Feminist Vs. Socialist Politics: Beyond the Old (Or Young!) Boys Club


Most men — even most men who believe in principle that this “right” is unfounded — cling hard to their right to rule the world. And most women — including many who are ashamed of the feeling — feel deep down a certain willingness to let them go on ruling it. – Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and The Minotaur

A recurring theme of my blog has been the central importance of feminism to radical politics. You can read my socialist-feminist postings on gender and social systems here. As a socialist, I have deliberately joined socialist organizations that are equally committed to gender revolution and economic revolution. The truth is, though, that feminist commitment is often honored merely in rhetoric, and not manifested in the actual structure and character of the socialist movement and its organizations.

As the socialist movement is currently enjoying a rebirth in the aftermath of the “Great Recession,” Occupy Wall Street, growing awareness of wealth inequality in the USA, and the Bernie Sanders Presidential campaign, it is too easy for some in the Socialist movement to neglect any commitment to gender and class revolution in favor of a simpler call to working-class mobilization. Nowhere is this more crucial than in an election year where one of the most popular candidates calls himself a “democratic socialist” while running a strong campaign against a female candidate who has the best chance to win the election of any other woman in history.

And, predictably, many of the supporters of Bernie Sanders are indulging in sexist harangues of the Clinton campaign and Hillary herself. The Socialist movement has for far too long been a boys’ club and that has always troubled me. Even though I have no intention of voting for Bernie Sanders, the ease with which class struggle partisans can dismiss the Clinton candidacy has given me serious reservations about the condition of the Socialist movement.

As a committed third party voter for almost two decades, I will be casting my vote for Mimi Soltysik and Angela Walker of the Socialist Party USA. However, I would be much happier if the roles were reversed and Angela was actually the presidential candidate. Since the Soltysik/Walker campaign exists to build the socialist movement, not to actually win the presidency, there is only a marginal gain to be had if in fact the two candidates reversed roles.

However, this brings me back to one of my earlier political alliances, the Green Party. The current front-runner for the GP-US presidential campaign is Dr. Jill Stein, and her recent interviews have refreshed my appreciation for her activist principles. Like Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein has never directly committed herself to a socialist economics. She did make an appearance at an eco-socialism conference some months ago and did engage in anti-capitalist rhetoric, but never actually used the “S-Word” to describe the alternative future economic systems. The Green Party has long had a generally reformist approach to economics, though with some planks advocating the sort of social programs for jobs, education, healthcare, and wages that are now part of Sanders’ campaign. In its earliest years in the early 90s, the Green Party movement (before the GP-US was organized to exclude the left-wing of the larger Green Party movement) did have a robust anti-capitalist politics, especially in the early “Left Green Network” organized by Murray Bookchin. This was followed by Walt Sheasby‘s “Green Alliance Network” which became defunct after his untimely death.

Although I know that creating a real feminist eco-socialist movement will take more than mustering supporters to a minor party campaign, the lack of a prominent socialist-feminist leader in the US Socialist movement is not accidental, but is the product of the dead weight of past generations on the present – that old boys club. Even those of us who call passionately for a revolutionary new society are often operating out of a incomplete consciousness of the breadth of the revolutionary tasks.

Although I will continue to support Soltysik/Walker in this election cycle, Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein serve as visceral reminders of the intersectional landscape of our current movement for social revolution and the fundamental role that women must play. For my part, I will work as hard as I possibly can to elevate the role of the dedicated female socialist-feminists in the Socialist Party USA, as well as continue to press the Green Party to become more anti-capitalist. There is only so much one human being can do, but it is crucial that we do not allow the enormous complexity of the struggle to cramp our awareness.

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