Wimyn Hold Up Half the Sky!: On the Questions of Wimyn’s Oppression and Revolutionary Wimyn’s Liberation versus Feminism (2008)

“Women comprise one half of the population.  The economic status of working women and the fact of their being specially oppressed proves not only that women urgently need revolution, but also that they are a decisive force in the success or failure of the revolution.”  – Mao Tse-tung, Peking Review, 1974

We acknowledge that presently, the New Afrikan Black Panther Party-Prison Chapter (NABPP-PC) lacks a substantial femyl membership.  Because of this situation some mistaken views have developed concerning our position on the questions of wimyn’s oppression and liberation.  That we lack a femyl presence right now in no way reflect our views on these fundamental questions.  Actually the major cause of this predicament is the uncommon circumstances under which our Party was founded, namely, by brothas who are isolated away from sistas by their confinement in various U.S. prisons.  Another contributing factor is that unfortunately very few prison activists have maintained active ties with wimyn prisoners, with the result that these sistas’ ideological and political educations and active involvements in social justice struggle has been minimal.  However, we are in the process of taking affirmative measures to remedy these situations.  And along with these efforts it is also imperative that we set out our line and position on wimyn’s oppression and liberation with special attention given to the plight of New Afrikan wimyn.

We recognize, as one revolutionary New Afrikan writer expressed:

“We can’t generate [mass-based struggle] if we continue to think and act as if all the people are men, and as if all the children are boys.

“We can’t build a mass movement if we fail to educate and organize on the basis of the particular needs of women, who ‘hold up half the sky.’

“We can’t shout ‘Black workers take the lead!’ while failing to address ourselves to the particular interests of those workers who are women.

“ALL problems facing the nation and ALL of its citizens are interrelated and interdependent, and the policies and programs of the new movement must base themselves on this reality.  We must address ALL issues, and then coordinate the many struggles and fronts of war.”

But to the question, are we, the NABPP-PC, “feminists,” we answer, “No, we are not feminists.  We are proponents of Revolutionary Wimyn’s Liberation (RWL).”  To some this position may sound contradictory and confusing.  Some will ask: “What is the difference between feminism and Revolutionary Wimyn’s Liberation?  Aren’t they the same thing?”  We answer that there’s a big difference between them, and no, they are not the same thing.  Although both perspectives developed in response to wimyn’s oppression in patriarchal class society, they represent two opposite class perspectives on the womyn question: one bourgeois and reactionary (feminism), the other proletarian and revolutionary (RWL).

The oppression of wimyn predates bourgeois capitalist society and goes back to the beginning of class society and patriarchal slavery.  To a certain extent, the bourgeoisie needed to accommodate the liberation of wimyn in order to exploit their labor power as proletarians and their brains and organizational abilities as managers, professionals and even as executives.  For these reasons capitalist society has granted wimyn certain limited “freedoms” and “advances” from the binds of feudalist and slave-owning societies.  But class society will always prevent wimyn from achieving full liberation.

We understand that wimyn’s oppression is tied in with the general bourgeois oppression of the working class, and that genuine and full emancipation of wimyn can only be accomplished with the total destruction of class society.  “Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.”  (Mao Tse-tung).  Bourgeois society cannot eliminate gender oppression, because inherent in its divisive culture is the tendency to divide and play various social sectors against each other and to elevate ranks of essentially equal people above one another to perpetuate its “divide, agitate, miseducate and rule” schemes.  Only the struggle of the international working class against capitalist-imperialist domination seeks to fully eliminate the artificial differences and prejudices that sustain bourgeois-dominated class society.

As Lenin noted, proletarian wimyn must firmly lead the struggle for wimyn’s liberation and this struggle must be tied in with the broad working class revolutionary movement.  This is because there is an:

“…unbreakable connection between woman’s human and social position and [emphasizing this] will draw a strong, ineradicable line against the bourgeois movement for the ‘emancipation of women.’  This will also give us a basis for examining the woman question as part of the social, working class questions and to bind it firmly with the proletarian class struggle and the revolution.  The communist women’s movement itself must be a mass movement, a part of the general mass movements; and not only of the proletarians, but of all the exploited and oppressed, of all victims of capitalism, or of the dominant class.  Therein, too, lies the significance of the women’s movement for the class struggle of the proletariat…” – Lenin, 1920, quoted in My Recollections of Lenin, “An Interview on the Woman Question,” Clara Zetkin

Our distinction between feminism and RWL is based in our Party’s ideology of Historical and Dialectical Materialism (HDM), which rejects uncritical idealism and instead demands that we make concrete analyses of concrete conditions and understand things in their motion and development.  “Social Democrat” and “Communist” used to be used as interchangeable terms, but the consolidation of a deviationist Social Democratic tendency required genuine Communists to distinguish themselves from this revisionism.  So too must we distinguish ourselves from the feminist movement.  There are liberal feminists and radical feminists, but a Communist is a Communist and by definition holds a Marxist view on the womyn question.

Feminism as a Deviationist Tendency

In analyzing the womyn question using HDM and recognizing that wimyn’s oppression is tied in with and generated by class oppression, it becomes clear that feminism embraces bourgeois ideology and is thus a deviationist tendency.  Feminism elevates above class and essentializes gender much like cultural nationalists elevate and essentialize race, whereas both gender and racial oppression are the outgrowths of class contradictions and oppression.  In this light, we bear in mind that sexism is not merely male chauvinism any more than racism is simply white supremacy.

Indeed mainstream feminism is just as much a blatant manifestation of bourgeois ideology as male chauvinism.  And while male chauvinism is “politically incorrect,” despite that it is still practiced everywhere in capitalist society, (just like racism), one cannot oppose or criticize feminism without risking being called “sexist.”  The same with one who opposes reverse racism; if the critic is white s/he’ll be labeled a “racist,” if a persyn of color, s/he’ll be labeled an “integrationist” or “racist collaborator.”

The prevailing feminist tendency of “male-bashing” is no more revolutionary and liberationist than Blacks playing the racial blame game.  Wimyn’s oppression by men is definitely real, as is the racial oppression of people of color.  But gender oppression and racial oppression, must be understood not as things unto themselves, but as manifestations of the oppressive and divisive conditions and culture of class society.

Most single issue movements against oppression, like feminism, don’t focus on class.  They therefore are or become infused with bourgeois ideology and openly embrace such reactionary and equally divisive tendencies as men-bashing and reverse racism.  And much of the Left, in adopting revisionist politics, openly embraces and fears to criticize feminism and male-bashing, in fact they tail behind it.  However, we in the NABPP-PC oppose these tendencies and do not fear to expose or criticize such deviations, (whatever the consequences, whatever the attacks), being conscious that the most dangerous deviation is always that which is not being struggled against.

As proponents of RWL, the NABPP-PC promotes full gender equality and opposes all forms of discrimination and oppression against wimyn, and we are committed to the struggle for wimyn’s equality.  But we also understand that gender equality can only be genuinely achieved in the process of building, and as a result of, socialist reconstruction of society.  That is, by socializing both productive and reproductive relations and making both these social relations gender neutral.  While many past socialist struggles have failed to fully implement socializing not only productive but also reproductive social relations, (child care, household work and unwaged production), and in gender neutral fashions, feminism does not seek or pursue these objectives at all.  In reality feminism has served to advance the bourgeois aspirations of petty-bourgeois white wimyn while stifling the genuine liberation struggles and culture of the broad masses of wimyn of the lower classes, and replaced them with the psycho-emotional feel-good sub-culture of men-bashing and a counter-culture of wimyn’s separatism and gender separatism.  These tendencies run counter to building gender neutral social relations and achieving gender equality.

By gender neutral reproductive relations we mean both parents being fully involved in the responsibilities of housekeeping, baby care and child rearing and sharing the necessary labor and time investment.  As much as possible this should also be facilitated by socialized care giving, freeing wimyn to play a full and active role politically, socially, culturally and in the struggle for production.

Applying Dialectical Materialism to the Womyn Question

As Dialectical Materialists, we recognize that every existing thing, including social phenomena, relations and conditions, is in a constant state of motion and change.  Nothing is stagnant, nothing remains the same.  The cause and source of this continuous motion and change is the presence of contradictory forces within all existing things, phenomena and conditions.  These contradictory forces constantly act together and against each other, contending and competing for dominance, exchanging and replacing positions.  This “unity of opposites” is universal and absolute; however, it expresses itself differently in various particular phenomena based upon the nature of the contradictions and the conditions under which they operate.  What must also be understood is that all contradictions do not take on antagonistic forms, but open antagonisms can and do develop at particular stages and under certain conditions of the struggle of opposites.

On this point Mao gives this illustration:

“Before it explodes, a bomb is a single entity in which opposites coexist in given conditions.  The explosion takes place only when a new condition, ignition, is present.  An analogous situation arises in all those natural phenomena which finally assume the form of open conflict to resolve old contradictions and produce new things.”

While some controversialists would likely contend otherwise, it is a simple matter to recognize that within the complex reproductive biology of the humyn species, wimyn and men are physiological opposites.  This is not to say that either sex is superior or inferior to the other.  In fact concepts of superior/inferior play no part since wimyn and men are equal and interdependent opposites.  They are essential to each others’ very existence.  Indeed they are essential to the very existence of humyn beings as a species.  The point is simply that wimyn and men, like all existing things, exist as a unity of opposites.  They exist in contradiction and struggle as well as unity and accord:

“Contradiction and struggle are universal and absolute, but the methods of resolving contradictions, that is, the forms of struggle, differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions.  Some contradictions are characterized by open antagonism, others are not.  In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions which were originally non-antagonistic develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones.” – Mao Tse Tung, “On Contradiction,” Selected Works, Vol. I, p. 311.

The social oppression of wimyn is not a condition that has always existed, and it did not just drop from the sky.  It is a condition that developed in humyn societies at a definite stage of social-economic development.  It therefore has definite historical features and points of origin, and definite prevailing social-economic conditions allow it to continue or support its elimination.

