A spirited discussion took place among nearly a hundred young party activists on February 4, in New Delhi, on the question of liberation of women. Young women and men, school and college students and working youth, participated enthusiastically in the meeting organized by the Communist Ghadar Party. They animatedly exchanged views on this burning problem in society and came up with important suggestions on how to organize to deal with this issue.
participants broke up in discussion groups after the main presentation and result of each discussion was presented in the plenary session afterwards.
The discussion was initiated with a presentation by a member of the Communist Ghadar Party on the source of oppression of women and the path for their liberation.
Basing herself on the scientific analysis of Marx and Engels of the development of human society, the speaker disproved the prevalent notion that women have always been subjugated, that it is ‘natural’ for men to dominate women. She pointed out that women had an important and highly respected place in primitive society, both as the key factor in the reproduction and nurturing of human life and as an equal partner of men in the production of the material means necessary for sustaining life.
Drawing from Engels’ major work, "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State", the speaker explained how the roots of the oppression of women lay in the emergence of private property and the division of society into classes. “Once changes in the realm of technology enabled human beings to increase production to levels beyond what was needed for their own use, inequalities arose in society. Some cornered the means to appropriate more of the surplus production at the expense of others. This marked the beginning of private property (land, cattle, tools and other means of production) and the division of society into classes – classes that owned private property and means to exploit the labour of others, and classes that did not own private property but had to sell their labour to survive.
“The same process also affected the status of women and the nature of the family. In earlier primitive societies, the rearing of children and their well-being was the concern of all members. But when private property arose, the man (who was mainly responsible for the surplus production, as a consequence of natural division of labour) began to be considered as the owner of the private property, i.e. of the means of production. Those with private property sought to ensure that their property was passed on to descendants of their own blood and no one else. Thus, the role of the appropriator of surplus production and owner of private property was assumed by the men, while the women’s primary role came to be seen as reproducers, the justification for whose existence was to produce children who could inherit their father’s property.
“As human society advanced through various stages with advances in the mode of production – slavery, feudal and finally capitalist society – the forms of private property also changed, from slaves to land, cattle, agricultural implements, etc. to more and more advanced means of production, machinery and capital. Each of these stages based on exploitation of one class by another, was accompanied with corresponding changes in the structure of the family, but the man continued to be the owner of the private property while the position of the woman remained subordinated to that of the man.
“Eventually, the kind of nuclear family, which resulted in the confining of women to the four walls of their marital home, became the model for the whole society, including the vast majority of families which did not own private property and lived by selling their labour. This accounts for the kind of oppression women continue to face even today, including the isolation of women from the outside world, the devaluing of their role in the family and society, the subjection of women to physical abuse, and so on”.
The speaker explained that capitalism has not ended the oppression and discrimination of women. In capitalist societies women face double exploitation, as workers along with old forms of oppression and discrimination in the society and at home. In India women continue to be the victims of caste oppression as well as feudal practices. The state of the bourgeoisie perpetuates and justifies this multiple oppression of women and uses it as a means to subjugate all the oppressed sections of society, to push down the wages and working conditions of the entire working class. Exposing the efforts of the rulers to portray men in general as the oppressors of women, she clarified that the oppression of women arose alongside the exploitation of one class by another, through the private appropriation of the means of production by a few at the expense of the vast majority. While the bourgeoisie pays workers barely enough for them and their families to keep body and soul together, the labour performed by women inside their homes (which is completely unrecognized and unaccounted for in capitalist society) ensures the survival of the worker, the reproduction of the worker for another day of toil.
The speaker drew the audience to the conclusion that if women were not always oppressed, if they once enjoyed a position of dignity in society, then it follows that social conditions can be changed and the oppression of women can be ended.
Thus, the basic condition for the emancipation of women is the elimination of class exploitation and private ownership of the means of production. Women and men have to fight together to get rid of all forms of exploitation of human beings by human beings, and for the establishment of socialism which will pave the way for communism, for the restoration to women of their dignity, liberty and position of equality in society, she explained.
The target of our struggle, therefore, is the capitalist system in our country, headed by about 150 monopoly capitalist houses, she pointed out. They own and control the major means of production. They control the Indian state, which defends their interests and works to advance their agenda. The orientation of the economy is to fulfill their greed for maximum profits. Exposing the present political system and process in our country, she clarified that though we have the right to vote, there is no mechanism for us to select our candidates, to hold our elected representatives to account or to recall them if they work against our interests. People have no role in making decisions that affect their lives. Thus, the vast majority of women and men are completely kept out of political power.
