Spartacist South Africa No. 15
Mexican Trotskyists Say:
Down with Anti-Sex Witchhunt Against Leftists on Campus!
(Women and Revolution pages)
We reprint below the translation of an article published in Espartaco No. 47 (August 2017), newspaper of our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México.
Feminist organisations and the university authorities have succeeded in establishing a climate of anti-sex hysteria at UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico]. It has become common to set up feminist “clotheslines”, a disgraceful practice in which anonymous accusers hang written denunciations, inciting anti-sex paranoia and anxiety among youth, and opening the door to the intervention of the bourgeois state—at least through its representatives on the campus, the university authorities. On one of these “clotheslines” last October , someone accused the self-proclaimed Trotskyist Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialistas (MTS, Movement of Socialist Workers) of “prostituting women in order to recruit members”. This “denunciation” was a despicable anti-communist and anti-woman slander portraying the politically active and extroverted women of the MTS—and, by extension, of the entire workers movement—as “whores”. It was also a warning of what was to come.
On 8 March—International Women’s Day, a proletarian holiday—some feminist organisations set up another “clothesline” to hang more anonymous denunciations. Among them, one became prominent: “Sergio Moissen: to touch and try to screw someone who is asleep, drunk, and that when she wakes up becomes immobilised and cries, is ABUSE.” In late April, the accuser (a former student of Moissen’s who has remained anonymous) filed a formal denunciation with the legal department of the School of Political and Social Sciences (FCPyS). Soon after, the university authorities had gotten rid of Sergio Méndez Moissen, up until then a professor at that school and a leader of the MTS.
Since then, the issue has become a political scandal in at least four Latin American countries: a host of organisations, including feminists, pseudo-Trotskyists (such as the Brazilian PSTU [United Socialist Workers Party], the Argentine MST and the Mexican Izquierda Revolucionaria [Revolutionary Left] and GAR) and left student groups have issued statements taking sides with the accuser. The MTS and its feminist front group, Pan y Rosas [Bread and Roses], have maintained Moissen’s innocence against the charge of abuse and demanded his reinstatement.
In late May , nine feminist organisations (among them Red No Están Solas [You Are Not Alone Network], Colectiva Feminista de la NO-FCPyS [Feminist Collective of the Not-FCPyS], La que Arde [The One That Burns], Lunas Lesbofeministas [Lesbofeminist Moons]) took up the denunciation against Moissen and published a “Pronouncement” in which they reproduced a much longer statement by the accuser. The core of this statement maintains: “Yes, it is abuse because one does not take the clothes off someone nor touches a person who is asleep, and whom you know will not defend herself. One does not touch someone who is crying.” The student further declares: “Yes, we kissed. Yes, we thought of going out. Yes, I let him sleep in my bed. Yes, I forgave him and we even continued to talk after he saw me crying in my bed and asked me to get dressed.”
Moissen made public his own statement (7 June) on the MTS’ website (laizquierdadiario.mx). From the statements of both it is clear that Moissen and his now accuser had an intermittent romantic relationship for about two years. The accuser has never made any reference whatsoever to the use of violence, threats or any kind of coercion by Moissen. Thus, there is no evidence of sexual abuse, nor of any other crime. It was only several months after their relationship had ended that the accuser concluded that it had amounted to “abuse” on the part of Moissen.
Interpersonal relationships do not take place in a vacuum; rather, they are influenced by the capitalist society in which we live, and often reflect class and race prejudices, sexist attitudes, the intense feeling of guilt stemming from suffocating “family values” and the dominant Catholic religion. But uncomfortable, unpleasant or even manipulative sexual experiences are not issues for a court of law with the threat of a prison sentence. The guiding principle in sexual relations between people should be that of effective consent, that is, nothing more than mutual agreement and understanding, independent of age, gender and sexual preference. Because it is the circumstances of a sexual encounter that determine whether such is a crime or a voluntary sexual act, there occur ambiguities regarding whether it is consensual, especially when the individuals involved know each other. Relationships can be exploitative and unequal, but to call them crimes amounts to getting the bourgeois state involved, and trivialises horrendous crimes such as rape and even murder, diverting attention from the real oppression and exploitation that the vast majority of women suffer.
