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Oppression, individuals and classes

A rejoinder to John Molyneux

(Summer 1986)

From International Socialism, 2:32, Summer 1986, pp. 137–150.
Transcribed by Marven Scott.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

John Molyneux’s reply to Sheila McGregor claims to have ‘answered Sheila’s central theoretical argument’ by demonstrating at some length that there are major divisions inside the working class which are obstacles to class unity. With most of these examples, one can have little disagreement.

However, Sheila’s argument was never that the relationship between men and women is a totally equal one, or that men do not have any advantages over women in capitalist society. What she argued was firstly that it was against the class interests of both men and women for these divisions to exist, and therefore they could not in any serious sense be described as benefits. Secondly the nature of the family and the sexual division of labour inside the working class was such that it was wrong to look at the matter mainly in terms of antagonisms between the sexes. The family’s role and men’s and women’s role within it could only be seen in terms of its function for capital as a whole.

John doesn’t really address himself to these questions and therefore misses the point of much of what Sheila is arguing.

It is therefore worth stating once again what is really involved in the argument about whether working-class men benefit from women’s oppression. [1] It is not, as John seems to think, about whether working-class men have marginal advantages over their wives. After all, in my article on Theories of Patriarchy [2], I talk about the ‘marginal benefits’ which accrue to working-class men. Chris Harman quoted these comments favourably in his article Women’s liberation and revolutionary socialism. Yet it is precisely this article to which John Molyneux felt compelled to write his initial reply.

Neither is the argument about whether women’s oppression exists (although John at one point in his latest article seems to imply that if you deny the validity of his argument, then you are denying the existence of women’s oppression itself). Myself, Sheila and Chris Harman have all gone to some lengths to develop a theory of women’s oppression which roots it in class society and not in the individual relations between men and women.

Indeed, it is here that we all part company with John’s analysis, which all too often slips into the error of seeing women’s oppression as caused by the relations between individuals, rather than seeing those relations as in fact a product of the class nature of oppression.

The real issue at debate, therefore, is not at all whether there are marginal advantages, but whether these are the cause of women’s oppression, and what the political consequences are in terms of organising men and women workers.

Whatever advantages working-class men might have, their interests, just like those of working-class women, lie in joining the fight against women’s oppression. This is because the roots of women’s oppression lie in class society in general and capitalist society in particular.

The reason the argument between ourselves and John is a serious one is because the great divide between Marxists and patriarchy theorists is over precisely this point. Their ideas explain women’s oppression in terms of male domination – regardless of class or of the class nature of a particular society. We, in contrast, see it caused by the development of exploitation. The capitalist system rests on the exploitation of workers, both men and women. Women workers also suffer a specific oppression which is located in the continuing privatised reproduction of labour power. This points to a solution which involves collective working-class action.

The point of our argument has been to show that patriarchy theorists – especially those who claimed to be materialists like Heidi Hartmann – were wrong. She and others like her claimed that the material benefits which men gained from the oppression of women were such that they wedded men not to fighting this oppressive system, but to its maintenance instead. [3] The argument has been developed, in much less theoretical form, by many feminists inside the women’s movement. [4]

The argument, as I argued then, is complete nonsense. Even a cursory look at working-class history, or the pattern of class struggle, showed that. It was, however, this argument that led me to argue that you cannot talk about the ‘benefits’ accruing to men unless you talk about the system as a whole. Once you take the system as a whole it is much clearer that the real beneficiary of women’s oppression is the capitalist system itself. These arguments were repeated in Chris Harman’s article. [5]

This is the central point of Sheila’s reply to John. It is still the central point of the argument. Yet it is the very point that John refuses to confront in his reply. [6]

The appeal of the argument that men benefit from women’s oppression is a real one, and highly understandable. It appears to reflect reality. Most of the time under capitalism people only see fragmentary and superficial aspects of the system. As a result, if you only go by immediate, empirical impressions, you get quite a confused idea about what the system as a whole is about. When it comes to the problem of locating the source of women’s oppression, it is all too easy simply to take surface appearances and mistake them for reality. So people who take a superficial view only notice that working-class women suffer disadvantages compared with men, and therefore conclude it is the working-class man’s ‘benefits’ which maintain oppression. This is what patriarchy theory does.

