I was part of the “paper bag brigade,” waiting patiently in front of Woolworth’s on 170th St., between Jerome and Walton Aves., for someone to “buy” me for an hour or two, or, if I were lucky, for a day. That is the Bronx Slave Market, where Negro women wait, in rain or shine, in bitter cold or under broiling sun, to be hired by local housewives looking for bargains in human labor.
That the state is the boss of women and the controller-guarantor of the reproduction of labor-power can be seen directly in the fact that: a) it is the state that controls the family, the birth rate, immigration, emigration etc. through the promulgation of pertinent laws; b) it is always the state that intervenes to stand in for women every time the refusal of housework deepens. Indeed, the struggle of women against housework is the fundamental factor behind certain transformations in the state.
Today, amidst a changed political and class landscape, strategy should take precedence over fidelity to the received canon. The activities of social reproduction remain the field of powerful class antagonisms.
In order to appreciate the intervention made by Fortunati – beginning over a quarter century ago, along with the other founding members of the group Lotta Femminista, including Mariarosa Dalla Costa – we must first jettison some of our Marxist baggage.
When I encountered workerism, I was 19 years old. I was a grassroots militant of the students’ movement from the University of Padua. I was young, and thus I was silent and I learned. I remember that in many meetings I wanted to say things, but I was shy and insecure and therefore I preferred to keep quiet. The leaders of the movement were generally students who had already learned to do politics because they had some previous experience of party or political organizations. In contrast, I had only my beliefs about the need to change the world for the triumph of equality, freedom, and justice.