Desperately seeking socialism, I also found feminism

Emma Allen at a 2017 community event in Columbia City, a neighborhood in Seattle. PHOTO: Courtesy of the author
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Since I was a teenager, I was interested in socialism. I realized there were too many contradictions and glaring injustices under capitalism and I was incensed by the war on drugs. So much money had been spent on incarcerating non-violent offenders who shouldn’t be in jail but instead could be living productive lives. Of course, those being tracked into the prison system were much more likely to be people of color than whites.

My first vote for president went to Bill Clinton, a Democrat, who promptly signed a draconian anti-crime bill which would ensure even more people of color were locked up. This was not what I voted for.

To gain a better understanding of the world, I studied political theory in college. Several of my professors were pretty positive about Marxism but Karl Marx was often mixed in with other philosophers.

After college, I, like a lot of young and idealistic progressives, hoped to find a career in the non-profit industry and not sully myself by working for a big evil corporation. I soon discovered that the non-profit world was competitive, low paid and exploitive. I ended up going the corporate route to survive.

I met the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) in Portland, Oregon, a few years after graduating from college. My first introduction came through the FSP’s sister organization, Radical Women (RW), an autonomous women’s leadership training group.

RW held a meet-up to report back from the 1999 anti-World Trade Organization (WTO) protests. I had learned about neoliberal globalization in college but had no idea that the culmination of the anti-WTO movement was so close to my own back yard. At that meeting we analyzed the thrilling “Battle of Seattle” which consisted of tens of thousands of protesters shutting down the WTO trade summit and its take-no-prisoners corporate agenda. We learned how the delegates from the poorer African and south Asian countries were being bullied into accepting exploitive deals. And that unions and environmental organizations (teamsters and turtles) came together and made connections that the WTO was bad for both workers’ rights and the environment. The U.S. protesters made common cause and supported the internationally oppressed.

I joined Radical Women and got a real education, proudly Marxist and unapologetically feminist, and the theoretical knowledge that I had been seeking in college.

I participated with Radical Women in the anti-war and anti-occupation movements. The crimes of U.S. imperialism and the attacks on civil liberties had become too exposed for me and so many others to remain complacent.

A few years later, I joined the Freedom Socialist Party. To me it was the next logical step in my evolving political journey.

I have been a member for over 10 years — in both Portland and Seattle. Since I joined, I’ve been involved with the anti-war and Occupy Wall Street movements, with countering police abuse and fighting Nazis. I’ve seen movements both locally and internationally come and go. I’ve stayed involved because of the support that keeps me politically focused and realistically optimistic. I love the socialist feminist program because it leaves no one out and is based in concrete reality.

Through RW and FSP, I learned why socialism needs feminism. As socialist feminists we recognize the specific struggles of the most oppressed workers including women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ communities. We also recognize the specific roles of marginalized groups in leading the movements since they have the most to gain by the overthrow of capitalism.

It’s heartening to see workers in the U.S. and internationally constantly fighting back against the inhumane treatment of the capitalist system. But even when those fights win some gains, they often don’t last. Workers deserve so much better than exhausting non-stop struggle. Uprisings come and go and will continue until we have international socialism. To do this we need a vanguard party that can organize workers to win a revolution for a final victory.

I’m glad I was able to shed the delusion that the non-profit industry or the Democratic Party can ever save me or the working class. I have seen socialist feminism in action, and it works!

Send comments to the author at eallen7841@msn.com.

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