How to Raise the Revolutionary’s Children (And Survive)

I don’t know why, Bassem Chiit, our Comrade from the Socialist Forum in Lebanon who passed away in 2014, has been on my mind a lot lately, and when The Rev told me that Bassem mentioned reading my Rev columns at the end of long days sometimes to unwind, it prompted me to write this one.

So this is for you Bassem, in the hope that you can enjoy it from wherever you are.

The Rev and I have kids. Naturally they take after me and are gorgeous, funny, cheeky and clever.

They also hold a healthy dose of skepticism for men as a social group. The fact that I regularly teach them to say ‘men are trash’ might have a little something to do with it.

Naturally, like Karl Marx loved the gazillion children he had with Jenny (that he left her to care for with no money while he was off trying to make the revolution happen (narrator’s voice: it did not happen)), the Rev dearly loves his children and tells them so repeatedly. He’s prone to outbursts of love and affection, ‘my daughters I love them I would die for them’, hereby demonstrating streaks of dramatic toxic masculinity, as if anyone had asked him to prove his love through war and death.

My daughters however are, at 4 and 2, hardened man-hating feminists who have no time for men and their declaration of undying love.

– ‘Nooooonn Papa’ they say, as he tries to cuddle them, and both proceed to swat his hands away in a gesture of such contempt it fills my heart with pure, man-hating joy. They seem to be convinced that their father, and through him boys and men in general, don’t understand a single thing in life and should be given up on as a bad job. Needless fo say, my pride in them knows no bounds.

Each of them have their own minds and have devised their own tactics to topple the patriarchy.

The eldest favours a subtle form of guerrilla warfare, waking up the patriarchal authority figure in her life very early in the morning simply to let him know that she has found her tiara. To manage to raise the patriarchy from its comfortable slumber just to inform it that you’re still Queen is a stroke of genius I wish I’d thought of. Here I was pitifully getting angry and worked up and demonstrating right left and center while my four year old just taught me that all you needed to do was disrupt sleep then sashay away in your pink glittery tutu, a look of triumph on your face and no pity for the enemy in your heart.

Our youngest has no time to waste and no fucks to give, her tactic is search and destroy. In a couple of years time she’ll be punching nazis in true black bloc fashion, but for now she just punches and scratches her father until he bleeds, and cries for me rather than for him, even in the middle of the night, thrashing on the ground if he tries to touch her, which come to think of it I wish she’d stop doing. After all, I am not the patriarchy and should be allowed to sleep.

The Rev, bless his heart, endures and bears all the abuse, even though he blames me for our kids’ lack of confidence in men. He is, however, mistaken. I have merely fed and watered the feminist seed they already had in them, much like Marx fed and watered the revolutionary seed in Engels (and much like Engels just plainly fed Marx and his family).

– But we’re communists! I am a feminist! I am one of you!

– WE ARE NOT COMMUNISTS, I AM A PRINCESS! Get out of my room, only girls allowed!

I won’t lie, while I am extremely happy that my child understands the need for women-only spaces and sees through comrades thinking they’re allies just because they’re communists, I still have the fear that she’ll turn into a royalist, what with all this talk of princesses.

But the Rev and I’s biggest fear remain that both of them become conservative, anti-choice, neo-liberal right wing militants. We observe. We monitor. So far, they share, they protect each other, they’re kind and feisty.

Not a right wing trait in sight.

But we’ll still monitor the situation, just in case.

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How to Live with a Pregnant Comrade Without Losing Your Head (Or Laboring Hers)

 Significant Comrade is pregnant.

 

I, the Rev, am going to become a FATHER! Not that I subscribe to the idiotic, bourgeois, reactionary model of the patriarchal family where the biological male has all the power and the privileges within the family cell and the woman is left as the proletariat of the marriage, as Comrade Engels would say. Because I don’t. Let us be clear about that.

 

If the doctors are to be believed, I’m to ‘have’ a daughter, not that she will ever be my property, not at all, or that she will necessarily identify as a ‘girl’ as portrayed by the heteronormative patriarchal society, gender being a social construct anyway as Comrade Butler explained it. She will be absolutely free to become whatever and whoever she will want to become and I’ll fiercely love her anyway. Although in hindsight, perhaps maybe not if she decides to work for the World Economic Forum or for Morgan Stanley, or if she becomes a right wing militant, or worse, a Stalinist. Imagine that. Sometimes I can’t sleep just thinking about it.

 

Huh. I realise Significant Comrade and myself will have to tread very carefully if we want to transmit our beliefs and values to our child. But then again, is sharing these with her an act of oppression? Will I be crushing her critical thinking and creativity? Have I already started? You know, because I talk to her, and read things to her, things like ‘Marx at the Margins’, the ‘old social classes and the revolutionary movements of Iraq’ and ‘Hezbollah and Hamas: A contemporary study’. I also sing to her sometimes, things like the International in French, English and Arabic, although Significant Comrade’s temper seems to be slightly shorter than usual and I kind of got yelled at. I tried Bella Ciao, thinking it might be better received, but got the Petit Manuel pour En Finir Avec le Capitalisme thrown at my face, by accident I’m sure.

 

I’m kind of getting yelled at, or cried on, quite a bit at the moment. Sometimes, I wish Comrade Trotsky would have been more of a ‘family’ man, instead of running around in Mexico with iconic painters, so he could have written a book in the vein of the Russian Revolution but on how Revolutionaries could better support their comrades during pregnancy and childbirth. Like last time, when I found the Significant Comrade crying her eyes out in front of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, which is in itself a very sore subject in our marriage. I hoped she was being tearful because of the stupidity and crass consumerism of it all, but apparently it was because Kourtney was being mean to Kim. Who are these people? Who is Kourtney? Who is Kim? And why are they making my Significant Comrade cry? Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how Comrade Marx managed with Jenny. I mean, she has been pregnant seven times. Seven. Ah but look at Comrade Karl daughters, all socialist activists, translating the works of their daddy! Sometimes I wonder if my daughter shall do the same with me?

 

When I share my concerns with Significant Comrade, it seems to me that she is not quite so keen on discussing these things with me. Something to do about having enough on her own plate and how would I like to weigh a ton and be full of water and having trouble breathing, sleeping and eating? I have to say, that left me speechless. As a revolutionary, I can not speak in lieu of the oppressed, and my Comrade is clearly being oppressed. Also, when I tried and talked to Significant Comrade about the absolute need of trusting our child to make her own experiences in life and not be overly protective of her, Significant Comrade did not seem to share my views either. I believe her exact words were: ‘Listen to me you stupid Rev, are you the one being asked to expel a baby the size of a ginormous turkey from a hole the size of your nostril? HUH? HUH? Nah, I don’t think so, so you shut the fuck up and you leave me to decide when that child will be able to start with her own experiments with life and that is never, or not until she’s 30 anyway, the world is filled with serial killers and sexual predators’. Which I thought was a bit much, in all fairness, but I thought it best not to argue.

Now that I’m about to become a dad, I value my life.

I am nevertheless hoping that the revolution will prevail soon so that patriarchy and neo-liberalism become things of the past and so I’m trying twice as hard to make it happen before she turns 5. Time is running out my Comrades, let us build a whole new world.

 

Sometimes, when I try and lay my plans for the triumph of revolutionary socialism to the Significant Comrade, she just hugs her pregnancy pillow (which she dubbed ‘her new husband, but I am fine with that, as I do not own my Significant Comrade. Also, it’s a pillow) and tells me to shut up and go to sleep. ‘Your child will be a Menchevik anyway’, she said.

 

And here I am, eyes wide open in the dark. What if she is?