Internationalism and struggle against patriarchy
A global problem means a global fight and makes internationalism necessary. But what does internationalism mean in a revolutionary sense? What does it mean for women?
Women`s struggles have always been internationalist. What we have in common, is something that is hard to explain with words. It is the feeling we have when we see, hear or remember women rising up, getting their voice heard for our freedom, for a world without patriarchy, a world without the oppression of humans and nature.
As militant women and non-binary people we are developing tools in our practices, which can apply to the general structures, where all genders organize together. We find it important to have autonomous spaces in order to develop these tools, to come together, to learn and to share. From them we bring experiences, ideas and struggles back to the whole society. Our fight as internationalist women is always double: to kill the enemy inside of us and to fight the enemy outside.
But our aim is clear, here or wherever we are. We feel each other‘s pain and successes. With this we always try to do more than reality “allows us” to.
An internationalist women fight doesn’t seek for power. We are opposing power itself, while creating something new. This can also be seen through the revolutionary development in Rojava and Northern Syria. All the autonomous women structures are examples for us. In these places the friends celebrate all the differences, we bring to the united struggle.
With our creativity and because we love life, we can turn everything into a tool to defend freedom. There is a long tradition of internationalist women, who have taken up arms against the system, whilst we keep digging under the ruins of patriarchal history to recuperate and follow their ideas and actions. The militant group Rote Zora in Germany, among many others, has drawn this clear ideological pathway by its contact with the women workers struggle in Asia and its coordinated actions against a global enemy. Solidarity means to live and act according to our thoughts and beliefs. And in this the resistance of women is never disconnected from the other struggles.
But how to find the right methods? We want to fight for freedom in a way, that women around us and the people in general can understand how to get there, how we are getting there. Defending our ideas, we are walking, step by step, because we are living in a system that is based on thousands of years of women‘s enslavement. This means that revolutionary anti-patriarchal struggle, if we want it to be long term and successful, needs a balance and a lot of patience. In this way, we can say that women‘s movements in the past have “skipped some steps “. This is why in struggles/groups/places, where women and non-binary people are said to be accepted as “equal“ in the society, the “man inside“ has not been overcome. We are each other‘s mirrors. Starting from ourselves, with the critics we give and receive, the struggle can develop and grow.
The concept of self-defence has not been taken seriously enough by the movements we come from. It is the reality of us women, to have to be ready to defend ourselves and our comrades against patriarchy. For any social organisation self-defence is necessary. In Kurdistan, and especially inside the democratic autonomy of Rojava, we can see that women are taking action to defend what they are creating. So we learn together, that nobody will do it for us. Also, we – coming from very different contexts – know, that there is no place we can run to, in order not to face the problems of patriarchal mentality. The fact that there are less internationalist women than men here, in this revolution, makes visible again how oppression works on a global level. So, it is not the case that less women are fighting, or that they are not “brave enough“. Most of them are not able to come:
It is our female comrades who are carrying on with responsibilities and daily work inside the structures of our local contexts back home, or who are taking care of a family member. For these reasons we especially remember them, whilst writing this.
A phenomenon, which we can observe both in the media as well as with our male comrades, is the topic of having or not permission to discuss patriarchy. In other words, dealing with questions like: „as a man – do I have the right to talk about sexism?“. To the reaction: „It seems as if it should be just the task of women to fight and overcome patriarchy.“ mostly the answer is „of course not“; but it often seems as if no man knows, how to make a change, at the very least.
There is nothing like a list of correct and incorrect behaviours, what to say and what not to say. But most of the female comrades don‘t want to be asked for such kind of “instructions“. So, what to do? How to deal with it? How to fight together with all genders against patriarchy? And how to overcome it? In order to find ways and methods, we have to look back in history and try to understand the development of patriarchy, its strong mechanisms and the capitalist attitude which patriarchy creates.
Rulership and oppression, as elements of hierarchal force, have not always existed. They developed throughout human history. The first step for this was to create separated groups and then give each of them different values. In other words, creating the oppressive hierarchy between men and women. When we look at the history of humankind before these changes, we can say that there were no people with less value than others. During the Palaeolithic and Neolithic ages, ending around 5000 years ago, people were organised in groups around the figure of the mothers (in matriarchies) and living in non-oppressive relationships with one another.
