The Woman Question: Reply

Sat Apr 20 13:19:14 MDT 2002

> With respect to reproductive freedom, you said:
> > What you put forward is
> > not just the central politics of the identity movement, but the specific
> > politics of the imperialist bourgeoisie on the women question.
> This is not the "specific politics of the imperialist
> bourgeoisies". There is nothing imperialist about it. The
> focus  on reproductive rights - specifically, safe abortion
> for all who request one - was originally a demand put
> forward by Trotskyists.
> Why is abortion so central to women's liberation? Because
> ownership of women - next to ownership of the issue of
> one's loins, ownership of women is the oldest form of slavery in history
> - has always occurred first and foremost by means of sexual
> conquest. Women's oppression is bound up first and foremost
> with the role of the family in class society. For class
> property to remain within the class, and not dispersed
> within the entire society, it is necessary for the class to
> be able to ensure the purity of the womb of the Vessel of
> the Race. All of the ideology of sexual oppression is bound
> up with the need to regulate sexuallity in order to control
> fertility.

"Women's oppression is bound up first and foremost with the role of the
family in class society" is not an incorrect formulation, but incomplete from
"my station" in the working class movement. The role of the family in class
society is riveted - in its shape, and significantly bound by property
relations and these property relations emerged on the basis of a division of
labor in human society.  "division of labor in human society" is basically -
roughly, equal or bound by "the status of labor."  I concur that oppression
is not identical to exploitation. I am for safe abortions on demand. I am not
for classless formulations because I am a communist, not a pro-abortionist.

"For class property to remain within the class, and not dispersed within the
entire society, it is necessary for the class to be able to ensure the purity
of the womb of the Vessel of the Race," is a formulation I cannot sell to the
working class. Part of my self-appointed activity is that of a propagandist.
It seems to me that what is being stated is: "Oppression peculiar to women as
women is bound up with property ownership and perpetuating the inheritance of
property and wealth. For class property to remain within the various class
formations and strata, and not dispersed within the entire society - based on
matrilineal relations, it is necessary for the primary property owners to
insure control of reproduction rights and regulate sexuality to conform to
property relations as inherited wealth. The ideology of women inferiority
takes shape on this basis as justification for material relations that
subjugate women.  The demand for inheritance rights by property converts the
womb into the property of inheritance. The historic battle for reproduction
rights in its last stage in human history becomes a sharp form of the
struggle for reproduction unbounded by capital. Hence a class demand.

> Sexual conquest - rape, to use a
> legalistic formulation - is a form of assault. As with any
> form of women's oppression, sexualizing assault merely
> trivializes it. What if we were to characterize the flogging of black
> slaves as "discipline play"? After all, all that black skin
> is  just hanging out there waiting in plain sight, tempting
> all them white folks - who can resist a little acting out?
> (Don't think this is outrageous. Anyone familiar with the
> literature of the abolitionist era will have come across
> such rationalizations.) Anyone with an ounce of common
> sense would be outraged by such an attempt to trivialize a
> very serious matter. Yet crimes against women continue to
> be subject to trivialization because they can be
> characterized as having some kind of sexual element.

Wow . . . . . huuuuuuummmmmm.
I have grown a little older and a little wiser and subjected to the same
ideological sphere. Trivializing violence is to go over to the side of the
bourgeoisie. You raise profoundly emotional, ideological and physiological
issues more than less out of my range. Nevertheless, I too have indulged in
"a little play acting." Ownership of human chattel and oppression of women is
as personal as it gets. "all that . . . skin  just hanging out there waiting
in plain sight, tempting" is going to continue to get many of us in trouble
long after state power has been consolidated in the hands of the proletariat;
after the state has withered away and the only thing left of value is the
residual impact in the realm of administration. Rape is violence and power
assertion as opposed to an "inability to handle a sexual urge."  As such
power is exercised through not simply the ownership of things but also
control of things with a capacity to dictate and dominate others.

I do not take a position that the "politics of oppression" exist as a "one to
one" relationship with the "economic foundation."

Here is the rub. You tend to write - in my opinion, to present a set of facts
and circumstances to an audience for their consideration. I try and present
facts and circumstances to an audience from the standpoint of the proletariat
as "an abstraction" in motion, - specifically the lower sector thrown into
motion against capital, while advocating for a general line of march of the
advanced sector. I have also been in several multi-national organizations and
social relations revolving around an endless complex of  "a little play
acting." This is said not to trivialize the issue, but to clear the
ideological air.

> (Almost every atrocity has a sexual element to it; but,
> that aspect is usually not brought up in routine
> discussions of such things as torture and pogroms.)
> Abortion is the first defense against the permanence of the
> effects of sexual conquest. Control over one's own body is
> a fundamental right, recognized by civil rights activists
> fighting mandatory drug testing, lie detector tests, and
> such. Not for women, though, because ...???

All of the above statement. In my estimate the Women Question changes its
shape but not its historical content, and this content emerges into view as
the abolition of classes and the final liquidation of the status of labor
(giving birth!) as a commodity or relationship of property.

Pardon me, but the proletariat travels full circle in its historical
evolution as the active ingredient in the LABORING PROCESS. Laboring process
is not a play on words but rather means the goal is the liquidation of
"status" or the emancipation of . . . .?