Until certain changes came about in humyn society, wimyn and men originally existed in relative equality.  Definite change within society created the antagonistic social relations between the sexes which expressed themselves in the structuring of social relations, institutions, and traditions which oppress wimyn and exalt men.  Before classes developed, the contradiction between the sexes was non-antagonistic.  Unity of interest prevailed because both genders shared relatively equal roles in both the productive and reproductive life of society, and although productive and reproductive roles were gender-specific, they were also social activities that involved the entire community.  Indeed, the root causes of wimyn’s oppression are clearly found on investigating the changing gender roles in societies as they evolved from the early egalitarian, (‘primitive communal’), structures to the more technologically advanced and stratified stages of class-divided society.

Only by making such a historical materialist examination of social development can the roots of wimyn’s oppression be unearthed.  And with this knowledge it becomes evident why the liberation of wimyn from oppression can be fully achieved only with socialist reconstruction of humyn society and the ultimate abolition of classes.  But we must not only reconstruct humyn productive relations in this socialist struggle.  We must also reconstruct our reproductive relations and eliminate gender-specific roles in these relations.  Unlike the conditions of ‘primitive communalism,’ modern post-industrial society allows virtually every job to be performed equally well by men or wimyn.  Proletarian is a gender neutral term describing a class of equals, and this equality must extend to the rearing of the next generation.

Wimyn’s oppression is rooted in class oppression and developed roughly along these lines; classes (rich/poor, rulers/ruled, etc) developed as a result of social production, means of production and social wealth becoming concentrated more and more into private hands; with the development of pastoral (animal raising) societies, slavery and private property, men came to increasingly dominate and control productive relations, the means of production and social wealth; reproductive relations in society became less and less a public, community-oriented and gender neutral activity, but become more and more confined to individual wimyn whose roles and lives became increasingly confined to a “private” sector, (i.e. the domestic home), and like cattle and other productive “possessions,” they came to be regarded as the “property” of the male who “ruled” the domestic household.  With men dominating control, acquisition and distribution of social wealth and tools of producing social wealth, and wimyn and children therefore compelled to “depend” on men to provide for the basic needs of the “household,” gender relations took on the form of domination, (men), and dependence, (wimyn), which has come to be “normalized” and expressed in innumerable oppressive forms against wimyn.  These forms of social-economic development are clearly seen through historical materialist analysis of social development.

Historical Materialist Analysis of the Development of Gender Oppression

Outside of Historical Materialist analysis, (namely the analysis of social development by applying Dialectical Materialism); attempts to understand history are confusing at best.  Historical Materialism understands that the basic underlying reality of humyn existence is the struggle of humyns to survive and continue their existence from one generation to the next.  History is the process of social development.  This process compels people to produce the basic material necessities of life, and indeed to reproduce humyn life, to develop and advance technologies to serve these purposes and pass on survival and social skills to their offspring.  These are the economic and reproductive conditions of humyn society.  And like all social conditions, the source of wimyn’s oppression is rooted in economic conditions, (namely how people act on nature and with or against each other to survive), past and present.  A society’s culture, political and spiritual institutions and traditions, forms of play, etc. form its superstructure and merely reflect the nature of its members’ economic relations, which form its basic infrastructure (foundation).

With men having come to dominate the economic life of society, they thus came to control the society’s political power, armed force, culture, ideology and religious institutions.  This domination of the political economy in class societies by wealthy males was duplicated at all levels of society high and low.  In fact the tiny male-dominated ruling classes have always been able to exert greater controls over class-divided societies by perpetuating and preserving cultures and traditions that gave men a preferential status of social superiority and domination over wimyn.  Therefore, if the poor and working class men couldn’t share in ruling over society, they could at least rule over their own wimyn and domestic life.  In fact, domination over wimyn became expressed as the social “duty” of men to “protect” wimyn and came to essentially define “manhood.”  And when societies clashed, the rallying cry of the men was that of protecting their wimyn and children, who were deemed and socialized to be helpless, passive weaklings.

But let’s examine how these notions and developments came to be.  In the older social systems beginning in Afrika, which anthropologists call “hunter-gather” societies, there was equal participation of both sexes in acquiring and providing for the basic needs of their societies’ members; Wimyn foraged, men hunted.  In fact, as foragers who harvested wild fruits, vegetables, nuts, berries, etc. from the land and forests, wimyn were these societies’ principal producers.  These foods formed the staple of the societies’ nourishment.

But in the oldest societies also beginning in Afrika, which were based completely on gathering, there was no particular bond between males and femyls at all, only a taboo against incest.  These societies were organized into clans where wimyn and children remained in groups that consisted of the mother’s blood relatives.  In some cases, all the males of one clan were “married” to all the femyls of another clan and vice versa.  Men had no obligation towards their offspring at all.  The children belonged to the clan of their mother.  In these small roaming societies, gathering of plant life was the staple food, supplemented by the occasional scavenging of animal carcasses—or what was left of them—for protein to augment a principally carbohydrate diet.  It was the competition with animal scavengers that prompted the development of weapons (sharpened sticks and throwing rocks).

Being unencumbered by pregnancy, nursing and attending to young children, males could roam farther in search of food and were thus more likely to find meat, and with their upper body strength were more able to fight for it.  This practice led to hunting and further development of weaponry and the evolution of “hunter-gatherer” societies.  Although humyns have no fangs or claws, they do have forward-looking eyes like a predator as opposed to sideways-looking eyes like a game animal.  “Sharpened sticks and stones” became our “fangs and claws.”  As hunting is not a reliable food source, (particularly in its most primitive state), the femyls supported the males with the fruits of their gathering to get them to specialize in hunting.  This established the basis for pair-bonding.  Wimyn wanted meat and were willing to bond with a man to get it.  The man also provided a degree of protection, (when he was around).  But wimyn were in the central position as primary providers and society was matrilocal as she was living with her clan.  Within the clan children were raised in common.  Because of the nature of these productive and reproductive relations and overall gender equality, there existed no concepts of dominant and subordinate sexes.

The bonding between mothers and their offspring determined the reckoning of kinship relations through the mother’s line.  As wimyn enjoyed sexual freedom, one could only be certain of who one’s mother was.  Kinship-based society thus developed around a matrilineal clan structure.  These relationships could be biological or adoptive.  In either case, the taboo on incest extended to all members of one’s clan, and thus a few or several clans allied to form a band or village.  As children belonged to their mother’s clan, the Clan Mother had overall responsibility for their welfare, and maternal uncles played a significant role in their upbringing.

A handful of these societies exist today in Afrika, South Amerika and a few Pacific Islands, although most have been affected by contact with “modern” societies.  But recorded accounts of such societies, even those that existed in this region of the world and were transitioning to more “settled” stages, (such as the Arawak Indians of Hispanola and Cuba), give testament to the gender relations of the now nearly extinct Indians of Cuba as found by the Spanish who destroyed them:

“Marriage laws are non-existent: men and women alike choose their mates and leave them as they please, without offense, jealousy, or anger.  They multiply in great abundance; pregnant women work to the last minute and give birth almost painlessly; up the next day, they bathe in the river and are as clean and healthy as before giving birth.  If they tire of their men, they give themselves abortions with herbs that force stillbirths, covering their shameful parts with leaves or cotton cloth: although on the whole, Indian men and women look upon total nakedness with as much casualness as we look upon a man’s head or at his hands.” -Bartolome de las Casas, History of the Indies, (New York, Harper & Row, 1971)

As the tools and technologies of these “primitive” societies developed, people no longer had to exclusively forage and hunt for foods, but learned how to grow their own crops.  Therefore, societies become relatively stationary as villages.  Meat was still acquired by hunting and fish by fishing, and these were male responsibilities.  In these “transitional communal” societies the people still cooperated in their relations of producing and providing for the society’s basic needs, and their spiritual and cultural relationships reflected this.  All labor was based upon “natural” division between both sexes, adult and child.  Thus all members of the society shared equal rights and duties within the society.  Children were often raised in common by men and wimyn, hence the Afrikan proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.”  The entire village took equal care and responsibility for the upbringing of the children.  Therefore, there was no artificial division between anything called public life and domestic life.  Productive and reproductive life were genuinely communal.  These social systems were based on extended kinship, (which saw the entire community as “family”), because everyone recognized everyone else as necessary and equal contributors to the survival of the entire community and each of its members.  In that all adults performed the productive labor needed to feed and sustain the society and collectively “owned” the wealth that their collective labor produced, all adults, (wimyn and men), equally participated in decision making matters that affected the community.

These societies were based upon humyn production of primitive agriculture without the use of domesticated animals for fertilizer and cultivation, but many advanced into use of tamed animals, upon development of metal tools and other technologies and handicrafts.  Some, like the Bantu speaking tribes of Afrika, pushed out from forest lands into grasslands seeking greener pastures for their growing herds.  These pastoral tribes were centered around a headman who owned the cattle.  Like the head bull, he took many wives and concubines, as many sons served to tend and defend his herd.

With the development of pastoral societies, animals were tamed and bred by men; (men took over tending animals from their prior role as the societies’ principal hunters), and in turn were used to fertilize and help cultivate the crops.  The role of men came to dominate this aspect of the society’s economic life, while land ownership and agricultural labor remained vested in wimyn.  The domesticated animals became like tools, a “means of production,” as well as part of production (sources of milk and meat).

The development of cattle and settled agriculture produced larger crops and the attendant need for more laborers to plant, cultivate and harvest crops.  Cattle and settled agriculture allowed societies to product greater surplus produce, which in turn was traded between the village societies.

With the development of surplus wealth, the opportunity presented itself for stronger groups to raid and take the herds or harvest of weaker groups including their wimyn, (for reproductive purposes), and in general to make slaves of those captured by warfare or those who fell into debt.  The role of war leader became enhanced and dominated over the formerly democratic decision making of the people.

