Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist)

Draft Program for a new communist party

9. The masses of women: a powerful reserve of the proletarian revolution

Women from the ranks of the working people are a powerful revolutionary force. They make up half the people and can only attain their liberation when the bourgeoisie is overthrown.

The capitalist class tries to neutralize this reserve of the revolution by spreading reactionary ideas to demoralize the masses of women. The capitalists would like to keep women passive by passing them off as naturally meek and weak creatures whose place is in the kitchen.

But the working class and our Party must fight these incorrect ideas and mobilize the masses of women in the fight for socialist revolution.

The development of capitalism has thrown more and more women onto the labour market. These women develop their class consciousness through their own experience in the struggle against exploitation alongside their workmates. They learn to fight against the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie thus creates the conditions for its own downfall, because these women it wants to use as cheap labour strengthen the revolutionary, ranks of the proletariat and the mass movement for the emancipation of women.

Women from other strata of the people are also oppressed under capitalism. As a result they too come into direct conflict with the bourgeoisie.

The oppression of women

The vast majority of Canadian women are harshly oppressed under capitalism. Their basic democratic rights are denied, and they are also enslaved by domestic drudgery. They are treated as second-class citizens and discriminated against in a thousand ways.

The masses of Canadian working women are subject to double oppression: as part of the working people they are subject to the general exploitation and oppression of capitalism, and they are also oppressed as women.

The capitalists deny women the right to jobs. It suits them very well that most women are isolated in their homes. These women are pushed onto the labour market only when, as in time of war, there is a severe shortage of manpower, and extra profit to be made.

Working women who do manage to get jobs are employed as cheap labour. They are the last hired and first fired.

Nor is the lot of housewives, obliged to stay at home, any better. Housework and childcare isolate them in the home, where they often have the job of managing a tight budget.

When they do work they end up with a double work load, first on the job and then back at home.

They also have an even harder time in crisis periods. Because their husbands’ wages have become insufficient they seek work outside the home; but here again, the possibility of getting and keeping a job is extremely limited.

The masses of women of the oppressed nationalities suffer the oppression of capitalism, oppression as women, and the specific oppression of their nationality. They are among the greatest victims of capitalism, and therefore among its worst enemies. Native women, for example, are often subjected to forced sterilization, face higher rates of unemployment, and are subjected to big-nation chauvinism and racism.

As for other democratic rights and demands of women, like the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to daycare, to paid maternity leave, and so on, they are trampled underfoot all the time.

And women suffer innumerable other forms of humiliation and degradation. They are treated as inferior beings.

To keep women in an inferior position, the bourgeoisie spreads chauvinist myths such as, “men act on reason, women on instinct.”

The capitalist crisis strikes at women

The more deeply the capitalist economic system is engulfed in crisis, the more intense is the bourgeoisie’s oppression of women.

The unemployment rate for women at present is 58% higher than the rate for men. Not only are women less and less able to find work, but the wage gap with men widens. In 1977, men earned on the average 88% more than women.

In 1977 the total number of places in daycare centres in Canada was less than the number of places in 1976. Cutbacks in health care have also drastically reduced gynecological and pediatric services.

The crisis has also taken its toll on women in social terms. From 1970 to 1976 the divorce rate in Canada has gone up 368%. Over the last ten years the number of single women heads of households has tripled. The incidence of rape went up by 46% in the first four months of 1978 in Toronto alone. Pornography in magazines, books and films as well as the business of prostitution are on the rise: the capitalists turn frustrations, loneliness and bourgeois chauvinism into dollars by exploiting women as sex objects.

A long fighting tradition

But working women know how to fight: this they have proven time and again. In the first working class revolution, and the first dictatorship of the proletariat in history, the Paris Commune of 1871, the women Communards were among the most valiant fighters. The New York needle trade women workers were among the most active in the fight for unionization and the eight-hour day.

They took to the streets on March 8, 1857, to demand these rights and they stood up to police repression. Each year, March 8 is celebrated as International Women’s Day a: a commemoration of this date.

Women play an important role, no only in working-class revolutions as they did in Russia in 1917, but also in struggles to liberate their people as in South; Africa, Kampuchea, the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Today Chinese women are active in building socialism in their country.

Canadian women also know how to fight.

At the turn of the century, they successfully organized campaigns for the right to vote. They won this righit at the federal level and in most provinces at the end of World War 1.

In the ’30s and ’40s women in the textile and clothing industries participated in exemplary struggles like the one in Valleyfield, Quebec where they stood up to the tyrant Duplessis’s police.They played an indispensable role during the Second World War by participating in production and the fight against Nazism.

