My Republicanism.

Republicanism

It is interesting to discuss Republicanism with a variety of organizations and groupings in Ireland. There seems to be a series of different currents emanating from the civil war and previously as well. What sort of Republicanism is there and for who? What kind of political dissidents cultivated the Republicanism of their time and what sort of socio-economic circumstances informed their Republicanism?

It is thought provoking to consider this question; largely because of the large amount of Republican splits, sects, sub-groups and political entities which all claim to aspire to what they outline as the single real interpretation of Republican thought. They all claim some sort of lineage either to the 1916 Martyrs, or the anti-treaty IRA, or the Republican Congress. Some then continue to align themselves to pre-provisional/official split IRA. Others in the more contemporary camp believe that new methods must be examined to pursue the Republican cause in Ireland which reflect some of the radical policies of the 1970s/1980s but forsake armed struggle.

Others and this constitutes the more deluded grouping would consider Fianna Fail Republican. The sad part is that under strict technical terminology, it is a Republican Party. Rome, was a Republic despite maintaining an oligarchy. Yet we must contextualize Republicanism to Ireland. Any political entity can describe itself as Republican with a minimal amount of input – yet not every party can ascribe itself to Irish Republicanism.

Republicanism(s)

In 1867 the Irish Fenian Brotherhood made a declaration that would resonate with the following generations all the way until the 1916 Rising. In many ways the IRB characterized Republicanism for that generation. The declaration specifically outlined that the material wealth of Ireland should belong to the people of Ireland.

Wolfe Tone, previous to this declaration spoke and wrote clearly on the ‘men of no property’ taking back possession of their island. Additionally, it is worth noting and James Connolly outlines this very well – that those who partook in the most struggle were not the senior clerics of the Church, nor the landed aristocrats, landlords or big farmers but literally those with no property or possessions, the peasant-worker class.

So in this mixture of Republicanism(s) where does the trail continue? How does it continue and what factors characterize it? The run up to the 1916 Rising showed the strains of Republicanism find different routes and do ideological battle with one another. Constitutional Republicanism which sought a reconciliatory path to a semi-freedom within the Dominion and a militant, armed Republicanism led by the IRB and the Irish Citizens Army which imbued much of the declaration of 1867 and further advanced it. The political party that James Connolly founded demanded complete control over the means of transport, production and industry within Ireland.

So in what context does Connolly’s Republicanism fit in here? Does it deviate, or does it continue the tradition once established by the IRB? Connolly also rejected the parliamentary road to securing independence for Ireland, but he also considered the idea that the organized working class must keep the rifle close by for a confrontation with the ruling Irish bourgeois.

Where does this bring us in a contemporary situation? What sort of Republicanism exists today in 2017 and how do we determine and discuss it? The confluence of forces represents the distinctions it did before. There are Republicans who ascribe to a limited understanding of Republicanism and it’s interesting because both Connolly and Mellows wrote significantly about this subject.

For them, what was a Republic worth if the landlords continued to collect rent and the commercial institutions continued to exploit the people? What was it truly worth if the only difference in your employer was their accent? A different way was needed and necessary.

In as far as we are concerned, the conditions of contemporary society have changed so dramatically that the roles of multinational corporations, commercial institutions, bankers, vulture funds and for the most the power of finance capital plays a huge role in Irish economic affairs. As a consequence and through this economic leverage, huge political influence is also exerted. It is worth adding that the role of the EU must also be taken into consideration when scrutinizing Ireland’s relationship to the outer world.

So this leads us back to Republicanism in Ireland. It was and is a force that is styled as one of liberation, but what is liberty in itself for a sovereign nation? In fact, what is sovereignty? In the eyes of Socialist Republicans the concept of sovereignty is inextricably linked to ownership of all industry, transport, infrastructure, natural resources and finance sector by the people through the state. Many Republicans have come to terms with the capitalist system and formed compromises in order to pursue the removal of the British occupation from the 6 counties.

What is the removal of the occupation worth in tangible terms if we continue to struggle against the multinational corporations and the vulture funds? What is it worth if the EU continues to rob the people of Ireland? What is it worth?

The national question of liberation and the social question of the transfer of political and economic power to the working class are one and cannot be disunited. That is my Republicanism.

 

Further reading:

 

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1896/xx/isrp.htm

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/01/socnat.htm

https://www.marxists.org/archive/connolly/1897/xx/scirenat.htm

 

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Women’s Liberation and the African freedom struggle

Part 4

 

Women’s reality in Burkina Faso

While society sees the birth of a boy as a “gift from god”, the birth of a girl is greeted as an act of fate, or at best, a gift that can be used to produce food and perpetuate the human race  The little male will be taught how to want and get, to speak up and be served, to desire and to take, to decide things on his own. The future woman, however, is dealt blow after blow by a society that unanimously, as one man – and “as one man” is the appropriate term – drums into her head the norms that lead nowhere. A psychological straitjacket called the virtue produces a spirit of personal alienation within her. Concern with being protected is nurtured in the child’s mind, inclining her to seek the supervision of a protector or negotiations for a marriage. What a monstrous mental fraud!

 

And so this child knows no childhood. From the age of three, she must meet the requirements of her role in life: to serve and be useful. While her brother of four or five or six will play till he drops from exhaustion or boredom, she, with little ceremony, will enter the process of production. She already has a trade: assistant housewife. It is of course an unpaid position, for isn’t it generally said that a housewife “does nothing”? Don’t we write “housewife” on the identity cards of women who have no income, meaning they have no job? That they are “not working”? With the help of tradition and obligatory submissiveness, our sisters grow up more and more dependent, more and more dominated, more and more exploited, and with less and less leisure or free time.

 

While the young man’s road includes opportunities to blossom and take charge of his life, at every new stage of the young girl’s life the social straitjacket is pulled tighter around her. She will pay a heavy price for having been born female. And she will pay it throughout her whole life, until the weight of her toil and the effects – physical and mental -of her selflessness lead her to the day of eternal rest.  She is an instrument of production at the side of her mother, who from that moment on, is already more of a boss than a mother. She will never sit idle, nor be left alone to her games and toys like her brother.

 

Whichever direction we turn – from the central plateau in the northeast, dominated by by societies where power is highly centralized; to the west, where the powers of the village communities are decentralized; or the southwest, the land of the so-called segmental communities – traditional social organization has at least one point in common: the subordination of women. In our 8,000 villages, on our 600,000 plots of land, and in our million-plus households, on the question of women we can see identical or similar approaches. From one end of the country to the other, social cohesion as defined by men requires the submission of women and the subordination of the young.

 

Our society – still too primitively agrarian, patriarchal, and polygamous – turns the woman into an object of exploitation for her labour power and of consumption for her biological reproductive capacity. How does the woman manage to live out this dual identity? Which makes her the vital link that keeps the whole family together. The link whose presence and attention guarantees the families fundamental unity. While at the same time guaranteeing she will be marginalized and ignored?

The woman leads twofold existence indeed, the depth of her social ostracism being equalled only by her stoic endurance. To live in harmony with the society of man, to conform with mens demands, she resigns herself to self-effacement that is demanding, she sacrifices herself.

Women; source of life, yet object. Mother, yet servile, domestic. Nurturer, yet trophy. Exploited in the fields and at home, yet playing the role of a faceless, voiceless extra. The pivot, the link, yet in chains. Female shadow of the male shadow.  The woman is a pillar of the family well being, the midwife, the washerwoman, cleaner, cook, errand runner, matron, farmer, healer, gardener, grinder, saleswoman, worker. She is labour power working with obsolete tools, putting in hundreds of thousands of hours for an appalling level of production.

Our sisters fighting as they are on forefronts against disease, hunger, poverty, degeneracy, feel the pressure of changes over which they have no control. For every single one of the 800,000 males who immigrate, a woman takes on an additional load. The two million Burkinabe men who live outside the country, thus exasperate  the imbalance in the sexual issue that puts the women at 51.7% of the total population, or 52.1% of the resident population that is essentially a part of the workforce.

Too busy to give the necessary attention to her children, too exhausted to think of herself the woman continues to slave away; wheel of fortune, wheel of friction, drive wheel, spare wheel, Ferris wheel.  Broken on the wheel and the bullied, women, our sisters and wives, pay for having created life. Socially relegated to third place, after the man and the child, they pay for sustaining. Here, to, a third world is arbitrary held back, by the dominated, to be exploited. Subjugated, the women goes from the protective guardian who exploits her to one who dominates her and exploits her even more. She is the first to work and last to rest. She is the first to go for water, first at the fire, yet last to quench her thirst. She may eat if there is food left and only after the man. She is the keepstone of the family, carrying both family and society on her shoulders, in her hands and in her belly.

In return, she is paid with oppressive, pro-birth ideology, food to booze and restrictions, malnutrition, dangerous pregnancies, depersonalization, and innumerable other evils that make maternal deaths one of the most, unspeakable, shameful defects of our society.  Given this foundation of alienation, the intrusion of predators from afar encourage the isolation of women, making their condition even more precarious.

The euphoria of independence left  women behind in bed with dashed hope. Forced into segregated discussion, absent from decisions, vulnerable (and thus the primary victim), they remained at the mercy of the family and society. Capital and bureaucracy have banded together to keep women subjugated. Imperialism has done the rest. Only half as likely men to attend school, women are 99% illiterate, have little training in trades, are discriminated against in employment, are confined to the worse jobs, and are the first to be harassed and fired.

Yet burdened as they are by a hundred traditions and thousands of excuses, women have continued to rise to meet challenge after challenge. They have tried to keep going whatever the cost for the sake of their children, their family, and for society in general. Throughout a nights without a dawn. Capitalism needed cotton, shea nuts, and sesame for it’s industries. And it was women, it was our mothers, who in addition to all the tasks they were carrying out, found themselves responsible for the harvesting of these products too. In the towns, where civilization is supposedly a liberating force for women, they found themselves decorating bourgeois living rooms, selling their bodies to survive or surviving as commercial bait for advertising.

