Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Toward a Pro-Revolutionary Strategy Targeting Patriarchy

One idea I have been focused on recently is "what would our praxis look like if we took the form of patriarchy prevalent under capitalism seriously: the division of labor and devaluation/invisibilization of reproductive labor; the excess of repression, domination, and exclusion targeted at women, queers, trans, and gender non-conforming people; and the division of labor into a productive and reproductive sphere. What would it look like if we made this a focus of our attack on Capital?" Without a doubt, the organizations of the pro-revolutionary milieu are male-dominated and ignore pro-revolutionary feminist struggle in favor of handwaving about anti-sexism, which does not bear out in organizational practice. It is past due that we develop a strategy that engages in an uncompromising attack on the oldest class division: gender.

We should not be lured into thinking that gender is the weak link for capital, even if it is a crucial weak link. Gender is absolutely required for capital to function, and not primarily, any longer, for the exclusion of one gender from waged labor. It is necessary to exclude portions of the population from waged work to suppress wages and this is also increasingly necessary due to the fundamental contradictions of capitalism, which has less and less need for labor. However, race serves this purpose, and we in no way wish to encourage anyone to work; any expansion of work is surely reactionary, given that it is one of the primary methods of discipline.

More importantly, however, capital requires labor power to be expended reproducing labor power; without this reproductive labor, there is no labor power to buy. Without labor power to buy, there is no surplus value, and capital cannot valorise itself. Far too much has focused on getting into the factory, rather than denying the factory the only commodity that creates surplus value. Since its beginnings, capital has relied on the preexisting class division based around gender to force women, the sex class, the reproductive labor class, to reproduce labor power. Through repeated processes of decomposition and recomposition of the proletariat, capital, and gender, we now see several ways in which struggle has changed:

1) More and more, the proletariat as a whole is being excluded from wage labor; if ever it was a revolutionary project to try to gain access to waged labor, now is not the time, as the purpose of work is increasingly solely a method of discipline, as capital accelerates its project of the destruction of the proletariat.

2) Similarly, while struggles for wage equality may be seen as a useful reform, there is no revolutionary potential, and power must be built on the social terrain, as workplaces are increasingly fragmented and hold an ever decreasing portion of the proletariat. Workplace organizing is not pointless, but it is increasingly insufficient. The old syndicalist project of an army of productive labor formerly could only lead to a change in management; now it cannot do even that.

3) In the social factory, the refusal to work is the prime revolutionary strategy of productive labor, and it must become the prime revolutionary strategy of reproductive labor, and we must organize to do so.

4) Pro-revolutionary organizations that structure their response to patriarchy as internal "anti-sexism" or simply casual support of liberal feminist struggles do not truly have a legitimate pro-revolutionary perspective. The desired destruction of gender (as in the division of labor and social roles) and the end of the separation of the factory and the home are, like the abolition of the white race, a litmus test for a pro-revolutionary standpoint. Any discussion of self-managed factories or equalizing the position of women vis-à-vis waged labor is inherently a non-revolutionary position. The goal is to not get into the factory and take it over, but to destroy the factory.

5) We must return to a historical materialist standpoint for our understanding of gender; the work of Firestone, Millet, and Dworkin, while by no means an endpoint, are a starting point. We must understand the Third Wave as recuperative project that, in its faux inclusion, has tried to destroy the revolutionary character of feminist movement. We must understand gender as the first class division, and understand that there can be no peace as long as gender exists.

6) What we know as homo and transphobia, now that it is no longer necessary for capital to maximize the number of the next generation of the proletariat, are a policing mechanism to insure the maintenance of the gendered division. Queerness, no matter how conventional or radical it looks, is both the contradictions of gender writ large and a reaction to it. To reference Silvia Federici, "homosexuality is workers' control of production, not the end of work"*. The end goal must be to destroy gender and sexual orientation, even if our queerness can provide ground to struggle from.

7) If we cannot get existing pro-revolutionary organizations to adopt an actual pro-revolutionary issue on the gender question, we should leave them. If we cannot organize in a truly pro-revolutionary manner in the so-called pro-revolutionary milieu, we should leave it. Organizations are means, not ends, and it is very likely that their current form is generated by their patriarchal content. And milieus are glorified scenes. Neither are indispensable for struggle, as new, useful forms will be generated through struggle.


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