It’s not even about men.

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. 

Waitrose, Glasgow

A Waitrose store in Glasgow has suspended seventeen staff after they were caught eating café customer leftovers rather than throwing them away. 

The same company who only a few months ago were cutting Sunday and overtime rates to help pay for the new national living wage, are now punishing the staff they are starving.

If seventeen of your staff are hungry at work, seventeen staff in one store cafe, how can you possibly come to any other conclusion than this is YOUR fault? They are not eating in order to be able to work for you – so you fucking sack them all?

What sort of manager would do this? What sort of human being would pile misery on top of this already tragic story? As if the shame of eating a strangers leftovers isn’t hard enough, as if the smell of food all day wasn’t already driving you insane and sticking knives in your belly. Now you’re probably out of a job as well.

These places shouldn’t be allowed to operate – this is absolutely wicked. It’s evil. To starve your workforce is fucking slavery! They know what they’re doing – they know that they have piled pressure on these workers – cutting their pay so they don’t actually have any increase in income on the new living wage.

They know these people are already feeling the strain, and they don’t fucking care. All they care about is profit. And we can’t have the nice customers seeing workers forced to eat their leftovers can we? They might think we’re not paying them enough! 

Whatever they do with this now, Waitrose – you are the scum of the fucking earth. Pandering and simpering to the middle class with your fucking posh cheese and expensive biscuits while your workers are dying on their arses. Whatever you choose to do about this now, wether you climb down to save face and protect your profit or you really do callously push these desperate people who have given you everything back into the dole queue – we know what you are.

You’re a parasite – a leech on the back of the working class, you will bleed us dry and watch us die and lumber on unfazed. We’re not fucking disposable. 

You have put these people through the shame of going home to their families with no money to feed them. The shame of having to scrape a strangers plate because they can’t afford to eat. The shame of having it broadcast around the world for all to see. The shame of knowing that amongst all this, they still might lose their job at the end of it.

You make me fucking sick. You literally make my stomach churn. I would pause to piss in your doorway. You aren’t worth the shit on their shoes. 

Constance.

People seem to have this idea that you can only be a successful socialist if you’re born and bred working class. You can only understand class struggle if you’ve had to suffer it, you can only fight oppression if you’re oppressed. History tells us that’s bollocks, socialists come from all walks of life – and necessarily, or how could we begin to understand the complexities of our society with only one vantage point? 

Constance Markievicz was not working class. In fact she was the daughter of the Arctic explorer Sir Henry Gore-Booth and Lady Georgina Gore-Booth. They held land of 39 square miles, they were well off, and yet the stereotypes we often apply to the upper classes did not fit so snugly there. During the famine Gore-Booth provided food for the tenants on his Sligo estate free of charge. At a time when thousands were starving and dying, desperately clamouring onto ships to escape the genocide, Gore-Booth was instilling in his daughters a deep concern for the working class which would shape the rest of their lives.

Constance wanted to study to be a painter, though there was only one school in Dublin accepting female students. Already Constance was pushing firmly against the agenda that had been laid out for her, and was determining to carve out her own way regardless of accepted social norms and standards. Attending an art school in London was where Constance first became involved with the National Union of Women’s Suffragette Societies. 

By 1903 Constance had married and birthed a daughter, and was accepted as a renowned landscape artist. Now living in Dublin with her family, she was a cornerstone in the founding of the United Artists Club. This was a group for artists and writers to socialise and support each other, and whilst its main aims were the preservation of Irish language and culture, it attracted members from all walks of life, not least those with strong revolutionary ideals. In this club Constance was able to mingle with peers from both sides of the nationalist argument, which surely laid the foundation for her future in politics.

In 1906 Constance rented a cottage in the Dublin countryside, where she found that the previous tenant, a poet named Padraic Colum, had left behind manuscripts of a revolutionary journal entitled “The Peasant and Sinn Feinn.” It was the reading of these materials promoting independence from the British that spurred Constance into action. This was arguably the most pivotal period in Constance’s young life – a move from a mother, a suffragette and a painter to a daughter of Ireland, a sworn freedom fighter. 
Constance joined both Sinn Fein and the Daughters of Ireland in 1907 and thus began to involve herself consciously in nationalist politics. Constance attended her first meeting dressed in a ballgown and tiara having come straight from a function at Dublin Castle. The hostility which met her as a result was a breath of fresh air, and no longer treated regally as “Countess” Constance found herself able to relax and focus on the important issues.

Having campaigned against Churchill with her sister and the suffragettes in Manchester, Constance returned to Ireland and founded the Fianna Éireann, a nationalist scouts organisation that instructed teenage boys and girls in the use of firearms. Patrick Pearse later said that the creation of Fianna Éireann was as important as the creation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913.

Constance was first jailed in 1911 after speaking to a crowd of 30,000 at a meeting of the Irish Republican Brotherhood protesting the visit of the King, having also taken part in stone-throwing at the Kings image and the burning of the British flag. Despite her upbringing and her personal financial situation, Constance was more than prepared to lay down her freedom, and even her life for freedom and equality in Ireland. She was later quoted as saying, “I would welcome the King of England over here on a visit. But while Ireland is not free I remain a rebel unconverted and unconvertible. There is no word strong enough for it. I am pledged as a rebel, an unconvertible rebel, because I am pledged to the one thing—a free and independent Republic.”

Constance later compounded this when she joined James Connolly’s Irish Citizen Army. This was formed to protect demonstrating workers from the police. Constance sold all of her jewellery and borrowed money wherever she could in order to feed this small volunteer force, as well as running and financing a soup kitchen to feed poor school children. Constance had discovered already that the success of the lowest and most unfortunate was the success of the whole, she poured every cent, even drop of blood sweat and tears into the cause, and she fought with every ounce of strength she could muster. 

Constance is often quoted as saying “Dress suitably in short skirts and strong boots, leave your jewels in the bank and buy a revolver.” She knew, this was a country on the brink of war. This was not the time for displays of affluence and partying. This was a time to arm, to prepare, to be ready for the long night ahead.

In 1916 Constance took part in the Easter Uprising where she shot and injured a British sniper. Following with great admiration the direction of James Connolly, Constance fought bravely and along with her comrades held her position six days before being captured and transported to Kilmainham Gaol. Once there, she was the only one of 70 women who was placed in solitary confinement. You can imagine the fear from the guards, who will she influence? What will she spread? Early in her political career Constance was already a force to be reckoned with, and quite rightly put the shits up the Brits.

When tried for her part in this, Constance refuted the charge of “taking part in an armed rebellion for the purpose of assisting the enemy” but proudly declared that she had indeed attempted to “cause disaffection among the civil population of His Majesty” citing that she had done what she thought was right and stood by her actions. Her courage and conviction was beyond reproach. She was sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life on account of her sex. Her now famous response, “I do wish your lot had the decency to shoot me.”
In 1917 Constance was released as part of a general amnesty dictated by London. Two years later she was banged up again, in Cork, for making a “seditious speech.” It seemed that everywhere Constance went and everything she said earned her jail time. It was of no consequence to her, she continued her work and aided the struggle regardless of the price, because it was right.

In 1918 she became the first woman elected to the House of Commons, but as expected as a member of Sinn Fein she declined to recognise the British Parliament and refused to take her seat. Being in Holloway Prison when the convention of the First Dail was called, Constance was referred to as being “imprisoned by the foreign enemy” as many were. She was reelected to the second Dail in 1921.

During an argument in the Dail Constance was asked why she had not gone to England with Collins et al to negotiate an agreement with the English. She replied thusly:

“I know what I mean—a state run by the Irish people for the people. That means a Government that looks after the rights of the people before the rights of property. And I don’t wish under the Saorstát to anticipate that the directors of this and the capitalists’ interests are to be at the head of it. My idea is the Workers’ Republic for which Connolly died.” Her dedication to socialism as a republican is one of the reasons her name is not as famous as you would expect. 

She was the minister for labour, fighting loud and long for the rights and equal treatment of the working class. She was the only female Irish Cabinet Minister in history until 1979. In 1922 she left government along with De Valera and others who opposed the Anglo-Irish treaty. 

After the Irish civil war which Constance took an active role in, she was again imprisoned along with 92 other women and commenced hunger strike. She was released within the month. Constance was reelected to Irish government over the coming years, before her death in 1927 just five weeks before she claimed her seat on the fifth Dail.

Constance died of complications connected to appendicitis, and having given her wealth to the cause died among the poor where she wanted to be. She had not risen with the class, rather she had reached across the divide in the name of equality and justice and fought for what was right, regardless of how it affected her personal situation. She was a heroine of the Irish Republican Movement, she was wedded to the cause and she lived and died that the working class, the Irish as a nation even, might be free of the chains of oppression and exploitation and imperialism.

Constance Markievicz might not have been a working class woman. But she was a feminist, a suffragette, a military freedom fighter, a political prisoner, a hunger striker, a politician and above all a woman who would have laid down her life to see those less fortunate though no less deserving prosper in a new Ireland built on equality and freedom for all its citizens.

Parenthood

The capitalist system creates an uneven playing field when it comes to raising children. In order to keep the “man of the house” enslaved through his labour, and through this template the family dependent upon it, they promote the nuclear family as the norm and show disdain for alternative family structures. The single parent family has become an everyday occurrence and yet the society we live in makes no allowances for such an arrangement, unless the second parent has little to no involvement with their children.

Where two parents are separated, sharing the responsibilities of parenthood equally, both working and providing financial security, a safe home and the best quality of life that can be afforded to a child, only one is recognised by the state as a parent. The state makes no allowances for parents who are on an equal footing and share time and sacrifices equally between them, as this requires an acceptance of equality between men and women in the family, and the absence of the nuclear family structure which has come to dictate our working class lives.

In families where there is no one breadwinner and one homemaker, the state washes it’s hands of any responsibility to the child. One parent may be working full time, more easily able to provide for the child whilst the other parent struggles to find work and maintain the standard of living. The state will provide for the child by way of benefits, but these are limited to one parent only, despite the equal split in parenting. This encourages the one parent to be dependent on the other, thus providing the framework, on paper, for a nuclear family outside of the accepted norm. 

This enables the exploitation of the one parent who is overextended and forced to rely on the other parent. Where no relationship exists further than the parenting of the child, this system forces an unnatural dependency which is unhealthy and unequal. This further promotes the conditions required for the oppression of the working class through exploitation of the accepted family structure, the forcing of single parents into poverty by refusal to recognise their status as a full time single parent in equal standing with the other, and the limiting of opportunity for decent employment and education that results from this.