes that Leith is both loyal to capitalism and feudalism, on the one hand, and patriarchy, on the other hand, but demonstrates such loyalty while working under the guise of “feminism.”
Janet Salaff and Judith Merkle are another pair of free-love-touting pseudo-feminists. They are sympathetic to the anarchist cause célèbre in Soviet history, the Kronstadt revolt of 1921. They also believe that during Stalin’s reign as party leader in the Soviet Union:
The most bizarre excesses of the policy can be attributed to the aberrations of his personality.(7)
Salaff and Merkle start with the usual idealist twist on a statement that the revolutionary feminists no doubt agree with:
The Revolution vastly improved the lot of many Russian women, increasing literacy, education and legal rights. Most Soviet women work out of choice as well as necessity, and child care is available. But these accomplishments fall far short of the hopes of the women revolutionaries or the early promises of the revolution itself.(8)
Without producing any of the figures which might refute those MIM has in other articles on China, Salaff and Merkle come to the inaccurate factual conclusions that women only made token gains during the Russian and Chinese revolutions.
Nancy Milton, who lived in the People’s Republic of China gave a personal testimony to rebut Salaff and Merkle in addition to analysis of the situation in Mao’s China:
During one of my teaching years in Peking, I worked with a teaching group of about thirty teachers, approximately half men and half women. Within this group, virtually all specific leadership was in the hands of women, not because they were women, but because it happened, in each case of teaching specialization, political leadership or whatever, a woman had superior qualifications of experience, ability, training or knowledge... No one seemed to regard the situation as particularly remarkable except for myself, and I, too, came to take it for granted.(9)
Milton went on to thoroughly criticize Salaff and Merkle for an ahistorical and ethnocentric approach.
One interesting aspect of this is that Salaff and Merkle are some of the more correct critics of the real revolutionary feminists. They aren’t as far off as some of the more reactionary ones like Leith. All the while calling for free-love, an increased role of women in armed struggle and probably anarchism, Salaff and Merkle make their “ethnocentric” mistakes.
It just goes to show how it is difficult to escape the bias of one’s nationality. We must always insist on comparative research at all times, especially before we set about criticizing societies other than our own.
1. Jack Belden’s China Shakes the World is a good source of information on the struggle of women unleashed in the communist revolution.
2. Roxanne Witke, “Women as Politicians in China of the 1920s,” Women in China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973, pp. 40-41.
3. Suzette Leith, “Chinese Women in the Early Communist Movement,” Marilyn B. Young, ed., Women in China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973, p. 50.
4. Ibid., p. 56.
5. Ibid., p. 63.
7. Janet Weitzner Salaff and Judith Merkle, “Women and Revolution: The Lessons of the Soviet Union and China,” Women in China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973, p. 155.
8. Ibid., p. 158.
9. Nancy Milton, “A Response to ‘Women and Revolution,’” Women in China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973, p. 181
4.5 No Gains for Women in Taiwan
The masses know the answer to the question of where Chinese pseudo-feminism led the women of Hong Kong, Taiwan, south Korea, Japan and India. In the most basic aspects, women of these places have yet to be liberated in the most elementary ways. Taiwan and Hong Kong are especially good comparisons with Mao’s China, because they are Chinese and because people who opposed Mao’s revolution fled to those places. In Taiwan and Hong Kong we can see that not having a communist revolution means failure for feminist goals.
People in capitalist Hong Kong, where several million Chinese live, know that pornography, prostitution and cosmetics are rampant. Just as they are in the West. No tourist will fail to notice the prostitutes. British rule in Hong Kong has made it into just another Western city, except that it has an exceptionally large superexploited population of Chinese workers.
During the 1970s when a quarter of Mainland China’s top government positions were in women’s hands and a woman was nearly the top leader, Taiwan was following the U.S. model family of the 1950s. In this family, men stay out with the “boys” after work hours, while women remain in tight social isolation at home. Women had a mere 36% of senior high school opportunities, and the hot topic of the day was whether or not to set quotas for women so that they could not occupy more than 10% of college student positions, instead of being over a third of college students.
Taiwanese men continued to take concubines in quasi-legal form, with the concubine transmitted into a “mistress” whose residence is separate from that of the legal wife.(1)
Becoming a wife carried the same trappings in the 1970s in Taiwan as it did in the United States.
From sexless school girl days, women move into the hard sexual sell, spending hours each week at the beauty parlor and having makeup applied for them by professionals for important occasions. their bodies are molded into heavy corsets and padded brassieres, their feet adorned with spike-heeled shoes, and the services of plastic surgeons are available to reshape eyes and noses to conform to the current standards of beauty.(2)
This went on at a time when in Mainland China the “Mao suit” was the standard apparel for men and women alike.
Once they are married, Taiwanese women have a very weak position, even by Western standards.
As for ownership of property, many women have not been informed that a special contract must be drawn up: if it is not, then all property acquired by them before and during the marriage comes under the husband’s management and can be disposed of by him as he sees fit.(3)
In Taiwan, where the anti-communists fled from Mao, women are still housewives. They have yet to secure anything close to equal access to employment opportunity. The same is true of women in Japan and south Korea.
Real feminists realize that the real progress for women’s liberation took place not with pro-capitalist reform movements like those in the West or capitalist Asian countries. Nor did real progress come with capitalist restoration in Mainland China. It was the Maoist revolutionary movement that contributed the most to accomplishing women’s liberation in Asia.
1. Norma Diamond, “The Status of Women in Taiwan: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back,” Marilyn Young, ed., Women in China, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1973, pp. 211-239.
2. Ibid, p. 236.
3. Ibid, p. 215.
4.6 Jiang Qing, Great Revolutionary Leader
Revolutionary communists from Peru to Amerika to China mourn the death of Jiang Qing, the world’s foremost communist leader since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976.
Jiang Qing committed suicide on May 14 according to the social-fascist (socialist in words, fascist in deeds) Deng Xiaoping regime in China. She was serving a life sentence at her daughter’s house according to the regime.
Beijing Spring 1989 Connection
The regime reported the death on the night of June 4, the anniversary of the Beijing massacre in 1989.(1) At this point, MIM is not aware of any details in the supposed suicide.
As the people that carried out a coup d’état against Jiang Qing to take power, the Deng Xiaoping regime cannot be trusted to report what actually happened. The New York Times speculated that the regime waited as long as possible to announce the death in order not to give students another reason to demonstrate in the crucial May and early June period. This would also be an attempt by the regime to link student “turmoil” to Jiang Qing.
On June 5, 1989 after the massacre, the Central Committee of the social-fascist regime said the people it massacred were “political rogues, remnants of the Gang of Four, and other scoundrels.” The Gang of Four—Jiang Qing, Wang Hungwen, Yao Wenyuan and Zhang Chunqiao—led the Cultural Revolution in China and represented the generation of Mao’s successors.
A reading of documents by leaders of the Beijing Spring shows that the bulk of the movement leadership was not in the hands of Gang of Four supporters.(2) Even though the movement in 1989 used many of the same techniques—political posters, which were outlawed by Deng after the Cultural Revolution, gaining free train transport from sympathetic train workers, getting free food wherever they travelled and going into the countryside, other cities and middle schools in order to drum up support beyond the students. Even some of the slogans—i.e., “Down with Deng Xiaoping!”—were also used during the Cultural Revolution.
Life Dedicated to Struggle
Born in 1914, Jiang Qing joined active political circles as a teen-age actor. She joined the Communist Party in 1931 when it faced savage repression from a landlord and imperialist-backed party called the Guomindang (also known as KMT or Kuomintang). She enjoyed a successful progressive and then revolutionary career in theater.
In 1934, she served three months in prison, where guards beat her, by their own testimony.(3)
Enduring several sicknesses that left her hospitalized for months at a time before and after 1949, Jiang Qing received radiation treatment for cervical cancer that nearly killed her in 1956; however, she eventually recovered to continue the struggle.(4)
After success in the Cultural Revolution, Jiang ended up in prison again in 1976—with some possible breaks for hospitalization, but she never relented in agitating against the social-fascists
Marriage and Political Restrictions
Despite spending 60 years making revolution and spending a quarter of that time in prison as a result, throughout her life Jiang had difficulties being taken seriously simply because she was a woman.
In 1938, she married the chairperson of the Communist Party of China, Mao Zedong. The party required Jiang Qing to give up politics for 30 years.
Thanks to Communist Party leadership, China’s women saw their conditions advance by leaps and bounds compared with pre-Liberation days. Even compared with Amerikan women, China’s women enjoyed greater equality—in their access to top jobs and more equal pay for instance.
Despite rapid progress in the area of women’s equality with men, China still had some old thinking that the Communist Party could not wish away. The reasons for relegating Jiang Qing outside politics were mostly incorrect. First, the party apparently held that Jiang Qing would receive great political scrutiny as the wife of Mao Zedong. Hence, any political mistakes she made would reflect on the party and the party believed that she was relatively inexperienced to be in such a position.
Jiang Qing was not yet a ranking political leader despite her years of dedication up to that point. There was no good reason Jiang Qing could not make mistakes and then correct them.
A second implicit reason the party had was that it wanted stability from Mao and Jiang, since Jiang had an actor’s reputation for having had several lovers and because Mao himself had already had two wives. Still, the two could have guaranteed stability without sacrificing Jiang Qing’s political career.
A third reason given was that the party wanted to make Mao more productive and have Jiang Qing take care of him for 30 years as an important political task. Head of state Liu Shaoqi continued with this approach to keep Jiang out of politics after Liberation in 1949.(5)
Despite the many incorrect attitudes toward women both inside and outside the party, from the beginning of the marriage, Jiang served as Mao’s political secretary. She was so close to Mao that she retreated with him as part of the last group to leave Yanan under enemy fire in 1947. She was also appointed a political assistant in the revolutionary army in the last and greatest military campaigns of the civil war.(6)
In the early 1950s, despite opposition from the party and Mao, she participated in the land reform movement that distributed land to the peasants and then collectivized agriculture. She did so anonymously so as not to attract attention.(7)
Without so much as a personal enemy of hers as a phony gossip source or circumstantial evidence, male chauvinist pig Ross Terrill speculates that she arranged her work in the countryside land reform movement, just so she could meet with ex-boyfriends.(8) This kind of questioning of her individual motivations is typical of her critics.
By the early 1960s, Jiang was pushing Mao to criticize reactionary cultural and educational practices. Having returned to cultural work in the early 1950s, she was in full swing by the 1960s authoring criticisms and then directing revolutionary ballets and theater.
Jiang criticized art for not changing after the revolution. Art continued to have bourgeois and feudal heroes, ghosts and other superstitions and avoided the life of the common people: “Do you eat?” She cried to the theater people, “That food came from the farmers! So serve the farmers in your plays and operas!”(9)
Throughout the Cultural Revolution, Mao gave his ideological support and theoretical aid, while Jiang Qing did the hands-on work. A strong portrait of her leadership role in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) emerges in a biography called Chiang Ch’ing.(10)
Jiang Qing was Right
Of all the analysts and critics looking at China after Mao, Jiang Qing saw most clearly what various individuals in the party would do after Mao died. She made the shrewdest political judgements in some cases where Mao Zedong may have proved wrong.
This is not to say that such judgements are the most important aspect of building a movement toward communism. All individuals are the product of historical forces and situations. However, too often, Jiang Qing does not receive credit for what she has done.
Nicholas Kristoff claims for instance that:
One of her grave miscalculations, in retrospect, was to make an enemy of Deng Xiaoping, now China’s senior leader, and denounce him as an “international capitalist agent.”(1)
In the next paragraph of his hack-job, Kristoff goes on to talk about Jiang Qing as “using beauty and sex to win power.”(1) Kristoff makes Jiang out to be someone who never understood politics, but Jiang was profoundly opposed to Deng Xiaoping for years. Kristoff’s portrayal pretends that Jiang was not a revolutionary veteran in her 50s and 60s when attacking Deng Xiaoping.
Jiang Qing has proved quite correct about Deng Xiaoping as an “international capitalist agent” as MIM Notes has shown repeatedly in past issues.
One of Jiang’s merits was her attempt to get Mao to purge Deng Xiaoping from the party much earlier than his third disgrace in 1976. She also led the attack on Zhou Enlai in the later years, again for consistent reasons of program despite Zhou Enlai’s obvious popularity and declining health. Zhou Enlai was Deng Xiaoping’s direct political boss and patron.
From the beginning she also saw through Yang Shangkun, reportedly having violent disagreements with him as early as the early 1950s. Yang responded to her radical activism after 1949 by continuing to advocate her retirement from politics.(11) While the bourgeois hacks and revisionists describe this as a personal conflict. Yang’s line was obviously sexist across-the-board.
It was Yang Shangkun, along with his relatives, who commanded troops to massacre the people of Beijing in 1989. Yang is now one of the top handful of leaders in the social-fascist regime.
Jiang Qing also reportedly never trusted Hua Guofeng to assume leadership of a province as early as 1967.(12) Despite her low estimation of Hua, Mao appointed him to the top government and party posts just before he died. When Mao died, Hua Guofeng arrested the Gang of Four and helped Deng Xiaoping to power.
In concluding his biography on Jiang, The White-Boned Demon, a whole book of psychological National Enquirer-style gossip criticizing Jiang’s sex life, Terrill has this to say about Jiang’s challenge to Deng from prison:
Jiang added, he’s a coward and a revisionist. Only if he debates me will he show himself a true Communist.
It was the same Lan Ping (Jiang’s name from younger days) who had told Tang Na:
Unless you correct your faults, you will not be worthy to say you once were my lover.(13)
With Jiang Qing in prison because she never gave up the class struggle, all the bourgeois male-chauvinist pigs can talk about is her sex life. The handful of China “experts” who dominate the U.S. media and academic circles are too caught up in sex, not to mention intelligence-gathering, anti-communism and cultural bias, to give the U.S. public any deep understanding of what Jiang was really saying.
Unfortunately, Terrill’s book is one of two well-known English-language biographies of Jiang Qing, and hence very influential. Among Terrill’s promoters who put recommendations for his book on the back cover are Richard Solomon, head of the Political Science Department of the intelligence company called the Rand Corporation; Joseph Kraft, a syndicated columnist; and Professor Michel Oksenberg of the University of Michigan, Jimmy Carter’s number one China intelligence agent and one of Richard Nixon’s buddies. Oksenberg in particular distinguished himself by going to China with Nixon in the first group of Americans to pay respects to the regime after the Beijing massacre in 1989.
Jiang During the Cultural Revolution
Thanks to the China-watching-academic-intelligence-media elite, a number of myths have arisen with regard to Jiang Qing in the Cultural Revolution. Jiang is blamed for anything wrong that happened in the Cultural Revolution, even more so than Mao because of her hands-on role.
According to the New York Times:
During the Cultural Revolution, Ms. Jiang oversaw mass rallies in which her enemies were humiliated and physically abused. She also is said to have sought out and killed those who spurned her in earlier years.(1)
The latter accusation is not substantiated in the article, but instead, like half of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times obituaries, plagiarizes Terrill’s book. These bourgeois male-chauvinists cannot imagine Jiang’s having a political line.
They cannot imagine that she was engaged in class struggle her whole life, in some cases for decades against the very same people.
Every time she proved exactly right in her accusation regarding a “despotic landlord” (Yang) or “international capitalist agent” (Deng), the bourgeois hacks preferred to fantasize about her sex life or label her crazy as in the case of one state capitalist paper in China:
She twists her lips, snorts and even says some nonsense like: “This is not the Chairman’s revolutionary line.”(1)
When revisionists arrested Jiang Qing in 1976, Hua Guofeng’s press criticized Jiang Qing as a “modern witch,” “woman devil,” and “procuress.” For good measure the press added in that “from time immemorial women have been the source of all evil.”(14)
Two of Jiang Qing’s female associates, at the time of the anti-Gang of Four campaign, were tarred with the charges of “she had never had a boyfriend” and “unable to succeed with men at either a high or low level and never able to find a suitable husband.”(14)
Even one of Jiang Qing’s more sympathetic bourgeois biographers—a woman named Roxanne Witke, who at least tried to deal with serious political issues befitting state leaders—accused Jiang Qing of distorting the goals of the class enemy she attacked. Jiang Qing led the Cultural Revolution saying the Liu Shaoqi headquarters wanted to break down collective agriculture, assign plots of land to families, set quotas for farmers for sales to the state, put the rest of the product on a “free” market and open China to superexploitation by Western imperialists.(15) And when Deng Xiaoping took power, he and the rest of his class did every single thing Jiang Qing said he would.
Jiang Qing did not have to distort the class enemy’s goals. There were very large differences between the two sides, the two lines—Jiang’s line and Deng’s line. The new state capitalists led by Deng did indeed break collective agriculture, open free markets and allow imperialist investment with wages for Chinese workers that amounted to a few dollars a day.
The most serious charges against Jiang Qing by the bourgeoisie would amount to her repressing the masses. This charge is far from proven.
The usual Western custom is to attribute all violence during the Cultural Revolution to the Gang of Four, a means by which it is possible to come up with figures in the hundreds of thousands or millions of casualties. By such a measure there is no question that the Cultural Revolution exacted a high price from the masses.
These figures include violence by factions opposed to the Gang of Four, personal vendettas carried out by people in the name of politics and whatever Western analysts deem a premature death. As explained in previous MIM Notes, this technique is culturally chauvinist and pro-bourgeois because these same analysts use different methods in examining Western bourgeois leaders.
According to Jiang’s enemies in power, the Gang of Four killed 34,800 people in ten years in a country with a billion people.(16) By contrast, the regime in one year in 1983 called for a quota of 5,000 executions and apparently surpassed the quota with 15,000 or more.(17)
Meanwhile, Deng accuses both Jiang and the 1989 movement of advocating “beating, smashing, looting and burning.” Actually, Jiang Qing took a clear line against violence during the Cultural Revolution. Witke paraphrased Jiang Qing of 1972 this way:
How can ideological aggression against revisionism be sustained without stimulating physical aggression, which might sever lines of communication between the leaders and led? More to the point, how could the violence that was no more than political enthusiasm in action be curbed without breaking off the revolutionary momentum needed to prevent society from sinking back into the status quo ante where poor people and women were excluded from responsibility for public affairs?(18)
From the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, Jiang Qing said to a rally of teenage activists:
... if you want to unite, you must be dictatorial toward the minority who persist in violent behavior.(18)
This was a clear statement that people employing violence were undermining socialism.
Jiang Qing was quite right about violence. Violence among middle school students or against intellectuals could not accomplish anything. Again and again Mao and the Gang of Four stressed that violence must be reserved for the tiny class enemy in the party on the capitalist-road and only employed cautiously. Jiang Qing spent much time criticizing ultra-leftism and anarchism for militant posturing that diverted attacks from the capitalist-roaders.
Another little known fact is that Jiang Qing was perhaps the first major leader opposed to the theory of “hereditary redness.” At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, privileged children of capitalist-roaders in the party (applauded by Trotskyists for their class stance) used this incorrect doctrine to attack other children.(19) In the end, Jiang Qing prevailed, and 95% of the youth were allowed to participate in the Cultural Revolution.
This did not stop conservative and ultraleft Red Guards from attacking intellectuals and students in the name of defending Maoism. These Red Guards were hoodwinked by children of the capitalist-roaders trying to divert the attack from their parents onto other targets. They roused themselves to taunt Jiang Qing at Beijing University that they were going to “hang and fry” her.(20)
Much is made of the fact that Jiang Qing referred to the intellectuals as the “ninth stinking category” as a means of criticizing them. She also said, “attack with words; defend with force” once, but then took even that mild statement back. Jiang Qing never said, “use this period of freedom, political education and participation to form factions that kill each other and persecute intellectuals.” That this often happened in China demonstrates the difficulties of putting proletarian democracy into practice.
The people’s movement in Beijing 1989 would do well to look at the problems with attaining mass participation in politics. When central government authorities allow big character posters to go up everywhere, allow strikes, allow demonstrations and encourage workers and students to administer their own affairs, there is a price to pay in shaking off the old habits of generations.
Jiang Qing knew this but did not conclude that the masses should not start running their own life as her concerns regarding violence show. Nor did she throw out the idea of relying on the masses and encouraging them toward self-reliance in politics, as most of her critics would.
While the Maoists’ efforts to rely on the masses had many adverse effects for the masses themselves, a lesser known phenomenon is the several assassination attempts on Jiang Qing.(21) Many political leaders would have imposed martial law and state of emergency, but Jiang Qing and the Maoists persevered through assassination attempts because they did not wish to incite the masses to further violence against each other in the name of preventing assassination attempts.
Jiang pushed this notion of relying on the masses farther than Mao did in a friendly disagreement within the ranks of Maoists. The Gang of Four held that Shanghai in 1967, and by implication the rest of the country, could organize itself into Paris Commune style governments. When Mao died, the revisionists charged that the Gang of Four moved to have various places establish Paris Communes, which is likely true.
The Gang of Four’s notion of proletarian democracy makes the ideas of today’s movement leaders like Wuer Kaixi, Shen Tong and Yan Jiaqi look authoritarian and elitist in comparison. These leaders only want freedom of the press and an end to government corruption. They have little idea how workers and peasants could practice “democracy.”
In contrast, in the Paris Commune style administration, the masses seize their government and economy and have the power to recall their officials at any time. Membership in the party and government posts as they were known would be abolished because of the participation of the masses. The class basis of commune rule would be assured by the masses’ dictatorship over the small minority and the masses’ continuous supervision of their leaders.
The Shanghai Commune of 1967 was shortlived because Mao reluctantly opposed the idea and adopted Zhou Enlai’s idea of revolutionary committees as a compromise. Mao held that the masses still needed a vanguard party and that too many communes would complicate foreign policy and make dictatorship and defense preparations more difficult. In other words, Mao felt that the international conditions were not yet ripe for communes. For this reason, among others, Mao lightly referred to himself as “center-left” with the Gang of Four as the real “left.”
Jiang Qing realized perhaps more sharply than Mao that the culture and ideology of the society lagged behind the advance of the developing socialist economy. She never “rested on her laurels” as Mao would say.
As an example, in 1952 she was not satisfied with women’s progress, especially in the countryside, so when she got the chance, she went to a village incognito and worked behind a plow to show that women could manage plowing of the fields.
In some remarks to Witke, Jiang Qing summed up the situation of women in 1972:
Don’t just look at the progress of today. Although women occupy highly important positions in industry, agriculture, education, and other departments, and there are even women in such critical industries as defense, still there are backward aspects that you should examine.(22)
This attitude of not ignoring the realities of patriarchy and class society guided Jiang Qing in her efforts to make “continuous revolution” precisely when she was at the zenith of her power and when typical rulers would have become complacent and defensive of the status quo.
Contrary to what Westerners might expect, Jiang Qing also made a detailed criticism of the personality cult which was built up around Mao Zedong to make it easier to knock down Mao Zedong Thought.(23)
Jiang’s Place in History
Comrade Gonzalo in Peru has pointed out that Maoist parties engaged in armed struggle are more advanced than those that are not. Jiang participated in armed struggle led by the Communist Party to liberate China from semicolonialism and semifeudalism.
She also took the struggle to the next stage—against the bourgeoisie in the party under socialism. In that struggle she was the steadiest and foremost hands-on organizer.
After Mao’s death and her own arrest with the Gang of Four, Jiang Qing demonstrated herself to be a leader of leaders. Two of the Gang of
Four sold out to the regime under pressure in return for lenient sentences.
Zhang Chunqiao, the only other Maoist leader close to Jiang’s stature chose a strategy of silent resistance. Jiang, however, by all accounts gave fiery resistance to the revisionists at every turn and to the end of her life. In her political trial even the bourgeois critics noticed that she embarrassed the regime politically.
In all these ways, Jiang served as the leading Maoist in the world since Mao’s death. Her death is a tragic loss to the proletariat, especially in the loss of her knowledge derived from practice of the twists and turns in the first historical struggle against the bourgeoisie under socialism.
[None of the sources for this article are by Jiang Qing supporters except for Rita Helling.]
1. New York Times 6/5/91. p. 1, p. c19.
2. See Mok Chiu Yu and J. Frank Harrison, eds., Voices from Tiananmen Square, Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1990.
3. Ross Terrill, The White-Boned Demon, New York: William Morrow and Company, 1984, p. 61.
4. Ibid., p. 228.
5. Ibid., p. 201.
6. Ibid., p. 177.
7. Roxanne Witke, Comrade Chiang Ch’ing, Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1977, pp. 252-3.
8. Terrill, p. 188.
9. Ibid, p. p 248.
10. Dwan L. Tai, Chiang Ch’ing: The Emergence of a Revolutionary Political Leader, Hicksville, NY: Exposition Press, 1974.
11. Witke, p. 255.
12. Roger Garside, Coming Alive: China After Mao, New York: McGraw-Hill Company, 1981, p. 146.
13. Terrill, p. 393.
14. Rita Helling, “Women in China,” in China in Transition: Where to Next?, South Australia: Adelaide Anti-Imperialist Study-Action Group, 1979, p. 43.
15. Witke, p. 305.
16. Los Angeles Times 6/5/91, pp. A1, A6.
17. Orville Schell, To Get Rich Is Glorious: China in the 80s, New York: Pantheon Books, 1984, pp. 44-6.
18. Witke, p. 331.
19. Hong Yung Lee, The Politics of the Chinese Cultural Revolution: A Case Study, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978, p. 75.
20. Witke, p. 297.
21. Ibid., pp. 352, 362.
22. Ibid., p. 230.
23. Ibid., p. 361.
4.7 Jiang Qing’s Post-1949 Accomplishments: Party Posts and Movement Leadership
1950 Spring: Jiang participates incognito in land reform in East China; she is appointed director of the Cinema Department of the Propaganda Department and launches condemnation of the film Inside Story of the Ch’ing Court.
Spring through summer: Jiang leads the Wu Hsun investigation.
Fall: Jiang participates in her second episode of incognito land reform, which includes marriage reform in environs of Wuhan.
1951 Winter: Jiang is forced to resign her post as chief of the General Office of the Party’s Central Committee; again becomes Mao’s secretary and remains so though the 1950s.
1954 Jiang engineers Marxian debates over the novel Dream of the Red Chamber.
1961 Jiang is preoccupied with a class analysis of the performing arts.
1962 Jiang, with the mayor of Shanghai, K’o Ch’ing-shih, begins her attack against feudal and bourgeois conventions in art and literature.
Spring: Jiang drafts the May Sixteenth Circular. [Document to become the most important initial set of instructions to Red Guards in 1966. —MC5]
1963 December: Jiang seeks background for The Red Detachment of Women on Hainan island.
1964 June and July: At the Peking Opera Festival, Jiang makes her first public speech; continues opera and ballet reform behind the scenes, while stimulating other arts festivals.
December: Jiang is elected to the National People’s Congress.
1965 Jiang organizes the critique of Wu Han’s Hai Jui Dismissed from Office,
presented in Yao Wenyuan’s name in November.
1966 Jiang directs the Forum on the Work in Literature and Art in the Armed Forces in Shanghai; is appointed cultural advisor to the army by Lin Piao; drafts second May Sixteenth Circular; becomes secretary of the Standing Committee of the Politburo. (Cultural Revolution Group of the Central Committee is convened with Ch’en Pota as head, and Chiang Ch’ing and Chang Ch’un- ch’iao as his deputies.) [The Cultural Revolution Group functioned as the highest body of the party at the time. —MC5]
1967 Jiang is appointed adviser to a reorganized PLA Cultural Revolution Group; having addressed groups and rallies for almost a year, presides over the Peking Rally commemorating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Mao’s Yenan talks.
1969 April: Jiang is elected to the Politburo.
1971 Winter: Jiang is among the designers of the national campaign against Lin Piao; throughout the mid-1970s, continues to revise revolutionary operas, ballets, and musical compositions introduced in the 1960s; releases film versions of some. [Jiang Oing was also the secretary of the group responsible for the anti-Lin Piao, anti-Confucius campaign of 1973-4. —MC5]
Note: Roxanne Witke, Comrade Chiang Ch’ing. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1977), pp. xviii-xxiii.
4.8 Soviets Embrace New Freedom to Objectify Women
While most of the Soviet Union’s new capitalists seem to know little about what they’re getting into, the editors of Komsomolskaya Pravda, the organ of the Young Communist League, have the whole thing worked out. They now take capitalism for granted, and argue that political institutions must be modelled on the economic system: “A market of ideas is just as essential to progress as a market of goods and services.”
Thus setting the pace for politics, the new liberalized market needs only to commodify the rest of human life, and the Soviet Union will have capitalism in all its glory. “Our crude purveyors of erotica could learn something from their American colleagues.” writes one Pravda editor, clutching a copy of Playboy dripping with his semen.
Another issue of Pravda ran a Playboy photo of an undressed woman fondling a life-size bust of V.I. Lenin.
4.9 Revolution and Violence Against Women
This is a revolutionary analysis of domestic violence, sexual assault and the criminal justice system. MIM admires the intentions and dedication of people involved in providing care to women who are victims of violence. MIM also recognizes the struggle in bringing attention to these issues as essential work.
MIM is quite critical of the analysis of most professionals and organizers in these fields. The literature in the field of violence against women is rife with inaccuracies, problems of statistical interpretation, theoretical inconsistencies, dogmas, selfcongratulatory praise and exaggerations of success. This article contradicts most of the existing literature—sometimes attacking it directly and by name, more often stating the truth as the best antidote to confusion.
The reformist women’s movement has failed: Why we need a revolution
Revolution will save more women from battering and rape sooner than any other strategy. Figures show that battering is not going away despite increasing attention since the contemporary imperialist women’s movement against battering began in 1971 in England.(1)
Thousands of shelters to protect the battered started forming in the mid-1970s. By 1980. 48 states had passed laws on domestic violence.(2)
By 1985, however, according to a survey, the battering rate was the same, statistically speaking, as in 1975.(3)
Statistics on rape are similarly discouraging for reformists. Despite the rise of the women’s movement and many institutions created to deal with sexual assault, the problem of rape is increasing.
Police report that the percentage of women rape victims who report has wavered around 50% for the past 15 years with only slight variation. So the increase in rape seen is not simply caused by an increase in reporting of rape. According to police reports, rape is actually rising.(4)
I don’t know anything about those particular statistics, but I do know when there’s a rotten fish, and it’s absolutely not true that rapes have been decreasing in number...(37)
... said Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will, an influential book on rape.
Some figures from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics on rape show that rape decreased by a third from 1973 to 1987. Among other problems with the Justice Department figures is that they include men as rape victims unlike the figures above. Rape of men by other men may have decreased for reasons unconnected to the situation of women. In any case, even Justice Department figures show that overall violent crimes against women 12 and older has remained unchanged since 1973. This is despite a decrease in the victimization of men in violent crime, a trend consistent with the idea that rape of men has decreased while that of women has not.(5)
Rape is increasing at a time when the United States is already plagued by pervasive rape. “A recent random study in San Francisco showed 44 percent of women have been victims of rape or attempted rape at least once in their lives.”(6)
Is mandatory arrest of batterers helping battered women?
It is important to look at the detrimental effects of mandatory arrest when assessing its overall usefulness. One problem that has yet to be overcome is the arresting of women at a far higher rate than before the law was in effect. In 20% of the calls, according to a study in Wisconsin, both the man and the woman are arrested. In nearly all cases, it is later found that the women were violent in self-defense, but the trauma and monetary cost of these arrests cannot be rescinded.(7)
In another Wisconsin study women reported dislike of the mandatory arrest policy because of inappropriate responses by the police and financial problems arising from the incarceration of the abuser who may provide the family’s only income.
Some of the women also reported fear of increased abuse after the arrest. Among victims who have had contact with the police since implementation of mandatory arrest, only 27.8% said they would call for help in the future, while 68.4% of these women said they definitely would not call the police.(8)
This study went on to discuss the problem of mandatory arrest for children in the family who often feel guilty for calling the police to report the abuse, and who are left in the care of human service agencies when the police arrest both parents. The study concludes that “In most cases ... has not been successful in the first months in providing safety and protection to victims of domestic abuse.”(9) Far from claiming to work towards ending domestic violence, this study admits that the law does not even help the women it directly affects.
