First Published: In Struggle No. 81, February 17, 1977
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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Radical feminism, or “Marxist” feminism has developed as the “leftwing” of the feminist movement in the past few years. The feminine petty bourgeoisie, drawn into the current of the class struggle, was quick to grasp Marxism, not in order to serve the working class and the revolutionary struggle with it, but rather in order to deform it, to spit it back out in some mixed up way, and to “adopt” it to its own class ideology and thus make it serve its own interests.
In Montreal, certain feminist groups have become the mouthpiece for this tendency. In the past, the Centre des Femmes (the Women’s Centre), which no longer exists today, distributed lots of this feminist literature. Last year, at the, meeting organized by the union centrals on March 8th, a representative of the Comité de Lutte de l’avortement (Committee of Struggle for Abortion) received thunderous applause when she said: “And if we refuse to be reserve labour power for Capital, we also refuse to be a “reserve” for the revolution.” What should we take this to mean?
Starting with the fact that capitalist society categorizes women above all as housewives, the “Marxist” feminists have constructed “the theory of housework”, because according to them this is “the specific relationship of exploitation that housewives have with Capital”
It is certainly a fact that since the beginning of the private ownership of the means of production, women have been excluded from productive social labour, confined to domestic work, and isolated in the home. This is where their specific oppression comes from, an oppression which is perpetuated and which increases under capitalism. But it is not by demanding a wage for housework, nor by having housewives go on strike, that women will move forward in their struggle. For even if all women are housewives, that does not categorize them all automatically as part of the working class. They, too, belong to one class or another, the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. So it is not strictly as housewives, that women in the proletariat and among the class allies of the proletariat, the people, wage the struggle for socialism: it is rather as oppressed women of an exploited class. This is clearly not the same as the interests of bourgeois women.
This does not deny, not at all, the fact that women have specific demands to put forward, demands linked to their condition as women. Furthermore, these demands are of many orders: they are as much in the sphere of economic, political and social equality as in the struggle for equality within the family. The day that women are no longer considered as housewives, the day that women are no longer alone to take care of raising their children – this day will only come about as the result of a long struggle undertaken under socialism. It is erroneous to reduce the struggle for women’s liberation to a struggle for democratic rights, but that is exactly what “Marxist” feminists try to do with their “housework” theories.
The struggle for women is an integral part of the revolutionary struggle because it supposes the abolishing of private property of the means of production, the abolishing of capitalism. That is why it is the proletariat as a whole and as a class that has the historic mission to free women from their oppression. All of the fights that are part of the political struggle against capitalism are of the greatest concern to women. When women fight the crisis measures which touch them in particular, just as when they fight Bill C-73 which touches all workers, men and women, they are not serving as “a reserve”, but instead they are getting involved in a fight which is of as much concern to them as it is to the men of their class.
It seems that for the “Marxist” feminists, the struggle “that starts with housework” leads directly to socialism, as if it were enough to organize one struggle after another in order to end up one fine day in having broken exploitative capitalist relationships, as if the women’s movement could find within itself the political leadership needed to lead it to socialism. This is an anarchist conception of the revolutionary process, a conception which denies the leadership role of the revolutionary Party of the working class in the struggle for women’s liberation.
Furthermore, most of the time, “Marxist” feminists consider that the Party is nothing more than a party for the most part composed of men, and thus just another tool to hoodwink women!
It is only the proletarian Party, of the working class, the party armed with Marxism-Leninism, that can lead the women’s struggle towards socialism. This does not mean that the Party will achieve the liberation of women in the place of women, just as the Party will not make the revolution in the place of the proletariat and the people. Rather, the Party orients all our struggles towards socialism.
So often, the “Marxist” feminists falsely claim that Marxist-Leninists are against women organizing themselves to wage their struggle and end up by putting the autonomous organization of women in opposition to the leadership of the proletarian Party. This is demagogic and only serves to justify their thesis. For on the contrary, everywhere in the world, the communist movement has encouraged and has participated actively in the struggle of women to organize themselves in order to put their demands forward and to take part in the struggle for socialism. It is in the struggle that the Party will build its leadership, and it is in the struggle that the masses of women will recognize the justness of this leadership. This is not contradictory, just as it is not contradictory that men and women workers organize themselves into unions and that the Party exercises an ideological and political leadership over their struggles. Not only is it not contradictory, but without the revolutionary Party, our struggles will not lead to socialism.
In so obstinately struggling against the leadership of the Party in the struggle for the liberation of women, the feminists harm the cause of women themselves.
For by hiding behind “Marxist” masks and by talking about the class struggle and socialism, radical feminism is objectively moving the women’s liberation struggle away from the revolutionary struggle for socialism. It is leading the masses of women into a dead-end, and not towards their liberation.