Power to the sisters and therefore the class!

As long as there has been the working class, women have been striking. From the textile mills of early industrial capitalism, to the agricultural fields, maquiladoras and sweatshops, and the stratospheric circuits of high-tech manufacturing of today, women have played a critical role in the struggle inside the “abode of production.” But they’ve also struggled outside the workplace, and pushed us to expand what we think work is and where it takes place in society.

In 1972, feminists in Italy launched a global campaign demanding wages for their housework. The message was clear: women, as housewives, are laborers and their labor is necessary to the full functioning of society. Therefore, they ought to be paid for their services. The demand was less about compensation and more about changing the way we think about housework, reproduction, and capitalist relations at a planetary scale. The apparently “naturalized” gendered relations that structure it are crucial terrains of struggle for fundamentally exposing and exploding the capitalist imposition of this work and therefore all work.

Two quotes from Silvia Federici’s landmark essay “Wages Against Housework” articulate this point:

“…not only has housework been imposed on women, but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character. Housework had to be transformed into a natural attribute rather than be recognized as a social contract because from the beginning of capital’s scheme for women this work was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfilling activity to make us accept our unwaged work.”

And later in the essay:

“If we start from this analysis we can see the revolutionary implications of the demand for wages for housework. It is the demand by which our nature ends and our struggle begins because just to want wages for housework means to refuse that work as the expression of our nature, and therefore to refuse precisely the female role that capital has invented for us.”

Today, as capital and its many reactionary formations—from liberal democratic to authoritarian and fascist regimes the world over—use violence and intimidation to overcome their own crises and attempt to roll back even the most modest gains made by the feminist movement of the last several decades, women everywhere are saying they won’t go quietly back to their "hidden sphere." They're taking to the streets, the squares, and their neighborhoods in protest not just against a devastating gendered and racialized wage gap, but in order to refuse the exploitation and oppression inherent in the very wage/unwage hierarchy that suppresses all working class activity.

Common Notions supports the international women's strike and offers our publications to anyone looking to deepen their understanding of today’s women's strike and its history. The autonomist feminists we've had the good fortune of working with have produced groundbreaking analyses of the various mediations of women and capital, from the welfare state to the current global division of reproductive labor.

You can read more about these powerful women and their work on our website:

Sex, Race, and Class: The Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952–2011 by Selma James

Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle by Silvia Federici

Family, Welfare, and the State: Between Progressivism and the New Deal by Mariarosa Dalla Costa

Autonomist Feminist Publications

Students, Immigrants, and Sanctuary Campus Movement: The Struggle Against Debt and for a Living Wage

Guest post by George Caffentzis

After the massive demonstrations that followed the alleged Trump electoral victory, the first visible response to Trump’s ascendance to the presidency has been the Sanctuary Campus Movement now centered in more than a hundred university and college campuses around the US. The objective of this movement is to commit the college administrations to protect immigrant students, to refuse collaborating with the government in its plan to deport undocumented immigrants, and to provide material assistance to those facing deportation. 
In its moral and political foundations this campus-centered movement recalls the church-based sanctuary movement of the 1980s. But it is also driven by the struggle that in recent years have grown on campuses across the nation that have brought together students fighting against debt and for student unions with immigrant staff workers fighting for a living wage, both finding a more formal political expression in the common support for the Bernie Sanders campaign. 
A key reason for the increase in the attacks on immigrants (both through deportations and through “hate crimes” committed by the home-grown equivalent of paramilitaries) has been the fear of these movements and above all the fear of a recomposition between students and immigrants, who are often the same person. This is what has stimulated capitalists like Trump to launch a large-scale and vicious racist attack on immigrants and plan mass deportations. There is no doubt that the capitalist class wants immigrants in the country, but only if they accept a totally subordinate position and carry no social cost. The biggest calamity capitalists fear (much more than climate change!) is an across-the-board wage increase spearheaded by the lowest paid workers in the country. 
In the 1980s through the politics of mass incarceration the US establishment exorcized the threat of a Black revolution by putting behind bars the most combative sector of the US working class. Today they are countering the surge of immigrant struggle by planning the mass deportation of immigrants. They are indeed deporting the ‘immigrant revolution.’ It is tragic that many white workers have assisted this project, which is separating them from the very people they can rely upon to forward their interests. 

Students have filled the ranks of the minimum wage and living wage campaign, undoubtedly motivated by a sense of justice, but also by material considerations. Immigrant struggles have raised the bottom for all and increased all workers’ social power. The often-indebted students who joined living wage campaigns refused meritocracy as their goal, saw the destructive and divisive power of competition, and opened a powerful process of cooperation in the rejection of all new forms of servitude. 

The growing revolt against student debt, now averaging thirty thousand dollars per student, the increasing exploitation of unpaid student labor—through internships generating huge profits for employers—have also raised consciousness that school work is indeed work and now work that has to be paid for! 

