The struggle for autonomy over our bodies and lives will not be waged in voting booths!Posted: November 5, 2012
The system has been in our wombs since the beginning of European colonization of the world and the development of capitalism, where the rape and the breeding of African womyn was a dominant feature of the political economy of the United States. And continues to be. The recent fascist patriarchal perspectives on womyns bodies and abortion expressed by Mitt Romney and the Neo conservatives have sparked more discussion within the bourgeois press as well as the left, invoking the ongoing prolife/prochoice debate. Prolife/prochoice movement has often been grounded in reforming the system, and advocating for roe v wade. This is largely due to bourgeois ‘feminists’, such as Feminist Majority and NOW, and nonprofits, such as Planned Parenthood, having the privilege to define the movement. This is not helpful for working class womyn and revolutionary feminist, who understand that real body liberation comes from the collective liberation of all people from patriarchy and capitalism. Womyn must understand that Romney and Obama are not going to do anything for the general wellness of womyn, because they represent a system that has raped, harmed, exploited and murdered womyn for centuries. That is not going to change. Therefore, as long as Patriarchal capitalism exists womyn will never have freedom over their bodies and the support they need to make the choices that are right for them. What is more useful to me is for the people to understand the totality of the system, and the ways that the regulation of gender and sexuality are necessary for its survival, and continual colonization over our lives and bodies. Understanding these truths will hopefully lead the people to do something about it, and hopefully that something is bolder than voting.
On the eve of this election, where people will be going to the voting booths tomorrow with the intention that they have freedom and power in the system, I want to share some thoughts about what this system and democracy is all about. I do not put energy towards electoral politics anymore, and I think there are good arguments by other revolutionaries who are down with electoralism. I, of course, see the benefit in engaging in electoral politics as a way of meeting people where they are at, and beginning conversations around the contradictions of the system and what real democracy (AKA revolution) might look like. That said, I have also seen the limitations of those politics in practice by other leftists, who are too afraid to push struggle out of reformism. Reforms are important, but it is also important to see the potential in struggle and sharpening things in revolutionary directions. Elections and voting are distractions to the people and help maintain the system. For those reasons I stay away preferring to speak the truth about why smashing, as opposed to maintaining, capitalism is a better strategy, as well as to share some revolutionary feminist analysis about all this womyn rights talk that has been activated throughout the election and debates.
For centuries, prior to capitalism and ‘democracy’, Indigenous womyn all around the world understood the power of their bodies and its connection to all living things. They understood how to use the earth to heal and to give back. Abortions were not evasive procedures, like they are now, womyn would use herbs, roots, stones, the moon and magic to decide if they wanted to conceive or not. Queer relationships existed too with acceptance, and not harm and regulation. However, these things are threatening to the inner workings of capitalism, which conditions and regulates our social relations. Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism presents it as an intricate system of relations. The below quote, taken from in Capital, expresses this idea well,
“We thus see that the social relations within which individuals produce, the social relations of production, are altered, transformed, with the change and development of the material means of production, of the forces of production. The relations of production in their totality constitute what is called the social relations, society, and moreover society at a definite stage of historic development, a society with peculiar, distinctive characteristics…Capital also is a social relation of production. It is a bourgeois relation of production, a relation of production of bourgeois society.”
Capitalism is a system that exploits and conquers through force [colonization]. Necessary ingredients: land, people, animals. Capitalist forcefully remove people from their land in order to take it for their own profit making, forcing the people who once lived on that land to work for it or move to other places to work on more stolen land for the profit of the ruling capitalists. This ‘democracy’ is and has always been a puppet government to convince people that they are free, when really everyone is submitting to the dictatorship of the financial markets and profit. Therefore, at its root capital is a system that must control the land and the populations of people on it. The reproduction of the working class generation after generation is necessary for this system to operate. Exploiting workers labor is how profit is extracted. But how do they ensure that there is a consistent generation of workers to exploit year after year? Through the regulation of people’s relationships, bodies, and sexuality.
With the arrival of capitalism historically came the arrival of ‘race’ ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’ as social categories to be conditioned through the system. There was a need to condition people in heteronormative social relations, that were also racialized here in the United States. A womyn is defined very differently if she is White, as opposed to Black, for instance. This helps materially and culturally support a racialized and gendered division of labor, which now structures society. These material class divisions combined with harmful social conditioning keep the people in a state of disconnection from ourselves and each other, which helps protect the profit that the ruling class extracts through our exploitation as workers. But the accumulation of capital does not solely rely on the employed worker, it also relies on the unemployed workforce, which make up the surplus populations of people all around the world. A surplus population is a product of capitalism, and is useful to individual capitalists as a mechanism to super exploit their workers. Workers submit, because they know they can be disposed of and replaced by one of the many people, who make up the reserve army of labor (unemployed). Everyone’s lives are precarious. This has always been a part of the structures of capitalism. In chapter 25 of Capital, ‘The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation,’ Marx speaks to this relationship between the employed and the unemployed and the social wealth of society,
“The greater the social wealth, the functioning of capital, the extent and energy of its growth, and therefore also the greater the absolute mass of the proletariat and the productivity of its labor, the greater is the industrial reserve army. The same causes which develop the expansive power of capital, also develop the labor-power at its disposal. The relative mass of the industrial reserve army thus increases with the potential energy of wealth. But the greater this reserve army in proportion to the active labour-army, the greater is the mass of a consolidated surplus population, whose misery is in inverse ratio to the amount of torture it has to undergo in the form of labor. The more extensive, finally, the pauperized sections of the working class and the industrial reserve army, the greater is official pauperism. This is the absolute general law of capitalist accumulation.”
Therefore, poverty provides the foundation for this capitalist system of profit accumulation. It is a joke when politicians, such as Obama and Romney, talk about fixing unemployment and creating more jobs, because unemployment is a direct result of capitalism, the system they represent. The real solution to the high unemployment rates is the overthrow of capitalism.
What is left out of Marx’s analysis is the regulation of gender and sexuality as a necessary function within the accumulation of capital. The ruling class has been oppressing womyn and queers for centuries so that we may be completely alienated from our bodies and desires and therefore dependent upon the system for everything. Capitalism is a system of dependency designed so that we must rely on it to live, yet it is slowly or directly killing us everyday. These centuries of trauma and oppression have resulted in people’s ignorance of their own culture and bodies. Our spirits and bodies are disconnected. We are conditioned to have heterosexual relationships, where sex is solely employed for the purpose of procreation. This ensures a steady supply of fresh human labor to fill up the employed and unemployed sectors of society. This is also why homosexuality and abortions are threatening to capitalism. Not because they are immoral. That is how these issues are presented in bourgeois and some left politics, but moralistic arguments are incorrect, and do not offer clarity about the system. Abortions, queers, sex, and birth control reflect people’s free choices, which directly contradict the systems desire to control us, and therefore are threatening.
It is important to have this total understanding of capitalism and its needs to exploit and oppress people, working class womyn and queers of color in particular, and that no president or politician will fix that. I think as revolutionaries it is important that we express these truths; I’ve seen a lot of fear around speaking the truth to the people. There are moments when I have felt it myself, and I understand it is because we are oppressed and repressed. That is real. But what is also real is that we will never stand a chance at truly winning against the system until we completely break from it through struggle. The people in struggle taking back the land and society for themselves is real democracy and freedom, and it will not be waged in voting booths; it will be waged in the streets, in schools, in prisons and detention centers, in workplaces, all over the world. When we release fear and voice these visions we can inspire and find unity with each other in practice.
The people must be free/the people will be free
All power to the people!