New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women - A Polemical Treatise - Stefan Engel - ebook

New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women - A Polemical Treatise ebook

Stefan Engel

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Opis

Women have developed a new self-confidence owing particularly to their involvement in social production and in the different social movements. This has again enhanced public awareness off the struggle for their liberation. The two authors, Monika Gärtner-Engel and Stefan Engel, intend their polemical treatise as a contribution to this societal discussion. At the same time they take an uncompromising stand for the liberation of women in a society freed from exploitation and oppression.

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New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women A Polemical Treatise

Editorial Team Revolutionärer Weg headed by Stefan Engel and Monika Gärtner-Engel Koststrasse 8, D-45899 Gelsenkirchen, Germany

New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women A Polemical Treatise

First published in the seriesRevolutionärer Weg (Revolutionary Way) No. 27, 1999, and 28, 2000

Published in German in May 2000 by VNW – Verlag Neuer Weg GmbH (New Road Edition) Alte Bottroper Strasse 42, D-45356 Essen Germany

Cover illustration by Erdal Ünal

eISBN: 9783880214224

Stefan Engel and Monika Gärtner-Engel

New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women

A Polemical Treatise

Yugjoti Prakashan

I wish to dedicate this book to my comrade in struggle and close friend of many years, Helga Janzik, a charwoman from Gelsenkirchen. She embodied, as much as anyone could, the militant unity of the proletarian women’s movement of the Ruhr district with the revolutionary enthusiasm for genuine socialism. In 1977 she organized the first charwomen’s strike in the history of the German working-class movement. She was a simple, indomitable woman who, after being politically disciplined, spent the remaining 20 years of her life in poverty. Yet until her death in 1997 she never ceased to stand up for others – mainly for the youth.

Contents

New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women

A Polemical Treatise

Foreword

I. The Social Foundations of the Special Exploitation and Oppression of Women in Capitalism

1. Production and Reproduction of Immediate Life as Fundamental Law of the Historical Development of Mankind

2. The Double Exploitation of the Masses of Wage- and Salary-Dependent Women

3. The Bourgeois State and Family System

4. The Special Oppression of Women and the Role of Bourgeois Tradition and Morality in Capitalist Society

5. The Development of Petty-Bourgeois Family Relations on a Mass Scale in the FRG after the Second World War

6. State Institutionalization of the Petty-Bourgeois Feminist Mode of Thinking

7. The Chronic Crisis of the Bourgeois Family System

II. Proletarian and Bourgeois Women’s Movements

1. Marx and Engels Found the Proletarian Women’s Movement

2. The Bourgeois Women’s Movement and the Bourgeois Women’s Organizations

3. Rise and Decline of the Petty-Bourgeois Women’s Movement of the 1970’s

4. Reformist and Revisionist Parties and Organizations as Heirs to Petty-Bourgeois Feminism

5. The Development of the Trade Union Women’s Movement

6. The Independently Organized Women’s Movement Unites the Masses of Women in the Struggle for a Liberated Society

7. The International Women’s Movement as Major Force in the Struggle for Liberation from Imperialist Exploitation and Oppression

III. Socialism and the Struggle for the Liberation of Women

1. Beginnings of the Liberation of Women in the Paris Commune

2. Socialist Society and the Struggle for the Liberation of Women

3. Revisionist Distortions of Marxism-Leninism in the Women’s Issue

4. The Struggle of the Communist Party of China Against Revisionism in the Work Among Women

5. Opportunist Influences and Sectarian Mistakes in the Old Communist and Working-Class Movement

6. True Überparteilich Character as Basis of the Independent and Militant Self-Organization of Women

7. The Struggle of the Marxist-Leninists for the Mode of Thinking of the Masses of Women

Foreword

The living conditions of the broad masses in Germany have been deteriorating since the policy shift towards the dismantling of social reforms at the beginning of the eighties. Fundamental needs of life have been called into question as a result. Apart from the intensified exploitation of wage labor and mass unemployment as a chronic phenomenon, mainly the special exploitation and oppression of women have become plainly visible. Women have developed a new self-confidence owing particularly to their involvement in social production and in the different social movements. This has again enhanced public awareness of the struggle for their liberation. This struggle is inseparably interrelated with the development of proletarian class struggle.

The omissions and errors of the Marxist-Leninist and working-class movement in this area over the last decades thus weigh all the more heavily. In particular, the theoretical work to develop Marxism-Leninism systematically further as regards the struggle for the liberation of women and its inseparable connection with proletarian class struggle has been neglected. The theoretical foundations already laid for this by Marx, Engels and Lenin were put aside, thus allowing scope to reformist and revisionist falsifications of these foundations.

This made it easier for bourgeois feminism in Germany to gain substantial influence on social development and to restrict the women’s movement largely to the attainment of formal equality.

Petty-bourgeois feminism was able for a time to gain a dominating influence over the women’s movement following the failure of the student movement of the sixties. Unlike bourgeois feminism, it reached precisely the active and militant potential among women. All its radicalism notwithstanding, the petty-bourgeois women’s movement succeeded at most in creating awareness of the reality of social inequality between men and women and wresting a few reforms from society. Certainly it also contributed to the increased self-confidence of many women and to the breaking of a number of social taboos. But petty-bourgeois feminism actually was never able to play a society-changing role. Instead, it has a disorganizing effect on the militant women’s movement.

