ABCs of Socialism: “Aren’t socialism and feminism sometimes in conflict?” (p. 82-93)
What is Socialist Feminism?
- “Women’s Suffrage and Class Struggle” by Rosa Luxemburg
- “Women, Class, and Race” by Angela Davis
- “Wages Against Housework” by Silvia Federici
- Ask everyone to take out a piece of paper and write down the words “exploitation” and “oppression”. In groups of two, brainstorm these words’ meanings through a mindmap. Then, discuss all together the following questions – What is “exploitation”? What is “oppression”? We recommend that a facilitator writes down people’s answers on the board.
- Critics of the socialist project say that socialists only talk and care about stuffy things like “exploitation” and not enough about “oppression”. Discuss.
- What are some similarities between socialism and feminism?
- In 1912, Rosa Luxemburg said in a speech at the Second Social Democratic Women’s Rally in Stuttgart, Germany, “Aside from the few who have jobs or professions, the women of the bourgeoisie do not take part in social production. They are nothing but co-consumers of the surplus value their men extort from the proletariat. They are parasites of the parasites of the social body.”
- Luxemburg is pointing to an important antagonism among women. How does class shape the struggles experienced by women? Give examples.
- Case study: Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is a white woman hailed as a brilliant example of breaking through the glass ceiling. Yet months after taking her new position, Mayer canceled the work-from-home program for all employees just before installing a private nursery in her office.
- If numbers allow, divide the group into two smaller discussion groups, one composed of cis-men and the other of non-cis-men. Discuss the following questions, writing notes of the ideas that are generated, and then reconvene as a larger group to talk about what was discussed:
- How does women’s oppression at home affect women’s oppression in the realm of work?
- How does women’s oppression in the realm of work affect their oppression at home?
- What do Davis and Federici mean by housework being “invisible”, and how does this invisibility help sustain patriarchy and capitalism?
- Think about other forms of work that are invisible in your school. In what moments are these made visible?
The Impact of Sexual Violence on the Working Class
- Chapter 1 of Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will, p. 223
- “Rape, Racism, and the White Women’s Movement” by Alison Edwards, p. 226
- “#ThemToo” by Judith Levine
- Central to the disagreement between Brownmiller and Edwards is, on the one hand, how to approach the intersection between patriarchy and racial capitalism, and on the other, the prescribed response to acts of sexual violence. These disagreements have important consequences for the kinds of campaigns and activities we do in YDSA.
- Brownmiller defines rape as the “conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear”. In groups of two, discuss how fear as a tool is connected to socialist feminism. Then, discuss all together.
- Edwards writes, “To Black women over the years, the ﬁght has been for survival of their families and survival of Black people generally. Black women have almost unanimously agreed that their liberation as women depends on improvement of life in their communities and cannot be won apart from the liberation of Black men. A movement that does not take this into account will not win Black women. And a women’s movement without Black women will not free itself of bourgeois domination and become a revolutionary movement. In fact, a white women’s movement that does not align itself with Black women’s struggle for liberation cannot be considered a women’s movement at all.” Discuss this quote as a group.
- What experiences have brought non-cis-men together and what instances have we seen a lack of solidarity among non-cis-men?
- Listen to the following short interview with Rosalinda Guillen, “Sexual Assault and Farmworkers”
- Why do low-wage and immigrant workers often find themselves most vulnerable to workplace sexual harassment?
- What does the case of workplace retaliation and the power to counter it say about the relationship between fear, sexual violence, the working class, and unions?
- How can these fights against retaliation against survivors of sexual violence create gains that extend beyond the fight against sexual violence?
- How else can the labor movement champion the rights of its non-cis-men workers?
Bread & Roses Strike
- “We Demand the Right to Bread, as Well as to Roses!” by Tatiana Cozzarelli
- “Bread and Roses Song”
- Pass out printed lyrics of the “Bread and Roses” song and listen to it.
- Break out into small groups and discuss the following questions.
- “Hearts starve as well as bodies; give us bread, but give us roses.” What do you think the writers mean by bread in this line? What do they mean by roses? Overall, what do you think this song is saying? (There are no wrong answers – everyone can interpret this differently.)
- When the work week for women and children was reduced from 56 hours to 54 hours, bosses retaliated by proportionately lowering these workers’ pay. What are some contemporary examples of retaliation in the workplace?
- What does the importance of prior organizing in the Bread and Roses strike mean for us as members of a youth-wing of a socialist organization? What kind of work does your chapter do or could it do that may resemble this long-term, on-the-ground work?
- In the Bread and Roses strike of 1912, the strike committee consisted of four representatives from each ethnic group. Organizers involved in the strike translated meetings into over 30 different languages. What are some ways organizers can overcome differences in order to establish working class solidarity? What can organizers do to make participation open to people with all kinds of families? Why are these essential to building a working class movement?
- Strikes often rely on harnessing the support of the community to win. In the case of the Lawrence Mill Strike, violent actions by the police provoked a strong response from the community. What does this show in terms of the importance of having control over the framing of police and activist tactics in campaigns?
- The word “un-American” is often weaponized against protesters or dissenters taking action against injustice. How does this accusation oftentimes serve to sustain the oppression of people-of-color, and especially women-of-color? In other words, what type of “American” is assumed here?