On Reading Petronella Lee’s Anti-Fascism Against Machismo: gender politics and the struggle against fascism (Review by Butch Lee)
This is exciting. Because it starts to break away from the once fresh but increasingly dead end of what had become macho antifa.
There’s not only false gender assumptions involved, but white racism stirred in here. Some white people always want to think that fascism is a white issue they own. That it’s evil white men, only being overcome by good white men. More white patriarchy coming and going. Anti-Fascism Against Machismo goes for it, in kicking out this kind of dusty old politics.
Realize that many readers aren’t going to understand fully what and why i’m saying unless this is put out on the kitchen table. i’m a cranky 80-year-old-white woman. Born just as the big World War II was starting. So growing up, everyone talked about the war against fascism. Fighting the nazis and all. Adults had done it, children played at it. We never thought fascism was a problem growing up. Hadn’t the nazis been killed? Defeated, wiped out? Fascism was permanently finished, to us.
That childhood was in a small town in New Jersey. Not a suburb, where the husbands commute to the big city to work every day. A town, where most people lived and worked locally. Across the street was the family of a house painter. While the railroad yard worker and the milkman were several other fathers on the block. My father, a local accountant, was successful as our white neighborhood went. White women didn’t have jobs outside the household in our time and there. On our street the only woman who knew how to drive a car was the school teacher. Whose husband was disabled. White women didn’t have an independent income or independent transportation. Or own the house they and their children lived in. Their husbands did. That was our real lives, while what Margaret Atwood writes is science-fiction. Right?
Many places like our restaurants didn’t allow Jewish customers inside. But it wasn’t an issue since there were no Jews there at all. Except the hidden Jews, like my mother. But we were white and didn’t understand it. Since there were no Black families around us or ever any in our schools. Knew that there were Black people. But just thought of them as far away with their own lives and problems. Like what we unknowingly were mistaught to call “Eskimos”. Didn’t seem to be anything we needed to think about. Yes, hard as it is to believe, i came into teen years and left home, still unaware. Of lynchings, Jim Crow, segregation or anything. That wasn’t the story on the ground when i first came to the battles. There wasn’t much TV yet. Not that Black people were on TV. So what little you saw in person, you thought was what there was.
When i was 17 having finished one freshman year and two sophomore years at high school. My moms seeing that finishing high school wasn’t in my future, engineered my escape to Chicago. Which was the city of my dreams. i’d found cheap paperback novels at the bus terminal, with lurid colorful covers. In them it was a sinful big city with jazz players and bohemians. Criminals daylighting as factory workers. People of color and misfit queer exiles from all over. And to my satisfaction, it turned out to be just true enough.
Looking back, it sounds like i had a mix of teenage white cultural tourism. With a shot of survival desperation. That’s what it was, too. Didn’t know any better then.
A few years later there, i was coming down 53rd Street one day. Came up to the Woolworth’s 5 & dime store with its big red sign. There was some kind of picketing going on, with stuff being shouted. A tall blond guy bounced over to intercept me. Handing me a flyer about supporting the southern Black student sit-ins, a new idea just starting to spread. He exclaimed dramatically ( as i later learned he did everything ), “You should be in the civil rights movement!” When i confessed that i didn’t know what any of this was about, his face lit up. A chance to educate a newbie on the terrible racist evils going on. By nightfall i was in the young civil rights movement. And as they say, it was all propinquity from there. ( BTW, that tall charismatic boy turned out to find his own rebellion in London. Where he became a muckraking film maker. And later the chairman of something called WikiLeaks ).
i was unexpectedly in a movement not my own that swept a major poor neighborhood. Attracting everyone, like older teens who grew their own herb in vacant lots for selling on the street in nickel bags. To older women who were union veterans of back-breaking assembly lines and bureaucratic betrayals. Mothers and unofficial sages. Instead of reading newspaper headlines, our illegal actions were the newspaper headlines. It was exciting and empowering.
But what i wasn’t dealing with, is that i was taking a free ride. In a struggle that hadn’t cost me a single thing. While so many others had paid heavily. People tried to educate me, though i wasn’t absorbing it any too smartly. Always remember an older Black man who ran a little store near the Cabrini Green housing projects. We used to talk, and he told me how the preachers who were leading the demonstrations couldn’t be trusted. And how the “integration” that was the official civil rights goal wasn’t going to be what we thought. Once, seeing how confused i was, he told me gently that i sure didn’t know anything about race. But that someday i would understand.
White socialist and anarchist men i came to know talked about fascism sometimes. But in a kinda abstract way. It was interesting intellectual stuff. Not any real problem on their agenda. The first people to me saying fascism was a real problem was the Black nation. Some calling out that it was urgent. Of course, they were the ones getting killed. To the Black movement then fascism was more of an actual presence shadowing all our futures.
So then, in the 1960s antifascism in the u.s. came to many of us from a Black thing. Something many white people don’t know about. Although the “f” word had been widely and loosely used by all kinds of rebels then. The main start at organizing antifascism came from the Black Panther Party. Who drew 5,000 young militants to their July 1969 United Front Against Fascism conference in Oakland, California. The Panthers became popular teachers in trying to analyze fascism. Not as old European history. But in terms of the America we were being forced to fight head on.
Petronella Lee herself brings this up in the zine. About how Black people and Indigenous peoples and many others had been fighting something like fascism here from the start. One of the reasons her perspective is a needed reframing of the issue.
The Black Panther Party saw fascism through a Black lens. As a tightening white police state directly ruled by a tightening elite of only the few largest corporations. A never seen before type of super-wealthy technological society. Making aggressive war on an ever widening circle of invaded peoples of color in countries all over the world. Covered up by an artificial consumeristic way of life. Pretend governed by two faked political parties play-acting at democracy. To them it was like a dense cake of sure enough fascism baking hot below the surface. Covered all over with a sweet white race icing. These first approximations at a relevant to here analysis had both XL size insights and XL size misunderstandings. Which might not be too different from us now.
In general, the Black liberation movement then tried coming to grips with fascism differently. As something not as different from but similar to “Americanism” itself. Fascism sounded a helluva lot like what Black people had been fighting to get out from under, their whole lives after all. The Black Panther program for fighting fascism was people uniting on fighting “fascist pig” police repression in every way necessary. Calling on the abolition of big city and small town police departments alike even before a final revolution. Replacing capitalist state policing entirely with community based conflict control. And power in their own communities. Something tragically prophetic in light of today’s devastating mass incarceration. With the attempted starting all over again differently of Black Lives Matter.
As action makes reaction, the extreme police repression of 1960s Black liberation led to an extreme resistance. Something like the days of the 1860s Black land pirates only with revolutionary politics. Those were spontaneous outlaw organizations of the just freed but with nothing. Operating violently in the temporary no-man’s zone of lost Confederate territory bypassed by quickly advancing Union armies. ( Their favorite targets were the “rich” Union supply wagon convoys, and they could take no prisoners.) In the 1970s, small groups first of surviving Black Panthers and their close comrades, made a new armed underground. To take the war back to the police. Financed by bank expropriations. Named the Black Liberation Army. Lasting little more than a decade, it never was large. It was more of a widely shared concept of all-out illegal resistance than any set organization. But it changed the parameters of politics. This wasn’t the civil rights movement anymore.