Feminists Prop Up Anti-Woman Catholic Morals
In this climate of anti-sex witchhunt, accusations alone—without any proof—are enough to ruin someone’s life. According to feminism, to question the denunciation of a presumed victim amounts to “revictimising” her. The underlying idea is that, whereas men are all at least potential “sexual predators”, women are asexual beings, weak and indecisive, requiring protection; in the end, they are the perennial victims of men’s lust—essentially, modern Virgin Marys. The logic of feminism implies that women are incapable of consenting, that is, of deciding to have sex (and this idea is often expressed explicitly). For these organisations, it is all reduced to the “asymmetry of power”, more so if the man is older than the woman (although, according to Moissen, he and his now accuser are the same age, about 30) and even worse if she is a student and he is a professor.
Laura Kipnis, a feminist author who is horrified by the current atmosphere of anti-sex hysteria on US campuses, eloquently recounted:
“When I was in college, hooking up with professors was more or less part of the curriculum.... It’s not that I didn’t make my share of mistakes, or act stupidly and inchoately, but it was embarrassing, not traumatizing....
“But somehow power seemed a lot less powerful back then. The gulf between students and faculty wasn’t a shark-filled moat; a misstep wasn’t fatal. We partied together, drank and got high together, slept together. The teachers may have been older and more accomplished, but you didn’t feel they could take advantage of you because of it. How would they?...
“It’s the fiction of the all-powerful professor embedded in the new campus codes that appalls me. And the kowtowing to the fiction—kowtowing wrapped in a vaguely feminist air of rectitude.”
—“Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, 27 February 2015)
Indeed, the bulk of UNAM’s feminist organisations kowtows to this fiction, presenting female students as inevitable victims and in deeds appealing to the university authorities to dictate, as the campus patriarch, when a sexual relationship is “appropriate”—between students and teachers, never! Thus, UNAM’s modern inquisitors fired Moissen for having had a relationship with a (former) student, accusing him of “lacking in probity and decency” and of not having behaved with the “rectitude” appropriate to a professor.
There is something sinister in the “radical” feminist diatribes. In the late-May “Pronouncement” quoted above, the nine signatory organisations who back the denunciation added, of their own invention and without presenting any evidence, that Moissen exerted “sexual violence”. This accusation—never made by the denouncer herself—amounts to an open call to state repression. The capitalist state—which has already targeted Moissen and his organisation in the past—could very well find the perfect, feminist excuse to lock up a prominent left activist once and for all.
Marxism vs. Feminism
It is fashionable among pseudo-Trotskyist organisations to try to create a spurious union between Marxism and feminism, as is the case with the MTS and Pan y Rosas, who present themselves as “socialist feminists”. But in reality, Marxism and feminism are counterposed. Marxism is a scientific doctrine and a guide to action with the goal of eliminating every form of exploitation and oppression through socialist revolutions around the world centred on the proletariat, the industrial working class, at the head of all the oppressed—peasants, women, indigenous people and blacks, etc. Feminism is, rather, a bourgeois ideology. The world over, it has become common practice to apply the term “feminist” to all those who think men and women should be equal. However, when dealing with inequality, feminism accepts the confines of the existing capitalist society. But the oppression of women is rooted in private property and class-divided society. The core of the reason why Marxism and feminism are mutually exclusive and in fact antagonistic is that feminists consider that the basic division in society is that between men and women, whereas communists recognise that workers of both sexes must struggle together to put an end to the oppression and exploitation they suffer at the hands of the capitalist class.