That is why its talk about ‘male benefits’ can be so popular. It fits with the ‘common sense’ of those who live in capitalist society at a time when it is not being shaken to its root by massive class struggle. But that is precisely why Marxists have to disagree fundamentally with it. That is also why it is very important to argue strongly with those like John who are excellent Marxists when it comes to other issues, but who fall into the trap of feeling it is ‘unreasonable’ to dismiss such common sense arguments out of hand.

The family

Putting the stress on benefits, as John does, is mistaken because it diverts attention away from the central question of where oppression comes from. To see why, we have to start with what is fundamental to women’s oppression – the family. The family has always had an economic role, a role certainly obscured in late capitalist society (where we are led to believe that it is a voluntary and very private institution), but nonetheless that economic role is a real one.

Engels wrote about two spheres of production – social production and the production of life: ‘According to the materialist conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of immediate life. This, again, is of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social institutions under which people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live are conditioned by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour on the one hand and of the family on the other.’ [7]

To this much misinterpreted statement he added a rider – that as society develops so social production becomes increasingly dominant over the reproductive sphere. This is true of the working-class family today.

The family under capitalism is dominated by the needs of social production. Its role is straightforward: to maintain the existing generation and, more crucially, to reproduce the next generation of workers. The reproduction of labour power is the central role of the family, and women’s role in society is subordinated to that.

At different times under capitalism, it is true, women’s role within the family and within society as a whole has changed. For example, the early capitalist family in the industrial cities (on which Marx and Engels based many of their views on the subject) almost ceased to be a family in anything but name. The old feudal family, where women played a productive role within the household, was smashed by the rise of capitalism, and in its place arose a family composed almost entirely of wage labourers. Not only the men but the women – even during pregnancy and breastfeeding – worked long hours in the mills and factories. Children as young as four worked. There was no ‘family life’ or ‘home hearth’ to turn to in these conditions. But the changing needs of capital (for more skills, less labour intensity), plus the real fear among workers that the working-class family itself was dying out, led to a series of changes which placed women much more at the centre of the home and much less advantaged in terms of waged work.

These changes included the introduction of protective legislation covering women and children and the demand for a ‘family wage’ – in other words, a wage which would cover the cost of reproduction not only of the male worker himself, but that of his wife and children as well. [8]

The idea behind the family wage was a complete division of labour between the man in the sphere of paid work and the woman in the sphere of unpaid reproductive work. This is often regarded as the ‘typical’ family. Today that idea is palpably nonsensical. But it was never an accurate portrayal of working-class life, even in the second half of the 19th century when these ideas took root. Probably no more than 10 per cent of male workers received such a family wage. For the rest of the working class, paid work for women was a necessity if the family was to be maintained. But it was paid work for women in an unfavourable market. Low pay, exclusion from certain trades, casual or seasonal work were all features. So was the assumption that the ideal was the stay-at-home housewife and that the family was the woman’s domain. [9]

Today it is increasingly recognised that the ‘typical’ family doesn’t exist. Most married women work (although often part time). There is every sign of this trend maintaining itself and even increasing. [10] The pattern today is that the commodity of labour power is produced by the paid work of the man, and to a lesser extent the woman, outside the home – which keeps the family fed, clothed, housed etc. – plus the unpaid work of the woman in the home (what Sheila McGregor calls the partial negation of woman’s traditional role). [11] This is the central economic role of the family, and it is crucial to our understanding of women’s oppression.

It demonstrates that the family is not a voluntary institution at all. It is produced by class society, shaped and formed by capital to serve its needs. The family’s overwhelming function is the reproduction of labour power. To see this institution as one which benefits (or otherwise) individuals inside it, is to mistake surface appearances with the actual economic reality. In some ways the argument Marx puts forward about the wage paid to the worker is a useful analogy. The wage is not a gift from capital, nor is it even necessarily a monetary approximation of what value the worker produces. Rather it is only that amount of the value produced by the worker which is necessary to cover the cost of the reproduction of the worker [12] (and at least part of his family [13]).

The wage is essential to the worker in order to live – but it is also essential to the capitalist, to ensure that the worker is maintained for work in the future. Similarly with the family. Both men and women workers desire and want the family (the ‘heart of a heartless world’ as Marx wrote in another context). But that family is even more essential to the capitalist for the reproduction of labour power if he is to continue to accumulate.

So we have to start from the fact that the position of men and women within the family is of overwhelming benefit to capital itself – and this far outweighs any advantages and disadvantages between men and women (or to children) themselves in the family. The oppression of women is therefore rooted in the needs of the system to reproduce labour power – not in the needs of individual men to be waited on, or to exert power over women. The benefit to capital lies not just in the myriad unpaid functions of the wife and mother, including the education and socialisation of children as well as the more tangible forms of housework, but also in the fact that women’s role as housewives and workers structure them into low-paid, badly organised work.

