On Saturday March 3, the Southern California Library was filled with working-class students of Southwest College. Encouraged by their teacher, the students came with their ideas, and some of them with their children, to attend a panel entitled Socialist Feminism in the face of Authoritarianism. The speakers included gender studies and political theory scholar-activist Ashleigh Camp, Julia Wallace and Arielle Concillo, who are on Left Voice’s editorial board, as well as Frieda Arafay from the hosting organization, the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists.
The panelists talked about the fight against patriarchy, racism, capitalism, and imperialism as essential for the liberation of women and humanity. Ashleigh spoke about state repression and how women’s unpaid work maintains capitalism. She discussed the need for a feminist movement that fights racism, heterosexism and imperialism. Internationalist in its perspective, the panel highlighted struggles from around the globe. Frieda spoke about the fight against the mandatory hijab in Iran and the dozens of women who have been arrested for taking off their hijabs. Arielle Concillo’s talk, which was read at the event, addressed women’s struggles in Latin America, and particularly the work of Pan y Rosas in workplaces and universities throughout Latin America. Her talk discussed the origins of the group, its working-class center and dynamic intervention in the women’s and workers’ movement from an anti-capitalist perspective.
Julia Wallace discussed the vast social inequalities in Los Angeles: “There are 23 billionaires in LA and 58,000 homeless people- how is that maintained? Through the violence of the police and its legitimation by the courts. All of this suffering and poverty is legal.” Julia discussed how both capitalist parties, Democrats and Republicans, are part of the reason why the working class is so impoverished and that they both engage in imperialist wars which murder people, murder women, around the world. She also discussed the need for working-class people, oppressed people to organize themselves against capitalism, imperialism, and bigotry. She said that capitalism creates a sense of isolation. Making people think they are alone in their suffering, capitalism alienates working-class people and pits them against each other. It is the working class that is the most important to society. It is oppressed people who are able to attack the capitalist system, in which a minority controls all the wealth. Julia also talked about the need to defend trans, lesbian, gay, and bisexual rights as an extension of women’s rights; after all, the gender binary is the basis of the wage gap, and the patriarchy incites anti-LGBT violence.
After the presentations, a discussion ensued on the question of “human nature” and about how capitalism creates the individualistic notion of “getting ahead.” Other topics included the important fact that many poor and working-class people give a great deal of their time and money to charities and grassroots organizations, as well as the need to focus the fight on opposing capitalism, imperialism, and bigotry.
As people introduced themselves and shared their reasons for coming to the event, the theme of unity stood out. Black, Latinx, and Middle Eastern people, cis women and men, trans women, Leftists, as well as people new to politics, elderly, teenagers, and even toddlers said their names and echoed the feeling “that we need to unite together and that we learned so much about how people can fight back.” Thank you so much to the people of Southwest College history class for attending as well as the library for hosting the event.