A Righteous Upsurge Against Sexual Assault... A Crucial Step Toward a Different World

Updated December 3, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


This week we begin a page devoted to the upsurge against the harassment, abuse and assaulting of women in this society, especially in workplaces, but also through every nook and cranny of society. We will feature news on this struggle, analysis and commentary from ourselves and others, and key works grounded in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism that shed light on this. Our aim: to “unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution.”

First, a key dynamic, a prism through which to understand what is raging in society, from Bob Avakian (BA):

The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances. It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms.... The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?

This crystallizes the overall stakes in society in the current juncture. Something has been ripped open. What women have too long been forced to accept as “the way it is”—enduring violence, torment and humiliation as part of what is “normal”—has been shattered by women having the courage to go public, expose the oppressive actions and, in some cases, crimes of powerful men, and throw the whole order of social relations between men and women and the dominance of the former over the latter into the air.

But what happens now—whether this struggle goes further, toward the full liberation of women and the emancipation of all humanity, or is in the end confined to a few small reforms, or is shoved back into the bottle altogether and punished with even more open degradation and enslavement by the backlash that is even now gaining strength—has great importance for women and, indeed, all of humanity.

A watershed moment: Yes, IF...

Many people have called this a “watershed moment.” They correctly and righteously say there must be no toleration for what has been exposed and no going back to the enforced silence of just a few months ago. But things are still very fraught. What has erupted—what has been courageously torn open—must go forward in its own right, and link up with other streams in society, lest it die down and the verdicts of right and wrong get reversed again, if not openly (at least at first) then in actual practice.

With the election of Trump and Pence, those fighting for a reactionary resolution to this oppression gained tremendous momentum; this was a great leap backward. In the past few decades a revanchist and virulent sense of male entitlement has been fanned, and linked into a whole fascist move in society. This has drawn from the wells of both Penceian Christian fascism and “guy culture” on steroids (the latter promoted by fascist Trump operatives like Steve Bannon and Milo Yiannopolous). The election of Trump after the exposure of the Access Hollywood tape and after a campaign against Clinton that was openly misogynist (with signs at his rallies saying “Trump That Bitch”) gave this a “stamp of approval” and tremendous momentum. This grotesquely cruel and degrading view of women now has the power of a fascist regime behind it, a regime clawing and fighting to consolidate its position.

Rising against this was the massive and unprecedented Women’s March in January. And both these trends—the ugly assaultive Trump-Pence fascism and the righteously outraged response—have fed into the current moment full of struggle, possibility... and danger.

How all this gets resolved has meaning here in several dimensions. First, the actual struggle itself must go forward and spread, to all sections of society. Different standards have to be fought for and spread. We cannot afford to “go back to normal.” “Normal” has been exposed as a daily horror for huge sections of women. We need much more overturning of that “normal,” much deeper examination in every sphere, much more transformation of people’s ideas and values, and a much greater sense among the oppressed of their own potential strength.1

At the same time, what happens here must be linked to the urgent struggle against the Trump/Pence regime. If Trump and Pence succeed in their fight to consolidate a fascist form of rule, they will slam shut the space that has been opened—with a vengeance. What follows that would be a still greater level of horror. Refuse Fascism has documented what this regime has done in even its first few months, as it fights to consolidate its grip. Should it succeed, we will be facing a handmaid’s-tale future for real. It’s important to bring this powerful upsurge and the issues that it has raised into the battle to drive out that regime... and to bring the battle to drive out the regime to the women, and men, now surging into action.

The ultimate answer, though, must not be to return to the best of what was... to a society that makes a show of recognizing (some) formal equality for women, but continues to subordinate them in every sphere. So long as the taproot of patriarchy—the division of society into classes, into exploiter and exploited—remains, today in the form of capitalism-imperialism, there can be no emancipation of women. This has been analyzed in depth elsewhere—you can find it on this page—and that analysis needs to be spread.

In short, people need to know that a better world—without all this cruelty and madness—really IS possible. To get to that world, we need a revolution aimed at overturning capitalism-imperialism. We need a revolution that, from there, sets itself the goal of uprooting and abolishing the whole division of humanity into different classes, into exploiter and exploited... the production relations on which that division rests... the oppressive institutions—like patriarchy, the oppression of whole peoples, and much else—that feed off of and reinforce those relations... and the ideas which reflect and reinforce it as well. We need a revolution that takes the liberation of women as a critical, dynamic and absolutely necessary component of the emancipation of humanity. In short, we need a communist revolution, guided by the New Communism of Bob Avakian.

So, yes, this MUST be a watershed moment, in many different dimensions. All this underlines even more the insistence in BA’s statement in October that this upsurge “is right, righteous, and long overdue, and should be supported, encouraged, spread, and defended against counter-attack.” It is important in its own right... and it is critically important to stepping into a whole different future.


1.  One thing this upsurge has revealed is how we become inured to the horrors that pass for “normal” in this society. In “Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution,” Bob Avakian raises a series of questions that lay this bare:

How long does it take before the carefree play of female children—yes, in countries like the U.S.—gets turned into cutting themselves, in response to an unbearable feeling of worthlessness and despair, and often as a result of abuse; or starving themselves in an attempt to conform to the dominant and incessantly propagated notions of female beauty, with which their worth as a human being is equated and to which it is reduced? How long does it take before many girls who show intellectual curiosity and the spark of wanting to know about the world, and of learning about the world, learn instead to stifle that, to "play dumb" and stop speaking up, because it becomes all too clear to them that boys and men feel "threatened" by strong, competent and intelligent women? Or girls who, once having been actively involved in the joy of playing sports, give that up in order to be perceived as more "feminine." Girls in general who, whatever else may happen in their lives, will be insulted and assaulted by pornography and other degradation of women, soft core and hard core, from mainstream advertising to the most extreme and grotesque and perverse. Who will learn to accommodate themselves in various ways—or will be encouraged, and in many ways coerced, into accommodating themselves—to the oppressive relations that prevail and predominate in society, particularly as regards women; or, on the other hand, will be encouraged and will learn to become hardened and cynical, to treat everyone and everything, including themselves and their own bodies, as commodities, and will be further degraded and debased in the process; will learn to lower their sights and not to dream and think of fully taking part in every sphere of society nor dare to rise up and change society, including in the way that it treats women? All this too, is laid out for female children, including in countries like the U.S., even before they are born. [back]





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