Thursday, March 6, 2014

Education class on IWD

written By Hannah Middleton

IWD 2014
Port Jackson Branch class

Unlike petty bourgeois feminists who see the oppression of women as the inherent biological trait of men, Marxism understands that the root of women's oppression lies not in biology, but in social conditions.
We know that women have not always suffered oppression -– in fact, in many traditional societies, women have been regarded as the equals of men. The oppression of women did not always exist. It is a relatively new phenomenon in historical terms.
It arose with the division of society into classes and the emergence of class society some 6,000 or so years ago. Prior to that, neither classes, the state, nor private property existed. There was no domination of man over women, or man over man.
The rise of class society led to both the rise of the state, which represents the interests of the ruling class in the day-to-day class struggle, and the rise of the family, as the means by which the first ruling classes possessed and passed on private wealth.
For most of human history, wealth was not accumulated.
In nomadic hunter gatherer societies there was no way to store it and no incentive to work more than the several hours per day it takes to produce what is necessary for subsistence. These have been called the “original affluent societies.
And even in the early agricultural societies, it wasn’t really possible to produce much more than what was to be immediately consumed by members of the band.
With the onset of more advanced agricultural production -– through the use of the plow and/or advanced methods of irrigation – and the beginnings of settled communities, people were gradually able to extract more than the means of subsistence from the environment. This led to the first accumulation of surplus, or wealth.
This was a turning point for human society, for it meant that, over time, production for use could be replaced by production for exchange and eventually for profit -– leading to the rise of the first class societies some 6,000 years ago (first in Mesopotamia, followed a few hundred years later by Egypt, Iran, the Indus Valley and China).
Everywhere, as the surplus grew, gradually distribution of wealth became unequal and a small section of society came to control a greater share of the social wealth, putting it in a position where it could begin to crystallize out into a social class.
The old communal forms of organization weren’t transformed overnight, nor were they transformed uniformly from one society to the next. But they were transformed.
Men tended to take charge of heavier agricultural jobs, like plowing, since it was more difficult for pregnant or nursing women and might endanger small children to be carried along. Moreover, since men had traditionally been responsible for hunting game, it made sense for them to oversee the domestication of cattle.
It was under these circumstances that the monogamous nuclear family began to take form. The modern family arose to pass on private property in the form of inheritance from one generation to the next.
Production and trade increasingly occurred away from the household, so that the household became a sphere primarily for reproduction. For the first time in human history, women’s ability to give birth kept them from playing a significant part in production.
Locating the source of women’s oppression in class society in no way limits our understanding of the impact that it has had and still has on the lives of individual women.
Lets look at just a few aspects of the situation today:
Around the world the share of society’s wealth has steadily moved from wages to profit over the last three decades and within this increasingly unequal world women generally work longer hours for less pay than men, are stuck in lower paid, more vulnerable jobs, and have less social protection and basic rights.
With this “feminisation of poverty” is paralleled by abominable levels of oppression of women in the third world. It is accompanied by child prostitution, bonded-labour and slavery. One in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, or about one billion. It is capitalism in the raw.
In Australia life for most women is getting harder every day
70% of all part-time jobs are held by women
Full-time working women's ordinary time, average weekly earnings are still only 82.8% of men's.
In 2009-10, 48% of women with children seeking crisis accommodation did so because of domestic and family violence.
The rate of Aboriginal and TSI women's imprisonment across Australian rose 10% between 2006 and 2009. In 2007-08, ATSI women comprised 29% of women in prison in Australia and their rates of imprisonment are continuing to rise.
According to the Australian Human Rights Commission in December 2011, an estimated 1.2 million women in Australia over the age of 15 had experienced domestic or family violence, usually at the hands of their male partner. ATSI women suffer much higher rates.
Fighting back
Marxism sees the liberation of working class women as a part of the struggle for the liberation of the working class as a whole. While feminists set women against men, the socialist movement attempts to forge solidarity between male and female workers in a common struggle against capitalist exploitation.
Capitalism combines formal equality with economic and, consequently, social inequality. The working women’s movement fights for economic and social, and not merely formal, equality for women. This struggle is inherently part of the fight for socialism, the struggle to overthrow exploitation and create a society where we can live in free association as enlightened co-operators.
The formal rights women have today have been won through long struggles - in workplaces, communities, schools and homes - by women and supportive men. Even hard-won gains are constantly under attack.
Collective struggle is therefore still needed to ensure that women's ability to exercise these rights, regardless of their race, ethnicity, citizenship, religion or disability, are defended and extended.

IWD is a time to not only look at past gains but to look to the many struggles that lie ahead before women achieve equality and emancipation.

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