Women from petty bourgeois in the towns no doubt live better on a material level than the women in the country side. Are they really freer, more liberated, more respected or entrusted with more responsibility? We must do more than ask questions in this regard. We must provide a way forward.

Many problems still persist, whether they concern jobs, access to education, womens status in legal code or just the problems of every day life. The Burkinabe women still remains the one who comes after the man, rather than alongside him.  The different necolonial governments that were in power in Burkina Faso, never went beyond a bourgeois approach to womens emancipation. One that offers only an illusion of freedom and dignity. A few petty bourgeois women who were concerned with the latest fashion in feminist politics – rather, primitive feminism – which demanded the right of the women to be masculine. Thus the creation of Ministry of Women in society, headed by a woman, was touted as a victory. But was womens position in society understood?

Was it understood that the position of women the condition of 52% of Burkinabe population? Was it understood that this condition was a product of the social, political and economic structures and of prevailing backward conceptions? And that the transformation of this position therefore could be accomplished the single ministry, even one led by women? This was so true that the Burkinabe women could plainly see after several years of this ministries existence that their position had not changed. And they could not be otherwise, given that the approach to the question of women’s liberation that had led the creation of this token ministry had refused to recognize, show, and to take into account of women’s subjugation. So we should not be surprised, despite the existence of this ministry, prostitution grew, womens access to education and jobs did not improve, their civil and political rights continued to be ignored and the general conditions of their lives in town and country alike improved not one iota.

Female trinket, token female politician in government, female temptress to influence elections, female robot in the kitchen, female frustrated by the submission and restriction imposed despite her open mind – wherever the female finds herself in the spectrum of pain, whether urban or rural she continues to suffer.

But one single night placed women at the heart of the families resurgence and at the center of national solidarity. The dawn that followed the night, August 4th 1983, brought liberty with it, calling all of us to march together side by side as a single people joined by solidarity in common goals. The August revolution found the Burkinabe women in her status of subjugation exploited by the neocolonial society deeply imbued by the backward social forces. The revolution owed it to itself to break with reactionary policies on womens emancipation that have been advocated and followed up – by clearly defining, just, and revolutionary policies.

 

End of part 4.

Social democracy does not lead to Socialism.

Social democracy is not a vehicle for Socialism.

We are inundated with a political culture that demands we respect the established normalities of bourgeois conventions and capitalist rules and legislation. To adopt social democracy as a legitimate vehicle is to suspend legal or illegal methods of securing working class supremacy. For what is social democracy but a framework for the capitalist class to mislead us? What is it, if not a deceitful and dishonest way of maintaining control?

Examine social democracy scientifically and in a Marxist analysis. Understand and identify it’s boundaries. What are it’s boundaries, can they be broken and if so, what are the consequences of them broken? Which class rules in a social democracy i.e who holds the reigns of the means of production and mode of production? To whose favour is the legislation written?

All these questions are the ones we must ask. What levers of political power does social democracy foster which favour the working class to progress into Socialism, or do they at all? We see that private property, enterprise, privatization are all corner stone aspects to social democrats and liberals. They are almost inseparable from one another. Social democracy upholds the fundamental idea that the capitalist class has a right to exist and a right to politically express itself, thereby ensuring their continued hegemony over society and the structures which govern and organize society.

Social democracy does not initiate a challenge to capitalism because they can function perfectly within each others remit and as a consequence social democracy cannot challenge capitalism. It creates a series of structures which try to reconcile the power of capitalism and the working class, inevitably however we know this is impossible. Capitalism must exploit, grow and consume, it cannot be contained. Profit must be generated and developed.

Social democracy not only fails to safeguard against the onslaught of capital, it is neither capable of challenging fascism or stopping it either. We see this historically as a variety of countries fell to the onslaught of Fascism. They crumbled, as fascist movements exploited the timid and weak nature of social democracy to grow. From an economic perspective, fascism only enhanced the power of capital and the ruling class. It partnered with the industrialists to roll over the working class in every way possible. It effectively armed the ruling class, not just with the classic state apparatus but also with paramilitary forces. In Russia they were the ‘Black Hundreds’, in Nazi Germany the brown shirts, in Spain the Falangists, and so on.

This is the role social democracy plays in contemporary society. It attempts to portray Socialism and Fascism as two extremes whereas in reality the metric that we should examine is different. Social democracy is closer to fascism than being ‘in the middle’. It is the left hand of capitalism whilst fascism in the right; both institute the power of finance capital just with different flavours. It is also worth noting that fascism is worse, for it is an enhancement of the power of capital and the bourgeois, but that does not make social democracy more amenable, acceptable or reformable. We should strive to do away with it and institute actual functioning democracy which takes care of the material needs of the working class.

