[Marxism] Liberal feminism and national differences

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Jun 23 23:00:19 MDT 2004

Lou Paulsen writes:
>I view "tackling liberal feminism head on" as, at best, a waste of
time, and at worst, an occasion to convince women that we are opponents
of their just struggles, which is to say an occasion to commit political
suicide or self-mutilation.

Depends where you live, Lou.  Which brings us back to *some differences*
between the US and elsewhere.

In other imperialist countries, liberalism is the dominant form of
ruling class ideology, not *social conservatism* as in the US.

In NZ, there is no women's movement, in part because liberal feminism
was completely integrated into the power structure.  Do liberal feminist
ideas need to be tackled head-on in NZ?  You betcha!  Just as *all kinds
of other liberal ideas* need to, because liberalism is the chief
ideology of NZ capitalism these days.

I'll give you an example that shows that not only can liberal feminist
ideas be expropriated for reactionary ends by conservatives, but they
are also used by *liberal feminists* for anti-working class (and
anti-working class women) ends, although I think this point has already
been well-made by Louis on the example of the liberal feminist
*organisations* and leading lights who were integral to the liberal and
left-liberal war-mongering over Yugoslavia.

A mate of mine worked a few years ago for the Social Policy Agency in
NZ, doing research.  The SPA's job is basically to advise the government
and pretty much the only research of the SPA the government wants to use
is stuff that fits in with neo-liberal economic policy.

As an SPA researcher, he got to go to meetings with cabinet ministers
with other people from government ministries, like the Ministry of
Women's Affairs.  Although he was already quite hostile to liberal
feminism (and all other forms of liberalism, I hasten to add), he was
gobsmacked by the way the *liberal feminists* within the Ministry of
Women's Affairs used feminist arguments to screw over working class
women.  One example was in relation to pregnancy leave.  The MWA
feminists would use the feminist argument that pregnancy is not an
illness to give ideological justification for minimising paid leave from
work, something which especially effected working class women (and

The government in power at the time, by the way, was not the
liberal-bourgeois Labour Party but the traditional conservative party,
the National Party, which is actually also a liberal-bourgeois party
these days.

We also have an increasing amount of social control-type legislation,
especially from Labour, which seems even more obsessed with social
control than National.  Virtually every single piece of social control
legislation is couched in politically-correct and liberal terms.  This
means that anyone who attacks it can be portrayed as some kind of
Neanderthal.  Liberalism, including liberal feminism, is far more useful
in this sense that conservative or neo-conservative arguments.  These
forms of liberalism are able to construct precisely what Ian Pace has
referred to as a "fireproof" wall.

I should also point out that this is not a peculiar NZ situation.  The
US is actually probably the *only* imperialist country where neo-liberal
economics is accompanied by neo-conservative social ideas.  Pretty much
everywhere else in the imperialist world, neo-liberal economics are
accompanied by *liberal* social ideas.

The inability of a rather disappointing number of US comrades to
comprehend this results in a huge amount of discussion at cross

Most of us outside the US are far more aware of the important role of
social conservatism in US society than US comrades are aware of the
important role of social liberalism in our countries.


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