Feminism and the struggle for womens' liberation

The struggle for women's individual and collective liberation from the shackles of Patriarchy and gender-based oppression is an important constituent of our activity as an organization: As an avenue of concrete actions and as a part of our political perspective.

Patriarchal stratification of genders in society – alongside other relations of domination and oppressive power – has characterized human societies for millenia. But Anthropology and Ancient History scholarship have shown how men’s domination over women is not a ‘natural’ phenomenon, nor an eternal one; and for many ages, human societies existed without men exercising control or privilege over women. In many primitive societies, one would find group-level decisions being made by women and men alike, or even by women only; women being able to end an intimate relation with a man, at will; marriages effecting a transfer of the man into the household of the woman he was marrying; and so on.

Patriarchy evolved in conjunction with the material economies of primitive societies – the onset of agriculture over hunting-and-gathering practices, with its gradual development with increasing output, the domestication of animals and so on: Social grouping began producing surpluses which enabled existence and patent prosperity, even without collaborative, communitarian social arrangements. Human societies thus witnessed the appearance of private property; of propertied men, with the power to control the members of their households, particularly the women; of slaves, individuals who owned no property, themselves owned by others – and of the first ancient states, expanding and amplifying such authoritarian structures beyond the single tribe or village.

From that time until now – even now – women face the cultural and material coercion of inferiority and passivity within the social order; a diminution into the domestic space; an exclusion from public activity and decision making; relegation to a lower class, as if they are not fully people, even at times the property of their husband or family; and a [direction?] to measure themselves by the yardstick of pleasing man.

Complementing women’s oppression, men are expected to exhibit strength and dominance, in keeping with their gender role, and to suppress weakness and any ‘womanly’ behavioral aspects. Those whose gender identity or sexual preference does not agree with the accepted dichotomy (including, among others, homosexual men, lesbians and trans-genders) are [particularly excluded and suppressed]; some are even subject to corporeal punishment for their very existence and identity, at times even to the point of death. There can be no separation, therefore, of the efforts to legitimize and equate the social status of these latter groups and the efforts of women to break the yoke of Patriarchal oppression.

Patriarchy has taken root in the human psyche – through laws and coercion, but more so with an entanglement into its fiber by way of culture, religion, and other socializing forces. It has thus not merely been maintained to this day, but has not been eluded by movements for social change, particularly the movements of the working class of the past few centuries. Even the most remarkable chapters in the annals of struggles for social liberation – including those one may label Anarchist – were and are characterized by blemishes of internal repression, blind spots of male leaderships, which have inadvertently blocked their fellow women's path to liberation. Indirectly, they were blocking their own path as well, through behavior maintaining parts of the old social order they sought to abolish.

The advent of Capitalist relations of production brought significant changes in women’s place in society. With popular support or even under popular pressure, the bourgeoisie promoted the principles of civic equality; and these have included, to an increasing extent, legal equality for women. Family and community structures have also undergone transformations induced by Capitalist productive relations: Rural communities and extended families disintegrated in favor of nuclear proletarian families. As social atomization continues to intensify, these too are in a process of disintegration, now in favor of veritably individual, independent, private life; again breaking the barriers of tradition. Such was the case, for example, when women entered the industrial workforce during World War I: Tens of Millions of men were cast into the battlefields, to kill and be killed in a clash of Capitalists and ruling elites over zones of control; and women were called upon for the first time to fill the shortage in ‘men’s work’.

As social conditions have changed, so have women been faced with changing social dilemmata. Women may now come to be elected into parliaments – to cozen the proletariat with the spectacle of ‘representative’ government, allegedly for and by the people. Women may own capital and means of production – and as men be part of the wealthy minority living on the masses’ backs; in practice, of course, women are poorer and subject to deeper economic exploitation than men. Women can be assigned to combat duty in state armies, to kill and oppress across the land in service of ruling class interests. Women can live on their own, free of male supervision – the glorious life of an alienated and isolated individual in modern capitalist society, a poor wage-laborer and possibly a single mother.

Modern capitalist society has therefore kept more than remains and vestiges of patriarchal patterns. Instead, we observe the Patriarchal element intertwined with and across societal structures. And whoever shall settle for local reforms and attempts to change things from within existing institutions – must inevitably wrap itself up in this braid. It is the demand to accept as a self-evident given the coercion of law by armed police, judges and jailers; to agree to the cycle of sales and profits by commercial companies as a source of tax revenue; to acquiesce to the enlistment of women for forced state service to enable the argument regarding who shall be assigned to pilot aircraft and whom to serve coffee; and so on.

We do not accept this. We are not belittle the struggles of women (and men) for equal civil rights, and the lifting of restrictions on women in the context of existing states; nor do we dismiss those women who have hoped to combine Feminism with anti-imperialist nationalism – in Palestine and other countries in the Arab East and the world. But we will not agree to sacrifice our aspiration to live in a classless, stateless society, free of political and economic exploitation, in favor of an improvement in women’s position relative to men. Our goals are much more far-reaching.

We draw inspiration from historical and contemporary attempts to translate these views into action: A dual struggle, against Patriarchy and against Capitalism and the State. Such were the tens of thousands of Mujeres Libres, in 1930s Spain: They decided to organize separately from and in parallel to labor union movement, and promote the revolutionary experiment themselves – without waiting for the men to be satisfied to relinquish their internal exclusionary practice towards them. These days, we appreciatively follow the Feminist organizing in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) – women who are carving, by themselves and their own power, out a central place in societal life in that region which has escaped the yoke of the Syrian state; and this is not effected by some leadership making a play for governing power, intending to enforce egalitarianism top-to-bottom, but rather in a distributed fashion and more directly.

Such initiatives and their like should be initiated and promoted: In our workplaces and within the labor unions; in our apartment buildings and neighborhoods; in schools, colleges and universities. Through them, and with their help and inspiration, shall our be paved from a patriarchal society to a liberated society of women and men. As part of ‘Unity’ we shall endevor to promote these, and to take individual localized struggles in which we participate – against discrimination, exclusion and violence towards women – in this direction. This while constantly striving to ensure our organization itself constitutes a respectful, safe and empowering framework for women to act in.

אחדות • الوحدة • Unity • Единство
Adopted (in the Hebrew language version) by the organization via an inter-group decision process concluded on June 8th 2016.
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