LALIT has pleasure in publishing the Women’s Liberation Movement Communiqué in support of the new world-wide movement against sex abuse. The communiqué was finalized by the MLF on 23 January, and this is its first publication. In LALIT, we appreciate the way the MLF sees the articulation between the struggle for socialism and the struggle against patriarchy.
Here is the MLF communiqué in toto.
The MLF stands together with the new world-wide movement against sexual and sexist abuse of women, which had its roots 12 years ago in the “#metoo” movement founded by Tarana Burke.1
This movement became visible recently with the exposure of Hollywood’s ex-Miramax boss, Harvey Weinstein.2 He was able to abuse dozens of women workers, including actors, over decades because those around him covered it up. He employed a web of lawyers and even ex-Mossad secret agents to shut women up about what they suffered.3
The #metoo movement is the first big uprising of women to oppose the counter-revolution that had said, “Women’s liberation is over!” It exposes “post feminism” – through Weinstein – who funded feminist Hilary Clinton’s campaign, who took Democratic President Obama’s daughter on as stagiaire, and who even participated in the women’s march against Trump, so feminist was he!
Today, literally dozens of other high-profile powerful men – in politics 4, TV and the press5 as well as in show business in the US – have been forced to resign because of using their positions of relative power in order to abuse women. A British Cabinet Member had to resign. 6 In Britain, BBCs Top of the Pops host, Jimmy Savile was stripped of his Knighthood after his death, so disgraced was he.7 And in Mauritius, politicians are, for the first time in history, being taken to task by their own parties and the press for sexist and sexual abuse – Tarolah, Khodabaccus, Arunasalon and Rutnah – while others are covered up by their organizations and the press.8 In India, Bollywood actors are opposing sex abuse9, while in Peru and Chili there is mobilization during the Pope’s visit about priests’ abuse being covered up.10 In France and Belgium, the chouchou de la presse, supposed scholar Tariq Ramadan, who preaches against adultery, has been publicly denounced for philandering and sex abuse over many years.11 At the same time, the extent of the sexual abuse of children in institutions, particularly religious ones, has been exposed by the Australian 5-year Commission of Enquiry.12
In the working class, too, women have raised their voices against predatory men at work by exposing sex abuse suffered, for example, by nearly 6,000 women workers at a Chicago Ford factory.13 It is working women who will show the way towards articulating this sttuggle against macho behavior with the struggle for socialism.
The movement exposing these predatory men is particularly important at a time when Donald Trump was elected USA President even after bragging about groping women’s “pussy” and peeping, as boss, into Miss America dressing rooms.14 This shock at a return to a feudal form of patriarchy in power in the USA, came after a “near miss” in France, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn almost became President. He was fortunately publicly disgraced for his predatory behavior just in time.15 In Italy, there was Prime Minister Berlusconi found guilty of sex with an underage paid escort and, though the judgment was overturned on appeal, he is now charged with “buying” witnesses.16 Berlusconi is now allying with Catherine Deneuve and 100 reactionary French women shoring up the very patriarchy that is finally being put into question so bravely by victims of sex abuse.17
MLF: Long History of Opposing Abuse of Power
The MLF has long opposed men in positions of relative power abusing women over whom they have a power differential. When President Clinton abused a young woman stagiaire in the mid-1990s, as part of our ongoing international work, MLF insisted, in two open letters sent to American women’s organizations, to call on them to demand that Clinton step down as US President.
Most women’s organizations in the USA did not, however, heed this call.
The National Organization of Women (NOW) first replied to us that there was no proof against Clinton. Then when DNA proof emerged, they argued that, since he nominated women to positions of power, it was not expedient for him to step down. They added the appalling line that Clinton’s sex abuse was a result of “the aphrodisiac nature of power” – to use their ridiculous expression. The MLF was way ahead of them already then, talking in our letter of the power dynamics – that are only today becoming mainstream analyses in the USA women’s movement.
Need for principled stand
And today we can see how these US women’s organizations’ unprincipled support for Clinton has proved a fatal handicap when, 20 years later, they and other Democrats who defended Clinton, attempt to oppose Donald Trump, the most dangerous of all US Presidents, for his sexual and sexist abuse of women. Their credibility is nil. Trump to reply has just to mention Bill Clinton and they have to shut up. The women’s organizations have thus had to trail behind the #metoo movement.
