On occasion of the 8th of March 2018, and the great developments in the womens movement which we saw in this 8th of march, especially by taking up proletarian feminism in many countries, we want to document the following important text "Long live Proletarian Feminism" from Austrian communists. It is an comprehensive document, which takes up fundamental questions of womens movement, and can be an important tool for all revolutionary and communist forces for deepening the discussion and struggle to strongly hold up, defend and apply Proletarian Feminism as part of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Proletarians of all countries and oppressed peoples unite!
Political power grows from the barrel of a gun!
Long Live Proletarian Feminism!
1. Origins and Development of Patriarchy
The founders of scientific socialism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, located the origin and essence of patriarchy with the dawn of class society, proving that the former is a precondition of the latter. Their scientific explanation of the oppression and exploitation of women must be our point of departure in the question of women's struggles today, which is an important and principal difference to every bourgeois pseudo-scientific analysis of patriarchal relations. Thus we will try to sum up the correct Marxist position concerning the development of patriarchy in this first section.
1.1 The Origin of Patriarchy
Arising from the accumulation of human-made use values and progress in practical experiments, production and the reshaping of nature in primal society, humanity made a social leap: the development of private property in the means of production and the corresponding “great divisions of labour” from “different historical currents”. Here above all else, in private property in the means of production, lies the origin of the separation of humanity into classes and with it the oppression and exploitation of women, the development of patriarchy.
“Thus, on the one hand, in proportion as wealth increased, it made the man’s position in the family more important than the woman’s, and on the other hand created an impulse to exploit this strengthened position in order to overthrow, in favour of his children, the traditional order of inheritance. This, however, was impossible so long as descent was reckoned according to mother-right. Mother-right, therefore, had to be overthrown, and overthrown it was. A simple decree sufficed that in the future the offspring of the male members should remain within the gens, but that of the female should be excluded by being transferred to the gens of their father. The overthrow of mother-right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also; the woman was degraded and reduced to servitude, she became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children.” (Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State)
The establishment of private ownership in the means of production against common ownership, and the exclusion of women from this private ownership that went with it, laid the foundations for the subordination of women under men, as well as the degraded standing of women in wider society. The world historical revolution that the victory of private property in the means of production represents is furthermore the foundation for the development of the monogamous family, in which women are tied to men on the basis of their economic position; and therefore tied stronger to monogamous partnership itself than men are. The great co-founder of scientific socialism, Friedrich Engels, characterised this form of family as the first that was based on purely economic conditions. Since patriarchy has its origins in private property in the means of production, it represents a secondary contradiction. But this does not mean that the question is a secondary one.
In order to preserve, manage and defend the new relations of property and production, the ruling class constructed an apparatus for systematic class oppression, the state. Lenin teaches us that the state is an apparatus for the “systematic application of force and the subjugation of people by force”. The essence of the state is the existence of “a special category of people who are set apart to rule others and, for the sake and purpose of rule, systematically and permanently to wield a certain apparatus of coercion, an apparatus of violence”. Every state that is based on the private ownership of the means of production, and therefore the private appropriation of others' work, is a state which oppresses women through the systematic use of violence, one which perpetuates patriarchy.
1.2 Double Exploitation and Oppression
In capitalist society, based on the main contradiction between wage labour and capital, women workers take up a position of double oppression and exploitation. Female workers, like their male counterparts, are forced to work for a wage, thereby being exploited by capital. In addition, however, because of patriarchal oppression, the female worker provides the lion share of domestic work and the raising of children. Lenin perfectly summed up this problem for the work of communists: “But you cannot draw the masses into politics without drawing in the women as well. For under capitalism the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed. The working woman and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, but over and above that, even in the most democratic of the bourgeois republics, they remain, firstly, deprived of some rights because the law does not give them equality with men; and secondly—and this is the main thing—they remain in “household bondage”, they continue to be “household slaves”, for they are overburdened with the drudgery of the most squalid, backbreaking and stultifying toil in the kitchen and the family household.” (Address on International Women’s Day, 1921).
It is capital and patriarchy that burden women workers with the condition of double exploitation and oppression.
The mass inclusion of women in factory work meant not only the creation of the basis for double exploitation, but also the lowering of the value of labour power as a result of heightened competition in the selling of this commodity between men and women. The capitalist did not have to pay the worker a wage which enabled the reproduction of the whole proletarian family anymore, but could spread it across man and woman. This meant a greater profit for the capitalist and more work for less pay for the working class family. The founder of scientific socialism, organiser and leader of the first Communist Party and First International, Karl Marx, explained it in the following way: “The value of labour-power was determined, not only by the labour-time necessary to maintain the individual adult labourer, but also by that necessary to maintain his family. Machinery, by throwing every member of that family on to the labour-market, spreads the value of the man’s labour-power over his whole family. It thus depreciates his labour-power. To purchase the labour-power of a family of four workers may, perhaps, cost more than it formerly did to purchase the labour-power of the head of the family, but, in return, four days’ labour takes the place of one, and their price falls in proportion to the excess of the surplus-labour of four over the surplus-labour of one. In order that the family may live, four people must now, not only labour, but expend surplus-labour for the capitalist.”
