Women Demand a Transformed World
As the masses of the world struggle for what kind of future we will have – one of planetary destruction, war, poverty and a small class of the immensely wealthy, or one that protects our mother earth and takes care of all – women are in the forefront of these struggles. Out of necessity and with moral conviction, they are participating as leaders of this historical motion.
The elimination of jobs by labor-replacing automation, inside an economic system based on private property, is shaking up the whole of society. This is creating a new class of workers whose labor is no longer needed, throwing millions out work forever, including those who work on the margins of the economy, unable to make a sustainable living. This has hit every section of society, from the most skilled and higher paid workers, to the least skilled and lowest-paid. This, of course, applies to women workers, and is a large part of the reason that women and children represent the fastest-growing sector of the homeless population today.
Women make up nearly half the workforce and are paid less than their male counterparts. They traditionally work at lower-paid, caretaker jobs. “Women’s work” – that which sustains others – is considered less valuable and is least rewarded in this culture. Much of it is unpaid. Women make up 70 percent of those in poverty. They are vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job. Their fight against sexual exploitation and harassment has gotten much attention in the world of entertainment, but virtually no attention is paid to the widespread workplace abuse of women in low-paid jobs – jobs that women can’t afford to lose, because they have families to feed.
Because of the destruction of working-class men’s lives through the havoc placed on them by rising unemployment, causing despair and the resulting addictions, suicide and premature deaths, women have had the double burden of being the sole providers at a time when they are either lower-paid or displaced by automation. The women of a new class of workers – contingent, part-time, low-paid, unemployed, homeless – have had to fight for basic necessities, without which they and their children can’t survive. They fight for the end to violence against them and their families, and for the social support they need to be able to care for their aging parents; for health care, education, childcare and for food on the family table. Their demands for these basic needs for themselves and their families throw them into positions of leadership in the movement around these demands.
Women in Forefront of Social Change
This past January, for the third consecutive year, women took to the streets across America to protest against government policies, calling for justice and equality. Their signs reflected the multiple demands women are sounding on many fronts of the struggle – including the demands for basic survival needs.
Women whose children have been murdered by the police have organized to get justice and to end the reign of police terror in their communities. They are demanding an end to the abuse of poor children in school systems across the country, where in some cases children with special needs are handcuffed and traumatized for normal childish behavior. Instead of educating our children, schools serving poor communities have become pipelines to prison. Women’s defense of their vulnerable children puts them at the forefront of these fights: for quality public education, against police violence and murder, against the destruction of public housing and their communities, against evictions and the mass displacements caused by gentrification that affect poor women and children by the millions.
Children and babies are ripped from their parents’ arms and locked into cages at the southern border, where people fleeing US-sponsored wars, regime change, drug cartels and destruction come to America to seek refuge. At least two small children have died of exposure and neglect in frigid cages, and thousands more are being subjected to violence, trauma and abuse. Four women were recently convicted for leaving food and water in the desert near the Arizona/Mexico border, where many people have perished on their hazardous journey to a so-called better life in U.S. This fascist form of terror particularly strikes fear and fury into women’s hearts. It is a frightening harbinger of what is ahead for poor women deemed “unsuitable,” because of their economic status.
The U.S. has a shameful history of stealing children from their families: beginning with Native American children and the separation of families during chattel slavery, children sold “down the river,” and children stolen simply because their parents were poor. Women were leaders in the abolition movement to abolish slavery, long before they even had the right to vote. Harriet Tubman was a liberating light for human emancipation. Mother Jones led and inspired the drive to unionize and for workers’ rights, long before these things were widely supported.
Women, like those in Flint, Michigan, have stepped up to protest and organize resistance to the poisoning of their communities by the corporations and local and state governments. Women lead the movement for welfare rights and many other organizations for social and economic justice. These are demands that families and children deserve to live with dignity. These are demands the whole class must now take up, as automation throws men and women into the street, many out of work forever, and others into such low-paid and insecure jobs that they must live below the level of survival.
Throughout history, women have been crucial to the survival of the human race, to its care and nurturing, to raising and teaching the future generations, and doing the bulk of the unpaid labor, without which society could not function.
Women During the Stage of “Original Communism”
Before class systems arose, women were equal partners in what could be called “original communism.” Humans organized themselves for survival, based on cooperation and equality. Because of their smaller physical size, women were the gatherers, rather than the hunters. With animals hunted by men, the gathering by women supplied most of the food for the family and tribal units. Women were artists and helped create the stories and culture that shaped our humanity and identity. Women were the matriarchal center of families and tribal units: They were respected as life-givers and sustainers, just as they protected nature itself as the Great Mother.
With the domestication of animals and the beginnings of agriculture, a great change happened. For the first time, a surplus of crops could be harvested and saved beyond immediate needs. This allowed for an ownership class to arise – those who seized the stored surplus – thus having power over others by either providing or withholding access to these precious survival resources. This created the first instance of private ownership of what people needed to survive. Living things, as well as tools and possessions, then became things that could be owned as private property, along with the earth itself. This was the first profound leap in human society organized around private property.
Every social system since that time has had some form of private property and an owning class. This also created other classes, made up of people who had to work for those who owned the surplus, the land, the tools and other property. Over time, these classes evolved from slaves, to serfs, to workers. Along with class systems came the subjugation of women and patriarchy – the concept of the superiority of men over women. Birthing children became a method of either producing heirs to those who owned – the rulers and masters – or a method to produce new slaves, serfs or workers. Children were no longer new members of society to be nurtured and taught. They were now destined to take their place in the class into which they were born. Women became factories for birthing new workers, under the control of their male rulers, masters, and owners – expressed as patriarchy.
This was codified in the laws that were invented to uphold the customs that perpetuated the class system and kept people in their place within it: exploiters and the exploited. Key to this was men’s ownership and domination of women, integrated into this system through ties of blood, as the mothers of children and the wives of men. Some women were also slaves, as well as being held in positions of sexual bondage, through various forms of prostitution. This is the common thread of women’s position in society, throughout the millennia, and has been battled out with each step in the struggle for liberation that women have fought.
Women’s Demands are for a New World of Cooperation
With the epochal change in the economy and all of society, brought on by the new technologies that are replacing labor forever, the world is undergoing a leap from the existing society – a class system based on private property, with the labor of one class enriching another – to a new society organized for sharing all of the abundance the new technologies produce. This is a cooperative economic and social system that can end violence and war and eliminate all want, hunger and homelessness forever. All we need to survive and thrive is already being produced, and we have the ability to distribute these things overnight. Humanity could put its creative energies into healing the earth, creating sustainable technologies, developing poison-free agriculture, raising and educating our children, enjoying various arts, and reclaiming our full humanity. In such an evolved global society, women will take their rightful place as co-creators.
This outcome cannot be realized until the whole of humanity is freed from the shackles of class exploitation. Those women on the forefront of the survival battles that involve the whole class are key to the liberation of all. They are stepping forward at this time to lead these battles. The liberation of women depends on the liberation of the oppressed class and the restoration of what it means to be “whole” as a human race: cooperation and sharing as the ground and flower of this evolution.
March/April 2019 Vol29.Ed2
This article originated in Rally, Comrades
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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