The 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's ruling legalizing abortion—a constitutional right stripped away in 2022 by the now fascist-dominated Supreme Court—was marked by several events in New York City. Among them was a protest in Washington Square Park where a representative of RiseUp4AbortionRights spoke. At the Brooklyn Museum, some 25 women (and one man) told their stories about abortions—both pre- and post-Roe—at an event that harkened back to the “consciousness-raising” groups of the early women’s liberation movement. At that event, several revcoms spoke about the crying need for a real revolution to end the horror of this system, and got a favorable response, and called on people to come out to Revolution Books.
At Revolution Books on January 24, we held a special program featuring Sunsara Taylor, co-initiator of RiseUp4AbortionRights and co-host of The RNL—Revolution, Nothing Less!—Show (Sunsara was zoomed in from LA) and Fran Luck, NYC radio host on WBAI and long-time radical feminist. Sunsara and Fran gave presentations, and had an exchange with each other and with a highly engaged audience. Portions of the program were shown on the January 26th RNL Show episode.
The RNL—Revolution, Nothing Less!—Show (Episode 132):
Dangerous Escalation of U.S./NATO vs. Russia Proxy War in Ukraine
Plus: Roe v. Wade Anniversary (at 31:30).
The High Stakes of this Battle and What Future for Women
Sunsara called on people to really confront the reality of what this assault on abortion rights means for women in this country, and to ask if they are willing to go along with this—or whether they will allow themselves to dream about what a different future would be like... and get into what it would take to make that dream a reality. As Sunsara emphasized, we are not talking about an abstract legal development: since the Supreme Court's 2022 ruling an estimated 100,000 women and girls have been forced to have babies against their will. In her talk, she drew extensively from her recent article on revcom.us.
After Sunsara's talk, we showed a short clip from the recent Bob Avakian Interviews in which he talks about the lifelong process for himself, as he has continued to understand more deeply the horrific and systemic nature of the oppression of women, and how the new communism he has developed recognizes the pivotal and central role that the emancipation of women plays in the overall struggle for the emancipation of all of humanity. As he says, “There is not going to be any liberating struggle, any liberating real revolution, that doesn't have right at the heart of it, at the core of it, the emancipation of women from every way in which they are degraded, and debased, and oppressed and violently suppressed."
In her comments, Fran Luck brought out that the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe (the Dobbs decision) is just the beginning of the fascist assault on women. She listed other attacks on the right to abortion that have already gone down: all the regulations on abortion clinics, parental consent, and the decades-old Hyde amendment that prevents federal funds to the poor from being used for abortions. She called for more disruption in the streets to fight for this right and brought out the crucial role that the radical women’s movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s played in getting Roe passed at all.
After the presentations there was substantive back and forth between the two speakers. Both went into why abortion is under attack. That this is happening not mainly because this is a form of health care, but because restricting and outlawing abortion is a means to exert control over women and keep women chained to a specific role in society—as breeders for today's capitalist-imperialist patriarchy.
Sunsara went into what RiseUp4AbortionRights accomplished in the fight to keep the right to abortion before the Supreme Court’s decision to rip it away: Tens of thousands of students—young women, and men—walked out of school, some went on to the floor of the WNBA, breasts bared, demanding Abortion On Demand Without Apology. The movement spread green in solidarity with the women of Latin America. All of this and other activity aimed to mobilize the millions who needed to get into the streets themselves! But the mainstream women's movement, tied to the Democratic Party, pushed a dead-end approach of fighting state by state and making women's right to control their reproductive choices and destinies a matter of public opinion and voting!
Rich Discussion and Debate, Including Over Reform and Revolution
Fran raised that people are suffering now... so what is the role of demanding "what you want" as a reform in the process of preparing for revolution? Sunsara posed and spoke to the criteria for demands. Do you take what you think is possible under this system as a starting point for compromise? No, you demand what people need—Abortion on Demand Without Apology—setting terms through mass struggle from below. She was very firm that if you stay within the framework of this system, this nightmare will continue.
Sunsara also highlighted Bob Avakian's analysis that exactly because, right now, the rulers at the top of society are at each other’s throats, and the accepted ways and norms of the system are being ripped up, there is a heightened danger of fascist horror, but also heightened possibility to make the revolution we so desperately need.
All of this opened up rich discussion and debate. People, including newer people who had never been part of this kind of discussion, were wrangling with what can be done, how to go about it, and who needs to be involved. An older white woman asked: What new and different tactics do we need? A college student involved in Palestine solidarity work, asked: “Don’t we need more people in government who care about this, along with other forms?”
Lively discussion was generated in response to these questions. Fran said that if you are going to be in politics, at least be honest and that people have to be in the streets to hold politicians accountable. Sunsara went deeply into the nature of the capitalist-imperialist system we live in, pointing out that no matter how sincere someone is, however they feel... once they come into government positions they will be forced to act in accordance with the nature of this capitalist-imperialist system.
A young Black woman and a recent college graduate said: “We need more Black and Brown voices in this fight.” Sunsara clarified the difference between, on the one hand, appreciating and learning from Black and Brown women who are disproportionately impacted by the Supreme Court ruling; and, on the other, distinguishing this from the harmful outlook of “identity politics,” of insisting on following anyone just because they are Black or Brown, as opposed to judging leadership by the content of their analysis of the sources and solution to oppression.
One older gay man, a veteran of ACTUP, spoke passionately about how the mainstream women’s movement and other social movements have refused to say the word "woman" when they talk about abortion rights. He applauded RiseUp4AbortionRights as the only group calling people into the streets to actually fight this assault on this basic right. He also talked about the anti-communist attacks which were launched against RiseUp, Sunsara, the revcoms and Bob Avakian (BA). He said he finds the conversations in the recent BA interviews “stimulating,” and called on people, “Don’t be afraid!”
People stayed around afterward to talk, and to learn more about, and get involved in the life of, Revolution Books. The program contributed to “putting revolution on the map,” opening up discussion and debate about why we need revolution—and the crucial role that the fight for the emancipation of women plays in the revolution to emancipate all of humanity.