BOB AVAKIAN ON
COVID-19 AND THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN
In The Deadly Illusion of “Normalcy” and the Revolutionary Way Forward, I pointed to this basic fact:
In the context of this current [coronavirus] crisis, the exploitative and oppressive relations built into this system are asserting themselves in a pronounced way, within this country and internationally, just as they have in previous crises….
Even as broad swaths of the population will be hit by the coronavirus, this inequality will once again have its effect in this country in relation to the current crisis—as immigrants, prisoners, the homeless, people in poor communities, particularly among the oppressed nationalities, and others who are subordinated, degraded and despised by the “normal workings” of this system and the powers that be, will be subjected to disproportionate suffering.1
One of the main ways this is happening is with the oppression of women. This oppression is a fundamental part of this system of capitalism-imperialism (and all systems divided into exploiters and exploited), and it takes horrific forms in the “normal” functioning of this system.
As I have previously written, speaking to this horrific oppression:
Look at all these beautiful children who are female in the world. And in addition to all the other outrages which I have referred to, in terms of children throughout the slums and shantytowns of the Third World, in addition to all the horrors that will be heaped on them—the actual living in garbage and human waste in the hundreds of millions as their fate, laid out before them, yes, even before they are born—there is, on top of this, for those children who are born female, the horror of everything that this will bring simply because they are female in a world of male domination. And this is true not only in the Third World. In “modern” countries like the U.S. as well, the statistics barely capture it: the millions who will be raped; the millions more who will be routinely demeaned, deceived, degraded, and all too often brutalized by those who are supposed to be their most intimate lovers; the way in which so many women will be shamed, hounded and harassed if they seek to exercise reproductive rights through abortion, or even birth control; the many who will be forced into prostitution and pornography; and all those who—if they do not have that particular fate, and even if they achieve some success in this “new world” where supposedly there are no barriers for women—will be surrounded on every side, and insulted at every moment, by a society and a culture which degrades women, on the streets, in the schools and workplaces, in the home, on a daily basis and in countless ways.2
There are many ways in which all this has become even more extreme in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. To cite just two important examples:
Incidents of women being battered by husbands or boyfriends have significantly increased—not just in the U.S. but in many other countries as well.
And within the U.S. in particular, in a number of states whose governments are dominated by Christian fundamentalist fascists, there have been further attacks on the right to abortion. This is being done specifically in the form of closing down clinics that provide abortions, under the hypocritical pretext that such closures are aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus—at the same time as governing forces in many of these states are promoting reckless defiance of necessary measures to limit the spread of this virus. The fact is that it is definitely possible for clinics that provide abortions to implement measures to protect the health of women who are seeking abortions and to minimize the risk of spreading the coronavirus; and, given this, as well as the basic fact that the denial of the right to abortion is itself a great social harm, contributing in a major way to the oppression of women, there is no legitimate reason for closing these clinics and creating further obstacles to women exercising their right to abortion—and doing so adds further to the harm that is done to women on a daily basis, and to society overall.
All this is an expression of the fact that the position and role of women in society has become a very acute and concentrated focus of the whole question of the fundamental direction of society, and of humanity. This is something which fascist forces, including the fascist Trump/Pence regime in this country, have seized on as a crucial part of their unrelenting drive to reinforce and carry to extremes the already oppressive relations of this system—and it is something all those who are determined to live in a world free from all forms of enslavement and oppression need to recognize and take up as a crucial battlefront.
In this regard, something I wrote more than 30 years ago has become all the more profoundly true and important:
Over the past several decades in the U.S. there have been profound changes in the situation of women and the relations within the family. In only one of ten families is there the “model” situation where the husband is the “sole breadwinner” and the wife a totally dependent “homemaker.” With these economic changes have come significant changes in attitudes and expectations—and very significant strains not only on the fabric of the family but of social relations more broadly….The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances—this is a powderkeg in the U.S. today. It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms and through extremely violent means. The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement.3
1. The Deadly Illusion of “Normalcy” and the Revolutionary Way Forward is available at revcom.us. [back]
2. BAsics 1:10 (BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). This is drawn from Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution—Part III: “The New Synthesis and the Woman Question: The Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution—Further Leaps and Radical Ruptures,” which is also available at revcom.us. [back]
3. This statement by Bob Avakian was first published in 1985 and has been cited in a number of works since then, including Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution. Emphasis has been added here. [back]