On Friday, June 24, a group of nine unelected millionaires serving lifetime terms, also known as the Supreme Court, voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the constitutional right to abortion. Since then, tens of thousands of people have been in the streets across the nation protesting this nationwide assault on human rights, civil rights, and reproductive healthcare. This is the first time in the nation’s history that the SCOTUS has taken away a fundamental constitutional right that it had previously recognized.
The overturning of Roe v. Wade is the final nail in the coffin of a decades-long assault on reproductive rights. Since the decision in 1973, right-wing religious groups, right-wing politicians, and dark money groups have been organizing behind the scenes and chipping away at Roe v. Wade one step at a time. Over the decades, clinic numbers have consistently fallen as “pro-life” political campaigns have been accompanied by a relentless domestic terror campaign, marked by murders, attempted murders, death threats, stalking, arson, bombings, kidnappings, and bomb threats.
As of June 28, 2022, at least 13 states have already criminalized abortion and another 13 have near or total abortion ban trigger laws that will likely go into effect within 30 days. By the end of the summer, 26 states will have criminalized abortion. This means criminalized abortions for some 58 million women. And abortion services won’t just be inaccessible. They will be illegal, with patients, providers and supporters facing criminal prosecution for abortions and possibly miscarriages, if women are suspected of causing a miscarriage. And in several of these states, there are no exceptions for rape or incest. Many people will die without access to safe and legal abortion, with low-income and people of color being the hardest hit, as always within a system of racial capitalism.
As many feminists, progressives, and leftists have always understood, reproductive rights are human rights. The right to control your own body is a basic human right. And as Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale author, so plainly states, “Forced childbirth is slavery. Women who cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have babies are enslaved because the state claims ownership of their bodies and the right to dictate the use to which their bodies must be put.”
The Disparate Impact of this Supreme Court Decision on the US Working Class and Poor
Many healthcare providers, pro-choice activists, scholars and lawyers have understood for decades how essential reproductive rights are in a free and democratic society. What is perhaps less generally understood is who has and has not been able to access reproductive healthcare in a racially-capitalized society. In terms of the ongoing erosion of abortion rights, who has been most affected? And who will continue to be most affected by the complete overturning of Roe v. Wade? As is the nature of capitalism, people with money and resources will continue to be able to access abortion (albeit not as easily as before), birth control and reproductive healthcare. People without money and resources will not.
In 2016, the Supreme Court’s own record showed that all women were 14 times more likely to die by carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion. Women forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term are four times more likely to live under the federal poverty level and three times more likely to be unemployed. When we look at this in terms of race, we see glaring disparities. In Mississippi, Black women are 118 times more likely to die than white women by carrying a pregnancy to term than by having an abortion. And across the United States, before Roe was passed in 1973, the leading cause of death for black women in the United States was sepsis from unsafe abortions.
Since 1976, the Hyde Amendment has prohibited Medicaid funds from being used for abortions. This meant that poor and working-class women who needed this kind of reproductive healthcare never had access to federal funds and had to make life or death decisions as a result of their economic situation. Joe Biden has been a staunch supporter of the Hyde Amendment for decades.
In terms of indigenous people in the United States, because the Hyde Amendment expanded to ban all federal funding for abortion services, Native Americans have long been denied abortion services at Indian Health Service (IHS) for many decades. Given that indigenous women are at least twice as likely to experience sexual assault as other women in the United States, the criminalization of abortion services outside IHS will be particularly devastating to Native women, femmes and two-spirit people.
In a society as racially and economically stratified as the United States, the wealthy will have no trouble obtaining abortion services and reproductive healthcare. It is poor and working-class women, femmes, black, indigenous, queer, and other people of color who will suffer the most without federally protected rights and resources. It’s the same people who are already suffering. And the assault on reproductive rights has already extended to LGBTQI2S communities in terms of accessing hormones and other gender-specific healthcare, where the same race and class divisions apply.
t just so happens that the 26 states that are likely to ban abortion in the coming weeks and months are the same states with the worst economic indicators in the United States. According to the Economic Policy Institute:
The States that will ban abortion first are also the states with the lowest minimum wages, states that are less likely to have expanded Medicaid, states more likely to be anti-union, right-to-work states, and states with higher than average incarceration rates. For example, among the states that will ban abortion, “the average minimum wage is $8.39 compared with $11.48 in the states that have abortion access. Also, 10 of the 26 anti-abortion states have not expanded Medicaid, and all but two of the states are anti-union, right-to-work states. While the nationwide incarceration rate is 419 per 100,000 people, in the 26 anti-abortion states, the average incarceration rate is 439 per 100,000 people compared with 272 for the states without abortion restrictions.
