Tens of thousands of mainly young people took to the streets in utter outrage on June 24 and June 25 when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — the legalization of federal protection of the right of abortion for the past 49 years.
Various groups are scrambling to find ways to make sure abortion on demand is accessible, including providing necessary funds for those forced to travel hundreds of miles to other states where clinics still provide this essential health care.
This reactionary, barbaric ruling will turn back the clock for women — especially those of color — as well as gender-nonconforming and trans people. This is an attack on their right to choose for themselves when it comes to having a child or not. This ruling reflects how patriarchy, misogyny and racism are deeply rooted in U.S. society.
The ruling signals a return to “states’ rights.” At one point in U.S. history, states had the right to enslave African people before the U.S. Civil War resulted in the military defeat of the Confederacy. One pro-life, right-wing politician had the unmitigated gall to put an equal sign between the end of abortion and the end of slavery.
This comparison is meant to confuse the masses into believing that to be anti-racist, you have to be anti-abortion — when in reality Black enslaved women were systemically raped by their white enslavers and forced to carry the resulting pregnancies to term — and the child was then the property of the enslaver.
In many of the protests held since June 24, not only were there signs defending the right to abortion but also those saying “Defund the police.” There were signs such as “Abolish SCOTUS!” and “Abort the court!” for having the power to hold the fate of millions of people in their hands.
There were signs emphasizing that SCOTUS cared more about people having the right to carry guns than people having a right to an abortion. This was in response to a SCOTUS decision, issued June 23, that struck down a New York State law that banned people from carrying guns in public.
In a 1989 political report to a Workers World Party conference, Chairperson Sam Marcy stated in response to the weakening of Roe v. Wade by SCOTUS: “The abortion decision confirms that whenever the bourgeoisie is in a crisis, they will let nine people, unelected, appointed for life, decide the most critical issues concerning life in the United States.”
This observation is very timely today as the bourgeoisie and their fragile system face an unprecedented economic crisis on a global scale. And who will bear the brunt of this crisis? The economic and political rights of all sectors of the multinational, multigendered working class are on the chopping block.
There is an old Marxist axiom, “Being determines consciousness,” meaning that social conditions shape how one thinks.
In terms of the attacks on abortion rights, workers’ rights and police violence against people of color and now against anti-SCOTUS protesters, there is great potential for class consciousness to be shifted to grow on a mass scale. The militancy and scale of the initial protests against SCOTUS have not been seen since the aftermath of the police lynching of George Floyd in May 2020, when millions took the streets during that summer.
Today some are calling on social media for a general strike of women and their allies. This may be a premature call — but worsening conditions here and globally for billions of people may justify such a call sooner rather than later.
There is mass anger against this political offensive by the rabid right wing and against the ineffectiveness of the Democratic Party that has had ample time to strengthen abortion laws. The mass anger expressed now and over the coming months will be an important barometer for the outcome of the November midterm elections.
But while these elections come and go, what will remain are the bread-and-butter, life-and-death issues propelling the masses into the streets. They will come to rely less and less on the phony-baloney promises of capitalist politicians to meet their human needs — including health care, housing, education, an end to state repression and the right to organize.
L.D. Barkley, one of the martyred leaders of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising, stated that the heroic prison rebellion was “the sound before the fury.” Well, what we are seeing in the streets today, over 50 years later, is another reminder that mass fury, despite ebbs and flows, will always rage until the people win justice.