COUNTERPUNCH
AUGUST 1, 2022

Why is “the Left” Red-Baiting Rise Up for Abortion Rights on the Eve of Fascist Destruction?

BY PAUL STREET

There’s nothing new in United States history about the slanderous demonization of those who step up and fight to make a better world from the bottom up. From at least the Molly Maguires (1870s) and the Haymarket Martyrs (1880s) through the rise of the House Un-American Activities in the late 1930s, the 1950s McCarthy terror, and the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO war on Black and New Left leaders during the 1960s and 1970s to Donald Trump’s description of George Floyd protesters as “radical Left terrorists who want to destroy our country,” those who lead the struggle for progress have long been subject to smears that encourage and justify repression.

Libelous Red Baiting and “Cult”-Charging

Still, it’s bracing and a little bizarre in 2022 to see an anti-Communist jihad launched from “the left” (see below) against an organization that has been fighting to defend something commonly identified with mainstream liberalism: the right to an abortion.

I am referring to recent attacks directed at Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR), the organization that has led the struggle against the Christian Fascist war on women’s right to control their own reproductive lives. Each of the charges made against the organization is false and libelous, including preposterous and baseless claims of financial corruption, anti-transgenderism, anti-gayness, indifference to the need for abortion services, and indifference to the plight people caught up in the horror of prostitution (what some liberal progressives offensively call “sex work”).

None of the false claims made against RU4AR is more provocative and chilling than the claim that it is nothing more than a “front group” for the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which is in turn described as “a cult” under the spell of Bob Avakian.

The “evidence” for this accusation consists of the facts that one of the group’s three co-founders, Sunsara Taylor, is an open RCP leader and Avakian follower, and that RCP members (“recvoms”) have been visible and vocal at RU4AR rallies.

The “communist front” claim is a ridiculous insult to Taylor, who makes no effort to hide her politics. It is an even bigger affront to RU4AR’s other two esteemed feminist founders, neither of whom are revolutionary communists and both of whom are capable of picking movement allies with eyes open: the legendary founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center Merle Hoffman and Lori Sokol, the executive director of Women’s e-News.

The red and cult-baiting is unjustly offensive also to the tens of thousands of concerned and active citizens who have taken up RU4AR’s calls for mass action and civil disobedience because the calls match their sense of what is required in the battle against the female enslavement that is forced motherhood.

Is it really surprising and problematic that revcoms have followed Taylor into RU4AR? Consistent with Avakian’s writing and speaking over decades, the RCP has long and correctly placed the struggle against patriarchy (along with the struggles against white supremacy against Christian fundamentalism) at the center of its fight for socialist revolution. It would be bizarre if revcoms had not rightly taken up RU4AR’s fight for abortion rights.

The “cult” charge is rooted in a slanderous identification of leadership with slavish devotion to a single individual. Do RU4AR’s “left” haters think JPMorgan Chase is a “Jamie Dimon cult?”? Do they honestly believe that RCP members would continue to follow Avakian if he became a Christian nationalist, a Marine Le Pen supporter, a climate denier, and/or a Rastafarian who claims that covid vaccines are “the work of the devil”? (One can agree or disagree with Avakian’s politics and theories, but anyone who has had any serious contact with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist RCP knows that the “cult” charge is ridiculous and contrary to Avakian’s consistent call for people to study, organize, and unite broadly across sectarian and ideological lines.)

What “Socialist Feminists” and Other “Grassroots Repros” Did the Day After Roe Fell

Perhaps the most curious and telling thing about the attack is that it has come initially and mainly from “the left.” The lead red-baiting anti-communist attackers have been the liberal and progressive journals Jezebel and The Interceptand 23 “grassroots repro” groups led by the self-described “intersectional socialist-feminist collective” New York City for Abortion Rights (NYC4AR).

Here’s something to reflect upon: one day after the US Supreme Court tore up women’s constitutional right to an abortion in the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, NYC4AR didn’t produce and disseminate a critique of the decision and a call for mass resistance. No, it put up and spread an elaborate Instagram post making all the ridiculous and baseless charges mentioned above. It called for the shutting down of RU4AR, the one group that has called people into the streets to demand legal abortion nationwide for the last eight months, going back to when the Supreme Court first heard oral arguments on Dobbs.

That’s how NYC“4AR” responded to the undoing of Roe v. Wade.

For real.

Here are the names of the groups that signed NYC“4AR”’s hate post, issued one day after Dobbs: Reproductive Justice Collective; United Against Racism & Fascism (NYC); Fund Abortion Not Police; Feminist Collages (NYC); Shout Your Abortion; Washington Square Park Mutual Aid; Buckle Bunnies (Texas); Mujeres en Resistencia( NY/NJ); Abortion Access Front; Reproductive Freedom Fund (NH); The Jane Fund (Massachusetts); Reproductive Rights Coalition (Charlotte, NC); Tigers for Choice (Texas); Chicago Abortion Fund; National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund; SWOP Brooklyn; Brooklyn People’s March; Forward Midwifery; SMAbortionActivists; New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Women’s Information Network of NYC (WIN-NYC); Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Socialist Feminist Working Group.

