Marx, Engels, Lenin and Mao on the Liberation of Women
She Craves Not Spring for Herself Alone
Revolutionary Worker #948, March 15, 1998
Anybody who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without the feminine ferment.
Marx to L. Kugelmann, December 12, 1868
According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the final instance, the production and reproduction of the immediate essentials of life. This, again, is of a twofold character. On the one side, the production of the means of existence, of articles of food and clothing, dwellings, and of the tools necessary for that production; on the other side, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species. The social organization under which the people of a particular historical epoch and a particular country live is determined by both kinds of production: by the stage of development of labor on the one hand and of the family on the other.
Engels, 1884, "Preface to the First Edition,"
Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
The first class opposition that appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression coincides with that of the female sex by the male. Monogamous marriage was a great historical step forward; nevertheless, together with slavery and private wealth, it opens the period that has lasted until today in which every step forward is also relatively a step backward, in which prosperity and development for some is won through the misery and frustration of others. It is the cellular form of civilized society, in which the nature of the oppositions and contradictions fully active in that society can be already studied.
Engels, 1884, Origin of the Family,
Private Property, and the State.
What is the method of synthesis? Is it possible that primitive society can exist side-by-side with slave-holding society? They do exist side-by-side, but this is only a small part of the whole. The overall picture is that primitive society is going to be eliminated. The development of society, moreover, takes place by stages; primitive society, too, is divided into a great many stages. At that time, there was not yet the practice of burying women with their dead husbands, but they were obliged to submit themselves to men. First men were subject to women, and then things moved towards their opposite, and women were subject to men. This stage in history has not yet been clarified, although it has been going on for a million years and more. Class society has not yet lasted 5,000 years.... In a word, one devours another, one overthrows another, one class is eliminated, another class rises, one society is eliminated, another society rises....Socialism, too, will be eliminated, it wouldn't do if it were not eliminated, for then there would be no communism. Communism will last for thousands and thousands of years. I don't believe that there will be no qualitative changes under communism, that it will not be divided into stages by qualitative changes: I don't believe it!
Mao Tsetung, "Talk on Questions of Philosophy,"
August 1964, Schram, Chairman Mao Talks to the People.
In the old communistic household, which comprised many couples and their children, the task entrusted to the women of managing the household was as much a public and socially necessary industry as the procuring of food by the men. With the patriarchal family, and still more with the single monogamous family, a change came. Household management lost its public character. It no longer concerned society. It became a private service; the wife became the head servant, excluded from all participation in social production. Not until the coming of modern large-scale industry was the road to social production opened to her again and then only to the proletarian wife. But it was opened in such a manner that, if she carries out her duties in the private service for her family, she remains excluded from public production and unable to earn; independently, she cannot carry out family duties. And the wife's position in the factory is the position of women in all branches of business, right up to medicine and the law. The modern individual family is founded on the open or concealed domestic slavery of the wife, and modern society is a mass composed of these individual families as its molecules.
Engels, 1884, Origin of the Family,
Private Property and the State.
However terrible and disgusting the dissolution, under the capitalist system, of the old family ties may appear, nevertheless modern industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economical foundation for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes. It is, of course, just as absurd to hold the Teutonic-Christian form of the family to be absolute and final as it would be to apply that character to the ancient Roman, the ancient Greek, or the Eastern forms which, moreover, taken together form a series in historic development. Moreover, it is obvious that the fact of the collective working group being composed of individuals of both sexes and all ages, must necessarily, under suitable conditions, become a source of humane development; although in its spontaneously developed, brutal, capitalistic form where the laborer exists for the process of production, and not the process of production for the laborer, that fact is a pestiferous source of corruption and slavery.
Marx, 1867, Capital, Vol. 1.
