Liberal Youth, Fascist Battleground (Pt. II)
Young people were not always treated like property, and in many communities and families, they still aren't.
Capitalism Sabotages Healing
"The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation...
The bourgeois clap-trap about the family and education, about the hallowed co-relation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labour...
Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty.
But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.
And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, etc.? The Communists have not invented the intervention of society in education; they do but seek to alter the character of that intervention, and to rescue education from the influence of the ruling class."
— Marx & Engels, [The Manifesto of the Communist Party](https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/download/pdf/Manifesto.pdf)
In 1949, German playright Bertolt Brecht wrote The Caucasian Chalk Circle, an adaptation of the 14th Century Chinese play The Chalk Circle by Li Qianfu. In the play, a governor's wife callously abandons her son, and a housemaid named Grusha steps in to raise him as her own. The governor and his wife return to claim the child in order to facilitate a property claim that requires an heir. Brecht offers this as an allegory for the nature of the family under capitalism - a property arrangement. As Engels wrote (with his typical racist trappings) in Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State:
The form of family corresponding to civilization and coming to definite supremacy with it is monogamy, the domination of the man over the woman, and the single family as the economic unit of society. The central link in civilized society is the state, which in all typical periods is without exception the state of the ruling class, and in all cases continues to be essentially a machine for holding down the oppressed, exploited class.
Capitalist society ensnares children in overlapping forms of exploitation, and the state is incapable of alleviating this victimization beyond the level necessary for the perpetuation of its dependent relations. In the clip below, we can see the resolution of The Caucasian Chalk Circle, wherein the reluctant magistrate Azdak issues a challenge to determine the rightful guardian of the child.
As the curtain closes, we are implored to see beyond the Solomonic context and pay heed to its seemingly universal wisdom:
"And you who have heard the story of the chalk circle
Bear in mind the wisdom of our fathers
Things should belong to those who do well by them
Children to motherly women that they may thrive
Wagons to good drivers that they may be well driven
And the Valley to those who water it, that it may bear fruit."
Upon first blush - and admittedly, upon my first reading as a white queer teen who had recently run away from a violent and repressive household - this seems like a solid takeaway. Children belong to good mothers. Bad mothers should be relinquished of their children. But how is this truism actually implemented in practice? Today we are seeing trans children at risk of losing everything, precisely because of fascists' increasing ability to back their parochial notion of "good parenting" with the state monopoly on violence. Perhaps, we would do well to take a second look at this seemingly benevolent approach.
The Other 99% (Of Human History)
"I do not believe that there is any people on earth freer than they, and less able to allow the subjection of their wills to any power whatever, so much so that Fathers here have no control over their children, or Captains over their subjects, or the Laws of the country over any of them, except in so far as each is pleased to submit to them. There is no punishment which is inflicted on the guilty, and no criminal who is not sure that his life and property are in no danger...not because there are no Laws or punishments proportionate to the crimes, but it is not the guilty who suffer the penalty. It is the public that must make amends for the offenses of individuals ; so that, if a Huron has killed an Algonquin or another Huron, the whole country assembles ; and they come to an agreement respecting the number of presents to be given to the Tribe or to the relatives of him who has been killed, to stay the vengeance that they might take."
— Father Lallemont, Jesuit Relations 28:4
Young people were not always treated like property, and in many communities and families, they still aren't. Anthropologists, psychologists, and political philosophers have catalogued and analyzed a surprising diversity of parenting cultures. Among these are the Siksika, whose level of self- and community-actualization are so advanced that they inspired much of Abraham Maslow's studies on personal development. Likewise with the Hopi, whose culture of respect for childre was influential to Murray Bookchin's theories of hierarchy and freedom.
And yet, many of these same peoples had their children forcefully removed from their homes and placed in "Residential Schools" that we now read fresh horrors about with each passing month. In Cheaper Than Bullets, Tabatha Toney Booth tells us:
"Many parents had no choice but to send their kids, when Congress authorized the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to withhold rations, clothing, and annuities of those families that refused to send students. Some agents even used reservation police to virtually kidnap youngsters, but experienced difficulties when the Native police officers would resign out of disgust, or when parents taught their kids a special "hide and seek" game. Sometimes resistant fathers found themselves locked up for refusal. In 1895, nineteen men of the Hopi Nation were imprisoned to Alcatraz because they refused to send their children to boarding school."
It isn't just in the U.S. that this has been done. Even in self-proclaimed socialist nations, we see a pattern of indigenous reeducation and forced integration into the dominant culture. Like the U.S. settler colonial occupation, other nation-states focus on children because they are the most vulnerable. Whether private or public, the state defaults to treating children as property.
Prefiguring Authentic Community To Abolish The Colonial Family
We need a new conception of society, and along with it, a completely new way of seeing the family. We have all heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." But where is our village? Many are stuck in a cycle of exhausting production and feverish consumption, seeking refuge in parasocial relationships built on the digital property of billionaires, shepherded by opaque algorithms that pull us around by our own dopamine pathways. Even worse, many are locked up in prison and cut off from the community entirely. Still others are similarly sequestered in retirement communities, mental hospitals, and other instutitions. Often these are the best choices we have, and the guilt of having to make these terrible choices can cause us to become invested in the internal justifications of the system.
There is a reason that the societies with free children are also the societies with free adults. All of us need to be actively seeking the dismantling of structures that oppress us and our neighbors based on age, race, sexual orientation, gender, immigration status, or any other factor. This is why we advocate for the communalization of the block, the confederation of the municipality, and the destruction of the state. We can (and should!) learn non-violent communication, emotional self-regulation, and other things to help us right here, right now. A lot of us need therapy. Many also need medication. This is us starting where we are. However, as Maslow himself wrote 23 years after publishing his paper on the hierarchy of needs:
"…self-actualization is not enough. Personal salvation and what is good for the person alone cannot be really understood in isolation. The good of other people must be invoked as well as the good for oneself. It is quite clear that purely inter-psychic individualist psychology without reference to other people and social conditions is not adequate."
So it's clear that we need to repair society if we're going to carve out a space where children can actually be free and safe. Some good places to start: