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Speak Out Against the Verdict on Chhatradhar Mahato and Others



Radical Socialist
11 May, 2015

India is a country, where the rich alone have legal rights, where the rich alone are truly patriotic.  The poor are good, only when they accept torture in silence, and remain quiet, without resisting exploitation though they die in the process. Those who make India's laws, i.e., Parliament, those who uphold the laws, i.e., the police, the army and the administrative machinery, and those who apply and interpret the law, i.e., the judiciary, all provide daily proofs of the foregoing assertion.

Those who have huge property, or those who tread the corridors of power, get advatages at every step, even if they commit crimes. They easily get bail. Their cases are prolonged or rapidly disposed depending on their needs. If by chance a lower court convicts them they are assured of a reversal of the verdict at higher levels. When they have to stay in jails the very shape of the prison changes.

We do not want a single human being to be deprived of their legal rights. But the seeming equality of bourgeois democracy hides gross inequality.  The rich get assistancer, the poor do not get it. The bail is set so high the Salman Khans can pay it, but the common people cannot. Then there are speciual laws which are aimed at those who protest, or at particular groups of people. This was acknowledged most clearly at one point of history, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi had targettted bourgeois oppositionists, applying Maintenance of Internal Security Act or MISA. At that time, Atal Behari Vajpayee had objeced, saying, MISA was meant for Naxalites.

 Today's situation is absolutely clear. The Binayak Sens and the Soni Soris get bail after a very long time, across many agitations. A 90% physically disabled Prof. G. N. Saibaba has not been given bail despite a year in custody. One the other hand, our muscular film star Khan Sahib was out on bail the entire 13 years his trial for running over a pavement dweller went on. Within hours of being found guilty and sentenced, he was again out on bail. J. Jayalalithaa is out, exonerated in the /Disproportionate Assets case. On the same day, in a different court in another part of the country, Chhatradhar Mahato was found guilty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and other laws. He and his comrades have since been given life terms.
 

Sustained efforts are on, to make people forget why the Lalgarh movement took place. After all, the duty of the adivasi is to bow their heads and accept it when their land and their forests are taken away from them. An added duty of adivasi women is to smilkingly accept being raped. And if they protest, they are Maoists, terrorists, anti-nationals. And presumably it is Maya Kodnani, found guilty of inciting the Naroda Patiya massacre, who is the ultimate patriot. From Buddhadev Bhattacharjee to Mamata Banerjee, all governmental parties and leaders – it is impossible to distinguish between their roles in such matters when they are in power.

In fact, Chhatradhar Mahato and his comrades had built mass organisations and had taken the path of mass movements. They had even (in our view wrongly) joined forces with Mamata Banerjee and the so-called "civil society" figures that worship at her doors. In that case, if the UAPA is being applied against Chhatradhar, why are they excluded? Does this not demonstrate how the judicial sysem dispenses class justice?

Repeal all Repressive Laws like UAPA,AFSPA
Release Chhatradhar mahato and all others convicted in this case
Build up Solidarity with the Struggles of Adivasis for their Rights

ছত্রধর মাহাতোদের উপর রায়ের বিরুদ্ধে সোচ্চার হোন

র‍্যাডিকাল সোশ্যালিস্টের বিবৃতি

 

১১ মে, ২০১৫

 

ভারতবর্ষ এমন একটি দেশ, যেখানে ধনীরই আছে আইনী অধিকার, যেখানে ধনীরাই শুধু খাঁটি দেশভক্ত। দরিদ্র

তখনই ভাল, যখন তারা নীরবে অত্যাচার সহ্য করে, আমৃত্যু শোষণের প্রতিবাদ না করেই থাকে। ভারতীয়

আইনের প্রণেতারা, অর্থাৎ পার্লামেন্ট, আইনের রক্ষাকর্তারা, অর্থাৎ পুলিশ-মিলিটারী-প্রশাসন, এবং আইনের

ব্যাখ্যাকর্তারা, অর্থাৎ বিচারবিভাগ, প্রতিদিন এর প্রমাণ দিয়ে চলেছে।

 

যাদের বিপুল সম্পদ, অথবা যারা ক্ষমতার কাছে ঘোরে, তারা অপরাধ করলেও প্রতি পদে সুবিধা ভোগ করে।

তারা সহজে জামিন পায়। তাদের মোকদ্দমা প্রলম্বিত বা দ্রুত নিষ্পত্তি হয় তাদের প্রয়োজন মতো। তারা হঠাৎ

নিম্ন আদালতে দোষী সাব্যস্ত হলে উচ্চ আদালত অবশ্যই তাদের ছাড় দেয়। তারা জেলে থাকলে জেলের চেহারা

পালটে যায়।

 

আমরা চাই না, একজন মানুষও আইনী অধিকার থেকে বঞ্চিত হোক। কিন্তু বুর্জোয়া গণতন্ত্রের আপাত-সমতা,

আইনী অধিকার সংক্রান্ত কথার আড়ালে অসাম্য লুকিয়ে আছে। ধনীর জন্য সাহায্য জোটে, গরিবের জোটে

না। জামিনের পরিমান এমন চড়া হয় যে সলমান খানরা তা দিতে পারে, সাধারণ মানুষ পারে না। আইনের

বিশেষ কিছু ধারা থাকে যা প্রতিবাদী মানুষের বা বিশেষ কিছু গোষ্ঠীর উপর প্রয়োগ করার জন্যই আছে। এর

সবচেয়ে খোলাখুলি স্বীকৃতি মিলেছিল জরুরি অবস্থার সময়ে শ্রীমতি ইন্দিরা গান্ধী বুর্জোয়া দলের সদস্যদের

উপর মিসা প্রয়োগ করলে । তখন অটল বিহারী বাজপেয়ী বলেছিলেন, মিসা তো নকশালদের জন্য ছিল।

 

আজকের পরিস্থিতি স্পষ্ট। বিনায়ক সেন বা সোনি সোরিদের জামিন মেলে বহু দিন পরে, বহু আন্দোলন

পেরিয়ে। ৯০% প্রতিবন্ধী অধ্যাপক সাইবাবা মাওবাদী বলে গ্রেপ্তার, এবং এক বছরে জামিন মেলেনি। আর

নিম্ন আদালতে ১৩ বছর মামলা চলাকালীন ব্যায়ামবীর খানসাহেব জামিনে বাইরে। বিচারে সাজা পাওয়ার

কয়েক ঘন্টার মধ্যে তিনি আবারও জামিন পেলেন। অতিরিক্ত সম্পত্তির মামলাতে বেকসুর খালাস জয়ললিতা।

আর একই দিনে অন্য আদালতে ইউএপিএ সহ বিভিন্ন আইনের বিভিন্ন ধারায় দোষী বলে ঘোষণা করা হল

ছত্রধর মাহাতোকে।

 

লালগড়ের লড়াই কেন হয়েছিল, মানুষকে তা ভুলিয়ে দেওয়ার প্রবল চেষ্টা চলছে। আদিবাসীর কাজ

জমি-জংগল কেড়ে নিলে মাথা হেঁট করে তা মেনে নেওয়া। আদিবাসী মেয়েদের বাড়তি কাজ হাসিমুখে ধর্ষিতা

হওয়া। আর প্রতিবাদ করলে তাঁরা মাওবাদী, সন্ত্রাসবাদী, দেশদ্রোহী। আর নারোড়া পাতিয়ার হত্যাকান্ডের

নায়িকা মায়া কোদনানি বোধ হয় দেশপ্রেমিক। বুদ্ধদেব ভট্টাচায্যি থেকে মমতা ব্যানার্জী সহ সমস্ত সরকারি দল ও

নেতা সরকারে থাকা অবস্থায় এই ব্যাপারে কারোর মধ্যে ফারাক করা অসম্ভব।

 

বাস্তবে, ছত্রধর মাহাতোরা গণ সংগঠন গড়ে, গণ আন্দোলনের পথেই গিয়েছিলেন। এমনকি (আমাদের মতে

ভুল পথে গিয়ে) মমতা বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায় আর তার স্তাবক নাগরিক সমাজের সঙ্গেও হাত মিলিয়েছিলেন। তাহলে

ছত্রধর মাহাতোর বিরুদ্ধে ইউএপিএ এলে তাঁরা বাদ কেন? এটাই কি দেখায় না, বিচার ব্যবস্থা কেমন শ্রেণীগত

ন্যায় বর্ষণ করে?

 

ইউএপিএ, আফস্পা সহ সমস্ত দমনমূলক আইন বাতিল কর

 

ছত্রধর মাহাতো সহ এই মামলায় দন্ডিতদের মুক্তি চাই

 

আদিবাসী-জনজাতিদের অধিকারের লড়াইয়ের প্রতি সংহতি গড়ে তুলুন

 

Join the "General Strike" in West Bengal on 30th April 2015 to Defend the Democratic Rights of the Working Class

Join the "General Strike" in West Bengal on 30th April 2015 to Defend the Democratic Rights of the Working Class

 

With the open use of a violent goon army, supported by the Trinamul Congress, the administration and even the State Election Commission, and with ordinary people unable to vote, the 2015 West Bengal Municipal elections was turned into an example of election-by-terror. The present regime has followed the footsteps of the previous Government, but with even more ferocity and violence. The Trinamul Congress (TMC) which came to power on the slogan of Paribartan or change has ended up instead with a rule replete with promoters, cheats, rapists and goons.

It is not as if elections can create heaven on earth. But it is a part of our democratic rights- it is our right to vote with freedom and to remove a party we do not like. We were the first to start protests on the streets after the TMC came to power. We did not do this from any political party interest. Our struggle was for the rights of the unorganised sector workers. We live in a State where most workers do not get minimum wages, where there is no guarantee to get work and where workers are deprived of any social security. In our State, the procession of tea plantation workers who have died due to starvation and of farmers who commit suicide because they cannot sell their produce continues. Despite all this, the Government's attention is focused on clubs who receive lakhs of rupees. The reason behind this has become clear after the vote- the strategy has been to tap into the frustration of a section of hopeless, unemployed youth, creating an army of goons that are a powerful weapon in the fight to win elections.

However time and again, working people and unemployed youth in search of employment are faced with the truth that is only through united struggle that there can be any sustainable change in their situation. Rights won through hard struggles can only be expanded and protected through such struggle. However for such a struggle we need democratic space and rights. And, we have experienced that no government is willing to accept these democratic rights without a sustained struggle. Without the right to vote freely, other democratic rights also tend to be under attack.  

During the Left Front's regime also, working people were repeatedly deprived and workers and farmers were the target of bullets. The question is not about whether the CPI(M) got votes or not, but about people's democratic right. While we have very justified reasons for being angry with the CPI(M), maintaining a "neutral" role in the present situation will be our loss. Therefore not because we are dreaming of a Left Front victory, but because we want a better life for working people (which is possible only through struggle), we appeal to everyone to take a step in this direction by supporting the strike called on 30th April. This strike may be a method for the Left to capitalise on the anger and frustration of people with the elections and to use this for their narrow electoral objectives. But the anger and frustration of the common people with the present elections is a reality. So, we are calling on all working people to use this strike as a weapon to protect their democratic rights. We demand a clean, transparent, non-partisan administration and police functioning. We demand an end to partisan politics and the establishment of true democracy. We demand an end to the use of muscle power. We demand the establishment of an open, democratic political culture.

