Home > Beyond The Fragments > Beyond The Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism (The Women’s Movement and Organizing for Socialism, Part Two: IV) by Sheila Rowbotham

Beyond The Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism (The Women’s Movement and Organizing for Socialism, Part Two: IV) by Sheila Rowbotham

A. Where Does Consciousness Come From?

Lenin argues in What is to be Done? in 1902 that the working class, bogged down in their day-to-day economic struggle and without culture (in the sense of education and knowledge) could not understand and act upon the interconnection between their exploitation at work and the political form which secures this, the state. So he maintained that,

Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers.(43)

The Party, as vanguard, is presented as the means of combining the revolutionary potential of the working class and the scientific knowledge necessary to plan revolution which is to be brought into the Party by the intellectuals.

Carmen Claudin-Urondo sums this up in her book Lenin and the Cultural Revolution.

This vanguard, the Party, thus realises, in the persons of its professional revolutionaries’, its ‘full-timers’ in the service of the revolution, the symbiosis of social being of the proletariat and ill consciousness, and embodies the reconciled identity of the historical class and the class as a concrete reality.(44)

Lenin was arguing against a reliance on the working class becoming spontaneously revolutionary in the context of a period of Tsarist repression and he was to shift the emphasis between party and class later. Indeed the Bolsheviks had great difficulty in even keeping up with the working class in the making of the revolution. But he did not fundamentally reformulate the theory of consciousness present in What is to be Done? This theory is an essential part of the case for a Leninist Party. The polarization is presented as being between the conscious knowledge of the Party and the ‘instinctive urge’ or the ‘elementary instinct’ of the workers in movement. This may change the immediate course of action chosen by the Party but it still cannot (within the terms of Leninism) fundamentally transform the nature of the revolutionary organization itself.

The issue of the ascendency of the Party and conflict between the Party and autonomous movements of workers and of women had arisen within the Second International. The conflict itself was not created by Lenin. However, Lenin’s emphatic assertion of central direction over self-activity and self-direction gave the concept of the monolithic Party a much greater authority because the Bolsheviks had led a successful revolution. Fernando Claudin in The Communist Movement traces how this emphasis was put into effect internationally and how it was to harden under Stalin.

The claim that the Party ‘knows best’ persists even when t is said that the Party (or parties) must learn from autonomous movements. There is still the belief that it is the Party, itself, which will decide what it wants to learn. The Party is presented as soaring above all sectional concerns without providing any guarantees that this soaring will not be in fact an expression of the particular preoccupations of the group or groups with power within it. It is claimed that the Party is separate from the relations within capitalist society merely by being the revolutionary Party. Yet it is also claimed that any attempt to change relations within the Party is utopian. So how do they become separate and distinct? Or what makes Leninists different from other people? Within Leninist terms it is a closed debate. Leninists are different because they are members of the revolutionary Party. The Party is ascendent because it holds the correct scientific understanding. (Other Leninist parties are not ascendent because they are only pretending to have the correct ideas. They will be found out in time.) Now correct ideas can certainly be tested in practice to make sure that they are correct and may need a few hasty adjustments en route to the conquest of state power. But they are basically there (but only in the Revolutionary Party).

So where did they come from in the first place? Lenin and the Bolsheviks? They must have got them from their own lives and times. So personal and historical factors creep into scientific understanding. What else creeps in? Kautsky, the German social democrat hovers in this dawn revolutionary science.

For, like Kautsky, Lenin saw socialist consciousness as essentially the knowledge of certain theoretical truths with which the Party educates and trains its members. Although the test of this knowledge/consciousness is the experience , of agitation and class struggle it cannot be derived from experience. The notion of agitation is also narrow in scope. It does not touch inner subjective forms of consciousness.

When it comes to the personal hold of ideas, Lenin and Trotsky recognized there was a problem but presumed emotional responses will change after socialism.

