Workers Vanguard No. 1020
22 March 2013
Church of Avakian Decrees: No Nudes Is Good Nudes
(Young Spartacus pages)
Ordering his acolytes once more unto the breach, Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) leader Bob Avakian has anathematized Playboy, porn shops, strip clubs, Xtube and 50 Shades of Grey. These puritanical Maoists, steeped in reactionary “family values” moralism, have taken an outlandish turn with their “End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women” campaign.
Since 2012, the RCP has despicably used International Women’s Day, a proletarian holiday, as a platform to march through New York and other cities, shrieking at billboards that “objectify women” and protesting sex shops and local strip clubs. Giving the evangelicals some stiff competition, RCPers can be found on street corners and college campuses handing out palm cards that order people to “STOP WATCHING PORN” because it “corrupts the humanity of those who watch it.” RCP proselytizers are known for urging male fighters for women’s rights (e.g., abortion clinic defense guards and abortion rights demonstrators) to confess to their past porn-viewing habits and sin no more.
The meat of the “End Pornography” campaign, which is spearheaded by RCP spokeswoman Sunsara Taylor, is laid out in a 2011 “Call to Action.” In this call they ludicrously claim that pornographic images are the cause of rape, murder and other violent crimes against women. They posit that there is a “culture of rape and pornography” that is reinforcing the “enslavement and degradation of women.”
Keeping abreast of the latest developments, they claim U.S. culture has recently been “pornified,” as evidenced by the national phenomenon of (gasp) teen sexting and women taking pole-dancing classes at gyms! Underlying this patronizing absurdity and holier-than-thou mentality is the age-old “women are victims and can’t possibly enjoy sex” (or porn) garbage. For these neo-Victorian morality police, the “new” offenses in porn include depositing seminal fluid on a lady’s visage, penetrating orifices in a sequence not to the RCP’s liking, and other sexual practices they decry in lurid detail.
What kind of a sick cat does one have to be to determine (with some precision, mind you) which positions, organs, orifices and/or exchanges of bodily fluids are degrading and abusive rather than based on “mutual love and respect”? A very sick one, indeed. In fact, what’s truly obscene in all this is Bob Avakian’s diktats on “normalcy.” If they would just keep it to themselves in their prayer halls, with the membership kneeling at the altar of the mind-numbing, 6-hour-plus documentary of Avakian’s preachings, we wouldn’t be compelled to comment on it. But the RCP’s proselytizing plays right into the hands of a very real anti-sex witchhunt by the very real capitalist state.
In his tirades against pornography, Avakian trivializes not only the horrific crime of rape but also America’s racist history of murders of black men by the Ku Klux Klan. Speaking of the photo postcards of lynchings that KKK supporters circulated in the early 20th century, Avakian outrageously claims that pornography “is the equivalent of those ‘Postcards of the Hanging.’ It is a means through which all women are demeaned and degraded.” These words inspired Avakian’s followers to produce a grotesque poster that equates images of Jim Crow lynchings with pornographic stills and a Dolce & Gabbana fashion advertisement! This shows a contemptuous disregard for KKK terror; you don’t have to be a Marxist to find this absolutely repulsive.
This reactionary anti-sex campaign, which argues that the basis for women’s oppression is “impure thoughts” rather than the capitalist system of exploitation, is as far from the goal of liberating women as you can get. Try telling a woman in Saudi Arabia or Iran—two countries where porn is banned—that dirty magazines and videos are the source of her oppression! Pornography is simply images and words intended for entertainment. It reflects, and only reflects, some human behavior. In this violent, irrational capitalist society, some of those reflections aren’t pretty. But you can’t change society by changing images on a screen. Only socialist revolution can create the economic basis to replace the institution of the family—the main source of women’s oppression—and ensure genuine freedom for women.
The RCP capitulates to the pervasive religious backwardness that causes youth to suffer shame, humiliation, self-loathing and traumatic fear about activities that would otherwise be considered fun. Aping the Vatican, for years the RCP raised the slogan for “stable monogamous relationships between men and women.” They still bemoan the fact that men “avoid or delay marriage” and “seek instead...to find sexual gratification without obligations, in casual encounters and through pornography/prostitution” (“A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity,” Revolution, 8 March 2009).
The RCP couples their anti-porn tirades with a call for “Abortion on demand and without apology!” But in fact the organization makes common cause with those whose keenest ambition is the destruction of Roe v. Wade. The RCP’s anti-porn campaign is strikingly similar to Republican Tea Party politician Michele Bachmann’s 2011 pledge to provide “humane protection of women and the innocent fruit of conjugal intimacy...from human trafficking, sexual slavery, seduction into promiscuity, and all forms of pornography and prostitution, infanticide, abortion and other types of coercion or stolen innocence.... So help us God.”
Government Out of the Bedroom!
