Clara Fraser: A small biography for a very large life

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Clara Fraser was the Big Bang that set off modern socialist feminism, pouring new light and creative energy into the revolutionary movement. Born in 1923 to Russian immigrants, she was a working-class trailblazer until her death in 1998. She taught that women and people of color are destined to lead in creating change because they are society’s most oppressed. And she named the enemy of freedom for both women and men: capitalism.

Fraser cut through liberal, reactionary, and ultraleft platitudes with humor. As a Marxist, she was optimistic and always ahead of the curve. She foresaw today’s economic collapse, the assault on unions by the ruling class, and its naked theft of houses, jobs, wages, and pensions.

Her heart was white-hot with indignation at exploitation for profit. Her consciousness was shaped by the logic and truth-telling of shining figures like Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxemburg, Sojourner Truth, Marx and Engels, Lenin and Trotsky — who spread an understanding of class war in order to enable working people to win it.

She is much respected for co-founding the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) in 1966. Fraser and her Seattle comrades broke from the Socialist Worker Party because of its stubborn underappreciation of the struggle for women’s rights and of the radical character of the exploding civil rights movement — along with its intolerance of internal party debate. The following year, Clara and other members of the brand-new FSP supported the founding of Radical Women, an autonomous group dedicated to building women’s leadership.

About the same time, when Fraser sought a divorce from another FSP founder, he charged her in the capitalist courts with being a bad wife and mother because of her activism. The young FSP, grounded in its socialist feminism, supported Clara, who carried the day in court as well.

A staunchly anti-Zionist Jew, she stood with Palestinians and denounced U.S. backing of the state of Israel. Her lifelong involvement in defense of workers on the job and in the Native American, Black, Latino, LGBT, and women’s movements is carried forward by FSPers today. Fraser’s signature wit and remarkable analytical abilities uplifted everyone she worked with and mentored.

Clara Fraser took the second wave of feminism to heights of theoretical clarity as she stressed the key role of women leaders worldwide, working as equals with men to replace an ever-more-decadent profit system.

Also see: The living ideas of Clara Fraser: the original socialist feminist

Also see: Of hermits, hedonists and related narcissists

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