It just so happens that the 26 states that are likely to ban abortion in the coming weeks and months are the same states with the worst economic indicators in the United States. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “The States that will ban abortion first are also the states with the lowest minimum wages, states that are less likely to have expanded Medicaid, states more likely to be anti-union, right-to-work states, and states with higher than average incarceration rates. For example, among the states that will ban abortion, “the average minimum wage is $8.39 compared with $11.48 in the states that have abortion access. Also, 10 of the 26 anti-abortion states have not expanded Medicaid, and all but two of the states are anti-union, right-to-work states. While the nationwide incarceration rate is 419 per 100,000 people, in the 26 anti-abortion states, the average incarceration rate is 439 per 100,000 people compared with 272 for the states without abortion restrictions.”
Some of the economic consequences of being denied an abortion include a higher chance of being in poverty even four years after; a lower likelihood of being employed full time; and an increase in unpaid debts and financial distress lasting years. Laws that restrict abortion providers, so-called ‘TRAP’ laws (targeted regulation of abortion providers), have led to women in those states being less likely to move into higher-paying occupations.
Abortion is often framed as a ‘culture-war’ issue, distinct from material ‘bread and butter’ economic issues. In reality, abortion rights are economic rights, and this decision means the loss of economic security, independence, and mobility for abortion seekers. Low-and-middle-income people, especially Black and Brown women, will bear the brunt of the impact.
Abortion rights are fundamental rights to any civilized society that dares to call itself a democracy. Without these rights, millions of women and people needing reproductive healthcare will face worsening poverty, hardship and death. People will die as a result of this decision.
If Reproductive Rights are so basic, why won’t the Democrats fight for them?
You might have noticed a new flurry of email and text messages from the Democratic Party, asking you to chip in money to support Democratic candidates (who will purportedly support abortion rights) and encourage you to get out and vote Democrat in the next election. At this moment, the Democrat fundraising apparatus has kicked into high gear. But why, I ask, would a majority of women believe that electing more Democrats would be likely to bring back their basic rights when the Democrats who are currently in power, as well as those of the past, have so glaringly failed to protect these same rights? More of the same won’t fix this disaster.
The failure to stand up to the patriarchal and fascistic assaults on reproductive rights is one enormous example of the Democratic Party’s increasingly-common abandonment of the working class under neoliberal capitalism. While the Democratic Party is always the first party to parade black and brown faces on their fundraising ads, suggesting they represent a socially and economically diverse United States, in practice, Democratic policies of neoliberalism over the last 40+ years have left most BIPOC people, as well as the white working class, further and further behind. No amount of voting has changed the increasing levels of dark money or corporate corruption in our political system. And the Democrats have rarely stood up for reproductive rights when they’ve had the chance, including at this present moment.
Here’s a quick summary of just a few Democratic failures to protect reproductive rights since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973.
- President Jimmy Carter: Carter opposed abortion and did not publicly defend Roe v. Wade. Throughout his presidency, he consistently opposed federal funding for abortions, opening the door for right-wing attacks.
- Vice-President Gore had a long history of opposing abortion before being selected as President Bill Clinton’s VP.
- President Bill Clinton did have a good record on abortion, vetoing abortion bans and signing an executive order immediately upon entering office that did away with the gag rule and other restrictions. He held a majority with the House and Senate, but he failed to pass legislation to codify Roe.
- In President Obama’s first term, the Democrats also held a supermajority with the House and Senate, and Obama had promised to codify Roe v. Wade. But once in office, Obama decided it was not a priority.
- In 2016, Hillary Clinton chose a “pro-life” candidate, Senator Tim Kaine, as her running mate.
- Hyde Amendment- Introduced in 1976 by U.S. Rep. Henry Hyde (R- Illinois), the Hyde Amendment is a rider that has been attached to the federal budget since 1976, which prohibits Medicaid and other federal funds from paying for abortions for poor women. Joe Biden, throughout his career as a senator and now president, has staunchly supported the Hyde amendment except for a brief moment in 2019. Once he took office as President in 2020, he stated that he in fact would be willing to sign federal budget bills that included the Hyde Amendment.
- In May 2022, Nancy Pelosi aggressively campaigned for Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) against progressive, pro-choice candidate Jessica Cisneros, despite pressure from pro-choice advocates who pointed out that Cuellar is the only Democrat in the House who opposes abortion. With the support of Pelosi and 18 House Democrats, Cuellar eked out a victory over Cisneros.
- Also in May 2022, Senate Democrats failed to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was constructed to prevent states from imposing unfair restrictions on abortion providers.
- On June 29, 2022, less than one week after Roe v. Wade was overturned, President Biden announced his plan to appoint anti-choice Republican lawyer Chad Meredith to a lifetime federal judgeship in Kentucky.
Currently holding majority control in the House, Senate and the Executive Branch, there are several things President Biden and Democrats could do right now, if they were so willing, to protect abortion rights for tens of millions of people. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez outlines some of them here. They include:
- Eliminating the filibuster using a simple majority (“nuclear option”) and codifying Roe v. Wade immediately before anti-abortion trigger laws take effect in the next 30 days, by pressuring all Democrats (including Manchin and Sinema)
- Declare a public health emergency
- Use federal facilities such as military hospitals to offer abortion care (the Hyde Amendment doesn’t apply to emergency funding)
- Expand the Supreme Court
- Restrain Judicial Review
- Vote on Escobar’s bill protecting clinics
- Expand Reproductive Health Education and Access to Plan C
Many liberals will defend Joe Biden, saying that he can’t eliminate the filibuster without the support of Senator Joe Manchin, whose vote he would need to reach 51 votes. And the question remains: why hasn’t Biden ever tried to pressure Joe Manchin in the past? Why hasn’t Biden gone to West Virginia to speak to voters? Why did Biden and every top Democrat refuse to support Manchin’s progressive pro-choice challenger, Paula Jean Swearingen, when she primaried Joe Manchin in 2018?
Senators Manchin and Sinema occupy a special role for corporate Democrats. They provide a public alibi for a corrupt party that is not truly aligned with people’s interests and needs an excuse to keep abandoning the working class.
Failing to support pro-choice, and otherwise progressive grassroots candidates in their fights against corporate-backed candidates is a hallmark of today’s Democratic Party. It’s called “punching left.” Most corporate Democrats would rather side with fascists and lose, than win Democratic races with progressives or socialists. In addition to Joe Manchin’s challenger (Paula Jean Swearingen) mentioned above, there are numerous examples of high-ranking Democrats who would rather support right-wing candidates than back progressive or socialist candidates. Just a few recent examples include:
- Nancy Pelosi’s May 2022 campaign for anti-choice candidate Henry Cuellar of Texas
- President Biden’s April 2022 endorsement of Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Ohio) over more progressive candidate Nina Turner in the Ohio congressional race
- Socialist candidate India Walton won the Buffalo primary in the Mayoral race in 2021. Then the New York Democratic Party and top-ranking New York Democrats, like Governor Kathy Hochul and Senator Chuck Schumer, refused to endorse her in the general election. Instead they backed conservative Democrat Byron Brown, who did a last-minute write-in campaign to defeat Walton with Democratic Party support.
- Democratic-funded efforts to recall Socialist Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant
- June 2022: Democratic PAC’s in Colorado spent over $4 million on TV ads during the Republican U.S. Senate primary, backing a far-right Republican to oppose a more moderate Republican.
- And of course, who could forget all the DNC shenanigans to sabotage the Bernie Sanders campaign in favor of the corporate-backed Joe Biden.
