Showing posts with label SEX AND POLITICS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SEX AND POLITICS. Show all posts

Saturday, November 13, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Women And Revolution"-Birth Control, Abortion Rights and Women’s Oppression-Fifty Years After the Pill: Still a Long Way to Go

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter and Spring 1975-76, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.
Workers Vanguard No. 968
5 November 2010
Birth Control, Abortion Rights and Women’s Oppression

Fifty Years After the Pill: Still a Long Way to Go

For Women's Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

(Women and Revolution pages)

“You’ve come a long way, baby,” crooned the old Virginia Slims commercials on TV in the late 1960s, and the bourgeois media has picked up the tune again on this, the fiftieth anniversary of the Pill (no further definition necessary—everyone knows you are talking about s-e-x). And everyone knows the Pill is all about sex. When in 1975 Loretta Lynn sang, “I’m tearin’ down your brooder house ’cause now I’ve got the pill,” the hearts of millions of women across America beat in time to the rhythm of her song, which dozens of radio stations tried to censor—until it made the hit charts.

The Pill was the first reliable contraceptive that gave women control over their own reproduction. This tremendous medical advance enabled women to separate sexual enjoyment from fear of pregnancy, freeing them from the now excessive fertility with which evolution has endowed our species. But birth control and abortion remain restricted throughout the capitalist world by the state, by the institution of the family, and by organized religion, which all serve to enforce women’s oppression. As long as the capitalist order exists, the benefits of science will be limited by the exploitation and oppression of this class system. Marxists look forward to the day when science can be “applied with full understanding to all the fields of human activity,” to quote the words of German socialist leader August Bebel, whose 1879 work Woman and Socialism was one of the first major Marxist works on the woman question.

Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 October Revolution, underlined that birth control and abortion are among woman’s “most important civil, political and cultural rights” (The Revolution Betrayed [1936]). We fight for women’s liberation through socialist revolution. We call for free abortion on demand as part of free, quality health care for all and for free, 24-hour childcare to address the deep class and racial oppression of poor and minority women. The wealthy will always get their medical care, including their abortions, while myriad anti-abortion laws and restrictions on birth control target young, working-class and poor women, who can’t afford quality health care, childcare and housing.

At the time of its first release by the pharmaceutical company Searle, big predictions were made about the effect that the Pill would have on society. Moral bigots wailed that it would promote female promiscuity and the decline of religion and the patriarchal family, while birth control advocates believed it would save the family, create happy marriages and end the world population explosion. The Pill was even hailed as the solution to the “Red Menace.” In her book America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation (Basic Books, 2010), historian Elaine May speaks of how some Cold Warriors believed that the Pill “would alleviate the conditions of poverty and unrest that might lead developing nations to embrace communism, and instead promote the growth of markets for consumer goods and the embrace of capitalism.”

In fact, the “sexual revolution” that is often credited to the Pill was the result, in one way or another, of the convulsive social struggles of the civil rights movement, which broke the back of Jim Crow segregation in the South, and of opposition to U.S. imperialism’s war against the Vietnamese Revolution. The major social upheavals of the 1960s that broke up the reactionary Cold War consensus also led to substantial advances in access to higher education and professional jobs for women. At the same time, the civil rights movement could not eradicate the race-color caste oppression of black people, which is the bedrock of American capitalism, just as the institution of the family, the main source of women’s oppression in capitalist society, is a bulwark of the bourgeois order.

Abortion Rights Under Attack

While U.S. bourgeois pundits celebrate the reproductive freedom that the Pill has given women, it is striking that most do not mention the precipitous decline in women’s access to abortion. The assault on women’s right to abortion continues unabated in the courts and halls of government, especially on the state level. As of June, some 370 bills to restrict abortion rights had been introduced this year alone in state legislatures across the country, and many have already passed. These range from Oklahoma’s cruel requirement that a doctor show the woman an ultrasound of the fetus, to Nebraska’s ban on all abortions after 20 weeks based on the claim that the fetus can feel pain. Perhaps the most barbarous is Utah’s new law. Passed after a desperate 17-year-old paid a man $150 to beat her in an effort to induce a miscarriage, the law now allows homicide charges against women in similar cases! Meanwhile, the lies that abortion causes depression and breast cancer continue to circulate, and some recent polls show that for the first time more Americans call themselves “pro-life” than “pro-choice.”

The arsenal of legal measures on the federal as well as the state level has already made abortion virtually inaccessible to a large number of women. Thirty-eight states prohibit abortions after a specified point in pregnancy. Fully 35 states require one or both parents of women under 18 to be notified and/or consent to an abortion. Some 87 percent of U.S. counties and 31 percent of metropolitan areas have no abortion services.

In May 2009, the “pro-life” war on women claimed yet another life. Dr. George Tiller—one of only three doctors whose clinics provide late-term abortions in the United States—was assassinated while attending his church in Wichita, Kansas, by a right-wing anti-abortion bigot. Tiller, a main target of the anti-woman God squad for decades, was the eighth person murdered in this anti-abortion, “family values” onslaught since 1993. In an article titled “The New Abortion Providers,” the New York Times (18 July) details the long decline in the number of doctors trained in performing abortions and tells the story of young doctors in groups like Medical Students for Choice fighting to make abortion part of a doctor’s regular practice. Abortion is a medical procedure, now one of the safest in the world, that does not need to be carried out in isolated clinics, where doctors and their families, friends and co-workers can easily be subjected to harassment, violence and death by anti-abortion fanatics.

Ever since the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, the basic democratic right of legal abortion has been under attack. The war on abortion rights has become a spearhead for social and political reaction because at its heart lies the question of legal and social equality for women. Providing women with some control over whether or not to have children, abortion is viewed as a threat to the institution of the family.

Access to contraception, too, is limited by cost and lack of basic information, while “conscience clauses” allow pharmacies to refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control and Plan B, the “morning-after” pill. To all this can be added anti-woman moralizing, which rants that a girl shouldn’t want to have sex. The argument goes that while any unwed mother is a bad girl, if she can claim she got carried away, maybe the sin is not quite as great (as long as she doesn’t have an abortion). But having birth control implies premeditation. Precisely! In the words of the late comedian George Carlin, “Not every ejaculation deserves a name.”

Today sex education in schools is increasingly under attack, while abstinence remains the focus of government-funded programs like the State Personal Responsibility Education Program, established by Barack Obama’s recent health care “reform” act. Abortion clinics are overwhelmingly outnumbered by “pregnancy crisis centers”—fake clinics set up by anti-abortion groups with the purpose of subjecting pregnant women to anti-abortion propaganda and otherwise pressuring them to carry the fetus to term. According to the Nation, some 4,000 of these centers have received over $60 million in federal abstinence and marriage-promotion funds. As a result of the ignorance and miseducation produced by this tangle of social reaction, almost half of pregnancies in the U.S. every year are unplanned, according to the most recent government survey.

While U.S. newspapers headline “The Pill: Making Motherhood Better for 50 Years” (Washington Post, 9 May), the masses of working-class, minority and poor women have missed the celebration. The Great Recession rages on; union-busting is destroying what good union jobs remain; homes are in foreclosure; millions of working people cannot get jobs and their children cannot get a decent education or affordable health care. Except for the women at the very top of society, where the rich are certainly getting richer, the decades-long assault on the working class and the poor has more than canceled out the important improvements in women’s legal status over the last 50 years.

In times of substantial class and social struggle, the capitalist class may be forced to cede some reforms. But as long as the capitalist order remains, the ruling class will seek to overturn these gains, as it is now doing, when such struggles are at an ebb. As revolutionary communists, we defend every gain that’s been won for the exploited and oppressed, such as the gains wrested during the hard struggles of the civil rights movement. But these reforms have a fundamentally token quality to them because they leave untouched the capitalist system. The source of black oppression and anti-woman bigotry is not the particular capitalist party in power—whether Democratic or Republican—but the capitalist order that breeds oppression and bigotry as a necessary corollary to its system of exploitation.

Sex and Social Control

The capitalist class seeks to buttress the family, which, along with organized religion and the state, form a triad that props up the exploitation of labor. To free women from their deeply entrenched special oppression will take a workers revolution to rip this system of exploitation out by the roots and replace it with a workers government to begin the construction of a socialist world. Only then can we undertake the profound changes in the fabric of everyday life where the institution of the family is replaced by socialized childcare and housework, enabling women to fully participate in social and political life.

The family is not an immutable, timeless institution, but a social relation subject to historical change. In his classic 1884 work The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels traced the origin of the family and the state to the division of society into classes. The development of agriculture allowed the creation of a social surplus. In turn, that surplus gave impetus to the development of a leisured ruling class, thus moving human society away from the primitive egalitarianism of the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic). The centrality of the family began with its role in ensuring “legitimate heirs” for the patriarchal inheritance of property, which required women’s sexual monogamy and social subordination. In the 10,000 years since the advent of class society, the family has taken many forms—including polygamous, extended and nuclear—reflecting different political economies and their cultures and religions. But the oppression of women is a fundamental feature of all class societies.

The family is a socially conservatizing force that imposes certain behavioral norms. For example, in this country the definition of “manhood” is, besides getting a girl pregnant, the ability to support a wife and children. But that is becoming ever more difficult given the lack of decent-paying union jobs. If not for wives entering the workforce, the entire bottom 60 percent of the U.S. population would have had real income losses since 1979. At the same time, the institution of the family serves the capitalist rulers by placing the burden of raising a new generation of proletarians on working men and women. Indeed, the “family values” crowd (which encompasses Democrats as well as the Republicans) wails about the so-called “crisis of the family” and insists that it is both right and proper that parents should be wholly responsible for the upbringing of their children.

Even the most cursory examination of laws regulating abortion, contraception and the like that go back thousands of years shows that they are integrally related to the maintenance of the family. Some of the first documented legal measures to strengthen the patriarchal family were enacted in ancient Rome under Augustus Caesar. These included prohibitions against adultery, incentives for widows to remarry, “sin” taxes on bachelors 30 years and older, and incentives for fathers of three or more children. The concern of the government was to have enough Roman citizens to fill the ranks of the army and maintain the city of Rome as the core of the Empire.

Modern abortion laws show how social and legal institutions have changed to reflect the interests of the capitalist class. In 1803 the British Ellenborough Act marked the advent of abortion as a statutory crime in the English-speaking world. The interest of the ruling class in this law and others following it was to protect the male’s right to heirs, punish (especially single) women for illicit sex and encourage population growth for the newly forged capitalist nation-state, its army and labor pool.

Alongside legal prohibition stands religion, the strongest ideological force against birth control and abortion, especially the Roman Catholic church. The claims by the Pope and other clergy about the “souls” of unborn children are revealed as so much superstition by the science of human development. Yet thanks to the reactionary influence of religion, tens of thousands of women die each year from illegal abortions—lives that would have been saved with access to birth control and abortion. A brief look at Catholic doctrine shows that the church has changed its mind several times about when the nonexistent “soul” enters into the conceptus. For most of the existence of the church, this was considered to be the time of “quickening,” at about the fourth month, when the pregnant woman can feel the movement of the fetus. John XXI, who became pope in 1276, was the author of a book called Treasury of Medicines for the Poor, which is the greatest single source of information about the practical means of birth control and abortion that was known in the Middle Ages. It was not until 1869 that Pope Pius IX declared that abortion “from conception” was a sin. This was a political calculation carried out in exchange for recognition of “papal infallibility” by French Emperor Napoleon III, who was seeking to stem France’s decades-long decline in the birth rate.

The woman-hating strictures against birth control and abortion, the poisonous bigotry against homosexuals, the witchhunting of “deviant” sex (who defines that?), the relentless pressure on youth to somehow refrain from giving in to their raging hormones—all these are corollaries of the institution of the family and the social control that it gives the ruling class. As communists we oppose attempts to fit human sexuality into legislated or decreed so-called “norms.” Government out of the bedroom! The guiding principle for sexual relations between people should be that of effective consent—that is, nothing more than mutual agreement and understanding as opposed to coercion. All consensual relations are purely the concern of the individuals involved, and the state has no business interfering in human sexual activity.

Some History of Birth Control

In Contraception and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance (Harvard University Press, 1994), John M. Riddle explores the ways that pre-industrial people might have tried to enjoy sex without the consequence of procreation. Nobody knows if the methods he documents had much effect on the birth rates, but they certainly show intent. One city in Northern Africa, Cyrene, is believed to have made its name and its fortune from a wild giant fennel that grew nearby, which people believed to have abortifacient effects. Its use became so widespread that it was harvested to extinction.

Peter Fryer, in his witty and erudite book The Birth Controllers, documents that ancient Egyptians used crocodile-dung pessaries (vaginal suppositories) and other dubious methods to control fertility. The Christian Bible’s story of Onan is only the most well known of a long-practiced method (withdrawal), a story used for centuries to put the terror of hell into countless adolescents for masturbation. Some historians believe that the tens of thousands of women who were executed as witches in early modern Europe may have been abortionists and birth control practitioners. In 20th-century America, before the Pill, housewives often resorted to the dangerous practice of douching with Lysol.

