Some questions for the moderate left
Are you a Bernie supporter and wondering if you will or can vote for Hillary if he loses the nomination? Or have you already decided that you’re for Hillary – either because she’s a woman or because we have an obligation to do anything we can to keep Trump out? Do you believe that it’s your obligation to vote and you would not be upholding your responsibility as a citizen if you didn’t vote?
Looks like hell is going to be a pretty crowded place
Madelyn Albright has announced that there is a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help each other – meaning women who don’t vote for Hillary. Let’s see, Sarah Palin, Madelyn Albright, Margaret Thatcher are all women. Is voting for women, because they re women, feminism? Can feminism be reduced to gender? Looks like hell is going to be pretty crowded for all of us women who won’t be voting for Hillary.
Gloria Steinem has said that all the young women are flocking to Sanders because – excuse the paraphrasing – “that’s where the boys are”. Gloria is supposed to be an icon for feminists, having been one of the leaders and icons of The Feminist Movement in the 60’s and 70’s. She later tried, and failed, to convince women that she didn’t really mean it – she was joking. This “feminist” is suggesting that women are too stupid to follow someone for reasons other than their gender.
The positive moment of non-class identities
Traditional Old Left Marxists had a pretty mechanical understanding of the relationship between social class and other forms of identity. According to this theory, once workers unite according to their class interests, other identities that divided people such as race, gender, ethnicity, religion and nationalism would dissolve within a short period of time – maybe a generation. The New Left rightly pointed out that working class unions were racist and sexist and these forms of white male privilege do not so easily dissolve. It was also clear from two world wars that when nationalism was pitted against working class internationalism, workers of the world most definitely did not unite. In addition, socialists found out that loyalty to religion did not wither away, even when some skilled women workers had life pretty good in the former Soviet Union. After the Soviet Union dissolved, the Russian people were far from the flaming atheists that Marxist-Leninists had confidently predicted.
In the United States as the New Left won out over the old, the New Left’s inability to organize its own working class showed itself in the gradual disappearance of social class as a categorical way to organize people’s experiences. It became a perfunctory category tacked on to where the New Left really wanted to go – to talk about race and gender.
Even so, by the early 1970’s any radical political leader could never get away with expecting people to follow them simply because of their skin color or gender. They had to develop very specific programs for how they were going address race and gender problems in society. For women, proposals might be for paid housework or the institutionalization of childcare cooperatives. In other words, political content had to be linked with a leader’s form, their race or gender.
Crypto identity politics
As the conservative churches and elected politicians took over in the late 70’s and early 80’s there was a “backlash” against the women’s movement. As the U.S. slid to the right, what it meant to be liberal was increasingly compromised. The Democratic Leadership Council, supposedly liberal, never developed a program for dealing systematically with content issues from a liberal, feminist perspective, let alone anything more radical. In fact, they were very open about pushing for a movement away from the leftward turn it had taken from the 60’s to the 80’s. Hillary was a key leader of the DLC during her term as a senator.
This crypto identity politics came to a head in 2008 when Obama won the election simply because of his form – tall, light-skinned, articulate, and well educated. He never addressed the content issues for blacks: unemployment, low wages, police brutality, and environmental racism. He floated a couple of slogans and that was it. Now with Hillary, the same form without content is operating. For a neo-conservative like Madelyn Albright to harangue women about voting for Hillary and get away with it shows the sad weakness of what passes as liberal feminism today.
Saying women must vote for women is a flawed argument
This argument – that we should vote for Hillary because she’s a woman – is actually anti-feminist. It means that no matter what my political beliefs are, no matter what I think about capitalism, social class, drone warfare, or the CIA, I must cast them aside and do what these “guardians” of women tell me to do. Isn’t this the old “anatomy is destiny” argument? Except that it’s anatomy vs political identity. I see nothing in Hillary’s program to think there would be anything to support the definition of feminism. Trying to convince women that they should vote for a woman, simply because of her gender, seems counterintuitive to what feminism truly supports. The Urban Dictionary defines feminism in the following way: Feminism is the belief that all people are entitled to the same civil rights and liberties and can be intellectual equals regardless of gender
How capitalism is anti-feminist
The definition above of feminism does not even take into account the fact that capitalism is clearly anti-feminist. A liberal definition of feminism states that the only way true equality of the sexes will be accomplished is when women are no longer financially dependent on men. According to the latest statistics, women still earn only $0.79 for every $1.00 men earn. (AAUW, Spring 2016) This is a liberal argument. Hillary doesn’t even support this.