In like way, the system’s mass incarceration has led inevitably to extreme inside resistance. Through the ups and downs of political struggles in the u.s.a., the prison movement has built visible calls for the actual dismantling of the capitalist carceral system of injustice. With mass hunger strikes involving well-known inmates. Prison-wide work stoppages. Their voices at great sacrifice reach over capitalist walls.
Overall, the 1960s failure at revolutionary change in the highest level was historically tragic. Here and all over the oppressed post-colonial periphery. Which we could see in the wrecks of male-centered, authoritarian liberation that didn’t work.
Fascism/antifascism alike, there’s a new deal of the cards.
What i think of as second-wave fascism, we first ran up against in the 1950s-1960s. They were fixated on anti-Black race hatred job one. On re-establishing traditional popular white dictatorship over Black and other oppressed peoples. Who were rising up, everywhere escaping colonial imprisonment. So the fascist core within the Klans and the first small neo-nazi bands espoused being very patriotic to the old white u.s.a.
Always remember what we didn’t know back in our young 1960s. That many millions of white Americans had been pro-fascist in the 1930s. Before the white sweethearts breakup with Italy and Germany at WWII. U.S. Army General Hugh Johnson, the director of President Roosevelt’s National Recovery Administration against the Depression, said that he was being guided by Mussolini’s fascist ideas. Ethnic community bodies like some German-American police and athletic associations endorsed Hitler after 1933. Just as the Italian-American Catholic parishes actively organized neighborhood drives to help fund Mussolini’s fascist movement. White fascism and “Americanism” were bros then.
In the 1950s and 1960s, George Lincoln Rockwell had his small American Nazi Party startup. With nazi tan storm trooper garb, swastika armbands and all. Their program though was for patriotic old white America. Rockwell himself was a serving u.s. Navy officer, who fought to keep his active duty status in the u.s. government.
Strategically, we thought with most people our age then that these were just costume-wearing nasty nutcases. Outliers even within the large white racist crowd ( that’s the majority of the u.s. white population, we had been made painfully aware ). But we were just as aware that they could still be dangerous tactically. Not a small point. One of my close comrades and friends from the early civil rights days, Wayne Yancy, was killed in Mississippi then. His death covered up as a car accident. Until people who went to his funeral in Paris, Tennessee, were told by the funeral director that his body was full of bullets. Nutcase white men could kill you just as dead as a professional CIA gunman.
Rockwell’s first nazi party here never grew, but he had sown seeds that we didn’t see. In 1965 he recruited a college instructor named William Pierce to fascism. Putting him to work editing and writing the tiny party’s publication, National Socialist World. After Rockwell’s death, Pierce left the dying nazi party to become the far right’s most important figure. His revolutionary novel, The Turner Diaries, became white fascism’s uniting call to battle, its bible, and its blueprint. Rockwell is invisibly present as well in the popular slogan he hit on. That is bigger than ever today: “White Power”.
New third-wave fascism here has a flashy political uniform. Though it is less always leading with anti-Black issues. For several important reasons. Most tactical of which is that the white fascists are dead afraid of the Black nation. More than ever. They have an ominous idea of what might happen to them if they started trying to take their white rallies around Black communities. Let the drugged giant sleep. Better Berkeley and Manhattan for their staged far right vs. left clashes.
The other big reason is that the state has done it for them. Always busy spending billions to uneducate Black people, then unemploying them. Killing them, shrinking their land footprint every year, moving them on. Could the klan and nazis get away with killing and concentration camping as many Black people every year as the “liberal democratic” state?
But naturally the white fascists are not grateful at all. Third-wave fascism here was “born in the u.s.a.”. Out of Vietnam defeats, forced integration, and man-abandoning feminism. It wants to overthrow the hated u.s. government of the New World Order’s globalization. To win a dystopian white men’s concentration camp society.
There are clearly two other races that have the most popular resonance for today’s racist killers: Muslim immigrants and Indigenous peoples from Central and South America. Who are the invasion threatening white America’s homeland. Who are the easiest targets. Third-wave fascist propaganda dovetails right into the traditional American Main Street. And back across the ocean to the latest far right eruptions of the European fatherland.
Petronella Lee’s short zine is so exciting in that it opens a door of understanding for women. She has to start pointing us towards the upped white fascist threat to women, because few others are systematically doing it. The usual white macho antifa sure hasn’t. It turns out that gender as well as race are central to the cutting edge of the story. And central to the larger roadmap. So Anti-Fascism Against Machismo: gender politics and the struggle against fascism, explains this in an urgent way.
“IN THE SPRING OF 2017, A VIDEO OF AN ANTI-FASCIST BEING beaten at a counter demonstration in Berkeley went viral”, she starts. It vividly showed anti-fascist demonstrator Louise Rosealma punched in the face. Knocked down by a white supremacist leader.
Not denying it, the fascists themselves spread the video. Gloried in having physically attacked a woman they designated “whore” and “traitor”. Rosealma is a cisgender young white woman. Coincidentally a porn worker, she became a convenient body terrain for patriarchal right and patriarchal left to mark lines on. Memed and doxxed. Her personal info spread for hating white men to harass her with rape threats, death threats.
Same when Heather Heyer was infamously murdered in the 2017 Charlottesville protests. The fascists again proudly at first claimed her killing. One of the rally organizers called it “payback” to a “fat, disgusting communist”. The Daily Stormer has been one of the internet fascist playgrounds. With hundreds of thousands of followers. It dismissed her killing as an act with zero consequences. Since “a 32 year old woman without children is a burden on society and has no value”.
The liberal feminists and progressives who spoke out to defend Louise Rosealma showed disturbing problems of their own. Louise was spoken of as someone who should be presumed to be “nonviolent” because of her gender. Beating her was denounced as “cowardly”. Implying that as a woman she must be considered weaker. Unable to defend herself. Logically built on all that crap, were the liberal feminist calls for more carceral police protection over women as the only answer for us.
This gives us the phone number of the political moment we are living in, Petronella Lee points out. Where white fascism is eager to make examples by violently targeting women as individuals. Towards targeting us eventually as an entire gender class. Where erectile capitalism tries to box in our choices to a passive “pussy hat” liberal feminism. With hapless pleas for more state protective policing. While the patriarchal left response, she notes acidly, is still dominated by “reductive anti-fascism defined by machoism and sexism”.
First round fired, she is saying that this is not our grandparents’ fascism. That the new upsurge of fascism at society’s public edges is different. About ten years ago watchers began noticing the “Manosphere”. Or the very rapidly spreading bramble of online sites and blogs rallying misogynist white men. To share and admit their bitter oppression under all the “stupid slut” feminist women who reject them. Hating women as their No. 1 personal enemy. Calling on all alienated white men to violently take back their supreme power over women. Against the politically correct feminist communist conspiracy. Lone wolf right-wing attacks and mass killings against women walked further into our news.
What Petronella isn’t afraid to explore, is that women should lead our fight against fascism. Draw our own wider strategies. Make our own diversely talented groups. Because fighting fascism is a woman-centered struggle for our lives now. Antifascism is crucially about gender as well as race.