In the 1830s, a Massachusetts doctor named Charles Knowlton was the first person in the history of birth control to be sent to prison for advocating it. The United States also has the dubious honor of passing the first nationwide laws prohibiting the dissemination of birth-control methods. In 1873 Congress passed the Comstock Act, named for its sponsor, Postmaster General Anthony Comstock. It outlawed the circulation of contraceptive information and devices through the U.S. postal service as “pornography.” In 1915 Comstock boasted that he had convicted enough people of “sexual misconduct” to fill a 60-car passenger train.

One of Comstock’s prominent targets in later years was Margaret Sanger. Sanger, who would go on to found Planned Parenthood, began her political life as a member of the Socialist Party, working on the party’s women’s committee. She was working as a nurse, visiting immigrants in New York’s Lower East Side, where she saw firsthand the suffering of women whose health had been ruined by too many pregnancies, who were struggling to feed children they could not afford to support, who all too often ended up butchered by some back-alley abortionist. Soon she began writing about sex education and health for the party’s women’s page under the heading, “What Every Girl Should Know.” In early 1913 Comstock banned the column, and the paper ran in its place a box titled “What Every Girl Should Know—Nothing; by order of the U.S. Post Office.”

Sanger soon left the Socialist Party to focus single-mindedly on fighting for birth control, a term that she herself invented. A courageous woman, Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the country and endured arrests and imprisonment as she sought to overturn the Comstock Law and to educate women and doctors in birth control methods. She traveled to Europe to research the latest techniques and wrote a sex manual in 1926 where she describes the act of sex in ecstatic, uplifting terms. Seeking to promote the cause of birth control among the wealthy and influential, she steered her movement away from the socialist movement. Sanger, a bourgeois feminist, was willing to make any political compromise she saw as necessary to win advocates to her side and thus embraced some ugly arguments popular among bourgeois reformers of the time, such as endorsing eugenics, including the call to bar immigration for the “feebleminded.” While the eugenics movement, which stigmatized the poor for their own oppression, was at the time not yet associated with the genocidal movement that would emerge in Nazi Germany, it was widely opposed by socialists. American socialist and birth control pioneer Antoinette Konikow denounced the presence of eugenicists at a 1921 New York City conference on birth control, declaring that the working-class mothers she represented “are often considered to be not fit” by such forces.

The “Population Bomb”

Behind the scenes (or not), people have always struggled to control fertility for their own private reasons. But there is also a longstanding chain of argument in favor of population control on the part of bourgeois ideologues. The most notorious of these was made by Church of England parson Thomas Malthus, whose 1798 Essay on the Principle of Population predicted unrelenting misery on account of population growth that would, he claimed, inevitably outstrip available resources. Writing at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, Malthus proposed two solutions: leave the poor to die of their misery (he opposed poor relief) and postpone the age of marriage so as to reduce the number of children per couple (that is, “abstinence” as birth control).

Malthusianism was, as Friedrich Engels characterized it in The Condition of the Working-Class in England, “the most open declaration of war of the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat.” Lenin, too, denounced Malthusianism in a short 1913 article, “The Working Class and Neomalthusianism.” At the same time, he noted, “It goes without saying that this does not by any means prevent us from demanding the unconditional annulment of all laws against abortions or against the distribution of medical literature on contraceptive measures, etc.” Lenin called for “freedom for medical propaganda and the protection of the elementary democratic rights of citizens, men and women.”

The corollary of Malthusianism, eugenics, with its calls for compulsory sterilization and forced abortions, has its contemporary advocates, including Obama’s “science czar,” John Holdren. In 1977, Holdren co-authored Ecoscience: Population, Resources, Environment with the (now largely discredited) population “experts” Paul and Anne Ehrlich. Dripping with contempt, Holdren et al. wrote: “If some individuals contribute to general social deterioration by overproducing children…they can be required by law to exercise reproductive responsibility.” Such “reproductive responsibility” laws could include “compulsory abortion,” “adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods,” “sterilizing women after their second or third child” and other “involuntary fertility control” methods that would be implemented by a “Planetary Regime,” which “might be given responsibility for determining the optimum population for the world.” The ravings of Holdren and the Ehrlichs are worthy of the genocidal Nazi eugenics movement.

Marxists are of course not indifferent to the problem of rapid population growth. But our starting point is the fight for socialist revolution to open the widest vista of human freedom. As we wrote in part two of “Capitalism and Global Warming” (WV No. 966, 8 October):

“Only a society that can raise the standard of living worldwide can provide the conditions for a natural decline in reproductive rates….

“Under communism, human beings will have far greater mastery over their natural and social environments. Both the division between town and country and economic dependence on the family will be overcome. The time when people were compelled to have more children in order to ensure enough manpower to work the land or to care for the elderly will have long passed.”

Genesis of the Pill

Margaret Sanger first had the idea of a “magic pill” to prevent conception in 1912, but the scientific knowledge to create it did not exist. By the end of World War II, decades of research into human reproductive biology had revealed the crucial role of hormones in conception and pregnancy. In 1953 Sanger, accompanied by International Harvester heiress Katherine McCormick, paid a visit to the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, where Gregory Pincus, who in the 1930s engineered the first in vitro fertilization (a rabbit embryo), conducted his privately funded research. Pincus’s early work had been cited as a great scientific achievement, but the storm of media condemnation over “babies in test tubes” led to him being denied tenure by Harvard University and all but driven from mainstream research as a “mad scientist.” Another maverick scientist, chemist Russell Marker, had developed a technique, later refined by Carl Djerassi, to extract massive, cheap amounts of a synthetic progestin from a species of enormous yam that grew only in Mexico. The research to create an oral contraceptive was funded almost entirely out of McCormick’s private fortune; the pharmaceutical companies would not touch research into contraception at that time.

The post-World War II years were hard for American women. The outbreak of the Cold War, the purge of communists and other militants from the unions and the rise of McCarthyism also included a wholesale campaign to put women back into the kitchen and nursery. Many women had escaped from such drudgery during World War II, when their labor was necessary for the war economy. As the government investigated “subversives,” there was an unprecedented state intrusion into family life and the deadening of every aspect of social and intellectual life. A “normal” family and a vigilant mother were supposed to be the front line of defense against treason, while anti-Communists linked “deviant” family or sexual behavior to sedition. Most women were married by age 19; the birth rate became the highest in U.S. history.

At the same time, the groundbreaking reports by Alfred C. Kinsey documented what Americans really did behind the bedroom door (and in some other places, too). And women wanted better contraception. The Pill was first marketed in 1957 as a treatment for menstrual disorders. When word circulated that it suppressed ovulation and prevented pregnancy, doctors across the country were besieged by hundreds of thousands of women asking for prescriptions to treat their suddenly discovered menstrual problems.

The leap to respectability and mainstream medicine for the Pill came through Harvard gynecologist John Rock, a fertility specialist, who had the medical practice and experience in working with women patients that enabled the first clinical trials to be conducted. A devout Roman Catholic, Rock later wrote a book, The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor’s Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control, trying to garner public support in a fruitless campaign to make the Catholic church change its denunciation of birth control as a sin.

In its first incarnation, the Pill had doses of progesterone and estrogen far higher than it does today, leading to serious side effects in some users. These dangers were seized upon by anti-woman bigots, including in the Senate, which in 1970 held a series of hearings to “investigate” the matter. Over the years the Pill has been massively tested in many combinations. While risks remain regarding breast cancer and stroke for some, the Pill in fact helps to protect women from ovarian and uterine cancer. Because it reduces or eliminates the menstrual flow, it also reduces the risk of anemia, a serious problem in poor countries. The experience of millions of women, researchers and doctors working to improve the safety of the Pill has provided the basis for the clinical trials and testing now routinely used by the Food and Drug Administration.

From Carter to Reagan: Resurgence of the Religious Right

By 1960 the Pill was available by prescription as a contraceptive, but laws against contraception remained on the books in many states. Until 1965, it was illegal for married people in Connecticut to use birth control. Until 1972, it was illegal for single people to use birth control in Massachusetts and many other states as well. Bill Baird, a heroic fighter for women’s right to abortion and contraception, spent three months in jail in Massachusetts for giving a package of contraceptive foam and a condom to a Boston University student as a challenge to the law. His case later went to the Supreme Court and helped lay the basis for the right to privacy—the main legal argument behind Roe v. Wade, which established legal abortion in the United States in 1973.

The legalization of abortion was itself a product of the explosive struggles of the 1960s. For the American bourgeoisie, the all-sided social turmoil and defiance of authority of that period were deeply disturbing. U.S. imperialism was suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of Vietnam’s heroic workers and peasants. In the late 1970s, a major bourgeois ideological assault was launched to overcome the “Vietnam syndrome”—popular hostility to direct U.S. military intervention abroad—and to instill an unquestioning acceptance of “free enterprise,” God and the family among the population, which included the desirability of dying for one’s country. Coming to office in 1977, the Democratic Carter administration brought “born again” religious fundamentalism front and center into the White House as it kicked off a renewal of U.S. imperialism’s Cold War drive to destroy the Soviet degenerated workers state, garbed in the call for “human rights.”

This was the backdrop for the decades-long anti-sex witchhunt against abortion rights, pornography, gay rights and teen sex as well as for the vicious persecution of AIDS patients and day-care workers, who were targeted and jailed as “child molesters” amid hysterical allegations of “satanic ritual abuse.” Beginning in the 1980s, scientific research into new contraceptive methods virtually screeched to a halt as Reagan slashed funding for family planning internationally, including for abortion and birth control, leaving many Third World women with not much to turn to. While Obama has reversed this particular policy, he explicitly disavowed defending the rights of women as well as immigrants in his health care proposal, proclaiming that “the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally” and that “no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.” Obama pledged to uphold the Hyde Amendment, which outlaws Medicaid funding for abortions.

For Women’s Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

Birth control methods like the Pill, medical knowledge, understanding of women’s health—these things have indeed taken giant leaps forward in the last 50 years. But exploitation, poverty and religious and cultural strictures deprive most women on the planet of these benefits. For them, daily life is little more than that of a beast of burden. Across vast regions of the globe, in the backward neocolonial capitalist countries oppressed by imperialism, women are swathed in the veil, sold into marriage against their will, or subjected to barbaric punishments like death sentences for “adultery” in Saudi Arabia, Iran and elsewhere. Poverty and backwardness, buttressed by imperialist domination, mean that much of the basic infrastructure necessary to bring basic medical care, contraception and abortion to Third World women is simply not there. Some researchers estimate that in Latin America and the Caribbean the primary cause of death for women between the ages of 15 and 39 is complications from illegal abortions.

Feminism, a worldview counterposed to Marxism, is not capable of generating a program for the liberation of women. Feminism analyzes society as gender-based rather than class-based. It views anti-woman ideology as just bad thinking and puts forward that what is needed is to spread correct ideas and then maybe people will catch on and stop being bigots. Feminism is an anti-egalitarian ideology of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois women who support the capitalist system and seek their own power and privilege within it. Indeed, for women like Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, the good life will only continue to get better. But for working-class, poor and minority women, jobs disappear, wages plummet and life only continues to get harder. The fundamental source of women’s oppression is not bad laws or male chauvinist attitudes—these are but reflections of the subordination of women in the institution of the family and the capitalist system that requires it.

The liberation of women can be realized only with the victory of proletarian revolution, which will smash all forms of social oppression, lay the material basis to free women from age-old family servitude and reorganize society in the interest of all. The family cannot simply be abolished; rather, its social functions like housework, child rearing, preparation of food, etc., must be replaced by social institutions. This perspective requires a tremendous leap in social development, which can be achieved only through sweeping away capitalist rule on a global basis and replacing it with a rational, democratically planned economy. The International Communist League fights to forge Leninist-Trotskyist parties throughout the world to lead the struggle for working-class power. Inscribed on the banners of these parties will be the struggle for women’s liberation, which is an integral part of the emancipating goals of communism. As we wrote in “In Defense of Science and Technology” (WV No. 843, 4 March 2005):

“Communism will elevate the standard of life for everyone to the highest possible level. By eliminating scarcity, poverty and want, communism will also eliminate the greatest driving force for the prevalence of religion and superstition—and the attendant backwardness, which defines the role of women as the producers of the next generation of working masses to be exploited.”

For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!

** Out In The Be-Bop Night- First Comes Love, Then Comes Marriage, Then Comes X With a Baby Carriage-In Honor Of The 50th Anniversary Of The Pill

This comment  can act as my commentary on today's other entry from Women and Revolution in honor of the 50th anniversary of The Pill. 

Markin comment:

This year, as many of you may be aware, marks the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the Pill. (If you need any further explanation for that term then perhaps you should skip this little piece.) The Pill that heralded in the s-xual revolution of the 1960s to the joy (and relief) of many, the yawns of a few, and the fervent scorn of those with traditional religious or philosophical scruples on the matter of human reproduction. In short though, s-x now no longer had to be absolutely tied in with procreation, and with fear and loathing. That said, I am trying to offend no one's sensibilities here, although I make no apologies for being glad, glad as hell, for the Pill and would encourage as many scientific breakthroughs as possible to make it even safer and easier. This little screed rather is more, since we are children of the 1960's and came of age, most of us anyway, by 1960, about our woeful ignorance of sex, the actual acts of sex and their consequences. (There I said it. Sex. Sensitive souls can take shelter elsewhere.)    