Their movement began a new upsurge in the late sixties.

Recently women fought determinedly at Fleck in Ontario. Wives took part in struggles along with their husbands, such as those at Advocate Mines in Baie-Verte, Newfoundland and at Inco in Sudbury, Ontario.

Socialism opens the way for the full emancipation of women

Women’s oppression began with the division of society into classes. Women were not always treated the way they are today. In the primitive communal societies, women were not oppressed. There was a division of labour between men and women, each contributing an equal share to the well-being of the tribe.

But when society was divided into classes, and when private ownership of ; the means of production took hold, women were excluded en masse from social production and confined to indiividual domestic work. This led to their subjugation and their oppression.

Today, the bourgeoisie in our country makes profits from the superexploitation of working women. It perpetuates this domination with a series of oppressive policies and laws, which it helps to maintain by spreading male chauvinist ideas that divide the working class and relegate women to a submissive role. The bourgeoisie is the main enemy of the masses of women in our country.

For women to achieve their emancipation, they must first of all overthrow this class of parasites which profits from their oppression. To eliminate the fundamental cause of women’s oppression, working class women must join in the struggle lot socialism.

When the proletariat overthrows capitalism and takes power, it will put an end to the oppression of women.

Socialism will abolish the private ownership of the means of production and will guarantee women’s right to participate in social production. Because the proletariat has no interest in oppressing women, it will encourage them to participate fully in the construction of a new socialist Canada.

Socialism will guarantee women’s right to a job and their fundamental democratic rights and will make men and women equal before the law.

As socialist construction progresses, we will guarantee the gradual socialization of household tasks – for example, by setting up laundry services, low-cost restaurants and daycare centres everywhere – to free women from these tasks and enable them to make ever greater contributions to the building of socialism.

The working class will also take up the struggle to eliminate the myth of male supremacy and female inferiority, remnants of the former society. It will outlaw pornography and prostitution.

And when all classes have been eliminated and we have reached communism, when all the old bourgeois ideas handed down from capitalism have disappeared, women will be totally emancipated.

Our party fights the oppression of women, chauvinism, feminism and reformism

We take up the struggle against women’s specific oppression and for all their democratic rights. At the same time, we ensure that in the battles of the proletariat, women’s specific demands are an integral part of the general demands of the whole class.

To forge a steel-like unity of the working class, we must combat chauvinist ideas of male supremacy in our ranks. These ideas are propagated by the bourgeoisie to divide the proletariat and to discourage working-class women from joining in the struggles. Working-class men have nothing to gain from these reactionary ideas. We must eliminate these conceptions through education and persuasion.

As well, through education and their own experience in class struggle, working-class women are increasingly refusing to feel inferior and submissive and they are discovering their force and the role they can play in the socialist revolution. Our Party works to involve women in struggles.

Our Party is also putting special effort into rallying working women to our ranks. They are the most determined and consistent fighters among women. Within the Party’s ranks, we fight against chauvinism and ensure that special measures are taken to promote women cadres.

We also fight against reformist ideology on the question of women. Reformists claim that women’s demands can gradually be won if we just persevere and remain patient. They openly tell us that capitalism can solve the oppression of women, whereas in reality it is at the root of it. Reformism’s only aim is to turn women away from the struggle to overthrow capitalism.

Our Party fights with all its strength against bourgeois feminism which also has nothing to offer the masses of women. Feminists usually claim that men in general, and not the capitalist class, are at the root of the oppression of women and are women’s enemy.

Feminism is a bourgeois tool to spread division within the ranks of the proletariat and the people, and channel women’s anger into a dead-end. Feminists don’t try to resolve non-antagonistic contradictions between men and women through criticism and discussion. Instead they promote confrontation between men and women workers. Their pernicious ideology plays right into the hands of the bourgeoisie.

Among the enemies of the women’s movement we must not forget the activities of the revisionists. Closely allied with the reformists, they try to infiltrate and sabotage the rising women’s movement. They also try, by playing on women’s just desire for world peace, to attract women to organizations that support the phoney policy of detente championed by Moscow.

Our Party today takes up the struggle for women’s demands:
•  for women’s right to a job
•  equal pay for equal work
•  for an end to discrimination in hiring and equal access to all jobs
•  fully-paid maternity leave and reinstatement at the same job with the same benefits and rights
•  for a universal daycare network paid for by the state and controlled by the users
•  for an end to discrimination in laws, schools, etc.
•  for free contraception and abortion on demand for the unionization of working women
•  against the spreading of chauvinist stereotypes in advertising and education.