The Question of Women Liberation in the Perspective of Marxism

[From Liberation, August 1993.]

Almost throughout the world, women liberation is still the slogan of the womankind. It indicates that half of the human race is still in chains. We talk of proletarian liberation, national liberation and peasant liberation. By national liberation we mean freeing a nation from economic and political tentacles of colonial and neo-colonial powers. A number of countries are free and in others struggle for liberation is going on. By peasant liberation we mean emancipation from feudal stranglehold. Peasants in many countries have emancipated themselves, and in others, they are struggling for it. By proletarian liberation we mean emancipation from wage labour. Proletariat has registered victory in many a country and in others they are in struggle. Women constitute part of nation, peasantry and proletariat; so they are participants to this or that extent in all these struggles. However, besides these struggles, women liberation struggle has its own specifics, its own autonomy.

As the question of women liberation is still there, it is obvious that woman is not free, she is enslaved. The entire fabric of the present society is woven in the interest of man. Concrete manifestation of this slavery enforced by man on woman is the confinement of the latter inside the four walls of a house and taking her for a procreating machine. Whereas proletariat, peasantry or nation can achieve emancipation only by destroying their respective antitheses, woman, however, can achieve the same not by destroying the man but by establishing human relationship between woman and man based on equality.

People say once there was a time when women’s household job was considered relatively more important; when the society was recognised as maternalist one. In that society there were no class divisions, no private property. Since iron implements were introduced into agriculture, one section of the mankind enslaved the other to usurp their surplus labour, i.e., turned them into proletariat and the society got thus divided into classes; private property came into existence; and it is precisely at this juncture male domination started to develop whereas social status of the mistress of the house continued to decline. The enslavement of proletariat and woman started at the same time and due to same reasons. Probably that is why there exists a natural similarity between struggles of these two oppressed categories. If woman enjoys freedom to the utmost degree anywhere, it is among the proletarians.

So many religious customs and rites were introduced, so many social codes were framed to make the woman accept her enslavement. In Hindu society, the husband was made parameshwar and wife was even forced to commit sati following the death of her husband. Today the era is much different and technological development has created conditions where the difference in physical capacity between man and woman no longer carries any meaning in the production process. Women in a large scale have come out of the confines of the house. Woman has scored much success in her liberation struggle. In our country too, many statutes have been framed, reforms have been undertaken, which have imparted a renewed momentum to the women liberation movement.

Woman’s struggle for equality is in fact a struggle to usher in a society wherein economic, social and political conditions to achieve that equality obtain. Such a society can only be a socialist society which eradicates private property and class divisions; where woman’s primary identity is derived out of her contribution to the society and not from her role inside the house; where woman exercises full control over procreation choice. Therefore, only under the guidance of communist thought can women liberation struggle accomplish its ultimate stage. When the feminist movement in the West realises that the collapse of socialism in Europe has resulted in weakening of their movement too, it underlines the inseparable link between socialism and women liberation.

Communist International had proclaimed in its programme social equality between man and woman in legal and practical life, revolutionary transformation of husband-wife relationship and family code, status of social work to motherhood, responsibility of nursing and education of children and adolescents to the society, and relentless struggle against all such thinking and traditions that enslave women.

This is the very programme of women liberation that determines your basic orientation even today.

1. Communist women organisation should, first of all, launch through magazines and verbal propaganda channels a crusade against all such traditions that enslave women. It is all the more necessary in today’s Indian conditions because under the facade of religion the most reactionary forces are attempting to confine woman inside the four walls, to re-establish time-old social and family values. Their backward march includes even eulogising sati custom. You must keep in mind that all the gods were created by man; before the gigantic idols of these gods women are rendered fainthearted and portentous. Even the goddesses were created by man. Woman must assume the role of a goddess in order to acquire the dignity of a woman, whereas the most incompetent husband is supposed to be parameshwar for a woman. All the moral codes have been framed by men and by attributing them divinity, women are compelled to observe the same.

2. Communist women organisation must launch relentless struggle to get progressive legislations passed for ensuring social equality between man and woman; however, still more important for them is to struggle for their implementation.

However progressive the laws may be, nothing is implemented by itself thanks to the feudal attitude of bureaucracy and social institutions. And judiciary is not an exception to it.

3. Communist women organisation will inspire women to struggle against their confinement inside the house. It will organise women in struggle against specific cases of oppression on women in their respective areas. During repression on mass struggles by autocratic forces of the society, it will target the specific oppression of women. In this way, women’s consciousness and militant mentality will grow step by step and women’s movement will confront the state power.

4. Communist women organisation must inspire women to enthusiastically participate in mass and political movements of workers and peasantry. No mass movement is worth its name unless and until a great number of women participate in it. Such participation does not preclude women liberation movement, rather it generates self-confidence among women and makes them aware of their own strength, leads them to forge a frank and spontaneous relationship with men, ushers a change quite unknowingly in domestic relations as well, and thus provides a wider basis to women liberation struggle.

5. Communist women organisation must extend support to each and every protest, big or small, by women, be it under whatever organisation’s banner. Bourgeois feminist movement too has a specifically positive role in our country, as it has to target feudal stranglehold and here only leftist organisations can be their natural ally. In the background of feudal-communal onslaughts, leftist women organisations forging a front with these organisations are certainly possible and inevitable too.

6. Communist women movement will also adopt the slogan of revolutionary transformation of husband-wife relationship and family code. After Russian revolution, Comintern had proclaimed in 1924: "Until old conventions of family and family relationship are not transformed, the revolution will remain impotent." Today Muslim women are stepping out of purdah to raise their voice against the traditional way of talaq and you must support them. I have learnt about democratic marriages in Bihar where marriage is performed in a simple manner sans purohits and all ostentations. Of course, it is good. But democratic marriage means for woman freedom of choosing her partner herself and sharing family responsibilities after the marriage. However, not to speak of these democratic marriages, even among the so-called revolutionary marriages performed within the Party, probably in most of the cases these policies are rarely observed.

7. Till now probably the progressive sections of men have played a role more important than that of women’s own struggles in instituting reforms undertaken for women’s progress. Communist women organisation has to fulfil a specific task of enhancing women’s own role, because ultimately woman has to achieve her emancipation herself. Even in our Party incidents of violation of women’s dignity do occur. There are reports of extreme misbehaviour by some male cadres against women. We certainly take measures against these cases through Party institutions. Still I feel that in this matter communist women organisation should play a role in exercising supervision over the Party and in creating pressure as well.

Save the natural division between man and woman, all other divisions are artificial. A specific phase of historical development had institutionalised these divisions, and another phase of historical development, which has already been ushered in, will put an end to them, and only when the relationship between man and woman, the two forms of human species will grow frank, spontaneous and fraternal the humankind shall be able to regain its lost oneness. The path towards this destiny will route through a revolution bearing the banner with inscriptions "socialism and women liberation" on it.