The strike appropriated by the women’s movement is literally overflowed: it must account for multiple labor realities that escape the borders of waged and unionized work, that question the limits between productive and reproductive labor, formal and informal labor, remunerated and free tasks, between migrant and national labor, between the employed and the unemployed. The strike taken up by the women’s movement directly targets a central element of the capitalist system: the sexual and colonial division of labor.
There was thus a transversality to the political composition of the strike (unions, grassroots territorial organizations, queer collectives, student groups, health centers, migrant collectives, self-organized individuals, etc.). There was also an intersectionality of problematics that were able to make a concrete critique of renewed forms of capitalist exploitation, through their focus on labor.
Neoliberalism is not merely a set of economic policies, but a specific subjectivity and social relation, is reproduced not only from above but also from below, as migrants apply their own forms of calculation and logics of competition.
Anti-intellectual prejudice has had a large influence on both intellectuals and activists and has settled into a series of common notions that remain operative today. But anti-intellectualism, rather than a nod toward the popular, is a call to order.
To strike is to challenge and block the forms of producing and reproducing life in homes, in neighborhoods, in workplaces. It is to connect violence against women with the specific political nature of the current forms of exploitation of the production and reproduction of life. The strike was the key that enabled us to unite those two things.
Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui is an Aymara activist, sociologist, and oral historian who has worked with indigenous movements in Bolivia over the last four decades. Her work provides a valuable critique of certain forms of indigenous identity politics, and a balance sheet of anticolonial struggles in the country more broadly.
In the discourse of “slavery,” the textile workshops and their thousands of migrant workers are a sort of black hole where another type of humanity is concentrated, one that is never fully recognized as such, other than under the idea of complete foreignness.
The activities associated with “reproduction” continue to be a terrain of fundamental struggle for women, as they were for the feminist movement of the ‘70s, and a link to the history of witches.