Here the division of female and male workers begins: the capitalist makes them competitors on the labour market.
1.3 The Double Oppression and Exploitation of Working Women under Imperialism
The double oppression of women has reached a qualitatively new level under imperialism: contrary to the bourgeois propaganda of “progressive emancipation”, under imperialism women are even more forced into dependency on the bourgeois state and nuclear family. This is especially so for working women, for whom an independent existence is economically hardly possible at all. Imperialism means fascism, the “rule of finance capital itself”. Parallel to the economic base developing from free competition capitalism developing to the higher stage of imperialist concentration and monopoly, the bourgeois state being completely subsumed and dominated by finance capital, the corresponding superstructural form of rule developed from bourgeois democracy to fascism. This development effected an increased grip of corporativism on women.
The imperialist states developed new forms and methods of oppression and exploitation. With corporativism the imperialists created a tight network of bureaucracy and control over the working class and masses of people. This brought with it a change in the reproduction of working families. Thus the bourgeoisie began to cut the family wage and extend the control of the state over reproduction. The average wage of the lower sections of the working class today is not enough for reproduction. The working class family depends on “bonus payments” that the bourgeois state provides in the form of family, housing and other benefits. (These are again taken from the working class itself through taxation and “social security” payments.) This amounts to a heightening of the double exploitation and oppression of working women under imperialism. Wages are squeezed, domestic work and the raising of children is demanded, the working women is made every more dependent on the bourgeois state, politically and economically. The development of corporativism under imperialism objectively increases the control of the bourgeoisie over the working woman.
Imperialism means unjust wars. These are waged by the imperialists mainly on the backs of women, whose double oppression and exploitation is deepened by the conditions of imperialist war and who are to be made slaves of the imperialist nation. Thus women are especially receptive for people's war as the masses' response to unjust imperialist war, and for global people's war as response to the imperialist world war.
1.4 Imperialist Aggression Against Women Through Semi-Feudal/Semi-Colonial Conditions
In oppressed countries imperialism develops and maintains semi-colonial/semi-feudal conditions as well as bureaucratic capitalism, which maintain the oppression of women through patriarchy in its feudal, semi-feudal and bureaucrat-capitalist forms. Chairman Mao, leader of the Communist Party of China and protracted people's war, and initiator and leader of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, speaks of a quadruple oppression of women under the feudal and semi-feudal conditions of China at that time: “As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities - political, family, religious and masculine - are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants.”
The majority of women today lives in semi-colonial/semi-feudal countries. This means that objectively women especially are a driving force of the new democratic revolution, which has an anti-feudal and anti-imperialist character, and takes up the the task of national liberation and implementation of a new democratic programme. Therefore it also stands against feudal-patriarchal oppression, as well as its bureaucrat-capitalist form, the two forms of patriarchy most closely linked with imperialism. This makes women an outstanding driving force of the proletarian world revolution. Without mobilising them in masses for people's war under the guidance of the Communist Party, it is impossible to solve these tasks. Whether imperialist war, or its ever deepening political, ideological and economic crisis: imperialism is the enemy of any emancipation of oppressed classes, any liberation of oppressed nations and especially the emancipation of women from the patriarchal yoke.
1.5 The Ideological Oppression of Women
The political-economic basis of the ideological oppression under imperialism is the relationship of women to capital, the bourgeois nuclear family and the imperialist state. The bourgeoisie tries to hide the fact that it is the economic and political relations of its class rule that perpetuate patriarchy.
The theory of “woman as naturally inferior” is as old as patriarchy itself. In the world view of slave-holding societies we see women openly referred to as “inadequate beings” [“Mangelwesen”], “evil” or “dirty”. The ideological oppression of women today exists in a number of reactionary, chauvinist and openly fascist positions (too many in fact to list here), from the view of woman as the slave of the man and imperialist nation, to 'alternative' positions of women as “mild”, “well-natured” or “weak” beings. The different forms of oppression in public and the media are the consequence of such views, manifesting themselves in different combinations, depending on national culture and tendencies within the bourgeoisie. The view of women as inferior sex is today often presented with the concept of “new femininity”, which claims that women have certain biological characteristics that make them essentially motherly, strong and especially social and pacifistic. This reactionary theory hides the real cause of oppression by reducing everything to the question of biological sex and proposing an “essence of woman” based on differences from men. This denies class distinctions and put the question of sex above all else.