A History of Democratic Failure to Protect the Working Class
While most liberals and leftists know that Republicans are leading the charge in this nationwide war on women’s rights and human rights, to pretend that this is just a Left vs. Right issue obscures the deep political and economic relationships that prohibit top Democrats from standing up to Republicans on this and many other issues. The sacrifice of reproductive rights, while perhaps morally distasteful to some Democrats in power, is a price the corporate party has willing to pay (or rather, pass onto the working class and poor people in the United States), in order to consolidate their wealth and fuel their fundraising apparatus.
In their recent article, “Dark Money Led to This Moment,” Lever News writes:
The decision, which is part of a barrage of devastating, precedent-setting Supreme Court rulings this term, surely has many Americans wondering how we arrived at such a dark moment. The answer is simple, even if it is rarely discussed in corporate media: It lies in a giant pile of anonymous cash that was deployed to buy Supreme Court seats, help determine justices’ caseload, and shape their decisions…. A secretive, well-financed dark money network has spent years working to build the Supreme Court’s radical conservative supermajority and bankrolling many of the politicians and organizations involved in the most controversial cases now before the court, including the abortion rights case decided Friday.
While Democrats won the popular vote in seven out of the eight last presidential elections since 1992, Democrats have only held the presidency five times in that same period. And the GOP has stacked the judicial branch with right-wing judges during Republican presidential tenure. Since 1969, Republican presidents have made 16 out of 21 Supreme Court nominations.
While Republicans refused to confirm Merrick Garland (Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court appointment) due to it being an election year, Democrats did not stage a protest, nor walk out, but rather helplessly surrendered to the confirmation of three Trump appointments to the Supreme Court, including Neil Gorsuch (in place of Merrick Garland), Brett Kavanaugh (in spite of overwhelming evidence of his criminal record as a sexual perpetrator), and right-wing evangelical Amy Coney Barrett, whose appointment also happened during an election year, violating the Republican precedent.
Democrats crossing over to confirm Trump-appointed judges was a consistent pattern throughout Trump’s tenure. In October of 2017, the Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The vote was 55-43, with three Democrats crossing over to confirm. Not only have some Democrats been complicit in voting to confirm even the most right-wing of Trump’s judicial appointments, but the Senate Minority Leader (under Trump) Chuck Schumer actually cut a deal with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to fast-track many of these judicial confirmations. In late August of 2018, just before the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Schumer made this deal with the devil that gave 11 Trump-nominees immediate approval and fast-tracked eight more for a vote.
The consistent ratcheting of the judicial branch to the extreme right has been underway for decades. As the US Supreme Court has become more and more a corporate-friendly, GOP partisan weapon fueled by dark money, we have seen catastrophic decisions that have dismantled basic democratic protections, like Citizens United in 2010, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and McCutcheon’s 2014 rejection of campaign finance limits. And with Amy Coney Barrett’s terrible record on labor rights, women’s and public healthcare, LGBTQI2S and other civil rights, failing to effectively oppose an extremist, right-wing takeover of the US judicial system is a clear case of aiding and abetting fascism.
Biden’s Treatment of the Working Class so far
Right now, at this moment, Democrats currently hold the majority in the House, Senate and the Executive Branch. And the reason Democrats are in office is largely because poor and working-class people, a majority of black and brown people, poured out to vote for them in the 2020 elections. Biden made a series of campaign promises including: a $15 minimum wage; a public option for healthcare; student loan debt forgiveness; the Build Back Better Act; no more kids in cages; making Covid vaccine patents freely available to the world; promising to end US reliance on fossil fuels, and becoming the next environmental president. In terms of actually delivering on any of his campaign promises, Biden’s policy successes are slim to none. Not only has he failed to deliver in key policy areas, he has in fact enacted worse policies than Trump in terms of increased healthcare costs and the environment. And even more than Trump, Biden has enriched himself at the hands of the pharmaceutical industry. And he’s accepted massive contributions from the oil and gas industry.