There is a wide difference between what this zine is showing us, on the one hand. Against the pruned back, censored story that the capitalist authorities are trying to keep women pacified with. Here’s what i mean to say:
While starting to write this review, opened my morning newspaper to a political background article on u.s. far right violence. In Max Fisher’s The Interpreter column from London. Which is meant to be prestigious. And says it uses “political science and social science” to “explore the ideas and context behind major world events”. On August 6th, the major world trend he was explaining for us poor uneducated women was: ‘White Terrorism Shows “Stunning” Parallels to Rise of Islamic State’. So the new third-wave white fascism here is very similar to the muslim fascism of the global terrorist Islamic State? Not much of a surprise to women the world over, i’d say.
Guess which word doesn’t even appear once in this oh so deep article in America’s most liberal newspaper? Why, the unimportant word, “women”. What patriarchal capitalist experts have analyzed as “major world events” don’t require our presence at all. Much less our thoughts and activity. Women are just there in the background of the capitalist patriarchy’s owned biosphere. Us along with forests and elephants and the rest of nature. He and the other mostly liberal, mostly white male experts sense something “stunning”, “but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?”
The New York Times dropped the other gender class shoe five days later. When on August 11th a serious reporting crew of Julie Bosman, Kate Taylor, and Tim Arango put out a major article: “Many Gunmen in Mass Shootings Share a Hate Towards Women.” On the plus side identifying severe misogyny as the big common element in imperialist culture’s amateur mass killings here in Babylon. This is a mixed up bag, though.
To make it clear. As opposed to the first amateur kind, our own society’s professional mass killings are the now routine bombings and rocketings of civilian families. Done anywhere in the world capitalist periphery. War crimes done constantly by u.s. military planes and drones with many more casualties than any here. Large numbers of the aircraft and drone pilots doing the killing are now women. Not only servicewomen but civilian women mercenary contract employees.
Which is just the new “normal” most women here are never allowed to mentally question. Or link up in our understandings, in our mirrored imperialist culture, to the rising violence against us. But as that burning out sister warned us, “It’s all the same damn day”.
That Times news analysis is on the growing terrorism of hating women. Which they try to keep separate from the assumed real terrorism of men’s official politics. So instead like everything about women it is domesticized. Shrunk down. It’s not political violence, it’s “domestic violence”. It’s not a growing far right political hate campaign over our bodies. No, it’s only the psychological problems of a few lonely misfit men. All to be fixed with better gun laws and more psychological screening. Toward the end, the journalists finally have to confess: “Experts say the same patterns that lead to the radicalization of white supremacists and other terrorists can apply to misogynists…” That’s all there is, one line on the main point going forward. Which has been minimized not explained. Trying not to admit the linked commonality of what is coming down.
We can see how this subtle misinformation works: the Times journalists call up the example of a special “incel” hero who acted on his hatred for white women refusing to have sex with him: “Special reverence is reserved on those websites for Elliot O. Rodger, who killed six people in 2014 in Isla Vista, California. A day after posting a video titled ‘Elliot Rodger’s Retribution’. In it, he describes himself as being tortured by sexual deprivation and promising to punish women for rejecting him… Several mass killers have cited Mr. Rodger as an inspiration.”
What’s left out? A whole lot. The wide ranging article mentions him murdering, but doesn’t quote his final online words to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck up blond slut” on his University of California campus. A raging last will that is consistent with just how violently political his acting out was. Why some journalists labeled him the first mass killer of the alt-right.
In addition to the six murder victims they do mention, Rodger also attacked and wounded fourteen others that morning that weren’t mentioned ( the wounded really don’t count? ). More, they also didn’t tell us that the first three people he killed were his two male Asian student apartment mates and a male Asian friend of theirs. Even though he himself was eurasian ( white father and ethnic Malay Chinese mother ), Rodger hated Asians and said they were animal-like. He also believed in the biological inferiority of Latinos and most especially Black people.
So unmentioned race hatred was right there, too. It turns out that Rodger was a nazi sympathizer, but that was left out. His internet interests included learning as much as he could about fascist heroes Hitler and the notorious S.S. chief Heinrich Himmler. Fascists must have noticed that his rampage took place on the anniversary of Heinrich Himmler’s death. Although the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office said that this was only a “coincidence”. ( i personally don’t believe in men’s “coincidences”. ) The term “fascism” nowhere appears in this article on the far right politically encouraging more and more violent lone wolf attacks against women. For women and for all of us, this was as political as a Donald Trump latest “personal” tweet.
We get it. The patriarchal capitalist authorities want women to only know a dumbed down version of what’s ugly coming towards us. A de-politicalized version. They want to break it up into isolated pieces, just as women were once called only a “piece”. And compartmentalize away what’s happening. Recasting as individual, domestic, and psychological the news of a dangerous political shift. But never saying how it’s related to the roots of fascism itself. Never admitting that these explosions they say are different kinds of terrorism, are really parts of the same damn far right fire. Where our bodies are the fuel to be consumed.
To say what Petronella Lee put together for us is a light-year ahead of all that, is an understatement. Anti-Fascism Against Machismo explains much more about this new far right wave. Built heavily around woman-hating that joins their formative race hatred they are better known for. As well as the more traditional patriarchal far right in America. Which still hold to the tried & true judeo-christian-islamic basic ground rules: confining women’s lives mostly or even completely to the nursery, kitchen, and bedroom. She explains the spectrum of fascist sexism, the rough division into a more usual patriarchal fascism versus total misogynist fascism.
Petronella Lee explains their basic unity in the fascist philosophical mindset of “essentialism”. This is not something i knew much about. Which i think many of us can say. Where everything in nature is said to have its own unique essence. Which is fixed and determines its unchangeable characteristics. White men alone are the highest level of biological nature, in this view. The sole creators and highest alpha predators. So are the only rightful commanders of the world. To use a too familiar example.
Because of today’s cultural pull from the “Manosphere”, this quick to read zine dispenses with any of the many-sided discussions about how you define fascism? Instead, she says it’s more immediately useful to treat it as a “process”, not as one stationary defined “thing”. This feels bold though incomplete, but it does look at things quickly from a different angle.
In which resentful white men are first drawn in. Intrigued, then reassured. Then captivated. In other words, being “groomed” step by step. Moving them towards fascism. So misogynist hate talk is part of the core process of today’s fascism here. By the constant internet word machine-gunning of conspiracy theories. Of flattering and mocking racist and sexist resentments. By exhortations about how all white men need to be heroic in their hate. Start violently shocking superior euro-aryan male civilization back to its senses. By yielding to their deepest temptation. By letting themselves go, falling headlong into totalitarian violence. Into mass killing as a cultural building ritual.
Neo-fascist white men’s voices are still proliferating. Some explicit in wanting to beat up and violently attack women. All women. Not as a tactic, but as a sought after new higher way of life for white men.
As Petronella Lee explains: some new white fascists are calling for women to be permanently subjugated without rights as less human. We are all to be denied free movement on the streets. Beaten and raped routinely, or simply killed after using, as men’s discipline over us.
One of the breakthrough far rightist experiments in our new world was the Islamic Califate. Which explosively expanded itself up in Iraq and Syria. From being a small startup into a large temp fascist state. Doing it not in years but in only months. Suddenly occupying a territory larger than England. With millions of legally enslaved women’s bodies for them to assign and then reassign. To sell and trade around and consume up.
Third-wave white fascists here want to be like that. To replace the messy multicultural breakdown of old-fashioned racist America. With a completely stripped down, genocidal white men’s universe. No wonder they have had a felt brotherhood with the islamic fascists. Which went public right after the universal attention-grabbing 9/11 World Trade Center and Pentagon airplane attacks. As the third-wave white fascists then applauded the mass killings and envied. It’s on the record. That’s who they are.
In her part 2, Against Heroes, Petronella Lee goes on being just as perceptive for us. She calls this section that because she insists we have to interrupt the antifa narrative we have always been given. That’s the heroic men’s tale that is always just assumed to be true. That while romanticizing a few women, is always shrinking, domesticizing, marginalizing the whole of women’s own rising against fascism. For there has never been antifascism ever without the militant participation of women. But women have been scrubbed from his-story, so that new women always have to try and reinvent our wheel all over again.
She calls this part “an incomplete history of women’s anti-fascist resistance”. Her intent is to “provide a snapshot of a history too frequently forgotten and in the process, challenge the dominant image of the anti-fascist hero.” Which is not “an armed partisan woman, but a generic anti-racist skinhead dude or perhaps the anti-fascist man as depicted in classic propaganda posters with rifle, sickle, and hammer in hand.”
To show truer dimensions of women fighting against fascism, Lee goes to the large-scale experiences of women engaged in the wars against the world-threatening European fascism of the 1930s and 1940s. Not where we might expect, though.
She steps around old Hollywood clichés and stereotypes. Using women’s fighting in lesser known to us here antifascist fronts: against Italian fascism’s colonial invasion of Ethiopia in 1935; against General Franco’s 1936 far right army revolt in Spain, which was aided by nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy; and most surprisingly, against the 1941 invasion and occupation of Yugoslavia by the fascists during WWII.
Surprising because it was maybe the largest most of us haven’t heard about. A historian she quotes writes that it was “unprecedented”. Because “out of a population of sixteen million”, they had “one hundred thousand women fighting as partisans, and two million participating in various ways to support the National Liberation Movement. It has been calculated that approximately twenty-five thousand women died in battle, and some two thousand women attained officer’s rank.”
Petronella Lee gives us quick overall scans of the many roles of women in these antifascist wars, along with striking examples. There’s Salaria Kea, the only Black woman in the volunteer Abraham Lincoln Brigade of Americans in the Spanish Civil War. Who was at first fundraising for Ethiopian hospitals which were being bombed by Mussolini’s air force. But when she was rejected for enlistment by the Ethiopian army, switched her activity to a closer antifascist military that would accept her. Women were liberating themselves by any means necessary in fighting fascism. Because there’s no sense in fighting for freedom in general if you don’t free yourself along the way. Actually, it is the only way that it works.
In addition to being soldiers and intelligence agents, of course, women were assassins for real. Alongside being medical workers and couriers. Prison breaks were organized by them. While false identity papers were crafted by them. Women formed midnight sabotage teams to blow up telephone lines and power transmissions. And so on, as far as the imagination can reach. But that only taps the surface of what women’s antifascism reshaped the communities around them to reflect. Contrary to macho stereotypes. Which restrict women in war to being victims. At best lesser helpers of “real” fighters, who are young able-bodied male soldiers. Most often dismissed as passive onlookers waiting on the sidelines for male help to arrive.
Petronella Lee emphasizes that these past stories can’t be just “inspirational” romanticized examples to us. As the macho left so often does in abstracting us away from our real lives. These difficult, brave, creative women fighting against fascism also grew critical lessons for us. Things all antifascists and everyone fighting for human liberation have to stop and think about.
She draws a whole list of lessons for us to think about. “First, conceptualize anti-fascist resistance broadly and engage in multi-layered struggle. Embrace a variety of organizing strategies and tactics, and move away from the tendency to look at anti-fascist struggle in terms of a hierarchical ranking in which certain forms of struggle ( e.g. combat/fighting, involvement in formal political organizations, etc. ) are placed at the top, and all other forms of struggle are seen as secondary and less important. Anti-fascist resistance isn’t just one thing. It involves a lot of different types of activities, and requires a diversity of things.”
Antifascists have to find the situation that uses their skills. You have to conceptualize yourself as a weapon against fascism. And develop your strengths. Develop the political situation that weapon works in.
She reminds us that antifascist struggle for us can’t ever be separate from feminism. Women organizing women to strike blows absolutely is feminism. Same with political education, labor organizing, creating women’s autonomous power underneath the surface of community life, and onward.
All this is developed in a more detailed texture in this zine. Petronella Lee manages to give us an overview of the classic antifascist women’s activism in only eight pages. So easy to read that there’s no sense in my going on about it. Hope you have just checked it out yourself. Her conclusions, what she finds in all this women’s story, are invaluable.
i noticed that there are both pluses and minuses about her working the story of women fighting fascism this way. With these kind of historic capitalist wartime examples. The positive is that we get to see so many diverse details in a big picture. Women fighting fascism in the widest possible span of roles and battles. Which is encouraging to know we did all this. And can do it again.
But the big drawback is that those old classic battles against fascism are not at all like our own 21st century vibe. That previous 20th century his-story was capitalist nation state wars. Mostly against foreign fascist invaders and occupiers. Like Ethiopians uniting against Italian fascists. Or Yugoslav partisans against the German fascist occupation. But here it’s completely different. We white Americans have historically been the invaders and occupiers, for one big stumbling block.
So don’t call 911 and expect them to do much for you. Is more the general idea we should have in our minds about fighting this new white fascism. Our own patriarchal capitalist state is much more likely to covertly aid the fascists against us. While pretending not to. Which they seem to be doing exactly that right now.
This leads into the one problem i have with Anti-Fascism Against Machismo. Though the zine was sparked off by her understanding that this is not our grandparents’ fascism. Especially for women. Yet and again, think this zine assumes too much that fighting fascism is only one important but “limited” issue. That will soon go away. That kind of assumption has been common, but pretty much unexamined. Here’s my questions and crazy thoughts, anyway ( i find getting unpleasantly old, that crazy thoughts seem more and more reasonable ).
Click near the end. Where the Anti-Fascism Against Machismo zine says: “Moving to the final point, the last insight is to connect anti-fascism with more ambitious revolutionary goals. Anti-fascism in and of itself is a necessarily limited struggle. It is a reactive and defensive movement that while incredibly important, is much more of a jumping-off point than a desired end-destination.”
Petronella Lee’s project of taking apart and remaking macho antifa has far reaching implications for women. i think it’s remaking hasn’t yet reached some questionable root assumptions we’ve unthinkingly inherited. Such as the belief that fascism is only a shockingly unusual political happening. A bubble in the stream. Which even under evil patriarchal capitalism shouldn’t exist. That with the united effort of good people quickly can be slapped away. Returning Western society and our lives to the “normal” capitalism of imperialism’s center. Which feels so much safer and more familiar to white women. That’s what is widely assumed. As part of the invisible atmosphere of capitalist ideological thought control if nothing else. Yet and again, i don’t think that easy assumption is true.
Fascism doesn’t come as an out of place barbaric leftover from some old dark age. How can it? Since it wasn’t born in any ancient time at all. It was first born in the 1920s major industrial class wars. Right in the heart of 20th century Western Europe. Fascism comes from the capitalist future. It isn’t going away now. Not as long as advanced patriarchal capitalism is the society. Because that’s what has been strongly generating it all along.