These problems will most affect poorer women, who are disproportionately oppressed nationalities. These women ultimately cannot hope to have problems of power and control in their relationships solved by an economic system that rests on the power it has over their lives. This is tantamount to asking the batterers to end their battering with no external influence. Only by overthrowing the system that upholds the need for power of some over others can we hope to eradicate the problems of power in our relationships. Mandatory arrest doesn’t decrease battering through deterrence.
There is no national evidence that arresting batterers is a solution to domestic violence. Police arrests of batterers have become more and more common nationally, but we have no evidence that battering has decreased. In 1984, only 10% of police departments advocated arrest of batterers. By 1985, it became 31%; by 1986, 46%.(10) With the increase in arrests and threat of arrests, believers in the criminal justice system and reformism would think that the 1985 figures for battering should be much lower than in 1975, but they aren’t.
What little evidence exists on the side of the reformists—and this issue is so irrationally treated that no national figures are kept—shows that there may have been a slight decrease from 1975 to 1985 in husband battering of wives. That decrease was so small, however, that it was not statistically significant. In other words, the two surveys done in 1975 and 1985 by Straus and Gelles were incomplete samplings of battering in the country, so by statistical rules, the levels of battering in 1975 and 1985 were the same.(11)
Straus and Gelles also say that severe violence by husbands has declined. Their figures show that severe battering violence has declined more than ordinary battering. According to their own statistical rules, even these figures are not compelling, but the authors went to USA Today and told the public that battering had declined.
It now turns out that more complete figures collected by the FBI on homicide committed by boyfriends and husbands contradict the Straus and Gelles study. Between 1975 and 1985, homicide of women by boyfriends and spouses rose. For white men killing white women the figure rose 30%.(12)
Since shelters became available, the numbers of women killing their partners have decreased 25 percent. And yet the numbers of men killing their partners have increased. Why? “It could indicate a number of things: a desperate reaction to (men’s) losing control of women,” says Ann Jones, author of Women Who Kill.(13)
The evidence since 1985 is very sketchy. However, between 1984 and 1987, rates of violent crimes against women including rape and assault remained the same. More specifically, in Chicago domestic violence charges increased 82% between 1987 and 1989.(14)
In Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 1981-82 there was an experiment that is now widely cited as proof that arresting batterers decreases battering. It showed that the amount of repeat violence by batterers over a six month period decreased with arrest as compared with other police methods of handling the batterers—mediation and separation of the couple.
There were many shortcomings to this experiment which make it difficult to use the data in any conclusive analysis. Two sociologists reporting favorably on the Minneapolis experiment pointed out several problems including the large proportion of arrests made by three officers particularly enthusiastic about the experiment and who were affected by domestic violence on a day-in-day-out basis, much more than other officers in the department.(15) It is difficult to draw conclusions based on the actions of three police officers. Because of their large contribution to the data it is not possible to tell if the short range decrease in battering was merely due to the methods employed by these officers rather than by the effects of the mandatory arrest policy.
In addition, one should note that the period of study in the experiment was quite short. It is possible that the shock value of arrest will wear off over time.
In any case, a better designed and more recent study in Omaha, Nebraska contradicts the Minneapolis experiment. The Omaha experiment involved more police officers, fewer data collection discrepancies, the entire city of Omaha and higher rates of victim willingness to be interviewed. This study showed no difference between arrest, separation and mediation as strategies of handling battering.(16)
And no study shows that the deterrence caused by arrests actually reduces battering overall. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, the change to a policy of arresting batterers in 1987 coincided with no change in the amount of battering. There may have been a slight increase. The Ann Arbor figures were collected in such a way that they could not shed light on the question of arrest. However, those arrested for domestic violence show the same likelihood of repeating within six months as those who are not arrested. Once again the evidence is inconclusive except for one thing: battering did not decrease.
• out of 104 arrests, 15 victims were assaulted a second time by same assailant.
• out of 130 complaints that did not result in arrests, 18 victims were assaulted a second time by same assailant.
(All figures from Ann Arbor Police Department.)
One common flaw in analyses of battering and police stems from a Bureau of Justice Statistics report that women who called the police were less likely to face a second assault from the batterer. The Department of Justice hastily concluded that police efforts deter the attacks of batterers.(17) Since this theory is not substantiated in other evidence, the Justice Department should have inquired further into the differences between women who call and women who do not call the police. Women who called police may have been more likely to leave their spouses than women who did not call police. This would reflect those women’s survival skills rather than the effectiveness of police interventional.(18)
The overall situation of battering points to the failure of the criminal justice system;in dealing with the problem. Figures collected from 1978 to 1982 show that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds.(19)
The substance of this paper and its claim that arrests do not help stop battering have been rejected by academic publications. However, the evidence for our position continues to accumulate. One of the scholars responsible for the reformist arrest-the-perpetrator orthodoxy has recently recanted and admitted that arresting batterers may actually contribute to more violence against women.(38) When it comes to the strategy of arresting batterers adopted since the mid-1980s preliminary evidence shows that it has failed: battering has increased.
Batterers’ workshops don’t help them stop battering
The success rate of programs for batterers is zero. Only popular prejudice dictates that therapy “cures” batterers. Figures on one treatment—used by 75% of batterer programs—called “anger management” or “anger control” show that it does not work.(20)
In one of the clearest reviews of all the batterer programs, Edward Gondolf writes:
In general, even marginal batterer programs appear to reduce violence in at least some of the batterers whom they treat... About 10 percent of program participants may be found to be violence-free and living with a female partner after a year.(21)
In the very same article, Gondolf says:
It has been estimated that as many as 30% of batterers may recover through “spontaneous remission,” that is, through factors not related to treatment.(22)
(Note that this does not refer to a time-frame, but we assume that a “cure” implies relative permanence.) This means that a higher proportion of people who are not treated stop battering than people who are treated by marginal programs.(23)
Almost all studies of battering programs are misleading because they compare men who dropped out of the program with men who did not. In the case of alcoholism treatment programs and now also battering programs, it is proven that more determined people stay through to complete programs. This means that people who already intend to stop battering stay through the battering programs. The program completers believe more in stopping violence. They are more likely married to their victim, more likely employed, less likely to have been arrested before and less likely to drink than the program dropouts.(24) In other words, the battering programs do not help batterers; they simply attract batterers more likely to stop battering of their own accord.
Oddly enough, sometimes people who quit such programs are less likely to batter or at least no more likely to batter again than those who complete the programs—as in the case of anger control treatment. There are no general reviews of batterer programs that do not conclude with extreme caution or even pessimism on the state of programs as they exist even while holding hope for the future.(25) Yet even the most favorable reviews do not account for the possibility that some batterer programs make things better while others make them worse—a random outcome. For real evidence that battering programs work, there would have to be more successful programs than failures and those programs would have to succeed with the same kinds of batterers not included in the programs. Such evidence does not exist.
One counselor who works with both the batterers after arrest who are undergoing mandatory treatment and the women they abused did an informal survey of the women. She found that while they reported the physical abuse decreased, if not entirely stopped, over the 9 months of their contact with the program, the women also reported a drastic increase in emotional and psychological abuse—which, many contend, has far deeper and more permanent effects on the women.(26) This possible outcome is only one ethical problem with the current state of the anti-battering movement. More seriously, women are more likely to go back to batterers once they join treatment programs despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness.
Making the issue even more complicated is the fact that 26% of all couples experience violence within a year(27) and an estimated 60% experience it in the duration of a marriage. Since some studies show that large portions of batterers stop battering for a year, it becomes difficult to separate out battering men from non-battering men. Battering is that widespread. One thing for certain is that switching from a proven batterer to another partner is no guarantee of living a battering-free life.
Having a batterer attend a program does not make him any less likely to batter than before. MIM recommends that victims of battering not trust programs for batterers who have already demonstrated frequent and severe violence.
Lesbian practice is not the solution
Lesbian communities have been rocked again and again by battering problems.(28) There is nothing about women’s biology that prevents them from using violence against each other.
On average, women are physically smaller and weaker than men, so on average their physical violence is not as severe as men’s. The medical problems resulting to men are a small fraction of those caused by men to women in battering. Yet surveys show that women are more prone to battering than men. For example, according to one survey women are more likely to throw things at people in the midst of romantic conflicts.(29)
Another survey shows the following result:
Whereas 15.5% of the men and 11.3% of the women reported having hit a spouse, 18.6% of the men and only 12.7% of the women reported having been struck by a spouse.(30)
The violence of women is not simply a tall tale told by males. In one study, interviewing only women, the subjects were asked if they and/or their male partners had been violent in the previous year. The totals for the women’s self-reports show that more women were the sole perpetrators of violence than men. The most common pattern was for both men and women to be violent. The second most common pattern was for women to use violence without any retaliation from men, and the least common occurrence was of male violence only.(31) In other words, women admit to using violence more frequently than men but with less injurious effect.
Another caveat to saying that women are less violent than men is that wives are almost as likely to murder husbands as vice-versa. Women commit 48% of all spouse murders. Outside of marriage, women only commit one tenth of the murders, but the home situation makes both sexes violent.(32)
All this shows that women and men are both prone to violence in relationships. It is not important that this violence is sometimes instigated by and sometimes a reaction by women. The tragedy is that neither will disappear within romantic relationships—lesbian or heterosexual—as they exist in this society. This violence is not something intrinsic to men but rather a product of our society.
The existence of violence by women against women, men and children is further proof that restructuring society is necessary. Lesbian separatism will not eradicate what MacKinnon has called “gendered” roles. Only the abolition of power of people over people will solve the problem.
Who benefits from the status quo?
Batterers do. As the figures show, they have not been stopped.
The anti-battering movement has brought necessary publicity to the problem of domestic violence; but it has done so in a way that is very misleading. With all the hype, people get the impression that something is being done to stop battering.
Numerous social workers, psychiatrists and non-professionals have obtained jobs in work against battering with the increase in attention to battering. Those people who have jobs in this work also benefit from the status quo of battering. Without battering then jobs would disappear.
People working in the battering field probably start with good intentions, but lose track of their original goals as they become bogged down in the details of emotionally draining overwork. Contributing to this loss of focus is an ideology and mythology of the anti-battering movement that prevents it from staying in touch with its own reality.
The ideology of the anti-battering movement gets in the way of understanding the problem.
In two words, this ideology is “liberalism” and “Liberalism.” The first “liberalism” is the belief in reforming the system, as opposed to overthrowing it to make fundamental change. The second “Liberalism” is individualism, the failure to conceive of women as an oppressed group in a thoroughgoing way. The whole notion that a psychiatrist can work with a client to solve an individual’s problems is the epitome of this line of thinking.
Most of the research presented at a conference on battering refers to psychological “traits” or “attitudes” of batterers and battered people.(33) This characterization of traits ignores the fact that batterers do not exist in a vacuum, but rather as a product of society. While MIM believes that all people must be held accountable for their actions, it is also important to recognize the roots of these actions and attack these roots as the only effective way to create change.
Without working for structural change in society, a lot of the energy and resources of the anti-battering movement will be wasted. Ann Arbor’s SAFEHouse, Domestic Violence Project—a haven for women fleeing their batterers—distributes leaflets based on the premise of individualism, a dead-end for women.
One flyer which at least two anti-battering centers distribute purports to show “traits” of batterers, as if picking the right man with the proper psychiatrist would be the ideal for romance.
The problem with this way of thinking is that it presumes that none of these kinds of behaviors are found in “normal” relationships. The profile of assailants labels all people who have ever used power in a relationship. All men are instantly implicated because, as MacKinnon wrote:
Gender is an inequality of power.(34)
This is not to mention the inequalities of power that exist for reasons of social and economic status, race, and age, to just mention a few, that create power dynamics among men and women in all relationships. This power inequality that we are all taught to ignore is a product of capitalist society and as such cannot be eliminated by just avoiding those men who more overtly use “tactics of assailants.”
The belief in the two dogmas of liberalism and Liberalism is so strong that most people writing on the subject do not even address the issue of the effectiveness of their work in stopping battering.
While the Minneapolis study received widespread attention, the Omaha study has yet to have any impact in anti-battering circles. In fact, the authors of this essay did not come across any mention of the Omaha study in any research on battering.
In the case of batterers’ programs, the problem is apparent in the very title of one article—“Seeing Through Smoke and Mirrors: A Guide to Batterer Program Evaluations.” Gondolf concludes in this article that:
Most batterers face the same pressures after completing a program, and several new batterers are likely to have taken their place in the meantime, if, in fact, the batterers are reformed.(35)
Even after this summary statement, Gondolf backpedals “not to down-play the importance of batterer programs.”(36) He ends the article by supporting criteria of success that do not include stopping batterers.
Tolman and Saunders write a whole article about their pet treatment called “anger control” and write about its (in)effectiveness in passing only in the last section of the article. They are employed in social work and psychiatry respectively.
When all is said and done, the government does not even keep national annual figures on battering. Perhaps the liberals, conservatives, reformist feminists and criminal justice system all are too afraid to hear the truth—that only communism can eradicate the problem of sexual assault and battering.
Most books and articles on battering are about case studies, gory details, struggles for funding, laws—anything that does not address the bottom-line: whether or not battering is reduced.
Where MIM stands on minorities and battering
The most important thing to realize in addressing this question is that the white criminal justice system is a repressive tool. It does not solve the rape and battering problem for white women.
Since Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous people constitute oppressed nations within the boundaries of the United States, it is doubly inappropriate to see the white justice system as liberating battered women of these nationalities. It is not possible.
National liberation struggles should support and be supported by women’s liberation movements. The opportunities to abolish the power of whites over others and men over women will often occur at the same time.
What will revolution accomplish?
This essay has shown that the cheap fixes for violence against women—police, arrests, psychiatry, rehabilitation programs, shelters and even education programs—do not work. Living in the midst of oppression, it is easier to adjust than to struggle. Being happy requires that one not think too hard about the power of people over people exercised every day.
Part of that corrupt adjustment that tempts each and every one of us is the attractiveness of power. Romance culture socializes women to find rich men attractive; it socializes women to enjoy their own passive role and tells men to enjoy their dominance. White women are tempted to ignore issues of national oppression and thus continue to enjoy their position of power in the white nation as well.
Not surprisingly then, most of the spontaneous response by the movement to stop violence against women really amounts to adjusting to women’s oppression. Social workers, psychiatrists and doctors attempt to make women feel better about battering without eliminating battering.
The difference between a revolution and this kind of adjustment to oppression is that in revolution, the power of oppressor over the oppressed is eliminated step by step. This will mean taking away the economic power of the wealthy. It will mean working toward the end of government power over people, especially that of military forces. For women it will mean being no more or less vulnerable in any way than men. For oppressed nationalities it will mean running their own affairs without fear of military or police force from oppressor nations.
The struggle for this goal — communism — is not simple. We do not attempt to go into all the details here. Here we simply show that for those who have in some way realized that they cannot adjust to rape or adjust to battering, revolution is the most effective, the most realistic way forward.
1. Ginny Nicarthy, “From the Sounds of Silence to the Roar of a Global Movement: Notes on the Movement Against Violence Against Women,” Response:
To the Victimization of Women and Children, vol. 12, no. 2, NY: Guilford Press, 1989. Liane Davis cites 1976 as the year that battering was accepted as widespread problems in the United States: “Battered Women: The Transformation of a Social Problem,” Social Work, vol. 32, no. 4, 1987. To her credit, Davis concludes that “as social workers continue to develop services and policies, they also should remember that, although wife abuse occurs in the interpersonal arena, it is a social problem that requires social solutions.”
2. Christian Science Monitor 2/6/90, p. 9.
3. Robert L. Hampton, Richard J. Gelles and John W. Harrop, “Is Violence in Black Families Increasing? A Comparison of 1975 and 1985 National Survey Rates,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, no. 51, November 1989, pp.969-980.
4. Some surveys show much higher rape rates than the conservative figures below. Differing definitions and means of asking the question produce different results. Nonetheless, these figures show that using the same definition from year to year, the rape rate has increased.
5. New York Times 1/17/91.
6. Catherine A. MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 23.
7. Kevin Hamberger and Judy Arnold, “The Impact of Mandatory Arrest On Domestic Violence Perpetrator Counseling Services.” Family Violence Bulletin.
8. Jill Burnbaum, “Report Finds Both Good and Bad Initial Results of Wisconsin’s Mandatory Arrest Law,” Women’s Advocate, vol. XI, no. 4, July 1990.
10. Janell Schmidt, “Research Note: Republication of the Minneapolis Experiment,” Response: To the Victimization of Women and Children, vol. 10, no.
3, 1989, NY: Guilford Press, p. 23.
11. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, “Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 As Revealed by Two National Surveys,” Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990.
12. Christian Science Monitor 2/6/90, p. 9.
14. New York Times 1/17/91. Chicago Tribune 10/24/90.
15. Lawrence W. Sherman and Richard A. Berk, “The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault,” American Sociological Review, no. 49.
16. Franklyn W. Dunford, David Huizinga and Delbert S. Elliot, “The Role of Arrest in Domestic Assault: The Omaha Police Experiment,” Criminology,
vol. 28, no. 2, 1990.
17. Patrick A. Langan and Christopher A. Innes, “Preventing Domestic Violence Against Women,” Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, August 1986.
18. Ultimately another serious study by two sociologists has the same problem. In trying to control for the different kinds of batterers there are to show that arrest deters battering, Berk and Newton end up showing, above all, that men with partners who signed a complaint against them were less likely to repeat violence. This theoretical flaw is fatal to the study. The study also controls for four other factors concerning the victim instead of the batterer and then presents itself as a study showing that batterers are deterred by arrest! Berk and Newton acknowledge this by saying, “We do not find that arrest deters all prospective batterers... Rather, arrest seems to deter those people whom the police are most likely to arrest.” Richard A. Berk and Phyllis J. Newton, “Does Arrest Really Deter Wife Battery? An Effort to Replicate the Findings of the Minneapolis Spouse Abuse Experiment,” American Sociological Review, no. 50, April 1985,
19. Ellen Steese, “What Statistics and Shelters Say About Batteredd Women,” in Man Against Women: What Every Woman Should Know About Violent Men, Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Tab Books, Inc., 1989.
20. Richard Tolman and Daniel G. Saunders, “The Case for the Cautious Use of Anger Control with Men Who Batter,” Response: To the Victimization of
Women and Children, vol. 11, no. 2, NY: Guilford Press, 1988, pp. 15, 18.
21. Edward W. Gondolf, “A Guide to Batterer Program Evaluations: Seeing Through Smoke and Mirrors,” Response: To the Victimization of Women and
Children, vol. 10, no. 3, 1987, p. 16.
22. Ibid., p. 17.
23. Higher rates of “spontaneous remission” are suggested by Scott L. Feld and Murray A. Straus in “Escalation and Desistance from Wife Assault in Marriage,” Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, eds., Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990.
24. Alfred Demaris, “Attrition in Batterers’ Counseling: The Role of Social and Demographic Factors,” Social Service Review, March 1989.
25. Zvi C. Eisikovits and Jeffrey L. Edleson report negatively on two out of three types of batterer programs—individual and couple counseling. “Intervening with Men Who Batter: A Critical Review of the Literature,” Social Service Review, September 1989.
26. Some studies have backed up this type of impression from clinicans. They are reviewed in “Overview of Literature on Efficacy of Batterer Programs,” Violent No More. This review starts: “The jury is still out on the question of whether treatment programs for batterers work.”
27. Studies of husband violence range considerably from about 10% of husbands per year upward to 35%. For a listing of studies see Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, “How Violent are American Families?” Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990, pp. 100-103.
28. Kerry Label, ed., Naming the Violence: Speaking Out About Lesbian Battering, Seattle: Seal Press, 1986.
29. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, “Societal Change and Change in Family Violence from 1975 to 1985 As Revealed by Two National Surveys,” Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990, p. 121.
30. R.L. McNeely and Gloria Robinson-Simpson, “The Truth about Domestic Violence: A Falsely Framed Issue,” Social Work, vol. 32, no. 6, 1987, p. 485.
This study is emphatic that women commit more violence than men and that men are even less likely than women to report it.
31. Jan E. Stets and Murray A. Straus, “The Marriage License as a Hitting License: A Comparison of Assaults in Dating, Cohabiting and Married Couples,” in Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990, pp. 238-241.
32. Murray A. Straus and Richard J. Gelles, “How Violent Are American Families?” Physical Violence in American Families, New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990, p. 98.
33. David Adams, Jann Jackson and Mary Lauby, “Family Violence Research: Aid or Obstacle to the Battered Women’s Movement?” Response: To the Victimization of Women and Children, vol. 11, no. 3, NY: Guilford Press,
1988, p. 15.
34. MacKinnon, p. 8.
35. Edward W. Gondolf, “A Guide to the Batterer Program Evaluations: Seeing Through Smoke and Mirrors,” Response: To the Victimization of Women and Children, vol. 10, no. 3, 1987, p. 18.
37. New York Times 1/17/91.
38. Daniel Goodman, “Do Arrests Increase Domestic Violence?” New York Times 11/27/91, p. B7.
4.10 Revolution: The Only Effective Way to End Women’s Oppression
Women’s organizations in the United States claim to educate people while decreasing the oppressive conditions women face. People who work in these organizations accept three principles: women are oppressed in our society, this needs to change and if enough women’s organisations are built, eventually this will change. Working from the first two (correct) assumptions, it is important to understand why the third is incorrect. MIM hopes to persuade feminists that working for the revolution is the only effective way to end women’s oppression.
In examining the idea of changing women’s position in society, we must look at the origins and the mechanisms of maintaining the system which oppresses them.
As Catharine MacKinnon argues:
A person is defined by whatever material conditions the society values; in a bourgeois society, a person might be a property owner. The problem here is that women are the property that constitutes the personhood, the masculinity, of men under capitalism.
Women are oppressed in Amerika because capitalism values ownership and the power of people over people, a right and power which men have always had and defended. As long as capitalism is allowed to exist supporting the value of power of the few over the many, a value that manifests itself as the power of men over women, women’s powerlessness will be institutionalized.
First World chauvinism in the anti-battering movement
Battering is the most commonly recognized type of violence against First World women. This is no surprise to anyone who understands battering as men controlling women; imperialist control over Third World countries is the single greatest cause of injury to their people as well. MIM understands that the violence will only be eliminated through attacks at its source; women’s centers do not attack the source of the problem.
Domestic Violence Centers (DVCs) do work which assumes that men batter women because they face no consequences for these actions; their work focuses on developing laws to serve as deterrents. This is the same premise that leads to the conclusion that the death penalty will prevent crimes, and can be used effectively in our society. Penalties have not even been shown to reduce the number of repeat offenders, and the crime (battering) continues.
When DVCs talk about gains for the battered women’s movement they talk about opening new shelters and gaming public recognition for the fact that battering occurs and is a crime of violence against women. These are important gains as protection for victims and as vehicles to make more people aware of the oppressions women face, but DVCs never cite a decrease in the abuse of women as a product of their movement. Not only is their vision of how to eliminate battering for women in the United States inadequate, but they do not have a view of how to fight the violence against the majority of women in the world.
These organizations do nothing to address the abuse of Third World women, the greatest abuse of women promulgated by the Amerikan government and people. Without this vision and a plan of how to carry it out, how can they call themselves women’s organizations? When they gain privileges for white women they come at the expense of, or simply to the exclusion of, Third World women.
Continue the struggle in rape-prevention and reproductive “rights”
Rape prevention centers work on the assumption that sexual assault is based on individuals’ attitudes and beliefs about power differences between genders. They work to prevent rape by re-evaluating behavioral norms and promoting change in gender definitions. But what about challenging society? These gender definitions are products of our society and as long as the institution behind these values does not change, individuals challenging their own ideas will still be raped. While many in the United States are applauding the medical industry for developing Norplant, a method of contraception that is reliable and hassle-free, they ignore the many Third World women who were used to test the product.
By 1987, Norplant had been tested on over 30,000 women, mostly in the Third World. The way Norplant is administered makes it inappropriate for use in many areas of the Third World, where health systems are poorly developed. Infectionswere common among the testers and many women could not get Norplant removed when they wanted to; according to the Population Council, trial investigators “may be hesitant to remove the implants out of concern that the scientific data may be rendered incomplete.” Norplant is also being used as a sterilization device in Third World countries where population control is an important means of controlling the poor and oppressed by controlling women’s bodies.
By 1976, 24% of all “Native American” women had been sterilized; and by 1986, 35% of all women in Puerto Rico were sterilized. Most of this is done without these women’s knowledge or consent, with the knowledge and funding of the Amerikan government. What is the point of fighting for the rights of women when those who are the most oppressed are often hurt by the fight?
Capitalism uses the Third World as a market for birth control corporations, just as it does for other corporations. The U.S. government bought up Depo Provera wholesale for mass consumption in the Third World. After being found too dangerous for U.S. women’s use, the deadly contraceptive is available in Central American drug stores. The Amerikan women’s movement considers this a great success.
4.11 Reforming Capitalism: The Ultimate Defeatism
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.
— Audre Lorde
DVCs, Rape Prevention Centers, and other women’s help organizations ignore the plight of the majority of the world’s women. By focusing on gaining small improvements for women in the United States—improvements that are based on lobbying for both money and laws from the government—these organizations prolong the overthrow of imperialist patriarchy. By working within capitalism and relying on its support, these organizations lend legitimacy to capitalism. By legitimizing capitalism, they perpetuate the suffering of all women.
The Amerikan battered women’s movement has done nothing to help Third World women, who suffer under a patriarchy propped by the Amerikan government. For many of these women battering is as common as a household chore, yet DVCs tacitly endorse this abuse by legitimizing capitalism, promoting the view that the violence can be fought within the system.
If you truly believe that women cannot be liberated until capitalism is overthrown, then you should not work in an organization that legitimizes capitalism. The survival promoted by the Amerikan women’s movement is killing us.
WORK WITH MIM
The first goal in the fight against capitalism is to strip it of all legitimacy. Organizations that help women in this country are inherently anti-capitalist. If people were to form such an organization within the context of a revolutionary party this would serve both the party, and the women with whom it came into contact. This idea is similar to the Black Panthers’ breakfast programs. The help and education these organizations can offer within this system can serve to build a movement in the United States that is strongly based in the needs of women, focused on educating about the need to liberate Third World women and all oppressed people. We must educate from the understanding that no woman can be free under capitalism, and that to overthrow capitalism, and therefore imperialism, is the greatest act of women’s liberation.
Note: Betsy Hartmann, Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, New York: Harper & Row, 1987.
4.12 Abolish Psychology
“Psychology” is merely a thin skin on the surface of the ethical world in which modern man seeks his truth—and loses it.(1)
This essay touches on some academic studies usually ignored and draws out their implications on the role of psychology and psychiatry in society. Some may find their appetites only whetted. They can go on to read the studies of substance reported here. Other readers can use this essay to start to place the role of psychology in society and to become more critical of it.
I. The Slippery Object of Study
Here MIM defines psychology—the worst of bourgeois social sciences—as the pseudo-science of finding human motivations, or development processes in thinking, to explain human behavior. Psychiatry is the practice (psychotherapy) of trying to alter individual behavior through the application of psychological theory to the individual.
MIM has no major quarrel with people doing research on drugs or biochemical processes of the brain. Biochemistry and medical science are legitimate fields of endeavor. As long as we recognize the limitations of using this knowledge to explain human behavior, there is no problem. These fields can also apply a materialist philosophy of knowledge. (See MIM literature list for readings from Marx, Engels and Lenin on materialism.)
MIM also has less of a quarrel with a mechanical materialist school of thought called behaviorism, which was founded by Pavlov and B.F. Skinner. Behaviorists avoid sexual motivation and mental process issues, explaining human behavior in terms of material rewards and punishments. Much of this work is materialist and it tends to be critical of most psychology.
Hence, MIM poses the idealists of psychology—the people studying the “psyche”—against the materialists who happen to engage themselves in psychology, but who really should be called something other than psychologists. In calling for the abolition of psychology, MIM wants to stop good tuition, research and client funding from going to waste on useless idealism.
Psychological traits—the stable characteristics often attributed to individuals such as “intelligence,” “laziness,” “honesty” and “capability”—do not exist. Every individual is a product of material circumstances—their situation or environment. Since a person may be placed in different environments, a person cannot have stable psychological characteristics.
There is now considerable evidence for this contention, produced by psychologists themselves. Speaking of a common phenomenon, Jones and Nisbett say:
The observer often errs by overattributing dispositions, including the broadest kind of dispositions—personality traits. The evidence for personality traits as commonly conceived is sparse.(2)
The logical raison d’etre of psychology is under attack by psychologists, but they often seem oblivious to the implications of this attack. Many psychologists be lieve for instance that personality traits do not exist, while still not realizing that psychology without personality traits is really not psychology at all.
In the first third of this century, it was possible to believe that social behavior was best understood in terms of personality traits—that is, best understood by knowing people’s locations on nomothetic dimensions defining individual differences in general tendency to display a given type of social behavior. Thus, the best way to predict a person’s behavior in a particular situation would be to examine the primary trait which the situation taps, note the person’s level on the relevant trait, and make predictions accordingly. Similarly, the best way to explain behavior of a given type would be to call on a personality trait corresponding to the behavior.
This model of behavior had much to recommend it early in the century. It was extremely close, if not identical, to the common sense lay view of behavior.(3)
Psychologists surmise character traits and then try to prove that people with certain traits will perform a certain two or more behaviors indicative of that trait. In other words, after deciding someone has a personality trait, the observer or psychologist looks for confirmation of that trait in more than one action by the person with the supposed trait. The results are that even when an observer attempts to find very similar behaviors in the same person, s/he fails. Typically the association of two or more behaviors is between a correlation of .10 and .15 in studies done according to Nisbett. That means that people do not consistently exhibit personality traits.
Reviewing other work, Nisbett advises against social judgements that attribute personality traits to anyone:
This work indicates that people’s ability to detect covariation is astonishingly poor.
By this, Nisbett means that when people expect certain traits in people, “they tend to see it even if it is not present, and sometimes even if the opposite relation to that expected is present.” In fact, when someone has judged someone else to have a certain trait, only a very strong factual pattern in the opposite direction will convince the observer that s/he is wrong—(correlation between supposedly linked behaviors of a character trait greater than .6 in the direction opposite of what the observer thinks).
Examples of things psychologists study include lying, neatness in appearance and timeliness in turning in assignments by elementary school students. Measuring people’s ability to see behavioral patterns on observance of simple behaviors such as these, psychologists find that people fail miserably. Nisbett concludes:
As three generations of social psychologists have observed, the strong preference for personal dispositions as a basis for prediction is likely to deflect people from attending to those factors that often can serve as a useful guide for predictions—that is, to situational factors or as Lewin put it, the field of forces operating at the time the behavior takes place.(4)
Another famous and worthwhile study took a group of students at Stanford and divided them into groups with the same personality scores. The study found that contrary to popular opinion, guards exhibited mean behaviors in a prison simulation strictly because of their role and it did not matter how they scored on a personality test.(5) Such a study of behavior in social roles is not objectionable to Marxists, because ultimately, classes are also social roles. But the study of social roles should not be called psychology anymore than the study of classes.
Aside from the geographic and economic factors behind people’s behavior are the historical factors. The idea that people have character traits that stay the same over time has been used since Plato to justify the existence of fixed upper classes and lower classes. In contrast, even some social psychologists are beginning to recognise that psychological generalizations could never hold for more than their culture, time and place. In “Social Psychology as History,” Kenneth Gergen correctly argues that psychologists can contribute to the historical record by systematically collecting descriptive data:
Historians may look back to such accounts to achieve a better understanding of life in the present era. However, the psychologists of the future are likely to find little of value in contemporary knowledge.(6)
Most psychologists today do not realize that the non-existence of personality traits obviates psychology and psychiatry. All that is needed to determine the well-being of people is a social analysis of social environment—a study that should not be called psychology, although people calling themselves psychologists might happen to do such studies in spite of their training.
