Introductory Education Programme

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SECTION FOUR - Capitalism and women’s oppression


The oppression of women in capitalist society is not simply a result of ideas, prejudice or male chauvinism; it has a material basis. Frederick Engels described the historical establishment of private property in the way that societies are organised as the ‘world historic defeat of women’. Women have been oppressed in all class societies throughout history, and women’s oppression under capitalism takes a particular form in relation to how social production is organised.

We examine the social basis of women’s oppression under capitalism. We analyse the exploitative economic relationships of modern capitalism that account for the dual oppression of women in the family and as workers. This material basis for the oppression of women is fundamental and can only be changed by the overthrow of capitalism and its replacement by socialist relations of production. The chauvinist and backward ideas that condemn women to inferior status in society are a result of this material basis.

The engagement and leadership of women in the struggle for socialism is indispensable for the victory of any revolutionary movement and women have had to battle against chauvinist ideas in all societies and even from within the socialist movement itself. Communists have always been at the forefront of the fight for liberation, and the progress made in the social position of women following socialist revolution is testament to this. The fight for the liberation of women has to be constant and at the heart of all struggles that socialists engage in.

Primary Reading: ‘Speech to International Working Women’s Day panel discussion’ 5 March 2005 by Nicki Jameson

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