November 11, 2023 8:31 pm
We are well acquainted, too well acquainted, with violence, from domestic violence to sexual assault to exploitation. The violence women experience within the United States is not the violence of traditional military warfare. Women in the most oppressed communities are subjected to high levels of police militarization. But, for the most part, the U.S. ruling elite, the warmakers, carry their weapons of destruction and starvation far away. They inflict it on other women, other people. But the violence of women’s oppression is real. The violence of poverty, of the political and economic choices this system makes to fund war and occupation and defund education, healthcare, housing and all people’s needs, is only expanding.
Marx wrote in 1867 that “capital comes dripping from head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” The system of capitalism IS violence. Capitalism’s very structure makes war inevitable. The tiny ruling class of bankers and corporate owners are driven to maximize their own profit, leading to intense competition. Competition often breaks out into war. Sometimes these are large scale wars but also include long, drawn out conflicts.
Until imperialism is eliminated, war will be a fact of life. The U.S. government operates on a policy of continued expansion of militarism and war. The United States has blocked any consideration of a negotiated peace between Russia and Ukraine, while ramping up its threats and demonization of China. Due to the warmakers’ intransigence, the world is hovering on the brink of military conflict between nuclear-armed states.
In this issue of Breaking the Chains we ask the question: what does it really mean to struggle for peace?
The warmakers speak of peace as an abstract concept. In their view, war has, as its goal, a peace on their terms–following, of course, the war machine’s utter destruction of people and their lands. Over and over again, we are told that the United States and European imperialists must wage war to protect people and to win peace. We are told to hate the enemies of their making, created using half-truths and racist tropes, until we believe that peace will be won through this or that war. They label the people of independent nations fighting for sovereignty as terrorists, narco-traffickers and threats to everyday people here. The just resistance of a people for self-determination and against imperialism’s sanctions, wars and occupation are twisted to fit labels of death and violence. The world’s biggest, most expensive military machines are labeled as purveyors of democracy and freedom. That is not peace.
Some liberal and even radical thinkers describe peace as the absence of war. The absence of war is a false peace, an ideal not achievable under a system that is continually driven to war.
For us, for revolutionary socialists and feminists, peace is freedom from exploitation, freedom from the necessity of war. Capitalism serves no purpose for working people. It needs to be uprooted and replaced. Workers are quite capable of building a world free from violence. A world that, unlike the world of capitalism, does not sustain and generate war by its very nature. Peace can be built by building a society founded in solidarity and the equitable distribution of resources–socialism. Peace can be built when the exploiting class is overthrown by the exploited, and the working class works for the benefit of the entire society.
Women of the world are no stranger to the burdens of war. Capitalism is deeply patriarchal. So, women continue to bear the worst effects of the system’s illnesses, be they poverty or violence or war. But women have also often been integral to the fight against imperialist war. Women have been among the forces that turn the destruction of war into resistance and ultimately to revolution, like in the revolutionary movements that became the Russian, the Vietnamese and the Chinese revolutions. The colonized world has had to address the legacy of colonialism and imperialism along with questions of national liberation and development. Women were fighters, supporters, theorists in those struggles. Women in the imperialist world have played key roles as well in solidarity with these movements. The struggle against imperialism within the imperialist countries is a key factor in the resistance to war and destruction across the globe.
We have learned from many women and historical events featured in this issue a key lesson about the struggle against war and for peace. It is deeply intertwined with the struggle for national sovereignty, for economic and political liberation and for social justice. Peace will be found in liberation and liberation will be won through struggle.
November 11, 2023 8:21 pm
Our communities are being ravaged by systemic racism, sexism and the impacts of a changing climate. Women and children disproportionately face the burdens of these crises. Imperialist war amplifies the compounding crises shouldered by the working class. The rich and powerful cynically claim that imperialist war making is a progressive project by pointing to the increased representation of women and people of color among ruling-class decision makers. In reality, expanding wars increase suffering for the vast majority of women. But as Assata Shakur reminds us, “Where there is repression, there will be resistance.” Working-class women are — and always have been — on the frontlines of the fight against imperialism and for our liberation.
The ravaging conditions of war
The U.S. military, the primary and most violent perpetrator of global warfare, is the largest user of fossil fuels in the world, and thus the largest contributor to climate change. Women and girls are disproportionately threatened by climate change because they constitute the majority of the poor around the world and are more likely to be dependent on the land and natural resources for their livelihood. In addition to to the direct threat on their lives posed by climate disasters, the process of displacement also elevates the risk of gender-based and sexual violence.
The Pentagon itself is also to blame for disgusting levels of sexual abuse perpetrated against women and children around the globe. Sexual assaults committed by U.S. troops in the Philippines, South Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti are well-documented. U.S. military personnel have been charged with sexual misconduct in at least 22 countries in Africa. Sexual abuse is also endemic within the ranks of the U.S military; nearly one in three servicewomen are raped during her military service.
