Feminists are not fascists - a reply to RS21
5 April 2021
The British socialist group RS21 has, at its core, members who left the Socialist Workers Party in disgust at the way that organisation supported a man accused of rape. However, its politics are otherwise indistinguishable from the larger organisation, it just doesn’t have the bureaucratic infrastructure to function in the same way.
It also lacks the intellectual self-confidence to ideologically engage with the movements it supports. Most of the time this isn’t really a problem. The movements are in favour of good things and so is RS21.
Eventually there comes a point when chasing the zeitgeist and uncritically advocating the views of people whose support you are seeking becomes a real issue with potentially horrific consequences in the real world. RS21 has reached this point in a series of recently published videos on the question of trans rights.
As an organisation with roots in the Trotskyist tradition, RS21 should have acquainted its members with a classical Marxist understanding of fascism. Fascism is a bourgeois movement which mobilises the lower middle classes and the most reactionary workers to smash the organised working class and its parties. The International Socialist tradition, from which RS21 emerged, understood that and brought tens of thousands onto the streets to oppose British fascism in the 1970s and 80s.
Fascism is not networks of left feminists who argue that one does not change biological sex by an act of will, instead arguing that it is a material biological reality with social significance due to sexism.
In the first of their videos RS21 publish without commentary, context or qualification a contribution giving “a lowdown on transphobia in Britain over the last decade” by Evren, a trans activist and podcaster.
Where do these views lead?
Evren makes no discernible distinction between genuine fascist movements and active feminists. He modifies the abusive label “TERF” from the customary “trans exclusionary radical feminists” to “trans exterminatory”. As the video goes on he talks of ‘gender critical feminists’ as having “a fascist conception of the child”. He tells his listeners that they are “eugenicists”; they “enact political violence”; their end game is “total trans extermination”; they “organise child abuse”. The only distinction he makes is that they are a “weirdly gender crank version of other fascists”. Assertion follows assertion and no evidence of any sort is presented for any of these claims.
Marxists who accept this line of argument have clear responsibilities. It is their job to drive out of the labour movement the activists, who are overwhelmingly female, that hold these views These women must be made pariahs. Feminist meetings must be disrupted by huge counter-mobilisations and physical violence where necessary. Anyone familiar with Trotsky’s writings on fascism, or how the SWP occasionally challenged the British National Party and National Front, would draw the same conclusion.
RS21 leave it unclear as to whether they share Evren’s analysis that feminists are fascists. It is possible to be strongly supportive of the view that a man can become a woman by lifestyle changes and a sense of being born as the wrong sex without believing that people who disagree with you should be beaten off the streets.
For activists who hold the view that no debate on this issue is legitimate, Evren and RS21 are taking the position to its logical conclusion. It is a complete reworking of the Marxist understanding of fascism, transforming it into simply everything you strongly disapprove of.
Those of us committed to a Marxism based on material reality, and one which challenges wrong ideas, cannot accept it. In Britain and Ireland women are asserting that their sex is real. Labelling them as fascists is just one more misogynistic insult.