History is on our side, and so is science

Reviewing Revolution, She Wrote by Clara Fraser

Book cover for Revolution, She Wrote
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“From them I learned that the act of fighting injustice is full of hope and joy when it is viewed as a slice of an innate historical tradition, an ancient reaching out for universal fulfillment.”

With these words, Clara Fraser dedicated this collection of her writings to historical freethinkers, including Rosa Luxembourg, Sojourner Truth, Karl Marx, Lenin, “and above all Leon Trotsky. Great feminists all of them.”

Revolution, She Wrote, published by Red Letter Press, is a collection of essays, soapbox columns, letters, and speeches by a lifelong activist, deep theoretical thinker, labor strike leader, feminist organizer, co-founder of the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women, and general rabble-rouser. Fraser records her bold opinions and witty comments on everything from gays in the military in “The Love that Dare Not Speak Its Name in the Army” to the state of feminism in “Revenge of the Dykes, Choicers, Witches, Ghettoites and Single/Working/Welfare Moms.”

The book is refreshing and sane. Educational and analytical. Biting and hilarious. It gives the reader a real-life explanation of socialist feminism from theoretical study to marching in the streets. In these trying times of Trumpism and fascists coming out from under the rocks, it reminds us that “personal demo-fatigue will pass. The Left will resurrect explosively. And a lifestyle of armchair commentary will wither.”

A painting of Clara Fraser by noted Northwest artist William Cumming, who also designed the book cover.

Scoundrels, sellouts, and wimps. In this scornful and aptly named section of the book, Fraser takes on liberal Democrats, warmongers, labor misleaders, and feminist defectors. She describes why reforms and compromising with the ruling class will never fix this “outmoded, sadistic, dog-eat-dog system of capitalism.”

Her disdain showed in the article on Geraldine Ferraro’s nomination as Walter Mondale’s presidential running mate in 1984. “Ferraro,” Fraser wrote, “to me is one of a new legion of educated, articulate, shrewd, attractive, smartly attired, and totally unprincipled shills for the bad guys. I would no more vote for her, or any Democrat, than I would for Cleopatra if I were an Egyptian slave. A working woman has got to draw the electoral line somewhere!”

She would say the same of today’s liberal and democratic socialist candidates, both men and women, who call themselves feminist and claim to be representing working folks.

Confidence in the future. In another chapter, “Hail to the Once and Future Soviet Union” written in 1995, Fraser describes the logic and accomplishments of the Russian Revolution, and recognizes the ravages of Stalinism.

Instead of agonizing over the demise of the world’s first workers state, she confidently writes:

“History never follows a straight path. Socialism will overtake the planet when its time comes, just like capitalism did! Many people think the current profit system is as eternal and indestructible as matter/energy, but capitalism took more than a thousand years, and innumerable false starts, to entrench itself. And it too shall pass away, when the global majority is thoroughly sick and tired of being exploited and brutalized.”

Now, years later (Fraser died in 1998), her predictions are being borne out. The growing brutality of the profit system is being confronted by increasing uprisings against austerity, expanding fights for the rights of the exploited, and spreading labor uprisings. Capitalism is collapsing in on itself. Socialism is discussed publicly. And in spite of the sectarianism and breakups of some leftist parties, the arc of history is moving toward a humane, socialist future.

Radical optimism. What gave Fraser her bracing confidence in the future of socialism, after all the battles she lived through? It came from the solid scientific and economic theories of Marx, Engels, Trotsky and other great thinkers. It came from the communal comfort, criticism, and support of comrades in the Freedom Socialist Party, and from fighting alongside sisters in Radical Women and so many militant coworkers. It came from evaluating and learning from any setbacks, and celebrating the victories.

“We will confidently nourish our radical optimism by revering the memory of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party, which conceived and executed one helluva revolution in a stultified, backward country, and by continuing to adapt that party’s electrifying principles to the here-and-now.”

Reading Revolution, She Wrote explains, with attitude, the forces at work in the world and reveals what a thrilling and fulfilled life can be had fighting for a better future for all. “So fear and tremble not. The battle is not only not over — it’s barely been joined. And the momentum of history, like the logic of science, is on our side.”

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