Revolutionary Worker #897, March 9, 1997
RW #897, March 9, 1997
"Throughout the entire revolutionary process that aims to create the conditions for communism, the struggle must be waged to continually, and ever more thoroughly, overcome and uproot the relations of inequality and oppression that shackle women; to promote personal, family and sexual relations that are based on mutual love and respect and equality between men and women; and to increasingly develop forms for the masses of people to carry out--through cooperative efforts involving men equally with women--the functions which are now focused overwhelmingly in the family and which are a burden on women in particular."
"The liberation of the poor and exploited people of the world is completely bound up with the liberation of women from every form of male supremacist domination and oppression, and vice versa--you cannot have one without the other."
Bob Avakian, "Why Only Proletarian Revolution Can Liberate Women"
It's about BREAKING THE CHAINS. If women cannot decide when and whether they will have children--they are in a slavery situation. Simple as that. And not only is this harmful to women, it is against the interests of all the proletarians and oppressed people. Once again, on International Women's Day, we focus on how a woman's right to choose is central to her emancipation and the emancipation of all women...and how it is connected to the fight to end all oppression. People on every front of struggle against this system need to recognize these connections.
We especially want to shout out to the new generation to change the terms around this crucial issue for women--throughout society. Together we need to deal with the confusion that is being spread among the youth and the situation where women and health workers are threatened, injured and killed while politicians preach about "legal but rare." It's less than three years to the year 2000 and women still can't make these very basic decisions about their lives without fear, brutality, humiliation and shame. If women need abortions, why should they be rare? In this issue of the RW we offer "information as weaponry" with a special pullout "handbook" on abortion and why women must have the right to choose.
Millions of people agree that it is a woman's right to choose. But we revolutionary communists are also coming at this from a way deeper level. The reason that we uphold a woman's right to choose is because this is in the best interests of the proletariat and society as a whole. Just as we feel so deeply that the masses of people have to make radical change and get into making revolution, we are firm in our stand that the state or any other repressive institutions in this society should not be deciding this question of abortion, should not be dictating to women on this. Not parents, boyfriends, judges or preachers. And we believe that even in a socialist society this should not be decided by the state--the ultimate decision should still be made by the individual woman.
We know that as long as individual women giving birth to babies is the way that human beings reproduce, then social controls on reproduction can be an oppressive thing for women. In other words: women are not incubators! Because of this, the overall physical and social well-being of women must take priority over fetuses. This is a question of women's health. But even more, it is a question of women's right to function fully in society.
We want to see all of society transformed. Our aim is to uproot exploitation and oppression--of all kinds. And an extremely important part of that is uprooting the oppression of women. This is concentrated in our slogans: "Women hold up half the sky" and "Break the Chains--Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!"
How can women be emancipated to take part fully and with equality in every sphere of society--and especially the struggle to revolutionize society? What is the effect on women and their ability to play an equal part if women are prevented from having the right to decide if and when they are going to bear children?
From the time human societies became divided along property lines and male dominance was imposed over the family and society, the right to make decisions about reproduction has been taken away from women. And women have resisted this oppression.
Today this problem is connected by a thousand threads to all the other oppressive situations that are confronting women--and to other forms of oppression brought down on the people in this capitalistic, male dominated and white supremacist society.
It is connected to the insults, threats, abuse, rape, degradation and brutality at the hands of men. When boyfriends and husbands demand that women have children because "it's my baby" they are perpetrating oppression--because a woman who is forced to bear a child against her will is assaulted and degraded in body and spirit. These men are treating women like their property, not like equal human beings. They are acting like slavemasters--not brothers.
Treating women like incubators or acting like women have a "duty" to have children because a fetus is a potential human being is connected to the way that women are treated as property--as commodities to be bought and sold and to be used to sell other commodities. It is part of the same oppressive setup where the sexual plunder of women through pornography and prostitution are practiced. It is connected to the whole male supremacist domination and oppression of women that is not only an everyday fact of life--but a foundation of this capitalist system.
The religious-based "traditional morality" --where superstition and unscientific beliefs preach to women that because they have the capacity to bear children it is some kind of "duty to god" or "natural role"--is linked up to all the ways that male domination is being reinforced on poor women and teenagers. Today we are assaulted with a revival of male-dominating ideas like "sexual abstinence is virtuous," "illegitimacy is shameful." We hear calls to reduce "women-headed households" by forcing women to get married, forcing pregnant teenage women into group homes, taking children away from poor women. There is talk of restricting the right to divorce--forcing women to stay married even to abusive men. All this is part of the same climate where women going to clinics to terminate a pregnancy are assaulted and the doctors and health workers have been murdered and bombed.
And the kind of oppression women face when they are forced to bear unwanted children is linked to many other forms of oppression brought down on the people in this high-tech capitalistic nightmare. As Mary Lou Greenberg has said, "Debating whether women should have the right to abortion is like debating whether Black people should have the right not to be slaves."
It is for all these reasons that we are so rock-firm committed to fighting for these rights for women. Because we are coming at it from that deep place--a commitment to end the suffering of the people all over the world from this outmoded capitalistic/imperialistic system and all the oppressive ideas and relationships between people it perpetrates. And because we dare to dream and fight for a different future--where human beings work in common for the common good.
As Mary Lou Greenberg says, "A woman who can control her own reproduction and decide whether and when to have children will be stronger, more independent and better able to deal with the world at large, outside the confines of the family. She will be better able to lift her head, better able to dream and visualize the way the world COULD BE. And she will be better able to act to realize these dreams. Stronger women make stronger fighters--for themselves, for their children, for all the women, men and children everywhere who have known conditions of oppression." It is this future that is on the line every time a woman confronts a howling mob at the clinic doors and a health worker faces death for daring to let a woman choose.