(A member of Ignite defends RSCC against an opportunist attack. Published Nov. 17, 2013.)
Dear ‘Barry Lyndon,’
At the level of politics, I am from beginning to end in agreement with my RSCC comrades. Why?
There is patriarchy in RSCC and IGNITE, to be sure. As Comrades Denise, Taffy and Khalil have pointed out in their responses to your provocation, we—like any other organization—cannot claim to be free of patriarchy when we live in a patriarchal society. Neither the class struggle nor the struggle against the gender division (nor the struggle against the division between mental and manual labor, nor…) stops at the border of our organizations.
However, the contradiction between RSCC and the revisionist and liberal organizations (formerly) in the Liber8 CUNY united front (not a coalition!) is fundamentally a political contradiction. It is this political contradiction that has been interpreted by the revisionists and liberals as a ‘difference in style,’ and the ‘difference in style’ in turn interpreted by them as a symptom of patriarchy in RSCC. But this series of interpretations is profoundly ideological: Why?
The argument of ‘unity before everything’ is a bourgeois argument, a forgetting of the class struggle and an abandonment of the spirit of revolt. We want to be an instrument of the class struggle in the service of the people. Let us begin by recognizing that the class struggle and the struggle for women’s liberation is also brought within the organization and within the united front. It is the very fact that we reject ‘unity before everything’ that allows us to recognize the existence of patriarchy within RSCC—i.e., to recognize that our organization is itself subject to certain forms of patriarchy that pervade the broader society.
To those revisionists and liberal social democrats who uphold the slogan of ‘unity before everything’ we may pose the following question: might your unconditional embrace of unity in fact speak to a failure to confront patriarchy within your own groups—patriarchy concealed behind the screen of revisionist or reformist false-unity that you uphold?
Our commitment to fierce (“aggressive”), open and complete ideological and political struggle (“you’re trying to shove your ideology down our throats!”)—a commitment that is a duty for all genuine communists—has been interpreted by the revisionist and liberal groups as necessarily indicating patriarchy. And yet the very gendered distribution of qualities that constitutes patriarchal ideology—a distribution that sets so-called ‘female’ irrationality and delicacy (emotions, oneness, spontaneity, apolitical circularities, fusion) against so-called ‘male’ rationality and militancy (thought, partisanship, science, political demarcations, splitting)—… this distribution of properties (and thus patriarchal ideology) is only reinforced and reproduced by the notion that ideological and political struggle necessarily entails patriarchy. In other words, when you accuse someone of being patriarchal simply because of the vehemence with which they put forth a political line, you only stabilize the gender division that you aim to oppose.
Between the groups that compose the united front—as well as within each of those groups—there is a resolute contradiction between a bourgeois political line and a proletarian political line, a contradiction that can take the form of the contradiction between patriarchy and a commitment to women’s liberation.
Either one recognizes the bourgeois line and struggles mercilessly against it (a struggle which is identified by the revisionists and liberals as the ‘male’ road) or one conceals it and tacitly accepts it (a reconciliation identified by the revisionists and liberals as the ‘female’ road). As communists, we reject this gendered identification of struggle with masculinity and reconciliation with femininity. Instead, we orient our political activity under the banner of the two-line struggle—which indeed can take the form of the struggle against patriarchy. The existence of the bourgeois line is a political reality, not a question of subjective will. This is one of the principal lessons of the GPCR.
Communists must in all circumstances reject social democratic amicability. Revisionist and liberal demagogic tears over “mutual respect” do not move us. The repetitive and tiring revisionist and liberal refrain is: retain what unites us, leave to the side what divides us. Revolutionaries say: No, one must precisely speak of what divides us. It is the only way to advance, the only way to forge a combative unity.
For all their talk of unity, our revisionist and liberal opponents have in fact engaged in a pernicious form of division: they have abandoned the united front at very the moment that RSCC has been subjected to intense repression by the administration and the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state. This is naked sectarianism, and precisely indicates the falsity of revisionist and reformist unity: the revisionists and reformists are literally willing to split the united front in order to gain the chance to supplicate openly before the new mayor of the NYC bourgeoisie!
And yet you, speaking not as a member of any political organization, but as an individual, call us a “left sect,” simply for placing the revolutionary mass work of the united front under the command of proletarian ideology, for taking the offensive against the university administration and for refusing to dissolve the struggle into a coalition of reformists! You fail to see that there is no such thing as Marxism “in general,” that every revolutionary or claimed revolutionary movement without exception must put forward a political line in relation to which mutually exclusive decisions will have to be made at every turn. What you view as Marxism “in general” was itself constituted through intense, uncompromising ideological and political struggle waged by Marx and Engels against the dead-end paths of anarchism and utopian socialism….
In this sense, your unremitting hostility to theory—your pragmatist deviation—in the end divides you from practice, since it is practice itself that requires the elaboration of a political line in relation to a concrete analysis of the conjuncture. Without theory, one slips imperceptibly (perhaps despite the best of intentions) into revisionism or reformism—that is, into a kind of ritualized and invariant non-practice. Your position that reforms ‘have their place’ even if a proletarian political line is not in command is evidence enough of this pragmatism-cum-anti-practice. The revolutionary political struggle does not advance through a quantitative addition of diverse forces—this is false-unity of the World Social Forum type—but through a dynamic sequence of qualitative ruptures with the class enemy effected under the command of proletarian ideology.
When you publicly lend support for the revisionist and reformist struggle against our revolutionary organizations, it is our duty to struggle politically against you. Since the anti-Petraeus action of September 9, we have been under severe attack from the bourgeois state and its lackeys. Taffy and Khalil have now been indicted by the District Attorney. In the past two months, eight current or former members of our organizations have faced criminal charges in the bourgeois courts. In this context, public attacks on us have very real consequences, both political and legal, and we must respond to them.
We are engaged in active politics, not passive musing, not play acting, not syndicalism, not activism, not NGO-ism, not liberal care-of-the-self-ism. The proletariat as a political reality is for us a task, not a given fact. For this reason, we must always put politics in command.
I look forward to your response,