Imperialism, the Oppression of Women and the Struggle for Liberation (Part 1)



1.             Women are the weaker sex, but only in the hierarchy of a class-based society. Women’s oppression is an organic part of capitalism as it was in earlier class-based societies. Each and every ruling class in human history has utilized the oppression of women to maintain its power and to weaken all of the oppressed classes. Women are not now nor were they ever in the past equal. We have been those who are exploited and oppressed in all fields of life. Like men, we suffer from racism, national oppression, and exploitation as workers. But, in addition to all of these existing forms of discrimination, we are automatically placed at a disadvantage in capitalist society due to our sex. This discrimination is not rooted in any biological or mental differences between men and women, but is the result of the emergence of private property as the means of production (dominated by men), the concomitant designation of women as being primarily responsible for domestic labor and child care, and the resulting class-based societies. Therefore, in contrast to the women of the ruling class we, as working class women along with our sisters from the rural and urban poor, don't desire to achieve equality with the men of the ruling class within the existing capitalist system. No, we want to eradicate class-based society as a whole and establish a socialist society, one without exploitation and oppression.


2.             Today's class-based society is capitalism, “the epoch of the bourgeoisie” as the famous revolutionary Karl Marx characterized it. The current class system, capitalism, has two main camps – the ruling class (capitalists/bourgeoisie) and the oppressed class created by capitalism, the working class (proletariat). The latter is unique in the entire history of humanity, as it is the first class that can open the road towards a future society without exploitation and oppression. Why is this so? First, the working class is the source of the creation of all wealth. Second, the proletariat owns no means of production other than its own labor power. In this it is different from the capitalist class which creates no wealth but which owns and manages the means of production. In the current world order, it is the capitalists who control the governments and constitute the ruling class. Third, the working class is a collective class and its struggle will not lead to new society based on private property, but rather one based on socialized production. Hence, the struggle of the working class is the precondition for the creation of a classless society in which wealth will serve the interests of all people. But in contrast to capitalism, and by definition, a classless society will have no class or layer that lives off the labor of others. Work and wealth will be shared equally by all people thereby creating a society of freedom, peace and equality. Such a society is called socialism. We as women constitute half of the working class and we represent at least half of the rural and urban poor. Together we have the greatest interest in smashing the current world order. The liberation of our sex is intrinsically tied to the struggle for socialism.


3.             Under capitalism, there can be no authentic unity of all women, because the women of the ruling class oppress and exploit us just as the men do. Our struggle is against the oppressors of both sexes. We must fight the ruling class alongside our class brothers. We must fight backwardness and sexism within the ranks of our own class together with our progressive class brothers. And we must fight against the misconception of a cross-class unity of all women. Instead, we fight united with our class brothers for the liberation of women along with all other oppressed persons and for the future of the human race. All of these tasks are intrinsically tied to each other. As the great revolutionary Friedrich Engels formulated in 1888: “(...) nowadays, a stage has been reached where the exploited and oppressed class – the proletariat – cannot attain its emancipation from the sway of the exploiting and ruling class – the bourgeoisie – without, at the same time, and once and for all, emancipating society at large from all exploitation, oppression, class distinction, and class struggles.


4.             While the oppressed classes must be united in their historical task to smash capitalism irrespective of sex, age and nationality, admittedly there are differences in their respective personal and collective experiences of oppression and exploitation. For example, migrants, in addition to capitalist oppression, also face racism; women encounter sexism; and the peoples of the semi-colonial countries (those of the African continent, Latin America, Asia with the exclusion of China, Japan and South Korea, as well as Eastern Europe) must contend with imperialist exploitation. The world is split in two great camps – proletariat and bourgeoisie (oppressed and oppressors) – but it is also divided into two camps related to nation states: the oppressed countries and oppressor countries. The poor countries of the world are economically plundered by the rich countries, regardless of the nominal political independence of the former. This exploitation is an integral, organic part of the last stage of decaying capitalism, Imperialism. During the imperialist stage capitalism, it is crucial that we learn from all experiences of oppression as well as from all struggles of resistance against it. The experiences of our brothers and sisters in the oppressed countries – the semi-colonial countries – are therefore crucial for all of us engaged in the revolutionary struggle. As the famous woman revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg said a century ago, from now on there are only two possible alternatives for humanity “Socialism or Barbarism.