In putting social democracy aside as a vehicle to Socialism, we should elaborate on what kind of vehicle we require and how we should form it and develop it’s structures. If we are to disregard social democracy as an option, then surely we should also disregard the options it has on the table in terms of political power and development. After all, the methods that exist within social democracy are purely for the sake misleading the working class. Is there true democratic expression in ticking a ballot box every few years? Is there any real display of peoples interests, concerns or power in the disgustingly dishonest elections which come about?

What of the homeless, the hungry, the deprived and the unemployed? What democratic rights do they enjoy in their daily struggles? Do they have a right to recourse for their ills and woes which are often caused by negligent legislating?

In highlighting these issues we must not fall into simply becoming critics, but also becoming thinkers and elaborate on what could potentially be a solution to the plight of our people. The development of political power and structures outside the remit of social democratic norms is the first and one of the most important steps to consider. It’s not about presenting an electoral challenge to Fine Gael (this is certainly good too) – it is about presenting a challenge to the powers which underpin Fine Gael, to the capitalists that promote it and empower it. If we sever the head of this hydra it won’t grow a head back but flounder and buckle. It is the ruling class which governs Ireland for it’s own interests, the landlords, the commercial institutions, the bankers, the industrialists, the Church and the big farmers! So it is the ruling class that we must fight face on, rather than their messengers spouting drivel in the Dail! It is the ruling class we must confront every step of the way; not merely to develop the consciousness of the working masses of Ireland but also to do damage to them.

They strip us of dignity every day. Forcing us to prostitute our bodies and our minds in the form of selling our labour. They give us the scraps from their table and expect us to be delighted with these scraps. We should place the whole of Ireland and it’s material wealth before the working class of Ireland and tell them boldly: THIS IS YOURS – ALL YOU MUST DO IS RISE UP AND GRASP IT!

It is only in this way that we will be able to challenge capital and raise consciousness. For if we can revolutionize the minds of our people we can revolutionize their hearts and therefore their actions. If we can permanently raise the consciousness of even a portion of the people of Ireland we can successfully divert them from the parasitical parties and bring them to the inevitable confrontation and battle with the capitalist class of Ireland. One blow at a time we will strike at the weakest links in the chain and empower ourselves. We will empower ourselves differently to say, the election of parliamentary or council representatives. We will empower ourselves in a way where the ruling class is unable to strip us of our power in any shape or form or control the framework of our discourse.

In the Dail, in the council chambers etc it is still the institutions of the State and subsequently of the bourgeois which govern and dominate the rules and legislations. Why should we further grant them legitimacy by participating in their game? Let us not. Let us see a greater vision and strive for it. People power cannot be undone through a failure to elect a representative for as I have outlined previously the development of consciousness is practically irreversible. It cannot be undone and once the people move to a point where they deem and recognize injustice as inherently systemic; no amount of bread crumbs will satisfy their hunger.

The brief conclusion that can be drawn is very simple. Social democratic states and societies accommodate capitalism and are therefore unreliable. Political power built within the parameters of liberal thought can be undone, working class power once established is a mighty bastion, independent of normal social democratic conventions and therefore partially immune to them.

How can a bourgeois parliament immobilize a movement that is not represented in it’s structures? It cannot silence it’s speakers for there are none; it cannot imprison or punish them for they do not recognize it’s authority or subscribe to its rules. It is fairly clear that the Soviets in the young Soviet Republic and further down exemplified the stripping of power of a social democratic-constitutional monarchist state and transferred the supreme political power to the working class. That is what we must strive for, that is our struggle, that is our goal.

To victory or to death!

Women’s Liberation and the African freedom struggle

Part 3.

 

The specific character of women’s oppression.

Woman’s fate is bound up with that of the exploited male. This interdependence arises from the exploitation that both men and women suffer, exploitation that binds them together historically. This should not, however, make us lose sight of the specific reality of women’s situation. The conditions of their lives are determined by more than economic factors, and they show that women are victims of a specific oppression. The specific character of this oppression cannot be explained away by equating different situations through superficial and childish simplifications.

 

It is true that both the woman and the male worker are condemned to silence by their exploitation. But under the current system, the worker’s wife is also condemned to silence by her worker-husband. In other words, in addition to the class exploitation common to both of them, women must confront a particular set of relations that exist between them and men, relations of conflict and violence that use physical differences as their pretext.

 

It’s clear that the difference between the sexes is a feature of human society. It’s also clear that this difference determines the particular relations that prevent us from viewing women, even in the framework of economic production, as simply female workers. Privileged relations, perilous relations – the net result is that women’s reality constitutes an on-going problem.

The male uses the complex nature of these relations as an excuse to sow confusion among women. He takes advantage of all the shrewdness that class exploitation has to offer in order to maintain his domination over women. This is the same method used elsewhere by men to rule over other men. They succeeded in imposing the idea that certain men, by virtue of their family origin and birth, or by divine right, were superior to others. This was the basis for the feudal system. Other men have managed to enslave whole peoples in this way. They used their origins, or arguments based on their skin color, as a supposedly scientific justification to rule over those who were unfortunate enough to have skin of a different colour. That’s colonial rule. That’s apartheid.