This failure to deliver real material gains to working-class and poor Americans is especially devastating coming out of a massive pandemic that was economically catastrophic to millions – a pandemic that took the lives of over one million people and occurred on the heels of an historic economic recession. Before Trump’s recession, there was the Great Recession of 2008 (under Obama) that began with the housing crisis but lasted for many years, with little relief for most of the country. And these decades of economic suffering in no small part fueled the MAGA movement. One study from the Center for American Progress draws the throughline from the financial crisis to Democrats’ failure to deliver help to the rise of Trump. “The Democratic think tank found that ‘larger proportions of underwater homeowners were prominent features’ of more than a third of the 206 counties won by Obama in 2012 that flipped to Trump in 2016.”
Democrats smugly predicted that they would be able to overcome working-class rage after the top 10 percent of income earners saw their fortunes rise by 27 percent during Obama’s presidency. “But every other stratum saw incomes decline, and countless neighborhoods were eviscerated by more than 6m foreclosures, dooming families to losing battles with bank bureaucracy, government red tape, and a judicial foreclosure machine.”
In other words, over the last few decades, the United States working class has not seen any substantial economic relief. Real wages haven’t increased since the 1960s. There’s been no increase in the minimum wage since 2009. And now we are entering a period of record inflation and record gas prices. Economic conditions for millions of Americans have continued to deteriorate under Democrats and Republicans (neoliberalism and neoconservatism), as US politics continues shifting further and further toward the right. It’s clear that when the Democrats fail to protect the working class, right-wing forces seize on the opportunity to blame economic suffering on women, people of color, immigrants, and the most marginalized and oppressed, building their base using culture wars, and driving US politics toward fascism.
What is fascism and why is it growing?
Traditionally, fascism has been seen as an ultra-nationalist regime that rejects socialism, democracy, and liberalism. In the United States, it has taken on the trappings of patriarchy, white-supremacy, settler-colonialism and Christianity– the founding doctrines of the country. In the words of scholar and activist Michael Parenti, US fascists are “super patriots” who uphold these age-old ideologies. The motto “Make America Great Again” hearkens back to a past that has been glorified in the minds of those who believe in these founding doctrines. Fascists generally believe that liberalism, socialism, communism, and immigrants have destroyed the vision that the founding fathers had. And by upholding patriarchy as a core value, modern-day fascists are also extremely threatened by women’s rights, LGBTQI2S rights- basically anything that isn’t white, male, settler-colonial patriarchy. This is the definition of fascism that is most commonly understood today. It has its roots in 20th-Century definitions of fascism.
But there’s another definition of 21st Century fascism that comes from UC Santa Barbara sociologist William I. Robinson. Based on years of extensive research, he defines fascism as “the fusion of transnational capital with reactionary and repressive political power — an expression of the dictatorship of transnational capital.” This is an incredibly important definition because if we look at fascist movements throughout world history and into today, what we see is that right-wing, super patriotic, white-supremacist, and patriarchal messaging and politics are how fascists initially obtain power. But once they have it, once they amass broad political power through right-wing social movements, their broader economic goals shift toward amassing capital globally, or becoming transnational capitalists, as Robinson would say.
To demonstrate more of this history, let’s take Italy under Mussolini. Mussolini allied with the social conservatives and the Catholic church. After seizing power in 1922, Mussolini oversaw widespread privatization of formerly state owned industries like the telephone networks and metal production. This was the first large-scale privatization seen in history. Similarly, once Hitler obtained power, he welcomed international corporations like Ford and GM to open up manufacturing in Germany. The elimination of trade unions and socialists makes for a very favorable economic environment for expanding capitalism.
We can also look at a series of US interventions and US-backed coups throughout the world during the Cold War era including Iran, Iraq, Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the Congo and so many other countries where the US, with the help of the CIA, attempted to or installed right-wing and/or fascist governments, friendly to transnational capitalism and brutally repressive internally, in terms of thwarting progressive, socialist or communist movements. There are really too many examples to choose from in terms of US interventionism.
