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!
‘Queer struggle is class struggle!’
I like this phrase, because it evokes revolutionary politics.
Politics informed by queers and our struggles
placed outside the system through the system
violence coloring the entire process.
What i fear is it becoming just that
reminiscent of days gone by and struggles that rallied
‘black white unite and fight’
with no real understanding of what ‘black’ and ‘white’ means
in terms of class and therefore struggle.
Capital is too complex for shallow understandings of our oppression
and i, for one, am tired of being erased.
Recently i have been thinking a lot about identity: my own, others, and the ways the system conditions us in certain identity categories that relate to our overall material power within society. Some people have more freedom to be and act the way they want, because their privilege affords such movement. Specifically, I have been reflecting a lot about race and sexuality. What does it mean for a person to be white or primarily of European descent, but to identify as a person of color or a mixed person? What does it mean for a straight person to identify as queer? What I am really trying to understand is what does it mean to me as a queer/lesbian, mixed black womyn. Ultimately people’s business is none of mind, but people can be triggering and that isn’t always bad if you process those feelings in a productive and healthy manner. I try to check the judgement and ask myself what do these feelings say about my own character and life experience? How can I learn more about myself and my own triggers through paying attention to these complex feelings that rise towards others.
Sexuality and ‘race’ have colored my life deeply. Ever since i can remember having consciousness i have been conscious of skin and desire. This is unavoidable under capitalism, where ‘race’ ‘gender’ and ‘sexuality’ have become social categories regulated through the system. Under no other historical epoch has sexuality and gender been used to limit and enforce relationships and identity so severely. This is due to European colonization and the development of capitalism globally, and its structural and ideological relationship to patriarchal/western puritanical religious practices and beliefs. This has created a hierarchy of what is socially acceptable sex and love and what isn’t. My working-class background has always been expressed through my identity as a queer womyn of color. These are identities that I have been socialized in through the system and bourgeois society. But as long as I have lived in this physical body, I have carried these identities and contradictions, and nourished them with my own thoughts. As I have grown these thoughts have been imbued with revolutionary politics and values. A type of reclamation on this path for liberation. This has been no easy task, and it will be one that I am actively engaged in all my life, because i have no other choice. This is who I am.
I grew up in a diverse home of strong womyn, where gender, race and sexuality were fluid. The womyn were/are economically and spiritually independent of men. The ‘luxury’ of co-dependent heteronormative relationships were not the norm for me, nor are they even a possibility when you are working-class. My mother was always a fierce ally to queer community yet I still waited till I was 23 years old to come out to her despite the fact I knew I was queer from the age of 5. This speaks to the depth of oppression and patriarchy within society. As queers, especially working-class radical queers of color, our existence is too threatening to the workings of capital so we do not exist. And not only are we not represented in mainstream society, but the ruling class uses its material power over popular culture to speak on the ‘evils’ of homosexuality. When queerness is represented it almost always reflects some problematic aspect of bourgeois patriarchal society. For an example, The L Word is a transphobic, bourgeois, femme dominated, racially problematic representation of lesbians. But it is not The L Word that is the problem. It is the power structures of society that produce The L Word. The structures that have created a physically and spiritually violent process of regulation that keeps a lot of us in the closet for longer than we need to.
Capitalism needs to control the populations of people within this world, because it needs people to exploit in order for it to exist. Not just to work, but also to notwork. The bosses use the unemployment rates as a mechanism to hyper exploit employed workers. You don’t like the low pay or conditions? Ok bye then, because there are plenty of other people who need a job. How do they control people? Through patriarchal conditioning and the regulation of people’s social relations and bodies. We learn from a young age that homosexuality is a deviation from what is socially acceptable, and abortion barely exists for the vast majority of womyn around the world. This is why the issue of homosexuality and abortion are still incredibly relevant to the survival of capitalism. Not because these things are seen as morally wrong to the system, although the government uses morality to brainwash people, but because they threaten the social order of the system. When people choose to engage in queer relationships they are deviating from the heteronormative relationship model, which socializes men and womyn into specific roles within the home and within society as workers reproducing the next population of [un]employed workers. When womyn decide to terminate their pregnancies they are also threatening this social order through reclaiming control over their bodies and reproductive functions. It is not about morals; it is about the money and the government, which facilitates the whole process.
Racially, my home was mixed, primarily black and portuguese. I understood the diversity of ‘race’ through the truths from my home in comparison to the contradictions and harm of the racist society we lived in. Being mixed politicized me, because the divisive nature of race placed me outside of racial categories, within the system and within my community, which can’t help but internalize the system. Yet, I was, and am, very much a product of society and colonization, which restructured the world and brought people from all over it closer together. However, I never saw myself as anything other than my people, yet I have been ‘othered’ by my people my entire life. This has been a challenging experience, but as I have become more spiritually and politically awaken, I am able to move through the feelings of alienation with more ease and grounding. Understanding the ways the system has othered me as a mixed womyn and lesbian, has allowed me to humanize myself, and my people. The system is structured in ways that pit us, as working people of all colors and sexualities, against each other in competition over limited resources for survival. The capitalist government does not need all of us to survive for their hustle to continue. With the economic crisis we have a surplus of workers and alarmingly high unemployment rates. What does Obama care if people are robbing, policing and killing each other? The founding oppressors of this system have created a world structured by power and domination that we reproduce within our communities. They colonize us; we colonize each other; and they get to reap all the material benefits of the violence.
Understanding the system and my own origins has been important to my emotional health. No longer do i blame myself, and my community for my alienation and feelings of otherness. This has been something enforced upon us and we all hurt and hurt each other. I am trying to develop compassion for myself so that I may have compassion for others. We all live in this system, and have our own truths that have shaped us and made us into who we are today. Recently these compassionate practices have been challenged as I struggle with the many layers of feelings that rise when I engage and work with people, who carry privilege, but identify with communities I am a part of that do not have the same privileges. There are choices that have been denied to me and loved ones, but given to others. For an example, I struggle A LOT, with people who solely engage in heterosexual intimate relations, whether they be partnerships or lovers, and still identify as queer or any other queer signifier (femme, stud, top, ect.,). In the bay area this is unavoidable when being queer is so in vogue. I have met a lot of straight people who identify as queer, because they are poly, and are therefore resisting bourgeois heteronormative enforced relationships. However, they still have the privilege to live in a heterosexual world, where these are the givens, where spaces are abundant, and where safety is more accessed. When straight people identify as queer I feel erased, again, from the category. I also can’t help but fear that as more ‘straight’ people get the freedom to identify as queer then we lose the militant origins of what queer and queer struggle means for queers; a people shut out of mainstream society, and, depending on where you live, violently punished for not passing. This is something that straight people will never understand, no matter how queer they are. Our open existence is resistance, when employed correctly. This speaks to the seriousness of the conditions and the militancy required of us, to not only survive, but to struggle for a quality of life denied to us, but with which straight people have access to. To be queer is to be against the system in it is totality; to understand the ways our sexuality relates back to capitalism. To be queer is to be revolutionary.
I have similar feelings towards race. When ‘white’ people decide to identify as people of color without acknowledging the white privilege given to them, then the realities and struggles of people of color are erased. For an example, I met this person a few years ago in struggle, who had pale skin, blond hair, and blue eyes. They claimed indigenous ancestry and identity, while aggressively rejecting white people and European everything. They were able to speak very authoritatively about native people and native struggles. This was confusing and difficult for me, because I felt their experience as a native person from the city was much different then native folks, who look native and who are in native communities and struggle. I also thought of my great great grandmother Didi, who is half native. Most black people in the US have indigenous ancestry somewhere along the line. I am proud of this ancestry and the legacy of rebellion by black and indigenous people in the America’s. But, you won’t see me speaking on behalf of Native people, because I know I have a different experience than my indigenous comrades. It is one thing to grow up with your culture, and to become politicized through the system oppressing your people and culture. And it is another thing to grow up with primarily european lineage in a ‘white’ community, and then decide later that you are native, because you discovered you have some native blood in your family, and then proceed to present yourself in a way as if you have the same experience as the latter. Even as a mixed black womyn I will never understand what it is like to fit easily into the category ‘black’. My experiences with blackness are different than my friends, but we share a common colonial experience of being objectified in the system and denied privileges given to whites.
Privilege blinds people from the realities of others. When white people or straight people identify with categories of difference (race and sexuality) without understanding or expressing their privilege then it is assumed that their experience is similar to other people in those categories. However, their privilege gives them a different experience. To not understand that is to erase the experiences and truths of people, who deal with real struggles because of their race and sexuality within bourgeois society. I brought up these complex feelings recently to my comrade and brother Crunch and he, as always, gave me some tips and insight. He also has had similar thoughts and conversations around the subject matter. He brought up the examples of white ethnic studies students and whether they should be in the department. He said we can’t police people and tell them what they can do and how they can identify, but what we can do is ask what their intentions are. I really liked this bit of wisdom, because it helps shift the direction of the conversation from a place of judgement or attacks to a place of learning. When we engage in political dialogue about our life experiences with each other we are able to better understand our commonalities, but also our differences, which helps us understand the system. i have no time for emotionally driven conversations that largely seek to just smash people with privilege, when the system is killing us directly and indirectly. Sure, white hipsters and straight people are annoying, and also filling up oakland, but hating on them isn’t giving the people any more clarity of the system and why it oppresses us. Vulgar identity politics offers no agency for the people to struggle, and therefore is liberal at the root, and we definitely have no time for liberalism. The frustrations, and, sometimes, anger that rise when we encounter privilege in society is righteous and should be dealt with, but from a emotionally productive place of seeking its roots. This is necessary work for revolution. We must always be striving to understand the total picture of the system we live under if we want to change it. And we can do this through understanding our different positionings within it. We have been colonized and exploited objects of this system, but we are also the subjects of our history. When we strive to understand ourselves, and each other, from a place of making history then we will finally begin to take hold of our own destinies and stop doing the work of the system on each other. And I have faith, because as my wise brother Crunch once told me, ‘the people got this’.