Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
and the “#MeToo Movement”
Gloria Steinem at 21 January 2017 Women’s March in Washington D.C. From the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Steinem was a CIA “asset” working with the imperialist spy agency in the anti-Soviet Cold War fingering leftists while infiltrating women's organizations in the U.S.
The following is the transcript, edited for publication, of a presentation by Comrade Yari of the Internationalist Group and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth at RIY’s January 19 educational and organizing conference.
We’re having our educational and organizing conference today, so this is a very special day for us. But this is also a special day for another group of people – because today is the Women’s March. And here in New York we are very blessed because we don’t have just one Women’s March, we have two women’s marches. So we have the Women’s March Inc., which is the national organization run by Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez; and then there is Women’s March Alliance, who have been the New York organizers since the first Women’s March of 2017.
If you’ve been reading the New York Times, you’ve seen that a lot of accusations of anti-Semitism have been launched against Women’s March Inc. Basically, Women’s March Alliance is claiming that Tamika Mallory is an anti-Semite because she attended a Nation of Islam protest, which she later tweeted positive things about despite the fact that Louis Farrakhan was railing against Jews in a really disgusting way. However, Tamika Mallory is not an anti-Semite. She has said she disagrees with a lot of Farrakhan’s views, but because she’s a pioneer of identity politics, she’s not going to “turn her back on black faces.”
Women’s March Inc. are the people who are all about “intersectionality.” Mallory, Sarsour and others in that grouping supported Bernie Sanders, whereas Women’s March Alliance organizers are so-called “New Democrats,” also called Clinton Democrats. They’re based here in New York, where Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign was based. Hillary’s campaign headquarters were in Brooklyn, even though she doesn’t know how to swipe a Metrocard – but that’s a different story. Basically, the accusations against the Women’s March Inc. were a Zionist-orchestrated campaign by the Women’s March Alliance, reflecting the infighting within the Democratic Party.
So while these bourgeois politicians are using the woman question to meet their ends, the rest of the left is hailing Bernie and pretending that the Women’s March organizers are champions of women’s liberation, whereas we are Marxists, and we understand that both sides represent the Democratic Party, and both sides are wedded to the capitalist system, which is at the root of women’s oppression. The “New Democrats” hail Hillary Clinton, this warmonger who set up sweatshops in Haiti, where women are paid under $5 a day. And the Bernie-ites, who do they have as their keynote speaker? Gloria Steinem, who was a CIA asset fighting against the Soviet Union and spying on leftists like ourselves in Europe and reporting it back to the CIA.1
“Marching to the Polls”
Internationalist demonstrators at NYC “women’s summit” proclaim Clinton and Haley “not my sisters,” May 2017.
Who else did they have to speak at the Women’s March? Well, there’s “AOC” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – who apparently gave a “riveting” speech about “justice” (after all, she’s a Justice Democrat). But the Democratic Party does not care about women (except bourgeois women). In reality, the Women’s March was not about women. So what was it actually about? It was about the Democrats taking back the House of Representatives. It was about “marching to the polls.”
At last year’s Women’s March (20 January 2018), Toni Van Pelt, the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), urged women to go to the polls in her speech. She said:
“This year’s elections are crucial.... Women can determine the outcome in close elections. We need to build the excitement and enthusiasm right now to get out the massive vote we need in November, and we will do that.... Strong feminist candidates are running like never before.... As of today, there are 311 women running in Democratic primaries for the House of Representatives – yeah! And 47 Democratic women are running for the Senate.... And we’re going to get ’em elected.... Feel the energy that’s gathering here to make history in November! ...We’re marching to the polls in November.... March on!”
And so on. In her speech, Van Pelt specifically endorsed Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who ran for the Senate and won. Sinema is a Democrat who voted 50% of the time with Trump. When she was a member of the House of Representatives, she voted to fund his border wall. It’s worth pointing out too that back in 2000, Sinema worked for anti-immigrant Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign.
In terms of the House in the November 2018 elections, the Democratic Party succeeded in its campaign. There are now 102 women in the House, over 23% of the seats, and 89 of them are Democrats. The women’s marches that they and their affiliated groups organized were a means that helped them pave the way toward that goal. As we have said since the first Women’s March, held just after Trump’s inauguration in January 2017, what they’re about is advancing the goals of the Democratic Party, not women’s liberation. They’re certainly not going to challenge the institution of the bourgeois family or the capitalist system.
As we were coming up here this morning, I was looking around and asking myself, where are all the “pussy hats” – all those stupid pink hats with the cat ears that you’re supposed to knit for yourself in a particular shade of pink? Last year and two years ago they were all over the place, but I didn’t see them anywhere this time around. It looks like this year’s Women’s March is going to be much smaller, partly due to the infighting within the Democratic Party, but also because the prior Women’s Marches succeeded in what its organizers set out to do, which was to take back the House. That was the point. And an electoral victory for one of the two big parties of U.S. imperialism is no victory for working-class, black, Latina and other doubly and triply oppressed women. Capitalism and its parties and politicians, both the men and women ones, are the enemies of women’s rights and women’s liberation.
Origins of #MeToo
Since Trump’s inauguration in 2017, the Democratic Party has maneuvered in many ways to endorse, support, co-opt and control a range of social movements and causes in the interest of winning the House, and more broadly to advance its electoral objectives. Among these are the question of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival) program, the supposed “resistance” to Trump’s border wall and family separation policy, etc. After the Parkland, Florida shooting in February 2018, there was the “March For Our Lives,”2 which Women’s March Inc. facilitated, by the way. And particularly there is the question of the Democratic Party and women’s rights overall. In this context I wanted to talk about “#MeToo,” together with some other topics.
I wanted to start off with a quotation, which highlights the ideology that gained force in the “#MeToo movement.” It’s from Zerlina Maxwell, who was the “Director of Progressive Media” for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Writing in the Washington Post (6 December 2014), Maxwell stated: “We should believe as a matter of default what an accuser says. Ultimately the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist.”
So let’s get into this. How did the #MeToo movement start? Basically, after the accusations against Harvey Weinstein had come out, Alyssa Milano, the actor who was friends with Harvey Weinstein’s wife, took to Twitter, and created a hashtag: #MeToo. Initially, she didn’t think much of it; she went to bed, but when she woke up in the morning, there were over 50,000 tweets with this hashtag, #MeToo. It was trending on Twitter, and there were thousands upon thousands of stories that women had come forward with, saying that they had been sexually assaulted or raped. It highlighted this very real situation, because rape is a particular tool of violence that’s used against women.
As revolutionary partisans of women’s liberation, democratic rights and sexual freedom, our guiding principle regarding sexual relations is that of effective consent. This means agreement and comprehension among those involved, without force or coercion. Rape is forcible sexual intercourse, whether the force is actual or threatened. In an article titled “Rape and Bourgeois Justice” published in 1975 in what was then the Trotskyist youth press (Young Spartacus, February 1975), the following point is made:
“Rape ... involves an act, the circumstances of which determine whether it is a crime or voluntary sexual intercourse. Therefore, ambiguities about consensuality do and must occur. Rape transforms what is normally a pleasurable intimacy and consensual activity for sexual gratification into an experience of fear, degrading submission, brutality and often injury for the victim and into an expression of overt hostility and aggression for the rapist.”
So sexual assault and rape are things that large numbers of women are subjected to, and many of the accusations that have come out as a result of #MeToo are believable and horrific. Many of the accounts that have come out have encouraged women to stand up and speak about things that they hadn’t been able to speak about before. So socially this is important, and it is something that needs to be addressed. However, at the same time #MeToo put forward this principle that you have to “believe women” a priori.
There is something problematic with that. The idea is that you not only have to believe women’s accusations, but you have to believe that if a woman calls something rape, or if she calls something sexual assault, whatever she says it is, that is what it is, as a principle, period. This sets the conditions for a witch hunt, and one that can use puritanical ideas, and be launched against men in general (including gay men, as we have already seen). And it can and has been used against women, from college professors to high-school teachers, which actually happens all the time. This can and sometimes does muddy up what sexual assault means, and what rape actually means.
So then we were presented with the scenario of someone like the actor Aziz Ansari. Apparently, he thinks it’s really sexy to stick his fingers down a woman’s throat and is a really rude person for not asking if his date prefers red or white wine. He was a really bad, awkward date, it’s alleged, and he’s probably not going to have dates for a really long time. But someone like this should not be equated with someone like the film mogul Harvey Weinstein, against whom there is a criminal indictment including for first-degree rape and aggravated sexual assault, or with someone like U.S. gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who has been convicted of serially sexually molesting young female gymnasts. Equally weighting Ansari with these two trivializes rape; equating a bad date with sexual assault trivializes sexual assault.
Inequality and Consent
I’m sure everybody here knows this, but I’m going to state the obvious: sex is really confusing, and sex is also full of contradictions. That is true about a lot of things in life, but we’re talking about sex, especially about young people who are just coming into their sexuality. It can be a very confusing thing, especially if you apply a feminist conception of what sex is – because for feminists, it’s all about the power dynamic and inequality. According to that conception, your position in society predetermines what you can and cannot consent to. This is why as a rule, feminists support age of consent laws, for example, arguing that teenagers cannot really consent to sex with older people because the situation is necessarily coercive. There’s a power imbalance, right, so let’s criminalize it a priori, period.
So if we take that idea to its logical conclusion – the idea that social inequality and a power dynamic necessarily equal coercion in sexual relations – then someone who is a retail worker, for example, couldn’t or shouldn’t go out with someone who’s a lawyer. There’s a power imbalance there. The lawyer makes way more money than the retail worker does – so retail workers should go out and have sex with retail workers, lawyers should go out and have sex with lawyers. That would be the logical conclusion. Let’s take it even further. Women and men are obviously not equal in this society. So let’s apply the logic here. Then the conclusion would be that women and men should not have sex with one another because women are unequal to men and thus there is no way that women can consent to having sex with men. So women should really just be having sex with women and men should have sex with men. That’s that. It’s the opposite of a fight to free everyone from bigoted restrictions so people can have whatever kinds and varieties of consensual sexual relations – gay, straight, whatever in whatever combinations – that they choose.
And if we want to take that logic – that social inequality invalidates consent – even further, then interracial relationships, that’s done with. Because in this society black people do not have equality with white people. There’s inequality. But what if it’s a black man and a white woman? Well, then it becomes the oppression Olympics. What is the more important fact: that he’s man or that he’s black or that she’s a woman and she’s white? We’re going to get back to that.
The next thing to know about the feminist conception is that, according to this view, sexual encounters range along a scale, on which consensual sex is at one end and rape is at the other, and all sex exists somewhere on this spectrum. So in this view there are degrees of rape; that in a particular case, it might not be all the way non-consensual, but it’s definitely not all the way consensual, so there is a degree of rape. What this fails to see is that rape and sexual assault represent a qualitative discontinuity, because there is force and compulsion, rather than there being an accumulation of bad things that if you reach a certain quantity would be sexual assault. And at the same time, they fail to see that people may have contradictory feelings about sexual relations, at the time or later. Feminism cannot account for contradictions, and doesn’t really care to, actually. Marxism is a science of contradictions, and as Marxists we have an investment in understanding how the real world works – because we actually want to do something about women’s oppression. We want to put an end to it.
So the conceptions we are discussing here can encourage and invite willful misinterpretations of very real contradictory feelings, together with fear and the puritanical ideas this society teaches people. Plenty of people are familiar with a situation along the lines of “I kind of like him, but I kind of don’t; I kind of want to go out with him, but I kind of don’t; I made out with him, but...” – contradictory feelings. It’s very real, but the feminist conception we’re talking about doesn’t account for that. Instead it relies on the puritanical values that are used to regiment the population.
Title IX and the Kipnis Inquisition
I want to move on to Title IX,3 because a lot of the ideas that we just discussed are reflected on campus. I’m going to be drawing on a book on these issues by Laura Kipnis, Unwanted Advances (HarperCollins, 2017). If people haven’t read it, they should; it’s very important and also very well written overall. Laura Kipnis is a professor at Northwestern University who wrote an essay titled “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” for the Chronicle of Higher Education (27 February 2015), about sexual misconduct policies, relationships between faculty members and students, and issues of free speech on campus. The essay criticized (and in places poked fun at) what Kipnis viewed as the excesses of new campus conduct codes. It also questioned some of the vocabulary that was being encouraged and that has become increasingly standard, including the a priori use of the term “survivor” for anyone alleging sexual harassment or abuse.