As a socialist feminist, I believe that capitalism is anti-feminist because it is private ownership over natural resources and, as Marx would say, the means of production. Financial gender inequality is a system that capitalism fosters and since most capitalists are men, the gender pay gap has flourished throughout history. Capitalists believe that people are at their best then they compete with each other, rather than when they cooperate.
Hillary is a privileged, upper class white woman who is a member of the ruling class with a registered net worth of over $28 million. And, as we’ve recently learned, most of her wealth is held in accounts in Delaware where she doesn’t have to claim or pay taxes on it. Her interests serve the interests of other ruling class and upper class women and perhaps half of the 10% of the whole of the upper middle class. Realistically, in practice she knows or cares little for at least 85% of women in the middle and lower classes.
When I was a single, working mother in the late 70’s I was making $12 an hour – with no benefits – and I ended up piling up high interest and credit card debt that took me years to pay off. The cost of living was much lower then, yet I still struggled to keep my head above water. Does she seriously think a working single mother, making $12 an hour, often at a part time job with no benefits because that’s the only kind of work she can get, can make ends meet? Does she understand that this mother works many hours a week, then must go home and do all the housework, cooking and childcare even when she’s exhausted or sick? I don’t think so. What has she proposed to change that?
Let’s also take a look at where her campaign funding is coming from.
Included within her top 10 contributors:
- Goldman Sachs
- P. Morgan
- Morgan Stanley
- Lehman Brothers
Hillary has already proven, over and over, that she’s a good friend to Wall Street and the capitalists and will do their bidding, whether it’s making sure no legislation is passed that will make them pay their fair share of taxes, raise the minimum wage, stop protecting the big banks and the bankers, or waging whatever war is required in order to protect the empire. She will be crowned, with or without my vote in the next few months.
Hillary’s record: does this look like feminism to you?
- Voted for the still ongoing Iraq War and an escalation of the Afghanistan war
- Voted to bail out Wall Street and the big banks
- Voted against splitting up the big banks
- Voted for the TPP which protects Wall Street banks and huge corporations from any regulations that would interfere with their profits
- Voted for the Keystone Pipeline – a pending environmental disaster
- Voted for border fence legislation
- Voted for off-shore drilling
- Supported raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour, even though the proposal is to raise it to $15 an hour, only after having her arm twisted – which will still leave people far below the standard of living
- Stated that she was for abortion only in “rare” circumstances
- Is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations, the defender of the elites, with her daughter also recently installed as a member
- She has announced that she was “very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time” (The Nation, Feb. 5, 2016)
- Supported decimating the welfare system during her husband’s presidency and suggested women on welfare were “just sitting around the house doing nothing” – referred to “these people” as “deadbeats”
What she has voted for and supported, as outlined above, is not even liberal feminism. She is a neoconservative and neoconservatives are not feminists. All of these policies, statements and actions are neoconservative. Hillary has shown us time after time that she is truly a neocon.
In a debate with Sanders in the fall of 2015, when Sanders said we could learn some lessons from the Nordic countries about Universal Health care and free education, Hillary announced that “we’re not Denmark”. According to Demos, a United States public policy organization, here is how life in Denmark compares to life in the United States in these areas:
|Child Poverty Rates
|% Lacking Health Insurance
|Weeks of Paid Parental Leave
|Weeks of guaranteed vacation
|Average hours worked by worker
Would a feminist support high child poverty rates; 10% of the population with no health insurance; no paid parental leave; no paid vacations; the highest number of hours spent at work in the entire industrial world? If this is feminism, then I’m no feminist!
Trump – The Democratic Party’s boogeyman
Another argument I get from people is that if I don’t vote for Hillary we’ll end up with Trump. I don’t believe that will happen. It’s not in the best interest of the capitalists to crown a candidate who says that he wants to bring the jobs home and that he will build a wall to keep out the Mexicans who he has labeled rapists and murderers. After all, who will work the miserable jobs nobody else wants to work, picking fruit, cleaning toilets, doing hard labor off the books? And how can capitalists keep their profits high if they don’t set up their business in countries where they can pay people slave wages? No – not to worry – the capitalists will not let that happen.
Don’t Worry – Hillary will be crowned – with or without my vote
Socialist feminists know that we do not live in a true democracy and feminism only has a chance during and after the overthrow of capitalism. It doesn’t matter what color or gender the capitalists are. In fact, I know a lot of women who won’t be voting for Hillary. They’re not all socialists; many of them are fairly conservative Democrats. So make room, hell – here we come!
Barbara MacLean has worked as an academic and career counselor at California State University, East Bay and as a career counselor and manager of the downtown Oakland One Stop Career Center, a public career and jobs center in partnership with EDD. She is a socialist feminist. She is a founder and organizer for Planning Beyond Capitalism. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter Email her at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Painting by Sara Sole