In the agricultural-based societies of Afrika where wimyn were predominant in land ownership and agricultural labor, patriarchy was built of top of the matriarchal system where wimyn still retained a great deal of power, including over the mostly femyl slaves who worked the land under the direction of the tribes’ free wimyn.  The Patriarch (chief) was basically a warlord whose power base was command of the warriors.  He had wives and concubines but power in the villages of his domain rested in the matrons whom he was obliged to supply with slaves.  It was thus an economic impetus that led to the development of slave-owning societies and pushed men into roles where their power was concentrated in the arena of exercising physical force.

A similar set-up can be observed amongst the Iroquois Indians of North Amerika, where the clan mothers can make or break chiefs and have veto power over the village and tribal councils.  One of the reasons the Iroquois were always at war is because the wimyn could demand replacements for lost loved ones or slaves or torture victims to ease their grief—the war chiefs were compelled to honor these demands.  Concrete class divisions had not as yet taken place but we can see where it was headed.

Trade and barter of surplus production was enhanced by uses of developed technologies—irrigation, the plow, diverse forms of specialized labor, etc.—which ended in productive work being performed not merely to meet the needs of the society’s own population, but for purposes of exchange.  This trend of production for exchange enhanced the practice of greater concentrations of social wealth into the hands of individual headmen and led to the patriarchal domination of society.

The great civilizations of antiquity, from Egypt to Rome, were based upon slavery.  At the top of society was a land-owning aristocracy and at the bottom masses of slaves.  In between was a middle strata, that was free, but subservient to the Aristos.  In these pre-Christian civilizations, sexuality was more open, and marriage was primarily for establishing heirs.

Feminism confuses the basic reality of class society, which is that it was built upon the foundation of class exploitation not gender oppression.  The switch from matrilineal to patrilineal society, (the overthrow of “mother right”), had principally to do with inheritance of property and position.  To make this work, wimyn’s sexual freedom had to be repressed.  To determine who would inherit the patriarch’s wealth and position his eldest son needed to be apparent along with a line of succession of heirs.  Ultimately power rested upon might.  Rulers had to fear being deposed by their sons or younger brothers, but if there was no clear heir apparent, a potentially devastating struggle for succession could ensue in which neighbors were tempted to intervene.

Feudalism arose to overthrow the slave-owning political-economies with monogamous feudal marriage instituted to compel wimyn to be married off to the male and forced to live with the family of the male.  It differed essentially in that the peasants belonged to the land and the land to the monarch.  This system of monarchy was devised to preserve the monarch’s power of control and inheritance of control over land and surplus social wealth, and religious doctrines assured this privilege by declaring his bloodline to have ordained by God.  This claim gave the monarch and his “royal” bloodline a claimed “divine right” to dominate society and social wealth.  Feudal marriage preserved the inheritance of wealth and power within the noble patriarch’s bloodline and further fragmented the pre-feudal remnants of the clan system and communal ownership of property.  Agricultural land which was the private property of kings was farmed out to feudal overlords and nobles, who paid taxes from crops produced by peasants, who were compelled to turn over their surplus produce as taxes or “land rent” to the nobility.  Feudal society was organized into estates where the monarch’s power was preserved by specialized armies of paid mercenaries and the knights and retainers of landed lesser nobles, who owed allegiance to the king.

Royal and noble marriages were arranged to cement alliances between houses.  Wimyn had the duty of producing male heirs for their husbands.  Expensive dowries were paid by the brides’ family to lure prospective husbands.  Under feudalism the sense of community and kinship remained strong amongst the peasants, only the role of the male came to dominate the household, while the role of the “wife” was one of subservience to the husband’s family and the lord.  The noble lord had the right to take sexual liberties.

With the development of classes under feudalism the oppression of wimyn became absolute.  Whereas under systems of primitive society wimyn freely chose their mates, under patriarchy and feudalism femyls were married off by force to males whose families “chose” them and in effect became lifelong domestic house slaves to the husband and his family.  The wife was expected to produce male children to inherit the family wealth and household power.  Femyl children were looked down on, and groomed to be good servants and attractive to males with the hopes of bringing her family a good marriage or concubinage to a wealthy feudal lord.

Further technological advances gave birth to capitalism which overthrew the old feudal political-economies.  Under capitalism proletarians are compelled to sell their labor power in manufacturing and service industries to the factory, land and corporation-owning bourgeois class.  In the capitalist political economy, marriage serves specific interests of the particular classes—the bourgeois marriage has as its purpose maintaining class division and domination, and cementing family alliances.  As with previous class systems, romantic notions of love can be entertained but are not confined by the bonds of matrimony.  Essentially there was little change from feudalism.

Petty bourgeois marriage is just a scaled down version of the same, but proletarian marriage took on more of the characteristics of primitive communal pair bonding—as it is often not formalized and in any case either party can break it off at will.  Love and marriage are more connected.

Under the capitalist system organized religion has sought to preserve and enforce monogamy and restrict freedom of divorce and choice in childbirth, however, as men and wimyn achieve equality in pay, (or come close to it), there is a natural tendency towards equality in status, decision-making power, and right of divorce.  Organized religion, which reflects feudal and patriarchal ideology, has resisted these trends, but the separation of church and state, (which were united under feudalism), has established both civil marriage, civil divorce, and legalized abortion.  Many couples simply apply the principles of pair-bonding by living together without either a church or civil marriage.

The bourgeoisie still try to use marriage as a means of preserving their class status, inheritance of wealth and building alliances between families of their class, as the nobility did, but the pull of spontaneity is towards the proletariat’s tendency towards freedom of choice.

Part of the feminist reaction is that this freedom often leaves wimyn in the position of being single parents.  While New Afrikan and other proletarian wimyn often seek to remedy this situation by persuading men to be more family-oriented and to bond with their children and themselves, the feminist response is to be anti-men and anti-family.  In the past pair-bonding was functional because the mother’s clan provided a primary support system for mothers and children, which the mother’s male relatives contributed to.

In countries like Sweden wimyn are heard to say that they are free to choose and leave men because they are not compelled to try to trap them into marriage.  If Swedish wimyn want to have a child the government supplies them all needed support.  This is not the case with the conservative Christian-run government in the U.S.  If a womyn can’t afford day care or a maid and a nanny, it’s pretty tough to be a single parent.

Concentration of wealth and power increased along with the enhancement of productive technologies as class societies advanced from slave-owning to feudal, to capitalism and its highest stage, capitalist-imperialism, (monopoly capitalism).  In each of these stages of political-economic development, men dominated the economic infrastructure and thus also the political, military, cultural, ideological, and religious superstructure of the state.

In the pre-state communal societies, warriors were made up of the basic members of the society, essentially the hunters.  However, with the development of classes, those who privatized and hoarded social wealth created a separate caste of specialized armed forces, whose role was and remains that of protecting their property holdings and preserving a social arrangement where their balance of power as non-laboring haves over the laboring have-nots is not upset by either internal or external challengers.  This specialized armed military/police structure is the foundation of the state.

So, in essence, wimyn’s oppression grew out of the overthrow of the matrilineal kinship system, through the political-economic displacement of wimyn as major producers and societal center in kinship-based society, and the attendant separation of the smaller family unit from the greater community, making the nuclear family, (instead of the community), the source of child-rearing, (which becomes confined to wimyn), and the man, (instead of the collective community), the source of providing for the basic needs of the family.  Wimyn became confined to domestic, (reproductive), private life and men came to control political-economic, (productive), “public” life.  From this economic arrangement grew various cultural, political and religious forms in various state societies which oppress and subjugate wimyn.  And it has been against such forms of economic, political, social, military and cultural repression that wimyn have risen up and rebelled, in class societies and even in pre-state structures that have been influenced by the oppressive traditions, ideologies and religious institutions of class societies.

It must be pointed out also that the Western Europeans and many of the Afrikans who fell victim to the trans-Atlantic slave trade existed at different stages of economic development.  Feudalist class society had taken deep root in West Europe, particularly within those states which were actively involved in the societies where clan relations or remnants of them were still strong.  Unlike the West European wimyn, (who were constrained and subjugated by feudalist Anglo-Christian culture), Afrikan wimyn still played a major role in the public life of many of their tribal societies.

During chattel slavery in the Amerikas, Afrikan wimyn were compelled to labor just as hard and resolutely and were brutalized just as harshly as their men (indeed more so in the form of routine rapes by white “owners” and overseers), and white wimyn, although oppressed by their males, shared in the domination over and oppression of the Black slaves—especially those slaves (principally femyls and children) who labored inside the “big houses” of the plantation estates.  These differing conditions and extremes of oppression made the aspirations of the struggles of New Afrikan versus white wimyn very different in many ways.  Their views of wimyn’s liberation were therefore often perceived, expressed, and pursued quite differently.

Professor and historian Howard Zinn offers an accurate summary of the different characters of economic relations and treatment of wimyn between the West European societies and the communal Native American and Afrikan societies which they overran:

“Societies based on private property and competition, in which monogamous families became practical units for work and socialization, found it especially useful to establish [a] special status of women, something akin to a house slave in the matter of intimacy and oppression, and yet requiring, because of that intimacy, a long-term connection with children, a special patronization, which on occasion, especially in the face of a show of strength, could slip over into treatment as an equal.  An oppression so private would turn out hard to uproot.

“Earlier societies—in America and elsewhere—in which property was held in common and families were extensive and complicated, with aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers all living together, seemed to treat women more as equals than did the white societies that later overran them, bringing ‘civilization’ and ‘private property’.”

-A People’s History of the United States—1492 to Present, (Harper Collins: NY 1999)

Differing Gender Oppression of New Afrikan Versus White Wimyn

The oppression of New Afrikan versus white wimyn in Amerika assumed different forms based upon the roles assigned to or demanded of them in the society’s economic and public life.  White wimyn, like New Afrikan wimyn, were considered as powerless property objects of the white man, but their terms of servitude were very different.

Through most of early Amerikan history, white wimyn were confined primarily to a status of domestic slaves to their male counterparts.  Like Blacks they had no political rights, but in addition they were subjected to various restraints in manners of dress, speech, and conduct in public.  As Howard Zinn pointed out, they were a “convenience for men who could use, exploit, and cherish someone who was at the same time servant, sex mate, companion, and bearer-teacher-warden of his children.”

