So something I’m rather proud of even though there is no real way to take credit for it, is that I invented the term “Brocialist” which has started to become common usage on the Left. It was right after “Manarchist” was becoming popular and me and some people online were talking about an equivalent for the WSWS.org type sexist-socialists out there, so I suggested “Brocialist.” And the rest is history. Now by “invent” I should say that I came up with “Brocialist” independently and I had never heard the term used before that moment by anyone else. I fully acknowledge the possibility that someone else could have come up with it before I did, I just never heard it before then and have only seen it become used by others afterwards. Of course there is no way I can possibly prove that I invented “Brocialist” unless I want to dig through thousands of reddit threads and comments to find that discussion. But I’m glad to see that the term took off and is being used in the good work of calling out misogynists and male privilege in the socialist movements.
Cause as the utter implosion of the British Socialist Workers Party has shown these are very real and serious issues within the socialist movements world wide; brosocialism and the underplaying of the important issues of women’s oppression and feminism is pervasive and is a major problem. This can be seen on many levels, from the SWP’s mishandling of rape allegations (which with the recent resigning of the accused rapist Martin Smith from the SWP, things might finally be moving in the right direction there, but we’ll see), to the predominately white male dominated Socialist and Anarchist organizations generally, to all manner of sexist group and meeting dynamics, to the actual theoretical justification given by some brocialists for the dismissing of women’s oppression issues as “identity politics”, “middle class politics” and “divisive”.
Now as others have pointed out, it is true that many of the greats in the Marxist and Socialist tradition, as well as Anarchist tradition, have been women. Its not just all Marx, Engels and Lenin. But just think of all of the untold Rosa Luxemburgs, Alexandra Kollantais, Elizabeth Gurley Flynns and Clara Zetkins that there would have been if past socialist and community parties had dealt with their internal misogyny in a more serious and consistent way. There is a historic precedent here that needs to be combated against, to energetically make room for women, and all marginalized and oppressed identities and groups, in socialist organizations through active “privilege checking” and other means.
My starting point here is that I am in full agreement with the general Marxist and Socialist thesis that the unity of the working class through the overcoming of all its divisions of race, nationalities, genders, sexualities, religions and so on, to fight effectively against the ruling elite, is the goal. But it is the how which is the important part. How do you actually and effectively build that kind of working class unity. Cause you most certainly not do it by pretending that these real existing oppressions and privileges don’t exist. What oppressed person in their right mind would want to join and unite with others in a socialist or any other kind of organization that doesn’t acknowledge and treat their lived experiences of oppression with the utmost seriousness and a willingness to combat them.
We understand as Marxists that our material circumstances effect us psychologically. That is the whole basis of the idea of class consciousness. So why have some of us been so slow to acknowledge that the context of growing up in very real and different material circumstances of race, sexuality, gender and how they are treated under capitalism, can have a similar meaning to our consciousness? Contextual awareness is incredibly important in Marxism, as well as the best of identity politics and intersectionality theory, and the context of today is an incredibly oppressive society that effects different peoples differently.
For see we have to acknowledge the world that we live in and are organizing within. This is a world of the most disgusting levels of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, and more. We cannot pretend that we are immune to this context. All because you are a card carrying commie and have a Malcolm X t-shirt doesn’t mean you, or any of your comrades or your ‘party’ as a whole, are above the influences of this oppressive system that birthed you. Your red card isn’t a get out of privilege free card.
I’m obviously here not precluding solidarity or the very real need for cross race/gender/sexuality/etc alliances along class lines. I’m just pointing out the very real hurdles that need to be honestly confronted and overcome to do so. And if it means to prove yourself as an honest and sincere fighter of sexism and racism and all oppression and that you are taking these issues to heart, that you are actively “checking your privilege” by every thinkable means, while being humble about it and not expecting a frackin trophy for it, then so be it.
The revolutionary left – whether socialist, anarchist, communist – is still largely white and male. This is changing and rapidly getting better, but its still an important issue. To overcome it we need privilege checking and all other means to make safe spaces for all oppressed groups to develop their radical agency. All those white and male revolutionaries out there can become useful comrades in these struggles, not just mere “allies” but real fighting comrades. But to do so they need to overcome their own background, assumptions and privileges, and keep on doing so. Brocialism, like Manarchism, is an infectious disease that has to be constantly confronted and addressed. Some self-awareness on everyone’s part can go a long way in these regards.
This is just the beginning of this discussion. I can’t claim to be above the above criticisms or of even saying anything even all that original here. In fact I don’t even believe I’m capable of offering the final answer or program on this question, just to help keep the discussion going. Heck, if you noticed, I didn’t even really go into at all what “privilege checking” actually practically means and entails, that I do recommend readers do their own research on that. But anyway, Marxism is a living, breathing theory that must be in constant dialogue with the world and be open to change. And it is exciting to be part of a time when it would appear that Marxism as a theory is starting to stretch its wings again.