In the great majority of cases today, at least in the possessing classes, the husband is obliged to earn a living and support his family, and that in itself gives him a position of supremacy, without any need for special legal titles and privileges. Within the family he is the bourgeois and the wife represents the proletariat. In the industrial world, the specific character of the economic oppression burdening the proletariat is visible in all its sharpness only when all special legal privileges of the capitalist class have been abolished and complete legal equality of both classes established. The democratic republic does not do away with the opposition of two classes; on the contrary, it provides the clear field on which the fight can be fought out. And in the same way, the peculiar character of the supremacy of the husband over the wife in the modern family, the necessity of creating real social equality between them, and the way to do it, will only be seen in the clear light of day when both possess legally complete equality of rights. Then it will be plain that the first condition for the liberation of the wife is to bring the whole female sex back into public industry, and that this in turn demands the abolition of the monogamous family as the economic unit of society.
Engels, 1884, Origin of the Family,
Private Property and the State.
The theses must emphasize strongly that true emancipation of women is not possible except through communism. You must lay stress on the unbreakable connection between woman's human and social position and the private ownership of the means of production. This will draw a strong, ineradicable line against the bourgeois movement for the "emancipation of women." This will also give us a basis for examining the woman question as part of the social, working-class question, and to bind it firmly with the proletarian class struggle and the revolution. The communist women's movement itself must be a mass movement, a part of the general mass movements; and not only of the proletarians, but of all the exploited and oppressed, of all victims of capitalism or of the dominant class. Therein, too, lies the significance of the women's movement for the class struggle of the proletariat and its historic mission, the creation of a communist society.
Lenin, 1920, quoted in My Recollections of Lenin, "
An Interview on the Woman Question," Clara Zetkin.
But you Communists would introduce community of women, screams the whole bourgeois in chorus.
The bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production. He hears that the instruments of production are to be exploited in common, and, naturally, can come to no other conclusion than that the lot of being common to all will likewise fall to the women.
He has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production.
For the rest, nothing is more ridiculous than the virtuous indignation of our bourgeois at the community of women which, they pretend, is to be openly and officially established by the Communists. The Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.
Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto
Throughout the history of society all the oppressed and exploited classes have always been compelled (their exploitation consists in this) to hand over to the oppressors, first, their unpaid labour and, secondly, their women to be the concubines of the "masters."
Slavery, feudalism and capitalism are alike in this respect. Only the form of the exploitation changes, the exploitation remains.
Lenin, "Capitalism and Female Labour,"
Collected Works, Vol. 36, 1913.
We are women. We have sunk even deeper into the ocean of misery! Since we are also human beings, why are we not permitted to take part in politics? Since we are also human beings, why are we not permitted to have social contact? We gather in holes and cannot step out of the front door. The shameless men and the hoodlums consider us as playthings, force us into long-term prostitution, and destroy the freedom to love! "Chastity" is limited to women! There are many shrines for chaste women, but where are the temples for chaste men? Some of us gather in women's schools, but those teaching us are the shameless men and hoodlums. All day long they discuss "virtuous wife and good mother." It is for no other purpose than to teach us to specialize in long term prostitution. They are afraid that we will not accept control. What misery! God of Freedom, where are you? Please rescue us! We have awakened! The women must unite and sweep aside all the evil ghosts violating us and destroying our physical and spiritual freedom!
Mao Tsetung, "Great Union of the People," 1919,
Hsiang-Chiang P'ing-Lun, Collected Works of Mao Tsetung,
Joint Publications Research Service, Arlington, VA
A man in China is usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority: (1) the state system (political authority), ranging from the national, provincial and county government down to that of the township; (2) the clan system (clan authority), ranging from the central ancestral temple and its branch temples down to the head of the household; and (3) the supernatural system religious authority), ranging from the King of Hell down to the town and village gods belonging to the nether world, and from the Emperor of Heaven down to all the various gods and spirits belonging to the celestial world. As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three system of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities political, clan religious and masculine are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal system and ideology, and are the four thick ropes binding the Chinese people, particularly the peasants. How the peasants have overthrown the political authority of the landlords in the countryside has been described above. The political authority of the landlords is the backbone of all the other systems of authority. With that overturned, the clan authority, the religious authority and the authority of the husband all begin to totter....The old rule barring women and poor people from the banquets in the ancestral temples has also been broken. The women of Paikuo in Hengshan County gathered in force and swarmed into their ancestral temple, firmly planted their backsides in the seats and joined in the eating and drinking, <%2>while the venerable clan bigwigs had willy-nilly to let them do as they pleased.... As to the authority of the husband, this has always been weaker among the poor peasants because, out of economic necessity, their womenfolk have to do more manual labour than the women of the richer classes and therefore have more say and greater power of decision in family matters. With the increasing bankruptcy of the rural economy in recent years, the basis for men's domination over women has already been weakened. With the rise of the peasant movement, the women in many places have now begun to organize rural women's associations; the opportunity has come for them to lift up their heads, and the authority of the husband is getting shakier every day. In a word, the whole feudal- patriarchal system and ideology is tottering with the growth of the peasant's power.
