The socialist project is intrinsically bound up with the feminist project-just as it is with anti-racism-in a number of ways. Perhaps most fundamental is a philosophical commitment to the notion of human equality, understood as the rejection of hierarchical distinctions between categories of people. Closely linked to this commitment is the historical observation that movements whose egalitarianism was “selective” have invariably foundered, essentially because that very limitation has blocked them from achieving the all-encompassing transformation of attitudes that is integral to the attainment of a cooperative (i.e., non-hierarchical) social order. More specifically, insofar as socialist-oriented movements and regimes have failed to embrace sexual equality, they have not only forfeited the full participation of women; they have also (and by the same token) been unsuccessful in dismantling the deep-rooted psycho- logical mechanisms that have sustained historically male patterns of aggressive and proprietary behavior.
The long-term interdependence of left and feminist agendas has not, however, been reflected in recent scholarship. While the Marxist tradition has always placed emphasis on the woman question, in practice attention by left scholars to the remarkable flowering of writing and analysis by contemporary feminism has been superficial at best. Journals such as this one have largely failed to encompass feminist work, while feminist writers, even on the left, have tended to publish in journals devoted primarily to questions of gender.
The separation at the level of analysis is repeated in day-to-day activism. Thus, for example, many commentators have remarked on the need for the global justice movement to take on board the ideas and the needs of women. Yet, as Carol Barton points out in her article below, World Social Forum meetings to date have repeatedly marginalized women’s issues, virtually compelling women activists to take special measures to get their voices heard.
With the section on gender and globalization, we are inaugurat- ing what we hope will be a continuing attempt to bring together these universes of activism and scholarship. The articles in this section (which are introduced in detail by Hester Eisenstein) address the effects of present-day global capitalism on women in both the First and the Third Worlds. Core issues of globalization are of crucial importance to women, starting with the widespread use of women by corporations as a cheaper source of labor. For example, how does the world market affect traditionally woman-centered subsistence agriculture? How do global forces affect the ability of the state to provide necessary social services? How has privatization-typically imposed by international credit agencies-affected women, children, and families? How have women been affected by global cultural models-or by the efforts of male-dominated (often religiously- inspired) movements to resist such models?
We welcome comments and reactions to the gender section presented here, and invite further work on the themes it raises.
An underlying concern for equality, with specific attention to its feminist as well as its anti-racist dimensions, also informs Omar Swartz’s essay on human rights and the rule of law. Swartz focuses on the continuing difficulty, within the U.S. legal system, of pressing claims for substantive equality, inasmuch as all such claims reflect interests that are rendered invisible by existing codes¾and often also by judicial interpretations. This phenomenon has come to the fore in recent struggles over affirmative action, but it is grounded in the class bias of the Constitution itself. In his search for a radical alternative, Swartz reaches back to 19th-century anarchist thought (Kropotkin) in order to suggest that a decent social order would rely less on legal restraints-or even “legal sensibility”-and more on practices of governing by example and encouraging “mass critical thinking.”
Jonathan Scott continues the critical analysis of “racial” concepts that has been featured in our last two issues, as he carries the discussion into a close reading of two literary works which, in contrast to the mainstream of Euro-American writing, have challenged white-supremacist assumptions from within. Scrutinizing Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno (1856) and Sinclair Lewis’s Kingsblood Royal (1947), Scott shows how in both cases, despite notable differences in narrative approach, the authors succeed in dramatizing the elabo- rate system of social pressures and mental contortions through which the “race” construct becomes normalized. He does this by bringing to life, in the first instance, how Melville’s narrator at once sees and fails to see an unfolding mutiny on a slave-ship, and, in the second, how Lewis’s protagonist runs up against the consequences of discovering his roots and accordingly switching his social identity from “white” to “black.”
Perhaps no country has been as invisible to North Americans in recent times as North Korea. The invisibility is all the more ironic in view of the enormous impact that the U.S. has had on that country, from the devastating bombardments of 1950-53 to the ongoing threats and ostracism of the present. Largely because of the repressive climate prevailing in the U.S. during that earlier period, the level of American popular awareness as to the causes and consequences of the Korean War-and of the uninterrupted (since 1945) U.S. military occupation of South Korea-has remained disturbingly low. Giorgi Katsiaficas has been involved in a collaborative effort to revisit this history with an eye to seeking peaceful solutions. His visit to North Korea, which he describes for us, flowed directly from this work.
In our continuing coverage of the global justice movement, we present Ben Manski’s account-together with photos by Diane Greene Lent-of the November 2003 demonstrations in Miami against the Free Trade Association of the Americas. In an extra- ordinary heightening of official repression, the Bush administration diverted funds from the Iraq-occupation budget ($8.5 million) to finance police operations on a military model, including unpro- voked attacks on demonstrators-even where no acts of obstruction were taking place-and the use of tazer guns (based on Electro- Muscular Disruption) to incapacitate people with video cameras.
We have noted from the beginning (see S&D #30) the progress of the World Social Forum, which offers an arena for popular movements to come together on a global scale. After four worldwide meetings (in Brazil and India), as well as a number of regional meetings in Asia and Europe, the first major regional meeting in North America is being planned for July 23-25 in Boston. For information, visit www.bostonsocialforum.org.