Think about that: Roe is reversed and one day later, 23 “grassroot repro” groups (many backed by corporate-bankrolled corporations and financial institutions), including a part of the Chicago DSA chapter, are seen with their names affixed to a COINTELPRO-like assault on the group that led a six-month nationwide protest campaign under the slogan “Post-Roe, Hell No!”- an assault issue by a group that actually calls itself a “socialist-feminist collective.”

What did you do the day after Roe fell, dear reader? RU4AR members led rallies outside the Court chanting “This decision must not stand, legal abortion across the land!” Literally from the minute the ruling came down, they called for its reversal and for the Biden administration and Congress to use their powers to make abortion legal and available in every state in the country.

How “communist cult” of them!

The Instagram attack, trolling RU4AR across the Internet (through the dark magic of hashtags) like white on rice, is surely one of the most sordid episodes in the history of what passes for “the left” in the 21st Century USA. It’s called doing the work of the right from “the portside.”

The fascist right appreciated the hit jobs. RU4AR’s “left” haters’ smear campaign was picked up by the neo-Nazi Daily Caller and the fascist police state zine Law Enforcement Today.

Other takers have included the sensationalist pop-cultural Daily Beast and the masculinist “guy culture” zine MEL Magazine, which proudly includes a bold section on “Dicks.”

Undeterred by alliance with the far right, the “left” red-baiting and “cult”-shaming of RU4AR has more recently been disseminated by the “socialist Twitch streamer” and “progressive Democrat” Hasan Piker, who recently repeated the vicious and moronic claim that RU4AR is an “anti-trans hate group.”

How COINTELPRO: fomenting progressive division and ratting out revolutionaries and radicals, setting them up for repression from fascists within and beyond the state.

On the Eve of Fascist Consolidation

This attack is especially reckless and insidious because of the historical moment in which it is taking place. As RU4AR has insisted throughout, the Dobbs decision is a leading judicial battering ram in a many-sided fascist offensive meant to eviscerate what’s left of bourgeois democracy and rule of law in the U.S. The “left” smear campaign against RU4AR comes amidst the most egregious systemic attack on US democracy since the Civil War. This is unprecedently perilous moment, with the liberal and moderate center unable to hold. Republifascists are marching forward across “red” America and preparing to seize triple-branch national power over the next two and a half years. The country is saturated with assault rifles and other lethal firearms, dangerously concentrated in the hands of a determined and paranoid right-wing. Attacks like the ones recently launched on RU4AR play into the repressive hand of the state and the right. They put lives at risk

This is how liberal and “left” outlets, groups, and individuals like “socialist-feminist” NYC4AR, the 23 “repro” groups, the Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group, Jezebel, the Intercept, and Hasan Piker spend their energies in this moment? Seriously?

Ten Explanations

Which brings me to the money question: WHY? What on Earth would compel liberal and “left” writers and “activists” to launch an anti-Communist jihad against an organization that has been fighting fiercely to defend and expand abortion rights?

There are ten basic reasons:

+1. Ideological, organizational, financial, and political commitment to insider strategies of elite lobbying and major party electioneering: the very same failed, top-down approaches that RU4AR rightly denounces as insufficient and inadequate, indeed as complicity. Beneath this commitment lay longstanding professional and liberal class fears and distrust of the masses and the financial umbilical cord linking many “repro” and “choice” NGOs to corporate-captive foundations that are tied into the neoliberal corporate and imperialist Democratic Party – that is, to the vaguely liberal wing of the ruling class, which has no interest in RU4AR’s mission of sparking masses to march to disrupt business (rule) as usual in the streets and public squares. As a leading Chicago RU4AR activist tells me, “Our ‘left’ attackers’ commitment to a status quo that is going over to counter-revolution” means “going after those who would dare to stand up to the status quo (Rise Up) and even call for its overthrow (Revcoms).”

+2. Fury at being called out for their advance surrender to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. As the Chicago activist told me last week: “Their thesis was ‘We can’t organize to stop SCOTUS from doing whatever it’s going to do, we can only rely on the Democrats.’ Rise Up had a very different narrative:

‘We won abortion rights by mass struggle, that’s what will shake the powers-that-be into stepping back from their woman-hating assault. Raise questions about the legitimacy of their institutions!’ Rise Up PUT THE LIE to the mainstream choice and ‘repro’ groups’ whole narrative. It was on the ground organizing tens of thousands to try to save Roe from the start, beginning last January.”

Indeed. Had the “left” pro-choice groups joined RU4AR, they might well have helped rescued Roe or at least significantly limited the damage.

+3. Jealousy. RU4AR has challenged the “choice” establishment’s appeasement with great talent and elan. Thanks in no small part to the skills and experience of its revcom-affiliated volunteers, RU4AR knew and knows how to organize and stage powerful, attention-grabbing actions and rallies. It demonstrated these abilities in militant fashion, shaming by both word and deed those “abortion activists” who chose submission, passivity, and cynical electoral politics and fundraising over serious resistance in the half-year leading up to Roe’s reversal.

