Abortion is a Class Issue

Photograph Source: Debra Sweet – CC BY 2.0

What exactly is the motivation behind abolishing the right to have an abortion? While there is something inherently sick about American moralism in general this is not the driving factor. Yes, it is true that America’s moralism has led to tremendous bloodshed and it’s worth recounting.

Was it not moralism that drove Manifest Destiny and the genocide of Native Americans? Is it not moralism that the American Empire runs on, as each year there appears to be another crisis of democracy that only America can solve by murdering civilians? Is it not moralism that drives mass incarceration, as a barbaric abuse of human beings mostly without a trial becomes the evidence of a civilized society?

In a land of freedom what really drives America is the ability to restrict the freedom of others. This wholly negative conception of freedom indeed drives America’s adoration of the rich and famous where people are admired for putting their boots on the neck of others. For America, this is what freedom looks like and we do not question this definition but hope that somehow we could achieve it ourselves even as the odds become more stacked against us.

Such is the logic of the right to eliminate the right to abortion (I think I’m getting that right). Of course, this is not about freedom, for Americans hate freedom. Americans hate freedom because we hate ourselves, who claim to be free. We hate freedom because to be free is to be guilty.

So if our freedom is really about power (the ability to restrict freedom) then the abortion issue is also about power. Ultimately what eliminating abortion does is limit the power of women to resist. Resisting rape is up for contention now but the left shouldn’t limit itself to arguing for victims of rape as this concedes quite a bit of ground.

Nor does this resistance end at domestic abusers, although there is quite a bit of this. I often get scolded for bringing domestic violence up because it’s seen as an anti-working class argument. To echo Andrea Dworkin, are the abused not part of the working class too?

What the elimination of abortion also limits is the power of women to resist employers or private companies who want to develop environmental nightmares in their backyards. Women already are tasked with taking care of family members, both old and young, in a state that will only discipline and not provide. Resisting employers could lead to the downfall of the whole family, and thus compassion is leveraged against the worker.

The war is also against sex and love and the organic expression of humanity because such beautiful things give people ideas about what life could be. Workers are rising up across the country, demanding from profiting employers what Keynesian in Washington has failed to provide through botched negotiations by the conservative Biden administration, and corrupt cronies within both corporate parties. Workers are understanding it is not only about policy from a captured state but more so about cutting away at profits from the corporations who captured it.

Perhaps this will put the end to the word ‘neoliberalism’ which has three misleading implications. The first misleading implication is that neoliberalism is different from capitalism and that rather than abolish capitalism we should return to a time before neoliberalism and restore “social democracy” under capitalism. The second misleading implication is that intersectional liberalism is not a class-orientated approach. The third is that neoliberalism is a stage of weak state power. The crisis today is that the state has never been stronger. Not only does it consolidate wealth in the hands of the rich but it provides an unprecedented disciplinary apparatus of the working class through force.

The common refrain among sentimental older people is that young people are too distracted by various vices, sometimes sex or intersectionality as noted above, and often technology. Being against enjoyment is fundamentally right-wing, even in a political context. But I would argue that the problem with the technological apparatus is not that too many people are enjoying it (it tends to send people into depression) but rather that too many people are being surveilled by it to perform moderate resistance without extreme punishment by state or employer powers.

Thus the left needs to learn from the right and take a more local approach to politics which ultimately won the right the abortion issue. The criminalization of even helping someone who needs an abortion goes to show the threat of solidarity. The Trumpenleft is right to frame the Democrats as panderers and not serious class comrades. However, the lack of radicalism from the Trumpenleft comes not only from their support for the fascist right but also from their expectations of being saved by the captured Democrats. The verdict is in. The Democrats and the Republicans have one goal and it is the same. This goal is to crush the left.

As freedom withers away we are left to wonder what happened. Contrary to the cynicism of most commentators I do not believe it is because the working class gave up. The stakes have been raised. Criminalization of resistance by the state as well as blackballing by employers leaves people extremely vulnerable. Finding a means to survive outside an apparatus not controlled by these institutions is near impossible. Fetishizing the past is no better than fetishizing the future. The future and the past are not where we should project superior values, but rather where we find other material conditions, with opportunities and lessons.

As Briahna Joy Gray’s excellent interrogation of The Beatles nostalgia points out that there is a desire to glorify a simple pastime. There is a radicality in reclaiming the present. Every person begins their life with a radical openness that is beaten down by the forces urging conformity throughout their life. This is not the blank slate the right is romanticizing. For them, children are useful to be used. Just as freedom is only commodious in its ability to restrict freedom.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at pemberton.nick@gmail.com