The next section looks at how the anti-traits theory has profound implications for management theory. Whereas people only barely observe even the most trivial behaviors correctly, they cannot observe important behaviors that managers would hope to predict. This is not to mention predicting the behavior of a person transferred from one environment to another.
b) Bourgeois management theory as an application of psychology
Psychiatry has frequent use in direct class struggle at the point of production. Today, psychiatrists attempt to manipulate workers in the United States by doing things from timing bursts of music over the intercoms to sending fumes of a controlled smell through the vents. One recent study tested the work efficiency of rock’n’roll versus other kinds of music and found that rock listeners were the most efficient workers.
At a more serious level, the psychiatrist has always stood in the background ready to label those workers no longer wanted and about to be fired “insane.” In Asylum, a psychiatric magazine with anarchist pretensions, Brian Davey explains mania as an incompatibility between one’s capacities and one’s role in the social pecking order—one’s job:
Why is an overinflated ego such a problem? If a person overestimates his own capabilities and explicitly or implicitly challenges the power of others then he will upset those others. As ego inflation proceeds in hypomania, the typical pattern is that the person becomes more and more irritable.
To MIM’s chagrin, even the anarchist psychiatrist editing the magazine bought this individualist bullshit regarding workers. So if a worker has a lousy job and doesn’t like it and becomes “irritated,” the shrink will be there to label the worker “in hypomania.”
Maoists do not believe in trying to fit individuals into individual positions under capitalism. No amount of psychiatric therapy can make everyone fit. The whole system must be overthrown because it squelches human potential.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin did not always speak in the most correct manner on these questions, even while their real underlying analysis was correct. The greatest materialists of their day the first half of this century still spoke the language of psychology. Lenin forecasted the split between Trotsky and Stalin, but he attributed the split to personality differences in his Dec. 26, 1922 statement, part of the “Last Testament:”
These two qualities of the two outstanding leaders of the present C.C. can inadvertently lead to a split.
Furthermore, according to Lenin on Dec. 24:
Stalin is too rude and this defect, although quite tolerable in our midst and in dealings among us Communists, becomes intolerable in a general secretary.
Of course, Lenin also felt Trotsky had “excessive self-assurance.
Stalin and Trotsky both took this criticism from Lenin very seriously because they themselves had carried over psychological reasoning in their management theories. They both took pride in placing the right people in the right jobs. As general secretary of the party, Stalin kept extensive personnel files and assigned people where he thought fit, individual by individual. Calling people “incompetent” or “brilliant” in their jobs was regular fare. For his part, to claim the mantle of leadership of the Bolsheviks, Trotsky referred to Stalin as a “dull mediocrity.”(7) Of a certain famous general, Trotsky said:
Voroshilov is capable of commanding a regiment, not an army of 50,000.(8)
For his part, Stalin complained about some military officers he had to work with during the civil war:
For the good of the cause military plenary powers are indispensable to me here... In that case, I alone shall, without any formalities, dismiss those commanders and commissars who ruin the job.(9)
Thousands of pages have been written on Stalin just from a psychological view. Even supposedly Marxist biographers could not resist frequent psychological evaluations of Stalin. Isaac Deutscher referred to Stalin as Asian in character and said that among other things, “his intellectual needs were more limited” than Lenin’s other top-ranking colleagues.(10)
Lenin and Stalin succeeded in their management roles in spite of these kinds of psychological carryovers in their thinking. Their materialist and structural analysis was sufficient to make casual psychological references mere descriptive rhetoric. Calling a trade official in a certain area critical to maintaining Soviet food supplies a “rascal,” Stalin nonetheless recognized the whole environment he was working in as a “bacchanalia of profiteering.” He did not just remove the official on the military front in charge of trade, as if removing an individual personality would change
anything. Stalin also decreed food rationing and price controls.(11)
What Lenin and Stalin did under more desperate conditions in shorter periods of time— pick the right leaders for the right place and time— Mao Zedong more consciously avoided, particularly in the Great Leap and Cultural Revolution where he set about training masses of revolutionary successors, not just a party elite.
Some Western economists have come to recognize the value of investment on the scale that China undertook in the Great Leap.(12) With everyone making backyard steel furnaces without the transport necessary to move the steel, the short-term goals were not met. However, millions of people did learn valuable skills in the process. They confounded the experts in getting so far as to make backyard steel furnaces.
While communists do not seek to fail in their short-term goals, the factor of the political and economic education of the masses and the party rank-and-file should always be considered. Ultimately, management decisions to find the right person for the right job should be replaced by making all people the right people for all jobs. This will unleash the atomic bomb of the masses’ creativity and make the advance to communism possible.
Under capitalism, before the socialist revolution, the communists do not have state power. Hence, they do not have tremendous power to alter their social environments. That means the vanguard party will have to mimic corporate management practices to some extent or find itself obliterated by circumstances unforgiving of management techniques only appropriate for socialism.
On the other hand, fighting the imperialist way will mean that the masses will not attain their goals. The vanguard party cannot motivate its members solely by the pursuit of salaries and profits. Instead, the fight against oppression itself must provide the motivation for the work of the vanguard party.
Ultimately, this oppression will motivate billions of people in the Third World to outperform their counterparts in imperialist corporations. In the United States, MIM must help unleash those millions also motivated by oppression to build a vanguard party able to perform more tasks than any multinational corporation.
A key advantage in this struggle of the oppressed is that the oppressed have no narrow property interests in the party. They are not like technical experts who withhold their services until paid the right price. Nor are members of vanguard parties, and vanguard-led movements, like labor aristocracy workers who goldbrick their positions. The oppressed are desperate to spread resources, information and know-how as widely as possible as quickly as possible among the proletariat and its allies, so that oppression may be overthrown faster. The proletariat should not recognize anyone who does not do that as communists.
The only time when a property-element of conflict enters the vanguard party and complicates leadership questions is the time that the bourgeoisie either directly or through revisionism seeks to take over the vanguard party. At those times, some individuals may have to claim that they are better leaders than others promoting revisionism or bourgeois interests. Comrade Gonzalo in Peru undertook just such a difficult struggle and won when most communist parties in the world turned to revisionism with the fall of Khruschev and ended up dissolving in recent years. In situations of confusion, it would have been incorrect not to credit a Gonzalo, because to do so would have been to equate him with revisionists of many shades and therefore to confuse right and wrong.
Anarchists believe there are no leaders in a social movement against oppression while subjectivists tend to think that everyone’s opinion is equally valid, at least within an oppressed group. Both anarchists and subjectivists failed in launching the armed struggle in Peru. That task fell to Gonzalo and his party.
Despite the importance of individual leaders in history thus far, their personalities, sexual motivations, cognitive structures and individual psyches were of no importance. What was important was their analysis and action that represented the interests of large groups of people.
c) Lenin on Freud and some aspects of psychology
Like hundreds of women Ph.D’s in psychology, sociology and literature decades later, Lenin sensed the negative implications of Freudian psychology for women:
Freudian theory is the modern fashion. I mistrust the sexual theories of the articles, dissertations, pamphlets, etc., in short, of that particular kind of literature which flourishes luxuriantly in the dirty soil of bourgeois society... It seems to me that these flourishing sexual theories which are mainly hypothetical, and often quite arbitrary hypotheses, arise from the personal need to justify personal abnormality and hypertrophy in sexual life before bourgeois morality, and to entreat its patience. This masked respect for bourgeois morality seems to me just as repulsive as poking about in sexual matters. However wild and revolutionary the behavior may be, it is still really quite bourgeois.(13)
Lenin would have agreed with MacKinnon that there was no way, no matter how cleverly, to fuck oneself to freedom. Lenin is correct that in some sense the Freudians, the Christians and today’s advocates of “sexual politics” all share the same premise—that somehow sexual choices and tastes make a big difference. For Lenin, bourgeois sexuality and sexuality that claimed to challenge it were not worth differentiating, not worth “poking about in.”
Young people, particularly, need the joy and force of life. Healthy sport, swimming, racing, walking, bodily exercises of every kind, and many-sided intellectual interests. Learning, studying, inquiry, as far as possible in common... Healthy bodies, healthy minds.(14)
Lenin went further to attach Freudianism to the general decadence of imperialism, the moribund stage of capitalism where social relations started to decay and clear the way for a new mode of production:
Dissoluteness in sexual life is bourgeois, is a phenomenon of decay. The proletariat is a rising class. It doesn’t need intoxication as a narcotic or a stimulus. Intoxication as little by sexual exaggeration as by alcohol.(15)
Here we see that Lenin would agree again with MacKinnon on the critique of Freudian derepression theories, that say people are better off recognizing human needs for sex. The proletariat does not need sex to spur it on. Instead:
It receives the strongest urge to fight from a class situation, from the communist ideal.(16)
Another legacy of psychological thinking especially Freudianism is to attack a critic by pointing to his/her sexual motivations. Freud said such attacks on his theories were part of repression, something he theorized happened that required people to block out the truth of what he was saying and certain aspects of sexual life generally. With this method, Freud made it impossible to disprove his theories. The substance of what a critic said no longer mattered, only the fact that all humans have a sexual nature that requires them to block out the unfiltered sexual truth.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a leading French organization with the trademark of “women’s liberation movement” took the same position with regard to critics of its psychoanalytic approach:
Opposition is explained away in psychoanalytic terms, turned into expressions of hate or fear, dismissed as hysterical, when the group responds at all.(17)
Hence, Freudianism, individualism and bad logic live on in precisely those places where they should be struck down.
Such psychological pseudo-reasoning strikes a responsive chord in those who are both self-indulgent and unwilling to exercise their mental faculties—a whole group of people disempowered by imperialism. Why bother thinking? Just examine the motivations for what individual people say and do. Ironically, then as today, many supposed feminists buy into Freudian or similar psychological thinking.
Lenin refuted the individualist-motivational approach quite perfunctorily in his gender struggles:
And you, completely abandoning the objective and class standpoint, “attack” me, accuse me of identifying free love with points 8 to 10. Astounding, simply astounding... You place in opposition to one another not class types but cases, which might indeed arise. But is the matter one of cases? If you take as your subject-matter the individual case of impure kisses in marriage and pure kisses in a transient liaison, it is subject-matter for a novel (since a novel carries descriptions of individuals, analysis of character, psychology, of given types)—but in a pamphlet?(18)
Lenin wrote this in 1915, but in 1991, MIM still has a hard time even entering dialogue with many people calling themselves feminists precisely for the reasons Lenin mentions. It’s hard to have a discussion about the real world with someone who looks at life as one giant pot-boiler.
II. The Lack of Effectiveness
a) How to evaluate the practice of psychiatry
“Psychotic” means out of touch with reality, or unable to separate real from unreal experiences.(19)
How is it possible to prove psychiatry does not work? Isn’t it an obvious success since it collected $1.7 billion in fees in 1980?(20) Don’t lots of people say they feel better after seeing psychiatrists?
In Amerika, where the myth of the individual reigns supreme, it is almost impossible to pierce the veil of superstition surrounding psychiatry. Numerous studies have proved that psychiatry does not work, but these studies do not prevent people from spending ever larger sums of money on psychiatry. The truth be damned as far as Amerikans and psychiatrists are concerned. In the language of the psychiatrist, Amerikan society and psychiatry are psychotic.
Rational reasoning processes go out the window to the extent that most people reading this essay probably have not heard of the argument here. It’s a very simple method though. It is not possible to prove the effectiveness or lack thereof of psychiatry in an individual. Instead it is necessary to take large numbers of people and examine the results of therapy, despite the risk that the hard core Freudians will say you are “repressing” in doing so.
Take 200 people diagnosed with depression, neurosis, schizophrenia or any other problem thought of as psychological—anorexia nervosa or battering, for instance. Then take 100 of those people and send them through therapy. Take the other 100 people and give them no therapy. If 60 out of 100 people in each group are “cured” after a year, then therapy has no effect.
If 80 out of 100 people receiving therapy become “cured” and only 20 out of 100 people receiving no therapy are “cured,” then we say that therapy helped. If on the other hand, only 20 receiving therapy are “cured” and 80 out of 100 receiving therapy are not “cured,” then we say that therapy has had a negative effect: psychiatry will have promoted mental illness.
In taking 200 people, it is important to have what is called “random assignment” in the experiment. That means not putting the good people in the group getting therapy and all the people with the worst problems in the group receiving no therapy. For example, a study of the effectiveness of counseling on batterers found that if one accounts for the fact that people determined to be “cured” seek counselling, then psychological counseling has no effect on batterers. In fact, there is evidence that psychiatric intervention makes battering a bigger problem. (See the essay “Revolution and Violence Against Women.”)
How does one account for which group of 100 has the duds and which group has the people predisposed to be cured? The best way is to draw numbers out of a hat and assign people to the therapy and non-therapy groups. This does not happen often. The second best method is to take those people committed to sticking through months of therapy and comparing them with other people likewise committed to change but not in psychiatric therapy. In this way, it is possible to account for the commitment of the client to be “cured” and not give credit to psychiatrists for curing people who would have been cured by any means because of their commitment.
b) Studies of studies
There have been so many studies regarding psychiatry’s effectiveness or ineffectiveness that now there are studies of the studies. One study will show no effect of psychiatry. Another will show some positive effect and another will show a negative effect of psychiatry. The studies of studies show that overall psychiatry has no effect in curing clients. Moderate psychiatry critic and psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey cites a more thoroughgoing criticism of psychiatry published in Behavior and Brain Sciences as follows:
The effectiveness of psychotherapy has always been the specter at the wedding feast, where thousands of psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, clinical psychologists, social workers, and others celebrate the happy event and pay no heed to the need of evidence for the premature crystallization of their spurious orthodoxies. The need to do so, emphasized by experimentalists and other critical spirits, has also threatened to upset the happy union.(21)
By looking at individual studies, one is able to see how it is possible to judge psychiatry as useless. Frequently, psychiatrists use drugs to give their clients confidence in their own rehabilitation. A placebo is a pill that has no medical value. It may be just a lump of flour. In some studies, psychiatrists give their clients placebos. A study of 109 psychiatric outpatients showed that 80% improved after taking the placebo for a week. Two-thirds of the people still taking the fake pills three years later reported improvement in their condition.(22)
Since this kind of manipulation works in psychiatry, psychiatrists do it in all kinds of forms all the time. In another study, 56 outpatients diagnosed “neurotic” took placebos. Their improvement “compared favorably with the results obtained by short-term psychotherapy in a similar group.”(23)
Another study tested two major schools of thought in psychotherapy against a control group and found no difference.
Indeed, there is evidence that the more deeply schooled in psychiatry, the less effective one is in therapy. Paraprofessionals have had more success than professionals in 12 studies.(24)
Torrey has collected evidence suggesting a radical change in priorities in psychiatry. However, his work is rather detailed and tame rhetorically speaking, so the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times did not notice just how radical an idea it is that professionals trained in psychological theory are unnecessary. He compared witch-doctors with psychiatrists to find out what practices they have in common and concluded that even a college education is not necessary to do a psychiatrist’s work, again with the exception of some rare disorders strictly medical in nature.
Once again, anything positive that psychiatrists accomplish is in spite of their training and need not be called psychiatry.
c) Qualitative detail
Just how bad psychiatry is in real life comes out in detail in a study of 12 different mental hospitals. Eight people acting as patients turned themselves into hospitals claiming they heard voices. Then they did everything possible to get themselves released right away with the exception of one of the eight people. The result was that the hospitals kept the people from 7 to 52 days for an average of 19 days. While trying to prove their sanity, not one of the pseudopatients was recognized as sane by the hospitals, so that they were released for schizophrenia “in remission."
In another experiment, the psychiatric hospitals were told that they had been having pseudo-patients sent to them. The hospital staffs were then asked how many people they thought were really sane out of their patients. The study concerned 193 patients.
The staff had a ten point scale for how sure they were someone was faking insanity, with 1 or 2 indicating that they were pretty sure the person was faking. It turns out that 41 out of 193 patients received a score of 1 or 2 from someone on the hospital staff. Twenty-three out of 193 were given scores of 1 or 2 by at least one psychiatrist. In actuality, however, not one of the patients was faking it.(25)
The inaccuracy of psychiatry exposed in the Rosenhan study shows that there is not much real substance to psychiatry. Only in rare cases where people need medical help—drugs—is psychiatry useful. Such cases, however, require no psychological training, only recognition of brain or other physical damage.
The government publication “Schizophrenia: Questions and Answers” is typical. Prepared by Dr. David Shore, this free pamphlet explains that there is no scientific agreement on the causes of schizophrenia.(26) This alone should alert the reader that psychiatrists aren’t talking about a unitary phenomenon.
Instead, schizophrenia is described as 8 grab-bag of phenomena sure to make most people feel inadequate and in need of psychiatric care; although, Shore says that only 1% of the population develops schizophrenia.
Symptoms of schizophrenia include “social isolation or withdrawal or unusual speech, thinking, or behavior.”(27)
A person with schizophrenia may feel anxious and confused. This person may seem distant, detached, or preoccupied... or he or she may move about constantly, always occupied, wide awake, vigilant, and alert.(28)
In other words, schizophrenics could be anybody.
Almost attributing schizophrenia to the entire religious population and all people who make social judgements, Shore says:
Delusions are false personal beliefs that are not subject to reason or contradictory evidence and are not a part of the person’s culture. They are common symptoms... false and irrational beliefs that a person is being cheated, harassed, poisoned, or conspired against. The patient may believe that he or she... is the focus of this imagined persecution.(29)
In other words, if a person has a rare belief, s/he is schizophrenic. A person can believe in God or make incorrect social judgements of other people and not be schizophrenic according to Shore, because those beliefs are part of the person’s culture. The oppressed who rise up, however, are schizophrenic. People simply aren’t persecuted in the United States, says Shore.
Not surprisingly, MIM has seen psychiatry used as a means of social control. People with radical ideas are seen as schizophrenic. In one case, a dean of a school at which MIM was doing work threatened a radical activist with being committed to a mental hospital if s/he did not stop political activities. Another case, exposed by MIM research, shows that a woman Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) leader (whose family wishes her not to be named) was committed to a mental hospital and subsequently drugged to death for throwing either an egg or a rock at the then-Vice President Spiro Agnew at a demonstration.
Such cases are an indictment of psychotherapy in its most seemingly neutral medical aspect. Actually for some time, drugs were overprescribed for psychological problems. There has been a movement against the overuse of drugs, but it remains a constant battle over where to draw the line. A study of one hospital with over 1,000 patients found 20% suffered complications from psychiatric drugs. Sixteen died with psychiatric drugs as the sole or contributing factor.(30)
III. Why Doesn’t Psychology Disappear as a Field of Study?
So many crushing studies concerning the uselessness of psychology and psychiatry have been made, why do they persist as fields of study? Don’t social scientists have any standards? The answer is the same for why pseudo-scientific theories of race never disappear: some groups of people are willing to overlook the truth for ideological benefits.
With its uses for social control—in prisons, mental hospitals, schools and workplaces—psychological theory and its practice of psychiatry are not going to disappear. The ruling groups find them too useful in controlling subordinate groups.
The strength of psychology is its acceptance by the middle class and large numbers of proletarians with illusions. The ruling class would have fewer options if it could only use police and prisons for social control.
The system of psychiatry works well for the middle classes, especially women, who are disproportionate users in the United States. Psychiatrists require a Ph.D. and hence come from upper class backgrounds. More importantly, one study shows that 90% of mental health literature espouses middle class values.(31)
With support from upper and middle classes for its ideological message, psychiatry will not disappear no matter how much of a failure it is in improving society. The mythology of the individual must go on at all costs for the propertied class to defend their position in society.
1. Michel Foucault, Mental Illness and Psychology, New York: Harper & Row, 1976, p. 74.
2. Edward E. Jones and Richard E. Nisbett, The Actor and the Observer: Divergent Perceptions of the Causes of Behavior, General Learning Corporation, 1971.
4. Ibid., p. 130.
5. Craig Haney and Philip Zimbardo, “Social roles and role-playing: observations from the Standford Prison Study,” Behavioral and Social Science Teacher, 1973, p. 25-45.
6. Kenneth Gergen, “Social Psychology as History,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 26 no. 2, pp. 309-320, May 1973.
7. Isaac Deutscher, Stalin: A Political Biography, New York: Vintage Books, 1960,
8. Ibid., p. 204.
9. Ibid., p. 202-3.
10. Ibid., p. 235.
11. Ibid., p. 196.
12. Wheelwright, E. L. and MacFarlane, Bruce, The Chinese Road to Socialism, New York: Monthly Review, 1970, pp. 147-8.
13. Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V.I. Lenin and Joseph Stalin, The Woman Question, New York: International Publishers, 1951, p. 80.
16. Ibid., p. 81.
17. Claire Duchen, Feminism in France, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 39.
18. Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, p. 78-9.
19. David Shore, “Schizophrenia: Questions and Answers,” Rockville, Maryland: National Institute of Mental Health, 1986.
20. E. Fuller Torrey, Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists: The New Common Roots of Psychotheraphy and Its Future, New York: Harper & Row, 1986, p. 1.
21. Ibid., pp. 197-8.
22. Ibid., p. 67.
24. Ibid., p. 207.
25. D.L. Rosenhan, “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” Science, Vol. 179, January 1973, pp. 250-8.
26. Shore, 1986, p. 7.
27. Ibid., p. 1.
28. Ibid., p. 2.
29. Ibid., p. 3.
30. Torrey, p. 38.
31. Ibid., p. 33.
For some more material on psychiatry as social control read books by and on Thomas Szasz, who is considered an anti-psychiatrist and civil libertarian. R. D. Laing might also be interesting in this regard. Of course, China’s approach is covered in literature on China. China abolished psychology and virtually wiped out mental illness under Mao only to have it resume with the restoration of capitalism. (See a book MIM distributes called The Political Economy of Counterrevolution in China: 1976-1988.)
Further recommended readings:
1. Readings in Radical Psychiatry, New York: Grove Press, 1975.
2. Radical Therapist Collective, The Radical Therapist, New York: Ballantine Books, 1971.
3. Phil Brown, Radical Psychology, New York: Harper & Row. 1973.
4. Redstockings, Feminist Revolution, NY: Random House, 1978.
i'd like to read more about post hoxha albania and the formation of a bourgeoisie in the party there but none of their given sources seem to relate to that directly, anyone know what they're drawing on there, if it's not just their own analysis?
https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/RCP/RW/1997/RW902-English.pdf page 10-13
http://socialisme.free.fr/bulletin/cps67_albanie.htm if you can read french trotskysm warning
i'd like to read more about post hoxha albania and the formation of a bourgeoisie in the party there but none of their given sources seem to relate to that directly, anyone know what they're drawing on there, if it's not just their own analysis?
https://www.bannedthought.net/USA/RCP/RW/1997/RW902-English.pdf page 10-13
http://socialisme.free.fr/bulletin/cps67_albanie.htm if you can read french trotskysm warning
I can and as a result have to walk around constantly with my eyes closed lest my gaze fall upon French Trotskyism and poison me deeper.
french trotskysm warning
le me when le state de workers est dégéneré
The Issue of Tone and Approach
5.1 Tone and “Macho”
Amerikan women are often put off by revolutionaries’ aggressive approach. The charge of “macho” posturing or “sexism” against revolutionaries is nothing new. The Weather Underground of the 1960s and 1970s faced this charge from within and without.(1) The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) also receives criticism along these lines all the time.(2) And of course, sometimes the charge is true, like when a Black Panther at a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) convention echoed Eldridge Cleaver’s infamous words that “the role of women is supine.”
There is a good side and a bad side to these charges against revolutionaries. The positive aspect is that women have the oppressed’s distrust of power. When women see revolutionaries prepare to seize power, they recoil in horror, because they hate power generally for what it has done to women.
The bad side is that women who distrust revolutionaries for seeking power also have no proven plan for achieving an end to male supremacy. Countless middle-class women prefer—much like the intelligentsia and petty-bourgeoisie generally—to avoid the issues, tolerate all sides, take an ambiguous stand and use pleasant tones in all political discussions. For the same reasons that the disempowered and the petty bourgeoisie believe in pacifism or libertarianism, they believe in opposing machismo in revolutionaries.
The feminist revolutionary Redstockings have already done an excellent job criticizing Amerikan women for their reaction to confrontational politics. The Redstockings developed this criticism out of their own political practice, for which they were frequently smeared personally and attacked for their “unsisterly” or “unfeminine” tone. The Redstockings knew that when women confronted with revolutionary politics reached for that criticism of “macho” or aggressive tone, they were expressing their disempowerment, not striking a blow against sexism. It is not the fault of the revolutionary that the imperialist patriarchy holds power and can only be challenged by people seeking power. When it comes to confrontations, most revolutionaries would rather be doing something else in the good society, the communist society—playing guitar, having sex or eating good food. But communists have no choice other than to live in the unpleasant imperialist patriarchy.
MIM too has faced the charges of being grossly male chauvinist, macho or sexist, especially for its tone and its confrontational manner. Many of these criticisms come from women who would appear to have a high level of unity with MIM on gender questions. The issue goes beyond the bad logic that says that the tone or personal motivations of a discussion are more important than its substance. The Redstockings dealt with that logic in their book Feminist Revolution.
Those women who agree with MIM know that pornography and even Hollywood are a bad influence on society, and not frustration-release valves as libertarians think. If it is clear to a woman that pornography can cause violence, that it teaches and socializes people the wrong way, then why isn’t the opposite clear? That is, why isn’t it clear that if you don’t teach people when it is the right time to be angry, they won’t get angry?
MIM believes if you want people to be angry about rape, you have to teach them. If you want them to get angry about white nation chauvinism, you have to teach them. There is nothing in society that will prevent people from getting angry for the wrong reasons. Anyone who reads about the stupid reasons family members resort to murder in this country will realize that. That’s not to mention how anger in a society like Germany was taken out on Jews by the millions.
Take pornography for example. If MIM does not get angry about pornography or gross Hollywood movies or other cultural influences, then what’s to stop men from enjoying these things? Especially since MIM work is focused on youth, where else are youth going to learn their values if revolutionaries don’t teach when to get angry and when not to get angry?
The revolution against oppression needs every individual it can get on its side to use the correct tone in dealing with injustice. The capitalists dominate the superstructure and are bombarding people with all kinds of stupid moral messages all the time—that is stupid for the proletariat and quite rational for the bourgeoisie, which likes to see the proletariat do stupid things to itself. Revolutionaries must counter these bourgeois messages.
Since reality is not always cheerful except for conservatives who love the status quo, we must be able to call on different tones all the time—happy, cheerful, sorrowful, bitter and angry. Since we believe in Mao’s idea of strategic confidence—we are confident that even as we struggle through mistakes the revolution will succeed—we generally avoid fearful tones except in tactical situations. As an idea of how far we go with this idea, comrade Gonzalo in Peru once said that nuclear destruction of the human race or even the end of the planet earth “doesn’t mean shit for the universe.”
One prisoner in a recent issue of MIM Notes cited a correct aspect of Islam in rightly condemning the fanning of fear as the road to ignorance. In contrast, many First World women fear being “cut on.” A radical collective called the Bread & Roses collective admitted that one of the reasons women of the collective oppose free love is the traditional idea that having one man as a committed lover protects the woman from the world outside the couple. While the Bread & Roses collective is generally correct in its approach to monogamy, it is incorrect to give any credence to the fear of criticism and self-criticism. MIM has learned that Mao’s idea not to fear criticism or self-criticism has special feminist meaning.
The fear of being “cut, hammered, exposed”(3) as the woman from the Bread & Roses collective says needs some explaining for the Third World proletarian off the street reading this. She does not literally mean someone is cutting her with a knife or hitting her with a hammer. What the First World woman means by being “cut on” is criticism, a blow to what First World women call their “self-esteem,” something the capitalist class wants all women to believe in so that they will go on believing that oppression is an individual matter. Concern with getting “cut on” is just another way that First World women in particular obliterate the violence against the Third World. For it is this kind of “violence” against women that justifies the First World woman ignoring her complicity with imperialism and real violence. Some pseudo-feminist women go so far as to call it “psychological rape” or just “rape” or maybe “sexual harassment” to be criticized or confronted.
Rather than fanning fear or emitting perpetual cheerfulness, Maoists fight for the really oppressed by getting their anger and confidence together. The oppressed have much to be angry with.
Probably it is the intellectual and culturally-privileged woman who is the worst offender in regard to issues of tone. Women as a group are socialized to adjust to power structures and to smile at all times for men. Having had a wide variety of deep cultural influences in life, the culturally-privileged woman in particular does not understand why a perfectly level tone used at all times will not convey to people the moral meaning necessary. After all, she is capable of attaching her own moral significance to words expressed in a perfectly monotone or cheerful manner. Why can’t everyone just do that?
MIM believes that people adequately exposed to various cultures are more capable of rendering the correct or various moral meanings to a political argument. However, it is simply not true that everyone gets the chance to go to diverse plays, operas, movies and lectures performed by everyone from fascists to communists.
In fact, even the most culturally advanced people must undergo continuous cultural remolding. Some new ideas or inadequately exposed ideas will not be understood by the most thoroughly cultured people. For this reason, MIM builds its own independent media and arts and it uses a tone that is subordinate to the political content of its message.
1. Harold Jacobs, ed., Weatherman.
2. Jim O’Brien, “American Leninism.”
3. “Men and Women Living Together,” in Edith Hoshino Altboch, ed., From Feminism to Liberation, Cambridge: Schenkman Publishing, 1971, p. 47.
5.2 Substituting Identity for Analysis
[This article arose because many people in Politically Correct (P.C.) circles would not struggle with MIM unless MIM’s Third World or oppressed nationality members were the ones speaking on Third World issues and women on women’s issues, etc. While MIM recognizes that the Third World proletariat is going to do most of the work in overthrowing imperialism, and that oppressed group people are more likely to do revolutionary work than nonoppressed group people, that is not an excuse for individuals of any group status to say they can’t struggle over what oppression is, or that someone’s analysis is incorrect because they are an individual member of an oppressor group.
MIM knows the Azanian miner or Vietnamese peasant can’t always be in front of our First World faces to tell us how to cut down U.S. imperialism. In the 1960s, millions of Vietnamese died at the hands of U.S. military forces thousands of miles away. Was it possible for the Vietnamese being bombed to personally struggle with every white person in the United States over what exactly to do to stop the war? Of course not. Did that relieve the Amerikan population of the duty of figuring out how to stop the war on their own if necessary? Obviously not. Even though some individual Vietnamese told us the U.S. bombing of Vietnam was a good thing, people principled in their opposition to nation, class and gender domination hold to their analysis opposing the bombing. —MC5]
MIM has noticed a hesitancy, particularly within certain political circles, to acknowledge the existence of certain objective truths. These truths usually pertain to people of color (for whom white people cannot speak), to lesbians, bisexuals and gay men (for whom heterosexuals cannot speak), and to people of other oppressed groups (for whom no one not belonging to those groups can speak). The doctrine that comes out of this hesitancy: pay attention to who is speaking, not to what they are saying. The practice that comes out of this doctrine: engage in no struggle for liberation based merely on its analysis, because only the faces that spout it can tell you if it’s valid.
When we look at the context in which this doctrine is used, it makes some sense. It comes up most often in the context of reformist political work (which tries to better the situation of some oppressed people through reforms to the system). It is argued that if you are going to reform the system to benefit certain people then the leadership you take should be theirs. They should prioritize their needs (what they want reformed first) because it is a basic understanding that under capitalism all of these needs will not be met. Best to get the urgent ones taken care of first.
MIM shares the belief that there is no better teacher than experience. People who have felt most directly, harshly, individually the violence of capitalism are most thoroughly educated about the damage those structures cause. A good example of this is the work of the Black Panther Party in the breakfast-for-school-children programs. The Panthers knew that exploitative capitalist practices were forcing Black children to go to school hungry, if they went at all. The idea of providing people with basic needs, even under capitalism, is not a bad one.
Yet too often this type of practice is used as a crutch by people too lazy to examine the true nature of the oppressive structures, as an excuse not to develop an analysis. The Panthers never took the line that giving children breakfast would end the oppression of the Black nation. They maintained the goal of smashing the imperialist capitalist state as the only way to end its exploitative practices. The breakfasts were one way of giving more people the opportunity to work for revolution. MIM pushes all people, no matter what their material conditions, to make thorough analyses of the nature of oppression. These analyses can then be used as tools to strengthen revolutionary forces and demolish capitalism.
Restricting analysis to a survey of individual experience often works directly into the hands of the oppressors. Once people are focusing on individuals, it is too easy to assume that it is possible to isolate individual oppression and “fix it” in isolation. MIM does not believe oppressions can be separated, either from each other or from capitalism, and chooses not to restrict its practice or its goals by analyses based on this belief. MIM works to tear apart the structures of capitalism with the understanding that while the power of some groups over other groups exists, reforms to modify the system are meaningless. Any practice which is not based on a revolutionary analysis reinforces the repressive structures.
So it is with this understanding that MIM openly acknowledges the following objective truths:
1. The exercise of power of some groups over other groups (oppression) is a function and a foundation of capitalism.
2. Oppression will not “get better” or “go away” under capitalism—the only thing that gets better is the capitalists’ incentive to exploit; the only way it goes away is to focus (often more brutally, only temporarily) on someone else. The white working class in First World countries for example, can improve its own working conditions, standard of living, etc., at the expense of the superexploited workers of the Third World.
3. The more time wasted reforming the oppressive structures, quibbling over semantics and who said what, the more people die under capitalism.
These points are proven by the work of women like Eleanor Smeal, respected “feminists” who pride themselves on all the reforms they have achieved for wealthy white women in First World countries. Smeal tries to speak for women everywhere; yet, in acting on the gross and inaccurate assumption that certain aspects of oppression are constant for all women, she proves objective truth #1: some women do have enough access to power afforded by class and national status to successfully perpetuate the oppression of other women.
Objective truth #2: some women in the United States are gaining more access to power. They have corporate jobs, they have recourse to
fight sexual harassment at these jobs; they have better childcare and healthcare than women any place else (and most men in the world too). It is obvious that things are “getting better” for these women; yet, no loss is being taken by the capitalist patriarchy. All of the benefits these women get are stolen directly from poor and Third World people. It is not “woman power” that these corporate women claim, or anything other than plain old power. By refining the system they are gaining themselves access to patriarchal capitalist power, and the ability to more effectively oppress and exploit
Objective truth #3: Eleanor Smeal, and those who do work like hers, are doing nothing to challenge the structures that oppress women. If they were, they would not be wealthy or famous. They are working to gain themselves more power to join in the oppression, and to profit off the labor and deaths of the poor and nationally oppressed peoples of the world.
Reluctance to make an analysis of someone else’s conditions under capitalism is not respectful deference to the reality of their experience, it is the ultimate in reactionary acceptance of the standards of the state. Wealthy, First World women’s organizations, in their own quest for power, consistently bypass the needs of all other women. Invoking the dictate against speaking or acting “for” other women, they add credibility and strength to the forces which kill these women with more expediency every day.
Asking “whose analysis is this?” instead of “who does this analysis serve?” buys into the notion that oppression is a subjective experience, and can be effectively altered only by the “directly oppressed.” While MIM believes it is important to recognize the ways in which capitalism teaches lessons to its victims, it is important to move from that recognition to the knowledge that no form of oppression will change substantially under capitalism. Once people have accepted this truth, they should join MIM in working to smash the state.
5.3 Politically Correct Language
“Politically correct” (P.C.) is actually a phrase that used to have great MarxistLeninist significance. Recently, P.C. has become a bad thing for a number of reasons.
The P.C. people work to focus our attention away from radical change, which has nothing to do with prettying language. Quite the contrary, the full force of language is necessary to convey reality.
Sure the P.C. crowd can mandate P.C. language on Amerikan campuses, but that won’t stop the David Dukes. P.C. often has no grip on national oppression at all. A P.C. gay/lesbian tabloid in Michigan, Ten Percent, is an example. During Senator Kerry’s presidential campaign, the paper devoted 20 inches of newsprint to a joke of the Senator to the effect that he didn’t want the gay/lesbian vote.
But there is no space in the paper dedicated to gays/lesbians in the Third World. Instead, there is a long story in the same issue trying to continue the Cold War. It’s about how Tass [Ed. note: Tass is the Russian News Agency, founded in 1902, and still functional today. It is owned by the Russian government.] and Soviet News Services still do not allow references to gay/lesbian liberation movements abroad. To paraphrase Ten Percent’s message, “See, the communists who are so bad, they make us gays/lesbians look like real Amerikans!”
The sense of strategy of the P.C. crowd is enough to drive one crazy. Yes, the world would be better if everyone used nice language, but the P.C. crowd never goes beyond language.
It’s as if a number of colleges and mass organizations have become middle-class finishing schools of a new type, because increasingly people argue about when to be offended by language instead of what political issues to think about.
The context in the last few years of “bad” language is often rebellion against school administrators who try to whitewash their images as institutional oppressors by clamping down on students’ language. These days it’s hard to read a few weeks in the newspapers without seeing a school administration action somewhere that directed at language.
MIM has opposed school administrations’ taking control of student speech from the beginning. Compared with the group of people running colleges—the academic bourgeoisie—students are truly angelic. MIM would rather see students, supervised by the international proletariat, telling the academic bourgeoisie what to do. That won’t be accomplished by a simple language and attitude fad.
5.4 Rationalists and Mystics
This article came during a crucial inner-party struggle regarding gender from late 1989 into 1990. It was only natural that the party struggle over some of the views of feminism that were circulating outside the party. MIM has concluded that revolution proceeds best with an analytical approach as opposed to an emotional approach: that is a large part of the meaning of saying there is a science of revolution. We believe there is a point in studying history and not repeating its mistakes. People who want gender, nation and class domination eliminated should search for the best way to do that. Aside from the issue of the relationship of revolutionary science to tone and feelings is the role of cultural work to expose the masses to communist values—values opposing all gender, class and nation domination. MIM does not treat the issue of how to conduct cultural work here; although there are some cultural reviews in this issue of MIM Theory.
What is the philosophy of materialism? Materialism is the assumption of an existence of an outside world, an objective world outside the subject or consciousness. In other words, the paper this is written on exists independently of the mind of its beholder.
Marxist materialism has the added stipulation that the outside world is knowable, completely knowable. In this, Marx was not original so much as receiving the wisdom of the Enlightenment of the late 1700s via Hegel of the early 1800s.
So it is quite apt to label a Marxist a certain type of rationalist. Marx would be insulted today to be called a rationalist, but that would only be because he believed certain debates were already settled by the 1800s and the term rationalist would take on a different meaning in that context. He would no longer want to be counted in the company of rationalists.
Today, in the debate between psychologists, or people talking about feelings in the party, on the one hand, and those arguing against incomprehensible feelings and the pseudo-scientism of psychology, on the other hand, the latter should be considered rationalists in a positive sense.
Mystics, on the other hand, are people who believe that not everything is knowable. Feelings, spirituality and religion are necessary because reason is limited according to the mystics.
This is all from a debate in the 1700s that Marx believed was settled once and for all. Unfortunately though, to this day many people do not appreciate just how reactionary mystic ideas are. They fail to go beyond the 1700s. Then the same people will complain about Marxism as an idea from the 1800s and claim to have “new ideas,” which really date from the 1600s or prior.
The rationalist view on the question
The rationalist view is that all things can be understood if the absolute truth is not apparent yet, it may be some day and we can struggle to reach it. Marxists in particular maintain that they hold parts of the absolute truth now, a position without which there would be no proletarian ethics.
Before Marxism, there were other schools of thought that held smaller pieces of the absolute truth. In their day, these schools of thought, maybe French socialism or Hegelianism for instance, were the best available.
Hence, the rationalist view of feelings is that feelings can be broken down into their components or if not broken down, at least understood os caused by something concrete. In fact, it is by mastering knowledge of the objective world that Marxists are able to seize power and build socialism.
What does that mean? It means that without a rational understanding of the real world, we are merely pawns of objective forces, billiard balls. In particular, as long as the proletariat behaves as a billiard ball and not an acting subject that is aware of the laws of the real world, capitalism will prevail.
People have thus far acted as a billiard ball or set of billiard balls. History has not been of the people’s creation because the people have not had the power to create their own destiny.
Rationalism and feminism
What needs to be hammered more often within Marxism is the idea that as long as women behave as billiard balls, they too will be enslaved. Currently women are objects. To end this status they must master the power that makes them objects. As it stands now, women are socialized to enjoy their status as objects. This is what MacKinnon calls the eroticization of power.
There are a number of diversions from the project to end the relationship between power and gender. One diversion is the feminist liberalism on sexual assault which seeks “good,” “healthy” sex instead of an end to gender inequality. Criticizing the feminist liberals, MacKinnon is careful to point out that all sex is rape until inequality is abolished.
In concrete terms, liberal groups, like most anti-rape centers and anti-battering organizations, are not fighting for the abolition of power, but instead the refined enjoyment of sexual violence. They don’t want the violence this way; they want it that way. You can’t use a gun. but you can be wealthier. You can’t use your fists, but you can head the army.
The source of all supposedly feminist thinking that does not seek the abolition of power is the socialization brought about by the patriarchy. The best of these socializations is the lesbian socialization. Lesbian feminism in its non-Maoist, separatist form is the most progressive of these expressions of patriarchal socialization. The reason this is the best of them is that separatists have a grasp of women as a group. They see patterns in their personal lives. It is only one more step to see the necessity of seizing power as a group. But because there has been no lesbian-feminist, separatist revolution, separatism in practice has meant maintaining the status quo of capitalist patriarchy.
Then there are the heterosexual separatists. The bookstore that does not want MIM Notes because it only carries exclusively women’s literature typifies this. These women are not even trying to comprehend power in its totality.
Then there is mystical feminism, embedded in spiritual faith-healing, witchcraft, ecofeminism, etc. Green feminism claims to be searching for a new paradigm, but it does not know what it is. In the meantime, women should have faith in spirituality, subjectivity, etc. None of these kinds of feminism attempt to study power systematically. They don’t care to because like crude believers in the apocalypse, they expect to be delivered to liberation by a mystical force or maybe they don’t care for liberation that much and enjoy the refined art of talking about oppression instead. There are a billion ways to eroticize power. People who enjoy this essay, but don’t become rationalist feminists are just another case of the eroticization of power. Whether it be non-Maoist lesbianism, heterosexual separatism or witchcraft, these supposed feminisms are actually an assertion of femininity, a glorification of women’s current relatively powerless state.
The root of this is the patriarchal socialization of women to restrict themselves to the sphere of feelings, while letting men develop the rational faculties necessary to wield power. Women are taught to read romantic novels, major in English, or maybe psychology, if the women seem like they are getting too many scientific ideas.
The trouble is that we are good at recognizing some of these latter problems, but have trouble debunking it in other forms. The truth, however, is that there is no non-rationalist feminism, only numerous marketable bullshit feminisms that divert women from power and the abolition of power.
MacKinnon is useful because she is for the abolition of power (at least in its patriarchal form) and inequality and she studies it. She hasn’t studied everything—China and the Soviet Union are two weak points—but she does study, and she has a lot of the picture in the United States down right. She studies pornography, rape and even the feelings behind romance. At times, MacKinnon spouts subjectivist nonsense in her work, but in spite of herself, MacKinnon produces rationalist feminism.
Mystical regard for “feelings” is a classic pattern that women fall into and is really a holdover from feudal times. Mysticism was thoroughly defeated in the French Revolution, which could not have happened without an end to mysticism in the intellectual spheres. It is the progress of science in the growth of production that was the material basis for mortal blows to mysticism during the enlightenment.
The material basis for these feudal feelings is the family structure today in which women have been serfs, restricted to a piece of land and made into appendages to men. The destruction of the family under the decadence of imperialism has had countless bad effects, but one good thing is that in a period of confusion, new ideas may arise.
In this decadent phase of imperialism, people treat each other as objects in an ever more intensified way. The statistics on divorce, wife-battering, children on welfare, etc., show how the old capitalist patriarchy can’t even hold itself together. At some point people will decide “enough!” and a completely new ideology not completely understood with reference to previous ideologies will arise in social relations. In these social relations, people will be less and less objects and more and more united until all power is abolished.
5.5 On Arrogance and Revolution
Reprinted from MIM Notes 40, March 1990
On occasion members of MIM have been called “arrogant” or overly “self-important” for carrying out their work in a necessarily confrontational fashion. Usually those calling MIM “arrogant” are making an unprincipled response to a principled argument.
Some “leftist” people oppose all people calling themselves revolutionaries as “arrogant.” That’s OK. That is consistent, consistently anti-revolutionary.
Revolutionaries have to be “arrogant” (the word is “uppity” for women). Revolutionaries are saying that the whole system is fucked and they have a better way in the interests of the international proletariat.
Revolutionaries are saying that they can go toe-to-toe with George Bush and his millions of paid minions. George Bush and all the imperialist presidents before him were arrogant. MIM has a long way to go before it can arrogantly stop him (without his permission) from doing what he did in Panama, for instance.
Bush and his government handle every political issue that comes along. Revolutionaries do the same. They do not give in on any issue. They know that if they do the result will be the rule of the capitalists on that issue.
People who are going to go toe-to-toe with the imperialists cannot be the people who believed what they were taught—that they cannot understand the issues and that the imperialists can do a better job running society. In a way, MIM tries to train all of its members as if they were going to be prime ministers. That is the only way the oppressed will ever take on the imperialists and win.
Disempowerment: the ruling ideology
Oppressed people and women in particular have it drilled into them at an early age that they cannot rule or are not ready to rule. They simply are not capable, according to the imperialist patriarchy. This ideology of classism, sexism, national chauvinism and racism dominates the dominated.
Revolutionaries are “power-hungry,” “authoritarian,” “self-important,” etc. What each revolutionary must decide is “better us than them”—meaning better we hold power than the others. When it comes down to it. the issue is not if Jesus would approve of us. but whether we would be better in power than the status quo of the imperialists.
Therefore, coming from non-revolutionaries, the charge of political “arrogance” is an honor to revolutionaries.
Psychologists’ lack of logic
Coming from supposed radicals, the charge “arrogance” is an individualist smear when arguments fail.
To call someone personally “arrogant” is to give in to bourgeois psychology—an instrument of social control. All charges regarding the personality of an individual have a common logical flaw: they do not address the argument in question. When individualists can’t defeat someone’s argument they say they don’t like him/her in one way or another.
It does not matter if someone is personally “arrogant,” “psychotic,” “crazy,” etc. If their argument is correct, it is correct regardless of who they are or their psychological motivations.
Political activists who concern themselves with personality analyses waste their time and create an atmosphere where the bourgeoisie can use psychiatry to control opponents of its system. Plenty of radicals in this country, especially women, have been drugged, made into mental vegetables and even killed in psychiatric hospitals—all in the name of “helping” them with their “arrogance” or “psychosis.”
The size of the middle class in the United States promotes widespread individualist ideology that supports psychology as a substitute for scientific thinking about society. The personality cult strategy of the RCP, USA, for instance, is the flip side of this psychologizing error. Progressive and revolutionary people should never play into this bourgeois ideology and should avoid personal statements, especially about each other.
Real arrogance: viewing the masses as stupid
“Arrogance” is hypocritical as a political charge, usually coming from supposed radicals. They often claim to agree with MIM on many principles, but say that they do not want to be arrogant and alienating, so they work in non-revolutionary groups to gain people’s “trust” to radicalize them “step-by-step."
The really arrogant people are those who believe that a forthright revolutionary argument is too hard for the people to understand.
Time and time again, so-called radicals (especially in single-issue groups) inform MIM that it “alienates” people who are not ready to hear the truth so directly presented. That is real arrogance.
There are those who say the people are not ready to hear about all the issues. One should just work on Central America, or South Africa, etc., because that is all that people are ready for and that is all that one can hope to change. That is a condescending view of the people. It is also a concession to the imperialists who are often happy to give in on one issue in order to retain control of the rest of the globe.
Then there is an incorrect argument that exists because of the middle-class nature of most of the Amerikan population. The middle class believes it has “made it” on its own economically. Middle-class politics is doing politics on one’s own, never submitting to the discipline of a political organization.
The middle-class argument basically goes that parties are useless and that people should just work till the day that social transformation becomes self-evident on an individual basis. Someone like Noam Chomsky is one of the most positive models of such political work.
Among feminists, the argument comes out as distrust of all organizations as patriarchal.
Among anarchists, people oppose disciplined and confrontational political organizing because they distrust all states and, hence, people out to seize state power.
Among intellectuals, the argument is common because they are trained to pick apart any argument and stand for individual truth and not work in disciplined vanguard parties which require them to advocate lines which they will not agree with in every case. Intellectuals substitute pursuit of intellectual beauty for effective social change and thereby destroy all that is beautiful.
The call for principled discipline in politics is “arrogance” in the mind of most Amerikans. Amerikans like to think of themselves as “different,” “unique,” “individuals with free will,” etc.
All Amerikans know is “rights” and “freedom”—freedom from various forms of obvious control—vanguard parties for example. They do not appreciate freedom to. Yet the international proletariat will never have the freedom to live in peace; to run workplaces and governments; to eat, to have shelter and to have a clean environment unless it adopts a form of organization more disciplined than the imperialists’ and unites its vast resources.
Sometimes the drug of individualism will cause progressive people to run away from principled arguments with MIM. Even when the individualists know they are wrong or at least unable to give a reason to oppose MIM’s line in this or that instance, they willfully avoid the truth and muddle through their political lives and probably degenerate into outright mainstream views. They avoid working with MIM for the truth because they have received training from the bourgeoisie from day one that disciplined politics are wrong.
In contrast, people in MIM believe it is best to promote the best politics available on any subject. MIM works in a disciplined fashion to support the best political work whether by non-MIM people or MIM people until MIM finds something better. For example, J. Sakai is not a MIM member. However, MIM recognizes the truth of J. Sakai’s book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat as a gigantic leap forward in MIM’s understanding of the United States. Although MIM has reason to believe Sakai would not approve of MIM’s work, MIM upholds the truth in his/her book and distributes it in a zealous way regardless of the individual relationship between MIM and Sakai.
People should approach MIM the same way, not as individuals protecting their egos and supposed “free will,” but as people learning by working with what seems best and then moving on if something more revolutionary comes along.
MIM never concludes: “we don’t know; therefore, do nothing and let the status quo continue.”
By opposing proletarian discipline, individualists make it easier for a minority of well-organized imperialists to decide the important issues of life—the so-called individuals’ lives. The real authoritarianism is exercised by the imperialists.
The imperialists stand with an army of millions organized and armed to the teeth, ready to invade Panama, and the Amerikans will criticize MIM as “arrogant” at this stage just for trying to organize a disciplined party and newspaper to overthrow these imperialist pigs.
History proves that individualism is ineffective as a strategy for social change. MIM must ignore the majority of Amerikans who charge “arrogance” and do not belong to a disciplined party for social change.
Possible problems with revolutionary arrogance?
Mao did say that communists should watch out for arrogance, especially becoming isolated from the masses and their struggles.
Arrogant comrades would order other comrades around and give orders to the people without investigating the situation. (Orders may be necessary, but not out-of-the-blue.) Communists should listen to the masses before they set about leading society.
In MIM, however, this kind of arrogance is not a significant problem yet. MIM does not hold state power or even a people’s army and hence cannot give orders to people. It can still upset people with principled arguments, but that is not the same thing as giving orders.
In fact, internationally, Maoists have a hard enough time setting up vanguard parties, nevermind making errors of arrogance. If anything, the people who should be leading Maoist parties are not arrogant enough. Embarrassed by their own weaknesses, they wait for someone else to lead the way. Such people often degenerate because revolutionary political practice is the most important way that revolutionaries learn how to be revolutionary leaders.
In addition, a large portion of MIM’s program is determined scientifically by the interests of the international proletariat and does not depend on the interests of the Amerikan masses who are largely a labor aristocracy. In other words, unlike Chinese communists, communists in Amerikkka cannot learn mostly from the majority of people.
Instead the revolutionary-minded must study the international experiences of the proletariat with social change if they are to avoid the corruption that is Amerikan politics and ideology.
Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas
6.1 Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill: MIM’s Internal Struggle
The Senate hearings dispute between Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill went on television in mid-October 1991. At the time, MIM had already been conducting months of internal discussions on how gender fits in with nation and class oppression. Yet when it came time to write an article for MIM Notes about the conflict, there were many different lines; the heating proved anew to everyone in the party the necessity of thorough theoretical struggle.
This issue of MIM Theory is motivated by a desire to clear the way tor a more unified practice. The controversies MIM has forced itself to deal with in this issue prepare comrades to act in ever-more meaningful unity in the future. Taking a stand on the issues is also essential to the practice of the mass line that Mao prescribed for revolution. It is not enough to study the masses and listen to their opinions on nation, class and gender. The party must sum up the views of the oppressed and then put the mass line into practice in order to learn from the practice of trying to change society. It is impossible to do that without taking sides in complicated issues like the intersection of nation, class and gender.
Readers will recall that Anita Hill was a Black female employee of the government and that Clarence Thomas was her Black male superior years before he was nominated for the Supreme Court. Hill told televised Senate hearings that while she was not sure that Thomas had sexually harassed her legally-speaking; nonetheless, in her own opinion, he had sexually harassed her in repeated pornographic statements that he made to her while she was his employee.
Of course, in individual disputes like this it is difficult to get the facts. Thomas’ friends told the New York Times that he was the type to take all his friends to pornographic movies as a younger man and talk about pornography. Based on this evidence, MIM thought that Thomas was probably lying when he flatly denied making any pornographic statements to Anita Hill; since Thomas was counting on Bible Belt Senators’ votes to get him onto the Supreme Court, he could not risk admitting the truth.
MIM is not interested in Thomas and Hill as individuals and we don’t claim that we or anybody else have all the facts on the conflict of two individuals. What is important is how the public perceived the conflict and what it means to women and Blacks as groups.
On the issues of principle as opposed to fact, MIM divided on gender and nation questions. Contrary to what the public might think, communists are not monolithic in their views and within MIM there was an angry debate about the Thomas/Hill controversy. Although MIM had already taken the public stand that Clarence Thomas was a lackey sell-out of the Black people, an example of what MIM refers to as the comprador class, the party divided on Anita Hill’s relationship to the Black nation.
What class did Anita Hill represent and how did she fit into the question of national oppression? One pole within the party supported Hill as a person leading an outbreak against the patriarchy. Another pole opposed Hill as a representative of the enemy class and as someone leading the women’s movement down a false path to liberation.
Some saw in Anita Hill a symbol for the idea that “no means no” in sexual harassment. These members of the patty cited Catharine MacKinnon and eventually came to the position that Anita Hill had “stopped” Thomas’ harassment of 10 years prior and now had a chance to strike back against Thomas and “survive.”
The other pole of the party argued that Anita Hill had other job offers, lived a middle- to upper-class life and needn’t have worked with the bootlicking Thomas to “survive.” This pole in the party dubbed the other side “paternalist,” because it believed the other side always protected women with the assumption that women are too weak to defend themselves. This same pole in the party accepted the label of “victim-blaming” in order to clarify discussion.
In the end, most everyone questioned whether Anita Hill or Clarence Thomas represented any part of the Black nation. They both seemed to have built careers on selling it out—in Thomas’ case by opposing affirmative action and in Hill’s case by working for people like Thomas. Some wondered why we should care at all what happened to either Thomas or Hill. However, the debate within the party proceeded because of the larger symbolic meaning of the conflict.
Was it true that Anita Hill and sexually harassed women like her in the United States have to be tactically careful to avoid letting their bosses set back their careers? Was it justified for Anita Hill to have continued professional interactions with Thomas while she regarded him as sexually harassing her?
One comrade representing the paternalist line of reasoning wrote:
Someone mentioned, a while ago, that if Hill “was not satisfied with her deal at the time, she had an obligation to make a stink then.” Why? Are we holding a bourgeois up to communist standards? If so why? I still do not understand that point. She did in fact ask him to stop, which he did not do.
In response to this line of reasoning another comrade wrote:
I find it ridiculous that people talk about Hill as some kind of dupe of the media and Congress. Her strategy in life all along was to play the comprador game. She was used as a token in the imperialist government to justify the oppression of Black people and in a very big way, not just a receptionist or social worker, but as a hired pen and lawyer of the imperialists and confidant of a future Supreme Court Justice. Compradors just don’t get much higher than that.
This comrade went on to write:
On a revolutionary basis, Hill has a legitimate complaint, as do ALL women in this society all the time, whether or not they stay on their jobs or in their relationships or any other deals they make.
On an economist basis. Hill’s case sucks. The fact that she followed Thomas to another job when she had at least one job secure and perhaps another one possible (if you believe Senator Cranston who said a law firm left it open for her to come back precisely to refute Senator Helms who was trying to say that Hill was hopelessly incompetent) shows that Hill thought Thomas was the best deal in town. The wages were good so to speak. This is the real lesson of Hill’s complaint. It simply makes no sense within the capitalist system. Hill’s complaint only makes sense in the context of revolution.
If we assumed that women or other victims face a life-and-death threat which keeps them from interpreting the present correctly people would be correct to support Hill. Then it would be of course a virtual slavery we were fighting against by pushing reformist struggles.
On the paternalist side, one comrade offered the following criticism of the Hill/Thomas article that was printed in the paper:
My main problem with the story was that it inaccurately blamed Anita Hill as an individual. Who is Anita Hill and what was her alliance in the action of the hearings? It has been suggested that she is a comprador, it has also been suggested that she is a national bourgeois. I would lean toward her being a national bourgeois because she does not serve the imperialists directly. Either way she is not a proletarian. However I think it is significant that her allegiance in the hearings was with her gender. All women experience varying degrees of the same oppression.
In response someone quoted Mao on the definition of national bourgeoisie:
This class aspires to attain the position of the big bourgeoisie, but it suffers from the blows of foreign capital and the oppression of the warlords and cannot develop. This class has a contradictory attitude toward the national revolution. When it suffers from the blows of foreign capital and the oppression of the warlords, it feels the need of a revolution and favours the revolutionary movement against imperialism and the warlords ... This class is what is called the national bourgeoisie.
Its right wing must be considered our enemy; even if it is not already, it will soon become so. Its left wing may become our friend, but it is not a true friend and we must be constantly on guard against it. We must not allow it to create confusion in our ranks.(3)
How does one get Hill to count as national bourgeoisie? When did she ever support national revolution or did I miss something? When did she oppose imperialism? What blows from foreign capital did she suffer? Her whole existence is predicated on foreign capital.
Another representative of the victim-blaming line wrote:
It is paternalism, perpetuating the idea that women are powerless, to say it’s a positive thing for women to come forward at any time to discuss their experience with rape. First World women know what they’re doing when they enter romantic relationships, bourgeois jobs, etc. Reinterpreting these relationships as coercive way after the fact is opportunist because people who do it are pretending they were coerced, and that they had no other options. Supporting that reinforces the women-are-powerless line and the myth that there is such a thing as non-coercive sex under capitalism.
This does not mean that all First World women have the same gender privileges as the most successful First World capitalist. But their gender privileges make them objectively not revolutionary. Again, we can look at First World women as analogous to Amerikan workers. Some of them will be revolutionaries, but not based on their material conditions.
So what proof can you see of First World women’s gender privilege? How about exploiting Third World women’s sexual labor? Examples:
1. Testing contraceptive and numerous other reproductive-tract damaging devices on women in the Third World.
2. Using domestic servants (largely Third World women) as husbands’ sexual objects. Wives pushing rape off themselves on to the servants, then abusing them for ‘seducing’ their husbands. Not to mention using servants as wet nurses, etc.
3. In Amerika during slavery: unlimited sexual access to slave women. Ditto on the rape, wet nurses, not to mention reproductive labor.
In another response to the line that Hill was allied with her oppressed gender one comrade wrote:
The question is why do women enter both sexual and employment interactions with men generally? Do they generally do so because of life-threatening force/dependency involved?
The answer is no. They do not. Asexuality is an option. Many terrible things happen among First World women for no reason connected to absolute life-and-death dependency. MIM should not excuse behaviors that could have been avoided with asexuality. It must weigh the costs of being non-asexual.
First World women don’t want to rock the boat (the whole system of oppression) when they have a good thing going. They simply eroticize and concretely enjoy their power over Third World women, and for that matter, Third World men.
The party majority voted to support the following proposition:
Women within the boundaries of the United States who are not exploited or superexploited (e.g., white women, bourgeois women, comprador women, etc.) do not face a life-and-death/survival relationship with men within the boundaries of the United States in their sexual and employment interactions.
The pole representing the party majority then pushed the issue further by questioning Anita Hill’s basic strategy. Did Hill really land a blow against the patriarchy or did she play into the imperialist patriarchy’s hands? Did she lend a voice to women’s liberation or did she end up silencing millions of women by launching an incorrect struggle and losing? Hill and Thomas had shown no prior scruples to being used by the government to advance white nation interests in exchange for career rewards. Were they just doing it again?
Some more facts were brought to bear. Before the accusations against Clarence Thomas were made public, polls showed that a majority of the public had no opinion about whether Clarence Thomas should be a Supreme Court nominee. Blacks were even more uncertain than whites. There was a division within the Black community’s bourgeois leadership as well, with groups like the Black Congressional Caucus opposing Thomas. Anita Hill’s critics pointed out that all this changed once she attacked Thomas as an individual.
According to the New York Times: 58% believed Thomas; 24% believed Hill; 18% were other/didn’t know, neither or both.(1)
There was little difference between men and women, or between blacks and whites. But Republicans were more inclined to believe Judge Thomas than were Democrats.
6 out of 10 said that they believed that the hearings were an embarrassing spectacle that would “result in nothing good.”(1)
In the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll taken Sunday night, a plurality of women in every age, income and educational group said they believed Judge Thomas more than they believed Professor Hill.(2)
Men supported Thomas for confirmation by 46%. Women supported him 44%. Whites wanted him 47%; Blacks wanted him 40%. A Time survey showed a similar story with 49% supporting Thomas (which does not mean a majority opposed him).
According to NPR, 71% of Blacks rallied at the last minute before the Senate vote to support Thomas; a similar poll of Southern Blacks had already shown that support much earlier. The anti-paternalist pole in the party argued that the liberals had discredited a good cause of the oppressed once again and that the Black masses would support Thomas for reasons connected to the liberals’ decadence.
Here is a quote from an internal document of the anti-paternalist position:
Some elite circles of Blacks believed Hill only because they are obsessed with having a liberal on the Supreme Court. Knee-jerk pseudofeminists believed Hill as dogma. These people worry about the politics of the Supreme Court and the issue of affirmative action. However, if we ask Blacks off campus and outside the ruling circles of the North, the Blacks look at it in terms of what it means to them in everyday life. On that level, the Black masses correctly found this whole thing disgusting. They saw it as an attack on solidarity amongst the people, the basic social ties of everyday life.
What the masses sensed in terms of the decadent implications of the whole affair is why Hill’s charges against Thomas actually confirmed public opinion from a majority of “no opinion” to a majority of support for Thomas. (Can you say “setback?”) In this, the masses demonstrate great wisdom while basically giving the bourgeoisie what it wanted—legitimacy for a comprador and illegitimacy for feminism (In talking about the Democrats, the Republicans correctly recognized the whole situation as a “fork,” as in chess where the whole situation is a win-win situation for the oppressor.) While the people in even our supposedly revolutionary circles focus on one issue, the masses see other problems. The masses were not entirely sucked into the event for the reasons that the bourgeoisie wanted.
Only 24% of the public believed Anita Hill and that figure shrank even further at the moment of the Senate vote. Nonetheless, the party majority said that it believed Anita Hill but found her approach counterproductive. The party majority believes that the masses had doubts about letting the patriarchy decide whether or not Thomas had harassed Hill. Wasn’t Hill giving legitimacy to Senators and the existing Supreme Court judges by acting as if they were not guilty of the same kinds of things as Thomas was? Why should Thomas be singled out?
And then there is the issue of how can anyone, including a Black woman, approach a white dominated power structure and ask it to do justice among Blacks? Black people soundly defeated this notion by opposing Hill. The anti-paternalist pole recalled that the Black Panthers regarded the Amerikan government as an occupation government and didn’t recognize its court system or its army and police. Why should Blacks legitimize Senate hearings on the morality or immorality of Black people?
While not supporting Hill angered one portion of the party, another portion was angered by the lessons Hill was trying to leave the public.
I’m afraid the real reason this comes up is that my critics have no problem criticizing phony communism or cultural nationalism, but when it comes to women, whoa! Put on the kid gloves!
... said one party member who believed that the opposing faction treated women too much like idiots incapable of understanding politics.
Another party member asked since when it was that MIM supported anybody’s talking to the FBI. This referred to the fact that Anita Hill answered FBI questions about Clarence Thomas before the whole television spectacle. Ordinarily MIM would say to slam the door in the FBI’s face, so why were comrades defending Hill on this point? Was not the “kid gloves” treatment for women the basic reason?
In contrast, someone from the minority view said:
It has been stated and suggested that there are some women that are not exploited. I disagree. Women are characterized by the patriarchy and capitalism as submissive and powerless. Women are not powerless, yet they live with this as part of their identity which is reflected on them by society. Nobody has the power to completely throw off what society throws on them (a case in point is the reality of the need for us communists to combat liberalism). Women are conceived of as nature, not human. They are human. Yet when the social environment you constantly interact with views you as nature you absorb some of it. I don’t think this is paternalistic. I think it is reality. Women are seen as sex objects and do not escape this reality when they are not having sex. It has permeated into daily thinking and become part of their daily interaction—employers and friends, etc. This is not meant to support dependency on men. However, it is supporting the identification and exposure of romance culture and socialization.
Another party member replied:
As a group, women are not exploited unless we consider that the surplus value of women’s labor is appropriated. This may be the case, though the breakdown would likely be on class lines more than those of gender— Barbara Bush and Leona Helmsly do not clean house for no pay; the women of the proletariat and the labor aristocracy do. Someone could make a case for women as exploited, which I have seen some comment on, though not really a developed argument. It appears that the point you were making was that women are oppressed, not that they are exploited. I would prefer to retain exploitation as a specific economic term that indicates that there is surplus value appropriation in the production process.
Another comrade defended the minority view this way:
If I am being paternalistic by saying it’s okay for people to bring up cases of harassment after they are no longer threatened, then so be it. Was Hill in a survival situation? Probably not, but had she lost her job she would have been! What is survival anyway? What is life or death? Is it okay to be mentally dead? What does that mean? Anyway, what I would like to say is that I still do think it is okay for people to bring up past wrongs after the fact. No it is not productive revolutionarily speaking, in any immediate sense, but it gets people thinking about why these things happen. If people did not talk about date rape, we probably would be much further back in terms of our analysis on sexual assault and rape. It is intrinsically individualistic and not really going to do anything, that I agree.
From this quote, one sees that the divisions within the party were not really only two divisions. There were a number of positions held within the party. Sometimes people in differing camps overlapped with each others’ positions at unexpected points.
Before the crucial votes, comrades raised many calls for unity and criticized “spontaneity,” which meant letting the bourgeoisie set the agenda for our party. It was crucial not to let the Senate have yet another victory just by getting on television and getting our party all riled up. Despite the fact that there were a wide variety of positions on the Thomas–Hill conflict, not one comrade allowed the bourgeoisie to divide the party over these issues.
All comrades recognize that there is white nation chauvinism and patriarchal thinking in our own ranks. This is as unavoidable as living in the imperialist system. However, one view and its corresponding strategy within the party is the least patriarchal and white nation chauvinist and will do the most to overcome oppression, so we must attempt to adopt that view and strategy. Which comrade’s view is the most correct approach to nation, class and gender oppression we never know for sure, but we agree on trying out one position and strategy at a time and we select that stand and strategy by majority rule.
Our comrades have all learned too well that communists must wisely choose what issues they split over or the imperialist patriarchy will never face a united challenge. We Maoists unite on the largest issues of the history of the international communist movement—the Cultural Revolution and the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union— beyond that we recognize that there will always be differences within the party ranks. We do not allow just anyone a vote in forming our party’s line and strategy. Despite differences in the ranks, we are confident that uniting the people who support the Maoist road forward in one party is the fastest road forward for the oppressed.
1. New York Times 10/15/91, p. 1.
2. Ibid., A10.
3. Stuart Schram ed., The Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung, New York: Praeger, 1969, pp. 213-14.
6.2 The Two-Line Struggle on Gender: Paternalism vs. Anti-Paternalism
This essay represents the anti-paternalist position that MIM ultimately came to agree on. It was written in the midst of the debate around the Hill/Thomas issue.
There has been an on-going two-line struggle in the party and between the party and outsiders on the issue of gender. Sometimes people fall in one camp, sometimes the other, but the two lines have consistent underlying assumptions.
There are a number of problems in taking the correct line on this question. This is to contribute to the lop-sided crushing of paternalism necessary for the struggle.
For historical purposes, it is essential to state the two lines to correct our course after practice if the anti-paternalist line proves to be incorrect.
I. What is Paternalism?
Dr. Mary Jackman is a women’s issues researcher who asked why it is that women do not demonstrate much women’s consciousness in the United States. She compares the importance of class, race and gender issues in people’s minds and finds that class and gender are virtually non-existent in the minds of Amerikans, based on numerous surveys on various questions.
Jackman’s work is flawed liberalism in most regards, but she comes up with one interesting theoretical answer to her question. The following is paraphrased from a talk that she gave:
The thing that holds back women’s consciousness is paternalism. Men treat us like irrational, emotional objects. When we complain about something, they say, “aren’t you cute? We love it when you do that .” And WE love it when they say that. We compare each other to pets and ...
She explains this is possible because the oppression of women is so intimate that it’s hard to separate out, unlike class and race where there are two distinct groups that do not interact in close quarters, but which in fact tend to live in entirely different neighborhoods.
Most people in MIM’s circles would recognize this statement as true. The difficulty lies with separating it from other ideas of women’s consciousness.
The key to distinguishing between paternalism and revolutionary feminism is recognizing how we would treat women on the one hand and men on the other. When we treat women in a paternalist way we slip into the idea that they can’t understand the issues the way men can or that they are too powerless to do anything.
Most of the time paternalism is easy to recognize. The problem we are having in the party is recognizing it when it calls itself feminism. Patronizing feminism is paternalism. It’s exactly the same problem as recognizing imperialism that calls itself socialism.
In MIM, we have our ideas together on class. Throw twenty kinds of revisionism at us and we’ll dissect it in one page of sectarian review on the Soviet Union.
On nation, we know liberal integrationism and cultural nationalism as problems to struggle against in the United States. In the rest of the world, we can tell the difference between a comprador and a revolutionary nationalist. Inkatha leader Buthelezi [Ed. note: South Afrikan leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party, notoriously integrationist and cultural nationalist in MIM’s view, having been a major proponent of non-violent solutions to apartheid.] has never evoked the slightest difficulty for MIM in terms of analysis.
Attacking Liberalism and the “uncle Toms of the women’s movement,” Catharine MacKinnon is almost the Malcolm X of the women’s movement. Although Malcolm X was in favor of revolution and armed struggle (and his ideas made the most sense connected to that strategy), he still had reformist, human-rights and religious illusions. His idea of making petitioning the U.N. to oppose genocide of Blacks a central task is not unlike MacKinnon’s focussing on legal work on pornography and sexual harassment:
I think the single worst mistake of the American black organizations, and their leaders, is that they have failed to establish direct brotherhood lines of communication between the independent nations of Africa and the American black people.(1)
Malcolm makes it clear that he is talking about organizing African diplomats in the U.N.
Even when he is criticizing the liberal integrationists, Malcolm X has some illusions himself.
I said that the American black man needed to quit thinking what the white man had taught him — which was that the black man had no alternative except to beg for his so-called “civil rights.” I said that the American black man needed to recognize that he had a strong, airtight case to take the United States before the United Nations on a formal accusation of denial of human rights.(3)
What we are waiting for in the United States is the Black Panthers of the women’s movement. When Malcolm X was saying these things in the early 1960s, the first Maoist party in the United States was just getting off the ground. The Chinese split with the Soviet Union had just happened. Catharine MacKinnon makes her historical appearance at a time when Maoism is a little stronger, but when feminism is still in liberal condition.
II. What is the Pro-Paternalist Position?
In connection to the present argument, the relevance of MacKinnon is that she holds that pornography influences both men and women. This is an anti-paternalist position. It’s very much like saying that white supremacy ideas influence the Buthelezi camp.
Some will come back and say that MacKinnon is blaming women for their problems by citing the fact that women buy into pornography. When MacKinnon says women have sex for every reason from money to love and points out that women being raped often don’t seem able to tell, she is saying that women are socialized.
Many separatists would say that is not true and that women hold a naturally superior consciousness. They claim the anti-paternalist approach is victim-blaming. Underlying the whole approach is usually the view that First World women are somehow necessarily dependent on men in a way necessary to maintaining life.
In another recent struggle within the party, some people argued for toning down the language in our anti-rape work. In an unprecedented move in the party, they actually wanted two separate flyers, one to attack the enemy directly and one to use slower, softer language to deal with the masses of women involved concerning a criticism of paternalist, rape-promoting-posing-feminist flyers being distributed on campus.
In a review of a book on battering, a man complained that MC5’s stance was victimblaming. MC5 had criticized using the burning-bed approach to battering (which upholds women’s violence against their husbands, lovers, etc., as a spontaneous act of liberation) as some kind of model when actually it represents a problem in our society.(4)
MC5’s critic held that women were dependent on men; hence they have to kill their spouses. MC5 held that “if you are already in a life-threatening situation defend yourselves by any means necessary.” However, it is simply not true that First World women must enter battering relationships.(4)
The case of the burning-bed resistance is the ultimate in proving the paternalist position wrong because it shows that women do have power in reality. However, the whole idea that the burning-bed case is such a great thing indicates how paternalist feminism is simply one of two poles in decadent imperialist patriarchy. People enter into leisure-time activities and then kill each other. MIM does not see merit in either men or women for getting involved in such leisure-time activities that end in death. That cannot have any redeeming value. The burning-bed strategy is not a solution.
Following massive struggles in party circles, MIM had the foresight to publish “Romance, Gender and the Party” on Jan. 23, 1989.
Since most people in MIM and anti-imperialist/militarist movements generally can survive without romance, communists do not waste time discussing romance or sexist attacks within individual romances.(5)
Lotus Blossom disagreed. S/he took the muddled line:
Too many women do depend on a romantic relationship for survival when they shouldn’t!(6)
In MIM Notes 36 and 37, Lotus Blossom took the line that:
The party I can work with has to have in policy and in practice feminist equality before the revolution, like right now. Anything else is a copout.(7)
MC5 argued that:
Equality in romantic relationships under capitalist patriarchy is impossible ... No amount of “correctness” on the part of individuals can make their relationships equal in the current context ... Comrades should be held to the highest standards possible under capitalism.(7)
Meanwhile, MacKinnon says she wishes she had a dime for every “left” relationship that thought it was equal.
Lotus Blossom worked with MIM for a period of more than a year.
Then a key struggle on gender came and went. Who did the cop-out? As of today Lotus Blossom admits that s/he does not even know if s/he considers him/herself a feminist anymore. In fact, Lotus Blossom is now distributing Ku Klux Klan literature.
It all reminds one of Lenin:
The petty-bourgeois “driven to frenzy” by the horrors of capitalism is a social phenomenon which, like anarchism, is characteristic of all capitalist countries. The instability of such revolutionism, its barrenness, its liability to become swiftly transformed into submission, fantasy, and even a “frenzied” infatuation with one or another bourgeois “fad”—all this is a matter of common knowledge.(8)
The truth is a very powerful thing causing horrible ego-conflicts for Amerikans. Turning from MIM to the Klan is submission. Cheering for a Black woman just because the U.S. Senate gave her a chance on television to serve as an example of why to report Black men to the FBI is an example of a “bourgeois fad.”
Many people have argued against MIM’s monogamy policy. Some argued that women did not know what they were about and should be allowed to experiment with different sex partners while in the party.
Others refused to support monogamy but did not know why they supported breaking up relationships; they could not come up with a consistent line. It’s no coincidence that the people who see themselves and women as hopelessly unable to figure out what is going on in their own lives dropped out of the party or never joined after extensive recruiting and achieving unity on other questions.
The paternalist, state-expanding, psychiatry-promoting line finds women to be so weak that they need protection from words that are not threats of violence. “Emotional coercion” is a big factor in rape in their eyes. Women are taught to fear men’s words and “emotional coercion.” Trendy pseudo-feminist anti-violence organizations teach women to expand their fears of men infinitely, while leaving rape and battering rates unchanged. This is recycled sexism; it is also profitable for psychiatrists and organization administrators.
The anti-paternalist position holds that open “emotional coercion” is essential to having a process of consent in romantic relationships. Partners must spell out exact conditions under which a relationship continues or ends. Pseudo-feminists term the fact that everyone has conditions under which they end a relationship “emotional coercion.”
Agreeing with MacKinnon that anyone can be influenced by pornography and that biology is not a social role, MIM holds that biological women can and do rape women and men. The paternalist camp comes back to saying that is just a “reverse sexism” argument, that women have no power to rape. The emphasis on power in the First World is misleading. First World women do not have to have romantic relationships with men. Saying women have no power to rape, but men do is accepting as fact that women are dependent enough on men that they can be put in the position of being raped. The paternalists will defend the right of women to lie or otherwise defraud men to start or maintain a relationship because they say women have no power.
Rape of biological men by biological women is possible because women buy into rape culture. What is the vision of a woman who lies in order to obtain consent from her boyfriend? She accepts the images of women portrayed in pornography. In buying into images of women as powerless, women refuse to assert themselves honestly and prevent their boyfriends from consenting to sex.
When rape was defined the old fashioned way as penetration using a gun or knife or other physical force, the pseudo-feminists had a better case for saying women can’t rape. Now that rape is defined more subtlety, they claim that women can’t do many of the things men do; this demonstrates a new kind of sexism which holds that women are much weaker than they are in reality. To paint women as too weak to rape and yet subject to rape even through words is glorifying the woman’s supposed social role of victim and asserting femininity, not feminism. Instead of expanding women’s fears and teaching women feminine responses to the coercion in sex, MIM criticizes paternalists and sets about eliminating the coercion underlying all sex.
Personal as political
This line is often used as an excuse to say that people should be nice to women and that’s how to be political. The anti-arrogance critics of MIM chime in here as well to say that MIM people are mean.
MC5 has written that:
The reactionary side of the slogan “the personal is political” is the glorification of self-indulgence, part of the decadence of Amerikan imperialism.(5)
MIM has had plenty of experiences with friendships going bad and causing politics to go out the window. Many former friends of MIM have quit politics entirely as a result of personal conflicts.
The issue of paternalism—basic assumptions about what position women are in right now and what they are capable of—comes up again and again. It’s time to accept that MIM has had a mistaken paternalist past, that many people working with us and since burned out have a paternalist past and that it is a mistake to let paternalism continue, either inside or outside the party.
1. Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, New York: Grove Press, 1965, p. 347.
2. Ibid., p. 351.
3. Ibid., p. 361.
4. MIM Notes 40. March 1990.
5. MIM Notes 35.
6. MIM Notes 36.
7. MIM Notes 37.
8. V.I. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder, Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1970, p. 17.
6.3 “Doesn’t MIM Notes Art Attack Hill?”
Reprinted from MIM Notes 61, February 1992
I have a question that I would like answered in the paper:
Why were Anita Hill’s actions re: Clarence Thomas questioned in the paper. I am referring to the front page graphic and the commentary. There was a graphic/photo on the front cover of the last issue with Orin Hatch holding a book with an edited title, which included something akin to “the white man’s black woman.” There also was some reference to how she (or other women) should deal with the issue of sexual harassment. I would like more on that because the line that came out confused me.
MIM does not doubt the validity of most women’s claims to sexual harassment and assault. This is a part of everyday life in a patriarchal society: women do not control their sexuality. But MIM believes that there are ways to deal with this assault that causes more harm than good to the struggle for women’s liberation.
There is an unfortunate tendency within so-called feminist circles to herald anything a woman does as correct, but MIM has more respect for women than that.
Women can understand politics well enough to hear challenges to their political ideas and strategies without falling apart—as the so-called feminists apparently think they will.
When a Black woman goes on television to charge a Black man with sexual harassment, there is no doubt that the media image of the scene will be that Black men are obscenely sexual creatures, incapable of self-control. This image of Black men has historically been used by Euro-Amerikan men and women as an excuse to lynch Black men, and to terrorize the Black nation as a whole.
Anita Hill allied herself with a long line of Euro-Amerikan women when she chose to publicly charge Thomas with harassment. MIM does not support Thomas politically. But MIM recognizes that the results of this public charade can only be interpreted as a set back for both the women’s movement and the struggle against national oppression.
For the women’s movement, Hill proved most emphatically that when you go to the pigs to fight patriarchy you won’t win. The system was never designed to facilitate such challenges.
MIM criticizes Hill most for her chosen course of action. There is no way that Hill could be seen as an ally of Third World women. Hill did not face a life-and-death situation when she chose to keep her job and not criticize Thomas publicly. She used whatever means she could to get ahead in her business. This included not making public complaints to or about Thomas at the time the incidents occurred. To say that she was “psychologically” powerless to stop him is the extreme in paternalistic attitudes that many pseudo-feminists support.
First World and upper-middle-class women in Amerika have the power to say no. Very few of these women need to stay in “harassing” professional relationships to survive economically. When survival is no longer the issue, MIM examines the motives and actions of women who “put up” with harassment at work. In Hill’s case, the motive was one of class power and the action was upward capitalist mobility. She desired a greater share of imperialist super-profits, and chose not to challenge patriarchal oppression—she was complicit in its continuation.
As a member of the Black nation this puts Hill on a level with the comprador bourgeoisie, those members of the oppressed nation whose wealth and power is dependent on imperialism. The comprador bourgeoisie will never be an ally of the revolution.
Not only did Hill help to further the patriarchy, she came forward as a Black woman and complied with a public spectacle that put the Black nation on trial as a group of loose women and sex-crazed men in a public lynching of the entire Black nation.
The Euro-Amerikan power structure has demonstrated again that Black people have no place in white courts. This was not a hearing, it was a public spectacle used to trod on the image of Blacks and women.
MIM fears that the result of all this increased media coverage of sexual harassment which the pseudo-feminists cheered will result in increased violence against women, increased paternalism towards women, and greater oppression of the Black nation. The messages were clear: women are not strong enough to stand up to their oppressors and Blacks are sex-crazed fiends.
In all of this MIM sees nothing to support.
This is an important dividing point ideologically between MIM and the pseudofeminists who led the cheering for Hill. These so-called feminists support women’s rights when these rights are being gained for First World women. But those gains—in equal wages, access to better birth control and freedom from the need to prostitute themselves—are gained at the expense of the Third World.
The real feminists are the people who are fighting for the liberation of all women and the elimination of the patriarchy in all its forms. Those who fight for a shift in the oppression off of their own shoulders onto the Third World are supporters of imperialism and no allies of MIM.
6.4 To Tell the Truth
After about a month of struggle over the Hill/Thomas issue most comrades originally supporting the paternalist position had dropped their support and the debate moved on to other tangents of the gender question. A party majority rejected the following article for newspaper publication. Objections raised included that the party majority already said it believed Anita Hill, that abortion was treated too much as the be-all-and-end-all for the bourgeoisie’s plans for the Supreme Court, that economics was emphasized too much, that Hill was not pseudo-lynched, that white women were granted suffrage to unite whites in oppressing national minorities, and that women in the United States won’t open their eyes to patriarchy because they possess too much sexual privilege relative to the world’s vast majority of women. Nonetheless, the article represents many trains of thought within the party at the time and shows the basic unity reached on many questions of paternalism vs. victim-blaming.
Newsweek summed it up the best:
It pre-empted the game shows, it interrupted weekend plans of foliaging, it transfixed a nation. It was carnal, ugly and surreal. This
was The Scandal With Everything—penises, power, intense emotional pain, and millions tuned. They watched an x-rated spectacle that was repulsive and irresistible at the same time.(1)
1991: what a television year. Before, during, and after the Super Bowl Amerikans were able to watch, from a safe distance, the incineration, live burial, and slow starvation of over one quarter million Iraqi people. Then the fall season opened up with a spectacle that publications as diverse as The Economist and MIM Notes each called a degrading “circus.”(2)
MIM lays it on the line. The Clarence Thomas hearings were live, oral pornography. The patriarchy was caught with its pants down and millions were repulsed by the sight of fourteen white, rich, arrogant, camera-happy, imperialist pigs jerking off on national TV.
Amerika watched while mentally balancing the pros and cons of the particular levels of viciousness they could get away with as they figuratively lynched a Black man and a Black woman. It was Ku Klux Klan Heaven. It was a racist sexist double-header.
The game was rigged from the beginning. The bourgeoisie’s war-horse, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, was getting too old to keep up his integrationist ways and Bush needed another Tom. He’d had an eye on Thomas ever since Clarence proved—as Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—that a Black man could get ahead in Amerika by using his skin tone as capital.
Everybody knew that Bush was stacking the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade and force white women to produce more doctors and lawyers. Poor women in Amerika can go back to the coat-hanger days and the rich and middle-class people will still be able to buy an abortion on the sly in Amerika or openly in Europe and Jamaica. The main point of the ruling class’s anti-abortion campaign is to terrorize all women, divide the people, and make one fact perfectly clear: men, not women, own women’s bodies. Not surprisingly, a lot of women did not care to see Thomas in charge of their wombs. Even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—one of Amerika’s premier reactionary organizations—came out against Thomas. Liberal feminist groups like the National Organization of Women (NOW) were having fits. Thomas reassured the Senate patriarchs that he was qualified for the Supreme Court because his parents were poor.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Anita Hill, law professor, was given center stage and permission to accuse Thomas of having sexually harassed her while she was his subordinate at the EEOC—the organization charged with policing discrimination and sexual harassment claims. A Black man and a Black woman were on the auction block again in Amerika: this time selling themselves. The rest is history.
Truth or consequences?
Whose interest did this pornographic, brutal entertainment serve? What questions must Maoists ask and answer?
Let’s be clear: it does not matter which puppet was telling the “truth.” Both Thomas and Hill fashioned careers enforcing the apartheid and paternal standards that Amerika imposes on so-called “minorities” and women. In the eyes of the proletariat, neither has a shred of credibility.
On Oct. 23, Thomas was anointed at “a hastily arranged private swearing-in ceremony at the Court. There was no public announcement of the event until after it had taken place.”(3)
On Oct. 25, the “feminist” National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) paid tens of thousands of dollars for a full-page ad in the New York Times asking:
What if 14 women, instead of 14 men, had sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas? As long as men make up 98% of the U.S. Senate and 93% of the U.S. House of Representatives, women’s voices can be ignored, and their experiences and concerns trivialized.(4)
This type of political analysis asks the question: Wouldn’t it be better to be oppressed by women than by men? The machinery of the imperialist, patriarchal State thrives on the international oppression of women. The political ideologies and practices of 14, or 100, Margaret Thatchers, Marilyn Quayles, Indira Ghandis, Molly Yards or Anita Hills will never end gender or class oppression. Out-right militarists like Thatcher and “feminists” like Yard serve the same master as Bush:
MIM calls feminists who work only to negotiate a better economic deal for themselves within the confines of imperialism “pseudo” (false) feminists. MIM does not consider women or men who gladly accept the privileges of a living standard based on parasitism to be true feminists. The only true feminists are those who work to end all women’s oppression; not to prolong it.
The majority of the world’s women live outside the oppressor nations. When women who are grateful citizens of an imperialist country win economic concessions for themselves from the patriarchy: they do so on the backs of the human majority. The relatively high wages and salaries paid by monopoly-capitalism to privileged Amerikan voters are made possible by paying Third World women and men wages and piece rates that fall below the level of subsistence necessary for survival.
When women who cheerfully buy colorfully packaged contraceptive devices—developed and tested in the bodies of Latin American peasant women—complain of sexual harassment in the workplace and appeal to the patriarchal system for redress they are not working to end gender oppression.
When privileged women accept the material benefits of posing on sexual pedestals, lord them over domestic service workers or agitate to join imperialist armed forces, they are not working to end gender oppression.
When Amerikan women “won” the right to vote shortly after World War One—and after seventy years of struggle—non-white women were, in practice, not included in that privilege.
The enfranchisement of women was seen both by politicians and by the suffragists themselves, as a means of controlling society in the interests of the ‘stable’ part of the population: the middle classes.(5)
Gender: the flip side
Despite the privileges that dominant-nation women exercise, they are still subject to the violence of patriarchal social relations. Within days of Thomas’ confirmation, George Jo Hennard shot fourteen women and eight men to death in a cafeteria in Texas. The authorities speculated that Hennard was aiming for women who he had labeled, in writing, “white, treacherous, female vipers.”(6)
No woman alive today is exempt from patriarchal oppression. All women who wish to end this oppression need to open their eyes and set their sights far higher than the pseudo-feminist agenda. A post-Thomas Newsweek poll asked 704 AT&T customers the loaded trick question:
“Do you think that women in the United States have been making gains unfairly at the expense of men or not?”(6) Revolutionary feminists reply: “Women in the United States have been making gains unfairly at the expense of the majority of women and men in the world.”
Death to the Patriarchy in all its forms.
1. Newsweek 10/28/91, p. 54.
2. The Economist 10/19/91; MIM Notes 58.
3. New York Times 10/24/91, p. A5.
4. New York Times 10/25/91, p. A5.
5. R. Evans, The Feminists.
6. New York Times 10/17/91, p. A1.
7. Newsweek 10/28/91, p. 28.
7.1 Class, Nation and Gender
In this section, MIM takes a look at the points of view that oppose MIM’s.
Reformism including its ultraleft and fascist varieties and separatism.
This most popular school of pseudo-feminist thought lacks confidence in the Third World proletariat and sees no hope for revolution, if the issue is raised at all. The newcomers to this school of thought are politically unconscious, as were all members of MIM at one time or another. This is especially true of international affairs, where reformists have no idea of the armed struggles in the Third World and the accomplishments they have made.
The veterans of this movement are liars, often paid as scholars or psychiatrists or professional organizers. Despite knowing the facts, they persist in saying year after year of no change that men can be reformed into providing good sex. MIM hopes that readers will pay close attention to figures such as those on rape and battering, figures that show no improvement though reformist efforts have spent hundreds of millions of dollars since the 1960s.
Lying reformists are worse to the movement than open reactionaries like Phyllis Schafly, who are honest enemies. They are also worse enemies than the most malechauvinist, revolutionary left, because at least the revolutionaries never claimed men could be reformed.
The ultraleft variety of reformists claim to want more radical change than MIM does, because they want it NOW. They don’t believe years of independent political movement are necessary to change men and women. They don’t think the system has to be changed. No, men just have to change their attitudes and we can have good sex immediately.
In the fascist variety of reformism, Amerikan individualism, pseudo-feminism and the state come together. These fascist variety pseudo-feminists see the reactionary potential of the state. They noticed the Willie Horton ads from George Bush and approved. They want stricter sentences on men and guilty till proven innocent for rape, harassment, battering and other issues. In contrast, MIM believes men are guilty, but so are First World women, and MIM has no use for the patriarchal, imperialist court system—not to mention the failed individualist approach in general.
Separatism as politics through lifestyle choice (as opposed to Maoist lesbianism) often arose in the reformist context as an alternative to both revolutionary politics and heterosexual reformism. It seemed to show more promise in the more radical 1960s, but since that time something of a political de-evolution has taken place. Many separatists are simply apolitical. Separatism has proved to be good business for others.
Many other separatists believe there is good sex to be had now—just among women. This school of thought shows some progress, because many of its adherents have noticed since the 1960s that rape, battering and harassment happen also within the separatist community. This hints to the need for revolution.
MIM would also add that the record for feminist separatism in accomplishing liberation is not as good as the national liberationist separatism that it imitates.
These so-called Marxists give Marxism a bad name. Read on.
These opportunist Marxists will never lead a movement forward, because they think the oppressed can get away without making decisions on the kinds of tough issues raised in this document.
What is reductionism?
According to a class reductionist view, women are only oppressed as workers, and should join the (economic) class struggle to fight for the class as a whole. This approach denies the distinct historical, ideological, psychological, and physical features of gender opposition affecting all women.
Class reductionism is linked with economism in that it reduces political subjects produced in the broad, revolutionary process to class subjects produced at the economic level. In other words, it is “only by taking part in production” that women can overcome their backward views and develop revolutionary consciousness. Thus, the potential members of a revolutionary movement to overthrow capitalism are seen strictly as the working class, narrowly defined by relations at the point of production.
Thus, women who are not engaged in production are seen at best, as unreliable allies in the class struggle; and the forms of oppression women suffer that are not strictly located at the point of production are considered minor and secondary concerns. This view enables economists to support child-care demands so that women can go to work outside the home, but not support demands for men to do equal amounts of child-care and house after work hours.
- “Anti-Sexism Work Group of the Boston Political Collective,” Theoretical Review, p. 1, July–August 1981.
7.2 Reductionist Approach to Feminism
According to the Progressive Labor Party (PLP)—the first Maoist party in the United States, and later turned into a closet Trotskyist party:
The truth is that the oppression of women has no basis in anything but profit.(1)
As with the issue of racism where PLP went from supporting national liberation struggles to opposing them, PLP’s position is both gutsy and responsible, because PLP knows the difference between various positions that it has held or encountered.
PLP does not try to straddle fences and avoid the consequences of its line. Taking what it knows is likely to be an unpopular position among people attracted to communism, PLP says, “feminism divides workers” in the title of a section in the same pamphlet by the PLP...
Just as nationalism blames white workers for racism, feminism blames male workers for sexism. Both ideologies have workers fighting against each other instead of the boss.(1)
With less certainty and clarity, the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) also compares radical feminist separatism to Black nationalism and indicates that radical feminist separatism is an even bigger failure in their eyes:
The radical feminist movement had the same weaknesses as the black nationalist movement. It turned away from the united action of working class women and men to separatism.(2)
Of course, RWL also criticizes liberal feminism. According to RWL, the oppression of women will end “through both the entrance of women into social labor and the socialization of childcare and housekeeping.”(2)
This point of view goes back to Engels, but it was not restricted to male socialist leaders. In disagreeing with MIM line, MA6 has often cited Clara Zetkin, a German socialist, who told the International Congress of Socialist Women in 1907 that socialist women should never ally with bourgeois women.(3)
The same viewpoint was also apparent in France after the near-Revolution of 1968. Within the women’s liberation movement (MLF), there was a tendency called the “class struggle tendency.” An instructor in women’s studies in England, Claire Duchen has identified this as one of the three major trends in Paris; even though it apparently disappeared by 1976.
A newspaper called Women Workers’ Struggle put it this way:
We see our struggle as an integral part of the struggle of the working class for socialist revolution. Our struggle against our bosses, against the oppression in our daily lives, against sexism, our taking charge of our own politics, all contribute to the unity of the working class.(4)
1. Progressive Labor Party, “Smash Sexism!”
2. Revolutionary Workers League, “Perspectives and Tasks of the Revolutionary Workers League,” 1982, pp. 39-40.
3. Claire Duchen, Feminism in France, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 3.
4. Ibid., p. 28.
7.3 The Autonomous Position on Intersections
Reductionists believe “everything boils down to class” or “everything boils down to gender” or “everything boils down to nation.” For example, the Progressive Labor Party (PLP) was so good as to say that all gender oppression boils down to making a profit.
