08-03-2020: March 8 marks International Women’s Day (IWD), which began its history as International Working Women’s Day. Originally a movement for the redress of the oppression of women through class-struggle socialism, IWD has unfortunately over time been watered down into something eminently acceptable, and even promoted, by sections of today’s capitalist ruling classes. IWD corporate breakfasts, fun runs, commercial dinners and more are now all held by conservative business groups, charity foundations and other bodies which would bitterly oppose workers and other oppressed groups posing fighting for real women’s liberation through socialism.
Corporate rule offers nothing for working women
At times the agents of the ruling class attempt to recognise the gross disadvantages working women encounter throughout their lives under the profit system. For example, recently it has been highlighted that women are retiring from the workforce with an average 47% less superannuation than men. Despite comprising 46.9% of the workforce, 44% of women rely on their partner’s income as the main source of funds for their retirement. 40% of older single women live in poverty or experience significant insecurity in retirement. Statistics like these graphically demonstrate the structural oppression of women which is built into capitalism. However, the response of some figures in the establishment, such as Victorian Labor Party Premier Daniel Andrews, is to push for superannuation for all workers to be pushed up from the current 9.5% to 15% as soon as possible. The aim is supposed to be a measure of compensation for women who generally accumulate less superannuation throughout their working lives, due to factors such as taking time out of work to raise children, support their families and by working part-time.
Enlightened political elites can only offer a “solution” which will mainly enrich corporate magnates, rather than allow extra savings to accumulate for women workers. The superannuation industry itself is a giant honey pot, with chunks of workers’ wages being compulsorily diverted into billion-dollar funds which are then gambled on the stock market. Venture capitalists reap the windfall and hand out crumbs to workers when they retire. At best, an increase of compulsory superannuation may slightly lift the average savings women retire with, but it won’t address the gender gap. This is due to the reliance of the capitalist system on the unpaid labour of women in the home, largely as a result of the reinforcement of the nuclear family as class society’s smallest repressive unit. The real liberation of women can only come about once the duties of the family (child rearing, care for the sick and elderly, food, shelter, education assistance and so on) are collectively taken over by society itself. Women would then be able to participate as true equals in the basic elements of production.
TERFs and SWERFs divert from the real issues
In recent times, the feminist movement has been swamped by bitter conflicts between those who wish to exclude transgender women (TERF – Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminism) and sex workers (SWERF – Sex Worker Exclusionary Radical Feminism) from the movement for women’s liberation. This is a huge discussion best held elsewhere. Suffice to say that while it is not in the interests of a working women’s movement for liberation to exclude transgender women or sex workers, these issues should not be the central issues defining the struggle for women’s liberation. The fact that they have become central issues speaks to the vast shortcomings of feminism. Feminism is not just an idea; it is a political program which is limited to fighting for the rights of women within the confines of the capitalist system. This is one reason why feminism as such cannot actually lead to the liberation of women but can in fact stand in the way. Women’s oppression is bound up with the family, private property and the state, as laid down by one of the founders of scientific socialism, Frederick Engels, in his 1884 treatise. It is these three pillars of class society which must be swept aside to enable the liberation of women from their second-class status under capitalism. Therefore, working women must ally themselves with working class men (and working-class transgender folk) in a pitch battle for the construction of a workers’ state – the first step towards the classless society.
For Women’s Liberation!
Practically, the most essential missing ingredient for the establishment of workers’ democracy is the Marxist vanguard party which can lead the working masses in the struggle to shatter the chains of capitalist wage slavery. This is therefore also the most pressing task of the movement for women’s liberation. A multi-gendered workers’ vanguard party would seek to assist the building and consolidation of a pro working-class movement for women’s liberation as part of the last-ditch effort to prevent the termination of humanity through climate collapse and/or nuclear war. But this perspective is light years away from all wings of the feminist movement, which is currently embroiled in unwinnable squabbles about issues which can appear esoteric to whole swathes of working people.
To be sure, there are women who sincerely believe in building a feminist movement who see themselves as anti-capitalist, and even socialist. Such pro-worker women staunchly resist the encroachments of the conservative and bourgeois feminists who only “fight” for more women members of parliament or more female CEOs in corporate boardrooms. But as long as feminism seeks to serve all women, regardless of class, it will be bogged down forever in a game to bridge the unbridgeable chasm between the ultra-rich and the very poor. As this divide cannot be united, screaming arguments ensue over issues which in themselves are important – but none of which question the rule of capital.
What is required is a pro-worker movement for women’s liberation as opposed to a cross (or upper) class feminist movement which debates the limited options available while the banks remain privately owned. It would fight for demands such as: free 24-hour childcare – to enable women to truly participate as equals in all parts of society. It would demand abortion services as part of a free healthcare system for all. It would demand free and expanded public transport to enable working women to travel anywhere at any time. It ultimately demand the end of the profit system.
PO Box 66 NUNDAH QLD 4012