Thanks to Franklin Dimitryev

Fri, 13 Mar 1998 10:23:22 -0500
Charles Brown (

I guess the words in the Manifesto "Abolition of the family ! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists" and following "the bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital " were ambigous to me as to whether it was a main part of the Manifesto program or whether it would just be one of many postive byproducts of the main event, abolition of private property. Certainly, class struggle in production gets more emphasis in the Manifesto than this aspect. People just don't come away saying "the personal is political after reading the Manifesto." It seems to me that the presentation of this issue in the Manifesto "reproduces the concentration on roots of oppression, rather than the dialectics of liberation. For women and domestic labor is presented as passive and dependent on productive labor in the determination of history and potentially liberation.
Similarly, the quote from Dunayevskay on Capital, only addresses the positive development of women going outside of the domestic sphere not empowering women within the domestic sphere as well. Her formulation "the collective labor of men and women, under different historic conditions, 'creates a new economic foundation for a higher form of the family and the relation between the sexes', still places subjectivity (agency) solely in production. The "higher form of the family" dependent on "a new economic foundation. "My" idea is revolutionary agency
must be located in production and the family simultaneously.
Also, rather than reducing Marx to a sole foundational concept of production, my effort is to look to Marx's dialectical materialism and ethnology underlying his focus on production in order to organically link workers's liberation and women's liberation theory rather than "synthetically" add the latter onto the former. It is an effort to develop Marxism , but on its own most basic philosophical terms.
I agree that in the 1844 manuscripts, Marx makes a bigger point than in the Manifesto about the relationship between the sexes than in the Manifesto. Of course, he didn't publish them. They are sort of self-clarification like The German Ideology.
I tend to think that in their minds Marx and Engels had a more "integrated" theory of workers' and women's liberation, but that the taboo on advocating women's liberation was even greater than the other. They might have been put in a mental institution like Lady Bulwer-Lytton. Combining working class revolutionism with women's revolutionism would have been really risky.
I have read Dunayevskaya's book, and when I did, I was wishing I could get the Ethnological Notebooks, but again they are not part of the public program of classic Marxism. This is significant given the criticality of the unity of theory and practice in Marxism. By the way, modern anthropology analyses "chiefdom" and "rank" (see Sahlins, Service et al.).
I disagree that my approach "concentrates on roots of oppression rather than on dialectics of liberation (just as the Manifesto criticized the utiopians for seeing the working class only as suffering and not as subjects of revolution)". My approach is exactly the opposite of what you criticize there. My title was "For Women's liberation" exactly for that reason. What I emphasize is not women's suffering, but the fact that as a class (not a biological sex; history not biology designated them the main domestic labor class )they have been important in determining history. This is analogous to the Manifesto's replacing the "Great Man theory of history" with the class struggle theory of history, because by that change working classes through history have been subjects of history, even though they were oppressed and exploited. Domestic labor plays a more important role in the creation of value than the attention it gets in Capital, because of its role in creating labor power. Th
is is the key to the dialectics of women's liberation, women as subjects in their own liberation, because it says look at your power in creating all of this, you do have the power to liberate yourselves.
I always liked the banner slogan on "News and Letters" , the paper in the Dunayevskaya tradition - "Labor power (now "Human power") is its own end"- because it focusses on labor power which is what is created in domestic labor or reproduction (in the broad sense ;not just sex and pregnancy). It seems to suggest an integration of production and "reproduction" (sorry, but I need a word). However, I find it difficult to proceed as if all post-Marx Marxists except Dunayevskaya really understood Marx. This amounts to a claim that Marx was a great mystifier; that even Engels couldn't understand him; that unpublished works like the 1844 Manuscripts and Ethnological Notebooks have the secret real Marx; and that the main public works like the Manifesto, somehow, lead everybody but Raya astray; that Marx didn't really make his ideas manifest in the Manifesto.
Indeed, let us not reduce Marx " to the sole foundational concept of production", for that might leave out the struggle in production. However, the Manifesto reduces history to productive class struggle, or do you have a different understanding of the first sentence ? Didn't Marx write it. ? Was he counting on us finding all of these old notebooks to understand what he really meant ? Marx is the one focussed on production (with struggle). The subtitle of Captial vol. 1 is ,as I am sure you know, a critical analysis of capitalist production. Is Marx being a vulgar Marxist ?
I draw from Rob Beamish's mention of Marx and Engels avoiding Hess's Fouriest concept of community of women, and Marx's specific denunciation of it in the 1844 Manuscripts , that they were advanced feminism in recognizing that with the ancient male chauvinist double standard, community of men must precede community of women in sexual liberation. And more generally, Marx and Engels did not address women's liberation as fully in their "manifest" statements because they recognized their own limitations (they didn't have women study partners) and that women would have to become a much bigger part of the institutions of scholarship before the development of a "Manifesto" on reproduction and women's liberation. Now 150 years later , there is much more input from women. This is why the statement from Engels on future women/men relations quoted by Mr. Ruyle is so sketchy and tentative. Women and men together have to work it out, and Engels knew he really didn't have enough input fr
om women.
Indeed, Marx's thought was not static, nor should ours be. It is exactly in the dialectical tradition or philosophy of change that we must develop Marx's ideas, including radical changes such as integrating the theory of workers's and women's liberation, followng incites Marx and Engels developed later in life or were unable to make manifest because of their "historical, organizational,philosophic, political, polemical context."

comradely, C.B.