After initial controversy, it was easy for those in power to incorporate petty-bourgeois feminism into their society-preserving system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking. Since then, with a network of reformist and feminist projects for women and the allowance of extensive media coverage and government aid, the petty-bourgeois feminist mode of thinking has been employed systematically to split the militant workers’ and people’s movements, and to form a barrier to prevent the independently organized women’s movement from swinging towards revolutionary class struggle. In this role, petty-bourgeois feminism is even directly reactionary.

Unless petty-bourgeois feminism is overcome, the militant women’s movement will not be able to fill its strategic role in revolutionary class struggle! Unless Marxism-Leninism and the doctrine of the mode of thinking based thereupon are decisively advanced, it will not be possible to bring the superiority of the proletarian mode of thinking to bear on the struggle against the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking in the militant women’s movement and to overcome petty-bourgeois feminism!

In West Germany, the formal, legal equality of women had largely been attained by the end of the seventies. Since then, their actual social disadvantagedness has become all the more clear for it. But only a minority are aware that this is conditioned by the capitalist mode of production and the mode of life this entails in bourgeois society.

As long as the German Democratic Republic pursued socialist construction, it was vastly superior to the FRG on this count. But with the restoration of capitalism as of the end of the fifties, the process of women’s liberation broke off. Now everything was subordinated to the profitable inclusion of women workers in the production process. True, the social status of women in the GDR was still incomparably higher than in reunited Germany. Nonetheless, “the liberated woman in the GDR” was never more than a myth because of the restoration of capitalism.

The critique of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois mode of life of society constitutes a necessary foundation of any struggle purposefully directed towards emancipating women. This critique must not in any way be limited to the specific situation of women, but must uncover, in all its aspects, the entire system of exploitation and oppression in state-monopoly capitalism. The social liberation of the working class and the liberation of women are two facets of the joint struggle for a liberated, socialist society.

The militant women’s movement, apart from having proletarian women as its decisive core, must be composed of members of more or less all strata of the population. Only then can it become the most important link between the working-class movement and the rest of the mass movement in the fight against exploitation and oppression, and for socialism. It can only accomplish this tremendous task if it comprehends the interconnectedness of social liberation and women’s liberation in the present-day reality of society. This issue of the theoretical organ of the MLPD seeks to further this comprehension.

The switch from the ultra-Right Kohl-Kinkel government to a Social-Democrat-led Schröder-Fischer government following the federal elections of September 1998 brought about a shift in the social mainstay of monopoly rule. The new government alleges to make men’s and women’s equality “a great social reform project.” Under the new government, the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking has been made the principal method of governing for the purpose of realizing monopoly policy. This creates an even greater urgency to sharply focus the Marxist-Leninist position on the liberation of women and go public with it.

Consequently, we have decided to publish the first part of Class Struggle and the Struggle for the Liberation of Women in advance, as Number 27 of our theoretical organ. It deals with the social foundations of the special exploitation and oppression of women and reveals especially the crisis of the bourgeois family system. The second part, which will appear shortly, is concerned with the development of the women’s movement and draws conclusions for class struggle and the struggle to free women. It will be published as Number 28 of the theoretical organ. Together with Revolutionärer Weg, No. 27, we publish a collection of important quotations from the classics of Marxism-Leninism so that the reader may delve more deeply into the problem on his own.

The Editorial Team of Revolutionärer Weg

I. The Social Foundations of the Special Exploitation and Oppression of Women in Capitalism

1. Production and Reproduction of Immediate Life as Fundamental Law of the Historical Development of Mankind

The development of humanity differs essentially from the evolution of the animal kingdom owing to humanity’s more or less consciously organized social life. Human society must, on the one hand, procure the necessary means of subsistence, and, on the other hand, ensure the survival of the human species. In his work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Frederick Engels formulated the fundamental law of coming into being and passing away which underlies the history of the development of mankind from beginning to end:

According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of immediate life. But this itself is of a twofold character. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools requisite therefore; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 3, p. 191)

Humans, by producing their means of life, ensure the existence and propagation of the human species. The consumption of these means of subsistence coincides with the production and reproduction of the human species, i.e., with the preservation of human existence and its further development. This always encompasses the production and reproduction of human labor-power as well, and the improvement of its productivity. The consumption of labor, the application of human labor-power, is tantamount to the production of the necessary means of subsistence.

The unified process of production and reproduction of immediate life is carried on and consummated in the production of the means of subsistence and of human beings. These two kinds of production and reproduction condition the particular stage of social development and give the social institutions their particular, decisive character. Frederick Engels wrote:

The social institutions under which men of a definite historical epoch and of a definite country live are conditioned by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labour, on the one hand, and of the family, on the other. (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 3, p. 191)

Human development does change its social forms in the course of history, but remains conditioned by the two kinds of production, the particular stage of labor and of the family.

The Production and Reproduction of Immediate Life in Primitive Society

The stage of development of labor in the epoch of the hunters and gatherers of primitive society was dialectically related to communal life in a communistic household and the collective ownership of land, shelter and the jointly produced instruments of labor.

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