All posts by Eve Mitchell

Marx, Democracy and Freedom

Members of Unity and Struggle are often asked what sets us apart from socialists and statist Marxists on the one hand, and Anarchists on the other.  We have wrestled with many labels, debating whether to call ourselves “anti-state communists,” “libertarian Marxists,” simply, “communists,” or something else entirely.  Ultimately, we have left this to individual members to decide.  As a group, we draw heavily from Marxism, considering its philosophical and theoretical tradition to be our foundation.  We seek to synthesize this with some of the strongest aspects of other traditions, including Anarchism and post-modernism.  However, at times it is helpful to clearly and precisely articulate what it is about a Marxist foundation that is so compelling for us.

We are reposting this accessible but sharp interview with Peter Hudis on KPFA’s Against the Grain.  Hudis recently released Marx’s Concept of the Alternative to Capitalism via Haymarket Books.  Hudis relies on Marx’s early and philosophical works to flesh out the democratic and liberatory crux of Marx’s method.  This is similar to work we have done in our series, “The Communist Theory of Marx.”  While not every individual in Unity and Struggle will agree with 100% of what Hudis says, we locate ourselves within a tradition that he carves out in this interview.  While, at times, these concepts are not easy to describe, and often cannot be boiled down to a few talking points, Unity and Struggle strives to make them accessible and compelling.  As movements internationally begin to pick up, we will increasingly face questions surrounding the role of the state, the statist Parties, and what a transformation of social relations, or communization process, can look like.  We are hoping to see more conversations about Marx’s conceptions of freedom and democracy, and in varied media.  We encourage you to send comments, links, hashtags and other ways people are discussing Marxism, freedom and democracy.  Enjoy the Hudis interview.

KPFA: Marx on Life after Capitalism w/Peter Hudis

The Hammer in our Hamlets: Patriarchy on the Left Part 3 of 4

by Eve Mitchell[1]

This is the third in a four-part series on Patriarchy on the Left.  This series is organized from the universal to the particular; it looks at large questions like “what is patriarchy?” in the first part and ends by discussing micro-level questions:  How do we deal with particular instances of patriarchy in our everyday organizing and political milieus?  What tools do we have to combat patriarchy on the left?  The first two pieces, looking at the totality of patriarchy, and the particular expressions of sexism within left communities, were co-written with Jocelyn Cohn, another member of Unity and Struggle.  This piece and the fourth installment of this project (written by Jocelyn Cohn individually) will look at specific methods for dealing with patriarchy on the left with some critiques and comments.

Links to associated articles:

No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light:  Patriarchy on the Left Part 1

No Safehouses: Patriarchy on the Left Part 2

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Image Credit: Lita Box

Continue reading The Hammer in our Hamlets: Patriarchy on the Left Part 3 of 4

Soy mujer y soy humana: Una crítica marxista-feminista de la teoría de la interseccionalidad

de Eve Mitchell; traducido por CM de We’re Hir We’re Queer

Read English version here

Introducción.

En los Estados Unidos, al final del siglo XX y principios del XXI, domina un conjunto específico de políticas entre la izquierda. Hoy en día, podrías entrar a cualquier universidad, a cualquiera de los numerosos blogs progresistas-izquierdistas o a cualquiera web de noticias y los conceptos de “la identidad” y “la interseccionalidad” encontrarás como la teoría hegemónica. Pero, como toda teoría, ésta corresponde a la actividad de la clase obrera contestando a la composición del capital actual. La teoría no es ninguna nube flotando sobre la clase, lloviendo reflexiones e ideas, sino, como escribe Raya Dunayevskaya, “las acciones del proletariado crean la posibilidad para que el intelectual resuelva la teoría.” (Marxismo y libertad, 114)[1]. Por lo tanto, para entender las teorías dominantes de nuestra época, hay que entender el movimiento verdadero de la clase. En este texto, voy a repasar la historia de las políticas de la identidad y la teoría de la interseccionalidad con el fin de construir una crítica de la teoría de la interseccionalidad y ofrecer una concepción marxista positiva del feminismo.

El contexto de “la identidad” y “la teoría de la interseccionalidad.”

Para entender “la identidad” y “la teoría de la interseccionalidad”, hay que entender la circulación del capital (es decir, la totalidad de las relaciones sociales de la producción en el modo actual de producción) que precedió el desarrollo de tales conceptos en los años 1960 y 1970 en los EEUU. Más específico aún, ya que “la teoría de la interseccionalidad” se desarrollaba principalmente como reacción al feminismo de la segunda ola, hay que estudiar cómo se desarrollaban las relaciones de género bajo el capitalismo.

