I arrived in DC yesterday midday with an impressive group of mostly young women. Some of them I have known for a while, both through the movement for revolution and through the more recent efforts initiating a new movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women
. One was a young woman who I had just met the day before up at a clinic in the South Bronx where there was a march commemorating Roe v. Wade that made its way to a fake clinic (a “Crisis Pregnancy Center”) where there was a speak-out against the lies and guilt and lack of medical help that is distributed at those centers.
Ten minutes into lunch we were neck deep in a discussion spanning the controversies which surrounded Slutwalk, the origins of the oppression of women, how to understand the sex industry (could it EVER be “empowering for women” or is the point to get to a world where no one is commodified and women are not oppressed), questions surrounding revolution and socialism/communism, and so much more. Probably some of what we wrangled with will surface in future posts... but this morning (just as yesterday during the discussion) I cannot go as far as I'd like because there are places to be!
Last evening at BusBoys and Poets, we had a very rich program and discussion. Students came out from the nearby universities, including a number of current or former Catholic students. One young woman from Catholic University, where a lot of the anti-abortion protesters stay while in from out of town, courageously stood up to them by herself. She wore her pro-choice t-shirt and held a pro-choice sign as they streamed through her school. This morning she is going to have a much bigger crew with her as many of the folks who came to the program volunteered to join her.
Also, a small core of the Occupy folks from DC apparently went into one of the anti-abortion youth events and pulled off a “mic-check” where they spoke for a while about why women need the right to decide for themselves about their reproductive lives.
During the presentation I gave over dinner, one of the things I tried to lay out is how we have gotten into this situation where we keep losing ground on abortion and birth control. I took on the way that the bourgeois feminist movement (including the mainstream of the pro-choice movement) has totally subordinated itself to the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party is a ruling class party which shares a lot of the same desires as the Republicans in terms of wanting to strengthen the patriarchal family at a time when “national unity” is both being challenged (due to the ongoing ideological effects of the 60's, the recent anti-war movement, the changes in the position of women, the influx of immigrants, the challenges to the patriarchal family posed by the LGBT struggles and traditional gender norms, and many other things) and is more needed than ever (at a time of an ongoing “War on Terror” and other global challenges to the empire). This overall unity in class interests is greater than their disagreements – real as those disagreements are – and it shapes the terms over which they struggle and over which they continually capitulate. As a ruling class party, the Democratics doesn't want the instability and upheaval that would be required to really take on the truly fascist and fanatical Christian fundamentalist anti-abortion movement.
As Richard Viguerie, an early architect of the anti-abortion movement, put it decades ago: “The abortion issue is the door through which many people come into conservative politics, but they don't stop there. Their convictions against abortion are like the first in a series of dominoes. Then we lead them to concern about sexual ethics and standards among young people. This leads to opposition to secular humanism. Then... we point out that secular humanism is identified as both the godfather and the royal road to socialism and communism which points the way to commitments to minimally regulated free enterprise at home and to aggressive foreign and military politics to counter the communist threat from Russia and its many surrogates.”
Obviously, the world has changed since that quote, but the strategic orientation laid by Viguerie explains a lot as to why the crazy Christian fascist lunatics didn't stay on the margins of society but were elevated and given major backing by ruling class forces starting with Reagan and continuing till today where they are now all throughout the halls of power, courts, high finance and military.
And, the Democrats, while differing over many of the details and approach, both don't want the kind of fight that comes from really taking that on and share the same basic outlook of strengthening and shoring up the homefront and national unity – including an increase on the patriarchal family and patriotism (and the two do go hand in hand!).
The mainstream pro-choice movement, by tying its sails to the Democratic Party, has taken their lead – and gone along with distancing itself from an unapologetic defense of abortion AND has stopped mobilizing people to really fight for abortion rights and instead mobilizes them to vote and give money to elections. They adopted Clinton's “safe, legal, rare” apologetics and defensiveness and then dropping the word “abortion” from almost anything they do. Go, for instance, and look at NARAL's homepage and you can't find the word abortion anywhere on the front page!
To really demonstrate just how terrible the direction of this “pro-choice movement” is – at a time of the greatest assault on abortion we've ever seen, building on all that has come before and escalating even further, the pro-choice movement called for a bullshit “Virtual March” on Washington (all the groups, NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Feminist Majority, etc. – together with the Supreme Sucker Up of Progressive Energies: MoveOn.org) where people do nothing but click a button “to prove to congress... that they will do nothing but click a button.” Ie: “Don't worry, keep compromising away women's lives!” A “Virtual March” would be fine, of course, if there were only a “virtual war on women” currently afoot.
I also spoke to the fact that resistance IS possible, but not by relying on the Democrats or the groups that have made themselves nothing more than an appendage to them. We must rely on ourselves – and the millions more who are sitting on the sidelines to act outside of the institutions and the political limits of the bourgeois political framework. To be in the streets declaring “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!”
Many of the students were very eager to hear this and discuss, saying they felt there had been something wrong with the pro-choice movement and there was a need for something more radical. There is more to report on all this – but, as I said, I have to scoot out the door.
Before I do, I have to mention some of what else really inspired me. A woman I met some fifteen years ago who worked at one of the clinics in Brookline, Massachusettes where two women were killed by an anti-abortion gunman in the 90's came down. She looked incredible and it was wonderful to see her and hear her speak at the program. Heather Ault, of 4,000 years of Choice, is here with her beautiful banners. A man I met over the summer at the Summer of Trust, where we defended Dr. Carhart's clinic, is supporting all this. He is from one of the Unitarian churches and said he'd never been involved in or thought much about abortion until we came down over the summer. Now, he regularly escorts at the local clinics. The women of the Brevard, Florida NOW Chapter who were up here for the Summer of Trust have also come back again. So glad to be joined by this incredible crew. More to say later.
In the mean time – please give some money to this critical effort! It really will make an incredible impact both on this protest today AND on the ability to continue to do even more like it.