Sex abuse is about power. It is about violence. It is about lack of consent. It is about abuse perpetrated by someone in a position of relative power. It is not about aphrodisiacs, nor about “galanterie” or “la drague” of any kind, as Catherine Deneuve and Co. say it is 18. Even Deneuve in her semi-apology for having signed the petition against the #metoo movement has corrected her line, saying now, rightly, that the problem is “always the power, the hierarchical position”.19
Macron breaks with “French Exception” over abusing women
We, in the MLF, call on people to listen to, or read, French President Emmanuel Macron’s coherent speech against violence against women20. It represents a major advance for French society, which has notoriously justified abuse against women under the pretext of a kind of sadistic “libertinism” – the particular concept existing only, as far as we know, in France – and “seduction”, a form of manipulation considered a game that can become rough. The advance for France is an advance, by ricochet, for Mauritius too, where the intellectual elite is so Francophile.
The progress in France follows decades of political leaders and the press masking DSK’s violent sex abuse and, before that, masking President Mitterand’s being married while oppressing two mistresses and children, all confined to lives, like slaves, in the shadows. 21 The MLF at the time invited five women journalists to discuss how the Press should not mask abuse like DSK’s and this, in the public interest, and not take “private life” as an excuse. It is the same excuse that used to be used for domestic violence.
Avoid Depending on the Patriarchal State for Redress
MLF commends the #metoo movement for freeing women from the additional oppression of an obligation to shut up or rely upon patriarchal hierarchies – police and courts – for the exposure of male predators. What is important, if we want to put an end to impunity, is not for the repressive forces of the state to find a man guilty beyond reasonable doubt and then lock him up. No. This may be necessary and appropriate as a remedy in some cases, of course. But, what is important is for everyone to stop excusing this predatory behavior by powerful males, to stop covering it up. If the men are politicians, their lies and deceipt, their hypocrisy must be exposed in the Press. And not hidden. We need to stop veiling this behavior. That is where the pudeur lies. A false pudeur that comes of fear of powerful males. What is important is to make it known that a man is acting abusively, and get him to stop it. And certainly not accord him any power over women. We know these abusive men often have tragic problems of their own, no doubt terrible abuse suffered as children but they cannot be allowed to go around torturing other people. Their power to do so – a social power – must be withdrawn. Harvey Weinstein has lost his power. He is instead in utter disgrace. His wife has left him. If he is finally brought to Court as a result of the rape allegations, this will be due process for criminal behavior, and the Courts will decide. But, for his abuse of women, he has been socially punished already.
In fact, this “relativization” of the importance of “going to the police” has become the leitmotif of the recent movement against predatory males: it is at long last recognized that the important thing is to speak out against these males, and to be free to do so – without retribution, humiliation, and without being ignored or criticized. The predatory men’s friends, relatives, organizations they are in, must bring them to book. DSK, for example, was finally fired from work, expelled from the Parti Socialiste, tried and found not guilty of running a brothel, and kicked out by his wife. Had he been called out for abusing women when he first began it, the social punishment would not have needed to be as extreme.
Whether to lay charges against abusers of power, or to sue these predators, depends on your chances of winning in these patriarchal institutions, and on whether a particular case, if taken to Court, is likely to bring progress for everyone as well as the victim. It is also up to the victim to decide whether it is possible. She has to do what journalist Ronan Farrow calls a “cost benefit analysis” of even speaking out, let alone facing the stress of going to the Police. Finally, it is no longer another stick for macho men to beat women with if they do not go to the Police. Or, if they have delayed exposing someone.
Wrong analysis leads to wrong strategy, wrong demands
The MLF condemns the political current in the women’s movement that works for women to rise to positions of power within existing patriarchal hierarchies. We must unite instead to decrease the power of patriarchal hierarchies. It is not only useless to women’s liberation for women to rise to positions of power within patriarchy, but often actually harmful to the struggle for equality. It produces not only unprincipled stands (like excusing Bill Clinton) that are later in practice a handicap, but also the wrong demands i.e. demands (like calling for more police), and then, in turn, strategies and tactics that may, and often do, strengthen patriarchal repressive structures! In order to weaken patriarchal structures, we know that we have to recognise them, for a start, and then aim to weaken them, and to “flatten” all hierarchical structures. That is why we prefer social control to state punishment, whenever possible. That is why we want a classless society, as well as women’s emancipation. That is why we need political mobilization around a political program. This is why women need an organization like the Muvman Liberasyon Fam.
1. Also worth a long, chatty read: http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article5326
2. End-notes: Selected from mainly mainstream sources as an introductory article
21 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/fran-ois-mitterrand-former-french-presidents-other-woman-finally-reveals-all-about-their-32-year-10265048.html and http://www.france24.com/en/20140809-swedish-politician--french-president-mitterrand-son-illegitimate