The struggle for the emancipation of women has been intertwined from its beginnings with the socialist worker movement. Marx wrote in his book “The Holy Family” (1845) that “The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation”.
By Juan Parodi
In a private letter he reaffirmed that “important social change is impossible without political agitation among women”. Other classics are the writings of Engels about “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” (1884) and above all Bebel’s book “Woman and socialism”, in which he established that “In the new society woman will be entirely independent, both socially and economically. She will not be subjected to even a trace of domination and exploitation, but will be free and man’s equal, and mistress of her own lot”.
These theories were not restricted to paper, and were part of the politics and program of the socialist movments. In 1871, the First International approved the creation of special women sections. On the following year, in the congress which happened at Zaragoza, the Spanish section of the International established that: “Woman is a free and intelligent being, and, as such, responsible for her acts, like man; thus, it is necessary to place her in conditions of liberty so that she may develop herself according to her faculties. However, if we relegate solely to woman the domestic functions, we submit her, like so far has been done, to depend on men, and, thus, to have no freedom. What measure do we have to place woman in conditions of liberty? There is no was other than work”.
The origin of March 8th itself is connected to the struggle of socialist women. In the I Conference of Socialist Women (1907), Clara Zetkin, Alexandra Kollontai and Rosa Luxemburgo proposed the socialist parties undertook a campaign in defence of the female vote, which was approved. In 1910, the II Conference voted for the celebration of a day of the international struggle of the working woman. In the same year, on July 10th, happened the first enormous demonstration of women in Spain.
Against sexism, for the unity of the working class
The conscious efforts of the socialist movement for defending the emancipation of woman are not solely due to a matter of justice, although that is part of it. Just as it is impossible to triumph in a strike in which half of the factory does not take part, it is impossible to win in any revolution in which women are not at the forefront. When sexism muzzles women, it is also straitjacketing to the ability of women workers to fight.
On the revolutions of the oppressed, women are invariably on the first line. It is no coincidence that the Russian Revolution begun exactly on a March 8th, or that, during the Spanish Revolution of 1936, militia women like Mika Etxébere were a key part of the revolutionary tendencies.
Thus, it is a must for the worker’s movement in its entirety, with women at the front and with support from men, to fight against every form of sexism and inequality towards women.
Capitalism and sexism, always holding hands
Capitalism, knowing of this interconnection, promotes sexism through its governments and maintains a structural inequality. They know that, thank to this oppression, they can keep worker women with some of the greatest levels of precariousness. This oppression allows for the overexploitation of half the working class.
Moreover, women take on the caring work, necessary for the reproduction of the working class. With this, the State can spare social services such as nurseries, public restaurants, dependent care centers, etc…
As such, the “feminist” policies of official institutions are limited to aspects such as “inclusive language” or promoting women to leadership posts in the system. With this, they try to give an answer to the unrest of women without jeopardizing essential aspects of capitalism.
Translated by Miki Sayoko