A Revolutionary Subject

Pedagogy of Women of Color and Indigeneity

by Lilia D. Monzó (Author)
©2019 Textbook XXVIII, 290 Pages
Series: Education and Struggle, Volume 10


A Revolutionary Subject: Pedagogy of Women of Color and Indigeneity is a call to radical educators, grassroots organizers, and others on the left to recognize the enormous historical legacy of and potential for revolutionary praxis that exists among Women of Color and Indigeneity. This book revitalizes Marx’s dialectics to challenge class-reductionism, highlighting a class struggle that is also necessarily anti-racist, anti-sexist, and against all forms of oppression.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • Advance Praise for A Revolutionary Subject
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface: Walking With Grace, Fighting With Courage: Lilia Monzó’s Marxist Humanism (Peter McLaren)
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 1. An Introduction
  • A World of Unfreedoms
  • Capitalism: A System of Exploitation
  • Race, Class, and Gender: A Marxist-Humanist Approach
  • Hegel, Marx, and the Making of Freedom
  • Revolutionary Critical Pedagogy
  • Organization of the Book
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 2. Indigenous Women and Women of Color on the Trenches of Freedom
  • Class and the Mode of Production
  • The Rise of Gender Exploitation and Class Relations
  • Industrialization and the Family
  • Coloniality, Slavery, and Primitive Accumulation
  • Whitestream Feminisms
  • Women of Color and Indigeneity in the Settler-Colonial State
  • Gender and Racialization Under Global Capitalism
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 3. Marx on Women, Non-Western Societies, and Liberation: Challenging Misconceptions
  • Marx on Women, the Family, and Gender Relations
  • “Productive” and “Unproductive” Labor
  • Marx on Racism, Family, and the Revolutionary Potential of Non-Western Societies
  • Marx’s Humanism and a New Society
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 4. In Search of Freedom: My Road to Marx
  • Capitalist Delusions: The Immigrant Narrative Confronted
  • On Feminist Understandings and the Right to Speak
  • In Survival Mode—Race and Gender as Class Warfare
  • A Colonial Legacy
  • New Hope and New Courage
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 5. Women Making Revolutionary History
  • Women as Revolutionary Spark and Motor
  • The Paris Commune
  • The Russian Revolution
  • Consciousness as Their Driving Force
  • Organizing for Mass Support: Assata Shakur and the Black Panther Party
  • The Revolutionary Writing of Ding Ling
  • Women in Leadership: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution
  • Women in Combat: Zhao Yiman
  • Indigenous Women and Women of Color Practicing Horizontalism
  • The Zapatistas
  • Rojava
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Invisible Oppressions: Race, LGBTQIA, and Other Intersections
  • Challenging Backseat Politics
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 6. En la Lucha Siempre: Chicanx/Boricua/Latinx Women as Revolutionary Subjects
  • The Revolutionary Subject
  • Boricua, Chicanx, and Latinx Women en Acción
  • Latinx Women Activists
  • Marisol: Activista de su communidad
  • Cheyenne: A Native Womxn’s Story
  • Martha: Indocumentada e invencible
  • Anaida: Toda una vida en acción
  • Learning From Chicanx/Boricua/Latinx Women’s Stories
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 7. Gendered and Racialized Capital: Tensions and Alliances
  • Capitalism, Colonialism, and Racialization: Toward a Unitary Theory
  • A Contested Terrain
  • Race, Whiteness, and the Model Minority Myth
  • Criminalizing Migration
  • Building Solidarity and Remaking the World
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Chapter 8. Pedagogy of Dreaming
  • Why Dreaming?
  • Dreaming as Epistemology: Challenging Temporal “Rationality” and the Politics of Now
  • Dialogue Beyond Words: Finding the Silence That Let the Other Speak
  • Red Love: Beyond the Bourgeois Family
  • Walking With Grace: Musings From This Latinx Woman of Color
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix: Martha: Undocumented and Invincible
  • Note
  • Index
  • Series index

| xi →


This has been probably the most difficult project I have engaged in as a scholar because in writing it I had many moments of clarity about my life experiences, who I am and who I want to be at this stage in my life, and about the many contradictions with which I live. There are many people that have supported me intellectually, academically, and in the day to day struggles of surviving as a Latinx woman to get me to a point in which my subaltern voice could be heard. Still many others have also supported this work. To all of you I offer my profound gratitude.

I still carry the voices of my doctoral mentors who helped me develop a body of knowledge, writing, and research skills that I continue to draw on. These include Robert Rueda, Nelly Stromquist, Reynaldo Baca, Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo, Gretchen Guiton, and Laurie MacGilivray. Robert Rueda deserves special mention since it was by his side and with his guidance that I became a scholar. His words of wisdom and his research rigor will forever mark my work.

Suzanne SooHoo has been a rock of support as I navigated the tenure process and learned to disrupt rather than adjust to the academy. From her I have learned to listen more, to quiet the chatter of doubts that infiltrate our minds, and to engage the difficult process of self-reflection. The Paulo ← xi | xii → Democratic Project has been a social space and a physical place (Angie and Peter McLaren’s home) of sanctuary for me. Our members remind me everyday that our work becomes a creative labor of love when we walk alongside others who share our goals for a better world, who lift us up and recognize our strengths while balancing our weaknesses, and who just love us as we are. In particular I want to thank Tom Wilson, Suzanne SooHoo, Anaida Colón-Muñíz, Peter McLaren, Angie McLaren, Miguel Zavala, Cathery Yeh, and Jorge Rodriguez; know that no matter what, in me you have a sister who will stand up with you always.

I owe a world of gratitude to Peter McLaren for taking me under his huge wings and showing me the way to a Marxist revolutionary critical pedagogy. He challenged me to think bigger and dream grander and he lay a world of opportunities at my feet. Most importantly, he showed me how to look beyond the capitalist haze that clouds our being and glimpse the moments of selfless love that reveal the possibilities that lay within our species being.

I also want to thank my comrades of the International Marxist-Humanist Organization with whom I have discussed Marx’s work and many of the ideas expressed in this book at public and private meetings. I have learned a great deal from each of you. I especially want to thank Kevin Anderson.

I am very grateful for the invaluable feedback and encouragement I received from the people who read chapters or earlier versions of chapters, including Charlotte Evenson, Ndindi Kitonga, Peter McLaren, Anaida Colón-Muñíz, Suzanne SooHoo, Kevin Anderson, Donaldo Macedo, Samuel Hassbinder, Kemal Inai, Peter Hudis, Paulo Magcalas, Angela Arzubiaga. Sandy Grande provided invaluable feedback and mentoring in regard to Indigenous peoples and current debates. Kevin Anderson provided significant guidance on Marxist theory and the history of specific movements. I am also very grateful for the friends and comrades who read and provided beautiful blurbs for the back cover, including Anna Odrowaz-Coates, Antonia Darder, Sandy Grande, Suzanne SooHoo, Carla Monroe, Kevin Anderson, and Peter Hudis.

I appreciate the many friends, colleagues, and students who have given of their time to discuss or listen to me think aloud about the topics contained herein, offered opportunities to share my work in public venues, which has allowed me to gauge audience reaction, receive questions and formulate responses, and overall sharpened my thinking, or have been a constant and important source of support for me and my work. These include many already mentioned but also long-time friend Dina Hernandez, the International Critical Pedagogy Conference Organizers at Northeast Normal University ← xii | xiii → in Changchun, China, the Ethnic Studies Summit Committee at Chapman University, Don Cardinal who hired me at Chapman University when he was the Dean, Margie Curwen, Kimberly White-Smith, Dean Margaret Grogan who supported my sabbatical leave, Dave Hill, Meng Zhao, Eman Almutairi, Tim Bolin, Kim Diew, Kevin Stockbridge, Paola Zitlali Morales, Alisha Heinemann, Gerry McNenny, and Anat Hertzog.

I am deeply grateful to Barry Kampol, who first facilitated my contract with Peter Lang. Although the writing of this book was put off for many years and shifted focus as I developed further, it was his initial recommendation and encouragement and his influence with Lang that got me the contract, which was later revised with a new focus.

I thank the Latinx women activists featured in Chapter 6: Anaida Colón Muñíz, Marisol Ramirez, Cheyenne Reynoso, and Martha Sanchez, for sharing their painful and beautiful stories with me, reviewing the narratives I constructed, and helping me think more deeply about what it means to be an activist.

I owe a special thanks to the editors and support staff at Peter Lang: Sarah Bode, Megan Madden, and especially, Luke McCord for their support of this project, tremendous patience, dedicated assistance, and attention to detail.