As pointed out earlier, under such class-divided patriarchal systems as existed, (and still exists), here in Amerika, “manhood” was/is defined by the passion, zeal, willingness and ability of the male to “protect” his sheltered femyl.  “Womanhood” was/is defined by a “ladylike” performance of feeble and helpless dependence on men.  These concepts of “manhood” and “womanhood” inherently grew out of the economic-based oppression and exclusion of wimyn, and they were used as formidable and brutal weapons of subjugation against New Afrikans.

Indeed the most brutal and frenzied white violence against Blacks was often incited by typically false accusations of Black males making sexual advances toward or attacks on white wimyn.  Throughout U.S. history Black struggles for economic and political gains often lost white support under charges by opponents that economic and political equality for Blacks would end with Black men coupling with white wimyn.  This was intolerable because the white males deemed the white womyn as exclusively their own property.

For example the wave of southern lynchings of Black men following the abolition of slavery in 1865 through the early 1900s, was repeatedly attributed to Black men raping white wimyn.  Ida B. Wells and Frederick Douglass exposed such accusations to be false and the lynchings to have been actually prompted by poor whites who feared and opposed political and economic competition and displacement in the South by Blacks.  In 1923 the predominantly Black town of Rosewood, Florida was burned down and depopulated by mobs of whites following the false accusations of Fannie Taylor, a young white womyn, that she’d been sexually assaulted by a Black man.  It was later discovered that she’d lied, that her attacker was actually a white Mason who was able to escape scrutiny by relying on the society’s code of requiring members to conceal one another’s crimes.

On August 28, 1955, 15 year old Emmett Louis till was kidnapped, bludgeoned and shot point-blank in the head by two white men for allegedly whistling at a white womyn in a store in Sumner County, Mississippi.  Indeed, throughout the South, every opponent of Black equality equated racial equality seekers with Black rapists and efforts to “rape” the rights of southern power holders.  FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover wrote to the Selective Services director during World War II that white wimyn were in increased danger by the number of Black men not inducted into the military.

In his book “Mind of the South,” Wilbur J. Cash described the southern white mentality thusly, “…any assertion of any kind on the part of the Negro constituted in a perfectly real manner an attack on the Southern [white] woman.”  Dixiecrats used rape as a common metaphor to attack all proposals to change southern race relations.  Noted segregationist Strom Thurmond wrote that efforts to change race relations in the South were attempts to “rape the rights of the states.”  As Jaquelyn Dowd Hall aptly summed it up in her Southern Exposure article “The Mind That Burns in Each Body:” “As absolutely inaccessible sexual property, white women became the most potent symbol of white male supremacy.”

Conversely, white men were free to routinely rape Black wimyn.  W.E.B. DuBois rebutted repeated Dixiecrat uses of rape as metaphors for challenges to the Southern white racist status quo in stating, “The rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the foreheads of millions of mulattoes and written in ineffaceable blood.”  In the same light, James Baldwin answered those whites who depicted Blacks’ struggles for justice and equality as nothing but Black men aspiring to marry the sisters and daughters of white men with an unrebuttable observation, “You’re not worried about me marrying your daughter.  You’re worried about me marrying your wife’s daughter.  I’ve been marrying your daughter since the days of slavery.”  The system of routine rapes of New Afrikan wimyn by white men served as a gendered form of psychological warfare against Blacks to reinforce the dominant status of the white male, (Black men were not deemed to be “men” at all but “boys” because they had no power to protect “their” wimyn), and to repress the Black womyn whose prominent role in productive work and attendant hardships of slave life conditioned her to be quite strong and independent—immensely so in comparison to the “sheltered” white womyn—and the conditioned equal of any man.  Rape of Black wimyn was also practiced as a rite of passage into “manhood” by young white males.  The actual practice of routine rapes of Black wimyn by white men is a feature of slavery and U.S. history that mainstream historians and modern criminologists unanimously evade and gloss over.  Here’s Angela Davis’s assessment:

“Black women were equal to their men in the oppression they suffered; they were their men’s social equal within the slave community; and they resisted slavery with a passion equal to their men’s.  This was one of the greatest ironies of the slave system, for in subjecting women to the most ruthless exploitation conceivable, exploitation which knew no sex distinctions, the groundwork was created not only for Black women to assert their equality through their social relations, but also to express it through their acts of resistance.  This must have been a terrifying revelation for the slave owners, for it seems that they were trying to break this chain of equality through the especially brutal repression they reserved for the women.  Again, it is important to remember that the punishment inflicted on women exceeded in intensity the punishment suffered by their men, for women were not only whipped and mutilated, they were also raped.

“…Rape was a weapon of domination, a weapon of repression, whose covert goal was to extinguish the slave woman’s will to resist, and in the process to demoralize their men.  These observations on the rape of women during the Vietnam War could also apply to slavery: “In Vietnam, the U.S. military command made rape ‘socially acceptable;’ in fact, it was unwritten, but clear policy.”  When GI’s were encouraged to rape Vietnamese women and girls, (and they were sometimes advised to ‘search women’ with their penises), a weapon of mass political terrorism was forged.  Since the Vietnamese women were distinguished by their heroic contributions to their people’s liberation struggle, the military retaliation specifically suited for them was rape.  While women were hardly immune to the violence inflicted on men, they were especially singled out as victims of terrorism by a sexist military force governed by the principle that war was exclusively a man’s affair.

“In the same way that rape was an institutionalized ingredient of the aggression carried out against the Vietnamese people, designed to intimidate and terrorize the women, slave owners encouraged the terroristic use of rape in order to put Black women in their place.  If Black women had achieved a sense of their own strength and a strong urge to resist, then violent sexual assaults…would remind the women of their essential and inalterable femaleness.  In the male supremacist vision of the period, this meant passivity, acquiescence, and weakness.

“Virtually all the slave narratives of the nineteenth century contain accounts of slave women’s sexual victimization at the hands of masters and overseers…

“Despite the testimony of slaves about the high incidence of rape and sexual coercion, the issue of sexual abuse has been all but glossed over in the traditional literature on slavery.”

Davis went on to add:

“One of racism’s salient historical features has always been the assumption that white men—especially those who wield economic power—possess an incontestable right of access to Black women’s bodies.

“Slavery relied as much on routine sexual abuse as it relied on the whip and the lash.  Excessive sexual urges, whether they existed among individual white men or not, had nothing to do with this virtual institutionalization of rape.  Sexual coercion was, rather, an essential dimension of the social relations between slave master and slave.  In other words, the right claimed by slave owners and their agents over the bodies of female slaves was a direct expression of their presumed property rights over Black people as a whole.  The license to rape emanated from and facilitated the ruthless economic domination that was the gruesome hallmark of slavery.

“The pattern of institutionalized sexual abuse of Black women became so powerful that it managed to survive the abolition of slavery.  Group rape, perpetrated by the Ku Klux Klan and other terrorist organizations of the post-Civil War period became an uncamouflaged political weapon in the drive to thwart the movement for Black equality.”

-Women, Race and Class, (Vintage Books: NY 1983)

The role, experience, suffering, resistance and survival of slavery by New Afrikan wimyn alongside their men demonstrated in lived reality that wimyn are the equals of men.  It is therefore no wonder that the early feminist movement found and still finds its greatest inspiration in the image of a slave womyn—Sojourner Truth.  Unlike the middle class white wimyn who have dominated the feminist movement, Sojourner had not lived a sheltered life, so unlike those wimyn she could rebut as living proof the claims made by white men that womyn is innately weak and inferior to man.  This she did in her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech delivered at the 1851 Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

An emancipated slave, Sojourner walked uninvited into the church where the convention was being held, took a seat on the steps in the corner of the pulpit and listened quietly for several days first to the timid arguments of the white wimyn in favor of equal rights, then to the fiery arguments of white male ministers who argued that men were by right to enjoy superior privileges and rights on account of claimed “superior intellect,” because of the “manhood of Christ” and the cardinal “sin of our first mother.”

At this Sojourner rose and approached the pulpit to address the crowd that filled the church and stood outside listening at the windows and doors.  Members of the white crowd—wimyn and men—protested but were hushed by Frances Gage, the convention’s organizer, who announced Sojourner Truth.

Sojourner began “Well children,” fixing her intent gaze on the crowd, “where there is so much racket, there must be something out of kilter.  I think that between the Negroes of the South and the women of the North all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon.  But what’s all this talking about?”  She continued:

“That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere.  Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!  And ain’t I a woman?  Look at me!  Look at my arm.”

And she bared her muscular arm for all to see.

“I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me!  And ain’t I a woman?  I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash just as well!  And ain’t I a woman?  I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all of them sold off to slavery, and when I cried with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me!  And ain’t I a woman?”

“Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it?”

An audience member whispered “intellect.”

“That’s it, honey.  What that got to do with women’s rights and Negroes’ rights?  If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?  Then that little man in black there [she said pointing and looking intensely at the man who’d made the argument], he says women can’t have as much rights as men ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman!  Where did your Christ come from?  From God and a woman!  Man had nothing to do with him.  If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again!  And now they asking to do it.  The men better let them.  Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

With this and to the tune of applause and tears of gratitude on the faces of many of the white wimyn in attendance, Sojourner returned to her seat in the corner.  Gage recalled, “She had taken us up in her strong arms and carried us safely over the slough of difficulty turning the whole tide in our favor.  I have never in my life seen anything like the magical influence that subdued the mobbish spirit of the day, and turned the sneers and jeers of an excited crowd into notes of respect and admiration.  Hundreds rushed up to shake hands with her and congratulate the glorious old mother, and bid her Godspeed on her mission of ‘testifying’ again concerning the wickedness of this here people.”