In previous class societies religion has played an important role in the oppression of women, especially in the ideological sphere. Religions are essentially patriarchal constructs which spout reactionary ideologies concerning women – this is true both for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, as well as various ancient religions and cults. Comrade Lenin perfectly summed up the general function of religion for the ruling class: “All oppressing classes stand in need of two social functions to safeguard their rule: the function of the hangman and the function of the priest.”
What makes Christianity stand out, however, is its historic level of fusion with finance capital. Regardless of the actual number of followers this makes Christianity the main problem in the ideological and cultural question compared to other religions, as its various forms are most intimately tied to the old imperialist states. Its centralised bureaucracies in the form of papacy (Catholicism), church councils (Protestantism) and patriarchs (orthodox) defend the interests of imperialism and play an important part in their implementation. Not only is this bureaucracy an executive part of the imperialist system, but also takes part in the development of imperialist interests as a part of finance capital itself. Inextricably linked to this is the Christian duty of missionary work, which not by chance focuses mainly on the lowest sections of the masses and often targets women. The issue is not merely historical: even today, and even in its most liberal form, the Christian religion represents an important pillar of imperialism and patriarchy in the development of national cultures and thus the ideological bondage of the masses. The important German socialist August Bebel already noted the connection between church and imperialist state: “Our Christian government, whose Christianity is sought in vain where it is really needful, but is met with where it is superfluous – our Christian government is like our Christian bourgeoisie, whose interests it serves.” That this position is a correct principle is not changed by the fact that more “liberal” varieties of Christian reaction have developed. Quite the opposite: the bourgeoisie resorting to the instrument of religion in class struggle shows its decadence, the extent of its rottenness in imperialism and its strategic weakness. Bebel also noted: “What a huge difference there is between the bourgeoisie of yesteryear, which cheered on Voltaire's “Écrasez l’infâme!” (Crush the infamous: the church!) and the atheistic teachings of Feuerbach and David Strauß, and the bourgeoisie of today, which purports to have religious views, which it itself does not beliefs, and supports religious undertakings, which it itself is disgusted by. All out of the fear of the advancing social democracy.”
Communists must fight against religious ideology and the political power of religious institutions. Religious views among the masses have to be combated (mainly through debate and convincing), especially among women. But religious views among the people can overall only be fully defeated after a long struggle of ideological transformation under socialism. The vanguard, however, must not tolerate any mystical, idealist and religious ideologies amongst its ranks, already today.
1.6 Reformism and Revisionism: Bourgeois Feminism in the Ranks of the Proletariat
The role of revisionism in the question of the emancipation of women is to carry bourgeois ideology into the proletariat, strengthening the counterrevolutionary line in feminism. This happens through different theories, such as that of “the division of labour as root of patriarchy” or the propagation of “reforms for equality”. Even in its revolutionary phase the bourgeoisie could not grant women more than formal equality, which has remained an elusive ideal for most women under the global imperialist system until today. The fact that revisionism complains about the lack of “equality” granted by the imperialist bourgeoisie, while at the same time elevating the politics of the day to the main question of the women's movement, shows how far it is interwoven with the imperialist state apparatus – at least at an ideological level (and where it has gained a certain strength also the political) – no matter how radical it may present itself. It also shows how much hope revisionism places on the imperialist bourgeoisie and its representatives, thus denying the basic Marxist truth that imperialism is “reaction all along the line”.
In imperialist countries revisionism, the bourgeois line within the ranks of the proletariat, finds its objective base in the labour aristocracy, which lives from the super-profits that imperialism extracts from exploited and oppressed semi-colonial/semi-feudal countries and must therefore objectively defend the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie. The labour aristocracy, which is on a downward trend in terms of numbers, represents a corrupted layer of the working class. As it is made up of mainly skilled male workers, it finds no relevant basis among the women workers. The labour aristocracy is the objective material base in the working class for the bourgeoisie to carry reactionary ideology into the proletariat, including on the question of women and the bourgeois family. Within the working class it is only the families of the labour aristocracy which have any prerequisites for a prolonged existence in the form of the bourgeois nuclear family, since they enjoy certain privileges in reproductive work. On an ideological level this amounts to the spouting of reactionary theories concerning the role of women in the attempt to neutralise them in the struggle against patriarchy. Among the labour bureaucracy, however, women from the working class are more numerously represented. This means that here there exists more of an objective material basis for the ideology of the labour aristocracy and revisionism, which is why the latter often prefers to base itself upon work in within corporativist institutions. Bourgeois ideology itself, as well as in its labour aristocratic form, also bears upon the working class through the various threads that link it with other classes and layers of society.
Today under imperialism it is clear that the bourgeoisie is not only incapable of giving women any real emancipation, but that it in fact strengthens the economic, political and ideological oppression of women. Imperialism and revisionism are the main enemies of the peoples of the world and the masses of women. Imperialism objectively confronts the majority of women with their need to struggle and fight back against their bad condition and thus makes them to bitter enemies of worldwide reaction.
2. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and the Women's Question
2.1 Marxism and the Emancipation of Women
The emancipation of women begins with their inclusion in production and the class struggle! The mass participation of women in the process of production created the possibility for the mass politicisation and organisation of women proletarians. This happened through their participation on the early, developing struggles of the proletarian. As Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels recognised in 1848 in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, the general programme of communists, regarding the perspective of the proletariat in these struggles: what is important was not their immediate results, but the fact that the proletariat began to associate through them. This also applies to women in production, which means that the foundation for a further development of the proletarian women's movement was created.
With Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, mainly Marx, the whole proletariat received its world view: scientific socialism, the only scientific and demystifying ideology. What therefore also starts with Marx and Engels is the demystifying of the especially oppressed status of women, the reasons for which could now be understood scientifically proceeding from social relations. Marx and Engels attached great importance to the women's question and gave the proletarian women's movement important advice at its very beginning, during the storms of the bourgeois revolutions of 1848. In the Manifesto of the Communist Party they write: “The bourgeois sees his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women. He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.” For Marx and Engels it is clear that patriarchy arose with the development of private property in the means of production, with the accompanying rights of ownership excluding women who are themselves degraded to privately owned instruments of production. This laid the foundations for proletarian feminism. Women, serving men and capital as instruments of (re)production, can only emancipate themselves completely, after freeing themselves from the capitalist and domestic slavery, when their status as instruments of production is abolished.
From this Marx and Engels, mainly Marx, draw the conclusion that the emancipation of women is first and foremost a question of power, as it requires the destruction of the old property relations. As great communists they fought a resolute battle within the International on the question of the emancipation of women. In this struggle they pointed out that the proletarian revolution could not be successful without the participation women women, that the mobilisation of women is therefore an important duty of communists: “Everyone who knows anything of history also knows that great social revolutions are impossible without the feminine ferment. Social progress may be measured precisely by the social position of the fair sex (plain ones included).” Here Marx not only states that the participation of women is an absolute necessity for revolution, but also points to the future in that general progress and the emancipation of women are so closely linked that societal progress can (and will) be “measured precisely” by the level of emancipation. This is an exceptionally important cue that Comrade Marx provides to us, free from any mechanism or schematism.
Comrades Marx and Engels fought for the correct position in the question of women's emancipation against all kinds of wrong petit bourgeois and counterrevolutionary views, especially when these tried to act “progressive”. The anarchist Proudhon, for example, claimed that women are essentially inferior to men and have only about “8/27 of the worth of a man”. Marx and Engels not only smashed these views but also dedicated themselves to the daily struggles of women workers with full revolutionary energy. For example they argued for special labour safety laws for women and struggled for the demand of “equal pay for the work of both sexes” in the programme of the French Workers Party.
Marx and Engels formulated the foundational historic-dialectical, materialist view of women in class society, they recognised the role of women for the revolution, smashed the bourgeois views of the anarchists and took a leading position in the daily struggles of women workers of their day.
2.2. Leninism and the Emancipation of Women
Lenin was a great disciple of Marx and developed Marxism in the age of developing imperialism. Correspondingly Lenin also developed the Marxist position on the women's question. Following Marx he also stressed the connection between women and the success of the revolution: “the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.” The great founder of the Bolshevik party spent much energy on the questions of the conscious organisation of women and mad these a basic cornerstone of the politics of Russian communists: “it is necessary that we fully develop systematic work among these feminine masses. We must educate those women we have managed to wrest away from passivity, we must recruit them and arm them for the struggle, not just the proletarian women who work in the factories or toil in the home, but also the peasant women, the women in the various layers of the petty-bourgeoisie.” With these words Lenin destroys the underestimation of the planned and systematic work among women, as it developed in the worker's movement with the reformist degeneration of the old social democracy. Comrade Lenin, who was also a great military leader, further points out that women are no mere objects of political manoeuvring, but must be armed to take part in active struggle. Furthermore he recognised the possibility of a common struggle of proletarian and petit bourgeois women against imperialist capital in the struggle for emancipation and made clear to his party that such an alliance was necessary.
As the first leader of a party that succeeded in beating imperialism and building up socialism, Lenin knew how important it is that public authority must be as far a possible based on and organised by the masses themselves. Also in this respect he considered the women's question. Lenin's programme was not just to integrate women into production, but to arm them and integrate them into the concerns of the new state, which he made clear was an important factor in the building of socialism: “Merging the police force, the army and the bureaucracy with the entire armed people; […] a genuine people’s militia, i.e., one that, first, consists of the entire population, of all adult citizens of both sexes; and, second, one that combines the functions of a people’s army with police functions, with the functions of the chief and fundamental organ of public order and public administration. […] If women are not drawn into public service, into the militia, into political life, if women are not torn out of their stupefying house and kitchen environment, it will be impossible to guarantee real freedom, it will be impossible to build even democracy let alone socialism.”
