Category Archives: Women

On the 104th Anniversary of IWD – For Feminism and Socialism!

A Socialist International women’s conference in Copenhagen in 1910 launched International Women’s Day globally in 1911. Trotskyist parties, including the predecessor organization of Socialist Action / Ligue pour l’Action socialiste in the Canadian state, re-launched the modern IWD in 1978. For good reason.

Women’s oppression is rooted in the capitalist system. As with heterosexism, racism, environmental destruction and war, capitalism profits from discrimination, dispossession and plunder.

Continue reading On the 104th Anniversary of IWD – For Feminism and Socialism!

NDP Childcare Plan – a step forward

Thomas Mulcair, Nathan CullenThough federal New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair rules out hiking taxes on corporations and the super-rich, and promotes investment in climate-wrecking fossil fuels and pipelines, the party’s campaign for a cross-country child care plan is a breath of fresh air.
Stealing a march on the ruling Conservatives and the third party Liberals, the labour-based NDP Official Opposition launched its election platform, more than a year before the anticipated 2015 vote. It did so with a pledge to create one million $15-a-day child care spaces across the country within eight years.
While the time frame resembles the agonizing pace recently proposed by Mulcair for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour (i.e. by the year 2018), it has the merit of putting child care back at the top of the political agenda.
It also represents a step away from years of retrenchment and towards the expansion of public services.
BuimVSnIAAAnuuC.jpg largeThe NDP plan depends on partnership with the provinces. Ottawa would fund 370,000 child care spaces at a federal cost of $1.87 billion. The annual cost to create or maintain one million affordable spaces would rise to more than $5 billion by 2023 when the plan is fully implemented.
The provinces would be responsible for 40 per cent of the program’s costs. Mulcair points out that some provinces like Ontario, which has two years of full-day kindergarten, are already spending heavily in early childhood education and care. The aim, which may miss-fire on this point, is to have most provinces signed on to the program.
The prospect of success is a testament to the demands of millions of working parents who clamour for economic relief. While workers’ incomes have been frozen or shrinking for decades, the cost of living continues to rise. Toronto parents can pay up to $2000 a month for child care with average costs eating up more than 18 per cent of average Canadian family income. A $15 a day, or $300 a month plan would be a real boon. Quebec now provides $7 per day childcare.
Across Canada there are licensed child-care spaces for just 22.5 per cent of children under age 5 at a time when more than 73 per cent of young mothers are working.
After the Conservatives won the 2005 federal election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper scrapped a Liberal child care plan, which the Liberals spent 13 years discussing, and replaced it with a $100 monthly payout for parents with young children. In late October, under mounting pressure from the NDP, Harper said his government will increase the benefit next Spring to $160 a month – which is still far short of the private costs most parents face. A public plan could meet the social need, and do so at a higher standard of care.
The question is, assuming there is broad provincial agreement, how would Mulcair fund the federal share of the program he proposes. And how would he meet similarly urgent needs in the areas of education, health care, social housing, public transportation, and conversion to a green energy system?
There is no indication that Mulcair is prepared to cut the military budget, make industrial polluters clean up their mess, and steeply tax big business and the banks – all of which would be modest but necessary steps towards a Workers’ Agenda.
— BW

Celia Sanchez, Heroine of the Cuban Revolution

a book review by Judy Koch

Published in December 2013 (Monthly Review Press, New York, 441 pages), this is a biography of Celia Sanchez, written by Nancy Stout.
Celia Sanchez was one of the few female leaders of the Cuban Revolution. Little has been written about Cuba’s female leaders. Celia had a close relationship with Fidel Castro. Fidel understood and appreciated that Celia’s great political and revolutionary strength lay in her organizational capacity, as well as her sacrifice and commitment. She was the first female guerrilla — mostly unknown to North Americans. Award-winning author Alice Walker states in the foreword that Celia Sanchez was the extraordinary expression of a life that can give humanity a very good name. She is the medicine for sick societies.

