PROSTITUTION AND CLASS STRUGGLE
A Marxist-Leninist Analysis of Prostitution
Note: The following text comes from the resolution by the women of Iniciativa Comunista (Communist Initiative) at the Women’s Conference in 2018.
1. Introduction to our perspective
The regulation of prostitution is the equivalent of the bourgeoisie planting a victory flag in patriarchy and capital’s grounds. It is the last legal frontier to appropriate our bodies.
We understand prostitution as a political institution that contributes to promoting and maintaining the patriarchal hierarchy of relations, based on the interests of capitalism and the form of production and reproduction that occurs within it. This does not mean that prostitution is the only institution in which capitalism and patriarchy stratify relationships to maintain the status quo. However, this does not deny the importance of analyzing it, since it is still a capitalist and patriarchal institution that regulates and controls (formally or informally) the sexuality of women. Prostitution represents a political instrument that normalizes sex-affective relationships, which regulates and ideologizes the construction of desire and relationships between men and women. Therefore, it does not only affect women who are prostitutes, but all women.
Although, the argument used to defend the regulationist position pretends that it wants to give rights to women sex workers, the question that underlies this liberal varnish of rights is how to regulate and legalize the way in which men can access our bodies. The power to access a woman’s body by reducing it to a mere object of consumption is the power to access the bodies of all women. This possibility becomes a universal right of men over women, protected and legitimated by laws. Therefore, as communists, we must have a very clear strategy regarding prostitution, and we must carry out a feminist and class struggle all together, for those who work in prostitution and for those who do not, in order to fight as the working class for our own emancipation from the patriarchal yoke.
The way in which a State regulates and approaches this issue is conditioned by the economic and social function of women in said society. The treatment of prostitution depends on how our workforce and our sexuality (understood on the basis of production and reproduction) serve the interests of the bourgeoisie. In this sense, legal regulation of prostitution by a State is the legalization of a specific form of sexual exploitation of women. This implies legitimizing, by making it legal, access by men to women’s bodies and regulating the specific manner in which said access/exploitation will take place.
Women who practice prostitution are made invisible and silenced, in the most absolute sense of social and political vulnerability, which is, at the same time, the cause and consequence – in equal parts – of their circumstances. Women represent the last link in the chain of exploitation, when it is precisely through our bodies – and lives – that the wealth that sustains the immense business of prostitution is created. This is why we cannot and should not deny the existence of prostitution and the need to consider the political subject of women who exercise or have exercised it.
2. Economic perspective of prostitution in the capitalist mode of production
In history, work has been a condition of human existence, a necessary mediation between human beings and nature. However, work in capitalism is an activity that generates value, a socially useful value that can be sold as a commodity. We understand work as an alienating experience, an activity that is not done voluntarily by the worker and that, therefore, does not have a purpose of self-realization. The labor does not belong to the worker, but to the capitalist who exploits it, while the worker only owns his/her labor power. The workers sells their labor power, their ability to work, to the highest bidder with the sole purpose of subsisting, so any type of contract, legal or not, is an unequal contract and under no circumstances free. Thus, labor power becomes a commodity that the worker rents to the capitalist. A site laborer, a masseuse, a waitress… all of them sell their labor power to the person who hires them, and so does the prostitute.
In the capitalist system, a distinction is made between productive work, which creates new value (productive work for capital is one that “produces surplus-value for the capitalist, and thus works for the self-expansion of capital”), and reproductive work, related to “natural production.” This category includes all of the work that allows the working class labor to be created and maintained and with it the productive work. Thus, reproductive work is part of the capitalist cycle, and is a necessity for the existence of production (without a workforce, without labor power, there is no production). Therefore, without the reproductive work of women in the family nucleus, there would be no production either.
Reproductive work is complemented by productive work, with the difference that reproductive work is neither recognized, nor remunerated (as much). We can differentiate four types of reproductive work: domestic work, sex work, affective work, and reproduction work. It is not surprising, since it is in its nature, that capitalism seeks ways to overexploit this work by commercializing it, as is the case of domestic work with household cleaners, or surrogate mothers who rent their wombs; it is also the case of sex work with prostitution. We must understand that this commodification is not, nor has it sought to be, a recognition or remuneration of the work that women perform in the family nucleus or social relations and ultimately in our day to day lives, but the conversion of it into separate work that working class women are forced to assume in addition to what they have already been doing, fostering once again the double exploitation.