Following from Karl Marx, Lenin developed the question of the politicisation of women. Under his personal leadership the party led the first mass organisations of women in illegality, as well as after taking state power. Lenin saw it as a requirement of socialism that women take part in the administration and enforcement of state power and he systematised the political programme of arming women in the course of the then appropriate military theory of the people's militia. He taught that women must take up the gun also under socialism to move toward their way to their final emancipation, toward the abolishment of classes.
After the proletariat seized power under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, laws were passed in the Soviet Union that granted women equality to men, introduced maternity leave, the right to special labour protection as well as abortion. Women were ripped en masse from the bonded existence within their four walls and included in production. But as great and world shaking the programmes for the emancipation of women in the Soviet Union at this time were, we must also recognise that there were serious deviations from the Marxist line during the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union. In the question of women's emancipation these started relatively early, expressed for example by Alexandra Kollontai. In her lectures on “The situation of women in the development of society” she upholds views that underestimate the role of the private ownership in the means of production in the development of patriarchy, which leads to her drawing revisionist conclusions: “Thanks to this policy (New Economic Policy), it is possible to completely change the relationship between the sexes. Women stop stop following the wishes of the man as the breadwinner of the family. They are independent, go to work, have their own timetable and their own ration card. Men cease the head of the household, lord and master of the home.” And further: “The conclusion we can draw from this is that the equality of will soon be realised in all other spheres. As we know, the role of women in society and the relations between the sexes depend on their function in production.” In Kollontai the ideological and political fight for power is completely lost. Completely mechanistically it is assumed that the role in production will somehow lead to the “dying off of patriarchy” without ideological and political struggle.
Comrade Stalin, who continued the work of Lenin and defeated fascism, led the Soviet Union in a time, in which the undialectical and mechanistic conception fo women's emancipation under socialism was spreading. Stalin personally led battles against this. The Women's International was expanded, the rudiments of militarised mass organisations which where build up in the international communist movement under his leadership created their own women's sections. Therefore Stalin built upon Lenin's position that women will only destroy patriarchy with a gun in hand. Furthermore it was Generalissimo Stalin who, emphasising the military question, pointed out to the communist world movement that women are no mere reserve but a driving for of revolution: “But the women toilers are not only a reserve. If the working class pursues a correct policy, they can and must become a real working-class army, operating against the bourgeoisie.”
Stalin struggles against the faction of rightists, and especially against the escapades of the fascist Trotsky, who completely restored the mechanistic view of the “steady development” in the women's question, which makes the latter an ideological pioneer of many revisionists. It was especially during the time of the Great Patriotic War against the fascists that Stalin conducted a political fight on the front of women's emancipation. Girls and young women played an important and leading role in the production brigades of the youth – women and girls of the Communist Youth (Komsomol) were the initiators of the movement to fulfil production goals under a lack of labour power. Immediately after the fascist invasion, the Komsomol lead compulsory military trainings for all its members and a great number of women took part in the partisan units and the defence of the cities of Leningrad and Stalingrad. They did this with such energy and determination that it is doubtful whether these cities could have been held without the active role of the women partisans and soldiers of the Red Army. What we also consider important is the systematic development of political work to win over women to the party under Comrade Stalin. While in 1941 only around 20 per cent of party members were women, in 1945 it was 35 per cent. Altogether the number of politically organised women was raised above one million during the course of these campaigns.
As the struggle against revisionism under Stalin's leadership in certain areas was conducted inadequately, and often also in an incorrect manner, these campaigns could historically not assert themselves. With the growth of revisionism and its eventual seizure of power, women were driven from the social positions they had fought for. Concerning “Marxist-Leninist” revisionism it must be said that the path of women's emancipation in the Soviet Union was limited from an ideological point of view, and many grave errors were committed. Today, in the era of Maoism, it is not only false to repeat the mechanistic theses but furthermore revisionist and directly opposed to the struggle for the emancipation of women.
2.3 Maoism and the Emancipation of Women
With Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM), principally Maoism – the third, highest and final stage of the proletarian world view and only scientific ideology – the understanding of the emancipation of women also reached a new quality within the communist movement. It represents the development and completion of proletarian feminism in the areas of philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism.
Maoism, like Marxism and Leninism before it, rejects the bourgeois theory of a “general human nature”, including that of a “nature of woman”. For Maoism, women are, just like men, a product of social practice, of class struggle as the law of development of human society. Proceeding from the Marxist insight that the oppression and exploitation of women starts with the development of private property in the means of production, Chairman Mao, leader of the Communist Party of China, the democratic and socialist revolutions, initiator and leader of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, noted: “Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.” Chairman Mao does not see the question of women's emancipation as a separate “stage” to be tackled during the battle for socialism, but that it can only be answered with the development of socialism to communism and the abolition of classes. “From the present situation it is not difficult to understand that genuine equality between the sexes can be realized and the Women’s Liberation Movement will be ended when and only when, led by a Marxist-Leninist political party, the process of the social transformation of society as a whole is completed, when the exploiting class or classes are exterminated, and when the feudal-patriarchal and other exploiting-class ideologies are completely uprooted.”1 Clearly this means: in communism!