Advanced capitalism is uncaringly trampling over its own built-up civilization. Abandoning its own birth society as it keeps changing shape towards something even more gigantic. Whether you can explain it all or not, no one can deny that is what we are witnessing. Those things as they were don’t mean anything now. The traditional mainstream economics and politics of even the late “Superpower” 20th century no longer work. Figures such as Bill Clinton and George Bush are like old unemployed tv game show hosts. i see them signing autographs at the local supermarket opening.
Patriarchal capitalism now inexorably pushes societies towards both extremes. It’s the populist right against varieties of radical anticapitalism. That both Trump and Bernie leapt out of the men’s room into unexpected mass fandom in 2016 is typical. We struggled with mass white support for right-wing agendas. Like packing the capitalist fake courts over women’s rights to abortion and other issues of our own bodies. To consign our bodies, our lives back to the control of the patriarchal state. On the other end, thousands of white women came spontaneously to join a large diversity of peoples to camp and protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, by the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Indigenous women and youth were an example, playing a large initiating and leadership role in that fight.
The growth in political energy worldwide has shifted, first most visibly to the far right. Now always including fascists and genocidal men of all unsavory kinds. The other trend reborn out of this neocolonial world system, is a new anti-capitalist left at the other extreme. Which is centered on the always precarious rising of oppressed women against the fortifications of capitalist patriarchy. Like the escaped shafts of anger that made obscure “Ferguson” also world famous. And gave Black lesbian community workers a chance to quietly shape different kinds of Black politics. Away from the stale leftovers of 1960s daze. Politics based right or wrong on their own queer political witness.
So i think that an antifa that sees itself as a “necessarily limited struggle” might not be so relevant at the moving struggle’s edge. A “limited” antifascism can’t ever return us to some previous safer same place anyway. Because that’s being swept away by waves larger than any of us. That’s why everything is so uncertain for everyone now.
i’ve been writing this to help keep the discussion going. To point women towards Petronella Lee’s advance in our political understanding. And to make what contribution i can, far away now from the battlefield. If i can suggest anything useful at all, it would be to move women’s whole tumult and outrage and resistance into a larger political picture. By which i don’t mean something philosophical or more intellectual.
We know the Big Pink Blob doing a hostile takeover of the white man’s capitol was a kind of long-shot political accident. And inevitable at the same time. As a soldier stepping on a landmine in a war zone is a kind of long-shot accident and inevitable. In that there’s no innocent parties involved. Because right now the acting white majority is fighting dirty for their lives in a certain way. For every advantage and edge their families and communities ever had. And they know it. It’s war zone time and they subconsciously want it that way. That’s why white fascism has suddenly become much more relevant for more of them, if on the edge of their vision.
What we’re all fighting over is really simple — the end of men’s white race. The end of folk’s whiteness as an very artifically constructed but ruling identity on the ground. Along with their “great” nation-empire. All into the big swirling garbage disposal drain of modern history. Not going to argue here all the pros and cons. Not all the long history and race talk.
Whiteness is just one of the most unnatural inventions in human his-story. Though we believe in it devoutly. Like it was some man’s religious cult with its captive women. i mean out-of-the-world strange. Once in Europe there was no whiteness for many, many centuries. The accepted idea of “race” as we know it and live it out every day, didn’t exist. Feudal and early capitalist men crudely assumed that different European nationalities were different biological beings. Nations were races, in effect. So criminal laws and judges in Anglo-Saxon London ruled that way. Down by law, in the 1600s and 1700s, those courts said that the Welsh and Irish were by nationality naturally subhuman. Biologically inclined to crime. As such they could be found guilty of a crime by their origins alone. Though their faces might be white as a bleeding out body.
Do you know what really vexed Adolf when he and his merry men took state power in 1933 Germany? That his fascist bureaucrats didn’t know how to draft racial laws. Because no examples of race laws had ever been done anywhere in Europe, ever. So happy Adolf instructed his men to purchase copies of the American laws on race to imitate. Since it had turned out that America was not only the wealthiest, most technologically advanced capitalist power in the world. But also the leader of fake whiteness thinking. Adolf pointed out how America’s very foundation wasn’t nationality or religion or even politics, but race. We were the very first nation to enact sweeping racial laws and always make race a major legal distinction in everything from politics and commerce to the bedroom.
For America to even exist, inventing whiteness was a necessity. Because America isn’t a geography. It’s more a corporate brand. Whiteness defined and uniformed their imported mass social army. Needed to invade, genocide up, repopulate, and garrison an entire large continent. The richest prize ever in the world his-story of capitalism. But this is in greater than ever crossfire now. Since whiteness is objectively becoming as much a drag as it is an opportunity. Even to their society. 50/50 i’d say as a guess. Think the ruling class is having the same opinion about it.
For centuries, whites liked the u.s.a. As long as they stayed on top as the euro-settler garrison of empire over everyone else. Now they are freaking out. Reconsidering their loyalties. Notice how all of a sudden, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are envied as better places to live by so many whites? The acting white majority is doubling down because their entire world is threatened. Our fake specialness and made-up ethnic exclusivity is crumbling. Whiteness is running out. As the neocolonial stage of the world capitalist system more and more jumbles multicultural populations carelessly.
Neocolonialism as a radical political term simply means “colonialism of a new kind”. It still is colonialism, the domination and forced occupation of one people by another. Example: as in the euro-colonialism leading up to the 20th century. As when a small British military and commercial invasion force numbering only in the thousands was represented at first by the private East India Company. Starting in the 19th century they gradually conquered and welded together the many small principalities and states and tribes of the Indian subcontinent. Into one giant inorganic Indian colonial state. It was like a rat owning an elephant. The “British Raj” repressed matriarchies and imposed capitalist patriarchal laws and exclusions, robbing Indian women of roles and rights. In imitation of what euro-capitalism had done to first get all charged up at home. Millions of Indians died back then in manufactured capitalist famines. As even basic foodstocks were shipped all the way from India back to Europe.
Western imperialism later had to reshape itself into a more sophisticated neocolonalism. Giving way to guerrilla anti-colonial revolutions sweeping the globe by the mid-20th century. Neocolonialism where it pretended to honor the political independence of former colonial nations and peoples of the capitalist periphery. But kept indirectly feeding on them behind the scenes. Still parasitically extracting large profits from unequal trade and strategic mineral extraction. Working through bribed native political leaders, military dictatorships, and dependent local capitalist classes. Western patriarchal capitalism always encourages the most backward cultural and political currents. To keep native peoples off compass and off balance. There is much more to what neocolonialism is and how it works, but this is a barest description to start off from.
Growing up i never thought there wouldn’t be a White America. Whites filled to the horizon whether big city or farming country. And every niche from business managers to soldiers, postal letter carriers to city bus drivers. Now it’s been years since i’ve even seen a white letter carrier around. On my busy city bus line ( not that i can physically get on it anymore ) a white bus driver might appear only once every month or so, i hear.
When i talk about the fight over capitalist patriarchy’s compulsion to own us, i keep referring to women’s actual bodies. As the material terrain being fought over. i am doing this deliberately. To rudely and crudely remind women that this isn’t just a battle over someone’s nice or bad ideas.
