Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy
Since the First Congress ten months ago, the NCP (OC) has expelled multiple founding members in multiple cities for male chauvinism. The expulsions and related discussions consumed much of the internal activity of the organization. This rendered the central organs and particular units otherwise dysfunctional for substantial periods of time.
We are only now beginning to emerge from this crisis, which can be traced to our origins as an organization founded by members with political backgrounds in anarchism and social-democratic revisionism. The continued dominance of these ideologies allowed liberalism and low standards of membership to flourish. Women were relegated to a relative exteriority within the organization and its areas of work, the opposite of the Maoist organization dominated by women leaders and militants that is demanded by our time.
The expelled former members, all cis men, each engaged in the first or several or most of the following: 1) verbal and physical abuse of women, including violent grabbing or pushing; 2) failure to rectify for sexual opportunism and unwanted physical contact towards woman comrades; 3) alcoholism combined with harassment and sexual objectification of multiple women; 4) use of misogynistic slurs like “bitch,” “cunt,” and “hooker”; 5) discussion of women currently or formerly involved in mass work as sex objects; 6) refusal to accept responsibility, conduct honest self-criticism, and carry out rectification when confronted with the above; and 7) deliberate misrepresentation of the actual circumstances of expulsion, including downplaying instances of male chauvinism and explaining expulsions as if they were a matter of theoretical or political differences.
With considerable re-organization completed, the NCP (OC) is at a juncture requiring the initiation of a lengthy process of self-criticism on the problem of male chauvinism and a summation of its handling from which to derive lessons for the future. This is the beginning of a broader political and organizational review of the NCP (OC)’s first year of existence.
Hard lines must be drawn here: if the NCP (OC), prior to the multiple expulsions, had succeeded in growing beyond its initial numbers and becoming a political force—which would mean the recruitment of more cis men, the only people who in any likelihood would join—it would have to be smashed by working-class women. The organization would have functioned as yet another instrument of the bourgeois class enemy opposed to working-class women.
If the NCP (OC) in the current moment fails to conduct a thorough self-criticism at all levels and a proper summation that serves the struggle for women’s emancipation, this must remain its fate. It is better to have no organization at all, than an organization that allows male chauvinism to fester and abusers of women to stay within or enter its ranks.
First self-criticism: The NCP (OC) was founded on the basis of a male chauvinist and misogynist liberalism toward patriarchy in practice.
Drafted principally by women and queer members of the NCP (OC), resolutions against patriarchy and on the queer struggle were adopted by the First Congress without substantive discussion—in other words, as formal gestures that had little to do with the practice of the organization.
Likewise, the anti-patriarchy rectification campaign passed at the First Congress was at best a toothless measure and at worst a hypocrisy. It remained a meaningless organizational policy until the first actual expulsion for male chauvinism.
The misogynist liberalism of the organization was reflected above all else in the initial ambivalence shared by many of its members on the question of expelling founding members engaged in male chauvinist practice.
Ambivalence in this regard was a fundamental liberalism: the failure to take a clear partisan stance on the participation and development of women in the organization.Liberalism was covered up by concerns of offering “rectification” to male chauvinists who indicated no willingness to transform, couched in “Maoist” phraseology, but in essence reflective of a culture of men protecting other men from organizational discipline. Following the expulsions, liberalism here continued to find expression in a lack of clarity among individual members on the matter. There can be no compromise when it comes to fidelity to the principle of women’s emancipation.
Second self-criticism: “Proletarian feminism” for the NCP (OC) has meant the theoretical liquidation of women’s oppression.
While recognizing that the struggle of women must be integrated with the class struggle for political power, it is necessary to develop an analysis that grasps the particularities of women’s oppression in a social formation where the capitalist mode of production prevails. This means analyzing women’s oppression in terms of the gender-based division of labor within wage labor and between wage labor and unpaid reproductive labor, and in the capitalist commodification of women.
The contradiction between men and women has an antagonistic aspect and a non-antagonistic aspect. The assessment upheld by many in the US that this contradiction among the people is “non-antagonistic, except in individual cases of abuse” is a class reductionist and liquidationist position.