The speaker pointed out how our rulers divide us on the basis of religion, caste, community, language, region, etc. They organize massacres and genocide against specific communities, with the full connivance of the state machinery, with the police and security forces remaining mute spectators, and in many cases actively assisting the attackers or even attacking the victims themselves. Those guilty of organizing these massacres, particularly those in the highest positions of authority and command, are never punished.
The speaker clarified that it is to the advantage of our rulers to perpetuate all kinds of feudal and backward ideas and practices that humiliate women and justify their inequality and oppression. The Indian state has failed to provide security to women. In many jobs women are paid less than men and are the first to be thrown out. They suffer sexual and other forms of harassment at the workplace, very often being forced to keep silent about it to protect their livelihood. The rape and abuse of women, by the authorities and security forces, is used to put down popular protests against oppression and injustice. Leading politicians and ministers openly promote views and practices that humiliate women and justify their oppression.
That is why, as long as the present system continues, women cannot get rid of their inequality and exploitation, no matter which government comes to power, no matter how many elected positions are occupied by women representatives.
To take our struggle forward, we need to expose and reject the view prevalent in the movement, that the existing state and its Constitution are fine, that only one or another party is to blame for all our problems, that we must defend and preserve this state and system. We have to break with the illusion that replacing one party in government with another will solve our problems. We have to expose as a hollow dream the idea that replacing a certain percentage of men in positions of power with women, through reservation, will alleviate the problems of women in Indian society.
Our struggle must have as its goal the creation of a new state in which sovereignty will be in the hands of the people and the working women and men will be empowered to rule. This must be a state in which the orientation of the economy will be towards the fulfillment of the ever-growing needs and aspirations of the people, not the greed for maximum profits of the monopoly capitalist houses. The means of production should be brought under social ownership and the production and distribution process re-organised towards achieving this aim. That means, we have to end capitalism and build socialism.
Only in such a system will women be able to come forward, organize, demand that the state guarantee them equality in all aspects. They will be able to ensure that their rights are not violated under any pretext and that those who violate their rights are punished. Only such a system, which works to eliminate the conditions for exploitation of the vast majority of working women and men by the monopoly capitalist class, can create the conditions for the emancipation of women from the oppression and inequality they face today. The speaker called on the women and men present to take this message to our schools and colleges, our places of work, where we live, etc.
She pointed out that only a party that is committed to end capitalist exploitation and usher in socialism, to empower the masses of working people, will enable women to participate actively at all levels within the party. Through many examples, she showed how the active and leading role played by women in the Communist Ghadar Party is a sign of the party’s commitment to enable women to lead the struggle to end capitalist exploitation and build socialism, shoulder to shoulder with the communist men.
Women have to be in the forefront of this struggle to build the new state power, because this is the essential condition for their emancipation. The Communist Ghadar Party calls on all young women and men gathered here today, to join the party, become members of the CGPI and come forward to lead this struggle, she concluded.
Following this presentation, the participants were divided into small groups. In each group they actively discussed the various issues brought out in the presentation. The young women and men boldly spoke in their groups about the various kinds of indignities they face and how they need to organize to take the struggle forward. For some of them this was the first time they were speaking out in a public forum, and their confidence and clarity was very heartening.
A representative from each group then came up to the podium to present the summation of the views discussed. Some of the significant points that emerged from the discussions in the various groups were:
Our rulers, the monopoly capitalists, try their best to keep people backward and divided on caste and communal lines, to make us accept the present system and not question it. They give nice-sounding slogans like “beti padhao, beti bachao”, but when they do not provide quality education in our schools, or reliable public health services or security to girls and women on the streets, these slogans ring very hollow.
We need to constantly expose the present system, turn the anger of our youth against this system into our strength and organize to change this system. Only when we can select our candidates, hold our elected representatives accountable to us and recall them from their positions, make laws and take decisions in the interest of the vast majority can we be really empowered and make sure that the system runs in our interests.
Our parents, brothers, husbands – they are not the source of the problem but rather, they are victims of this system. We must discuss these issues openly at home and win them over to our position.
Our party gives women and youth the opportunity to learn and express themselves. It is training us to become leaders in the struggle for our rights. Let us unite under the leadership of the Communist Ghadar Party, to advance the struggle for the emancipation of women.
The meeting concluded in an atmosphere of great enthusiasm, with all the activists inspired to organize under the party and take forward the struggle to change the present exploitative system.