Gender Oppression and the Liberation of Women
What is the nature of women’s oppression under capitalism? How/has it changed substantially over the course of the development of late-stage monopoly capitalism? What is the revolutionary role of women and the women’s movement?
Revolutionary Initiative material:
Excerpt from Thoughts on the RCP Program:
8. Women of the proletariat
While claiming to speak for all women, bourgeois feminism is incapable of addressing the social contradictions that oppress the majority of women as it cannot by its very nature address the question of class power or go beyond the bounds of bourgeois legality. Instead it relies on a false community of sisterhood that obscures the class division of society and puts forward a concept of patriarchy that no longer exists as a historical category. Patriarchy is a specific form of property and social relationship that has been destroyed by the development of imperialism. The strategic decline of imperialism has forced that system to rely more and more heavily on individualized consumption patterns, the expansion of wage-earning, the increased use of science in production, and other efforts which broke down patriarchal property and social relations. To maintain that there is a contradiction between all women and “the patriarchy” creates incorrect lines of struggle and will only hold back proletarian women from their genuine liberation. This line is mainly put forward by bourgeois or petite bourgeois elements in the women’s movement, diverting women’s struggles away from the fight against capitalism and diverting them towards the dead end of identity politics.
This is not to say that women do not face greater exploitation and oppression than men in the workplace and society at large. While patriarchy as a legal property relation no longer exists, women still face systematic oppression. There is need for greater detail on the forms of gender oppression that women experience today, with special emphasis placed on the forms of oppression that women face that hold back our female comrades from their full participation in the revolutionary movement.
Proletarian women still need feminism to liberate them from gender oppression, but it must be a feminism of a new type, a revolutionary feminism that organizes proletarian women to fight their sectoral oppression as a component of the general struggle against imperialism and for revolution. Women have played central roles in many communist movements and national liberation struggles in India, Nepal, the Philippines, Peru, and within the Black Panther Party of the 1970s. For a new generation of female leaders to be developed, all vestiges of male chauvinism in our movement must be vigorously combated and special emphasis placed on the development of female proletarian revolutionaries.
The RCP program correctly calls for the creation of a revolutionary proletarian women’s movement, however owing to the program’s lack of attention to the question of the United Front, there is a lack of clarity on how the Party will develop this movement and what it’s relationship will be to the Party. The Party must form women’s mass organizations that will carry forward the demands raised by the Party program, as well as demands raised by the masses themselves.
Programme ch 8: Women of the proletariat: being left behind for a long time, now at the forefront! – Revolutionary Communist Party (Canada)
Women’s Leadership in Nepal’s Peoples War – Parvati, United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)
What is Socialist Feminism? – Barbara Ehrenreich, 1976
Women: The Longest Revolution – Juliet Mitchell 1966
Theses on Communist Morality in the Sphere of Marital Relations – Alexandra Kollontai, 1921