Tribune of the People’s Political Line on the Non-Binary Question

Note: The following document was sent in an email from the Editorial Board of Tribune of the People to one of the Support Committees. It is the closest thing we have to an ‘official position’ of the Dallas-Cult on the question of gender and sex. Not only does it show their blanket erasure and hatred of non-binary people, but also reveals their general transphobia, homophobia and misogyny. If it means anything, To be absolutely clear: I post this document here to denounce and repudiate it.

I have tried to avoid adding my own commentary in previous posts but had to draw attention to the following line with respect to the underlying misogyny: “for women who use ‘non-binary they still suffer the social status of woman and for men they still are granted the social status of men in the man woman contradiction.” In the author’s mind (likely either Ed Dalton or David Martinez), men and women are categories that apply to all people in all societies (even societies existing before or after women’s oppression existed). Yet the nature of woman is to ‘suffer’ while the nature of man is to ‘be granted’. In other words the attitude of these men is to say, “blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler of the universe who has not created me a woman.” If the ‘suffering’ and ‘being granted’ which constitutes men and women no longer exists (in a society which has abolished the oppression of women), what then would it mean for an individual to identify outside the gender binary? What would it mean to be a man or a woman anyway? Either we fix a biological/anatomical definition of gender, or we root the gender binary in society, in which case it is subject to transformation and even abolition. The argument presented here (repeated throughout the cult organizations) is only superficially dialectical: its main essence is to define sex/gender as an immutable biological category, with one side being devalued in favor of the other.

To the Comrades in [Support Committee]:

Greetings, in the interests of not touching on the matter lightly we want to briefly examine the question of the non-binary phenomenon from an MLM standpoint, and issue this short document to develop line struggle and discussion. This relates to the use of “they/them” pronouns used to refer to individuals in report backs.

