Women Neeed Communism to End Special Oppression
March 8 is International Women’s Day, symbolized by the 1908 New York City march of 15,000 women demanding better pay and shorter hours. In 1910 the Socialist Second International held the first International Women’s Conference and established International Women’s Day. It has since celebrated many women’s struggles — including the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the women’s march to the municipal Duma (council) in Czarist Russia in early 1917, which helped spark the Bolshevik Revolution.
Internationally, workers will commemorate this month and day to honor the struggle against the special oppression of women and the capitalist system that promotes it, although the bosses and their media will use it to pay lip-service to women’s struggles. We must recognize that this special oppression is an integral and necessary part of capitalism, which must be fought every day, not just on International Women’s Day or during Women’s History month.
Exploitation of women hasn’t always existed nor have conditions become better; it has simply changed in form. In primitive communal society men and women’s labor was valued equally. In early class society, women were primarily unpaid domestic workers. As capitalism’s needs shifted during industrialization, super-exploitation of women in factories began. The ruling class uses the special oppression of women — like racism and nationalism — as a tool to oppress the entire working class. When women’s wages are driven down, it helps lower wages for all workers.
Historically, the bosses cut costs, including wages and on workplace safety, to increase profits. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City saw 148 mostly Eastern European and Italian women immigrant workers die, trapped in the building because the doors were bolted shut. In the U.S., this event, as well as many other uprisings, achieved higher wages and better working conditions for some workers, but these reforms can be, and are, reversed, especially during capitalism’s economic crises.
Entering World Wars I and II, inter-imperialist rivalry among the major capitalist nations was sharpening. To fight these wars, the bosses of these countries had to mobilize men to go to war and women to replace them in the factories, especially in war production. As the U.S. entered World War II, the ruling class used images like Rosie the Riveter and other mass propaganda to mobilize women to move into war production factories, with the slogan, “We Can Do It!,” to “empower” women to contribute to the war effort. When male workers returned after these wars, the bosses ousted women from the factories and sent them home to the unpaid domestic labor of maintaining a family.
Today, women are super-exploited globally, attacked by the U.S. racist destruction of welfare (especially black and Latino women); paid $2 a day in China’s vast manufacturing economy; in Mexico’s maquiladoras; subjected to mass rapes in the Congo’s wars for diamonds and resources; victims of extreme anti-woman bias of Islamic and Christian fundamentalists; and murdered, raped and forced into prostitution in the U.S. imperialist war in Iraq.
Women already make up more than half of the super-exploited sub-contracted manufacturing jobs in the U.S., while remaining the principal childcare givers. Women are still paid less than men for similar work, to help lower all workers’ wages. A recent Time magazine cover displayed the newer, modern version of Rosie the Riveter, pushing for U.S. national service (a back-door draft). This could potentially mobilize millions of U.S. youth for fascism and world war.
The U.S. presidential election has been touted as an “advance” for women because Hillary Clinton is a candidate. But she is just another millionaire agent of the bosses. All leaders of capitalist governments — men or women, black or white — enforce the bosses’ profit system and subjugation of workers.
The special oppression of women divides the working class, and dehumanizes women. Economic exploitation makes women a commodity, leading to degrading them as sexual objects and prostitutes, victims of physical violence, rape and enslavement worldwide. We must ensure more woman — especially as soldiers and workers — take the lead in the effort to destroy the system that created and maintains the special oppression of women, racism and its exploitation of all workers. Only by black, Latin, Asian and white men and women workers uniting can the entire working class end the oppression of capitalism. Communism is the only system that values women as workers and allows all workers to reach their full potential. JOIN US!
(Next issue will deal with more on cultural oppression of women.)
The day women burned the veil of oppression . . .
The revolutions in Russia and China brought unprecedented changes in the status of women workers. Following working-class seizure of state power, many sexist traditions and practices were immediately outlawed.
•Thousands of women in the Soviet Union burnt the foul, hot, heavy horsehair veils that symbolized their possession by their husbands
•In China, Vietnam, and Soviet Asia, practices such as foot-binding, child and contractual marriage, polygamy, wife-beating and veiling were immediately made illegal.
•In all socialist countries, abortion was legalized and free, and prostitution was eliminated.
•In the USSR, daycare centers were established at workplaces so that women could, if they so chose, breastfeed and care for their children during the workday.
Unfortunately, these societies kept too many of capitalist practices, like the wage system, and therefore failed to secure the liberation of women and of the entire working class. PLP is learning from the strengths and also of the weaknesses of our predecessors; we fight directly for communism and the true liberation of all workers.