Marxist Feminism of Rupture

Marx, Feminism, Rupture

With the expression “a Marxist feminism of rupture,” I refer to the fruitful and critical encounter between Marxism and radical feminism debated and developed throughout the 1970s. This discussion opened with the 1972 publication (in both Italian and English) of The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community by Mariarosa Dalla Costa.1 Its protagonists defined themselves as “militant” feminists, driven by the urgent need for a theoretical analysis for political intervention, which produced a rupture with the Marxist theoretical tradition and its discourses of emancipation. The Power of Women is a collective reflection emanating from a debate within the Padua-based group Lotta femminista, following an encounter between Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, and thus between Dalla Costa’s background in Italian operaismo and Selma James’s criticism of the emancipation of women through waged work (shown in the essay “A Woman’s Place,” which was published as an appendix to the book).2

The Wages For Housework campaign took shape in the early 1970s, as the result of a number of international meetings involving women from diverse geographical and social backgrounds, political experiences, and affiliations. This period also saw profound social transformation. The struggle of women, inside and outside the family, produced a profound change in ways of thinking, habits, and customs. It is in this context that we see the birth of what I call the Marxist feminism of rupture.

I also use this expression to refer to the discussion, albeit critical, that followed, of which important traces can be found in the work of Lucia Chisté, Alisa Del Re, and Edvige Forti, published in 1979 as Oltre il lavoro domestico (Beyond Domestic Work).3 Even the title points to a discontinuity with the Wages For Housework groups, discussing what they called “concrete” forms of liberation from domestic work. As Alisa del Re explained in an interview in 2005, they were translating lessons learned from workers at the Porto Marghera in Venice into feminist struggle.4 They knew it was not an immediately revolutionary act to identify the terrain of conflict in the struggle for social services; however, as factory workers demanding “cinquemila lire subito” (five thousand lire now!), they were fighting for a better life.

The Marxist feminism of rupture is a method, a theoretical-political practice that reads Marx in order to channel him towards urgent political action, identifying the weaknesses of the Marxian analysis of the reproduction of the workforce. With this urgency, Leopoldina Fortunati, in The Arcane of Reproduction (first published in Italy in 1981), wondered about other breaking points of feminism in the face of “the results of the capitalist crisis of reproduction,” how to continue the struggle, after the rejection of the reproductive role in the 1960s and 1970s had caused a crisis in the Fordist model of production without resolving the issue of women’s exploitation and subordination.5 A few years later, along with Silvia Federici, Fortunati reread Marx, highlighting shortcomings in his paradigm of primitive accumulation. Published in 1984, Il grande Calibano discusses the historical phenomenon of witch-hunting in order to reaffirm the political centrality of reproduction.6 In the years that followed, while feminist struggle changed direction, Antonella Picchio, albeit within a different militant environment, dedicated much of her political and intellectual work towards enhancing the discourse initiated by Wages for Housework groups on the productive value of reproduction and, in collaboration with Selma James, got the topic on the agenda of the 1995 World Conference of Women in Beijing.7 But time had passed, and, under the pressure of the return to private life following the liberal counter-revolution, and as a result of feminism’s new interest in the symbolic, that experience had fallen into oblivion.

By the Marxist feminism of rupture, therefore, we first of all mean a practice of political and militant intervention, a feminist critique of the development of capital that directly confronts the social relations of production, starting from Marx in order to go beyond him. Of course there was already a Marxist feminist thought, for example, in Rosa Luxemburg’s writings on the female condition or Aleksandra Kollontai’s proposal for a radical reorganization of social relations even within the sphere of sexuality and affection. There was also the directly materialist and critical approach to Marxism of authors such as Christine Delphy, who in 1970, under the pseudonym Christine Dupont, wrote the founding text of French radical feminism, “The Main Enemy.”8 However, none of these analyses had broken with the Marxist tradition, in the sense that, although they had placed domestic work and the sphere of reproduction at the center of the analysis, they remained separate from the sphere of value production: they were considered to be use value rather than exchange value. And even when, in 1940, Mary Inman broke with her party to write In Woman’s Defense, which insisted on the productive value of reproduction, her analysis retained the distinction between the male productive sphere and the female reproductive sphere, which was completely in line with Marxist thought.9

