Image: Film of revolutionary women from the Popular Women’s Movement (MFP) in the prison Canto Grande.
By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media.
On the occasion that the 8th of March is approaching, we publish this short introductory text on Proletarian Feminism. For more thorough studies we recommend especially the following text by the Communist Party of Peru:
We emphasize that the concept Proletarian Feminism should not be understood as its own ideology or as an addition to Maoism. Proletarian Feminism, as we understand it, is the proletarian standpoint in the Women’s Movement. It is the class line in the Women’s Movement to the proletariat, in the struggle against bourgeois and petty-bourgeois feminism.
Proletarian Feminism is guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism. This is the proletariat’s sole ideology, and the third, highest and invincible stage of this ideology. Our understanding of the Women’s Question emanates from Maoism applied to this, and from the struggle for a revolutionary Women’s Movement.
Maoism takes a position for Proletarian Feminism. That is to say a revolutionary women’s struggle with a proletarian standpoint. The oppression of women arose during the same stage of humanity’s development as private property and the state, that is, at the same time as the division of humans into classes. In modern times the oppression of women is fused together with capitalist imperialism as a complete and coherent system.
The Family, Private Property and the State
Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx were from the infancy of communism concerned with the question of women’s oppression. They write in The Communist Manifesto that with the abolition of capitalisms relations of production the woman will no longer be a “tool of production” like she is in this system and they write that both formal and informal protitution will disappear.
Engels later wrote the classic work of communism The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State which makes up the starting point of Proletarian Feminism. On the basis of historical data and research, Engels ties what he calls the women’s historical defeat with the formation of private property.
The first humans lived in herds. Within the herd property was mainly collective. The herd cooperated and shared the fruits of their labor. With progress in technology and production, with surplus and new relations of production, private property was established. Engels shows that in the same epoch the state and family arose: and the women’s oppression. The first private property, for example cattle, belonged primarily to the men. To secure that it was transferred to the heirs of the man, the woman was bound to the man in a new way. Before, kinship followed the maternal line, which is logical. With the need to secure the line of inheritance, so that the property did not leave the herd and end in the hands of the new herds of the daughters (women were married out of the herd to prevent inbreeding), father-right was established. The family was established with the man as its chief (patriarch).
After this the patriarchy has developed and changed through different societies, cultures and different economic systems. In all class societies the core of the patriarchy has survived and the man has continued as the chief within family, economy and politics.
Imperialism, Patriarchy and Violence Against Women
In the epoch of imperialism we clearly see how women in the proletariat and the poor peasantry carry enormous burdens. In the third world are the poor women oppressed as both a part of an oppressed nation, and as part of an oppressed class and as women. The oppression takes a number of forms, and it is most grotesque and brutally expressed in violence against women, sexualised violence, rape, jelously killings, prostituion and trafficking.
This violence is not a random by-product of the patriarchy, but one of the preconditions for its existence at all. To exercise violence is to exercise power. Economical, social and political power is ultimately based on violence. This rule also applies to the patriarchy.
For a Class Line in the Women’s Movement
The starting point of Proletarian Feminism is thereby that the patriarchy is woven together with imperialist capitalism into one system, and that the patriarchy itself arose with class society. As a result of this insight, Proletarian Feminism is formed, which sees that the patriarchy is first abolished by abolishing imperialism and class society. It is first with communism that private property and the state is removed, and thus the family’s function as an economic unit and an arena for the man’s power of the woman ceases to exist.
In other words, Proletarian Feminism ties together the women’s cause together with the proletariat’s cause, since the proletariat is the only class that can seize the power from the bourgeoisie and abolish the bourgeois property relations and classes once and for all.
Further, Proletarian Feminism has as a starting point that the most important division between humans in this system, also between women, is the division of classes. There exists bourgeois, petty-bourgeois and proletarian women. Three different classes with three different class standpoints. The class struggle is the main driving force for social change, and therefore the class standpoint becomes the most important question which defines all political movements.
Thus feminism is divided, that is to say the Women’s Movement and its ideology, in three main tendencies: Bourgeois Feminism, Petty-Bourgeois Feminism and Proletarian Feminism. Proletarian Feminism is Marxist, today Maoist. Petty-Bourgeois Liberal Feminism and Radical Feminism seems to be the largest feminist trends. The foremost feminist organisations in Norway today, Ottar and Kvinnefronten (The Women’s Front), are mainly Radical Feminists. They have a tendency to put culture over economics, and have a tendency to have a lack of class perspective, and to cultivate the opinion that the state can solve all problems. Petty-bourgeois and postmodern identity politics has grown strong in the last few decades. They reject among other things the modern and scientific standpoint that there exists an objective truth and that humanity can find this. They focus a lot on language. Postmodern philosophy claims that language constructs reality, even though it is the opposite.
Proletarian Feminism is a class line in the women’s movement. It means a standpoint for the proletarian and poor women, especially in the third world. Proletarian feminism unites women’s struggle with the class struggle of the proletariat. It is for the women’s struggle of the people, which does not isolate itself from the masses in order to create utopian small collectives. It is for a women’s struggle directed primarily against the state, capital and those most reactionary, and not generally against all men. It is for a women’s struggle which focuses on economic and social relations, not primarily culture or biology. Communists understand these questions on the basis of dialectical materialism and a scientific approach. We view all things in their context and unity. We view the basis as the primary and the superstructure as the secondary. The most sentral questions for Proletarian Feminism is to politicize, mobilize and organize the masses of women and to create proletarian female leadership.
Images from Brazil
MFP stands for Popular Women’s Movement and is the revolutionary women’s organisation in Brazil.
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