For Real Women’s Liberation…There Is Only Revolution!

For Real Women’s Liberation….There Is Only Revolution!

Rosie the Riveter, the image which often denotes the Women’s Liberation movement.

10-03-2018 – As we mark another International Women’s Day, a quick glance at basic numbers show just how far away the goal of equality, let alone liberation, for women remains. By the Australian government’s own statistics, women are paid $26, 527 less than men per year averaged out across all occupations.[1] The official gender pay gap is 17.9%, or $284.20 per week.[2]  Domestic violence figures are nothing but shocking. Women are overwhelmingly the victims of the increasing scale of domestic violence. In Australia it is estimated that one woman per week is murdered by her current or former partner, one in three women have experienced physical violence, and one in five women have experienced sexual violence.[3] Aboriginal women suffer rates of domestic violence that are many times higher. To the astonishment of those who believed that it had been previously won, access to the medical procedure of abortion remains on the criminal statutes in Queensland and New South Wales.

Why, despite all the gains of the second wave of feminism (the 1960s and 70s), do women still experience the myriad manifestations of oppression, even in the most “advanced” and wealthiest countries, topped with the most “liberal democratic” parliaments? In a word, because capitalism still rules, at least in Australia, Europe, and the United States, despite the ongoing economic crisis they have endured since 2008. The second wave of feminism, for all its victories, did not aim at the overturn of the rule of capital, despite a section of its participants supporting what they understood as “socialism”. Although some still adhere to a “left-wing” feminism, the second wave was relatively easily bought off and diverted into academia, high-paying public service jobs, or indeed the corporate world itself.

International Working Women’s Day

International Women’s Day began as International Working Women’s Day, as it was Clara Zetkin who was instrumental in pushing for its marking internationally. Zetkin was a German Marxist who worked within the Social-Democratic Party (SPD), but later joined the Independent Social-Democratic Party and then the far-left Spartacist League after the SPD had shown its true colours by fully backing the imperialist slaughter of the First World War. Zetkin was heavily influenced by the Bolshevik Party in Russia, and indeed worked closely with its central leader VI Lenin on a number of issues. Later, after the victory of the socialist revolution, the Soviet Union awarded her the Order of Lenin, the highest honour of the workers’ state. Clara Zetkin, Rosa Luxembourg and other founders of International Working Women’s Day were crystal clear on what can actually lead to the end of thousands of years of women’s subjugation through class society – the triumph of a proletarian revolution.  They were also crystal clear on what the feminists of that time were really about – the winning of acceptance for wealthy and ruling class women within the male dominated echelons of the capitalist elite. All feminists in that time were bourgeois feminists, who cared not one whit about working class and poor women.

The family as a pillar of class society

The ABCs of Marxism locate the oppression of women within society’s smallest repressive unit – the nuclear family. Indeed, the three pillars of class society remain the family, private property and the state. The family is where, despite all the advances of the 20th century, women are primarily responsible for the care and welfare of its members, the upbringing of the young, and an overwhelming proportion of domestic labour. This burden is not lifted even where women take part in the labour force, not simply due to centuries of tradition, but also current government policy. The taxation system rewards mothers who stay at home full-time, and an unemployed woman cannot access meagre unemployment benefits if she is married, or even in a live-in relationship with a man. Basic child care is now privatised, and prohibitively expensive for most working class women. Capitalism is thus not simply an unequal economic system – it is also comes with political and ideological justifications for the second class status of women – which are ultimately enforced by the armed police and military wings of its state.

As the family arose historically in concert with the formation of class society, it follows that the family, and women’s oppression within it, cannot be dissolved without the dissolution of class society itself. Frederick Engels, co-founder with Karl Marx of the theory of scientific socialism, sketched the outlines of how women could be relieved of the duties that society itself should be responsible, enabling the full participation of women in productive, political and social life:

With the passage of the means of production into common property, the individual family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of children becomes a public matter.”

In the aftermath of the 1917 October Revolution, the new Soviet government began to implement some of these far-reaching changes. Communal laundries, communal eating houses and crèches which delivered essentially free child care were established. Marriage was made a civil registration issue, which could be dissolved at the request of either party. Property ownership and inheritance was separated from marriage. The concept of illegitimate children was abolished, as were all feudal laws against homosexuality. Abortion was made a part of the health system, and provided to all women who needed it. Although all these gains were later reversed through the isolation of the Soviet Union and the lack of other workers’ revolutions breaking through, these efforts remain a glimpse of what is possible with workers in power.

Can a feminist movement deliver?

A workers’ government, however, or anything even remotely approaching it, is not the aim of what is loosely described as a feminist movement today. This is not because there are not many women within it who are appalled at the direction in which society is heading, and even are dead against the capitalist system with its numberless crimes. Primarily, this flows from essentially classless feminist ideology, which sees the fundamental division in society as being between women and men, rather than being between labour and capital. Of course, there are feminists who recognise that it is not men per se who are the enemy. There are various strands of feminism which do not advocate separatism. And there are also “socialist” and “Marxist” feminists who claim that socialism and feminism can be melded together as easily as writing down the words in succession. But this is an illusion.

Practice is always the test of theory. And in practice, as long as the feminist movement includes ALL women, or states that its aim is to liberate ALL women, the movement will be tied up in its own contradictions. As long as Gina Rinehart, the billionaire mining magnate, and Anna Bligh, the former Labor Party premier who is now head of the Australian bankers association, can claim that they are part of the feminist movement by virtue of their gender, feminism will lie exposed as a cross-class doctrine which ultimately only serves the elite. Even female small business owners, high-paid lawyers and journalists have no real interest in abolishing the system of private production for private profit. While they may experience some discrimination that all women face, materially they can virtually buy their way out of oppression.

Moreover, a feminist movement which allies itself with ruling class women, or political representatives of them such as the Labor Party – can only damage the prospects of working class women, regardless of their intentions. Sometimes this is explicit. The blurb for the International Women’s Day rally being organised in Brisbane this year actually states point blank that “Women’s liberation means ALL women, all classes [!?!}, all backgrounds, from all countries and all cultures”. It seems unnecessary to have to point out that if class privilege and class exploitation continues, working class women will continue to suffer unbearably, while wealthy women will sail along basically unaffected. And this is to say nothing of the poverty and anguish that women in the Third World endure. Yet this is the logic of an “all inclusive” (classless) feminist movement.

In the same way that humanity cannot be liberated from capitalism other than through the seizure of state power by the working class, women cannot be liberated in any other way other than through a socialist revolution. That is, the oppression all women suffer cannot be eliminated without first liberating working class women. It is axiomatic that a socialist revolution can only succeed by politicising and mobilising the workers, regardless of gender. Its immediate concern is not at all the middle and upper classes. Similarly, a movement for women’s liberation can only succeed if it aims at empowering working class women – rather than well-paid women in comfortable corporate or academic careers, nor indeed, well-remunerated female but conservative Union officials, building superannuation nest eggs on the back of the workers’ dire needs.

Feminists for imperialist war

The political elements leading this year’s International Women’s Day rallies appear to be a combination of the dead hand of the Labor Party (even Labor Party Members of Parliament!), conservative Trade Union officials, the Australian Greens, domestic violence support and health services, polite society women’s peace groups, Amnesty International through to left parties such as the Socialist Alliance and the Cloudland Collective. These seemingly disparate political groups give the impression that they stand not only for a world free of discrimination against women, but also a world full of peace and harmony. Yet little could be further from the truth. Each and every one of these political organisations were either silent, or were vociferous advocates, of the imperialist wars on Libya and Syria, which were unforgivable crimes of annihilation over the last seven years. Further, not one of them utters a word of dispute, let alone opposition, to the relentless drive to thermonuclear war led by the US Empire targeting Russia, Iran, the DPRK (“North Korea”) and China. It is their collective fealty to Anglo/US/AUST imperialist power, rather than their dissent, which enables them to unite for “women”.

To be sure, there are some women and individuals who identify as feminist who genuinely oppose imperialist war, from whichever direction it approaches. But while these folk remain united with the likes of the Labor Party here, not to speak of embracing Hilary “Destroyer of Worlds” Clinton in the US as one of their own, they will continue to pay yeoman’s service to the very cause they themselves oppose. It is scarcely necessary to state that one cannot claim, in any way, to stand for the rights of women while simultaneously backing the potential military obliteration of millions of women from Libya, Syria, Russia, Iran, China, the DPRK or whichever Third World country next bobs up on the Pentagon’s radar.