Mao Tsetung, "Report of an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan," March 1927, Selected Works, Volume I.
A person's suicide is entirely determined by circumstances. Was Miss Chao's original idea to seek death? On the contrary, it was to seek life. If Miss Chao ended up by seeking death instead, it is because circumstances drove her to this. The circumstances in which Miss Chao found herself were the following; (1) Chinese society; (2) the Chao family of Nanyang Street in Changsha; (3)the Wu family of Kantzuyuan Street in Changsha, the family of the husband she did not want. These three factors constituted three iron nets, composing a kind of triangular cage. Once caught in these three nets, it was in vain that she sought life in every way possible. There was no way for her to go on living; the contrary of life is death, and Miss Chao thus felt compelled to die....If, among these three factors, there had been one that was not an iron net, or if one of these nets had opened, Miss Chao would certainly not have died. (1) If Miss Chao's parents had not had recourse to compulsion but had yielded before Miss Chao's free will, Miss Chao would certainly not have died; (2) if Miss Chao's parents had not resorted to compulsion but had permitted Miss Chao to explain her point of view to the family of her future husband, and to explain the reasons for her refusal, and if in the end the family of her future husband had accepted her point of view, and respected her individual freedom, Miss Chao would certainly not have died; (3) even if her parents and the family of her future husband had refused to accept her free will, if in society there had been a powerful group of public opinion to support her, if there were an entirely new world where the fact of running away from one's parents' home and finding refuge elsewhere were considered honourable and not dishonourable, in this case, too, Miss Chao would certainly not have died. If Miss Chao is dead today, it is because she was solidly enclosed by the three iron nets (society, her own family, the family of her future husband); she sought life in vain and finally was led to seek death...
Yesterday's incident was important. It happened because of the shameful system of arranged marriages, because of the darkness of the social system, the negation of the individual will, and the absence of the freedom to choose one's own mate. It is to be hoped that interested persons will comment on all aspects of this affair, and that they will defend the honour of a girl who died a martyr's death for the cause of the freedom to choose her own love. . .
The family of the parents and the family of the future husband are both bound up with society; they are both parts of society. We must understand that the family of the parents and the family of the future husband have committed a crime, but the source of this crime lies in society. It is true that the two families themselves carried out this crime; but a great part of the culpability was transmitted to them by society. Moreover, if society were good, even if the families had wanted to carry out this crime, they would not have had the opportunity to do so. . .
Since there are factors in our society that have brought about the death of Miss Chao, this society is an extremely dangerous thing. It was capable of causing the death of Miss Chao; it could also cause the death of Miss Ch'ieh, Miss Sun, or Miss Li. It is capable of killing men as well as women. All of us, the potential victims, must be on our guard before this dangerous thing that could inflict a fatal blow on us. We should protest loudly, warn the other human beings who are not yet dead, and condemn the countless evils of our society. . .
Mao Tsetung, 1919, "Miss Chao's Suicide," Schram,
The Political Thought of Mao Tsetung
Our demands are no more than practical conclusions, drawn by us from the crying needs and disgraceful humiliations that weak and underprivileged woman must bear under the bourgeois system. We demonstrate thereby that we are aware of these needs and of the oppression of women, that we are conscious of the privileged position of the men, and that we hate yes, hate and want to remove whatever oppresses and harasses the working woman, the wife of the worker, the peasant woman, the wife of the little man, and even in many respects the woman of the propertied classes. The rights and social measures we demand of bourgeois society for women are proof that we understand the position and interests of women and that we will take note of them under the proletarian dictatorship. Naturally, not as soporific and patronising reformists. No, by no means. But as revolutionaries who call upon the women to take a hand as equals in the reconstruction of the economy and of the ideological superstructure.