Capitalism is thus fed by prostitution, regardless of the consequences that this entails for the workers or the brutal patriarchal violence that this work brings to them; in fact, it is responsible for promoting this practice and expanding it with more businesses such as pornography. It is also capable of linking them to many businesses and industries such as drugs or even standardized and well-regarded industries such as tourism (i.e. sex tourism). This last practice is very common in the Spanish State, which has been the brothel of the West for decades, as well as in other countries such as Thailand or Brazil.
In socialism, with power and means of production in the hands of the proletariat, without any gain for the exploiting bourgeoisie, the work of the working class as a whole cannot just benefit half of it. Not only is prostitution is a salaried job that enriches the exploiting minority at the expense of the exploited majority and only benefits one half of the population at the expense of another, but it also commodifies women’s bodies. As communists and feminists we are for the abolition of any forms of commodification of women’s bodies. In the future communist society that we intend to build, a society in which the State apparatus will no longer exists, in which neither classes, nor genders, nor races will exist, the affective-sexual relations will be free, and there will be no room for prostitution.
2.1. Wage labor and individual freedom
We find in the Communist Manifesto two fundamental questions that can’t be ignored by any communist, because these ideas are essential to our principles. Those two questions are: the denunciation of bourgeois freedom as a false notion of freedom, and the abolition of private property. From our point of view both of those questions are closely linked to the debate on prostitution that is so vividly maintained today, and we cannot and should not lost sight of them at any time if we want to approach this issue from a perspective according to our principles:
“In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in Communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality. And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at. By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying. But if selling and buying disappears, free selling and buying disappears also. This talk about free selling and buying, and all the other “brave words” of our bourgeois about freedom in general, have a meaning, if any, only in contrast with restricted selling and buying, with the fettered traders of the Middle Ages, but have no meaning when opposed to the Communistic abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production, and of the bourgeoisie itself. You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society. In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend” (Manifesto of the Communist Party, K. Marx and F. Engels).
We communists fight for the abolition of wage labor, as it is understood in capitalism – that is, based on the exploitation of one class by another. One can’t be a communist if they do not assume this elementary principle, since the struggle against it, against the private property of the means of production, is the foundation to destroy the economic base of the system that oppresses us and, with it, all the superstructure raised to reproduce and justify it.
As said in the Communist Manifesto, “freedom” treated as an individual right is a means to attack the struggle against any oppression, and is nothing more than the result of bourgeois morality. It is the ideological justification needed to perpetuate the system of exploitation in which we live, because “in bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.” For the communists, freedom is the understanding of the needs of our class, and in this sense we defend the end of all exploitation, the end of wage labor, and the destruction of moral and individual “liberties” that are set above the collective well being. Without this defense, there is no revolutionary subject to guide the struggle.
The communists defend that, given that the society in which we live is alienating to the working class – through all the ways it oppresses us – there is no free choice in our class. Thus, it is not proper for our class to defend a false individual “freedom” that is above freedom and collective rights. To deny this would be to deny Marxism. To deny this is to advocate that the struggle would be doomed to fail.
In capitalism the only freedom that exists is the freedom for the bourgeoisie to exploit, plunder, trade and dominate. The working class does not make decisions freely, as it lacks this supposed “individual freedom,” despite the fact that the dominant ideology is determined to use it as a symbol against the struggle for collective rights.
The fact that the people of our class have only their labor as tool for survival deprives us of ability to decide. The basic needs in this system are bought with money, which is why indecent wages, abuses, dismissals and exploitation are endured. And it is no coincidence, much less the result of “individual freedom,” that prostitution increases substantially in times and places where the dominated class is worse off economically, which become tourist destinations whose main attraction is prostitution, exercised mostly by poor women and girls from countries dependent on and/or affected by imperialist wars.
To deny or ignore the structural reality in which working class people find themselves, to deduce then that what they do or don’t do are free and individual decisions, is the maximum subterfuge of liberalism itself. Liberalism justifies it in the same way as other forms of savage exploitation exercised by the bourgeoisie. For example, the fact that Bangladeshis sew clothes and are exploited for Amancio Ortega in a factory for 18 hours a day, becomes an individual decision under the argument of imperialism: “better that than nothing” because they have decided “freely” and at not gunpoint. The reality is that for the workers the gun is precisely the capitalist structure: either you sell your labor force, or you die.
It is therefore fundamental to dissociate salaried work and individual freedom of choice in capitalism from any idea of freedom for women workers. Therefore, it would be a great error of principle to exclude prostitutes from this logic, and to treat them as if they were not also women of working-class origin, for whom the same principles apply as for the rest. Since we are talking about working women, and not of Martians or of any other species, we understand that they also perform an alienating and exploitative work and that it would be a real fallacy to see them as only exercising their individual freedom, contradicting the rest of our analysis.
2.2. Prostitution and the primitive accumulation
It is not surprising that at the end of the 15th Century and the beginning of the 16th Century,when during the full-swing of original accumulation there was a “price crisis,” there was a very important upsurge of prostitution in all the countries of Western Europe (“Caliban and the Witch,” Silvia Federici). In those last stages of feudalism, when the dominated class fought for improvements against the feudal class, prostitution was a weapon of the nascent European nation-states to curb class struggles, dividing the oppressed class.
During this time, prostitution was declared as a “public service,” used as a weapon of ideological control. Men were offered and even guaranteed access to sex – that is, to women – to distract them from the “worker” and peasant struggles, which endangered the power of the ruling class. The brothels controlled by the nascent states were normalized and women were used as sexual tools, enslaved for pleasure, not only by the landlords, but by their own class brothers, accelerating the process of the objectification of women. Then began a gradual process of the commodification of women’s bodies that transformed them from being political subjects to become commodities, something that we can easily recognize looking around us today. Therefore, as from the very beginning in capitalist modernity, prostitution was an institutionalized element, and we can see how important it is for the dominant ideology (patriarchal and capitalist) that this profession exists and, of course, that it be exercised by women. It is at that moment when women stop being partners in struggle that they are reduced to being just a half of what they are.
2.3. Prostitution and imperialism
It is not surprising that the prostitution business in the imperialist countries mainly feeds on migrant women, profiting especially from the exploitation of their bodies. These are legally unprotected women, with few or nonexistent support networks, usually sustaining their families materially in their countries of origin and, in many cases, have been either deceived and forced to migrate in search of a better life or by conditions of war and/or misery. Because of that, they become particularly vulnerable subjects, whose presence are considered illegal in Western countries (which is used as a pretext for lack of protection by the State), and are denied the possibility of returning to their countries of origin, since normally their migration is forced by circumstances caused by imperialism. This situation makes it easier for capital to take another step in its exploitation, to use the sexuality of these women for its own purposes.
We also can’t forget that the Spanish State has an imperialist character that is reflected in prostitution, as it exploits other countries and its women, allowing and encouraging trafficking in women. We see how workers from all over the world are deceived with the pretense of a better life, a stable job, and that some women who flee their countries because of the imperialist conflicts are involved in deals with mafias, which means that once arrived, they are forced to prostitute themselves or are sold or introduced into the pornography industry.
Thus, it is not surprising that most of the prostitutes in the Spanish State are working women from dependent countries: Eastern Europe, Latin America, poor countries of Asia and Africa… Assuming that prostitution is never a free choice, for these trafficked women it becomes a circle from which they can never leave under the threat of death, expulsion from the country, extortion with drugs, etc. In this context, poor women and LGBTI people from dependent countries, where they are persecuted because of their identity or sexual orientation, are also forced to prostitute themselves. These people are prostituted to enrich international capital, as well as to benefit men from all social classes of the imperialist countries, who consume the bodies of the exploited.
On the other hand, despite having a large number of migrant women, social perception – translated into concrete politics – continues to consider migrants as “men,” only focusing on the problems that affect them. Even today, the persecution and violence towards women has not been accepted as a cause of asylum request, while it should. If the violence that forces them to flee is normative violence in their countries of origin, it isn’t taken into account as a case of protection for political reasons. In this framework, therefore, migrant women are already considered second-class migrants, without access to social policies that reinterpret and address the causes of migration and ensure adequate attention, thus pushing them, even more forcefully and violently, to poverty and with it, often to the practice of prostitution for survival.
Therefore, it is logical that the issue of prostitution (which affects mainly women) is treated by the liberal and bourgeois parties as something alien to our societies. It is mostly not native women who prostitute themselves, but women who are treated as second class migrants – poor, condemned by imperialism, and therefore without formal and informal rights.
3. Prostitution and the patriarchal ideology
Prostitution and the oppression of women are two sides of the same coin, and one of the most inhumane manifestations of the patriarchal system. It is a fallacy that women “decide” to prostitute themselves and that their decision is the fruit of their sexual freedom. Rather, we should talk about the lack of alternatives resulting from the prevailing brutal capitalism that feeds on an “army” of women, who are sold for pennies as commodities in the labor market, thus preventing any instability of the established order, since prostitution is a necessary institution in it. As Engels said, “in the modern world monogamy and prostitution are indeed contradictions, but inseparable contradictions, poles of the same state of society.”
The existence of prostitution not only responds to specific relations in the capitalist and imperialist economic framework, but it is also the product of gender relations, in which a structure of abuse and submission of women takes place. We can’t therefore deprive prostitution of a gender analysis and reduce it to a simplistic class scheme. That men, legally or illegally, in one way or another, can materially access the bodies, the services and the sexuality of women has unquantifiable consequences both ideologically and materially, both for men and women. Rape, sexual abuse, harassment, even murder – are some of the forms of violence that women suffer as a result of the misogynistic and patriarchal culture. On the other side, we find the construction of a masculine gender that is reinforced by exercising this violence on women.
It would be reductionist to think that only the economic benefit obtained from prostitution is the reason why the capitalist system not only maintains it, but promotes it, either in an open or hidden way. To “sell” the body of women, to objectify them in such a way, is not a right, but an obligation that women have been forced into throughout history due to having been separated from wage labor. As we pointed out earlier, this economic mechanism underpins and reinforces a patriarchal ideology that divides and weakens the working class, stopping our advance towards communism.
As we said, prostitution cannot be understood without an economic perspective; the system generates profits and depends on the sexual activity of women, but it does not help them to obtain economic independence from men, but quite the opposite. The double oppression – economic and ideological – of prostitution can be seen in the relationship, on the one hand, of the pimp, who embodies the relationship of economic power and exploitation, and on the other, that of the consumer man – the client, who embodies the patriarchal power relationship. In both relationships the woman is humiliated, intimidated, raped, physically and psychologically attacked, etc. Both figures are not divorced from each other, since the pimp often also accesses the body of the prostitute free of charge as a form of discipline, or even as a form of relief or simply as sexual desire; and equally the client pays (economic aspect) as a way of laundering a patriarchal sexual relationship.
3.1 Prostitution as an interclass pact
A not insignificant question regarding the institution of prostitution is that it is a business of exploitation which the working class men access as beneficiaries, sharing privileges with the bourgeois. It aims to create an interclass sense of power, which encourages bourgeois thinking among the working class, creating an illusory sense of social and political power. Prostitution represents a market that supports and helps regulate the consequences of capitalist crises in the working class. It strengthens patriarchal domination, contributes in maintaining the interclass pact between men and reinforces the ideology of the bourgeoisie. In short, it normalizes exploitation within our class. And through its political arm, the bourgeois parties, based on the defense of bourgeois freedom, this exploitation is legislated and legitimized. Besides, it contributes to the division of the working class as a political subject by generating two categories: subject-men and object-women (or potential object). It enriches the former by giving access to the object/service that is the latter. So we can say that patriarchy divides the working class, strengthening patriarchal domination.
3.2 Prostitution and gender violence
To understand what we are facing, prostitution requires an analysis of its role in gender relations and economic relations. Thus, we say that the economic-patriarchal structure in which prostitution is inserted is inherently violent. This violence falls on each and every one of the women who live in patriarchy in a specific way based on the conditions in which we live.
The specific conditions that affect women who practice prostitution cause them to suffer from specific violence that continues to be gender-based. To ignore this would be to fall into idealism, without taking into account the concrete conditions of the prostitutes, abandoning them in the struggle against patriarchal violence.
Some of the consequences of the patriarchal violence that women face in the context of prostitution are:
– Post-traumatic stress disorder: According to a study by the American Psychological Society, 68% of prostitutes suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, “82% had been assaulted during the exercise of their profession; 88% suffered physical threats, and up to 68% had been raped. The daily fear faced by women who live off of sex, due to the abuse and humiliation they may suffer, adds to the ghosts of the past: 57% of them acknowledged having suffered sexual abuse during childhood.”
– Sexually transmitted diseases: Bear in mind that if that if the same security measures were to be required for the exercise of prostitution as for any other work, the exercise of prostitution would be unfeasible.
– Unwanted pregnancies, abortions… and the subsequent cost for women’s bodies.
– Difficulty to join the labor market, which facilitates the possibility of falling back into prostitution-trafficking.
– Drug use to cope with sexual violence.
– Tears, hemorrhages and other genital lesions.
4. Assessment on some opinions that we do not share
4.1. On human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation
A very frequent approach when debating about prostitution is to ignore issues such as human trafficking or child prostitution. But we defend that this postulate is neither valid, nor representative, nor is it Marxist, given that it does not address the de facto reality of existing prostitution, but instead focuses the debate on abstract ideas or assumptions, in situations which are non-existent or so non-representative that it would be against dialectical materialism to give credence to them, instead of the real tendency, and pretend to analyze reality based on them.
Although there is no consensus or official data on the percentage of trafficking in the practice of prostitution, there is some preliminary data that indicates that the majority of prostitutes practice prostitution against their will (NGO Anesvad Report). Is it Marxist to analyze what’s anecdotal to suggest that what is actually the minority represents the overall reality? Of course, it is not Marxist, but quite the opposite. A biased view of reality, which takes what is anecdotal in order to extrapolate it, instead of the structural and majority, is against any scientific view of reality. Defending this vision would be like stating that capitalism does not exploit the working class, because there is a layer of it that lives well or has good salaries.
It is also clearly a first world vision of prostitution that, by obscuring trafficking from the debate on regulation, takes entire countries off the map in which the “rights” and “freedom” of prostitutes – and of women in general – are completely non-existent. In these terms, it seems to us that the regulatory positions are anti-materialist and reformist deviations, in the end defending the interests of patriarchy and capital. Thus the regulationist positions exclude the great majority of working women and therefore they advance in a way contrary to our interests.
Another issue to be highlighted, and one that is rarely heard in debates about trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, is that this practice tends to be exercised over people and groups structurally oppressed by the capitalist mode of production. On one hand, patriarchal capitalism displaces a large part of the people belonging to the LGTBI community, particularly trans women, from the production, exposing them to situations of extreme vulnerability and dependency. Many of these people who are forced to leave or are expelled from their homes because they are not socially accepted, end up being caught by trafficking networks in the field of sexual work and slavery. It is the same situation of vulnerability lived by women from oppressed countries who are forced to flee their countries and end up falling into the hands of traffickers who exploit them sexually. Therefore, as Marxists, we must be aware of the racial, class and gender components of human trafficking and we cannot remain in the bounds of superficial reformist analysis.
Therefore, we defend the premise that human trafficking is part of the debate insofar as it is a majority reality and as the victims of it are the most exploited and central to this issue. To deny this is to start a debate about a reality, ignoring and leaving the most exploited people to their fate. To ignore trafficking in the debate about prostitution is to create the idea of an ideal prostitution, divorced from those who live the real prostitution as if they, the most oppressed, are not part of our feminist and communist struggle.
4.2. The regulationist approach and sexual liberation
The role of the sexual activity of women in prostitution is to serve masculine satisfaction, as it is not a free activity, regardless of whether the woman wishes it (in the great minority of cases), and it is also subject to all the economic and patriarchal factors that we see. Thus, prostitution generates and at the same time feeds on a sexist culture that condemns half of the population to exist for someone else, generating an inherently violent structure towards women.
The dialectical relationship and the interdependence that exists between prostitution and patriarchal violence makes it quite difficult to imagine that in this society women can develop free and genuine sexual activity, that would therefore has no patriarchal roles or purpose. It is not for us to decide what women’s sexuality will be like in a future, alternative or communist society, but it is up to us to analyze the causes and consequences of prostitution, as well as the enormous impact it has on women’s sexuality and on our lives in our society.
Regulationist positions tend to attack the supposed moralism of abolitionism, which treats sex as a taboo, as something morally restrictive, or as a sacred activity. We must bear in mind that abolitionists not only do not consider sex a taboo, but that by advocating for the abolition of prostitution, we fight for women’s sexual freedom as much as the regulationists do. Having said that, let’s consider these questions: does engaging in prostitution mean achieving sexual liberation? Does it mean that you have reached a point where you enjoy sex freely and voluntarily? Then why don’t all feminists devote themselves to prostitution?
Consider first that, as a whole, feminists fight for, among many other issues, a freedom that allows us to enjoy sexual relationships that we want without being criticized or stigmatized by society, as we do in patriarchy. However, men already enjoy a position of superiority by which they can have sex freely and even be praised for it. If prostitution was related to sexual liberation, shouldn’t men be the majority gender dedicated to this profession? Why aren’t they? It might be because prostitution has nothing to do with sexual liberation. The fight for women’s sexual freedom leads to a path that is contrary to their objectification.
Bear in mind that it is not only that men don’t usually do this job, but are also the ones who pay for these services. This generates a relationship of economic power of men over women, which is concretized by being able to “own” women, and which only reinforces the existing relationship determined by patriarchy in society. Women are objectified and reduced to the category of items, denying them the right to decide what happens to their own bodies (use of condoms, forced abortions, imposed sexual practices and positions, etc.). Men boast about “picking up whores,” while women who practice this profession are stigmatized. This relationship in society is taught and perpetuated, and we are shown daily that the culmination of the relationship of power of man over women takes place when he can have sex with them, achieving complete “possession” of them.
We are aware that there are women who may be “voluntarily” exercising prostitution, but this does not imply freedom, but simply naturalizing their need to prostitute themselves. In the same way the working class is exploited and the majority would never recognize it as exploitation. We, as Marxists, do not analyze the world based on the individual vision that people have of their reality, but the material and structural reality through the prism of Marxist science.
We can argue, from the abolitionist stance, that regulationism is therefore a moral position, but of bourgeois morality, where it seeks to justify through the discourse of “individual freedom” – the mantra of liberalism – one of the strongest forms of exploitation of women as workers and as women.
4.3 Sexual assistance
Another form that has taken up the defense of prostitution for a few years and that shelters in the most rancid patriarchal ideology, is one that considers the sexual activity of men and their desires a necessity. We often find this argument in the debate on sexual assistance for disabled people. That is, a person (coincidentally a man) is presented as incapable of having sexual relations if it is not through a “sexual assistant” (coincidentally a woman) who accepts providing this service.
One of its most visible, though not the only, expressions was the “Yes, we fuck” movement that presented prostitution as a way of guaranteeing the right of men with disabilities to have access to sex, thus utilizing society’s sensitivity towards people with disabilities for the whitewashing of prostitution. However, this is nothing more than a way to use a group that is normally ignored to present prostitution as little more than an NGO that provides a “humanitarian service.” Nevertheless, we see how women’s bodies again become a guaranteed right of men.
In addition, this way of thinking is enormously paternalistic towards people with disabilities, presupposing that they are incapable of establishing sexual links on their own. And what is more important, it completely ignores disabled women. It ignores their perception of sexuality, and ignores the fact that throughout their lives many of them suffer sexual abuse by men who believe they have a right to access their bodies.
Also, we cannot fail to note that this argument defending “sexual assistance” that tries to convince us of the social need of prostitution, is the kind of argument that claims that the existence of prostitution prevents rape. Leaving aside that it assumes that if a woman is a prostitute she cannot be raped (if you are a whore, who cares if you want or do not want to fuck? That’s what you’re there for), both arguments agree in portraying the sexual desire of men as a natural and inescapable need that must be satisfied socially. Therefore, it is society that must establish in what way, through what channels, those sexual “needs” will be satisfied. That is to say, the question is how to regulate men’s access to women’s bodies, making this access unquestionable.
4.4 And what about the clients?
As Iniciativa Comunista, we firmly defend that a communist cannot be a client. How can someone who is fine with buying sexual services, meaning using a woman’s body in exchange for money, then treat her as his equal, as his comrade? The man who picks up whores will be affected in how he perceives women, so he won’t treat women comrades as equals. That means that if he is a client, then he is not a communist, as he exploits, rape and exercises violence against his class sisters. Having clients in our ranks and believing that they are our comrades only serves to divide our organizations, weakening the progress of our struggle.
5. How we approach abolitionism
As Iniciativa Comunista, we understand that the abolition of prostitution means the historical overcoming of the system that originates it: the class society, produced by a capitalism that shelters a patriarchal order to be able to guarantee its own survival. From our abolitionist stance, based on class feminism, we consider that it is us, meaning all the women as a political subject, who have the legitimacy to speak about prostitution and to define a position regarding it. This is because, as we have been developing throughout the text, it is the patriarchal division of the capitalist class society that reinforces modern prostitution. This does not negate the fact that there is, although numerically very inferior, prostitution of men and children (especially from dependent countries). However, it is crucial to understand that the client is always a man, who is the one who is granted the right to access through paid sex to the bodies that are socially positioned below him. We won’t debate on the exceptions to this, as they also have an absolutely anecdotal characteristic. Therefore, only the liberation of women through the destruction of patriarchy can put an end to the institution, which is prostitution.
This does not mean that we exclude women who are in a situation of prostitution. As an integral part of the working class, we understand that they are subject to their own liberation (as are the rest of us), in addition to being able to carry out partial struggles focused on improving their own situation (as do the rest of us). Thus we must pay special attention in the development of the abolitionist struggle and the concrete demands of this group, which embody the manifestations of what we have discussed. We want to emphasize, however, that this does not mean falling into the idealization of prostitution promoted at all times by petit-bourgeois regulationist movements, that gives voice to a prostitute profile that we consider to be very minor: the one that is satisfied with her work, who has voluntarily chosen prostitution from among other options and who enjoys a comfortable economic situation, who is white and cultured, who chooses her clients, etc. On the contrary, we consider that listening to the voice of prostitutes involves listening to the prostitutes, the most exploited among the oppressed, and realizing that they, like us, are part of the same revolutionary subject, that their liberation and ours walk the same path, and that our struggle and theirs is the same. Women and prostitutes are not separate entities.
For all this, the attempts to ridicule the abolitionist position by portraying us as fanatical prohibitionists or street persecutors of prostitutes is alien to us. When we defend the correctness of a revolution, are we calling on people to go out on the streets tomorrow, rifles on shoulders? When Western communists say we want to end imperialist exploitation in India, are we making the call forpeople to renew their passports to go and fight there as soon as possible? To present the abolitionist stance in such a ridiculous way is nothing more than a reformist and reductionist stance; the same stance that the social democratic parties use to claim that communism is “impossible” or that is “antiquated,” which is nothing more than a way to justify their sold-out policies and taking part in the capitalist system. It is the same reformist ideology that makes us often hear that ridiculous phrase, “Oh then you should go to the mountains and start shooting.”
For communists any ideological principle, any strategic goal, implies a tactic that will depend on a concrete analysis of concrete conditions. Isn’t it true that communists support trade-unions despite the fact that our aim is to abolish the reason of their existence? We defend walking towards the end of prostitution, which implies an entire path with a thousand nuances and infinite contradictions that we must resolve by analyzing the situation on our own journey. The abolitionist standpoint has its own tactics, as do all the struggles that we as Marxist-Leninists defend and champion.
Equally we cannot forget that these tactics and concrete struggles cannot be defined as individuals, with intellectual arrogance, or from the comfort of our homes. No one will end prostitution by writing polemics, or columns in newspapers, or in study circles. Advancing towards the end of prostitution, as well as deciding on the most appropriate tactics of struggle and carrying them out, or overcoming the contradictions that we are aware of and are reflected in this text, can only occur collectively. To advance individually is pure illusion. Only being organized allows us to equip ourselves with the necessary tools to analyze, confront and advance. That is why we firmly believe that only by organizing ourselves and directing our efforts towards the creation of the Party will we be able to take firm steps towards the end of prostitution, patriarchy and class society.
Therefore, we believe that only through the organization can we carry out a truly effective struggle against the commodification of our bodies, and against the advancement of a capitalism that penetrates us by stripping us of our humanity and using us as part of the game that capitalists have created to continue enriching themselves. Therefore, we feel like an inescapable need to organize ourselves around the tools that are our own as a class and as a gender, if we want to stop this criminal offensive that condemns us to exploitation, or converts us into commodities at its will.