Someone recently told me a story that placed this notion in stark relief, and hit a nerve that required me to make, no, impelled me to make this commentary. On a trip, some kind of group social outing up into New Hampshire, a state that has a younger marriage eligibility age than Massachusetts, a young teenage couple, deeply in love, in love its seems the old-fashioned 1940s movies way that way it was described to me, but probably too young for marriage anyway, decided on a whim to get married. Off they go to some Podunk town up there seeking a Justice of the Peace. They find him and fill in the paperwork. Before the ceremony the "been through it all before" JP asked whether the young couple were "expecting," you know, in the family way. Here is the kicker though, their reply, "Expecting what?" On reflection, once they got the gist of what the JP meant, they, innocently I am sure, also said, "we don't know about that stuff." The laughing, but wise, old JP told the kids to come back in a year, or so, and he would be more than happy to marry them.  

Ya, that's a cute story and I still chuckle over but, my friends, I will argue that you and I could tell such stories as well. Well, maybe not about getting all the way to the altar clueless but nevertheless filled with every kind of misinformation, every kind of fear tactic and every kind of prohibition. All while our hormones were raging, raging to the point of distraction, out of control. I will make my own public disclosure here. Did I learn about sex from my parents giving me careful information about the birds and the bees, seeing that they had plenty of experience having given birth to three sons? No. Did I learn about the do's and don't of sex from the Roman Catholic Church of my youth. Hell no, well, about the do part anyway. No, I learned about it "on the streets" (and in the locker rooms) just like most of you. And later, much later and more interestingly, from some women friends (and the Karma Sutra). Whoa. Let's just put it this way, I thank a disapproving god for the Pill back in those young and careless days. Ya, that The Pill.   

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Sex, Race And Class In The "American Century"

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1987 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.

Markin comment:

I have posted this entry as a snapshot in time from this period (1980s)presented by a revolutionary whose real working class experiences in the 1960s are probably a little bit different from those of most of us who became serious leftists at that time.


Down With U.S. Imperialism!

Sex, Race and Class in the "American Century"

On 22 November 1986 the Spartacist League held a forum in San Francisco called "Fight Reagan Reaction with Class Struggle!" We print below an edited transcript of the speech given by comrade George Crawford, an SL Central Committee member.
Tonight we're going to be talking about domestic reaction within the United States now—Reagan's war or, very importantly, the ruling class's war, against what is known as the Vietnam syndrome, which came from the U.S. defeat on the battlefield at the hands of the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants. Now, this is also an international phenomenon, there's America's military attacks on Libya, on Grenada, many evidences of this. But inside the United States you have what you could call a moral rearmament, which is an enforced social reaction coming from the government in league with and using what is known as the Moral Majority forces, religious fundamentalists. It's stepping up, becoming greater every day.

Everybody is constantly amazed that there's no opposition to this incredible crusade against every kind of democratic right; that the Democratic Party basically tries to out-Moral Majority the Moral Majority. And the point that I want to make in the talk is that this is not simply the Republican Party or Reagan. This is a war against the population by an entire ruling class, because something is seriously wrong from their viewpoint with America. Very important for them that, one, workers work for what they're paid and, two, most importantly, volunteer to die en masse when necessary. And if a ruling class does not have that, it's in trouble. And it doesn't have that now, it's a long shot from there.

The 1950s: The Bomb and the Red Purges

I want to go back and describe a little bit about the '50s. The U.S. won World War II and it came out of World War II as the strongest and the overwhelming imperialist. The other imperialists economically were destroyed through the process of World War II. But the Soviet Union also won World War II, and not only that, within a very few years it had the atom bomb. And so the U.S., you might say at the very pinnacle of what it had declared its century, looked over its shoulder and there was the Soviet Union with the atom bomb. The atom bomb was very important to the U.S., by the way, and was used. It's a matter of record that the atom bomb was used not for victory over Japan but to send a message to the Soviet Union for after the war. It was a calculated decision, to the point of even keeping Stalin totally in the dark; they did not want him to know what was going on in terms of the development and the dropping of the bomb.

So the U.S. lost its trump card within a very short time after World War II. Not only that, the U.S. had another problem. The original organizers of the AFL-CIO were in the main some kind of communists. They belonged to the Communist Party, they belonged to the Trotskyist party, they maybe were Musteites; but they were still there. And so in the late '40s, these people were neutralized. Either they were physically thrown
out of the unions, or they were isolated, or they were beaten up.

I remember when I went to work in '64, this was in a rubber plant in L.A., and it was about '69 when I started becoming political; and within about three years I met two guys, and I'd worked with the guys or around them for about eight years, and I had no idea that these people used to be political. Turned out that they were all, not members of the CP because there were no members of the CP left, they were supporters of the CP. One guy had three generations of union members which meant there were union members in his family before 1900. And the other one was a guy that, well, finally he told me that he had a full set of Capital locked away in his basement, which nobody else knew about. But then over a period of time he had convinced himself that communism's okay and all that, and Marx was right and all that, but the real question is the Catholics. And no one in the plant knew that these people were in the least bit leftist. They had not gone to a union meeting since the meeting in 1949 when they took the communist organizers out in the parking lot and beat them up.

Now, the '50s were pretty rough. One of the things in the '50s is that the population actually believed that this was the American Century, and that communism was, indeed, irrelevant—except as an external international phenomenon which was the enemy. But inside the U.S. there was a belief—and I'm not sure it was in all layers of the population, certainly less in terms of blacks—that U.S. imperialism is going to have things its way. And, after all, it had absolutely no competition from any other imperialist power in the '50s. U.S. Steel could produce at less than full capacity and simply dictate world steel prices, and pay incredible dividends (which paid off about 20 years later in plants that can't compete).

There was no pill, of course. You know, this "Just say no"? Boy, we grew up with this "Just say no." You know, it brings one to rage. And for the most part you unfortunately had to say no. Was it because you wanted to be a good citizen or a good Catholic? No, it was fear! Because 15 percent of your graduating class of women were pregnant in high school and they didn't graduate. And you had two choices: in L.A. either you sent your girlfriend or went with her to Tijuana, and since you couldn't speak Spanish you stood out in the avenue with a $20 bill and you ended up with a woman dying or horribly mutilated with infection because the only person that stops is a cab driver. So that wasn't an option. Or you went to one of these incredible homes where the women put their babies up for adoption. And of course the third thing was marriage. So your life's over. At 18, forget it. That's it. The woman doesn't graduate from school, maybe you graduate from school. If you're lucky you've got an old man working in a unionized job and gets you a job, if you're not lucky it's gas station mechanic forever. There's a good film about this called Fat City, a John Huston film.

And so you did not get an enormous amount of questioning about options, what do I want to do in life, what will I do next year in life? It was there, you just did it—or it did it to you. And left politics, or politics per se was not even an alternative. And I'm sure where I grew up was a bit worse, because it was one generation away from the South, a Southern working-class area, but there was no option, one could not conceive of thinking about becoming a revolutionary politician. I mean, the political debate that was going on was whether the Democrats sold out Eastern Europe and China, and if you were a Republican you said yes and if you were a Democrat you said no and that's as far as it went. And that's what the ruling class liked a lot. Because the workers did not create a hell of a lot of trouble. They were economically combative, that is true, but the politics one would say were at an all-time low.

The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

What happened to change all this? First of all, you had the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was very, very powerful because here is a fundamental democratic right that should exist by the very underpinnings—and formal underpinnings, and agreed by all, in the Constitution—of our society. Yet it was impossible and did not happen and the civil rights movement was a failure. Right now they try to pass off what a success it was. At the time we all knew it was a failure, and that what was happening was simply tokenism, and what was happening was that the real leaders of the civil rights movement were being butchered and murdered by the state.

And the second thing of course that happened was the Vietnam War. I want to tell one story about the Vietnam War. We were talking about the Vietnam syndrome and I think this story makes it actually clear. In 1969 I was just beginning to become involved in organized politics and just by chance dropped by Newsreel, a kind of New Leftist group, and they were involved in military organizing on the West Coast. Now, the main and only training camp for the Marines on the West Coast is called Camp Pendleton, it's a critical camp. It's got some of the greatest real estate in the western United States. To get into Camp Pendleton you literally have to go to Oceanside. Well, that's Marine property, basically—it isn't, but it is.

And so there was a demonstration by an organization called the Movement for a Democratic Military. Now the organizer was a black sergeant, supporter of the Black Panther Party. There was a bus with Black Panther Party members going from L.A. to Oceanside for the rally. So I decided to go down with various people to this rally. And I got down there, and there's this little amphitheater right on the ocean, like in a hundred little seaside towns, and you've got an audience of about 500 Vietnam vets or about-to-be Vietnam vets because they're sitting there waiting for demobe orders home. Black and white, overwhelmingly from the South, Marines, sitting in there listening to all the antiwar speakers, including the Black Panthers! And the Black Panthers had a position that the Viet Cong should win the war—long live the revolution of the Viet Cong. And so around the edges of the amphitheater, of course, you've got the other Marines singing the Marine anthem and burning the Viet Cong flag. They had that Green Beret guy that was against the war and various other people, a woman and a doctor and all that, and they spoke for a while. After about an hour and a half, we were approached by military Movement guys who said, "You really ought to leave about now because something's going to happen soon." And so as we were leaving on the only road out of Oceanside, I looked back and fights were starting and the streets of Oceanside became one big melee that night.
Now, first of all, one does not want to say that this is revolutionary integrationism because there was no consciousness of class, there was no place for this to go because there was no mass party. We were too small. But in a little, not insignificant way, class war was beginning a little bit that night in Oceanside. And for the bourgeoisie and everybody who has an interest in capitalism, including the labor bureaucracy, this is the height of their horrors. They can't stand this. This must be reversed no matter what.
And so actually as a postscript to what happened in Oceanside, the Movement for a Democratic Military tried to sustain their organization, and they had a little storefront in Oceanside, and every night or every other night, they got shotgun blasts into their storefront for about six months. And then the cops ran a massive provocateur operation on them, and then some months later there was a massive indictment of antiwar guys and the indictments were held in Arizona. They pulled them all out to Arizona and they resurrected some anti-IWW laws that hadn't been used since the early 20th century.

The other thing is that for the first time the soldiers in the war watched TV almost every night and so they got to hear the total crap that was being put forth on American TV news about how "we are winning the war," and they knew it was all lies, total lies. So in a sense what you had was a snapshot, like a very bright flash bulb, on the real nature of this class society, stripping away all the hypocrisy.

"Ethnic Purity" Carter Paved Way for Reagan

After that the bourgeoisie knew they were in trouble. And so a wing of the bourgeoisie adopted a defeatist position on the war. Now when the SL said that at the time, everybody laughed at us because they were all in the popular front with this wing of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie wanted to get out of this war, they wanted to get out of an impossible situation before it got worse. (They actually did that, they were able to co-opt the antiwar movement in the U.S. Along the way they had to dump Nixon because he wasn't the guy that was going to reinstill faith in anything, it was quite clear.) But what you had was a generation of people that looked at life and figured, what do I really want to do with my life? Sex was one of the answers, there were a lot of answers. But the point of it is that since then the initial reaction to Washington and the government regardless of the power is "Bullshit! What are they trying to do to us now?" And that exists today.

Now, I remember after Watergate reading in the New York Review of Books about how liberals were very upset about Watergate, and they were very pissed off at Nixon. And liberals said: the major problem with Watergate is that it damaged the imperial presidency, possibly beyond repair; and we as liberals know that all progress for the common man must come through the United States imperial presidency. And so this moral rearmament became urgent for them. So you get Jimmy Carter, the born-again, "ethnic purity" Democrat, and that was his purpose.

First of all, you should remember that Jimmy Carter wasn't just an ass. One time in his life he was a nuclear sub officer. So he had to have something going for him that was not obvious. Jimmy Carter, in his anti-Communist crusade, the "human rights" crusade, installed the boycott of the Olympics. It was under Carter that we got the establishment for the first time of religious fundamentalists in Washington; it was under Carter that leftists in Greensboro were slaughtered, an action that was organized by the FBI, like many if not most of these Klan executions in the South are. But he blew it pretty good—the killer rabbit and everything. Some nuclear sub officer!

So what we got was Reagan and Meese. The first thing they did is they got PATCO, the air controllers. Now, these people are so educated and are so white-collar that they were the tip of the top layer of the labor aristocracy. They come out of the service, they're at the top. And so these guys decided their work was impossible—which everybody knows it is—and they needed more money and they needed better working conditions. So they went on strike.

