The Third World Women’s Alliance: Lessons for at this time

In November of final 12 months, The Washington Post reported that, nearly 9 months after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic within the United States, the illness was “ravag[ing] African American and other minority communities with a particular vengeance” – as Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian sufferers continued to perish at a far larger price than white sufferers.

Then in April 2021, a research revealed within the Journal of General Internal Medicine discovered that Black ladies within the US suffered thrice the coronavirus mortality price of white males.

According to the research’s authors, the disparities in mortality had a lot to do with “the gendered and racialised nature of work, housing and living conditions, comorbidities, and access to care”.

Yet COVID-19 was not the canary within the coal mine that uncovered US society as, properly, downright sick.

A half-century earlier than the outbreak of the pandemic, the Third World Women’s Alliance (TWWA) was already diagnosing the structural pathologies of a system of racist and patriarchal capitalism, as retired psychology professor Patricia Romney paperwork in a brand new ebook titled We Were There: The Third World Women’s Alliance and the Second Wave.

A member of the New York chapter of the Alliance from 1970 to 1974, Romney demonstrates how the TWWA related the dots between racism, sexism, and classism, adopting the place that “the struggle against racism and imperialism must be waged simultaneously with the struggle for women’s liberation”.

The TWWA developed out of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee – a pillar of the civil rights motion – and the Black Women’s Liberation Committee, increasing to incorporate different ladies of color based mostly on a recognition of shared struggling.

The identify of the organisation, Romney explains, derived from the considering that, within the US, the “third world” consisted of the descendants of individuals from Africa, Latin America, and Asia, who had been pressured to endure related types of colonial-minded exploitation – albeit domestically – as these within the authentic homelands.

The TWWA espoused the idea {that a} profit-driven capitalist society positioned third-world ladies – each within the US and overseas – within the place of “triple jeopardy” as employees, individuals of color, and feminine.

To make certain, capitalism can not thrive with out mass distress, particularly the distress of choose demographic teams.

Imagine the catastrophe that might befall US company plutocracy have been the federal government to commit extra assets to, say, offering respectable healthcare, training, and housing to its inhabitants fairly than spending trillions on conflict.

The TWWA’s ideological platform rings as true at this time because it did 50 years in the past: “The United States is ruled by a small ruling class clique who use the concepts of racism and chauvinism to divide, control and oppress the masses of people for economic gain and profit.”

The Alliance, however, known as for “equal status and a society that does not exploit and murder other people and smaller nations”, and fought for a socialist system that assured “full, creative, non-exploitative lives for all human beings, fully aware that we will never be free until all oppressed people are free”.

The TWWA discovered inspiration in varied worldwide examples – amongst them Cuba, the place Romney spent two months in 1971 chopping sugarcane and observing first-hand a system during which the fundamental requirements of life have been free (although she would later develop disillusioned with sure points of the Cuban expertise).

She quotes an article from Triple Jeopardy, the TWWA’s newspaper, on how Cuban ladies loved a “tremendous opportunity for growth that does not exist here in the United States”, what with free daycare – one thing that also doesn’t exist within the US, the temptation to extract punishing income apparently being too nice – and the idea that “everyone should be allowed to develop themselves to their full capacity not only for self-development, but for the development of the whole society”.

Obviously, the “whole society” bit is anathema to capitalism, predicated as it’s on the obscene enrichment of a tiny minority on the expense of the remaining, who’re taught that their relative misfortune is fully a perform of particular person failure and never, you recognize, capitalism being capitalism.

In compiling the historical past of the Alliance and profiling its members, then, Romney gives an antidote to cut-throat neoliberalism and institutionalised inequality: the magic of solidarity and the alignment of kindred souls.

Another quote from Triple Jeopardy sums up the highly effective fantastic thing about uniting towards divide-and-conquer insurance policies and the perniciousness of enterprise as standard: “When we are touched by outside forces that reflect our worth we can begin to struggle against the ruler’s fascism and exploitation. We even begin to fill up with ourselves.”

The focus of We Were There is on the collective, not on Romney, though she covers related private particulars, resembling her personal experiences with multifaceted oppression.

She additionally exhibits how the Alliance broadened her perspective from a person to a societal one. In her growth as a psychologist, as an illustration, she got here to grasp that, fairly than merely serving to people address life’s issues, she needed to alter “the systems and structures that enabled those individual and family problems”.

And this ebook, you may say, is one other step in that route.

In her creator’s notice originally of the textual content, Romney writes that, now, the thought of girls within the US self-identifying as a part of the third world “seems odd, perhaps even off-putting, but activists of colour in our era used this language”.

But maybe it isn’t odd in any respect – particularly since, in lots of respects, the US itself might be thought of a 3rd world nation.

During a two-week go to to the US in December 2017, Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations particular rapporteur on excessive poverty and human rights, discovered ubiquitous “contrasts between private wealth and public squalor”, with a full one-quarter of American youth living in poverty.

Alston went on to detect a “demonisation of the poor” in addition to a “gendered nature of poverty”, with ladies being extra uncovered to violence and discrimination in addition to disproportionately the victims of austerity insurance policies.

Neoliberal austerity could also be helpful in conserving poor individuals poor, however, as Alston famous, the burden falls upon the first caregivers in households, who’re most of the time ladies.

Racism, he emphasised, is a “constant dimension” of US existence, whereas Americans can “expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy” – a state of affairs that naturally has not compelled stated “democracy” to reevaluate its priorities, or to cease devoting inordinate portions of cash to militarily terrorising different nations and peoples.

Now add coronavirus to the combo, and Romney’s We Were There turns into an ever extra useful device for evaluating structural malaise in a rustic that does its greatest to inoculate its inhabitants towards the reality.

And whereas the plague of imperialism rages on, it has not but killed the magic of solidarity.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.