Omissions and corrections to the Stonewall Militant Front announcement
On New Year’s Day, the Revolutionary Alliance of Trans People Against Capitalism (RATPAC) announced that, after two and half years, it would be moving forward as the Stonewall Militant Front (SMF). This announcement gave a brief theoretical outline as to why, rather than limit its membership and focus along the lines of trans identity alone, SMF would instead organize based on the shared social consciousness formed by a particular aspect of patriarchy under capitalism. SMF developed an understanding of what particular force of patriarchy most broadly unites trans people in their social experience (across our various lines of identity and expression). In view of this understanding, which is that this particular force of patriarchy is in no way doled out strictly along those identity lines, it became clear that it was insufficient to continue organizing strictly along lines of trans identity. SMF stated its intention to unite all who can be united and drew a line in the sand against political postmodernism.
The announcement gave a very condensed overview of SMF’s basic understanding of various aspects of patriarchy under capitalism, in anticipation of a forthcoming full-length and fully-developed theoretical document on the matter. There were various errors and omissions in the text of the announcement, which we seek to clarify and rectify here. We will address them one by one.
Perhaps our most glaring error in our statement was omitting any discussion of the *secondary aspect of the principal aspect of patriarchy* (SPP for short). This aspect is crucial to understand on its own terms, because although the SPP on its own does not cause a uniform social experience among all those who face some degree of it, it is nevertheless a major force in shaping the relations of production.
To better explain the SPP, first a few clarifying words about the *principal aspect of the principal aspect of patriarchy* (PPP for short) will be helpful:
In our condensed overview of the principal aspect of patriarchy, we maintained that the general social perception of being assigned female at birth (AFAB) entails being pushed to “carry forward reproductive tasks and certain ‘acceptable’ labor positions generally, to hold a **particular position** within a nuclear family, and to assume **certain social (and sexual) roles**.”
When we speak of being pushed into this particular position within the nuclear family and the assumption of certain roles, this should be distinguished from a more generalized push toward engaging in reproductive and other denigrated forms of labor, which is the main substance of the SPP.
The most fundamental function of the PPP—of forcing people toward and to remain in this particular position and its accompanying roles in the family—is not reproducing the working class nor is it securing generalized reproductive labor in the family or in other contexts (although in capitalism the principal aspect of patriarchy as a whole does also accomplish those tasks). At its heart, the function of forcing someone to occupy this particular position in the family is to allow strict control of the production of heirs to familial property whose paternity is unquestionable. When it comes to the oppression that seeks to make certain of paternity, it is not simply that someone in this position experiences coercion to undertake certain forms of labor; rather, they are delivered over as whole individuals, in an all-around way, into the power of the man who is the head of the family. The specific forces that create this particular position, drive people directly into it, and keep them there are the most fundamental, essential, and enduring aspect of patriarchy. It should be added that although inheritable property is a question of significance only for bourgeois families, in capitalism this same oppression is very much inflicted on working-class people.
Meanwhile, the SPP faces all people exhibiting or engaging in feminine-coded behavior, or being read as having feminine-coded traits. People being viewed this way are regarded with a certain degree of contempt, denigration, and/or paternalism, because they are perceived to be unfit to engage in more complex productive labor and especially mental labor and are instead viewed as being more suited for labor that is denigrated, devalued, and/or menial, both productive and especially reproductive.
This chauvinist attitude is part of an overall male chauvinist idea that women (and, by extension, all people exhibiting feminine-coded traits and behavior) are in some way deficient, and that they need the guardianship of men and depend on men’s alleged unique skills, disposition, and attributes to successfully organize production and all of society.
Those who face the SPP are (a) pushed into undertaking unpaid reproductive labor in the home and in more “domestic” aspects of other spheres (for instance, the kitchen area in the break-room of a workplace) and (b) pushed toward more precarious and worse-paying waged labor in “feminized” areas of the economy, in reproductive labor as well as many forms of productive labor. It also entails an increased likelihood of being targeted for objectifying sexual consumption. Being subject to this aspect of patriarchy is one reason why even people who do not face the PPP face many types of oppression that also confront people perceived to be AFAB, most of whom also experience the SPP to a great degree.
The SPP is understood as a sub-aspect of the principal aspect of patriarchy—as opposed to its own separate and relatively independent aspect—because its deepest function is directly facilitating the operation of the PPP: throughout their lives, people who are perceived to be AFAB are coerced into adopting feminine behaviors and traits (this coercion is the secondary aspect of patriarchy). The feminine behaviors and traits that have been oppressed into people perceived to be AFAB then function through the SPP to further constrain their ability to move through society, facilitating the particular domination that is the substance of the PPP.
We would like to discuss our use of the phrase “perceived to be AFAB” in relation to our discussion of who faces the PPP.
We would like to acknowledge and express our gratitude to those who pointed out that this expression is inadequate in certain ways to fully describe the material realities we are talking about.
Above all, we affirm that the spirit of our original argument is correct: it is how a person is perceived that determines what oppression they face, rather than how they identify or even what perceivable steps of self-transformation someone has undertaken. No doubt, a person voicing their identity (and all perceivable facts about how a person moves, speaks, dresses, behaves, and generally expresses themselves) can *influence* how that person is understood. But again, the factor that determines how a person is treated is the *result* once all the facts, both rational and directly perceivable, have come together in the mind of the “beholder.”
With that said, there is a notable exception to our claim that only people who are believed to be AFAB face any component of the PPP: In many times and places, it happens that even if a beholder knows and perceives that a certain person undertaking many feminine-coded acts of presentation is not AFAB, that beholder may still treat that person “like a woman” for the sake of consuming them and dominating them in the context of treating them as a sex object. This specific, sexual role should indeed be understood as a component of the PPP—that is, this particular type of oppression is one that otherwise only people believed to be AFAB experience.
Having said that, we must say a few other things as clearly as possible:
First, this oppression of “being consumed as someone who ‘counts as a woman’ for the sake of objectifying sex” does not in any way constitute the entirety of the PPP. Many people who would be seen by certain beholders as suitable for this specific, sexual role would not be seen by those same beholders as suitable for the other roles that make up the remainder of the PPP—for instance, occupying the “woman role” in forming a private family. Thus, they would not face the particular aspects of oppression that push people into and keep them in those roles. Whether a person is considered suitable for these other roles is much more dependent on whether they are perceived to be AFAB.
This means that for people who experience the oppression of being pushed into this specific sexual role, there is a basis for a social consciousness, in some social contexts and regarding some social questions, that is basically identical to that of people regularly perceived to be AFAB. However, in other social contexts and regarding other social questions, those who have not regularly experienced those other aspects of the PPP will not have the same tendency toward a common social consciousness with people regularly perceived to be AFAB.
Second, it should be emphasized that perceived “suitability” for this specific sexual role is not necessarily something that occurs for any given person universally nor something that happens “once and for all.” That is to say, someone whom some beholders find suitable for this sexual role will not necessarily be seen as suitable for it by other beholders. Similarly, some beholders who once saw a certain person as suitable for it may cease to view them as suitable for it at a later point.
What this entails can vary: When we speak of “an oppression,” we are referring to a discrete, coherent force that pervades society that arises from the needs of the prevailing mode of production, a force that can (though does not necessarily or always) lead to a qualitatively similar consciousness among those who face it. However, such a consciousness cannot result from single, relatively limited, isolated, or irregularly occurring instances of facing treatment or experiences stemming from such a force. Rather, it is facing this force *regularly*, *in a substantial, patterned way*, that creates the possibility of arriving at such a consciousness.
In our statement, we wrote about “the purpose of patriarchy.”
We would reword this to describe the *function* of patriarchy.
We would make this change because talking about a “purpose” for patriarchy could insinuate that the primary reason this oppression exists is because some set of oppressors somewhere is consciously creating it and shaping it. Although the ruling class does consciously work to adjust the functioning of patriarchy in many ways, fundamentally the specific way that patriarchy manifests is determined by the specific mode of production that a society is operating in.
To be very precise, the specific way that patriarchy manifests is determined by the specific forms of ownership of the means of production that prevail and the specific relations of production that arise from those particular forms of ownership. In truth, rather than patriarchy existing according to anyone’s “purposes,” the reverse is more deeply true: these deeper political-economic forces shape the consciousness of the ruling class themselves and thereby constrain and condition what they seek to impose on society.
In an early, unedited version of the statement, we wrote, “Postmodernism is at the heart of liberalism.” This phrase was removed quickly after publication because of how glaring the error was.
In reality, liberalism predates postmodernism, and the two have different philosophical origins. However, political postmodernism (along with all of the identity opportunism and rejection of materialism that come with it) is put into action (or, often, lack of action) in counterrevolutionary, liberal ways no matter how much radical garb it tries to dress itself up in. This is why sometimes postmodernist politics manifest in an outlook that is sometimes called “radical liberalism.”
We wrote, “Political postmodernism is the ideological output of the petit-bourgeoisie who have no concrete relationship to the production of the world around them, and so their politics follow suit.”
We would reword this to say, “ . . . the petite bourgeoisie, whose concrete relationship to the society they find themselves in leaves them with a dim, loose, and idealistic understanding of the production of the world around them, and so their politics follow suit.”
We would make this change because the petite bourgeoisie DO have a concrete relationship to production. Their specific relation to production leaves them a vacillating class, discontent with their powerlessness before the monopoly capitalist class and yet invested in the preservation of capitalism and, crucially, unable to lead the charge in revolution to address the root of the oppression faced by the broad masses of people—a task that the working class alone is suited to. It is this specific relationship to production that leads many among the petite bourgeoisie to embrace and uphold postmodernism.
We wrote, “Postmodernism lacks the ability to understand that there is a contradiction to the function of our society between the working class and the ruling class, that everything we do as people living in this society will be in favor of one class or the other, and that this conflict is the main driving force of capitalism.”
We would reword this to say, “ . . . is the main driving force in the United States.”
We would make this change for two reasons. The first is to specify that the objective “thing” that contains this contradiction (and which has its evolution driven by it) is not simply a mode of production, capitalism, but a specific society—the United States.
The second is that while the struggle between the monopoly capitalist class and the working class is the principal contradiction within the United States, this same contradiction is not principal in every country, or on a global scale. In the world at large, the principal contradiction is between the oppressed nations (including sections of their capitalist classes) and the imperialist powers.
We wrote, “These politics seek to center ‘voices’ on the basis of identity rather than centering a political line capable of taking on the objective conditions we are facing, subsisting individual identities and experiences for politics.”
We would reword this to say, “ . . . substituting individual identities and experiences for a scientific and objective understanding of how society works.”
We would make this change because it is incorrect to suggest that substituting identity for materialism is not “politics”—“identity politics” *is* still a form of political analysis, but an incorrect and harmful one.
We wrote, “We understand that while our identities can inform our worldview, our ‘lived experiences’ are subordinate to class oppression and this must be taken into account in our organizing.”
We would reword this to say, “ . . . our ‘lived experiences’ are always a manifestation of larger systemic forces that ultimately result from class contradiction . . .”
We would make this change because saying that “lived experiences are subordinate to oppression” leaves the material relationship being discussed unclear, and also suggests that lived experiences of resistance and rebellion against class oppression never occur.
The change from RATPAC to SMF was something that had been developing for a long time through our years of political practice, organizing trans people, studying, and improving ourselves as a fighting force seeking to genuinely transform the world we see around us by revolutionary means. Through this practice, we have without a doubt gained a great deal of perspective and understanding. It is through this—rather than by online and/or campus-based “political discourse,” or solely by reading books philosophizing about the world with no intent or plan for collective political action—that we have developed our theoretical understanding of what we are fighting and how to fight it, and thus became the Stonewall Militant Front.
Needless to say, for everyone involved this was an immensely exciting change. In the excitement, we incorrectly prioritized expediency to ensure the announcement was published on New Year’s Day. While there is no doubt that making the announcement on the occasion of the new year was symbolically ideal, ultimately making that the highest priority led to crucial omissions and poor wording choices that could have been avoided. We will seek diligently to rectify the tendency in the organization that allowed form and superficialities to be prioritized over upholding, defending, and, principally, applying the correct line. Hopefully this follow-up will provide some more specificity and comprehensiveness for those who have chosen to study the announcement in anticipation of our upcoming full theoretical document.