 

We must pay close attention to the situation of women because it pushes the best of them to talk of a war of the sexes, when what we really have is a war of social groups and of classes that should simply be waged together, with men and women complementing each other.  We have to say frankly that it’s the attitude of men that makes such confusion possible. That in turn paves the way for the bold assertions made by feminism, some of which have not been without value in the fight that men and women are waging against oppression. This fight is one we can and will win- if we understand that we need one another and are complementary, and finally, if we understand that we are condemned to being complementary.

For the time being, we have no choice but to recognize that male behavior – made up of vanity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and violence of all kinds towards women – can in way result in coordinated action against women’s oppression. What can be said of these attitudes, which can sink to the level of stupidity, and which in reality are nothing but a safety valve for oppressed males, who, through brutalizing their wives, hope to regain some of the human dignity denied them by the system of exploitation. This male stupidity is called sexism or machismo. It includes moral and intellectual impoverishment of all types, even (acknowledged or not) physical powerlessness, which often compels politically conscious women to consider it their duty to fight on two fronts.

 

To fight and win, women must identify with the oppressed layers of classes and society – workers, peasants and others. The man, however no matter how oppressed he is, has another human being to oppress: his wife. Saying this means, without any doubt, asserting a terrible fact. When we talk about the disgusting system of apartheid, for example, our thoughts and emotions turn to the exploited and oppressed Blacks. But we forget, unfortunately, the Black woman who has to endure her husband – this man who, armed with his passbook, allows himself all kinds of reprehensible escapades before returning home to the woman who, suffering and destitute, has waited for him with dignity. We should keep in mind, too, the white woman of South Africa. Aristocratic, no doubt materially satisfied, she is, unfortunately, a tool for the pleasure of the lecherous white man. The only thing these men can do to forget their crimes against Blacks is to get wildly drunk from bestial sexual behavior.

 

Moreover, there is no lack of examples of men, even though progressive, who live cheerfully in adultery, yet would be ready to murder their wives on the merest suspicion of infidelity. Many men in Burkina seek so called consolation in the arms of prostitutes and mistresses of all kinds. This is not to mention the irresponsible husbands  whose wages serve only to keep mistresses and make the bars richer.

 

And what can be said of those little men, also progressive, who get together and talk lewdly about the women they have taken advantage of. They believe that in this way they’ll be able to measure up to other men and even humiliate some of them, by seducing married women. In reality, such men are pitiful and insignificant. They would not even enter our discussion if it were not for the fact that their criminal behavior undermines the morale and virtue of many women of great merit, who would have been highly useful to our revolution.

And then there are those more-or-less revolutionary militants – much less revolutionary than more – who do not accept their wives being politically active; or who allow them to be active by day, and by day only; or who beat their wives because they’ve gone out to a meeting or demonstration in the evening. Oh, these suspicious jealous men! What narrow-mindedness! And what a limited, partial commitment! For is it only at night that a disappointed and determined woman can cheat on her husband? And what kind of political commitment is that expects political activity to cease at nightfall, to resume only at daybreak?

 

And finally, what should we make of remarks about women made by all kinds of militants, the one more revolutionary than the next. Remarks such as ‘women are despicably materialist’, ‘profiteers’, ‘actors’, ‘liars’, ‘gossips’, ‘schemers’, ‘jealous’ and so on? Maybe this is all true of women. But surely it is equally true of men.

Could our society be any less perverse than this when it systematically places burdens on women, keeps them away from anything that is supposed to be serious and of consequence, and excludes them from anything other than the most petty and minor activities?

When you are condemned, as women are, to wait for your master of a husband in order to feed him and receive his permission to speak and to live, what else do you have to keep you occupied and to give you at least the illusion of being useful or important other than meaningful glances, gossip, small-talk, quarrels, furtive and envious glances, followed by malicious comments on the desire of others to be stylish and on their private lives? The same attitudes are found among men placed in the same situation.

Another thing we say about women is that, unfortunately, they are forgetful. We even call them birdbrains. But we must never forget that a woman’s life is taken up, even tormented, by a fickle spouse, an unfaithful and irresponsible husband, and by her children and their problems. Worn out by taking care of the entire family, how could she not have haggard eyes that reflect distraction and absentmindedness. For her, forgetting becomes an antidote to pain, a relief from the harshness of her existence, a vital part of self-preservation.

But there are forgetful men men, too – a lot of them. Some because of drink or drugs, others through indulging in various kinds of perversity while racing through life. However no one ever says these men are forgetful. What vanity! What banality! Banalities men revel in and that demonstrate the weaknesses of the masculine world. Because in a society of exploitation the masculine world needs women prostitutes. The women who are defiled and, after being used, are sacrificed on the alter of prosperity of a system build on lies and plunder – they are merely scapegoats.

