Revolution #168, June 21, 2009
A Declaration: For Women's Liberation And The Emancipation Of All Humanity
This year, on March 8, International Women’s Day, Revolution published “A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity.” The cowardly murder of Dr. George Tiller by a woman-hating Christian fascist fanatic has highlighted again the extremely serious nature of the attack on women and the attempts to nail them ever deeper into their oppressed position in society. The following excerpts from this Declaration are particularly relevant to the moment. To read (and distribute) the entire declaration go to revcom.us or get hard copies from your local Revolution Books or by writing RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Chicago, IL 60654.
At a time when many proclaim that finding “common ground” with religious fundamentalists is necessary, or even desirable, this declaration does not accept and will not compromise with women’s enslavement. This declaration has no patience for those who tell us to “be realistic” when what they mean is to tinker around within the horrible confines of the world as it is. This declaration calls out the moral and ideological bankruptcy of those who claim the mantle of women’s advance but mean only “getting in” on the world as it is—waging what can only be a losing and perverse battle for the “right” of women to have an equal share in running an empire, exploiting others, or even down to the humiliating level of owning and marketing their own bodies as sexual commodities.
When so few will dare, this declaration is calling for something unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of women and men the world over who refuse to see women oppressed, beaten, imprisoned, insulted, raped, abused, harassed, exploited, murdered, spat upon, thrown acid at, groped, shamed and systematically diminished.
This declaration calls for a revolution—a revolution that takes the full emancipation of women as a cornerstone. A revolution that unleashes the fury of women as a mighty force, and that grasps how central this question is to uprooting and abolishing all exploitation, oppression and degrading social relations, and the ideas that go along with them, among human beings as a whole, all over the world.
This declaration is a communist declaration, summoning a revolutionary movement of emancipators of humanity.
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There is no longer the need for women’s role in society to be dictated by their biological role in childbearing. There is no longer the need for humanity to be hemmed in by patriarchal traditions and oppressive religious morality. Today, this is as insane, as it is cruel, as it is utterly unnecessary.
For the first time in human history, it is possible not only to dream about, but to bring into being, a world that is no longer marked by the subjugation of half of humanity. Today it is possible to break the chains that bind women as well as to dig up and overcome the very divisions into classes and the corresponding traditions that entrench and enforce women’s oppression.
Capitalism, with its development of technology, transportation, communication and massive means of socialized production, has created the material basis for all of humanity to live in collective abundance—if these means of production are wrenched out of the hands of the capitalist ruling class and put in the service of humanity, and if all the relations between people and all traditional ideas are also radically transformed.
This requires revolution. That is, the overthrow of this system and the capitalist-imperialist class that embodies and runs it—and the establishment of anew revolutionary state power.
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At a time when the basic right to control when and whether to bear a child hangs by a thread, when abortion and even birth control are under fire, the “feminist” movement can rarely even bring itself to utter the word abortion and concedes, wrongly and outrageously, that there is something morally wrong with it. Such “feminists” have forgotten, or turned away from, the essential truth that women who have been denied the right and ability to decide themselves if and when to bear children, who do not have even that measure of control over their own bodies, have been reduced to a position that is tantamount to slavery.
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The declaration also goes into great depth on the rise of the women’s liberation movement in the 60’s and early 70’s, analyzing its great strengths and achievements, as well as its weaknesses. It goes on to analyze what has happened since:
Very quickly, and really coalescing under the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, a backlash was unleashed against everything positive that had been accomplished. Many who had once aspired to remake the whole world began adjusting their dreams downward. Throughout society and around the world the initiative was reversed. For the rulers of the U.S., the reassertion of the “traditional family” and “family values” became an indispensable part of not only reasserting patriarchy but also stitching back together the reactionary fabric of society that had been significantly frayed.
Christian fascists were given powerful backing by ruling class forces and unleashed—under this banner of “family values”—to hound and harass women who sought abortions. They have gone so far as to blow up clinics and even murder doctors. They have pushed the shame and ignorance of “abstinence only” into the public schools, and have assaulted the teaching of the scientific fact of evolution. They have worked to strip away the rights won by gay people and to re-legitimize bigoted homophobia. Perversely, this assertion of religion and patriarchy even became a way of bringing many who were deeply disaffected and still bitterly oppressed into their reactionary fold.
In the face of this backlash—together with the ebbing of revolutionary movements and of the orientation of fighting for change through mass independent political action of the people—the stream of bourgeois feminism came to be identified as the only outlet for those concerned about the unequal and oppressed status of women, even as this bourgeois feminism more and more tied and subordinated itself to the ruling class, and the Democratic Party in particular.
This absorption of the “official women’s movement” into the Democratic Party, and its utter subordination to the confines of electoral politics, has done incalculable damage. For over two decades now this “feminist movement” has encouraged and influenced progressive people to accommodate to a dynamic where yesterday’s outrage becomes today’s “compromise position” and tomorrow’s limits of what can be imagined. The defensiveness and cravenness of this “movement” in the face of the Christian fascists in particular—its refusal to really battle them on the morality of abortion, to take one concentrated example—has contributed to the disorientation of two generations of young women, and men as well.
These developments in the 1980s—and in particular this reactionary backlash against women, worldwide—led to the situation described 20 years ago by the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, Bob Avakian, which in many ways rings out even more powerfully today:
“The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances… It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms… The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?” (Bullets, From the Writings, Speeches, And Interviews of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 1985, p. 183.)
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