POLITICS FOR THE 99%: ADDITIONS THAT SUBTRACT

On the 8th of March  2018, three women from the academia with growing fame published a political manifesto:  Feminism for the %99: A Manifesto which spread their political campaign through the world. Nancy Fraser, Cinzia Arruzza and Tithi Bhattacharya, inspired by the “Occupy Wall Street” movement developed in 2011, had the intention to question liberal feminism by counteracting it with “anti-capitalist” feminism, which they wished to strengthen in the general political sphere. Their aim was to uncover the emancipatory possibilities that hide behind  current feminist positions, and prove that they are workable.

In the authors’ words, nowadays, with the credibility of the political elite having been worn down, we find ourselves surrounded by the appropriate conditions necessary to begin to think about “anti-capitalist” feminism. According to the three academics, with the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, liberal feminism suffered a downfall, stating that the reason for it was the gap personified by Clinton between women that reached high positions and the benefit of the majority of the population. They explain that this opened up possibilities for the affair to be taken upon by the left (Arruzza et al., 2019).

Yet surprisingly, since Hillary Clinton’s defeat, her party has organized two World Marches of Women, one Women’s Strike, and has supported the MeToo movement, phenomena that the authors classify as anti-capitalist feminism. To understand this it is essential to underline that, since the ’80s, with academic theory having discarded the concept of class, the Democratic Party has shifted the focus of its electoral proposals to other identities, by financing (and that way assuming) various collectives by means of a foundational network (Barahona, 2018). In this context, it is logical to have organized a massive anti-Trump mobilization (the Women’s March that took place in Washington) after having lost to him in the elections. According to Barahona (2018), this event had the help of many different means since the beginning, such as the Move On[1] platform, which is tied to the Open Society Foundation[2] . This has been a platform that has thrown itself into forming and promoting the Democratic electorate. Given its success, the promoters of the mobilisation did not wait much and before long had already sketched the International Women’s Strike for the 8th of March.

In January 2018, the second World March of Women was openly presented under the motto “Power to the Polls”. This had a noticeable effect on November of that same year, when a diversity never seen before in the senatorial elections of the United States illuminated us (260 elector women). Some described it as being a “progressive wave of women”, and Fraser herself even explained that these women had the initiative to try to structurally change their country’s functioning, therefore naming them “anti-establishment”. For that reason, it seems to be quite contradictory that the failure of Clinton’s liberal feminism, that was supposed to bring the necessary conditions for the uprising of anti-capitalist feminism, was to be the principal example of anti-capitalist feminism itself.

Anyways, back to the main subject: we could say that this specific political context in the USA and the offensive the working class is suffering due to the worldwide crisis situation, has given the adequate conditions for a concept such as “feminism for the 99%” to be put on the table. According to the authors, feminism for the 99% has the goal of uniting actual and future movements with a broad array of principles on one big worldwide rebellion. Towards this cause, they say it’s especially essential to make alliances with the anti-capitalist left within the movements that defend the 99%.

These academic women think that the concept of “striking” that has been developed in the last few years has had an impact on new ways of doing politics, and even more, our understanding of “work” has developed and spread and, consequently, the “working class” itself has been redefined. We agree, the leftist movements that have circulated an economistic interpretation of the working class have fallen into the ditch.

On the other hand, we also agree with the structural understanding of the working class, and place it in the middle of the capital’s global course of action, which means that all those that need a salary to survive belong in this category. This reveals the contradiction between capital and labour, the antagonistic interests of the two classes. We’re led to think that the three authors have the same analysis when they speak about how the division between the need to produce profit and also produce humans has bred deep tensions in the heart of the capitalist society.

Even so, to jump from that analysis of class to the theory about the 99%, the authors (2019) observed the contradictions born in the development of the objective conditions which stem from this state of crisis, which has had a decisive impact when it came to identifying the subject of this political proposal. This is made apparent when they express in their manifesto how, nowadays, these contradictions have started to reach a boiling point in the belly of capitalism. In practice, the authors say, no one except the 1% has been able to escape from the suffocating grasp of economic precariousness, the exhaust of social reproduction and political free-for-all.

Once having reached this point it is evident that this stratagem, that lacks a clearer or more specific explanation, already responds to many inaccuracies. On one hand, to understand that the concept of class goes beyond waged labour musn’t make us form abstract or vague identities of class: the 99%, in this case. To pinpoint the root of the problem on the 1% demonstrates a clearly unrealistic study of reality. It’s worthy to mention the capitalist mode of production, that, even though it rests upon a specific composition of class -which Marx defined as “relations of capital”: a composition made up by the opposition between the waged labourer and the capitalist- (Yenikoy, 2019), since the second half of the XXth century, when the rise of welfare states in different countries of the West, gave way to the creation of labour aristocracy. Even though this last element belongs inside the historical category of the working class, when compared with the proletariat, it is the stratum most capable of accumulating money: due to the public investment these types of states received, they began to be able to save up money from their salaries. Therefore, as mentioned before, even though an objective definition can make reference to where in the fabric of the sphere of production the subject is positioned socially, this goes beyond the analysis of two antagonistic classes.

On the other hand, to develop a political analysis, it’s essential to be aware of the political definition of class, seeing that the technical definition by itself doesn’t de facto specify its political position. Therefore, this subjective designation would respond to each social class acting as a political subject. In this case, the labour aristocracy takes center ground as a matter of opinion, due to the living conditions this social sector has piled up throughout the years having created a certain standard of needs and demands, since it has opened the door to the phenomenon of the “middle class”. That is to say that, when the labour aristocracy has had the chance to level with the interests of the petit bourgeois, it has created the possibility to form a political body between the two, that way prompting this first group to take on reactionary positions when revolutionary attempts manifested. Additionally, with the intention of ensuring these social positions, apart from the fact that the labour aristocracy has negotiated with the capitalists the quantity of merchandise they’re able to receive, it’s responsible for making the political directive of this high layer of the working class become the rearguard of the capital (Yenikoy, 2019).

In this regard, we could say that simply experiencing the consequences of the inner contradictions of capitalism doesn’t inherently make the person revolutionary. We have mentioned multiple times that, in this day and age, even though the oppression of working class women still responds to a material basis, its cultural and juridical manifestations have an effect on all women. This doesn’t mean that we can ever consider the women of the property-owning class to be allies: it is required for them to accept the consequences of the oppression they reproduce so they can hold on dearly to their positions. As a result, to define the subject of a political strategy that is supposed to develop class consciousness as the 99% is vague and inaccurate.

Once having defined the subject in this manner, the originators of the manifest express that their thesis about the 99% confronts the two options the capital offers.They reject not only reactionary populism but also its progressive neoliberal opponents. They intend to win over working-class fractions in both of those political bodies, to then form a anti-capitalist block strong and powerful enough to transform society.

Yet still, the only thing that contradicts neoliberal forms of politics isn’t reactionary populism. Even more, we can’t leave behind the fact that there are many political forms that are supporters of the capitalist democracy: social democracy and leftist populism being the most notable. These political branches are usually a reflection of the phenomenon of the middle class;  attempts of the labour aristocracy to recuperate the welfare state in the name of maintaining its status quo. It’s incredible how the authors failed to mention this, considering that Bernie Sanders [3]himself (the representative of social democracy in the USA), a perfect example, has been publicly supported by Fraser. Isn’t this because of the authors themselves are an example of this type of politics? In fact, the manifesto itself is a sly acclamation of the middle class, that overlooks the daily contradictions of the class struggle that the proletariat suffers and creates an abstract class identity: the people vs the oligarchy, or the 99% vs the %1 (Aldalur, 2019).   

We’ve already learnt the lesson that a political project that wishes to develop a class strategy can’t simply reach out to the multitude of movements that arise from underneath (Arruzza et al., 2019). This idea responds to the theory of intersectionality, seeing that it doesn’t guarantee that neither the principles or their tactics and strategy responds in any way to the interests of the working class. In conclusion, in order to organize social power according to the interests of the working class, the political movement in question must pay special attention to how the class enemy structurally exercises its dominion in each historical era and moment (Yenikoy, 2019). This means that, besides focusing the object of the revolution on the class-enemy, we also have to identify how it manifests, even unconsciously, in those who have assimilated and defend its interests, because these often become the biggest kind of obstacle and inconvenience of the revolutionary process. In this regard, we could consider that, in the last six decades, the labour aristocracy has hegemonized in different worker stratums in Western welfare states, and generally in the working class, the bourgeois political agenda (Yenikoy, 2019).

Today’s crisis context, with the beginning of a new cycle of worldwide accumulation and, subsequently, a new political cycle, requires a precise analysis. The objective conditions are gradually ripening, whilst also spreading the system’s internal contradictions, as the authors explain. As a perfect example, even though there have been many advances made towards the legal equality of men and women, men’s violence against women has risen in the most proletarian sectors of society. However, we can’t think that the development of economic conditions mechanically and parallely develop subjective conditions. It’s evident that sometimes the object implicates the subject that expresses itself according to its historical duty (Samaniego, 2019). But, due to the condition of being exploited, for this subject to free its potential, we ought to be precise when organizing a correct social division of work; effective organization, that is. For this reason, organizational independence regarding the capitalist class is more important than ever: if we are trying to reach bourgeois power dynamics, we must necessarily fight all the facets and factions of its power, them being either structural or political.

Hence, feminism that intends to end capitalism must be precise when it comes to specifying its goals and the right tactic to get there step by step.  This means that a political program must be developed entirely in the interests of working class women, and face every form of oppression by unifying the working class. In this feat, for the correct mode of organization, driving the working woman to become an active militant is a challenge we must prioritize.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

– Aldalur, B. (2019/06/05). Desmobilizazioa eta identitate politikak. Recuperado de: https://gedar.eus/koiuntura/benataldalur/desmobilizazioa-eta-identitate-politikak

– Aldalur, B. (2019/09/11). G7a Biarritzen, klase analisirako ekarpen laburra. Recuperado de: https://gedar.eus/koiuntura/benataldalur/g7a-biarritzen-klase-analisirako-ekarpen-laburra

– Aldalur, B. (2019/11/05). Klase identitateak eta prozesu sozialista: gauza bera ote dira? Recuperado de: https://gedar.eus/koiuntura/benataldalur/klase-identitateak-eta-prozesu-sozialista-gauza-bera-ote-dira

– Arruzza, C., Bhattacharya T. & Fraser N. (2019). Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto. Barcelona: Herder.

– Andrade, A. & De Sus, E. (2019/04/03). “Necesitamos una definición totalmente diferente del concepto de clase trabajadora” Nancy Fraser. Reuperado de: https://ctxt.es/es/20190403/Politica/25374/nancy-fraser-feminsimo-trump-adriana-m-andrade-elena-de-sus.htm

– Barahona, T. (2018/01/30). La marcha internacional de las mujeres o la artera instrumentalización del feminismo. Recuperado de: https://www.lahaine.org/mm_ss_mundo.php/la-marcha-internacional-de-las

– D’atri, A. & Murillo, C. (2019/07/28). Feminismo para el 99%: estrategias en debate. Recuperado de: http://www.izquierdadiario.es/Feminismo-para-el-99-estrategias-en-debate

– Samaniego, M. (2019/06/26). Sortasunezko komunismoa eta ziklo politiko edo ziklo ekonomiko berria. Recuperado de: https://gedar.eus/koiuntura/markelsamaniego/sortasunezko-komunismoa-eta-ziklo-politiko-edo-metaketa-ziklo-berria

– Yenikoy (2019). Kapitalaren despotismoa eta proletariotza. Recuperado de: https://gedar.eus/pdf/lz/20191119_Kapitalaren_despotismoa_eta_proletariotza.pdf

[1]       This platform takes care of the organization and management of the movilizations mentioned. They are very transparent about their ties with the Democratic Party, It’s clear when observed who their candidate for 2020 is: “In the 2020 election cycle, MoveOn is committed to making sure that a progressive, inspiring, and competitive Democratic nominee who is accountable to the broader movement emerges from the presidential primaries to defeat Donald Trump.” To learn more: https://front.moveon.org/about/?utm_source=front&utm_content=nav

[2]           Open Society Foundation is an international network created by the tycoon George Soros. Its purpose is to finance different groups in the civil society. To learn more: https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/

[3]                 He ran with the Democratic party in 2015-2016. Yet still, he is the longest serving  independent representative in the Congressional history of the USA.  To learn more:

               http://canarias-semanal.org/art/25065/feminismo-del-99-la-ultima-estrategia-para-despistar-a-las-trabajadoras edo http://canarias-semanal.org/art/25705/en-los-estados-unidos-el-socialismo-te-lo-trae-el-departamento-de-estado