The Activist: A Student Journal of Politics and Opinion Vol 15, #1-2 (1975)

The Activist Vol 15, #1-2 (1975). The Wages for Housework issue.

The Activist was a publication run by students at Oberlin College in the 1960s and 1970s and printed a number of relevant (to this project) pieces over the years. This issue (technically two issues in one) was entirely about Wages for Housework and prints the following articles:

  • Editorial collective: “Women are Workers Too”‘
  • “Wages for Housework: If Women Were Paid For All We Do There’d be a Lot of Wages Due”
  • Windsor, ON Wages for Housework Collective: “Portrait of a Canadian Housewife”
  • Toronto, ON Wages for Housework: “Wages for Housework: Questions and Answers”
  • Wages Due Collective: “Fucking is Work”
  • Suzie Fleming: “All Women are Housewives”
  • Sylvia Gentile and Betsy Lewis: “History of our Collective”
  • Modern Times Collective (Cleveland): “The Social Factory”
  • Wages for Housework Bibliography

Within our copy was a letter from one of the editors to a member of the Amazon Bookstore collective in Minneapolis, which gives a few useful details for how the journal came to be. Here’s a clip of the relevant piece:

The opening paragraphs in the introductory editorial of the journal lay out the gender and class analysis that the issue centers:

Those opening paragraphs harken to long-time debates within Marxist thought and activism, and specifically the heavy 1970s debates on “productive” and “unproductive” labor that proliferated in journals, books and pamphlets at the time. (That debate obviously still continues within anti-capitalist thought). Activists who furthered the wages for housework’ perspective took strong influence from the welfare rights movement and other struggles for a social wage, and they intervened in class debates with a perspective that shook the ground: reproductive labor (e.g. the work of housewives) is made invisible by capital, even though capital relies on it to exist, and the demand for wages for that work was a strategy for working class power and the restructuring of society:

Organizing autonomously as women was key:

Like the Wages for Housework campaign in general, the journal was internationalist in perspective and scope. Articles were sourced from far outside of Ohio and, reprinting an introductory pamphlet to Wages for Housework, activists clearly saw themselves as part of a global struggle:

The articles that make-up this issue are disproportionately sourced from Canadian organizing, which is likely attributable to the impact that participating in the Montreal Wages for Housework conference in 1975 had on members of the Oberlin Wages for Housework campaign.

The last piece in the journal is entitled “The Social Factory”. The article, written by members of Cleveland’s Modern Times Collective (including activists in Wages for Housework) in Cleveland, would travel internationally and provide an important and concise take on a perspective, rooted in Italian operaist analyses, that the factory had extended beyond its walls. Louise Toupin, a political scientist and Wages for Housework activist, notes in her important 2018 book Wages for Housework: A History of An International Feminist Movement, 1972-77:

From Toupin’s 2018 book, p. 267.

The pieces notes its history in both a footnote and in the text itself. Here is the note:

And here are, perhaps, the key points across work, class, and gender:

“The Social Factory” would be the cover article for issue five of the Falling Wall Review, the journal of Falling Wall press in the UK, which in this issue focused on Wages for Housework and autonomist perspectives (articles from Bruno Ramirez, Ferrucio Gambino and others appear).

On a related sidenote, found within our copy of the fifth issue of Falling Wall Review was an advertisement for the first issue of Zerowork, which was distributed by the Falling Wall Book Service:

Flier for ordering Zerowork: Political Materials (1) found inserted in our copy of Falling Wall Review #5

This issue of The Activist is oddly scarce – student journals are typically not difficult to come by but we have seen only a few in the trade over recent years. Still, it’s inexpensive when it does show up (as are all issues of The Activist that we’ve seen). We could not locate a copy online, so we scanned and uploaded it to Libcom, here, for interested readers.

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