Then there was the “overdeterminationist” position. They say, “nothing boils down to anything else, but everything is connected.”
The “autonomous” position in feminism has done the most to oppose Maoism. Adherents of this position are often unconscious of their own theoretical assumptions, but not always as words from leading theoreticians of the autonomous school will show.
Respect is due to consistent theoretical and practical efforts. The examples of PLP, Resnick and Wolff, and Johnston are admirable on a theoretical level of consistency, even if we can’t stomach the rest of their practice.
It’s the people who straddle the fences - usually unconsciously - who are dangerous to themselves and their movements. They end up contradicting themselves and being unaccountable to the masses, because it is impossible to pin down what they are saying and what they are doing. MIM takes clear stands so it can be held accountable for them.
Here I rely on Claire Duchen’s work Feminism in France to identify patterns in the First World struggle between separatist feminism and Maoism. Duchen’s book is especially useful to MIM because it covers the attitude of French feminist activists toward Maoism, materialism and vanguard parties. It appears that much of feminism in France since 1968 has been formed in reaction to Maoism and Trotskyism; this history raises the level of debate.
II. What They are Saying: A Dialogue
National and feminist separatists are the exponents of the autonomous school of thought. Jill Johnston’s Lesbian Nation is a case in point. Such separatism is well-known in the United States.
In France, an organization built around a journal called Psych et Po and originally organized by a psychiatrist—Antoinette Fouque—calls itself the women’s liberation movement (MLF) in the utmost sectarian fashion. MIM would never organize a group and call it the entire women’s liberation effort; the sentiment for real liberation—while rare in the First World—is not something one organization can monopolize. Psych et Po registered MLF as their legal trademark in 1979.
The most developed questioning about difference has taken place in the group Psych et Po, for whom it constitutes the heart of the revolutionary problem. They describe their “work” as the search to “get away from reproducing masculinity.” Masculinity controls even at the level of the unconscious, and women operate within the confines of masculine unconscious structures and have been turned into misogynists, despising their own womanhood.(1)
Psych et Po’s work, their mission, is to make this existence possible, to bring the feminine into existence, and they have tried to develop a number of strategies aiming to defy and undermine masculinity. These strategies operate at different levels. First in group meetings and in individual analysis (frequently on Antoinette Fouque’s couch), each woman must try to understand how she has been made a misogynist — how the masculine elements in her head work against her.
The feminine element in us, radically other, can only be developed in autonomous female spaces; hence the founding of the publishing company, the bookshops, the group meetings, the magazine. Psych et Po provide physical and textual spaces in which the feminine can grow. They emphasise writing as a practice that defies the Logos—the male (Father’s) spoken word.(2)
Indeed, according to H. Cixous, writing brings about a “de-censored relation of women to their sexuality, to their being-women, giving them access to their own strength.”(3)
Influencing Psych et Po is the work of Lacan and Derrida with its pessimism or neutrality toward the capability of individuals to comprehend and, hence, whittle away at the unconscious, which includes the hitherto unexpressed “feminine.” Psych et Po simply tries to do what might be impossible:
For our work on this lack of conceptualisation, lack of consciousness, we make use of current instruments of thought, particularly of psychoanalysis, which is the only discourse on sexuality available at this time...(4)
... says a major writer for Psych et Po.
It is possible to hold a revolutionary separatist position; there is nothing inherent to separatism that makes it non-Maoist. However, the search for a “how-to-livewithout-patriarchy” by changing individual or small group attitudes and behaviors within the current system is something underlying most theories of gender as autonomous oppression. The people with the strongest rhetoric of women as a group are often the same people who act towards capitalism as individuals instead of as a group. Hence, most separatists are anti-Liberal rhetorically with regard to gender, but Liberal with regard to class issues and ultimately gender issues. People thinking of themselves as tough anti-male hierarchy, anti-vanguard party, anti-theory anarchists often turn out to be reformists because they believe it is possible to live without patriarchy without overthrowing the system. This mixture of Liberalism and anti-Liberalism is not cohesive theoretically-speaking and usually ends in opportunism and burn-out.
Psych et Po is a case in point. In 1978 it was saying:
In a capitalist, imperialist, patriarchal state to vote is to reinforce the power system.(5)
As a “revolutionary” group not participating in “masculine” politics, while concentrating on nurturing the feminine, Psych et Po capitulated and endorsed Mitterand for the 1981 elections in the name of the entire women’s liberation movement.(5) Psych et Po didn’t really change; it just flipped from one kind of Liberalism to another. It never took a revolutionary outlook. After this and some mild internal divisions, all that is left of Psych et Po is a very successful business with three bookshops, a series of magazines and three companies.(6)
The MLF under Psych et Po is a psychiatric organization trying to create a patriarchyfree space for women within the current system. There could not be a higher expression of the contradiction between Liberalism and anti-Liberalism. Women in France use the middle-class pseudo-science of psychiatry to liberate themselves, one at a time.
Claire Duchen characterizes the situation in England as similar to that in the United States:
This feminism, probably the most familiar to women in other countries, and certainly the kind with which I feel most comfortable, lives in small collectives, individual research and collective actions, attempting to get by from day to day and to work out any theoretical positions from daily experience, grounded in the reality of women’s lives.(7)
“Non-aligned” feminists like Duchen mean individual First World women’s lives when they say women’s lives. Duchen is aware of this and many other correct criticisms of her brand of feminism:
The MLF is overwhelmingly a white women’s movement.(8)
She also understands the criticism that it is not enough to ground oneself in individual lives: one must adopt a theory and move into political commitment and action.
Non-aligned feminist insistence on refusal of structure, believing that to adopt a fixed structure would be to destroy the dynamism of the MLF, means that when organisation is needed, it is earned out by ad hoc committees which are dissolved once the action or event has taken place. There is no continuity of action, no overall strategy to provide a framework for action, no grand scheme for justifying them. The lack of a coherent revolutionary project partly explains the way that many militant feminists feel ineffective and frustrated and abandon their militancy; it means that it is capable of change and is more adaptable than other types of feminism.(9)
These “non-aligned” feminists are the ones who reject theory as inherently male.
A movement that bases its analysis on women’s own experience and perceives the world as constructed by and for men will, to some extent, see theory as support for the seeking and maintaining of power. Non-aligned feminism tends to be suspicious of over-arching, generalising tendencies, mistrusting abstractions and perceiving theory as a dimension of male repression, as justification of the violence inherent in rationality. As Rosi Braidotti says, feminism often considers theory to be “a power strategy whose objective is to support and justify the social practice of the oppression of women.”(10)
Duchen correctly concludes that there is no middle ground between the experiential approach and its validation of various subjective states and the “worldview” approach which has a plan of action. Action is and always will be a materialist undertaking. Anyone who takes political action takes a side. Whether they like it or not they take their political action with a view of what is most effective in material reality—theory—unless of course action is not important to them in the first place.
The only thing that Duchen gets wrong is failing to identify “non-aligned” feminism as a worldview. Where all women’s subjective states are validated despite being in conflict, the result is cross-cancellation and paralysis that leaves the patriarchy in place. In addition, where there are no organizations claiming credit for individual actions organized by non-aligned feminists, the bourgeois patriarchy steps in to claim credit, in the guise of a woman if necessary. Like it or not, “non-aligned” feminism has a theory, the tools of which support the patriarchy.
The fear of “generalising tendencies” necessary for production of theory reflects the naïve acceptance of the experiential approach as applied to middle-class women. It has nothing to do with feminism or women as biologically predisposed to avoiding theory. Petty-bourgeois women are extreme individualists. Even when a political leader arises from petty-bourgeois women, it is a Betty Friedan or an Antoinette Fouque—someone who accepts Freudian theory and applies it. The idea of a theory of a social group is anathema to the petty-bourgeoisie which likes to believe it is above the struggle for economic survival and class struggle in reality and above materialist methodology in philosophy. The same experiential approach applied to women in conditions of desperate life-and-death struggle against oppression would reveal women do not take such an individualistic view. It is their relative lack of oppression and politicization which makes First World women especially susceptible to the patriarchy’s lie that women can’t do science, theory or logical thought generally and that women can’t use theory as a tool to fight oppression. The unthreatened patriarchy just laughs it up all the way to the bank, going so far as to make a profit off of “women’s literature.” which in methodological approach and marketable appeal is often indistinguishable from potboiler romance novels.
Reading Duchen is extremely frustrating for Maoists. She understands how it is impossible to have a coherent movement without a worldview. Moreover, she recognizes the “materialist feminists” for criticizing the “essentialism” of those women seeking an ahistorical feminine essence—the feminine difference—like Cixous’s idea that women did not have strength until they started writing for Psych et Po after 1968. How can someone like Duchen who struggled through so many issues not be a Maoist?
Duchen gives some common reasons why women did not hook up with Maoism in France in 1968. The first clue is that the Maoists were associated with Trotskyists. Maoist feminism was thought to be stupid reductionist Marxism:
The contradiction was evident in their texts. For instance, they were reluctant to name men as oppressors of women and tried hard to avoid it.(11)
This kind of reductionism opened the door to equally simplistic but classic Liberal feminist rebuttals:
You never say “I,” and you always talk about other people, never about yourselves; you talk about the MASSES, whom, as you put it, you want to CONQUER...(12)
III. Response to Pseudo-Feminist Representation of Maoists
MIM replies firmly that men are oppressors as a group. It is true that talking about “I” is not as unencumbered a problem as the non-aligned feminists claim. MIM has policies in place to deal with individuals, so MIM members do talk about the “I.” All people in the party engage in continuous criticism end self-criticism. But MIM is careful not to make hypocritical claims like Psych et Po does. There are no oases free from patriarchy and that includes MIM. Precisely because there is no oasis free from patriarchy in reality, MIM opposes the Liberal individualist strategy, which works solely on the “I,” and thinks in terms of a revolutionary overthrow of a whole system instead.
MIM also disagrees with the pseudo-feminist claim that settling right and wrong is not a feminist project. Like avoiding theory, refusal to designate right and wrong is not an aid to women’s liberation and should be called out for what it is — patriarchal socialization to avoid power. It is women who have the most to gain by struggling for a correct line and the most to lose by paralysis.
Hence, when the individual comes to MIM with an issue, the party votes on it, with majority rule. The party does not say, all feminisms are equal or all women’s perspectives are equal. Nor does MIM sanction only talking about individuals all the time if the individuals concerned are always white, middle-class women. Real feminism is not a guise for First World chauvinism, dating advice, gossip, Freudian psychoanalysis, avoiding political power or expansion of leisure-time activities by intertwining politics and romance.
If the Maoists in 1968 in France were really so simplistic as Duchen makes out, then let the Maoists be heard again: nation, class and gender are all oppressions. They are highly connected and cannot be entirely reduced to each other.
1. Claire Duchen, Feminism in France, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, p. 20.
2. Ibid., p. 35.
3. Ibid., p. 92.
4. Ibid., p. 83.
5. Ibid., pp. 106, 125.
6. Ibid., pp. 32-4.
7. Ibid., p. 40.
8. Ibid., p. 141.
9. Ibid., p. 46.
10. Ibid., p. 82.
11. Ibid., p. 28.
12. Ibid., p. 29.
7.4 Overdetermination Position
When it comes to Anita Hill the overdeterminationists might say, “Anita Hill was sexually harassed and oppressed by Clarence Thomas. She also lynched Thomas with white imperialist help. They are both oppressed and there is no determining who is right. We believe both. That’s the way the system is right now. Don’t try to boil it down to gender, nation, class or some combination of them. It’s all those things and more.”
Aside from class, nation or gender reductionist positions, the overdetermination position is popular as well. Overdeterminationists say you don’t have to choose which oppressions are more important than others and that so doing plays the oppressed off against each other. A feminist spin added in is to say that all oppressions are important, so just work on your own as women: do it for yourself. A parallel in anti-racism is that white people should get in touch with themselves first and work on their own racism.
At first overdeterminationism is attractive in practice, when activists see a lot of single-issue groups and don’t like their divisive narrow mindedness. It’s attractive to do a little of everything, both to learn things and to show that the oppressions are not separate. On the other hand, in theory, that type of activism can be reductionist, taking the position that the oppressions are not separate but part of one imperialist system.
This essay will quote some examples of the position that there are a multiplicity of factors causing all oppressions at all times and that none can be boiled down to one cause. This will help people in the party consider if this is where they are at. We should also be able to distinguish between reductionist, overdeterminationist and other approaches.
II. They Speak for Themselves
Much of the Marxist tradition has been understood to argue reductively that class structure (the ‘base’) determines social structure (the ‘superstructure’) and class struggle determines historical change ...
We find this reductionism to be problematic. It strikes us as unacceptably simplistic and one sided in its a priori presumption that some causes must outweigh others in determining an effect. Reductionism has, in our view, contributed to disastrous theoretical and political consequences as changes in one social factor — the presumed ‘most effective cause’—have been expected to usher in all manner of necessary effects which never materialized ... It can be replaced analytically by a nonreductionist perspective. Class, however defined, can be understood as the effect of many different social aspects with none of them playing the role of ‘most fundamental’ determinant ...
A non- or anti-reductionist approach to class eschews in principle the analytical search for last, final, or ultimate causes or determinants. Hence it can never find class or any other social aspect to be such a cause. Instead, the goal is to explore the complex ways in which a chosen set of social aspects interrelate as simultaneous causes and effects.(1)
Wolff and Resnick define “overdetermination” with reference to dialectics:
The term denoting this complex general approach to causation as a seamless web of cause and effect tying together all aspects of any social totality was the ‘dialectics’ so much discussed and debated in the pre-World War II Marxist tradition. That tradition has since been enriched by the particular contributions of Georg Lukacs and Louis Althusser who adapted Sigmund Freud’s term, overdetermination, to characterize a strictly non-reductionist (or anti-essentialist) notion of society causality.(2)
Then Resnick and Wolff get practical:
Is the change in class processes, from capitalist to communist, possible or securable without certain changes in the configuration of nonclass processes within a society? Marxist theory, as we understand it, must answer this question with a resounding “No." Class processes are the overdetermined effect of all the other, nonclass processes in the society (the conditions of existence of the class processes).”
To take one example, it may be that specific changes in social processes concerned with gender relationship would provide conditions for a change in the class processes of Western capitalist societies today. A change in popular consciousness about what ‘male’ and ‘female’ mean (i.e., a change in certain cultural processes) alongside a change in the authority distribution process within families (a change in political or power processes) might combine with a change as women sell more of their labor power as a commodity (a change in the economic process of exchange) to jeopardize capitalist class processes.(3)
The most appealing part of what Resnick and Wolff say is “we believe that these ideas form a specifically Marxist basis for unity within current movements and thereby enhance the chances for success.”
Such unity would not preclude significant differences among Marxists over which particular social processes occupy their analytical and practical energies. The differences would then concern what we have called ‘entry points.’ Some Marxists would continue to enter into their social analyses by a focus upon class, upon the forms and interaction of the fundamental and subsumed class processes within a society ... Other Marxists would analyze the society via different entry points, different foci.(4)
According to Resnick and Wolff, all Marxists must agree that class has to do with property, power or surplus labor appropriation, but they do not have to and should not agree that class is the most fundamental factor in a society’s processes. Marxists do agree that class is important and affects other processes in society and they work to abolish class. That is all, say Resnick and Wolff.
Resnick and Wolff further worked through this kind of reasoning to some of its logical and provocative conclusions:
No longer could one sustain an economic theory in which the value of a commodity is reduced to labor as its underlying essence. No longer could one affirm a social theory in which societal movement is ultimately reduced to and governed by its economic base. The antireductionism of the Althusserian logic demanded a notion of value and societal change as, respectively, sites of mutually constitutive effects emanating from diverse economic, political, cultural, and natural parts of life. No one or complex combination of these parts could reign in the first or last instance.
Whether as a philosopher or as a social theorist, Althusser, like Marx before him and postmodernists today, tried to formulate an approach that would be free of the inherent conservatism represented by foundationalism, last-instance determinism, and reductionism in all of their different guises, from positivism and realism in philosophy to structuralism and humanism in social theory. The revolutionary implication was that every object would be scrutinized, interrogated, and held up for grabs, whether that object took the form of a meaning of a text or a truth claim in science or a mode of production in society.(5)
If I might put some words in their mouths, I believe Resnick and Wolff would label MIM “reductionist, determinist, rationalist, positivist and structuralist”—and not entirely without justification.
Determinism: the notion that something causes (determines) something else, without fail.
The overdeterminationists criticize this in Marxism as substituting economics for god. God used to be seen as the cause of everything and now it is economics.
Essentialism: boiling down a social phenomenon to its “essence,” usually its cause or character, especially as opposed to its “form.”
Materialist essentialism is criticized by overdeterminationists for mimicking Platonic idealism. Marx, Lenin, Stalin and Mao were all essentialists, to various degrees at various times.
Overdetermination: the idea in studies of society that social processes are all connected and that all of the aspects of society cause each other, with none as the most important.
Resnick and Wolff say the idea comes from Freud, but I believe Freud took the idea from mathematics—algebra.
Positivism: the belief that society can be studied scientifically, following successes in the natural sciences.
Rationalism: since the Enlightenment, the belief that all phenomena are comprehensible by human reason.
In the Marxist context, the label “rationalist” is an overdeterminationist critique that there is one scientific truth and that other opinions are subjective. Althusser criticized this idea saying that there is class struggle in theory. In other words, advance comes from the conflict of more or less subjective theories.(6)
Reductionism: an idea very similar to essentialism. The search for an ultimate cause.
Today’s Trotskyists are the most consistent reductionists, because they boil down national and gender oppression to class. Althusser claimed Mao as an inspiration, because Mao believed that national oppression could be the principal contradiction at times. Mao did not boil everything down to a narrow conception of class and always juggled various contradictions in mind. Perhaps for this reason, Resnick and Wolff, followers of Althusser, criticize Althusser for still believing in god by going along with Mao that there are principal contradictions and determinations in “the last instance.”
1. Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick, “What Are Class Analyses?” Research in Political Economy, Vol. 9, Greenwich, CT: Jai Press, 1986, pp. 7-8.
2. Ibid., p. 23.
3. Ibid., p. 27.
4. Ibid., p. 28.
5. Richard Wolff and Stephen Resnick, “Althusser’s Contribution,” Rethinking Marxism, Spring 1991, p. 14.
6. Etienne Balibar, “For Althusser,” Rethinking Marxism, Spring 1991; Louis Althusser, “On Marx and Freud,” Rethinking Marxism, Spring 1991.
7.5 Definitions and Position: The Three Main Strands of Oppression
A. The capitalist class is the enemy. Anyone who owns the means of production or has a controlling interest is a capitalist. Most of these are white; some are of other nationalities. We cautiously attempt to unite the national bourgeoisies of the oppressed nationalities behind the program of smashing imperialism.
B. The class enemy, beyond the imperialists, is the labor aristocracy. [See MIM Theory, Volume One (Second Edition), Spring 2015, “A White Proletariat?”] They are the mass base for social democracy. The union leaders are the most dangerous of these enemies because they are paid in this position of trying to perpetuate this system and so are the lackeys of the imperialists— the compradors of class.
C. Individual masses in the unions can be won over and, so, are worth targeting since they have come to political activity in some form, though their political activity is in the interest of maintaining imperialism. These individuals can commit class suicide and join the revolution. As a group they will not do this now.
D. We recognize the ideology of social democracy as an enemy ideology tending toward fascism.
E. The petty-bourgeoisie has an individualist interest in revolution but not the material interest that the proletariat has. They could go either way as a group and ally with imperialism or revolution.
A. The highest national enemies are the imperialists, the principal oppressors of oppressed nations. Another nation enemy is the comprador bourgeoisie—those members of the nation who sell out and ally with the imperialists to oppress their own nation. Their wealth depends on imperialism. The oppressed nations must overthrow the traitorous comprador bourgeoisie to advance the national struggle.
B. There is also a Third World labor aristocracy, a section of the labor aristocracy discussed above. The Third World labor aristocracy, compradors and those aspiring to be compradors confuse and set back the national struggle, just as the Amerikan labor aristocracy is a group aspiring to be imperialists that sets back the class struggle. For theoretical purposes, it will be useful to refer to the Third World groups dependent on imperialism as a national aristocracy. They are the mass base for cultural nationalism and integrationism. The leaders of the national aristocracy are the most dangerous and most clearly enemies because of their material relation to imperialism.
C. Individual Third World labor aristocrats, cultural nationalists and integrationists may be won over and are worth targeting (they are politically active). These individuals may commit class and nation suicide and join the revolution. As a group they will not do this now.
D. We recognize the ideologies of cultural nationalism and integrationism as enemy ideologies tending toward fascism.
E. The national bourgeoisie is like the petty-bourgeoisie of class in that they both could either go the way of imperialism or ally with the revolution.
A. Clearly those who run the pornography or other gender oppressive capitalist businesses are patriarchal enemies.
B. We call the remainder of the gender enemy the gender aristocracy. First World biological women are bought off with class, nation, and gender privilege and have a material interest in maintaining imperialism. First World biological men, as a group, also have an interest in perpetuating the patriarchy and so can be defined as a patriarchal enemy; most of these men and women fall into imperialist or labor aristocracy camps. The gender aristocracy is the mass base for First World pseudo-feminism. Women who are paid leaders of the First World pseudo-feminist movement are analogous to the union leaders, and cultural nationalist leaders.
C. Individuals in the mass organizations concerned with gender might be won over and are worth targeting. Those individuals can commit class/nation/gender suicide and join the revolution. As a group they will not do this now.
D. Pseudo-feminist ideology is that of the enemy.
E. Separatists and those who profit directly from gender oppression are the gender bourgeoisie. A separatist running a whore-house would qualify here. They are analogous to the national bourgeoisie class as a potential ally or enemy.
The capitalists, the compradors, and the pornographers are roughly equivalent in terms of danger and unapproachability as enemies.
The labor aristocracy, national aristocracy, and gender aristocracy are the aspiring imperialists in class, nation, or gender; they are materially bought off.
The petty-bourgeoisie, national bourgeoisie and gender-female bourgeoisie are all potential allies depending on the principal contradiction and their conditions. All will be tested as allies or enemies.
People may ask, how is sexual privilege as the basis for the gender aristocracy separate from class privilege? In some senses it is not, just as national privilege is not always separate from class privilege. The billionaire who buys prostitutes’ services is transforming one privilege into another. That transformation depends on the fact that it is possible to exchange money for prostitution. There is a definite link between class privilege and gender privilege.
Those aspects of sexual privilege that cannot be bought for money prove that gender is independent of class and that there really is such a thing as sexual privilege, the meat of which the patriarchal enemies thrive on. An example is reproduction. In some states it is possible to buy a mother’s breeding services. In others it is not possible or it is restricted.
Another indication of sexual privilege is seen in the issue of rape. Two people from the same class, say the white working class, do not necessarily face the same sexual domination, although the difference will not be as great as between the imperialist men and the Third World women.
All along MIM knew that there was a patriarchal enemy. It also knew there was a bourgeoisie. The new phrases coined here are “national aristocracy” and “gender aristocracy.” The gender aristocracy are those people who have high status in sexual privilege, regardless of their biology. MIM is unaware of any organization that has developed these concepts in the highly parallel forms cited here.
People may ask, how is sexual privilege as the basis for the gender aristocracy separate from class privilege? In some senses it is not, just as national privilege is not always separate from class privilege. The billionaire who buys prostitutes’ services is transforming one privilege into another. That transformation depends on the fact that it is possible to exchange money for prostitution. There is a definite link between class privilege and gender privilege.
Those aspects of sexual privilege that cannot be bought for money prove that gender is independent of class and that there really is such a thing as sexual privilege, the meat of which the patriarchal enemies thrive on. An example is reproduction. In some states it is possible to buy a mother’s breeding services. In others it is not possible or it is restricted.
Another indication of sexual privilege is seen in the issue of rape. Two people from the same class, say the white working class, do not necessarily face the same sexual domination, although the difference will not be as great as between the imperialist men and the Third World women.
All along MIM knew that there was a patriarchal enemy. It also knew there was a bourgeoisie. The new phrases coined here are “national aristocracy” and “gender aristocracy.” The gender aristocracy are those people who have high status in sexual privilege, regardless of their biology. MIM is unaware of any organization that has developed these concepts in the highly parallel forms cited here.
MacKinnon is to feminism as Hegel is to Marxism—philosophically helpful, not a feminist (not a Marxist). There are very few real feminists in the United States. A real feminist recognizes women’s oppression from the perspective of Third World women and works to end it. There are some Black lesbian (and nonlesbian) feminists in the United States who are working on this (also Latino, and other nationalities perhaps). They can be compared to the revolutionary nationalists — revolutionary feminists who see the patriarchy as the principal enemy and are working effectively to overthrow it, under capitalism.
These are people MIM would ally with, just as we would ally with revolutionary, not reactionary nationalists. We ally with these revolutionary groups with an understanding of the shortcomings of their analysis.
First World feminists
Everyone is getting hung up on what this means about other First World feminist groups. All those rape prevention, domestic violence, pro-choice groups are not revolutionary feminist organizations; MIM would not ally with them. They contribute to the oppression of the Third World, specifically but not always Third World women, and in some cases to the oppression of First World women as well. They are reactionary feminists—pseudo-feminists.
Many comrades with a background in reformism have experienced working with pseudo-feminist groups. The Amerikan “left” allies with them to avoid addressing women’s oppression. They don’t have an alternative; there is no choice analogous to that between Malcolm X and Jesse Jackson. They are all Jackson or Jackson, perpetuating gender oppression in the Third World.
It is hard to accept that there is no strong feminist leadership in the United States; this is necessarily the most controversial part of our analysis of nation/class/gender.
If we accept the above analysis, we know that MIM is building feminism from the ground up. There is no Marx or Malcolm X of gender, no feminist revolutions, only nationalist and class revolutions on which to build. At least we have our Hegel.
In March 1990, we thought we were being risque putting the title: “Are Third World women victims of First World feminism?” on a newspaper article. Now we know it should have been a statement, not a question.
So we deal with pseudo-feminists the same way we deal with the white working class. We can try to win individual adherents over, but we recognize that the organizations are bought off—many are state-funded.
In MIM Notes 35, MC5 defined pseudo-feminism as the politicization of selfindulgence. But pseudo-feminism is a legitimate politicization that gains more than self-indulgence for women, it gains material benefits. Pseudo-feminists are in it for material benefits at the expense of the Third World.
Useful feminist movements
In a recent book review [Ed. note: See “Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement,” this issue.], I discussed the comparable worth movement as a possibly revolutionary force. It could be fighting the patriarchy at the expense of men OR it could be gaining white women more privilege at the expense of the Third World.
Rape prevention groups and domestic violence centers (DVCs) have an analogous choice. Rape prevention groups could take MacKinnon’s line and fight the patriarchy by promoting communication in relationships while holding that all sex is rape and identifying the patriarchy as its principal cause, OR they could promote rape in the search for perfect consensual sex, terrorize people out of communicating in their relationships, turn First World men to rape more Third World women, and generally confuse the issue while taking money from the state so the state looks good for trying to stop rape.
DVCs could be telling women that battering will continue until they overthrow the patriarchy, organizing women in the shelters to do it, OR they could just provide “support,” and offer counseling so that women can go out there and find a better man, and generally confuse the issue while taking money from the state.
Abortion rights groups could be telling people that the patriarchy is using abortion to keep women in their place, OR they could be advocating an individualist approach, pushing for legal reforms, testing drugs and birth control on Third World women, and generally confuse the issue while taking money from the state.
A good example of the choices First World women are offered in pseudo-feminist politics is in a recent issue of off our backs:
If you’re a white lesbian activist, for example, it might be most important to emphasize sexual self-determination as the heart of the abortion struggle. You may be less interested in the issues raised by Billye Avery and others in the Black Women’s Health Project, which include publicly funded prenatal care, less-demeaning childbirth procedures, and drug treatment for pregnant women ... However, beyond respect for difference, there are core themes that cut across many of what Jesse Jackson might call patches in “the quilt” of coalition politics.
The article advocates self-serving politics, and misses the fact that reformist political gains have to come out of someone’s back.
For each of these campaigns there is a revolutionary option and a reactionary option. The comparable worth movement is the only one showing any evidence of taking the revolutionary path with any consistency—this may just be out of necessity due to the nature of the movement.
So the pseudo-feminists have put up all these reactionary strawmen that we have to knock down before MIM can even start to build a feminist movement.
With all this it makes sense why so many Black women cringe when they hear the word feminism. For most women of different nationalities it has been true that feminism=racism. Putting this in MIM terms, pseudo-feminism=class oppression, national oppression and gender oppression. Black feminists correctly identify the underlying current in all this so-called feminist activism. This is the same thing that the Black proletariat in Amerika recognized about the labor aristocracy long before MIM ever formed.
7.7 Against Reductionism
In the aftermath of the Hill-Thomas debate, the party supported this document which opposes certain theories as irresponsible or lazy and amounting to support for oppression if applied in practice.
Reductionism is the idea of explaining a lot of things in the world with one cause. In Marxism, reductionism usually means explaining everything in the world by boiling it down to class and class struggle.
In contrast to the idea of reductionism is eclecticism where there are no important causes, just an infinity of autonomous (meaning separate) causes of social behavior. In bourgeois sociology, Max Weber is someone who just picks whatever number of theories he wants to explain various historical situations.
The party should not equate all oppressions (or their causes) as equally important; MIM should just focus on a few causes. Class, nation and gender are important and somewhat related, and somewhat (somewhere between 1 and 99%) autonomous.
Class oppression is realized by exploitation, and superexploitation that results in profits. National oppression exhibits itself in extermination of the cultural psychology, something Stalin talked about, as well as the rape of the land’s exhaustible resources by foreign powers. Gender oppression is distinct from these others in being sexual. As MacKinnon says, sex is to feminism what work is to Marxism. Class, nation and gender oppression are separable in theory, even though they intersect in the real world.
The good side of reducing all oppressions to class is that it provides an easy basis for materialist analysis. The bad side is that it ignores many gender and national oppressions.
At best, one could say proletarian men should not rape proletarian women, so as to unite the working class. But one could just as easily say proletarian women should overlook rape in the name of unity. One could also say that to do their part in allying the two classes, petty-bourgeois women should not complain about being raped by proletarians. And then of course, because they are the class enemy, rape of bourgeois women should be totally ignored by this view.
In abortion rights struggles, proletarian women should mobilize for abortion and not ally with bourgeois women unless there is a feudal enemy to oppose—which there isn’t in the United States.
As for national oppression, with class reductionism one would not distinguish between a bourgeois Louis Farrakhan and George Bush. If all cultures in the world became white, McDonalds culture, but so what, as long as the proletariat ruled?
Class and nation reductionism: imperialism
So maybe class reductionism sucks. Try nation and class reductionism.
Can you say Edridge Cleaver? Rape of First World women by Third World men becomes a liberating act (strategically but not tactically when they get caught) as the ideological product of class/nation reductionism.
Third World men should not divide the proletariat by raping Third World women, but Third World women should not complain if they are raped.
Unite for Third World abortion rights, but do not ally with First World women to do so.
This starts to make some MIM comrades uncomfortable—uncomfortable to the point where they will not accept nation and class reductionism. When put to a vote, the party supported a three strand analysis.
II. Inconsistency as Opportunism and Lying to the Masses
Various trends have attempted to defend an ideological application of the notion of gender struggle with a class reductionist theory. Many comrades have used gender as a relatively autonomous strand in their analysis, but it is important to do this consistently and without the hangovers from pseudo-feminism. These comrades need to realize that there is no free lunch in theory. Once you accept a theory, you should be willing to struggle through its costs and not opportunistically close your eyes when there is a snag.
The gender reductionists are looking at your shit and saying it stinks. What’s that you’re saying about class? Women who aren’t exploited or superexploited are not forced into sex? They can be asexual? Nonsense, they are psychologically raped and emotionally coerced by men, say the gender reductionists.
And what’s this about divisions among women anyway? Class and nation don’t exist, say the gender reductionists.
What’s this about women saying yes when they mean no and no when they mean yes—you think they’ve adjusted to class and national oppression and patriarchal power by lying among other strategies? No way. Women’s truth, whatever it is, and no matter how contradictory, is the truth. In fact, women are biologically superior to men, say the gender reductionists.
Comrades survive this attack because they never bought into oppression being subjective anyway. They’d be lying to the masses to say otherwise. But within the three strand theoretical contraption, there is still grumbling, even civil war.
The Third World men wonder why there are so many First World anti-rape and battering centers funded by the state. Don’t they just serve to allow First World women to keep us in prison and sexually accessible?
The Third World women say the First World people are testing their birth control on us to the point of genocide. Where are our First World biological sisters when we need them? They are oppressing us in a sexual manner — independent of profits or cultural extermination or resource rape (class and nation). Isn’t that what gender is about—sexual access? So First World men and women are gender oppressing us.
The First World lesbians who tell you their lovers are raping and battering them put any doubts about the Third World women’s charge to rest. Biology is not such a great guarantor against oppression.
So you toss biology (because no communist believes biology is destiny anyway) and agree with MacKinnon that gender is a social construction. Having the same biology does not guarantee a certain sexual relation among people. Some groups of biological women systematically oppress other groups of biological women.
So if First World biological women are socially constructed men to Third World women, who else is socially constructed as male relative to who else? Consistency, consistency, consistency. Who is sexually harassing whom ask the Third World men of First World women? Who has access to whose sexuality overall?
III. Friends, Enemies, Relative Autonomy and the Principal Contradiction
Mao Zedong decided nation and class are relatively autonomous. He claimed there was a national bourgeoisie that might support the revolution against imperialism sometimes. This also made him more sympathetic to merchants and other middle classes whose interests were damaged by foreign capital. He told the indigenous bourgeoisie it had no choice but to ally with him if it ever wanted to stand on its own feet, since the imperialists wouldn’t allow it.
The class reductionists moaned that Mao was anti-Marxist. What? A bourgeoisie that is not strictly enemy? A national struggle that lands a blow against imperialism?
In the 1930s, Mao said the national contradiction and the contradiction with semifeudalism were the principal contradictions. Sometimes it was just the national contradiction. As for the capitalist countries, Mao said:
The proletariat and the bourgeoisie, form the principal contradiction.(1)
As for other contradictions in the capitalist countries:
They are all determined or influenced by this principal contradiction.(1)
The problem with this formulation is the development to which Sakai and Edwards point. There is no proletariat in Amerika. Indirectly recognizing this problem, the RCP has decided that for most countries what goes on outside the borders is the principal contradiction. Raymond Lotta raises the inter-imperialist rivalry to now theoretical heights. This is one solution, but it doesn’t seem particularly useful at the moment
Within the borders of the United States, it seems that the national contradiction is the principal contradiction as it is on the world scale; MIM disagrees with comrade Gonzalo on the reasons for this. Gonzalo makes too much of a theoretical absolute out of the oppressor nation/oppressed nation contradiction — but with better results than Lotta because Gonzalo has the principal contradiction right. In this sense, Gonzalo is just helping us with our Lottas.
Thanks to seeing the principal contradiction this way, MIM sees that the Islamic nationalists are friends, including the Islamic bourgeoisie.
It appears that within the Black, Latino and indigenous nations, class struggle is rarely, if ever, the principal contradiction. No bourgeoisie from these nations holds real state power either. The principal contradiction is with imperialism.
Comrades in MIM should think about the issue of resolving what contradiction does the most to yank history forward. That is the principal contradiction. Which knot is the key to unravelling the others?
Note: Mao Tsetung, Five Essays on Philosophy, Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1977, p. 51.
7.8 Diagrams of Gender Oppression: A Picture Saves a Hundred Pages
The basic reductionist position:
1 is the oppressor, and 2, the bourgeoisie. That’s class reductionism. Another way is 1 is biological men and 2 is biological women. The answer is workers unite! That’s Trot reductionism. Another answer is women unite!
Then there is experiential-tokenist-liberal feminism:
(This feminism recognizes that cutting medicaid abortions affects poor and oppressed nationalities most.)
1 is white men.
2 is minority men.
3 is white woman.
4 is minority women.
Then there is University of Hard Knocks:
(UHK does not see any gender oppression separate from class and nation.)
This is what MIM says...
First is overall oppression and the overall composition of the forces for revolution:
1 is First World biological men.
2 is First World biological women.
3 is Third World biological men.
4 is Third World biological women.
Now for gender privilege.
1 is First World biological men.
2 is First World biological women.
3 is Third World biological men.
4 is Third World biological women.
The marker between 3 and 4 is the dividing line between male and female.
Note that the average First World person is male. The average Third World person is female, but the average Third World biological man is a man.
As you can see, just about everyone will put First World men on the top and Third World women on the bottom. What is controversial is what to say about FW women and TW men.
7.9 Class as a candidate for principal contradiction in the United States
If you want to hold up the essential lessons of Sakai and Edwards, but you’re not sure if nation or class is the principal contradiction within the borders of the United States, this is for you.
It is possible to name class as the principal contradiction without making the Trotskyist and social-democratic errors of white chauvinism. This would amount to uniting the exploited and superexploited in the Third World outside the United States with the exploited and superexploited within the borders of the United States to fight the integrated bourgeoisie.
This would boil down to what is sometimes called a Third Worldist position. Unite the predominantly Third World proletarians. It might also tend to push a line of integrating Third World peoples in political organizations and neighborhoods.
In China, when class was the principal contradiction, Mao’s party stepped up the struggle against the landlords and bourgeoisie, whether or not they were loyal to the country. At times they even laid off land reform when the war against Japan seemed to require it.
After imperialists were all routed from China, class struggle became principal. First emphasis was put on the landlords, then the national bourgeoisie was expropriated after China’s economy surpassed pre-war levels in 1952.
Concretely, a class-as-principal-contradiction line would require struggles against religious influences in Third World communities — Islam and indigenous religions coming to mind immediately. Struggles against Stokely Carmichael, Louis Farrakhan, etc., would be just as sharp as those against Bush, Thomas, etc.
If you pick nation as the principal contradiction, you are saying you should lay off the national bourgeoisie somewhat so as to unite national forces against imperialism. In contrast, you could believe that the national bourgeoisie has no progressive role to play in the United States.
Supporting this view of class as principal contradiction in the United States would effectively eliminate the distinction between comprador and national bourgeoisie as useless. That would justify dropping the term comprador.
In supporting nation as the principal contradiction within the borders of the United States, a struggle against the national bourgeoisie is not really tops on the agenda because it won’t do anything to unravel a lot of problems. National liberation will unravel a lot of problems.
By naming national oppression as the principal contradiction within the borders of the United States, I mean to say that such an approach will do more for class and gender oppression than naming either class or gender as the principal contradiction.
Mao Zedong never named gender the principal contradiction, but his revolutionary struggle did much more for women more quickly than any struggle that named gender as the principal contradiction anywhere in China or the First World. Picking the right principal contradiction is essential to taking the fastest road forward.
Intersections of Nation, Class and Gender
8.1 Firestorm Over Criticizing Existing Feminism
Before MIM ever existed, revolutionary groups found it rough going to criticize the state of feminism. Even in 1980, when it was already apparent that U.S. feminism had turned to pseudo-feminism and had led a lot of people down an apolitical road, one group earned national infamy for criticizing the reactionary movement.
The Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee (PWOC) noted the sorry state of affairs and was attacked repeatedly by the Guardian and journals like Theoretical Review. Writers typically excerpted one phrase and then slammed PWOC. What did PWOC say? “Feminism is inherently racist.” That was the horrible thing to say at the time.
When we speak of feminism, we are not using the popularized term which has come to mean ’for equality of women,‘ but are speaking of feminist ideology ... Feminist ideology is an ideology which places the contradiction between men and women as primary, or at least equal to, other contradictions, including the contradiction between labor and capital, and between the national majority and the oppressed national minorities. In this way it is inherently racist and anti-working class.(1)
Substitute the words national oppression for “racism” and Third World proletariat for working-class and MIM would agree with PWOC; although MIM accepts as members feminists (as defined by PWOC) as long as they uphold the Cultural Revolution, oppose the old Soviet state-capitalism and oppose the reactionary white working class in North Amerika.
In some ways, PWOC’s stand is more principled than MIM’s, because PWOC defines “feminism” at a very high theoretical level, while MIM chooses to duke it out at the “popular” level. We believe that we Maoists have been incorrect in the past not to educate First World women that Maoism is the most effective feminism of the age, just as it is the most effective proletarian movement. The historical record is so clear that MIM objects when various pseudo-feminists claim they are feminists.
PWOC had a sense very similar to MIM’s of the relative importance of social groups to the revolution in the United States:
In this united front the women’s movement, while less stable an ally than the oppressed nationalities, occupies an important place.(1)
Here, PWOC even uses the correct term “oppressed nationalities” instead of “race.”
PWOC was also very concrete in what it said about “feminist ideology and the white chauvinism which is so bound up with it.”(1)
The major struggle of the last period in the battle to protect reproductive rights was the fight against the Hyde Amendment. Seldom was there agitation from the women’s movement linking the right to abortion with the demand to end sterilization abuse. Only those most class conscious women brought to this campaign the view that the right to have children was as important a struggle as the right not to have them. In fact, leading spokeswomen on national press campaigned against the Hyde Amendment by direct appeals to white chauvinism: ’If poor women can’t get abortions, we’ll have to end up supporting all those babies on welfare rolls.’(1)
PWOC was also a leader in the fight against white nation ideas on rape:
Nor was the racism of the ‘Take back the night’ slogan an isolated instance of feminism liquidating the struggle against racism in the issue of rape ... The dialectical materialist understands that the slogan does not exist in isolation from the rest of the material world, any more than the slogans ‘law and order’ or ‘national security’ or ‘neighborhood schools’ do.
In this society the word ‘rape,’ coming from white women, is directly connected to the lynching of Black men and the repression of the Black people as a whole. The movement against rape can only avoid racism by being explicitly anti-racist, so strong is the racist myth of the Black rapist in our society.
At the Philadelphia ‘Take back the night’ march, we never saw such smiles of support and cooperation from the police as on that night.(1)
While PWOC was a little slow in coming to words to meet its critics correctly, it was generally more correct than its critics, maybe 70% correct. It’s all fine and good to say that PWOC should have been working from the inside of the women’s movement like one feminist purged from PWOC,(2) but many comrades today know what it is like to work inside white women’s groups concerning rape. In any case, MIM believes the great negative lesson of Progressive Labor Party (PLP) intervention in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) should have steered PWOC in the direction of criticizing from the outside. For this reason, it is true that revolutionaries are going to be a little slow in the uptake when summing up what is going on in the mass organizations out there, but it’s a price well worth paying. The political development of the mass movement should not hinge on narrow day-to-day happenings in the mass movement.
One valid critique of the PWOC is that it had a reductionist and hence economist view of gender oppression. It reduced the question to one of superexploitation. So while it saw women as allies of the proletariat, PWOC did not have a theory of gender in its own right, a theory of sexual privilege. MIM is the first revolutionary organization, so far as we are aware, to refer to sexual privilege and the notion of a sexual aristocracy. However, even PWOC’s critics only meant that PWOC should talk more theory and politics when they cried “economism.”(3) The critics had no better theory of the roots of the women’s liberation movement than PWOC did. Their weapons to criticize ”economism” were rather weak. They had neither Sakai nor MacKinnon.
There are many links between national oppression, class oppression and gender oppression. MIM locates gender oppression as distinct from class oppression. It is outside of work-time, leisure-time and reproduction. Marxism does an excellent job covering work-time and an intermediate job on reproduction. What happens in leisure-time, especially the many conflicts that happen in leisure-time that are not just expressions of what goes on in the workplace—that is the legitimate subject of gender oppression as distinct from class or national oppression. MIM is forging ahead in these areas in order to really finish the job of criticizing “economism.” In this way, we hope to go beyond PWOC and its critics.
1. Sara Murphy for the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee, Guardian 10/8/80.
2. Jenny Quinn, “Feminists Are Allies, Not Enemies,” Guardian, November 1980.
3. John Trinkl, “PWOC: ‘Feminism is racist,’” Guardian 8/20/90.
8.2 The Myth of the Black Rapist
The myth of struggle against the myth of the Black rapist: Why Willie Horton won the election for George Bush in 1988
One area of dispute between MIM and pseudo-feminists has to do with the pseudofeminists’ individualist approach to crime which says some sex is good sex and some sex is criminal sex. What happens when white women use the so-called justice system to accuse men of rape?
1986 breakdown of rape convictions where the victim is white(1)
What this table means is that 22% of the people convicted for raping white women are Black.
This table requires some reflection on the part of feminists. It is common knowledge that people tend to have sex with people of their own “race” and class. There is some mixing, but disproportionately people have sex with people most like themselves. Furthermore, pseudo-feminists and feminists alike generally agree that about threequarters of all rape is by acquaintances so the figures on rape should show that women are raped by the type of people they date, unless there is bias in the women’s accusations.
Twelve percent of the men available to white women as of 1986 are Black, but no where near 12% of the sex white women have is with Blacks. Hence, the 22% figure is very disproportionately high. Readers should also remember that since the population of white women is more than six times larger than the population of Black men, for each 1% of white women who have a Black male sexual acquaintance, it takes about 6% of Black men to be those acquaintances. Out of those acquaintances charged with rape, the 22% figure means a very high proportion of Black men generally are accused of rape by white women, compared with white men generally.
As a result of these reflections, there are three possible interpretations of the figures above:
1. Imperialist George Bush and white chauvinist conservatives look at the figures above and conclude that Black men like Willie Horton really are a big problem in society—violent and out-of-control.
2. Pseudo-feminists say, yes, the figures are skewed, but “rape is the most underreported crime,” so we continue to support the decisions of all women who decide to prosecute rape.
3. MIM says that all sex is rape and the figures above represent gross bias by Amerikkkan women. Whatever intentions the pseudo-feminists have, no matter their speeches and no matter their flyers, the effect of supporting women who go to the courts with rape charges is white supremacy. White people using courts against Black people does more harm than good and Black people should only use the white supremacist courts with the approval of the Black community, something the Black Panthers said should not happen.
The whole line that “rape is the most underreported crime” is buying into the FBI’s and Justice Department’s white supremacist definition of crime, because the pseudo-feminists are only referring to government surveys when they say “rape is the most underreported crime.” These government surveys don’t include things like the bombing of Vietnam or the forced starvation of 14 million Third World children every year, who could be saved except for a capitalist distribution of food.
That is not to mention the white collar crimes that result in 400,000 air-pollution deaths and 200,000 cigarette-caused deaths that far outstrip the 30 to 50,000 murders counted by the police every year. The police are very good about counting the “crimes” of the masses against themselves, but not so good at counting the crimes of the upper classes.
This pseudo-feminist bid to gain legitimacy in the eyes of police including the FBI—i.e., legitimacy within the imperialist system—is at the expense of Third World people, because the most underreported crime is the genocide committed by U.S. imperialism. The “support your sisters”—no matter how white supremacist—line is an excuse to obliterate the struggle against white supremacist violence.
For pseudo-feminists this obliteration of violence against the Third World is often a conscious decision based in a history of starting their women’s struggle as an excuse for not supporting the armed struggles of the oppressed nationalities.
For most First World women the choice in rape reporting does not involve as much conscious evil as is perpetrated by the theoreticians of white female solidarity. First World women do not have to sit around wondering, “How am I going to carry forward my time-honored role in lynching Black men?” Rather, white women report sex that they feel “violates” them. And being raised in a white supremacist system, white women feel violated by Black men who do the same things their white brothers do.
Further proof of the bias in rape charges is in the statistical breakdown of rapes reported to police by white women. From 1973 to 1987, white women reported that national minorities were 16% of their non-stranger rapists, not to mention 38% of stranger rapists.(2) Again the issue is did white women really have acquaintances—i.e., boyfriends and husbands—who were national minorities 16% of the time (from 1973 to 1987)? That would mean almost perfect so-called interracial mixing in our society and the oppressed know that’s not close to happening. What it really means is that white women are more likely to find both national minority acquaintances and minority strangers more threatening than white acquaintances and strangers.
Even by police standards, which fail to count the vast majority of rapes that pseudofeminists like MacKinnon and Dworkin talk about, white women are more likely to report rapes by strangers than non-strangers.
Stranger rapes are reported 57% of the time and non-stranger rapes 47%.(2) That is not to say that women report white and Black strangers equally. There is no evidence for that and all the evidence here points against that idea. Rather, it stands to reason that white women avoid reporting the sex-rape in their ordinary lives by the men of their kind.
So far, we have examined the figures from the perspective of the rape victim. This is to fail to realize the view of the Black men accused of rape and just how dominated by white women’s concerns the whole issue is. Since white women are such a large group in Amerika and Black men a relatively small one, 63.3% of the time a Black man is accused of rape, the accuser is a white woman.(3) That is to say that 63.3% of the rumors, accusations and probably the arrests of Black men stem from white women, women who, as a group, are mired in the white-nation chauvinism of the day. If Black men had 63.3% of their sexual interactions with white women, then the accusations might be fair, but since this is far from the case, MIM concludes that there is white-nation chauvinism at work.
We can get an idea of how skewed women’s accusations are by looking at “interracial dating.” We can’t give you a figure for what percentage of the dates people go on are interracial. Instead we can guess that it is similar to the figure for the percentage of people in interracial marriages. Black men married to white women account for 0.3% of total marriages in the United States as of 1989. In 1989, less than 4% of Black married men were married to white women,(4) so we estimate that less than 4% of Black men’s dating is with white women. Hence, less than 4% of accusations faced by Black men should come from white women. Instead the figure is 63.3%, so MIM has further evidence that white women are in the wrong in their approach to rape.
Unfortunately, the government does not publish a lot of statistics on the race of rape victims and offenders, comparing victimisation with arrest rates. Such figures would probably leave people with a lot of questions about the injustice system. The whole subject is a minefield that most pseudo-feminists like to pass over by saying that most rape victims are raped by people of their own “race.” It’s this kind of lazy or dishonest opportunism that makes pseudo-feminism so easily discredited in the eyes of the masses, whenever such discrediting is necessary for the patriarchy.
At other times, pseudo-feminists work hand-in-glove with the George Bush-type manipulators of the rape issue. Both conservatives and pseudo-feminists think there is good sex and bad sex. Both support a judicial system that has white supremacist results and no value in deterring rape. In their division of labor, the pseudo-feminists have a special role in fanning all women’s fears, while Bush capitalizes on those fears politically.
Some of the pseudo-feminists and white women accusers even have Black male friends. MIM is not fooled. It looks at the figures. It sees the results. What happens when First World women accuse some men of rape but not others? They accuse the men who do not fit their Hollywood images of romance. And they join a criminal criminal justice system in perpetrating nation, class and gender oppression.
All sexually active women have been raped, because all men are oppressors and cannot be reformed. What the First World woman does about it—that’s where the lying starts. Until we overthrow imperialism there is no “good sex” and there is no use of the “justice” system not tainted with nation and class oppression.
1. U.S. Department of Justice: Female Victims of Crime, January 1991, NCj-1268826.
2. Female Victims of Violent Crime, ASI 1991, 6068-243, p. 10.
3. National Crime Survey, 1983, ASI 6066-3, Table 45.
4. Statistical Abstract of the United States 1991, pp. 43-4.
8.3 Using Women of Color for an Individualist, Pseudo-Feminist Agenda
Catharine MacKinnon is an acknowledged leader of the movement against rape and harassment in the United States. Her approach is fertile for discussion of the issues in a systematic way. What does she have to say about white supremacy?
I think women report rapes when we feel we will be believed ... They have two qualities: they are by a stranger, and they are by a Black man.(1)
Does MacKinnon conclude that First World women who report rape are white supremacists like First World women generally? No, she faults the media for following rules that many pseudo-feminists support:
Two of the victims of this current rapist are women of color. I think that the non-reporting of this aspect, although it may have been requested initially by the women victims and may be an attempt to preserve confidentiality, also plays into the racist image that what rape is about is Black men defiling ‘our white womanhood.’(1)
This line of reasoning is paternalism, tokenism and white supremacy. Two women of color as victims do not erase the white domination of the so-called justice system. The fact that women of color are victims does not excuse the white supremacy of women who accuse Black men disproportionately for rape.
MacKinnon goes further. After telling the reader “Most rapes are by a man of the woman’s race,”(1) MacKinnon goes on to say Black women “are raped four times as often as white women.”(1) This is nothing but saying that Black men are four times more likely to rape than white men. This supremacist garbage is the kind the system used to lure Anita Hill into doing something to a (sellout) Black Supreme Court nominee that was never done to a white Supreme Court nominee—spend three days on television reviewing his sex life. The only thing accomplished was to leave the impression of Black men once again as being out-of-control, while leaving the impression that all the other people on the Supreme Court and the Senate are not pigs.
Pseudo-feminist groups try to avoid this issue by reporting that most rape victims are raped by people of their own race. They avoid the disproportionate reporting of Blacks by white women and they avoid the fact that 63.3% of the time Black men accused of rape are accused by white women.
But even when someone fairly honest like MacKinnon tries to deal with the issue, she gets it wrong and skirts the real issues in victimization statistics. Black women report being victimized by rape at a rate of 2.7 per 1,000 annually. For white women the figure is 1.5 per 1,000 annually. Where did MacKinnon get the figure that Black women are raped four times as often as white women? It’s not even double, and that is by the women’s reporting.(2)
MacKinnon missed what is going on in the figures. If one looks at the arrest figures, then one will find what MacKinnon is talking about. Nonwhite men are arrested for rape at about five times the rate of white men. Throw out the white accusations against Black men and the arrest rate would fall to two times the rate white men are arrested.(3) MacKinnon probably just didn’t account for the pull of white women on the figures, and she made the misleading and probably downright false statement that Black women are raped four times as often as white women.
There are a couple reasons that Black women may report relatively high rates of victimization of rape (not quite double) while finding white men responsible for only 10% of their rapes.(4) One reason is that Black women may really draw the line differently than white women. Another reason could be white women’s influence. With 63.3% of the Black men they see dragged off for rape charges charged by white women, Black women’s own views of rape can’t help being shaped by the actions of their white sisters. That is to say that Black people cannot use a white supremacist justice system without perpetuating white supremacy.
MacKinnon is best off when she thinks on a theoretical plane, because her manipulation of statistics from various inconsistent studies is a mixture of FBI white supremacy and half-baked, pseudo-feminist definitions of rape. MIM has MacKinnon to thank for providing an anti-Liberal theory of why all sex is rape. Her insight on national oppression and her strategy for eradicating rape leave much to be desired.
The Sisterhood Lie is Amerikan Chauvinism
In Louisiana, over half of all white people voted for Ku Klux Klan/Nazi leader David Duke for governor in 1991. He only lost the election because of the Black vote. Polls show that nationally, Duke was more popular at the time than any Democratic party candidate for president. His support nationally runs in the 25% to 40% range among whites. That means at least one in every four white judges might as well be wearing a hood. At least one in four white jurors should too. And that is just counting the conscious white supremacists in Amerika.
In Mississippi, a law forbidding interracial dating was only just barely repealed by voters in 1986. Even so, 48% voted against the repeal of the “97-year-old constitutional ban on interracial marriage.”(5) How would you like to be a Black man on trial for raping a white woman in Mississippi where half the jury is going to oppose interracial marriage in the first place?
By 1973, the latest year we have national data for, the figure was up to 48% believing there should be no laws against interracial marriage. The other 52% still said it should be banned. Three-quarters of the people or more generally supported integration of the schools and other public places, but when it came to sex, even in words, it was the only issue where people still couldn’t see integration.(6)
MIM thinks every court decision in Louisiana, Mississippi and every state in white Amerika should be invalidated until that day when Euro-Amerikans have lost their material interest in oppressing people of other nationalities and have gained a new view of humanity. There is no way MIM is going to legitimize the class, nation and gender oppression of the court system. MIM regards people who think they oppose white chauvinism but support the white-Black sisterhood rip-off as white nation chauvinists.
MacKinnon and many pseudo-feminists think women should always be supported in their decisions to interpret their individual rapes or sexual harassment and go to court. In direct opposition, MIM believes this is just another way that so-called feminism recycles sexism. How often it is said that women are either put on a pedestal or treated as whores. Supporting the sisters who might as well be wearing hoods is putting women on the pedestal.
The sisterhood line as currently practiced (but not in the 1960s and early 1970s) is white, bourgeois sexist propaganda. Women just turn around from seeking approval from men that they never got to demanding unconditional approval from women. They put each other on a pedestal and imagine each other to be flawless goddesses.
Amerika has a long, long way to go before it knows right from wrong on sexual issues or anything else. The sooner people start working for revolution, the sooner the process of revolutionizing people can start.
1. Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 81-2.
2. Female Victims of Violent Crime, ASI: 91, 6068-243, table 15, p. 8.
3. Age-Specific Arrest Rates and Race-Specific Arrest Rates for Selected Offenses, 1965-1989, ASI: 91, 6224-7, p. 299.
4. Female Victims of Violent Crime, ASI: 91, 6068-243, p. 10.
5. New York Times 11/16/87, p. 32.
6. Towards the Elimination of Racism. (An American Journal of Sociological article “Race, Sex and Violence” also sounds interesting, March, 1976.)
8.4 A Re-examination of the Shield Laws
Shield laws protect rape victims from having to review their sexual histories in court. In the past, people accused of rape would have their lawyers ask questions about the accuser’s sexual past to prove to juries that she was “loose” and likely to give consent to sex with anyone—not likely to be raped.
This was a leap of male chauvinist logic that should have been obvious to all. From the point of view of the logic within the system, it is unfortunate that shield laws were necessary at all to prevent defense lawyers from prejudicing illogical, male-chauvinist juries about “loose” women and their lack of rights to consent to sex. If there is proof that someone did not consent to sex, then it does not matter how frequently the victim switched sexual partners in the past. The fact that the shield laws had to be passed at all is yet another indication of how useless it is to redress male supremacy through the imperialist patriarchy’s own institutions.
Shield laws come up against challenge in various legal contexts, but usually for the wrong reasons. The real attack that the shield laws should face is regarding the class and national background in the accuser’s sexual history. This won’t happen much in the current court system, because it is a tool of the dominant class.
In the individualist United States court system, there is supposedly a principle called “equal protection of law.” The figures in “The myth of struggle against the myth of the Black rapist” show that “equal protection” is a fairytale constructed by the imperialists to soothe the petty bourgeoisie that is fooled by such myths. The bourgeoisie knows that for every myth of free speech, equal protection and trial by a jury of one’s peers—there is some fraction of the population that is going to believe that these “rights” exist. How great it is to have such principles on paper, so that the imperialists can brag about what a great society they have constructed compared with others, especially societies that openly call themselves dictatorships of the proletariat.
If women were asked in court why they accused uneducated, poor and disproportionately Black men for rape and not other men, the sexual histories of white women would reveal their gross white-nation chauvinism. In most cases, we would find that white women accuse Black men of rape for subjective reasons. If we took those subjective reasons and applied them to the white women’s sexual past with people more like themselves or more like the Hollywood image of the perfect man, we would find that even by the women’s own standards they were letting off their white friends who committed more egregious acts of male supremacy.
MIM sees from the figures on alleged Black rapists that white nation women are not capable of drawing the line between more and less heinous male chauvinism fairly. MIM also sees from the perpetually high rape and battering rates that the way the line has been drawn so far hasn’t helped women or other oppressed people. The line between rape and sex needs to be abolished and instead people should read the dictionary and remember that rape is simply coerced sex—which is all sex in the current system of inequality, a system women never chose to be born into.
8.5 Sentencing Bias in the United States
Once convicted of rape, Black men face sentencing biases from the white injustice system. When two people are convicted for the same crime, judges typically givea harsher sentence to Black people. The Supreme Court recently acknowledged this general pattern in its consideration of the death penalty, but it still decided the death penalty was OK.
From 1930 to 1964, 405 Black men received the death penalty for rape. Only 48 white men did.
From 1930 to 1985, the white courts not only executed Black murder and rape convicts at a rate several times that of white murder and rape convicts, it executed more Black people than white people in total.
In the 1960s, the courts stopped the death penalty for several years. Since its return, no one has been openly executed for rape: although many convicts are killed by other convicts or prison guards in the Amerikan dungeons.
A country that executed Black men for rape at such a heinous rate less than 30 years ago cannot be ready to give fair sentences today. The penalties for rape may have changed, but the bias stays the same.
Note: Correctional Population in the United States Annual 1988, 6064-26, p. 142
8.6 MacKinnon’s Flawed Methodology: China 1986-1988
MacKinnon’s Flawed Methodology
For the most part, Catharine MacKinnon’s work is the best of recent Amerikan feminism. In this essay, MIM develops an argument on how MacKinnon’s methodology is patriarchal.
What MIM cherishes about MacKinnon is that she frames the question of rape and harassment correctly, not that she answers it. MacKinnon makes it much easier for Marxism to enter into dialogue with settler feminism. She notices that women are oppressed as a group and that all sex is basically rape. She also notices the complicity of First World women in their own situation.
What MIM disagrees with is rooted in what MacKinnon herself calls subjective methodology: “What women experience as degrading and defiling when we are raped includes as much that is distinctive to us as is our experience of sex.”(1) This is a right-on point and leads to a materialist critique of First World feminism that MacKinnon never honestly faces, which explains all the lengthy circumlocutions against Marxist method in her newest book, Toward a Feminist Theory of the State.
MacKinnon cannot answer the questions she poses about women as a group, because her methodological approach is subjectivism, where truth is what a woman sees. This “truth” is inevitably a truth opposed to the uneducated, workers, peoples of different cultures and women themselves, at least in Amerika, which is MacKinnon’s audience. The dominant culture teaches everyone to devalue the uneducated, workers, oppressed nations and other “deviants.” All men sexually harass women, but only some are labeled as harassers, and only because these men come from sexual cultures too different from the accuser’s. MacKinnon comes very close to recognizing this without ever following through on her own thoughts:
Men who were put in prison for rape ... they were put in jail for something very little different from what most men do most of the time and call it sex. The only difference is they got caught. That view is non-remorseful and not rehabilitative. It may also be true.(2)
MacKinnon virtually says that all approaches of men to women are harassment:
I think we lie to women when we call it not power when a woman is come onto by a man who is not her employer, not her teacher. What do we labor under, what do we feel, when a man—any man—comes and hits on us?(3)
In the United States, where subjectivist feminists including MacKinnon attack Marxism, women’s subjective truth is created by Hollywood. Subjectivists refuse to overcome Hollywood’s classism and national chauvinism. As an individual, MacKinnon has grappled with these issues somewhat, but what she advocates for women as a group has nothing to do with her own individual subjective truth. What pseudo-feminist-instructed women fail to realize is that even if they do succeed in treating men of other cultures and backgrounds the same way as men from their own background, that will still mean discriminating against men not from their backgrounds. MacKinnon’s book Feminism Unmodified should be subtitled Imperialism Unmodified.
Instead of facing the issue coherently, MacKinnon asks nihilist questions to oppose supposedly evil, patriarchal science—which promotes the point of view that rape can be objectively determined instead of being determined by any woman with whatever biases:
But what is the standard for sex, and is this question asked from the woman’s point of view? The level of force is not adjudicated at her point of violation; it is adjudicated at the standard of the normal level of force. Who sets this standard?(4)
MacKinnon does not answer her own question here, probably because she answers it elsewhere and realizes it is a contradiction. The MacKinnon answer is that Hollywood/pornography sets the standard for both men and women, so Hollywood sets the standard, both from what she attributes to the male view and her own view. Yet according to her own analysis, a person’s “point of violation” is determined subjectively. She lapses from talking about groups to talking about “the woman’s point of view.” She offers no way of assessing what that point of view is for women as a group, a fatal flaw in her attempt to oppose Liberalism with subjectivism.
