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Gender Oppressions and Revolutionary Strategy

Notes on the Road
to 21st Century Socialism

Issue 2, March 2020

Gender Oppressions and Revolutionary Strategy

Our vision for 21st century socialism is a vision of collective liberation. It is a vision for a society free of capitalism and economic exploitation, white supremacy, cisheteropatriarchy, and exploitation of the planet. To achieve this vision, it is essential to understand how these mutually reinforcing exploitative and oppressive systems have reinforced each other for centuries, formed the foundations of cisheteropatriarchal racial monopoly capitalism, and given rise to current conditions. And we need a strategy where women, femmes, non-binary people, and queer and trans people who are working-class people of color – especially Black, Brown, and Indigenous – are at the center of leadership, power, and basebuilding.

Said differently, class, race, gender, sexuality, and planet are essential parts of our vision, our assessment, and our strategy: three of the components LeftRoots is developing to build a full strategy for 21st century socialism and collective liberation. Those of us who came together as a collective to write about these intersections felt an analysis of cisheteropatriarchy was underdeveloped in “We Believe That Win,” and that the 21st century socialism that we are working towards cannot exist without dismantling multiple oppressive systems at once.

The Unicorn Collective offers this excerpt of our writings to begin showing how to deepen the centrality of class, race, gender and sexuality, and planet in our collective strategy-development. Our work is a continuation of the work of past and current freedom fighters, our cultural heritage and ancestral wisdom, and the upbringing and care from our (chosen) families and communities. And our work is just a beginning, scratching the surface of how cisheteropatriarchy, intertwined with capitalism, white supremacy, and exploitation of the planet, is central to our strategy. We stake a claim for how these systems interconnect and thread through a connected vision, assessment, and strategy by beginning to voice this analysis and by opening up space for our comrades in LeftRoots and the broader left to prioritize and build this analysis together.

In addition, we look to open our collective imagination for how we co-create and share strategy. In longer pieces, of which we include excerpts here, we experiment with recounting herstory, storytelling, poetry, song, art, science fiction, and visioning to show that theory is alive and active.

Cisheteropatriarchy: A system of power based on the supremacy & dominance of cisgender, heterosexual men through the exploitation & oppression of women and LGBTQIA people.

The longer discussion we embarked on (of which you’ll only get a taste here) explores 4 threads. This article include one full piece followed by three excerpts l:

  1. (included here in full) a revisiting of the history section of We Believe that We Can Win, providing a retelling of the history of racial monopoly capitalism that includes more explicit gender analysis. We illuminate the ways gender along with race were fundamentally integrated into the creation of the owning class of the United States and the alliances that were built to maintain oppressive systems and control.
  2. an effort to grapple with questions of healing, indigeneity, and our relationship with the earth. We discuss the exploitation of the planet and attacks on femme and queer people’s knowledge of healing, and present a transformative vision of our relationship with Mother Earth.
  3. a dialogue between two unicorns about where queer and trans identities, desires, and politics fit within the strategy document, with some attention towards so-called “reproductive labor.” We touch on the racialized and gendered control of sex, bodies, and labor; radical queer resistance and imagination; and a transformative vision of community, collective care, and sex.
  4. an argument for the importance of transformative justice within socialist strategy. We argue that an assessment of society today must include acknowledging the deep and widespread harm of gender violence; and present a vision of transformative justice and ending gender violence.

Although we only include one piece — the historical telling — in full here, we hope it lays a strong foundation for continued analysis about class, race, gender, sexuality, and planet in our assessment, vision, and strategy. For example, the history lays out how oppressive systems in the first three pieces were part of the foundation of the development of racial monopoly capitalism in the United States: through the racialized and gendered dispossession of land and genocide of indigenous people; the racialized and gendered control of sex, bodies, and labor; and racialized and gendered violence.