556Born on May 9, 1920, she had seven siblings. Her mother died when Celia was six. She suffered anxiety from this loss. Her father was a country doctor, who Celia helped in his clinic. Everyday she would talk to his patients, to find out why they came. He was consulted about family matters, heard confessions, and sometimes acted as a marriage broker. He did not expect all patients to pay. Celia did that work for fifteen years. She managed his accounts and soon organized his life completely. He also had a taste for history and a library of many books. He was a political activist who wanted a better future for all Cubans.
Celia liked outdoor activities, deep sea fishing, picnics and flowers. Every Christmas she bought toys in bulk to give to children of poor parents. This helped to provide a cover for all the revolutionary things that she did. She was very secretive. She liked sewing and learned how to make patterns.
Her lover, Salvador Sadurni, died on June 9, 1937 when she was 16. After that she was inoculated against love.
Celia worked with Frank Pais before he died. She said up a network of people to plan the return of Fidel to Cuba. She was also assigned to get Fidel’s men out of the region after they landed. She talked to local farmers, most of whom were against Batista. She was told to select people who did not know each other. They were given basic military training. She played a key role in the landing of the Gramna boat on Cuba’s shore. As a result Batista ordered her capture – dead or alive. Her escape was aided by the fact that she was the granddaughter of Juan Sanchez Barro, one of the richest men in Cuba. Also, Celia had been a beauty Queen. As a result, upper class people offered to hide her.
_57173680_dscf4354Celia founded an induction center to help assemble, train and house the new recruits to the rebel army. She also found an inconspicuous way to get them food. She was preparing to go into the mountains with the guerrillas when Frank Pais got arrested. She had to take over Frank’s work. Still Celia was the first woman inducted into the rebel army. She considered her time in the Sierra Maestra to be the best time of her life.
Celia and Fidel worked closely together long before they ever met. When they met they became inseparable until the day of her death. celiassanchezmetwapenThey had a thriving revolutionary partnership, both devoting their lives to freeing the Cuban people. Celia kept records of almost everything those around her did during the revolution. She said that being a guerrilla was the best time of her life. She began to take care of Fidel in the manner written below. She prepared his coffee, made sure his uniform was clean and tidy, and his boots cleaned and repaired. She was also responsible for making sure that the rebels had enough food. She set up a telephone system so that Fidel could communicate to the front from his headquarters, and set up a chain of couriers.
One of their accomplishments was adopting many orphaned children and raising them. together. She helped develop Cuban cigars, especially the Cohiba. She founded the Coppelia Ice Cream Park, the Convention Center and the Lenin Park. She established an official residence for all five members of the rebel junta, Fidel, Che, Camilo and Raul as well as herself. She began working on her archives. She established hotels all over Cuba. In 1969 she concentrated in giving Cubans footwear. She figured out a way to protect gays and lesbians. She died from lung cancer on January 11, 1980. Fidel cried at her funeral.
The author talked to many people who knew Celia, both family and friends, to get an overall account of what she was like and her accomplishments. She was definitely a daughter of the Cuban Revolution. All people interested in changing the world should read this book as it shows how this can be done.

A manifesto: Feminism is ‘pro-life’



— BARCELONA — The debate in political circles and in the media in recent decades around the question of abortion has been accompanied by a growing monopoly ownership of the defense of the right to life by the Right, in a way that skillfully counter-poses it to the feminist demand of the right to choose.

Although we as feminists have defended ourselves against these Sibylline accusations of egoism and/or infanticide, coming from the propaganda machine of the Catholic Church and its secular followers, we should recognize that our attempts at questioning the defense of life as the exclusive instrument of the Right have so far produced very few results. As “anti-choice” as they may be, the anti-choice activists are known by everyone as “pro-life,” and as pro-life as it may be, the feminist movement is still identified as “pro-abortion.”

However, apart from its calculated polarization, this logic is wrong. Feminism defends life. And it always has done. And that is why at a time when the paragons of traditional morality come out of their burrows to attack once again freedom and the right to decide, in a context where the cuts and the caverns combine to resurrect the vision of women as submissive and full of abnegation, it is more than ever necessary from a strategic perspective to assert feminism as being profoundly pro-life and to get rid of the semantic corset that is being imposed on us from outside.

A feminist pro-life manifesto does not only strengthen the demand for women’s freedom and autonomy as key elements of women’s struggle: it also allows us, at a time when the Right is back on the offensive, criminalizing us and robbing us of our rights, to assert and substantiate our re-appropriation of life as emancipatory path and guiding principle. Here is a first draft:

A question of rights…

1) Feminism defends the right of women to terminate their pregnancies in a safe manner. As the World Health Organization stresses, the prohibition of abortion only serves to increase maternal mortality; today, on a world scale, 47,000 women die each year because they terminate their pregnancy in a clandestine way. Thirteen percent of maternal deaths are due to unsafe abortions, and the majority of cases occur in countries with restrictive legislation on abortion.

The number of voluntary terminations of pregnancy does not diminish when legislation is harsh; on the other hand, the number of dangerous abortions increases. It is out of respect for the memory of all those women who, while trying to exercise their right not to have a child, have found themselves in unsanitary situations, have risked their lives or indeed died, that feminism is pro-life.

2) According to the UN, the term “clandestine and unsafe abortion” refers not only to risks to the health and the lives of women, but also to the negation of their right to information, to life and to freedom. Thus, this type of abortion does not just represent a health problem; it is first and foremost a question of human, social, and economic rights.

The many obstacles that prevent women from accessing abortion in a free and equal way—for example, the fact of having the means necessary to travel and/or pay for a discreet private clinic, their age, place of residence, country of origin or administrative position—are not only patently hypocritical, they are also discriminatory. If all of these barriers still exist in the present legislation of the Spanish state concerning abortion, they will increase if the Popular Party carries out its threat to reform that legislation. It is because it is determined to eliminate these barriers that feminism is pro-life.

3) The main factors that promote the reduction of unwanted pregnancies and abortions among young women are the increased use of contraceptives, better access to information and better sexual and relationship education: all that has been demanded for years by the feminist movement.

In spite of the fact that this same Right that calls us “anti- life” is opposed to our young people having safe, free, and intelligent sexual relations, it is necessary and urgent to create and transmit a model of sexuality that is rewarding, mature, and safe. We will not succeed in doing that by hypocritically advocating abstinence or by silence, but rather by ensuring that young people’s choices are increasingly based on information, freedom, and mutual respect. It is by its firm defense of the prevention of unwanted pregnancies—and therefore, of abortions—on the basis of the transmission of values of equality and autonomy that feminism is pro-life.

… for everyone, men and women!

4) In his delusional crusade against women’s right to choose, the minister Gallardón threatens to make the present legislation even more restrictive than it was in 1985, and he proposes suppressing the criterion of fetus malformation as a reason for abortion. He does so with the argument that all those people who have been born or are “about to be born” with any kind of disability must have the same rights as other citizens.

As feminists, we can already wonder how the right-wing forces at the head of and in the shadow of the government have the impudence to proclaim themselves heroic saviors of a section of society to which they deny any kind of dignified existence through their measures of austerity and privatization in the services, programs and other forms of support to people with limited autonomy.

Is the Popular Party not rather seeking to create a situation where it is families, and women in particular, who take sole responsibility for those that the PP forces to be born, but in whom it loses interest from the very first minute of their lives?

The same families and the same women that they drive into poverty because of their fraudulent rescue of the banks and their destruction of the Welfare State?

It is by its firm denunciation of this imposture, which pretends to defend social rights from Monday to Thursday while destroying them by their decrees just before the weekend, that feminism asserts itself, today more than ever, as pro-life.

5) The Popular Party not only forces women to become mothers against their will, it also prevents many other women, who want to be mothers and feel prepared for it, to actually become mothers. It does this through the defense of forced sterilization of people with psychic disabilities, despite the opposition of social organizations and the recommendations of the UN. It does so by opposing before the Constitutional Tribunal marriage between people of the same sex, because it considers that only the heterosexual family is the “natural” framework for raising children.

And it does so by preventing women living alone and lesbians from having access to public services of medically assisted reproduction in order to have a child without the direct intervention of a man.