Now, the money demands were irrelevant. There are not that many of these guys. Any other administration would simply pay them off. But rather than pay them off, Reagan fired them all, got two union leaders, put leg irons on them and paraded them across the country, making sure there were lots of photographs. And if he can do this, and does want to do this, and is so proud of doing this to those guys, what the hell is he going to do to the rest of us? That was the message.

Then there was the MOVE bombing, just total fire-bombing, genocide of blacks, children, simply because MOVE didn't fit in, simply because they were different. They were no threat to anybody, everybody knows that. It was genocide, straightforward. State-enforced social reaction targeting everybody they suspect of not being in sympathy with a white, Christian fundamentalist, English-speaking America where deviants will not be tolerated.

Now, Rambo. This is Reagan's hero, this is the Reagan administration's movie. What is Rambo? First of all the guy's kind of short, second of all he was a draft dodger, third of all he's an ex-porn star. And this is the guy that kills 5,000 Vietnamese in 45 minutes? It's incredible, nobody believes it, it's just a simple lie. It has no power at all. And the viciousness of this enforced reaction with Reagan is because nobody believes. So the only way forward for Reagan is terror against the American population.

Reagan's Soldiers:
Religion in the Service of Reaction

Now, I want to talk for a few minutes about the nature of Reagan's soldiers, the cutting edge of Reaganism in terms of the active domestic policy, and that's the religious right, the Moral Majority, whatever you want to call them. These people have always been around. First of all, these people are not the Jehovah's Witnesses, who are very sincere in their religious beliefs and suffer for it. These people are not the Amish in Pennsylvania. These people are not particularly religious. I'm not saying that they're enlightened or advanced. What they are demagogues, and they use religion.

These people are also always used, historically. And who are they always historically used by? They're used by the Southern upper class. There was a movie some time ago called Advise and Consent. And always you have the Senator who gets down there and it's the Sam Ervin type and he's got this drawl and he's just the country boy and all, except he's got a Phi Beta Kappa key from Harvard, he's got the Oxford scholarship, his family goes back three hundred years in the South, one of the old slave-owning families. And he's the master. He's the master not simply in that sense for blacks but also for the Southern poor whites, who he calls "Southern white trash," which is the layer you're talking about in terms of these revivalists and such in the South.

These fundamentalist leaders have always served their master. And what these guys are all about is money. Now there was a line from Prizzi's Honor. Some woman has ripped off the Mafia for money, you know, it's not too smart. Jack Nicholson is going with that woman and so he's got trouble now. And he looks at her and he says: You know, Italians like money more than they like their sons, and they like their sons an awful lot. Well, these guys like money more than the racism, and they like the racism an awful lot.

The people that take these guys really seriously are sort of like the types you would see going out on Saturday night to a professional wrestling match and taking it really seriously. I'm sure they must have more people but what I'm trying to say is they are not on their own a significant percentage of our society in terms of power or anything else. Maybe in Alabama, yes, but only if a Huey Long was in office, you see. That's their relationship, always. So they are powerful because of the Reagan government but most of all they are powerful because they serve a need that the entire bourgeoisie has right now, which is this terror on the American people to restore in the population unquestioning loyalty in preparation for the anti-Soviet war drive. That's what purpose they serve.
You could say, well, this doesn't make any sense at all, why is it critical to go after sex videos for this question? Isn't this creating problems? You're going after people, they're not leftists, they just want to be left alone. Why isn't there something like a Brave New World where you've got those pleasure pills and all that sort of stuff, and then you've got total totalitarian society? Because class society doesn't work like that, because it's class; because reaction takes particular historical forms. In Germany, there was Hitler; in this country it takes the form of the Ku Klux Klan.

And so what these people's ideology represents is classical—the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan in this country. If you're talking about fascism and how the bourgeoisie needs fascism at a certain point and turns around and uses these dogs, that's what's going on now. Not in the sense that these people have taken power, no. Not in the sense that the Reagan government is fascist, no. But in the sense of using these people and using this ideology, that is certainly going on.

I want to talk a little bit about their ideology. (I want to use Gore Vidal because Gore Vidal really hates Christianity. As he says, his secret hero is Herod, Herod and the Apostate Julian, the last pagan.) Of course, they pick and choose from the Bible what they want, even though they'll tell you that every word in the Bible is god. Except they fight over which Bible. For example, as the Jews will tell you, the Bible bars shellfish, the Bible bars pork, etc. Well, somehow those things are not effected. They're not effected because Paul sold out on those issues in order to get a hearing from the Romans.
But to them what the Bible is, very important, is a justification for their racism. The whole thing about the descendants of Ham is used by these people. In secular terms, when you hear the cry of "law and order" or "cut welfare" or "the death penalty" those are simply code words for "get blacks." And as for Jews, "these are the people that killed Christ, these are the Christ-killers." And it will never change.

And sex, well, the main teacher for them is Paul, that's the main guy that they swear by. As a comrade said last night, the Catholics call him Saint Paul and for those who have met him personally they call him Paul. The twice-born, the third-born, the people who talk in tongues, who have visions nightly; no priests, they do it—personally.

So, anyway, Paul had a position on sex: forget it. His position was that sex under any circumstances regardless was a sin. It was a departure from purity. You should go out in the desert and wait for God to come to this earth. And God was going to come in six months. God didn't come in six months. Well, God was going to come in nine months. God didn't come in nine months. And he's having trouble with his people, right? Certain things are happening and they're getting upset. And he finally said: it's better to marry than burn. And he wasn't talking about the fires of hell when he's talking about burn. So he will let you marry, but that's as far as it goes.

Now, the position on women for the entire Judaic-Christian tradition is one of the most backward positions there is. It's that women exist simply as a repository of the sacred sperm, that a woman is commanded to serve and obey her husband as he is in turn commanded to serve and obey his temporal, Bible-quoting master. And Constantine, when he was having trouble with the Roman Empire, figured out that Christianity was the best thing that he had. So he made it the state religion. It wasn't actually that big, it certainly was no threat. But it was used, it was the greatest thing for state reinforcement of ideology. Been that way ever since.

Gore Vidal talks about homosexuality in the Bible. And it turns out there's quite a bit of homosexuality in the Bible. Vidal talks about the stuff with David and Jonathan, and it's quite clear. David's always talking about his love for Jonathan. And Vidal talks about Ruth and Naomi. He says, it's quite clear about their emotions toward one another, that this would be the basis for joint ownership of a pottery shop in Laguna Beach.
But then you get to Leviticus. And Leviticus on homosexuality is something like, if one man lie with another man, thereby he be put to death. Real hardcore stuff, from then on.

And Paul of course was dealing with Leviticus. Why does Paul hate sex so much? Aside from maybe he was a little peculiar and he had his problems, why does he hate sex so much? What is the political reason? Well, what Paul was competing against was the Roman gods, the pagan religions. And the greatest god of the pagan religions was the Goddess of Fertility. And, of course, when they went to a Sunday ceremony, they got it on. And they really got it on. The hardest teachings of the Bible against homosexuality and against sex in general come right after what is known as the Babylonian captivity, where the Jews were forced to live in the city of Babylon for a period of time. And it turns out that Babylon was the Paris of the B.C. world. It's sort of like in the First World War, once the farm boys see gay Paree, that's it, boy, ain't never goin' back to the farm. Well, once the Jews got to Babylon they really didn't want to go back to that desert. Not only did they have as much sex in ways that they could never conceive of (human sex, not goats) but indoor plumbing, everything, it was a very advanced city. And the Jewish ruling class had a problem, they somehow had to get the Jews back into the desert. And so you get all these moral strictures on sex. In other words, what was going on in sixth century Palestine was very similar to what they're trying to pull off today. Sex is bad; go out and get killed or live in the damned desert. So, the Bible is a historical document.

"Moral Rearmament" Is Enforced Social Conformity

What are the issues that are coming up today? First of all, women. For what the bourgeoisie is talking about socially, it's essential that women get out of the factory, certainly that women get out of the trade unions. They don't want women to have class consciousness, that's a no-no. They want to get them out of the productive process, back into the home. They want to eliminate their rights. They want to eliminate day care. They want to eliminate abortion. And they're simply doing that by abortion-clinic bombing and terror. What they'd like to do is eliminate the pill, but only the Pope thinks he can pull that off. Their key slogan for women is: Defeat ERA and Save the Family.
There is a study that's just come out that said: For 20 years, the federal government before the Reagan administration had systematically destroyed the family; we have and are going to reverse every one of those policies. What were those policies? The biggest one was welfare. So we're going to save the family by cutting off welfare. Now, figure 20 years back from where Reagan got in office. What do you get? The beginning of the civil rights movement. It's not an accident.

Sex. The Supreme Court has made sodomy illegal, i.e., you will go to jail for sodomy. The point is the way the ruling is formulated: it's illegal because it is against historical Christian-Judaical principle. Well, where does that stop? They can say blacks are unequal because of historical Christian-Judaical principle. (And the head of the Supreme Court turns out to be a racist vigilante.) There's no limit to this. It's a total elimination of separation of church and state. Our position on sex is: government out of the bedrooms, let people figure it out themselves.

AIDS. The first thing you've got to understand is that these people think that AIDS is the greatest thing that's ever happened. As long as it doesn't get in a massive way into the heterosexual population, it's like god speaking. The more homosexuals die, the better it is. So, of course, they do not fund AIDS projects. And, of course, Dianne Feinstein is not going to release needles to drug addicts so AIDS would not be spread many, many times over by using dirty needles. This should be an enormous scandal.
I saw this liberal program on AIDS the other night. I was listening for one of these liberal doctors to get up and say, "We need money. We need massive funding." And they wanted to say it, it's quite clear, but for some reason they didn't say it. But they said everything else. They got the hottest researcher around (he's from Scotland, actually) and he said: AIDS as a virus is very difficult medically, what needs to be done now is massive experimenting; we can sit around, we could talk about it forever, but what needs to be done is trial and error in an international sense. And in the next scene they talk about the technical problems, and the man who narrated says: the problem that scores of researchers are running into across the country— "Scores" of researchers are working on the vaccine for AIDS across the country, that's it! And we're talking about a screaming national health emergency. But the government is coming from a totally different direction on this AIDS question. They want to politically exploit it, it's good for them.

Death penalty. The death penalty simply means: kill blacks. The death penalty was temporarily ruled unconstitutional in 72, largely as a result of the U.S. bourgeoisie trying to clean up its act in terms of how it was seen internationally. By the way, this country is one of the few countries that actually has the death penalty; most of the European countries don't. The interesting thing about the death penalty is that it's a forbidden topic for debate now. We just had a major election in California over [State Supreme Court chief justice] Rose Bird, over the death penalty. Her right-wing attacker's every other word is: she doesn't believe in the death penalty. I saw a number of her commercials; she didn't have the guts to get up and say: I oppose the death penalty. I think it's barbaric, inhuman. And the majority of the world, and the state, and the ruling class of the world agree with me. No, politics has gone so far to the right that she didn't even say that. She said: well, um, I oppose the judiciary being political. You try to figure out what that means.

In fact, the entire election was absurd. All these justices say they're friends of labor. Not one of those guys mentioned unions throughout the entire campaign. Reagan's Central America policy is very unpopular with the population. Why didn't [Democratic Senator] Cranston run his campaign on opposition to Central America? It's because he's got Reagan's position on Central America. He didn't want to make Central America an issue. That's what we're talking about, bipartisan support to the war drive. Also, bipartisan support to this social crusade against you.

The drug witchhunt. The ruling class has declared a war on drugs. Total hypocrisy. The ruling class has pushed and made money from drugs I don't know since when. The British used drugs as one of their ways to conquer China; Hong Kong was founded on the profits of the opium trade. And who ran drugs all through the Vietnam War and before that out of the Golden Triangle? It was the CIA. Who provided the planes? It was CIA airplanes. When they talk about landing in those paddy fields, what do you think they were loading? It wasn't all orphans.

And in the cities. As just one example, you have the movie The French Connection, the biggest bust in heroin that's ever happened in New York City. They had the trial years later, not one speck of that heroin was left. They couldn't find it, it was all gone. It'd all been sold. It's obvious and has been documented—it's the cops. The cops either hold the pushers up for their cut and then the pushers charge that much more; or they just take the entire thing and sell it themselves. So what you get between the pushers and the cops is combat for profit. And that's the vice squad.

So this war on drugs is simply a tool to build the police department, to eliminate democratic rights so the police can go anywhere to terrorize black kids. And not only that. The conditions of capitalism in the ghettos are so severe with generational unemployment, with no possibility of getting out for these kids, no possibility of jobs, so why not take drugs? A black mother in the ghetto knows that there's a struggle every day, second by second, to save her child from that damned pusher. So what you get is the black hustlers like Jesse Jackson that come up and say to this black woman, "Yeah, you've got to support your cops, that's the answer." It's a rotten shell game.

Now, we're opposed to laws against what they call "crimes without victims." Basically it's a matter of personal rights. We feel that if somebody wants to take drugs, that's his own right. What kind of sex people want, that's their own right. We're against the state intervening in any of these questions. Now, it doesn't mean that we don't give a damn about a generation of ghetto kids that become addicts. But how do you fight that? How you fight that is by struggling against the ruling class and the conditions they impose by which the kids become addicts.

