Tribal Traditionalism: Part 1 Female Genital Mutilation

Thu Apr 18 04:12:47 MDT 2002

>You are correct to condemn blanket criticisms of tribal
>traditionalism. But your "workerist" approach abstracts from reality.

>By denying the reality of racism and sexism and the validity of
>particular struggles against them by the oppressed, you condone those
>forms of oppression. You -- not feminists -- perpetuate division
>within the working class. Oppression of women is real and particular.
>It affects women of all classes. At its intersection with class, it,
>and not feminism, divides the working class. Racism, and not those
>who prioritize the struggle against it, divides the working class.
>And as long as male workers oppress women, they are agents of
>oppression and of division of their own class. Female genital
>mutilation, sterilization abuse, sexual harassment, etc., are
>expressions of the oppression of women, per se, and not of workers.


The question for communist is not the oppression of women as you state but
rather the exploitation and oppression of women. "Oppression of women is real
and . . . intersection with class." "Female genital mutilation, sterilization
abuse, sexual harassment, etc., are expressions of the oppression of women,
per se, and not of workers."  Really?

In America sterilization abuse is fundamentally a working class issue, as it
impacts women, particularly those who constitute the lowest paid sector of
the proletariat. Sterilization abuse as such does not exist as an issue
affecting the women of the bourgeoisie, because their money and ownership of
property - property relations, remove them as targets of sterilization abuse.
The same applies to "sexual abuse, etc." Sexual harassment is infinitely more
than brash young men whistling at a women walking down the street; it is a
power "relationship" revolving on the axis of property relationships. This
has been the material relationship underlying the Women Question since the
first division of society on the basis of the laboring process. The social
issues peculiar to women are riveted to property relations, not as the face
of "intersection" but as the manifestation of power based on ownership.

The exploitation and oppression of women is most certainly real, and it is
the specific task of communist to unfold the class antagonism and ensure that
the working class, as a class learns how to fight for its material survival
or as it is called, develop class-consciousness. This is the only path
available to defeat and slowly eradicate the exploitation and oppression of
women in society.

The criticism of JC article was its classless formulations, wholesale
condemnation of tribal traditionalism and radical petty bourgeois feminist
ideological interpretation of history. You raise other issues that will be

There is no such thing as racism. Racism is the bourgeois construct used to
ideologically disarm the working class. There of course exists white
chauvinism, which arose under specific conditions in American history and has
gone through a "specific" evolution and transition based in the last instance
in changes in the mode of production or rather changes in the industrial
infrastructure. This is easy to substantiate.

Years ago I was a founding member of the old Black Workers Congress and also
the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (Detroit) and the International Black
Appeal, the forerunner of the Black United Fund. I was also a founding member
of the Equal Rights Congress and to this day frequent the meeting building of
the Trade Union Leadership Council, which was formed after the House
Un-American Activity Committee, destroyed the old Negro Labor League. The act
of "founding" is self-explanatory. These forms of organization fully
corresponded to the parameters of the period of history dominated by the
Civil Rights reform movement.  As a communist in the course of my efforts I
specifically worked in the direction of introducing the ideas of communism,
the standpoint of Marx to many of the people I encountered and explaining why
all issues had to be fought from the standpoint of the proletariat as a class

While Editor of the Atlanta Georgia based "Southern Advocate" much of my
activity was based in the old slaveholding south and the issues worked on
presented avenues to introduce the ideas of Marx to various individuals.
Later as an Executive board member of the old "American Writers Congress" my
approach was basically the same. As an elected union representative in a
factory that hovers between 50 - 60% women my approach is basically the same.

"Racism, and not those who prioritize the struggle against it, divides the
working class." Really.  I of course do not "prioritize" the struggle against
white chauvinism. What is "prioritize" in my propaganda work are class
relationships, which is why I am a communist. The reason I was personally a
founding member of the aforementioned organizations is because of an
understanding of the shape of the working class movement in its various areas
and stages. The purpose of the old Black Workers Congress was of to
"prioritize" the struggle against white chauvinism but to organize black
workers into a form of organization higher than trade unions and fight to
develop their class-consciousness. The Coalition of Black Trade Unionist
remains to this day an organization of trade unionist fighting around a
number of social issues impacting union members and the unorganized workers.
Actually, their last convention was held in Atlanta Georgia - Memorial Day
2001, and has become increasingly detached from the striving of the lower
sector of the working class and in the course of roughly 30 years, has become
more dominated by a privilege strata of the working class. I have personally
watched this evolution very closely since the national founding of the group
in Chicago during the last period. I did not attend the last Convention and
do not plan on attending the one this year because of the need to change my
area of work to something more interesting to me. The next generation of
communist can write the resolutions and do the grunt work for a decade or

White chauvinism is not reducible to just its ideological expression. The
material category can be explained anyway one chooses. You call the material
category race, fine. I call the material category the structure of bribery of
the Anglo-American working class, which allowed for the colonization of the
old slave holding South by Wall Street imperialism and to put into effect the
defeat of Reconstruction. This material relationship held the newly freed
slave population to the land as sharecroppers, which condemned more whites
than blacks to the evil of the sharecropping system. This material
relationship began changing with the introduction of the mechanization of
agriculture and a reconfiguration of social relations began what is generally
called the Civil Rights Movement in history. In the last decade of the past
century a new reconfiguration emerged that was dubbed "globalism."

