Early feminism – bourgeois and proletarian

Deborah Lavin speaks at a meeting to Mark international Women’s day, held by the CPGB-ML and Red Youth in Birmingham, on 8 March 2014.

She gives a fascinating insight into Victorian life, and the bourgeois (8:30) and proletarian (11:00) trends in the struggle for women’s liberation and for the vote (12:50), passing over, inter alia, North London Collegiate School (NLCS 2:25), Women and University College London (UCL 2:35), Edith Lanchester (15:00), Milicent Fawcett and Annie Beasant (8:30).

She notes that the bourgeois ladies, along with the Liberal party, campaigned against limiting workers hours, and for a ‘ladies’ vote that would include the limiting of the vote, as with men, to those over 25 and in possession of a ‘£10’ mortgage on their own property – a far cry, in fact, from ‘universal’ suffrage. Thus these bourgeois ‘radical’ liberals were opposed to the Crosses Act of 1876 which sought to limit the working day of women to 57 hours per week (9:30).

It was the socialist, proletarian part of the movement, as typified by the Marxists, including Karl Marx’s daughters (0.35) themselves – Jenny (1:45), Laura (1:50) and Elanor (3:18), and Sylvia Pankhurst, that campaigned to limit working hours, as part of the universal workers’ campaign for the 10 hour day, led by the second international (10:15), for equal pay, and for a truly universal suffrage without property or gender restrictions – although as Marx stressed, such a vote, while bourgeois democracy exists, can only ever be “a gauge of the maturity of the working class”.

Deborah gives useful information on Marx’s and other socialists’ attitude towards Malthus and Malthusianism (3:28), and consequently to Birth control, and the relationship between work and marriage (5:30). Socialists and progressives were in favour of the liberating effect that having fewer children had upon women, but disagreed with the notion that it was “too many workers” that gave rise to poverty. Rather, it is capitalist production relations, and in particular the exploitation that gives rise to poverty and unemployment for masses of humanity – a problem that can be solved by rearranging production, planning, and utilising all of man-kinds’ wasted labour power constructively, and thereby eliminating crises, war and famine, which capitalism cannot do.

An excellent, entertaining, and informative talk.

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The women’s movement in Britain

Ella Rule gives a short, amusing and informative talk, about the recent history of the ‘women’s movement’ in Britain.

Addressing a meeting to mark International Women’s Day, held by the CPGB-ML and Red Youth in Birmingham, on 8 March 2014, she outlines why working class women have not been involved in the women’s movement – because it has not addressed their needs.

Speaking from her experience, and with reference in particular to the 1972 women’s conference held in Skegness, which she and her comrades attended, she illustrates how a potentially progressive and liberating movement was effectively hijacked and side-tracked by a number of petty-bourgeois groups who pushed their false, anti-men, anti-worker, anti-social(ist) and anti-marxist views on the movement that developed in the 1960s and 1970s, effectively destroying it.

She prefaces her remarks by noting that women have everything to gain by pursuing the path of socialism, and the overthrow of the capitalist system, that exploits the majority, divides them and gives them a life of servitude, in the interests of fabulous super-profits of an insignificant handful (of men predominantly, but a few of the few are, in fact, women) – the finance capitalists.

How can real equality and liberation be won by working women? By liberating humanity from the system of wage slavery.

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How does Capitalist Crisis affect Socialist Countries?

Keith Bennett gives an interesting presentation on the impact of the world capitalist economic crisis of overproduction upon the economic and social life of socialist countries, at a CPGB-ML seminar held as economic meltdown hit in 2009.

The classic case of a socialist country immune to crisis is provided, he says, by the Soviet Union in the 1930s, whose economic output increased 5-fold while the capitalist world’s declined, mired as it was in the great depression that followed the Wall Street Crash, and dragged on until it fuelled events leading to a second World War.

The Soviet Union, after temporary concessions to capitalism following the destruction of world war one, the civil war, and the war of intervention, put aside Lenin’s ‘New Economic Policy’ and embarked upon full scale collectivisation in the countryside, enabling increased agricultural production and rural prosperity. This in turn allowed the towns to grow, to be fed, and increase their industrial output. It was the economic, cultural and technical development consequent upon its socialist economy that enabled the Soviet Union to defeat German Nazi Imperialism in the Great Patriotic War (WW2) between 1941-45.

Keith goes on to discuss modern China, the inroads of capitalist economics into her social life, the extent to which she always had a dual economy, and the fact that China’s economy, while continuing to expand, has been adversely affected by the declining capacity of the capitalist world to absorb her exports.

Referring to the history of the world economy, Keith points out that Capitalism cannot offer a sustainable source of economic growth, peaceful or stable development, and remains inherently prone to crisis, dislocation, instability and war.

Capitalism, if allowed to flourish in the economic sphere, will inevitably seek political power, and to change the nature of the state to suit its interests, he concludes.

Women’s Liberation – What does it mean today?

“No great movement of the oppressed has ever triumphed without the participation of working class women.”

Without women's participation there would have been no Soviet Revolution - and the position of women would not have been uplifted to the extent it has. Without women's participation, the world cannot be liberated from hunger, misery, famine, war and the exploitation inherent in monopoly capitalism.
Without women’s participation there would have been no Soviet Revolution – and the position of women would not have been uplifted to the extent it has. Without women’s participation, the world cannot be liberated from hunger, misery, famine, war and the exploitation inherent in monopoly capitalism.

Joti Brar speaks at a meeting to Mark international Women’s day, held by the CPGB-ML and Red Youth in Birmingham, on 8 March 2014.

