In the capitalist system, we know that labour is the currency of the working class. It’s all we have to trade. But there are two types of labour.
Firstly, productive labour which is all the work that produces goods and services. Then there’s reproductive labour which refers to the work done in caring for the physical self, the home and the raising of children. This is typically seen in modern society as “women’s work.”
As we know from our (very) brief foray into Kapital, capitalism is based on the accumulation of profit. Most profit is generated through manufacturing, services, sales – productive labour, and so it is seen as more valuable than reproductive labour.
As a result, because this is viewed as women’s work, women are seen as less economically valuable than men. In this way women are open to exploitation. Not only do they physically support the whole capitalist system in terms of their unpaid labour, they are also already viewed as less than men when they do enter into productive labour.
This has always been the case since patriarchal societies (those where men have all the power) were introduced. Engels (manifesto guy) called this ‘the world historical defeat of the female sex.’
Because of the social conditions created by capitalism, the way men and women are viewed and valued, the first step to women’s liberation from their dependence on men is their entry into the paid labour system.
Of course, they will still share the class oppression of male workers – and here is where it becomes evident that liberation for women must mean liberation for all, through socialist revolution.
The class struggle, the desperate need for socialism, is not a new concept to most of us. But we must also realise that women’s struggle is rooted deeply in the oppression of the working class.
Liberation must come from reform that improves conditions for the working class as a whole, only then will women of all levels of society be truly equal.
What this means is that we don’t fall into the trap of comparing men and women obsessively. We reject the idea that there’s a special question about the unique needs of working class women compared to working class men.
Economic factors have subordinated women, and only economic factors can change their social position. This means we must, as a class, as a whole, attack the basis of capitalist society.
On the face of “women’s liberation” are working class women and liberal middle-class women, seemingly working together – but however “radical” – feminists are still loyal to their class. This is evident because the middle class liberals seek equality within the existing class society framework, they do not attack the basis as we do.
Because they see men as the enemy, achievements of equal rights with men is a victory to them. They won’t fight for the social revolution needed to liberate them because it threatens their class position. Although our aims may overlap at times, our long term goals differ drastically.
Each concession they gain is another weapon to use against their working class sisters, another privilege we are not afforded, and so the division between these classes of women grows. The ‘struggle’ and aims of their class are alien to us, and unsatisfying.
Such small concessions are only the first step to liberation and equality for working class women who see men as their comrades, enslaved alongside them by the same social conditions. They know their enemy, and they strive together against the sickness rather than the symptoms.
It is the working woman who is the saviour of her own future. Only the upper classes can hope to benefit from a union between she and them. The only hope for her in these social conditions is an equal share of inequality, and so she rejects the basis of the measurement.
“The working woman must not and does not forget that while the aim of bourgeois women is to secure their own welfare in the framework of a society antagonistic to us – our aim is to build, in place of the old, outdated world, a bright temple of universal labour, comradely solidarity and joyful wisdom.” – Alexandra Kollontai, 1909
The only liberation for women is liberation for all, for our class, and so we demand only the right for each to the fullest and freest self-determination.