> Equal pay for equal work means nothing, if you have
> to quit your job because of unplanned pregnancy, or because
> your family controls your purse strings because they own
> your womb, or if no one will hire you in the first place
> because all they see is an empty womb waiting to be filled
> up. Economic autonomy means nothing if it can be abrogated
> on a whim through the agency of sexual conquest, or by
> means of the perception that your person is impermanent
> because it can be altered at a moment's notice on a sexual
> whimsy.

No one can argue with the above statement but it seems posed incorrectly.
"Equal pay for equal work" is a fight for the equality of labor that cuts
deeper than the Women Question. "Equal pay for equal work" is and not
possible under capitalism.  "Economic autonomy" is not possible for women
because they are proletariat in their overwhelming composition. "Economic
autonomy" is not possible for the majority of men in society. Economic
autonomy becomes possible with the abolition of the status of labor from
being a commodity. The line of march of revolutionary communism is fought for
in the crucible of the struggles you indicate.

> The right to regulate women's sexuality is requisite to the
> right to demand purity of the womb of the Vessel of the
> Race. This purity is requisite to the security of the
> institution of class. If you can't be sure that the issue
> of your loins has established itself sovereignty in the womb
> of your choice, you can't be sure to whom you should leave
> your property when you die. It follows that sexuality is
> not even a secondary issue in the whole matter of class.
> Marxists should certainly be aware of the connection between
> heterosexual ideology and the institution of class; but,
> there is no reason at all to champion any particular
> position on the question of sexuality as such, except as it
> is an instance of freedom of choice and freedom of
> expression.
> Reproductive rights are human rights, the defense of which
> has little to do with the ideology of identity politics.

By "heterosexual ideology" I understand you to mean male supremacy in as much
as a homosexual couple cannot produce - on the basis of common sex organs,
children, which is the essence of inheritance and hereditary wealth.
"Marxists should certainly be aware of the connection between heterosexual
ideology and the institution of class;" because the concept "heterosexual
ideology," is in my estimate petty bourgeois ideology. I do not advocate
homosexuality because of my particular ethics. Nor am I required to support
homosexuality as a life style. This does not make me violent or a supporter
of random and state targeted violence based on ones narrow ethical
considerations. Where I live - perhaps several decades ago, there used to be
an annual homosexual parade. The gathering places of homosexual men and women
were not vandalized or abused and virtually everyone has someone homosexual
in their immediate or extended family. Parents did not warn children of the
homosexual family member or neighbors but warned of "Uncle Jimmy" - the

I have watched how the bourgeoisie construct the ideological categories
("heterosexual ideology") during my life time. To protect property relations
it is necessary to liquidate the conception of male supremacy from the
ideological sphere and offer a distortion that can be used to prevent the
proper framing of property relations. Male supremacy means property.
"Heterosexual ideology" either means the body of ideas related to sexual
reproduction on the basis of male and female genetic composition or it means
nothing at all. "Heterosexual ideology" - the very term is obscene, is the
ultimate repudiation of classes and class struggle. Its obscenity consists in
its classlessness and its reactionary symbolism. Communists do in fact wage
ideological campaigns amongst themselves and against bourgeois ideology.

Comrade, the words "Civil Rights Movement" were bad enough and someone had to
invent the words. A national-colonial movement and freedom struggle against
capital and imperialism was diverted and channeled into a struggle to ascend
to the poverty level of the mass of Anglo-American workers. What on earth was
"Gay Liberation" but in the final instance a petty bourgeois movement that
has basically evolved according to the logic of all petty bourgeois
movements: into a reactionary classless "social movement" that should be
obvious by now. A demand to protect homosexual members of society from
violence and exclusion was converted into a phony liberation movement. This
was the hand of the bourgeoisie pushing the petty bourgeois radicals.
Liberation from what may I ask, Heterosexuals? This was an ideological trap
carefully constructed by the bourgeoisie.

Comrade, again here is another rub. You state, "It follows that sexuality is
not even a secondary issue in the whole matter of class" and this is an
obvious truth because sex is the basis of reproduction of life and inherited
property. The rub is that you pose the question incorrectly.

Social revolution arises on the basis of changes in the mode of production -
the economic life of society. We have studied a little Marx . . . "at a
certain stage in the development of the means of production . . . fetters .
.. then comes the period of social revolution . . ." and so on. The problem
is that the social revolution cannot be fought out in the economic sphere or
rather within the productive laboring of the industrial infrastructure and
has to be fought out in the ideological and political spheres and arena.

The Women Question arose based on the division of labor in society and the
formation of property relations but cannot be fought out and won in the
"division of labor" or property relations sphere. Nor can it be won on the
basis of women oppression because our mode of production produces classes as
the primary economic configuration in society. These classes have a
spontaneous tendency to move in a direction of their perceived material
interest within the boundary of the quiet changes of the mode of production.
Society becomes torn from its foundation in the old mode of production and
new classes arise that correspond with the directional change in the economic
formation and not the sexual shape of the changes. The Women Question is
fundamentally a question of class from the standpoint of the fight for a
reconfiguration of society. Yes, the Women Question by definition means
gender and sexual. It cannot be won on the basis of gender and sex but rather
a class program that changes the status of labor as the basis for its

Melvin P

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list