Lenin, 1920, quoted in My Recollections of Lenin,
"An Interview on the Woman Question," Clara Zetkin.
Women comprise one half of the population. The economic status of working women and the fact of their bang specially oppressed proves not only that women urgently need revolution but also that they are a decisive force in the success or failure of the revolution.
Mao Tsetung, quoted in Peking Review, No.10, 1974.
Education, culture, civilisation, freedom all of these high-sounding words are accompanied in all the capitalist, bourgeois republics of the world by incredibly foul, disgustingly vile, bestially crude laws that make women unequal in marriage and divorce, that make the child born out of wedlock and the "legally born" child unequal, and that give privileges to the male, and humiliate and degrade womankind....
Down with this lie! Down with the liars who speak about freedom and equality for all; while there is an oppressed sex, oppressing classes, private ownership of capital and shares and people with bursting bins who use their surplus grain to enslave the hungry. Instead of freedom for all. instead of equality for all, let there be struggle against the oppressors and exploiters, let the opportunity to oppress and exploit be abolished. That is our slogan!
Lenin, 1919, "Soviet Power and the Status of Women,"
Collected Works, Vol. 30.
A certain bourgeois observer of the Paris Commune, writing to an English newspaper in May 1871, said; "If the French nation consisted entirely of women, what a terrible nation it would be!" Women and teen-age children fought in the Paris Commune side by side with the men. It will be no different in the coming battles for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie. Proletarian women will not look on passively as poorly armed or unarmed workers are shot down by the well-armed forces of the bourgeoisie. They will take to arms as they did in 1871...there will undoubtedly arise, sooner or later, but with absolute certainty, an international league of the "terrible nations" of the revolutionary proletariat.
Lenin, Sept. 1916, "Military Programme of
Proletarian Revolution," Collected Works, Vol. 23.
These are, in fact, the first beginnings weak as yet, but beginnings, nevertheless--of the "proletarian revolution" which the Basle resolution spoke of and which will never become strong suddenly, but will inevitably pass through the stages of relatively weak beginnings.
Support for and the development, extension and intensification of revolutionary mass action and the revolutionary movement; the creation of an illegal organisation for propaganda and agitation in this direction, so as to help the masses understand the movement and its tasks, methods and aims--these are the two points that any practical programme of Social-Democratic activity in the present war must inevitably boil down to. All the rest is opportunist and counterrevolutionary phrases, no matter what Leftist, pseudo-Marxist and pacifist contortions those phrases may be disguised with.
Whenever exclamations like the following are made in protest to us--all this in the usual fashion of the diehards in the Second International: "O those `Russian' methods!" ("The Russian Tactics"--Kap. VIII bei David), we reply merely by referring to the facts. On October 30, 1915, several hundred women demonstrated in front of the Parteivorstand, and sent it the following message through a deputation: "Today with the existence of a big machine of organisation, it would be far easier to distribute illegal leaflets and pamphlets and to hold banned meetings than it was during the Anti-Socialist Law. There is no shortage of means and methods, but there seems to be a lack of determination."
I suppose these Berlin women workers must have been led astray by the "Bakhuninist" and "adventurist," "sectarian" and "reckless" manifesto of the Russian Party's Central Committee, dated November 1.