The hardships of slavery and racism produced of New Afrikan wimyn some of the most outstanding examples that wimyn are not only equals, but in many instances have shown strength and fortitude surpassing that of the typical man.  Our ancestor Harriet Tubman was such a womyn, of much smaller stature than Sojourner Truth.  Harriet Tubman personally led multitudes of slaves on daring escapes and flights to freedom over miles and miles of woodland, roads, fields, and hills on the Underground Railroad; in her own words she stated “I freed thousands of slaves.  I could have freed thousands more if they had known they were slaves.”

Even today, Harriet Tubman bears the distinction of being the only womyn in U.S. history to lead Amerikan soldiers in battle, (during the Civil War).  What made her exceptional?  Nothing except her harsh lived experience in slavery and skills given by her father that enabled her to hunt, forage, and survive off the land.  This combined to give her both the fortitude and ability, fueled by outrage and devotion to her oppressed people, to struggle for freedom.  How many new Afrikan men today could hold a candle to this sista?

Time and again, hardship and necessity have brought the noble and fierce fighting spirit of wimyn to the surface, demonstrating over and over that wimyn are no less witty, strong, able and passionate than men.  Unlike their white counterparts, New Afrikan wimyn have endured brutal oppression not only because of their gender, but because of their race and repressed nationality as well.  Her struggle is therefore against three levels of oppression, whereas that of the Amerikan white womyn’s is but one or two.  However, genuine liberation for ether or both of them can only be achieved by the successful overthrow of the monopoly capitalist political economy, and wimyn must march at the head of such a revolutionary  struggle under the banner of revolutionary wimyn’s liberation.

Wimyn’s Liberation Cannot be Achieved Through Feminism

It was the survival, fortitude, and fearless struggles of wimyn like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, and also many working class white wimyn like Margaret Corin (“Dirty Kate”), “Molly Pitcher,” Deborah Garnet, Mother Jones, Gurley Flynn, the wimyn of the Lowell (Massachusetts) Textile Mills and others, that gave the greatest impetus to the progressive aspirations of feminism.  However, lacking a revolutionary working class perspective, feminism has repeatedly been subverted and contained by the bourgeois enemies of working class wimyn.

Indeed, feminism has always been a movement based in the middle and upper class of privileged white wimyn, a movement that essentially seeks equality of such wimyn with their men in sharing bourgeois privileges in capitalist society.

As Howard Zinn observed, “When feminist impulses are recorded, they are almost always the writings of privileged women who had some status from which to speak freely, more opportunity to write and have their writings recorded.”

The sham movement for “women’s liberation” has each time co-opted and used the image of wimyn who stood firmly opposed to oppression as tools to subvert and marginalize the radical working class and oppressed nationality elements within the wimyn’s liberation movement.  It has in turn merely expanded the ranks of the bourgeois class to include wimyn willing to share in the class oppression of the poor working class people, (wimyn included), and preserved the very system that is at the root of wimyn’s oppression.

Even today “radical feminists” attempt to coopt the image of New Afrikan slave wimyn like Harriet Tubman, proclaiming her to have been a “radical feminist,” when in fact the feminists were part of the class sector that oppressed Blacks, and the illiterate Harriet Tubman had no connection to this toothless white wimyn’s movement at all.

Moreover, even the radical wing of feminists distorts or avoids the hystorical roots of wimyn’s oppression which began with the development of and continues to be based upon the preservation of class society.  They fail to recognize the historic reality that wimyn’s oppression grows out of the property relations and economic mode of production of class-divided societies, and instead substitute a non-historical “patriarchy” in its place.

This is in essence why we oppose feminism and instead promote a struggle for wimyn’s liberation explicitly led by working class wimyn and illuminated by revolutionary class ideology.  For lack of a clear working class and anti-imperialist perspective, the feminist movement has served as a platform for and opened its ranks to every foul element and trend of thought that exists across and indeed sustains imperialist and class society; from the eugenicists of the early 1900’s like Margaret Sanger, who promoted the genocidal extermination of all Blacks in Amerika through mass sterilization and proposed using Black preachers to influence Black wimyn to submit to sterilization; to the daughter of the late billionaire H.L. Hunt who finances various “feminist” foundations; to Laura Bush speaking on the November 17, 2001 presidential radio address in support of the imperialist massacre of Afghanistan in the name of feminist concerns for the Taliban’s oppression of wimyn.

As a movement that has been reduced to a rhetorical culture of “political correctness” that talks wimyn’s equality and places the issue of sexism above class, the feminist mvoement functions as a toothless, vacillating and reformist melting pot that brings wimyn of exactly opposite and irreconcilable classes together in an artificial alliance under a rhetorical banner of seeking equality of wimyn.  Acting under the pretense of being the “collective” voice of oppressed wimyn, mainstream feminism has served only to advance the perspectives and the material interests of privileged wimyn and those who aspire to achieve bourgeois privilege, while leaving the poor working class and oppressed nationality wimyn marginalized, voiceless, and still oppressed.

Some radical elements within the feminist movement have attempted to give voice and recognition to the concerns and issues of working class, poor, and oppressed nationality wimyn, but their voices are largely muted by the dominating voices of middle and upper class wimyn in the movement.  Indeed the two great waves of the wimyn’s liberation movement in Amerika were brought to an end as a result of reforms and bourgeois concessions made by the male-dominated ruling class to the opportunist collaborating sectors of the movement, thereby preserving the imperialist system of working class, national, racial, and gender oppression.

We stand adamantly opposed to the repression of wimyn and the enforced inequalities imposed upon them by patriarchal class society; but because we also recognize that wimyn are indeed the equals of men in every respect, (this is a dialectical reality), we know that an imperialist is an imperialist, a jingoist is a jingoist, a racist is a racist and a class enemy is a class enemy whether they wear pants or a skirt.  So our struggle for wimyn’s equality, while it opposes many of the gender oppressions that even bourgeois wimyn suffer, is guided by principles of class and oppressed nationality liberation.  We therefore promote a principled alliance with the oppressed class/national and advanced elements of the feminist movement, and beseech them to approach the struggle against wimyn’s oppression from the perspective of class and not merely gender struggle.

Class society has succeeded to a great extend in conditioning many wimyn of all sectors to embrace individualism, which is deeply rooted in bourgeois culture, inculcating in them, as in many men, a “me first” mentality.  This mentality is at the root of the trend in feminism of placing wimyn above class.  Whereas class is the principal contradiction, while gender oppression is secondary, in reality nowhere in society have wimyn been more successful in gaining leadership positions than in movements on the Left, but the anti-class tendency toward individualism which such feminist-influenced wimyn have brought with them has aided in the Left’s break-up into factional single issue groups with reformist agendas and a lot of well-feathered nests.  The Left is much to blame on account of uncritically embracing feminism for fear of being criticized as male chauvinist.

Bourgeois society breeds divisiveness and individualism and is ideal for wimyn who aspire to upper class achievements.  They are freed from many of the pre-capitalist feudal restraints and able to rise in power.  The feminist movement has opened the door for this, and we therefore see a growing number of wimyn rising in business and government to high positions, like Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Pelosi.  Many companies now have femyl CEO’s and top executives.  In fact there has been much more of an opening for wimyn than for Black men into the middle class and the bourgeoisie.  Even wimyn of the oppressed class are pulled towards a feminist ideological and political line to some degree.  But what about proletarian ideology and politics?  In its correct application, it stands in contradiction to both male chauvinism and feminism.

And at the same time, we have seen dramatic cutbacks in social services and masses of poor wimyn with children cut from welfare roles.  We’ve seen a rise in sweatshops and in the number of wimyn going to prison and becoming homeless, all without an outcry from the feminists.

What about children’s rights and their need to be loved and nurtured and raised with strong proletarian values and morality?  We must apply Panther Love to them, because a gendered ideology and political line cannot resolve these issues.  Solving these problems demands that we introduce all-sided collectivism in a pragmatic way to draw together wimyn, men, and children in the oppressed communities—wimyn and men who are down for this proletarian line are worthy of recruiting and training as warriors of the vanguard.  To watch out for feminism as well as male chauvinism, we must promote proletarian ideology and egalitarianism among comrades.

Social and economic support bases for single New Afrikan mothers need to be established, such as Party-organized free day care and free meals for children, liberation schools, etc.  But our men must also be encouraged to be good fathers and help to build strong proletarian families.

Sisterhood is a good thing, and wimyn’s inner-party and mass organizations are essential to the struggle of wimyn, but partnerships between men and wimyn to have and raise children is more basic and necessary to humyn society.  Statistics show that children of single parents are in the highest risk categories at double the rate of two parent families.  Most New Afrikan males in U.S. prisons have no father figure in their lives, and many no mother either.  The bourgeoisie of course wants to smash up the families of the oppressed and thus weaken the Black nation and the poor.

Feminism helps this attack on families of the oppressed.  It vilifies men (and particularly white men) as if the problem of wimyn’s oppression is one of genetics.  We see the result of this trend in a competition between white petty-bourgeois feminists and black wimyn for the attention of Black men.  These feminists often claim an ability to better relate to Black men than white men because they are equally “oppressed,” which begs the question: “How many middle class white wimyn are getting beat up by cops and railroaded into prison?”

It’s almost a status thing–(rooted in white middle class privilege)–”Look what I got!”  But in most cases there’s no intention of having a family, which is what Black wimyn want and our New Afrikan Nation needs.

Radical feminism borrows much from Marxism, indeed all feminism does, but with a critical revision rendering it counter-revolutionary.  Whereas Marxism reveals that the oppression of wimyn is rooted in the creation of private property and the division of society into classes, and thus wimyn’s oppression can only be fully eradicated with the abolition of classes and private property, feminists attempt to create the illusion that wimyn’s oppression is the primary source of all other oppression and exists outside of class exploitation, and therefore the class struggle is irrelevant or a side issue to the struggle against wimyn’s oppression.

