This article was originally produced as a leaflet for the 10/6/22 Walkout for Abortion Rights at Hunter College, part of the National Student Day of Action.
Working-class people are forced to struggle every day to survive. On top of this struggle imposed by harsh economic conditions, now intensified by tightening household budgets which inevitably impact the raising of children, the State and Church duo in the US seeks to eliminate what remains of the right to abortion.
Economic transformations in the 20th century reflected a progressive historical process: the integration of women into social production, and the weakening of oppressive patriarchal family structures. These changes, along with popular struggle on this basis, helped to influence local abortion laws and the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling. But the Court’s formulation only implied the right to abortion as an extension of “privacy,” and did not make abortions free or accessible.
The 1976 Hyde Amendment, passed in the House by a bipartisan supermajority (supported by Biden himself) restricted effective access to abortions for millions of working-class people. Today, the “pro-choice” Democratic Party still doesn’t want abortions to be free for everyone — they only want to secure the option for those who can afford it.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade by a five-justice majority (a conservative bloc that took shape in 2017-20 as Trump fulfilled his promise to the evangelical Christians in his coalition) is a political lesson to the rest of us. To paraphrase the favorite book of these reactionaries (see Job 1:21): What the Court “gave us” in 1973, it has now taken away. Now the issue is in the hands of the so-called “people’s elected representatives”: federal and state legislatures that, no less than the Court, represent the interests of the capitalist class, and not those of “the people.”
The class interests represented by the capitalist legislatures escapes both liberals and many “socialists” on the issue. In its statement on Dobbs, DSA (June 24) counterposes the “illegitimate” Court against “legislative power”. Do they need to be reminded which institution passed the Hyde Amendment and preserves it year after year? Also, which retrograde state bodies (certainly more representative than the Court!) passed the trigger laws in anticipation of Dobbs?
Aside from DSA, others stress the function of the Democratic Party, rather than the function of the legislatures as such: the capitalists’ “elected representatives” as such. They highlight the “complicity” of the Democrats to argue for a “mass movement in the streets” (Left Voice), or the need to “break with” the Democrats to build a “revolutionary workers party” (Internationalist Group).
However, “Movement” and “Party” are sign boards under which the most diverse truths and falsehoods are propagated. Just as there are many “movements” that only serve the election campaigns of the capitalists, there are many “parties” in the world (some with names like “Labor”, “Workers”, “Socialist”, or “Communist”) that only serve as the capitalists’ representatives. What counts is whether one defends the interests of the working class by rejecting what is sacred to the capitalists.
It is precisely in Congress, the capitalists’ “temple of democracy” (Pelosi), where the Republican Party seeks to press its offensive (see Pence, Graham), proposing a federal ban on abortions to suit the ultra-reactionary ideology of its base, and where their Democrat “opponents” continue to fail at every turn to defend even the most basic rights of the people. Without refuting illusions in this institution and its state equivalents — illusions actively cultivated by DSA — each protest is only fodder for the midterms.
As long as political power is in the hands of the ruling class, it is only a matter of time until more of our rights are ripped away from us. The people have no future under capitalism. To fight and win lasting change will require us to break with the politics of the capitalist state, and unite around the only program capable of reshaping society in a progressive direction: socialist revolution. We call on revolutionary students, faculty, and workers here at CUNY and at campuses across the city, to stand together and fight to defend the democratic rights of the people!
A NOTE ON COALITION WORK
The present situation poses the question of how to fight for abortion rights. What is the relation between today’s walkout and the road ahead? At Hunter and across the country, students need to construct organizations, including new coalitions that take up the issue, debate tactics, and openly learn through experience. Last week, the Internationalist Club (IC) posted a leaflet on campus (“How to Fight for Abortion Rights – Compare and Contrast” *), criticizing the slogan on a CUNY for Abortion Rights leaflet for spreading reformist illusions (“pressure CUNY admin to take a stand on abortion”). While we have participated in CUNY4AR, we did not draft the leaflet in question, nor do we defend the slogan. We would rather confront the risk of imprecision in materials generated by others in coalition work than cut ourselves off from the existing movement. IC’s relationship to the organizing effort for this walkout (“attended as observers”) is not inconsequential: its abstention from the vote on whether to hold today’s action at Hunter hurt the common cause and reflected a mindset committed only to building their own organization. The MDSO is a democratic organization united solely on the basis of our program. We are willing to work with any organization, including the IC and others, in joint action. Those who imagine that they can face the enormity of the challenges ahead by themselves, whether this is the hubris of the hegemonic young “democratic socialists” or small groups to their left, are delusional.
* An important correction to an error made by the Internationalist Clubs in their leaflet: the MDSO is not a Maoist organization. Our basis of unity is around our program and our constitution (defining a general membership, elected and recallable officers, decisions by majority vote).