Comrades, but women - Theorie Communiste

Comrades, but women - Theorie Communiste

TC on the contradictions between class struggle and gender abolition.

Revolution as abolition of class and gender raises certain questions and problems pertaining to the link between class struggle and the struggle of women. One of the problems posed for us is that the departure point for this text, which is situated within an ongoing project that has seen revisions and advances, is the necessity of gender abolition in revolution understood as communisation. Thus one is led to explore the question of the articulation between class struggles and the women's struggles, between capitalist exploitation and masculine domination, between feminism and programmatism…

Hence the departure point for this text is not situated in current struggles or in the structure of the relation as it is manifest therein.

Now, if one submits that the abolition of genders will be a revolution in the revolution, this presupposes a particular dynamic that is not subsumed by that of the class struggle even when the latter turns against itself. Moreover, if one speaks of the particular dynamic in the course of the revolution, already there is today particular dynamic of the gender relation which is not reduced to the class relation. To say particular dynamic is to say specific contradiction, for a simple relation of antagonism doesn’t contain any dynamic. Thus it is about the possibility of thinking a revolution in the revolution, a contradiction in the contradiction. But it is problematic to include one element only within another element. The traps and the difficulties are legion. We can see this in the recent history of the relations between feminism and programmatism. Indeed, in the programmatic context, there are roughly two possibilities for women who confront this question in struggle or in theory:

  • If the women posit their exploitation as an articulation of the class struggle, the gender relation disappears in both practice and theory. In other words, the category “woman” is absorbed and rendered invisible by the class struggle. This approach has the pretense of addressing the question, but it does so only in order to make it disappear (this is one of the dead-ends of the “class struggle” tendency within feminism).
  • If women who pose this question are forced, in order to avoid the first solution we have just described, to posit the existence of a specific mode of exploitation independent of the capitalist relation of exploitation, they do so in order to enable advances within the specific categories and processes of the gender relation. This is the contribution of the “revolutionary Feminists” who built the concept of domestic labor and who speak of the abolition of men and women. This contribution is the basis on which we were able to undertake this work. However, and despite what is at stake, we are aware that it is difficult and artificial to maintain a segregation, to think the category woman and the category proletariat as independent, for in real life one is of course simultaneously both.

If the question of the dynamic is posed, it is because in certain present struggles where women pose the question of the gender relation we already see that they must then confront their male comrades during the struggle, as for example in the piquetero movement in Argentina. In August 2005 the Movimiento de mujeres desocupadas (MMD) from Tartagal was created, and these women wanted to struggle “alone” because “even if they were the majority in the piquetero organizations, they were not the majority in the ruling bodies of these organizations” (Bruno Astarian, "Le mouvement des piqueteros – Argentine 1994–2006," Échanges pamphlet). Bruno Astarian adds “And when the gains of the movement were divided up, the women were probably wronged.” However, he concludes:

“For the time being, this is all we know about the MMD of Tartagal. But one doesn’t need to know more in order to understand that its creation marks a recoil in the general movement. The separation of the struggle of the unemployed women from that of the unemployed men, as any separation grounded on race, age, nationality, etc., goes against the abolition of the categories of the capitalist society, categories that we have seen undermined in more intense phases of struggle.” (ibid.)

We don’t know what kind of role or place the groups of women could obtain at the heart of these struggles, but a critique which views their appearance to be a simple sign of recoil and of the division of the movement, just like “nationality” would be understood, is nothing but an echo of the classical programmatic idea.

We deduce, therefore, that within the gender relation and the situation of women, there is something which objects to the class struggle and which has a very concrete effect: when women fight, whether in the private or public sphere, when they attack the very existence of those spheres which is constituted by their separation into public and private, they must confront their male comrades, insofar as they are men and insofar as they are their comrades. And they (the women) are the men’s comrades, but women.

Finally, once we have taken all this in, the importance of specifying the particular dynamic of the gender relation is that we will then be able to think how and why the future ex-women – who alone pose by their acts the necessity of the abolition of gender, because of their place in the contradictory relation man/woman – will have to confront the future ex-men in the course of the revolution in order to overcome this division.

Taken from a 2011 pamphlet published by Petroleuse Press. Originally published as an appendix to the article Gender distinction, programmatism and communisation in issue 23 of the journal Theorie Communiste.


Juan Conatz
May 6 2012 08:28

This article and another are in a pamphlet in PDF form here.