Closer to home, we see how Trump used a very similar approach with his appeal to the evangelical right, bashing immigrants, people of color, and communists. He rallied his base by appealing to economic populism, while also embracing right-wing evangelical Christian values. Once in power, however, he betrayed any notion of economic populism by using his office to launder huge amounts of wealth toward his family and friends, destroying any vestige of the social welfare state, cutting funds to social programs, and giving mass tax breaks to billionaires and wealthy elites. Besides stoking anti-immigrant rhetoric and publicly deriding the most poor and oppressed groups in society, Trump also reinvigorated red-scare rhetoric with his war on Critical Race Theory as a “communist plot.”
Throughout world history, anti-communist/red-scare-type rhetoric is a crucial piece of the fascist project. Now, we see the Democrats in power, continuing to use red-baiting language against Russia after almost a decade of leading the charge on Russiagate. The Biden Administration is now reinvigorating a global Cold War against Russia and China, while funneling some $58 billion to Ukraine to fight a proxy war with Russia. Russia and China are two countries who pose no military threat to the United States unless provoked. What they do pose is an economic threat, in terms of challenging US global hegemony. These foreign wars are being funded and waged at the expense of the poor and working classes of the United States. Imagine what $58 billion could do at home to aid with reproductive healthcare, Medicare for All, public housing, US schools, or a global environmental crisis.
Instead, as the United States is sending massive military funds and supplies to Ukraine– funding fascism abroad– while a fascist movement is also growing like a cancer, here at home. Republican lawmakers are promising a federal abortion ban if they take a majority in Congress after the midterm elections, so that the 26 states that haven’t criminalized abortion yet don’t become safe-haven states. “Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that social conservatives in the post-Roe era ‘must not rest and must not relent until the sanctity of life is restored to the center of American law in every state in the land.’”
Justice Clarence Thomas has openly stated that Roe v. Wade is only the first of a series of rights that the Supreme Court will likely overturn. “He also wrote a separate concurrence arguing that the logic behind today’s ruling should also apply to previous Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage, sodomy, and the right to access contraceptives.”
We have long known that right-wing, fascist forces have infiltrated the US government, the Republican Party, members of Congress, the Supreme Court, and that they have lots of dark money behind them. What is less commonly known is that recently, dark money donations for Democrats have surpassed Republicans. According to Open Secrets, “Biden’s presidential bid attracted around $174 million in support from anonymous donors, more than six times the $25.2 million in dark money contributions and spending boosting President Donald Trump’s unsuccessful re-election effort.”
Fascism, in this case, is not only right-wing repression in the form of US culture wars. Fascism is an economic war on the international working class and the poor marked by “the fusion of transnational capital with reactionary and repressive political power,” according to Sociologist Bill Robinson.
While the Democratic Party is not the most vocal in terms of leading the charge into right-wing ideologies within the United States, Democratic foreign policy has been just as bad, if not worse, than that of Republicans. With the largest military budget in the world and in the history of the United States, Democrats with their $778 billion defense budget are thoroughly in bed with the global military industrial complex, and its support for right-wing colonial and fascistic regimes who are responsible for mass killing, genocide and repression around the world.
In terms of Democratic domestic policy, it is their complicity and complete cooperation with transnational capitalists and the ruling class that is facilitating a growing fascist project within the United States. This is what many who defend the Democratic Party have called the politics of “lesser-evilism,” but at this point, we should really just call this a “uni-party”- with a Democratic and Republican flavor; both who are aiding and abetting fascism, every step of the way.
This Political Economy Will Fall
This form of unaccountable, corporate duopoly and racial capitalism that starves and deprives the basic rights of the nation’s poor and working classes will fall. It is no longer sustainable. The question is what will replace it. What comes next?
We can clearly see the fascist forces looming on the horizon. They are marked not only be white-supremacist, patriarchal, evangelical Christianity in the United States. They are also marked by increased military spending and US-led wars, increased funding for police, increased mass incarceration, a growing surveillance apparatus, the persecution of indigenous people, immigrants and refugees, and the repression of environmental activists. This is what William I. Robinson calls “The Global Police State.”
If our society aspires to be “small-d-democratic,” we can no longer afford to blindly support the Democrats while they sell off our basic rights like bargaining chips to the highest bidder. Like an abusive partner, Democrats have long sought the loyalty of the poor and working class when it’s best for them– when it comes to elections and fundraising– when they need us the most. But when it comes time to deliver on promises, when it comes time to protect basic human, civil and constitutional rights, and deliver material gains for the people, they are nowhere to be found.
