Moat's paranoia and the community of women
Communists fight to reassert the power of women, writes Eddie Ford
The unhappy circumstances surrounding the life, manhunt and death of Raoul Moat tell us a lot about our society, especially about the subordinate position of women within capitalism and class society in general.
Of course, with the 37-year-old Moat - who apparently shot himself after taser weapons were fired at him by police - a picture emerges of a violent man riven by profound jealousy and chronic personal insecurity. Addicted to steroids - as a consequence of his fanatical body-building regime - and prone to “unpredictable” outbursts of anger, he had been imprisoned for a “low-level assault” on a relative. Moat had extensive links with Newcastle’s criminal fraternity and was “well known” to the police, who had accumulated a “significant amount” of information on him. He has been described as a “paranoid Narcissist” and this extreme paranoia took the form of installing 26 hidden CCTV cameras in his back garden - with a close neighbour saying that Moat was “sick of the police”, who he believed to be persecuting him.
Moat’s shooting spree appears to have been triggered by remarks made by his former girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, who told him that she had left him for a police officer - which, as it happened, was untrue: rather Stobbart said this in an understandable but misjudged bid to scare Moat off. Immediately upon his release, the police received a warning from Durham prison that Moat might well be planning to cause “serious harm” to Stobbart - with whom he had a three-year-old daughter. After finding Stobbart at her parents’ house in Gateshead, Moat fired a shot through the lounge window and hit her in the arm - though she is now in a “stable” condition. Her boyfriend was less lucky and was killed instantly when he ran outside the house to confront the attacker.
Raoul Moat’s assorted letters, phone calls and Facebook posts reveal a man full of pent-up rage against his former girlfriend and new partner - policeman or no policeman. On Facebook he wrote: “Just got out of jail, I’ve lost everything - my business, my property - and to top it all off my lass of six years has gone off with someone else. I’m not 21 and I can’t rebuild my life. Watch and see what happens.” And in his phone calls to the police he declared that they were “going to pay for what they’ve done to me and Sam”, and went on to say he had “never cheated on her” - he just wished “she hadn’t on me”. For Moat the fact that she had “cheated” by leaving him for another man meant that “she pulled the trigger by doing so just as much as me”.
As we can see, Moat treated his former girlfriend as some form of private property. When she found another partner, he felt he had been robbed - as if someone had stolen a prized possession of his, like a car. Hence he felt obliged, and perversely empowered, to punish those transgressors whom he believed responsible for this humiliation - Stobbart’s boyfriend, Chris Brown, and his imagined ‘accomplice’, PC David Rathband. From Moat’s perspective, it appears, he was just ‘upholding the law’ - the social law, that is, which grants men the right to lord it over women: to dominate and subjugate, politically, economically and sexually.
Moat’s behaviour reflects, of course, a much wider attitude, and points to the role broadly assigned to women - maybe idealised and put on a romantic pedestal, but in reality still often treated as second-class or inferior citizens. Hardly equal members of society. After all, up until 1991 there could not be rape within marriage according to English law and it took until 2003 for the law to be further clarified, when consent was given some sort of proper legal definition in England and Wales. And previous to that, in relatively recent history, a woman’s property and goods automatically became the property of her husband upon marriage - legalised extortion, in other words.
Today’s society is incredibly atomised, as the remorseless logic of capitalism - in the constant drive for profits - eats away at all the bonds and ties of communality, of shared experience and solidarity. We feel powerless against such blind forces. But this is doubly so for women, who if they lose their male partner or husband can so easily find themselves in a frighteningly precarious position - struggling against the odds to bring up the kids, a not inexpensive activity, whilst trying to pay the mortgage or rent, and all the rest. To further increase the sense of isolation and powerlessness, there is the distinct possibility - thanks to the irrational and wasteful demands of the capitalist economy and housing market - that close relatives, like her mother or sisters, may live hundreds or even thousands of miles away. Leading, of course, to the unenviable situation of either total reliance on state benefits - making you constantly vulnerable to the arbitrary caprice of the state bureaucracy - or working like a slave just to keep your head above water, hardly ever having quality time with the children in the process. Only to lose your job or have your benefit(s) slashed by a government hell-bent on an austerity drive, plunging you into penury and desperation.
