Free Chocolates Next?

Finally the announcement came from the Ministry of Health: there would be free contraceptives for all women in Workers' Paradise.  No longer the wrenching choice between chips or contraception; proles can have both.  The Leader's Media Ministry, a branch of the Fiction Department, proclaimed the victory for the revolution, which would stop the oppression of women and was a great leap forward for "preventive medicine."  The new aspirin-a-day.

In spite of the Ministry of Health's generosity, and Obama's Potemkin prattle that "manufacturing jobs are coming back" and that the economy is turning around, his message was drowned out when the Ministry of Plenty admitted that the Leader's Four-Year Plan and its generous but failed stimulus of $1.2 trillion had made for the longest period of unemployment since the great depression.

In other efforts to improve the economy, the Leader nationalized two car companies, pushed "cash for clunkers," exerted unprecedented control over financial institutions with continued fear over the nationalization of banks, and is in the midst of nationalizing medicine and education.  Despite these efforts, there are 2.5 million fewer people in the labor force under Obama.  Government dependency has increased by 23%, real unemployment is 15%, and the national debt has increased by 4 trillion.  Their "boots on the throat" of oil pipelines and drilling have contributed to gas prices of $4 per gallon.  Chips and contraceptives.

These phenomena -- the birth control mandate -- and economic policies that include nationalization with control over some sectors of the economy should not be viewed in isolation. They are directly linked -- two distinct parts of socialist feminism, a synthesis between radical feminism and Marxism.  Though a strong current in feminism from the 1960s and 1970s in Australia, Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., its beginnings go back to the early feminist movement in the U.S.  So with one diktat, Obama gave feminists free birth control pills and redistributed wealth in the process.

Common, but not exclusive, themes in feminist socialism include:

  1. Marxist-Leninism with particular emphasis on Russia (in spite of the fact that Marx kept a female slave);
  2. Free birth control and abortion on demand;
  3. Women's true liberation can be realized only with socialism.

Examining these components, we see at a glance that the birth control mandate and the recent labor statistics are not separate phenomena, but linked.  Margaret Sanger, a socialist and "community organizer" for the IWW, was the founder of Planned Parenthood.  She visited Russia's grand experiment and reported back in Birth Control Review in 1935: "Theoretically, there are no obstacles to birth control in Russia. It is accepted ... [o]n the grounds of health and a human right[.] ... [W]e could well take example from Russia, where there are no legal restrictions, no religious condemnation, and where birth control instruction is part of the regular welfare service of the government."

Betty Millard, a writer and feminist during the first wave of feminism in the U.S., worked with Nora Stanton Barney, Haley Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.  Millard was a member of the Congress of American Women (CAW), a communist front and an affiliated group of the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF).  She tied the feminist movement to the labor movement, which was a first: "women must continue to be a major force in their own advance but they can move ahead only in common action with labor" (emphasis added).

In 1948, Millard produced the pamphlet "Woman against Myth," which analyzed the inequality between the sexes.  Published by International Publishers and appearing in New Masses magazine, a prominent American Marxist publication, it examined and explained the history of the women's movement in the United States, in the socialist movement, and in the USSR.  Millard claimed that due to the "rise of private property and the master and slave society woman herself became an object of exploitation."

"Woman against Myth" celebrated the joint "hundredth anniversary of the publication of the Communist Manifesto" with "the organized fight for equality of American women that began with the Seneca Falls convention. More and more we come to see that it is only the socialism foreshadowed by Marx and Engels, abolishing all forms of exploitation of one human being by another, that can make it possible for women to achieve real equality."

This is not to say that all early American feminists were leftists with a radical agenda. Feminists secured important rights for women, including education, the right to pursue a career and the right to vote, and many were abolitionists.  But some of the key early feminists in the U.S., including Eleanor Flexner, Century of Struggle (1954), and Eve Merriam, The Unfinished Revolution (1962), were known communists who did pursue another agenda.  A turning point in the feminist movement came with Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique (1963), which launched the second wave of feminism in the U.S.  Entering Smith College in 1938, Friedan was influenced by the radical economics professor Dorothy Wolff Douglas, who taught economics and encouraged Friedan to adopt communism.  Like Millard, Wolff Douglass was a senior member of the Congress of American Women.  In her course, Douglas contrasted the traditional attitudes toward the woman and family in Nazi Germany with those of women in the USSR "who experienced equality of opportunity, with their wages almost matching (and in some cases exceeding) those of men" (Dupes, Paul Kengor).

As a young woman, Friedan worked for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, a communist-controlled union, and was assigned at UE News to promote the Progressive Party campaign of Henry Wallace for the presidency in 1948.  Friedan also worked as a "community organizer" and had a long history of associations with left-wing causes which she tried to suppress.

The Feminine Mystique exposed what Friedan termed sexism in the U.S.  It became influential, and as a result, Friedan became very powerful.  From 1966 to 1970, she was the first president of the National Organization for Women, and she started the effective Women's Strike for Equality.  She founded the National Women's Political Caucus with Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and others.

A critical document on feminist socialism was published in 1972 by a group from Chicago with connections to the present administration: "Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women's Movement."  Originating from the Hyde Park Chapter of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, the CWLU was founded in 1969 "as an explicitly radical, anti-capitalist, feminist, city-wide organization committed to building an autonomous, multi-issue women's liberation movement."  The women participating in CWLU included Heather Booth and Vivian Rothstein.  CWLU supported the Black Panthers and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party.

"Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women's Movement," written by Heather Booth and others, declared: "We choose to identify ourselves with the heritage and future of feminism and socialism in our struggle for revolution. It is one that focuses on how power has been denied women because of their class position. We see capitalism as an institutionalized form of oppression based on profit for private owners of publicly-worked-for wealth. It sets into motion hostile social relations in classes."

They continued: "We share the socialist vision of a humanist world made possible through a redistribution of wealth and an end to the distinction between the ruling class and those who are ruled."  They stated that their vision of "Socialist Feminism is Desirable and Not Possible Under the Existing System."  Then the recurring refrain appears: access to safe, free birth control, abortion, and sterilization, free from coercion or social stigma.

A recent posting by the Socialist Youth Movement claimed that women do not succeed because of capitalism.  "A socialist system would provide free contraception and abortion so that we could make informed decisions about whether we want to have children or not."

A thoroughly documented study by Kate Weigand, a feminist historian published in 2002 -- "Red Feminism: American Communism and the Making of Women's Liberation" -- argues that "[i]deas, activists and traditions that emanated from the Communist movement of the forties and fifties continued to shape the direction of the new women's movement of the 1960's and later."

Finally, a 2010 posting from the International Communist League, "Fifty Years After the Pill: Still a Long Way to Go," connects the dots: "Leon Trotsky, co-leader with V.I. Lenin of the 1917 October Revolution, underlined that birth control and abortion are among women's 'most important civil, political and cultural rights' (The Revolution Betrayed [1936]). We fight for women's liberation through socialist revolution. We call for free abortion on demand as part of free, quality health care for all and for free, 24-hour childcare to address the deep class and racial oppression of poor and minority women."

These few examples provide evidence that radical feminism and socialism -- feminist socialism -- was a common thread in the feminist movement throughout the U.S. from the 1930s on, and its three-part framework of Marx-Leninism, abortion and birth control, and socialism is a regular refrain.  The groundwork for the free contraception diktat by Obama was laid by these groups over decades.  The mandate, therefore, cannot be viewed in isolation but must be viewed concurrently with the administration's economic policies.

Chips, cars, and contraceptives -- will chocolates be next?