Patriarchy and Capitalism
If Patriarchy is a word to describe a hierarchical power structure dominated by men, then the bulk of the anti-capitalist project can be described as a fight against patriarchy.
Land and Freedom
The control of material objects is one of the defining characteristics of power. Privatising the commons means depriving others of material autonomy, forcing them into a state of dependency. In order to safeguard personal liberty, equal rights to the commons must be defended against any coercive minority that would declare it their private property.
When an individual, or group of individuals, seizes control of the commons and arranges social dynamics to perpetuate this control, they create a hierarchy – with themselves at the top, their functionaries below, and the dispossessed below them. Hierarchy is the germ of class society, which communists, socialists and anarchists wish to destroy, or so they say.
But looking at the hierarchical structures that have existed historically and which continue to perpetuate social relations based on private property, hierarchy, dispossession and all the oppression and exploitation they entail, it is impossible to deny that the huge majority have been dominated by men and that the small minority dominated by women, or relatively egalitarian, have tended to become annihilated by patriarchal structures.
Take a look at the institutions that comprise the current global order:
At the top, the global financial institutions: the IMF, World Bank, the various national private central banks such as the Bank of England, and the thousands of other international financial corporations. Though the present head of the IMF is a woman she sits in rooms everyday in which she is the only female there not serving drinks. It may be a generalisation to claim that the culture of the global capitalist class is inherently macho, sexist and patriarchal, but I have never seen evidence to the contrary. The stereotype most people have of the rich businessman – keeping a trophy wife at home amongst an army of low paid, mostly female domestic servants while clandestinely soliciting the services of sex workers and sexually harassing female underlings at the office – is evidently not far from the truth.
But more than this, and even more than the fact that they are institutions overwhelmingly owned by men, controlled by men and with all the astronomical profits going to men, they uphold patriarchy by enforcing the current neoliberal imperialist order. The financial class has all the world’s nation states in its grips, dictating policy to them, all for the benefit of banks and other private corporations, for the more capitalist businesses in general there are around, the more there is for the banks to invest in and profit from.
But what policy, and which corporations?
A policy of permanent war and economic restructuring under the cover of a spectacle of unceasing crisis. Corporations such as arms manufacturers, private militias, drug lords (whether officially legal or not), the builders of needless (and ugly) buildings, the purveyors toxic food, the demolishers of mountains, poisoners of water and mass murderers of trees. But not only these institutions, other are also kept up by the state, which are sometimes less directly profitable, though inventive ways of putting them directly into the hands of private capital are constantly being sought.
I am talking of the disciplinary institutions which the dispossessed are condemned to whenever they are not currently being exploited by a capitalist, and which train in them from birth the habits of docility, obedience and submission necessary for their intended waste of a life as wage-workers.
The schools, the “hospitals”, the army barracks, “charities” or state run “welfare” services, and of course, the form they are all modelled on, the Prison, itself modelled on the monastery. This is no surprise since organised religion itself has always played the vital role of keeping the oppressed meek.
All of these institutions which together make up the State-capitalist world order (the banks, governments, corporations, charities, schools, hospitals, prisons and organised religions) are hierarchical structures of control protecting the power and private property of a minority of men. They are all deliberately set up by these men, whether they admit it or not, to keep women, transsexuals and ‘effeminate’ men in submissive positions and promote amongst other men the values of machismo: competitiveness, aggressiveness, self-assertion, misogyny and homophobia.
These macho values are the glue that holds these hierarchies together, keeping the powerful men at the top and the men below them in a position of relative power over women as a compensation for a lack of power at the larger level. As master of the house, the man may forget that he is the slave of the factory.
And in the factory, or the school, or the army, he is indeed a slave, but even there not as much as the women who work the hardest jobs in the factory for the least pay and who the male union leaders and socialist politicians ignore, the girls at school who must not only be disciplined to the rigours of the household but also to those of the household and bedroom in which she is to be considered a mere plaything, or the millions of women raped by invading armies or left destitute and unprotected after the bombs have been dropped.
Make no mistake, this hyperexploitation, this shouldering of the burden for social reproduction onto women and this rape and collateral damage, translate directly into Euros, Pounds and Dollars. To speak of fighting capitalism, or the state, or even militarism, without explicitly recognising that they are all constituent parts of a broader and deeper system of oppression called patriarchy, is either wilfully deceptive or hopelessly ignorant and blind.
Without this recognition, when we liberate territory from the patriarchs, we will simply replace them with patriarchs from our own ranks, as so often happens. When male proletarians seek to organise against their oppression they will idly complain of their failure without recognising that the most numerous force of workers with the most to gain from class struggle and revolution are not part of their movement because they have no desire to add anarchist or socialist patriarchs to their list of oppressors.
Male proletarians desiring freedom from their boss or state would do well to reflect on who might desire freedom from them. In looking for allies in their struggle against the bourgeoisie they would do well to open their eyes and hearts to the militant struggles already long underway being waged not only against the bourgeoisie, but many other oppressors as well by women, queer and trans people the world over.
When they find themselves in a discussion on the nature of their oppression in any formal or informal setting where women, queer or trans people are present, they would do well to take care not to talk more than their fair share but to listen, in the hope that they might gain a richer understanding of what they are fighting from the perspective of one much more oppressed than they could ever be.
And of course, when male proletarians realise they are contributing to upholding patriarchy through their behaviour, the most important thing for them to do is to STOP IT. Changing yourself is a difficult process, but so is changing the world. We cannot expect freedom if we are not prepared to give it, especially not if we oppress our comrades that we should be fighting for freedom alongside.
For the destruction of Patriarchy, Male Privilege, Private Property and Machismo.