Sexuality is personal, not political. The capitalist rulers are the ones who politicize sexuality, victimizing those who run afoul of its writ. While raining death on Pakistani and Afghan youth, the U.S. rulers are on a domestic rampage to regiment people’s sex lives in the name of “protecting the children.” To wit: charging teens with distributing “child pornography” and “obscene materials to a minor” when they flirt by sexting nude pictures of themselves; arresting teenagers’ adult lovers; incarcerating thousands of men who view images classified as child pornography or who engage in sexual cyberspace chats with youth (or undercover cops posing as such). Porn doesn’t destroy lives, but being on a sex offender registry for the rest of your life sure does. Down with reactionary anti-sex laws! Government out of the bedroom!
As the saying goes, “Perversion is whatever you don’t happen to be into.” It is no one’s business how people get a small measure of sexual enjoyment in this otherwise miserable capitalist existence. We oppose all attempts at the puritanical censorship of pornography. Similarly, we are opposed to all laws against “crimes without victims,” such as prostitution, drug use and “age of consent” laws. We advocate the concept of effective consent—which means that as long as all parties involved consent to the act, nobody, least of all the state, has any right to tell them they can’t do it.
Who does the RCP expect will enforce their porn-abstinence campaign? In their “Call to Action” there is a fine-print disclaimer stating that (of course!) they’re not looking to establish new laws to ban pornography. But words are cheap. A so-called communist organization that not only does not fight against censorship, but also encourages it, is a pawn of the state. When the RCP and supporters picket a sex shop, they cannot turn around the next day and protest its shuttering by the state and religious reaction. They have already taken a side.
Chairman Bob Knows It When He Sees It
What is too “obscene” to be allowed? Like U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who opined on pornography in a 1964 case, Chairman Bob knows it when he sees it. He had a similar reaction to women’s lingerie—namely, thongs—described in his press as “hideous symbols and embodiments of the degradation of women” in the same vein as burqas. That’s right, burqas! A few years ago, the RCP sponsored a speaking tour called “From the Burkha to the Thong,” which equated the burqa, an oppressive symbol and instrument of religious reaction, with a skimpy undergarment many women (and some men, actually) enjoy wearing.
This sort of nonsense takes a page from the feminists who, for decades, made common cause with the religious right in sundry porn censorship campaigns. With its cries to “End Patriarchy,” the RCP engages in contemptible pandering to feminists, pushing the idealist notion that social change is effected through moral suasion and not class struggle. Contrary to popular belief, feminism does not mean women’s liberation. Rather, it places the dividing line in society as one of gender and not class, and it seeks the advancement of women to a more equal participation in government and corporations at the top of the repressive capitalist system. The bourgeois ideology of feminism is an obstacle to the real emancipation of women.
In keeping with its time-dishonored Maoist-Stalinist heritage, the RCP embraces the family. In the 1970s, the RCP, then called the Revolutionary Union (RU), decried homosexuality—along with pornography and promiscuity—as diseases of capitalist society, and banned gays and lesbians from the organization. The RCP forebears wrote in their 1974 “Position Paper of the Revolutionary Union on Homosexuality and Gay Liberation”: “Gay liberation is anti-working-class and counterrevolutionary. Its attacks on the family would rob poor and working class people of the most viable social unit for their revolutionary struggle against the imperialist system” (see “RU on Homosexuals: Malicious Maoist Bigotry,” Young Spartacus No. 26, November 1974). This was followed by their rants in the 1980s against gay men’s so-called “self-indulgent lifestyle,” along with a list of practices they found highly objectionable, including pornography and casual sex.
By the beginning of the 21st century, the RCP apparently discovered that it was hard to recruit young activists while sounding like bigot Rick Santorum. So the RCP repudiated its anti-gay ban. As we later noted in our article, “RCP: Anti-Gay Moralists Then and Now” (WV No. 947, 20 November 2009), “The RCP’s present enthusiasm for gay marriage apparently has more to do with their enthusiasm for forcing people into the stultifying institution of monogamous marriage than with any opposition to the oppression of homosexuals.”
Their 2001 New Draft Programme position represented a change of line, but not a change of heart. Today they “do not see a homosexual orientation or the practice of homosexuality per se as something that constitutes an impediment to the emancipation of women.” Then they add, “Male gay culture in bourgeois society is not a departure from—and in fact there are elements in which it is a concentration of—male right.” Thus speaketh the Lord Avakian: male same-sex relationships are still assertions of male chauvinism.
Today, the RCP engages in the socially acceptable form of anti-gay bigotry: slandering the North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) as “child molesters.” NAMBLA is an organization that calls for the decriminalization of consensual relationships between adult men and minors (e.g., Queer as Folk TV heartthrob Brian Kinney’s affair with a high school student in Season One).
