These broad imperatives must form the basis of any more specific radical feminist program. But our revolution­ary demands are likely to meet anything from mild balking (“utopian. . . unrealistic. . . farfetched. . . too far in the future. . . impossible. . . well, it may stink, but you haven’t got anything better. . .”) to hysteria (“inhu­man. . . unnatural. . . sick. . . perverted. . . communistic. . . 1984 . . . what? creative motherhood

destroyed for babies in glass tubes, monsters made by scientists?, etc.”). But we have seen that such negative reactions paradoxically may signify how close we are hit­ting: revolutionary feminism is the only radical program that immediately cracks through to the emotional strata underlying “serious” politics, thus reintegrating the person – al with the public, the subjective with the objective, the emotional with the rational—the female principle with the male.

What are some of the prime components of this resist­ance that is keeping people from experimenting with alternatives to the family, and where does it come from? We are all familiar with the details of Brave New World: cold collectives, with individualism abolished, sex reduced to a mechanical act, children become robots, Big Brothei intruding into every aspect of private life, rows of babies fed by impersonal machines, eugenics manipulated by the state, genocide of cripples and retards for the sake o{ a super-race created by white-coated technicians, all emo­tion considered weakness, love destroyed, and so on. The family (which, despite its oppressiveness, is now the last refuge from the encroaching power of the state, a shelter that provides the little emotional warmth, privacy, and individual comfort now ayailable) would be destroyed, letting this horror penetrate indoors.

Paradoxically, one reason The 1984 Nightmare occurs so frequently is that it grows directly out of, signifying an exaggeration of, the evils of our present male-suprema­cist culture. For example, many of its visual details are lifted directly from our orphanages and state-run institu­tions for children.[26] The Nightmare is directly the product of the attempt to imagine a society in which women have

become like men, crippled in the identical way, thus destroying a delicate balance of interlocking dependen­cies.

However, we are suggesting the opposite: Rather than concentrating the female principle into a “private” re­treat, into which men periodically duck for relief, we want to rediffuse it—for the first time creating society from the bottom up. Man’s difficult triumph over Nature has made it possible to restore the truly natural: he could undo Adam’s and Eve’s curse both, to reestablish the earthly Garden of Eden. But in his long toil his imagination has been stifled: he fears an enlargement of his drudgery, through the incorporation of Eve’s curse into his own.

But there is a more concrete reason why this subliminal horror image operates to destroy serious consideration of

feminism: the failure of past social experiments. Radical experiments, when they have solved problems at all, have created an entirely new—and not necessarily improved—, set of problems in their place. Let us look briefly at some of these radical experiments to determine the causes of their failure—for I believe that in no case was the failure surprising given the original postulates of the experiment, and its specific social context. We can then use this in­formation as another valuable negative guideline, teach­ing us what most to avoid in our own program.

The most important failure of all the modem social experiments was that of the Russian communes. (The failure of the Russian Revolution in general is a thorn in every radical’s side; but its direct relation to the failure of the communes is seldom noted.) It led, ironically, to the assumption of a causal connection between the aboli­tion of the family and the development of a totalitarian state. In this view, the later Russian reinstitution of the nuclear family system is seen as a last-ditch attempt to salvage humanist values—privacy, individualism, love, etc., by then rapidly disappearing.

But it is the reverse: The failure of the Russian Revolu­tion is directly traceable to the failure of its attempts to eliminate the family and sexual repression. This failure, in turn, as we have seen, was caused by the limitations of a male-biased revolutionary analysis based on economic class alone, one that failed to take the family fully into account even in its function as an economic unit. By the same token, all socialist revolutions to date have been от will be failures for precisely these reasons. Any initial liberation under current socialism must always revert back to repression, because the family structure is the source of psychological, economic, and political oppression. So­cialist attempts to soften the structure of power within the family by incorporating women into the labor force or army are only reformist. Thus it is no surprise that socialism as it is now constituted in the various parts of the world is not only no improvement on capitalism, but often worse.