Prostitution is nothing but the microcosm of a society where exploitation is a general rule. It is a symbol of the contempt men have for women. And yet this woman is none other than the painful figure of the mother, sister, or wife of other men, thus of every one of us. In the final analysis, prostitution reflects the unconscious contempt we have for ourselves. There can be prostitutes only as long there are “prostituters” and pimps.

Who goes to see prostitutes?

First, there are the husbands who commit their wives to chastity while they relieve their depravity and debauchery upon the prostitute. This allows them to treat their wives with seeming respect, while they reveal their true nature at the bosom of the lady of so-called pleasure. So on the moral plane prostitution became the counterpart to marriage. Tradition, customs, religion and moral doctrines alike seem to have no difficulty adapting themselves to it. This is what our church fathers mean when they explain that “sewers are needed to assure the cleanliness of the palace”.

Tben there are the unrepentant and intemperate pleasures seekers who are afraid to take on the responsibility of a home with its ups and downs, and who flee from the moral and material responsibility of fatherhood. So they exploit a discreetly located brothel as a treasure trove of liaisons without consequences.

There is also the group of men who, publicly at least and in “proper” company, subject women to vicious public attack. Either because of some disappointment that they did not have the strength of character to surmount, thus losing confidence in all women, who them became “tools of the devil”. Or else out of hypocrisy, proclaiming their contempt for the female sex too often and categorically, a contempt they strive to assume in the eyes of society, from which they force admiration on false pretenses. All these men end up night after night in brothels until, occasionally, their hypocrisy is discovered.

Then there is the weakness of the man who is looking for a polyandrous arrangement. Far be it from us to make a value judgement on polyandry, which was the dominant form of relations between men and women in certain societies. What we are denouncing here are the flocks of idle, money-grubbing gigolos lavishly kept by rich ladies.

Within this same system, prostitution can, economically speaking, include both the prostitute and the “materialist-minded” married woman. The only difference between the woman who sells her body through prostitution and she who sells herself in marriage is the price and duration of the contract.

So, by tolerating the existence of prostitution, we lower all our women to the same level, whether prostitute or wife. The only difference between the two is that the legal wife, though still oppressed, at least has the benefit of the stamp of respectability that marriage confers. As for the prostitute, all that remains for her is the exchange value of her body, a value that fluctuates according to what’s in the male chauvinists wallet.

Isn’t she just an object, taking on more or less value according to the degree to which her charms fade? Isn’t she governed by the law of supply and demand? Prostitution is a concentrated, tragic, and painful summary of female slavery in all its forms. We should therefore see in every prostitute an accusing finger at society as a whole. Every pimp, every partner in prostitution, turns the knife in this festering and gaping wound that disfigures the world of man and leads to his ruin. By fighting prostitution, by holding out a helping hand to the prostitute, we are saving our mothers, our sisters, and our wives from this social leprosy. We are saving ourselves. We are saving the world.

 

End of Part 3.

Women’s Liberation and the African freedom struggle

Part two.

 

The class struggle and worldwide status of women.

 

We undoubtedly owe a debt to dialectical materialism for having shed the greatest light on the problem of the conditions women face, allowing us to understand the exploitation of women as part of a general system of exploitation. Dialectical materialism defines human society not as a natural, unchanging fact, but as the exact opposite.

 

Humankind does not submit passively to the power of nature. It takes control over this power. This process is not an internal or subjective one. It takes place objectively in practice, once women cease to be viewed as mere sexual beings, once we look beyond their biological functions and become conscious of their weight as an active social force. What’s more, woman’s consciousness of herself is not only a product of her sexuality. It reflects her position as determined by the economic structure of society, which in turn expresses the level reached by humankind in technological development and the relations between classes.

The importance of dialectical materialism lies in going beyond the inherent limits of biology, rejecting simplistic theories about our being slaves to the nature of our species, and, instead, placing facts in their social and economic context.

From the beginning of human history, man’s mastering of nature has never been accomplished with his bare hands alone. The hand with the opposable thumb is extended by the tool, which increases the hand’s power. It was thus not physical attributes alone – musculature or the capacity to give birth, for example – that determined the unequal status of men and women. Nor was it technological progress as such that institutionalized this inequality. In certain cases, in certain parts of the globe, women were able to eliminate the physical difference that separated them from men.

 

It was the transition from one form of society to another that served to institutionalize women’s inequality. This inequality was produced by our own minds and intelligence in order to develop a concrete form of domination and exploitation. The social functions and roles to which women have been relegated ever since are a living reflection of this fact. Today, her childbearing functions and the social obligation to conform to models of elegance determined by men prevent any woman who might want to from developing a so-called male musculature.

 

For millenia, from the Paleolithic to the Bronze Age, relations between the sexes were, in the opinion of the most skilled paleontologists, positive and complementary in character. So it was for eight millenia. Relations were based on collaboration and interaction, in contrast to the patriarchy, where women’s exclusion is a generalized characteristic of the modern historical era.

Frederick Engels not only traced the evolution of technology but also of the historic enslavement of women, which was born with the arrival of private property, owing to the transition from one mode of production to another, and from one form of social organization to another.