Anti-pedophile hysteria is used by the state to justify the grossest intervention into people’s private lives—and especially to police the behavior of youth. Despicably, almost all gay rights organizations and leftist groups refuse to defend NAMBLA, leaving it at the mercy of the capitalist state. The Spartacist League has a proud history of defending NAMBLA, opposing “age of consent” laws and all laws curtailing the privacy and sexual freedom of consenting individuals.
As porn star Nina Hartley puts it, “Sexual desire is, by its nature, unruly, chaotic, transgressive and boundary-crossing.” Writing more than 50 years ago, Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey debunked the prevailing myth that monogamous, heterosexual relationships were the norm in society. Interviewing almost 18,000 people, his team laid out in undeniable detail the fact that 19 out of every 20 Americans had broken at least one law (adultery, sodomy, etc.) when having sex. Although no longer cutting such a wide swath, today’s anti-sex laws still seek to force people into a sexual straitjacket and to cruelly punish transgressions (see “In Defense of Sex and Science,” WV No. 839, 7 January 2005).
The Family: Main Source of Women’s Oppression
The RCP follows the tenets of Chinese leader Mao Zedong, who advanced not only the nationalist dogma of building “socialism in one country” but also promoted the family as an ideological prop for bureaucratic caste rule. The 1949 Revolution against capitalism transformed lives and provided unprecedented opportunities for Chinese women who, in pre-revolutionary times, were barely recognized as humans. Yet there remained, as Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky put it in The Revolution Betrayed (1937) when describing the Soviet Stalinist bureaucracy, “the philosophy of a priest endowed also with the powers of a gendarme.” Under Mao’s regime, divorce was difficult to obtain, premarital sex was a crime, homosexuality was regarded as an “illness” and masturbation was warned against in mass-distributed hygiene manuals. (See “Maoism and the Family,” Women and Revolution No. 7, Autumn 1974.)
The Maoist ideology is the legacy of Stalinism in the former Soviet Union. The USSR issued out of a victorious workers revolution in 1917. (This was different from China, where the peasant army under Mao led the revolution.) Following the 1924 political counterrevolution that usurped power from the working class, the Stalinist bureaucracy maintained and reinforced its parasitic caste rule by promoting social conservatism and respect for authority. The bureaucrats dredged up the old bourgeois ideology of Great Russian chauvinism and the cult of the family.
The Stalinist/Maoist glorification of the family is antithetical to V.I. Lenin and the Bolsheviks’ struggle for women’s liberation (see Quote on page 2), and to the entire history of the Marxist movement. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels explained that the monogamous patrilineal family arose “to make the man supreme in the family, and to propagate, as the future heirs to his wealth, children indisputably his own.” Under capitalism, the family remains the central source of the oppression of women and is crucial in ensuring that the bourgeoisie’s property is transmitted from one generation to the next through “legitimate” heirs.
For the working class, the nuclear family means breeding and raising the next generation of wage slaves for the ruling class, the drudgery of housework, the caring for the sick and aged, as well as the instilling of bourgeois morals and ideology needed to reinforce obedience to authority. That is why any deviation, like gay rights and the right to abortion, is seen as a threat to the family.
The oppressive institution of the family cannot simply be abolished. It is necessary to replace the family as a legal and economic unit, as part of the transition to a classless, communist society. Through the creation of alternative institutions that would collectively perform the work now performed by women in the home, we aspire to emancipate women from the endless drudgery (as full-time babysitter, cook, washerwoman, housecleaner, etc.) and from the social, cultural and political isolation imposed upon them by the family structure. In order to achieve this, the working class, with women as a crucial component within it, must smash the bourgeois state and lay the basis for a planned, collectivized economy. For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!
Both men and women workers are oppressed by the daily violence of capitalist exploitation—poverty, hunger, untreated illness, homelessness and alienating labor. But the sanctimonious RCP would have you believe that the main problem in society today is “objectified” women vs. their working-class brothers who allegedly “corrupt their humanity” by enjoying images that Chairman Bob and Sunsara Taylor disapprove of.
During its (now defunct) World Can’t Wait campaign, the RCP’s dividing line was the purportedly “fascist” Bush Regime vs. the Whole World that just couldn’t wait to drive him out and put the Democrats in office. Now they’ve got the world they fought for: capitalist rule by the other party of the class enemy. And what does the RCP have to show for its efforts? Two million people rotting away in prison, 1.5 million immigrants deported and thousands dead in Obama’s drone strikes.
The common thread is that the opportunistic RCP, absent any working-class compass to guide it, seeks out alien class forces: here the capitalist party of the class enemy, there the anti-sex wing of the petty-bourgeois feminists, everywhere the amorphous mass they call “the people.” The RCP will embrace anything and everything except a proletarian class axis. While the RCP persists in its reformist and puritanical campaigns, the Spartacist League and its youth auxiliary, the Spartacus Youth Clubs, carry forward the programmatic struggle for women’s liberation through socialist revolution.