+4. Turf protection: fear of losing membership and contribution ground to a new, militant and attention-grabbing organization that rightly undertook provocative direct actions along with dedicated popular recruitment to mobilize mass popular opposition to the emergence of the post-Roe era now upon us

+5. Click-bait: salacious conspiracy-mongering attracts eyeballs and subscribers. Charging RU4AR with “hijacking” a legitimate liberal cause in service to a mysterious “communist cult” is a bright shiny object, irresistible to some writers and editors even or especially at some “left” outlets.

+6. Historical and experiential ignorance. Perhaps this is too kind (it probably is), but the McCarthy era and COINTELPRO are distant memories for most people younger than 70.  It strikes me as possible that some if not many of RU4AR’s haters have little to no idea that they are walking in some very ugly historical grooves by engaging in an anti-communist witch hunt. Not to overdo the “forgive them for they know not what do” line, but they have likely also had relatively little if any exposure to serious Marxist-Leninist thinkers and activists like Avakian, Taylor, and the recvoms, something that makes them prone to paranoid-style narratives on “communists under your bed.”

+7. Failure to grasp the dire historical moment. The “grassroots abortion activists” and “democratic socialists” attacking RU4AR do not understand and in some cases deprecate RU4AR and the RCP’s observation that we are now facing a fascist section of the ruling class that is growing and poised to come back into power with literal vengeance. This fascism-denial and indifference is part of why they see no problem in recklessly joining the right (e.g., the Daily Caller and Law Enforcement Times) in denouncing communists within the abortion rights movement.

+8. Fake-“socialist” inability to grasp the necessity of revolution. RCPers within and outside RU4AR consistently and (in this writer’s carefully considered opinion) rightly call out “democratic socialists’” pitifully tame commitment to incremental and economistic reformism – and their refusal to break with the underlying system and parties of capitalism-imperialism. It’s questionable whether RU4AR’s “socialist” haters even grasp the critique. As the aforementioned Rise Up activist tells me: “DSA is so settled into the imperialist U.S. status quo and so mired in the ‘fight for more’ of the spoils of empire that they can’t see any need for let alone possibility of an actual revolution. (I’m not sure they care or know of let alone understand RCP’s and Avakian’s critique of social democracy.) They’re too busy being ‘realistic’ and that’s their stance toward the loss of Roe: they’re being ‘realistic and Rise Up is just ‘showboating,’ they think. And mow their non- or anti-revolutionary position has gone over to active counter-revolution.”

+9. Sleepy “woke” uber-identitarianism: the utterly false claim that RU4AR is anti-transgender is intimately related to the preposterous notion that one “excludes” transgender people (who account for a tiny percentage of pregnancies) when one makes the obviously correct observation that the Christian fascist war on abortion rights is fundamentally a patriarchal campaign to deepen the oppression and control of women and girls. It’s another example of “oppression Olympics,” a noxious spin on bourgeois identity politics claiming that “trans men are more oppressed than women and girls so that’s who we have to center our politics on.”

+10. Desire to appropriate RU4AR’s tactics and absorb them into the dismal Dems’ top-down insider strategy. Some mainstream “choice” forces are now, post-Roe, deploying the green bandana, the Latin American abortion rights symbol popularized in the USA by RU4AR. They are also getting arrested outside the Supreme Court, as did RU4AR activists before the Dobbs decision. The mainstream trick here is to take these effective tactics without admitting that they were pioneered by a militant organization that included – what horror! – communist activists and a communist co-founder (Sunsara Taylor). The establishment NGO groups now wearing green and engaging in civil disobedience are trying to deceptively attach their approach of “there’s nothing we can do, vote blue no matter who” to symbol of real resistance. They are trying to cover up the capitulation of the Democratic Party to this fascist assault on the basic civil and human rights of women and girls.

Such is the grotesque and tortured “logic” behind the sorry spectacle of the shameful “left” neo-McCarthyite attack on the nation’s leading abortion rights organization in the wake of the Dobbs decision – an organization that would not have been formed had the country’s reigning Democratic Party-affiliated “choice” groups not chosen to surrender in advance – please see Karen Attiah’s remarkable Washington Post editorial “ ‘The Art of Losing the Abortion War,’ for Our Dear American Leaders” – to the end of Roe v. Wade.

 

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

 

 

 

 

We Need Honest Debate, Not Unprincipled Attacks:

 

A Further Response to the Attacks On Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (July 16, 2020)

 

by Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights co-initiators Merle Hoffman, Lori Sokol, Sunsara Taylor

 

When a journalist wants to run a panic-inducing story but lacks the facts to back it up, one cheap tactic they can deploy is to put their headline in the form of a question. This allows them to plant an outlandish idea in readers’ minds, without the burden of having to show that there is any proof to the idea at all. Such is the case with Will Sommer’s irresponsible piece in the Daily Beast on July 11 titled, “Is This Communist ‘Cult’ Trying to Hijack the Abortion Movement?” 