Thus develops a major component of The Nightmare image: The destruction of the family as the last refuge for intimacy, comfort, privacy, individualism, etc., and’ the complete encroachment of the superstructure economy into all aspects of life, the drafting of women into a male world, rather than the elimination of sex class distinction altogether. Because no provision has been made to rees­tablish the female element in the outside world, to incor­porate the “personar into the “public,” because the female principle has been minimized or obliterated rather than diffused to humanize the larger society, the result is a horror.

Wilhelm Reich in The Sexual Revolution summarized the specific objective reasons for the failure of the Rus­sian communes in the best analysis to date:

1) Confusion of the leadership and evasion of the prob­lem.

2) The laborious task of reconstruction in general given the cultural backwardness of Old Russia, the war, and famine.

3) Lack of theory. The Russian Revolution was the first of its kind. No attempt had been made to deal with emotional-sexual-familial problems in the formulation of basic revolutionary theory. (Or, in our terms, there had been a lack of “consciousness raising” about female/child oppression and a lack of radical feminist analysis prior to the revolution itself.)

4) The sex-negative psychological structure of the indi­vidual, created and reinforced throughout history by the family, hindered the individual’s liberation from this very structure. As Reich puts it:

It must be remembered that human beings have a tremendous fear of just that kind of life for which they long so much but which is at variance with their own structure.

5) The explosive concrete complexities of sexuality.

■ In the picture that Reich draws of the time, one senses the immense frustration, of people trying to liberate them­selves without having a well-thought-out ideology to guide them. In the end, that they attempted so much without an adequate preparation made their failure even more extreme: To destroy the balance of sexual polarization without entirely eliminating it was worse than nothing at all

Another experimental communal system, widely touted, is the kibbutz in Israel. Here, though, the failure is not extreme: It is often stated that children of the kibbutz lack individualism, that there is a “groupiness” in their psychology that is the price of elimination of the family. (“And if you want to pay the price. . . well. . .”) Here I prefer to speak from my own experience, though there are many books on the subject. My impression of kibbutz life is as follows:

The division of labor is as strong as ever (one woman explained to me that driving a tractor is apt to ruin a woman’s complexion). Only foreign girls still question why women aren’t out in the fields, but instead confined to the kitchen, the laundry, the sewing room, or, at best, the chickenhouse.[27] Children identify strongly with their genetic parents (one hears over and over again the words Ema Sheli, Abba Sheli, "My mother, My father,” in the same tones as every child on every block in the U. S, says, “If you don’t do it Г11 tell my father,” or “My mother’s gon’ beat your ass”). Family ties remain strong even if their worst consequences are avoided.

Above all, children are still segregated, even having their own special facilities, animal farms, mealtimes, activ­ities. The conception of childhood remains, including the activities proper to it. Schooling follows the European model, even if some of the worst aspects, such as grading, have been eliminated: The classroom continues, with its


twenty-to-one ratio, adult approval still the final goal rather than learning for its own sake.

Sex role models are strongly fostered, sex segregation not eliminated (there are different bathrooms for male and female), and homo – or bi-sexuality so unheard of that when I brought it up several women walked out of the room in protest. Despite rumors to the contrary, the kib­butz is increasingly conservative sexually (it is embarrass­ing for a single woman to ask for birth control pills, and VD is a disgrace), and any alliance other than a long­term one with a socially approved partner is frowned upon. Sexuality on the kibbutz remains conventionally organized, little different from the sexuality of the larger society. The incest taboo and its consequences have simply been extended from the family to the peer group.