 

(Swapan Ganguly)                                           (Somnath Ghosh)

Convenor                                                         Convenor

Asanghathita Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Manch

Date : 29-04-2015

 

Statement by Osongothito Kshetro Sramik Sangrami Mancha supporting the General Strike call for 30 April (Bangla text)

শ্রমজীবী মানুষের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকার রক্ষা করতে ৩০শে এপ্রিল সাধারন ধর্মঘট সফল করুন

হিংস্র গুণ্ডাবাহিনী ব্যবহার করে, সাধারণ মানুষকে ভোট দিতে না দিয়ে, তৃণমুল কংগ্রেস দল, রাজ্য প্রশাসন, এবং স্বয়ং রাজ্য নির্বাচন কমিশন, ২০১৫-র পশ্চিমবঙ্গের পৌর নির্বাচনকে সরকারি সন্ত্রাসবাদের এক নজীরে পরিণত করেছে। আসলে তারা পূর্বসূরিদের পদাঙ্ক অনুসরণ করে আরও উগ্র ও ভয়ঙ্কর ভাবে এই অপকীর্তি সংঘটিত করেছে। পরিবর্তনের প্রতিশ্রুতি দিয়ে ক্ষমতায় এসে তৃণমুল কংগ্রেস গড়ে তুলেছে প্রোমোটার, জালিয়াত, নারীধর্ষক এবং গুণ্ডাচক্রের রাজ।

নির্বাচন কোনো স্বর্গ এনে দেবে, এমন নয়। কিন্তু আমাদের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকারের অঙ্গ - ইচ্ছামত ভোট দেওয়া, অপছন্দের দলকে ক্ষমতা থেকে হঠানো।  এই রাজ্যে তৃণমূল কংগ্রেস সরকার আসার পর সবার আগে রাস্তায় নেমেছি আমরাই। আর, সে কাজ করা হয়নি কোনো দলীয় স্বার্থে। অসংগঠিত শ্রমিকদের মৌলিক দাবি নিয়েই ছিল সেই লড়াই। যে রাজ্যে অধিকাংশ শ্রমিক ন্যূনতম মজুরি পায় না, কাজের নিশ্চয়তা নেই, সামাজিক সুরক্ষা থেকে বঞ্চিত, যে রাজ্যে চা বাগানে আজ অনাহার মৃত্যুর মিছিল অব্যাহত এবং কৃষকেরা ফসলের দাম না পেয়ে আত্মহত্যা করে চলেছে, সেখানে সরকারের চোখ কেন ক্লাবদের দিকে, তারা কেন লাখে লাখে টাকা পায়, তা এবারের ভোটের পরও স্পষ্ট।বেকারত্বের জ্বালাকে কৌশলে বিপথগামী করে হতাশ, অসহায় যুবসমাজের একটা অংশকে দিয়ে তৈরী করা গুন্ডাবাহিনী হল শাসকদলের ভোট বৈতরণি পার হবার এক মোক্ষম উপায়।

কিন্তু বাস্তব প্রতি মুহূর্তে শ্রমজীবি মানুষ এবং কর্মপ্রার্থী বেকারদের যে সত্যের সামনে দাড় করিয়ে দেয়, তা হল একমাত্র ঐক্যবদ্ধ হয়ে লড়াই করেই নিজেদের অবস্থার স্থায়ী উন্নতি করা সম্ভব, অর্জিত অধিকার রক্ষা করা ও বাড়িয়ে তোলা সম্ভব। কিন্তু সেই লড়াই জারি রাখার জন্যই চাই মানুষের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকার। আর, আমরা দেখেছি, এই রাষ্ট্রে কোনো সরকারই মানুষের তীব্র সংগ্রাম ছাড়া গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকার মেনে নেয় না। ভোটের অধিকার না থাকার মানে অন্যান্য গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকারও না থাকা। বামফ্রণ্টের জমানাতেও যে মেহনতি মানুষকে বারে বারে বঞ্চিত হতে হয়েছে, সে জমানাতেও যে শ্রমিক-কৃষকের উপর গুলি চলেছে তা আমরা জানি। কিন্তু প্রশ্নটা সিপিআই (এম) দলের ভোটপ্রাপ্তির নয়, মানুষের অধিকারের। সিপিআই (এম) দলের উপর ন্যায়সংগত আক্রোশ থেকে আমরা এ লড়াইয়ে নিরপেক্ষ থাকলে আমাদেরই ক্ষতি। তাই, বামফ্রণ্টকে আগামী দিনে জয়ী করার স্বপ্ন নিয়ে নয়, বরং শ্রমজীবী মানুষের জন্য উন্নততর জীবনের স্বার্থে, যে বিকল্প শুধু গণ সংগ্রামের পথে আসবে, তার দিকে যাত্রা শুরু করতে সামিল হন ৩০শে এপ্রিলের রাজ্যব্যাপী সাধারণ ধর্মঘট সফল করার লড়াইয়ে। বামফ্রন্টের ডাকা এই ধর্মঘট মানুষের ক্ষোভ, হতাশাকে পুঁজি করে তাদের নির্বাচনী সাফল্যের হাতিয়ার করার উপায় হতে পারে, কিন্তু মানুষের ক্ষোভ, হতাশা বাস্তব। তাই এই ধর্মঘটকেই আমরা শ্রমজীবি মানুষের গণতান্ত্রিক অধিকার রক্ষার লড়াইয়ের হাতিয়ার করে তোলার আহ্বান জানাচ্ছি। আমরা দাবী করছি স্বচ্ছ ও নিরপেক্ষ প্রশাসন ও পুলিশী ব্যবস্থার। আমরা দাবী করছি দলতন্ত্র খতম করে গণতন্ত্র প্রতিষ্ঠা। আরও দাবী করছি রাজনীতিতে পেশীশক্তির অনুপ্রবেশের অপসংস্কৃতির অবসান।

 

স্বপন গাঙ্গুলী                             সোমনাথ ঘোষ

আহ্ববায়ক                                আহ্ববায়ক

অসংগঠিত ক্ষেত্র শ্রমিক সংগ্রামী মঞ্চের পক্ষে

২৯ ০৪ - ২০১৫

Marx and the Family Revisited

 

 

— Dianne Feeley

Marxism and the Oppression of Women
Toward a Unitary Theory
By Lise Vogel
New introduction by Susan Ferguson and David McNally
Boston: Brill, 2013, Original Publication Rutgers University Press, 1983, Haymarket paperback 2014. $28 paperback.

THE RE-ISSUING OF Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory, 30 years after its initial publication, is a chance for socialist feminists to review the legacy of the Marxist tradition in theorizing the secondary status of women. Vogel’s study stands out for its thorough research and critical inspection of Marx’s and Engels’ discussion of women’s oppression, and how their views evolved.

To the original text, the new edition has added an introduction by Susan Ferguson and David McNally and an appendix, “Domestic Labor Revisited,” by Vogel. Ferguson and McNally describe Vogel’s work as opening up a new area of research built on “the conceptual architecture of Marx’s Capital,” having been “below-the-radar” during the ice age of neoliberalism. (xvii, xxii)

While explaining Marx’s concept of labor power as “the hinge” on which the capitalist system revolves, Ferguson and McNally point out that Marx does not pursue a pivotal question: “How is this unique commodity, labor power, produced? Vogel’s answer is that it ‘is not produced capitalistically.’ Rather, it is produced and reproduced in a ‘kin-based site,’ the ‘working class family.’” (xxiv)

Given that this task is carried out primarily within the family by women as an extension of their childbearing and nursing capacities, capital and the state need to be able to regulate women.

Ferguson and McNally tackle a question that Vogel doesn’t explain: Why did Marx assume that capitalist development would disintegrate families of the working class? As they point out, the state would find itself forced to intervene to protect the working class precisely because, under conditions of early English factory life, it was not able to reproduce the next generation of laborers.

Legislation was passed starting in 1842 limiting child labor, curtailing hours of work for women and children and restricting women from certain occupations (such as mining, but not domestic service). These had the effects of shoring up the working-class family and reasserting gender differences. (xxx)

The working class campaigned to defend itself through passage of such legislation. Thus the working-class family under capitalism is shaped by struggles between the working class and capital, and within classes as well. For the capitalists, the family provides the main source of labor power, essential to production; for the working class, it is the site that provides lasting emotional bonds — caring, brutal or somewhere in between.

The introduction also reviews some of the theoretical work that has been done by Black feminists, most notably Patricia Hill Collins. Ferguson and McNally discuss the concept of “intersectionality” that Kimberly Crenshaw first developed. They also take note of new work on sexuality and queer identities and conclude by discussing the work of Himani Bannerji.

For Ferguson and McNally, “a central task of historical materialism is to develop a conceptual map of the real in all its complex and contradictory processes of becoming.” They see Vogel as making an important contribution to understanding the gendered forms of capitalist social reproduction, but see this mapping as inevitably far from complete. (xl)

Reviewing Second Wave Socialist Feminism

Before examining Marxist concepts, Lise Vogel reviews several debates by Second Wave socialist feminists as they unfolded from the late 1960s through the early 1980s. These attempted to explain the material basis for women’s status in class society and, to some extent, to relate that status to similar and overlapping oppressions. Some of their theorizing borrowed from concepts raised by Marxists, by radical feminists and Black feminists, and was certainly influenced by Simone De Beauvoir.

Beginning with Juliet Mitchell, Second Wave theorists commented on what they viewed as the “economism” (economic reductionism) of the early Marxists. At the same time, they appreciated the historical materialism of the Marxist tradition and probed for a more compelling analysis of women’s status, particularly under capitalism.

These thinkers all rejected the notion that women’s growing participation in paid work would successfully undermine women’s oppression. Women’s responsibilities for unpaid domestic work within the family — whether working outside the home or not — are obviously a central building block in their theorization. Is domestic labor a holdover from a previous mode of production? Do women form a class? Do those women married to men of the corporate elite share, at any level, this secondary status?

Isn’t women’s work within the household as “productive” as paid work? How do biological, psychological and ideological factors impact women’s lives? How can women be seen as actors in reproducing or rejecting their secondary status? What roles do working-class men play in women’s oppression?

The first two chapters of Vogel’s book review these debates, focusing most specifically on the “wages for housework” demand and on “dual systems” theory — the former primarily concerned with women’s unpaid responsibilities under capitalism, the latter an attempt to explain whether class and gender are separate or interlocking systems.

Before turning to the writings of the earlier Marxists, Vogel outlines what she believes must be the components for the unitary approach she seek. It must start from a firm commitment to the liberation of women and real social equality for all; it must analyze women’s current status and study its history; it must theorize on the basis of the evidence, and suggest a program and strategy to end women’s oppression. (38-39)

Vogel’s building blocks ultimately fuse production and reproduction into a single conception of social reproduction that all societies require. When discussing reproduction, she means not only sustenance that allows the worker to continue working, but also caring for those in the household too old to be part of the work force as well as those who will be future workers.

Vogel sharply distinguishes between working-class families, which function to produce a new generation of workers, and families of the ruling class whose primary task, as noted in The Communist Manifesto (1848), is to transfer property to their children. She observes that the family is the most common way that the next generation of the working class is produced, but mentions other possibilities including slavery, recruitment from rural areas, immigration, or even raising children in orphanages.

She remarks that the family form must have particular advantages as it is the most dominant, but does not investigate this form as it developed under capital. She is investigating theory, not history. As she points out in the appendix:

“(T)heory is necessarily abstract as well as severely constrained in its implications. It can point to key elements and tendencies but it cannot provide richly textured accounts of social life. Even less does it directly explain events, suggest strategies, or evaluate the prospects for political action.” (186)

While this seems to contradict the author’s criteria for components of a unitary approach, Vogel sees theory:

“…as a sort of lens. By itself, the lens tells us little about the specifics of a particular society at a particular moment. It is only by using the lens that observers can evaluate such specifics and strategies for the future. Compared to theorizing — producing the lens — these tasks of empirical investigation and political analysis constitute intellectual work of a different and, I would argue, more challenging sort.” (186-7)

Elements of Marx’s Theory

In examining Marx’s writings, Vogel notes his earliest statement on the relations between men and women is abstract, rooted in the reality of private property. Women are “the other,” objects of trade.

Within a year he draws the conclusion that “the change in a historical epoch can always be determined by women’s progress toward freedom, because here, in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation.” (Quoted on page 44) Marx contrasts this reality with the hypocrisy of contemporary bourgeois society.

Engels, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, first examined women’s social position in his Condition of the Working Class in England (1845). Engels begins by focusing on the actual experience of industrial and agricultural women workers, insisting that their low wages, long work day and horrendous working conditions are not the result of technological innovation but rather arise out of capital’s drive for profit.

He details the effects on women: high rates of miscarriage, difficulty in childbearing and subsequent rearing of children, prostitution and men’s brutality toward women. Noting that “family life for the worker is almost impossible under the existing social system,” he also remarks that when the woman is employed but her husband is not, the “normal” division of labor within the household is up-ended. But if having the woman as the breadwinner is unnatural, Engels poses the question: Isn’t the rule of the husband also unnatural? He concludes that it must be.

Vogel draws three important theoretical contributions from this early Engels.

1. “The family must be conceptualized in terms of specific modes of production and specific classes.” (49)

2. Certain assumptions are implicit within the wage structure. Even when competition among workers is fierce, wages must be high enough for the worker on a given job to continue working. Vogel notes that in Conditions “Engels has sketched the outlines of a theory of the relationship between wages and the working-class family: the level of wages is as much a social as a physical issue; wages cover the reproduction of the working class by supporting households, not individuals; capitalists can therefore force wages down by drawing more household-members into wage labour; such a depreciation of the value of an individual’s work may require a significant alteration in what Engels terms ‘the standard of living and the level of culture of the workers.’” (my emphasis, 50)

3. Engels observes that there is a relationship between the size of the working class and the degree of capitalist development. Industry always needs a reserve of unemployed workers who can compete for jobs in a tight market and be added as the market expands. If necessary, additional labor can be found in more rural districts or imported from another country.

The Family Form

Vogel notes some ambiguity in the early Marxist writings about the existence and extent of a working-class family. She sees Marx and Engels as mistaken in denying its existence. However, I have always assumed that what they saw in the 1840s was a fairly accurate picture: the English working-class family developed after passage of a 10-hour work day and protective legislation — as Ferguson and McNally’s introduction outlines. Insofar as this early working class had households, they arose from peasant families.

Vogel does identify Marx’s view of the peasant family as hierarchical: “in private property of every type the slavery of the members of the family is at least implicit since they are made use of and exploited by the head of the family.” (Marx, quoted 64)

She notes that Marx sees the peasant family’s division of labor by sex and age as “natural” and questions that assumption. What is “natural,” Vogel notes, is that women bear children and that their milk is necessary to sustain children during infancy.

Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, accuse the bourgeoisie of attempting to transform what are social forms that spring from a specific mode of production and form of property into “eternal laws of nature.” They ask:

 “On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among the proletarians, and in public prostitution.” (CM quoted 67-68)

In the Manifesto they conclude that “The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course” when private property and inheritance rights are abolished; they plead guilty to “wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents,” replacing home education with one that is free and publicly available. Women will no longer be the property of men, in the form of “prostitution both public and private” (within the family).

Women in Paid Work

Unlike many other socialists of their day, Marx and Engels supported women’s right to paid work outside the home. They supported passage of protective legislation for both women and children and, as Vogel explains, saw that “the drawing of women and children out of social isolation and patriarchal oppression in the peasant family to ‘cooperate in the great work of social production [is] a progressive, sound and legitimate tendency.’” (74)

Vogel points to the importance of Marx’s understanding of how the worker can sell one’s labor power (a unit of time) to the individual capitalist, who can then produce a profit on the basis of this exchange. Marx divides the work day into two portions: the amount of time it takes the worker to produce value equal to one’s wage — necessary labor time — and the rest of the day, when the worker continues to produce, but the value goes to the capitalist.

By this means the capitalist is able to deprive the worker of the full measure of the value produced. This is the source of exploitation.

Payment of the wage, like all other market exchanges, is determined by the socially necessary labor required for the worker to continue at one’s job. But Marx points out that the wage is elastic and depends on a social assumption about “a traditional standard of life. It is not mere physical life, but it is the satisfaction of certain wants springing from the social conditions in which people are placed and reared up.”

Thus the wage can grow or contract depending on the level of competition, on capital’s ability to deskill, on workers’ capacity to force the employer to raise wages and improve benefits. The price of labor power doesn’t usually coincide with its value, but fluctuates around it; Vogel notes it can fall “substantially below its value, to the point that sectors of existing labor-power are not renewed in the next generation.” (69)

The wage can buy commodities the worker needs, but generally speaking unpaid domestic labor must be employed to turn them into meals that can be eaten, clothes that are washed and repaired, homes that are maintained.

Vogel highlights three key concepts that Marx takes up in his discussion about wages in Capital: individual consumption (the processes by which the laborer consumes in order to live), the value of labor power, and the industrial-reserve army. She cites these three as providing the basis on which to construct “a theory of the relationship of women and the family to social reproduction in general and the capitalist mode of production in particular.” (73)

Marxism After Marx

After Marx’s death in 1883, Engels attempted to complete work Marx had started. But both his work on subsequent volumes of Capital and his writing The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884) are still being criticized 130 years later.

Praising Engels for a restatement of Marx’s original ideas on women, the family and the reproduction of the working class in Anti-Duhring (1878) and Origin, Vogel ends her list by noting that Engels locates family forms in social relations. If these relationships change, the family will change. His call for “’the transformation of private domestic work into a public industry”’ marks “the first formulation within the classical-Marxist tradition of a position later to become a central tenet of socialist strategy.” As she also notes, this had long been a concern of utopian thinkers. (78)

Engels produced Origin from Marx’s notes after reading Ancient Society by Edward Morgan, an American considered the father of anthropology. Vogel remarks that “despite its many factual and interpretive errors,” Ancient Society attempted to describe social institutions in evolutionary terms and thus set a baseline for all subsequent research on early human societies.

One of Morgan’s premises is that gender equality once existed, but had been overthrown with the rise of social surplus privately held. That is, the patriarchal family developed primarily as an institution to transmit property along the male line to the next generation. Both Marx in his notebooks and Engels in Origins reorganized Morgan’s structure, and therefore refocused the discussion on the evolution of the family.

Following the work of Morgan and Johann Jakob Bachofen, Engels assumed that “mother right” operated in primitive societies. The “natural” division of labor placed women in charge of the communal household, with descent following the female line. As productivity grew, especially with the development of agriculture and the raising of animals, men overthrew that social order and imposed a patrilineal clan system.

Engels characterized this change as “the world historic defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude; she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children.” (Quoted 87)

Engels sees the development of classes taking place at the same time and in the same space as the struggle between male and female.

Looking at marriage under capitalism, Engels notes that the rising bourgeoisie uses the institution for inheritance. But workers have no property, and with the increasing employment of women, male supremacy has no basis to survive — “except, perhaps, for something of the brutality toward women that has spread since the introduction of monogamy.” (Quoted 88)

Vogel outlines the problem with this assumption: Working-class households are an essential social unit for the reproduction of the working class and provide the material, ideological and psychological basis for male supremacy within the working class.

According to Vogel, Engels emphasizes the importance of women’s democratic rights but seems to put off, until after the revolution, the socialization processes necessary to transform the family and liberate women. Because “he only partially transforms Morgan’s crude materialism,” Vogel argues, “The Origin is marred throughout by Engels’ failure to base the discussion on an adequate exposition of Marx’s theory of social development,” and by “a generally utopian critique of property and view of the socialist future.”

In Vogel’s judgment, Origin “constituted a defective text whose ambiguous theoretical and political formulations nevertheless became an integral part of the socialist legacy.” (96)

Although Vogel finds Origin a step back from Marx’s analysis, she points out that Engels undoubtedly wrote as it an alternative to August Bebel’s Women Under Socialism (1879), which went through 25 editions by 1895.

Sketching the situation of women in the past, the present and the future, Bebel concentrated on indicting capitalism’s subordination of women and contrasting that with a future socialism in which there would be equality and a socialization of domestic labor. Most importantly, Bebel challenged the notion that there was natural division of labor by gender.

Vogel finds Women Under Socialism passionately argued but theoretically weak. Socialism is seen as a redistribution of goods and services, rather than a reorganization of social relations and production. However it did speak to men and women who saw their world as unjust and were willing to fight for a better one.
She quotes Ottilie Baader, an older working-class woman who became an activist in the German Social Democratic Party after reading the book:

“I read it nights through. It was my own fate and that of thousands of my sisters. Neither in the family nor in public life had I ever heard of all the pain the woman must endure. One ignored her life. Bebel’s book courageously broke with the old secretiveness….I read the book not once but ten times. Because everything was so new, it took considerable effort to come to grips with Bebel’s views. I had to break with so many things that I had previously regarded as correct.” (101)

Problems of Practice

In what I found her least convincing chapters, Vogel discusses socialist feminist practice in the Second International. She sees European socialist parties moving from the 1870s toward a reformism that led them to support their respective imperialist governments in World War I.

I was disappointed by the lack of information about the social democracy and their energetic support of women. On the other hand, I felt Vogel succinctly pinpointed Lenin’s understanding about the centrality of democratic rights for the oppressed, and consequently for women’s rights.

Leinin saw capitalism as a system which “combines formal equality with economic and, consequently, social inequality.” (Quoted, 124) Therefore revolutionaries must support democratic struggles because even limited advances provide better conditions for the entire population. Secondly, in the course of struggle people will see that the source of the problem is capitalism. Vogel sees Lenin’s work on democratic rights as extending earlier socialist analysis and distinguishing revolutionary from reformist strategies.

She also cites as refreshingly positive Lenin’s comments after the 1917 Russian Revolution. Changing the laws wasn’t enough; it was merely clearing the ground for the construction of a new order. In 1919 he wrote that despite “all the law emancipating woman, she continues to be a domestic slave, because petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades her, chains her to the kitchen and the nursery, and she wastes her labor on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking, stultifying and crushing drudgery.” (125)

For the Bolsheviks, self-emancipation was key to carrying out the tasks of socializing childcare and housework, but Lenin also felt that educating men to overcome their own backwardness was essential in order to “root out the old slave-owner’s point of view, both in the Party and among the masses.” (Lenin quoted 125, 128)

In summarizing the classical Marxist analysis of women’s oppression and how it can be ended, Vogel sees only “limited theoretical guidance.” She feels it is marked by inconsistencies and omissions, vacillating between liberal notions of rights, crude materialism and utopian thinking. In fact she sees two differing theories suggested within this jumble — a dual systems approach and a social reproduction perspective.

She also believes that those socialists who tend to focus on women’s right to love and to be sexual beings have less to offer than those, like Clara Zetkin, who are more theoretical and therefore less likely to veer toward reformism.

Putting Theory Together

Actually, I don’t think Marxist writing suggests a dual systems approach. There is too much focus on patriarchy arising with the dawn of class society to suggest separate systems. It would be more logical to ask how different class societies refashion the family and reshape women’s work for its particular needs.

 How do families of different classes take on different functions? How does the male’s superior status within the family reproduce itself? What can we learn from looking at the other categories of oppression to see how they operate similarly and differently?

Vogel believes we can find important theoretical concepts scattered throughout the writings of the classic Marxists writers, but I would caution that we need to realize that there has been an evolution of working-class families and women’s roles over the last 100+ years. Certainly in a globalized and neoliberal world, the push/pull factors on the family have changed.

Expectations and fears of women’s changing roles have evolved as well. Issues that once didn’t even have a name are widely discussed — whether we are talking about women in non-traditional jobs, date rape, domestic abuse, civil rights or reproductive justice.

This is not to say that women’s status has been steadily progressing. Rather, there have been steps forward and steps backward. For example, many wonder why, more than 40 years after the U.S. Supreme Court swept away much anti-abortion legislation with the Roe v. Wade decision, we still face a constant barrage of restrictive legislation.

If we understand, however, that underlying the idea of capitalism’s formal equality there are structures of domination based on class, race, sex — and even perceived differences such as gender normative or ableness assumptions — we can understand the reason for the continued assault as a form of class struggle.

Another part of the history we need to evaluate is what Vogel (writing in 1983) discusses as the practices of “socialist” societies. Most of those countries have since reverted to capitalist relations and the small advances women made have been reversed. But none of these post-capitalist societies were ever beacons of hope because a ruling elite prevented the working class from organizing itself independently.

I also found that where Vogel emphasized theoretical weaknesses within the Marxist tradition, she generally minimized the importance of their writings on women’s emotional and physical lives. I have always been proud of the fact that socialists recognized the enormous burden and disappointment in women’s lives.

Lise Vogel’s impressive attempt to re-evaluate the Marxist tradition points toward a comprehensive theory rooted in women’s role within the family. It takes familiar Marxist concepts and makes clear how they are building blocks in theorizing women’s secondary status. It is weaker about examining the evolution of the family, or articulating a program or strategies.

In “Beyond Domestic Labor” she does make the valid point that “the family is neither wholly a pillar of defense and solidarity for the working class, as some socialists would have it, nor an institution so torn by internal struggle and male domination that it must be abolished, as some socialists feminists might argue.” (177)

I agree that socializing what is still mainly women’s work within the home is essential. In fact, socialists don’t just want child care, we want quality child care. But I believe it is also necessary to raise the issue of reducing the work week as a method of challenging the profit system and reconceptualizing what is beneficial to society.

Vogel identifies the failure to examine the working-class family under capitalism as a hole in Marxist theorization. This also leads her to state that Marx and Engels didn’t anticipate the capacity of male supremacy to grow within the working class. Being attentive to the reproduction of male privilege is certainly an issue we need to understand theoretically and historically. That is, there is a whole constellation of institutions and practices that teach hierarchy.

How will a socialist movement be able to ensure that whatever family form might continue to exist be able to overturn patriarchal structures that have persisted for thousands of years? Here I can only suggest that the continued existence of women’s self-organization and socialist awareness will need to build structures that undermine such elitist views.

March/April 2015, ATC 175

Bangladesh left slams Islamist murder of Avijit Roy

 

Thursday 16 April 2015, by Badrul Alam

Badrul Alam from the Communist Party of Bangladesh (Marxist-Leninist) spoke to Solidarity [Britain] about the murder on the streets of Dhaka of the US writer of Bangladeshi background, Avijit Roy.

It is clear that Roy was killed by fundamentalists because there were similar cases in 2004, when a professor from Dhaka University, Humayun Azad, was murdered.