All human liberation or oppression must be realized in the actual material world. That is, on who has what space or territory or terrain or physical manifestation. A people who do not possess any territory in the material world, often do not even get to own their own bodies. We are real proof of that, as women as the first euro-capitalist colony should know. From centuries of experience of not owning even a space as small as our own bodies.
White women are angered at the patriarchal capitalist assumption that men can leave us without territory physical or social. That our bodies, our lives should have no autonomy of our own. Yet, Indigenous peoples point out that euro-settler genocide capitalism denies them any right to so much as an inch of land. Permanently theirs for their culture and self-determination to manifest itself. Many of us don’t want to understand that.
We know this since patriarchal capitalism doesn’t even bother to hide the fact. Any time they want Indigenous land. For petrofuel pipelines or mines or highways or waste sites or real estate developments. They simply take it. Ever so legally or not. By casual force. For nothing Native peoples have or Black people have can be permanently, safely theirs for their community and self-determination. In an entire continent of thousands of miles, not one inch.
The 1960s feminist awakening talked about women needing our own material territory. Our “space”. Whether it was Ginny Woolf’s “a room of one’s own” or a college department of our own. Or lesbian land or the “Michigan” festival. How is this different at the root from what Rez traditionals or Black nationalists build?
What’s basic for us is that without white women and our reproductive labor there is no white race. Much less any whitest nation. Which is why not only the fascists, but the whole acting white majority can’t stop fighting. To recapture our bodies. Can’t stop needing to own women as their most critical national resource. The attack on us isn’t going away, maybe not in your lifetime. But don’t we already know that instinctively by now? We’re in it for a long war.
Patriarchal socialism has always falsely emphasized how modern society was built on mostly male industrial labor. Sixties radical feminism replied that the most basic labor in all economic production is reproduction. Their primal insight was that women’s unwaged labor in reproducing society’s workers was and is the most essential production. They named women as a gender-class being the first proletariat, the first conquered colony. And eventually the last.
In their own ways, the broader white right understands this very well. Better than we do, i sometimes think. That’s why their litmus test for joining their larger right has become abortion ( which of course, only dishonestly fronts for the war of who owns women’s bodies ). Just our very partial, limited escape in the 1960s onward shook White America to its foundations. Once women can have independent personal lives, jobs and education, we stop being willing to be forced into being house bound, large-scale reproducers of someone else’s necessary labor power and foot soldiers. Birth rates plummet. Big majority populations shrink and shrink. As they should. For the survival of human beings on this planet.
That’s why they’re picketing Planned Parenthood most every day of the week. Rain and cold. That’s why they hate abortion doctors far more than the most famous male socialists and anarchists. That’s why the white right can’t just “let it go” with us. As another win-some-lose-some political issue. Why they can’t compromise on not permitting women’s human rights. They have to own us and our bodies. Or lose everything they’ve always been as a people. Without owning women there is no whitest nation-empire. They’re driven by the nightmare of falling into being a subject minority in now someone else’s nation.
It’s that simple. That’s why white fascism here and now isn’t a “limited” issue that will easily pass away. Thinking of white fascism in isolation is misleading. They only exist now as an acid thread sheltered within the flow of a much larger white far right. That has a known u.s. following in the millions. A relatively large white far right with diverse faces and views, but with common catchy populist themes. Taking as primary the scapegoating of the “other”. Misogyny expressed in hatred of feminism. Pseudo-genetic politics that has made them a self-proclaimed special people. While reviving the legacy of “patriotic” wars and the right to commemorate their human rights crimes. White fascists there are already part of the loose militias and terrorist fringes that are the forward edge of the offensive.
So there’s a mass populist shift towards a reanimated white right empire. It could be here longer than most antifa are thinking. For a tip, we could ask the Indigenous peoples how long those euro-settler home invaders are likely to stay on uninvited in their living rooms? Right now the new populist right can represent close to a majority of the white communities of this euro-settler empire. And tomorrow is uncertain.
Moreover. As when radical white women think about fighting fascism, aren’t we unconsciously picturing us confronting only small groups of men? Emphasis on the word “men”. i notice that even Petronella Lee only gives examples of women fighting fascist men. But are you or i ready to deal with many white women shouting hate at us? Stepping forward to drive us out of their white neighborhoods and schools and jobs? Been there, done that, girl, and it was surreal but it sure wasn’t pleasant.
Do we acknowledge the strategic political-military reality that many white women may not be with us fighting the white right? It’s important that we understand why white women more than anybody are so split politically right now. Want to repeat that.
There’s a modern capitalist propaganda of women as “naturally” peaceful and affirming of everyone. That’s just another typecast Disney cartoon. Our real world is much more gritty and dialectical materialist than that, so obviously. When i say that women were the first colony, that’s more than a literary metaphor. 1960s radical feminist scholars in Europe did research going back to their foremothers’ story in the Witchhunt starting in the 13th century. What they found was evidence that massive internal repression and expropriation of successful women in the late Middle Ages produced extra economic surpluses. For the growing of more aggressive men’s states. That later became patriarchal capitalist nations. Then in later centuries, special added exploitation of women in the colonial systems of the Global South, such as in Bermuda, Africa and India, helped jump-start European industrialization.
That women under the beginnings of euro-capitalism were that first systemic colony, still reverberates to this day in us. Many white women don’t realize this, because they grew up under the more indirect neo-colonialism. Have never breathed any other air. But my life like that of so many other older women, bridges both periods of the trailing away of old women’s colonialism. And then the coming newer neocolonialism.
i was born in New Jersey because my moms escaped her childhood home herself in Minnesota. My grandmother was an escapee, too, as a young woman from Czarist Russian in the bad old daze. My only family inheritance seems to be a willingness to escape. Very precious for a free woman, i feel.
When grandmom got to London as a safe pausing place from pogroms and deportations, a Jewish refugee aid society got her ship passage to South Africa. Where as a breeding woman she would be wanted to build up the Jewish community in Britain’s new white South African colony. But she didn’t like the looks of that, so it was on to another boat. With the refugee husband she had joined forces with along the way. The other alternative was ship passage and on to a place in the u.s. Midwest they’d never even heard of. There isolated in Wisconsin, the Jewish refugee society hoped to establish some kind of alternative co-op type circle of Jewish family farmers. To honorably wipe away the antisemitic stereotype of Jews as only big city cheating money lenders and merchants.
Well, the Jewish fantasy farms didn’t work, as you probably expected. So speaking no English, my grandparents fell back on more familiar slums in Minnesota. There he died when my moms was seven. So her own mom and her eked out a survival livelihood working for a small neighborhood grocery store. My moms as a child had to come to the shop after school. Translating for her mom who didn’t speak English. Helping her mom by pulling the little handcart carrying customer’s bags of groceries to their homes.
She wanted to escape that grim life, too, as so many millions of women bottomfish everywhere do. But in the normal course of things women were socially imprisoned. As a colonized people. Held below, most education, professions, businesses, trades, and government employment. In other words, segregated below most of the main capitalist economy. To keep them focused on involuntarily providing sex and labor reproduction on a mass scale. The two regular jobs that respectable women could have back then that earned them enough to have “a room of their own” were schoolteacher and telephone operator. No wonder most women were under pressure to find a husband and his paycheck. In return for sex and children. Oh, it was the Depression outside the door, then, too.
