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(en) France, Feminism and Anarchy

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 14 Mar 2005 15:19:43 +0100 (CET)

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"To its credit, the women"s movements have raised the
issue of women"s revolt in terms other than class-struggle ones,
class struggle the only historical driving force seen by the Marxists,
who have clarified the economic exploitation of women not paid for
housework and child-rearing but have not challenged the reproduction
of the power male workers wield compared to women workers. Capitalism
has an ideological need of this form of social organization."
--Commission des femmes, Fédération Anarchiste, 1970
On April 20, 1870, Sergei Nechayev, in collaboration with Ogarev,
wrote a proclamation entitled "The Russian Association of
Revolutionary Women," which includes the following:

"Throughout the history of the legal developments in human
societies, there is the suggestion that men, in developing their
social laws with an eye on their own interests, have made women
either their concubines or servants. All laws are written in the spirit
that the most talented and intelligent woman is considered inferior
to the most foolish man."

Two years earlier, Bakunin had taken up the issue of women by
sending to the Third Congress of the IWA a letter in which he
stated, "In the name of the intellectual enfranchisement of the
popular masses, in the name of the economic and social
enfranchisement of the peoples of the world, we want first, the
abolition of the right to hereditary property; second, the complete
legalization of the political and social rights of women with those of
men; third, the abolition of marriage as a civil, political and
religious institution."

A century later, feminist movements still struggle vigorously to
attain women"s equality with men. In 1905, E. Reclus wrote in
"Man and Earth" that "obviously all women's claims about men are
just." The masculine sweeps aside the feminine. It is one of the
rules of our grammar but also one of the fundamental bases of our
society. In human relations, this criterion is deeply inscribed in
individual thought structure. On the one hand, men want to
preserve their prerogatives and that which they believe nature has
designed to benefit them, and on the other hand, women are
passive and accept docilely the place left to them, unconsciously
cooperating in the role society has determined for them.

Women who accept the position for which they are destined thus
accept the role of reproducing capitalist-imperialist society. They
make themselves their own executioners and become the
executioners of their children by teaching them to obey their
parents who will have them submit to the heads of the established
order to the detriment of their individuality and for the benefit of
that social order. The sexual hierarchy exists in order to force
individuals to live in and with unequal relationships.

All the apostles of phallocratism and all those who thirst for power
have tried to justify the dependence, obedience and inferiority of
women compared to men. These profoundly racist theses have
been taken up by all those who find, or want to find, advantages in
that situation. It is partially on the difference in physical strength
between women and men that some have built a theory that never
includes any consideration that there is equality in that difference.
We could reply to those who still claim this principle by saying that
there is also a difference among men in physical strength, that he
among you who can lift 100 kilos is in no way superior to the man
who can only lift 50, and that to look to the difference that nature
creates between men and women, and among men themselves as
well, in order to apply a theory of inferiority, is an aberration and a
reactionary practice approaching racism.

They want to make believe, and have succeeded in showing, that
women, endowed by nature to do so, can only function as
reproducers of the children men make in them. They have tried and
been successful in making her swallow the lie that her role of
educator is some sacred trust, nearly a gracious favour, granting to
her the right guaranteed to her by nature to keep the family hearth,
and in the process allow men to safeguard their own freedom. Men
of the people have always accepted these aberrant conceptions
supplied so abundantly to them by the most serious and
authoritative male thinkers because they are proud and happy not to
be on the bottom rung of the hierarchy.

The capitalist-imperialists of both the East and West stay in power
because their class reigns over and profits from the working class,
because men dominate women thanks to the continuity of
patriarchal society, the structures of which make women the
property of men while women lose their identity through marriage.
Fathers passing their paternal authority as head of the family on to
their sons and their grandsons guarantee that no good change will
come for women and their daughters and their daughters after

The patriarchal family mirrors and reproduces the static, capitalist
social structure. There must be some man in charge of the family
who dominates his wife and children in his position as head or
leader or boss of the household, in keeping with the vaunted and
cherished ideal of a chief or head of State at the top of the brutal
hierarchy we have had for centuries.

We know that, in a society, all the pretexts individuals have to
justify exploitation, to dominate another class, sex, group or other
individual only work if that class, sex, group or individual submitted
to that exploitation or domination is not conscious of the reality of
it. The negation of that social reality begins when the individual
revolts against her condition. Throughout history we have learned
that human beings always revolt against injustice. These collective
or individual revolts, born of a more or less conscious desire to
relate in a better way with others, are not always successful. *

The great gathering of women the women"s movement wanted
took off after May 1968 and was inscribed in an analysis indicating
that all women in the society, regardless of social position, are
subjected to male domination to some degree and that this
subordination of women is one of the pillars of capitalism.
Ideological differences quickly appeared within our movement.
Some articulate a Marxist class analysis of women"s oppression in
capitalist society, and others believe that revolutionary struggle
must attack the structure of patriarchy itself found throughout
history, rather than focusing on capitalism, which they believe to be
merely the current representation of patriarchy. Still others declare
themselves against all "isms" (humanism, idealism, socialism),
against all ideology, believing that "politics is merely men using
their brains to look out for their penises."

These three main currents demonstrate the complex reality women
experience and so can spontaneously engage a variety of women
not yet organized. Whether ideological or not, these currents
converge on one point"they refuse to accept men into their
struggles because men remain the oppressors of women, even
though some of them have abundant goodwill toward women. The
demands of different women"s movements have engendered an
increasingly important consciousness among women, and these
movements have attained an overall and inevitable conclusion, even
if some are expressed by anti-male violence, at one end of the
spectrum, and specific, limited demands at the other end, such as:
contraception, abortion, daycare, equal pay. Although these
women"s movements have clarified inherent social problems, they
have not challenged the society as a whole; at most they have
presented a class-struggle sort of model, with men representing the
bourgeoisie and women the proletariat.

