Wed Jul 24, 2024
July 24, 2024

Women: General strike or care workers strike? A necessary discussion

Like last year, the State Commission for 8M will again call it labour, students and consumer strike, and feminist care workers strike.

By Laura R.

As Corriente Roja we will make every effort for this state-wide and international journey of struggle to be a grand day of demonstrations and a general strike of the entire working class for woman’s rights, with us women at the helm.

But, as much as we try, we don’t really understand how we, women workers, can make a “care work strike”, with what goals, or against whom this strike will be.

In the Commission’s website is written: “we require that care work be recognized as a social good of the first order, and we demand the redistribution of this kind of task (…) With this strike we want to make clear that the economic system would collapse without our daily care work. We want to stop so that caring does not fall solely upon us.”(Argumentario Comisión Estatal 8M).

We think that strikes, as an instrument of struggle, are done against someone and for concrete demands we aim to achieve. They are not done to make something “visible”, especially when it something quite evident: women across the world fulfill domestic and care tasks (reproductive work) inside the private scope of the family, and the system pays absolutely nothing for it. Thus, the question would be:

What role does the unpaid domestic and care work play in the capitalist system we live in?

The struggle of the feminist movement of the 60’s and the 70’s was essential put that question over the table. When this movement began, in addition to fighting for our sexual rights and to decide over being mothers or not (which to this day is still denied to us), it was also an upheaval against the naturalization of domestic and care work and for the recognition of them as a type of labour which is necessary for society to function. In that sense, it served for Marxist theory, which is an instrument that is useful not only to reveal the gears of the system but also to organize us a working class to topple it, to integrate and explain the role played by the unpaid reproductive work which we women perform worldwide.

As such, the struggle of women contributed to the enrichment of Marxist theory, which Marx himself understood as not a complete and unchangeable theory, but as something living, which can and must enrich itself with the experiences of class struggle.

Capitalism maintains the responsibility of these types of work over the shoulders of women because this fulfills an ideological role: educating men in the idea that woman is an inferior being which is there to serve them and satisfy his every need and desire, available 24 hours a day, and because of that they have privileges. This inequality is the cause of our financial subjection to the men of the family, as well as the excuse for our work conditions to be worse and for the power to be unequally divided in this capitalist society. This unpaid work which all women execute is a form of domestic slavery which hinders and prevents us from participate in society on equal footing. This is why it is so necessary for us to fight against this false ideology of unpaid work being “natural” and for men to understand that the sexism which burdens us with these tasks divides us and weakens us as working class to fight against the politics of the bourgeoisie and its lackey governments, which we must face every day.

However, in addition to that, this unpaid and invisible work is useful so they save millions in money which should go to health, education, housing, social services, and many others.

We also cannot forget the enormous differences which exist between women according to their income. The bourgeois woman can hire other women to do this house work (which is very precarious), or to buy private care work, and her money will easily reach the end of the month.

That being said, we disagree and believe to be wrong the feminist theories which state that domestic work and the family are the pillars of capitalist production, without which the system would collapse.

The pillar on which the capitalist system has always been based is the obtaining of surplus value from wage labour. When we say that, from the capitalist point of view, domestic work is unproductive work because it does not generate surplus value in itself, that does not mean it is useless or secondary work. Quite the opposite.

For capitalism it is good that things are like this. But that does not mean that, in specific times and places, it cannot (and indeed it does) turn part of this reproductive work into wage work, it that is convenient. The same imperialistic governments and organisms create public policies and provide public services when they want to stimulate the insertion of women on the labor market, when the bourgeoisie needs it. When it is not convenient the opposite happens: they hand over subsidies to keep women home. Capitalism utilizes women as a cheap reserve labour army and uses ideologies to bring them back home according to its own needs. As such, dividing these tasks equally between man and woman will evidently contribute towards a more egalitarian society, but it does not question the foundations of capitalism as long as someone keeps on doing them without payment in a private framework.

A care work strike for the socialization of these tasks?

To conclude, we agree that, in order to bring an end to sexism, we women must organize to fight for a redistribution of these tasks and for measures to favor it, such as the equalization of maternity and paternity leaves, which the Sánchez government is committed to lengthen, for its own reasons.

However, limiting ourselves to proclaim a day of care work strike to achieve “a greater social recognition of domestic and care work” or “a greater distribution and social responsibility” for it, confuses the root of the problem and is totally insufficient.

We female workers need this 8M to be a day of general strike, in which all of the working class goes out to demand and yank from capitalists and the governments under them those resources which are necessary for all of these responsibilities to be the responsibility of the State. We must demand resources to end the material dependence of the women of the working class, and to put an end to the sexist prejudices and stereotypes. Resources which allow us to participate, in equal conditions, in social production and political life. Not for eternizing and maintain this unfair social and economic system, but for us, as part of our class and alongside our comrades, to organize and destroy it.

In the end, only a socialist revolution which expropriates the bourgeoisie and places the economy under control of the working class can thoroughly socialize domestic and care work. This is what really begun to happen after the Russian Revolution of 1917, until Stalinist arose. It was made with the creation of public restaurants, public laundries, public and universal child care and a truly socialized health system.

Translated by Miki Sayoko

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