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Mozambique, Socialist Revolution and Patriarchy

Sandra Lindberg

Mozambique, Socialist Revolution and Patriarchy


By Sandra Lindberg

For the Feminist Ecosocialist Thread on the SCNCC Forum

Revolution, socialist or communist revolution or even a return to the tepid rate of change offered by Progressive politics in the US will not necessarily improve the lives of women in the US. Why? Because patriarchy precedes and continues to inform all of these socio-political and economic methods.

People sometimes ask me why I'm off in the weeds demanding that the cancer of patriarchy be addressed front and center before we design any so-called revolution.

I challenge the people on this list: aren't most of the conversations about strategy and theory dominated by male voices? Aren't there times when the women on this list simply choose not to post because they will immediately be corrected, chided, or gently educated by men on the list who wish them well even as they presume to put their ideas in front of the observations offered by women determined enough to post their perspectives? And if one adds further complexities to the discussion by attempting to describe how gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or social class further complicates the lives of those who identify as women--well, the corrections from some male voices will come even more swiftly.

When I find material that validates my forays into the weeds, I can't help but cheer.

Thank you Monthly Review for publishing "Memories of Mozambique" byStephanie Urdang (an excerpt from her recently released memoire, Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa, Monthly Review Press, Nov. 2017). Urdang recounts her trips to Mozambique after a socialist revolution. While clearly hoping the country will find a way to bring an empowering socialist revolution to all the people, Urdang also describes how patriarchal revolutionary leadership subjects women to terrible hardship after the revolution. In the 1980's new Mozambique, women who are labeled to be without useful employment are rounded up and put into work camps. There they encounter the sorry tradition of patriarchal oppression in its many forms:

1) At Unango we interviewed four young women who were accused of being prostitutes. Two, Maria and Presilhina, aged twenty-two and nineteen, told us, their tone breezy, their smiles bright, that they did not want to return to Maputo. They had recently married local men. Ana, wiping away tears from time to time, told us how much she missed her companeiro, her common-law husband, who was in the army. We never learned the name of the fourth young woman who sat staring down at her lap, looking traumatized and never saying a word.

2) At Lussanhanda, we met a forty-four-year-old widow, Gloria, whose story echoed what I had been told in Maputo about personal vendettas. She lived with her son, a policeman, and her habitually unemployed nephew, whom she had raised from infancy. When the brigade came to get him, he was not home, so they took his wife. When Gloria took food to the young woman, she too was detained. “Until we find your nephew,” she was told. They found him. She was not released. Gloria shifted uncomfortably as she told her story. Then she looked down and finally said, in a soft voice, that the problem was the chief of her neighborhood block. He made it clear that he wanted to sleep with her. She refused. He became a predator. She continued to deny his advances. Now that he had some power, he had happily abused it. It was he who sent her away.

When Urdang attempts to discuss some of the male leadership's assumptions about women and the work they do, she encounters the following exchange:

“I wonder whether we shouldn’t regard women’s work as productive even if it is unpaid,” I suggested. He responded in a voice that brooked no patience with my naïveté. “I say to you, and I insist on this point, that it is more important to earn the meat to put in the pot than to just stand waiting for the meat to come to the pot. You take from the pot what you put into the pot.”

Meat? The average Maputo family seldom had the means to buy meat. Women worked hard, performing all manner of domestic labor to put food of any kind “into the pot.”

Women on the SCNCC list, please speak your truth on the forum and the listserve. Do not simply hope for the goodwill and understanding of male comrades. We must acquaint them with our perspectives, with our hard-won and unique knowledge and skills, and with our insistence that any revolution will be no revolution at all without an end to patriarchy. Patriarchy is the friend of every social system under which we have struggled. Feudalism, capitalism, socialism: these would never be truly friendly to women until our passions, ideas and our lives are woven as strongly into any system as patriarchy's assumptions always are.

I offer here Frederick Douglass words from his address, "If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress" (1857):

This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both.

I write this post in-between stints at the hospital where my son struggles to recover from a serious accident. Though I hope with all my heart that this hospital will restore my son, I still have eyes. Male doctors breeze in and out ordering tests and procedures that are primarily performed by female nurses. The male doctors shout in my son's face and when he can't move a finger exactly at the time they have decided to show up, they question the observations I provide about the progress he is making. I'm his mother, they seem to say. She's not really capable of evaluating what is happening to him. The women nurses work 12 hour days, 3 days in a row and then have 4 days off. They have no union. The hierarchical system rarely asks the nurses for the knowledge they gather from their direct work with patients. I have watched as nurses and nurses aids bite their tongues rather than share an idea in group meetings. Meanwhile, patients are surrounded with plastic: tubing, pans, receptacles, syringes, bags .... evidence of how dependent the hospital has become on our fossil fuel culture. But those final observations are for another post.

For now, I implore you, those who identify as women, post and comment, insist and complain. We don't need husbands, guides, teachers. We need to demand partnerships in all aspects of our lives. We need to make clear every time theory will not be of benefit to us. Every time a tactic asks us yet again to take on an unequal burden of care-giving and activism, and providing emotional support for those males who insist on designing how we go about creating the new world. Every time we kindly work to understand where the patriarchy is coming from and how it's really trying to take care of us all, we hobble ourselves. The time for the patriarchy, whether capitalist or socialist, to understand the perspectives of over half the population on the planet that currently struggles under insanely unequal conditions has come. Women and feminist ecosocialists, start shouting.

I want a revolution. But it damn better be designed by all humans. Men currently in power are making a hash of it, frankly.

Back to ICU. I write today because how I contribute to my son's healing is work I will do as passionately as I can. But I can't leave this work in the larger world behind. I must help to bring a true revolution in hearts and minds. Urdang woke me up. I hope she does the same for you:

Memories of Mozambique | Stephanie J. Urdang | Monthly Review