It’s Time to Step Outside the Killing Confines of Official Politics

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

F*#k the Courts and legislators, women are not incubators

* Chant heard during a Chicago abortion rights march of thousands (disgustingly reported as “hundreds” by local media) on May 7, 2022

It’s time. This is not a drill. The time is now to step outside what Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR) calls the “killing confines of ‘official’ politics” – to organize, protest, march, strike, speak up, speak out, and disrupt business and politics as usual beneath and beyond the time-staggered narrow-spectrum major party candidate-centered electoral extravaganzas that are promoted as “politics” – the only politics that matters. Millions must “fill the streets and public squares with fury” to face down the “women haters from the Supreme Court to the State Houses.”

The leak of the Republifascist Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito’s draft majority Jackson v. Dobbs opinion last week shows that the Court is in fact scheming – as those who follow its deliberations closely have been saying for some time – to abolish women’s half- century constitutional right to an abortion in brazen defiance of basic human decency and majority public opinion.

The clock is ticking. There are no major national elections scheduled between now and the coming final Court decision. There are no changes to the ideological composition of the Court coming before it renders its major decisions this spring.

At the same time, the Court is an all-too political if unelected institution sensitive to its need to retain legitimacy in the eyes of the US populace. A critical message must be sent to its “conservative” (radical right/neofascist) majority: defying majority public opinion by undoing Roe v. Wade (the 1973 decision that made abortion a constitutional right in response to many years of feminist and human rights movement struggle) will severely damage their institution’s perceived legitimacy in the eyes of millions and millions of Americans. It will also destabilize the normal operation of the society and political order that has elevated their institution to such a powerful role for better or worse.

Time is of the essence also because it is much easier to defend a right that has already been won than it is to win back a right that has been taken away.

Here are six key questions for USAers to ask themselves right now:

Do women’s lives matter? Forced motherhood is a form of female bondage. Unwanted pregnancies carried to term cause huge damage to women, imposing lost income, deferred futures, depression, stunted lives, and even in some cases death. Women are not incubators. They are not host bodies. They are full human beings whose existence must by any reasonable standard be valued above that of slightly formed fetuses. Forcing girls and women to birth children produced by rape and incest is criminally sadistic. Forcing to girls and women to bring to bring to birth babies that are given away to others is loaded with emotional trauma. Without the basic right to control their own productive lives, women cannot be truly free.

Do children’s lives matter? Bringing babies into households that cannot afford them and/or do not want them is a recipe for increased poverty, alienation, and misery in a world already full of those things. The right-wing folks who scream endlessly about children’s “right to life” seem to care for those children’s existences only in the womb. Once a child is born, the right to lifers couldn’t care less, as is seen in their opposition to properly funded public health, education, and welfare. The right’s alleged solution – adoption – enlists poor women as breeders for middle- and upper-class households and ignores the intimate relationship between poverty and poor pre-natal health.

Do Black and brown lives matter? Abortion bans fall with special oppressive impact on nonwhite communities and households. Thanks to ongoing institutionalized racial inequality, Black and brown women and families are on average far less able than white women and families afford first or additional children and to fund trips from anti- to pro-abortion states.

Do human and civil rights, broadly understood, and legal precedent matter? Make no mistake: the Republifascists want it all. The arch-sexist Amerikaner Party of Trump, Gosar, De Santis, Alito, Taylor-Greene and Coney-Barrett Republikaner will not be content to murder abortion rights in 25 or more US states. After the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, they hope and expect and could very well to take back the US Congress and White House and pass a national abortion ban. At the same time, the Christian white nationalist Republikaners are not content to go only after abortion rights. The draft decision in Jackson v. Dobbs is an assault on all liberal legal precedent. With the Court in its pocket along with much of the rest of the nation’s judicial structure, the right-wing party aims to assault other hard-won personal, civil, and democratic rights “going forward” (into the abyss of MAGA backwardness). Alito’s draft opinion in Dobbs. v. Jackson opens the door for smashing precedent to eliminate other personal rights including the right to interracial marriage (Loving v. Virginia), the right to contraception (Griswald v. Connecticut), and the right not to be forcibly sterilized (Skinner v. Oklahoma) and the right to gay marriage (Obergfell v. Hodges). By Alito’s cold-blooded reasoning, all of these rights lack historical and legal legitimacy and can be liquidated simply because he and his fellow reactionary Court members don’t like them. As Jeffrey St. Clair notes, “Overturning Roe is just the first thread pulled in what will be a much greater unraveling.”

Does democracy matter? Two-thirds to three-fourths of the US populace continues to back Roe v. Wade and yet Roe is right now in grave danger, very close to being overturned within weeks or days by five ideologically committed Supreme Court justices who stand far to the right of the citizenry. A super-majority of US citizens support the continuation of women’s right to an abortion. It is an open absurdity for a self-proclaimed shining beacon of democracy to reject majority sentiments on this as and other key matters. The most elementary democratic principle is majority rule based on the notion of one person, one vote. This principle is regularly violated on issue another – climate, guns, health care, you name it – in a country that routinely refers to itself as “a democracy” and indeed as “the world’s greatest democracy.” The reality is Minority Rule. Does confronting and ending that absurdity matter?

Last but not least: Can we step outside the confines of official politics that are enforced by the Dismal Democratic Party? As RU4AR notes, “all too many pro-choice leaders and Democratic Party politicians preach a ‘realism’ of accepting the Court’s gutting of abortion rights. They tell us to dig in for the ‘long-haul of the electoral process or to focus on helping women induce their own abortions. Whatever their intent, this amounts to capitulating in advance to the enslavement of women and an overall nightmare for humanity.” As Lexi Mcmenamin writes in Teen Vogue:

‘The morning after Americans learned they will likely lose their governmentally-enshrined right to reproductive autonomy, President Joe Biden told them to get out and vote. Even though Supreme Court appointees aren’t democratically elected; even though his party controls the White House and Congress, the other two-thirds of the government’s system of checks and balances; even though some argue that former liberals on the court fumbled the bag by not handing off power; even though there are already plenty of elected abortion rights supporters in Congress who still weren’t able to stop this.’

(Just the other day, the White House absurdly counseled the peaceful abortion rights movement “not to engage in violence.” Say what? This was remarkable counsel to give to activists who are fighting peacefully against the savage patriarchal violence of forced motherhood and against right-wing activists who have long included murderous terrorism in their toolbox. It was remarkable counsel to hear from a White House that is actively fueling, fanning, funding, and equipping mass bloodshed around the world.)

How has the Democrats’ timeworn practice of telling every to just keep calm and funnel all their energies into voting (for Democrats) worked out for women, workers, people of color, and livable ecology? The authoritarian sexist, racist, imperialist, and ecological nightmare unfolding before our very eyes within and beyond the US provides a sharp rebuke to the “Election Madness” (Howard Zinn’s term) that has for so long crippled liberal, progressive, and Left activism in the US.

The unravelling of abortion and other key rights will take place unless it meets effective mass resistance based on an updated version of the popular organizing and struggles that led to the Roe ruling in 1973 and to other past human and civil rights victories – including the right to vote! – in US history. This is something the dismal dollar Dems and their allied civil society institutions (the list includes Planned Parenthood, the Women’s March, and NARAL) fear and seek to contain. This is most fundamentally because, as Revolutionary Communist Party leader Bob Avakian notes:

‘A key role and objective of the Democrats is to maintain the “orderly functioning” of this [U.S. capitalist and imperialist] system. A key part of doing that, while maintaining people’s “allegiance” to this system, is keeping people’s vision and activity restricted within the structures and processes that serve to perpetuate and reinforce this system’s rule—and a crucial part of that is getting people to believe that elections are the only (or by far the most meaningful) way to bring about positive change.’

The Democrats, aptly described by the late political scientist Sheldon Wolin as “the inauthentic opposition,” refuse to mobilize millions in the streets and public squares beneath and beyond the savagely time-staggered big money electoral extravaganzas they sell to the masses as the only politics that matters. This corporate-captive party fears and even loathes the rabble – the angry mass of oppressed citizens – more than it fears and loathes the United States’ descent into patriarchal, white-supremacist late fascism under the banner of a Christian cross and with a strong smell of Gilead. It insists on turning every nonfascist popular movement that arises into a Get Out the Vote campaign for tepid neoliberal Democrats, sucking real and incipient social movements into the killing confines of an electoral politics and policy order that is rigged for right-wing Minority Rule. Many top and middling Dems are actually and cynically looking forward to Roe’s official reversal because they think it will help them win the mid-terms.

Yes, the Democrats and their allies do now feel compelled to call for protests and that is a good thing. But this is sadly (if predictably) coupled with their unhidden beliefs that Roe is toast anyway and that the only and really serious thing that can be done is to vote for Democrats in coming elections – this even as the right wing is rigging the already right-tilted US elections and policy systems further rightward in plain sight. The impact here is deadly, as usual: “misdirecting, suffocating and ultimately killing off the mass outpouring of righteous rage that has now burst forth with the revelation that the Supreme Court is poised to take away the right to abortion…” (Avakian).

The left scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor says it very well in a recent tweet: “We need protests, not endless millions poured only into elections. The majority support access to abortion but can’t see themselves as a majority without demonstrations. The autocrats in SCOTUS can’t feel their illegitimacy without protests. We can’t rebuild a movement without movement in the streets.”

We need this, desperately – George Floyd times twenty – on a broad range of issues, issues that need to include the entire underlying American system of empire and inequality. Coming out of Covid-19’s worst effects (we hope), masses need to take to the streets, public squares, and all cultural and political spaces and make connections and build organizations for a many-sided confrontation with core intersecting structures and forces of oppression that now pose lethal threats to democracy, justice, and indeed to life itself. The underlying capitalist-imperialist power structure is bringing the US and humanity more broadly to the brink of ecological collapse, recurrent pandemics, nuclear war, and fascist consolidation.

It is long past time to step beyond the killing “confines of official politics.” The abortion tripwire is the most urgent one at present, but numerous overlapping Doomsday timebombs are ticking loudly all at once. It’s time, people. It’s time.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).