With the intensive labor required to clear the forests, cultivate the fields, and put natural resources to best use, a division of labour developed. Selfishness, laziness, looking for the easy way out – in short, taking the most with the least effort – emerged from the depths of the human spirit and became elevated into principles.

Te protective tenderness of women toward the family and the clan became a trap tat delivered her up to domination by the male. Innocence and generosity fell victim to deceit and base motives. Love was made a mockery. Dignity was tarnished. All genuine feelings were transformed into objects of barter. From this moment on, women’s hospitality and desire to share succumbed to the trickery of the deceitful.

Though conscious of this deceit, which imposed on them an unequal share of the burdens, women followed men in order to care for and raise all that they loved. For their part, men exploited women’s great self sacrifice to the hilt. Later, this seed of criminal exploitation established terrible social imperatives, going far beyond the conscious concessions made by women, who had been historically betrayed.

Humankind first knew slavery with the advent of private property. Man, master of his slaves and of the land, also became the owner of the woman. This was the great historic defeat of the female sex. It came about with the upheaval in the division of labour, a result of new modes of production and a revolution in the means of production.

In this way, paternal right replaced maternal right. Property was not handed down from father to son, rather than as before from the woman to her clan. The patriarchal family made it’s appearance, founded on the sole and personal property of the father, who had become head of the family. Within this family the woman was oppressed.

Reigning supreme, the man satisfied his sexual whims by mating with his slaves or concubines. Women became his booty, his conquest in trade. He profited from their labour power and took his fill from the myriad of pleasures they afforded him.

For their part, as soon as the masters gave them the chance, women took revenge in infidelity. Thus adultery became the natural counterpart of marriage. It was the women’s only form of defense against the domestic slavery to which she was subjected. Her social oppression was a direct reflection of her economic oppression.

Given this cycle of violence, inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production as well as in all social relations. That is, women’s lot will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them.

In fact, throughout the ages and wherever the patriarchy triumphed, there has been a close parallel between class exploitation and women’s oppression. Of course there were brighter periods where women, priestesses or female warriors, broke out of their oppressive chains. But the essential features of her subjugation survived and were consolidated, both in everyday activity and in intellectual and moral repression. Her status overturned by private property, banished from her very self, relegated to the role of child raiser and servant, written out of history by philosophy (Aristotle, Pythagoras, and others) and the most entrenched religions, stripped of all worth by mythology, woman shared the lot of a slave, who in slave society was nothing more than a beast of burden with a human face.

 

So it is not surprising that in its ascending phase the capitalist system, for which human beings are just so many numbers, should be the economic system that has exploited women the most cynically and with the most sophistication. So, we are told, manufacturers in those days employed only women on their mechanized looms. They gave preference to women who were married and, among them, to those with a family at home to support. These women paid greater attention to their work than single women and were more docile. They had no choice but to work to the point of exhaustion o earn the barest subsistence for their families.

 

In this way the woman’s particular attributes are used against her, and all the most moral and delicate qualities of her nature become the means by which she is enslaved. Her tenderness, her love for her family, the meticulous care she brings to her work – all this is used against her, as she guards against flaws she may have.

 

Thus, throughout the ages and throughout different types of society, women suffered a sorry fate, in a continually reinforced . position of inferiority to men. Though the inequality was expressed in many and varied ways, it continued to exist nevertheless. In slave society, the male slave was looked upon as an animal, a means of production of goods and services. The woman, whatever her social rank, was crushed within her own class and outside of that class. This was the case even for women who belonged to the exploiting classes. In feudal society, women were kept in a state of absolute dependence on men, justified by their supposed physical and psychological weakness. Often seen as a defiled object and a primary gent of indiscretion, women, with a few rare exceptions, were kept out of places of worship. In capitalist  society, the woman, already morally and socially persecuted, is also subjugated economically. Kept by the man if she does not work, she remains under a man’s domination even if she works herself to death. We will never be able to paint an adequate picture of the misery women suffer, nor show too strongly that women share the misery of proletarians as a whole.

 

End of part 2.

Women’s liberation and the African freedom Struggle

Thomas Sankara was the central leader of the popular democratic revolution in the West African country of Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) from 1983 to 1987. 

Born in 199, Sankara entered military school in 1966, one of the few avenues for young people of his generation to receive a higher education. Continuing his training in Madagascar in the early 1970s, he was strongly influenced by a massive uprising of workers and students that toppled the country’s neocolonial government. It was in Madagascar that he was introduced to Marxism by students who had been part of the May 1968 Revolutionary upsurge in France.

A lieutenant in Upper Volta’s army, Sankara came to prominence as a military leader during a border conflict with Mali in December 1974 and January 1975. Over the next several years, he linked up with other junior officers and soldiers dissatisfied with the oppressive conditions in the country perpetuated by the imperialist rules in Paris and elsewhere, with the support of the local landlords, businessmen, tribal chieftains and politicians.