Imperialist war also exacerbates divisions along race and national lines, producing and perpetuating racism. It is no coincidence that as the U.S. builds toward military conflict with China, violence against Asian and Asian-American women is on the rise. Racist hatred is being manufactured in order to prepare the U.S. working class for military confrontation with China. Pedaling racist narratives to justify unpopular wars, occupations, and military interventions is an old imperialist tactic with dangerous consequences for working-class and oppressed people the world over.
A classless analysis of war is a dead end
The ruling class tries to hide the fact that war has disastrous and disproportionate impacts on working-class women by using rich and powerful women as their public spokespeople. Let us be clear: Being a woman doesn’t inherently mean you are against war. Class position is a critical factor in whether one benefits from imperialist war, and the experience of ruling-class women is not the experience of working-class women. While most women live our lives focused on surviving a system that profits from exploiting us, ruling-class women benefit from that very same system.
When the ruling class boasts about women’s increased role in the capitalist, war-driven system that serves to suppress the vast majority both here and abroad, we must understand that this is not our reality. When Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice are painted as “girl bosses” and “feminist leaders” simply for being women in power, we have to question which women they are fighting for. When these misleaders push for more imperialist war because of their class position, it becomes clear that they are not fighting for working-class women at all. Representation within a system built to exploit us is a dead end, and working-class women around the world know it. That is why women continue to fight against imperialism and for a new system.
The war for working class liberation
Not all war is the same. Imperialist war, which seeks to consolidate the power and profits of a select few on a global scale, is an enemy of the working class. But there is another form of war, a war to end all wars, that the working class globally has and continues to struggle for — the war for working-class liberation. Historically, women — from Vietnam to Burkina Faso to the United States — have played critical roles in furthering revolutionary struggles to end the brutality innate to capitalism and imperialism.
Struggles for national liberation transform consciousness and require the participation of women in critical roles that exceed the position of “victim.” Nowhere is this clearer — historically and in our present moment — than in the struggle for Palestinian self-determination, a mass struggle against the Israeli occupation. Palestinian women are combatants, strategists, and leaders in the fight for a free Palestine. This has been true since the women-organized demonstrations against new Jewish settlements in 1893.
As Zionist paramilitary assaults on Palestine intensified in 1947 in the lead-up to Al-Nakba, sisters Moheba and Arabiya Khorsheed founded Zahrat al-Uqhawan, the Chrysanthemum Flowers. The Palestinian women’s society collected funds to buy weapons and provide relief to displaced Palestinian families. After Moheba witnessed a British sniper murder a Palestinian boy in his mother’s arms, the sisters transformed the Chrysanthemum Flowers into an all-woman armed organization. Moheba played a leading role in the armed struggle to defend Yafa. She organized and implemented operations, developed military strategy, and collected arms. The Khorsheed sisters were also known for their fiery speeches and sharp political analysis. The Khorsheed sisters — like the women who lead today’s struggle for Palestinian liberation — refused to be victims of the colonial conditions imposed on them and their people; they used their experiences to propel them forward in the fight for liberation.
Imperialist war critically impacts the lives of women around the world — and that is exactly why women are critical to the fight against imperialism. Women are not simply victims, sitting back passively in response to depreciating conditions. With the least to lose and the most to gain, working-class women have always been and will continue to be key participants in the fight for real peace and prosperity.
Every person who works on the magazine is a full-time or retired worker or student. We are all activists and organizers in our communities. We are revolutionaries, members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation. We are people from a broad spectrum of nationalities, LGBTQ and other oppressed communities. We are mothers and daughters and nieces supporting our families and our communities in a myriad of ways.
The women of the Party for Socialism and Liberation have:
Entire generations of people in the U.S., virtually everyone younger than 30 years old has lived in a society at war. But not all wars are the same. Historically, some wars have given way to freedom from colonial oppressors, others are rooted in a competition for resources and power and others are to maintain U.S. domination and empire. Capitalist wars bring on major crises for the working class including patriarchal violence, environmental destruction, devastation, hunger and death—they expose the weaknesses of society, worsen living conditions and have the potential to expand conflict. The effects of war compound and impact revolutionary consciousness. Working class women experience the effects of imperialist war in specific ways, which in turn shapes working women’s consciousness. These historical moments can make the path to peace clearer—the only way to end the endless war is with a socialist revolution. The only possible peace is one brought about by liberation. This issue seeks to intervene in this crucial moment and asks readers to consider: What is the relationship between war and revolution? How does war impact working people’s, and especially working women’s, consciousness? How does the social and economic position of women also position them to lead movements for peace?
This issue includes:
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