Most importantly, I thank my family. My mother and father and my sister have never floundered in their belief in my ability to achieve. Spending time with family—my mother and father, my sister, brother-in-law, my nephew and niece, my mother-in-law, and my husband and son—is a necessary sanctuary in an otherwise too often dehumanizing world. I must especially thank my husband and my son for their love and support and for their understanding of the times—too often—when I have been literally or metaphorically absent while writing. My husband and life partner, Michael Roybal, has always stepped up to champion and support my career and personal endeavors, taking up my slack when necessary, as part and parcel of our partnership. You have been my rock for almost 25 years. I love you and I’m grateful for you every day of my life. This book would not have been completed without you. My son, Miguel, is my inspiration; he provides me with the belief in the goodness of our youth and in their willingness to stand up in the future. He is a constant source of laughter and joy in my life and as he has grown up has aided my thinking with his questions and his insights into communism, capitalism, racism, sexism, and numerous social issues. His life and his person are a blessing to me everyday and I am so proud of his gentle and caring spirit and of his emerging engagement with social justice and human dignity.

| xv →


Walking With Grace, Fighting With Courage: Lilia Monzó’s Marxist Humanism

Peter McLaren

Throughout educational institutions as well as the media across the United States, American history is too often shoehorned or cherry-picked such that we are directed to attune ourselves with its grandiosity and ignore its mendacity. Thus, it is far too easy for history to pay us back in its own coin when we elect a president like Donald Trump. The baleful, hate-filled actions of the Trump administration, such as creating jails for children forcefully separated from their asylum-seeking parents who are desperate for refuge from the violence plaguing their native countries, seek justification behind a wall of dissolute rhetorical alchemy, blind fanaticism and bitter and unremitting rage that echoes older and more forlorn feudal dispensations. Trump’s ranting against immigrants, globalization and the deep state appears across the stage of history as a mixture of the soberly engineered dismissal of a reality show contestant from The Apprentice and the blind vehemence of a screeching Roland Freisler presiding over the Third Reich’s Blood Tribunal. Well-thumbed regulations dating back to the invasive leaders of America’s settler colonies—you know, those lawmakers and enforcers who designed checks and balances supposedly to keep tyrannical leaders at bay—have been shredded by new weaponized forms of interconnected media governance such as ruling by strident and belligerent twitter rants, or designating journalists as lie-mongering enemies of the ← xv | xvi → people (with the exception of those who work at Fox News, now transformed into a proxy form of state television) or re-tweeting and cross-referencing social media websites dedicated to ludicrous conspiracy theories designed to keep Trump’s electoral base in a perpetual feeding frenzy. The ethos of the democracy, enshrined in the fundamental, entrenched and organic laws of the Constitution has been seared away by contempt for immigrants, asylum seekers, and people of color (currently the primary victims are black men whose abuse by law enforcement has spiked since Trump was elected). Trump doesn’t need to beta test his political ideology or policies with his cult base, since he himself has proclaimed he could shoot somebody in cold blood and his base wouldn’t flinch.

In our post-truth world, occupied by the smoke and mirror catechism of capitalist catachresis and sealed inside indoctrination factories known as schools that are built to siphon away creativity, attempts by investigative journalists at understanding local, national and international events that do not serve the special interests of our president are now dismissed as “fake,” collapsing fact into value and acting like sieves for seizing the moral high ground. Truth, which was once assumed to be metastable, has been mongrelized by Trump’s self-referential and exceedingly ungraceful attempts to manipulate and control it, blaming opposition to his presidency on the machinations of the deep state and mixing fear, xenophobia, racism, misogyny and white supremacy in the toxic cauldron of his patriotism. In Trumpland, an unreflective opinion carries as much weight as rational, discerning judgment. Our competence as citizens of society is to be judged by how our juridical, political, economic and cultural practices are in line with Trumpism. Fascism has well and truly found its way, even in this age of “woke” leadership.

Self-enriching Republicans who demonically clap their eyes on the dollar sign like your hungry pit bull clasps its jaws on the rack of ham it ripped from your slow cooker, are happy to support Trump’s base as long as their property is protected from high taxes and their firms from regulation. The arrival austerity capitalism/neo-serfdom doesn’t faze them as long as they are kept safe from having to pay benefits to their workers.

The alt-right, who self-righteously oppose government-enforced equality of outcomes and other affirmative action practices seemingly have no problems with the sexual abuse of asylum seekers by ICE agents but nevertheless are obsessed with blaming feminism, multiculturalism, globalization, atheism, affirmative action, diversity, LGBTQIA rights, and social justice activists who are part of movements such as Code Pink, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and ← xvi | xvii → Idle No More, and socio-cultural constructivism, on “cultural Marxism”—a wide net term used by conspiracy theorists who are part of both the alt-right and center right. It is the alt-right who will find their archetypal opponent in Lilia Monzó, a Marxist-humanist feminist whose unrelenting courage and brilliant ideas stoke the flames of revolution on every page of this timely and important volume.