Now, in the black movement, there's always been two wings. One, the Jesse Jacksons and George Washington Carvers, the Uncle Toms, who say what you've got to do is, don't ask for anything from the white man, improve yourself in the eyes of the white man, and if you're good and good long enough, then you'll get something. And basically what it does, it accepts the terms of the racism of the oppressor. Jesse Jackson's recent statement is that drugs kill more than Klan ropes—does he want a united front with the KKK against drugs? Or what about a united front with the local racist politician against drugs? And then you've got Farrakhan who pushes the same stuff, except in his case, even worse—anti-Semitism, hustling black shampoo.

And then you have the wing of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois which fights against the conditions, and fights against the racists, and fights for equality. Our position is for revolutionary integrationism, black liberation through socialist revolution.
In California there was an "English-only" proposition on the ballot. Now, this is simply vengeance. Everybody who's had any contact with immigrants knows that the first thing they want to do and have to do is learn English. And by and large they always do learn English. It's critical for them obviously in terms of making money. What this stuff is of going after English-only and destroying bilingual education is to eliminate the possibility of immigrants learning English, to eliminate the possibility of them Irving a decent life in the United States so they don't come here.

Now, of course, one must understand that there are two classes of immigrants. There's the people who come from right-wing reaction, the states which are overwhelmingly supported by the U.S. government, like the Haitians. They don't get in. And then there are the exploiters, the people like [South Vietnam's Marshal] Ky, the protégé’s of the U.S., the U.S. stooges. Not only do they get in, but they get everything.

Dictatorship of the Property Party

Everybody talks about the two-party system in the United States. There's not a two-party system, there's a one-party system. And that party is the property party. The people that belong to that party are less than one percent of the population of the United States, and they own the United States. And they own the government; they run the Republican and the Democratic parties.

The only difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is how they do things, not what they do, and not where they're going. Basically when you become a politician in the Republican or Democratic parties, you get a job. And you don't go to your constituents and get a job. No, you go to the businessman, at whatever level, and get hired, get his endorsement. You're a hireling of the bourgeoisie. Capitalist politicians are generally not the top people around. These are the people who are not good enough to make a great career in the professions, law or things like that. So, you know, you've got a big mouth and you're not particularly successful, not real smart and you don't mind being a prostitute and saying whatever somebody tells you, you become a politician. The property party is what really makes the difference, that's what calls the shots in this country. The class nature of this country is that the people who own this country are the people who run this country. It is their dictatorship.

There is a major economic crisis, it's a crisis that capitalism's had since its inception. What you've got in this country is a question of overproduction in every major field. Protectionism is coming up over the question of U.S. cars, or whatever, and this is reactionary and we're opposed to it.

And you've got overproduction internationally, in steel, in cars, in computer chips. What happens when you get overproduction that exceeds the market's ability to buy? These things are not sold. You get bankruptcies. Economies go under. Now, what happens if you're the U.S. bourgeoisie, you can't sell your stuff, and you've become a weak country economically, but because of a quirk of history you have the strongest military forces, aside from the Soviet Union, in the world? Do you just sit there and say, well, we're not going to sell anything this year, so I think this country is simply going to go down the drain and I'm going to lose everything I got? No, you use your cards. You use your ace, and your ace is your military card. It's the only card the U.S. has right now. So you go into various countries or various areas of the world and you seize those markets. What that is is war. And capitalism has never resolved an overproduction crisis yet through any other agency except war.

Why do we always talk about the anti-Soviet war drive? Why can't there be coexistence, why can't they just disarm? Why can't they recruit some Democrats, maybe they'll get along? They can't get along for two reasons. One, the very fact of the existence of the Soviet Union as a workers state, however degenerated, threatens capitalism. But, two, you've got to sell your goods. And one-sixth of the world's humanity, if you can open it up for private property, that's an enormous market. That would give capitalism a new lease.

In the Communist Manifesto Marx says that the history of man is the question of class struggle, and that where one class cannot triumph over another in a clear way, sooner or later it leads to the ruination of both classes. So what we are facing is barbarism. The only alternative to that is the international proletariat taking power, and the critical aspect is not the lack of a working class or the lack of militancy or anything like that. We've seen plenty of that, we've seen strikes historically and even in the recent period. The question is leadership. And that's the Spartacist League."

Friday, October 09, 2009

*Hands Off Roman Polanski!-A Guest Commentary

Click on title to link to "Workers Vanguard" article, dated October 9, 2009, concerning the recent arrest and attempts to extradite film director Roman Polanski.

Markin comment:

After reading the above linked article I noticed that I had been remiss in not having previously taking note in this space of this obvious travesty by the American government concerning the director Roman Polanski. I make special note that here is a case where the moral hypocrisy of the bourgeois state knows no bounds in a situation where, from the evidence, the question of effective consent was not at issue. This is the axis where we socialists draw our lines not some arbitrary statutory guidelines. I also note that the above linked article has an additional article attached from the original Roman Polanski persecution in the 1970s,“Stop the Puritan Witchhunt Against Roman Polanski!” which first appeared in WV No. 192, 10 February 1978. The political points in that piece are as relevant today as they were then, over three decades ago.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Down with the Reactionary Anti-Porn Crusade!

Click on the headline to link to a Website featuring the paintings, nude and non-nude of the great artist, Titian. Close your eyes if you are offended by the nudes. Okay.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1985 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Down with the Reactionary Anti-Porn Crusade!
Granddaughters of Carry Nation in Bed with Jerry Falwell

Reprinted from Young Spartacus No. 123, December 1984/January 1985

MADISON— Formerly a hotbed of campus protest, the University of Wisconsin-Madison's "radical" reputation has given way in large part to smug, "me generation" liberalism. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), scabs on the anti-Vietnam War movement, carry a lot of weight in city and county government. With prudery that suits Madison's Protestant environs, "alternative" lifestylism has been institutionalized. You will live a wholesome life. Some manifestations are just plain silly: Madison was declared a "nuclear-free zone" and sandwiches come with beansprouts whether you order them or not. Some are absolutely infuriating: liquor stores close, at 9:00 p.m. and you can't buy cigarettes anywhere on the huge UW campus.

The latest target for moral uplift of the community is pornography—Penthouse and Playboy have been pulled from the Student Union newsstand on the dubious grounds of "low circulation." DSAer Kathleen Nichols, a Dane County supervisor, is proposing legislation modeled on Andrea Dworkin's Minneapolis ordinance to make pornography a civil rights violation. Material in which "people" are "reduced to body parts," "presented in postures of sexual submission" or "presented as whores by nature" would be outlawed (Badger-Herald, 8 November 1984)! Under this law, you can't consent to buy, sell, photograph or pose for pornographic pictures. As the Badger-Herald commented, "Groups normally in solidarity, such as pseudo-feminists and homosexuals, are at odds. Groups normally in opposition, such as pseudo-feminists and the local fundamentalist ministers, support the ordinance." Talk about obscene!

We print below a slightly edited version of the Spartacus Youth League statement submitted to the Madison Isthmus and UW Daily Cardinal. It appeared in a shortened version in the Isthmus (16 November 1984) while the Cardinal has refused to publish it.

Contrary to prevailing liberal opinion, Madison is part of Reagan's USA, albeit with a twist. Witness the New Right's drive to "clean up America." It's going strong in Madison. There's legislation to ban dirty pictures. On 19 October 1984, demonstrators picketed at a State Street porno store; someone stenciled "Burn Me Down" on the wall—and they mean it. Rampaging fundamentalists? Nope. This particular anti-sex crusade is led by Madison's "alternative" to the Army of God— the "radical" feminists.
Finding Robin Morgan in bed with Jerry Falwell may surprise some who thought feminism had something to do with women's liberation. After all, the '60s feminists posed as right-on revolutionaries. They rejected "male-defined" sex roles, denounced "family values" as scams to keep women isolated, dependent, condemned to domestic servitude. They worried about racism and poor people. But the feminists never opposed the oppressive capitalist system itself: their "program" consists of escapist lifestylism, "consciousness raising," "women's" vegetarian co-ops. That's why the feminist "movement" didn't move. It remained confined to rarefied microcosms like Madison, lily-white and middle-class.

What's left of the "movement" no longer even worries about real human oppression. While the feminists are busy trying to stamp out fishnet stockings and high heels, genuine assaults on women's rights go unanswered. Legalized abortion is seriously threatened; abortion clinics get firebombed, their patients harassed, but you don't hear a peep from the feminists. Then there's the case of Patricia Ridge—a single, black, working mother. Last year her five-year-old son was shot pointblank in her bedroom in a Los Angeles-area housing project by a white cop. The cop got off, but a grand jury tried to charge her with everything from child neglect to Murder Two. The Marxist Spartacist League came to her defense. But the organized feminists did nothing. For them, "women's oppression" equals nude photos: they're blind to real class and race oppression facing working-class and black women.

This "Take Back the Night" crusade is a slice of middle America at its worst—about as progressive as forbidding sex education. It dovetails with the current incitement of every backward, sexist, racist, jingoistic prejudice of American society in preparation for war against the USSR. The Democrats and Republicans have been humming "Onward Christian Soldiers" since Cold War II began under born-again Jimmy Carter; with Reagan the crusade has reached new lows. They both want a "prepared" society with social relations straight out of "Leave It To Beaver." No "extramarital" sex, no porn, no abortion, no gays.

The feminists even share Cold War/Moral Majority terminology (e.g., "Porn is the new terrorism"). And there's a certain ideological congruence. The feminists basically buy the Moral Majority's "me Tarzan, you Jane" view of human sexuality: women are gentle nurturers, children are "innocent" and asexual, while men are sexual aggressors. That's what "Pornography is the theory, rape is the practice" boils down to: men are barely controlled rapists—all it takes is a little leg to set 'em off. In that case, why stop with censoring Penthouse? According to Annie Laurie Gaylor, editor of the Feminist Connection, Rubens and Titian can go too: they painted women ravished by swans! (Perhaps when Gaylor leaves the Connection, she can get a job at the Elvehjem Museum chiseling the genitals off classical statues.)

Then there's the touchy question of First Amendment rights. With the exception of the rabid crackpot Andrea Dworkin, most feminists try to squeak past it by making a snooty differentiation between pornography and "erotica." It works like this. "Erotica" is printed on expensive paper with "tasteful" hand-drawn illustrations; "pornography" goes for $2.50, with tacky overexposed photos. As the saying goes, "perversion" is what you aren't into.

As Marxists, the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth League oppose all attempts at puritanical censorship, whether launched by outright reactionaries or feminist ayatollahs. You can't legislate sexuality. We defend the right of consenting individuals in any combination of age, race, sex, in any number, to engage in the sexual activity of their choice—or look at the photos of their choice—without state intervention.

Pornography is not violence: it's fantasy. Rape is a form of violent criminal assault. Among other things, we advocate the repeal of gun control laws: women should have the right to carry arms and use them in self-defense. To argue that "porn is rape" or, like Robin Morgan, that any sex not initiated by a woman is rape, is—aside from being pretty damned presumptuous— to trivialize and confuse the issue. Capitalist society— its forced poverty, rigid family structure, hypocritical straitjacket morality—breeds the poisonous frustrations that explode in violence. The liberation of women requires getting rid of the repressive constraints imposed on women by the nuclear family, thus creating the possibility of new relationships based on social equality—free from compulsion and stultifying "moral" restrictions. In short, women's liberation requires socialist revolution.

While the feminist anti-porn crusaders rely on candlelight vigils, their Reaganite allies have access to systematic state repression and vigilante terror. And Reagan has launched a full-scale attack on democratic rights. Political opposition becomes "terrorism." Cop/ media hysteria about child abuse at daycare centers carries the message that the only safe place for kids is locked up at home with a non-working mom. If your sexual preference doesn't suit Jerry Falwell, you could be locked up for life.

That's no idle threat. The campaign for "decency" has been viciously anti-gay from the start. Vanessa Williams lost her crown not least because those photos were of lesbian sex. Boston-area photographer George Jacobs got 20 years for the "crime" of having consensual sex with his 14-year-old roommate. Jacobs was tested to determine if he was a "sexually dangerous person" and could have been put away in a mental hospital permanently. The cops and press went wild over NAMBLA (North American Man-Boy Love Association), an organization for the defense of civil rights of "men and boys involved in consensual sexual and other relationships with each other." NAMBLA members were beaten, framed and sent to psychiatric institutions. And that's nothing compared with the Justice Department's plan to research "behavior modification, chemical treatments, physiological stud¬ies of those suspected of psychosexual dysfunction—as evidenced by...their divorces or homosexuality" (Village Voice, 7 August 1984)!

The reactionary nature of anti-porn legislation masquerading as protection of "civil rights" is spelled out in a new law pending in Suffolk County, New York. The bill is identical to Dworkin's Minneapolis anti-porn law, minus feminist verbiage. It's sponsored by groups like the National Federation for Decency (an actual organization!) explicitly to "wipe out sodomy" and, according-to one supporter, "pornography [that] could cause social decay leading to a possible communist takeover"!