The government thus divides women into “good” and “bad” mothers, good and bad women, and it decides who can start a family and who cannot. Gallardón says that motherhood makes women really women, but he forgets to make it clear (such forgetfulness!) that he is only talking about those women who have an adequate sexual orientation, who want to form the correct type of family (nuclear, heterosexual, etc…), and who do not have any kind of mental disability.

Only the God of Rouco Varela (Archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference) knows what might happen if we allow children to be brought up among “queers” and “dykes” or if we guarantee that persons with physical handicaps will have full autonomy in decisions concerning their bodies and their sexuality. It is, finally, in its determination to defend the rights and freedoms of all people, and to do so from Monday to Sunday, that feminism is pro-life.

A more just and a freer society

Feminism is pro-life because its raison d’être is to build a more just and a freer society, one which places welfare and common good at the centre of everything; a society which does not condemn its poorest, youngest and most vulnerable women to bleed to death because of a clandestine abortion; a society which does not aspire to domesticate people’s bodies and their lives and to force them into moralistic little pigeon-holes; a society that educates its young people in principles of reason, responsibility and truth, so that their actions will not have negative impacts on themselves or on other people; a society that integrates, cares for and genuinely respects people with functional diversity: that accepts freedom for all human beings to make decisions concerning their feelings and their desires and that does not say one thing and are do another.

Nevertheless, it is the prohibitive and anti-choice discourse that has the advantage today. We do not have much time: new attacks are being prepared. Let us take to the streets, let us take back possession of what is ours and go on the offensive. Feminism, today and always, is pro-life.

Sandra Ezquerra is currently a sociology professor at the Universitat de Vic (Barcelona). She is also an active feminist participant in the !5-M movement of Barcelona. Photo: Barcelona anti-austerity protest on Oct. 15, 2011 / Emilio Morenatti.

Feminist Rebellion Today

Published November 24, 2013 | By Socialist Action U.S.A.
womenBy CHRISTINE MARIE The following presentation was given by Christine Marie, representing Socialist Action at a Nov. 10 forum in Philadelphia called Feminist Rebellion Today. The other panelists were Preeti Pathak, Co-Chair of Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE), a new group that uses education and action to shatter the silence of sexual violence; Rebecca Katherine Hirsch from Permanent Wave, a network of feminist artists and activists; and Nuala Cabral, co-founder of  FAAN Mail, a media literacy and activist project formed by women of color in Philadelphia.
I want to thank Socialist Action of Philadelphia for inviting me to participate on this wonderful panel of activists and leaders from the movement against sexual violence. By all accounts the Sept. 28 demonstration here in Philly was a more than successful part of the growing movement against rape culture—the movement against sexual violence, rape, street harassment, and every other attack on our ability to function fully and productively in this society, to function unimpeded by any kind of subordination by gender.I am an admirer of the role that PAVE has played in bringing the issue of sexual violence on campuses to the attention of the whole nation. I was delighted to view the videos of FANN’s educational forays onto the street around sexual harassment. In short, I am very happy to be part of this discussion with those leading on the ground here in Philadelphia today.I want to focus my remarks on two aspects of the issue of violence and the way that it relates to the whole fight for an end to gender oppression. First, I want to talk about the context in which sexual violence is on the rise, here and globally. Secondly, I want to address the elephant in the room: what is the root cause of gender oppression and what does that mean about the fight to end it once and for all.I want to situate my remarks by referring to three news items/publications from this year: (1) This week’s NPR story about the fight of female farm workers fighting rape on the job. (2) The death in April of over 1000 sisters in a garment factory in Bangladesh. (3) The publication of Beth Ritchie’s new book, “Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America Prison Nation.”I choose these three events to highlight the deliberate and systematic character of sexual violence in a capitalist world, its relationship to the global austerity drive against working people as a whole, and the way that an acknowledgement of this relationship problematizes one of the strategies behind current efforts to tackle sexual violence. My hope is that my presentation will encourage all of us to nurture our most radical hopes. My goal is to stimulate all of us to raise our political goals to a place that is truly commensurate with the degree of oppression that women and gender non-conforming people really face under this system.What is the system really like for women? Let’s take a look at my chosen recent events:First, the NPR broadcast this week told the stories of Guadalupe Chavez, singlehandedly raising three kids, who was denied her paycheck of $245 unless she submitted to the sexual advances of the grower’s supervisor, and Maricruz Ladino, who was raped by a farm supervisor with the power to hire and promote employees—or fire, blacklist, and deport her if she protested.Such employer power, enforced by the threat of sexual violence and terror is part of the way that growers prevent workers from organizing and fighting back against the most horrific conditions, conditions that include pesticide poisoning, other severe occupational diseases, and a dramatically shortened lifespan. Sexual violence, viewed as a social phenomenon, is a tool of the powerful against the subordinate and used to maintain those hierarchies.

