Intro: rectification and conference
Earlier this month Red Guards – Los Angeles’ (RGLA) gender rectification project “Unlearning Patriarchy,” now known as “Arming Ourselves Against Patriarchy: Creating the Women’s Guerrilla Defense Unit,” was invited to and participated in the conference “#HowIWillChange: A Conference for Men to Deal With Our Sh!t.”
RGLA, with the guidance of Red Guards Austin, initiated a gender rectification campaign approximately two years ago when it was discovered that a member at the time had physically assaulted a woman. Leadership expelled the person and constructed an internal gender rectification campaign for the main task of transforming the men in the organization into proletarian feminists, and to better their understanding of gender and practice. Approximately one year ago, RGLA’s gender rectification campaign took on a semi-public character when we started hosting monthly workshops on patriarchy and capitalism, Unlearning Patriarchy. The workshops, the series overall, had a dual character: 1. to continue on with the internal gender rectification campaign – each RGLA member or supporter had their own particularities for their own specific gender rectification, 2. to politically bring up the men in our social and activist circles who also have bad gender practice and theory, with many women in their lives suffering because of this.
The conference, largely inspired by the #MeToo Movement, was organized around the idea of men dealing with their misogynistic behaviors, ideas, tendencies, etc. The conference was organized by men in the community and was hosted at a community center in Vancouver, Canada. Speakers and participants came from various parts of Canada and even the US, including many community members from indigenous nations in the regional area. Although the conference did focus on men speaking, engaging, transforming themselves and each other, women and trans people also participated.
Facilitators and leaders of Unlearning Patriarchy, as a project reaching its end, saw this as a good opportunity to engage with different community members regarding the history, present, and future of the project. RGLA saw this as a good way to reflect, self-criticize on the projects shortcomings, and engage in good-faith criticism on multi-tendency spaces that speak of transforming society by transforming the individual, especially on “challenging, unlearning, countering, decolonizing” patriarchy, but do not build revolution nor do they know how to get there.
The conference was a big umbrella space for leftist and community members looking to end misogyny in society and within ourselves. But the conference, like all bourgeois institutions and manifestations, was incidentally about how to continue operating capitalism, and how to continue surviving under capitalism.
Like the reformist nature of the state’s nonprofit suger-coated bullets, all manifestations of supposed solutions to the contradictions and problems of capitalism, patriarchy and settler-colonialism that do not uphold and reaffirm revolutionary war as the method of resolving the principle antagonistic contradiction, that between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, is actually counter-revolutionary in essence.
The conference was devoid of revolutionary politics, Marxism. There was no guiding ideology or analysis exposing the contradictions of capitalism, its relation to patriarchy and how to destroy it. Of course, aspects and sub-aspects of patriarchy were discussed but not sufficiently analyzed and struggled over theoretically (e.g. defining terms, violence in homes, what causes individuals to become violent, how violence is around us all the time, etc.). While settler-colonialism was only vaguely discussed as a principle cause for much of the sub-aspects of patriarchy like misogyny and objectification, there was no scientific correlation as to how patriarchy predated the European conquest and settlement of present-day Canada, its development through private property and the ascension of the family economic unity and the state. There was no analysis as to how patriarchy gets reproduced in capitalist society or the type of character – antagonistic or non-antagonistic – of the relationship between proletarian men and women.
It was a space for men to openly talk about what was wrong in the dominant capitalist culture, how culture reproduces misogynistic ideology and actions, how men themselves do so too in their daily lives, and how to better combat that as individuals. But here the conference speakers perpetuated a line that RGLA had adopted early on, which was fundamentally incorrect. That is, a flattening of all men, regardless of class or nationality, who perpetuate equally patriarchy against women. Secondly, as mentioned earlier, the conference and RGLA had upheld a political line that interpersonal relationships between men and women under patriarchal capitalism – as opposed to the incorrect “capitalist patriarchy,” which puts patriarchy first as the principle contradiction – can be “unlearned,” while not completely, to a lower more bearable level. It is of little to no concern about the individual’s concept of gender or patriarchy; it is far more important to adopt a collective, in our present state the pre-party formation, political line on the position of proletarian women, in and outside of the internal colonies/oppressed nations, under capitalism and to strategize a resolution to the contradiction between the sexes.