Lenin, written at the end of 1915, "Opportunism, and
Collapse of the 2nd International," Collected Works, Volume 21
The whole of social life is now being militarised. Imperialism is a fierce struggle of the Great Powers for the division and redivision of the world. It is therefore bound to lead to further militarisation in all countries, even in neutral and small ones. How will proletarian women oppose this? Only by cursing all war and everything military, only by demanding disarmament? The women of an oppressed and really revolutionary class will never accept that shameful role. They will say to their sons: "You will soon be grown up. You will be given a gun. Take it and learn the military art properly. The proletarians need this knowledge not to shoot your brothers, the workers of other countries, as is being done in the present war, and as the traitors to socialism are telling you to do. They need it to fight the bourgeoisie of their own country, to put an end to exploitation, poverty and war, and not by pious wishes, but by defeating and disarming the bourgeoisie."
Lenin, September 1916, "Military Programme of Proletarian Revolution," Collected Works, Vol. 23.
Today the imperialist bourgeoisie militarises the youth as well as the adults, tomorrow, it may begin militarising the women. Our attitude should be: All the better! Full speed ahead! For the faster we move, the nearer shall we be to the armed uprising against capitalism. How can Social- Democrats give way to fear of the militarisation of the youth, etc., if they have not forgotten the example of the Paris Commune?
Lenin, September 1916, "Military Programme of
Proletarian Revolution," Collected Works, Vol. 23.
Without the awakening of the women who comprise half the Chinese population, China's War of Resistance will not be victorious.
Mao Tsetung, 1939, quoted in China Reconstructs, June 1975.
Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.
Mao Tsetung, 1955, Introductory note to
"Women Have Gone to the Labour Front,"
The Socialist Upsurge in China's Countryside,
Selected Works, Vol. 1.
Of course it was necessary to give women legal equality to begin with! But from there on everything still remains to be done. The thought, culture and customs which brought China to where we found her must disappear, and the thought, customs and culture of proletarian China, which does not yet exit, must appear. The Chinese woman does not yet exist either, among the masses; but she is beginning to want to exist. And then to liberate women is not manufacturing washing machines... . .
Mao Tsetung, 1958 quoted by Andre Malraux, Anti-Memoires.
Democracy, even democracy-for those who were oppressed by capitalism, including the oppressed sex, is not enough for us.
The chief task of the working women's movement is to fight for economic and social equality, and not only formal equality, for women. The chief thing is to get women to take part in socially productive labour, to liberate them from "domestic slavery," to free them from their stupefying and humiliating subjugation to the eternal drudgery of the kitchen and the nursery.
This struggle will be a long one, and it demands a radical reconstruction both of social technique and of morals. But it will end in the complete triumph of communism.
Lenin, March 4, 1920, "On International
Working Women's Day," Collected Works, Vol. 30
The emancipation of working women is inseparable from the victory of their class as a whole. Only when their class wins victory can they achieve real emancipation.
Mao Tsetung, quoted in Peking Review No. 27, 1974
In order to be active in politics under the old, capitalist regime special training was required, so that women played an insignificant pan in politics, even in the most advanced and free capitalist countries. Our task is to make politics available to every working woman. Ever since private property in land and factories has been abolished and the power of the landowners and capitalists overthrown, the tasks of politics have become simple, clear and comprehensible to the working people as a whole, and to working women as well. In capitalist society the woman's position is marked by such inequality that her participation in politics is only an insignificant fraction of man's participation. The power of the working people is necessary for a change to be wrought in this situation, for then the main tasks of politics will consist of matters directly affecting the fate of the working people themselves.
Lenin, September 25, 1919, "The Tasks of
the Working Women's Movement in the
Soviet Republic," Collected Works, Vol. 30.
As long as women are engaged in housework their position is still a restricted one. In order to achieve the complete emancipation of women and to make them really equal with men, we must have social economy, and the participation of women in general productive labor. Then women will occupy the same position as men.
This, of course, does not mean that women must be exactly equal with men in productivity of labor, amount of labor, its duration, conditions of labor, etc. But it does mean that women shall not be in an oppressed economic position compared with men. You all know that even with the fullest equality, women are still in an actual position of inferiority because all housework is thrust upon them. Most of this housework is highly unproductive, most barbarous and most arduous, and it is performed by women This labor is extremely petty and contains nothing that would in the slightest degree facilitate the development of women.