OUR WRITING PROCESS AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Our writing process unfolded in fits and starts. One of the ways that we grounded ourselves was to meet regularly, converse, and read together — an iterative process. We allowed the process to flow organically, not sure of what we would collectively produce. Out of our conversations came a desire for a bibliography of readings that might inspire and challenge us. From this list, we read The Combahee River Collective Statement, Silvia Federici’s Caliban and the Witch, Gloria Anzuldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, and others, to help clarify our thoughts. Out of these discussions, we began to free-write together in pairs, as a way to get ideas on paper. In a string of pieces we developed, we draw on various grounds of feminist theory: Anzaldúan and Chicana feminist epistemologies, queer theory, feminist restorative justice, Marxist feminism, and Black feminism. Rather than a linear argument, we constructed a constellation of ideas and provocations. We share excerpts of our pieces here to open much needed dialogue regarding the inclusion of a stronger cisheteropatriarchy analysis in our revolutionary strategy.

We call ourselves Unicorns because we recognize our own magic.

REWRITTEN HISTORY: CISHETEROPATRIARCHAL RACIAL MONOPOLY CAPITALISM

“We Believe That We Can Win” offers a succinct history of racial monopoly capitalism. This passage strongly captures the intersection of race and class dynamics, but lacks a deeper gender analysis. We thought it would be useful to do an experiment: retell the brief history with an infused and intertwined gender analysis. Our gender analysis does not stand apart or alongside the analysis of race and class; rather, it is interconnected. Thus, our first edit was to the title. We call this piece “Origins and Development of Cisheteropatriarchal Racial Monopoly Capitalism.”

Our second edit came in the first phrase of the history section: “Emerging from feudalism…” The story of the European invasion of the Americas is rooted in much more than the political economic structure of feudalism. So we begin our history with a very broad-strokes description of the systems of oppression that ideologically grounded the settler-invaders and shaped their actions in the Americas.

Read on to see further edits — how we massaged and adapted and added to and mixed in what we hope is an intersectional retelling that shows the historical underpinnings of current conditions.

The grey text is generally from the original “We Believe That We Can Win” document. The black text is new text.


When conquering-colonists landed in North America in the late 15th century, they brought with them the habits, outlooks, and systems rooted in European political economy and culture. The historical shift from feudalism to capitalism was complicated and multifaceted. This includes:

  1. An oppressive economic system. Authoritarian feudalism enforced strict social-economic hierarchies, with serfs at the bottom where they enjoyed very few freedoms, and their labor enriched the lords. Under feudalism, the advent of “rents” brought a new division of labor: “productive” labor done by European men for money (which was more valued) and “reproductive” labor done by European women for free (devalued). Also, at this time, the economy was driven by forced free labor/slavery and by colonization and resource extraction.
  2. The beginnings of white supremacy. For millennia, it had been common for Europeans to invade neighboring tribes or communities to capture and enslave whoever lost in the skirmish. However, by the 15th century, Europeans moved beyond the capture and exploitation of other white Europeans. They began colonizing what they called the East Indies (South Asia and Southeast Asia), and it became more common to use the construct of white-western “superiority” as a justification to exploit these lands and peoples. Simultaneously, Portugal embarked upon what Professor Gerald Horne calls the “apocalypse of white settler colonialism” in 1444 when Portuguese captains kidnapped and sold into slavery 235 Africans. Furthermore, a long history of violent anti-Semitism prefigured modern racism by systematically marginalizing and persecuting Jews and rationalizing violence and genocide against a group constructed as “other.”
  3. Cisheteropatriarchy. Elevating private property, elites dismantled the “commons” and enclosed the land. European women who had experienced solidarity growing and foraging for food together were now isolated on private plots and divorced from each other and the land. Their labor was devalued and invisible, yet was essential for creating and nurturing new generations of workers to generate wealth for the lords. Laws and religious doctrine enforced the primacy of the male-headed family and promoted cis-heteronormative sex while criminalizing anything else. Meanwhile, goddess-centered worship and land-based paganism had fallen to the dominance of a single, angry, patriarchal god. Women healers who treated people with herbs and practiced midwifery were considered witches and tortured and burned at the stake. In general, women’s bodies were set up to be owned and controlled, though the specifics of what this looked like were qualitatively different depending on the race and class of the women. As European women were being locked into a particular form of patriarchy, African and Indigenous women were being enslaved and defined as rape-able — exploited sexually and having their productive and reproductive labor expropriated.
  4. Violation of planet. Ideologically, these practices combined to shift humans’ relationship to the earth from one of reciprocity to one of opposition. Rather than being intimately allied and aligned with nature, the dominant practice and the ideology was now “man against nature.” Nature was something to be battled; its resources and gifts should be tamed, controlled, and extracted.
  5. Western European countries with these social, political, and economic systems prefigured U.S. cis-heteropatriarchal, extractive, racial monopoly capitalism. The consequence of these exploitative and oppressive systems is nothing less than devastation for the planet and most humans, species, and eco-systems. Understanding how they mutually reinforce each other and give rise to our current conditions is essential to our efforts to contest those conditions and create new ones.