For a workers’ party which champions women’s liberation

It is one of the most revealing non sequiturs – feminist activists railing against the very real problem of domestic violence against women, whilst looking away as Canberra follows Washington into yet another atrocious war. Yet this contradiction flows naturally from other feminist contradictions. While rightfully highlighting the injustices of the gender pay gap, abortion services remaining out of reach, the double shift (paid work and domestic work), the crushing expectations to be perfect mothers and sex symbols at the same time, not being safe on the streets at night and so on, the feminist movement is effectively still captive to the bourgeois feminists – almost exactly 100 years after the October Socialist Revolution. That is, in practice, the feminist movement campaigns against the effects of the capitalist system, rather than the rule of capital itself. This is consciously backed by the likes of the Labor Party, self-serving Union officials, and pro-corporate women’s advocacy organisations, but unconsciously backed by those trailing in their wake, including some left parties.

The second wave of feminism, in the 1960s and 70s, undoubtedly made some serious gains for the standing of women, at least in the countries of the First World. However the feminist movement today is still hampered by a political leadership loyal to ruling class women, but now with a more sophisticated “inclusive”, and even pro-Union, vernacular. What is desperately needed is not a feminist movement as such, but a movement for women’s liberation. The political leadership of such a movement would be committed to irreconcilable opposition to the capitalist system in toto. This means a leadership which does not hesitate to split from ANY representative of the ruling elite, especially the likes of the Hilary Clinton, Anna Bligh or Annastacia Palaszczuk. More than this, the capitalist Labor Party cannot be allowed to pose as the saviour of women for a moment longer. Women’s liberation can only be really championed by a Marxist vanguard party, which stops at nothing to weld together the most politically advanced and class-conscious women and men in a resolute struggle to overturn the lawless rule of finance capital. The liberation of women begins with the triumph of socialism. Let us build it now.

————————————————————————————————————

WORKERS   LEAGUE

E:workersleague@redfireonline.com

P.O. Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-17/women-paid-$26,527-less-than-men-per-year-but-pay-gap-narrowing/9159468 (24-02-2018)

[2] www.security4women.org.au/equal-pay/gender-gap (24-02-2018)

[3] https://www.ourwatch.org.au/understanding-violence/facts-and-figures (24-02-2018)

Drive out Wicked Campers! For Women’s Liberation!

25-07-2015 – Many workers and supporters of women’s rights have rightly been shocked and appalled by the degenerate and grotesque sexism repeatedly displayed by Wicked Campers. The obscenely offensive slogans scrawled across their campervans for rent, scrape the bottom of a barrel that rarely surfaces. “Normal” sexism is unfortunately a daily occurrence in a society which is based on the oppression of women, as is reflected in the unrealistic fashion and body images constantly displayed in the mass media. Malevolent sexism, on the other hand, does not always surface. Wicked Campers have crossed this line, and then some.

Wicked Campers also brandish some racist and homophobic slogans, but most is directed at women. Yet Wicked Campers are not just a particularly poor example of the worst of society’s sexism. It is also a reflection of bourgeois morality becoming more and more decadent and self-indulgent as the capitalist system moves into an advanced state of decay. However, it is also a part of the “normal” functioning of the system of production (or in the case of Wicked Campers – renting) for profit. Under this system of business which is supposedly “natural”, business owners are “free” do whatever they wish to make a buck. This can include exploiting the labour of others, trashing the environment, or even a depraved public visual assault of women.

Under capitalism, the right to private property trumps all others. This is reflected in the fact that despite numerous rulings upholding complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau[1], this body has no power to direct Wicked Campers owner John Webb to remove the sexist slogans. In some respects, the “authorities” aspire to an orderly and “harmonious” society – but only in order to create the best conditions for the turnover of private profit. Business owners, including medium sized capitalists such as John Webb, must have free rein in the same way that Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer can ruthlessly exploit labour and even threaten the very existence of civilisation with carbon emission pumping coal mining and the like.