While strongly supporting measures against “bona fide harassers,” Kipnis argued that “the myths and fantasies about power perpetuated in these new codes are leaving our students disabled when it comes to the ordinary interpersonal tangles and erotic confusions that pretty much everyone has to deal with at some point in life, because that’s simply part of the human condition.” Her straightforward expression of such views was then used to add fuel to the fire of what she called (in a subsequent piece in the Chronicle [29 May 2015]) “My Title IX Inquisition.”
Because of her “Sexual Paranoia” essay, and then her book, Title IX investigations were rained down on Laura Kipnis. The first investigation brought against her claimed that her essay had supposedly created a “chilling effect” at the university. She was cleared in that investigation. Kipnis then faced another Title IX investigation, accusing her of “involvement in and/or approval of” a statement by another faculty member to the faculty senate expressing concern that the first Kipnis investigation posed a threat to academic freedom. (That faculty member then had a Title IX complaint filed against him!) Kipnis was cleared in that investigation as well. And then she faced a lawsuit over her book.
Thus, even speaking about these investigations was grounds for more investigations. As a result of the 2011 expansion of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs receiving federal funding, it now incorporated sexual conduct standards including everything from sexual harassment to coercion, to assault and rape.
“Preponderance of Evidence”
So the “Dear Colleague” letters issued in 2011 to college administrations by the Obama administration were meant to serve as guidelines for higher education institutions when investigating sexual assault. Basically, they changed the standard of evidence used within a university for investigating sexual assault cases, so that rather than requiring “clear and convincing” proof of wrongdoing it would be “preponderance of the evidence,” defined as being based on “the more convincing evidence and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence.”
For example, “more convincing” can mean more detailed. So Kipnis talks about an account where a woman remembered a specific drink that she had with a male professor whom she was accusing of sexual assault, and that detail apparently led the investigator from the OCR [the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights] to believe that her story was true. Details like this, which in some cases could simply be made up. Basically, the idea is that if there is a 50.01% likelihood that the event that an accuser alleges happened did occur, then the accused could actually be found guilty on that basis.
“So long to niceties such as presumption of innocence,” as Kipnis put it. “Hello to campus as penal colony.” With the “preponderance of the evidence standard,” it is easier to produce convictions or guilty verdicts based on hearsay, and on the common male/female tropes that the male is always the aggressor – and that’s that. What was the incentive for turning out these verdicts? Universities and colleges that received federal funding or financial assistance that did not implement this lower standard of evidence ran the risk of having an OCR investigation against them, of being fined, and of losing their federal funding.
Part of the investigative procedures under the “Dear Colleague” guidelines could mean that the accused would not even know what they were being charged with, and when and how to reveal those charges would depend – it was a tactical maneuver of the investigator. That way, the argument went, the accused would not have time to come up with some sort of lie to contradict what was being said by the accuser. Typically this meant that you were not allowed to know who was making the charges, for the same reason; you would not know what the evidence is; in many cases, you were not able to have a lawyer present during questioning, and you could not present evidence in your defense. You were denied the right to cross-examine the complainant, and you were prohibited from talking about any of this. You were also not allowed to have a copy of the Title IX report against you.
Off-campus incidents could also be reported to the university administration for Title IX investigations, and third-party complainants were permissible. Laura Kipnis describes an incident in which one young woman saw that her friend had a hickey from her boyfriend, and was concerned about it because it might have been sexual assault. So that third party had a Title IX investigation brought against her friend’s boyfriend. The investigator can also double as the complainant.
Trump’s Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is certainly an odious figure. We’re against her, she is a charter-school hawk and a “voucher vulture.”4 However, she has declared that schools now can opt for a higher standard of proof, the “clear and convincing” standard, or they can continue to use the lower standard of “preponderance.”
There is also the question of “affirmative consent” policies. Obviously, all sexual relations need to be consensual – as noted, our principle is that of effective consent. In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB967 into law, making California the first state to pass a so-called “Yes Means Yes” law defining sexual consent, applicable to universities and colleges that receive state funding. SB967 included the “affirmative consent” standard. What does that mean? It goes further than the common “no means no” standard and states that “affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity.” Some feminists also add that it must be “enthusiastic consent.”
