Translated by an activist of Tjen Folket Media.
At an open meeting following the 8th of march in Trondheim, a question was raised during a discussion about socialism and women’s emancipation. A comrade said that often, when communist speak about revolution being a prerequisite for women’s emancipation, it its perceived to be an easy answer by others. It might appear as a biased answer, or appear like one believes that revolution will automatically remove the oppression of women. That’s not the case. It is neither an easy answer nor a claim that revolution will solve the problem automatically.
We base our claim about women’s emancipation and communism being connected on our analysis of the oppression of women and it’s manifestations today. And we do not claim that the revolution will solve the question automatically, but rather we claim that socialist revolution is a prerequisite for the emancipation of women. To make real equality come true requires not only a revolution, but also particular mobilization and struggle. These are positions held by communists for over a hundred years, and also the positions on which we base our revolutionary women’s movements.
The oppression of women, father’s right, and other patriarchal structures have their origins in the emergence of private property and the division of humans into classes. Engels called it “the historical defeat of women”. Private property and class distinction arose on the ruins of primitive communism. In other words, it emerged when the tribes of the old were cast aside in favor of animal domestication, agriculture, and cities. Only here did the means of production become private and a surplus which made the class division both possible, and at times necessary, could be created.
Prior to this, there obviously existed a difference between men and women, but division of labor isn’t oppressive in and of itself. Pregnant women not participating in hunting would be an example of that. Studies of tribes that have preserved the old ways of life show that there exists a large spectrum of different practices and cultures connected to gender. There are large differences between people, tribes, and places. However, one often observes a form of matriarchy, respect for women, equal participation in decision making et cetera.
Private property and class division creates economic power, which is the basis of political power. The tendency towards accumulation, monopolization and competition springs forth the domination of humans by other humans. It springs forth rule and violence. This created the patriarchy, where women have become the property of men, and where control over women’s lives and bodies is interwoven with class society. First during slave society, then in feudalism, and now in imperialist capitalism. This system of oppression and exploitation has absorbed the oppression of women into itself. One can see this in the tendency of so-called “woman’s jobs” to have lower salaries and in the fact that women carry the brunt of responsibility for children and family. On the more grotesque and violent side of it it manifests itself in prostitution and pornography, where women’s bodies are for sale, and where poor women enter into sexual slavery. Lastly it manifest itself in very many women being oppressed by violence in personal relationships and experiencing sexual abuse.
Furthermore it impossible to talk about real equality between oppressors and the oppressed. The majority of the world’s poor, of the peasants and proletarians of the world, are women. One cannot speak of any real equality as long as the masses of the world belong to exploited classes. The marxist classics have pointed out that the women belonging to these classes will be dually oppressed. The working women of the world are oppressed (and exploited) first as proletarians, and then as women. Engels called the man “the bourgeoisie of the family.” All over the world we see that women have the main responsibility for child-rearing, child care and housework.
Bourgeois and petty bourgeois feminism claims women can be emancipated within capitalism, but this, like so much other liberal liberation, is only an alternative for the upper classes. It’s the freedom to buy oneself out of toil and hardship, if you have the means. Something as simple as satisfying the “beauty” industry, which places an immense pressure on young women, requires time, energy, and money most working mothers simply don’t have. Furthermore we see that bourgeois women can buy their freedom by hiring someone to take care of their kids and house. While who the one who’s going to wash the house cleaner’s house, or look after the au pair’s children is going to be is not a topic they want to go into.
Based on this, communists tie equality and the emancipation of women closely to the socialist revolution. But not just closely, the great communist leaders have given the topic a central place, not only for the sake of the women’s emancipation, but also for the sake of the socialist revolution as a whole. As an example of this, Mao wrote that only when women join and participate in the revolution, will it succeed. The communist leaders saw, and still see, that women have a central and obvious place in the revolutionary struggle, at all levels. We could see this in the Peruvian people’s war, where women made up a very large part of the communist party’s leadership, of the people’s army soldiers, and of the mass movement’s activists and supporters. They saw their future in the new democratic revolution and communism.
The question of whether socialism automatically solves the oppression of women, is also something communists have answered long ago. Alexandra Kollontai concluded that the struggle for women’s rights and freedoms would have to be more intensive under socialism. Women’s particular problems had to be addressed and treated particularly, and be given special attention by the communist party and the socialist state. Concretely, this means particular women’s organizations, red women’s fronts, laws and reforms specifically aimed at emancipating women from the singular responsibility of housekeeping, campaigns against reactionary culture and patriarchal beliefs amongst the masses, education aimed at removing backwards ideas and superstitions, et cetera, et cetera.
I believe that the slogan “Woman’s struggle is class struggle” is a bad slogan, exactly for those reasons. Communists are in favor of a class line in the women’s movement. This means that we organize women’s struggle as a part of the proletarian revolution, for the people and by the people and primarily the deepest and broadest masses. This means that the women’s struggle has to be led under the banner of maoism, because it’s the only true proletarian ideology. However, the women’s struggle is not identical with the class struggle. It has its particularities and is aimed at a particular contradiction, despite being inextricably tied to the proletarian revolution. The slogan “women’s emancipation requires revolution” is a good slogan, however, because it confirms the connection between the struggle for real gender equality and the struggle for socialist revolution.