Argentina’s Anticapitalist Feminism


Argentine feminists debate in Buenos Aires on April 10, 2018. PHOTO/Fotografías Emergentes

An interview with
Luci Cavallero, Verónica Gago
Paula Verela
Camila Barón, Gabriela Mitidieri

Translation by
Karen Domínguez Burke

A bill to legalize abortion narrowly failed in the Argentinian Senate. But feminist movements have already effected a social revolution in South America.

Interview by
Cinzia Arruzza
Tithi Bhattacharya

On August 8 the Argentine Senate, by a narrow margin, voted down the Law of Voluntary Pregnancy Interruption (IVE), which would have legalized abortion in the country. The Catholic Church rejoiced, having led a ruthless campaign against safe and legal abortion for women. Several political operatives, from bourgeois politicians to trade union leaders, had caved in to this intense anti-abortion rhetoric. This for two reasons: one, their general capitulation to the ideology of “family values” upheld by both neoliberal forces and the Church; two, because they were terrified of a new social force that had arisen in response to neoliberal predation and was now decisively shaping the political terrain: the feminist movement.

The Argentinian feminist wave galvanized around the Ni Una Menos (“not one less”) movement, which arose in 2015 to protest the murder of fourteen-year-old Chiara Páez. The movement began as a struggle against femicide but rapidly radicalized, expanding the ambit of “violence” as an analytical category to include the multifarious assaults of capitalism on the lives of poor and working women and gender non-conforming people. It was the political breadth and activity of Ni Una Menos and of the Polish feminist movement that provided the inspiration for the International Women’s Strike.

Here, we bring together Argentinian feminists who played a leading role in shaping Ni Una Menos and the International Women’s Strike. We do this at a moment of danger for feminist organizing in the United States. While anti-abortion lawmakers are also on the march here, they are being buttressed by anti-labor laws, laws attacking social provisioning, and unprecedented levels of violence against immigrants and Muslims.

This is a particular political conjuncture where feminism, if it is to become a threat once more to misogyny and misogynists, cannot confine itself to what liberal politics classifies as “women’s issues.” If feminism is to provide an alternative to capitalist violence it must be an anticapitalist feminism. In recent times, Argentinian feminists have in their concrete struggles given form to an insurgent, anticapitalist feminism, which we can learn from, and hopefully, replicate.

CA What is your response to the Senate vote, which narrowly failed to legalize abortion in Argentina? What are the next steps for feminists?

LC, VG Our response is fury and euphoria. Fury because the Senate’s rejection means a decision to ignore women’s power. It is a familiar scene: this moribund political elite pretends that our efforts are invisible, as if they don’t count. This attitude echoes their lack of recognition of our work, of the ways we produce value, of our ways of building community. The Senate’s rejection dramatizes their contempt but it is also an attempt to discipline us.

Here, the principal actor is not the Senate, but the Catholic Church, led by the (Argentinian) Pope. In Argentina, the battle for women’s bodily autonomy is crucial because the abortion debate is part of a radical, mass feminist movement and it is now a debate about class in terms of differentiated possibilities for accessing safe abortion. As we argued before the lower house vote, for the Church, the right to decide must be kept away from popular neighborhoods.

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