A contribution of the antinational group Antifa AK Cologne to the debate on new (old) class politics within the framework of the Women’s* struggle day 2018
As part of her Zeit Campus column “Young and Conservative”, Diana Kinnert published in October 2017 a text entitled “Feminists: thank capitalism!”. Diana Kinnert is young, conservative, CDU member and believes that the fact that large fashion lines print “I’m a Feminist” on T-shirts is an expression of a market-economy victory code, a cultural triumph of feminism. She argues: “Is the commitment to a political demand, however late it may be, and no matter how ignoble it may be, because it is ultimately geared towards pleasant mass compatibility and smoothed commerce, not a cultural victory – embedded in the mechanisms of the market economy?”
In order to understand that capitalism, patriarchy and female exploitation are mutually dependent, one look at the seamstresses* in Bangladesh who produce the T-shirts, which Diana Kinnert can then buy for 15 euros and postulate the triumphant advance of capitalism. The fact that a CDU member does not write for overcoming the economic system can at least be expected, to confuse pop culture with social struggles, however, is disrespectful and intolerable. The article teaches less about the topicality of feminism, but all the more about the current manifestation of market beliefs and the ever more widespread view that each* deserves her/his fate and thus “includes not only the assertion of the clairvoyance of the blind nature, but also that of the justice of the present economic system”. (Max Horkheimer)
This development manifests itself in the current neo-liberalism in the form of a liberal-individualist understanding of progress, which no longer focuses on the increase in equality, but on the construction of a performance-based society and is therefore neither class-conscious nor anti-capitalist. However, feminism loses its subversive power through feeding into capitalism. In the course of the transition from feudalism to capitalism, women have already suffered a unique process of degradation, which was fundamental to the accumulation of capital and has remained so to this day (cf. Silvia Federici). The link between liberalism and feminism is particularly evident in Silicon Valley. The result is a feminism that propagates wage labour as the ultimate liberation, “empowerment” becomes a symbol for institutionalized empowerment to double self-exploitation.
When subversive messages and struggling counter-movements act as a label and become part of the cultural industry, standardized and mass-produced, they share a destiny with culture and artwork: “that sacrificed, which distinguishes the logic of the work from that of the social system”. (Max Horkheimer/Theodor W. Adorno) The goods produced in this way acquire fetish character, the system sells the system. This is particularly clear from the example of supposedly feminist projects such as “Edition F”, which advertise the double exploitation of women* by distributing tips for professional success alongside unpaid care work, thus unquestioningly postulating a double socialization, and addressing exclusively female academics* and managers*, but never women sewers* or locksmiths*. Their empowerment is one for executives, for the winners* of neo-liberalism, it excludes those on whose backs the profits of others are achieved. The self-optimization tips that spread among labels such as the `Female Future Force` are the opposite of subversive, they do not seek resistance to patriarchal and capitalist structures, they mediate adaptation and systemic support by driving the optimal exploitation of all available resources to internalize the capitalist principle. Subjects are addressed and subsequently constituted by the feminism industry who is only interested in impulses, emotions and instructions for action, who seem to be conducive to their personal and professional advancement, who consume feminism as a performance driver and then return the result to markets.
The alliance between a neo-liberal variant of feminism and seemingly progressive capitalist fractions ignores not only the international class division, which is mediated by the patriarchy as exploitation of women* working under aggravated conditions in so-called Third World countries. This – partly global – shift in patriarchal exploitation mechanisms is exemplified by efforts to shift education and family work to poor migrant women*. While these women* perform caring activities in the industrialised countries, their own children and relatives in the countries of origin are cared for by other female family members, migrant women* or women* from poorer strata, resulting in an international division of care work. Whether it is the sewing of “I’m a Feminist” T-shirts or the outsourcing of childcare: it becomes clear that feminism in neo-liberalism functions as a label under the guise of which the false freedom of rich, white women* is to be guaranteed at the expense of women workers* and migrants*. In this way, liberal freedoms are also culturalised by attributing them to Western societies. Through the delimitation and strengthening of an identity in the sense of a Western cultural affiliation, the voters* of the right-wing demagogues* of our time see migrants* and refugees, i. e. people who want to participate in the wealth of the winning countries, as a threat. Here, “progressive” politics can be found as a political tirade against the “backward” thought others, who are to be denied access to social participation. The supposedly progressive counterprojects to the Trump’s, Le Pen’s and Orban’s make a crucial mistake: the fight for diversity and emancipation is not linked to the fight for (global) social justice. Feminism of this kind is thus emptied completely of its liberating content and exploited by authoritarian projects. On the one hand, this shift makes it clear how neoliberalism legitimizes female exploitation with the help of feminism, on the other hand it not only demonstrates the necessity of class-conscious feminism, but also of a feminist critique of capitalism.
Fifty years since the postulated sexual revolution, we are experiencing the recuperation of these progressive ideas by the elites and their friends in ever new editions – they are part of centuries of oppression and their continuous renewal. It is worthwhile to look at historical political demands such as wages for domestic work and well-tried weapons such as women’s strikes*, and above all to invent a resistance that makes the future visible here and now. It is not spelled out, but it finds expression in the struggles in the health sector, in migration movements and in the struggle for interpretation in social media. Being feminist means fighting for the future of all – it is not enough to attack the tip of the iceberg, as the #metoo debate rightly enforces, but the foundations that make this outcry necessary.
a future to believe in
Obviously, the accumulation dynamics of capitalist societies incorporate everything that has participated in them – including the slowly advancing participation of women* and migrants*. This should not be confused with a triumphal march of feminism, but it should also not dismiss the battles of “minorities” as “identity politics” or declare them secondary as “side contradictions”, and should not defame the policies of the New Left as liberalism. This treatise undermines the increasing and central importance of reproductive work, the global economy of feminist struggles and the migration movement for any contemporary class politics. Rather, antiauthoritarians must emphasize the structural relationship between sexism, nationalism and racism with capitalism and recognize which specific forms of exploitation affect migrants and women*, how they are legitimized and what function of social exclusion mechanisms they fulfil. This will show that migrant and feminist struggles are at the heart of what is to be played out today as “class politics” against the so-called “identity politics”. This is a good starting point for talking about social justice.
The struggle for recognition, diversity and emancipation must then be a struggle for a society based on solidarity. The collective frame of reference must not be the respective exploitation context: on the other hand, a shift in criticism must be made towards the functioning of what already exists. The problem is not women* who demand participation in social work, or migrants who are subject to the constraint of the shared necessity of selling labour. We call for a shift of criticism of the functioning of migration in capitalism and an anti-racist feminism that recognises patriarchy of totalitarian rule. To be more specific: It would indeed need the combination of the campaigns “One day without us” and “A day without a woman” to make this connection visible, and its culmination: A day without us is not enough! And we call for the struggle against globally networked capitalism to be internationalized: in the fight for the right to self-determination over one’s own body and the recognition of sexuality, whether in the factory in Bangladesh or at the Amazon Fullfillment center in Leipzig.
On the occasion of the Women’s* struggle day in 2018, we will take this criticism to the streets and offer the current mess of capitalism the alternative of a society in which the means of production are socialized and the patriarchal rule is overcome.