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.