Already during the people's war Chairman Mao did not see the mobilisation and organisation of women as a matter that should wait for the period after victory, or should be defined outside of the context of participation in the war, which is reflected in the party directive: “…help the youth and women to organize in order to participate on an equal footing in all work useful to the war effort and to social progress...” During the people's war Chairman Mao politically developed Marx's principle that “without women a social revolution is not possible”, by stressing the organisation of women in the armed struggle for power, in the people's war. After the victory of the revolution in 1949 there was another upsurge in the military participation of women. The Chinese People's Liberation Army was for a long time the army with the highest percentage of women globally. “More and more women enlisted themselves in the army, navy and air forces. They voluntarily entered these services after having passed a physical examination.”2
Chairman Mao led the women's movement in the strategic clarity that the fight for women's emancipation has an internationalist character, as women around the world are faced with different forms of patriarchy, which, however, have the same root causes. “The Chinese revolutionary women should concern themselves not only with the revolution and construction at home but also the revolutionary struggles of the people and women of all countries, keep the interests of both the motherland and the world at heart, display proletarian internationalism and strive to contribute to the complete emancipation of all mankind.”3
In questions of political economy Chairman Mao understood well that it wasn't “just” the goal to rip women from the slavery of their “own four walls”, but that women working in consumption also have to be integrated into production, which led to various large movements, especially during the “great leap forward”. This was the basis for women adopting equal, and often leading, positions in the socialist transf oration of the economy, both in agriculture as in industry, and not merely integrated as additional labour.4 The mass movements “Learn from Daqing in Industry! Learn from Dazhai in Agriculture!” are proof enough for the fact that the understanding of the struggle for the emancipation of women and its relationship to the economy under socialism only became a correct understanding of the political economy of socialism under the leadership of Chairman Mao. Women took up leading positions in the transformation of production, especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Some mass movements of note in relation to this were: the “March 8t Work Shifts”, “March 8 Railway Occupations”, “Brigades of iron girls”, “Red detachments of women” and many more. “Unite and take part in production and political activity to improve the economic and political status of women.” With these words Chairman Mao warns the international communist movement to be wary of tendencies that see women as mere additional labour power to be integrated into production, and do no recognise them as a special driving force for the revolutionary transformation of society.
Under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong a vigorous struggle full of revolutionary energy was waged against all mechanistic conceptions of women's emancipation. Especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution the political mobilisation of women as a precondition for the continued struggle against patriarchy was developed further, as clarity over politics in command was won: “The more important thing for women in gaining emancipation is to be concerned with and take part in political struggle. Owing to the influence of old ideas and old traditions, not many women took part in political activities or were firm in waging struggles. Plunging into political struggle to brave storms and face the world, women have acquired a better understanding of revolutionary principles, raised their political consciousness and gained experience in struggle.”5 This is a statement of principle. The struggle of China's women under the correct leadership of the Chairman of the Communist Party of China on the basis of this principle did not end in masses of women taking up an active, leading position in questions of military and political economy. They were also mobilised within the own ranks of the party, the working class and the popular masses.
Working woman Zhang Shufen gave the following example: “My father is delegate for the unification of poor and lower-middle peasants in our commune. He shows a lot of courage when it comes to rebellion against the handful of rulers in the party who follow the capitalist road and when the wrong ideas and actions of others are concerned. But when it comes to himself, he does not want to arise in rebellion against his own ideas of patriarchal authority. At home his word is law. He brushes the suggestions of others to one side, but everyone must listen to his. In the struggle against these old ideas of my father I was not free of selfish thoughts. I was worried that we would argue and that our differences would become known and lead to gossip. My father was arrogant when it came to his ideas. He often used the old saying: 'And if there were thousands in the family, only one can be its head', adding that 'this has been so from time immemorial'. (…) I thought: If I do not dare to confront the old views of my father, this would amount to protecting them.”6 The struggle against the oppression of women though large education campaigns and political mass movements was conduction not only in the economy and whole social superstructure of politics, arts and the military, but also systematically carried into the family. There the rebellion was unleashed not only against open reactionaries but also against the patriarchal positions of “good revolutionaries”, of comrades in the own ranks. This shows what high understanding of the “dual rupture”, which Marx tasks the international communist movement with in the “Manifesto of the Communist Party”, was achieved under the guidance of Chairman Mao Zedong. All this is illustrated very well in the report of Comrade Zhang Shufen.