WESTERN IMPERIALISM

European “core” countries marked by higher-skill and capital-intensive production formed the center of a global order. Western Europe dominated countries on the “periphery,” which largely depended on low-skill and labor-intensive production and on the extraction of raw materials. This worldwide division of labor, known as Western imperialism, was made possible by the spoils of the racialized exploitation of women, by slavery, and by Indigenous genocide and dispossession in the Americas, and by the wholesale destruction of natural resources; and all of this endures today.

White Settler Colonialism and the Making of the U.S.

What would become the United States was structured in the context of these global shifts. White settler colonialism, living on stolen land, having murdered or displaced the vast majority of original inhabitants, white settler colonial landowners declared their independence from Britain. Critical here is the fact that slavery was already embedded in the emerging U.S. social order. The first enslaved Africans arrived on a Portuguese slave ship in 1619. This would put into motion a trajectory. The enslavement of African men, women, and children would become the political economic underpinning of racial capitalism in the U.S. Further, U.S. imperialism began with the initial expropriation of Native lands and resources with the westward militarized movement into indigenous lands during the 1800s, including the annexation of much of Mexico in the 1840s. To justify genocide and forced displacement, westward displacement needed a strong racial lens — one that allowed whites to see Indigenous people as less than human. By this time there was
already a discourse of African inferiority that was transferred to Native Americans. At first, Native people were targeted as “savage” non-Christians. As Native people were forced to convert to Christianity, white settlers had to search for another way to marginalize them and justify their ongoing extermination. Slavery had already defined skin color as the great divide — so rather than simply being savages (as initially), Native Americans began to be marked by color — racialized. This represents an important chapter in the millennia-long story of the construction of race. This racialized othering would extend to exploited Asian and Mexican labor as expropriation of land and labor shaped the very contours of what became the U.S. These racially othered peoples were also gendered. This allowed working class/poor white men to see themselves as white and above those racial others and assert patriarchal control over white women.

As Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz describes, the violent takeover of Indigenous lands and peoples was not just an appropriation of resources, but a devastation of way of being, a relationship to land and to each other, and to our bodies. She says, “A rich, ancient agricultural civilization was appropriated. The Europeans appropriated it and then created agribusiness, capitalized, monetized the land, created real estate. The land is the body of the native people. The land as a body is monetized, capitalized. As is the African body. Not just African labor. That’s only half of it. It’s the human body. Land conquest and chattel slavery are so interlinked that if you separate them, you end up with a distorted story. And that interlink has to be at the core of a complete revision of U.S.history.”2

The war against Native Americans had a sex/gender dimension as well. Matrifocal indigenous cultures were not hierarchical and were a threat to patriarchal white settlers, and so invading Europeans set about discrediting and dismantling Indigenous families and cultural practices. In Cherokee culture, for example, the balance between men’s and women’s power “made hierarchy, which often serves to oppress women, untenable.” A similar reciprocity existed among the Lenni Lenape women and men, who depended equally on “important gifts of food and other resources given among friends, family, and husbands and wives.”3 Furthermore, there were more than 500 distinct Native cultures in North America, yet all of them had some form of sex/gender fluidity — what LGBTQ Indigenous folks have currently named “Two Spirit.” White Christian invaders singled out gender non-conforming people for torture and death. “When Christopher Columbus encountered the Two Spirit people, he and his crew threw them into pits with their war dogs and were torn limb from limb.”4 There are many stories of Native resistance to white settler attempts to criminalize non-heteronormative practices.5 Indigenous feminists have coined the term “Feminist since 1492,” indicating the original feminism on the North American continent was Native women’s resistance to the intersectional oppressions that came from colonization.

Having achieved dominance over much of the land and many of the peoples of the North American continent, the United States continued its imperialist project overseas. It overthrew the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, then invaded and colonized Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines in the Spanish American war of 1898. These early examples of American expansionism began a long pattern of economic strong-arming, violent aggression and sexual violence that would establish the United States as the world’s leading military and imperialist power. This facilitated the upward mobility of key segments of the U.S. population and fundamentally shaped the formation, class structure, and current crises of cis-heteropatriarchal, racial monopoly capitalism.

GENOCIDE, CHATTEL SLAVERY, AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE

The United States is the only advanced capitalist economy to develop out of a chattel slave society. Its current character reflects the preeminent role that enslaved labor has had on its development. Upon arrival, European settler colonial authorities viewed indigenous peoples through the lens of a racial hierarchy that justified their enslavement, dispossession, and genocide. The conquest of communally held indigenous lands would provide the central means of production for the settler society’s racialized patriarchal ruling class, mainly a contingent of large landowners. A particular form of racialized sexual violence against enslaved and Native women contributed in essential ways to the destruction of those communities, while it simultaneously lifted up rigid ideas of what “normal” white “femininity” and “masculinity” should look like. Conquest, appropriation of native lands, rape, and policing of settlement boundaries over the course of several centuries would drive the colonization of the continent and set the foundation for a violent and unequal social order.

White supremacy informed the development of slavery, first of American Indians and then of Africans. The traffic in and unpaid labor of millions of these captive peoples would serve as the basis of the early settler colonial economy. The total numbers of imported Africans forcibly brought to the North American colonies was a fraction of the captives brought to the Caribbean and South America. However, they would come to form the bottom layer of U.S. settler colonial society – a landless, property-less class of laborers held in chains.

Starting in the early 18th century, slave owners passed laws that legally codified a racialized class structure. They developed a racial class alliance that secured economic, political, and cultural domination by those deemed to be “white”. A pivotal moment took place in 1676 when Nathaniel Bacon staged what is now known as Bacon’s Rebellion. Demanding further appropriation of indigenous land and greater political power for small landowners, Bacon mobilized enslaved Africans and European indentured servants to rebel against the Virginia Governor. After suppressing the rebellion, large-scale slave-owners established the Virginia Slave Codes of 1705, codifying a hereditary and matrilineal basis for slave status. By choosing a matrilineal basis for slave status, these Codes essentially sanctioned white rape of black female slaves, ensuring that any offspring resulting from sexual violence would mean additional “property” for the master. Designed to impede further working-class alliances, these laws stripped enslaved African people of what few rights they had previously had, normalized rape as a way for slave-owners to reproduce enslaved people, and decisively tethered race and heteropatriarchy to class.