Patriarchy begins to break down with the rise of the bourgeoisie and liberal democracy.  The main cultural prop of patriarchy is organized religion, which reflects the pre-capitalist (principally the feudalist) mode of production.  As liberalism gives way to overt fascism and resurrects many of the oppressive cultural norms of feudalism, it gives patriarchy a new shot in the arm, but it is class oppression that is at the heart of fascism.  Fascism arises as the bourgeoisie grows desperate to maintain its dominance over the working class due to the decline in capitalism.  This is why Lenin terms fascism as “capitalism in decline.”

Just as they do with Blacks and immigrants, the capitalists summon wimyn into the work force not only to exploit their labor as proletarians, but also to attack the price of the male proletarians’ labor power.  Wimyn’s wages are set lower to pull down the wages of men.  But the feminists blame men in general (and particularly the male proletarians) for these conditions which are created by the bourgeoisie.  Much like backward white workers blame Blacks and immigrants for taking their jobs and driving down their wages, and backward Blacks and immigrants counter with blaming white workers for keeping them out of better salaried jobs and limiting them to “non-white work.”  The workers are thus divided against themselves and diverted from uniting against the bourgeoisie in class struggle.

Indeed, instead of encouraging wimyn to be active in class struggle, feminists dub it as a “men’s movement” and proletarian revolution as a “men’s revolution.”  They encourage wimyn to sabotage and not take part in it.

Feminists make an issue of the percentage of wimyn in leadership positions, as if this and not the ideological and political line that is leading is important.  By this logic, Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, or Condoleeza Rice would be better than Lenin, Mao Tse-tung or Amilcar Cabral.  The role of wimyn is not more important than the role of the proletariat in the class struggle and ending the oppression of wimyn.  Wimyn are not and never have been a class nor do they share a common class interest nor an overall common interest in ending all oppression—including the oppression of wimyn.

Bourgeois wimyn share in and benefit from the general bourgeois oppression of proletarian wimyn, and while they will pretend to back proletarian wimyn in their struggle against gender oppression, their goal will not be to achieve total abolition of all forms of oppression of wimyn, but to add numbers to the ranks of their own movement to achieve greater equality with bourgeois men in reaping the spooils and privileges of capitalist society: A society whose political economy thrives upon the oppression and exploitation of working class wimyn and dividing the working class against itself.

These goals of gaining status and privileges enjoyed by upper class men instead of abolishing class privileges and classes themselves are the root aspirations of the feminist movement, and will remain so long as this movement is led by elements that do not place class struggle foremost and allows middle and upper class wimyn to mold its line.  Has the growth of wimyn bosses changed the reality of class oppression for wimyn workers or their particular oppression as wimyn?  Of course not!

The struggle for wimyn’s liberation will necessarily be protracted, but even in the early stages of socialism significant advances have been made.  These are most evident in the post-socialist countries where capitalism has been restored and these advances have been lost.  The fall of the Socialist Bloc has also led to concessions being lost in the western capitalist countries as well.

Yet radical feminists still deny the connection between the class struggle and wimyn’s rights.  There are now many wimyn CEO’s and wimyn in high places in government and business.  We may even have a womyn president soon (as has occurred in India, the Philippines and other countries), but what does this mean for the masses, for wimyn workers and welfare mothers?

Wimyn are integrated into the armed forces and the police, but what effect has this had on imperialist wars or police state oppression?  Have wimyn guards made prisons more humane?  Have wimyn judges made the courts more just?  Of course not—no more so than the neo-colonial policies of raising Blacks to high political and business positions has changed the economic and national oppression and subjugation of New Afrikan workers or masses in general.

“Divide and Conquer, Divide and Rule,” has forever been the exploiters’ game—the “Golden Rule” of the “Willie Lynch School of Subjugation.”  Get the poor whites to blame the Blacks and the Blacks to blame the poor whites.  Get immigrants and native workers against each other and wimyn against men, and so on…

Unity is what is called for—unity behind the leadership of the international proletariat!  It alone has the class perspective to lead the fight against all oppression.  Narrow nationalism, reverse racism, feminism, religious sectarianism, etc., all objectively serve the ruling class and reflect bourgeois ideology.  Feminists can rant about the “male-dominated Left,” but this doesn’t absolve the bourgeois-dominated wimyn’s movement or its class collaboration and counter-revolutionary role.

“Marxist Feminists” are those who eclectically confuse the two world views.  The fundamental contradiction is not between men and wimyn but between the socialized character of production and the privatized ownership of its means.  To promote clarity, Communists must create and lead their own wimyn’s movement.  It must stand up to the bourgeois feminist movement in its liberal and radical variants, and it must uphold that “women hold up half the sky,” and “workers must unite to lead the fight against all oppression.”

Two Waves of Feminism’s Rise and Decline in Amerika

As pointed out above, the Amerikan feminist movement saw two waves—the initial broad impetus of which came from working class wimyn—but was both times co-opted and subverted into reformism by middle class and bourgeois elements.  Similar methods of using opportunists and middle class collaborators within the oppressed group were applied to undermine our own New Afrikan liberation movements, (the tactic of neo-colonialism), and to undermine the early working class movement of the early 1900’s in Amerika, (buying off labor leaders and making token political and economic concessions to workers).

The first wave of the Amerikan feminist movement was sparked by the resistance of working class white wimyn in textile mills, like the working wimyn of Lowell Massachusetts, and sweatshops, like in the Garment District in NYC.  An attendant impetus was driven by the rising anti-slavery movement in the early 1840s.  White wimyn in general came to see their conditions of domestic servitude to white men as not unlike the chattel enslavement of Blacks.  This rise in consciousness gave rise to a broad movement for wimyn’s equality.  However, towards the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century this movement was co-opted, reduced and channeled into one to win wimyn’s suffrage.

Emma Goldman, a radical feminist who was deported from Amerika in 1919, recognized this reformist trend in feminism of merely seeking wimyn’s suffrage for what it was.  She stated of feminism:

“Our modern fetish is universal suffrage…The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote and help make laws.  Are the labor conditions better there?…”

In a similar vein, in 1911 Helen Keller, an avowed socialist, criticized the same trend in England thusly:

“Our democracy is but a name.  We vote?  What does that mean?  It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed autocrats, Tweedledum and Tweedledee…

“You ask for votes for women.  What good can votes do when ten-elevenths of the land of Great Britain belongs to 200,000 and only one-eleventh to the rest of the 40,000,000.  Have your men with their millions of votes freed themselves from this injustice?”

Lacking a clear revolutionary working class leadership, this first wave of feminism was corralled into a narrow movement of wimyn’s suffrage.  When the wimyn’s vote was granted, the movement petered out.

Although based primarily amongst white wimyn, the second resurgence of feminism found its inspiration in the struggles of the 1960’s, especially by the activism of Black working class wimyn and college students, centered largely in the Student National Coordinating Committee—formerly the Student Non-Violent coordinating Committee—SNCC was itself founded by Ella Baker—a sista who performed much of the behind the scenes work to push the Black Civil Rights movement to the forefront of U.S. politics  Wimyn members of the various radical social movements of the 60’s—anti-war groups, civil rights groups, student organizations, etc.–began coming together to organize against gender oppression.

Wimyn were especially prominent within the Black Liberation Movement; many came to link gender oppression up with class and racial oppression.  Indeed the most advanced Black political formation of that era—the Black Panther Party—came to be in fact, (despite its popularized male image), largely a wimyn’s party.  But the movements of the 1960’s and 70’s were brutally repressed, co-opted and/or bought off by the power structure, and by the influence of feminism—again lacking a consolidated revolutionary working class leadership and ideology, and based largely amongst middle class white wimyn—the Women’s Movement was effectively neutralized as a movement for social justice for wimyn.

The activism of this second wave was diverted—again–by civil reforms, (affirmative action), and the entry of greater numbers of white wimyn into the middle and upper classes, thanks in large part to the restructuring of the U.S. economy, (from factory to service-based), and the “general prosperity” of the time.  Today, feminism is proclaimed by its mainstream voices to have “succeeded” on account of wimyn today enjoying more positions as corporate CEO’s and directors, in high political offices, and in other prominent careers and positions.  Yet for wimyn of color and working class wimyn in Amerika, conditions of poverty and male chauvinist oppression prevail.

Overall, the broader entry of wimyn into the U.s. work force and expanding their roles in the public sector of capitalist society has not won them equality, nor working class liberation.  Violence against wimyn continues; wimyn are still largely kept out of traditionally male fields, they still earn less than men, and amongst the poor and oppressed nationalities and races single wimyn with children predominate.  As with the proclamations of racial equality, wimyn’s equality is promoted as a publicly accepted principle, yet in reality these are empty “politically correct” pronouncements which do not actually exist.  So while wimyn’s aspirations and consciousness concerning gender equality are an existing cultural trend, their struggle for genuine liberation has been subverted and has petered out.

Our Line on Revolutionary Wimyn’s Liberation

We are no more “feminists” than we are “masculinists.”  We are social egalitarians who oppose placing either gender above the other.  But as an oppressed group, wimyn definitely have the right and duty to organize and struggle against their oppressive conditions, against all stereotyped social roles and exploitation by men.  Male revolutionaries must commit to aiding our sistas and ensuring that all forms of oppression against them are ended.

However, we must keep our class perspective foremost.  It is only through class struggle, through materially changing and eliminating gendered categories in the process of socializing productive and reproductive life that we can change how people think.  We need to gain the power to effect these changes.

Some feminists, (and even some comrades), propose ending gender oppression by simply eliminating the social categories of gender by ceasing to classify people as femyl and male.  This idea reverses materialist principles; and supposes that simply by changing how people think we can change material reality.  Whereas, it is our social practice that determines our thinking.  Furthermore, how is it possible not to recognize that the sexes exist as a unity of opposites?  This becomes apparent as soon as we stand naked side by side, as soon as we carry out our respective functions in the reproductive processes, which are at the very root of our existence and survival.

