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8 March:

For the proletarian woman, only one issue: The anti-capitalist therefore anti-bourgeois and anti-democratic class struggle



The International Women's Conference in Copenhagen in 1910 decided to organize an international day of struggle for the demands of proletarian women, both in economic and political terms (the date of 8 March for this day of women's struggle was fixed at the Third Congress of The Communist International in tribute to the women workers in Petrograd who went on strike on 8 March 1917).

The Copenhagen Conference, which brought together female members of the socialist parties, had as its orientation the very difficult situation of proletarian women under capitalism which could only be overcome by the revolutionary struggle. In the decades preceding this Conference an interclassist trend had appeared in all the capitalist countries, especially the more developed ones which were at the forefront of economic progress, where the productive forces were the most developed and where, particularly, the labor force was most completely subject to wage-labor, forcing the largest part of the population, including a growing proportion of women, to work for wages; this current encouraged the abandonment of the specifically proletarian struggle among proletarian women for which the suppression of the capitalist system was the condition for putting an end to the oppressions which it engendered as well as the oppressions which it had inherited from the previous societies, and for an alliance with bourgeois women who merely wished to obtain political rights within the framework of bourgeois society.

In opposition to this orientation, the Conference had been convened to reaffirm the need for proletarian women to fully integrate into the socialist struggle, abandoning the secondary role they had until then. The Conference did not deny that obtaining the political rights of all women, particularly the right to vote, was an immediate requirement for the proletarians of both sexes to defend permanently.

But it placed this requirement in the correct historical terms: to the capitalist exploitation of which proletarian women suffered as well as men, was added the complete deprivation of all political rights and, in addition, the daily oppression which made them victims of violence, contempt and particular humiliations produced by a society divided into classes. The bourgeois woman also suffers partly from this situation, suffering from having a secondary status in a world where private property has developed and been transmitted by essentially masculine means; but this situation, which is largely compensated by the fact that she belongs to the ruling class, can be modified by simple political reforms. The situation is different for proletarian women: exploitation cannot be modified by a change in social statutes, she remains a wage laborer and mother of wage-labor from which the capitalists rip the surplus value necessary for the functioning of the system. For her, the conquest of political rights, like the right to vote, which means the end of her political inferiority, can only be a milestone for a much broader purpose, the destruction of the capitalist system which always relegates her to a terrible situation. The International Conference of Women, following the historical positions of revolutionary Marxism on the women question, defended the demand that proletarian women maintain a position independent from the currents of bourgeois women in the struggle for political rights; moreover this struggle was understood as a necessary training ground to enable participation on an equal footing in the general struggle for the socialist revolution.

Where bourgeois political currents called on proletarian women to seek improvements only within the framework of the capitalist system, revolutionary Marxism would call on them to fight for their demands with the full consciousness that their oppression would continue as long as wage-labor exploitation remained – wage-labor exploitation which benefited even the most combative bourgeois women in the struggle for political rights.

While bourgeois political currents called on proletarian women to stand aside from the class struggle of proletarian men and to defend only objectives that were compatible with the foundations of the capitalist mode of production, that is, to break with the powerful socialist movement, the Socialists at the Conference, Clara Zetkin at their head, called upon them to organize their struggle alongside that of their class brothers, coordinating with it both in economic and political terms and placing their organizations within the framework of the movement of the proletarian class.

Feminists, belonging to the bourgeois class and defenders of its interests, assured proletarian women that a struggle for juridical equality was sufficient to put an end to the oppression of women, that is, if a law declared the equality of the sexes then capitalism must make this equality a reality. The International Women's Conference, as the Communist Party Manifesto had done 60 years earlier, said that legal equality was a fiction behind which real social inequality was hidden, the result of the position of each class in capitalist production; consequently for the proletarians, men or women, the ultimate goal of the struggle was not equality, but the suppression of society divided into classes.

Today, the International Women's Conference, its theses, its political struggle and its watchwords have fallen into complete oblivion. This is normal. The proletariat, after launching its most powerful assault on capitalist society, was beaten during the 1920s by the bourgeoisie and its agents in the ranks of the workers: social democracy and Stalinism. Today, the working class is completely subject to the requirements of the bourgeoisie, who assert that the only way to improve their living conditions is by accepting the framework of democracy, respect for the bourgeois state and participation in the bourgeois electoral farce. With its defeat the proletarian class has lost its most precious possessions: its doctrine, revolutionary Marxism, and its class party. And with them it has lost the theoretical and political capacity to confront the situations that affect its existence, to understand the phenomena of bourgeois society, to respond politically to it on the basis of class independence; this is particularly acute in a question such as that relating to the struggle of proletarian women, in which bourgeois currents now dominate and against which revolutionary Marxism had fought, pointing to a prospect of breaking with class conciliation. These currents have transformed the day of struggle of the working woman into an antiseptic "day of the woman" in general, which the bourgeoisie does not fear because it is not directed against it; they have managed to bring about the abandonment by proletarian women of the defense of their class interests, into an alliance with bourgeois women, who participate fully in her exploitation. The result is that the emancipation of women is reduced to the achievement of small symbolic measures that ignore the reality of exploitation and oppression of the proletarian woman in bourgeois society, a reality presented as a fatality that could only be overcome by the intervention of the bourgeois state.

But has the situation that led to the demands of the Women's Conference disappeared? The answer, of course, is negative. In fact, the decades which have since passed have confirmed all its theses: legal equality has been practically acquired in the most advanced capitalist countries. Has this led to the end of the oppression of the proletarian women promised by the bourgeois feminists? Has this led to the end of her brutal exploitation at work? Has domestic life ceased to be an additional burden added upon her day's work? Does she no longer suffer from the daily violence of capitalist society under the form of abuse and murder?

As long as capitalism continues to exist, as long as society remains divided into classes, the exploitation and oppression suffered by women will not disappear. The bourgeoisie may try to conceal the fact that the ultimate cause of this situation is the social system of which it is the dominant class, but reality will continue to demonstrate day by day that it can offer proletarian women only more oppression, more humiliation, more violence.

The proletarian women feel this violence in their flesh; they suffer low wages, discrimination in all areas of social life such as domestic violence and murder. But they also feel that the solutions offered to them by the bourgeoisie, its March 8 democratic and interclassist festivals, its vain promises, lead nowhere. They see the bourgeoisie being at the head of an allegedly common movement and realize that they are being mocked. They listen to the Minister of Labor talk about equal wages and they know that even if they had a salary equal to the minimum wage that men receive, that would not allow them to live. They see business owners talking about equality and they know that equality at the workplace is trampled underfoot by the bosses when the needs of production demand it. They see that the presence of women in parliament and in government does not prevent governments and parliaments from working day and night to defend the privileges of the bourgeoisie.

If proletarian women wish to put an end to this situation, they must first break with the chattering which calls them to an alliance with the bourgeoisie; they must resume the path of the class struggle, the uncompromising defense of their conditions of existence, the struggle against the thousand oppressions they suffer from being women; they will have to do so through independent proletarian organization with classist means and methods of struggle to defend themselves in the daily struggle in the workplace and in the neighborhoods as well as on the terrain of political struggle against the enemy, the source of exploitation and all oppressions: the capitalist system.


For the return to the class struggle of the proletarians of both sexes!

For the uncompromising defense of proletarian living conditions!

For the reconstitution of the international communist party!



International Communist Party

March, 8th 2017



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