Lenin, September 25,1919, "The Tasks of the
Working Women's Movement in the Soviet Republic," Collected Works, Vol. 30
How bright and brave they look, shouldering five-foot rifles
On the parade ground lit up by the first gleams of day.
China's daughters have high-aspiring minds,
They love their battle array, not silks and satins.
Mao Tsetung, "Militia women," February 1961,
Mao Tsetung Poems.
Wherever there are landowners, capitalists and merchants, women cannot be the equal of men even before the law.
Wherever there are no landowners, capitalists or merchants, and where the government of the working people is building a new life without these exploiters, men and women are equal before the law.
But that is not enough.
Equality before the law is not necessarily equality in fact.
We want the working woman to be the equal of the working man not only before the law but in actual fact. For this working women must take an increasing part in the administration of socialised enterprises and in the administration of the state.
By taking part in administration, women will learn quickly and will catch up with the men.
Elect more working women to the Soviet, both Communist and and non-party women As long as they are honest working women capable of performing their work sensibly and conscientiously even if they are not members of the Party elect them to the Moscow Soviet!
Send more working women to the Moscow Soviet! Let the Moscow proletariat show that it is prepared to do everything and is doing everything, to fight for victory, to fight the old line quality, the old bourgeois humiliation of women!
The proletariat cannot achieve complete liberty until it has won complete liberty for women.
Lenin, "To the Working Women," Pravda No. 40,
February 22, 1920, Collected Works, Vol. 30.
When women all over the country rise up, that will be the day of victory for the Chinese revolution.
Mao Tsetung quoted in Peking Review No. 14,1974.
Notwithstanding all the liberating laws that have been passed, woman continues to be a domestic slave, because petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades her, chains her to the kitchen and to the nursery, and wastes her labor on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-racking, stultifying and crushing drudgery. The real emancipation of women, real communism, will begin only when a mass struggle (led by the proletariat which is in power) is started against this petty domestic economy, or rather when it is transformed on a mass scale into large-scale socialist economy.
Do we in practice devote sufficient attention to this question, which, theoretically, is indisputable for every Communist? Of course not. Do we devote sufficient care to the young shoots of communism which have already sprung up in this sphere? Again we must say emphatically, No! Public dining rooms, day nurseries, kindergartens these are examples of the shoots, the simple everyday means, which assume nothing pompous, grandiloquent or solemn, but which can in fact emancipate women, which can in fact lessen and abolish their inferiority to men in regard to their role in social production and in social life. These means are not new, they (like all the material prerequisites for socialism) were created by large-scale capitalism; but under capitalism they remained, first, a rarity, and, second, and what is particularly important, either profit-making enterprises, with all the worst features of speculation, profiteering, cheating and fraud, or the "acrobatics of bourgeois philanthropy," which the best workers quite rightly hated and despised.
There is no doubt that the number of these institutions in our country has greatly increased and that they are beginning to change in character. There is no doubt that there is far more organizing talent among the working women and peasant women than we are aware of, people who are able to organize in a practical way and enlist large numbers of workers, and a still larger number of consumers, for this purpose without the abundance of phrases, fuss, squabbling and chatter about plans, systems, etc., which our swelled-headed "intelligentsia" or half-baked "Communists" always suffer from. But we do not nurse these new shoots with sufficient care.
Look at the bourgeoisie! How well it is able to advertise what it requires! See how what the capitalists regard as "model" enterprises are praised in millions of copies of their newspapers; see how "model" bourgeois enterprises are transformed into objects of national pride! Our press does not take the trouble, or hardly takes the trouble, to describe the best dining rooms or day nurseries, to secure by daily exhortation the transformation of some of them into models. It does not give them enough publicity, does not describe in detail what saving in human labor, what conveniences for the consumer, what a saving in products, what emancipation of women from domestic slavery and what an improvement in sanitary conditions can be achieved with exemplary Communist labor for the whole of society, for all the toilers.
Lenin, June 28, 1919, "A Great Beginning,"
Collected Works, Vol. 29.