Extremist groups admitted killing Azad, because they held him to be an atheist.

Roy came from a rationalist family. His father was a teacher of physics at Dhaka university; it was a family tradition to be scientific-minded.

Roy was considered by the extremists to be an atheist because on his blog he posted articles about atheism. Extremist groups followed his blog and targeted him for a long time.

People who are rationalists and free thinkers attend book fairs in Bangladesh. The extremists target these book fairs as well.

Secular people think that Roy should have had a right to write anything and publish any books he likes, and should not have been treated like this. As a human being, he has a life to lead, whether he is an atheist or religious-minded or whatever. What the extremists did is completely illegal and it is an expression of their extremist mentality.

Students at Dhaka University, where the incident took place, protested on the streets.

There are some people who think that it is not rational to prod religious-minded people. Better, they think, to approach the matter more carefully. There are a lot of fundamentalist groups in the country who can block radical progress. There is only a small minority which is atheist. So, better to go slow.

On the other hand many people in the country are criticising the religious fundamentalist group for their actions. On the whole it is against the fundamentalists.

Things are moving for the free thinkers in this country, but progress is very slow. Although there is a strong secular culture in Bangladesh, there are millions in the rural areas who are religious-minded. They love religion. But they are not fundamentalist-minded.

Fanatics are few in number. But they are on the rise because of promotional efforts, such as madrassa education or mosque education. The increase in fundamentalist attitudes in this country is alarming.

The CPB-ML are against the murder. Atheists should not be killed by extremists. They have a right to live and express their opinions. After this incident we strongly criticised religious extremists.

We also asked the government to take action against the murderers. We didn’t get much hostility.

18 March 2015

Gay Rights Movement mobiliizes and wins victory against discrimination in the USA

USA

 

Saturday 18 April 2015, by Dan La Botz

The U.S. gay rights movement won a tremendous victory in early April as governors and the state legislatures in Indiana and Arkansas were forced to back down and revise laws that would have discriminated against gay and lesbian couples. [1]

The controversy was over religious freedom versus gay rights. With more and more states passing marriage equality laws—37 of 50 states and the District of Columbia now have such laws allowing same-sex couples to marry—some conservative state governments reacted by attempting to pass religious freedom laws, ostensibly to protect religious rights, but actually to allow religious conservatives to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

The current batch of religious freedom laws are based on a U.S. federal statute called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 that was originally intended to protect Native Americans whose religious involved using drugs such as peyote.

Conservatives then decided to pass similar laws at the state level not to protect the indigenous peoples’ right, but to protect Evangelical Christians who oppose same-sex marriage. Under such laws, private individuals or businesses would not have to serve LGBT folks, for example, a baker could refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding. Some 19 states passed such religious freedom laws intended to build an impermeable wall between Evangelicals and the gay movement.

But it is clear that times have changed. When the Indiana legislature passed and Governor Michael Pence signed a religious freedom law that would, for example, have allowed private parties to discriminate, the LGBT movement spoke out and organized against it at once. At about the same time Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas was signing a similar bill passed by the Arkansas legislature, with a similar reaction from gay rights groups.

Gay organizations called the new laws “a license to discriminate” and immediately organized protests in Indiana and Arkansas as well as turning the issue into a national debate. LGBT organizations, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Human Rights Campaign joined together in legal and lobbying efforts, while many local LGBT organizations and grassroots activists went into motion.

What was astonishing in this political fight was the enormous amount of public support from around the country for the LGBT movement and for marriage equality. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is based in Indiana and organizes all university sports events, expressed its concern about how LGBT athletes might be treated in Indiana. The NCAA was joined by the National Basketball Association, and the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Many major corporations, under pressure for years now from the threat of LGBT boycotts, came out against the bill and after it passed, demanded that it be revised to ensure no discrimination against gays and lesbians. In Indiana, Apple, Angie’s List, Eli Lilly, and Anthem were among nine major corporations that came out opposing the religious freedom law as originally proposed. In Arkansas Acxiom, Apple, and Wal-Mart—the country’s largest retailer—joined in opposing the religious freedom law for discriminating against gays and lesbians.

Under pressure from the LGBT movement, the corporations, and the public at large, the governors Pence and Hutchinson and the Indiana and Arkansas legislatures revised the legislation to protect LGBT rights. The strong reaction and rapid retreat by conservatives probably means the end of any similar bills during this legislative season.

This stunning victory is the latest expression of what has been a decade of successes by the marriage equality movement. It was only in 2004 that the first legal gay marriage in the United States took place; today more than two-thirds of the states permit gay marriage. In 2004 only 30 percent of Americans supported same-sex marriage; today the figure is 59 percent according to a recent poll. Support for gay marriage, though still less than a majority, has even risen significantly among conservatives and Republicans, while some 74% of Democrats support same-sex marriage. About three-quarters of young people (18-35) support same-sex marriage.

Many on the left in the LGBT movement have criticized the emphasis on marriage equality laws, arguing that they play into the most conservative views about marriage, nuclear families, and religion.

Still there is no denying that the LGBT marriage-equality movement has had an enormous impact on American society, winning in the last decade legal rights and political influence comparable to the black civil rights movement at high tide in the 1960s and the women’s movement’s accomplishments in the 1970s. Gay marriage rights have now been institutionalized in laws, court decisions, and in changes in public consciousness that will make it difficult to turn back the clock.

New Politics

Footnotes

[1] This article was originally written for the Swiss socialist newspaper solidaritéS for which I am a correspondent with the goal of giving activists there some sense of the recent fight for marriage equality in the United States. - DL

 

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