Moreover, the mere fact of gender differences is no more the basis of gender oppression than attempting to ignore them could eliminate gender oppression.  It is the material relationships within societies that brought the contradictions between the sexes into a stage of antagonism which expresses itself as gender oppression and consequent struggles against it.  These are material conditions that developed organically alongside the development of class society.  In order to eliminate wimyn’s oppression, we must eliminate the material social conditions that cause this condition.  We must eliminate class society and consciously socialize all social relations.  Wimyn must participate equally with men in economic, political, military, cultural, and social life.  And these activities must be public activities, mass-based and not monopolized by or centralized into the hands of a small wealthy elite, male or femyl.

These changes cannot happen overnight.  In the process of working towards them, we will definitely persist in certain gendered practices and thoughts.  This is inevitable, since we are the products of a gendered society and have inherited certain behaviors and perceptions over our lifetimes, (and over thousands of years in some cases), that will demand continuous and difficult struggle to overcome.  We are not idealists.  But our path forward is illuminated by the examples, successes, and errors of those who’ve gone before, and it is our duty to study and learn from, apply and advance the lessons of those advances and mistakes.

Our struggle as New Afrikans must begin with the understanding that cultural imperialism has imposed bourgeois concepts of “manhood” and “womanhood” on us, yet these definitions have never fit our lived reality.  This bourgeois warp defines the gender role of the “man” as that of protecting the womyn, whose role as a “lady” is that of being helpless, subservient, passive, and incapable of contributing to the administration and defense of our communities.

Our lived experience contradicts these concepts for several reasons.  First, during and since chattel slavery, our men have been largely prevented from defending our wimyn and communities from violence.  Second, New Afrikan wimyn—because of their prominent role in productive and reproductive life—have endured the “authority” of the husband much less than white wimyn.  Her role throughout U.S. history, (in slavery, domestic service, as a general service-trade wage-earner, etc.), has thrust her into a position of doing manual labor and thereby providing for the productive needs of family and community.  Therefore she has generally exercised greater decision making power in matters of family and community than her white counterpart.

Finally, attempts by New Afrikan men to live up to the bourgeois image of “manhood” often expresses itself in a subculture of exaggerated violence, (directed against ourselves and other poor and powerless social groups), and preoccupation with one’s sexual potency.  The former tendency has our males routinely engagine in irrational, often stupid acts of violence and feigned bravado to “impress” femyls and “prove” manhood.  Yet we’ve never been able to defend ourselves, much less our communities, from the oppression and abuses of the power structure and its violent enforcers.  The latter tendency is in large part a carry over from the degraded role of our men on the old slave plantations.  Particularly after the abolition of the transport of slaves from Afrika, breeding of slaves to increase stock became all-important.  Consequently strong and sexually potent “studs”–like bulls—became among the most prized slaves.

So, as opposed to bourgeois culture, “manhood” for the slave was merely an expression of sexual potency, (how many wimyn the male could sexually use and impregnate).  We see traits of this today in Black communities: young males boast about how many “baby mamas” they have while being unable or unwilling to assume responsibility for the welfare and upbringing of the children they have produced.  There is also the frequent practice of young males holding their crotches to emphasize or exaggerate the size and potency of their sex organ.

Class society socialized its members to believe that the man should be the principal provider.  Much of the disrespect and exploitation of wimyn by the poor, unemployed lumpen comes from feelings of emasculation at not being able to assume the role of working class breadwinner due to the high unemployment of young Black males.  In turn the males assume such funky patriarchal roles of pimps in the “Daddy/Baby” relationship to the “Ho,” reflecting the master and slave relationship that is the essence of patriarchy.  The pimp as the owner, the prostitute as his property.

Bourgeois concepts of “womanhood” also do not apply to Black wimyn.  As Sojourner Truth pointed out, our sistas have never enjoyed the general “privilege” of being sheltered, pampered, and protected.  Nor have they been passive, submissive and deferential in their domestic life.  Domination over Black wimyn by their men has remained relatively weak.  Still, the pervasive imperialist-manufactured urban youth sub-culture encourages our males to denigrate our sistas.  They are projected as sex objects, concubines and prostitutes, to be used and depreciated by men, not to be loved, appreciated, and respected as the other half of our Nation, as producers, reproducers, and indeed as the source of our very existence.  In fact it has been the almost super-humyn strength and struggle of our wimyn that has allowed us to survive as long as we have.

Since the close of chattel slavery in 1865, (excluding prisoners), New Afrikan wimyn have remained prominent in performing the hard productive and reproductive work necessary to sustain our communities both in the rural and urban sectors.  From planting and harvesting, to working as domestic servants, to doing factory work, to now struggling to maintain employment within the service trades, our wimyn have always assumed a major role in the productive work to pay the bills and put food on the table.  What’s more, our sistas’ burden in sustaining our communities and families is attended by combined gender, racial and class oppression.  Indeed, our males, acting under the influence of bourgeois concepts of “manhood” while excluded from participation in bourgeois society, have supported and aided in the oppression of our wimyn.  As George Jackson observed in a letter to his mother:

“The Black woman has in the past few hundred years been the only force holding us together and holding us up.  She has absorbed the biggest part of the many shocks and strains of existence under a slave order.  The men can think of nothing more effective than pimping, gambling or petty theft.  I’ve heard men brag about being pimps of Black women and taking money from black women who are on relief.  Things like this I find odious, disgusting—You are right, the Black men have proven themselves to be utterly detestable and repulsive in the past.  Before I would succumb to such subterfuge I would scratch my living from the ground on hands and knees, or die in a hail of bullets!  My hat goes off to every one of you.  You have my profoundest respect…The men of our group have developed as a result of living under a ruthless system a set of mannerisms that numb the soul.  We have been made the floor mat of the world, but the world has yet to see what can be done by men of our nature, by men who have walked the path of disparity, of repression, of abortion, and yet come out whole.  There will be a special page in the book of life for the men who have crawled back from the grave.  This page will tell of utter defeat, ruin, passivity, and subjection in one breath, and in the next, overwhelming victory and fulfillment.”

In order to take our place in history as men, as revolutionary men, and not to be defined by and ape bourgeois culture, we must join with our sistas in the collective process of building, nurturing, and sustaining our communities and nation.  Wimyn and men together must assume equal roles in our cultural, social, political, productive and reproductive life.  Neither our brothas, nor our sistas, are slaves or property, and we must cease relating to ourselves as such!  These twisted concepts have us treating our wimyn and sex as commodities, (articles of property), to be given to men in exchange for material gifts and “protection.”

In building and serving our communities and nation, material equality for our wimyn must be developed and practiced.  Only in this way will we undermine the prevailing subjective advantages our men have been conditioned to believe they have over our sistas, entitling them to demean, marginalize, use, abuse, and oppress them.  And only in this way will we survive as a people and be strong enough to end our oppression.

Our men’s very concept of social significance and their warped notions of “manhood” will be challenged by sistas who actively and effectively take the lead in a collective unified and organized manner to advance our Nation’s struggle for survival and against imperialist oppression.  With wimyn taking the lead, shoulder to  shoulder with our revolutionary brothas, (our “New Men”), and youth, the other so called “men” will be compelled to either recognize sistas as their equals and unite with their mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, lovers, and wives in support of our struggle, or be widely recognized as less than the men they claim and define themselves to be.

Lessons to be Drawn from the Black Panther Party

In this struggle, important lessons can be taken from the practical work of the original BPP, its effects on gender relations in the New Afrikan communities it served, and its broader implications within revolutionary struggle.  In this context it is important to point out that rural peasant-based societies typically retain strong communal ties, (remnants of kinship), at least subjectively.  All of the successful revolutionary struggles of last century occurred in societies where peasants were the majority: in Russia, China, Vietnam, Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Cuba, etc.  This is because, as a people accustomed to relating to social members in a sense of kinship and community, peasants are more readily able to unite in a community-wide struggle against oppressive forces once they become organized and conscious of being oppressed, of who is oppressing them, and the methods by which that oppression is imposed.  In this regard rural people are more ready to accept political discipline.

However, in the case of oppressed urban folk in developed capitalist societies in particular, senses of kinship and community have been largely destroyed through their constant experiences of having to hustle, compete, and scramble on an individualized basis against their peers to survive.  This is especially reinforced by the division of communities into small nuclear families which do not see themselves as dependent on each other for overall survival and protection of the community and each other.  The imperialist system has conditioned them to look to outside forces—the imperialist corporate workplace, government and police—for these things—forces that prey upon and oppress rather than serve the interests and needs of these communities.

Furthermore, in the urban New Afrikan communities the sense of kinship in even the small nuclear family has been shattered under our neo-colonial conditions.  In our urban communities both wage earning and child care fall largely on the shoulders of our wimyn.  Our men have been increasingly alienated from both productive and reproductive life.  Dwindling jobs, racist and class-based stereotypes, and massive imprisonment of young Black males have made it increasingly difficult for them to find and maintain work, especially non-degrading work.  They are pushed into illegal capitalist pursuits, or chasing remote dreams of brief careers as entertainers or athletes.  Moreover, the dominant chauvinist culture has conditioned them to view child-rearing as essentially a womyn’s vocation.  The socially destructive result is that our children are growing up without positive male role models and examples.  It was in its moves toward solving this great social problem that one of the greatest achievements of the BPP can be found.

The BPP was able to transform the competitive and individualistic “lumpenized” (broken), urban mentality in the Black communities it served into a communal one.  The key was its focus on mobilizing the entire community around something that its individual members were able to place above their personal interests: their kids.

In the U.S. government’s anti-Panther crusade, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover fingered the BPP as the single greatest threat to U.S. domestic “security.”  The most fearsome thing he said the Panthers were doing was the Free Breakfast for Children Program (FBCP).  What made a program that served free wholesome meals to hungry poor Black children such a dangerous activity?  It was the program’s practical ability to counter the Black communities’ conditioned dependence upon the imperialist system.

The FBCP struck at the heart of this system and its values.  It brought together in public communal and cooperative productive and reproductive life all ages and groups in the communities, including wimyn, men and youth, and thereby built that sense of unified, community oriented, self-sufficiency and kinship that predominated in our historical communal societies.

