The Special Revolutionary Role of Women
The 2016 electoral environment in the United States reflected the stance that women were second-class citizens. Even though there was a female candidate for President, the verbal rants about women and toward women were degrading and demeaning. In response, there was a three million plus women’s march on Washington and other parts of the country on the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.
An attendee at the Chicago Women’s March was quoted as saying: “It’s estimated that 300,000 marched – women, yes, but families, fathers pushing babies in strollers, three generations marching – grandmothers, mothers and daughters, and men were not absent, but right in tow with their spouses, girlfriends and mothers. The participants were standing for democracy, against inequality and for a different society than the one pictured by Trump and the rest of the ruling class. This march represents an opportunity to broaden the social movement against the capitalist class and the effects of the electronic revolution.”
This electronic revolution is creating a new class of workers, thrown out of all means of survival. Men and women, across the color line, of all faiths and nationalities, are being displaced by robots. They are fighting to keep their families together and alive. Without a job people don’t have money. There is no way for the movement to resolve the social ills of today without taking up these demands . In order to feed, clothe and shelter their families they must fight with the vision that they must take political power for things to change. Women’s struggle is central to this struggle.
As we look at the heroic role women played during the pre-Civil War period and during the Civil War, we see a dialectical relationship between their material conditions and their vision. One reinforces the other. Their conditions as they struggled for the necessities for survival helped create the vision of a society free of want and exploitation. The struggle for that vision helped create the conditions for the vision to be realized. This happens in every revolution.
In 1867 Sojourner Truth gave a speech entitled “When Woman Gets Her Rights Man Will be Right.” She stated “There is a great stir about colored men getting their rights (they received their rights after the Civil War), but not a word about the colored women, and if colored men get their rights and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be masters over the women and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring.”
Beginning in 1892, when her newspaper, The Memphis Free Speech was destroyed, Ida B. Wells spent the next forty years as the most prominent, vocal opponent of lynching in the United States.
Harriet Tubman was also the epitome of courage and determination who continues to stand out. She not only freed herself from slavery, but played a major role in freeing approximately 300 people from the slaveholding South to freedom in the the North via “The Underground Railroad.”
These women reflect the struggles against oppression and exploitation that laid the foundation for women of today.
A Time When Women were Equal to Men
Historically, there was a period of time when women were equal to men. Under early communism, everyone’s labor was needed to survive. Women took care of the household and gathered from the land. Men were the hunters. There was a division of labor between men and women, but not inequality. These societies were matriarchal. It was the era of “Mother Right.” There was no inequality because there was no possibility of the accumulation of property.
The domestication of animals and the development of agriculture led to the accumulation of property that eventually got inherited from one generation to the next. These epochal changes brought about a reorganization of society to advance private property relations. Women were pushed out of social production and reduced to private property within the family, thus becoming dependent upon men.
Later, society was organized around mechanically-driven industry that needed to keep a steady supply of labor. Eventually, a declining standard of living made it necessary for women to enter the workforce, because one income was not enough to support a family. New household and work technologies made it possible to lessen the labor needed so women could enter the workforce, but they were still oppressed and exploited.
A Long Time Hidden
Women’s history has been overlooked in most school textbooks, and this history was barely taught. Facts are now being revealed that show the intelligence and creativeness of many women most people have never heard of. The day that astronaut John Glenn died, it was reported that the movie “Hidden Figures,” was a story about three African American women that John Glenn insisted he wanted on the NASA staff. They were the scientists who made the mathematical calculations necessary for his spacecraft to successfully orbit the earth three times.
News about Dr. Vera Rubin, another woman scientist surfaced on December 27, 2016 when she died at 88 years of age. There was little known about her by the American public. She was a pioneer astrophysicist, who discovered the first evidence of dark matter. She and her colleague Kent Ford concluded that the gravity from an invisible mass – or dark matter – alters the motion of stars. Their research showed there is ten times as much dark matter as visible material in a galaxy. Because of this discovery, physicists now know ninety-percent of the universe is made of dark material.
Capitalism and Women’s Condition
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. has the highest poverty rate among the world’s developed countries. More than 45.3 million people live below the poverty level. Eighty percent of adults in the U.S. face a near-poverty and unemployment situations. Health is strongly related to income, where poor people have higher mortality rates and a higher prevalence of acute or chronic diseases.
Families headed by a single mother are by far the poorest family type. Forty percent of U.S. single parents – mostly women – have low-wage employment. Women have a special revolutionary role, not simply because they’re the majority of the population in society, but more so because of their material conditions. Eighty-five percent of families experiencing homelessness are female-headed and twenty-nine percent of homeless family adults work a job. Fifty-three percent of homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma. One in five U.S. children under age 18, or nearly 15 million, lives in poverty. Forty-two percent of children in homeless families are under age six.
In Texas last December, state officials pulled Medicaid funding from Planned Parenthood. This affects health services for an estimated 11,000 low-income patients. These state officials are ideologically opposed to abortions and stripped Planned Parenthood from the Medicaid funds. Now, tens of thousands of women are going without birth control, cancer screenings, HIV tests and other health care. U.S. maternal mortality rate will continue to rise.
Women are paid about twenty-three percent less than men for a year’s hard work. The U.S. is currently ranked in twenty-eighth position worldwide for gender equality and since 2014 has fallen eight places behind several developing nations. In 2015 the U.S. failed to make the the top twenty of the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the most gender equal countries.
The United Nation’s declaration about violence against women found that the most common form of violence experienced globally by women is physical violence inflicted by an intimate partner. One in three women are beaten, coerced into sex or abused by an intimate partner in the course of their lifetimes. Women who are between the ages of 15-44 are most at risk from rape and domestic violence. Sexual assault in the American military and on college campuses continues on a scale that shows that male abuse and domination of women has become a “norm” in capitalist society.
Over ninety-two percent of homeless mothers in the U.S. have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Domestic violence is a principal cause of homelessness among single mother families. One of every four homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her.
The majority of prostitutes are women who live in poverty and must feed their children. An estimated one million prostitutes live in the U.S. More women are arrested and jailed for prostitution than those who exploit and abuse them.
The Leading Role of Women
Women are moving into the leadership of the class, due to their day-to-day struggle for the basic necessities of life, in order for them and their families to survive.
Today there are organizations led by women revolutionaries of all colors and nationalities, who represent some of the most oppressed women in the U.S. Working class women are emerging as leaders in struggles across the country. There are young black women leading the Black Lives Matter contingents against police shootings. Women stand in the front lines at Standing Rock, North Dakota fighting against a pipeline that will pollute their water supply. And, in Flint, Michigan, women were in the forefront of the struggle to keep their water clean and lead free.
What’s next? This social movement cannot go back to its different and separate agendas, though the bourgeois media wants to keep it just on gender and ethnicity. Revolutionaries stand on the demands of the new class, bringing the class question to the forefront.
There’s an old Chinese adage that states: “Women hold up half of the world.” The emancipation of women means the emancipation of everyone.
March/April 2017 Vol27.Ed2
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011