25-07-2015 – Many workers and supporters of women’s rights have rightly been shocked and appalled by the degenerate and grotesque sexism repeatedly displayed by Wicked Campers. The obscenely offensive slogans scrawled across their campervans for rent, scrape the bottom of a barrel that rarely surfaces. “Normal” sexism is unfortunately a daily occurrence in a society which is based on the oppression of women, as is reflected in the unrealistic fashion and body images constantly displayed in the mass media. Malevolent sexism, on the other hand, does not always surface. Wicked Campers have crossed this line, and then some.
Wicked Campers also brandish some racist and homophobic slogans, but most is directed at women. Yet Wicked Campers are not just a particularly poor example of the worst of society’s sexism. It is also a reflection of bourgeois morality becoming more and more decadent and self-indulgent as the capitalist system moves into an advanced state of decay. However, it is also a part of the “normal” functioning of the system of production (or in the case of Wicked Campers – renting) for profit. Under this system of business which is supposedly “natural”, business owners are “free” do whatever they wish to make a buck. This can include exploiting the labour of others, trashing the environment, or even a depraved public visual assault of women.
Under capitalism, the right to private property trumps all others. This is reflected in the fact that despite numerous rulings upholding complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau, this body has no power to direct Wicked Campers owner John Webb to remove the sexist slogans. In some respects, the “authorities” aspire to an orderly and “harmonious” society – but only in order to create the best conditions for the turnover of private profit. Business owners, including medium sized capitalists such as John Webb, must have free rein in the same way that Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer can ruthlessly exploit labour and even threaten the very existence of civilisation with carbon emission pumping coal mining and the like.
If business owners have unfettered rights under this system and therefore the “right” to display vulgar sexism to promote their sordid business, a question is posed for workers and supporters of women’s liberation. How exactly can the abomination of Wicked Campers be fought and overcome? The organisers of today’s rally have responded by placing a central demand forward – for the Queensland government to legislate against the public vilification of women. We admit we are non-plussed by this demand. Let us briefly examine just some of the moves of the current Queensland Government, since the ALP (Australian Labor Party) limped over the line to defeat the previous LNP (Liberal National Party) government. For a start, the ALP restarted the privatisation of state assets, when it announced weeks after being elected that sales of public housing would resume. The continued privatisation of public housing will disproportionately affect women, especially single parents, for whom housing is often an almost unbearable cost. Another almost unbearable cost for working class women is electricity bills – but the latest ALP government budget includes measures which will inevitably lead to the privatisation of the generation and distribution of electricity. Plus, the ALP has reopened the Borallon Jail near Ipswich, at a cost of around $150 million dollars of taxpayers money. Needless to say, this is hardly a progressive government…
It has also been put forward that the Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters moved a resolution in the Senate condemning Wicked Campers. The motion, seconded by Labor’s Senator Claire Moore, passed unanimously. All well and good? Not likely. The former federal ALP/Greens government carried out perhaps the most severe attack on women in 100 years when it pushed single parents (the overwhelming majority of whom are women) from the single parenting allowance to the miserably low Newstart allowance. This unconscionable assault drove many women already struggling deeper into poverty – courtesy of the ALP and the Greens. To imagine therefore, that the QLD state ALP government can actually become a friend and protector of women, is a dangerous illusion.
It is an illusion, however, which the ALP state government, as well as the Federal Liberal government, is happy to foster. The QLD ALP government recently announced that it was spending $31 million to “tackle domestic violence”. This money, will be used to set up a new Domestic Violence court, establish women’s refuges in Brisbane and Townsville, and set up a Domestic Violence Death Review Unit. So the state will review your passing if you lose your life through domestic violence – how does this help? In addition, the women’s refuges will operate on a 72 hour basis. That is, women fleeing from a domestic violence situation will have sanctuary for three days, after which they are on their own. And setting up an entirely new court, with highly paid judges and overpaid legal fraternity attending is hardly going to prevent new cases of domestic violence from occurring. What we have is the ALP government (and the LNP government before it) posing as defenders of women, and launching a campaign which will increase their powers, especially police powers, while not even beginning to address the reasons why the problem exists in the first place.
This is why we suggest the demand for the state government to pass laws against the vilification of women is misplaced. If the government does pass such a law, whom, pray tell, will enforce it? COPS! And who will try those accused of breaking such a law? THE COURTS! And where will those who are convicted of breaking the law be sent? TO PRISON! Ergo, the demand for the government to pass such a law leads directly to calls for, or actual, increased taxpayer funding for cops, courts and prisons. Firstly, this will not make women safer, as it doesn’t address the reasons why violence against women occurs. Secondly, increasing the power of the capitalist state apparatus inevitably means it will be used to even further suppress the working class – when ultimately the capitalist state is the source of the violence – especially against women.
