March 8, International Working Women’s Day, is approaching and I remember a cartoon in a Latin American magazine. There was an elegant woman doing her nails and she shouts to her maid: “Maria, bring me my coat, I’m late for the feminist march”.
The feminist tide of the Western world, through most of its spokespersons, tells us of the “revolutionary” of their movement and of the “new paradigm” that transcends the cultural and social differences of “these generations”. Some have even been quick to say that it is the “only true revolution” of the last century. But in the face of any doubt (without even being a criticism), any questioning or reckless questioning, they are immediately repelled with accusations and the harshest condemnations. The softest thing they will say is that these criticisms come from conservatives, defenders of patriarchy and caveman machismo. So, one easily falls into the worst paranoia and begins to think that the disappearance of the cartoon just described from the social networks is not the result of my simple inability to find it, but part of a conspiratorial plan (one more of many already proven).
Before I go on, I want to make it clear that in much of the world, there is still brutal discrimination against women. There are also many others: discrimination against indigenous peoples, against the young and the elderly, sexual minorities, etc. Of course, the struggle against such discrimination and all kinds of inequalities and injustices is just, necessary and deserves our full support.
But what happens when just struggles are hijacked, distorted, recycled and disseminated by the powers that be, deactivating their most revolutionary part and making them useful for the system in order to divert us to the side that suits it?
The current cause of economic and cultural relations based on discrimination and inequality is not an abstract “patriarchy” or “machismo”, as the problem is often presented, but the neoliberal capitalist system.
The well-known American feminist and philosopher Nancy Fraser in her article of 14 October 2013, published in The Guardian, under the title ‘How a certain feminism became capitalism’s handmaid and how to rectify it‘, defined this problem as follows: “For me, feminism is not simply a matter of putting a handful of individual women in positions of power and privilege within the current social hierarchy. It is about going beyond and overcoming these hierarchies. This requires challenging the structural sources of gender domination in a capitalist society, above all, the institutionalisation of supposedly two types of work: on the one hand, so-called ‘productive work’, historically associated with men and remunerated through wages, and on the other hand, ‘caring activities’, usually unpaid and still performed mainly by women… There can be no emancipation of women as long as these structures remain intact.
These lucid and courageous words take us back in history to another moment in this same struggle. Several people who call themselves ‘feminists’ today would be very surprised to learn that their just demands of today were realised, and more than realised, a century ago in faraway Russia.
The first decrees of the Russian Socialist Revolution were on civil marriage and divorce, as well as reducing the working day to 8 hours. Night work for women and boys under 16, underground work for women and adolescent girls and boys under 18, and overtime work for all women and boys under 18 were banned. In December 1918 a law was passed, guaranteeing that women workers were entitled to maternity leave of 112 days, 8 weeks before and 8 weeks after childbirth, with full pay, and in addition to that, a guarantee that every working mother of a nursing child should be given 30-minute break every 3 hours to breastfeed her baby. In addition, for the whole period of breastfeeding, each worker was given an additional monthly allowance for the whole period of breastfeeding, and also after giving birth she was given a special allowance equivalent to a fortnight’s salary for the baby’s clothes and other expenses. Exactly 100 years ago, in 1923, the Soviet Union was the first state in history to pass legislation against sexual harassment of women: it carried a penalty of imprisonment of up to 5 years for anyone who, taking advantage of a woman’s material or professional dependence, forced or pressured her to satisfy his or her sexual desires.
On 6 November 1919 in his article ‘Soviet Power and the Position of Women’, Lenin wrote, “…The position of women makes the difference between bourgeois democracy and socialist democracy most palpably evident, and gives an excellent answer to the problem posed… women have never had rights completely equal to those of men, anywhere in the world, in any of the most advanced countries. And this, despite the fact that more than 125 years have passed since the great French (democratic-bourgeois) Revolution… Bourgeois democracy is the democracy of pompous phrases, of solemn words, of liberal promises, of grandiloquent slogans about freedom and equality, but in practice, all this hides the lack of freedom and inequality of women, the lack of freedom and inequality of workers and exploited…. There cannot be, does not exist, nor will there ever be ‘equality’ between oppressors and oppressed, between exploiters and exploited. There cannot be, there is not, nor will there ever be true ‘freedom’ as long as women are locked in the legal privileges of men, as long as the workers are not freed from the yoke of capital, as long as the working peasants are not freed from the yoke of the capitalist, the landowner and the merchant”. And on March 8, 1921, he wrote in Pravda: “…Because, under capitalism, the female half of the human race is doubly oppressed… The worker and the peasant woman are oppressed by capital, and, moreover, even in the most democratic bourgeois republics, they do not have full rights, since the law denies them equality with men. This, in the first place, and, secondly, most importantly, they remain in ‘house slavery’, they are ‘house slaves’, they live burdened by the meanest, most thankless, hardest and most stultifying labour: that of the kitchen and, in general, that of the individual family household economy”.
The Soviet Bolshevik revolution cuts the roots of women’s oppression and inequality as deeply as no single party or revolution in the world has ever dared to cut them… This is only the first step towards the emancipation of women… But no bourgeois republic, even the most democratic, ever dared to take even this first step. It did not dare for fear of the sacrosanct “private property”.
In today’s feminist press, the few mentions of the Bolshevik Revolution and Lenin are usually framed in the usual anti-communist cliché, surrounded by gossip about Russian machismo, workers’ brutality and peasant ignorance, completely ignoring the history before and after the October Revolution, let alone the idiosyncrasies of the Russian people. Otherwise, how can it be explained that in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 20th century, women had more rights and more education than in any first world country at that time; that the first woman in space was the Soviet textile worker Valentina Tereshkova; that to this day in Russia there are laws that protect motherhood, working women, much more than in any Western society today; that relations of mutual respect between men and women are part of the deep-rooted Soviet culture, maintained even decades after the demise of the USSR.
This caricature painted by a part of Western feminism, with the image of the oppressive male or patriarchal beast, seems to be more of a script for a film about the war of the sexes, than an understanding that the models of our behaviour are conditioned by the relations of production and the historical context.
If we look at our past, we will understand that women’s liberation is inseparable from the process of liberation of humanity, which is impossible without a profound change of the economic-social model that divides and manipulates us.
Happy 8th March, dear readers!