marx, workerism’s “community of women”, racist deployment of ‘promiscuity’ against alabama communists

17.03.2011 § Leave a comment

“Communism… in its first form is only a generalisation and consummation of it [of this relation]… It wants to disregard talent, etc., in an arbitrary manner. For it the sole purpose of life and existence is direct, physical possession.The category of the worker is not done away with, but extended to all men. The relationship of private property persists as the relationship of the community to the world of things. Finally, this movement of opposing universal private property to private property finds expression in the brutish form of opposing to marriage (certainly a form of exclusive private property) the community of women, in which a woman becomes a piece of communal and common property. It may be said that this idea of the community of women gives away the secret of this as yet completely crude
and thoughtless communism.[30] Just as woman passes from marriage to
general prostitution, [Prostitution is only a specific expression of the
general prostitution of the labourer, and since it is a relationship in
which falls not the prostitute alone, but also the one who prostitutes –
and the latter’s abomination is still greater – the capitalist, etc., also
comes under this head. – Note by Marx [31]] so the entire world of wealth
(that is, of man’s objective substance) passes from the relationship of
exclusive marriage with the owner of private property to a state of
universal prostitution with the community. This type of communism – since
it negates the personality of man in every sphere – is but the logical
expression of private property, which is this negation. ”

—- Marx’s Economic and Philosophicl Manuscrtipts of 1844, Section on Private Property and Communism

This Marx quote is really wild. He’s making an analogy between the bad conception of communism and the process of collectivising the appropriation of women. He argues that, saying communism means collectivizing property and labor, is the same as saying instead of marriage we should have a “community of women” to which men have unrestricted access (rather than private contracts).

He seems to be suggesting that the vulgar notion of communism would want to transform the central gender relation from marriage to generalized prostitution.

He’s critiquing the notion that the only problem with ‘property’ is that property belongs to an individual person. He’s like – do we really want to collectivize property? No, we want to abolish property relations completely. Marx’s comments on women in the EPM’s are rilly ambiguous and bizzarre, but interesting. Some seem really radical feminist, some seem totally backwards patriarchal. Seems they may be reconciled, but it takes work.

leopardi fortunati talks about this in the arcane of reproduction.

Interestingly enough, in the book Hammer and hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression, the author writes:

From the outset the ILD [International Labor Defense, an org that defended Sacco and Vanzetti] was tainted by a peculiar myth that linked Communism to sexual promiscuity and miscegenation. In the South the word communism itself had a curiously explicit sexual connotation derived from stereotyped visions of nineteenth-century utopian communal societies, which suggested that notions of “free love” were integrally tied to communal living. Moreover, the presence of white women in an organization with even larger proportion of black men spurred Southern white imgainations…. black Communist Louise Thompson was handled in a similar manner in a Birmingham courtorom During cross-examination, both the prosecuting attorney and the judge “were inclined at first to make a joke of the affairs, taunting me about ‘my comrades,’ slyly alluding ito some intimate relationship with the men arrested with me.”

The belief that Commmunists intended to make women public property, available to all irrespective of race, served as a powerful buffer against Communism. Black men, it was suggested over and over again, were drawn to Communism because it meant having access to the dominant society’s greatest treasure — white women… Some of the Party’s detractors even suggested that the Communists planned to wage a sexual revolution alongside the class struggle. (p79)


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