My second example is the Bangladesh garment fire. In April, we all remember, over 1000 women were killed in a garment factory fire in Bangladesh. What we might not have focused on at the time was how the bosses used patriarchy and sexual violence to prevent those workers from organizing against the dangers before their deaths. But we can do that now.

Research by feminists and Marxists explain a lot about the way that gender subordination and sexual violence contributed to those deaths. First, all these women ended up in that factory because neoliberal reforms have transformed the countryside, forcing them to leave villages to earn the dowries that their families can no longer afford. This system of marriage was not some hoary hangover from a backward past but, as Peter Custers and others document, a patriarchal system that urban corporate elites enforce because it fills their sweatshops.

Once in the factories, these young women face a system of sexual violence that is used to weaken their ability to organize and that thwarts any genuine independence that could flow from work outside the home.

In 2003, Lourdes Pantaleon published a groundbreaking study of women workers in export processing zones in the Dominican Republic and found that 40 percent endured sexual harassment from bosses eager to keep a workforce quiescent. In a 2008 survey of female Export Processing Zone workers in Kenya, 90% reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment on the job or been forced to provide sexual favors in order to get hired and stay hired. And this kind of exploitation is not a small part of the effort of the ruling rich to generate profit.

Here is how the Economist business magazine described the economic role of these women in 2006: “The increase in female employment has also accounted for a big chunk of global growth in recent decades. GDP growth can come from three sources: employing more people; using more capital per worker; or an increase in the productivity of labour and capital due to new technology, say. Since 1970 women have filled two new jobs for every one taken by a man. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that the employment of extra women has not only added more to GDP than new jobs for men but has also chipped in more than either capital investment or increased productivity. Carve up the world’s economic growth a different way and another surprising conclusion emerges: over the past decade or so, the increased employment of women in developed economies has contributed much more to global growth than China has.

So the big point here is that we make a mistake if we begin our analysis of the problem of sexual violence by looking at it as a problem primarily caused by individual criminal, sick, or socially challenged men. Certainly, all of our efforts at mass education about rape culture, zero tolerance for sexual violence on campus, and the promotion of bystander intervention are important and necessary and should not be minimized in any way. This is just to say that sexual violence is much, much more than that. It is one of many tools of repression used in capitalist society to keep women subordinate and vulnerable economically in a way that benefits the elites.

We should begin to think about sexual violence and all the structures and regimes of this society that facilitate it as something other than residual backwardness and start to think of it in a way more akin to the way that we think of other tools used to divide and weaken the working class, such as mass deportation or mass incarceration.

The topic of mass incarceration leads me to my third telling incident, the publication of Beth Richie’s extraordinary new book: “Arrested Justice: Black women, Sexual violence, and the Prison Nation.” In “Arrested Justice,” Ritchie sets out to describe the way that the movement against violence against women, as it was reshaped in the neoliberal 1990s, has ill-served poor African American women.

One of her sample cases is that of a community organizer named Mrs. B, who upon failing to move out of Chicago public housing targeted for destruction and gentrification in time to suit the powers that be, became the victim of repeated rapes by a group of young policemen assigned 24-7 to regulate life in the project. Mrs. B. was vulnerable to the state because she lived in a neighborhood consciously depopulated by the banks and developers. Despite repeated efforts to get help from rape crisis centers and social services, the fact that she was asking them to confront rape by agents of the state that funded them, meant that they could not fit her victimization into their system. After years of struggle, Mrs. B. finally found an advocate and won a settlement from the Chicago Police Department, but she lives each day fearful of retaliation by the cops, the social service system, or some other arm of the Chicago governmental apparatus.

