The Young Communist League sends greetings and solidarity to working women everywhere on International Working Women’s Day 2020.
Britain’s mainstream media and ruling class political parties presented the case that the struggle for women’s liberation is essentially complete. The YCL and the Communist Party completely reject this.
Exploitation and oppression
Working class women face systemic exploitation and injustice in all facets of their lives.
The gender pay gap in Britain today remains at 18.4%. 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. Women are far more likely to be forced into low paid, precarious and part time work.
86% of the spending cuts in the last decade of austerity have 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.
Women continue to face the disproportionate burden of domestic servitude of women and their role in raising children are an essential component in capitalist exploitation. While maintaining a partner who is also being exploited, the woman raises the next generation of workers. When a woman becomes a mother, on average she sees her wages fall by 11% compared to her childless colleagues, whereas a man’s wage rises 21%.
In politics women and women’s issues are dealt with in a tokenistic way – never dealing with the actual issues of exploitation, violence and injustice. Only 32% of MPs are women and are members of parties with no genuine commitment to women’s liberation.
All of this reflects the demands of Britain’s ruling class imposed and maintained by laws and media propaganda. This culture preserves and reinforces the economic exploitation of women. This exploitation is a key pillar of capitalism globally and in Britain.
Ruling class ideology
What are the key components of the anti-women culture propagated by Britain’s ruling class? Firstly, women are presented as 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. Over half of women and two in three young women (18-24) have experienced sexual harassment at work. The number of recorded rape offences has been increasing year on year since 2009. The number of rape convictions remains pitifully small. Millions of women continue to be the victims of domestic violence.
Our fight carries on
The struggle for women’s liberation is far from over in 2020. 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.
The Socialist alternative
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 2020. 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.
International Women’s Day
Social reproduction under capitalism is based on exploitation, it 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.
Britain’s young communists 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.
Only a socialist society, free from the exploitation of one person by another, can deliver genuine equality and women’s liberation.
Solidarity and comradely greetings to working women everywhere on International Working Women’s Day 2020!
The past we inherit, the future we build!
For equality and a dignified life!
Young Communist League
8 March 2020