II. Spreading revolt opens new doors

May 3, 2018

Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2018-2019:
Fighting Trump and his fascist allies in practice and theory

I.     Donald Trump’s war show
II.   Spreading revolt opens new doors
III. The reality and the myth of contemporary capitalism
IV.  Marx, Lenin, Marxist-Humanism and the philosophy of revolution in permanence
V.    Organizational tasks

…Continued from I.     Donald Trump’s war show

II.   Spreading revolt opens new doors

Powerful new voices and actions have arisen, from the international Women’s Marches to teachers’ strikes, and from the youth-led March for Our Lives to the revolts in Gaza and Iran. The Black dimension has not only shown itself to be central to the youth and women’s marches but has kept fighting the police reign of terror, erupting anew in Sacramento after the police murdered Stephon Clark.

The deeply ingrained rape culture, widely known but often hushed up, has been exposed in the broadest way by the #MeToo movement. This movement would not have grown so big so fast without the inspiration from the massive Women’s March of January 2017. The targets are the system, the culture as a whole and the Trump administration in particular. Deep questioning of the rape culture that pervades the U.S., and in fact the world, points to the need to transform relations between men and women, and the objectification of women, fundamentally.


One of the participants in the International Women’s Day in Oakland, Calif., on March 5, 2018. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

Just as sexism is central to fascism, International Women’s Day (IWD) demonstrations on March 8, like the Women’s Marches this year and last, reflected how women are at the forefront of the struggle against fascism worldwide. The disgust people feel for their so-called leaders or representatives was also evident in the youth’s March for Our Lives of March 24, as speakers, chants, and signs galore excoriated elected officials for being bought off and acting as lackeys for the National Rifle Association (NRA) and mouthpieces for its far-right ideology.

On IWD women marched, rallied, and demonstrated the world over. Abortion rights were a prominent demand, as in Milan, Italy, where a group of the thousands of students who were marching stopped at a hospital to protest the majority of Italian doctors who refuse to preform legal abortions. The Catholic Church—which backs many of the draconian laws introduced in a plethora of U.S. states as well as countries—was not exempt from women’s explicit anger. At the IWD Conference of Catholic Women, former Irish President May McAleese proclaimed: “The Catholic Church has long since been a primary global carrier of the toxic virus of misogyny. Its leadership has never sought a cure for that virus though the cure is freely available: Its name is equality.”

Over 5.3 million women in Spain joined a 24-hour strike, with hundreds of thousands joining in protests in 200 locations across the country. Huelga Feminista’s manifesto, released for IWD, proclaimed: “We call for rebellion and the struggle against the alliance between patriarchy and capitalism that wants us to be docile, submissive and silent.”

Women in Turkey again raged against the reactionary policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Thousands marched in Istanbul demanding an end to violence and chanting: “We won’t shut up, we are not afraid, we won’t obey.” Women in the Philippines made clear they consider President Rodrigo Duterte a fascist and a sexist as thousands marched with signs reading, “#NeverAgain to a fascist dictatorship.” Chinese women made fun of President Xi Jinping’s constitutional amendment to scrap term limits to allow him to stay in power indefinitely, while women in Afghanistan rallied in Kabul and women in Saudi Arabia and Iraq went jogging through the streets, making the point that the streets also belong to them.

In Poland, over 2,000 women in Warsaw distinguished themselves from their fascist-leaning government by creating a monument which they proclaimed a symbol of women who fought for “independence, solidarity and sisterhood.” Their manifesto demanded the right to abortion, sexual education for children, government-subsidized contraception, a ban on doctors and pharmacists denying services due to their personal beliefs, for pay equality, and for measures against domestic violence.[1]


Trump’s campaign made it clear that his presidency aimed to gut not only the rights women had fought for over decades, but the rights of all those who fought for freedom. The Women’s March on Jan. 21, 2017, was the launch of the “resistance” against such retrogression, against racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and xenophobic fascism made so much worse by Trump’s rise to power. One year later, the Jan. 20, 2018, Women’s Marches proved that the struggle continues undiminished. The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, rape and a rape culture that has lasted for centuries, followed by the outpourings on IWD and the youth’s tremendous Marches—again worldwide—on March 24, show a rising, militant and multi-dimensional movement from practice that is itself a form of theory—a movement that is still growing, and gaining strength and confidence.

That strength, confidence and staying power will be sorely needed as the incredible power of the U.S. government is turned against women, people of color, the poor, immigrants and any and all who are not reactionary, white, male and a member of the 1%.

The war against women is as well an attack on people of color, the poor, the disabled and people who are gender queer. Black, disabled women, etc., are the ones who suffer more from any and all restrictions placed on women—from offensives against healthcare, abortion rights, contraception, welfare, insurance, housing, voting rights, anti-discrimination measures and more—all of which the Trump administration has already attacked.

Just in the last few months some of the most restrictive abortion laws have been passed, including:

Clinic defenders like these at Mississippi’s only surviving abortion clinic are preparing to fight anew against Trump’s promised attacks on women’s right to abortion and birth control. Photo courtesy of Clinic Vest Project.

♦Mississippi now prohibits abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest;
♦ A new law in Arizona would force women to say why they want an abortion;
♦ Kentucky banned the safest and most common abortion procedure after 11 weeks;
♦Indiana now can force doctors to submit an absurdly detailed report when a woman seeks treatment for a condition that can in any way be construed as connected to her abortion, even decades later;[1]
♦ Ohio legislators are contemplating a bill to ban all abortions with no exceptions, even to save a woman’s life.