Since the Occupy Movement highlighted the plight of indebted students, the demand for its abolition and for ‘wages for schoolwork’ (an established practice in Scandinavian countries) has circulated through the classrooms, creating a material connection with the immigrant struggle and practices of solidarity with the “Dreamers” movement. 

The New Sanctuary campus movement is not, then, an anomaly. It is the continuation and radicalization of a student movement that has been growing across the nation, highlighting the place of students, schoolwork, and schools in general in the capitalist organization of work and the need for students to ally with workers’ struggle. Thus, while the movement echoes religious themes, it is based on a principle of class justice: you must be paid for work you do and you must be paid a living wage. This is what immigrants are demanding. Trump’s instigated class terror will not silence this powerful demand. 
May the demand of the Sanctuary Campus Movement grow and help transform our universities, neighborhoods, cities, and shared continent into a sanctuary for all.

A couple of titles from Common Notions Press will provide some background: 

Wages for Students
Introduction by George Caffentzis, Monty Neill, and John Willshire-Carrera
Edited By Jakob Jakobsen, María Berríos, and Malav Kanuga
ISBN: 978-1-942173-02-1
Published September 1, 2016

The Debt Resisters' Operations Manual
Strike Debt
ISBN: 978-1-60486-679-7
Published: April 1, 2014

We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party
Mumia Abu-Jamal
ISBN: 978-1-942173-04-5
Published October 1, 2016



Former Black Panther’s Political Memoir “forges from the furnace of death row a moving, incisive, and thorough history” —Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

October 15th marks the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party. It also marks the publication of the new edition of We Want Freedom, Mumia Abu-Jamal’s award winning history of the Black Panthers. The world’s most renowned political prisoner, Mumia was only fifteen when he helped found the first Philadelphia branch of the Black Panther Party. Now as calls that Black lives matter grow louder, Mumia connects the historical dots between contemporary struggles and the Panthers’ demand for the “immediate end to police brutality and the murder of Black people.”

With a poetic voice and critical gaze, We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party combines memories of day-to-day life in the Party with rigorous analysis of the Black liberation struggle. Mumia challenges historians who claim that only the civil rights model was authentic, positioning the Black Panther Party as an ahistorical aberration. He brilliantly locates the Party in a centuries-long tradition of Black resistance, a legacy articulated in Kathleen Cleaver’s sharp introduction as a “disfavored history.” The roots of today’s struggles are brought to the surface time and again as Mumia examines the long history of resistance to slavery, racial politics in Philadelphia, and the FBI’s subversion of justice through COINTELPRO and earlier operations.

In an open, conversational style Mumia also remembers his personal experience as a Party member, placing the reader in the life of the average Black Panther. While many books on the Black Panther Party focus on the icons of the organization, We Want Freedom conveys the everyday grit, love, and dedication of the tens of thousands who called themselves Panthers.

An award-winning journalist, Mumia began his writing career as Lieutenant Minister of Information for the Philadelphia branch and for the Party’s national newspaper. Alice Walker describes Mumia as “a rare and courageous voice speaking from a place we fear to know.” He is regularly heard on a network of over 150 radio stations and at www.prisonradio.org.

After years of international protests, on December 18, 2001, the U.S. District Court overturned Mumia’s death sentence, but upheld his conviction. In 2012 Mumia was moved, for the first time, into general population, after almost thirty years on Death Row. That same year, the first edition of We Want Freedom became unavailable in the US with the closing of South End Press. Now, Common Notions is pleased to work with Mumia to bring out a new expanded edition and make this essential book available once again to readers and revolutionaries.

For more information, review copies and interview requests, contact Alexander Dwinell at alexander@commonnotions.org or Malav Kanuga at malav@commonnotions.org.

Quotes from Mumia Abu-Jamal on the fiftieth anniversary of the Black Panther Party

“It’s been fifty unbelievable years since Huey and Bobby typed out the Ten-Point Program and Platform of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. How many times in the last fifty years have you reread the Ten-Point Program and marveled at how grim the conditions still facing millions of Black people remain. Half a century and Black life still don’t matter. Let us join with our younger brothers and sisters and help build a freedom movement worthy of our fallen soldiers and our ancestors.” —Mumia Abu-Jamal author of We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party, October 10, 2016

“I think that in an age where Black Lives Matter is the greatest and biggest civil rights movement in decades, it’s time for people to learn from [the Black Panther Party], its high points, its low points, its mistakes, and its successes, because if you read the Ten-Point Program that Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton wrote in October 1966, it will startle you. It will shock you to see what hasn’t changed in fifty years.” —Mumia Abu-Jamal on Democracy Now!, October 7, 2016

We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party (New Edition)
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We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party

by Mumia Abu-Jamal

Order now for 25% off

We Want Freedom: A Life in the Black Panther Party (New Edition)
By Mumia Abu-Jamal, Introduction by Kathleen Cleaver
336 pages / October 2016
ISBN: 978-1-942173-04-5 paper $20

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