[Marxism] Class and race and gender

Ian Pace ian at ianpace.com
Wed Jun 23 07:40:45 MDT 2004

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "LouPaulsen" <LouPaulsen at comcast.net>
To: "Activists and scholars in Marxist tradition"
<marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2004 2:04 PM
Subject: Re: [Marxism] Class and race and gender

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: " Ian Pace" <ian at ianpace.com>
> > Phil was referring specifically to upper and middle class women, who in
> > terms of housework and child care are much  more likely to be able to
> > someone else to do it (most often a working class woman).  The interests
> of
> > those who struggle to look after children at the same time as bringing
> > sufficient earnings to feed and cloth them, etc., can never be equated
> with
> > those how can pay a nanny to do that.
> >
> Yes, but note that it is generally the upper-class woman, not the
> upper-class man, who has the responsibility for hiring the nanny, filling
> if she quits or takes time off, etc.

Sure, but the question of who 'takes time off' takes on a different form
amongst those for whom the only work available is something like a
demeaning, alienating, mundane factory job.  I know this situation from my
own depressed hometown - few of the working-class women there would choose
some of the soul-destroying work available rather than staying at home to
look after a child.  In this sense unemployment (around 30% in that town)
hits both partners in a relationship equally hard.  When work serves no
function other than sheer financial necessity, for both men and women, the
middle-class rhetoric about empowerment in this context sounds patronising
and hollow.  But in Britain at least the rhetoric all so often heard from
middle class feminists bemoaning the 'macho' expectation of a 'job for
life'.  There is indeed no reason why a working-class man should expect to
be the primary breadwinner, but in such a context a view of breadwinning (in
the form of highly alienated labour) as indicative of 'power' within a
relationship is a thoroughly middle-class perspective that is nothing short
of contemptuous.

Low pay, low job security, the flexible labour market, part-time working,
etc., all these are attributes of employment that previously only women
would have accepted, simply because they have no choice.  Nowadays both men
and women are in this situation, which is conveniently justified by
contemptuous rhetoric about 'men learning the flexibility that women have
demonstrated for years', etc.  That's the form of equality that liberal
feminism has created when allied to right-wing capitalism, things are now as
bad for men as for women.  Is this meant to be progress?

Ian, I am not sure what is the point
> of the whole emphasis in your reply on the ills of 'liberal feminism'.  I
> not a liberal feminist.  Neither is Carroll.  There are probably not many
> 'liberal feminists' on this list.

Indeed, but there are many out there outside of our enlightened circles, and
they frequently monopolise the debate (especially in the US, it would seem).

The points you make about how 'liberal
> feminism' is inadequate and can be hijacked and "ultimately" serves the
> bourgeoisie apply equally well to *all* "liberal" forms of all struggles
> democratic demands, opposition to war, strikes, what have you.

Of course, and that's why liberal feminism is more 'liberal' then
> Also, you would have to be a very conservative liberal feminist indeed to
> argue that one should support Thatcher!  How often does this really come

More often than not.  Her 'achievements' in terms of causing a drastic
increase in the number of women living below the poverty line are
conveniently forgotten.

We can rightly decry the liberal media, but shouldn't ignore the part they
play in opinion-forming, creating states of false consciousness.

> Any moderately liberal liberal feminist would have no trouble recognizing
> her as a "tool of the patriarchy".

I sincerely wish that were the case.  How about the groups of "Blair's
babes" in the current parliamentary Labour party who for the most part
unfailingly support the Prime Minister en masse in the division lobby over
issues of lone parent benefits, tuition fees, going to war against Iraq,
etc.?  Much was made (in one sense rightly, of course) of the increase in
the number of woman MPs, but little mentioned about how this group were
little representative of women as a whole, being primarily constituted of
upper-middle class careerist politicians, vetted carefully to ensure they
brought little or no traces of socialist ideology with them.  Few
working-class women or women trade unionists stood much of a chance in such
selection procedures (unless they were going to renounce such class
allegiance, figuratively, of course).

Through major industrial disputes liberal feminist ideas are exploited to
try and undermine working class solidarity.  During the recent firefighters
dispute in Britain, it was common to hear vile rhetoric from Blair and his
henchmen/henchwomen decrying the 'machismo' of those striking for better pay
and conditions, as opposed to supposedly more compliant women
trade-unionists more likely to compromise.  It was shocking how this sort of
appropriation was allowed to go relatively unchallenged - only the presence
of women on the picket lines demonstrated the falseness of such a
reactionary ideology, but the media were less interested in this.  Even the
supposedly socialist feminist Beatrix Campbell was complicit in this sort of
process during the 1984-1985 miner's strike, bemoaning striking miners as
'macho', specifically because of their striking and adherence to
collectivist trade union solidarity.

I'm sorry to make this so much about the situation in Britain, but I can't
imagine such a situation isn't mirrored elsewhere?

(Of course some liberal feminists DID
> give an award to Madeline Albright, but this was duly protested.)
> What do you really think are the points at issue here?
At heart, how we shouldn't let liberal feminism, liberal anti-racism, etc,
take the place of a genuine left opposition.  In the Anglo-Saxon countries
in particular this process seems alas to be quite far advanced.  We need to
tackle such ruling-class complicit ideologies head on, not shrink in fear of


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