 

 

Never mind that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights already thoroughly rebutted the dishonest claims against it that Sommers elevated and attempted to legitimize. Never mind that, from their own perspective, the Revcoms rebutted the attacks on them and their leader, Bob Avakian, as well.

 

It is necessary for organizations and individuals to substantively debate differences of analysis and strategy. This is a process that everyone can learn from and which serves to forge unity in the fight against injustice. But it is something else entirely to traffic in lies, slanders, and libel, as do the attacks Sommers is legitimizing.

 

People should also be aware, that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights is represented by counsel, and this counsel has already put all parties on notice to refrain from disseminating false and defamatory information about RiseUp.

 

These kinds of unprincipled attacks objectively do the dirty work of the fascists and the repressive agents of the state in attempting to destroy serious movements of opposition. The rebuttals linked above, each from their own perspective, make this case well.

 

Anyone with an ounce of principle, devotion to the truth and/or desire to forge the broadest unity in the fight against injustice, should read both of these responses now and tell those spreading these attacks to cease and desist.

 

When you read these rebuttals, you will quickly notice that rather than presenting a substantial excerpt of either of these rebuttals, Sommers quotes only 14 words from them combined!

 

Instead, he cites the fact that Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights was “ever-present at rallies responding to the [Supreme Court’s] ruling” as if this is something nefarious. To the contrary.

 

There is a very simple reason that Rise Up was “ever-present” at these rallies. It is because Rise Up organized the great bulk of them. Like it or not, this is an irrefutable fact. Why did we do this? For the very reasons that are made clear on all of our signs, in our speeches, on our website, through our social media, in every fundraising letter we ever sent, and through all our media exposure.

 

From our founding statement:

 

The attack on abortion rights is part of a patriarchal Christian fascist program that takes aim at contraception as well as LGBTQ rights. Denying the right to abortion hits poor women, and especially Black and other women of color, with vicious consequence – tightening the chains of both white supremacy and the subjugation of women.

 

Denying the right to abortion forces women to bear children against their will. This does grotesque physical, emotional, societal, and psychic violence to women by reducing them to baby-making machines…

 

Forced motherhood is female enslavement. When women are not free, no one is free.

 

Preventing this nightmare is why we poured our time, experience, energies, resources, and hearts into mobilizing tens of thousands of people in protest over the last six months. It is why we involved artists and writers, communities with ties to the Latin American Green Wave, thousands of students and young people, many older women with the courage to tell their pre-Roe abortion stories, and a great many more. It is why we put it on the line, nonviolently disrupting business-as-usual, some of us going to jail, and fighting to unite all who could possibly be united from many diverse political perspectives.

 

It is why we fought even up to the very last days to mobilize the vast majority in this country who support abortion rights in nonviolent resistance powerful enough to stop the Supreme Court from overturning Roe, protesting every day of a potential decision in front of the Supreme Court for weeks. And when the decision finally came, just as we did with others at all of our protests, we welcomed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she showed up and happily gave her a turn on the mic to speak from her own perspective.

 

So, we must ask, exactly what “movement” is Sommers claiming we might be “hijacking”? The unfortunate fact is that the only reason we felt the need to initiate Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights back in January was because the vast majority of the women’s “movement” was capitulating in advance to the fall of Roe.

 

Again, from our founding statement:

 

[A]ll too many pro-choice leaders and Democratic Party politicians preach a “realism” of accepting the Court’s gutting of abortion rights. They tell us to dig in for the “long-haul” of the electoral process or to focus on helping women induce their own abortions. Whatever their intent, this amounts to capitulating in advance to the enslavement of women and an overall nightmare for humanity.

 

This, too, is an irrefutable fact. Most of the “movement,” in one form or another, had already moved on and accepted the fall of Roe as “inevitable.” This is why it was Rise Up, not these other organizations, mobilizing mass protest in a consistent way.

 

We sincerely wish this hadn’t been the case and repeatedly reached out to others, both inside the “movement” and very far beyond it. Such was the case in the open letter issued by Rise Up co-initiators following the leak of Samuel Alito’s draft decision that made clear the Court was on track to overturn Roe, calling for the greatest unified protest in the streets. This is also the case in the much-distorted polemic issued by Sunsara Taylor, one of Rise Up’s initiators, making the case from her own perspective (not in the name of Rise Up) that Abortion Funds provide a crucial service, but are not a strategy to defeat the escalating attack on abortion rights and have no chance of keeping up with the demand that would be created by the overturning of Roe.

 

If more people – including some of the very groups that sat on the sidelines and now are attacking Rise Up – had joined them in mobilizing truly massive nonviolent sustained protests, we might have stopped Roe from being overturned. Even outright fascists and woman-haters worry about losing the perceived legitimacy of their institutions when faced with un-ignorable and truly relentless, unceasing mass protest.

 

We know some won’t agree. Some will believe Rise Up was wrong for ever thinking it might be possible to stop the overturning of Roe. Some will believe that this proves that the other organizations were right to spend the last six months (and for many, much longer) focused on preparing for post-Roe. Some will argue that instead of continuing to demand as Rise Up has that the federal government take action now to restore legal abortion nationwide now, it is time to turn the focus to the state-by-state battle and the upcoming elections.