But for the Marxist feminism of rupture, the point is precisely to go beyond Marx. Not as a theoretical habit, but as a political choice to live up to the challenges of the time. In this sense, the Marxist feminism of rupture can be understood as the feminist translation of operaismo’s method, summarized by the Trontian adage, “knowledge is connected to struggle.”10 This had informed the experiences of the Wages for Housework groups, as well as the thought of both Dalla Costa and Del Re in Padua, and Federici in New York, who was in constant contact with the Italians. This method intersected with other intellectual and militant paths, in particular the work of Selma James. And, as Dalla Costa recalls, this method owes its existence and its success to the “living militant world of operaismo” from which it came.11 However, it would be a mistake to reduce this experience to the matrix inherited from operaismo. Although common aspects can be traced and the protagonists themselves make reference to its genealogy, speaking of “the feminism of operaismo” does not take into account the developments of their experience beyond operaismo, their critiques of it, or the debates they were subject to from inside the circles of operaismo. Nor can it be defined as “autonomous feminism,” a widespread concept in the Anglophone world, since the comrades of Lotta femminista had already broken with Potere Operaio when, following the conference in Rosolina in 1973, the Autonomia movement was born. The Marxist feminism of rupture is, then, a Marxist-feminist perspective on political action, a style of militancy that expresses the political and intellectual urgency of taking Marx beyond some of his dead ends.

The Beginnings: The International Wages for Housework Campaign

The themes Dalla Costa proposed for discussion in Padua in June 1971 included: the productive value and remuneration of domestic work; woman as the subject of this work; and the family as a place of the production and reproduction of the labor force. This discussion led to the publication of The Power of Women. Exactly a year later, in June 1972, Dalla Costa, James, Silvia Federici (from New York), Brigitte Galtier (from Paris) and other female comrades from Lotta femminista, founded the International Feminist Collective (ICF) which would go on to create the International Wages for Housework Campaign. It was only a month after this meeting that the ICF first broke onto the Italian political scene, when “men who self-defined as ‘comrades’” prevented a seminar organized by the feminist movement on “Women’s Employment” at the University of Rome, because they refused to allow women to autonomously define their own exploitation and forms of struggle.12 In the following days, Lotta femminista and the ICF wrote a letter addressed to the editorial staff of the newspaper il Manifesto responding to another letter from Potere Operaio that was published in that newspaper on the same subject. The letter interrogated concepts such as the wage, class, and class composition from a feminist perspective. These were all concepts dear to Italian political operaismo and so marked the feminist break with Potere Operaio.

Nevertheless, the Marxist feminist genealogy of rupture is not simply a story of tears and fractures. It is also an encounter with other heretical currents of Marxism – in particular the Johnson-Forest Tendency in the United States and Socialisme ou barbarie in France – and with the critique of Marxism put forward by the black anti-colonial movement and by the thought of Frantz Fanon, whose work James was very familiar with. It was defined, then, within an intellectual and militant network that, during the 1960s, had developed an alternative and critical discourse with respect to the Marxist tradition, from Padua, Milan, and Turin to London and Detroit (where the League of Revolutionary Black Workers was active). The birth of the ICF was therefore far from out of the blue and the Wages for Housework campaign was immediately an international organizational structure, nourished by meetings and collective translations of its texts involving women from different social and political backgrounds. They included white women, black women, and migrant women, heterosexual women and lesbian women, workers and non-workers. The Wages for Housework campaign took root across the world: in London (under the leadership of Selma James and Susie Fleming); in various cities in the United States, especially in Brooklyn (where Silvia Federici and Nicole Cox were based;13 in Germany (involving Barbara Duden and Gisela Bock); in Switzerland (in particular in Geneva with Viviane Luisier, Alda De Giorgi and Suzanne Lerch); in English-speaking Canada (around the figure of Judy Ramirez in Toronto); and of course in cities all across Italy, from the north to south. In Italy the groups were particularly strong in Veneto and Emilia, but less so in Rome and Milan where consciousness-raising groups prevailed, another strong current of Italian feminism in that period. The instrument of political agitation, in the typical style of the militancy of operaismo, was the bi-monthly magazine Le operaie della casa, which insisted on the centrality of struggle in the domestic sphere, as well as a series of thematic pamphlets published by the Venetian publisher Marsilio.

