[Marxism] Class and race and gender

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Tue Jun 22 19:02:17 MDT 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Philip Ferguson" <plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz>
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 1:22 AM
Subject: [Marxism] Class and race and gender

> Ian Pace wrote:
> >>Lynddie England certainly had power
> > over the Arab prisoners she was carrying around naked on a leash.  The
> > Queen has more power than a black man in Brixton.
> Carroll Cox wrote:
> >This paragraph manifests _the_ most serious form of sexism (and
> arrogant male supremacy) on the left in general and among marxists in
> particular.
> Eh?
> Are you disputing that the Queen of England has more power than a black
> male in Brixton or that Lynddie England had power over her male
> prisoners?
> Ian pointed out that "Prejudice on the part of those without power can
> rarely be compared with that exerted in the forms of discrimination and
> oppression by those who do have such power", so it is not as if he was
> trying to draw an equals sign between Lynndie England and Bush.
> One of the things that has happened since the 1970s is that middle and
> upper class women (and middle and upper class people of colour) have
> actually made *very substantial* gains.  In NZ, most of the top jobs,
> including the CEOs of the major business federations, are currently held
> by women.
> Making out that *all women* are still oppressed just doesn't make sense
> anymore and actually alienates working class women.
> The reality is that there are now substantial class divisions among
> women, and the job of Marxists is not to paper over these divisions but
> to champion the liberation of the *majority* of women who remain
> oppressed.
> In NZ, the gains of middle and upper class women have led to the
> disappearance of organised feminism.  There is not one single
> significant feminist organisation left in the country; indeed there are
> no feminist campaigning groups at all here anymore.  Middle and upper
> class women have done very well out of neo-liberal economics and packed
> up the feminist movement.
> This leaves Marxists as the only organised political force fighting for
> the rights of working class women.
> About two years ago I ran an extra-mural course on various revolutions
> and the role of women within them.  All but three of the students were
> women, mainly middle aged and older women and largely working class.
> Only one of these women identified with feminism - an English middle
> class woman.
> At the end of the course, there was a bit of discussion about feminism,
> and one of the idle-aged women said she used to be a feminist in the
> 1970s but seeing what had happened since then, and having ended up
> teaching literacy to working class and poor women here, she had come to
> the conclusion that feminism (by which she meant the kind of feminism
> that was prevalent here) was irrelevant to working class women.
> Carroll, your ideas on this are like a throwback to the 1970s, when what
> you say *was largely true*.  But you fail to take much account of what
> has happened since then.
> As Louis noted, the neglect of working class and poor women by the ABB
> crowd, including its feminist component, is a much more serious problem
> *today* than Marxists not taking the issue of gender inequality
> seriously.
It can also be extrapolated that liberal feminism gives a measure of
artificial sustenance and credence to the advanced capitalism when class
consciousness amongst women is denied (the argument being along the lines
of: if capitalism benefits upper-middle and upper class women, then
capitalism is in the interests of all women (as class distinctions don't
matter) - this sort of argument plays into the hands of the right-wing).

And also that capitalism causes ever-increasing poverty and inequality in
the world, of which women suffer to a greater extent than men.  Liberal
feminism is utterly powerless to address this, indeed can play a part in
perpetuating it.


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