En el movimiento del feudalismo al capitalismo, la división del trabajo por género, y luego las relaciones de género dentro de la clase, empezó a tomar una nueva forma que correspondía a las necesidades del capital. Algunas de las nuevas relaciones incluyen las siguientes:

(1) El desarrollo del salario. El salario es la forma capitalista de la coerción. Tal como lo explica Maria Mies en el libro, El patriarcado y la acumulación a escala mundial, el salario reemplazaba a la servidumbre y a la esclavitud como el método de forzar el trabajo alienado (quiere decir, el trabajo que realiza un trabajador para otra persona). Bajo el capitalismo, los que producen (los trabajadores) no poseen los medios de producción, así que tienen que trabajar por los que sí poseen los medios de producción (los capitalistas). Así pues, los obreros tienen que vender al capitalista lo único que poseen, la capacidad de trabajar, o la fuerza de trabajo. Este es un elemento clave porque los obreros no son remunerados por el trabajo vivo sensitivo – el acto de producir – sino por la capacidad de trabajar. La ruptura entre el trabajo y la fuerza de trabajo causa una falsa impresión de un intercambio equitativo de valor – al parecer, el trabajador cobra por la cantidad que uno produce, pero más bien el trabajador cobra únicamente por la capacidad de trabajar por un período determinado.

Además, la jornada laboral se divide en dos: el tiempo de trabajo necesario y el tiempo de trabajo excedente. El tiempo de trabajo necesario es el tiempo (como promedio) para que un trabajador produzca suficiente valor para comprar todo lo necesario para reproducirse (todas las cosas, desde la comida hasta un iPhone). El tiempo de trabajo excedente es el tiempo que uno trabaja más allá de lo necesario. Ya que la tasa vigente de la fuerza de trabajo (nuevamente, la capacidad de trabajar – no el trabajo vivo en sí) es el valor de todo lo que un trabajador necesita para reproducirse, el valor que genera el trabajo excedente va directamente hacia los bolsillos del capitalista. Digamos que yo trabajo en una empresa de los Furby. Cobro $10 por día por 10 horas del trabajo, produzco 10 Furby diariamente, y cada Furby se vende por $10. El capitalista me paga por la capacidad de trabajar una hora diaria para producir suficiente valor para reproducirme (1 Furby = 1 hora de trabajo = $10). Así, el tiempo de trabajo necesario es una hora y el tiempo del trabajo excedente son 9 horas (10-1). El sueldo esconde la verdad. Recuerde que, dentro del capitalismo, parece que cobramos por el valor equitativo de lo que producimos. Sin embargo, cobramos solamente por el tiempo de trabajo necesario, o la cantidad mínima necesaria para reproducirnos. Bajo el feudalismo, fue distinto y fue muy claro cuánto tiempo trabajaba cada uno por sí mismo y cuánto tiempo trabajaba por otro. Por ejemplo, si la sierva labraba la tierra cinco horas por semana para producir la comida para el señor feudal, luego el tiempo restante le pertenecía a ella. El surgimiento del salario es clave porque fue el mismo salario que impuso la división del trabajo por género.

Continue reading Soy mujer y soy humana: Una crítica marxista-feminista de la teoría de la interseccionalidad

No Safehouses: Patriarchy on the Left Part 2 of 4

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by Jocelyn Cohn and Eve Mitchell

This is the second part of a four part series that attempts to understand patriarchy in our current society.  The first part, “No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light” explored the relationship between gender, patriarchy, and sexism broadly in capitalist society.  This section will explore the expressions of patriarchy specifically in the “left” subculture.  Parts three and four will look more specifically at recent attempts to deal with patriarchy on the left, some critiques and potential solutions.

Left Updated

Image Credit:  Minhee Bae

Patriarchy is a total social relation that takes particular forms of expression in a society dominated by the capitalist mode of production.  There are no “safehouses” or “patriarchy-free zones,” because patriarchy is defined in its deeply personal and bodily expressions.  We carry its effects with us everywhere.  However, as also discussed in the last section, patriarchy finds different forms of expression in different areas of life.  Individual expressions of gendered and patriarchal relations within the working class can be known as “sexism.”  In this section we will explore the ways that we have seen and understood sexism in “left” organizing spaces and subcultures specifically.  This is meant as a broad sketch of what we find most prevalent.  Not all people will have the same experiences, and we are not able to discuss every person’s individual conditions, but we do hope others will find resonance here.

Who is The Left?

By “the left” we mean radical/activist/progressive/socialist/anarchist/communist political and social milieus.  While we recognize that all people have political experiences and the ability to comprehend and articulate extremely complicated aspects of capital, there is a material difference between those who make up the organized and subcultural left and those who make up the broader working class. When we discuss “sexism on the left,” we are talking about a relatively small group of people who see themselves consciously as activists, leftists, theoreticians or revolutionaries and who, in this moment, are objectively isolated from the working class itself.  This is despite the fact that most individuals on the left are proletarians, in that they do not own the means of production and therefore must sell their labor power to survive under capitalism. This is the result of historical and objective factors such as the murder, incarceration, and institutionalization of revolutionaries; neoliberalism; the capitalist subsumption of much activism; the absence of a generalized movement that blurs the line between activists and proletarians; etc.  There are also revolutionaries’ subjective failures such as an inability or refusal to develop lasting roots in organizing projects that build contacts and trust among working class communities.

Continue reading No Safehouses: Patriarchy on the Left Part 2 of 4

No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light: Patriarchy on the Left Part 1 of 4

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by Jocelyn Cohn and Eve Mitchell

Many months ago, the two of us began writing a piece on dealing with patriarchy on the left.  In the process of writing we began to realize that we did not have 100% agreement on the question.  To us, this is very telling:  no one has the answer and perhaps there is no one answer.  We have thus decided to go forward in writing separate pieces on patriarchy on the left.  This project was inspired by the combination of difficulties we have faced in our organizing, accountability processes we have been part of, as well as the attempts we have witnessed to address patriarchy on the left.  We agree that the primary challenge facing many people in dealing with conflicts—especially those about gender—in left organizations and milieus is the confusion of the particular situation of individuals with the general conditions, creating situations where one person’s situation is taken to characterize all of society, thus leading to a solution which attempts to abolish a total social relation through a particular case.  Similarly, we agree that none of us are able to deal with patriarchy as individuals, or as small groups of people operating outside of the transformation of total society.

Although there are certainly a wide variety of attempts to address patriarchy, this conflation of the particular and the universal is the most consistent thread that we have identified in both practical and theoretical traditions in the United States in the last decade. While we will discuss this further in all four parts of this project, we see our first task as clarifying the relationship between patriarchy as a total social relation.  Following this part, we will co-publish a piece describing the individual forms of sexism in our political formations.  Finally, having clarified the categories and objective material conditions, we will examine how we can reasonably expect to respond.  Our third and fourth installments will be separate pieces delving deeper into dealing with patriarchy on the left.

Continue reading No Lamps, No Candles, No More Light: Patriarchy on the Left Part 1 of 4

Women and Children First…But the First Shall Be Last

(Note:  this is an updated version of an article originally posted on We’re Hir We’re Queer here.)

In the wake of a five day hunger strike over conditions of confinement at Karnes family detention center in South Texas, many are beginning to look critically at family detention.  But this practice, and the struggle against it, is nothing new. Groups in the southwest, including Grassroots Leadership and Texans United for Families have been struggling to end family detention for almost a decade.  Most recently, these groups are struggling around a new facility in Dilley, Texas, the largest family detention project since Japanese internment.  In developing a strategy against immigration detention, we must consider how capital and the working class is composed and why there is a renewed emphasis on women’s and family immigration detention.

Immigration detention has been steadily climbing over the past few decades.  Some cite the prison boom as a 1980s-90s phenomenon, since the U.S. saw massive rates of incarceration of primarily black men due to draconian drug laws, mandatory minimum sentencing, and other strategies for criminalizing the black working class.

Incarceration Rates

At a certain point in the early 2000s, prison rates tapered off.  However, this is also around the time that immigration detention as a national phenomenon began to dramatically increase.  While Grassroots Leadership, and many other advocacy and community groups will argue that this shift toward detention expansion is parallel to the expansion of the private prison industry, I believe this is only one side of the story.  Why, in the middle of the deepest economic crisis in the U.S. since the Great Depression, is the federal government expanding the immigration detention system, and why are women and children being particularly targeted in this effort?  I will attempt to answer this question; but first, some background info.

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The Hunger Games and Revolution Symposium Audio

While the wealthy dance and drink fine wine in a futuristic playground, working people suffer on the outskirts — hungry, heavily policed, and struggling to secure basic subsistence. Once there was the chance for revolution, but now it’s a distant memory, a discarded hope kept at bay by brutal police, aching poverty, and the separation of working people into small segregated areas afraid or unable to talk to each other in a meaningful way.

Is this Panem of The Hunger Games, or the America of 2014?

Questions of whether The Hunger Games belongs to the “left” or “right” typically inhabit the same old partisan sideshow where answers are determined in advance and politics is a matter of arguing opinions. This is not the domain of revolution, which in 2014 must be the site of unanswered questions and argumentation by action.

On November 23rd in New York City, a group of activists, organizers, and revolutionaries came together to discuss the meaning of The Hunger Games to the class struggle in America. What does the popularity of this book and movie series tell us about the popular imagination? How is it read and understood by young people about to enter the job market with little hope of success? Think ahead to what an American revolution could look like, what do we make of Katniss’s struggle against not only the unjust class society she inhabits, but the authoritarian alternative that calls itself the revolution?

