From the September-October 2022 issue of News & Letters
ABORTION RIGHTS STRUGGLES
The whole nation took notice on Aug. 2, when Kansas voters rejected the attempt to strip away the right to abortion from the 1859 State Constitution adopted when Kansas abolitionists fended off raids from Missouri pro-slavery mobs to preserve Kansas as a free state. As a born-and-bred Kansan, I expected that victory for women’s rights despite anti-abortion ad campaigns designed to confuse voters. But I was stunned by the 59%-41% victory. Voters in other Republican-dominated states would likely also defend women’s rights if given the chance. But the lesson the Christian nationalists took away was to prevent any referendum that would allow those voices, like the gerrymandered Indiana Legislature that thwarted the voice of the people by immediately imposing a new draconian anti-abortion law.
Kansas City, Kansas
In Indiana, Republicans banned almost all the abortions in their state. This is unspeakably cruel. Hoosier women will become less than full citizens, losing their right to control their reproduction, families, bodies, their very futures.
The focus of “Their Target: Women’s Freedom” (July-Aug. 2022 N&L) is the meaning of Roe v. Wade, which the decision overturned. Healthcare is a human right. Shutting down women’s clinics means taking away access to mammograms, treatment for STDs, and more, especially for poor women. Some clinics didn’t even wait for the ruling and closed, but others moved to another state or got rides for women to other states. Some women are requesting sterilization, which reminds me of forced sterilization.
I worry that these abortion bans will make life more dangerous for the women who will still seek them. People seem to have forgotten that some of the mass murderers of the early industrial/urbanized era were doctors who promoted themselves as abortionists, the most famous being H.H. Holmes. I don’t believe these politicians truly understand that when you attack the agency of one group, you bolster the agency of other, sometimes nefarious, groups. If you are someone who will still try to get an abortion, please be safe.
The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade is not alone about abortion rights. It is based on knocking down the right to privacy, and major 5-4 Supreme Court decisions based on it, which recognized rights to same-sex relations, marriage equality, birth control, even interracial marriage.
On “Nationwide marches for abortion rights” (July-Aug. 2022 N&L), a broad range of issues were addressed at the march in Detroit. There were many young people, women, men and nonbinary. Electoral politics cannot solve our problems and can co-opt well-intentioned people. Voting has to be seen as one step in the larger battle for the preservation of elections; the security of elections from start to finish. It is true that attacks on democracy and attacks on women reinforce each other, and we have to fight back.
UKRAINE, RUSSIA AND THE LEFT
Historically, Marxist analysis of imperialist wars disclosed the internal dynamics of a given country: economic crisis, class divisions, etc. I find such analysis lacking today. Many abstract analysts point to realignment of the global order and the acquisition of new markets. However, such a view ignores the fact that despite Ukraine’s political drifting away from Russia, their economy remains tied to that country. A fresh eye is needed to trace Russia’s political-economic crisis, especially since the deep global recession of 2008-09. Focus needs to be brought back from market to production relations.
I really enjoyed the July-Aug. 2022 issue of N&L as well as “Left apologetics for Putin,” the web-only appendix to the essay “Society in the grip of genocidal ideology.” The left adopting Putin is ridiculous because: 1. Like all dictators he has dreams of ruling the world. He made clear that this is his goal. 2. He has not shown much support for the working class in Russia—he certainly isn’t for the serfs taking control—and has carried out silencing all opposition. 3. There is no free press in Russia.
Thank you for “Left Apologetics for Putin.” The left and the right are thoroughly just different flavors of fascism; you can choose whether the gas smells like almonds or tutti frutti, nothing more.
War and revolution forever induces a great divide between revolutionaries, beginning with the Franco-German war and the aftermath of the Paris Commune: Marx’s Marxism vs. statism. Or World War I and the divide within the Second International. Or Dunayevskaya’s break with Leon Trotsky during World War II. What we are witnessing today with Russia’s imperial war on Ukraine, is the beginning of a global realignment within the Left. “Left Apologetics for Putin” is a very good contribution in this regard.
An Iranian Revolutionary
MARX AND TRANSGENDER
“Marx and Transgender“ (March-April 2015 N&L) is a ridiculously stretched interpretation of Marx. The author, Ron Kelch, could have just as easily cited the Bible, Mein Kampf, or the United World Wrestling Rules to get to the same conclusions. What a travesty of an intellectual mind-game. Mr. Kelch should be ashamed.
SMB, this isn’t a stretch at all. The essence of Marxist-Humanism is social self-creation, hence the ability to forge our own relationships to our own bodies and sexuality is straightforward extrapolation of that basic Marxist point. Mr. Kelch should be proud for connecting the tenets of Marxist philosophy to emerging struggles for self-liberation, exactly what Marxist-Humanism should be doing instead of trying to hold on desperately to an image of feminist struggle from the 1970s as so many of us often do.
WORLD FOOD CRISIS
I appreciate the article “War, climate chaos, capitalism, COVID: World food crisis spreads” (July-Aug. N&L). Beyond war, climate chaos and capitalism lies the question: what kind of food system? This is also addressed in the accompanying statement from La Via Campesina. What kind of food is produced, and how? Cattle and chickens are raised on factory farms where their manure is wasted as environmental pollution, instead of being returned to the land as fertilizer. Even the kinds of food produced malnourish those who consume them to excess because of poverty, as how sugar production killed more slaves than cotton and tobacco farming and processing. It reaches into all aspects of life: the baby formula shortage was born out of the capitalist push to commodify baby foods instead of supporting breastfeeding. As the article concludes, many paths are needed. The Marx quotes were very relevant.
Susan Van Gelder
There is still enough food to feed everyone in the world. That has been true from the 1840s Irish famine to the Bengal famine of 1943. Often, food was being exported from regions where people were starving. Alternative paths of development were manifested especially in the African Revolutions of the 1950s and ’60s, until leaders separated from masses and got pulled into the capitalist world market. Labor and resources were extracted—and now it’s coming home to roost. Even though existing alternatives are not on the scale of a whole society, there are non-capitalist ways to produce and use food.
The nuts and bolts of how we end this system is absolutely necessary. We need to know the statistics of hunger and homelessness. It’s necessary to listen to the voice of hunger, of need, and what causes war. Karl Marx left us a way for translating human need to motivate change—like in a blues song. Sometimes I need to see the hungry human being, the exploited laborer. We have to have organization so we are not just swimming in sentiment, though feeling is a part of it. Hegel says the human being, like other animals, is motivated by feelings and irritation. We also have a human nature to work out ways to realize our sentiment.
NORMALIZED DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
“The hell of normalized domestic violence“ (July-Aug. 2022 N&L) is a powerful revelation of abuse in the household. Many more people are abused at home than outside it. This is all about human liberation breaking the chains of family relations, honor, respect, and all other niceties.
On “Ecuador’s Indigenous fight for means of life” (July-August 2022 N&L): A friend in Quito tells me that it was the biggest uprising since the near revolution of 2000 which ousted then President Mahuad. Since the days of the dictatorship, the Indigenous and campesinos, joined by workers and civil society, have been the major force for reason and justice and have toppled the governments of Bucaram and Gutiérrez as well as Mahuad. Lasso, whose approval rating has dropped steadily in the face of prison riots and gang violence, is on notice.