One response to the Moat case, and domestic violence in general, is to call upon the state to introduce ever more draconian legislation - earlier state intervention into more and more spheres of personal and domestic life. This is certainly the approach of many radical feminists and their co-thinkers in the bourgeois state machine. However, communists think this is a profoundly mistaken way to tackle the problem. Rather we have a twofold approach. Social security and other such benefit payments must be significantly increased, not cut; the minimum wage must also be increased from its present miserable level; housing must be provided according to need; and working hours reduced to a maximum 35-hour week. Such measures would help women in particular. However, in the long term we seek to reorganise the whole way of life and the way things have been organised for thousands of years.
Essentially, yes, Moat’s basic attitude to women can be found over a whole number of different societies - viewing women as private property, goods to be haggled and fought over. But it was not always like that, though you could be forgiven for thinking so, in view of the sheer weight of cultural prejudice. This takes as a given that men have always wielded the club and held the upper hand and sees the macho ‘stone age man’ carting enormous Mastodon cutlets back home to the cave, with the womenfolk acting as passive, if not unseen, participants in the drama.
But this is all ahistorical nonsense, a complete reactionary fantasy. The anthropology of fools. Instead, the oppression of women is due to the historic defeat of the female sex with the Neolithic counterrevolution or the so-called ‘farming revolution’ - which saw women dispossessed by increasingly wealthy cattle-owning men; who as a logical political-economic correlation began to view women as a mere extension of their cattle.
Yet prior to this anti-women, class-driven counterrevolution, the so-called primitive societies were egalitarian, classless, matrilineal-led communities - where women were truly respected and played a leading role. Indeed, in these supposedly primitive societies it was the men who entered into the women’s household upon marriage and not the other way round - the operative relational principle being ‘bride service’, which sees the man (or potential groom) providing supplies or other services for his wife’s family in order to prove his worth. If he was later deemed unworthy, or abusive, then the wife, supported by her many relations, would tell the man to pick up his blanket and scadoot. Any children they might have had together would, of course, be looked after by the whole extended family and would suffer no want or stigma. Such was life in the matrilineal-communist household of the past, the original affluent society.
In other words, the opposite of the patrilineal concept of ‘bride price’ - which is when the crap began. This system would see a rich man giving, say, 50 cattle to his bride’s father in return for her. The result being that he could accumulate four or five wives and in any domestic dispute it was the woman who had to knuckle under and obey his dictates. Her father being unlikely to welcome his daughter home if that meant he had to hand back 50 cattle. Needless to say, while women became the first oppressed class, the mass of men thought that they benefited from this counterrevolution. Though most were lucky to get just one wife, she was his property and had to do as he said. And, of course, any woman who did not accept this grossly unequal arrangement - who rebelled against the patrilineal order - would be literally putting her life on the line. Not totally unlike Samantha Stobbart, you could say, or other contemporary victims of domestic violence.
The patriarcharal attitudes that come with ‘bride price’ are in many ways on the retreat, given the democratic and social advances we have seen over the last 40 or 50 years. However, the crippling and disempowering atomisation of present-day society calls out for the real re-establishment of community. It hardly needs saying - not David Cameron’s ‘big society’, but the community envisaged by Marx and Engels. They regarded so-called primitive, Palaeolithic societies as a source of inspiration, a model for the future. Not in some utopian or backward-looking way, but because they sought to reassert the power of women - the “community of women”, as the Communist manifesto famously puts it, which “has existed almost from time immemorial”: and which in a new form will “do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production”.
Just like Marx and Engels, communists today fight for a revival - albeit on a higher and more advanced level - of the “liberty, equality and fraternity” of the ‘primitive’ peoples, our revolutionary ancestors. We do so because of our conviction that we humans are a revolutionary species and that the communist household, and society, offers a superior and genuinely moral alternative to capitalism.