Communists fight, for example, for the right to free abortion on demand, for “equal pay for equal work” and for full democratic rights for gays—including marriage, divorce and the adoption of children. But our struggle against women’s oppression (and the related question of gay oppression) does not stop at the attainment of these basic democratic rights. For Marxists, the liberation of women cannot occur without the liberation of the entire human species from exploitation and oppression under capitalism. The emancipation of women is fundamental to socialist revolution and inseparable from it; it is a material act, not a matter of ideas. Only a workers revolution can begin to lay the basis to replace the institution of the family, the main source of the subordination of women in class society. Marxism has no need to borrow anything from feminism in the struggle for the liberation of women.
The Family and the Oppression of Women
In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Friedrich Engels described how the invention of agriculture created a social surplus which allowed, for the first time, the development of an idle ruling class living off the work of others. The ancient, primitive communist culture, in which the care of children was collective, was destroyed by the emergence of classes and the state. The family, specifically women’s monogamy, was necessary to ensure the orderly passing of property and power to the heirs of the patriarch, the next generation of the ruling class. Engels concluded that women would be able to attain equality with men only when they once again participated in general economic production, equally with men. While much has been discovered about the early stages of human society since Engels’ days, his fundamental understanding has withstood the test of time.
The family under capitalism is the main institution for the oppression of women and youth. The family, the state and organised religion make up a tripod of oppression propping up the capitalist order. In addition to its role as the economic unit in class-divided society, the family serves to atomise the working class and propagate bourgeois individualism as a barrier to class solidarity. Marxists recognise that the family cannot simply be abolished; its necessary functions, especially the raising of the next generation, must be replaced by socialised means of childcare and domestic work: the family will be replaced by the broadest freedom in sexual relations.
Feminism sometimes criticises certain aspects of the family, but usually only to complain about “gender roles”, as if the problem were a discussion over lifestyle regarding who should do the dishes or feed the baby. The problem is the institution of the family, which is invaluable to the bourgeoisie as a reservoir of small private property and in some cases of small-scale production, operating as an ideological barrier to social consciousness. Both the ultimate goal of a communist society as well as the basic means to achieve it are beyond the intellectual confines of “socialist feminism”.
State Out of the Bedrooms!
It is the institution of the family that ties sex and love to property; the Catholic Church (a diabolical horde of close to 17 000 priests and 27 000 nuns, in addition to deacons, “laypersons”, missionaries, catechists and its large flock of cristeros throughout Mexico) brands everything that escapes the straitjacket of heterosexual monogamy a “sin”. And when the pulpit isn’t enough, the bourgeois state, that is charged with defending the capitalist regime, also imposes the moral values of the bourgeoisie. The state, which has at its core the police, army, courts and prisons, upholds in any way it can the inherently oppressive nuclear family, including by imposing sexual repression and fear, resulting in an increase in unspeakable human misery. We recognise that, in many cases, arriving at the most basic determinations as to whether something really happened or if a particular relationship was consensual can be very difficult. And there are certainly many cases of violent abuse, rape and other crimes in which the victims could rightly resort to calling on the state. At the same time, as the Irish playwright Brendan Behan once remarked in a different context, “I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn’t make it worse.”
Things such as child abuse and rape are horrendous crimes; however, many “illegal” sexual encounters are entirely consensual and do not cause any harm in and of themselves. We oppose legislation that establishes arbitrary ages prior to which youth would be “incapable” of consenting to sexual relations; we are against reactionary laws regarding “corruption of minors” and “statutory rape”, whose only purpose is to repress youth sexuality (see, for example, “Down with the Charges Against Trevi, Andrade and Mary Boquitas! Down With the Anti-Sex Campaign!”, Espartaco No. 18, Spring-Summer of 2002 [an English translation was printed in Workers Vanguard No. 780, 3 May 2002]).
Our organisation, the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), has consistently opposed government intervention in private matters and demands the elimination of all laws against consensual “crimes without victims”, such as prostitution and pornography, or drug use.