They regard agitation and propaganda among women and the task of rousing and revolutionising them as of secondary importance, as the job of just the women Communists. None but the latter are rebuked because the matter does not move ahead more quickly and strongly. This is wrong, fundamentally wrong! It is outright separatism. It is equality of women a rebours, as the French say, i.e., equality reversed. What is at the bottom of the incorrect attitude of our national sections? (I am not speaking of Soviet Russia.) In the final analysis, it is an underestimation of women and of their accomplishments. That's just what it is! Unfortunately, we may still say of many of our comrades, "Scratch the Communist and a philistine appears." To be sure you have to scratch the sensitive spots, such as their mentality regarding women. Could there be any more palpable proof than the common sight of a man calmly watching a woman wear herself out with trivial, monotonous, strength- and time-consuming work, such as her housework, and watching her spirit shrinking, her mind growing dull, her heartbeat growing faint, and her will growing slack? It goes without saying that I am not referring to the bourgeois ladies who dump all housework and the care of their children on the hired help. What I say applies to the vast majority of women, including the wives of workers, even if these spend the day at the factory and earn money.
Very few husbands, not even the proletarians, think of how much they could lighten the burdens and worries of their wives, or relieve them entirely, if they lent a hand in this "women's work." But no, that would go against the "privilege and dignity of the husband." He demands that he have rest and comfort. The domestic life of the woman is a daily sacrifice of self to a thousand insignificant trifles. The ancient rights of her husband, her lord and master, survive unnoticed. Objectively, his slave takes her revenge. Also in concealed form.... I know the life of the workers, and not only from books. Our communist work among the masses of women, and our-political work in general, involves considerable educational work among the men. We must root out the old slave-owner's point of view, both in the Party and among the masses. That is one of our political tasks, a task just as urgently necessary as the formation of a staff composed of comrades, men and women, with thorough theoretical and practical training for Party work among working women."
Lenin 1920, quoted in My Recollections of Lenin,
"An Interview on the Woman Question," Clara Zetkin
Marx said that the proletariat must emancipate not only itself but all mankind. Without emancipating all mankind the proletariat cannot achieve its own final emancipation.
Mao Tsetung, quoted in Peking Review, No. 11, 1972.
What we can now conjecture about the way in which sexual relations will be ordered after the impending overthrow of capitalist production is mainly of a negative character, limited for the most part to what will disappear. But what will there be new? That will be answered when a new generation has grown up: a generation of men who never in their lives have known what it is to buy a woman's surrender with money or any other social instrument of power; a generation of women who have never known what it is to give themselves to a man from any other considerations than real love, or to refuse to give themselves to their lover from fear of the economic consequences. When these people are in the world, they will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do; they will make their own practice and their corresponding public opinion about the practice of each individual and that will be the end of it.
Engels, 1884, Origin of the Family,
Private Property and the State.
The family, which emerged in the last period of primitive communism, will in the future be abolished. It has a beginning and will come to an end.... Historically, the family was a production unit, a consumption unit, a unit for the procreation of the labour force of the next generation, and a unit for the education of children. Nowadays the workers do not regard the family as a unit of production; the peasants in the cooperatives have also largely changed, and peasant families are generally not units of production. They only engage in a certain amount of subsidiary production. As for the families of government workers and members of the armed forces, they produce even less; they have become merely units of consumption, and units for rearing and bringing up labour reserves, while the chief unit of educa- tion is the school. In short, the family may in the future become something which is unfavourable to the develop- ment of production. Under the present system of distribu- tion of "to each according to his work," the family is still of use. When we reach the stage of the communist relation- ship of distribution of "to each according to his need," many of our concepts will change. After maybe a few thousand, or at the very least several hundred years, the family will dis- appear. Many of our comrades do not dare to think about these things. They are very narrow-minded. But problems such as the disappearance of classes and parties have already been discussed in the classics. This shows that the approach of Marx and Lenin was lofty while ours is low. ...
Mao Tsetung, "Talks at Chengtu," March 1958, Schram,
Chairman Mao Talks to the People.
The Communist Revolution is the most radical rupture with traditional property relations; no wonder that its development involves the most radical rupture with traditional ideas.
Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto.
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