The cops, courts and prisons are key elements of the armed fist of the capitalist state. A state, as Lenin emphasised, is an organisation of violence for the suppression of a particular class by another class. In capitalist society, based on production for private profit, the capitalist state acts to protect the interests of the capitalist class – the aforementioned Gina Rineharts and Clive Palmers – by suppressing the working class. Yet the oppression of women is built into the capitalist system through the constant fortification of the three pillars of class society – the family, private property and the state. A state which holds women in a permanent state of oppression cannot therefore be used as one of its tools for liberation. Women can only be liberated from this oppression through the uprooting of private property and the overturn of capitalism on a worldwide basis. This will require the taking of state power by the working class as a first step towards the implementation of a classless, socialist society. Such momentous struggles – no less than workers’ revolution – will inevitably entail a struggle against the cops, courts and prisons of the capitalist state. Yet, the demand for legislation outlawing vilification of women, despite its intentions, is in practice a demand for more cops on the streets. Supporting a special domestic violence court is also in practice a demand for more judges. Wittingly or unwittingly, the demand for legislation outlawing the vilification of women in practice is a demand to strengthen the armed and violent wing of the capitalist state. A beefed up capitalist state will not only use this power against workers – it will be used to deepen the oppression of women. Thus in our view, the demand for legislation on this issue is counter-productive.
The vilification of women (as in the example of Wicked Campers), like the problem of domestic violence, are both examples of the abuse of women which is a related aspect of the oppression of women in capitalist society. However, they are symptoms but not causes. To address the problem of Wicked Campers and domestic violence requires addressing the reasons which lead to the abuse of women by some men, whether business owners, or husbands and partners. Ultimately, violence against women is related to the increasing inequality generated by the capitalist economic crisis, which has been in deep recession since 2008. Jobs are being slashed in all industries, throwing thousands out of work, heaping pressure on men and women to somehow put food on the table and maintain a roof over their heads, and that of their children. When men and women actually have jobs, due to the recession workplaces are often extremely stressful, with staff overworked and subject to relentless bullying and harassment by management. The pressure that workers endure, daily being threatened with either the sack or being bullied if they do not work at breakneck speed, is too much to ask anyone to handle. Treacherous Union misleaders, who do nothing to organise resistance to often unbearable working conditions, only exacerbate the unhealthy mental and physical state of workers. Most men are able to take out their rage at this injustice in safe ways, such as playing sport, engaging in political activity to address important issues, gaming online or in some other way. Unfortunately, some men take out their rage on their female partners, terrorising them or physically harming them. Of course some men need to be removed from their families for the safety of the rest of the family and the community. However, if no action is taken to address the underlying economic and political causes of domestic violence, simply targeting men, or using cops to target men, will only drive the problem underground. This could later emerge in false solutions like “men’s rights” groups.
It is no coincidence that violence against women increases in direct proportion to the increasing inequality as a result of the economic crisis of the capitalist countries. Even the example of Wicked Campers is a reflection of the crisis. Business owners, due to the razor sharp competition to turn a profit, are prepared to take any measure to gain a competitive edge over their rivals. Not all business owners resort to John Webb style desecration of women, but many are prepared to do similar things, like desecrate the wages of their workers, or the natural environment, or turn to corrupt business practices, and so on. Turning around this situation cannot be addressed by “working within the system”, by lobbying parliament, and certainly not by allying with the cops – the sworn enemy of working class women and men. What is required is nothing less than women’s liberation through socialist revolution – the seizing of state power by the armed workers, and the initiation of a planned, socialist economy based on common ownership of the means of production. This in turn will require the forging of a Marxist vanguard party, comprised of the most class conscious women and men, to lead workers and all of the oppressed against their class adversaries, nationally and internationally.
While we forge a path towards liberation, the class adversaries of women’s liberation, who often pose as allies, need to be clearly identified. The ALP, the Greens, the cops, courts (even a special “domestic violence” court) prisons, local, state and federal governments and parliaments are all essential components of the capitalist state, and thus cannot be integrated, into the struggle for essential justice for women. Rather, the women’s liberation movement and its supporters need to fight for demands which will ease the economic burden on working class women and men, and thus dramatically lessen the aggravation caused to personal and social relationships. With regard to Wicked Campers, the movement could call on Unions to instruct their members to refuse to serve Wicked Campers at Service Stations, council parks, restaurants and so on. This could be backed up by women’s liberation/Union mobilisations to march on and picket Wicked Campers depots. This is an important issue. Down with Wicked Campers! For women’s liberation!