The ideological struggle under the leadership of the great Chairman Mao crystallised in general in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and during its course in specific campaigns such as “Criticise Liu Shaoqi”, “Criticise the Doctrines of Confucius and Mencius” and “Criticise Lin Biao and Confucius”. These mass movements smashed mechanistic positions such as the “theory of productive forces”, as well as surviving feudal-patriarchal views and theories of the “disappearance of class struggle under socialism” or the “withering away of two-line-struggle under socialism”. During the course of these struggles, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in general, the question of class struggle continuing under socialism was developed in general, as well as the question of the continuation of the struggle for the emancipation of women specifically, which was already present in Marx and Lenin (and which was a great priority in the mentioned campaigns7). Thus Marxism-Leninism was also lifted to a higher stage in this question: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, principally Maoism, which stressed the need for numerous proletarian cultural revolutions during the course of socialism and is expressed in the women's question through proletarian feminism. This development is the result of class struggle and stands within the scientific ideology of socialism. To regress or stay back behind this, as is preached today by Hoxhaists, Marxists-Leninists and other tendencies that are communist only in name, means revisionism in an important question and therefore the inability to show the revolutionary way in the fight against patriarchy. The struggle of the Chinese Communists under the leadership of Comrade Mao Zedong against the special exploitation and oppression of women went through a number of stages: 1. Against feudal and bureaucract-capitalist patriarchy, directly imposed by imperialism, through the new democratic revolution. 2. Against the feudal-patriarchal traditions which continued to exist and were expressed in new forms under new democracy among the people and within the party (even though patriarchal relations were already being fought and pushed back throughout the whole society), through the struggle for socialist development. 3. Against patriarchal ideology of the red bourgeoisie in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. All this is class struggle and therefore a revolutionary truth that was fought for in the revolutionary clashes of the proletariat and paid for in blood. It is obvious that during the course of human history there has never been a deeper fight against patriarchy and that the emancipation of women was never so far advanced as it was under the guidance of Comrade Mao, who provided the global women's movement with proletarian feminism as the Marxist line in the women's question.
3. Proletarian Feminism
Feminism is essentially revolutionary. The dual oppression of women by imperialism and patriarchy makes them an objective enemy of the ruling order, and emancipation can only be achieved through communism. But women are not one homogeneous group with the same interests based on their sex, class divides draw lines. The great Peruvian communist Jose Carlos Mariategui noted: “Women, like men, are reactionaries, centrists or revolutionaries. They cannot, consequently, all fight the same battle side by side. In the current human panorama, class differentiates individuals more than sex.”8 On the basis of class antagonisms within feminism we can differentiate between lines based on their class character: proletarian, petit bourgeois, and bourgeois feminism.
3.1 Bourgeois Feminism
Bourgeois feminism is the expression of bourgeois women. Correspondingly its forms are extremely conservative, as it must constantly try to unite the interests of the imperialist bourgeoisie in private ownership in the means of production with the interests of women. This means that bourgeois women can only become fighters for the emancipation of women if they break with their own class.
3.2 Petit Bourgeois Feminism
The petite bourgeoisie stands between proletariat and bourgeoisie, constantly grinded between the two main classes, which makes it waver in the class struggle. This leads to a wavering and individualised position in the struggles of women as well and makes petit bourgeois feminism preach individual positions in the women's movement: better organisation of reproduction for individual relief, “career and children”, the oppression of men, the creation of “spaces” through which the break with patriarchy is seen as an act of volition rather than a part of class struggle, etc. are all approaches of this tendency. The lower layers of petit bourgeois women objectively have a greater interests in the destruction of patriarchy than its perpetuation, but its upper layers develop strong conservative tendencies and are closer to bourgeois feminism.
Both bourgeois and petit bourgeois feminism are steeped in idealism, which makes them closely linked so called academic “discourses” of the bourgeoisie, with the replacement of class struggle with a struggle of the sexes/genders, gender roles as the main problem etc.
3.3 Proletarian Feminism – the Revolutionary Line in Feminism
Proletarian feminism is the only scientific world view, the ideology of the proletariat in the question of the emancipation of women. It takes the development of the means of production as the point of departure for the development of patriarchy and, following from this, recognises the need for proletarian revolution, people's war, the dictatorship of the proletariat and continued proletarian cultural revolutions to achieve the emancipation of women through the abolition of classes.
“The progress of women was and is the progress of the people. However, they were not passive beneficiaries but sisters in arms, resolute fighters for the cause of the oppressed and militants of the first rank. Die trenches of the people are everywhere coloured also with their blood. Women are not, as is said, apolitical and indifferent, women, especially those from the people, are revolutionary fighters. (…) Women are not simply passive beings, neither trinkets, not apolitical tools. Class conscious women are untiring fighters and resolute militants.”