We must embrace a different kind of political economy– one that centers the most marginalized and oppressed. It is no coincidence that socialist and communist countries around the world have often made sure that abortion was always legal. Patriarchy is one of the oldest forms of class oppression, with women being the largest class in the world. Socialism and communism have often understood this in their founding doctrines. From the Soviet Union to Cuba, reproductive healthcare and abortion rights have often been enshrined, codified rights, that cannot be voted away. From Multipolarista:
Before the 1959 revolution, Cubans lived through a period of US neocolonialism, and private medical clinics thrived by offering US ‘health tourists’ services like abortion that were not available in the United States. During this time, Cuba had the second-highest rural infant and maternal death rates in Latin America. Most Cubans had no access to healthcare, especially outside of the capital, La Habana. There was only one rural hospital in the country. Abortion was effectively only legal for the Cubans who could afford it – a reality we still face in the US.
Only with socialism, and the expansion of free healthcare to all, came a full actualization of abortion rights in Cuba. After the triumph of the revolution in 1959, health outcomes improved immediately. Cuba now has the most doctors per capita in the world. It even has a higher life expectancy and lower maternal mortality rate than the US. Full access to abortion was institutionalized in 1965 on four basic grounds: “it is the woman who decides, it needs to take place at a hospital, it needs to be carried out by expert staff, and it needs to be totally free.
Mao Zedong, Chinese communist revolutionary and the founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) once said, “Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.” 1
Thomas Sankara, a Burkinabé military officer, Marxist revolutionary, and pan-Africanist who served as President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to his murder in 1987 said, “Given this cycle of violence, inequality can be done away with only by establishing a new society, where men and women will enjoy equal rights, resulting from an upheaval in the means of production and in all social relations. Thus, the status of women will improve only with the elimination of the system that exploits them. In fact, throughout the ages and wherever the patriarchy has triumphed, there has been a close parallel between class exploitation and women’s inferior status.”
Here, in the United States, where communist and socialist political parties and movements have been systematically destroyed since the country’s inception, it will take a mass working-class movement on a scale we haven’t yet seen in this country to mount a resistance to the dictatorship of transnational capital– the fascism of the 21st century. And since fascism is an international project, the resistance, too, must be international.
In this current US political climate where Democrats are launching a new Cold War on Russia and China, where anti-communist, red-baiting rhetoric has been embraced by both Democratic and Republican parties, it will require massive discipline, education, organizing and a multigenerational commitment to develop and sustain alternative models to capitalism. These movements must be able to withstand the attacks of the capitalist system, itself, as it tries to delegitimize socialist and communist movements inside and outside the belly of the beast. But I believe it is past time for all of our social struggles against patriarchy, racism, colonialism, environmental destruction and economic inequality to embrace a radical critique of capitalism and its alternatives, if we are to collectively survive the fascist class war and ecocidal forces that are coming our way… and quickly.
We must understand the repeal of Roe v. Wade as one of many fundamental human rights that will be casualties of class war within a global shift toward fascism. If we can understand the loss of these rights within this geopolitical context, we can also see the urgent necessity for international socialist, communist and anti-capitalist movements to unite in order to mobilize for this battle for reproductive justice, as just one of many battles that will require our unity and solidarity within a larger global class war against fascism.
- Introductory note to “Women Have Gone to the Labour Front” (1955), The Socialist Upsurge in China’s Countryside, Chinese ed., Vol. I. [↩]
This article was originally published on July 5, 2022 at Dissident Voice.
Erin McCarley is an independent photojournalist and writer based in Denver, Colorado. With a master’s degree in photojournalism from UT Austin, her still photography, videos and writing have been published by Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Yes! Magazine, Due Dissidence, The Christian Science Monitor, the Westword, TeleSUR English, Free Speech TV in Boulder, CO, KLRU TV in Austin, TX, the MIT Press, the Ford Foundation, Science Daily, The Daily Texan, and others.
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