The deliberate conflation of everything from consensual relations between older men and young women to the horrendous rape of a small child by an adult creates a social climate of anti-sex hysteria in which the perpetrators of real violence against children and women often go unpunished. A large part of this persecution seeks to strengthen the bourgeois state in its regimentation of the population and to spread panic as a distraction from the real brutality of life in this twisted, cruel, bigoted, racist, militarised and priest-ridden society.
Feminism Devours Its “Socialist” Children
By means of its long-standing efforts to make a hodgepodge out of its pseudo-Marxist reformism and bourgeois feminism, the MTS and Pan y Rosas have diligently incited the anti-sex hysteria that is now biting them in the butt. Now in the eye of the storm, they consider that Moissen had a “mutually agreed upon and consensual” relationship with his accuser, which seems right to us on the basis of the available evidence. However, one cannot avoid pointing out that until very recently they repudiated in deeds any notion of effective consent as a guide for sexual relations. For years, they have tried to make their trademark out of fueling the paranoia over “human trafficking”, according to which prostitution amounts to sexual slavery—a central theme in their failed campaign to get Moissen elected to the Mexico City constituent assembly just last year. In fact, their Argentine parliamentarians demand the application of draconian laws against prostitution that equate it to slavery, presenting the bourgeois state as the defender of prostitutes and all women (see “The Argentine FIT: Reformist Alchemy and Parliamentary Cretinism”, Espartaco No. 42, October 2014). They have joined the movement around “femicide” [murders of women] in which the Catholic Church plays a leading role and which seeks to strengthen the repressive forces of the bourgeois state and exalt bourgeois “family values” (for more on this hypocritical campaign, see “On the Murder of Women in Ciudad Juárez”, Workers Vanguard No. 996, 17 February 2012). In a myriad of articles in La Izquierda Diario, they indiscriminately fulminate against “pederasts” and “paedophiles”, against “corruption of minors” and “statutory rape”.
Recently, the Spanish and Argentine comrades of the MTS/Pan y Rosas have adopted the Spanish feminist Ana de Miguel, who holds, no less, that “free choice”, i.e., consent, is a “myth” (see “Sexual Neoliberalism. The Myth of Free Choice” in Ideas de Izquierda No. 28, April 2016). This philosopher of prudery revolts against “cultural pornification” and sounds the alarm over such horrible things as the fact that there are women who like to take “pole dancing” classes. It is not surprising that the MTS itself denounces pornography—a fantasy that harms no one in and of itself—as the “reproducer of violence”. The MTS has (or had?) also embraced the notion that even questioning the accusations of a woman or a minor who was presumably abused amounts to “revictimising” them. In short, they have embraced the reactionary, anti-sex, suffocating, hypocritical and ultimately anti-woman programme on which feminism and Christian morals coincide. Now they are reaping what they have sown.
“With Friends Like These …”
In its pathetic defense of Moissen, the MTS says:
“On the basis of everything that we did to clarify the situation, to know all the facts and all the voices, we did not identify any sexual harassment or abuse on the part of Sergio. However, the comrade accepted the existence of an attitude of male-chauvinist insensitivity, particularly during the last part of the relationship, when she told him of the consequences of the trauma she had suffered. Considering that, we think Sergio should have taken into account the context of her life history and should have maintained a relationship purely as friends, as opposed to an intimate relationship, despite its having been mutually consented to.”
—“Fast Track Firing of Professor Sergio Moissen by UNAM” (4 June , laizquierdadiario.mx)
The MTS’ confession of male chauvinism on the part of its former leader reveals the moralist, anti-sex framework of feminism. We do not know whether Sergio Moissen is a macho in his private life. But, in and of itself, having a consensual relationship with a woman who suffered a previous trauma does not amount to “an attitude of male-chauvinist insensitivity”. The MTS’ characterisation is based on the idea that a woman who suffered a trauma is therefore incapable of ever deciding to have sexual relations. And it is frankly horrid that the organisation, through whatever internal mechanisms, gets to decide whether its individual members can have intimate relationships and with who.