Above this enslaved layer of society, slave codes created a class of white male settlers largely freed of the old class constraints under European feudalism. This was due to the ability of white men to own property – meaning both expropriated land and enslaved persons. Because white men had exclusive access to property ownership, white male wage laborers had a sense of upward mobility, which was dependent on systemic oppression of women and people of color. This was the colonial seed from which the myth of the “American Dream” took root. As Cheryl Harris so aptly conceptualizes in her powerful piece “Whiteness as Property,” whiteness was more than ideology. It was the whole corpus of political and social guarantees for white men. It was the guarantee of the protection of the law/legal order. It was the guarantee of property rights, and it was the guarantee that the whole social order was created for them (of course mediated by class).

Cis-heteropatriarchy also informed the development of slavery. The “family” is a key organizing unit in society. In most white families, women were not just subordinate to men but actually considered to be the property of men. Until the mid-19th century, white women did not have “a separate legal existence from her husband.” According to “coverture” — English property laws brought over by the colonists — a white woman could not sign contracts, be the guardians of her underage children if her husband died, or own wealth except under limited circumstances.6 In the early to mid-19th century, these laws started to change, and white women won the right to own property, notably tying this added degree of freedom to private property ownership.

But for much of U.S. history, economic and cultural pressures trained white females to submit to fathers and brothers, and then husbands. White women did invisible and non-compensated work in the home, or they controlled slaves or (often immigrant) servants to do invisible work for no pay or very little pay. White supremacy, class structure, and cis-heteropatriarchy combined to create rigid gender norms by rewarding passivity and “purity” in white women while simultaneously eroticizing and demonizing the sexuality of non-white women. Regardless of class position, white women’s economic survival was greatly attached to getting a husband, and many suffered legalized terror in the form of abuse and violence from men in their families. Simultaneous to being the targets of gender oppression, white women were brought into the circle of racism and became perpetrators of oppression by accepting the ideologies of Black inferiority. For enslaved Black women, marriage wasn’t a real option under slavery. And for free Black women and immigrant women, marriage did not provide the kind of “protection” (i.e., access to class and race privilege) that it provided for some white women.

The constitutional founding of the United States in 1787 helped to consolidate this race- and gender-informed class structure and the basic pattern of wealth and power. From the outset, women, many servants, slaves, and non-land-owning men were barely considered people in the Constitution. The U.S. served the interests of the top five percent of male-headed Southern families, known as planters who owned 20 or more enslaved persons. Despite the promise of gradual emancipation that Northern slaveholding states offered, enslaved Africans would remain central to U.S. production and finance as the basic foundation of wealth and prosperity. In addition, both northern and southern states took advantage of free or low-paid labor by women in the home to facilitate class exploitation, affirm intra-family male hierarchy, and contribute to the growing wealth of the owning class. The triple exploitation of Black women in production and reproduction was/is a fact of the matter.

By the early 1800s, the value of enslaved people rivaled all other forms of wealth combined. Much of this wealth was literally created by the super exploitation of enslaved black women’s bodies, who gave birth to children who became the “property” of white men. This particular form of exploitation, often involving rape and always involving a level of control over women’s reproductive systems, was necessary for the creation of wealth generated by slavery. Although enslaved people labored in a variety of ways, the most important quickly became the production of raw cotton. Cotton was the largest single export of the antebellum United States and was central to developing the Industrial Revolution. Revenue from cotton exports fueled broad wealth inequality, financed the importation of machinery, and stimulated the growth of financial and transportation services. Slavery was central to the emergence of U.S. capitalism. The brutality of labor discipline in the production of cotton and other plantation crops sparked numerous slave rebellions, including Gabriel Prosser’s 1822 conspiracy and Nat Turner’s 1831 revolt. This in turn led to even harsher terms of enslavement, a more vigorous abolitionist movement, and a reactionary tendency among the planter elite. Slave patrols set up to capture runaway slaves were the origin of early policing in the U.S. Thus, policing was designed to protect “property” — white land holdings, factories, and enslaved Africans as “property.”