It’s all very jarring, because this is what “affirmative consent” means – you need to be able to account for every single little touch and every single move you make, and this is not how sex really works. This is not the reality of sex, where there is often plenty of uncertainty and hesitation and ambiguity. “No means no” is clear. Saying that only “yes is yes” means wanting to banish “maybe,” by law. Instead of foreplay, they want to require a checklist. “Affirmative consent,” though, is not new. In 1990 at Antioch College, a feminist group called Womyn of Antioch advocated what they called “the policy,” which later came to be known as affirmative consent.5 It was passed at Antioch, but was widely ridiculed at the time, because it didn’t make sense. Saturday Night Live even came out with a skit making fun of Antioch College for this business.
But now it’s 2019 and this has become the norm; over 1,000 universities in the United States now have such “affirmative consent” policies. There was an article last year describing how an Antioch student who had gone home for the first time after starting college was very surprised that her mother did not ask for her permission before hugging her (“The Reinvention of Consent,” New York Times, 24 February 2018). It’s a true story. Here in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law called “Enough is Enough” in 2015, enshrining the affirmative consent policy, which CUNY now follows, by the way.
So the shift to so-called “affirmative consent” is a direct consequence of the “Dear Colleague” letters, and it means the effective criminalization of a lot of sexual activity which in real life really is consensual. This is not about liberating or freeing young people, especially young women, gay, lesbian and trans people and others doubly targeted by hypocritical bourgeois morality, guilt, shame and repression, let alone young men, whose rights we also care about, since Marxists are the most determined defenders of democratic rights. No, it’s about the opposite, and a lot of it is about money. It is a tool that is utilized to make it easier to produce favorable adjudications, and to avoid financial strains on the universities, because it is time-consuming and expensive to have an OCR investigation brought against your school, mind you, plus the university’s reputation can be ruined... This is how a lot of administrations look at it.
So what about “identity politics”? The term is sometimes misused to describe concern with, and a desire to overcome, what Marxists call the special oppression of women, black people and others doubly or triply oppressed in class society. In fact, identity politics is the opposite of a real fight against such oppression.6 A common gender does not make all women “sisters.” The term “feminism” is often used (erroneously) as a synonym for defending women’s rights. But feminism is an ideology which pretends that real equality can be achieved within class society, by drawing a gender line instead of a class line, rather than understanding that discrimination against women and their oppression and subjugation is a product of class rule, which can only be overcome freeing women from the bourgeois nuclear family, socializing its functions, and establishing a classless society, through a common struggle by working men and women and all oppressed sectors of society against exploitation and oppression. Feminism does not liberate women. As we fight here and now against every form of oppression and discrimination, Marxists also emphasize that it is illusory to claim that women’s equality can be won under the capitalist system. We call instead for women’s liberation through socialist revolution.
For feminists today, their champions are Nancy Pelosi, who was the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and knew all about CIA torture; and Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chaired the Select Committee on Intelligence. And let’s not forget about Gina Haspel, the CIA agent who ran a torture site and is now CIA Director;7 Gloria Steinem who worked for the CIA and dated Henry Kissinger, the mass-murdering carpet bomber of Vietnam; and then Trump’s former UN envoy Nikki Haley, also a champion of feminism. And let’s not forget that the CEOs of four of the five top U.S. weapons manufacturing conglomerates are now women.8 Woo-hoo – so you know it’s all about “representation” for feminists, as if bourgeois women becoming capitalist politicians, mass-murderers, torture and spy chiefs and weapons manufacturers is somehow going to liberate the mass of women from their shackles.
Internationalists call to mobilize workers power to defend women’s rights. Above: Class Struggle Workers – Portland in labor contingent against fascist #HimToo provocation, 17 November 2018.
But Marxism is about genuinely liberating all of the oppressed. It is a program for the liberation of women, based on our understanding that the oppression of women is rooted in class-based society. This is very different from how liberals conceive of women’s oppression. For them, it is not specifically rooted in concrete social structures; it’s all at the level of ideas – having a “conversation,” getting men to “get it,” promoting “herstory” – separating sexism from the material reality of women’s oppression. And if you’re just punching at ideas in the air, then you don’t have to – and can’t – challenge capitalism.
Lastly, I want to return to the topic of rape. Rape is real, and still today regularly ignored. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of rape kits that are untested all across the United States, collecting dust. Not only that, but in New York alone, seven hospitals were charging victims for rape kits (New York Times, 29 November 2018). Rape kits are a really invasive procedure in horrifically traumatic circumstances, and then victims got a hefty bill for it. But we’re not going to combat the terrifying scourge of rape with “affirmative consent” rules in colleges, which is a totalitarian recipe for disaster.