With its multiplicity of political practices, “Wages for Housework” was not a simple demand. It was an organizational tool and a call to struggle that aimed at recomposing the many faces of the struggle against women’s exploitation and subordination. Under the big tent of the critique of domestic work and its unpaid status, there was room for: demanding the reduction in women’s working day (wages are demanded as a form of economic autonomy, so that women do not have to do a double shift); challenging stereotypes of the subordinate female, the heterosexual norm, woman as the reproductive machine of labor-power, and affirming reproductive needs – access to abortions, contraception, sexual health, the quality of interpersonal relationships. For example, efforts were made to build self-managed counseling centers and to create a new relationship between women and medicine.

Within the transnational network, Wages for Housework groups intersected with each other and with other struggles. In Great Britain, they came into contact with the struggle for family benefits of the Unsupported Mothers group, and in the United States, they intersected with the struggles of the Welfare Mothers group who demanded a wage for reproductive work. Silvia Federici describes interactions with sit-ins outside prisons by African-American and Latino people in a period of increasingly repressive penal and incarceration policies.14 In Brooklyn in 1976, Wilmette Brown from the group Black Women for Wages for Housework wrote “The Autonomy of Black Lesbian Women,” a text identified by Barbara Smith as one of the bases of black feminist criticism.15 In some cases, the watchword of wages went hand in hand with attention to state services as a provider of indirect wages. At first, this was limited to parts of Italy where local governments were increasing service provision. Here there was a “more practicable and no less radical” attempt to demand more from these services in response to the social needs of the area.16 Later, at the end of the seventies, the struggle for services took center stage in Padua with the demand for a domestic wage being called into question in the theoretical work of Chisté, Del Re and Forti. In Geneva the group that led the “Salaire ou travail ménager” campaign also evolved from a focus on the domestic wage towards struggles for services.17

Another element of rupture with left-wing white feminism lies in that the transnational militant dimension defines a political intervention as attentive to race as it is to gender. That “sex, race and class (…) have proved to be not separated and indeed inseparable” was the firm conviction of Selma James who, in her text Sex, Race and Class, which was widely circulated within the ICF, demonstrated that race and gender were structural elements of the capitalist system of production, internal to the definition of class and its composition. As she argued, “If sex and race are separated from the concept of class, what remains is the mutilated, provincial and sectarian politics of the white and male left of the metropolitan countries.”18 A few years later Fortunati and Federici’s Il grande Calibano would highlight the role of witch-hunting and the invention of indigenous witchcraft in colonies in the phase of primitive accumulation, segmenting the class along lines of gender and race.

This feminist criticism of Marx defined a new class horizon that focused on women and the racialization of black people who had remained outside the class because they were not part of the wage relationship. This represents a strong critique both of the Marxist and socialist feminism of the time, which, in line with Marx, saw waged work as the starting point for women’s emancipation, understanding reproduction as a pre-capitalist social relationship. However, the feminists of rupture questioned the political centrality of the wage relationship in order to affirm the centrality of reproduction. No longer a separate sphere and an unproductive appendix to the production relationship, the reproductive sphere was an immediately productive sphere of value, historically shaped by capital for capital, in line with its own organization. It was the center of the production of autonomous value, on the determination of the price of which (both through wage levels and the absence of a wage) capital established surplus-value and forms of exploitation.

Head to Head with Marx

Marx is both indispensable and insufficient for understanding the forms of exploitation and subordination of women. The feminists of rupture pushed the analysis beyond the narrow grids of Marxism, revealing a whole area of exploitation which had remained invisible: domestic work, sexuality, and procreation. These were the core activities for the production of that special commodity labor-power (the only commodity that produces surplus-value). Marx had grasped and denounced the oppression of women in the bourgeois family and the brutal conditions of the exploitation of women and children in factories in the second half of the 19th century. However, he had ignored the specific form of this subordination and exploitation and, above all, in bringing value production back into the rationality of the wage, had lost sight of the autonomous production of value in the reproductive sphere. This was the starting point for the feminist criticism that would call into question the entire Marxist paradigm.

In the Marxist scheme, the reproduction of labor-power is part of the process of producing goods: the worker earns a wage and with that wage satisfies their reproductive needs (food, clothing, housing, as well as affection and relationships). But there is no consideration of the work necessary to transform those goods into concrete elements of subsistence for the worker or of the value that that work produces – which is immediately exchange value and not merely use value. Women know, however, for material and historical reasons, that food must be cooked, that clothes must be made, that households and domestic economies must be managed. Even affection and care are not women’s natural vocation, but are carried out within the production process and social relationships of domination. For Marx these activities have nothing to do with labor. Yet, as Alisa Del Re noted in an important 1979 essay, this kind of work is totally within the capitalist mode of production, it is directly controlled by a wage, contributes to the process of valorization, and enables the extraction of surplus-value from the production of that special commodity that is labor-power.19

From this perspective, reproduction is the autonomous production of value. It is not a separate sphere from production, but the pillar of capitalist development. Just as goods are produced in the factory, so labor-power is produced at home. The housewife is, for all intents and purposes, a proletarian. The household is the place where surplus-value is extracted and the nuclear family – which comes into being in the transition to large industry and would constitute the backbone of the Fordist production model – is the production régime, that is, the form of organization and command over work.

Domestic Work, Wages, Refusal

As we have seen, from the perspective of the Marxist feminism of rupture, domestic work is productive work in the Marxist sense, that is, it is work that produces surplus-value and is exploitative. Federici begins her 1975 essay “Wages Against Housework” with the slogan: “They call it love, we call it unpaid work.”20 This emphasized the productive value of reproduction and denounced the romantic love that hid capitalist relationships within the family. For Federici and others, the subordination and exploitation of women was not a natural condition, but the outcome of a historically determined process, which started in the second half of the 19th century, in the transition from manufacturing to large industry, with the birth of the working class and the need for a healthier and more productive workforce. The construction of the fulltime housewife reorganized the entire sphere of reproduction.

The changes introduced by the shorter working day, limits on child labor, the introduction of compulsory education, and laws against poor working conditions – following the denunciation of terrible living conditions in the working-class districts described by Marx in Capital – pushed women into the home and redefined the working-class family. Lifestyles changed, the community changed, and, with the appearance of the first shops, neighborhoods also changed. But the biggest change was in power relations and hierarchies within the family. Women had now become dependent on their husband’s wage and thus a new gender hierarchy was created within the family. The new production régime invested in the reproduction of the working class in order to ensure an increase in productivity. The housewife was responsible for ensuring that the wage was well spent, that the worker was well cared for and that the children were adequately educated for their destiny as future workers. Moreover, to enable the acceptance of unpaid domestic work it was necessary to “separate the ‘good’ woman from the ‘bad’ woman, the “housewife from the ‘whore’” (as Federici writes in her essay “The Construction of the Fulltime Housewife and Housework in 19th and 20th Century England”).21 The nuclear family became a legal-social device regulated by the wage in order to manage the capitalist restructuring of production and reproduction. Later, when the assembly line was introduced, the new social function of the family was also that of “compensating for stress.”22

In the 1970s, this model entered into crisis. The productive restructuring that was underway as a response to proletarian struggles was transforming the wage, which at that point no longer controlled the entire cycle of reproductive work: “The working time linked to reproduction begins to have social deadlines imposed from outside (…) the nuclear family is no longer maintained: it is destroyed due to the double working day, due to the fragmentation of daily reproduction.”23 Women were starting to acquire autonomy within the family and had begun to reject the role historically attributed to them, resulting in the socialization and spread of struggles in the reproductive sphere. Capital’s response was to change both productive and reproductive work: so-called “post-Fordist” restructuring. Unpaid reproductive activities characterized by physical fatigue disappeared (becoming waged in their outsourcing to more blackmailable subjects such as migrants). This outsourcing divides reproductive work into a thousand tasks, defining “a time of infinite commanded work, with different segments that are welded between production and reproduction.”24 The formal structure of reproduction had changed but the command of the wage remained and now defined a different hierarchy of the double working day: “one woman, one wage, two jobs.”25 Taking this further, Del Re highlighted how the restructuring of reproductive work at a global level had increased the wageification of reproduction on a racial basis, defining a new régime of wages in the reproductive field, in which one woman paid another woman to do domestic labor – “two women, two jobs, but a single wage to share” – and a new hierarchy of work often marked by the color line.26

The Marxist feminism of rupture primarily focuses on the social function of wages within the family. Wages are the relationship of subordination that define the sexual and international division of labor and bind the non-waged to the waged (in a relation of subordination and dependence), and those who receive higher wages to those who receive lower wages (such as the different wages of white and black employees in care work). Moreover, the wage, as a form of organization of social and productive relationships, naturalizes roles and activities, making entire areas of exploitation invisible. As argued in The Power of Women, “precisely through the wages has the exploitation of the non-wage laborer been organized (…) even more effective because the lack of a wage hid it.” That is, the wage also commands services that “appear to be personal services outside of capital.”27 In regards to women, the wage commands affectivity, sexuality and intimacy. The analysis continues: “The man as wage worker and head of the family was the specific instrument of this specific exploitation which is the exploitation of the woman.” Similarly, the paid white woman would become the form of the specific exploitation of the migrant who now carries out at least part of her domestic work with wages. The wage, therefore, is what imposes a fracture between man and woman, between white and black people.

On the level of struggle, studying the social function of wages had allowed the feminists of rupture to define a form of specific conflict understood as resistance or rejection of capitalist valorization. In this sense, the struggle for wages for housework is a refusal of the reproductive model of the nuclear family, which is the foundation of the capitalist organization of work. In that specific phase, the conquest of wages for domestic work was considered to mean the rejection of the naturalization of domestic work, whose lack of pay was at the origin of the production of surplus-value, the rejection of the hierarchies within the family determined by the wage system, the rejection of the myth of liberation through waged work. As Dalla Costa writes in a 2005 essay, looking back on her previous experience and the calls for waged labor, “why did we make our goal what men say they wanted to reject?”28 The struggle for access to social services can also, to some extent, be read as a refusal: the rejection of a life dedicated to work, as the recovery of free time, and the reduction of the working time required for reproduction.

Primitive Accumulation

The analysis of the social function of wages produced another important feminist critique of Marx. In search of the material origins of women’s exploitation, as a response to the many criticisms leveled by the left at the discourse of the productive dimension of reproduction, the feminists of rupture returned to the origins of capitalism. From a feminist perspective, the process of primitive accumulation was not only based on the separation of farmers from the land, but also on the separation between the process of producing goods for the market and the process of reproducing labor-power. Unlike in subsistence economies, these processes were now distinct and developed by different subjects: men employed in the first, women performing unpaid labor in the second. It was this historical step that hid the autonomous production of value in the reproductive sphere.