Another form of “policing” was the laws that harshly punished intimacy between white and black people, that regulated sex and sexuality by making miscegenation illegal but accepting the rape of enslaved women by slave owners. In her essay, “Body and Blood,” Brit Bennett describes how slavery gave rise to a particular kind of raceand gender-focused criminalization and policing: “White men, who for centuries had turned the routine rape of enslaved Black women into financial gain, projected onto Black male bodies an image of violent, uncontrollable, interracial lust. They also framed Black female bodies as inherently lustful. In this calculation, the innocence of white women needed to be protected at all costs; Black women, already gone in their own lust, were incapable of being raped. This is the history of Black women in America, not a small feature but the single definition: Your body does not belong to you. Anybody can touch you. Your body is both the location of violence and the result. How could we not fear a body like this?”7 White people
use gender in particular ways — for example, criminalizing the black male body and dehumanizing the black female body — to enforce white supremacy. Reclaiming our bodies, our right to bodily agency and pleasure, and access to a full spectrum of sexes and sexualities is thus a strike against white supremacy, cis-heteropatriarchy, and capitalism.

Rather than challenging the hegemonic position of large plantation owners, small-scale capitalist enterprises in the North sought financing from slaveholders. Northern capitalists in textile, lumber, and flour industries severely exploited the labor of their employees, particularly women and children, by mobilizing ethnic and national differences as “racial” ones to undercut demands for higher wages and better working conditions. Similarly, Northern capitalists mollified white working men who demanded greater political rights and economic opportunities by granting them access to property and privilege, secured through the exploitation of women, the further exploitation of enslaved Africans, and through the expropriation of Mexican and American Indian lands stretching from Alabama to Texas. This racial bribery of working-class white people would become an established practice in racial monopoly capitalism.

But the racial bribery was not just about race. For poor white men, the “racial bribe” meant that they would ally themselves with rich white men on the thin promise that they would someday be class peers. For poor white women, there was no class mobility that was not linked to being a wife, so white women (of all classes) were forced to ally themselves with the patriarch of the family and against women and men of color, as well as other white women (who may have been competitors for access to the patriarch).

In the mid-19th century, a grassroots, multi-racial abolitionist movement led by women and men had raised the social cost of slavery for elites. Additionally, an alliance of Northern landowners and capitalists had begun to challenge the expansionist ambitions of the South, causing a breakdown of the racial class alliance and leading to the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865). After the war, Reconstruction brought the (conditional) abolition of slavery, as well as citizenship and voting rights for formerly enslaved men. The racialized order would not end, built on the continued exploitation of Black labor, male and female. This was guaranteed in anti-black practices such as Black codes and lynching. Ultimately the U.S. state would create the racial apartheid society out of the Plessy v. Ferguson 1896 — separate but not equal.

Major features of the old order would persist: the reliance on cheap and compliant labor disciplined by legal and vigilante violence, a racial- and gender-stratified class structure, the ability of capitalists to secure the consent of key sections of the working class by affording them privileges associated with white and/or male identity and the spoils of westward expansion, which was not a “natural” or automatic “expansion” but more like an ongoing imperial invasion that was pushed and shaped by the pressures of the thirst for land, emerging capitalism (note: capitalism is being made during this period; land grabs fueled the process of land theft), white supremacy, and cis-heteropatriarchy. And it came at enormous expense, including millions of Native people who had once lived in hundreds of distinct cultures. Not only were most Native people killed and most tribes forcibly displaced during this period. The boarding school period was a late l9th century effort to “kill the Indian and save the Man.” Formed in terms of patriarchy discourse, in fact, Native women and girls were forced into gendered/socially reproductive labor and were sexually preyed upon. These girls cleaned, cooked, and did the bidding of the boarding school authorities and white families. Indigenous languages were removed and hair was cut. The construction of race (and white supremacy) continued in the use of European immigrants to “settle” the west, and other immigrants (such as Chinese men) to do certain kinds of hard labor associated with western expansion (such as building the railroad), and the criminalization of Mexicans living in territory annexed by the U.S., and other race-stratified approaches to rewarding and punishing immigrants and Native people of various ethnicities. The ongoing invasion of the west during this period was a showcase for the intersectional oppressions of race, class, and gender — upending, violating, and almost wiping out as it did many peoples, cultures, and lands. This genocide, of course, had already been expressed in the millions of Africans who never made it to these shores as enslaved labor but drowned, thrown overboard, murdered.