In the absence of a leading party guided by a revolutionary proletarian feminist line and in the absence of a revolutionary proletarian feminist movement, the antagonistic aspect here is dominant. It can be transformed into a non-antagonistic contradiction only in concrete conditions where the revolutionary proletarian feminist line is becoming dominant among the masses and proletarian women are developing toward a reality of possessing coercive force against their exploiters and oppressors. In other words, the contradiction between men and women has a relative character in relation to the principal contradiction.
Third self-criticism: “Rectification” for the NCP (OC) has meant the notion of keeping around cis men with male chauvinist practice and assigning tasks (e.g. write apologies, attend counseling, etc.) that did not transform their practice.
The notion that male chauvinists should be allowed to remain in an organization or on its periphery, in order to be “struggled” against, will only lead to an organization that no new women comrades would ever want to join.
Communist organizations must serve to organize women. It is only when women constitute a substantial part or majority of the leadership and membership that men will truly transform.
Can there be a Maoist feminism?
In the US, “Maoism” as the name of a concrete political tendency composed of real groups and individuals, is a patriarchal tendency. This has been made clear to us by our own experience. It is a tendency populated in substantial part by women-hating reactionaries, distinguished from the women-hating reactionaries of the broader society only by a semi-skilled usage of feminist discourse. Transformation is possible only though the deployment of Maoism as that which divides this situation.
As a beginning, there must be a refusal of the revisionist notion that communist organizations will inevitably serve as mirrors in which the objective contradictions of the existing class society are reflected. We have seen this take several forms:
-The notion that male chauvinism is dominant among the masses and will therefore be unleashed within the organization itself if the organization is truly integrated with the masses. The notion that expelling male chauvinists from a communist organization means that one is not properly “handling contradictions.”
-The notion that the masses of women are dominated by male chauvinist ideas just like men, and therefore, it is implied, are oppressors themselves indistinguishable from men. While women also take up patriarchal ideology, there is no relationship of symmetry here.
-The notion that the masses of women are not interested in politics, as it is traditionally an enterprise for men, and therefore any political organization will be overwhelmingly composed of men at the outset, that this is not reflective of errors in theory and practice.
-The notion that the development of women as leaders and militants in a communist organization, and the implementation of policy towards this end, is not a political question, that it is a “personal” question or “identity politics.” Reactionary ideas emerge in communist organizations, but there must be a continuous process of struggle against them and their unapologetic representatives to impose the proletarian line.
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The preparatory period for the First Congress of the NCP (OC) was not a preparatory period of communist militants. Likewise, the Congress itself was not a congress of communist militants.
Both the preparatory period and the Congress were thoroughly defined by the political backgrounds of founding members in anarchism and social-democratic revisionism, despite a ceremonial adherence to “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism” (“MLM”) and an empirical assessment of the “contributions” of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.
A clear opportunism in the theoretical sphere expressed itself in decisions to come to a superficial unity on fundamental questions in Maoism, including the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the universality of people’s war, and the party concept. This is reflected in the organization’s Principles of Unity, a pronounced practicalist deviation among its members, and the absence of concrete analysis, which led to the severing of theory and practice, as only concrete analysis can mediate theory and practice.
“Upholding MLM” or claiming “Maoism” in the current US context is worthless without an analysis of the situation and an organized practice extending from such an analysis.
A key link in this organized practice today is the development of women as leaders and militants guided by a proletarian political line, the central criterion by which every organization and every individual must be judged.
Did the revisionist 1977 congress of the Chinese Communist Party not hail Mao Zedong as the “greatest Marxist of our time,” affirm his “immortal contributions,” and announce the importance of his “systematic theory of continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat”?
Once we recognize that the advance of revisionism, even the restoration of capitalism itself, can take place under a red banner proclaiming Mao’s contributions, it becomes clear that one’s subjective identification as a Maoist and declarations of support for certain historical sequences and ongoing Maoist revolutions in other countries constitute only the most meager and ultimately vanishing basis for revolutionary work.
Just as one can say “continuing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat” when one in fact means capitalist restoration, one can say “Maoism” and “proletarian feminism” when one means in actuality the oppression of women.
The entire membership of the NCP (OC) March 2014