We assert, now, that the contradiction between proletarian men and women is not generally antagonistic and therefore does not require a revolution between men and women to resolve this contradiction. The non-antagonistic contradiction between proletarian men and women however may, at times, become antagonistic and often results in violence and even murder of women. However, there is a direct correlation between the contradictions of capitalism and the precarious economic position the proletariat occupies. Violence exits in proletarian neighborhoods. Violence against women exists in proletarian neighborhoods. Violence against women exists in the oppressed nations in proletarian neighborhoods. This violence does not exist constantly but rather under regular peaks of sharpen imperialist economic crises like recessions, massive job loss, offshoring, outsourcing and state policies that heightens the exploitation of the proletariat and increases the level of national oppressed by the white nation against the internal colonies/oppressed nations like mass housing displacement (gentrification). Capitalism perpetuates violence, not the other way around. The former is explained by Marxism, the other is upheld by postmodernism and revisionist “Marxist”-feminism and other non-Marxist feminist schools of thought.
After the revolution the socialist construction of the dictatorship of the proletariat with a reconstruction and collectivization of domestic/reproductive labor will initially resolve the contradiction between men and women. Subsequent cultural revolutions can also resolve the more aggressive residue patriarchal ideas that linger on as the dying old ideas of a dying old world.
Thoughts on the conference: the good and the bad
Most conference speakers came from nonprofits and many were members of indigenous nations, and/or had academic backgrounds. A lot of the focus could be narrowed down to acknowledging settler-colonialism, intersectionality, and self-transformation by individuals.
Again, we repeat, if the goal is to end patriarchy, simply put, we argue that you cannot end patriarchy without destroying the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie; and only a revolutionary movement led by a militarized Communist Party guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, can destroy the capitalist state. Patriarchy came about with the advent of private property, the state and correlating social classes. We can only move closer to its elimination with the destruction of social classes. That is not an end all, by any means, but it is fundamental. It is the fundamental political line, and within the line contains the steps, to destroy the state and doesn’t exist in the idealist, un-Marxist world in which patriarchy will eventually crumble under its own weight; it must be destroyed through revolutionary violence, through a revolutionary war. Within this, however, we find unity with many non-Maoists organizations, movements and people. So to speak of destroying one without the other – capitalism and patriarchy – is to uphold both, just like how revisionism pretends to be Marxist and anti-capitalist when in reality to uphold revisionism is to uphold capitalism and/or its restoration.
Some thoughts on the tactics from the conference:
1) On nonprofits: Nonprofits are not revolutionary, nor do many claim to be (but some do, and ought not to lie to themselves and the masses). Many acknowledge their limits, but still they see the necessity of creating a better world. Beyond the fact that many nonprofits have contradictory roles within communities, like Self-Help Graphics & Art in Boyle Heights that works with the bureaucratic bourgeoisie actively displacing/gentrifying the proletarian community, as well as receiving money from the comprador bourgeoisie that make their wealth through exploiting other communities, what role do nonprofits generally play in society?
Nonprofits generally focus on issues that affect working-class families living under capitalism but look to put band-aids on them – that is, soften the contradictions of capitalism. Because of this they are only bourgeois instruments. Nonprofits who orientate to urban proletarian students receive a sub-par education, especially oppressed nationality youth. Nonprofits look at this national oppression or capitalist exploitation and says, “Let’s give them art classes, tutoring programs, mentors, healthier spaces to grow and learn.” Nonprofits who orientate to working-class families struggle to eat looks at this and says, “Let’s give them free food, help them find employment, provide amenities to survive the realities of capitalism.” All this, without a class analysis, sounds nice, is nice, and is subjectively morally good. But it keeps the proletariat comfortable in their shackles, the colonized subjects able to bear colonization. There is no freedom without violent confrontation. There is no proletarian emancipation, of men or women, without an ending of the political economic relationship to the means of production. There is no emancipation of the colonized, oppressed and exploited without the seizure of power. As Lenin and the Bolsheviks and Presidente Gonzalo and the Communist Party of Peru have asserted, “Everything is illusory except power!”