It's not like the feminists can't smell this anti-gay stench; far from it. Kathleen Nichols, lesbian activist member of the "Democratic" Socialists of America, is the Dane County supervisor behind the Madison censorship. This bigot told OUT! magazine that if the ordinance closes adult bookstores where gay men meet, all the better to stop AIDS because "that kind of anonymous sexual congress has resulted in 5500 cases of AIDS" (OUT!, September 1984). For this anti-democratic liberal, male gay sex is a health hazard. This is vile anti-gay bigotry. Do lesbians active in the anti-porn movement believe that once they outlaw everyone else's sexual practices, their own will be protected? They're on mighty thin ice. Check out Khomeini's Iran: no porn there—and they stone homosexuals to death.

Pornography reflects, and only reflects, some human behavior. In this violent, irrational society, those reflections sometimes aren't pretty: but you can't change society by changing its images on a screen. "Positive images" won't materially advance the cause of women's equality any more than those movies with Sidney Poitier as the black neurosurgeon changed the harsh reality of racist oppression. Socialist revolution alone can create the economic basis to replace the nuclear family and liberate women. We don't pretend to know what human relations in socialist society will be like. But we assume that, liberated from the artificial constraints currently imposed on human expression, sexuality under socialism will be more free, more open, more tolerant, more rich and more diverse. May the day come soon.

Carla Norris
for the Spartacus Youth League

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

*The Family- The Fighting Unit For............Capitalism- Lawrence Stone's Historical Study

Click on title to link to Friedrich Engels' "Origin Of The Family, Private Property And The State" for the basic Marxist take on this question. Note that some of Engels' work , as is almost always true with historical data and speculation, has needed updating or has been updated, especially over the past fifty years or so. His basic premises, however, remain valid. Forward to more a rational way to increase social solidarity!


March Is Woman’s History Month

The Family, Sex and Marriage In England 1500-1800, Abridged Edition, Lawrence Stone, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1979

Abolish the family! That was a slogan that resonated among those of us of the “Generation of “68” radical and counterculture movements of the 1960’s as we rebelled, justifiably so, against the straitjacket of the bourgeois nuclear family structures that we grew up in. Or, as was additionally true in the case of women (and not only women in the end) the struggle against the extra burdens imposed by the dominant male role models that women were seemingly forced to put up with (including in the radical movements). Well, since that time there have been some changes in the nuclear family structure; some dramatic as with the increased role outside the home for women in education, employment and political life and some changes that glaringly reveal the same old straitjacket of women’s continuing dominant role in childcare and domestic duties. In short, in its essentials the bourgeois nuclear family structure has, more or less, survived the onslaught of the 1960’s.

Although we are wiser now in our understanding that abolishing the family by proclamation was utopian nevertheless the need to replace that structure continues today. For those who argue that even that premise is utopian (if just plain not desirable) then Professor Lawrence Stone’s little treatise (well not so little, abridged it still comes to over 400 pages. One can only wonder what the full volume of over 800 pages entailed.) on the evolution of English family life between 1500 and 1800 (with a fair amount of carry over to America) does a great deal to demonstrate that even this seemingly eternal bourgeois nuclear family structure had made dramatic changes over time. As always with older books reviewed here use the material with the understanding that, particularly in this field with the tremendous rises in women’s studies since the 1970’s, that this is a place to start not finish.

Obviously, for those who are the least bit familiar with the historic rise of capitalism, particularly England’s vanguard role in that rise the period under discussion in Professor Stone’s book, is something of a primer for the changes in English society that would drive the industrial revolution of the later part of this period. Stone thus spends some worthwhile time on the decline of the old agrarian, almost feudal, family networks based on kinship and clientage that dominated in the early period, how these arrangements were undermined by the rise of the state, the rise of cities and the capitalization of agriculture. These are therefore the predicates to creating a national market in commodities, and in their wake family relationships.

No study of England in the period that includes the English revolution of the mid-17th century can ignore the importance to changes in family life and sexual mores that the temporary victory of what we call Puritanism brought with it. In many ways the Puritans, or at least their ethos, were the vanguard of the bourgeois nuclear family as we know it today. Consecrating on the individual biological family, the partnership of husband and wife and changes in attitudes toward child rearing are all given serious consideration by Stone. And as the professor repeatedly noted, many of the social mores developed during the flow and ebb of the whole revolutionary period survived the restoration.

In support of his general themes Professor Stone, after laying out the above-mentioned causes for the decline of the old fashioned patriarchal society (and the survival of vestiges of it well into the end of this period) and the rise of the more efficient nuclear family the evolved in the wake of the English revolution, goes into very specific details about some changes in this family structure. He covers such topics as changes in mating arrangements and ritual; the rise of individual choice in marriage outside the traditional parental arrangements; increased opportunities for women outside the home; more permissiveness in child rearing; and, with the increased possibilities of survival beyond childhood due to better economic circumstances and medical knowledge, closer affectionate relationships between the generations.

Professor Stone tops off his work with some very interesting tidbits about the sexual mores of the times using two old familiar characters from this period of English history, Samuel Pepys (17th century) and Samuel Johnson’s biographer James Boswell (18th century) as his foils. The sexual exploits of these guys should make us all blush, right? But here is the ‘skinny’ on the importance of Professor Stone’s book. The next time someone tells you the family has always been and always will be as it is. Or worst, that it is the fighting unit for social change tell them the story is a little more complicated than that. And point them to this book.

Friday, March 27, 2009

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"The Trouble With Sexual Utopias" A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the early 19th century, pre-Marxist utopian socialist mentioned in the article below, Charles Fourier.

March Is Women's History Month

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Winter 1986-87 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest, for old "new leftists", perhaps. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

Additionally, when the issue of sex comes up, as it does in various disguises even in the left labor movement, I like to remind militants of the following. The left labor movement has set its main task among the three great human tragedies: hunger, sex, and death as the struggle against hunger. I like to remember the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky, and his words about his hope that once the struggle against hunger is victorious and that condition is overcome in our communist future sex and death will be less frightening and perilous. From personal experience, I sure hope so.


Fourier's Phalanx, Reich's Sex-Pol:

The Trouble with Sexual Utopias

By Jack Shapiro

"It is a curious fact that with every great revolutionary movement the question of 'free love' comes in to the foreground. With one set of people as a revolutionary progress, as a shaking off of old traditional fetters, no longer necessary; with others as a welcome doctrine, comfortably covering all sorts of free and easy practices between man and woman," Frederick Engels noted in an article on the biblical "Book of Revelation" (printed in Progress: A Monthly Magazine of Advanced Thought, Vol. 1.2, 1883). Certainly the early, pre-Marxian socialists projected in elaborate detail what life, including sexual life, would be like in their ideal society of the future. The New Left of the 1960s, too, revived a radicalism centering on changing lifestyles. Herbert Marcuse, for example, criticized Marx as insufficiently radical for not directly linking the overthrow of capitalism to individual sexual fulfillment. Marx and Engels adamantly refused to engage in speculation on this question, however, insisting that their position was essentially negative, aimed at eliminating economic and social coercion in personal relations. As Engels stated in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1884):

"Thus, what we can conjecture at present about the regulation of sex relationships after the impending efracement of capitalist production is, in the main, of a negative character, limited mostly to what will vanish. But what will be added? That will be settled after a new generation has grown up: a generation of men who never in all their lives have had occasion to purchase a woman's surrender either with money or with any other means of social power; and of women who have never been obliged to surrender to any man out of any consideration other than that of real love, or to refrain from giving themselves to their beloved for fear of the economic consequences. Once such people appear, they will not care a rap about what we today think they should do. They will establish their own practice and their own public opinion, conformable therewith, on the practice of each individual—and that's the end of it."

This position was not a matter of intellectual modesty on Marx's or Engels' part. Rather it flowed organically from the dialectical materialist outlook. Under communism people will be genuinely and truly free to reshape their interpersonal relations. Of course, this freedom is not absolute. Man cannot transcend his biological make-up and relation to the natural environment. Communist man, too, will grow old and die. Neither can mankind sweep the slate totally clean and build society anew. Communist humanity will inherit for good and ill the accumulated cultural heritage of our species:

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly encountered, given and trans¬mitted from the past.

—Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1851)

Nonetheless, men do make their own history, including the history of their sexual practices. We cannot know the sexual practices of communist society because these will be determined in the future. Any attempt to project, much less to prescribe, such sexual practices is an expression of attitudes, values and prejudices shaped by a repressive class society.

Consider two representative figures who sought to combine socialism with a positive program of sexual libertarianism: Charles Fourier and Wilhelm Reich. One of the greatest of the early socialist thinkers, Fourier developed a program for an ideal community— the phalanx—which would gratify all human passions. Wilhelm Reich, as a member of the Austrian and then German Communist parties in the late 1920s-early 1930s, attempted to fuse Marx and Freud both in theory and in practice.

Fourier and Reich were passionate and often insightful in denouncing the sexual repressiveness of bourgeois society. Yet as soon as they sought to positively prescribe codes of presumably liberated social/sexual relations, they went off the rails. They believed they knew what "human nature" is, but their efforts to establish lifestyles appropriate for free men of the future only shows that Fourier and Reich each brought to the notion of "human nature" a lot of the ideological baggage of his own particular time and circumstances, shaped by repressive, class-divided society. Fourier's phalanx, to eliminate sexual frustration, would institute mechanisms of sexual slavery. And Reich's "non-repressive" society would have sexual activities monitored by a central agency of bureaucrats.

Fourier: A Utopia Based on Passionate Attraction

Fourier described himself as being "born and raised in the mercantile shops." He existed in the netherworld of French commerce (traveling salesman, correspon¬dence clerk for an American firm, unlicensed stock¬broker). While never absolutely destitute, Fourier knew poverty. He lived in cheap travelers' pensions, boarding houses, dingy apartments. He was a recluse and may well have been a life-long celibate. Added to his personal isolation was his political isolation. His first work calling for the total reorganization of society was published in 1808. For the next 20 years he was totally ignored, a prophet unhonored and unacknowledged. Only in the last decade of his life did Fourier attract a small band of devoted followers. Fourier's was a lonely and miserable life. In his ideas of Utopia one sees the pent-up longings of this deeply frustrated man. This gives to his vision its passionate force and imaginative vividness. It also accounts for his fantastical and often downright weird ideas.

In this age of Penthouse and "adult" home videos, it is easy to be condescending toward old Fourier. Yet this neurotic dreamer was a towering figure in the struggle for social and sexual emancipation. Early in the 19th century it became apparent to those still committed to the ideals of the French Revolution that liberty, equality and fraternity were not compatible with private property in a competitive market economy. Fourier, the most incisive of the pioneer socialists, noted, "Philosophy was right to vaunt liberty; it is the foremost desire of all creatures. But philosophy forgot that in civilized society liberty is illusory if the common people lack wealth. When the wage-earning classes are poor, their independence is as fragile as a house without foundations" (quoted in Jonathan Beecher and Richard Bienvenu [Eds.], The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier [1971]).

The status of women represented the most acute and manifest expression of the contradiction between capitalist society and its own ideals. The importance Fourier gave to women's liberation is exemplified in his famous statement:

"Social progress and changes of period are brought about by virtue of the progress of women toward liberty, and social retrogression occurs as a result of a
diminution in the liberty of women In summary, the
extension of the privileges of women is the fundamen¬tal cause of all social progress." —Ibid.

At a time when women were universally regarded and treated as nothing more than babymakers, Fourier championed not only complete social and political equality for women but also their right to sexual fulfillment. He was uniquely responsible for making the demand for the liberation of women from the oppressive nuclear family an integral part of the socialist program, a penetrating insight which the young Marx and Engels embraced. At a time when fathers exercised total authority over their families, especially their daughters, Fourier spoke for the freedom of children.

Even today reading Fourier would give Jerry Falwell or Pope John Paul Wojtyla apoplexy. He exposed the sexual boredom of monogamous marriage with a hitherto unheard-of savagery:

"This is the normal way of life among the mass of the people. Dullened, morose couples who quarrel all day long are reconciled to each other on the bolster be¬cause they cannot afford two beds, and contact, the sudden pin-prick of the senses, triumphs for a moment over conjugal satiety. If this is love it is the most material and the most trivial."

—quoted in Frank Manuel, The Prophets of Paris (1962)

He flayed the petty tyranny of the patriarchal family, especially the stifling of the sexual needs of children and adolescents:

"The children at the age of puberty think only of escaping the insipidity of the household: the young girl lives only for an evening when she is at a ball; the young man, preoccupied with parties, returns to his paternal home as to a place of exile. As to the children below the age of puberty, they are not satisfied except when they manage to escape the eye of the father and the eye of the tutor to enjoy everything that is forbidden to them."

