The Executive Committee of the Young Communist League has released the following statement to celebrate Internation Working Women’s Day 2019.
The Young Communist League sends greetings and solidarity to the women of Britain and the world on International Working Women’s Day 2019.
In 2019, the media and politicians consistently present the battle for women’s liberation in Britain as largely having been won. The view that is presented is that, by and large, subject to some minor issues and tinkering around the edges, the fight for equality is essentially complete.
Britain’s Young Communists reject this view. We recognise that in Britain’s society, women face structural and systemic oppression. Working class women face exploitation and injustice in all facets of their lives, economic, social and political. For those prepared to look at British society from an honest perspective this is obvious. The Young Communist League recognises that only a socialist society, free from the exploitation of one person by another, can deliver true, meaningful equality and women’s liberation.
Exploitation, oppression and injustice
One of the most well documented examples of the exploitation of women is in the economic sphere. This is a fact that is accepted even among the capitalist press and right wing politicians.
Women in Britain today are paid 17.9% less than men. Women will effectively ‘stop being paid’ on 2 November 2019 this year, so called Equal Pay Day. The facts speak for themselves. The rate at which the gender pay gap is shrinking has stalled since the 2008 Financial Crisis and in some sectors it has even grown.
The 2008 Financial Crisis also precipitated a decade of austerity policies. Austerity, which has inflicted misery on working people across Britain, has disproportionately affected women. Last year a House of Commons report found that 86% of the Tories cruel cuts to spending had fallen on women. Women are more reliant on public services and are more likely to be employed in public sector organisations, both of which have been viciously cut.
However, the economic exploitation of women doesn’t end at the threshold of the front door. The domestic servitude of women and their role in raising children are an essential component in capitalist exploitation. Maintaining a partner who is also being exploited, the woman raises the next generation of workers.
A result of women’s exploitation in the home, and systemic inequality generally, is the fact that women tend to be employed in low paid and low skilled work. Those in professions encounter the well documented ‘glass ceiling’ effect.
Similarly, when men become fathers, on average their wages go up 21% compared to their childless colleagues as they’re seen as reliable. Meanwhile when a woman becomes a mother, on average she sees her wages fall by 11% compared to her childless colleagues. Just as the inequality of women expands from the home into the workplace, so too does it expand into the social and political sphere.
Politically women are sidelined by the major parties. Women’s issues are dealt with in a tokenistic way – never dealing with the actual issues of exploitation, violence and injustice. This is hardly surprising when only 32% of MPs are women and are members of parties with no commitment to women’s liberation.
In academia, women tend to be paid less and promoted less readily, with men holding key positions. Indeed, there remain many fields of study where women are almost entirely excluded.
This is a reflection of the dominant culture imposed and maintained in Britain by our ruling class. This is a culture which preserves and reinforces the economic exploitation of women which is a key foundation of capitalism globally and in Britain. The super exploitation of women is also the source of increased rates of profit.
An anti-women offensive
What are the key components of the anti-women culture propagated by Britain’s ruling class? Firstly, women are less able and less intelligent than men. This is used to force women into low skilled and low paid work and as a justification to pay women less generally. Secondly, a woman’s place is in the home or raising children. The purpose of this myth is to keep women in the home, while engaging in low paid and part time work, raising a family, the next generation of workers, sustaining the basis of capitalism. Thirdly, women are sexual objects to be evaluated, first and foremost, on how appealing they are to men, according to standards dictated by the mass media. This is essential in keeping women in a subservient role and is also the basis for billion pound industries in retail and advertising.
The objectification and sexualisation of women is also a key factor in the sexual violence and abuse that are endemic in British society. The mass media and advertising present women as a means for the gratification of men. While the #MeToo movement has shed some light on the extent of the problem, it is merely the tip of the iceberg.
According to a TUC study over half of women and two in three young women (18-24) have experienced sexual harassment at work. The number of recorded rape offenses in England and Wales has been increasing year on year since 2009 and increased by almost 330% between 2012 and 2018. The number of rape convictions remains pitifully small. According to government statistics, 1.3 million women were the victims of domestic violence in 2018. All these statistics are likely to significantly underestimate the problem as crimes against women are more likely go unreported.
Far from the struggle for equality having been won in 2019, we are experiencing a ‘counter offensive’ of sorts, attacking the modest gains and limited demands of ‘liberal feminism’. This has directly accompanied the spike in harassment of and violence against women in Britain. Traditional right wing forces and the so called Alt-Right, fed by developments online and in the USA, have been at the forefront of this attack. Most worryingly, it is amongst the youth, disillusioned with capitalism but without a class understanding of society, that this trend is most prevalent.
From any perspective it is plain to see that the fight for women’s liberation and equality is not being advanced effectively in Britain in 2019. Indeed many of the gains of previous decades are today under threat.
Britain’s Communists argue for a feminist politics as an integral part of the class struggle and the fight for socialism. Even under capitalism gains can be made, better rights and a more dignified life can be won for women in Britain. However, this can only be achieved where the struggle for women’s rights goes hand in hand with trade union struggles, the struggle for better housing, the struggle for free education and the other battles the working class are engaged in. However, although these gains can be won, history and especially recent history, have shown that under capitalism they remain precarious and subject to attack.
Only under a socialist society, a society free from the exploitation of human beings, which is committed to smashing oppression based on gender and race, can women’s liberation be won. And this is not speculation or wishful thinking. The history of the 20th Century has proven this.
The old myths of the ‘inferior gender’ were smashed by the leading role played by women in the construction of socialism in the USSR and by the frontline duties they performed in the struggle against fascism. Across the world female revolutionaries have led the struggle for peace and socialism.
Today the countries of the socialist camp such as Cuba, China and Vietnam have made stunning gains in advancing the rights of women. Women are guaranteed full equality and are entitled and enabled to play a full role in the country’s political, cultural and social life. While each still struggles with the oppressive and sexist vestiges of capitalist society and face a long road before full women’s liberation is achieved, each is firmly on that road.
Why is this possible under socialism? Capitalist society is based on and relies on exploitation which has a fundamental and systemic interest in maintaining and perpetuating the oppression of women deliberately and through ideological means. Socialism is based on the democratic and planned use of resources for the benefit of all. Under socialist society there is no economic imperative to subjugate women – indeed socialism relies on unleashing the creative potential of all, regardless of race or gender.
The YCL calls on young women across Britain to adopt a class perspective in the fight for women’s liberation, not just today on International Women’s Day, but every day. We can only defeat oppression and exploitation by smashing the system which relies on it and perpetuates.
Solidarity to women everywhere on International Working Women’s Day 2019!
Remember the heroes of our past!
Fight for ourselves and the generations to come!
Young Communist League of Britain
8 March 2019