An actual theory of class and gender <red_sites at eudoramail.com>

nancybrumback at cs.com nancybrumback at cs.com
Mon Aug 12 21:02:10 MDT 2002


To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Subject: An actual theory of class and gender
From: "Tom O'Lincoln" <red_sites at eudoramail.com>
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 13:45:08 +1000

Nancy wrote:

>like the DSP, i think that the class struggle cannot
>be accomplished without the full integration of
>women's issues, and the feminist struggle cannot
> be accomplished without the full integration
>of class issues.

Impossible to disagree ... But why put it in terms of two separate things? We need
 a totalising theory that explains all of society and the struggles in it, for the purpose of working out how to win - in one united struggle.

Of course we will never fully achieve such a pefectly comprehensive theory, or
 perfectly united struggle, but isn't this the direction in which we need to head? I
 personally think the theoretical framework most suited for this is Marxism, which
puts class at the centre of the strategy. I do not believe any of the various feminist
 theories can provide this framework.

Neither do I think we can paste the two together, as in "Marxist-Feminism" based
 on ideas of "capitalist-patriarchy".

That's why I call myself a Marxist full stop. Of course it's up to people like me to
 prove that this doesn't mean undervaluing women's struggles and issues, and I
 accept that Marxism has some proving to do.

--------------

Tom, thank you for your feedback. (I know I have already emailed you, but i
wanted to share some of those ideas with the list.)

I agree that we need a totalizing theory that explains all of society and the struggles
 in it, and i think that my theory can be expanded to become as comprehensive
as needed. This is because my theory is based in part on Marx's analysis of
society and social change. And my theory does name the working class
as the only social force capable of attaining deep social change.

But the totalizing needed theory will put not class at the center of the
strategy all of the time. The relationship of class and gender is but one aspect
of the theory of society and social change as expressed by Marx in his
famous Preface to A Contribution To The Critique Of Political Economy
(as featured on our own marxmail.org "Words of Struggle" pages, which
he describes as "the guiding principle" of his studies. I'll quote a few of the passages to give you the general idea ---

"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter Into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness."

"The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life." To me, this sentence sums up Marx's discovery
of the "layered" structure of society. There is an economic base, a social
structure on top of that, and a superstructure of ideas and politics on top of
the social structure. All are related together in a coherent whole, which I interpret
as being "organic" in the sense that living things (such as people and society)
are organic. In the living organism all the parts are necessary: if you take out the
 brain or the liver, the entire organism will die. To me, this means that in an
 organism, no one part is most important. The brain is not prior to the liver and
the liver is not prior to the brain -- each organ has its own particular job to do
and each is necessary.

So I don't think you can say that class is always at the center of the strategy.
I think that class will be at the center sometimes -- i.e., when the economic
struggle is in the front of our attention because of strikes, unemployment,
and when corporate thievery is being displayed as it is now in our country.
Anti-capitalist strategies are very appropriate here. In the 70s, the women's
movement was the going thing. A marxist party campaigning for "free
abortion on demand" would have caught the attention of any women who
are leaning toward socialism, and they might have been recruited at that point --
but not if they are told that their concerns will be taken care of after the
working class has gained power -- which is what happened in those days.
During the Civil Rights movement, obviously anti-racist concerns would
take the lead. But always with economic demands: "Reparations for all
oppressed peoples now," not the reformist slogan "End Racism Now."

Whatever is "at the center" will depend on what's going on
at any particular moment in history, which revolutionists should be able
to determine just by reading the newspapers. But the class struggle
should always be apparent in whatever slogans the party comes up with,
or else you won't even be recognized as being part of the class struggle.

nancy


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