What about within the family?

But, it will be argued, all this may be true. However there is still massive inequality within the family – and who benefits from that? That inequality is undeniable. But I would argue several points here: (i) the differences and advantages that men have are by no means massive; nor even are they the substantial benefits that John claims. [14] So there is no material basis for men being ‘bought off’ by these advantages, (ii) The key burden in the level of housework inside the family is not the service of men, but the labour-intensive care and upbringing of children – as befits a unit whose major task is the reproduction of labour power, (iii) The division of labour which exists is one which is accepted in existing society by both sexes – to a major degree at least. This is an argument put by Sheila McGregor [15] which John decries in his latest article. [16] But it is not the ludicrous argument that he suggests, (iv) Following from this, I believe it is quite wrong to talk as John does about men and women being ‘competitors in the labour market and competitors for free time in the home’, since this misunderstands the role of the division of labour in the working-class family.

Let us look first at the question of how substantial the benefits are. The most recent survey [17] shows that men have on average 75 minutes a day more leisure time than women. Not irrelevant, it is true, but given the increase in leisure time for both sexes over the last few decades, hardly the sort of privilege that would materially tie men to the system if it were threatened by women. Studies of housework show that there has been a change in recent years with the increase in women working. Domestic tasks are now done at least in part by men. This has probably increased with the high level of unemployment over the past decade. These changes are limited, it is true, but nonetheless the change has not all been one way – women going out to work. It also needs to be remembered that the converse of women working longer hours than men in the home is that men tend to work much longer hours outside the home. So families where women work full time in the home to care for young children are also those where men work the highest amount of overtime.

Secondly the key burden in housework comes when you consider the role of children. John Molyneux denies this. But he is falling for the illusion which capitalism creates, that privatised reproduction is there to make the lives of individuals more pleasant, rather than to meet the needs of the system. But this is simply not true. That is why it is an offence for mothers to neglect their children or for fathers to refuse to maintain their offspring. That is why the state increases the level of legislation governing the family – Family Law – constantly. The state can step in with fairly severe penalties to try to ensure the smooth reproduction of labour power. The man and woman inside the family are both compelled to put in a great deal of hard work, both in social production and the home, in order to ensure that the next generation of workers exists.

Of course, most people don’t look at it like that. Most are happy to work to achieve more for ‘their’ family and especially ‘their’ children. If they were not, capital would have a much tougher job persuading them. As it is, the system – like so much else under capitalism – works largely on consent, not on open coercion. And individuals get a great deal of satisfaction, happiness and recreation from their particular families. But that doesn’t alter the basic setup.

Even here, it is hard to see how the man benefits inside the family for the hard work put into childcare by the woman. John argues that men still get a ‘spin off from the work done for children (meals cooked, washing, shopping, etc.). Yet it seems to me that this is as misguided as suggesting that the wife gets a ‘spin off from the man’s higher wage (spending money, food, housing, etc). It totally misses the point of who housework is performed for – capital.

What about the argument that John so bluntly dismisses, that by and large women accept their oppression through acceptance of the division of labour? This is clearly overwhelmingly the case. Of course it is not a thing that socialists should welcome. But it shows – and this is the point Sheila was making – that although the divisions inside the working class on the grounds of gender and sex are very deep, they do not produce the sort of fundamental antagonisms that so many feminists seem to believe.

This mistake leads John into a number of errors about the family and the relationship between men and women workers. He says rightly, that we have to ‘state what is’ when describing the world. Yet he seems to be unable to accept that ‘what is’ inside the family, is that women all too often do accept their role as homemaker, that they will cook every night, that men should do less in the home.

John objects to these arguments on the grounds that to put them forward is comparable to arguing that workers accept degrees of enforcement from the policeman or foreman, but this doesn’t make the enforcement or its acceptance justified. The same is true, he says, of the woman accepting her oppression. He is of course right that there is nothing commendable about anyone accepting their oppression. But he is quite wrong to compare the foreman or policeman to the husband. The two former are in a clear relationship of authority. They can get you the sack and put you in jail, and each exert their authority over a fairly wide number of people. The relationship between the man and the woman is not like that. Firstly it is one to one. Secondly it is based at least initially on notions of ‘love’ and ‘romance’ which makes both partners willing to enter the contract. Even within the family there are a whole number of complexities which John doesn’t do justice to. Husbands can oppress wives by physical violence. They can also do so by trying to ‘protect’ them from the outside world. Parents can oppress their children both by authoritarian behaviour, and by stifling them with ‘love’. These latter are oppressive relationships alright – but they are not based on the coercion of the factory or the state and its paraphernalia of laws.

To simply treat the husband as ‘cop’ in this situation is to miss the way that working-class people themselves view the family and its dual, contradictory role. This is because he doesn’t see the family as a totality, either in its economic role, or in its role as haven in a heartless world. Because of this he is led always towards the appearance of things, rather than to the reality.

He makes the same mistake when he talks about the man and woman as ‘competitors’ – on the labour market for work, in the home for leisure time. Firstly, a fairly elementary study of work in Britain shows that the segregation of the labour market is such that there is relatively little competition between men and women workers. By and large the different sexes do different jobs. Unemployment has not altered this pattern – despite the claims of many feminists that the effect of unemployment would be to drive women back into the home. This has not happened at all. But if men and women were in competition on the labour market, one could expect the opposite to happen.

In his arguments over leisure in the home, John too reiterates some of the more insidious feminist arguments. If his argument were taken literally, then it comes painfully close to that put forward by the Anna Cootes and Bea Campbells of this world – men have to give up their privileges in order that women will gain. John falls perilously close to this argument, again because he sees the solutions in terms of individual change, rather than class struggle.

There is another aspect of women’s acceptance of their traditional role which John tends to dismiss. This is the attitude of women towards the socialising of other women and reinforcing their oppression. Mothers, female relatives and friends, are all some of the major encouragers of ‘femininity’ in girls. A survey of girls’ attitudes in West London in the 1970s puts it like this: ‘Girls grow towards the future as wives and mothers, and the increasing expectation that they should incline towards a career presents implicit contradictions to many of them. It is seen as particularly important that girls develop and believe in the female role and in preserving the established order, because they are the major agents in transmitting this ideology to their own children.’ And ‘They have a long-held understanding of the differences between themselves and boys, and the different work roles laid out before them. The ideology of marriage, husband, home and children as the most integral parts of the future has been passed on, usually through their own mothers.’ [18]

It is not just men who maintain women in this subservient position, but women themselves. It is in the home that the skills of housework and caring for a man are learnt. A woman who rejects this norm of wife and mother (leaving her children, sleeping around, not doing housework), may well find herself receiving as much approbation from fellow women as from men. [19] This is not simply an unfounded assertion, but can be borne out by a wide number of sociological and historical studies.

What is the importance of the argument?

Why bother to go into such details about the family? Because it is extremely relevant to John’s argument.

John himself doesn’t seem to accept this. All the articles that he criticises – including Sheila’s – had as their theoretical framework the analysis of the family which I have tried to reiterate briefly above. He doesn’t challenge this analysis at all, to the best of my knowledge.

But acceptance of the analysis leads to certain very firm conclusions. In short, it leads to the conclusions that oppression is rooted in capitalist society, that the family unit is an express instrument in maintaining that oppression and that the conclusion to the problems of women’s oppression can only lie in the socialisation of production and reproduction – in other words the abolition of class society. The solution to women’s oppression is therefore linked to the fight against exploitation.

John argues that he accepts all these conclusions. But all his theoretical arguments lead him away from them. He still hasn’t overcome this contradiction – nor is he likely to find this easy. At present, his arguments rest not on a coherent theory of where women’s oppression comes from, but in taking bits and pieces of empirical observation, points of disagreement with other writers and fragments of arguments in order to try to weld together a coherent whole.

It is not surprising that he doesn’t succeed, because he is trying to do the impossible. He denounces Sheila for posing questions in terms of ‘either/or’. But there are some questions which have to be posed in that way.

Locating the roots of women’s oppression is one of them. Fundamentally, women’s oppression is located either in class society or it is located in the actions of individual men. It cannot be located in both – unless of course you want to accept the argument put forward by certain patriarchy theorists that oppression results from an alliance of individual men and the ruling class. John obviously and rightly rejects this view as the ahistorical and un-Marxist nonsense that it is. But he has not rejected all the ideological baggage that goes with such a position, and this leads him to a whole number of errors. It is for this reason that John doesn’t refute our basic thesis. To do so would either lead him to accept some of the patriarchy theories, or else would lead him to conclude that the lessons he drew from the overall picture were the wrong ones. Instead, he tries to ignore the major thrust of the argument, while continuing to assert that men do benefit from women’s oppression.