In fact the kibbutz is no radical experiment, but a limited communalism instituted to further specific agri­cultural aims. The kibbutz is nothing more than a com­munity of farming pioneers temporarily forced to sacrifice traditional social structures to better adjust to a peculiar set of national conditions. If and when these conditions change, the kibbutz reverts to “normal.” For example, women on the far left kibbutz on which I stayed were concerned with demanding private kitchens in addition to the communal one where meals were served six times a day. They were still cast in the role of Gracious Wife, but had been denied the proper equipment to play the part. Their interest in clothing, fashion, makeup, glamor, not easy to indulge, resembled, indeed was, the longing of the farm girl for the vices of the big city—the more intense in fantasy because difficult to achieve in practice. Or, going through the residential section of the kibbutz in I the early evening, I could easily imagine that I was walk­ing through a quiet suburbia or a small town in tbe U. S.A.: The matchbox homes are cared for with the at­tention to – private property of any petit bourgeois, the decoration of apartments just as devoted. (The reversion back to property was explained to me as “only realistic.” Formerly kibbutzniks had shared even personal clothing,

but soon got sick of this.) Property-is still an important extension of self—because children are still property. The line of Little Ones following Big Mama out of the House of Children is like any kindergarten anywhere. Children are still oppressed.

It is remarkable that despite the lack of radicalism about the kibbutz experiment it turned out as well as it did. The proportionate results of even a weakening of the division of labor, property mentality, the nuclear family, sex repression, etc., are—spectacular. My impression was that the children were healthier physically, mentally, and emotionally than their counterparts in the American fam­ily structure; that they were friendlier and more generous, with great curiosity about the world outside; that their parents were not so nervous and hassled, and thus were able to maintain better relationships with them; and that their creativity and individuality were encouraged as much as the community could afford.[28]

Another limited but much-touted experiment which has produced disproportionately good results is A. S. Neill’s Summerhill. In the famous book about his small experi­mental school in the north of England, Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Childrearing (a book on the shelf of every self-respecting liberal, radical, Bohemian, and/or academic parent in the country), he describes the transi­tion of normal children into “free” self-regulating chil­dren, But Summerhill is no “radical” approach to child – rearing—it is a liberal one. Neill, a kindly and decent sort of schoolmaster, rather than a true social innovator,! has set up a small retreat for those victims of our present system whose parents have the money and liberal views to

send them there. Within this retreat children are spared the more harmful effects of authoritarianism in the family structure, a pretense is made at equality with those who govern the place (Neill’s vote counts as only one, though I imagine that in real crisis, the decision does not come up for vote. In any case, children always know who’s boss, benevolent though he might be), and compulsory education is relaxed: though children learn only when they want to, the structure of classes, if loosened, remains un­changed; though paasturbation is not frowned on, sexual intercourse is definitely not encouraged (after all, Neill observes, quite rightly, “they” would close down the school). What’s worse, sex roles have not begun to be eliminated,[29] something beyond the scope of such an ex­periment, since children are already psychosexually formed by the family by the time they come in, at five or over. In ah respects then—psychologically, sexually, edu­cationally—we have only a softening of some of the harshest aspects of the system.

2l8 the dialectic of sex

The problem has not been attacked at the roots. Legal­ly children are still under the jurisdiction of parents who can do with them what they please, (And kids can’t mail away for the sort of parents who will send them to Sum – merhill.) Neill continually complains of parents, who can undo all his work in one vacation, or drag the child away the minute the worst effects of the victimization have disappeared. He is afraid of their power over him. After all, he is at their service: if they are not satisfied with The Product, the shadowy “they” still have the final say. Even when the parents are devoted followers of the Sum – merhill philosophy,[30] they are a nuisance with their con­stant visits and questions. Between the two, admiring visitors and dubious investigators (including a whole array of official ones), the children must get accustomed to living in a zoo, hardly much of an improvement on their usual object status.

And how could it be otherwise? Summerhill is an iso­lated refuge in which children are more—^not less—segre­gated from adults, even from the life of the town. And the school is totally dependent on the goodwill of legal parents and liberal donors even to stay in existence. It is hardly a self-sufficient community with its own economy, and thus it is prone to become a year-round camp for disturbed children, whose parents have been backed into liberalism as a last resort. Because children far outnumber the adults, and are the central reason for the existence


of the whole project, their wishes and opinions are ob­served and “respected” more than in most places in the world, but it is an artificial respect not based on a true integration into a real community.

And if, with only these superficial reforms, children il­lustrate remarkably improved behavior, their aggression, repression, and hostility replaced by authentic courtesy, psychological breadth, and honesty, then think what we might expect under truly revolutionary conditions.

A detailed study of these and other experiments from the radical feminist viewpoint would be a valuable con­tribution to feminist theory. Necessarily we have been brief. We have discussed some of the most important modem social experiments primarily to show that they do not fill our four minimal requirements for feminist revolu­tion.

Let us summarize the causes of failure:

1) The special ties of women to biological reproduc­tion and childrearing, leading to unequal division of labor, class based on sex, the power psychology, and other evils, were never severed. The roles of women were enlarged rather than redefined. Women may have been (partially) drafted into the superstructure male economy, usually only to fill a specific, often transient, labor need, but never has the female role been diffused throughout the larger so­ciety. Thus women kept their old roles, and, in some cases, merely added a new one.

2) In some cases, such as Summerhill, the experiment was dependent on the economy—and the goodwill—of a larger (repressive) community, and thus was parasitic, un­sound at its foundations. However, in those communities with socialism at the origins of the experiment, this was not so much the problem. Children of the communes and the kibbutz feel as dependent on the community as a whole as they do on any specific person; often they even share in the productive work. Only in the division of labor are these experiments still (economically speaking) at fault, and that, we know, develops for other reasons.

3) Continued segregation of children and a failure to

do away with or at least radically restructure school. The methods of segregation have varied, ranging from the ex­treme of the dumping-ground, barracks-like orphanage to its more liberal version, the isolated camp setting of a Sum – merhill, or a Beil Yeladim, the House of Children of the kibbutz. But though its destructive impact may have been cushioned, in no case has the concept of childhood been questioned, or the apparatus of childhood (the modern school, special childhood customs, etc.) discarded alto­gether.

4) Sexual repression continued, partly as the result of the failure to sever the special connection between women and children and partly because the pioneers were unable to overcome their own “sex-negative” structures.[31]

I shall add a fifth cause of failure:

5) There was no development of a feminist conscious­ness and analysis prior to the initiation of the experiment. The best example of this failing is our current American communal experiments, which merely extend the family structure to include a larger number of people. The divi­sion. of labor remains, because woman’s role in (child) bed or kitchen has not been questioned, nor the role of man as provider. And since the relationship “mother/ child” remains intact, it is no wonder that when the com­mune breaks up, all the “godparents” disappear, as well as the genetic father himself, leaving the mother stuck— without even the protection of an ordinary marriage.

Thus never has there been a true instance of full mem­bership of women and children in the larger society. The modern social experiment, like the matriarchal stage of human history, signifies only a relative loosening within the larger movement toward consolidation of male su­premacy through history. It never altered the fundamen­tal condition of sex oppression. Any benefits that accrued to women and children were incidental to other social

The Case for Feminist Revolution objectives—which themselves were obstructed by the vast, unrecognized substratum of sex oppression. Because their ideology was not founded on the minimal feminist prem­ises above, these. experiments never achieved even the more limited democratic goals their (male) theorists and leaders had predicted. However, their success within nar­row spheres shows that the biological family unit is amenable to change. But we would have to control totally its institutions to eliminate the oppression altogether.

However—to be fair—it is only recently, in the most advanced industrial countries, that genuine preconditions for feminist revolution have begun to exist. For the first time it is becoming possible to attack the family not only on moral grounds—in that it reinforces biologically-based sex class, promoting adult males, who are then divided further among themselves by race and class privilege, over females of all ages and male children—but also on functional grounds: it is no longer necessary or most ef­fective as the basic social unit of reproduction and produc­tion. There is no longer a need for universal reproduction, even if the ‘development of artificial reproduction does not soon place biological reproduction itself in question; cyber­nation, by changing not only man’s relation to work, but his need to work altogether, will eventually strip the divi­sion of labor at the root of the family of any remaining practical value.