Class V Gender
donaloc at peterquinn.com
Wed Aug 14 10:43:59 MDT 2002
I have studeously avoided this debate to date (barring a few sidelong swipes
at reactionary relativists). That's because feminism is something I feel
rather unqualified to discuss as a man. However, the methods and lessons of
historical materialism is something which I feel must guide any meaningful
I think that some of the recent contributions have had more in common with
post-modernism than marxism or any form of scientific socialism. Lou was
spot on with his allegations of Derrida'isms.
My take on race, gender, culture, nationality, sexual orientation is that
where these take the form of delineating modes of oppression, they are
super-structural effects. Indeed, I would go further and state that as forms
they have arisen from factors subject to the dialectical-materialist method
To take the former expression and a concept I would feel at home with -
nationality - someone has quoted marx on the attitudes of British and Irish
to one another in the 1870s - the extension can therefore be made which
trumps: nationality or class. A false understanding of nationality, and the
implications of nationality, can lead to liberal, post-modernist posturing -
as we have seen with characterisations of the 'other' as superior to
'class'. It helps to divert attention from the core driving factor which is
the mode of production [in its widest sense].
I would conceive of nationality as arising, as a structural effect, from
underlying factors which can only be meaningfully examined using
dialectical-materialist conceptions. Some may term that economistic - I
would counter: only if you could call Lenin's critique of inter-imperialist
rivalry as economistic. I mean it in the same (indeed, a related manner
given the imperialist relationship between Irish and English). Just as
imperialism (and inter-imperialist rivalry) was/is a result of the
development of capitalism (determined by the nature of the mode of
production - at base) so is nationality.
Some may feel that nationality cannot be determined by the forces of
production alone and will cite things such as specific incidents (which may
be determined by chance) or the issue of race. In fact, there was a very
enlightening argument on the issue of the oppression of coloured people in
the US - with the two protragonists arguing over whether it was sufficient
to consider the issue as a racial problem alone or as a national-colonial
one. In this sense, it is sad that Melvin or CB seem to have left the
discussion - I sided with Melvin then and do again. For me the issue needs
expansion to include social factors as talking in purely racial terms would
be to remain blinkered to wider issues. Indeed, I agreed not just in the
sense in which he argued [the specific sense of the chatteled slaves in the
US forming a social construct] but in a more global sense too.
For me, the point where economics crosses over into biology is seamless.
Economics and Marxist politics are based on the means of production - well,
if you widen that understanding, so is evolutionary biology. Of course, this
is Marxist abcs for scientific socialists.
In a sense, the compulsion towards sexual reproduction as a more effective
form of DNA transfer must be seen in a similar sense - arguments may be
provided to state that social-biological effects have generated the sexual
dichotom(ies). Those social-biological effects are related to 'means of
production', i.e. at base the question of providing necessities and becoming
more efficient in that process.
I may have abstracted too far. To deal with forms of concrete gender
oppression, it is sufficient to start with the existence of the dichotomy (I
will exclude consideration of orientations and the like - not because they
don't matter but because I will deal with this in its most simple sense. The
rest is similar). Gender oppression is at the last, and continues to be,
determined and shaped by the fundamental changes which have and are occuring
in the very complex [yet base] arena of the 'mode of production'. The theory
of feminism and socialism, themselves, are determined by these forces. In
effect, the arguments the primacy of class, race and gender are all failures
to see scientific facts as the key determinant and these as mere
side-effects of the underlying system of production.
All this discussion is a little meaningless as it really shouldn't impact on
what scientific socialists decide to be the best strategy to advance a
social revolution. Our task is singular with the liberation of women, and
all other oppressed groups. However, without an appreciation of the role of
social-biology or the means of production in determining super-structure -
one might find oneself promoting a less than revolutionary agenda - such as
'reform' of the existing system to allow 'equality of opportunity'.
One last note. I am not advocating an argument that 'scientific fact or
necessity' should be allowed to determine the extent of social liberation.
That accusation may stem from a misreading of social-biological
factors/means of production in its widest sense - as a dialectical outcome
of a multitude of factors, no one factor could be guaranteed overall
authority (by definition). The corollary is that analysis and strategy must
come from a scientific study of facts as they exist and of the various
trends arising around those facts.
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