Sankara was jailed briefly in 1982 after resigning a government post to protest the regimes repressive policies. In the wake of a coup, Sankara was appointed prime minister in January 1983. Sankara’s uncompromising course – calling on the people of Upper Volta and elsewhere in Africa to advance their interests against the propertied exploiters at home and abroad – led to growing conflict with proimperialist forces in the government. In May 1983 Sankara and some of his forces were arreted by President Jean-Baptiste Ouedraogo.

On August 4th, 1983, some 250 soldiers marched from an insurgent military base in Pó to the capital of Ouagadougou. This act sparked a popular uprising, in which Ouédraogo regime was overthrown. Sankara became president of the new National Council of the Revolution, opening four yeas of revolutionary activity by peasants, workers, women and youth described in the pages that follow. 

Sankara was assassinated and the evolutionary government was overthrown in a coup by Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987.

 


The revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women

 

It is not an everyday occurrence for a man to speak to so many women at once. Nor does it happen every day that a man suggests to so many women new battles to be joined. A man experiences his first bashfulness the minute he becomes conscious he is looking at a woman. So, sisters, you will understand that despite the joy and the pleasure it gives me to be speaking to you, I still remain a man who sees in every one of you a mother, a sister, or a wife.

I hope, too, that our sisters here from Kadiogo province who don’t understand French – the foreign language in which I will be giving my speech – will be patient with us, as they always have been. After all, it is they who, like our mothers, accepted the task of carrying us for nine months without complaint. [Sankara then explains in the Mooré language that these women would receive a translation].

 

Comrades, the night of August 4 gave birth to an achievement that was most beneficial for the Burkinabe people. It gave our people a name and our country new horizons. Imbued with the invigorating sap of freedom, the men of Burkina, the humiliated and outlawed of yesterday, received the stamp of what is most precious in the world: honor and dignity. From this moment on, happiness became accessible. Every day we advance toward it, heady with the first fruits of our struggles,themselves proof of the great strides we have already taken. But this selfish happiness is an illusion. There is something crucial missing: women. They have been excluded from this joyful procession.

 

Though our men have already reached the edges of this great garden that is the revolution, our women are still confined to a depersonalizing darkness. Among themselves, in voices loud or soft, they talk of the experiences that have enveloped Burkina – experiences that are, for them, for the moment, merely a rumble in the distance. The revolution’s promises are already a reality for men. But for women, they are still merely a rumor. And yet the authenticity and the future of our revolution depend on women.

 

These are vital and essential questions, because nothing whole, nothing definitive or lasting can be accomplished  in our country as long as a crucial part of ourselves is kept in this condition of subjugation – a condition imposed over the course of centuries by various systems of exploitation.

 

Starting now, the men and women of Bukrina Faso should profoundly change their image of themselves. For they are part of a society that is not only their establishing new social relations but is also provoking  cultural transformation, upsetting the relations of authority between men and women and forcing both to rethink the nature of each.

 

This task is formidable but necessary. It will determine our ability to bring our revolution to its full statue, unleash its full potential, and show its true meaning for the direct, natural,, and necessary relations between men and women, the most natural of all relations between one human being and another. This will show to what extent the natural behaviour of man has become human and to what extent he has realied his human nature.

 

This human being, this vast and complex combination of pain and joy; solitary and forsaken, yet creator of all humanity; suffering, frustrated and humiliated, and yet endless source of happiness for each one of us; this source of affection beyond compare, inspiring the most unexpected courage, this being called weak, but possessing untold ability to inspire us to take the road of honor; this being of flesh and blood and of spiritual conviction – this being, women, is you! You are our source of comfort and life companions, our comrades in struggle who, because of this fact, should by rights assert yourselves as equal partners in the joyful victory feasts of the revolution.

 

It is in this light and that all of us, men and women, must define and assert the role and place of women in society. Therefore, we must restore to man his true image by making the reign of freedom prevail over differentiations imposed by nature and by eliminating all systems of hypocrisy that reinforce the shameless exploitation of women.

In other words, posing the question of women in Burkinabe society today means posing the abolition of the system of slavery to which they have subjected for millenia. The first step is to try to understand how this system functions, to grasp its real nature in all its subtlety, in order then to work out a line of action that can lead to women’s total emancipation.

 

In other words, in order to win this battle common to men and women, we must be familiar with all aspects of the woman question on a world as well as national scale. We must understand how the struggle of Burkinabe women today is the part of the worldwide struggle of all women and beyond that, part of the struggle for the full rehabilitation of our continent. The condition of women is therefore at the heart of the question of humanity itself, here, there and everywhere. The question is thus universal in character.

 

End of part one.

 

 

 

Untitled poem.

The comfort of the light

Is not which one they feel

In the kingdom of our glass cities

Without warmth, without light, what is life?

In the shadow of our kingdom, they lie

As winters comes the cold begins to bite

One, after the other, they start to die

In our outrage and despair, we cannot even cry

All is not yet lost

Our grief will be our weapon

Our struggle will ignite

The people of Ireland

We will fly

On wings of freedom

Towards a Republic, of liberty and life.