Listen to activists, authors and revolutionaries John Garvey, Jasmine Gibson, Jarrod Shanahan and Yuko Tonohira in a discussion moderated by Jocelyn Cohn and sponsored by Unity and Struggle and Insurgent Notes.  Special thanks to Mylo Mendez for recording the audio, and to the Brooklyn Commons for hosting.

Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Play Audio:

Burning All Illusions Tonight

U&S NYC will be at the #IndictAmerica action tonight at 7pm, beginning at Union Square.  If you’re in NYC, meet us at the Northwest corner of the Square at 7pm by the #IndictAmerica flag.  Below is our statement, written with other members of the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee.

Burning All Illusions Tonight

Another black youth dead. The killer pig walks free. This is “justice.” And we’re supposed to just take it.

The Ferguson grand jury confirms what many already know: this system will never give us justice. The only way to prevent another Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride or Sean Bell is to dismantle the whole damn system. To abolish the cops, the prisons, and the fake-ass democracy of capitalist rule.

Capitalist white supremacy requires that cops kill us. Real talk: the police exist to serve and protect capitalism, wealth and the people in power. It’s their job to attack anyone who gets in the way. If we want to stop killer cops, we have to burn the system to the ground, and replace it with something completely new. Not small businesses, or new politicians, or even a new state–but a world run by us, the people, to fulfill our own needs and wants. True freedom. We build this world by fighting back.

Continue reading Burning All Illusions Tonight

Hands Up, Turn Up: August 20th National Day of Action

We will be co-organizing actions in our respective cities for the Hands Up, Turn Up National Day of Action on Wednesday, August 20th.  Contact the Trayvon Martin Organizing Committee (TrayvonOC@gmail.com) or the Hands Up, Turn Up Organizing Committee (HandsUpTurnUp@gmail.com) for access to the flyer and to list your local actions.  Please feel free to copy, distribute and share the flyer and one-page propaganda piece below.

So far we’ve heard the following cities confirm actions:  Atlanta, Providence, Houston, Philly, New York City, Washington DC.  Please feel free to add links and other information in the comments section below.

Hands Up Turn Up - National Day of Action Template - Leaflet - Back

Ferguson One Pager-page-001

 

Criminalization, Crisis and Care: Tennessee’s S.B. 1391 and Attacks on Reproduction

Below is a recent article written by members of the Florence Johnston Collective looking at the current crisis of reproduction and state control over/criminalization of women’s bodies.  Last week, a woman in Tennessee was arrested based on her pregnancy outcomes.  The Collective will be releasing a second article looking at these issues, along with a pamphlet for print and distribution.  See the original post here.

Tennessee recently passed a law, S.B. 1391, making it the first state to prosecute women for criminal assault if their fetus or newborn is considered harmed due to illegal drug use during pregnancy.  Criminalization of pregnant women and mothers is one side of the various ways the State attempts to control reproduction and discipline womens’ bodies.  This is an attack against working class women of color not unlike those we have seen in TexasCalifornianationally and globally.  All of these measures will impede women’s access to health care and efface women’s reproductive skills and knowledge.  But unlike abortion restrictions and forced sterilization, the Tennessee law is an attempt to divide feminized workers under the guise of “protection” of women and children, a strategy we are likely to see more frequently as the economic crisis deepens.

S.B. 1391 and the Crisis.

Today’s crisis is manifested in the inability of the class to take care of itself, or reproduce itself; it is a crisis of reproduction.  Wages are so low that the class cannot afford to get everything it needs to go to work every day.  Of course, “everything” we need is a relative term based on time and place; workers in America need a smartphone and cable TV after years of changes in living standards.  The class has supplemented this crisis of reproduction with personal debt.  We get credit cards to buy clothes and pay our cell phone bills and we take out student loans we will never pay back to make an extra $3/hr.  This is what life looks like for the working class today.

For the ruling class, there is another type of hustle.  It is a general law of capitalism that profits must always increase.  So capitalists make changes to the workplace, by introducing more and more machines and pushing workers out of the production process, to ensure an increased profit.  However, this catches up to them.  Since workers are the only ones capable of creating value (there is always a worker somewhere in the production process!), the more capitalists push workers out of the production process, the more the profit margin weakens.  Couple this phenomenon with the working class’s increased dependence on debt and loans and we find ourselves in today’s economic crisis.

KUKA_Industrial_Robots_IR

On top of this, because so many workers are pushed out of the production process (consider Detroit’s 23% unemployment rate for example), a surplus population of workers makes it possible for capitalism to pit people against each other in competition for jobs.  In this sense, the ruling class has an interest in controlling the actual number of workers there are in the world at a given moment, based on the needs of capital.

Continue reading Criminalization, Crisis and Care: Tennessee’s S.B. 1391 and Attacks on Reproduction