Woman’s oppression under capitalism

Capitalism and woman

11. Woman’s oppression under capitalism

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.


Speech on international women’s day, London March 5 2005

Revolutionary Communist no 5: Women’s Oppression under Capitalism

Supplementary reading:

The Social Basis of the Woman Question. By Alexandra Kollontai

On the Emancipation of Women (collection). By Lenin

The origin of the family, private property and the state. By Frederick Engels


Capitalism and the state

12. Capitalism and the state

Poverty is created by the capitalist system of production as a precondition for its survival. Without poverty , it would not be possible to force people into wage slavery .Side-by-side with such poverty comes oppression, as capitalism creates a state apparatus to enforce its will against those who protest that poverty is not a natural condition of life.

The state is therefore an organ of class rule, securing the conditions for the exploitation of the working class. Marx’s understanding of the state underwent a great development as a result of the 1871 Paris Commune when he argued that the working class could not lay its hands on the ready- made state apparatus and wield it in its own interests: rather it needs to be smashed, broken up. Lenin built on this in his pamphlet State and Revolution, written just prior to the October Revolution, arguing that the working class’s first act in establishing socialism will be the destruction of bourgeois state power and the forcible suppression of the capitalist class. He explained this further in his wonderful polemic against Karl Kautsky, leader of the left social democrats in 1918.


Lenin: The state and revolution

Lenin: The proletarian revolution and the renegade Kautsky

RCG: 1983 Manifesto of the Revolutionary Communist Group - Part 4

FRFI 207: Licence to kill: Landmarks in the development of police powers to kill and get away with it

FRFI 202: Sus laws are back

FRFI 200: Terrorising communities

FRFI 188: Terrorism Bill: another step towards a police state

FRFI 135: State repression

Supplementary reading

FRFI 138: State repression

FRFI 123: The enemy within: MI5 and the miners’ strike

FRFI 121: Policing the crisis

FRFI 116: The state and revolution

Communism and Anarchism - Part I by Eddie Abrahams, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 122

Communism and Anarchism Part II by Eddie Abrahams, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 123


Imperialism and the environment


13. Imperialism and the environment

One manifestation of the deepening crisis of imperialism is the accelerated destruction of the environment. In its frenzied search for new sources of profit, imperialism cares nothing for the future of the planet. The scientific facts of global warming and environmental destruction are now established beyond dispute and are accepted even by the ruling class. However, what capitalism must above all maintain is that this destruction is a technological problem, one that can be solved by all manner of diversions such as carbon trading, bio-fuels and changes in individual consumption habits. In reality, its basis lies in the logic of ceaseless capital accumulation, with massive monopolies such as Shell and Rio Tinto marauding across the globe in search of profit, leaving environmental and human disasters in their wake. The food crisis is not one of production but of distribution as agribusiness seeks to profit from speculating on misery and energy companies, backed up by imperialist armies, devastate entire countries such as Nigeria and Iraq. Capitalist economies depend on propagating a culture of waste, individual consumption and greed inimical to ecological sustainability.

There are many campaigns in defence of the environment which are disconnected from the struggle against imperialism or the struggle for socialism. It is impossible to build an effective movement in defence of the environment unless it confronts the multinationals and their agent -the imperialist state. The political degeneration of Green Parties across Western Europe proves this. Equally, there can be no real movement for socialism unless it takes up the imperialist onslaught on the environment. In practice, socialist Cuba is showing the way forward for environmental sustainability through its planned economy, and progressive governments in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador are following suit as they seek to reverse hundreds of years of colonial and imperial pillaging of their natural resources.


Tomorrow will be too late, Fidel Castro speech at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, 1992

FRFI 203 Hungry for change

FRFI 192 Nigeria: imperialist thirst for oil devastates a nation

FRFI 183 Global warming: profits before action

FRFI 158 Climate change - not a natural disaster

FRFI 153 Britain’s supermarkets: food imperialism

Marx's Ecology - John Bellamy Foster (only available to buy)

(See Marx and the rift in the universal metabolism of nature for an article by John Bellamy Foster addressing Marx's analysis of 'the metabolic rift')

Essays on Food, Hunger and Profit (only available to buy)

Supplementary reading

FRFI 148: Frankenstein foods: a piece of the action

FRFI 125 Profits or the planet 

FRFI 90 Ecology and socialism

Monthly Review, July-August 2009: 'An Overview of the food and agriculture crisis' - Review of 'Agriculture and food in crisis: Conflict, Resistance and Renewal'


Socialism or barbarism

socialism or barbarism

14. Socialism or barbarism

‘If the capitalist mode of production can ensure the boundless expansion of the productive forces, of economic progress, it is invincible indeed. The most objective argument in support of socialist theory breaks down; socialist political action and the ideological import of the proletarian class struggle cease to reflect economic events and socialism no longer appears an historical necessity.’ (Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital, p325)

Marx’s great contribution in applying his historical method to the study of the capitalist mode of production was to demonstrate that it would be superseded by socialism, a more advanced socialism. He showed two things: first, that socialism was possible - the preconditions for socialism were already present in his time; second, that socialism was necessary - the working class and other oppressed masses. The Russian Revolution of October 1917 made socialism a reality. At once imperialism reacted: imperialist powers rushed to the aid of the counter-revolution, with the British in the lead. Although defeated for the moment, for the next 70 years, imperialism continued to deploy every means it could to destroy the gains of the October revolution. Its victory in 1991 has exacted a terrible price from the peoples of the former Soviet Union.

Today the Cuban revolution is in the vanguard of the anti imperialist struggle and in the construction of socialism. Across Latin America new forces for change are in the ascendency, in the Middle East the battle against imperialism intensifies.  This section will discuss the historical and present need for socialism to be built if we are to avoid barbarism.


Marx and Engels: The communist manifesto

CounterAttack Books No 1: The Legacy of the Bolshevik Revolution:

Pp 37-42: The market versus the Plan - Che Guevara’s heritage

Pp 118-125: In defence of socialism

Pp 131-136: Communism and social democracy - the great divide

Pp 136-142: Uphold the banner of communism

Available from this website

FRFI 152: War and revolution, the 20th century struggle for socialism

FRFI 142: The Communist Manifesto

FRFI 120: The Communist Manifesto: A world still to win

On Cuba:

Rock around the Blockade pamphlet: Revolutionary Cuba – the streets are ours.

Available from this website

FRFI 198 Samuel Farber: false friend of the Cuban workers


Supplementary reading

Inter-imperialist rivalry - a fight of hostile brothers by Trevor Rayne, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 172

The global economy facing war and recession by David Yaffe, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 171

FRFI 195 to 201 Five minutes to midnight series:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V


On Cuba

On the process of revolutionary consolidation from 1959-1965, focusing on Che Guevara’s work and analysis, see Che Guevara: The Economics of Revolution by Helen Yaffe. Chapter one is available online and includes a discussion about the role of cubanology. For material on socialist political economy debates see chapter three on the Great Debate and chapter nine on the Critique of the Soviet Manual of Political Economy (socialist political economy debates).. For an overview of different stages of the Revolution over 50 years and how these debates continue to the contemporary period see chapter 10.

On the history of the Cuban Revolution with some detail about its democratic structure is in the chapter on Cuba in Diana Raby’s book Democracy and Revolution: Socialism in Latin American today.

Cuba and Africa: A History Worthy of Pride by Dr. Piero Gleijeses, August 25, 2005

The Russian Revolution by Louis Brehony, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 199

The oppressed people of the world support Cuba by Helen Yaffe, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 180

Cuban revolution - the urban underground by Helen Yaffe, from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 169


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