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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Red Youth salutes the revolutionary women of the world!
We’d like to take the time over the coming week – until International Women’s Day on 8 March – to discuss why women’s liberation is a key part of the struggle against capitalism, and to remember some inspiring female comrades, past and present, who struggled for the liberation of their people, the liberation of the working class, and who recognised that special attention had to be paid, within these struggles, to the liberation of women, from their subordinate role in society, and the special and additional oppression that women face due to their sex alone.
It will soon be International Women’s Day, a day now used by many capitalist governments in an attempt to portray themselves as ‘progressive’ or ‘egalitarian’.
Formerly known as ‘International Working Women’s Day’ it was celebrated by communists the world over – in the Soviet Union, China, Spain, Germany, and countless other countries – to pay tribute to the efforts and struggles of labouring women.
However, in an unsurprising turn, it was robbed of its core message by the UN, when it was officially decreed that 8 March would be a day for capitalist governments to not only remove the focus on working women, but also to demonise non-western nations in the name of ‘progressivism’.
But there can be no end to misogynistic culture under capitalism, as misogyny is simply too profitable. Mainstream cinema, the cosmetics industry, fashion, general advertising, television, the music industry, and pornography are all hugely lucrative industries that require a culture of misogyny to sustain their existence.
We, as communists, will honour International Women’s Day by acknowledging that capitalism is not the origin of misogyny, but that misogyny cannot be eradicated within capitalism. It is a day to celebrate the achievements of heroic communist women and to think deeply about the way in which misogyny will be rejected both in a future socialist society and within current communist organisations.
Be a revolutionary, not a cheerleader!
Most importantly, it is the role of communists to oppose the idea that women are inherently passive and inherently weak in their attitude, mind, and spirit. A good illustration of how deeply ingrained these attitudes are in capitalist societies is Wang Zheng’s account from Some of Us, a collection of memoirs from women who grew up during the Cultural Revolution:
Not long after I arrived in the United States, I met an American woman at a friend’s home. She told me with apparent pride that her daughter was a cheerleader. I did not know what kind of leader that was. Hearing her explanation, I could not bring myself to present a compliment, as she obviously expected.
I just hoped that my eyes would not betray my disdain as I thought to myself, ‘I guess this American woman has never dreamed of her daughter being a leader cheered by men.’ I feel fortunate that I was “brainwashed” to want to be a revolutionary instead of a cheerleader.
In capitalist society women are expected to be the ‘cheerleaders’ for both working men when they are generating profit for the ruling classes and echoing the media’s misogyny, and for capitalist men when they gather ever greater profits off of the backs of the workers of the world.
It is our duty to ensure that while capitalism is destroyed, alongside it goes misogyny, so that such prejudices will never again blight human progress.
Red Youth is having a meeting in Birmingham on 9 March to discuss and celebrate the role of revolutionary women in the struggle to defeat capitalism, imperialism, and fascism, and how women’s liberation is intrinsically linked with workers’ liberation and communism.
Comrades Ella and Joti will ask what 45 years of women’s liberation has done for us, and why there are still so few women involved in politics in 21st-century Britain.
As the crisis deepens, the situation of women is becoming worse and not better. The few areas in which women could find some support are being ruthlessly cut. While taxation rises, wages plunge in inverse proportion to rising unemployment.
Experience shows that it is only under socialism that women’s needs can really be given priority, for it is only under socialism that the whole of production is geared to serving the needs of working people in general rather than the interests of profit, which always grudges every penny spent on wages and social facilities.
Women workers must stand shoulder to shoulder with the revolutionary proletariat as a whole to overthrow capitalism and establish and build socialism. And it stands to reason that the revolutionary proletariat must always put attending to the needs of the working-class women as one of their most urgent priorities, both in their demands on the capitalist class and in the measures that they implement as soon as they seize state power.