There has also been an unprecedented gutting of birth control access, including:

♦ Destroying the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate that allowed women free contraception of their choice;
♦ Planned Parenthood is now defunded in several states. The Trump Administration aims to do so on the national level;
♦ Attempting to completely destroy or divert the nation’s family planning program Title X by: 1. Funneling monies away from family planning focused sites like Planned Parenthood; 2. Pushing unreliable so-called “natural family planning” like the rhythm method and withdrawal, rather than what women actually want; 3. Destroying the widely successful Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program that cut teen pregnancy by 23% and instead spending millions of taxpayer money on the proven failure of abstinence-only messages; and 4. Destroying women’s and youths’ privacy by involving parents and husbands in what should be a woman’s decision.

These are only a very few of the new attacks on women and only what is happening in the U.S. Another facet is Education Department Secretary Betsy DeVos’s lies about the rarity of campus rape and how she wants to prioritize “due process” for those accused of rape, while letting those who have been raped swing in the wind.

Given this huge escalation of the war on women, what is clear is that women’s demands are—and for their own survival have to be—for a very different world than the one we now inhabit. It is one where human beings are valued as human beings, and that is a world it will take a revolution to create. Women’s future is not the only one in jeopardy.


A slice of the huge March For Our Lives in Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland, Calif., March 24, 2018. Photo: Urszula Wislanka for News & Letters.

A new generation of youth are calling out a society destroying their future with not only mass shootings but climate disruption, bleak job prospects, and fascism and war. The March for Our Lives, preceded by nationwide school walkouts, showed students rejecting this society’s valuing their lives less than the profits of gun manufacturers, represented by the NRA, which has deep roots in white supremacy. That was understood implicitly when a group of Black youth in Chicago met with Parkland, Fla., students and continued protesting violence back in their Chicago neighborhood as well as school shootings.

Acknowledging their relative privilege, the Parkland students made sure that Black and Brown youth would be front and center in the protests and that they would be heard—like 11-year-old Naomi Wadler, who spoke in Washington “to represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.” She called attention to the killing of 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington at Huffman High School in Birmingham, Ala., three weeks after the Parkland shooting.

The speeches, signs and interviews with protesters proved that far more was raised there than calling for gun control, fighting the NRA and defeating its candidates in elections.


Black Lives Matter is participating and not separating this movement from opposition to the killings by police, showing how the city of Chicago takes the ongoing slaughter of Black youth for granted and responds by calling for more police and stigmatizing youth of color by putting them on its “gang database.” The administration, with robeless Klansman Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the lead, is happy to let guns proliferate, making that one more excuse to intensify mass incarceration at the very moment dissatisfaction with the prison industrial complex has spread to the point that even many members of Congress were ready to institute mild reforms. The Black dimension is a vital part of all of the youth, women’s and labor resistance.

Labor is also stirring. The Fight for $15 movement continues to spread. After teachers’ strikes in West Virginia and Oklahoma, strike threats in Kentucky and Arizona won concessions for teachers from state governments. A new labor militancy is taking place in the context of the decades-long campaign to roll back the concessions made to labor in the 1930s New Deal and to destroy unions altogether, with the Janus Supreme Court case being only the latest salvo. The capitalists disregard the reason those concessions were made: to stave off workers’ revolution. Indulging in the illusion that their dismantling of the welfare state, globalization of competition between workers, and decimation of job security have tamed workers, they are blocking a pressure valve, that is, the union bureaucracy. The teachers’ strikes are a beginning, but not the last word.

Time and again the labor bureaucracy has thrown itself in the way of the self-activity of the working class. This was seen in the way United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard applauded Trump for his imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs, portraying him as a friend of steelworkers. The impact of the teachers’ strikes in West Virginia and Oklahoma were undercut when the New Jersey labor bureaucracy refused to okay a walkout because they didn’t get the go-ahead from the governor. That reveals a barrier to spreading the militancy to the labor movement as a whole.

Internationally, labor revolt is widespread, especially in low-wage countries where much industrial production has relocated, from Haiti to Bangladesh. Strikes continue at a rate of over 100 a month in China. India has been beset by strikes and other labor actions—from car factories like Maruti Suzuki in Gurgaon to a revolt of women domestic workers and their community at the Mahagun Moderne gated community outside Delhi—as well as a six-day march of 40,000 poor farmers and landless peasants to Mumbai in March.[3]

French railway workers, teachers, students and other workers went on strike in March to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-labor decrees. And worker unrest was at the heart of the revolt in Iran (see “Iranian workers, youth reach for new revolutionary beginnings,” Jan.-Feb. N&L; also see “Only revolt grows in Iran’s deserts,” p. 3 of this issue), which continues as we go to press. That revolt by working-class youth, with an important women’s dimension that goes beyond the mass street revolts, had roots in the 2011 revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East. The Arab Spring brought the idea of revolution front and center. It also showed once again that, without merging with a philosophy of revolution in permanence, revolutions will remain unfinished or turn into their opposite.

While all this is only the sheerest of revolutionary beginnings, it is the context in which we must work to ensure that these beginnings are what will determine the end.

Continued in III. The reality and the myth of contemporary capitalism

[1] “Demonstrators protest in Poland on Women’s Day,” Radio Poland, March 9, 2018. http://thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/353041,Demonstrators-protest-in-Poland-on-Womens-Day.

[2] See “UPDATE: New Indiana Law requires doctors to report to state women’s physical or psychological complications connected to abortion,” nwitimes.com, March 29, 2018.

[3] See “A spree of rebellions in the Greater Noida, India,” by Charlie Chap, Aug. 21, 2017, and “In India, Farmers Face a Terrifying Crisis,” by P. Sainath, April 13, 2018, New York Times.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *