Oppression under capitalism takes many forms. It would be entirely incorrect and class reductionist to claim the only exercise of oppression in class society is that between the worker and capitalist. In fact, capitalism reproduces a host of repressive social relations including that of patriarchy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, national oppression etc. One generally under-examined oppressive apparatus is that of the ableist variety: encompassing all of the exclusionary, repressive, discriminatory, and detestable relations which those who are not physically-typical or neuro-typical often find themselves.

What we need is an organization of solidarity for all those who find themselves in such conditions so that we might direct this struggle against ableism within capitalism towards the general aim of social revolution and the construction of socialism.

The following was written by Elisa Lorde, and was originally posted here. All work is that of the original author and has been re-posted for education and discussion with the expressed consent of said person.

The social class system and inter-twinement of patriarchy embedded deeply with class contradictions need to be reanalyzed from the intersection of physical and mental health. Such an analysis requires the nascent analytical tools of proletarian feminism within Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. As proletarian feminism is being developed through intensive analysis of the various aspects of patriarchy within the history of class society founded in primitive accumulation, it is such that every known intersection of oppression must be addressed in order to develop the higher synthesis capable of emancipating every oppressed social grouping. A simple summary of proletarian feminism, which contains in itself contentious argument to several historic feminist and marxist trends, is that patriarchy is itself a base issue reified in the superstructure. Patriarchal oppression, under its concrete form in capitalism as it’s grown through each epoch of societal development, is exploitative in the base: reproductive labor being unpayable according to lacking surplus value production in the capital circuit, marital rape only recently recognizable due to marriage property contract, sexuality remains transactional in marriage’s complement of sex work and a globalized sex industry, the development of nations accorded national oppression under imperialism. This piece will tease out the manifestations of these systems of oppression on mental health without falling into the trap of bourgeois behavioral psychology, taking on an organic intellectualizing from within these intersections.

It is observable that the exploitative scheme of society leads to health issues when ones social behavior is outside the normative, and we also know as students of revolutionary science that these issues cannot come out of the superstructure alone – the productive forces behind ableist oppression are base issues. At the base we have the composition of the permanently unemployed and longterm residents of the reserve army of labor which reflects in the superstructure, on the job, through ableist discrimination damaging worker solidarity. Plain proletarian exploitation and theft of surplus value, as Marx has shown in his earlier writings on political economy in the Manuscripts, renders proletarians into animalistic creatures subsisting for shelter, food, and human comfort – workers experience traumas at the basic social level. With capitalism dominating the world political economy since at least 1848 through WWI, an environmental core of subsistence limited the creative potential of working peoples’ social formations. It’s no wonder we have the abusive bourgeoisie assigning disorders on personalities, on moods, on minds and sexuality. Deviations from a willing employability in the army of workers acts as detriment on the profit motive of private capitalist enterprises lending to the long term unemployed. Inability to function in legal subsistence leads easily to the subsistence schemes in the dangerous class of the lumpen. When every worker is judged on these abilities by the bourgeoisie, and effectively blacklisted through the state assignment of disability and “anti-discrimination,” where such workers wear the Scarlet Letter of Insane, the party must discontinue viewing social ailments as individual issues and instead as something affecting collectivity.

Physical limitations according to health affects practice and organizational approach for the party of the new type to handle correctly. It may be a safe assumption that every person in the masses handles a manifestation of patriarchy induced illness, physical and mental, which affects their ability to actualize as revolutionaries. The party, and so far in the US, pre party formations, must struggle to not side step these issues. It is easier to fall into a pattern of organizational gaslighting of mental illness and the other “hidden disabilities.” This is tailing the masses and their own individualized wellness programs which will weaken the party and ultimately we cannot serve the masses in this way. On the flip side of these contradictions, the party cannot act as psychologist or doctor on the masses – this is commandism which ultimates in cultism and personality driven politics. Our conduct must reflect an understanding of the problematics and liability these illnesses interject in organizing.

In order to serve the masses to the fullest, to concentrate their ideas and strengthen the intermediate, the party must keep anti patriarchy politics in command in the cadre. The party must show compassion for well-being while keeping current with bourgeois medical practice, with bourgeois Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as the advanced practice, informing the party’s role and education among the masses and especially as the nationally oppressed have limited access to mental health care. The party must also limit liability that weakens it, working with the ill and consciously deciding with the unwell their limit of performing partisanship on behalf of the masses. To develop these institutions a Patient’s Front within the greater collectivity must be sanctioned and allowed a decision shaping potentiality. This task falls to proletarian feminism as the institution capable of analyzing how and responding to the primary contradiction of patriarchy manifested through synthesis of materialist intersectionality.

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  1. As a parent of someone with borderline personality disorder who is also close to Maoism, I thought this was brilliant.

    I am also coming to believe that intersectionality can make a very valuable contribution to our analysis of society. The inclusion of mental and physical health into the intersectional matrix is thus a positive and enriching input.

    With regard to MTW generally, intersectionality provides a method for incorporating anti-oppression struggles into First world activism whilst also enabling distinctions to be made between relatively privileged workers in the First world and those of the Third world that could also become part of the intersectional matrix.

    Your use of the term Patient Front calls to mind the SPK (who are still going) is this intentional?

    If ‘illness is a weapon’ what are your thoughts on events like mad pride which I think draw on a similar tradition?



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Feminism, Theory, US/Canada


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