Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Workers Congress (Marxist-Leninist)

International Working Women’s Day

Women’s Liberation – A Revolutionary Struggle


First Published: The Communist, Vol. V, No. 8, March 5, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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International Working Women’s Day (IWWD) provides the occasion to recognize and honor the struggles of women throughout the world. The successful struggles for socialism and national liberation since the turn of this century illustrate that the integration of Marxism-Leninism and the woman’s liberation movement can be achieved. In China women are involved in modernization. In Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere women are active in the struggle for national independence and socialism. The celebration of IWWD in this country must increase the understanding and commitment of communists for the necessity of integrating the workers movement with the women’s liberation movement and of winning the masses of women struggling for their liberation to Marxism-Leninism as a guide for the successful achievement of socialist revolution and women’s emancipation.

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The Widespread Scope of the Women’s Movement

In every aspect of their lives women are oppressed. But when people are pushed down they will rise up in resistance.

Women fought hard in the 1960’s and they won the important victory of affirmative action in education, hiring, and promotion. Last July 9th in Washington, DC over 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets in the largest march in American history for women’s rights. The march was to demand passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (the ERA).

However, women’s oppression is not limited to lack of formal equality or discrimination in employment and education. Every day the newspapers are filled with headlines that reflect the widespread character of the oppression of women.


Faced with these kinds of problems and many more women have come forward with tremendous energy to try to solve them.

Women have fought against the chauvinism of the health care industry. They have fought for the right of abortion and the right to birth control. Minority women have joined across national divisions to fight against forced sterilization.

Women have fought to free themselves from the terror of physical assault. They have organized to defend battered women and children. They have organized rape prevention centers. They have campaigned against chauvinist myths about rape. They have popularized self defense for women.

Women have fought in the schools for a decent education for their children. They have fought for free childcare.

Women have also organized to protect the rights of welfare mothers.

They have struggled for equality in the family. They have demanded that men share in housework and child raising.

The struggle of women for equality is a serious struggle. But can these struggles that develop spontaneously in and of themselves lead to liberation?

The answer is no.

Capitalist Private Property Source of Women’s Oppression

The source of women’s oppression under capitalism is the private ownership of the factories, mills, mines, and farms by the bourgeois class. It is the profit making system of capitalism that is a great anchor that chains women to the kitchen, the nursery, and the laundry room.

Why is this?

Without workers to exploit the capitalist would make no profit.

But workers are human beings. They have human needs like eating and sleeping if they are to be able to work day after day. In addition they get sick. They become too old to work. They die. Their place in the factory must be taken by new workers.

The new workers are the mother’s sons and daughters, the children she has born and raised.

And who does the cooking for the household? Who does the cleaning? Who makes the bed? Who attends to the emotional needs of the husband? Who makes sure he is in shape to go back to work day after day?

The bourgeoisie considers this women’s work. In organizing society to serve the needs of the profit making system, the bourgeoisie sees to it that the woman’s primary role is to attend to her husband, to be a wife and mother, to be a homemaker, and to raise and train the future generation of wage slaves for the capitalist factories. She is a slave in the home.

This slavery is enforced by the bourgeoisie by restricting women’s opportunities for employment and by paying them low wages when they do find work. The bourgeoisie also promotes this slavery through the ideology of male chauvinism, the idea that the woman is inferior, passive, and that her natural place is in the home. In this way the bourgeoisie insures that the woman will remain a domestic slave in the home.

The woman’s role of domestic slave, a role that supplies a constant stream of workers for the profit making system, is as necessary to capitalism as a furnace in a steel mill.

The spontaneous struggle of women against their oppression is directed at their role in the family as a domestic slave. This struggle is a revolutionary struggle that undermines the capitalist system.

However, women, isolated in the home, are not in a position to overthrow the capitalist system.

It is the working class, because of its high level of social organization in production and the fact that it actually “turns the steel”, that is in a position to overthrow the system of private property. Women as 47% of the workforce will play a major role in this struggle. In fact, their determination to carry through the struggle is strengthened by their double oppression as wage slaves and as domestic slaves.

But the working class cannot overthrow private property on its own. The working class can make a revolution only when it is joined up with its revolutionary allies. The struggle of women for liberation is one of these allies. Proletarian revolution is impossible without winning women to the side of the working class.

Build the Alliance Between the Workers & Women’s Movement

Because the women’s liberation movement and the struggle of the proletariat for revolution share a common task of smashing bourgeois private property, women should see the goal of the communist movement as their goal as well. The working class uses the science of Marxism-Leninism as its guide to bring an end to the system of capitalism. Women, in developing a scientific understanding of their struggle for liberation and its relation to the struggle for proletarian revolution must take up the science of Marxism-Leninism.

However, the chief obstacle to building the revolutionary alliance between the working class and the women’s emancipation struggle is not the failure of women to accept Marxism-Leninism, but that the communist movement is not integrating itself with the women’s movement. This reflects a failure to grasp the broad scope of Women’s struggle for equality.

For the communist movement, the manner in which we have chosen to deploy our available forces reflects a chauvinist neglect and a narrow political view of the woman question.

The one area where communists have energetically sought to raise the question of women’s oppression is in the work place.

But where are communists active in rape prevention? Where are we active in consistently and staunchly defending the democratic right of abortion? Where are we active for safe and inexpensive birth control? Against forced sterilization? To defend battered women and children? How have we become involved in the fight for adequate and free child care centers? Have we fought for the rights of welfare mothers? Even within our own organizations how far advanced is our struggle for equality in communist households? How have we tried to link up in the struggle for the ERA?

This restricted political activity by communists in the women’s movement, which primarily limits itself to the demands of working women for equal pay and equality in hiring and promotion, ignores that working women are still oppressed as domestic slaves. This narrowness neglects the overall revolutionary character of the women’s liberation struggle.

Because of this narrowness, many women activists remain skeptical of the role of Marxist-Leninist organizations in the struggle for women’s equality. They feel that accepting Marxism-Leninism and its goals means abandoning the many special problems of women.

The error for this way of thinking lies primarily on Marxist-Leninists. It is our narrow approach to the woman question that fails to build the revolutionary alliance between women and the working class. It fails to build the struggle for equality and democratic rights. Finally it fails to broaden the political perspectives of working women in order for them to provide leadership to the women’s movement.

We should affirm our commitment to overcome these failures this International Working Women’s Day.