Saturday, February 25, 2012

PSL: How religious bullies beat Obama on contraception

Here is a February 25 headline from Liberation, newspaper of an outfit calling itself the Party of Socialism and Liberation:

Religious right attacks women's right to contraception
Obama administration compromises with bullies

I think a few points need to be made here.  In the first place, being the wagging tail of the Democratic Party on the so-called culture war against contraception is not the way to build a party of socialism and liberation.  It may be a good way to build an organization of middle class radicals, atheists, agnostics, and identity politicians who give left cover the imperialist liberalism by decrying those who give Wall Street's war on women a religious patina, but that is about all.

And it is not enough.

The idea that attacks on women's rights germinate among the religious right, Christian fundamentalists, and Catholic bishops, and that these forces can be curbed at the ballot box with an overwhelming victory for Democrats, is electoral sucker-bait at its most cynical.  And there is nothing socialist or liberating about it.  To say, as the article does, that only militant struggle can guarantee these rights, is true; but when the article sets out the enemy as the religious right and not the capitalist class and their ideological state apparatuses, what kind of militant struggle is the reader to infer.

Women's liberation, including their ability to control their own bodies without any kind of material or mental coercion, is one of the means by which working class struggles can advance today.  But we are disarmed if we believe the ruling class is fundamentally divided on the contraception issue, or any other issue related to womens' rights.  A cabal of religious bullies is not holding the rest of the class and their nomenklatura hostage on this question.

PSL's conclusion?

The Obama administration's capitulation to the demands of the religious right and their conservative politician cronies demonstrates how the rights of women and working people in general are never truly protected under capitalism. As soon as any gains are made, the ruling class looks for every angle from which to roll them back. On the other hand, in a socialist state, like Cuba, free contraception, like all health care, is a human right.

The article's writer is correct that reforms won under the dictatorship of capital are not final victories.  But the political line of the article, that the Obama administration "capitulated", presupposes they were willing, or ready, to make a fight of it.

Promoting such illusions in representatives of Wall Street is a regression from Marxism.

Not every article in a socialist newspaper needs to spell out a party's complete program on the issue in question.  But leaving the door open to programmatic agnosticism about Obama and the Democrats and painting Christian fundamentalists as the Main Enemy while running one's own candidates for office signals the fact that beneath the public surface of newsprint and website, a centralized political line has not been conquered.

Jay Rothermel

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