We’re also not going to be able to challenge the basis of women’s oppression with the program of the #MeToo movement, by only always believing the accuser. The feminists who are backing that ideology would have lined up with the lynch mob against Emmett Till. They would be against the Scottsboro Boys, who were falsely accused of raping two white women and condemned to death for it. Only the massive international defense campaign, led by reds, saved their lives. And they would be against the Central Park Five, the black and Latino teenagers convicted on false charges of raping a white woman in 1989, with Donald Trump taking out full-page ads demanding the death penalty against them. They spent from 6 to 13 years each in prison, only to be exonerated.
And we can’t pretend that women never misremember, get confused, make things up, or just lie. There was the case of Tawana Brawley, for example, the black 15-year-old who invented a false story of being raped by four white men, including two cops, and the entire left was taken in by this claim, which was later revealed to be a hoax. So it is important to be careful in looking at the details of each case instead of jumping onto this bandwagon.
Then there is the class question as it concerns the “#MeToo movement.” Working-class women do not, as a rule, have the option to call out their bosses. In some cases, this is actually a matter of life or death. In Ken Loach’s movie about the immigrant janitorial workers’ organizing drive in Los Angeles, Bread and Roses, which we often show at CUNY, the main character’s sister sleeps with the boss to get her a job she desperately needs. Unfortunately, this woman doesn’t have the real possibility of calling out her boss. Her oppression is written into the very structure of capitalism.
Any real program for the liberation of women needs to include the socialization of housework, as part of the overall Marxist program for replacing the monogamous nuclear family – which today’s feminists don’t touch – with social institutions to lift these burdens off the back of women and open the way to real freedom, in the context of building a socialist society. ■
- 1. On Steinem’s widely-documented work for the CIA, see “‘Democratic Socialism’ in the Service of U.S. Imperialism,” in the Internationalist Group pamphlet DSA: Fronting for the Democrats (February 2018), and Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (Harvard University Press, 2008), pp. 141-48.
- 2. See “Democrats Exploit School Shooting to Push Racist Gun Control,” The Internationalist No. 51 (March-April 2018).
- 3. This refers to Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act of 1972, which states: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This originally created opportunities for women’s sports programs in the schools. Subsequently, a number of Supreme Court decisions in the 1990s required schools to respond to reports of sexual harassment or sexual violence; and in 2011, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued a statement, known as the “Dear Colleague Letter,” stating that institutions of higher education have the responsibility to “take immediate and effective steps to end sexual harassment and sexual violence.”
- 4. See “Betsy DeVos: Trump’s Voucher Vulture,” by Class Struggle Education Workers, The Internationalist No. 45, January-February 2017.
- 5. See Bethany Saltman, “We Started the Crusade for Affirmative Consent Way Back in the ’90s,” The Cut, 22 October 2014.
- 6. As we wrote in the “Founding Declaration of the Revolutionary Internationalist Youth”: “This form of bourgeois ideology feigns a fight against oppression through ‘check-your-privilege’ liberal idealism and is systematically imbued among university students, including many of those who see themselves as radical. It is used to deepen the wedge between different sectors of the workers and oppressed, claiming to unite those who share a sectorally defined identity, including members of the exploiting class. The long-standing feminist slogan ‘Sisterhood is Powerful’ is a classic example, as if Hillary Clinton or former First Lady Michelle Obama could be the ‘sisters’ of women workers in the Clintons’ Haitian sweatshops, immigrants deported by Barack Obama, mothers whose children were killed by his drones, or strikers targeted by the anti-labor laws the bourgeois politicians enforce. Ostensibly radical versions (including the phantasmagorical ‘proletarian feminism’ some Maoists go on about) give left cover to this bourgeois ideology rather than forthrightly explaining how it can never be a program for actually winning liberation” (Revolution No. 14, January 2018).
- 7. A recent article on Haspel (Independent [London], 6 January) is headlined “Women now run top three CIA departments for first time in history: Agency chief Gina Haspel aids rise of the ‘sisterhood’ in organisation dominated by men for much of its 70-year history.”
- 8. “How Women Took Over the Military-Industrial Complex,” Politico, 2 January.