In our organisation, we Spartacists avoid any type of interference in the personal lives of our comrades, while the political activity of our members is subject to the purview of the party. Doubtless, a revolutionary party constantly faces the pressures of social backwardness in bourgeois society. Any backward attitudes toward women (or gays, or racial or ethnic minorities, etc.) are politically fought and smashed, reaching disciplinary measures when appropriate.
The True Macho World of the “Socialist” Feminists
The MTS and its predecessor, the Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (LTS, League of Workers for Socialism), have a real history of shameless male-chauvinist backwardness, which converged with its anti-communist hatred of the Soviet degenerated workers state (and of the Spartacists). The LTS emerged in the late 1980s from the Argentina-based Morenoite tendency of pseudo-Trotskyism. Among their historical positions is their euphoric support to the Afghan anti-woman mujahedin cutthroats, backed by the US, in their holy war against the Soviet Red Army (see “Hail Red Army!” Spartacist [Spanish Edition] No. 8, August 1980 [also published in English-language Spartacist No. 27-28, Winter 1979-80]). The Morenoites also gave their unrestricted support to the clerical-counterrevolutionary Solidarność movement in the Polish deformed workers state, a virulently anti-woman, anti-abortion “trade union” openly backed by American imperialism and the Pope Wojtyla (see Spartacist pamphlet “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!”, October 1981 [in Spanish; the English-language pamphlet is Solidarność: Polish Company Union for CIA and Bankers]). The LTS didn’t give a damn about women’s oppression. So far as we have been able to confirm, during their first 15 years of existence (1988-2002), they didn’t have a single article in their press (Alternativa Socialista, Estrategia Obrera) devoted to this question or other related ones, where they have called for the right to abortion, for democratic rights for gays, etc.
In 2001, during the 2 October demonstration [commemorating the 1968 student massacre in Tlatelolco, Mexico City], an LTS spokesman was incapable of responding to our programmatic polemics and physically attacked one of our comrades with the war cry of “Puto!” [anti-gay epithet]. At that time, the LTS did not make public any disciplinary action against the violent macho in question, whom we often saw distributing their press over the years. On the contrary, as we wrote 16 years ago, “the LTS, together with the rest of the Mexican pseudo-left, adapts to reactionary bourgeois values. The clearest and most pathetic example of this was given by the very same would-be gangster who attacked our comrade, ‘justifying’ his homophobia...because he ‘comes from the barrio’!” (“The LTS Commemorates the Tlatelolco Massacre with Anti-Gay Epithets and Fists for Communists”, leaflet of the Juventud Espartaquista, October 2001).
Now, in the climate of PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] “political correctness” (and in the face of the scandals over the grotesque use of the same anti-gay epithet in soccer stadiums), it’s been a while since we’ve heard such profanity from the mouths of the neo-Morenoite feminists. Indeed, it wasn’t until well into the first decade of this century, when the government of the bourgeois PRD in Mexico City (partially) decriminalised abortion in 2007, that the LTS, being good opportunists, realised that the winds had changed direction. Lacking any Marxist compass, they then made a 180-degree turn to embrace the bourgeois feminism that animates a section of the PRD itself. Thus, and following directives coming from their mother party in Argentina, they launched Pan y Rosas and became the champions of fake “socialist feminism”.
Young members of the MTS and Pan y Rosas should learn the lesson: nothing good will come of the pseudo-Marxist bourgeois feminism of their organisations. The creation of genuinely free and equal interpersonal relations in all spheres of life, including sex, requires nothing less than the destruction of this class system and the establishment of a communist world. In a classless society, social and economic restrictions on sexual relations will cease to exist and, in the words of Engels, there will be “no other motive left except mutual inclination”.
In the struggle for the liberation of women, which is a motor force for the socialist revolution, we Spartacists work for the forging of a revolutionary workers party that acts as the tribune of all the oppressed. Such a party is the indispensable instrument to bring to the proletariat the understanding of its historic mission and to lead it in the fight for universal human emancipation.