—quoted in Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, The Teaching of Charles Fourier (1969)

Fourier's Phalanx: Outlawing Sexual Frustration

Fourier's answer to the repressiveness of bourgeois civilization was a system called Harmony, based on the phalanx. The phalanx was a basically self-contained social and economic unit of approximately 1,700 people. It would contain roughly two each of 810 basic psychological types. This would insure the necessary variety and complementarities. Life in a Fourierist phalanx is attractive. All work is voluntary and not for monetary reward. There is a great deal of sexual freedom and variety. Children especially are intended to enjoy life in a phalanx. They would be subject to little parental or other authority, and would spend most of the day with peer groups (the Little Bands and Little Hordes). Returning to the bosom of his parents at night, the child is overwhelmed with love and affection.

Yet Fourier's Utopia has oppressive and sexually abusive features. Fourier believed that homosexuality, both male and female, would disappear under his system of the phalanx. In the phalanx, "harmonious armies" of young men and women would engage in nonviolent warfare. The losers would for a brief time serve as slaves to the victors. These youthful captives would be expected to meet the sexual needs of older members of the phalanx so that "no age capable of love is frustrated in its desire." Fourier's difficulties arise from two interrelated factors: the problem of work and the guarantee of sexual satisfaction, not merely the pursuit of such happiness as Thomas Jefferson (Fouri¬er's older contemporary) put it in the American Declaration of Independence.

In the Fourierist phalanx, work is not only voluntary but positively pleasurable as well as more productive than under capitalism: "in a societary state varied work will become a source of varied pleasures."Yet this work is crude manual labor, mainly agricultural. One of the great advances of scientific socialism (Marxism) was the understanding that technological progress, which under capitalism is used by the ruling class to further enslave and immiserate the working people, will when freed from the fetter of private property provide the material basis for human freedom.

Fourier, with his passion for mathematical exactitude, projects that the phalanx economy will be four-fifths agriculture and one-fifth manufacturing. And by manufacturing he means literally production by hand: "The industrial revolution passes Fourier by; he failed completely to appreciate its significance.... [Division of labor meant to him the simple form well illustrated in market-gardening, not the complex form associated with the machine technique" (E.S. Mason, "Fourier and Anarchism," Quarterly Journal of Economics, February 1928).

The pre-industrial nature of Fourier's Utopia is not simply a reflection of the relative economic backward¬ness of France in his day. His great French contempo¬rary Henri de Saint-Simon projected a socialized system based on continual technological progress. Fourier, however, deliberately rejected this program: "The Saint-Simonian vision, as well as the subsequent Marxist dream, of mechanized socialist mankind wresting a bountiful living from a stingy and hostile environment would have seemed a horrible nightmare of rapine to Fourier, for he knew that the natural destiny of the globe was to become a horticultural paradise, an ever-varying English garden" (Introduction to Beecher and Bienvenu [Eds.], The Utopian Vision of Charles Fourier). In addition Fourier feared that, scientists and technical experts would exercise a new guardianship over society, establishing a new theocracy.

Given the primitive nature of work in the phalanx, Fourier could only offer variety, satisfying the "butterfly passion" to flit from one thing to another. In a typi¬cal day a member of the phalanx would care for the animals, engage in forestry, vegetable gardening, beekeeping and so on. Nicholas Riasanovsky, himself a sympathetic student of Fourier's doctrines, has nonetheless pointed out: "In general Charles Fourier's promise of most enthusiastic and most fruitful work by all in Harmony has aroused much skepticism— [Sjwitching in rapid succession from one unpleasant job to another would hardly improve anyone's productivity."

Marx's view of work is directly counterposed to Fourier's. For Marx, socialist economic planning would lead to a fully automated economy in which the "human factor is restricted to watching and supervising the production process" (Crundn'sse). Work then becomes increasingly creative artistic and scientific activity. At the same time, Marx insisted: "This does not mean that work can be made merely a joke, or amusement, as Fourier naively expressed it in shop-girl terms. Really free work, the composing of music for example, is at the same time damned serious and demands the greatest effort" (ibid.). We see here the difference between the Rousseauian and the Marxist outlooks. For Fourier, happiness meant a return to the spontaneous playfulness of childhood. Marx recognized that mankind had developed a real need to fully utilize and extend all its capacities. Artistic and scientific work is not and cannot be made fun in the sense that sex, eating good food and playing games are fun. But this kind of work has also become an object of passionate attraction.

It is not true, as Riasanovsky implies, that Fourier offered no motivation for enthusiastic work effort in the phalanx. In part, he solved this problem in his usual manner: by asserting that there is a psychological type in sufficient numbers to perform any and every needed social role. Who, for example, would do dirty work like collecting the garbage and spreading manure on the fields? Fourier's answer—little boys:

"Two-thirds of all boys have a penchant for filth. They love to wallow in the mire and play with dirty things— These children will enroll in the Little Hordes whose task it is to perform, dauntlessly and as a point of honor, all those loathsome tasks that ordinary workers would find debasing."

—Beecner and Bienvenu, op cit.

Fourier himself was city born and bred and so sentimentalized rural life. Children actually raised on farms, who have milked cows at 4 a.m. and slopped the pigs, can hardly wait to escape to urban civilization.

More fundamentally and generally, Fourier replaced money with sex as a reward for work effort. Sexually integrated work groups (the series) were to be an occasion for amorous dalliance. The connection between sexual fulfillment and work effort is especially clear and important in the recruitment and maintenance of industrial armies, huge bodies of tens of thousands which would clear new land, drain swamps, build dams and the like. Accompanying these industrial armies would be beautiful virgins (!) (the Vestals) of both sexes. Work performance in the industrial army would be the primary form of courtship: "the female Vestal is surrounded by her suitors, and she can watch them displaying their talents in the work sessions and the public games of the army." One can hardly imagine work conditions better designed to create anxiety and frustration than this intense, public sexual competition.

Nonetheless, Fourier assures us that the rejected suitors would not suffer sexual frustration. Indeed, eliminating sexual frustration is a basic principle of Harmony. Also accompanying the industrial armies are young women and men (the Bacchantes and Bacchants) who freely give their sexual favors to those wounded in love. Thus this passionate believer in women's equality is led by the logic of his system to project a class of free whores to meet the sexual needs of men. Fourier of course insisted: "Most women of twenty-five have a temperament suited to this role, which will then become a noble one." At the same time, he chastises attractive women who want a life¬long monogamous relation with their loved one:

"What is reason in the state of harmony? It is the employment of any method which multiplies relationships and satisfies a great number of individuals without injuring anybody. A beautiful woman operates in contradiction of this rule if she wants to remain faithful and to belong exclusively to one man all her life. She might have contributed to the happiness of ten thousand men in thirty years of philanthropic service, leaving fond memories behind among these ten thousand."

—quoted in Manuel, op cit.

Sexual libertarianism here becomes its opposite: social pressure toward promiscuity in the name of satisfying everyone's desires.

Sexual coercion outright enters Harmony through the problem of old people, something Fourier felt keenly. He once wrote, "life, after the end of love affairs, is nothing but a prison to which one becomes more or less adjusted according to the favors of fortune." Fourier was realistic enough to recognize that while old people still sexually desired the young, the reverse was not usually the case. His system therefore contains elaborate measures to solve this problem. As we have seen, the youthful captives in the nonviolent war games serve for a short while as slaves to older members of the phalanx. Sexually servicing the aged was also a penalty for transgressing the rules of Harmony. While Fourier's Utopia contains what we would call open marriage, there are also by mutual consent monogamous relations. If one partner in these engages in secret infidelity, he is brought before a "court of love." To expiate this transgression, he orshe may be sentenced to a few nights with older members of the phalanx.

Fourier's "ideal" society was certainly shaped by his own neurotic idiosyncracies. But his views also directly reflect the assumptions of his time. Fourier (and Reich)held that human passions or, in Freudian terms, instinctual drives, were unchanging and unchangeable. Fourier and, more narrowly and dogmatically, Reich believed they knew what was natural and healthy sexuality and what was depravity and perversion. Their program was to adjust social institutions around an emotional make-up conceived as unvarying. Fourier wrote to his disciple Victor ConsideVant: "I am the only reformer who has rallied round human nature by accepting it as it is and devising the means of utilizing it with all the defects which are inseparable from man."

Fourier and Reich belong to the intellectual tradition of Enlightenment naturalism, whose greatest represen¬tative was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Late in life Rousseau wrote that all his doctrines were based on the "great principle that nature made man happy and good, but that society depraves him and makes him miserable." Fourier constantly counterposes the happy and natural man in the phalanx society to the artificial and miserable creature of existent civilization. For Reich, the Freudian concept of id corresponds to Rousseau's "state of nature," man not yet depraved by repressive civilization.

Social Utopias based on Rousseauian naturalism have an inherent tendency toward totalitarianism. If man is naturally good, then "unnatural" social orders can be maintained only through false ideas and ideologies (e.g., religion). Fourier insisted that a society based on the phalanx could have been established any time in the past two millennia—if only someone had thought of it before. Social liberation thus becomes a struggle against bad ideas—rooting them out and preventing recontamination.
The first attempt to establish a Fourierist phalanx was made in what is now Romania in the 1830s by a noble landowner for his serfs. Local Moral Majority types were outraged and launched an armed attack to destroy the phalanx. The peasants valiantly defended their "free love" commune though in the end they were overwhelmed by superior force. The Socialist Republic of Romania has built a historical monument to commemorate the last stand of the Fourierist peasants of Scani.

Wilhelm Reich's Sex-Pol

Wilhelm Reich died in 1957 in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania federal penitentiary. He was imprisoned for violating a court order on a charge brought by the Food and Drug Administration that he had transported an empty box, the Orgone Energy Accumulator, across state lines. Medically, Reich had become a quack. Politically he was a rabid red-baiter, an outspoken supporter of McCarthyism.

Yet a quarter century earlier, Wilhelm Reich had attempted to fuse Marxism and Freudian psychoanalysis. Reich was simultaneously a member of Freud's inner circle of followers and of the German Communist Party, a mass workers party, at a critical moment in modern history: the rise to power of Nazism. In the 1960s the New Left rediscovered the early Reich and made him into a minor cult figure. A selection of his writings between 1929 and 1934, entitled Sex-Pol, was published in English in 1966, edited by Lee Baxandall of the defunct Studies on the Left. An introduction by Marxoid academic Bertell Oilman declared: "The revolutionary potential of Reich's teachings is as great as ever—perhaps greater, now that sex is accepted as a subject for serious discussion and complaint virtually everywhere."

Many of the activities of Reich and his supporters (who called themselves the Sex-Pol movement) within the Austrian and German Communist parties were entirely commendable. They agitated against sexually repressive legislation and campaigned for the greater economic independence of youth. The Reichian clinics in Vienna and Berlin provided working-class youth with information about contraception and preventing venereal disease, and doubtless performed useful individual counseling. Some of his early writings on character analysis and "body language" remain today standard texts for practicing analysts. Reich became attracted to Marxism by his work in the free psychoanalytic clinic in Vienna, where he became convinced that poverty and oppression contributed to neuroses, and thus that their cure demanded the restructuring of society.

In a 1932 work written for the German Communist Party's youth group he concluded: "In capitalist society there can be no sexual liberation of youth, no healthy, satisfying sex life; if you want to be rid of your sexual troubles, fight for socialism. Only through socialism can you achieve sexual joie de vivre.... Socialism will putan end to the power of those who gaze up toward heaven as they speak of love while they crush and destroy the sexuality of youth." This bouncy, bombastic rhetoric endeared Reich to the New Left. Rejecting the Marxist understanding that sexual life is essentially a private matter, Reich insisted that the Communist movement must struggle for a "satisfying sex life" both for its own members and for society at large.

Reich's basic message can be baldly stated as follows. The sexual repression practiced by the patriarchal, nuclear family (e.g., preventing children from masturbating) produces submissive adults, fearful of bour¬geois authority. Thus the struggle against sexual repression—itself a deep-felt source of discontent throughout society—is of strategic importance in releasing the revolutionary energy of the masses.

In opposition to orthodox Freudianism, Reich refused to accept the patriarchal, nuclear family as a cultural given. The Oedipus complex, the frustrated desire of a child to possess the parent of the opposite sex, he wrote,

"must disappear in a socialist society because its social basis—the patriarchal family—will itself disappear, having lost its raison d'etre. Communal upbringing, which forms part of the socialist program, will be so unfavorable to the forming of psychological attitudes as they exist within the family today—the relationship of children to one another and to the persons who bring them up will be so much more many-sided, complex and dynamic—that the Oedipus complex with its specific content of desiring the mother and wishing to destroy the father as a rival will lose its meaning."

—"Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis" (1929)

Reich's particular recipe for "a satisfying sex life" was rigid and bizarre. At the core of his psychoanalytic theory was the function of the orgasm as the sole release for dammed up sexual energy. The failure of the orgasm to perform this function produced mental illness. He maintained that orgastic impotency was the sole cause of all neurotic and psychotic behavior.

