This is an excerpt from a speech at Ideas for Freedom, 10-11 July 2021
In Workers’ Liberty, we believe that the liberation of women can only happen with the emancipation of humanity as a whole, through the socialist transformation of society through class struggle.
The working class is the vast majority of people — immensely diverse, but united by our dependency on waged labour to survive. Men and women both have this dependent relationship to waged labour, but it is differentiated by women’s historic and current role in childbearing, our ability to stitch together childcare, and the gendered division of labour that influences the availability, price and type of wage labour men and women do.
Misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia — etc. — suit the interests of capital because;
• They provide the basis for extreme exploitation of minority groups: for example, the driving down of wages and conditions for women workers, migrant workers.
• They undermine working-class solidarity and resistance. If you’re busy hating your neighbour, you forget how much you ought to hate your boss.
Women’s oppression also provides the grist for some aspects of homophobia and transphobia. These have other roots as well, but a thread that runs through is an ideology around gender conformity: rigid ideas about gender presentation and what it means to “be a woman”; strict gender roles in the nuclear family.
The family is a central focus for us. It is currently, and has historically been: a key instrument for capitalist accumulation: helping to depress wages and ensure the reproduction of workers’ labour power. The things we do to keep our families and communities going are done for free — or by very low-waged workers, like nannies.
The family has also always, of course, been the site of gendered oppression and immiseration: the gendered division of labour, bullying and domestic violence, isolation and loneliness. But the family, despite its flaws — and there are many — remains a means by which working-class families can not just survive but find degrees of real fulfillment and pleasure in their daily lives.
So as socialist feminists, we’re interested in expanding the fulfilling and pleasurable aspects of familial relationships — giving people opportunities to nurture the relationships that are important to them — and eradicating unhealthy power dynamics in families, between partners, between parents and children, etc.
By overthrowing class society, and cutting the roots of oppression, we can create the conditions for the liberation of all of humanity. In a society based on democracy and solidarity it will be possible to work to end all forms of oppression and exploitation. Likewise, building a common socialist project that is feminist — will create a organised working class that is fighting fit: empowered and working in common cause.
In other words, without the abolition of class exploitation, there can be no end to women’s oppression. But without a mass movement of organised, mobilised women fighting for liberation, there can be no socialist revolution.