The Panthers’ FBCP demonstrated by practical example, along with the BPP’s other Serve the People programs, that working together in unified, community-based and gender-neutral structures, even the poorest of people can solve their own problems without need of begging for handouts and crumbs from the imperialist system.  The FBCP implemented  gender-neutral, socialist programs that brought out the collective community to serve and meet its own economic needs and collectively participate in child rearing.  This was a move toward revolutionizing urban life.  It focused on investing collective energy into the children, as they most clearly reflected the future they were struggling for.  The Panthers educated and demonstrated by example and mass participation that socialistic practice was the answer to the problems of the people.

As martyred Panther leader Fred Hampton Sr. observed, it was the Panthers’ service to the people that most securely welded the communities to the Party and vice-versa.  He noted that when the cops attempted to alienate the Black communities from the Panthers by emphasizing to them that the BPP was a communist and socialist party, the consistent response they got from community members was they didn’t care what the Panthers or the FBCP were, because they were feeding their children and providing services for community needs that the government couldn’t, wouldn’t, and had long ignored.  And if the cops touched those programs they would get the communities’ collective foot put up their pig asses.  In fact on many occasions when the cops laid siege to and threatened to conduct assault raids on BPP offices, the communities came out en masse, surrounded the Panther building, and themselves drove the pigs off.

But what relevance does this all have to the question of and answer to wimyn’s oppression?  Well, point is, as former panther Malika Adams expressed, the BPP’s community service programs, (which were staffed and implemented on a collective, public and community-based level), engaged in activities that were traditionally viewed as “wimyn’s work,” such as feeding children, taking care of the sick, etc.  They also implemented activities to provide for the basic economic needs of the communities.  What’s more the Party, which had a largely femyl membership because of this orientation, saw many of the wimyn comrades face armed confrontations with police side by side with men in the Party.  Thus, the Panthers brought into public life the work of acquiring survival necessities for the community, nurturing the community, caring for children and community members, passing along moral values, and community defense.

It combined both traditionally male-centered and womyn-centered roles in community service programs, carried out by men and wimyn of various ages.  Furthermore, it gave wimyn leadership roles in the Party at a time when wimyn were largely blocked out of leadership positions everywhere else, including within civil rights groups.  While the rise of wimyn into leading ranks of the BPP came with considerable struggle against typical male machismo, intolerance, insolence and disrespect early on, the wimyn demonstrated courage, shared brutality at the hands of the pigs and refused to accept male-imposed limitations.  This caused much of the resistance to give way.  Wimyn held such a dominant position in the BPP that Panther vet Mumia Abu-Jamal referred to the BPP as a “woman’s party.”  In Sista Malika’s words, “women ran the BPP pretty much.  I don’t know how it got to be a male’s party or thought of as being a male’s party.”

These sistas didn’t stand on the sidelines huffing and puffing, refusing to join the BPP because it was initially male-dominated.  Instead they recognized the overall need of its presence and work in uniting, serving, and uplifting the oppressed New Afrikan communities.  From inside the party these revolutionary wimyn struggled against the resistance of the males to advance the leading role of wimyn—they proved their determination, fortitude, equal ability to the males and basically forced equal treatment and respect as comrades.  This is how revolutionary work proceeds.  Not by folks trailing behind the movement waving and criticizing and refusing to join “men’s” parties.  They must join the movement and struggle from within to resolve its inner contradictions and strengthen it, recognizing the dialectical relationship between gender and class oppression, thereby enabling it to struggle resolutely to resolve the external contradictions of bourgeois class society.

The BPP in its practice even struck a blow against the bourgeois concept of the nuclear family and marriage.  Their members lived in communal houses, and wimyn as well as men selected their partners freely from amongst other Panthers.  This is not to say that many Panthers did not function as married couples or live in nuclear families, but in either case there was struggle over gender roles and to put politics in command.

And like our New Afrikan sistas, who struggled alongside our brothas throughout our ordeal of chattel slavery, Panther wimyn were anything but weak.  Comrade Mumia has these reminiscences of Panther wimyn:

“When I read or hear critics employ their projections against the BPP on charges of sexism I can barely conceal a chuckle for my memories of women in the Party were of able, determined and powerful revolutionaries who fought with and for their brothers like lionesses.

“Women in the Party in which I spent several years of my youth were not dainty, shrinking violets.  They were, of course, of various backgrounds and, as is common in Black America, of every which hue.

“They were also tough women.

“We lived in spartan, virtually bare ‘Panther Pads,’ where we fell onto mattresses at the end of a long day’s work.

“Whether I was in Philadelphia, the Bronx, or in Berkeley, California, I was under the authority of a female Panther who ran a tight and efficient operation…

“On both coasts, in cities of different rhythms and pace, one found confident, capable, proud and inspiring women who commanded respect, camaraderie, intense loyalty, and sisterly love.

“We knew from experience that they would be treated as viciously as we if they fell into the hands of the enemy, and we loved them all the more for their courage and their sacrifice.  We knew, and could recite, the names of our sisters who were political prisoners of the pigs, and their names were like a mantra of resistance: Ericka Huggins, Angela Davis, Afeni Shakur, Joan Bird…

“As for sex, women chose their partners as freely as the men, and many could and did say no…

“To be a Panther meant something extraordinary in 1970, and one felt immensely honored to know, work with, and love these tough, committed women.  These were, as Elaine Brown would later recount, ‘hard’ women who were seen as ‘soldiers, comrades—not pretty little things.’  They were, to use Eldridge Cleaver’s words, our ‘other half,’ who fought as ‘strongly as enthusiastically as we [did]…in the struggle…’

“In the ranks and offices of the Black Panther Party, women were far more than mere appendages of male ego and power.  They were valued and respected comrades who demonstrated daily the truth of the adage ‘a revolutionary has no gender.’”

Furthermore, at a time when many social justice movements were uncertain how or if to relate the question of the oppression of homosexuals to their own agendas, BPP Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton acknowledged that gays are not enemies of the people and indeed may be the most oppressed social group.  He pointed out in his August 1970 statement on “the Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements,” that many men’s first instinct is “to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth.”  Not because they’ve done one any wrong, but because many of us men are insecure about our own manhood.  He gave the example that this is a result of social conditioning in class society, which caused him to feel male homosexuality a threat but not femyl homosexuality.  Huey took the novel position that we should cease in derogatory and oppressive behaviors toward gays and instead ally with them in the struggle.

In our struggle against imperialism and patriarchy, the BPP offered much that we can learn from, apply and advance.  As a genuinely revolutionary program, the Panthers were the first structure to pursue socializing both productive and reproductive humyn relations in a gender neutral fashion, thereby creating a genuinely revolutionary communal culture in one of the most reactionary and competitive of social environments.

In our struggle today people have to be allowed to make lifestyle choices, and the NABPP has to defend that right, whether it is to be single or married, gay or straight, to be interracial in preference or whatever, we don’t want to fall into the “racial purity” bullshit.  In fact in today’s world there are no “pure” races.  But we can understand why Black wimyn get pissed off when middle and upper class white wimyn throw themselves at Black (Latino and Indian) males, particularly when the guys leave these sistas with all the child raising responsibilities.

Furthermore, our NABPP must be mindful in denouncing feminism to not replicate internalizing patriarchal values, as other parties on the Left have done.  On this point there’s much we can learn from the observations of comrade Parvati, head of the Women’s Department of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), in her “The Question of Women’s Leadership in People’s War in Nepal.”  Comrade Parvati noted:

“Since the feminist movement is a product of the bourgeois revolution, quite often communist parties tend to become hyper-sensitive to women’s issues.  As a result they fall prey to patriarchal values even while agreeing in theory to women’s liberation.  This is manifested in many ways.  For example instead of taking women as reliable long-term equal partners in the communist movement it takes women’s role as supportive.  As a result the Party is often found overemphasizing the class struggle at the cost of gender exploitation forgetting the dialectical relationship between the two.  There have been cases of delaying the formation of separate women’s organization or even temporarily dismissing existing women’s organization within communist parties.  In parties where separate women’s organization exists, there are cases where the women’s mass front is not given the required degree of freedom so as to make their own plans and programmes, thus robbing them of initiative and creative power.  This ultimately breeds alienation and tailism in the party.  This can also take place by not coordinating the women’s programme with the party’s programme and as a result the party programme gets priority over the women’s programme.  Conservativism in the party can also be seen through relegating women cadres to only women related work, thereby robbing them of the chance to develop in party policy matters and other fields.

“In the practical front, this leads to spontaneity whereby women’s issues are addressed but not implemented because one leaves it to circumstances, leading to gradualism.  Often it is seen that the party does not actively intervene in the existing traditional division of labor between men and women whereby men take to mental work while women are left to do physical labor.  This is also manifested in taking men and women as absolute equals by not being sensitive to women’s special condition and their special needs.  This becomes all the more apparent when women are menstruating or are in the reproductive period.”

Because in class society wimyn have been assigned to roles as servants and were long held out of spheres of mental work, they have little experience at leading in political arenas.  In a revolutionary party leadership ability is based upon one’s command of ideology and its correct application.  Hence we must advance our sistas to positions of leadership by developing their political and ideological understanding and application of Historical and Dialectical Materialism, and their practice of class struggle, inner-party struggle and inner-self struggle.

It is also imperative in today’s struggle that we develop and implement affirmative programs that will provide for our sistas’ independent security and self defense, to act as a brake on 1) tendencies toward male domination and 2) tendencies to stereotype national and community defense as exclusively male functions.  In this way we can struggle against male “macho” tendencies which seek to “protect” wimyn or prove oneself, which as a comrade recently pointed out to me is “synonymous most often with stupidity.”  We must equalize the roles and positions of our sistas in these areas to give them both the means and confidence to defend themselves and our communities and thus pull the carpet from under the very concept of patriarchy that wimyn must be men’s passive playthings, subservient, and weak because dependent on males for protection.  But even in this endeavor we must keep politics and our class interests in command.  All our efforts—economic, political, defense, cultural, and social—must be regulated and illuminated by historical and dialectical materialism.




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