According to alt-right historians, cultural Marxism made its way into the United States after World War II with the Frankfurt School scholars and other writers allegedly bent on destroying the long established patriarchal, white supremacist, fundamentalist Christian political system in the United States from within, thereby making it vulnerable to one-rule corporate domination by masters of a globalist super state.

I’ve written elsewhere about some of the ludicrous conspiracy theories emanating from the alt-right. These conspiracy theories form part of the dark side of the American Dream. For the last several decades one of the most pernicious conspiracies revolves around the role played by Frankfurt School theorists in the United States as a “protean right-wing boogeyman responsible for queer studies, globalization, bad modern art, women wanting a life on top of baby making, African American studies, the 1960s, post-structuralism (essentially everything that isn’t nationalist, ‘white,’ and Christian)”1 The theory has been picked up by the extremist Tea Party, rock-ribbed fascists, white nationalists calling for the U.S. to be transformed into a white ethno-state and other alt-right groups, including libertarian Christian Reconstructionists, members of the Christian Coalition, the Free Congress Foundation and neo-Nazi groups such as Stormfront. They maintain that blame for the cultural degradation and corruption of the United States can be placed at the feet of the Institute for Social Research, initially housed at the Goethe University in Frankfurt and relocated to Columbia University in New York during the rise of Hitler in 1935. Philosophers Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Max Horkheimer, Leo Lowenthal, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse were some of the luminaries of this group, whose works are still frequently studied in philosophy, political science, literary theory and cultural studies classes—not to mention courses on critical pedagogy. Peddlers of this crackpot theory about the role played by these thinkers include Jordan Peterson, Michael Minnicinio, Paul Weyrich, Pat Buchanan, Roger Kimball and other prominent conservatives. Promoters of the cultural Marxist conspiracy theory hold that these “cultural Marxists” (all of whom are Jewish intellectuals) promoted modernist forms of cultural pessimism that shaped the 1960s ← xvii | xviii → counterculture—and this “cultural Marxism” set the stage for forms of “political correctness” that have destroyed the cultural and moral fabric of U.S. society through the development of feminism, anti-white racism and revolutions in understanding sexuality. But it is the fringe writings of William S. Lind in particular that have had the most chilling effect. In 2011, Lind’s writings inspired Norwegian neo-Nazi mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik to slaughter 77 fellow Norwegians and injure 319 more. Lind and his ilk blame the Frankfurt School theorists as a Marxist project to destroy the West, in particular for a litany of crimes that include the deindustrialization of America’s cities, neoliberal free trade policies, affirmative action, immigration, sexual liberation, gay marriage, multiculturalism, political correctness, the welfare state, and the privileging of the concerns of African Americans, feminists and homosexuals over those of white heterosexual citizens. Of course, these became common tropes sold to Americans through the efforts of the Tea Party and media outlets such as Breitbart and Andrew Jones’ InfoWars. Anyone familiar with critical pedagogy knows that the writings of the Frankfurt School are foundational to its social justice theoretical framework. If you are attacking cultural Marxism, you are de facto attacking critical pedagogy. Lind and his followers have certainly influenced the thinking of Donald Trump who is notorious for berating political correctness and feminism and for his scathing disregard for African American groups such as Black Lives Matter.

Scott Oliver captures the logic of this conspiracy theory when he writes:

Oliver explains,

So the theory goes that “cultural Marxism” was the master plan of a group of émigré Jewish German academics—widely known today as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory—who fled Nazi Germany in 1936, decamping to New York. What’s certainly true is that, in an attempt to understand why the objective conditions of the European proletariat had failed to trigger widespread revolt, they concluded that religion—that great “opium of the people”—and mass culture served to dampen revolutionary fervor ← xviii | xix → and spread “false consciousness.” So adding a splash of Freud to their Marxism, the likes of Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse, and Walter Benjamin trained their eyes on the subtle intertwining of social and psychic/sexual repression, believing that a revolutionary consciousness could be engendered through psychic liberation and more enlightened cultural forms and attitudes.