  1. What is “non-binary” in reference to? We must start there. The binary refers to feminist theory of the “gender binary” which is reliant on the feminist definition of gender, which became popularized starting in the 1970’s. Before this, the term gender was used interchangeably with biological sex. In linguistics and editing gender was used to describe sets of words with masculine and feminine implications, i.e. Spanish is a “gendered” language with some words being neutered i.e. “camarada” a neutral word which is used the same for men and women, and words like Latino or Latina etc being gendered. Postmodernism has a focus on discourse, and in fact seeks to change reality through the discursive and hence gives a lot of importance to this question, and took the linguistic use of gender to apply it broadly to sociology in ways that do not meet scientific standards (meaning from a Marxist view this analysis is not linked to production or the oppression of women rooted in private property). So now gender means a set of social traits associated with capitalist ideas of men and women, and it is used to imply that men and women are nothing but social traits. However social traits come and go, so this is not an accurate way to define it.
  2. If the binary exists objectively then there is no voluntary opting out. Meaning that the society we live in has backward social standards assigned to the expected behavior and personality traits of men and women—we must not confirm these but challenge them as reactionary culture. In other words masculinity among women does not diminish them as women, and femininity among men does not make diminish their status as men. Finally, however an individual self- identifies does not necessarily affect the way society identifies them or the expectations of their social traits.
    The mode of production throughout class society has shaped these social standards and what is expected behavior and traits of men and women respectively, and this adjusts in each class epoch in that the distinctions change but there remains distinction. Production in class society has done this for the purpose of division, and it has only made two social categories, with no need for a third one or one that is neither. In other words, masculine and feminine traits form a contradiction and contradiction cannot stay in equilibrium one is principle. For women who use “non-binary” they still suffer the social status of woman and for men they still are granted the social status of men in the man woman contradiction. A thing can turn into its opposite, the material basis for trans people, but what it cannot do is turn into something else entirely. Mao expresses this law in On Contradiction.
    Point one converges with point two and “gender” as it has been used since the 70’s becomes interchangeable with sex again in a reversal—this is to suggest that sex is a “social construct” and hence the category of “non-men” emerges which of course includes men who simply “do not identify” with masculinity, however they do not experience women’s oppression and so should not be understood as facing this. Postmodernism uses the non-men category to actually diminish attention on the specific oppression of working women with metaphysics
  3. In many cases people seeking to reject what they call the binary are actually in reality just non-socially conforming either in their thinking or presentation or communication (we know these things do not determine reality) and many are doing this on the basis of a positive rejection of backward social norms. Socialism already deals with this issue and better, especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, where the distinction between the dress and social function of male and female Red Guards was mainly obliterated with shared duty, shared uniform, shared patterns of behavior and expression. This must be understood as a vital step in the formation of new socialist people, the new socialist man and the new socialist woman, unfettered by capitalist social customs, and the oppression of women due to private property has been mercilessly attacked, and the cultural institutions springing from it have also been attacked. These are not understood as non-binary, and masculine traits and feminine traits still exist but are heading in a non-distinctive direction due to the lack and withdrawal of the oppression of women, hence the women’s struggle is critical and central here as part of the socialist and cultural revolutions.
  4. There are men and women in pre-class history but women were not oppressed or assigned a deficient feminine nature. Postmodernism does not serve the interests of women, it simply suggests that if women do not follow the backward idea of exhibiting a deficient feminine nature they are less women or no longer women, and now they have made an option for this— they/them pronouns are increasingly acceptable to imperialist culture because of this. Our point as Maoists is to defend militancy of women, defend them as part of the class, and as fighters for this class. At the same time, we seek to transform men away from the vulgar socialization under capitalism. Women cannot be mobilized as a specific force for proletarian revolution without identifying their status as women, the non-binary line which allows self-identification to determine reality does just this, it tells women to stop being women when they stop identifying with the backward idea of what a woman is, this is sexism in disguise.
  5. Non-binary is often a forced compromise for trans people. There is nothing wrong with transition and while trans people might not have experienced the socialization of the sex they have come to identify and present as due to the principal aspect of their internal contradiction this does not mean that they are not either socially identified as such, or living the life of such. They face a specific oppression from their male or female counterparts in the class, and so trans women do not face the oppression of women, they face the oppression of trans women, and trans men are not awarded the same social status as men, this is important to understand if we want to confront the kind of discrimination they face. By not understanding this postmodernism has determined that how they identify determines them as men or women and the only thing to worry about is stigma more precisely discourse. So then trans people are divided into concession or non concession, non-binary affects some trans people very negatively, they are insecure to take their place as men or women and fight their specific discrimination as trans and end up compromising.
  6. Machinery that allows women to work the same as men does a lot to change the social conditions, but women remain in a secondary status, used for cheaper labor and to be worked harder (See C. Zetkin). This will not change through discourse but through the seizure of the means of production by the proletariat who have an interest in equal pay for equal work. Women in production sets the conditions for the emancipation of women through socialist revolution (see F. Engels and Marxism, Mariategui, and the Women’s Movement)
    Postmodernism on the other hand, treats the “gender” question on the basis of mere stigma and interpersonal description and holds that ones thinking determines social conditions and not production, hence they resolve the women’s question not through revolutionary violence and destruction of the economic base but through gradual reforms in the superstructure. Their positions lead to the conclusion that linguistic and discursive shifts on a mass and popular scale will “liberate” women from men, which is a falsehood. In essence, if women communicate differently and communication with them is changed their status as oppressed changes too. This is due to the idea rooted in Judith Butler’s queer theory that the problem is not knowing one’s options, and that “gender” is just communication. In essence, their view is that the oppression of women predates class society and is also rooted in language and hence language can liberate women. And often all the adherents of this type of thought see the principal contradiction as an interpersonal contradiction between men and women. The contradiction between men and women exists, but it is a secondary contradiction and non-antagonistic one a result of the contradiction between women and class society which is antagonistic. Women’s liberation is therefore an incorrect idea because it posits that they should be liberated from male chauvinism and men generally, a male dominated society. They ignore women’s role in production and the real contradiction that causes male chauvinism in the first place. In essence, all of queer theory which is where the whole framework for “non-binary” is rooted seeks to provide pacifist and counter-revolutionary solutions to the problems in the superstructure to preserve the power of the ruling class over the base.
  7. We do not ban terms but we do struggle for unity on terminology. We separate things into bourgeois and proletariat ideology. Communism, according to Engels, is the doctrine of the liberation of the proletariat, so other doctrines are necessarily to preserve the domination of the proletariat. We ascribe to communism.
    The gender neutrality is important to some workers and many more petty bourgeois in the same way a religion is, we take the same approach. Even though we view it as metaphysics, we do not intend to be abrasive and confrontational with this. If a worker is a Catholic or a Muslim, we do not insist they give up on their religion to work with us, but we consistently struggle for materialism and we do not publish metaphysical analysis about possession or the work of the devil even if this is used to denounce real human suffering. Our paper has the duty to correspond only to materialism and the doctrine of the liberation of the proletariat.
    In report backs, it is important to us to understand the actual material existence of our comrades, their place in society and what they experience because we have to guide their practical activity. For instance, a trans woman comrade who is newly transitioning will still face a lot of specific prejudice and so we should know this person’s status so that we do not insist they carry out work that might be dangerous to them. The same goes for if a comrade is Black, or white and might be suited for a certain assignment, identity is not totally unimportant. If we want undercover reports inside of a reactionary or fascist event, we send white men to do this because they blend in, sending a trans black woman would be harmful to the result and potentially harmful to the comrade too. It also helps us understand what individuals face in their daily life and to be considerate of this.
    Hence when individuals are described in reports as “they” or “them” it can be obscurantist and we who have not met these comrades cannot get a full or even accurate grasp of them or their experience and their lives. So we discourage using obscurantism in reports, even if we respect the choices of these comrades and their own beliefs.
    We are atheists and materialists, this is our philosophy and it informs our political line. We respect the beliefs of others and work with the exploited and oppressed and those who face discrimination. Muslims face discrimination and we are absolutely against that because we oppose national chauvinism and religious discrimination, and stand for religious freedom. However, we do not legitimize these beliefs as reality. A socialist society would not ban religion for this reason, but it would practice atheism on a state level.
    Mao says draw back the bow, but let the people fire the arrow. We take the same view on the “gender” questions, we know that as long as there is suffering people will submit to religious salves, the opiates of the people, and we know that as long as there is the oppression of women, and backward ideas in society as a result, that there will be people who seek metaphysical salves for this. We do not harshly judge them or seek to exclude them just because they have not become full on materialists, most still actively stand against oppression. When postmodernism becomes their guide to action, this results in counter-revolutionary action, it misleads the people and this must be fought, the same as Christian pacifism must be fought. Marxists can tolerate a worker’s religion, but cannot accept the idea that we must suffer virtuously and await god to solve our problems.
  8. We stand for a society without rich or poor, where men and women exist in equality and there are no oppressive distinctions between them, where the people are free to express themselves in a new and proletarian manner. In short we uphold the slogan; make a casket for the old society! This means a new society won through revolutionary violence, through action. Even before getting there, we hope to act as new socialist women and new socialist men as much as we can and to break with old ideas, without succumbing to metaphysics as a painkiller, because metaphysics are not the truth and cannot bring about the liberation of our class.