3.3.1 The Proletarian Feminist Women's Movement Must Forge Leaders from its Midst!
Proletarian feminism demands that the women's movement must crystallise leaders from its own midst. This task follows from the law of the role of the individual in history and has historically been proven in the class struggles, in which leading women represented the “female ferment”, the active strength of working women within the proletarian legions. We deem this question to be important and will provide some counter-examples to the incorrect notion that history is mainly made by the male masses. This is important in order to clearly see and gain an understanding of the militant tradition of women in the history of revolutionary movements of the oppressed – this is also a demand of proletarian feminism, upon which the principles “Unleash the revolutionary violence of women as force for the proletarian world revolution!” and “Women hold up half the sky” must be based.
a) Capitalism, Marxism and the Paris Commune.
Capitalism of free competition was the era of Marxism and the First International. The military form the struggle of the oppressed and exploited was the battle on the barricades. We want to highlight two great female leaders, forged in the struggles of their time under the guidance of Marxism: Louise Michel. Fighter on the barricades of the Paris Commune of 1871, founder of the Women's Battalions of the Commune and member of the First International Worker's Association. Eleanor Marx-Aveling. She was the first women in the proletarian movement who systematically developed Marxist positions on the women's question. She also contributed greatly by acquiring and publishing of important works of Karl Marx. Marx-Aveling was an important comrade in arms for Friedrich Engels, who she accompanied until his death. Until her own death she fought an honourable battle against the early revisionists who wanted to falsify the teachings of Marx.
b) Early Imperialism, Leninism and the October Revolution.
Nadezhda Krupskaya. Bolshevik and member of the central committee of the Communist Party. She was a militant of the October revolution, made great contributions to the illegal work and developed important foundations for Marxist pedagogy after the dictatorship of the proletariat was established. Clara Zetkin. Great leader of the international proletarian women's movement. Chairwoman of the Communist Women's International, initiator of March 8 as international fighting day of women. Took part in the socialist revolution in Germany and founder of the KPD together with Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.
c) Decaying Imperialism, Maoism, People's War and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution
Liu Hulan. Led the peasants of her village in the people's war against the Japanese occupiers and became a member of the Communist Party of China. She was arrested by the counterrevolutionary Guomindang and to be beheaded. Before her execution she proclaimed “I would rather die than give in!” and “If I was scared of dying, I would not have been a communist!” Chairman Mao wrote about her: “A great life, a glorious death.” Jiang Qing. Member of the central committee of the CPC and leader of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. She was arrested and sentenced as part of the “Gang of Four” by the revisionists Deng Xiaoping and Hua Guofeng.
3.3.2 The Historical Roots of Proletarian Feminism in Austria
Proletarian feminism further demands that we take up the task of knowing the revolutionary proletarian women's movement as the root of developing a proletarian feminism for the concrete conditions of a specific country. This is an essential for a proper understanding of how to apply proletarian feminism and is one of tasks of concretising Maoism for Austria.
In summary we see the Party Congress of Hainfeld of 1888/89 [the founding of the Social Democratic Worker's Party of Austria – transl.] as the beginning of the revolutionary women's movement within the working class movement in Austria. It 1919 it took a leap when the progressive forces constituted themselves as the Communist Party of Austria (KPÖ), against a social democracy that had had become imperialist. The KPÖ stood in the fire of all the important revolutionary struggles of the First Republic and in illegality developed the resistance against Autrofascism and Nazi fascism. During this time it also developed great leading women for the cause of the proletariat in Austria. With the transformation of the KPÖ into a revisionist party the proletariat and the revolutionary women's movement in Austria experienced a heavy defeat. Organisations that propagated a “Return to Marxism-Leninism” as a reaction to the revisionist degeneration (MLPÖ, KB and VRA/MLÖ) were not capable of building upon the great tradition of the proletarian women's movement and develop it under new conditions, which is why proletarian feminism could not find an ideological of theoretical expression anymore in Austria. We must remind readers at this point that already in 1974(!) the Communist Party of Peru provided the international communist movement with a document on proletarian feminism. This tendency of “ML-Organisations” therefore carries some responsibility for the difficult situation of the women's movement in Austria today, as well as the relative hegemony of petit bourgeois forces within it.
Working out the tradition of the revolutionary proletarian women's movement in Austria is an important task that must be done by identifying the general character and waypoints of the movement. This task must be fulfilled by our committees as a step to develop proletarian feminism in Austria.
1Peking Review 1972, #6
2Peking Review 1972, #6
3Peking Review 1973, #11
4The question of the leading role in the transformation of political economy goes beyond this and can be categorised into three stages: 1. the new economy during the people's war, 2. the solving of the tasks thrown up by the democratic revolution, 3. the socialist transformation of the economy in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
5Peking Review 1972, #10
6Peking Review 1968, #49
7See Beijing Daily 28/10/1978 and People's Daily 8/1/1974
8Communist Party of Peru: “Marxism, Mariategui and the Women's Movement”