 

To those who think that way, have the courage of your convictions. Make your argument with substance. Whatever you do, stop hiding behind lies and McCarthyite scare tactics that can only weaken serious opposition at a time when it is more urgent than ever.

 

 

Merle Hoffman is the Founder and CEO of Choices Women’s Medical Center.

Lori Sokol is the Executive Director of Women’s eNews.

Sunsara Taylor is the co-host of the RNL – Revolution, Nothing Less! – Show.

All three are co-initiators of RiseUp4AbortionRights.org

 

 

END

 

 

We can turn this around, not as the people we are now but as the people we become through this struggle.

by Coco Das (speech given July 2, Austin, Texas)

 

 

Eight days ago, the Supreme Court illegitimately overturned Roe v. Wade. A fanatical Christian fundamentalist majority said Roe was wrongly decided. And women all over the country got the message. That they are not free. That their bodies are not their own. That their destinies would be shaped by the state, by the church, by men.

 

This is a heartbreaking defeat. Let’s not pretty up as something else. Something we can get used to. Something we can find our way around. Society has been transformed. We now live in a society where women are not free and when women are not free, no one is free. When Millions of Women Are Not Safe—There Are No Real “Safe Havens” What Happens to One of Us Happens To All Of Us. What to women in America today is the 4th of July? It is a farce.

 

In Texas, because Attorney General Ken Paxton said that abortion providers could be held criminally liable immediately since the state never repealed the abortion prohibitions that were on the books before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, nurses went out to waiting rooms to tell their patients to go home. One woman was on her fourth visit. She’d been too early in the pregnancy for an abortion during the first two appointments, was finally able to show a pregnancy on the sonogram, and came back 24 hours later for her abortion. The day Roe fell.  When she was told to go home, she started rocking back and forth, wailing. Clinics around the state describe scenes of complete despair with people screaming, crying, and begging for help.

 

And did you know the work of abortion funds came to a screeching halt while the staff figures out the legal implications of their work, their leaders fearing jail time if they help women now.

 

Pharmacists in Texas, fearing legal liability, have already refused to fill prescriptions for Misoprostol, one of the abortion pills, for miscarriage management. If a miscarriage is not managed to a safe completion, women risk uterine perforation, organ failure, infection, infertility, and death.

 

Already the things we were told that would make a post-Roe world manageable are falling like dominoes, and more is coming. What did people think was going to happen when the full, repressive force of the state can now criminalize everything related to abortion and women’s reproduction? This is why we fought for Roe, why we fought for legal abortion.

 

In the coming weeks, abortion will become illegal or inaccessible in 22 states. And they are just getting started. What’s coming is fetal personhood, to throw women behind bars for not being good enough host bodies. Banning women from traveling out of state, making them submit negative pregnancy tests. Doctors facing felony charges and life in prison for performing an abortion. Women not being able to get cancer treatment, not being able to have their life-threatening ectopic pregnancies terminated, women being trapped in abusive relationships and cycles of poverty, Trans people facing even more shame and stigma trying to seek abortions. This is a disaster, and we have to face this. We have to face this defeat. We have to take stock of what got us here. We have been plummeted to a bottom of a cliff that we have to claw our way up again, while the Christian fascist movement that has been fighting for the fall of Roe for decades is celebrating, busting open champagne, calling for the day that fills so many millions of hearts with terror to be a national holiday. In his concurring opinion Justice Clarence Thomas saying the court should reconsider rulings related to contraception access, same-sex relationships and same-sex marriages. This court has revealed itself to be illegitimate. Why should we accept anything it says? Why should we listen to them at all?

 

I have seen such fighting spirit in the streets with you this past week. This matters. But I can’t pretend the road ahead won’t be difficult. We are in for the fight of our lives. The enemy seems so daunting, so powerful. The cliff is so high. This ruling goes against public opinion, against the forward motion of history, and the people – however noble our fight has been in the last few months – did not win.

 

And we don’t have to reach far into history to know what can happen when the road ahead feels too long. When the necessary sacrifices feel too great. We know that this makes people give up and retreat into their private lives, hoping to avoid the worst of it or at least avoid thinking about it. We know it makes people lower their sights. We know it makes leaders change their messaging to make losing seem like winning. We know how the people and movements and organizations can turn on each other instead of uniting to defeat a common enemy. We have seen all the ways movements and righteous struggles of the people get pulled off course and even worse, we know how people can sucked into doing the work of the very oppressor and the very system that has its boots on all of our backs, leaving the people, especially the people who need us the most, out in the dust and alone.

 

The truth is that every movement with a righteous demand has to deal with defeat. Every movement for justice has faced obstacles that seem insurmountable. And out of this terrible situation we can wrench a different future. But not as we are now. We are too few. We are too easily set off course. We are too mired in a culture and ways of thinking that drag us down into the gutter instead of lifting our sights. As a people we have to change – we have to find our fighting spirit, we have to have strong principles, we have to cast off old prejudices, we have to be better at debating ideas and dealing with disagreements, there is a lot we have to learn – but we do all this through the struggle and this struggle can transform not only the people who join but all of society and all of the world. We change through the struggle. This country could not come through the civil rights movement unchanged. It couldn’t come through the movement against the Vietnam War unchanged. It couldn’t come through the women’s and gay liberation movements unchanged. This upheaval, this rupture, that rocked us to our core is exactly what the fascist movement had to come back from over the last fifty years and is exactly what they fear happening again. They fear us rising up and they fear us becoming a new people as we do it.