So those are my three examples. I am telling you these stories to make the point that outside of the violence in the home, in nuclear family units of one kind or another, from domestic partners or lovers—and, of course, the home remains the main site of violence against women—violence on the job and from agents of the state is a central issue for working women and poor women.

Violence comes in the nuclear family, in the workplace, in prison, and from agents of the state. It is this material reality—the enforcement of gender subordination to keep the system running—that fuels rape culture, that makes rape culture fundamentally acceptable, and that keeps rape culture deeply woven into our lives. Gender-based violence flows from a system that is maintained by our economic subordination.

Why is gender violence and rape culture on the rise today? I contend that the rise of rape culture cannot be separated from the fact that the corporate powers in this world are facing the most serious crisis of their system since 1929. Socialists believe that the employers are determined to recover the level of profitability they need by any means necessary.

At the moment, they are hoarding trillions of dollars that they refuse to invest in industries globally. Instead of providing jobs, they are sitting on those trillions until they can invest them in a manner that will give them a rate of return close to that of the 1950s. When they do invest, they invest in ways that yield primarily low-wage jobs of the kind justified ideologically by the myth that they are for young people just entering the job market or women who are partnered with someone making the real household wage. The whole pattern of current investment relies on our impoverishment.

Secondly, the corporate elites are demanding that governments here and all over the world dramatically cut social spending of any kind. Marxists call this cutting the social wage. In the U.S. they just cut $85 billion under “sequestration.  They are getting ready to cut more.  If you drive down the social wage—that is if you get rid of government pre-school programs, and health care for poor children, and cut social security for the seniors, and so on and so on—who takes up the slack? Well, women, of course, and it is work for which they are not paid.

If you privatize water in Bolivia to lower the social wage, who has to add an hour of unpaid labor to their day to carry it from a greater distance? Women. If you lower the social wage by making it more difficult for old people to get into a hospital, who finds more hours in the day to nurse them at home? Women. When women are forced to do unpaid labor in the home, they are vulnerable to having to take low-paid, part-time, and temporary jobs in the public sphere. When women feel forced to work on low-paying jobs, the bosses can use it to drive down the wages of the whole working class. Women’s subordination is not a fluke of the system. This is the way that capitalism uses gender differentiation to keep the system afloat.

Marxists refer to this crazy Catch 22 for women as the relationship between social reproduction and production. We argue that the capitalist system created a new kind of production, based on the horrific logic that corporate profits can only rise as our wages and standard of living go down. And along with that system of production goes a special kind of social reproduction.

In the capitalist system of social reproduction, the feeding, clothing, educating, nursing, and emotional caring for the majority of society—children, the elderly, all working people in fact, is thrown onto individual working-class households in a manner to reinforce elite capitalist rule.

Sometimes the powers that be push women to stay in the home, as they did in the 1950s. Sometimes they make it impossible for a home to survive without two wages, as they began to do in the 1970s, and they privatize some domestic functions such as laundry and fast food. They are flexible. But always, our work arrangements and domestic arrangements—on the broad social plane of course—are manipulated to increase profit and profitability for the capitalist class. And to enforce these profitable arrangements, they work hard to normalize and stabilize sexualities and gender identities that work with the system.

When you get down to the basics, all the highly profitable cultural degradations that we are enduring at the moment are designed to make it seem natural for women to be at the bottom of the heap. It is not a conspiracy per se. It is just that our subordination by the elites gives the green light to media portrayals and sexism in the culture at large.

The reality of our subordination and disparagement on the job, in the community, on the campus, and in the political arena, grows sexism in return. The introduction of anti-abortion laws in the majority of states blasts the message that women are too childlike, too irresponsible, or too evil to control our own bodies. Forcing poor women to get drug testing before applying for the meager benefits still available to help them raise their children signals that they are unfit mothers.