How is oppression to be overcome?

Those who argue, like many feminists, that male benefits are fundamental, claim that the problem is getting men to give up their power. Men have to give up high wages and well-organised jobs so that women can get more. As Campbell and Coote put it: ‘The biggest obstacle is not finding the necessary resources, but persuading men to relinquish their privileges. Chiefly this means giving up their privileges to absent themselves from unpaid work and monopolise jobs that are skilled and higher paid.’ [20]

Clearly one section of the working class relinquishing the gains it has made can only benefit the capitalist class. Yet this sort of argument has wide currency. Even more popular are those arguments which believe men doing more in the home would diminish women’s oppression. Even John sometimes implies that this would be a partial solution. The unequal division of labour, he says, ‘is maintained by the system through male workers who refuse to do an equal share of the housework or worse, insist that their wives do all of it.’ [21]

But this implies that the real roots of women’s oppression lie in, relations between men and women. Yet as we have repeatedly shown, women’s oppression is structured into capitalism. Low wages and part-time work are a product of the hidden assumption that all women have a male ‘breadwinner’ (even though a quarter of all inner-city families are single parent). At the same time the low wages feed back into the family so that it is ‘natural’ for the woman to stay at home because her earning capacity is less. [22]

However, this brings me to perhaps the major point in the argument about women’s oppression, which John certainly doesn’t develop at all (although he accepts it at least in principle) and that is the impact of class struggle on the attitudes of men and women.

All the evidence suggests, when one looks at society in the process of upheaval, that as the level of class struggle rises the tendency is for the differences between men and women to diminish. The miners’ wives, our most recent example, showed the way that the action of the men spurred the women to act as part of the working class. The struggle to defend the community was after all the struggle to defend the working-class family. Of course there were massive contradictions: women were pressurised by men; marriages broke up. But that is beside the point. The argument is not whether struggle leads to divisions within the family, but whether men and women workers, acting together, had the potential to change the world for the better, including challenging women’s. oppression. Had the strike been successful, that potential would have been realised to a much greater extent.

This example (and the many others from history we can put forward) does much to challenge John’s original thesis, which was that there will be major problems in times of struggle, in forcing working-class men to acknowledge the political role of women in general, and their own wives, sisters and daughters in particular. In fact he is quite wrong to argue that this is the case; he can only do so by generalising from the relations between men and women in the present period of low class struggle and assuming that these relations will remain fundamentally the same in high levels of class struggle too.

In doing so, he runs counter both to Marx and to his own usually extremely high standard of Marxist thought. For Marx, as I have no need to teach John, the essence of class struggle is change – men and women changing the world and in the process changing themselves.

This is the overwhelming factor which can lead to women’s liberation – not individual consciousness-raising or getting a slightly bigger share of the reformist cake for women. Nor is it just a pipe dream. Where the divisions of society are laid bare, we begin to see a very different picture from the present ‘common sense’ that men are the beneficiaries of women’s oppression. That was why the Russian revolution did more for the liberation of women than any other event in world history. It is therefore a massive understatement for John to say as he does: ‘there is also a powerful, in the long run more powerful, factor working to unite men and women workers in opposition to women’s oppression and that is their own class interest.’ [23]

Of course there is, and it is a massive factor in favour of the argument I have put above. Everything we argue about in this journal accepts the centrality – and overwhelming centrality of class struggle and the class divide as the major division in capitalist society. Nor is class unity merely a long-term factor. Even in the short term, men don’t benefit from nurseries being shut down, or from women getting lower pay or any of the other features of women’s oppression – because these are attacks not just on individual women but on the, living standards of the whole working class.

Given women’s role in social production over the last forty or fifty years, the role of class struggle, of collective class action in fighting women’s oppression, becomes even more central. The fight against women’s oppression cannot be divorced from the fight to end class society; therefore the fight against oppression and the fight against capitalist exploitation become one and the same.

This again is missing from John’s analysis because of his fundamental error in approach to the argument – of seeing the family as simply relations between individuals.

None of this is to say that even in a revolutionary period there will not be massive problems in personal relations. Of course there will be, precisely because the family is made up of real individuals. Trotsky is witness to huge upheavals in post-1917 Russia: ‘In all our examples the tragedy is due to a collision between Communist and non-party elements. But the breaking up of the ... old type family is not confined to just the top of the class as the one most exposed to the influence of new conditions ... The Communist vanguard merely passes sooner and more violently through what is inevitable for the class as a whole. The censorious attitude towards old conditions, the new claims on the family, extend far beyond the border line between the Communist and the working class as a whole’. [24]

Such upheavals are essential if the old bourgeois family is to be transformed.