With a class analysis we see that nonprofits generally only exist and thrive off the contradictions of capitalism. They do not seek to destroy the root causes of the issues they actively work around; they do not see the need of destroying capitalism in every way, shape and form. They see the need of transforming individuals and helping them out in their basic needs to make capitalism more bearable and survivable for them. They, in practice, reinforce capitalism by putting band-aids on contradictions that should be used to sharpen revolutionary moments and movements in aiding and ushering the destruction of the old, sepulchral capitalist world.
2) On the performativity of Unlearning Patriarchy: This is a criticism and self-criticism. You cannot unlearn patriarchy. An attempt to do so is, at its best, an exercise in performative, empty posturing. At its worst, it is actually treacherous to the emancipation of the proletariat, especially proletarian women. Patriarchy is inherent in every aspect of society and it is reinforced every second we live on this earth under capitalism. That is one of the functions of society’s superstructure. And to merely “unlearn” something prior to a hit to the economic base of society, or in absence in striking a hit against the economic base of society, is metaphysical.
At the start and much throughout the gender rectification campaign, we de-prioritized Maoist politics in favor of more immediate and interpersonal feminist politics. That is, we suspended Marxism. We put non-Marxist feminist politics in command. We did so because we saw the urgency in fighting relentlessly against the men of the cadre and supporters’ rampant patriarchal behavior, which included physical abuse against women but also included emotional/psychological abuse. We eagerly dove into publications by bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Silvia Federici and others, grasping for any semblance of male feminist practice. We found some good and correct ideas, but we also found many bad and incorrect ideas. We attempted to distill the good from the bad, see Silvia Federici’s immense research on the development of patriarchy and primitive accumulation or read about bell hooks upholding the need for multi-gender formations (she used concepts like spaces or convenings, but formations would be better said and applied). This wasn’t a total failure, however. We struggled internally and externally with allied women and men who were welcomed into the rectification campaign. It was during ideological struggle on questions of gender that Marxism began to rear its head in opposition to certain lines – such as the radical feminist assertion of the man-woman contradiction being antagonistic instead of the Marxist position of it being a secondary non-antagonistic one. However, the fact that Unlearning Patriarchy lasted as long as it did without enough fundamental changes to its mission and outcome means it was more a failure than a victory. Nonetheless, RGLA and our supporters did take away great lessons and mental transformation – which can only mean developing a militarized communist discipline and adherence to a life of revolutionary service and revolutionary prestige.
This is a path we have already embarked on and we cannot be removed from it; our feet are firmly planted and our resolve is growing harder and harder like communist soldiers – becoming.
This – patriarchy’s hegemony – will not change, no matter how many bell hooks reading groups we are a part of; it will not change, no matter how many more self-care books are published; it will not change, no matter how many feminist seminars are conducted – even if they call themselves anticapitalist or even Marxist; it will not change, no matter how many men’s circles gather to learn how to be emotionally available and vulnerable with their intimate partners; it will not change, no matter how gender-diverse your organization is in its membership. Healing is impossible. Representation is not power. It, alone, is identity politics. Revolutionary war – principally Protracted People’s War – is the only solution.
Patriarchy’s violent hegemony will only begin to be chipped away when the global proletariat, with a special emphasis on proletarian women from the oppressed nations of the world, are no longer under the subjugation of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
No longer will we suffice with the concept of unlearning – yes, men need to improve their gender practice but without an analysis as to why sexism exists and who benefits from it, unlearning becomes performative. Performative is generally radical in speech and reformist in action. One must literally arm themselves against patriarchy and build a revolutionary movement! If one commits to fight against patriarchy but not destroy the economic base that produces patriarchal ideas and relations, what was accomplished?
