Comrades around the world!
Today we celebrate March 8th, International Women’s Day. We reaffirm that the link between women’s liberation and total human emancipation from exploitation is unbreakable, and that we cannot have one without the other. To speak about revolution and the creation of a new society while ignoring the oppression of women is to march into battle at less than half strength.
Why is it so important that we make this affirmation on this day? In recent years many women have been justifiably put off by what shall hereby be referred to as the “left,” including some self-proclaimed socialist or communist organizations, due to numerous failures to demonstrate a proper attitude towards women’s liberation and proper behavior towards female comrades. In some cases, female activists have reported being marginalized and objectified, while in the more severe cases reports of sexual assaults have been inexcusably suppressed and victims intimidated, all for the sake of maintaining the integrity of the organization, as if an organization which ignores sexual harassment and even assault in its ranks could ever truly have the integrity that a revolution would inevitably require.
In this shameful series of failures on the part of self-proclaimed progressive forces, many groups and organizations have taken up a line on prostitution which only serves to justify and perpetuate patriarchy, as well as enrich the worst among capitalists. No matter how many reasoned arguments are made to refute their claims that prostitution is not “work like any other form of work,” and no matter how much evidence is mustered to show that legalized prostitution has failed to improve the lives of prostituted women while encouraging men to use women as they see fit, these “leftists” continue to insist that legalization of prostitution is the only possible road.
One of the major causes of these problems stems from what is an unfortunately very popular and vulgar belief, namely the idea that issues like women’s liberation must be put on hold until after the revolution, after the overthrow of capitalism. While it is true that the full liberation of women cannot be achieved so long as society is divided into hostile classes, this does not mean that revolutionaries, and in particular male revolutionaries, have no responsibility to wage a daily struggle against the oppression of women. If nowhere else, any woman should be able to find respite from a hostile world within the ranks of the workers’ movement. Once again, the primary burden of responsibility must inevitably fall on the shoulders of men in this regard. When we speak of women being oppressed, we must ask by whom are they oppressed, and the answer is men. This is not to be taken as a “divisive” statement accusing men but rather an objective fact. And it is for this reason that male revolutionaries must constantly be mindful of their behavior and call out sexism and misogynistic behavior or ideas whenever they might appear, and more importantly resolutely sweep them out of our organizations and coalitions.
On this day, International Women’s Day, the American Party of Labor publicly proclaims its support for the following:
- Zero tolerance for sexual harassment and especially sexual assault within leftist organizations, coalitions, and events. Members should remain vigilant toward their own behavior and the behavior and attitudes of others.
- Full rejection of any idea that claims women’s liberation and sexism in general are ideas which can “wait until after the revolution,” or that these things will be solved simply by the overthrow of capitalism. Oppression of women pre-dates capitalism, going back all the way till the beginning of class-based society. This being the case, how can anyone seriously claim that the overthrow of capitalism alone would end women’s oppression? The struggle against sexism, like racism and other social ills, must be waged within revolutionary organizations before, during, and after any hypothetical revolution. The regression of women’s rights in formerly socialist countries clearly demonstrates how difficult this struggle can be, how the overthrow of capitalism alone is insufficient, and how in the future any successful revolutionary party or organization must be ever vigilant on this front.
- An abolitionist position on prostitution. The APL does not support the criminalization of prostituted women, and does not oppose the desire of any group of prostituted women to organize so as to acquire whatever rights and dignities they can attain by doing so, but the Party will not support any measures which legitimize pimps, traffickers, and buyers of sex. The only bourgeois legislation the APL can support on this issue would be any laws resembling the so-called Nordic Model, which criminalizes pimps, buyers, and landlords rather than prostituted women. This model properly puts the blame where it belongs, on the men who exploit women by selling or renting their bodies. In spite of the arguments by the prostitution industry, study after study show that this is the only bourgeois legal measure which reduces trafficking and risks toward women while providing prostituted women a path to exit from this vile trade. The legalization of prostitution means legitimization, making it “normal” for men to buy sex. Such a situation cannot help but to preserve and perpetuate patriarchy, as it would, and in fact already does, overwhelmingly benefit men at the expense of women.
So let us remember on this, International Women’s Day, that putting the struggle against women’s oppression on an equal plane with the struggle against capitalism does not detract from the latter, nor does it “divide” workers or set them against one another. The people who are guilty of such division are those who act as though female activists exist only to provide girlfriends and partners for male activists, those who turn a blind eye to sexual harassment, and those who masquerade as feminists seeking to empower women by giving them the “choice” to be prostitutes while arguing against any kind of consequences for the men who abuse them.
Waging a struggle against sexism and misogyny is what strengthens the movement and binds it together. Let us wage that struggle, comrades!