There was disagreement among the Bolsheviks about the need to make explicit the creation of new forms of organizing to meet the problem but these took place after the revolution. They were not seen as part of the transition to socialism.

For Lenin the lessons of consciousness through struggle remain generally subordinate to the leadership of the Party. Here he broke with Marx’s view of consciousness and adopted the position of the German social-democrat Kautsky who argued that socialism and class struggle arose side by side. He went on from this historical observation upon the circumstances of the late nineteenth century to announce this as a ‘law’ of Marxist organization, which Lenin accepts. According to Kautsky: ‘Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge.’ He goes on to say it was the bourgeois intelligentsia who possessed this knowledge/ consciousness, not the working class.

Thus socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without and not something that arose within spontaneously. . . The task of Social-Demeocracy is to imbue the proletariat [literally saturate the proletariat] with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task(46)

But where then does this consciousness of the bourgeois intelligentsia who join the Party come from? It is in fact a circular argument. Their consciousness comes from knowledge. So the consciousness of the intellectuals comes not from their lives and relationships like other people but from the pure development of Thought. By possessing these intellectuals (suitably tamed to make sure the development of Thoaght does not go against the interests of the working class, as defined by the Party), the Party possesses Thought. The working class cannot become the revolutionary class without this superior knowledge which the Party possesses. Crudely then the Party has to nab the intellectuals, discipline them and guard the working class from any contenders who might mislead them with incorrect thoughts (variously defined at different times as bourgeois feminism, syndicalism, anarchism, Trotskyism, centrism, etc.).

Carmen Claudin Urondo points out in Lenin and the Cultural Revolution that this ‘makes class consciousness dependent necessarily on socialist theory and the latter a pure product of culture’.(47)

Culture is defined here in its narrow sense of high culture. This means that organizational forms workers create only have a revolutionary validity when they are under the authority of the Party. Anarcho-syndicalist arguments contested this. But they do not raise the question of. the relationship of the Party to other autonomous movements which arise, for example, among black people, women, and gay people. The emergence of these movements has called into question the whole relationship of the Party and autonomous movements ancl with this the view of how consciousness is formed.ti Equally the experience of Stalinism has made thinkers an4! historians within the new left tradition re-examine the differences between Marx’s view of consciousness and Lenin’s theory. It was no longer possible to simply equate the consciousness of workers with the revolutionaryl political organization.’

Fernando Claudin, for example in The Communist Movement points out that Lenin was forced to quote Kautsky because he was breaking so decisively from Marx.(48) Marx had not argued that conscioµsness and knowledge could be equated in this way as if socialist thought was the sole source of wisdom. He believed that, we make our consciousness in the process of making” ourselves and changing the world, within the limits of the particular historical circumstances in which we find ourselves. A dogmatic adherence to Leninism has effectively blinkered many socialists not only to Marx’s views but to unfolding contemporary understandings.

E.P. Thompson shows in ‘The Poverty of Theory’ that Marx’s view of consciousness has since been developed in relation to particular historical contexts and within non-capitalist societies. Thus historians and anthropologists working in the Marxist tradition,

· . . have insisted that ideas, norms and rules be replaced within the mode of production, without which it could not be carried on for a day; and on the other side by cultural materialists who have insisted that the notion of a ‘superstructure’ was never materialist enough.(48)

This exposes the model of a tidy trade union consciousness arising from the economic struggle as both mechanical and unreal. It simply does not fit our understanding of reality. For in the last decade the process of both women’s and men’s involvement in trade unions had not been simply a response to conditions at work but part of a wider process of radicalization. It also makes nonsense of the view that socialist theoretical consciousness is derived purely from an objective scientific knowledge. The people doing the deriving, however intellectual they might be, are still people expressing in various ways their understanding of the world in which they find themselves. In Leninism thought comes from thought which means there is no room to.o.qualify certainties with the historical experience which might reveal how actual people arrived at Leninist ideas or might lead them to seek alternatives. By disguising the process which went into the creation of ideas they are protected by a timeless inviolability. The clear separation of the Leninist Party from everyday consciousness can be artificially secured and the Leninist concept of the Party can thus hold out the trump card of being the only means by which the particular experiences of exploitation and oppression can become generalized. But the trump card is part of a neat confidence trick. Again we can question this with reference to the process through which many people have become radical in the last few years. In the case of the women’s movement, for example, many women have become involved in socialism through feminism without, indeed often despite, the intervention of parties. Equally many socialist women have come to shed the assumption that they already had the answer by the questions raised why feminism and the experience of being in a movement which is continually pressing against and dissolving removed ideas which pretend they do not have people inside them or behind them.

E.P. Thompson also argues that there is a missing dimension. Marx neglected the particular ways in which not only handle our experience through our consciousness but through our ‘culture’. Culture is being used here in the broad sense in which intellectual culture combines with vocabulary of norms, values, obligations, expectations, taboos, etc.'(50)

There is thus not a simple opposition between the theoretical knowledge which is the monopoly of the Party and an undeveloped instinct for rebellion among workers (or other subordinated groups). There is another significant aspect of people’s consciousness.

They also experience their own experience as feeling and they handle their feelings within their culture, as norms, familial and kinship obligations and reciprocity, as values or (through more’, elaborated forms) within art or religious beliefs. This half of culture (and it is a full one-half) may be described as affective and moral consciousness.(51)

This restores real men and women, the relationships in which they find themselves, and their efforts to change these and their feelings about their situation, themselves and other people. It connects theoretically to movements which have been concerned to change feelings and desires. gay liberation, feminism and the black movement.

The implication of these views of consciousness is to dislodge the superior relationship of the Party to the movements of the working class and to other radical I autonomous movements. They also break down the separation between movements and the monolithic concept of ‘the Party’. It becomes impossible to regard ‘the Party’ or socialist organization as a kind of red zone from which professional revolutionaries sally forth with a superior knowledge untouched by culture themselves to insert, inject, imbue or saturate and drown other movements. Even Gramsci’s version of this relationship which stressed the need for working-class intellectuals within the Party and the existence of forms of leadership within ‘spontaneous’ movements is also being contested. For he still assumed that these leaders within spontaneity were necessarily confined within the dominant assumptions about the world. Without the Party, and hence theory, they could not transcend ‘common sense’. But the women’s movement, gay liberation or the cultural self-definition present in movements of racially subordinated groups have required that changes in feeling and desire become part of the movement of resistance. They have been assailing those elements within the ‘common sense’ of society which deny and oppress them. This process of transforming what is taken for granted has come from the interior. ‘The person’, to echo Bea Campbell again, has become a ‘political problem’ – including persons within the revolutionary parties. The ‘lived relation, of subordination’ is to be contested wherever it is to be found.

B. How Does Consciousness Change?

How then do people come to see the possibility of socialism? How do we conceive and imagine a completely different society, involving not only change in the external structures but an inner transformation of our consciousness and our feelings? How do we begin to connect our own experience to other people’s? There is no clear simple ‘theory’ of how such changes might take place. There is no straightforward, complete alternative to Leninism as an organizing idea and as a historical practice. But it is possible to open up certain entrances which people have made in other movements. They have become rather silted over and unfrequented but they are still there.

Historically many radical movements in the past havd\ raised the connection between changing our consciousne ,ui and making a new culture with opposing values. This was . vital aspect of Owenite socialist feminism, for example. Irt:’J attacking the hold of religion the Owenites began to maket their own marriage ceremonies. In contesting the values of capitalism they created their own schools. Similarly the Chartists called their children after radical heroes.

The Morning Chronicle commented in 1849 that in Middleton, Lancashire

. .. a generation or so back, Henry Hunts were as common as blackberries-a crop of Feargus Q’Connors replaced them, and latterly there have been a few green sprouts labelled Ernest Jones.(52)

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries socialists understood this need for a protective culture. They extended the ideas of the labour movement, of ‘brotherhood’, ‘solidarity’, ‘fellowship’ and ‘comradeship’ into their relationships within socialist organizations. ‘Brotherhood’, though gender-bound, has a warmth which ‘comrade’ with its echoes of commissars and ice picks lacks. ‘Solidarity’ carries most immediately the strength of being solid. But it has also had an interpretation which involves conscious individual commitment. In the words of The Miners’ Next Step, the document produced by South Wales miners, influenced by revolutionary syndicalist ideas, in 1912, ‘Sheep cannot be said to have solidarity.'(53) Workers had a vision of a new kind of community, which was partly sustained by their resistance to capitalism but also moved towards the future co-operative commonwealth.

It helps to remember that there were these other kinds of socialism, as well as anarchism, which stressed the transformation of values and relationships in the process of making the new world. We need to be able to learn what we can from them just as much as from the Bolsheviks. And on the creation of a new culture as part of the transition to socialism they have more to say than Leninism.

Discussion of the quality of relationships was common in the early British socialist movement. Becoming a socialist meant for many people a spiritual rebirth. Socialist culture, particularly in the Socialist League, the Clarion cycling clubs and choirs and the Independent Labour Party, but even at a local level in the Social Democratic Federation, was a means of sustaining the faith as well as transmitting socialist values. People used the word ‘fellowship’ to describe their sense of community within the socialist movement. These understandings of the personal, spiritual meaning of becoming a socialist were quite alien to Leninism. The growth of the Communist Party as the revolutionary party meant that such discussions were no longer central to the socialist experience. I don’t think they ever died out altogether, even in the Communist Party itself. They ceased however to be explicitly recognized and accepted. They did not belong to the new pantheon of ‘correct’ ideas which Leninism brought as a theory of organization. Instead they lived on as part of a twilight oral tradition which was passed on by working-class socialists. I think that the shock of 1956 and the post-war disintegration of older forms of working-class politics in both the Communist Party and the Labour Party weakened this oral tradition of the personal meaning of socialism. From 1968 many of the informal links of communication were severed.

For the post ’68 generations on the left it seems that these old understandings have little resonance. This was just at the moment when an awareness began to grow that the personal meaning of socialism needed to be recreated anew.

I feel sadness at this apparent loss. But I know too that there is a false security in sentimentalizing the demise of all aspects of this culture. While implicit values are an important means of surviving in a hostile world, without becoming theoretically explicit and part of a new order they are forced to seek some form of accommodation. So although the labour movement has carried an implicit opposition to reproducing hierarchy and a partial assertion of different forms of relationship these have coexisted with less democratic values. Not only have the terms in which they could be expressed been predominantly male, reflecting the importance of workers in jobs like mining and the docks in the labour movement, but a vital source of working-class male dignity has been bound up with having a skill. Although revolutionary socialists have always opposed craft elitism in theory, the reality has been that these workers’ resistance to economic threats to skill have often also vitally contributed to the political vanguard organization of the wo.rking class against capitalism. Thus the destruction of skills, an important area of creativity allowed to some workers, has been countered by a passionate assertion of manhood within the cultural assumptions of the labour movement. Economic militancy, class pride and confidence, political involvement in revolutionary and shop-floor organization have combined to make workers like printers and engineers ‘advanced’ in the Leninist sense. But groups like these have also been extremely suspicious of the threat of women and the unskilled generally.

In one sense the militancy of skill is a “ital opposition to the degradation and paralysis of exploitation. But it also contains our perception of dignity as a characteristic of masculinity and skilled work. It closes in on itself and becomes exclusive. Not only does this vision of militancy fail to reach most women as workers, as they are mainly among the unskilled, but it cannot reach beyond the confines of wage work to question the apportioning, scope and circumstances of our whole lifetimes. In relation to the family it has a paternal conservatism. It implies that the man must be the sole provider for the family, pass on his trade tQ.. his son and keep a stern eye on his apprentice. Responsibility merges with possession and authority. The exclusive~ conservative features of this concept of militant dignity have become clearer because it has not only been under attack because of the influence of feminism. Within capitalism the continuing dissolution of the older forms of craft skill and the imperatives of inflation which require the exploitation of both men and women’s capacity to labour have combined with changing ideas of how men and women, young and old sho,-!ld interact personally. No one is completely certain any more that a man should be master in his own home. It has been difficult for Leninists to grasp the significance of these developments because of the lack of attention to personal responses and the implicit nature of the dignity carried within this male class pride.

The terms in which consciousness and culture have been discussed in the contemporary women’s movement do not provide an intact alternative organizational model to set against the ‘partial’ view of the male-dominated labour movement. But the particular circumstances of the women who have become radicalized by feminism in the last decade contribute towards connecting certain aspects of consciousness. Splits between work and home or between the very process of their partial dissolution. Young women swept into the educational expansion, thrown out into the expanding welfare service sector in significent numbers were cut off from the lives and values which most of their mothers had known and communicated to their daughters in western capitalism. This was intensified by the startling intervention of technology in women’s biological destiny. Despite the real problems about the coil and the pill they did mean that women could with much greater reliability for the first time in history assume that heterosexual intercourse did not mean they chanced getting pregnant. This represented a most dramatic break with the past experience of women of their bodies. Yet these changes coincided with the growth of media stereotypes of femininity and an ideological emphasis on the family and the psychological responsibility of the mother for the child. Women found themselves vulnerable in the public world of work and then expected to readjust to the private sphere of isolated child care as many nurseries had been closed after the war. These uneven and awkward shifts which appeared in modern capitalist society were factors in forcing a new feminist consciousness which questioned the demarcations set by men upon the personal and the political. For example it is evident that our views and feelings about trade unions come from our home, our sex, our community, from the media, from legal judgements as well as from our work and class. Equally it is clear that our vision of sexual relationships comes from the personal lived relationships we have with our family, our friends as well as our class or our knowledge of other times and other societies. For women, quite unrevolutionary steps like speaking at a meeting, writing a pamphlet, joining a union or even a football team immediately open up other wider issues of authority. They question the relation of public and private spheres. They involve immediately notions of gender and concepts of ·human nature. Apparently straightforward actions are easily seen to relate to deeper power relations. They extend the immediate issue into a myriad of questions about human existence and the society in which we live. The women’s movement has never been comfortable with only demanding more or simply equality with men, in the sense of equal rights, or even accepted the terms in which Marxists saw the ‘woman question’. Instead it has probed the rela~onship of power which exists between the sexes. It has thus helped to extend our concept of how power is passed on and held in a crucial area of everyday life. The personal is political here in the sense that the dominant male definition of ‘what is left politics?’ excludes crucial aspects of this power struggle between the sexes.(54)

A complex understanding has grown. up through the practice of the women’s movement of the interconnecting nature of different forms of power relationships. For instance the campaign for a woman’s right to choose freely whether to have an abortion or to have a child raises immediately control over her own fertility and maternity which leads to the more general issues of man’s sexual hold over woman, of human beings’ relationship to their bodies and the importance of sexual pleasure. All four aspects of the question have been neglected by Marxism. But the campaign also involves an argument about laws and parliament, about a democratic and social medical service, an extensive system of childcare facilities, about the power of the state to determine population policy, about how decisions about investment in contraceptive technology and medical research are made and in whose interests. It implies a discussion about the strategy of a campaign both to pressurize Parliament and to transform the relationship to the body.

I think the implicit recognitions about how our consciousness emerges from the interrelationship of the power relationships which have come from our practice as a movement are actually more complex than the concept of . ‘oppression’ can express. When the black movement in the late sixties, followed by women and gay people asserted the idea of oppression which could include the cultural and personal experience of being subordinated as a group as well as economic and social inequalities, it was an important corrective to the emphasis within the left on class and economic exploitation. When all these movements went on to argue for autonomy and the people involved insisted that they understood their own situation best, this was an essential form of resistance to oppression being reduced by the left to an economic or equal rights issue and spoken for by ‘professionals’ who claimed they knew better than the people involved in the movements. But arguing in terms of a series of separate ‘oppressions’ can have an ironic consequence. We can forget that people are more than the category of oppression. ‘Each of us lives these conditions but is at the same time more than them.'(55) Movements which initially stressed self-activity and self-development can come to distrust their own origins and reduce human potential to a total, determining, fatalistic state of oppression if this is ignored. We thus have the means of seeing people as victims but not the means of seeing the sources of power which all subordinated groups have created. Equally we do not experience a single defining relationship of subordination in our lives any more than we possess trade union consciousness. We live within a complexity of relationships. This means we have certain sources for comparison and contrast. We can imagine how relationships might be different. We are capable of myopia about other people’s culture and experience. But we are also able to extend our understanding and feelings towards others in the past as well as the present.

Zillah Eisenstein in Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism describes how Marx’s theory of alienation could provide us with a more dialectical approach to women’s subordination.

The theory of alienation and its commitment to ‘species life’ in communist society is necessary to understanding the revolutionary capacity of human beings … Reality for Marx is more than mere existence. It embodies within it a movement towards human essence. This is not a totally abstract human essence but rather an essence we can understand in historical contexts … Without this conception human beings would be viewed as exploited in capitalist relations, but they would not be understood as potentially revolutionary … When extended to women this revolutionary ontology suggests the possibility of freedom exists alongside exploitation and oppression, since woman is potentially more than what she is. Woman is structured by what she is today-and this defines real outer limits of her capacities or potentialities. This of course is true for the alienated worker .•. By locating revolutionary potential as it reflects conflicts between people’s real conditions (existence) and possibilities (essence), we can understand how patriarchal relations inhibit the development of human essence. In this sense, the conception of species life points to the revolutionary potential of men and women.(56)

If we think about our experiences in the light of these ideas we can grasp the actual complexities of how we develop a critical consciousness about our predicament, how we – imagine alternatives and relate these to other people’s lives as well as our own. I know from my own political experience that innumerable men and women have in fact changed as part of such a process in the last decade or so. This has sometimes been outside political parties, sometimes within one organization or several. But it has not been the work of any creature called ‘the Party’ for the simple reason that no such creature exists. More particularly, for several years I have taught a Workers’ Education Class in social history. At various tiIlles we have drawn upon our own experience and members of the class have talked about how they became interested in socialist or radical politics and how the women’s movement has affected them. The extraordinary diversity of influence upon even people within roughly the same age group, the combination of private and public experience which had brought them together even simply to study the history of radical movements, was a salutary lesson for anyone attempting the history of a social movement. They made nonsense both of the mechanical notion of trade union consciousness and the static categories of certain limited forms of oppression. In fact we all have some such experience and understanding in our lives but it is always difficult initially to hold on to these and put them against a ‘theory’.

The recognition which was present within pre-Leninist radical movements of the importance of making values and culture which could sustain the spirit and help to move our feelings towards the future, has been reasserted by the women’s movement. This means we can begin to think again about the problem of how we move towards socialism. Leninism has been particularly weak in relation to the actual transition to socialism. Although Eurocommunism raised the problem of the transition, it is not preoccupied with the creation of new forms of power and consciousness but of how to occupy and inhabit the existing institutions. The experience of sexual political movements suggests that not only can gains we make shift the balance of power relationships significantly but that the existence of radical movements concerned to make a new culture and to release and develop the potential of subordinated groups, can also touch and begin to transform not only the ideas and feelings of people within them but of those outside. They bring with them different ways of interpreting, and perceiving the world.(57)

They also reveal a dimension of consciousness which has been missing from socialism and certainly from Leninism. We can recognize and comprehend intellectually without wanting something to change. We can be opposed to hierarchy and elitism and yet feel superior. We can oppose men’s control politically and then feel deserted when it is not asserted in our own lives. We can resist being treated as an object and yet still want to be desired in this way, as this remains our means of valuing ourselves. These dimensions of transformation have been a vital part in the practice of the contemporary women’s movement.

Sarah Benton in ‘Consciousness, Class and Feminism’ in Red Rag describes how the women’s movement has approached our emotional resistances to changes which we may consciously desire.

It’s not enough for the individual woman to ‘know’ she is possessed or dominated; in order not to be possessed or dominated, indeed in order not to want to be, there must be an alternative culture in which such values are seen to be dominant and to be practised (in however erratic a way) in relation to which she can define herself.(58)

This understanding has been central for. women because of the circumstances of our particular oppression as a sex. But its implications are not limited to the politics of the women’s movement. This personal approach to consciousness is relevant in the ways in which dominance appears in left organizations and to limitations present in the contemporary labour movement’s resistance to capitalism. For example, a middle-class man who becomes a leading theoretician may also be quite inept at relating openly to people. Indeed he may have become a theoretician initially out of this shyness and loneliness. But the psychology of theoreticians does not come within the scope of Leninism! In time indeed isolation will be increased by responsibility for other people. It will be encased within this concept of the role of a leader. The justification of such a personal distance will always be of course service to the Party. It will be further accentuated by his need to be invulnerable because he expresses only what is objectively true, not what he personally feels. But this necessarily restrains his relations with other people. A sure sign of a leader of a Leninist political group is a tendency to look past your ey’es and over your head when they talk to you. Either they are taking a long objective view which does not involve encountering you, or they are looking for more prestigious ‘contacts’ in the shape of a shop steward or so. They quite forget how to meet person to person because they always have a thick wadding of more important purposes stuffed under their belts. This does give them an unreality but it also gives a certain power. They are untouchable andapart. This is of course just like leaders in the public world of government and institutions like the trade union movement. The pattern is reproduced. There are informal cultural correctives to this process in the labour movement. But men who are shop stewards and convenors can become locked and isolated by a sense of their need to prove their manhood which removes them from other people, excludes women and makes co-operation between people as equals difficult. These personal characteristics of organization may be privately noted by Leninists but they do not belong to the public discussion of politics. In a consciousness-raising situation (or in a radical therapy group) this source of power in removed objectivity is dissolved. It becomes irrelevant and the personal unhappiness behind it can be revealed. The idea (though it hasn’t always been the reality) of a consciousness-raising group is that you can be vulnerable and open without being destroyed because you are protected by the group. Feminists have called this sisterhood, which carries a more intimate notion of democracy than the trade union ‘brothers (and sisters)’.

In fact the very act of me writing this has been affected by such a personal tremor in the pattern of feeling-my own involvement in a women’s group formed to discuss our relationships and feelings towards our fathers. I struggled against the hold my father had over my life desperately and when he died twelve years ago I was still too scarred to open up to my feelings about him. Over the last few years I have been searching to understand and know him as a person rather than as the projection of my resistance to his authority. I saw obscurely that unless I could spiritually meet my own father person to person, I would continue to simply react against and oppose all forms of authority rather than confront and contest them in the open. Talking and listening to other women in a consciousness-raising situation has helped to shift some of my fear. As I was able to open to some of my affectionate feelings towards him and to respect him within his own life and times rather than in his disastrous relating to me, he became not an object of dread, anger and humiliation but a muddled and uphappy human being. This has released a source of courage and made it possible to evade the authority and dread which theories of organization have always held for me. It has become possible to translate the general understanding within the women’s movement, that we are all equally responsible for making ideas and ways of resisting a society we oppose, into thinking critically about theories of organization which have always held a particular terror for me.

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