If business owners have unfettered rights under this system and therefore the “right” to display vulgar sexism to promote their sordid business, a question is posed for workers and supporters of women’s liberation. How exactly can the abomination of Wicked Campers be fought and overcome? The organisers of today’s rally have responded by placing a central demand forward – for the Queensland government to legislate against the public vilification of women. We admit we are non-plussed by this demand. Let us briefly examine just some of the moves of the current Queensland Government, since the ALP (Australian Labor Party) limped over the line to defeat the previous LNP (Liberal National Party) government. For a start, the ALP restarted the privatisation of state assets, when it announced weeks after being elected that sales of public housing would resume.[2] The continued privatisation of public housing will disproportionately affect women, especially single parents, for whom housing is often an almost unbearable cost. Another almost unbearable cost for working class women is electricity bills – but the latest ALP government budget includes measures which will inevitably lead to the privatisation of the generation and distribution of electricity. Plus, the ALP has reopened the Borallon Jail near Ipswich, at a cost of around $150 million dollars of taxpayers money.[3] Needless to say, this is hardly a progressive government…

It has also been put forward that the Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters moved a resolution in the Senate condemning Wicked Campers. The motion, seconded by Labor’s Senator Claire Moore, passed unanimously. All well and good? Not likely. The former federal ALP/Greens government carried out perhaps the most severe attack on women in 100 years when it pushed single parents (the overwhelming majority of whom are women) from the single parenting allowance to the miserably low Newstart allowance.[4] This unconscionable assault drove many women already struggling deeper into poverty – courtesy of the ALP and the Greens. To imagine therefore, that the QLD state ALP government can actually become a friend and protector of women, is a dangerous illusion.

It is an illusion, however, which the ALP state government, as well as the Federal Liberal government, is happy to foster. The QLD ALP government recently announced that it was spending $31 million to “tackle domestic violence”.[5] This money, will be used to set up a new Domestic Violence court, establish women’s refuges in Brisbane and Townsville, and set up a Domestic Violence Death Review Unit. So the state will review your passing if you lose your life through domestic violence – how does this help? In addition, the women’s refuges will operate on a 72 hour basis. That is, women fleeing from a domestic violence situation will have sanctuary for three days, after which they are on their own. And setting up an entirely new court, with highly paid judges and overpaid legal fraternity attending is hardly going to prevent new cases of domestic violence from occurring. What we have is the ALP government (and the LNP government before it) posing as defenders of women, and launching a campaign which will increase their powers, especially police powers, while not even beginning to address the reasons why the problem exists in the first place.

This is why we suggest the demand for the state government to pass laws against the vilification of women is misplaced. If the government does pass such a law, whom, pray tell, will enforce it? COPS! And who will try those accused of breaking such a law? THE COURTS! And where will those who are convicted of breaking the law be sent? TO PRISON! Ergo, the demand for the government to pass such a law leads directly to calls for, or actual, increased taxpayer funding for cops, courts and prisons. Firstly, this will not make women safer, as it doesn’t address the reasons why violence against women occurs. Secondly, increasing the power of the capitalist state apparatus inevitably means it will be used to even further suppress the working class – when ultimately the capitalist state is the source of the violence – especially against women.

The cops, courts and prisons are key elements of the armed fist of the capitalist state. A state, as Lenin emphasised, is an organisation of violence for the suppression of a particular class by another class. In capitalist society, based on production for private profit, the capitalist state acts to protect the interests of the capitalist class – the aforementioned Gina Rineharts and Clive Palmers – by suppressing the working class. Yet the oppression of women is built into the capitalist system through the constant fortification of the three pillars of class society – the family, private property and the state. A state which holds women in a permanent state of oppression cannot therefore be used as one of its tools for liberation. Women can only be liberated from this oppression through the uprooting of private property and the overturn of capitalism on a worldwide basis. This will require the taking of state power by the working class as a first step towards the implementation of a classless, socialist society. Such momentous struggles – no less than workers’ revolution – will inevitably entail a struggle against the cops, courts and prisons of the capitalist state. Yet, the demand for legislation outlawing vilification of women, despite its intentions, is in practice a demand for more cops on the streets. Supporting a special domestic violence court is also in practice a demand for more judges. Wittingly or unwittingly, the demand for legislation outlawing the vilification of women in practice is a demand to strengthen the armed and violent wing of the capitalist state. A beefed up capitalist state will not only use this power against workers – it will be used to deepen the oppression of women. Thus in our view, the demand for legislation on this issue is counter-productive.

The vilification of women (as in the example of Wicked Campers), like the problem of domestic violence, are both examples of the abuse of women which is a related aspect of the oppression of women in capitalist society. However, they are symptoms but not causes. To address the problem of Wicked Campers and domestic violence requires addressing the reasons which lead to the abuse of women by some men, whether business owners, or husbands and partners. Ultimately, violence against women is related to the increasing inequality generated by the capitalist economic crisis, which has been in deep recession since 2008. Jobs are being slashed in all industries, throwing thousands out of work, heaping pressure on men and women to somehow put food on the table and maintain a roof over their heads, and that of their children. When men and women actually have jobs, due to the recession workplaces are often extremely stressful, with staff overworked and subject to relentless bullying and harassment by management. The pressure that workers endure, daily being threatened with either the sack or being bullied if they do not work at breakneck speed, is too much to ask anyone to handle. Treacherous Union misleaders, who do nothing to organise resistance to often unbearable working conditions, only exacerbate the unhealthy mental and physical state of workers. Most men are able to take out their rage at this injustice in safe ways, such as playing sport, engaging in political activity to address important issues, gaming online or in some other way. Unfortunately, some men take out their rage on their female partners, terrorising them or physically harming them. Of course some men need to be removed from their families for the safety of the rest of the family and the community. However, if no action is taken to address the underlying economic and political causes of domestic violence, simply targeting men, or using cops to target men, will only drive the problem underground. This could later emerge in false solutions like “men’s rights” groups.

It is no coincidence that violence against women increases in direct proportion to the increasing inequality as a result of the economic crisis of the capitalist countries. Even the example of Wicked Campers is a reflection of the crisis. Business owners, due to the razor sharp competition to turn a profit, are prepared to take any measure to gain a competitive edge over their rivals. Not all business owners resort to John Webb style desecration of women, but many are prepared to do similar things, like desecrate the wages of their workers, or the natural environment, or turn to corrupt business practices, and so on. Turning around this situation cannot be addressed by “working within the system”, by lobbying parliament, and certainly not by allying with the cops – the sworn enemy of working class women and men. What is required is nothing less than women’s liberation through socialist revolution – the seizing of state power by the armed workers, and the initiation of a planned, socialist economy based on common ownership of the means of production. This in turn will require the forging of a Marxist vanguard party, comprised of the most class conscious women and men, to lead workers and all of the oppressed against their class adversaries, nationally and internationally.

While we forge a path towards liberation, the class adversaries of women’s liberation, who often pose as allies, need to be clearly identified. The ALP, the Greens, the cops, courts (even a special “domestic violence” court) prisons, local, state and federal governments and parliaments are all essential components of the capitalist state, and thus cannot be integrated, into the struggle for essential justice for women. Rather, the women’s liberation movement and its supporters need to fight for demands which will ease the economic burden on working class women and men, and thus dramatically lessen the aggravation caused to personal and social relationships. With regard to Wicked Campers, the movement could call on Unions to instruct their members to refuse to serve Wicked Campers at Service Stations, council parks, restaurants and so on. This could be backed up by women’s liberation/Union mobilisations to march on and picket Wicked Campers depots. This is an important issue. Down with Wicked Campers! For women’s liberation!

Workers League

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

http://www.redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-07-16/pringle-wicked-slogans-arent-just-harmless-fun/5598858

[2] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-labor-government-to-sell-non-strategic-assets-20150305-13w9j7.html

[3] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/borallon-prison-to-reopen-in-2016-20150708-gi7dcc?skin=dumb-phone

[4] http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/a-singleminded-struggle-to-get-by-20130822-2se9f.html

[5] http://www.warwickdailynews.com.au/news/special-domestic-violence-courts-will-be-trialled-/2698098/