Excerpts

From “Unicorn Musings on Healing, Indigeneity, and Our Relationship with Mother Earth”

The concept of Stewards of the Earth is introduced by WBTWCW as follows: “The economic base for 21st century socialism instead relies on the collective stewardship of resources and the planet”; and “The logic of human development and stewardship of the earth can reproduce social relations that alter the meaning of race, family, gender, nation, and work.” This concept misses the mark because humans are not caretakers of the earth, but rather coexist with the planet in interdependent and reciprocal relationship. We also question whether the idea of human development captures the essence of a socialist vision that is in right relationship with the Earth. Can we explore a vision that centers the whole planet/ecosystem and not humans and our development? Development that historically has come at the expense of the Earth? It is key to understand our reciprocal relationship to plants and the ecosystem and internalize our innate knowledge of respect and humility.

From “A Queer Intervention”

Pleasure explodes puritanical norms and sexuality helps us center liberation as a joyful, exciting, beautiful thing to fight for. Sexuality can be an energetic force in individual people’s lives, a part of day-to-day existence, but also is a movement force. We need this force for fighting capitalism. Sexuality is one piece of making the impossible possible. Sexuality can connect us to fantasy, dreaming, and desiring new worlds. If we are really going to take down these systems we need that energetic force. There is something about sexuality as a generative force — as unruly and difficult to control as it is — that is essential in this fight. We need to think big and bold and expansively.

From “Transformative Justice and Ending Gender Violence”

We must first acknowledge the harm that gender violence has caused both in society and in our movement, as part of our history and assessment. We must acknowledge how violence against gender-oppressed people occurs through many systems intertwined with white supremacy and capitalism; and in particular, we must acknowledge the traumatic legacy of the violence of emotional abuse, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape.

After assessing and acknowledging that harm, we must also develop a strategy that addresses it. We must commit to tackle sexism, heterosexism, and cissexism in society, and we must commit within our movements not to replicate dynamics of these systems, which have persistently undermined radical movements. We must commit to model a twenty-first century socialism where gender-oppressed Black and Brown people’s needs, analysis and leadership are at the center. A critical part of this strategy is strengthening our capacity for transformative justice to address the harm caused by violence. As adrienne maree brown reminds us in Emergent Strategy, “how we are at the small scale is how we are at the large scale. The pattern of the universe repeats at scale” (p. 52). One core experiment that we propose for LeftRoots to undertake is to deepen our understanding and practice of transformative justice, which is essential to developing a strategy that centers racial and gender justice.

Conclusion

Although our Unicorn Collective has begun developing our analysis of cisheteropatriarchy, we call on all of us in LeftRoots and the broader Left to collectively engage in this work. We need the work of dismantling cisheteropatriarchy not to be left to a small group, but to be held as core work. Like many organizing and movement-building groups around the country, LeftRoots is majority gender-oppressed cadre, in our case intentionally constructed to be so. But that is not enough. Our work for twenty-first century socialism can only progress if we are willing and able to begin a rigorous and disciplined commitment to address heterosexism, sexism and cissexism, in an intersectional way. Strategically, if we believe that Black and Brown gender oppressed people are driving forces in a strategy for liberation, we are compelled to strengthen both our race and gender analysis and practice in order to engage and mobilize that group.

We ask that all of us engage collectively with these questions: How do class, race, gender, sexuality, and planet connect with each other and our vision, assessment, and strategy? What questions do we need to ask? What further study needs to be done? What traditions are not represented or underrepresented?

A lot remains to be answered. We hope to share more soon as a collective, and we hope you join the reflection and dialogue.

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