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Denial of abortion rights in the United States of America
The abolition of the federal right to abortion in the U.S.A by the Supreme Court has sent shockwaves through the Western world. From the most openly social democratic and parliamentary parties to the self-proclaimed «Marxist» opposition parties, cries of indignation have been raised against this affront to human rights, an affront apparently made even worse by the fact that it is an «advanced» country that has implemented it. We, on the other hand, claim that it is a confirmation of our theses on democracy and on the so-called «civilization» of today's bourgeois society. But in order to deal with the question in more depth, it is necessary to recall briefly the history of the right to abortion in the USA.
In this country, it was institutionalized at the federal level by the «Roe versus Wade» decision in 1973. Prior to this decision, abortion was regulated by each state's laws independently, making it illegal in all cases for a large number of states (at least 30), given the choices of conservative and Christian-leaning local governments. The case of Jane Roe, a pseudonym for Norma McCorvey, was particularly important in the development of the law in the United States. This woman, born and living in the so-called «Deep South», married at the age of 16, was prompted to sue the state of Texas over its anti-abortion legislation while she was expecting her third child. The state's defense attorney was Wade, who gave his name to the case. The U.S. Supreme Court, called into the debate after three years of litigation, argued that the U.S. Constitution (particularly the 14th Amendment) should guarantee limits on state interference with individuals, including in the case of abortion. This was a momentous decision, forcing many states to change their abortion laws and directly paving the way for federal legislation on the subject. In this story, it should be noted that, although there were obviously social pressures, the sentence was an essentially legal decision by a small circle of bureaucrats; thus, this liberalization should be understood as a process (as often happens in the modern capitalist system) of limiting class friction through concessions to alleviate the difficulties of proletarian life.
If we take the Italian case, we must remember that the great struggles, instrumentalized by different bourgeois currents, have resulted in a law that is anything but satisfactory; on the other hand, the number of conscientious objectors is very high, weakening the possibility for young proletarians to have access to abortion with safety and discretion. The pressure of reactionary families and the difficulties of access to this service further increase the problems created by the limits of the legislation: the question is therefore not closed in this country. An the same is even more true in other european countries, like Poland where the abortion law is very restrictive and the doctors very reluctant to implement it. As we wrote at the time: «only a dictatorial power of the working class will be able to impose the interests that are dominant today to no longer be dominant» (1).
In the United States, then, the Supreme Court's ruling overturned Roe v. Wade, causing a legislative setback of nearly 50 years. And while « Trumpism » rejoices in the great result, the Democrats' controversy over the issue has begun, in an endless debate worthy of the worst theological universities of the Middle Ages. Who is paying for these unscrupulous political maneuvers? What a question! It is the 40 million women of childbearing age who now live in anti-abortion states (representing 58% of those living in the United States, as the Center for Reproductive Rights reminds us), and primarily proletarian women. Once again, an issue that first and foremost concerns the conditions of proletarian women becomes a pretext for increasing the power of bourgeois democratic institutions, by feeding a polemic between forces that can never solve the problems and contradictions of this system.
Indeed, this ruling is once again the proof of the bankruptcy of the democratic system, insofar as it is only an instrument of the bourgeois class to carry out its claims at the beard of an abstract «popular will». The proletariat will never be able to obtain truly human living conditions and a system that defends its interests, except by forging it through its international class revolution: only the dictatorship of the proletariat will be able to put an end to the contradictions of the capitalist state by eliminating the contradictions of democracy at the same time as democracy itself.
So where should revolutionary Marxists stand?
As always, in the continuity and invariance of Marxism. We have always called for «totally free, free, safe abortion extended to minors» (2), but not in the name of a miserable social-democratic humanitarianism. It is a complementary demand to all the other demands for the improvement of the lives of proletarian women; it is therefore «necessary to fight to defend all the conditions of life and work that beset proletarian women in the first place» (ibid.). It is very important that these demands are understood in a fundamentally classist sense, and not as separate struggles: otherwise it is to fall into bourgeois reformist practice, abandoning the proletarian revolutionary orientation.
The Supreme Court's decision is undoubtedly reactionary and anti-proletarian, because it hits not only women in general, but especially proletarian women, since if bourgeois women cannot have an abortion where they live, they can afford to go to another state of the Union or abroad, as they have always done. For proletarian women, the only option left is clandestine abortion, paid for dearly, sometimes with their lives.
The counter-revolutionary terrain, Marx affirmed, is dialectically and historically also the revolutionary terrain. Thus, the terrain of the most odious reaction, such as that against the dignity and the body of women, will dialectically become the terrain of the resumption of the class struggle in the United States, as in any other country. But without a class orientation of the question, to react to this reactionary judgment with the usual impotent methods of parliamentary debate, to believe in the promises of the Democrats and President Biden to help women, is to fall back into the illusions of bourgeois democracy, to legitimize it for the umpteenth time. It is not the vote that can change society, but only the hard class struggle.
About a referendum in 1981 for the repeal of a law on abortion in Italy, we wrote: «This law, therefore, must not be defended (and voting, even if it is to vote no, defends it). It must undoubtedly be challenged, but by the women's struggle, which must be prepared by agitation, propaganda and organization, first of all in the factories, in the workplaces, embracing not one, but all the claims that concretely defend the conditions of the proletarians, since it is only with their fundamental contribution that the defense of women in general can be carried out».
We therefore do not join in the cries of indignation of American, European, Asian or African democrats, because for almost two centuries our cry has always been the same: proletarians of all countries, unite! In the name of this motto, let us prepare the world awakening of the working class.
PROLETARIAN WOMEN! GET ORGANIZED TO CONQUER A REAL RIGHT TO ABORTION!
WORKERS, UNITE FOR THE RESUMPTION OF THE CLASS STRUGGLE!
LONG LIVE THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL REVOLUTION!
(1) See “Aborto: solo con la lotta proletaria, con la sua organizzazione si può agire per gli interessi proletari”, il programma comunista, n. 6/1981
International Communist Party
July, 4th 2022
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