In Il grande Calibano, Fortunati and Federici looked at the transition from feudalism to capitalism, considering the moment of accumulation from the point of view of reproduction. They provided ample historical documentation of the process that defines the social construction of the reproduction of labor-power as a function of the development of capital. They placed the witch hunt at the center of these processes, seeing it as a founding event of modern capitalist society, at the origin of the sexual division of labor and the devaluation of women’s work and of women themselves. In a subsequent talk, Federici showed that the invention of witchcraft between the 16th and 17th centuries had four major functions: dividing the community in order to undermine peasant resistance to land enclosures; defining the new sexual division of labor in a way that was functional to the new production régime through the expropriation of women’s control over their bodies, sexuality, and reproductive capacity; dismantling women’s medical knowledge with the establishment of medicine as a science; and supporting colonialism and racism in the Americas through the demonization of practices brought from Africa that supported slave revolts.29

The witch-hunt was a time of social reorganization that affected all activities related to reproduction (family relations, sexual activities and those related to procreation). It gave a new foundation and new functionalities to the patriarchal exploitation systems that preexisted capitalism. Thus the feminists of rupture also mark a discontinuity with other currents of radical feminism that consider capitalism and patriarchy as distinct systems of oppression, the first operating in the public sphere, the second in the private sphere or in the family. They hold, instead, that capitalism redefines patriarchal relations within capitalist production relations, that is, it translates the historical subordination of women into capitalist terms. This happens at the precise moment in which capital separates the production of goods from the reproduction of labor-power, establishing reproductive work as a natural condition of being a woman. In doing so, it defines a large area of accumulation that rests on the exploitation of the unpaid labor of reproduction.

In the 1990s, based on these reflections, and starting from the link between accumulation and the exploitation of nature – referring to the history of land enclosures at the origins of capitalism – a new feminist discourse on accumulation developed that took a direction that was slightly different from that of the Marxist feminism of rupture. In particular, Dalla Costa and Federici, opening up a space of comparison with the ecofeminism of Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies, discussed the renewed relevance of accumulation in the capitalist transition, focusing on the relationship between nature and reproduction. The former did so through a strict criticism of neoliberal globalization,30 the latter through a reflection on the “new enclosures” in Africa, Latin America and, more recently in Europe, on the construction of a debt economy and for a “politics of the commons.”31 On the other hand, in those years the theoretical hypotheses of the Marxist feminism of rupture were put aside while deep social and productive transformations pointed to other productive and reproductive relations.

Tested in the Present

In a substantially changed social and productive context, what remains today of those intuitions and analyses? Which of these can still productively be put to work in the context of Ni Una Menos in Argentina, which calls attention the materiality of production processes and social dynamics, and has kickstarted a transnational feminist movement? The last few years have seen a refocusing of international attention on the feminist critique of Marx, which, in Italy at least, is partly a result of historiographic work and of the dissemination of texts which had long inaccessible. However, an effective way to deal with the questions it raises can only be found by looking back without losing sight of the present.

In order to untangle the different, and not exclusively feminist, paths of struggle and resistance on a social level, it is vital to pay attention to the productive value of reproduction and the social function of wages, particularly given the fact that there is now renewed feminist interest in this issue. However, it could cause more harm than good to simply adopt old concepts in a changed paradigm of production and reproduction. Nor, if we want a theoretical practice up to the challenges of the present, is it possible to overlook the impasses and limits of attempts to hold an actual strike in the reproductive sphere, which has always been easier to say than to do, or of the demand for a wage disconnected from capitalist productivity. The only example of the former that comes to mind which has concretely affected the social relations of production is the 2006 strike of Latinx people in the United States against the criminalization of irregular immigration – “A Day without Immigrants – No Work, No School, No Shopping” – which included more than 100,000 people, and emphasized the importance of the mass dimension of struggles. The latter was always the demand not only of the Wages for Housework groups but also of more recent workplace struggles against precarity in Italy, and yielded few results.

From this angle, then, the Marxist feminism of rupture is above all a method, a theoretical-political practice provided to us by that experience, a method to guide us in analyzing the new social function carried out by reproduction and wages. The internal hierarchies and power relations of reproduction have been clearly translated into the whole social context, no longer even necessarily following gender lines. Capitalist rationality today goes even further than the idea of the “feminization of labor.” It has made characteristics of relationality, care, and emotional attention which were historically attributed to women (within a process of the “naturalization” of reproduction that the feminists of rupture had strongly rejected) the specific form of control over life and productive or reproductive work. The biggest evidence of this is the way in which companies increasingly function as a sort of “family” with many emotional incentives, delivered through loyalty mechanisms and gifts, such as Christmas bonuses. The wage, which has only partially lost its function of control over productive and reproductive work, has changed its connotation. On the one hand, it is redesigning the role of the breadwinner within an increasingly sui generis family (whether as an extended family, a single-parent family, as temporary cohabitations and other forms of intimacy), without, however, subverting historically consolidated power relationships. On the other hand, the increase in precarity and unpaid labor, which is a prerequisite for the new social function of wages, is producing a profound (and at the same time disturbing, from an antagonistic perspective) transformation of subjectivities and expectations with respect to work. In the so-called cognitive industries, today we often work not so much for a wage as to obtain visibility and social recognition just as the social status of a good wife or a loving mother historically rewarded women for unpaid reproductive work.32 We are witnessing the extension of the characteristics and prerogatives of reproduction to the entire system of production. For this reason, then, the entire analysis of the reproduction of feminism, and of the Marxist feminism of rupture in particular, must be reviewed and updated. If not, we again risk ignoring a whole sphere of the extraction of value that recalls but exceeds the reproductive sphere, just as Marx had done when not seeing the productive value of reproduction.

Thus, the Marxist feminism of rupture could still be politically relevant if, with patience and critical attention, we are able to reflect on the blockage of that analysis and especially on the new productive and reproductive context. In other words, the intuitions of the Marxist feminism of rupture remain powerful instruments of struggle only if they can be carried beyond themselves, just as the feminist comrades did with Marx.

References   [ + ]

1. Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James, The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community (Bristol: Falling Wall Press, 1972).
2. Selma James “A Woman’s Place (1953), included in the 1972 pamphlet The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community.
3. Lucia Chisté, Alisa Del Re, and Edvidge Forti, Oltre il lavoro domestico: il lavoro delle donne tra produzione e riproduzione (Milan: Feltrinelli, 1979).
4. Alisa Del Re, “Intervista,” in Guido Borio, Francesca Pozzi, and Gigi Roggero (eds.), Gli operaisti (Rome: Derive Approdi, 2005).
5. Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction, trans. Jim Fleming (New York: Autonomedia, 1995 [1981]). See also Maya Andrea Gonzalez, “The Gendered Circuit: Reading The Arcane of Reproduction,” Viewpoint Magazine 3 (2013), and Gowri Vijayakumar, “‘There Was an Uproar: Reading The Arcane of Reproduction Through Sex Work in India,” Viewpoint Magazine 5 (2015).
6. Silvia Federici and Leopoldina Fortunati, Il grande Calibano: storia del corpo sociale ribelle nella prima fase del capitalismo (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1984).
7. See Antonella Picchio, Social Reproduction: The Political Economy of the Labour Market (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) and Unpaid Work and the Economy: A Gender Analysis of the Standards of Living (London: Routledge, 2003).
8. Christine Dupont [Delphy], “L’ennemi principal,” Partisans 54-55 (1970): 157-172.
9. Mary Inman, In Woman’s Defense (Los Angeles: Committee to Organize the Advancement of Women, 1940).
10. See Mario Tronti, Workers and Capital, trans. David Broder (New York: Verso, 2019), xviii.
11. Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Nota biografica, “Archivio di Lotta Femminista per il salario al lavoro domestico. Donazione Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Biblioteca Civica di Padova, 2013; Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “Introduction to the Archive of Feminist Struggle for wages for housework. Donation by Mariarosa Dalla Costa,” trans. Rafaella Capanna, Viewpoint Magazine 5 (2015).
12. See the letter from July 7, 1972 addressed to the editorial staffs of “Potere operaio,” “Lotta continua,” and “Manifesto” in Antonella Picchio and Giuliana Pincelli (ed.), Una lotta femminista globale: L’esperienza dei gruppi per il Salario al Lavoro Domestico di Ferrara e Modena (Milan: Franco Angeli, 2019), 90.
13. For a historiographic and documentary reconstruction of this period in New York, see Silvia Federici and Arlen Austin, The New York Wages For Housework Committee 1972-1977: History, Theory, Documents (New York: Autonomedia, 2018).
14. Private conversation with Federici.
15. Barbara Smith, Towards a Black Feminist Criticism,The Radical Teacher 7 (March 1978): pp. 20-27. For more information on the Black Women for Wages for Housework group, and other autonomous collectives within the WFH international network, see Beth Capper and Arlen Austin, “Wages for Housework Means Wages against Heterosexuality”: On the Archives of Black Women for Wages for Housework and Wages Due Lesbians.” GLQ 24, no. 4 (2018): 445–466.
16. See the reconstructions in Picchio and Pincelli (ed.), Una lotta femminista globale: L’esperienza dei gruppi per il Salario al Lavoro Domestico di Ferrara e Modena.
17. See Louise Toupin, Wages for Housework: A History of an International Feminist Movement, 1972-77, trans. Käthe Roth (London: Pluto Press, 2018).
18. Selma James, “Sex, Race and Class,” manuscript circa 1975.
19. Alisa Del Re, “Struttura capitalistica del lavoro legato alla riproduzione,” in Oltre il lavoro domestico.
20. Silvia Federici, Wages against Housework (Bristol: Power of Women Collective and Falling Wall Press, 1975). This text is also included in the collection of Federici’s writings, Silvia Federici, Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (Oakland: AK Press, 2012), 15-22.
21. See Silvia Federici, “Origins: The Construction of the Fulltime Housewife and Housework in 19th and 20th Century England,” 2016, published for the first time in the collection of Federici’s writings, El patriarcado del salario. Críticas feministas al marxismo (Buenos Aires: Tinta Limón, 2018).
22. Del Re, “Struttura capitalistica del lavoro legato alla riproduzione,” 20.
23. Del Re, “Struttura capitalistica del lavoro legato alla riproduzione,” 22.
24. Del Re, “Struttura capitalistica del lavoro legato alla riproduzione,” 22.
25. Alisa Del Re, “Produzione – riproduzione e critica femminista,” in Gigi Roggero and Adelino Zanini, (ed.), Genealogie del futuro (Verona: ombré corte, 2013), 94.
26. Del Re, “Produzione – riproduzione e critica femminista,” 95.
27. Dalla Costa and James, The Power of Women, 28.
28. Mariarosa Dalla Costa, “La porta dell’orto e del giardino,” in Borio, Pozzi, and Roggero (eds.), Gli operaisti, 121-131. This text is an edited version of an earlier talk by Dalla Costa, “The Door to the Flower and Vegetable Garden” (2002), trans. Fulvia Serra, Viewpoint Magazine, June 20, 2017.
29. Silvia Federici, Streghe, accumulazione, riproduzione. Un seminario di Silvia Federici (Rome: Derive Approdi, forthcoming).
30. Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Monica Chilese, Nostra madre oceano: questioni e lotte del movimento dei pescatori (Rome: DeriveApprodi, Roma 2005).
31. Silvia Federici, El patriarcado del salario: críticas feministas al marxismo, trans. María Aránzazu Catalán Altuna (Madrid: Traficantes de suenos, 2018).
32. I tried to develop the insights of Marxist feminism of rupture in my text, “‘Lo chiamano amore’: Note sulla gratuità del lavoro,” in Francesca Coin (ed.), Salari rubati (Verona: Ombré Corte, 2017).

Author of the article

is a militant scholar in the field of autonomous marxism, and part of the Commonware project.