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On the Women's Liberation

On the Women's Liberation
  1. In every society today there persists a patriarchal kernel to social life. Patriarchy, being a social system in which women are systematically exploited and oppressed by men, has served as the organisational substrate for social reproduction and domestic exploitation for millennia. It is only in modernity that this social form has been systematically and cogently challenged: both by the development of commodity society, and by the movements for the liberation of women.

  2. Patriarchal society is characterised chiefly by a social division of labour which saddles women with the work of social reproduction: performing a host of domestic, child rearing, and sexual labour which is exploited by men and reinforces the entire social order. This exploitation is mediated by all manner of social institutions: the family being the first amongst them, but also the community, the church, the sex and service industries, industrial and agricultural capital, and the state itself. It is from this central exploitative relation that all manner of social horrors blossom: rape, domestic violence, the trafficking in women and girls, forced pregnancy, mistreatment of children, and a sexual hegemony of the ruling class.

  3. Patriarchal society is a form of class society, a form of class society which has developed in combination with various modes of production. Communists are opposed to all forms of exploitation, be they serfdom, slavery, wage labour, or domestic servitude.

  4. The development of capitalism has seen the reorganisation of patriarchy through the generalisation of the nuclear family as the primary institution of social reproduction. The demands of the market economy for individual consumptive units, and the intensified need to reproduce labour power to meet the demands of the market has atomised, alienated, and isolated women. At the same time, the demand for labour has drawn women into the workforce, stripping them of communal and religious ties and throwing them at the service of capital as free proletarians. This combined and uneven liquidation of the patriarchal community has laid the foundations of women’s liberation.

  5. The advent of capitalist modernity has both intensified the oppression and exploitation of women, and laid the foundations for women’s liberation. This has led to the development of a women’s movement, which has drawn women from all social strata into the struggle to overturn patriarchal oppression. This movement was in turn combined and uneven, internally stratified by social class. The political manifestation of this movement, feminism, was plagued by the same divisions expressed at the level of theory.

  6. In the wake of the Second World War, the workers movement in the core imperialist states was systematically integrated into the Keynesian-Social Democratic-Laborist mode of regulation. This mode of regulation, which coincided with the generalisation of the Fordist mode of accumulation, was based in part upon the stabilisation of social reproduction through the generalisation of the nuclear family amongst the working class. A patriarchal-chauvinist compromise predominated the workers movement: a compromise that was overthrown by a wave of social struggles beginning in the 1960s.

  7. The destabilisation of the post-war mode of regulation, and the emergence of Neoliberalism as a mode for the regulation of capitalist society, was in part based on a massive reorganisation of social reproduction. Women were drawn into the workforce in vast numbers, with the growth in childcare, domestic services, and sex work offsetting the destabilisation of the family as the chief unit of reproduction. This reorganisation has seen the institutionalisation of a bourgeois, liberal wing of the women’s movement. This wing, which has historically represented women of the bourgeois class - seeks equality for their social strata within the broader system of capitalist patriarchy. The ascent of these women into the ranks of capitalists is based upon an intensification of exploitation, mainly of women workers both in the core and in the global periphery.

  8. At the same time, sections of the women’s movement have retreated into obscurity. Some have become little more than a reactionary cult of womanhood, insisting upon an essential female identity which is the basis for their politics. Others have become little more than appendages of the bourgeois academy, churning out safe ideological fancies in the form of academic feminist discourses.

  9. With the integration of liberal feminism into the state apparatus and its internalisation by bourgeois society generally, communists must today play a central role in arguing for an approach to women’s liberation based on explicit class politics. Communists must hold to a revolutionary feminist line in both the women’s movement and in the workers movement, reject all forms of chauvinism and opportunism, and expound the fundamental orientation of the communists: the formation of a revolutionary party, the generalisation of class struggle, the formation of a communist women’s movement, and the establishment of a feminist dictatorship over capital and patriarchy.

  10. Male chauvinism permeates the working class. This is a reflection of the real, material benefits patriarchy awards working men, however undermined these benefits are by the accelerationist tendency of capitalist development. However, it is also true that working class men have a real, material interest in the overthrow of capitalist patriarchy and the establishment of a communist society. It is the task of revolutionary organisation and class struggle to relentlessly struggle against male chauvinism, and to win working men to a feminist program of social revolution. Not a single inch can be given to male chauvinism.

  11. The division of the women’s movement, the general defeat of the class and its institutions, and the weakening of the communist left during the contemporary reactionary period has allowed for the proliferation of many forms of political defeatism: be they separatist, lifestylist, or liberal-moralist in nature. While these tendencies must be combatted, they are symptomatic of a generalised decline, and their adherents amongst the feminist camp will likely be won to a revolutionary feminist program when it is given reality by class struggle.

  12. Communism is the material basis for the liberation of women. Only communism can socialise social reproduction and organise it on the basis of general need and the emancipation of labour. Only communism can institute the dictatorship of working women, which in fact is a feminist, communist dictatorship over reactionary patriarchal society and the patriarchal family. Only communism can end the generalised exploitation of labour, systematic exploitation and degradation of working women, and the general immiseration of the proletariat.

  13. The task ahead for communist feminists is the organisation of a proletarian front in the women’s movement, and the agitation for a feminist program amongst workers more broadly. The women’s movement must be put on a fighting basis, with serious organisations and revolutionary demands. This development must go hand-in-hand with the reconstitution of a genuine communist mass party, a party that must have revolutionary communist feminism as its political basis.

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