While these were the staunch views of a handful of left-wing thinkers writing in the middle of the 20th century, it does not follow that they have been the ideological architects of a wholesale takeover of Western culture.3

Oliver is correct to report that the “cultural Marxist” conspiracy has “spread feverishly through the murkier, more hyper-masculinist and libidinally challenged corners of the web”4 and its exponents lack a basic understanding of the relationship between historical process and the requirements of international capital. He comments on the feverish crypto-fascist “awakening” of Andrew Breitbart when he finally realized the plot to destroy America:

In his autobiography Righteous Indignation, Breitbart describes the discovery of cultural Marxism as his “awakening”—redolent of the “red pill” that all conspiracy cranks feel when the vast, anxiety-inducing complexity of the universe becomes pacified in the paranoiac, pattern-seeking mind, reduced to the imaginary order of some joined-up plot (the irony of “red pill,” of course, being that it’s taken from The Matrix, whose makers, the Wachowski Brothers, are now the Wachowski sisters—trans politics being another plank of cultural Marxism). Grasping its effects, he said shortly before his death in 2012, was like “putting the medicine in the sherbet … My one great epiphany, my one a-ha moment where I said, ‘I got it—I see what exactly happened in this country.’” The self-righteous zeal animating Breitbart’s subsequent kulturkampf drips through almost every interview, illustrating the propensity for the internet to enable a single person’s prejudices, ignorance, and resentments to seize the cultural narrative—to resonate in echo chambers, free of intellectual checks and balances.5

Absent a nuanced and granular appreciation for the apparatuses of capitalist exploitation and its immanent relation to popular culture, the cultural Marxist conspiracy theorists fail to recognize that capital grounds all social mediation as a form of value, and that the substance of labor itself must be interrogated because, as Monzó underscores in her work, doing so brings us closer to understanding the nature of capital’s social universe out of which our alienated subjectivities are created and how the objective conditions under which we live and labor are structurally maintained and reproduced. As a Marxist-humanist, Monzó clearly recognizes that because the logic of capitalist work has invaded all forms of human sociability, society can be considered ← xix | xx → to be a totality of different types of labor. What is important here is to examine the particular forms that labor takes within capitalism. In other words, Monzó reminds us that we need to examine value as a social relation, not as some kind of accounting device to measure rates of exploitation or domination. Consequently, labor should not be taken simply as a “given” category, but interrogated as an object of critique, and examined as an abstract social structure.

Marx’s value theory of labor does not attempt to reduce labor to an economic category alone but is illustrative of how labor as value form constitutes our very social universe, one that has been underwritten by the logic of capital. Again, here we are considering value as monetized wealth. Value does not exemplify a purely reasoned and reasonable calculus but destabilizes the very ground of our being because it requires constant productivity in order to survive. The production of value is not the same as the production of wealth. The production of value is historically specific and emerges whenever labor assumes its dual character. This is most clearly explicated in Marx’s discussion of the contradictory nature of the commodity form and the expansive capacity of the commodity known as labor power. In this sense, labor power becomes the supreme commodity, the source of all value. For Marx, the commodity is highly unstable, and non-identical. Its concrete particularity (use value) is subsumed by its existence as value-in-motion or by what we have come to know as “capital” (value is always in motion because of the increase in capital’s productivity that is required to maintain expansion). Raya Dunayevskaya, one of the philosophers that has greatly influenced Monzó, notes that all the contradictions of capitalism occur within the embryo of the commodity form precisely because of the contradictory nature of labor.6 What kind of labor creates value? Abstract universal labor linked to a certain organization of society, under capitalism. The dual aspect of labor within the commodity (use value and exchange value) enables one single commodity—money—to act as the value measure of the commodity. Money becomes, as Dunayevskaya argues, the representative of labor in its abstract form. Thus, the commodity must not be considered a thing, but a social relationship. Dunayevskaya identified the “soul” of capitalist production as the extraction from living labor of all the unpaid hours of labor that amounts to surplus value or profit.7 If the proponents of the “cultural Marxism” conspiracy theory factor capitalism into their analysis, their emphasis is usually on the market, betraying very little understanding of the process of production itself, including the fetishism of the commodity form. The issue that the Frankfurt School theorists understand, and their alt-right critics do not, is not simply that workers are ← xx | xxi → exploited for their surplus value but that all forms of human sociability are constituted by the logic of capitalist work. Labor, therefore, cannot be seen as the negation of capital or the antithesis of capital but capital’s human face. Capitalist relations of production become hegemonic precisely when the process of the production of abstraction conquers the concrete processes of production, resulting in the expansion of the logic of capitalist work. Oliver writes: “Apparently it hasn’t occurred to them [the alt-right conspiracy theorists] that the system of nation states, with their tax havens and labor-cost differentials, is intrinsic to the technocratic global order.”8 Using the example of noxious al-right media personality Paul Joseph Watson to emphasize how the alt-right promotes capitalism, Oliver (2017) writes:


ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2019 (June)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XXVIII, 290 pp.

Biographical notes

Lilia D. Monzó (Author)

Lilia D. Monzó is Associate Professor in the Attallah College of Educational Studies at Chapman University.


Title: A Revolutionary Subject
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