It is worth returning once again to what the argument on men benefiting is all about: whether men have a stake in maintaining the existing system because of the ‘benefits’ they have over women. I believe we can say categorically that working-class men have no such stake in the system. On the contrary, on every level, men and women workers both have an interest in creating a new world. Nor do workers hold back from revolution because somehow they believe that things are better for them today. Rather, the level of consciousness inside the working class is such that revolution doesn’t appear as a realistic item on the agenda for most workers most of the time. When, however, that situation changes, then we see – and will see – profound changes in workers’ ideas.

The argument about men benefiting continues to have some resonance precisely because we live in the sort of period that we do. It is a reflection of a low level of class struggle; of twelve years of deep recession throughout the world; and of the hold of deeply reactionary ideas about women which still exist. However, to explain why the argument is current now (in a way that it certainly wasn’t fifteen years ago) is not to justify or to concede to it. It does lead to reactionary conclusions, in the sense that it takes at least part of the blame away from the class enemy, and puts it at the door of individual men.

John argues that his intention is not to do this, and that he is as committed a revolutionary as anyone else in the debate. That is of course true. But his argument cannot point the way towards a successful struggle for women’s liberation, because it constantly blurs the crucial questions when it comes to locating that oppression and understanding how to fight it. It is also true that his argumentation coincides in large part with that of the Bea Campbells and Anna Cootes. That does not in itself damn it completely. But I would be very worried if I found myself in agreement with such people, both in terms of their reactionary conclusions on women, but also their whole analysis of the Labour Party, the unions, how to change society, etc.

Patriarchy theory (of which the idea of male benefits is an important part) fits very clearly with the other ideas of the reformist feminists. It does not fit at all with John’s theory – revolutionary Marxism. That is why John’s argument is wrong.

The danger in continuing to stress male benefits as the source of oppression is that it can lead to accepting much of the feminist terrain. This in turn can lead away from locating to the real barrier to our fight for women’s liberation – class society. To do so only hinders our task of developing a theory of women’s liberation and socialism.


1. I prefer the term advantage, since I believe the terms privilege or benefit almost automatically denote some major gain from the system. But I have at times used all three in the course of the discussion.

2. Theories of Patriarchy, International Socialism 2:12, 1981.

3. Heidi Hartmann, The unhappy marriage of Marxism and Feminism, Capital and Class, 8, 1979.

4. For example Anna Coote and Beatrix Campbell, Sweet Freedom, London 1982; Anne Phillips, Hidden Hands, London 1983.

5. Chris Harman, Women’s Liberation and revolutionary socialism, International Socialism 2:23, 1984.

6. For the earlier discussion see John Molyneux, Do working-class men benefit from women’s oppression?, International Socialism 2:25, 1984; and Sheila McGregor, A Reply to John Molyneux, International Socialism 2:30, 1985.

7. F. Engels, Origins of the family, private property and the state, Preface to the first edition, 1884.

8. See the discussion in Theories of Patriarchy (ibid.).

9. See, for example, Jane Lewis, Women in England 1870–1950, Wheatsheaf 1984.

10. Social Trends, no. 16, HMSO 1986. See also Ann Rogers’ article in this current issue of International Socialism.

11. Sheila McGregor, ibid.

12. Wage labour and capital, in Selected Works, Moscow 1968.

13. Ibid.

14. J. Molyneux, op. cit.

15. Sheila McGregor, op. cit.

16. J. Molyneux, International Socialism 2:32, 1986.

17. Social Trends, op. cit.

18. Sue Sharpe, Just like a girl – how girls learn to be women, Harmondworth 1976.

19. The common working-class sayings in relation to marriage – ‘you’ve made your bed’, ‘it’s not a bed of roses’, ‘you have to work at it’, tend to bear out this argument.

20. Coote and Campbell, op. cit.

21. J. Molyneux, op. cit.

22. It is interesting here to note that role reversals are almost entirely restricted to professional or middle-class couples, where the woman has access to real equal pay; or more recently to some unemployed couples.

23. J. Molyneux, International Socialism 2:32, 1986.

24. Leon Trotsky, From the old family to the new, in Women and the family, New York 1970.

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