A couple of thoughts that International Women’s Day brings to mind. One very brief, the other a bit longer:
* To say that women hold up half the sky (and just about everything else) is a gross understatement. I learned that as a young child, and have come to more deeply appreciate it as a (much) older man.
* The notion that waged work on a “production” site and in the formal sectors of the economy set the parameters for who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble of the working class – not to mention who has a hand in the production of the economic surplus from which profits and a fresh round of capital investment are derived – is a gendered as well as a racialized and generally exclusionary concept. In earlier centuries, it left large numbers of women as well as slaves of African ancestry, indigenous peoples, and new immigrants outside the category of working class, even though their labor was commonplace, abundant, and essential to capitalism’s accumulation, industrialization, and commodification process.
Today, global capitalism continues to rely on such labor, albeit on a much broader scale and in new as well as old forms, to sustain and expand its accumulation process, But in doing so, it makes this truncated and limited notion of class no more serviceable now than it was in previous centuries. This is especially so in the Global South.
Only a wide angled framing and understanding of who constitutes the working class, along with the specific class trajectories, histories, needs, and, not least, capacities, of each constituent group, and especially the historically invisible, uncounted, and subordinate, will provide us with a sturdy basis for unity and thus the grounds for victory against the nasty coalition of the right and alt right that is threatening democracy and everything that is decent and good in our country. In the elections, an exclusivist, racialized, gendered, and nativist concept of class captured the thinking of many white workers, and thus contributed significantly to the election of Trump – a candidate who was proudly, outspokenly, and uniquely misogynist, racist, and xenophobic. This, needless to say, presents the broad democratic movement and the Democratic Party a major challenge, if they hope to congeal a united people’s movement and transform a dire situation into a new step down Freedom Road.