No ideology can forever remain in force when that which is fundamental to its
existence undergoes qualitative reconfiguration, which compels
reconfiguration of the ideological form. White chauvinism as the leading
national ideology of aggressive US imperialism is morphing - sublating, and
new forms of domination are taking shape. Not the so-called "declining
significance of race"  - a bourgeois formulation, but a reconfiguration in
capital and the shape of the working class movement. The working class
movement could never be united on the basis of making "race or sex a
priority" because of the material bribery of a vast sector of the working
class and the fact that unity is an objective logic of class configuration
and consciousness of class interest.

My "priority" is communism - class, and bringing to the fore the long-term
interest of the working class in what every particular struggle that is t
aking place. This is a question of art of application. You are free to do
whatever your fancy calls for. As I correctly stated the women question as it
exist today is primarily - fundamentally, a question of exploitation by
capital as the priority and historically a question of property
relationships. Issues of sexual harassment is why various and sundry
organizations are formed. The ideological battle within communism is to
overcome the very real petty bourgeois radicalism parading as Marxism.
Genital mutilation is a serious issue for those suffering from this
particular abuse. You are free to organize anyone you choose on this basis.
You are free to organize on the basis of anti-rape, which is most certainly a
serious crime.

I have a little experience with the impact of white chauvinism on "blacks."
White chauvinism as a material force was the material bribery given to the
Anglo American people to break the unity of the working class and enforce a
lower status on "blacks." This means it was a class question. Not
"intersection" as you assert. The intersection is the national-colonial
question and not the ideological form.

>You can't resolve this oppression "just" for working class women. As
>long as the working class (particularly the organized working class)
>doesn't confront the oppression of ALL women based on their gender,
>ALL African Americans based on their race, etc., it allows itself to
>be divided. The onus is on the working class, not the feminists,
>bourgeois or otherwise. Revolutionary triumphs in many countries have
>shown that the ascension of workers to power does NOT automatically
>resolve the oppression of women. Women have had to undertake a
>struggle around their particular needs, often AGAINST the workers
>state, itself (although this would fall into the category of what we
>used to call a non-antagonistic contradiction), to make headway
>against sexism. The most that can be said is that the working class
>in power has no vested interest in racism, sexism, homophobia or any
>of the multiple -- and real -- forms of oppression perpetuated by the
>rulers of our society, and which have existed at least since the dawn
>of class society.

I have no interest on any level with All African Americans, simply because I
happen to be African American. Allow me to clarify this assertion. I have no
identity of interest with all African Americans, because of class
stratification. Your statement is understood for what it is and says.

No one should face random or state sponsored violence and abuse at the hands
of capital and color and sex is not my standpoint for saying this. Class is
my standpoint. That is to say the ideological excuse for say - hitting me in
the head with a brick, is not what determines my counterattack. What you
assert is the women of the bourgeoisie as a class suffer from the very things
that distinguish the women of the working class as victims of capital. You
call this "intersection."

Everyone is exploited, suppressed and oppressed by capital in varying degrees
because capital is a historical evolved social relationship. This includes
the capitalist who must conform to the iron laws of capital or face ruin in
the marketplace. Furthermore, the bourgeoisie as personified capital is a
violent antagonistic contradiction. The bourgeoisie as such is oppressed to
itself in its definition as capital. Sections of the bourgeoisie have been
historically hurled into the ranks of the proletariat, especially those
sectors of industry that have become antagonistic to the forward
technological advancement of the means of production. Justice for all is from
the standpoint of the proletariat. You argue to the contrary. Fine.

What you call "workerism" - a very revealing assertion, is elementary Marxism
and class logic. The question of violence and mutilation is resolvable only
on the basis of the fight to form the working class into a class for itself;
to develop the infrastructure to recruit the vanguard of the proletariat to
the cause of communism and begin the long epochal battle to educate the class
in the art of fighting for its material interest. This does not mean that
women do not face a form of oppression peculiar to them as women. My point is
that the author poses the question from the specific point of view of the
petty bourgeois radical feminist.

Not "intersection" as you formulate the question. This formulation is
incorrect and revealing. What actually happens in the class struggle, which
is just beginning to unfold in our country is the following: the middle
strata and more economically stable sections of the working class will
"totter" to the side of the proletariat as it gains strength in combat with
the bourgeoisie. This is a historical process that spans decades.

This "tottering" happens as a by-product of the irreconcilability of class
antagonism or in simple terms, because the middle stratum realizes that the
big bourgeoisie cannot meet its needs. What you call "intersection" is the
process wherein the proletariat rallies a vast sea of humanity to its cause
of emancipation and the proletariat revolution is reveal as a social
revolution of the proletariat.

There is another level of intersection that takes place on the basis of the
various quantitative expansions of the industrial infrastructure. By removing
the Women Question from property relations - class, and isolating it as an
independent social movement (thing) devoid of its proletarian character,
which "intersects" with the working class movement, you violate the Marxist
presentation of the question. This same formula is applied in the concept of

I assure you I have nothing in common as "interest" with all African
Americans. No one wants to be hung by the neck. The Japanese workers does not
want to be hung by the neck, neither does the Chinese worker, the Anglo
worker, the women workers, the Gay workers, the fat workers, the handicap
workers, the African American worker, the workers of the Native Bands, and
this is the correct presentation of the question of hanging or rather
lynching. I have more in common with the "white" southern industrial workers
or the autoworker in Japan, than with all African Americans. Your ideology is
showing Mike and this is no crime. None of us contain the crystalline purity
of the petty bourgeois ideologist and at the most inappropriate times I have
committed the same error.

The truth of the matter is that the forward moving section of the
Anglo-American proletariat - of which a vast segment are Anglo workers, are
not white chauvinist, homophobic or haters of women. It is in fact the
capitalist class that is white chauvinist, homophobic or haters of women.

Melvin P.

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