A mother doesn‘t love one child more than the other or treats them in different ways. People took the relationship between mother and child as an example for building up their own social relationships: this includes a strong sense of mutuality, responsibility and justice. People were not all the same in that time, before patriarchy was established, they had different tasks and so on, but there was no reason to split and categorise people in dichotomic groups based on good and bad, important and unimportant. This kind of rating and ranking is a main pillar of patriarchal thinking, and by implementing these divisions, mother-centred community was brutally destroyed.
This process is going on since around 5,000 years ago. Since then the splitting of people in this way started becoming more profound and acquired multiple dimensions. It is written inside all of our personalities. Women, as well as men, are strongly influenced by patriarchal gender roles of oppressing and being oppressed, something which is nowadays intensively mixed and intertwined with the capitalist-liberal approaches of competition and individualism. BUT looking at the whole existence of human beings – covering a period of millions of years – we can say, that this system is just a small part of it, just a few thousand years old. That means, that human history was mostly free from patriarchy. This is not just regarding the history of wars and violence. It also means that we – as humans – have the strength to change it. Maybe it‘s just bad luck to be born right now.
We are fighting for liberation from the capitalist patriarchal system. We cannot take HIS-story1 as a starting point for liberation, neither for the search for strategies to approach it. It would be a wrong reference point. We are on a quest for solutions, a search for ways towards freedom. We should also be conscious about the fact, that the system exists also inside ourselves, it is present in our thoughts, speeches and actions. If each one of us is reproducing the system through our personalities, we can analyse ourselves and each other, we can criticise and self-criticise and change the system by changing ourselves. Inside this mechanism lies also an answer for one of the questions we started with: „As a man – do I have the right to talk about sexism?“. Yes. Yes, and we could even say that it‘s not a right, but a condition for change.
But, as we can see, when we look back at human history, men shouldn‘t start with judging the fight of women from their point of view. They shouldn‘t give advice, but reconsider their own positions. Like this, it will be possible to overcome the view on reality of the white European heterosexual men as the only measuring and evaluating tool of understanding the world.
One example is the discussion about gender-quota. Interesting and important questions for men in this sense would be „What do I do/ think/ represent/ say (as a man in patriarchy) to create a situation and system, for that so many people are asking for a gender-quota?“, instead of judging whether it‘s right or wrong. Searching for their own patriarchal thinking and behaviour, instead of observing and judging the work, concepts and ideas of women, will show a way to fulfil responsibility in the fight for gender-liberation. Maybe it can stop the circle of guilt and lead to gender-liberation by „killing the man inside themselves“.
Women‘s struggle and class struggle
Considering the oppression of women as a consequence of capitalist and class oppression can easily result in a superficial understanding of patriarchy and its impact on the development of the mentality of Capitalist Modernity. Regarding the problem of unpaid, free domestic labour as its central theme diminishes the prospects of creating the world including the women’s point of view.
All the terminology inside political philosophy were invented by men. And the so-called «liberation» of women was often limited to economic issues. It’s important to remember that competition, which is inherent to capitalist mindset, is a part of patriarchal behaviour. It creates different forms of hierarchy and inevitable results in the inferiority of whoever loses.
Positivism2 which is based on productivity, fitted women into the category of object inside this constructed man’s world. Thus, women became part of this simplistic reality where they were seen as an appendage of men’s structures. They could only decide for themselves inside the limits of this imposed system where it was the men who were send as active subjects in society. The capitalist system limited the women’s role to the reproduction of human labour, to giving birth to more workers. The home , the private sphere is where this productivity in the sense of caring, cleaning, raising the children, was hidden like behind prison walls. Women’s work and their exploitation has been a condition for the exploitation of all proletarians, at the same time we have been mostly less acknowledged for our class struggle.
History knows that many revolutions, struggles and wars have led to new and increasingly sophisticated forms of oppression, such as the treatment of women during the Bolshevik government, after the October-Revolution. Within few years the allegedly progressive Soviet government turned out to create other forms of exploitation of women’s labour in factories and kolkhozes along with “kitchen slavery”.
It is time to fight again against this enemy, which appears with different faces, may it be liberalism, so called red socialism or the fake humanitarian NGO-discourse. It is time for us to connect, to rise up as internationalist women. The revolution is ongoing and there is a long and beautiful struggle in front of us that will make us successful on our path. As Lucy Parsons said, “ our motto is Freedom’: Freedom to discover any truth, freedom to develop, to live naturally and fully.”.
This text is a collective work written by women organized in the
Internationalist Commune of Rojava