Radical Left & the Politics of Gender

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by Ipshita Samanta

via Towards a New Dawn

Recently some of my comrades in left political spectrum have conveyed their anguish against commonsensical approach wielded in dealing with women question. I read some of their very personal and political posts which are seething in anger. They have sense of betrayal for the very shelter/tool they had taken to protest the hegemony. As far as my understanding of their position goes they don’t feel there is a space provided to voice their condemnation against dominance. It is more like voices stifled. Democracy impeded. Binary choices imposed.

As patriarchy is in economic base gets reflected in cultural milieu it affects the very core of our lives sustained, practices nurtured. And patriarchy gets succour from praxis, strengthen its shackle around women’s neck. India is a country of uneven socio-economic development. So it’s cultural structure. It thrives on unevenness to put simply. We see a country of poor within a country of ‘superpower’. We see blatant cases of discrimination coming out of inequality. And patriarchy is a system that gets its base from economic inequality among genders i.e. the biases in production relations.

Imperialism is harbinger of the anarchy in production. It strives for continuous restructure of the society so that imperialism can have stable plinth. Regressive social structure like us is needful for imperialism because it gives a steady source of plunder. The cultural validity of imperialism is based on regression, exploitation and an apparent sense of freedom to consume. Regression in culture or the feudal culture ensures the sanctity of private property. Whereas private property system is the essence of capitalism/imperialism, feudalism reinforces the core. Feudal morality enforces the dictum of purity of women body in the sense that women as private possession is inviolable. So when revolutionary left organization is accused of feudal morality, the concept around individual freedom and freedom of people get divergent. The opportunism which is usually come forward while dealing with individual freedom is rampant. Whenever one questions the necessity of moral impositions it is generally found she/he has been obstructed to act on personal whim. While in organization one is bound to be organized, albeit regimented the deviation in name of ‘democracy’ comes up. Women question is one of the foremost issues of revolutionary agenda. And the freedom it propagates does not necessarily and only come in form of sexual freedom. Of course the private property system is abounding in party/political organization. And issue of women emancipation often comes in second tier of activities if not neglected. The mechanism which keeps check on the patriarchal deeds is most of the time is dysfunctional and biased. . Also it should be noted that without collective liberation of mass, women emancipation is a utopia. But that does not imply that it is in lesser importance of being subject of agitation. The subject of women oppression is often mistaken as typical of women. This false notion comes from our contorted vision of revolution. Specification in the space of agitation is purported to be patriarchal. To liberate one and all is inherently right. And the solution is not to blame organization of patriarchal which by societal order will be so but is to change the organizational frame while changing the order of things. That is practice determines the motive.

Often one is in this illusion that sexual freedom is synonymous with women liberation. It is defined in terms of power-relational structure in intimate relationships. This article is written not to advocate the live-in/marriage. But it is to clarify the idea behind working-class vision of intimate relationship between man and woman. Any relationship which is bound by Bolshevik ethics necessarily calls for freedom of choices. By freedom of choices it is meant that there is no economic, social, gender dominance. Evolution in personal relationships perfects the concordance of two persons by enhancing their humane capabilities. And women in violence both physical and not so physical can opine in free environment. The political education is to engage the perpetrator in dialogue with him/her own self in context of larger society. In neo democratic set up the task is to ensure economic and political space to oppressed women so that they can voice their own demands. That is by inculcating sense of real freedom to strive by. The vanguard political organization abhors the false sense of emancipation which is often manifested by anarchic practice. Feudal morality shuts down our sense of liberation. Imperialism portrays our instinct as a paramount parameter in existence. With these simultaneous influences distortions do happen. If free trade is an idea without any reality so is the bourgeoisie freedom for women which only employ consumption as sole criterion. And in case of women the irony is that they are persecuted twice or rather many times. They are hunted for their body. It is not motivated by pleasure. But it is to control the womb. The hierarchy of production relation is maintained by crushing women. In the economic activity or rather in the production system the presence of women is not tolerated. Her economic capability is transformed in reproductive quality. The very identity of women is filial-based. So as imperialism come thrashing down people, it also needs assurance of huge work-force with no or less bargaining power. By welcoming women in working force in production space it strengthens its plank. Women as women worker are doubly repressed. In our country feudal economy secures the flow of toiling masses. As in feudal economic structure there exists no outlet of surplus value. But along with imperialism it is drained and monopolized. With feudal culture hosts milieu of restrictions on women, the imperialism exploits them through feudal purdah.

But the question always remains about the orientation of liberation. The freedom to indulge in activity which is generally looked down upon is not always revolutionary. The paranoia and self-deception after committing the act is banal. The justification generally presented is not based on class principle. Rather it is on individual whims and fancy. As a political entity I cannot fathom the convergence of individual freedom and collective liberation of women in these cases. If democracy is for practicing some act which one wishes for, the leap from feudal society to imperialist system is tantamount to final. No need for scientific transition to neo-democratic structure to socialist structure. If rigidity of feudal social system compels somebody to act irresponsibly without heeding the larger pictures and situations of oppressed women, it is better to left them alone in their imagined solitude. The day to day struggle of general mass of women transcends our petty bourgeoisie fragile entity. The criticism the revolutionary left organization gleans from them is valuable. That comes from class-practice. Actually the seed we sow today it will bloom tomorrow. The seed of class-gender politics is all about abolishing private property. The body politics does not ensure that.

In revolutionary left organization it is expected that there would be ample position of women comrades to assert themselves. Most often time the organization is miniature reflection of our uneven society. People with shades of patriarchal philosophy hinder the growth of true working class women movement. People who have luxury to shout for freedom get the spotlight they are hankering on. The subjective and objective assertion to act freely is often looked over. Freedom for women is freedom for all. For it unshackles the strongest link of exploitation. It is imperative that our voices are to be heard, action to be implemented, and freedom to be uncurbed as political left organizations are seen as defense of human values.

 

 

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