3) Lifestylism: Lifestylism focuses on an individual transforming themselves. That’s it, mainly. And this is generally what the conference was about. The environment is being destroyed by the amount of commodities we consume, so we must consume less. The amount of energy taken to grow beef, chicken, and pork drains natural resources, so we need to eat less meat and become vegan. Misogyny is rampant in society, so we must be genuinely nicer and smile more when walking around. That one company is fucking up a community, so then we must boycott it. Water is becoming more scarce and needs to be preserved, so we need to drink less, hah! We jest on this last point, of course, but that is where this line leads. It does not address the root of the problem or seek to transform it. Many tactics under lifestylism (which only are choices) might need to be taken up under revolutionary movements, but the revolutionary movement seeking to destroy that which treats life as a commodity must remain primary in every instance – otherwise capitalism is the end of the world and the human species.
4) “Check your privilege-ism”: The conference also brought awareness to settler-colonialism. Statements like, “this city is founded on violence by settlers” and “I identify as a settler” were made by presenters. Acknowledging settler-colonialism and the role it plays within patriarchal capitalism is very important, of course, but only acknowledgment so as to form a political analysis for revolution. To check your privilege is not only not enough, it is performative and politically stupid.
The postmodernist concept of “decolonization” is liberal political trickery that only preserves the colonizer’s world and their capitalist economy. The need to fight back against decolonization’s meaninglessness posturing and reassert revolutionary national liberation, primarily around the question of land, as Frantz Fanon originally had theorized it, is essential. There is no talk of fighting against colonization without fighting for the recapture of native land, of the homeland of the oppressed nations within the US and Canada. Otherwise, how can we talk about settler-colonialism existing without talking about how to materially end it?
Our political economic system in North America is settler-colonialism capitalism-imperialism. Patriarchy is a secondary contradiction, but one that can become and is mortal for women. But patriarchy is best studied from a class analysis. Bourgeouis women share very little with proletarian women. Proletarian women are alienated from their labor. They are abused, raped, brutalized, killed and left discarded in public parks like here in Boyle Heights and other parts of Los Angeles. Bourgeois women, as the gender of the dominant class in power, do not face that same reality.
A system such as ours, imposed upon the native, Chicano and Black nations, having colonized and genocided countless groups and even entire native nations – can we really talk about merely unlearning, checking privilege or decolonizing or deconstructing such a system without the use of revolutionary violence and vengeance?
Moving forward with the Women’s Guerrilla Defense Units
We are thankful that our supporter was invited and able to participate in the conference in Vancouver. As Maoists we will reflect on participating in future similar conferences that are multi-tendency and not revolutionary. Our proletarian communities, especially proletarian women of the oppressed nations, need and die each day that there is not a revolutionary vanguard. We cannot, they cannot, afford more academic and reformist conferences with no material revolutionary solutions and strategies. We are not fooling ourselves in thinking that that will be provided outside of revolutionary formation.
Proletarian women will be part of the leadership of this revolutionary struggle and it will be crucial for men to transform and become better comrades, not for personal gain, but as a necessary step toward ending all forms of injustices on this earth.
The Women’s Guerrilla Defense Units is still in its nascent steps but we are putting a heavy emphasis on political development and political struggle so as to lay down a concrete foundation capable of supporting nothing short of the towering project of continued preparation for the great revolutionary war against capitalism.
The masses die each day the militarized Party, People’s Army and United Front continues not existing. Proletarian women of the oppressed nations continue to die each day the Women’s Guerrilla Defense Units continues not existing fully. We must build as if the lives of the masses depended on it, for it does. We must build with the noble revolutionary abandonment that our lives are guaranteed to be laid down in service of revolution and the emancipation of proletarian women. We are invincible with the revolutionary development of a militarized proletarian feminism! We are unstoppable with the becoming-militarized masses full support and participation! We are immortal under the red banner of Maoism!
Long live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism!
Long live the proletarian women of the oppressed nations, and the world!
Women hold up half the sky!
Long live all immortal proletarian women who fight and give their lives to the revolution!