To its credit, the women"s movements have raised the issue of
women"s revolt in terms other than class-struggle ones, class
struggle the only historical driving force seen by the Marxists, who
have clarified the economic exploitation of women not paid for
housework and child-rearing but have not challenged the
reproduction of the power male workers wield compared to women
workers. Capitalism has an ideological need of this form of social
organization. Destroying class barriers between men by putting all
men in the same category of Man the King masks the exploitation
of male workers by assigning them the dominant role in families,
over women and children, institutionalizes domination,
subordination and the hierarchization of the family structure.

It is only through revolt, not patience, that women will liberate
themselves, because revolt is the first freeing act an individual must
make and so her first true and free demonstration of her own
humanity. By revolting, a woman raises the issue of equality:

"We know that equality is only possible through freedom; not that
freedom exclusive to the bourgeoisie that is based on the slavery of
the masses and which is not freedom but privilege, but that
universal freedom of human beings who all have been lifted to
human dignity. We also know that this freedom is only possible
with equality. [Both theoretical and practical revolt] against all
institutions and relations created by inequality, and then the
establishment of economic and social equality through freedom for
all." (Bakunin)

The revolt of women then raises the issue of the contradiction of
men who want emancipation from their own exploitation but who
reject the emancipation of women from the male guardianship that
is the overriding condition of women's exploitation. No human
being can claim he wants freedom if he himself is opposed in any
way to freedom for all. Neither can he claim he is free if his freedom
is a threat to freedom for everyone, because individual freedom only
exists when freedom for all exists. There are two levels to the
women's liberation question:

- The refusal to continue to accept the traditional role the society
wants to see women play, but also to raise the issue with regard to
men, that is, refusing to be subordinated, dominated and, above all,
be part of the hierarchization existing today that forces men to
reject the prerogatives this society imposes on them as necessary to
their survival as those who are exploited themselves on another
level. Men who try to reject the imposed traditional role in order to
live in an egalitarian way with women, and the woman who revolts
against the situation keeping her on the last rung of the hierarchy,
are raising the issue of the problem of inequality and accomplish a
revolutionary act in the process.

- Although women come from all the social classes, women
workers have nothing to lose and everything to gain, as opposed to
women of the bourgeoisie, but if women as a whole are successful
in their revolt against men, in the process they will weaken the
social structures on which the class struggle depends. It is clear that
if bourgeois women refuse to submit to the authority of their
husbands as required by the role imposed on women by society,
they must also refuse to submit to playing the exploiting and
dominating role they play as members of their privileged class, if
they want to be consistent, logical and honest with themselves and
others. The revolt of bourgeois women as women must go
hand-in-hand with their refusal to cooperate in any way with the
exploitation from which they wish to disassociate themselves. It
goes without saying that this double-edged approach they must
carry out is not nearly ready to happen. Bourgeois women, even
ones with a consciousness of the women's struggle, prefer to hold
on to their class privileges and accept the place left them as women.

From now on, the interests of bourgeois and working women will
not overlap if they cannot find solidarity with each other. The
struggle for women's liberation must greatly surpass the framework
of emancipation of women alone to the much vaster fight for all of
humanity, or the women's liberation movement will be condemned
to die by its own specificity. The women's struggle is only one
struggle among many in society, all of which are inextricably
interwoven, and it is inscribed on the same level as all other specific
struggles that strive for a different society, one with an anarchistic
character. The refusal of feminist movements to see that men are
human beings capable of self-liberation and resistance against the
power society grants them, that they can consider that power
alienating, is a refusal to see men as capable of rising up against an
injustice forcing them to live in contradiction with their senses,
emotions, desires and true natures.

Whether we all like it or not, the liberation of women creates the
liberation of men. Accept it or not, the desire to revolt and the thirst
to be free that exist in everyone will not be silenced and will only
come about in the process of all people getting their freedom. This
evolution cannot be done without some more cracks being made in
the rickety, rotten framework of capitalism, but the difficulty that
human beings have in challenging what they've been taught about
human relations may not allow them to evolve without some
discomfort. The slow and painful birth of such different behaviour
might require a caesarean! Women's liberation must not strive for
some standardization of personalities. The revolt of both women
and men must be tied to the discovery of our own individuality, the
diversity of abilities and strengths, ethnicities, genders and values
that, far from being a social evil, constitute the richness of

Anarchist society will be based on providing the opportunity for
human beings to realize their full potential. "The old world of States
founded on bourgeois civilization with its indispensable
complement of the right of hereditary property and the legally
defined family is crumbling and will be replaced by an
internationally and freely organized world of workers," wrote
Bakunin. Women must extricate themselves from the legal and
moral yoke of the old world and learn that they are not the property
of men but belong to themselves alone. Bakunin continued, "After
cannibalism came slavery, and after slavery, servitude, and then
wage slavery, which must be succeeded by first, a painful justice,
and much later, the era of solidarity." But women must first liberate
themselves from their servitude.

Here in the present, we can get some knowledge from the past as
we look toward a future in which a new society will burst into
history. Through their liberation, women will carry out the work of
painful justice that must be done to lead men and women to the era
of solidarity.
Original French @:
Translated by SonofTomJoad, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 3/05
Copied from infoshop.org

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