Filed under: Action, Anarchist Movement, Anti-Patriarchy, Community Organizing, Featured, Health Care, Publication, Southeast, The State
Both a report from an autonomous intervention and mobilization in so-called Asheville, North Carolina and a copy of a text that was distributed.
On the evening of Tuesday, May 3rd, hundreds of community members in so-called Asheville, NC turned out for an emergency rally in response to the US Supreme Court’s forthcoming decision to overturn Roe v Wade. Mainstream media coverage of the rally can be found here.
News from Asheville: On Authoritarians & Abortions
Promotional materials for the event, organized by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), featured almost identical language to other party events taking place across the country. The trans-exclusionary framing of a “war on women” immediately generated objections on the local chapter’s social media, and during a public exchange on Instagram, one PSL organizer suggested that trans people are “collateral damage” and cautioned that being “inclusive” would “come at the expense of de-centering women from their struggle” (an alarmingly ill-informed assertion that reflects a lack of engagement with the theory or practice of reproductive justice). The comments were later removed, but in response, a trans-inclusive group of local organizations—including Mountain Area Abortion Doula Collective, We Keep Us Safe, OYE Collective, Asheville for Justice, Asheville Socialist Rifle Association, Hellbender, and Firestorm Books—chose to organize their own “Abortion Resource & Info Popup.” This popup took place in parallel to the PSL rally in downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park.
Tonight in #Asheville! This event is taking place at the same time (6:30pm) and location (Pritchard Park) as the emergency protest announced by PSL. But it is independently organized by queer and trans folks. pic.twitter.com/ycBGZUr3z3
— Firestorm Books (@FirestormCoop) May 3, 2022
The size of the crowd ultimately made the two events indistinguishable and popup participants took the rally mic multiple times without incident. But a growing number of Asheville activists are expressing frustration with the space taken up by PSL and the organization’s history of asserting leadership in areas where it has no expertise and doesn’t do community organizing. To educate rally attendees about the PSL, anarchists distributed a flyer titled “Why Fascists, Authoritarians, and Theocrats Are the Enemies of Reproductive Freedom.” During and after the event we were able to hand materials directly to individuals who were being recruited, individuals who likely had no idea PSL is a Stalinist organization that operates in ways antithetical to liberation.
As we distributed our fliers we asked rally attendees if they were aware that Stalin had banned abortion—most were not. Asked the same question, one PSL member replied simply, “that’s unfortunate.”
Why Fascists, Authoritarians, and Theocrats Are the Enemies of Reproductive Freedom
Within hours of the publication of a US Supreme Court decision overturning constitutional protections for abortion, protests were announced in cities across the so-called United States. Many of these calls to action were issued by the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), a neo-Stalinist political organization infamous for both its abhorrent positions and its attempts to hijack grassroots social movements.* So what is the relationship between authoritarianism and reproductive freedom?
Although much of the “abortion debate” in the United States is framed around religiosity, legislative attempts to compel childbirth have always been driven by economics. Governments view pregnancy not as an individual choice but as the mechanism by which society produces future workers and taxpayers. When declining birth rates led Soviet leader Joseph Stalin to ban abortion in 1936, he was clear: compulsory motherhood was “a great and honorable duty” that was “not a private affair but one of great social importance.”
Such overt talk of individual sacrifice might not play well to a US audience, but anxiety over declining birth rates (and particularly white birth rates) is the quiet part that politicians occasionally say out loud. In the mid-1970s, as the birth rate began to drop, a new coalition emerged at the crossroads of white supremacy, patriarchy, and Christianity. Just as Soviet planners understood that the nation’s economic capacity was tied to population, capitalists saw a reduced and aging citizenry as a threat to their profits—and ability to pursue imperialist wars abroad. “Family values,” then, is not so much about morality as it is about the central role of the heterosexual family in reproducing a workforce and imprinting the values of the patriarchal state, be it capitalist or socialist.
The Fight for Reproductive Freedom is a Fight between our Desire for Bodily Autonomy and the State’s Desire for Control
Domestic abortion bans aim to promote the economic well-being of elites at the expense of survival for working-class people, particularly BIPOC women and trans people who have less access to wealth and greater vulnerability to legal consequences (consequences that are all but absent for elites themselves). Whether for private enrichment or national ambition, we must reject attacks on our most foundational freedom—the freedom to make choices about our own bodies.
Governments can’t grant us bodily autonomy, they can only take it away. No politician or party is qualified for leadership in this struggle, least of all an organization like PSL that has proven itself ready to ally with the most reactionary and patriarchal political elements. Like their fascist and theocratic counterparts, authoritarians on the Left are no friend to our freedom.
Despite Justice Alito’s claim that “abortion is not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and traditions,” abortion care predates the settler-colonial state he serves and will persist long after it has crumbled. Effective action requires us to know this history, and differentiate between those embodying its legacy and those who seek to exploit it. Across the country, grassroots abortion funds and mutual aid organizations are already fighting back and creating infrastructure for a post-Roe reality. We hope you’ll join them!
Mountain Area Abortion Doula Collective – mtnabortiondoula.co
National Network of Abortion Funds – abortionfunds.org
Abortion Resource Kit – tinyurl.com/AbortionResourceKit
Abortion Pills Online – plancpills.org
Shout Your Abortion – shoutyourabortion.com
* The PSL consistently sides with “anti-imperialist” authoritarians against movements for workers’ power or democratic rights. In recent years, this has included support for Bashar al-Assad, Kim Jong-un, and Vladimir Putin. It is well documented that party leaders have engaged in genocide denial, collaborated with fascists, and conspired to cover up sexual abuse within their party.