… alle Verhältnisse umzuwerfen, in denen der Mensch ein erniedrigtes, ein geknechtetes, ein verlassenes, ein verächtliches Wesen ist … (Marx)

Clara Fraser (1923-1998)

Posted by entdinglichung - 12. März 2008

Heute am 12. März wäre Clara Fraser, marxistisch-feministische Theoretikerin und Aktivistin und Gründerin der Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) und von Radical Women (RW) 85 Jahre Jahre alt geworden, aus diesem Anlass der vor 10 Jahren veröffentlichte Nachruf:

Clara Fraser, (1923-1998)

American rebel and architect of socialist feminism

CLARA FRASER, THE TRAILBLAZING FEMINIST once described as a „Grand Dame of Socialism“ in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer headline, died on February 24 in Seattle of emphysema. Fraser’s vision, tenacity, and talents profoundly impacted social change movements in the U.S. and internationally. She was only weeks away from her 75th birthday and the release of her new book, Revolution, She Wrote.

Fraser was a „red diaper baby,“ raised in Los Angeles by radical Jewish parents. From her teens on, she was in the forefront of agitation for civil rights and socialism. A strong feminist far in advance of the ’60s women’s liberation movement, her unique and historic contribution was recognition of the interdependence of socialism, feminism, race liberation, and lesbian/gay freedom. Long before diversity became a catchword, she powerfully welded the issues of race, class, sex and lesbian/gay rights into the programmatic framework of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) and Radical Women (RW), international organizations which she co-founded and led for many years as FSP National Secretary and, at the time of her death, National Chair. She combined Marxist theory, grassroots organizing, interracial solidarity and an emphasis on building united fronts and a workingclass political party.

„Clara taught me and other ’60s radicals to never be afraid to swim against the current,“ says Henry Noble, a friend for 20 years and National Secretary of the FSP. „She was confident history would turn in favor of the rebels and the underdogs. And she was instrumental to winning outstanding victories like divorce reform and abortion rights. Her advice helped me and other Boeing retirees protect our benefits in the recent Boeing strike.“

„There are few people who touched my soul the way Clara did,“ recalls Yolanda Alaniz, National Coordinator of the FSP and RW National Comrades of Color Caucus, now living in Los Angeles. „I loved her dearly and learned so much from the way she lived. This Jewish jewel was honest, had a great sense of humor, and stood up for justice and the oppressed. She taught me to be a creative problem-solver, a Marxist scholar and writer, and to confidently aim high.“


A tradition of resistance

Born March 12,1923, Clara Dora Goodman and her younger sister Flory grew up in Boyle Heights, a multi-ethnic, workingclass neighborhood in East L.A. with a thriving, rambunctious culture of political engagement. Their mother, Emma Hochtfater Goodman, was a liberal socialist from Russia who worked in the garment industry and served as a business agent for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Their father Samuel Goodman was Latvian, an anarchist and staunch member of the Teamsters union.

Fraser graduated from UCLA in 1944, with a B.A. in literature and education. She worked briefly as a Hollywood screenwriter, then joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). During a brief stint in Chicago, she participated in a unionizing drive at the department store where she wrote advertising copy. In 1946, Fraser and her first husband moved to Seattle to help build the SWP branch there.

Dauntless in Seattle

Fraser found employment as an electrician on the Boeing Aircraft assembly line. There, she successfully campaigned for increased involvement of women in the International Association of Machinists and first-class union membership for Blacks. During the 1948 Boeing strike, Fraser helped lead an innovative picketline of mothers and babies to defy an anti-picketing injunction. When the strike was broken, Fraser and a hundred other leading activists were blacklisted — a condition which Fraser endured throughout the McCarthy Era.

Though hounded from job to job by the FBI, Fraser participated in a wide variety of political causes throughout the ’50s and ’60s, while also raising two sons: Marc Krasnowsky, a journalist who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Jon Fraser, a jazz trumpeter living in Boston.

Founding mother of socialist feminism

In 1965, Fraser helped lead the Seattle branch of the Socialist Workers Party in an exodus from the national organization. They created the Freedom Socialist Party, which was marked by its commitment to women’s liberation, African American freedom, revolutionary socialism, societal and organizational democracy, and principled politics.

Fraser joined forces with Seattle feminist and radical Gloria Martin as well as younger New left women to found Radical Women in 1967. RW’s goal was to teach women the leadership skills, theoretical know-how, and workingclass consciousness they were denied in the male-dominated antiwar, anti-poverty and civil rights movements. Fraser, Martin, Nina Harding, and other anti-poverty organizers led Washington State’s first abortion rights demonstration in a protest made up predominantly of African American women.

Fraser also collaborated with Tulalip leader Janet McCloud on early fishing rights struggles at Frank’s Landing and mobilized support for the Puyallup Nation when Tribal Chair Ramona Bennett led an armed occupation of Cascadia Juvenile Diagnostic Center to reclaim the land and building for her people. Fraser was arrested in an anti-apartheid protest at the South African Consulate in Seattle in 1985.

Fraser is perhaps best known as the woman who beat Seattle City Light in a 7-year-long sex and political ideology discrimination case. The utility fired her in retaliation for her leadership in a massive 11-day wildcat strike and defense of a groundbreaking program she designed to bring women into electrical trades. After her triumphant return to work in 1982, Fraser remained a vocal opponent of discrimination at the utility. The headline of a Seattle Times story on her retirement in 1986 described her as „City Light’s In-House Conscience.“

Retirement allowed Fraser to be a full-time advisor to FSP and RW. When she and eight other FSP leaders were sued in a privacy rights battle known as the Freeway Hall Case, Fraser was a leading strategist for fighting the case legally and publicly. Most recently, she played an invaluable role advising the first-ever International Feminist Brigade to Cuba, undertaken jointly in late 1997 by RW and the Federation of Cuban Women.

For two decades, Fraser has been a columnist for the Freedom Socialist newspaper and her witty, hard-hitting takes on politics and current events have been the paper’s most popular feature. These columns, along with numerous never-before published speeches and other writings, are collected in Revolution, She Wrote, published by Red Letter Press.

In her book’s dedication, Fraser wrote: „The act of fighting injustice is full of hope and joy when it is viewed, and properly so, as a slice of an innate historical tradition, an ancient reaching out for universal human fulfillment.“ She passed this joy in life and activism to all around her as a warm host, riveting conversationalist, lover of art and world culture, devotee of jazz, opera, movies, and good writing, passionate food aficionado, and consummate Jewish mother.

Commemorating a life of radical impact, boldness, and humanity

Politically active to her final day, Fraser died peacefully at home after a long struggle with emphysema. She is survived by her sons, Marc Krasnowsky and Jon Fraser, daughter-in-law Moira Ferguson, sister and brother-in-law Flory and Bennie Adler, two grandchildren, four nieces and nephews, their spouses and children.

Writings by Clara Fraser

Revolution, She Wrote
Socialism for Skeptics
Woman as Leader: Double Jeopardy on Account of Sex
The Emancipation of Women
Which Road Toward Women’s Liberation: A Radical Vanguard or a Single-Issue Coalition?

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