Then an important thing intersected her life with a bang. The Big Bang Theory in real life was imperialism acting as antifascist in World War II. Which blew the economy upside down on its greedy head. No more time for Mr. Depression. Instead more and more factories turning out tanks and crude pine barracks furniture and boots and army office forms and trucks and canned rations and everything. Like the opening of an alternative universe. Suddenly there were all kinds of “men’s jobs” for millions of women in basic industry. The celebrated “Rosie the Riveter” thing.
Moms escaped poverty after school even better by leaving for Washington, D.C. Which had become White America’s newest boom town. A glittering Las Vegas of the state bureaucracy. Where many thousands of adventuresome young single white women had migrated from all over to fill the new office jobs. In all the expanding bureaucracies of a “greatest” state. Which was conducting the “greatest” world war ever.
World imperialist war cost too-large-to-be-exactly-counted deaths of tens and tens of millions of women, children and men. The bombing out of major cities. A-bombs leapfrogging miles of aerial firebombings. To say nothing of the Holocaust and countless other mass civilian slayings by all sides as collateral damage. In odd contradiction, my Moms and her single white women coworkers experienced all this carnival of horror on their end as a happy time. Real jobs, classy u.s. government person status, real paychecks in no war zone at all except ducking incoming dicks. White women’s rooming houses where going out after 5 to bars every night, to socialize with young men was perfectly okay. No patriarchal family in sight. It was a breakthrough for her personally.
With backwards and forwards for white women inching into the 1950s and then 1960s. Open male supremacy and contempt for women was still the normal. As late as 1957, as u.s. Labor Secretary Robert Reich has commented: “United Airlines proudly announced that its ‘executive service’ between New York and Chicago featured comfortable slippers, a steak dinner, and ‘no woman on board except for two stewardesses.’ “
Yet and again, white women were getting some small share in “our” u.s. empire becoming the dominant world industrial-military power. Being loyal to whiteness and thus empire was rock bottom settler-colonial politics for us. Just as it has always been in taking over the whole Indigenous continent and keeping confined the rebellious New Afrikan internal colony.
No criticism at all of Moms, but here we can trace a continuing divergence between white euro-settler life here and what the heck was going on in the rest of the world. That we were sure enough taking over. Seems the worse for them, the better for us. Maybe take that as a vague rule of thumb. She even found a good European emigrant husband. They moved to Whitesville. My sisters and i popped out of the toaster oven, start of home movie again.
Did this little upwardly mobile story mean that any white women’s colonization had been left behind? Not exactly. Remember none of this was “natural” or spontaneous or unplanned. What happened to women was all done as conscious social engineering by capitalists and state agencies. That’s why it’s called the patriarchy.
When i escaped to start my queer straight trans whatever life at age 17, the world for white women was not what it is now. While obviously change of some kind was happening. More kinds of jobs and education were gradually opening up to white women. Not that i was noticing. It was common for banks to refuse new accounts to single women without a man to co-sign. Not unusual for bars and “better restaurants” to turn away single women. See, we might be prostitutes.
It was brought to me that my sexual experimenting equals i’d better get birth control. Going to Planned Parenthood meant learning a little dancing. The law said they couldn’t give us birth control without a husband’s consent. No husband, no birth control. Taking advantage of a loophole, i was guided to say my “fiancé” who was temporarily out of town due to family illness, was giving his eager consent in advance. Back then, even Trojans and Sheiks at the drugstore were held out of sight behind the counter. You had to ask the male pharmacist for permission. Asking men for permission was a big feature of women’s life then. Yet and again, i could make a simple living and roam the streets at night. Looking to make trouble. What more could a girl ask?
As the 1960s started bigger change hung in the air. As before in u.s. empire her-story, the advance of Black struggle would persuade white women to venture forth and make our own movement again. But the breakout of the women’s liberation movement and feminism was surprising at every corner. Didn’t play out like it was expected. The cultural change and wham-bam battles were tremendous. Modern technology played a role as it does right now. Having “the pill” was big like being given machine guns or something. You could be using birth control and no man would even know or have a say. i loved that the Church and the rightwing hated it and were powerless to stop it. ( note: Big pharma has more muscle under capitalism than big church ).
Seemed like every day women were invading somewhere they had been kept out of. One of my dreams when i was a young girl was to be a tug boat captain. Bringing ocean liners and freighters with the waves into harbor all day. But in the real girls’ world i had been formerly condemned to, i couldn’t even wear my pants and tennis shoes to school.
But when my sister and i went to a 1950s girls’ summer camp a couple of summers, there it was all reversed. They had archery. Baseball was natural for me. Rowing was fun. The camp even let us shoot a beginner’s .22 cal bolt action, single shot rifle. Liked that, too, and hit the target. Yet and again, couldn’t do any of that as a life, as a grown up woman then. And women weren’t allowed as tug boat crews much less become captains. Came along too early, i guess. But in the patriarchal capitalist system’s neocolonial zone shift.
In a women’s coincidence that i do believe in, my niece in another place caught the same waterfront dream i had many years later. In the 1980s she talked her way onto a dockside crew for the ferry. For awhile she loved it, and worked hard at it for some time. Carrying heavy loops of rope, accepting work injuries from a physically tough job. But eventually she burned out at the oppression of all the “equal opportunity”. Constant sexism. Being given the short end of the stick in work assignments. So that the men’s days would be easier. And never ever being allowed to advance jobwise. In this day there are women captains in the many types of boats and ships that work the harbor and rivers and nearby ocean to that city. But always only few of them. Sprinkles on top of the pastry, i always call it.
Speaking of transportation: Understanding women as a neo-colony, is maybe easiest by first thinking of those NASA women’s spacesuits. Or rather, that singular, only one woman’s spacesuit. This isn’t about individual achievement or promotion, at all. That’s just the distorted patriarchal capitalist form that our present reality is presented to us as.
In March 2019, NASA was proudly set to send two women astronauts up to spacewalk together for the first time. Then, oops, they had to cancel that publicity rocket. Had to admit that they had forgotten that in their whole space program they only had one spacesuit sized for a woman. After decades of sending astronauts into space, NASA had never thought to have a supply of spacesuits for women astronauts! They only had one that would fit. So Christina Koch went up with a male astronaut and Ann McClain was scrubbed until a suit could be ordered from China or Amazon.
NASA started in the Kennedy era. As a designated superior white men’s elite. Not that women weren’t there. We’re always there. In that early barely computer age, they needed an entire department to do all the orbital and physics and aeronautical mathematical calculations to make flight plans. White male mathematicians and physicists willing to do behind the scenes grunt work for low pay were few and far between. So NASA got smart and recruited a secret department of Black women college graduates. Many underemployed mathematicians and scientists. And for many years they worked getting NASA spaceflights on the correct paths. Unknown to the outside world until very recently.
Then, under pressure, NASA began to let sprinkles of women into the training astronaut program. Never intending to let more than a few ever fly in space. Token sprinkles on the Tom of Finland’s cake. In 2003 one-third of women astronauts wouldn’t fit into any available NASA spacesuits. The size small suits, which most women would use, had been discontinued as not cost effective. Since most NASA astromen wore larger sizes. While 12 of the 38 current astronauts are women, at the start of the year 2019 there were still no size small suits and the only one precious size medium. Clearly the NASA sub-sub-branch of the capitalist patriarchy had simply forgotten about women astronauts needing any spacesuits at all in space. Maybe we were supposed to hold our breath and wear garbage bags? This is after a generation of NASA spaceflights. Where women are allowed to advance and fill minority roles. But only as assistants acting as though they were men within abusive capitalist patriarchal structures. Ah, neocolonialism has that distinctive toxic smell to it?
But this does relate to what happened to the radical women’s liberation movement of the 1960s-70s. One night it was burning intensely. Throwing out unheard of insights and travel directions for us. Seemingly the next it all disappeared. The capitalist patriarchy started opening jobs and education and advancement for women. Especially educated women. It was like a California Gold Rush. Lesbians got to come out, and even get married. Set up legally protected nuclear households. Yes, and in the process women got irradiated. As one famous lesbian polemicist said of the women’s movement’s surprising evaporation: “Everyone went home to a nuclear relationship and a career.”
Was that progress for women in some form? Needed human rights however unsatisfactory ? Of course it was. But the outward form of change can take place in different contexts. Which determine what they really become. In colonialism, patriarchal capitalist institutions would be racist and male in makeup, culture and function. Women would be excluded except as voiceless “hands” and “bodies” carrying out lower tasks. In neocolonialism, patriarchal capitalist institutions have a publicly positive multicultural identity, smiling at women as consumers and workers. At the same time be constructed as before to racist and male agendas, composition and culture. Women would be officially encouraged but informally tightly controlled. Allowed to reinforce crumbling male hierarchy but without changing it.
In women’s liberation, women wouldn’t need or be in a white boys tinker-toy NASA. We’d do it ourselves all different from the ground up if we needed it. Same with the whole human economy and society, as far as we’re concerned. Under neocolonialism we are temporarily allowed to play roles in and reinforcing patriarchal capitalist institutions. Which like NASA have nothing to do with benefiting any women at all. These two things are not the same.
There’s a slice of white women now who are sympathetic to rebellion and change, especially with the Trump game show and the far right threatening. This is a small minority yet. There’s a much larger group of white women who only want us to keep going straight ahead. Very straight. Keep gaining ground for ourselves in economics and rights the way they feel we have. And then there’s a large group of women who are supporting the white populist right. Who are rallying behind euro-settler colonial domination of society forever. As the primal group loyalty that has always given white women their small share of safety and whatever we have.
It isn’t that millions of any white women are into converting to fascism, of course. Yet right now millions of white women are willing to vote for right-wing populism, complete with a nutty fuhrer. Whose hater movement shelters and feeds within it the outright white fascists as they work on. Our clashing with other white women in some real way is inevitable looking forward.
In the bitter Black vs. White civil rights daze, i remember, white women played a strategic if often underestimated role. They took the lead by the many thousands in building massive grassroots campaigns in neighborhoods and entire cities. Time and again mobilizing women’s grassroots, door to door, power. Not for us, but against us. Against the nonviolent civil rights movement. For the police and klan and white men’s power. Remember talking to a white woman who as a teenager had joined the Black sit-ins. She had grown up in a Southern city. In fact a state capital of a Deep South state. When Black students started sitting-in protests against their colonial oppression, she was moved to go downtown and join them. Though the white police made sure that she was physically separated from the beatings and arrests they gave out to try and terrorize the young Black women and men. Impressed that she had braved that much, i asked her how many white women in her city had joined the Black sit-ins for freedom back then? She said, “I was the only one.” In an entire city of white women. Does that make our own colonialism less abstract for us?
It was white women more than white men who as always did the dirty household work of keeping schools segregated. Of maintaining the Color White. Of holding together white communities as right-wing social fortresses. Which they now are revealed to be to this day.
Just like that recent PBS documentary on country music showed. Tammy Wynette became a country singing success for white women with her blunt songs about not taking abuse from their men. But she only became a real star with her historic right-wing hit, “Stand By Your Man”. Both sides of the record are truly hers. That’s our contradiction as a people-class, too.
Here in the metropolis. In the heart of world patriarchal capitalism. The most educated women in the world don’t know what to do next. Which we hate to admit.
Yet and again, what the intense but short-lived Sixties radical feminism laid out on the table is true. Why the German radical philosopher Christina Thurmer-Rohr said it just as Malcolm X had for his people. We have to step off. To leave the dense, encumbering, blood-feeding culture of men’s civilization best we can.
White women don’t know what to do & can’t really know what to do from where we are. We’re in the wrong place to answer those questions. We first have to step off and detox from patriarchy. To get our bearings on our own. To set out learning from our own plans. We need to walk away. And start on our own forty years in the wilderness.
Alright. i’ve sung my song.
Petronella Lee’s Anti-Fascism Against Machismo: gender politics and the struggle against fascism is available online at north-shore.info and can be purchased from leftwingbooks.net
Butch Lee is an Amazon theorist. Her work deals with the need to understand women’s struggles in both their class and military dimensions, as well as the fundamental importance of grasping the relationship between colonialism, neo-colonialism, and patriarchy. Her other books include The Military Strategy of Women and Children, Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain, and Jailbreak out of History: The Rebiography of Harriet Tubman. Some of her other writings can be found at https://kersplebedeb.com/posts/category/authors/butch_lee/
 Max Fisher. ‘White Terrorism Shows “Stunning” Parallels to Rise of Islamic State’. N.Y. Times, August 6, 2019.
 Julie Bosman, Kate Taylor, and Tim Arango. “Many Gunmen in Mass Shootings Share a Hate Towards Women.” N.Y. Times. August 11, 2019.
 Nicky Woolf. “Chilling Report details how Elliot Rodger executed murderous rampage.” The Guardian. February 20, 2015 ; Peter Langman, PhD. Transcript of Elliot Rodger’s “retribution” Video. https://schoolshooters.info/sites/default/files/rodger_video_1.0.pdf; “2014 Isla Vista killings – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Isla_Vista_killings ; “ELLIOT RODGER: CALIFORNIA MASS SHOOTER HAD AN INTEREST IN NAZIS” https://time.com/3716041/elliot-rodger-california-mass-shooter-nazis-torture/.
 Don Hamerquist, J. Sakai, Anti-Racist Action Chicago, Mark Salotte. Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement. ARA Chicago, Kersplebedeb Publishing, Arsenal. 2002. Page 74.
 There is a minor misstep here. The zine says that the Lincoln Brigade was a “battalion of African American volunteers who travelled to Spain to resist fascism, and fought in the Spanish Civil War.” ( my emphasis ) Side point, but just to prevent misunderstandings, that wasn’t true. The article on Black antifascism that was Petronella Lee’s source, while never quite saying that explicitly, also never mentions any white volunteers being in the Lincoln Brigade at all. Some readers then doubtlessly assumed that the outfit must have been an all Black one. Natural misunderstanding. While the “Lincolns” had close to 2,000 soldiers in Spain, less than one hundred were Black.
 Robert B. Reich. Aftershock. Knopf. 2010. N.Y. Page 50.
 Matthew S. Schwartz. NASA SCRUBS FIRST ALL-FEMALE SPACEWALK FOR WANT OF A MEDIUM-SIZED SUIT. March 26, 2019. NPR.ORG.
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