At the Working Class Summit held over this last weekend a young female comrade spoke to the horrific treatment she had received after being gang raped and attacked, at the hospital she attended. On arrival at the hospital in South Africa she was the last to receive treatment. And when treatment was given it was very hostile. She was denied HIV Treatment and was treated with contempt by those employed to heal and care for others. This continued ill treatment was due to the fact that this young woman was Zimbabwean. The entirely devastating attack on her body was made worse because she was a “foreigner”, poor, and a woman.
This ordeal was recalled to demonstrate the xenophobia present in South African society. Her story was also very important as she spoke to the violent attack and emotional abuse that many women in the world and especially in South Africa experience daily.
While violence against women is experienced routinely by women across space and time, in the last few years, there has been an increase of exceptionally brutal and savage violent crimes against women in South Africa. This is no surprise given the highly unequal and violent base of the South African economy and society. Racism is psychological and structural violence against the other and is common in our society. The extreme social and economic inequalities experienced in South Africa simply compound the situation.
Many Marxist feminists have convincingly demonstrated how in times of acute inequality, poverty and unemployment it is the body of the woman that becomes the key site over which control is exerted an exercised. In response to this, groups of women have joined together across South Africa calling for a total shutdown. On the 1st of August 2018, women and gender non-conforming people (GNC) from all sectors of South Africa will shut down the country in protest against gender-based violence. The femicide rate in South Africa is currently five times more than the global average.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) supports this call for the #TotalShutdown against the on-going attack against women. We view this act of solidarity as a continuation of our broader working class struggle against capitalism. While we understand that the immediate call is to end both the physical and mental abuse of women, we hope that this campaign will enable us all to understand that capitalism generally, and South African capitalism in particular, has developed a unique rabid and violent form of patriarchy. As long as there is capitalism there will always be brutally oppressive and exploitative patriarchy.
Put differently, for us in NUMSA, feminist pedagogy can only be emancipatory if it is truly revolutionary because the mechanisms of appropriation within white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy are able to co-opt with tremendous ease that which merely appears radical or subversive. Capitalism, with great ease, bends to itself all so called “radical or subversive” feminisms not rooted in revolutionary and anti-capitalist struggle.
As Angela Davis noted, for us, genuine revolutionary feminism must involve consciousness of capitalism and the struggle to uproot this capitalism. It must involve consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and the ability to recognize more genders than we can even imagine, and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name.
Thus when we view this within the larger context of our struggle against capitalism, we begin to understand much better the experiences of a young migrant woman from Zimbabwe and why she experiences this level of brutal repression. Her race, her class, her nationality, and her gender all intersect in ways that renders her at the bottom of the hierarchy of lives that matter within the system of capitalism.
While the conditions facing women in South Africa may have some unique features, the oppression of women is universal. Capitalism through its use of patriarchy and racism creates a universal system of hierarchy, rendering most bodies in the world worthless, in order to expand its opportunities to exploit human beings for profits.
We are calling on all our regions and all progressive communities in our nine provinces across the length and breadth country to fully support this campaign as we continue to wage a war against the greed of the capitalist system that continues to breed all our social ills. It is a system which does not have solutions for problems that confront humanity. That is why we remain more resolute, that more than ever before, the future is Socialism.
Aluta continua!
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
For more information, please contact:
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola