From BR/RN: It is often said that history is a weapon but it also serves as a reflection of the past through which we make better sense of the present. With this in mind we present Julia Tenenbaum’s narrative on anarchist feminism which emerged as a distinct current from the larger radicalization of the 1960s and 70s period. You can purchase a copy of Perspectives issue 29, which this article appeared in, from AK Press here!
Capitalist society depends on class exploitation. It does not though depend on sexism and could in theory accommodate to a large extent a similar treatment of women and men. This is obvious if we look at what the fight for women’s liberation has achieved in many societies around the world over the last, say, 100 years, where there has been radical improvements in the situation of women and the underlying assumptions of what roles are natural and right for women. Capitalism, in the meantime, has adapted to women’s changing role and status in society.
Originally published in RAG, magazine of the Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, Dublin, Ireland, no. 2, Autumn 2007. From the author: Special thanks to Tamarack and José Antonio Gutiérrez for their feedback and suggestions. www.ragdublin.blogspot.com | Text from www.anarkismo.net
The collapse of the Grenadian Revolution on Oct. 19, 1983 should be carefully examined for the lessons that it might offer to organisers in the Caribbean who are currently organising with the labouring classes. If the working class shall be the architect of its liberation, the process of revolution-making should enable them to fulfil that role. Fundamental change should not be the outcome of a vanguard force that usurps the initiative of the people.
Class difference and the way in which it divides women was an issue women in the feminist movement talked about long before race. In the mostly white circles of a newly formed women’s liberation movement the most glaring separation between women was that of class. White working-class women recognised that class hierarchies were present in the movement. Conflict arose between the reformist vision of women’s liberation which basically demanded equal rights for women within the existing class structure, and more radical and/or revolutionary models, which called for a fundamental change in the existing structure so that models of mutuality and equality could replace the old paradigms. However, as the feminist movement progressed and privileged groups of well-educated white women began to achieve equal access to class power with their male counterparts, feminist class struggle was born.
Text from the website of the North-eastern Federation of Anarchist Communists.
In the past two years, the issue of gay marriage has dominated the scene of queer struggles. Some of us are actively supportive, others, grudgingly supportive, and more others who rail that yet again, queer struggles are being monopolized by assimilationist, middle class versions of normality and family: “We are the same as you, except for in bed.”
Some supporters of gay marriage point to the economic benefits of marriage. Working class and poor queers need marriage to help alleviate their poverty; immigrant queers need marriage to get US citizenship. I agree. Yet, let’s not forget that many queers will never get married because of their suspicions of state institutions. Granting gay marriage doesn’t guarantee that immigrant spouses get visas or are free from ICE harassment. Also, around us we see families for whom marriage has not helped alleviate the race and class oppressions that they face everyday….
One of the chief ideological disputes between the Spanish anarchists and communists during the Civil War was the anarchists’ insistence that social revolution should not be postponed until the war was won; without the social revolution (by which they meant the defeat of authoritarianism and the transformation of all social and economic relations and institutions to permit maximum individual freedom, self-expression, and spontaneity), the war would be just another changing of the guard, so familiar in Spanish history.
Source:Journal of Contemporary History,
Vol. 6, No. 2 (1971), pp. 101-110. Originally found at: the Zine Library, http://zinelibrary.info/ (attempted access on 12 September 2015, showed the site to be down)
Privilege and the theory around it is a significant topic of debate at the moment among those interested in radical social change. Touching on many issues dear to the hearts of anarchists, it is hard to avoid. Yet, the two are not fitting together as well as they should and there is a sense of unease about this. Much of this is because privilege theory has emerged from US academic circles rather than anarchist ones and, ironically, has been co-opted to protect middle- class privileges. This is a situation in need of repair if we are to maintain our links with feminist, anti- racist and other struggles against oppression. If we are to create a mass movement capable of social change then it has to be able to engage with everyone in the first place.
An important principle of anarchism and one that more than any other differentiates it from other types of socialism is its emphasis on freedom and non-hierarchical social relations.
Central to anarchism is the rejection of any power hierarchy between men and women. Anarchists believe that the liberty of one is based on the liberty of all and so there can be no true anarchist society without an end to all existing structures of domination and exploitation, including naturally the oppression of women. As anarchists we believe that the means determines the end. This means that we do not wait for some future revolution to tackle the problems of sexism but instead see that it is important to struggle against it in the here and now. As anarchists we strive to ensure that both our own organisations and also those campaigns we are involved in are free from sexism and power-hierarchies and that all members have equal decision-making power.
I’ve been blissfully ignorant of these ideas of privilege and the concept of checking it until very recently. It came across my radar after the fall out of a twitter row. A set of ideas were put forward, and argument was made. The response to this argument boiled down to the person was writing it from a perspective of “white male privilege”. The issues were side stepped.
I assumed that this was an abuse of a theory that I didn’t understand, that privilege theory wasn’t simply a handy tool to dismiss an argument because you don’t like the person making it. I asked on twitter for some links so I could find out what this theory was really about. The most interesting and by interesting I mean the most infuriating was A Class Struggle Anarchist Analysis of Privilege Theory – from the Women’s Caucus.
This talk is at a midpoint between being an original work, and being an exegesis of Selma’s James justly famous “Sex, Race and Class.” This astonishingly brilliant work contains within itself the clear foundations of a historical materialist, or Marxist, conception of the relationship between capitalism and oppression. Because I have mixed in many of my own original points, both intentionally and no doubt by accidental misinterpretation, I would strongly suggest everyone here goes and reads the original.
This text is taken from an audio recording of a talk and discussion in the Black Rose anarchist social centre in Sydney on the theme of identity politics and its relevance today. The text is taken from the website of the Workers’ Solidarity Movement. Go to the WSM site here
“In my experience working with a multitude of anti-racist organising projects over the years, I frequently found myself participating in various workshops in which participants were asked to reflect on their gender/race/sexuality/class/etc. privilege. These workshops had a bit of a self-help orientation to them: “I am so and so, and I have x privilege.” It was never quite clear what the point of these confessions were. It was not as if other participants did not know the confessor in question had her/his proclaimed privilege. It did not appear that these individual confessions actually led to any political projects to dismantle the structures of domination that enabled their privilege…”