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.
It’s only by acknowledging the roots of identity politics in the emancipatory movements of the past that we can begin the collective work of formulating a positive alternative.
I would like to briefly return to what might be the central problem of political subjectivity, where Marxist thought encountered its limit and ultimately hit an impasse: the party-form and its conflictual relationship with another “form,” that of the “women’s movement” and, consequently, feminism.
A curious symptom of the resistance to theory on the Anglo-American left is a fixation on the Enlightenment. The striking paradox of this fixation is the anti-intellectual appropriation of a trend of European philosophy, which is credited with introducing the now inviolable standards of secularism, republicanism, rights, freedoms, and equality.
Our social conditions place demands upon our struggles. They force us to change what it means to strike, requiring that such a practice orient itself to structures of care, to sex and domestic work, to global chains of capitalist, state, and intimate violence. A feminist practice adequate to our times can only be an anti-capitalist feminism.
Domestic workers’ activism is not merely a sectoral struggle, but a strike against the gendered division of labor and a fight for bodily autonomy – both are indispensable parts of a broader struggle to undermine capital’s capacity for exploitation.
In 1941 in Cindy Walker’s native Texas, the sexual encounter described by her song “Cherokee Maiden” was not only frowned on, it was illegal. Texas had been the first state in the union to pass a law officially barring miscegenation.
The strike allows us to find each other, and to together constitute a new collective subject, bringing our bodies together in a common action and shared territory. Just as women’s labor takes many forms, so does the women’s strike: a work stoppage, a walkout, a march, a picket, a blockade, a shopping boycott, collectively refusing gender roles.
Where elites bumble and jockey, possibilities arise. That is why in the radical uncertainty of our moment, the Left needs to strategize and organize for a revolutionary break. If we’re not prepared with a revolutionary scenario of our own, the struggles of elites may swallow us up.
It is the theme of dissolving margins, and the many ways in which Ferrante grapples with it, that makes the Neapolitan novels a testament to the borderline experience between true and false, as categories of both the personal and the political.