 

So let’s do it. We can stop them. We can win this right to legal abortion back for the millions of women, girls, and others who cannot be free without it. We can turn this around, not as the people we are now but as the people we become through this struggle.

 

 

COUNTERPUNCH
AUGUST 1, 2022

Why is “the Left” Red-Baiting Rise Up for Abortion Rights on the Eve of Fascist Destruction?

BY PAUL STREET

There’s nothing new in United States history about the slanderous demonization of those who step up and fight to make a better world from the bottom up. From at least the Molly Maguires (1870s) and the Haymarket Martyrs (1880s) through the rise of the House Un-American Activities in the late 1930s, the 1950s McCarthy terror, and the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO war on Black and New Left leaders during the 1960s and 1970s to Donald Trump’s description of George Floyd protesters as “radical Left terrorists who want to destroy our country,” those who lead the struggle for progress have long been subject to smears that encourage and justify repression.

Libelous Red Baiting and “Cult”-Charging

Still, it’s bracing and a little bizarre in 2022 to see an anti-Communist jihad launched from “the left” (see below) against an organization that has been fighting to defend something commonly identified with mainstream liberalism: the right to an abortion.

I am referring to recent attacks directed at Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR), the organization that has led the struggle against the Christian Fascist war on women’s right to control their own reproductive lives. Each of the charges made against the organization is false and libelous, including preposterous and baseless claims of financial corruption, anti-transgenderism, anti-gayness, indifference to the need for abortion services, and indifference to the plight people caught up in the horror of prostitution (what some liberal progressives offensively call “sex work”).

None of the false claims made against RU4AR is more provocative and chilling than the claim that it is nothing more than a “front group” for the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which is in turn described as “a cult” under the spell of Bob Avakian.

The “evidence” for this accusation consists of the facts that one of the group’s three co-founders, Sunsara Taylor, is an open RCP leader and Avakian follower, and that RCP members (“recvoms”) have been visible and vocal at RU4AR rallies.

The “communist front” claim is a ridiculous insult to Taylor, who makes no effort to hide her politics. It is an even bigger affront to RU4AR’s other two esteemed feminist founders, neither of whom are revolutionary communists and both of whom are capable of picking movement allies with eyes open: the legendary founder of Choices Women’s Medical Center Merle Hoffman and Lori Sokol, the executive director of Women’s e-News.

The red and cult-baiting is unjustly offensive also to the tens of thousands of concerned and active citizens who have taken up RU4AR’s calls for mass action and civil disobedience because the calls match their sense of what is required in the battle against the female enslavement that is forced motherhood.

Is it really surprising and problematic that revcoms have followed Taylor into RU4AR? Consistent with Avakian’s writing and speaking over decades, the RCP has long and correctly placed the struggle against patriarchy (along with the struggles against white supremacy against Christian fundamentalism) at the center of its fight for socialist revolution. It would be bizarre if revcoms had not rightly taken up RU4AR’s fight for abortion rights.

The “cult” charge is rooted in a slanderous identification of leadership with slavish devotion to a single individual. Do RU4AR’s “left” haters think JPMorgan Chase is a “Jamie Dimon cult?”? Do they honestly believe that RCP members would continue to follow Avakian if he became a Christian nationalist, a Marine Le Pen supporter, a climate denier, and/or a Rastafarian who claims that covid vaccines are “the work of the devil”? (One can agree or disagree with Avakian’s politics and theories, but anyone who has had any serious contact with the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist RCP knows that the “cult” charge is ridiculous and contrary to Avakian’s consistent call for people to study, organize, and unite broadly across sectarian and ideological lines.)

What “Socialist Feminists” and Other “Grassroots Repros” Did the Day After Roe Fell

Perhaps the most curious and telling thing about the attack is that it has come initially and mainly from “the left.” The lead red-baiting anti-communist attackers have been the liberal and progressive journals Jezebel and The Interceptand 23 “grassroots repro” groups led by the self-described “intersectional socialist-feminist collective” New York City for Abortion Rights (NYC4AR).

Here’s something to reflect upon: one day after the US Supreme Court tore up women’s constitutional right to an abortion in the Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, NYC4AR didn’t produce and disseminate a critique of the decision and a call for mass resistance. No, it put up and spread an elaborate Instagram post making all the ridiculous and baseless charges mentioned above. It called for the shutting down of RU4AR, the one group that has called people into the streets to demand legal abortion nationwide for the last eight months, going back to when the Supreme Court first heard oral arguments on Dobbs.

That’s how NYC“4AR” responded to the undoing of Roe v. Wade.

For real.

Here are the names of the groups that signed NYC“4AR”’s hate post, issued one day after Dobbs: Reproductive Justice Collective; United Against Racism & Fascism (NYC); Fund Abortion Not Police; Feminist Collages (NYC); Shout Your Abortion; Washington Square Park Mutual Aid; Buckle Bunnies (Texas); Mujeres en Resistencia( NY/NJ); Abortion Access Front; Reproductive Freedom Fund (NH); The Jane Fund (Massachusetts); Reproductive Rights Coalition (Charlotte, NC); Tigers for Choice (Texas); Chicago Abortion Fund; National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund; SWOP Brooklyn; Brooklyn People’s March; Forward Midwifery; SMAbortionActivists; New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice; Women’s Information Network of NYC (WIN-NYC); Chicago Democratic Socialists of America Socialist Feminist Working Group.

Think about that: Roe is reversed and one day later, 23 “grassroot repro” groups (many backed by corporate-bankrolled corporations and financial institutions), including a part of the Chicago DSA chapter, are seen with their names affixed to a COINTELPRO-like assault on the group that led a six-month nationwide protest campaign under the slogan “Post-Roe, Hell No!”- an assault issue by a group that actually calls itself a “socialist-feminist collective.”

What did you do the day after Roe fell, dear reader? RU4AR members led rallies outside the Court chanting “This decision must not stand, legal abortion across the land!” Literally from the minute the ruling came down, they called for its reversal and for the Biden administration and Congress to use their powers to make abortion legal and available in every state in the country.

How “communist cult” of them!

The Instagram attack, trolling RU4AR across the Internet (through the dark magic of hashtags) like white on rice, is surely one of the most sordid episodes in the history of what passes for “the left” in the 21st Century USA. It’s called doing the work of the right from “the portside.”

The fascist right appreciated the hit jobs. RU4AR’s “left” haters’ smear campaign was picked up by the neo-Nazi Daily Caller and the fascist police state zine Law Enforcement Today.

Other takers have included the sensationalist pop-cultural Daily Beast and the masculinist “guy culture” zine MEL Magazine, which proudly includes a bold section on “Dicks.”

Undeterred by alliance with the far right, the “left” red-baiting and “cult”-shaming of RU4AR has more recently been disseminated by the “socialist Twitch streamer” and “progressive Democrat” Hasan Piker, who recently repeated the vicious and moronic claim that RU4AR is an “anti-trans hate group.”

How COINTELPRO: fomenting progressive division and ratting out revolutionaries and radicals, setting them up for repression from fascists within and beyond the state.

On the Eve of Fascist Consolidation

This attack is especially reckless and insidious because of the historical moment in which it is taking place. As RU4AR has insisted throughout, the Dobbs decision is a leading judicial battering ram in a many-sided fascist offensive meant to eviscerate what’s left of bourgeois democracy and rule of law in the U.S. The “left” smear campaign against RU4AR comes amidst the most egregious systemic attack on US democracy since the Civil War. This is unprecedently perilous moment, with the liberal and moderate center unable to hold. Republifascists are marching forward across “red” America and preparing to seize triple-branch national power over the next two and a half years. The country is saturated with assault rifles and other lethal firearms, dangerously concentrated in the hands of a determined and paranoid right-wing. Attacks like the ones recently launched on RU4AR play into the repressive hand of the state and the right. They put lives at risk

This is how liberal and “left” outlets, groups, and individuals like “socialist-feminist” NYC4AR, the 23 “repro” groups, the Chicago DSA Socialist Feminist Working Group, Jezebel, the Intercept, and Hasan Piker spend their energies in this moment? Seriously?

Ten Explanations

Which brings me to the money question: WHY? What on Earth would compel liberal and “left” writers and “activists” to launch an anti-Communist jihad against an organization that has been fighting fiercely to defend and expand abortion rights?

There are ten basic reasons:

+1. Ideological, organizational, financial, and political commitment to insider strategies of elite lobbying and major party electioneering: the very same failed, top-down approaches that RU4AR rightly denounces as insufficient and inadequate, indeed as complicity. Beneath this commitment lay longstanding professional and liberal class fears and distrust of the masses and the financial umbilical cord linking many “repro” and “choice” NGOs to corporate-captive foundations that are tied into the neoliberal corporate and imperialist Democratic Party – that is, to the vaguely liberal wing of the ruling class, which has no interest in RU4AR’s mission of sparking masses to march to disrupt business (rule) as usual in the streets and public squares. As a leading Chicago RU4AR activist tells me, “Our ‘left’ attackers’ commitment to a status quo that is going over to counter-revolution” means “going after those who would dare to stand up to the status quo (Rise Up) and even call for its overthrow (Revcoms).”

+2. Fury at being called out for their advance surrender to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. As the Chicago activist told me last week: “Their thesis was ‘We can’t organize to stop SCOTUS from doing whatever it’s going to do, we can only rely on the Democrats.’ Rise Up had a very different narrative:

‘We won abortion rights by mass struggle, that’s what will shake the powers-that-be into stepping back from their woman-hating assault. Raise questions about the legitimacy of their institutions!’ Rise Up PUT THE LIE to the mainstream choice and ‘repro’ groups’ whole narrative. It was on the ground organizing tens of thousands to try to save Roe from the start, beginning last January.”