What is women’s oppression? How, why and when did it come about? Are women still oppressed, in the West, in the 21st century? And if so, what is the answer? How can real equality and liberation be won by working women?

In the words of Mao Zedong “Women hold up half the sky.”

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Valentina Tereshkova – socialism sends women to the cosmos!

Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world! Our young cadre will be publishing short pieces all this week to celebrate our revolutionary heroines in the run up to International Women’s Day. Today comrade Geoff, from Salford, discusses Valentina Tereshkova.

Come and celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday in Birmingham with the CPGB-ML and Red Youth at 274 Moseley Rd, Highgate, B12 0BS.

valentina tereshkova red youth

The ideals of the party were close to me, and I have tried to adhere to those principles all my life.

– Valentina Tereshkova

On 16 June 1963, Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova of the Soviet Union became the first woman in space, propelling the achievements of women under socialism to the cosmos!

Valentina was born on 6 March 1937 in the village of Bolshoye Maslennikovo, Yaroslavl. After being left mostly in ruin following the first world war and subsequently the Great October Socialist Revolution, Yaroslavl had risen again, becoming a major beneficiary of the economic development and five-year plans of the Soviet Union under the Bolshevik party; a thriving industrial city – rich, efficient, with vast collectivised farmlands.

Valentina’s parents earned their livelihoods in the all-important nationalised sectors. Her father Vladimir was a tractor driver and mother Yelena worked at the Krasny Perekop cotton mill.

When Valentina was just 2, her father lost his life in combat serving as a sergeant and tank commander for the Red Army in the Winter War – an armed precursory conflict to the second world war between the USSR and the Nazi stooges then in charge of Finland.

When she was just 4, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Although Yaroslavl was heavily protected by Moscow in terms of ground combat, it was frequently targeted during air raids owing to its importance in providing armaments for the Red Army.

Throughout this time, Valentina’s mother continued to work hard, as well as raising Valentina and her two siblings Vladimir and Ludmilla. It was only with the determination displayed by Yelena and with the support of a loving socialist state that families like this survived to see the end of the war.

Thanks to the industrialisation and collectivisation of the 1930s, and the successful routing of the Trotskyite counter-revolutionary fifth column that was in the pay of Hitlerite fascism,  Valentina and millions of soviet children like her were able to emerge from the horrors of the Great Fatherland Liberation War and go on to fulfil their potential.

After the war, her family moved to the city of Yaroslavl, where Valentina had her schooling. Having completed high school, she went on to work in the day whilst taking correspondence courses at night, and soon graduated from the Light Industry Technical School.

Starting out working in a tyre factory, she then moved to join the cotton mill her mother and sister were at, working as a loom operator. It was whilst at the cotton mill that Valentina first joined the Komsomol (Young Communist League) and shortly went on to become a member of the Communist Party.

It wasn’t until 1959 that Valentina took the first significant steps towards her eventual role of cosmonaut when she joined the Yaroslavl Air Sports Club and soon become a skilled amateur parachutist.

On 12 April 1961, the USSR’s Yuri Gagarin had become the first man in space, making a single orbit of the earth aboard the Vostok 1. A year later, it was decided that the Soviets should advance their long list of achievements by sending a female cosmonaut to space. Furthermore, the ambition was to send a civilian on the mission, thus proving that the potential to achieve greatness is not inherent in an individual’s class background but simply the result of opportunity.

Having been inspired like so many millions worldwide by the accomplishments of Gagarin and the Soviet Union, Valentina volunteered for the mission and was shortlisted for training along with four other applicants, only one of whom had any pilot experience previously.

Comrade Tereshkova did experience difficulties in her training – in most part owing to her background and a lack of technical understanding – but his didn’t phase her one bit. She worked as hard as anyone could, constantly studying and preparing in order to give herself the best chance of being the first woman in space.

Her effort ultimately paid off in March 1963, when Tereshkova, codenamed Chaika, was selected as the leading candidate. Her first mission was a joint mission between the Vostok 5, piloted by Valery Bykovsky, and the Vostok 6, piloted by Tereshkova.

After the Vostok 5 launched successfully on 14 June, Tereshkova began the final preparations for her own take-off. On approaching the rocket for launch, she said: “Hey, sky! Take off your hat, I’m coming!”

Comrade Chaika orbited the Earth 48 times before safely and successfully landing in the Altay region to the celebration of locals and the jubilation of millions of working women worldwide. The flight had not been entirely perfect, but after Valentina spotted an error in the navigation system early, she was able to redirect the shuttle before any serious problems occurred.

Following her successes, Comrade Valentina continued as an instructor and test pilot for the Soviet space programme, as well as obtaining her doctorate in technical sciences. She went on to marry another cosmonaut, Andriyan Nikolayev, and they had one child, a daughter, together.

In 1968, Comrade Tereshkova headed the Soviet Women’s Committee, always affirming that she was not a feminist but a communist. She remained in politics until the collapse of the USSR, and also became a well-published research scientist.

Comrade Valentina was awarded many honours for her achievements. She received the Hero of the Soviet Union and Order of Lenin in addition to a stockpile of other awards that were sent from around the world. She has also had a lunar crater and minor planet, 1671 Chaika, named after her for her outstanding achievements.

In Comrade Valentina, just as in Comrade Stalin, we see embodied the achievement and fulfilment of the lives of millions of soviet workers – their creativity and labour emancipated by socialism and set free to soar to the heavens!

soviet union in space