In practice, MacKinnon correctly targets the profits of pornographers by setting up sex harassment and anti-porn legal suits. Yet her practice gains no support from her theory because if you were to ask Amerikan women the truth, they would not oppose either Hollywood or pornography.
I think that sexual desire in women, at least in this culture, is socially constructed as that by which we come to want our own self-annihilation. That is, our subordination is eroticized in and as female; in fact, we get off on it to a degree, if nowhere near as much as men do ... Such a critique of complicity does not come from an individualistic theory.(5)
She holds that having women judges makes no difference because a biological woman’s perspective is still sexist and will be as sexist as a biological man’s given the same structural role.
MacKinnon’s methodology is so flawed that it simultaneously states that what women see is the truth while allowing that women’s perspectives are sexist. Voila, the truth is sexist. Voila, women’s views (the truth) of rape are sexist. Rape is not rape and what is not rape is rape.
That is the mess that every idealist (non-Marxist, non-materialist thinker) ends up in. It’s just more apparent in MacKinnon because she thinks more consistently than most idealists. By contrast, MIM holds that patriarchy is a pattern of oppression existing in concrete reality that can be changed in concrete reality. The existence and possible overthrow of patriarchy have nothing to do with anyone’s subjective experience. Women feel violated because underneath their subjective experiences is the reality of economic, military and governmental coercion. (While biology underlies some aspects of gender, it does not cause gender oppression.)
MacKinnon explicitly rejects the approach of finding visible resistance by the rape victim as necessary for rape to have happened. Nor does she uphold objectively male definitions regarding asking men to stop.(6) In harassment issues, the settler feminist definition is “unwanted advances.” As for rape, it is “emotional coercion” and “persuasion” or just feeling “violated,” says MacKinnon. Unless MacKinnon and other subjectivists mean to advocate across-the-board asexuality, this is all settler feminism because Amerikan women no doubt feel most violated by approaches different from their own.
Actually, MacKinnon states that she just wants more sex counted as rape in court, the same way many workers have good days sometimes but also want higher wages at some fraction of institutions.(7) What MacKinnon fails to notice in her analogy with Marxism (“sex is to feminism what work is to Marxism”), Marx never advocated that individual workers go to court to reach individual settlements of their wage disputes. He wanted a revolution of the oppressed to change the very institutions making the decisions on such law suits.
What MIM propagates is a scientific approach to rape and harassment. We tell women the truth: rape and harassment cannot be eliminated without the elimination of power of people over people. That has nothing to do with the feelings of individual women or men.
MacKinnon only goes half-way. She opposes individualism and tells women that rape is a group problem. Then her practice focuses on law suits involving individuals, the same way that some opportunist so-called Marxists focus workers on winning individual bread-and-butter struggles instead of political power. MacKinnon avoids the revolutionary implications of saying that all women are oppressed whether they admit it or not. Ultimately, she lacks MIM’s confidence that the Third World toilers will overthrow the system and bring about massive social changes. Instead she adopts reformism and a subjectivist methodology that match her strategy.
Anti-African Roots in China
It is difficult not to be defensive about one’s own subjective ideas about rape and harassment. Perhaps it is easier to look at a conflict in a foreign country.
Thousands of Chinese workers and students marched through the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing today, shouting an extraordinary combination of racist and democratic slogans, after two days of clashes with African students studying in the city.(8)
The precipitating event for this incident, which caused the largest anti-government demonstrations in two years, was a student dance where two African men brought Chinese dates. There was a dispute over the Africans’ identification. The Africans claim the Chinese started the fighting, but the Chinese claim the Africans started the fighting.(9) The identification issue was a pretext because there are so few foreigners in Nanjing that everyone knows who they are. Similar events involving women provoked riots again.
In Nanjing, in 1988, there were some African student men trying to date Chinese student women. What ended up happening in Nanjing and Tianjin in 1986 and 1988 were riots of Chinese students against the African students. In Tianjin, they forced all the African students to flee—halfway to Beijing—causing an international incident. The anti-African demonstrations had been the biggest student movement show of force to date. MIM interviewed overall students from both sides of this dispute and overall onlookers from uninvolved countries.
In the end, students in Tianjin overruled local party officials who told them to desist in harassing the African students, so passionate and dangerous was the brick and bottle-throwing lynch mob in 1986. In fact, the Tianjin students distributed a leaflet telling the party that it would learn from the KKK how to deal with the African students if the party officials did not give in. The leaflet included the following:
We are walking towards our great aim on a broad road opened to advanced and civilized world. It doesn’t mean, however, that we will feed the whole uncultural Africa with the insults of our efforts and we will allow any Negro to hang about our universities to annoy Chinese girls and to introduce on our academic ground manners, acquired by life in tropical forests, offending our national hospitality and broad mindedness.
What had happened? An African student tried to bring a Chinese woman to a fancy party. The Chinese refused to let them enter. A fight broke out, quickly turning into riots. Another reason Chinese students cited for the turmoil was the fact that African students held a loud dance one night when the Chinese students wanted to study for an important academic competition with another school the following week.(10)
Not all Chinese students thought these reasons were great, but the predominant culture of China was on the side of the rioting students. This takes some explaining, because the very concepts of dating, harassment and rape differ quite a bit in the United States and China.
To speak in the language of the U.S. resident, in China, a foreign woman who talks to a Chinese man alone even in a public place (outside of a work context), say by meeting in a store—such a woman is regarded as having been raped and having accepted the life of a whore. Chinese realize that foreigners have different ideas about letting women be whores, so while they don’t like this practice among foreigners, they probably will not riot.
When it comes to Chinese women, however, people feel that foreigners are asking the Chinese women to be whores or worse given the relatively benign view of prostitutes in the West. Particularly where the Chinese feel ill-gotten wealth, party corruption and “uncivilized culture” (meaning culture denigrated by rich Westerners) is involved, they riot. Simply talking to a woman in a department store or on the street is liable to set off angry reactions of all kinds. People assume that the woman is setting up a rendezvous.
According to one female Chinese student, the riots were justified because the African students stood outside dorms and asked women for dates, “even though we don’t want dates.” The tradition in Chinese culture is for dating to occur after years of public interaction at school or work.
Pseudo-feminism in China of the late 1980s was quite obviously a disguise for antiAfrican chauvinism. Anti-African demonstrators in Beijing carried placards reading “No offend Chinese women!” “Punish Hoodlums; Protect Women’s Rights!”(11) Although the typical KKK-lynching in the Amerikan South often featured a call to protect white women, it is unlikely that those lynchings ever had quite the feminist veneer that anti-African rioting in China had. The slogans were a stark reminder of the role of protecting women and putting them on a pedestal accorded to men, and the passion underlying sexual politics can easily combine in a fascist direction. With a few feminist slogans thrown in, George Bush’s Willie Horton ads would be a good analogy to the Chinese situation.
One of the keys to whipping up this anti-African chauvinism was to obliterate the distinction between real violence (causing physical injury) and verbal interaction. This gave the Chinese the excuse to forget about the historical violence directed against African people by colonialists and imperialists and it laid the basis for using violence against the Africans. The anti-African Chinese pseudo-feminists repeatedly used the word “force” in describing various alleged sexual interactions with Africans that Chinese women had. After the riots and fighting, when asked about the meaning of the word “force,” the Chinese backed off in interviews with an American woman researching the topic. What was said in-between the lines was supposed to be enough to convince the American woman, Mira Sorvino, that there was something very evil being perpetrated by African men.
Many warnings to young women gleaned in interviews advised them to beware the African man and the way he coerces or bullies (qifu) women into sleeping with him. This word came up so many times that I asked several of my subjects whether it is a euphemism for rape.(12)
The Chinese assured Sorvino that they did not mean rape, but what the Chinese were trying to say remained unclear to Sorvino. In her own research on the subject, Sorvino could find no evidence to support any number of anti-African rape rumors; although she came to believe one such story.
Before the anti-African riots in Nanjing, Sorvino herself was warned by her English students that she should look out for African men. Some Africans in Nanjing were also warned by the Chinese before the riots that they should stay away from the area where an interracial dating incident was later used as a pretext for the Chinese riot. That is to say that some Chinese had it in for the Africans before the interracial dating dispute arose and some internationalist-minded Chinese warned their African friends.
Getting at what the Chinese mean about gender issues is extremely difficult for both the Chinese and the foreigner. A book MIM distributes on the counterrevolution in China (Political Economy of Counterrevolution in China: 1976-1988) explains that the idea of statutory rape in China is much more inclusive than in the United States.
Although all social ideas are changing in China, the usual mode of thought is that an unmarried woman who has sex (whether consenting or not) has been raped. The burden for that rape falls both on the man and the woman. A woman who has been raped will almost 100% of the time turn to a life of crime because she realizes that her social place of honor is gone, so she might as well live a materialist life outside the social norms.
If we were to listen to MacKinnon with regard to China, where the largest population of women in the world live, we would accept as truth what the Chinese women say. That would include that getting near individual men is the act of a whore. It would include that once raped, one must be a criminal and it would include launching city-wide riots when African students ask for or go on dates with Chinese women.
Of course, Islam has a way of dealing with these issues too. Perhaps MacKinnon would have us hear the truth of women who say that those who do not wear the veil and segregate themselves from men in public life are decadent Western degenerates.
One reason the masses will never support what MacKinnon is saying is that people like to be fair. They don’t believe that some men should be singled out and punished for what other men do with no consequences. Moreover, some men and women will take MacKinnon’s “subjectivist” methodology a step further to its logical conclusion. If subjectivity is to be worshiped because it is impossible to communicate an “objective” standard of rape to men, then many men and women will simply separate themselves rather than carry on what can only be a pretense of communicating with each other. If women can’t communicate with each other using an “objective” standard either, then some people will simply choose to isolate themselves from other people rather than attempt social interaction.
Perhaps women in the United States should separate themselves from men in public life (and private life if they so desire). Then they won’t be harassed anymore, since MacKinnon obviously realizes there is no chance of men’s understanding women’s subjective points of violation. To this, MacKinnon would no doubt say women have a right to interact with men, just like she says they have a right to a workplace free of sexual harassment. Such a view, however, is just more Liberalism reminiscent of the right to free speech, maybe not even that good since MacKinnon is making an absolute out of the right to have professional interaction. It reminds MIM of the pro-CIA demonstrators on campuses who protest that they have a right to be interviewed by the CIA on campus.
The Hindu, Moslem and Chinese women constitute the world’s majority of women. Why does MacKinnon speak of women as a group without discussing ideas of rape in these cultures? MIM is not surprised that she lacks in internationalism and hangs out with the white chauvinist DSA crowd.
In the exact same progression of verbal acts and physical acts of a man and four different women, four or more results are possible. The first woman may enjoy the sex but complain afterwards that the man was not aggressive enough. The second woman may seem quiet and ten years later complain it was rape. The third woman may cry rape right away. The fourth woman may start urban riots before it gets to the physical stage and claim a man was “forcing” her into some mythical sexual interaction. Currently there is no objective way to define rape and harassment that MacKinnon would accept. Any questioning of the woman’s account is considered selling her out. However, even in the case of the first woman who wanted a more aggressive man, the society viewing the act may still deem the act as rape and imprison the man and remove the woman from her job, as happens in China.
MacKinnon admits this problem of subjectivity and concludes that the problem is that objectivity is male and subjectivity should be celebrated. MIM sees this problem and holds that the objective factors underlying and conditioning the subjectivity of women and men must be changed. If class, nation and gender power are eliminated, people may start from subjective positions free of violent contradictions. However, women will never cease being objects until they take up science with a passion to seize control of their destiny.
1. Catharine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses on Life and Law, Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 87.
2. Ibid., p. 88.
3. Ibid., p. 89.
4. Ibid., p. 88.
5. Ibid., p. 58.
6. Ibid., pp. 87-8.
7. Ibid., pp. 60-1, 89.
8. New York Times, “Chinese in Nanjing Hold Racist Rally,” 12/27/88, p. 1.
10. International Herald Tribune 6/6/86.
11. Mira Sorvino, “Anti-Africanism in China: An Investigation into Chinese Attitudes towards Black Students in the People’s Republic of China.” Harvard University undergraduate thesis 1990, p. 15.
12. Ibid., p. 86.
8.7 Book Review: Between Feminism and Labor: The Significance of the Comparable Worth Movement
Linda M. Blum
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991
The comparable worth movement merits Maoist attention. That could go the way of reactionary imperialist class interests, or revolutionary feminist interests. Revolutionary feminist influence is necessary to steer it on the correct course.
Comparable worth is a concept of equal pay for equivalent work. It is a method of evaluating jobs based on an assumption that equal pay is deserved for jobs that require equal training and labor.
Historically, women have been placed in a subordinate position in the labor force. Regardless of their job placement, they are paid less than men in the same or equivalent fields.
The effects of this patriarchal practice are different across classes. Those in the upper classes experience a far smaller wage disparity than do those in lower class positions. This is not surprising as upper class women often take the capitalists’ side in reaping both class and gender privilege.
The movement for comparable worth has the progressive potential of taking from the overpaid men to give to the underpaid women within each class. Obviously not an overall solution to economic disparity, this movement could strike blows against the patriarchy and provide a context within which women will be educated in opposition to the concept of pay according to gender. This will make the problems of pay according to class background much easier to grasp. This could expose the benefits of socialist society and the detriments of capitalist society, if revolutionary feminist leadership takes the movement to its correct conclusion.
The benefit to Maoists, besides the raised consciousness of those activists, is the advancement towards communism that this movement could provide. Under socialism we will still have to battle the patriarchy, and the more of that battle that is won under capitalism, the easier the fight will be under socialism.
In the converse, comparable worth could mean taking more from the Third World in the form of superprofits to raise the status of women to that of men. This would only serve to strengthen First World women’s alliance with the imperialists and increase the patriarchal and class oppression of the Third World.
This book review criticizes the comparable worth movement from the revolutionary feminist perspective.
Between Feminism and Labor describes white working-class women’s attempt to become equal with white working-class men. Blum premises her book on the assumption that working women in this country are oppressed based on their class position as well as their gender position. The women she studies are in clerical, library or equivalent positions. They were mobilized to work with their local union over the issue of comparable worth. Blum offers no evidence for their class oppression, perhaps because there is no material support for this class analysis.
While the comparable worth movement has potential within the white working class, it is important that activists see this as a gender inequality issue and not a movement of the proletariat. Activists should also realize that this inequality is, in fact, rather insignificant when one considers that even First World women as a group are receiving more than the value of their labor-power.
MIM understands that there are pay inequalities between men and women across classes. But the movement for comparable worth Blum describes has the typical white feminist slant that ignores the economic realities of the proletariat in and outside of this country.
White workers in the United States are receiving the benefits of the exploitation and superexploitation of Third World workers in the form of a wage higher than the value of their labor-power. The comparable worth movement Blum studies aims to raise Amerikan working women’s benefits to the level of Amerikan men’s. While a potential blow for the patriarchy, but no class victory, and certainly not a union victory for the working people of Amerika.
Organizing white people in Amerika around their class oppression will not create revolutionary consciousness. This activism will only result in a struggle for a bigger piece of the pie. Ironically, Blum notes that the comparable worth movement could result in a loss of income or jobs for some women while benefiting others because of the limited size of the pie.
Blum sees comparable worth as a radical leap from the affirmative action movement. The difference is that comparable worth allows women to stay in their jobs, recognizing the social influences that keep women out of male-dominated sectors, instead offering them equality with men in equivalent male sectors.
On the one hand, this approach is good in recognizing that we have to do the best we can under the current system while we try to change it.
It also recognizes that placing women in male jobs is often only tokenism that does not offer them better pay or status than the traditionally female jobs, since they are placed in the dead end areas of these traditionally male-sector jobs. It is also a step in the direction of recognizing the inequalities created by the capitalist wage system of evaluating the monetary value of different jobs.
On the negative side, Blum points out that comparable worth will bring men into traditionally female-dominated sectors of the job market as it becomes more economically acceptable for them to join these fields. From her brief look at this phenomenon, Blum found that these men tended to create more prestigious positions within the female-dominated fields so that even there they would hold more authority and enjoy higher pay and greater upward mobility.
Blum cues several successes of the comparable worth movement in which women were promised higher pay through periodic increases. She also noted a number of failed attempts.
The movement is hampered by a job evaluation process that assigns value to labor, and thus wages, based on capitalist values. These values are hierarchical, placing mental labor above physical labor, and traditionally male labor above traditionally female labor. But it is just this problem which could lead to a greater revolutionary consciousness among the women fighting for comparable worth. The women Blum studies recognize some of the problems with the job evaluation process and focus efforts on changing this system.
Even within the constraints, the job evaluations find significant pay inequality between inmate jobs and their “male counterparts” in male-dominated fields. Changing this inequality comes down to restructuring Amerikan wealth so that white women can get their “fair” piece of the pie. While MIM supports women taking from the patriarchy to receive a higher wage, MIM also recognizes that this movement does not challenge the fundamental structure of the patriarchy, nor does it attempt to help the truly gender oppressed.
Blum found that the comparable worth movement often does not enjoy the support of union men because they recognize that the pay the women are demanding has to come from somewhere, and the most likely targets are their pockets.
These contradictions and difficulties the comparable worth movement faces are indicative of the capitalist system it chooses to operate under, Blum’s analysis of the movement paints a picture of an internal struggle within the overpaid Amerikan “working class.” The women of this class are trying to eliminate effects the patriarchy has on them while leaving its symbiotic structure of capitalism as well as the patriarchal oppression of the majority of the world’s people intact.
Blum does not discuss a comparable worth movement among the Black or Latino proletariat in Amerika and MIM wonders if there is such a movement. There is obviously little class value in the comparable worth movement for the proletarian women who would not be significantly improving their economic position if they were to win a battle to elevate their salaries to the level of “male-counterpart jobs.”
MIM understands that the current comparable worth movement is incorrect both in its practice within the capitalist system, and in its identification of gender as the principal contradiction. With these incorrect practices it will never achieve anything more than relative equality for white women in the First World.
A comparable worth movement working to eliminate the patriarchy for all people must be a revolutionary movement that seeks to destroy all class, nation, and gender inequalities, focusing on the principal contradiction at this time—between oppressed and oppressor nations.
8.8 Unremunerated Work
On Oct. 24, 1991 Barbara-Rose Collins (D-Michigan) introduced a bill to the House of Representatives “to require the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics to conduct time use surveys of unremunerated work performed in the US and to calculate the monetary value of such work.”(1)
These surveys would account for household work, child care, agricultural work, food production, family businesses, volunteer work—forms of unpaid labor often performed by women. The monetary value of this unremunerated work would be included in statistics used to determine the Gross National Product (GNP).
Collins introduced this bill “so that housemakers will be recognized as workers.” She wrote:
If the value of housework were included in the GNP, the significance of these tasks would not be continuously debated and bills like the Family and Medical Leave Act, which help families survive, would be quickly enacted.(2)
In 1985 at the United Nations Decade for Women conference in Nairobi, Kenya, the U.N. agreed that unremunerated work in the home and on farms in the Third World as well as in industrial countries should be included in the measurements that countries use to gauge their economies, including GNP.(3) In the wake of this decision, many countries have enacted unremunerated work acts such as the one proposed to the House.
MIM supports the intention behind this bill in the United States. It is a good structure for evaluating men’s and women’s labor. This type of structure helps revolutionaries because it is a method of counting and thinking about equality between people that is not hierarchical based on sex-based divisions of work. Within Amerika this would be a step forward for women in their fight for equality with men.
But MIM distinguishes itself from the women in the movement behind this bill who claim that this type of work contributes to the ultimate liberation of all women. This movement cannot hope to achieve an allied fight between First World and Third World women. This bill is only a step toward equality between First World women and First World men. The women in the movement who support this goal, are following the correct practice to attain it.
But MIM works to achieve equality for all people. Third World women will never be liberated under imperialism. While imperialism uses gender structures to keep them down, the principal contradiction for these women is not the difference in pay between them and their husbands.
Even if they could achieve equality relative to their male counterparts, the value of their wages would remain small compared to the value of First World women’s wages. (The current cost of hiring a worker to do the work of the unremunerated laborer is the proposed standard for analysis.)
Third World women recognize the overriding perpetrators of oppression to be imperialist aggressors like the United States. Women who wish to ally themselves with the majority of the women of the world should be working from the vantage point of these women and organizing to overthrow the imperialist structure which will never allow Third World people to be liberated. A revolutionary fight for liberation must be waged by all allies of the oppressed people of the world so that the truly gender oppressed will be liberated.
1. House of Representatives Bill no. 3625.
2. House of Representatives letter to colleagues 10/31/91.
3. Chicago Sun Times 9/13/91.
8.9 Black Panther Party Paved the Way
Using revolutionary theory and practice — the Maoist Panthers led by example — they struggled — often unsuccessfully — to combat gender oppression.
In February, 1970, Kathleen Cleaver, Communication Secretary of the Black Panther Party, living in exile in Algiers with her husband, Eldridge, was asked by a reporter from the Women’s Page of the Washington Post what was a woman’s role in the revolution. “No one ever asks what a man’s place in the Revolution is,” she replied in part.
Very early in the history of the Black Panther Party, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and others moved to eliminate male chauvinism from the Party. From the early period, too, Black women were important in the work of the Party. Nor was their activity confined to the typewriter and mimeograph machine. Panther women spoke at rallies and meetings and were interviewed in the underground press.(1)
The Black Panther Party (BPP) was the Maoist party of the late 1960s in the United States. Dr. Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale wrote the 10-point platform in October of 1966 in Oakland, California. Suddenly, the Black community had a revolutionary party for organization and protection.
MIM learns from the work and the ideology of the BPP. They were the best revolutionary party in U.S. history. We must also learn from their mistakes. The BPP had faults. They exposed themselves too much above-ground to the enemy. They picked up the gun too soon and leaned towards focoist (adventurist) strategies. They supported a cult of personality and downplayed the evils of gender oppression. They failed to recognize the Patriarchy as part of the “power structure” which needs to be destroyed.
On the other hand, the Panthers were Maoists. They created a strong internal Party discipline. They criticized cultural nationalism and Black capitalist reforms. They built coalitions. They used their newspaper, The Black Panther, as an organizing tool. They carried out programs to improve material conditions in the Black community. They built a mass base of support and unity. They struggled, with limited success, to combat gender oppression.
The BPP began as “The Black Panther Party for Self Defense,” and that is what it was. Under Newton’s instruction, Panthers learned some criminal law and the Bill of Rights and carried guns to help the Black community defend itself against daily police brutality.
Responding to the needs of the people, the BPP began community service projects: breakfast for children programs, free health care clinics, and revolutionary schools. They aimed to improve daily living conditions and develop revolutionary consciousness. The BPP used their newspaper, The Black Panther, to educate, politically stimulate and organize the masses.
Contrary to popular distortions of Panther ideology, the Party openly identified itself as communist:
The Black Panther Party recognizes, as do all Marxist revolutionaries, that the only response to the violence of the ruling class is the revolutionary violence of the people.(2)
Although the Panthers studied the works of Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro: Maoism was the primary basis for Panther ideology. At the Party’s founding, Newton and Seale had studied the four volumes of Mao Zedong’s collected works, and Quotations from Chairman Mao (The Little Red Book) was required reading for Party members.
We do not fight racism with racism. We fight racism with solidarity. We do not fight exploitative capitalism with black capitalism. We fight capitalism with basic socialism. We do not fight imperialism with more imperialism. We fight imperialism with proletarian internationalism.(3)
Above Ground: FBI Infiltration
The Panthers were destroyed by state repression. The FBI created internal conflicts within the BPP by forging letters and pretending to be Panthers breaking with the BPP line. This was easy for the FBI because the BPP was completely above-ground and very visible.
The Panthers made the mistake of relying on the same above-ground strategy that Mao and the Communist Party used during the armed struggle in China. But conditions in imperialist countries and oppressed countries are very different. China in the 1920s and 1930s had a weak government and communists could work openly in the countryside with few problems. Not so in the United States in the 1960s. The BPP either underestimated the impressive power of the state or overestimated their own power. Many of the Panthers were framed by the FBI and jailed or assassinated.(4)
Focoism is a theory that says small groups of armed revolutionaries can ignite the revolution by engaging in spectacular guerrilla actions. A tendency towards focoism was one of the Panthers’ biggest weaknesses. Seizing on righteous militancy, FBI infiltrators were able to stir up adventurism in strategically bad situations. Maoism warns that taking up the gun too soon, and without the proper support of the masses, will result in fighting losing battles.(5)
Panthers and Gender
In Revolutionary Suicide, Dr. Huey P. Newton described his significant changes in attitude and practice concerning sexual relationships with women, marriage and “the family.” First accepting “the institution of marriage,” then trying free love—and later pimping—Newton and the BPP finally developed a communal way to live.
Capitalist production requires that all workers always fight each other for fewer jobs at lesser wages. Often these wages are not enough to feed a family. Capitalist Patriarchy forces women, teenagers and children to work for survival at pay rates even lower than men’s wages. People are driven out of work and forced to compete with each other for ever lower real money. Huge armies of unemployed men and women and teenagers hit the streets all fighting for the McDonalds wage or black-market turf: and the family falls apart.
This happens all over the world. It’s worse in Third World countries than here. And even though the pay falls, men, as a group, still get more money than women, teenagers and children as a group. That is a suspect privilege that capitalist patriarchy gives to men: so men and women will remain on unequal terms. Under stress, the family members go their separate ways.
The phony Eight is Enough [Ed. note: Eight is Enough was a popular comedy–drama television show that aired in the 1970s and 80s.] nuclear family is not the reality in most neighborhoods around the planet. But some sort of “family” is required for survival when wages are below survival levels. Many people try to hold onto the extended family network—so that the burden of survival is more evenly distributed.
In Amerika, people are forced to sneak in and out of their own homes so that the welfare-police won’t catch them.
The Black Panther Party developed a communal living strategy. They formed a “fighting family” living together for a common purpose to fight for their existence and their goals.(6)
Kathleen Cleaver was held back in her revolutionary work by her husband, Eldridge, who was Minister of Information for the Party. In 1970, rallies—at which Kathleen was scheduled to speak—were set back, because “Eldridge changed his mind and refused to let her come.”(7) Although Newton, Seale and Eldridge Cleaver himself all spoke out against “male chauvinism” in the Party.
Women Held Back—The Revolution Suffers
Women Panthers were in fact held back. The revolutionary movement as a whole cannot succeed without the full participation of all fighters.
This points to another problem in the BPP: a heavy reliance on individual leaders and personalities to keep the ball rolling. The “cult of personality” built up around some of the BPP leaders, like Newton or Seale, created a dependence on individuals and damaged the self-reliance of the revolutionary movement as a whole. The revolution in China also suffered from the cult of personality around Mao. MIM criticizes and avoids this tendency.
The BPP and Lesbian/Gay Movements
In the August 15, 1970 issue of the BPP’s newspaper, The Black Panther, Newton wrote a letter to “the Revolutionary Brothers and Sisters about the Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements.” This letter attempted to open the dialogue between the BPP and these (mostly white) movements.
This was the first time any non-gay black organization ... recognized the oppression of homophobia; connected that oppression to the plight of Black people; and attempted—based on that connection—to build coalitions openly with lesbians and gay men.(8)
It must have been a hard letter for Newton to write. Both Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver had expressed their homophobia in their books (Seize The Time and Soul On Ice). Although there are many problems with Newton’s letter—sexist overtones, ignoring Black lesbians and gay men, focusing on gay men—it can still be seen as a first step.
But only a few groups recognized it as such. Black newspapers ignored the letter altogether. Many gay and feminist groups responded antagonistically. Some of these groups showed themselves to be outright counterrevolutionaries. Others ducked under a “left” cover and insisted that the BPP was still sexist and homophobic and thus unfit for coalition or discussion—even if they were in agreement on other revolutionary points.
In fact, both sides were groping. Neither the Panthers, nor most feminist and gay groups of the time, built practices firmly rooted in an analysis of the actual intersections of gender, nation and class. The Panther analysis of oppression in the United
States was incomplete without an understanding of how all women are oppressed across lines of nation and class—and how Patriarchy, enforced heterosexuality and the myth of the “nuclear family” all reinforce imperialism inside and outside the Black nation. The feminist and gay groups failed to comprehend how gender oppression is conditioned by the nationality of women and men. How dominant nation status lends extended class/social privileges to First World women and gay men at the expense of proletarian women and men.
Third World Gay Revolution
In November, 1970, three months after Newton’s letter was published, The Berkeley Tribe printed the “Third World Gay Revolution” (TWGR). Echoing the format of the BPP Platform—this anonymous document detailed the sexist crimes of “the carnivorous system of capitalism” and called out the heterosexism of all sisters and brothers who “cling to male supremacy” and “still fight for the privileged position of man on top.”
The document expanded on the BPP’s basic 10-Point analysis of national and class contradictions by infusing their content with revolutionary socialist gender-based demands. It is at least as realistic as the Panther Platform in recognizing that none of these demands can be achieved under capitalism.
On the other hand, TWGR claimed that the Panthers “struggled to maintain and to reinforce heterosexuality and the nuclear family.” On this basis alone, TWGR labeled the Panthers “counter revolutionary;” a truly ridiculous statement in the face of overall Panther practice and no visible evidence of any practice at all by TWGR.
“Third World Gay Revolution” recognizes that the idea of the nuclear family is a bogus construct—not even practiced by the rich. Gender oppression is part of the rot caused by capitalism. Women are not less oppressed as a group because they serve individual men. Nor are they less oppressed by being made to serve many men. Women are oppressed, globally, because women’s labor-power, including sexuality and reproduction—is appropriated by the capitalist Patriarchy for profit.
It is unfortunate that the “Third World Gay Revolution” was anonymously written and that the BPP never had the chance to openly struggle with and learn from the authors. Cooperation and struggle might have broadened the revolutionary-minded social base at hand, improved the analysis of both groups and strengthened our forces. MIM has a solid unity with the 13 beliefs and demands articulated in this Programme. The achievement of its goals would reflect the liberation of humanity from imperialism.
FBI at it again
But the Panthers’ above-ground practice and lack of unity in their gender analysis gave the FBI an opportunity to attack them.
The FBI used open letter as an opportunity to discredit Newton’s leadership. The FBI wrote bogus letters purporting to be from Party members saying “I have seen by last weeks paper that now Panthers are supposed to relate to cocksuckers. Huey is wrong. Something must have happened to him in prison. Panthers got enough things to do in 10 point program and fighting for niggers without taking up with mother fucking queers. All power to the people.” Considering the FBI’s tactics, it is not farfetched to assume that it worked to undermine the organization and more directly the Panther–gay liberation alliance.(8)
The possibility of such an alliance must have scared the capitalists pretty good. MIM does not glorify the Panthers. Individual Panthers suffered from outright male chauvinism and the BPP’s undeveloped gender line fractured opportunities to build united fronts with other revolutionary groups.
However, MIM does not doubt that a revolutionary unity between the Panthers and revolutionary queers could have been built upon an analysis of modern gender relations as social inequalities of power imposed and maintained by the capitalist Patriarchy. With such a weapon, Kathleen might have inspired the masses while Eldridge stayed home and made the coffee.
Contact MIM for more analysis on gender, nation, class theory and practice.
Long live the Black Panther Party!
1. The Black Panthers Speak, Philip Foner (ed.), J.B. Lippincott: New York, 1970, p. 145.
2. Ibid., pp.19-20.
3. Bobby Seale, Seize The Time, Random House: New York, 1968, p. 71.
4. Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, Agents of Repression, South End Press: Boston, 1988, Chapter 3.
5. See MIM Notes 47 (12/90), for more on focoism.
6. Huey P. Newton, Revolutionary Suicide, Ballantine: New York, 1973, pp. 99-105.
7. Ibid., p. 332.
8. Alycee J. Lane in BLK 3/91, pp. 11-15.