Federal think-tank pronouncements that blame poverty on non-gendering-conforming households in the Black community pathologize alternatives to the nuclear family. Predatory lending and the resultant foreclosures send the message that Black women cannot manage wealth. Throwing African American and Latino women into prison at the today’s rate—a rise of 747%—says that they are criminals actually unworthy of any of society’s wealth. Throwing people out of hospitals too early, with the expectation that women at home will take up the slack, transmits the notion that we are “naturally” of the disposition to replace the social wage with our compassionate and altruistic natures. Sexism is reinforced at every turn in this system.

The way out of this madness is creating a social order in which the wellbeing of children, the elderly, and, indeed, all working people is the responsibility of society as a whole. The way out of this madness is the creation of a social order in which the wealth we produce in the 40, 50, or 60 hours a week that we work, can go toward the social welfare of all. To create a movement that can win such a society, we have to break down the divisions among working people on sexual and gender lines. That means putting the demands not only for equal pay but for affirmative action for jobs from which we have been excluded, for full reproductive justice, for “Medicare for all,” and most, importantly for 24-hour child care, at the center of our fight.

In our current system, the gap between the hours worked by women in low-wage jobs and the hours of child care available condemns working women to victimization. Infant care can now cost more than sending a child to college. The gap between the hours a child is in school and most parents’ work schedules is around 25 hours a week.  This condemns women and those responsbile for domestic labor to unending victimization. There is simply no way to eliminate the economic subordination of women and the victimization of all working class family units than demanding a program of full quality childcare.

This type of demand challenges the most basic workings of the capitalist system. But it also speaks directly to the fight to end violence against women. Such violence will not end without creating the conditions in which society as a whole takes responsibility for relieving the double and triple burden facing working women by making such child care available, and by curtailing the economic disparities that force women into dangerous liaisons, that force women to stay in abusive relationships, that force women into abusive employment situations, and to endure sexual victimization by bosses. There is no other way.

The movement against violence against women has gone through a number of mutations. During the deep social radicalization of the 1960s and 1970s, the rape and domestic violence movements relied on activist-volunteers who were acutely aware of the miserable reality of welfare state intervention, cop violence, employer abuse, and a discriminatory criminal justice system factored into the story.  The movement that put tens of thousands of women and their allies in the streets was based on a radical vision in which all the instruments that maintained patriarchy, racism, and class society would be dismantled.

Sadly, that radicalization waned and U.S. capitalism began to experience new international competition and a falling rate of profit. Those who politically serve the corporations unleashed a concerted attack on working people, dubbed “neoliberal reform.”

It was not all the use of the stick, however. It also involved the use of the carrot. In response to the mass sentiment for women’s equality and safety, the Democratic and Republican parties agreed to give support to a system of institutions devoted to ameliorating violence against women. On the one hand, this led to the funding of some things we desperately need. But it came at a great cost because institutional aid to women suffering violence was interwoven into a general strengthening of the truly criminal “criminal justice system.”  The Violence Against Women Act, whose provisions tie non-profits and social service agencies deeply into a project that puts a gleam on the most pernicious criminal justice system in the world, is a case in point. For those of you who would like to look at this history more closely, I suggest again Beth Ritchie’s book, which dissects the politics of this process with precision.

I want to conclude with the idea, then, that today’s movement against sexual violence can go one of two ways. It can begin to create the kind of broad, mass, militant movement of millions of women and non-conforming gender victims that is necessary to take on the capitalist offensive against women and working people. This in my mind is the only kind of movement that can win real concessions, all the while building up our independent power for a future assault on the system itself.

Or, we can succumb to the funds and logic of winning our safety through collaboration with the criminal justice system that is implementing the New Jim Crow, the New Jane Crow, the union-busting, the surveillance of activists, and so on.  I think that viewed this way, the answer should be clear. I hope to join you in the streets soon to put the nation on notice that our tolerance for rape culture is at an end and that our eyes are on the prize of an end to patriarchy and the current system that sustains it.