Indeed. Had the “left” pro-choice groups joined RU4AR, they might well have helped rescued Roe or at least significantly limited the damage.

+3. Jealousy. RU4AR has challenged the “choice” establishment’s appeasement with great talent and elan. Thanks in no small part to the skills and experience of its revcom-affiliated volunteers, RU4AR knew and knows how to organize and stage powerful, attention-grabbing actions and rallies. It demonstrated these abilities in militant fashion, shaming by both word and deed those “abortion activists” who chose submission, passivity, and cynical electoral politics and fundraising over serious resistance in the half-year leading up to Roe’s reversal.

+4. Turf protection: fear of losing membership and contribution ground to a new, militant and attention-grabbing organization that rightly undertook provocative direct actions along with dedicated popular recruitment to mobilize mass popular opposition to the emergence of the post-Roe era now upon us

+5. Click-bait: salacious conspiracy-mongering attracts eyeballs and subscribers. Charging RU4AR with “hijacking” a legitimate liberal cause in service to a mysterious “communist cult” is a bright shiny object, irresistible to some writers and editors even or especially at some “left” outlets.

+6. Historical and experiential ignorance. Perhaps this is too kind (it probably is), but the McCarthy era and COINTELPRO are distant memories for most people younger than 70.  It strikes me as possible that some if not many of RU4AR’s haters have little to no idea that they are walking in some very ugly historical grooves by engaging in an anti-communist witch hunt. Not to overdo the “forgive them for they know not what do” line, but they have likely also had relatively little if any exposure to serious Marxist-Leninist thinkers and activists like Avakian, Taylor, and the recvoms, something that makes them prone to paranoid-style narratives on “communists under your bed.”

+7. Failure to grasp the dire historical moment. The “grassroots abortion activists” and “democratic socialists” attacking RU4AR do not understand and in some cases deprecate RU4AR and the RCP’s observation that we are now facing a fascist section of the ruling class that is growing and poised to come back into power with literal vengeance. This fascism-denial and indifference is part of why they see no problem in recklessly joining the right (e.g., the Daily Caller and Law Enforcement Times) in denouncing communists within the abortion rights movement.

+8. Fake-“socialist” inability to grasp the necessity of revolution. RCPers within and outside RU4AR consistently and (in this writer’s carefully considered opinion) rightly call out “democratic socialists’” pitifully tame commitment to incremental and economistic reformism – and their refusal to break with the underlying system and parties of capitalism-imperialism. It’s questionable whether RU4AR’s “socialist” haters even grasp the critique. As the aforementioned Rise Up activist tells me: “DSA is so settled into the imperialist U.S. status quo and so mired in the ‘fight for more’ of the spoils of empire that they can’t see any need for let alone possibility of an actual revolution. (I’m not sure they care or know of let alone understand RCP’s and Avakian’s critique of social democracy.) They’re too busy being ‘realistic’ and that’s their stance toward the loss of Roe: they’re being ‘realistic and Rise Up is just ‘showboating,’ they think. And mow their non- or anti-revolutionary position has gone over to active counter-revolution.”

+9. Sleepy “woke” uber-identitarianism: the utterly false claim that RU4AR is anti-transgender is intimately related to the preposterous notion that one “excludes” transgender people (who account for a tiny percentage of pregnancies) when one makes the obviously correct observation that the Christian fascist war on abortion rights is fundamentally a patriarchal campaign to deepen the oppression and control of women and girls. It’s another example of “oppression Olympics,” a noxious spin on bourgeois identity politics claiming that “trans men are more oppressed than women and girls so that’s who we have to center our politics on.”

+10. Desire to appropriate RU4AR’s tactics and absorb them into the dismal Dems’ top-down insider strategy. Some mainstream “choice” forces are now, post-Roe, deploying the green bandana, the Latin American abortion rights symbol popularized in the USA by RU4AR. They are also getting arrested outside the Supreme Court, as did RU4AR activists before the Dobbs decision. The mainstream trick here is to take these effective tactics without admitting that they were pioneered by a militant organization that included – what horror! – communist activists and a communist co-founder (Sunsara Taylor). The establishment NGO groups now wearing green and engaging in civil disobedience are trying to deceptively attach their approach of “there’s nothing we can do, vote blue no matter who” to symbol of real resistance. They are trying to cover up the capitulation of the Democratic Party to this fascist assault on the basic civil and human rights of women and girls.

Such is the grotesque and tortured “logic” behind the sorry spectacle of the shameful “left” neo-McCarthyite attack on the nation’s leading abortion rights organization in the wake of the Dobbs decision – an organization that would not have been formed had the country’s reigning Democratic Party-affiliated “choice” groups not chosen to surrender in advance – please see Karen Attiah’s remarkable Washington Post editorial “ ‘The Art of Losing the Abortion War,’ for Our Dear American Leaders” – to the end of Roe v. Wade.

 

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).