Reich's fellow psychoanalysts objected that many neurotics had quite normal sex lives. But, to paraphrase George Orwell, for Reich some orgasms are more equal than others. To fulfill its function an orgasm must be heterosexual, without irrelevant fantasies and of sufficient duration:

"Orgastic potency is the capacity to surrender to the flow of biological energy, free of any inhibitions; the capacity to discharge completely the damned-up [sic] sexual excitation through involuntary, pleasurable convulsions of the body.'
—The Function of the Orgasm (1927)

In 1939 Reich invented the Orgone Energy Field Meter to measure sexual energy and its discharge. He had long since abandoned both Marx and Freud for the realms of science fiction.

Reich's reasoning is circular. He hypothesizes that mental illness is produced by undischarged sexual energy. But, since the latter is unmeasurable, he then deduces genital incapacity from psychological distress: "Not a single neurotic is orgastically potent, and the character structure of the overwhelming majority of me'n and women are neurotic." The psychoanalyst thus becomes the supreme arbiter of sexual health and unhealth. This opens the door to subjective arbitrari¬ness and outright bigotry.

For example, Reich maintained the orthodox Freudian position that homosexuality is arrested development, the failure of the child to overcome primary narcissism and develop love objects outside himself. He went further than Freud and also identified homosexuality with political reaction:

"The more clearly developed the natural heterosexual inclinations of a juvenile are, the more open he will be to revolutionary ideas; the stronger the homosexual tendency within him and also the more repressed his awareness of sexuality in general, the more easily he will be drawn toward the right."

—"What is Class Consciousness?" (1934)

His New Left admirers understandably turn a blind eye to this aspect of Reich's sexual theories. (To its credit, the Sex-Pol movement continued to call for an end to state laws against homosexuality.)

Like Fourier, Reich's view of what people are "really" like was shaped by the particularities of his time. Reich's brief career in the Communist movement coincided with the greatest defeat for the world proletariat in modern history: the triumph of fascism in Germany, then the strongest industrial power in Europe. Reich's analysis of Nazism was his only effort to apply his theories to a contemporary political problem—and the results are revealing.

Reich's response to Hitler's coming to power was the direct cause of his break with both Marxism and Freudianism. The Mass Psychology of Fascism, published a few months after Hitler became chancellor in early 1933, was denounced by the official Communist leadership as "counterrevolutionary." The official psychoanalytic movement likewise disavowed this work, and Reich was secretly expelled from the German Psychoanalytic Association in 1933.

Everyone in Germany recognized that the social base of the Nazi movement was the lower middle classes— small tradesmen, farmers, civil servants, white-collar workers. The German industrial proletariat remained loyal to the Social Democracy and, to a lesser extent, the Communist Party right up until and a good while after Hitler was appointed chancellor by the old Prussian aristocrat von Hindenburg.

Reich thus begins his famous The Mass Psychology of Fascism with an attempt at a class analysis. He maintains that children from a petty-bourgeois background are subject to a more authoritarian and sexually repressive upbringing than proletarian children. A typical German petty-bourgeois family—on the farm or running a small shop—was also an economic unit. The father was literally a boss who directed and supervised his children at work. Subjectively, a proletarian father might be as authoritarian and sexually repressive, but he had far less control over his children. He left the home for work while they went to school. In adolescence working-class children escaped into the factory, exchanging the tyranny of the family for the rigors of wage-slavery. Obviously such an analysis, even if valid, produced no useful course of action. The millions of Nazi supporters could hardly be psychoanalyzed to remove the neurotic character structure imposed by their upbringing.

A socialist revolution—if it is to be made at all—has to be made by people as they are shaped by an oppressive class society with all its deforming effects. Rejecting the possibility of progressive social struggle by such people, and positing individual psychic health as the precondition for collective political struggle for liberation, Reich was profoundly fatalistic.

In the critical year of 1923 the German petty-bourgeois masses veered sharply to the left and would have followed an aggressive Communist leadership. At that time fascist influence was marginal. Witness the almost comic-opera debacle of Hitler's "beer hall putsch" in Munich. The failure of the German Communist Party to provide genuine revolutionary leadership during the stormy years of the early 1920s left a strong residue of distrust among both the more conservative workers who supported Social Democracy and the petty-bourgeois masses, who turned to fascism under the catastrophic impact of the Great Depression.

That is not to imply that the German Communist Party in the early 1930s was helpless to prevent Hitler's eventual triumph. While Reich is highly critical of the official Communist leadership in many respects, he has little to say about the insane and suicidal policies of the so-called "third period" as laid down by Stalin. The German Communists not only opposed united-front actions with the Social Democrats to combat the fascist terror squads; they labeled the mass reformist party of the German proletariat as "social fascist" and at times treated the Social Democrats as the main enemy.

In 1934 Reich did retrospectively criticize the Communists' refusal to engage in united actions with the Social Democrats against the fascists, but he treated this as a question of third- or fourth-rate importance. One gets no sense reading The Mass Psychology of Fascism that there were millions of German workers, Social Democratic as well as Communist supporters, who were prepared to resist Hitler by civil war if necessary. On the contrary, Reich is obsessed with the "submissiveness" of the working class no less than of the petty bourgeoisie, with its respect for authority and fear of revolt:

"From (he standpoint of the psychology of the masses, Social Democracy is based on the conservative structures of its followers. As in the case of fascism, the problem here lies not so much in the policies pursued by the party leadership as it does in the psychological basis in the workers." (emphasis in original)

Within months after Reich wrote this, the Austrian working class, overwhelmingly supporters of SocialDemocracy, rose in armed insurrection against the clerical-fascist regime of Dollfuss.

In the course of writing and constantly revising The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich moved further and further from any kind of Marxism. Increasingly, a class analysis gives way to a mass-psychological approach. The terms worker and petty bourgeois are replaced by "the average unpolitical person," the proverbial man-in-the-street:

"Experience teaches that the majority of these 'nonpolitical' people can hardly be made to listen to anything about their socio-economic situation, whereas they are very accessible to the mystical claptrap of a National Socialist, despite the fact that the latter makes very little mention of economic interests. How is this to be explained? It is explained by the fact that severe sexual conflicts (in the broadest sense of the word), whether conscious or unconscious, inhibit rational thinking and the development of social responsibility."

At every level Reich shifts historic responsibility from political leaderships and social elites to the neurotic character structure of the masses. Paul A. Robinson, who is,generally sympathetic to Reich in his Marxist perio'd, observes that his view of fascism dovetails with that of certain German bourgeois rightists: "Ironically, Reich's mass-psychological analysis of the German problem bore a striking resemblance to the apologies of such German conservatives as Friedrich Meinecke and Gerhard Ritter, who, in their anxiety to excuse the German e"lite (whether cultural, political, or military), were quick to put the blame on the hoi polloi" (The Freudian Left [1969]). In a 1942 preface to The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich accepted fascism as essentially inevitable: "'fascism' is the basic emotional attitude of the suppressed man of our authoritarian machine civilization and its mechanistic-mystical conception of life." In fact, Reich's prescription for a supposedly nonrepressive society provided his own version of totalitarian Big Brother: "sexologically well-trained functionaries" to supervise sexual life "in conjunction with a central sexological agency."

Freud and Marx on Work and Love

Paul Robinson, in The Freudian Left, has stated that there was an underlying logic to Reich's break with both Freud and Marx in the mid-1930s. Freud believed that socialized man was beset by basic instinctual conflict; Marx saw civilization as it existed as funda¬mentally riven by class conflict. Reich, says Robinson, tended to regard man as naturally both sociable and productive, and therefore came to view both psychological distress and social conflict as easily and immediately solvable. Robinson concluded, "Freud and Marx may indeed have been fellow-revolutionaries, as Reich had argued in 1929, but they were also realists. Reich, on the other hand, was a romantic, as much in his politics as in his psychology."

While Robinson is probably correct about Reich, his coupling of Marx and Freud as fellow revolutionary realists is misleading. Freud was a historical pessimist; Marx was not. To understand the difference it is necessary to consider Freud's theory of instinctual conflict, or, rather, his two different theories of instinctual conflict.

Freud's original theory was the conflict between the pleasure and the reality principles. A child's striving for the immediate gratification of his needs and wants is blocked by social reality, initially represented by his parents. His desire to monopolize the affection and attention of his parents is frustrated with the birth of a sibling. His desire to defecate whenever he feels like is suppressed through toilet training. To live in society a child is taught to postpone immediate gratification. The socialized human being has learned to pursue by roundabout paths the satisfaction of his needs, especially his sexual needs.

The Marxist response to this Freudian concept is twofold. To a considerable extent we can change social reality to accommodate instinctual gratification. And to the extent there is an ineradicable tension between instinctual gratification and organized social life, why should this be a barrier to psychological well-being? Marxists have never believed that this is or can be made into the best of all possible worlds. But neither do we assume that the price of civilization is universal neurosis.

In 1920 Freud published Beyond the Pleasure Principle in which he posited the existence of innate aggression or "the death instinct." The dating of this work is anything but accidental. A mood of profound historical pessimism swept over European bourgeois intellectuals in the wake of the First World War, which shattered their seemingly stable civilization. This was especially pronounced in German-speaking Central Europe which had lost the war. Beyond the Pleasure Principle was written in the same intellectual climate as, for example, Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. Writing several years later to Albert Einstein, who was a pacifist, Freud maintained that a major cause of war was "a lust for aggression and destruction," that is, "the death instinct."

Freud's "discovery" of a death instinct in man was thus not simply, or even primarily, based on clinical experience with individual therapy but was rather an attempt to explain mass destruction on a political and historical plane. For Marxists, the explanation is class and national conflict ultimately rooted in economic scarcity. We thus do not accept that the human species has an inner drive toward self-destruction. Reich, incidentally, never accepted the death instinct and squarely based his own theories on the original Freudian concept of the pleasure versus reality principles.

Freud's most developed and comprehensive statement of historical pessimism is Civilization and Its Discontents, published in 1930. Reich maintained this work was a direct response to his own views. Whether or not this is the case, it does contain a polemic against communists, to whom Freud attributes the view that "man is wholly good and is well-disposed to his neighbour; but the institution of private property has corrupted his nature." In opposition to this he insists "that the inclination to aggression is an original, self-subsisting instinctual disposition in man...."Therefore he concludes that even the most radical and far-reaching changes in social institutions cannot alter the human psyche:

"If we do away with personal rights over material wealth, there still remains prerogative in the field of sexual relationships, which is bound to become the source of the strongest dislike and the most violent hostility among men who in other respects are on an equal footing. If we were to remove this factor, too, by allowing complete freedom of sexual life and thus abolishing the family, the germ-cell of civilization, we cannot, it is true, easily foresee what new paths the development of civilization could take; but one thing we can expect, and that is that this indestructible feature of human nature will follow it there."

However, even if we set aside the concept of innate aggression and "the death instinct," Freud still remains a historical pessimist toward the goals of communism. He was convinced there was a fundamental conflict between the enjoyment of sexual love and the work effort needed to create and sustain civilization. "When a love-relationship is at its height," he wrote, "there is no room left for any interest in the environment; a pair of lovers are sufficient to themselves, and do not even need the child they have in common to make them happy." By contrast, he maintained:

"... as a path to happiness, work is not highly prized by men. They do not strive after it as they do after other possibilities of satisfaction. The great majority of people only work under the stress of necessity, and this natural human aversion to work raises most difficult social problems."

What kind of work is Freud here talking about-plowing a field in the broiling sun,operating a machine on an assembly line, typing business letters at a hundred words a minute? Naturally people don't strive after this kind of work as a path to happiness.

The debate between Reich and Freud in the late 1920s over love and work was scholastic in the sense that the vast majority of people have neither the option of a rich, fulfilling sexual life nor of creative, self-expressing work. Most people have to do dull, tiring and often body-destroying labor. It is entirely illegitimate to speculate about communist man on the basis of the few, exceptional, creative individuals—a Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud—in oppressive, class-divided society. At the same time, most people cannot lead a gratifying erotic life. This is prevented not simply by repressive laws, ideologies (e.g., religion) and mores but also by basic economic factors—being physically exhausted after long hours of labor; youth forced to live with their parents long after puberty; the practical burdens of raising children.

For the Communist Future

Marx and Engels did not counterpose human nature to civilization, the individual to society. The individual's capacity for gratification and fulfillment is based upon the development and wealth of society. The oppression and degradation of the individual in class society has its roots in economic scarcity, ultimately in man's lack of sufficient control over nature, including his own nature:

" is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and that, in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. 'Liberation' is an historical and not a mental act—"

—Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (1845-46)

It is this understanding which separates Marxism from the radical advocates of sexual liberation here and now.

Only under communism, when people have access to creative work and a rich erotic life, will it be possible to determine the relation between these two spheres of human activity. Is work always and necessarily a deflection of sexual energy as Freud believed? Or is a satisfying love life in the long run a necessary condition for work capacity as Reich insisted? Let's create a society in which we can find out.

The great 19th century French revolutionary Auguste Blanqui had little patience for the disputes among the Utopian radicals of his day. He once wrote that the debate between Cabet and Proudhon over the future ideal organization of society is like two men who "stand by a river bank, quarrelling over whether the field on the other side is wheat or rye. Let us cross and see."