Identity & oppression

marxism poster women 1 Image public domainFor Marxists, the fight against oppression goes hand in hand with the class struggle. While we recognise that different groups in society suffer different forms of oppression, we affirm that this oppression is rooted in the class system itself. Racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia are deeply ingrained in capitalist society. However, the Marxist method of historical materialism allows us to trace the roots of these ideas, looking at how they’ve evolved historically and the role they play in society today.

No form of oppression is built into our DNA, nor naturally ordained. The systematic attack against specific groups was not possible before the emergence of the state and class society. As it developed, these ideas have helped uphold the position of the ruling class. In modern society, segregation, violence against women and disenfranchisement are all examples of ways to keep the working class divided, downtrodden and less able to organise against its common exploiter – the capitalist class. 

In Lenin’s book, What is to be Done? he explains how uniting struggles is not the same as merging them all into each other. It is precisely this approach that we take in the fight against oppression. Using class methods, we seek to strike these forms of discrimination at their core. By pitting us against one another, the ruling class creates the idea that an individual worker can benefit from the oppression of another. This is a lie. All means of discrimination serve to put a constant downward pressure on conditions and quality of life for the working class, creating a race to the bottom. The only way to fight against this is to unite the workers of all nations, races, genders and sexualities along class lines. This is how we will ensure the full liberation of all of humanity.

Marxism has always been at the forefront of the cause of women's emancipation. The 8th of March (International Women's Day) is a red letter day for us as it symbolises the struggle of working class women against capitalism, oppression and discrimination throughout the world. In this article, we outline the first steps given by Marxism to fight for women's rights, what the first successful revolution meant for the emancipation of women, conditions of women under capitalism both in advanced and Third World countries and pose the question of how to eliminate inequality between men and women for good. Originally published 8 March 2000.

The history of Bolshevism from the very early days right up to the Russian revolution contains a wealth of lessons on how it is the class struggle that provides the final answer to the women’s question. In this article Marie Frederiksen looks at the approach of the Bolshevik Party to the women’s question from its early days, right through to the revolution and after taking power. Originally published 8 March 2017.

This article was first published in German by the comrades of Der Funke, the IMT in Austria. Here we provide an English translation on this important question of Queer Theory. Is it compatible with Marxism? Can there be such a thing as “Queer Marxism”? Yola Kipcak in Vienna replies in the negative, and explains why.

Today is 50 years since the Stonewall riots of 28 June 1969, which marked the beginning of the modern LGBT rights movement. Following other revolutionary events of the 1960s, the riots – described as the “hairpin drop heard ‘round the world” by the New York Mattachine newsletter – marked a shift amongst LGBT people away from individualised, small-scale activism and towards mass protest and demonstrations.

On 28 June 1969, a riot just outside the Stonewall Inn bar, located on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, marked a turning point in the fight for the emancipation of LGBTQ people. That night, the bar was raided by the police, which was all too common at the time with gay bars. But this time, gay people didn’t let the police walk over them. They stood up to the NYPD in an unprecedented weekend of rioting. This courageous act transformed the movement and led to thousands of LGBTQ people coming “out of the closet, into the streets!” It is important to revisit these events and draw the main lessons for today.

To mark International Working Women's Day - 8th March - we publish a talk from the 2018 Revolution Festival, where Ellen Morton and Fiona Lali of the Marxist Student Federation discuss the modern struggles taking place internationally against women's oppression.

In February 1918, the UK Representation of the People Act was brought in, giving the right to vote to women with property over the age of 30. In November of the same year, women in the UK were allowed to stand for parliament for the first time. In December, women voted for the first time in a British general election.

This document, after a thorough discussion at all levels of the International Marxist Tendency over the past year, was approved unanimously by the IMT World Congress held at the end of July 2018 with the original title Marxist Theory and The Struggle Against Alien Class Ideas. Its aim is to draw a line between Marxism and a set of idealistic and postmodernist alien class ideas, which have affected for some time a layer of activists in academic circles and are also being used in a reactionary manner within the international workers' movement.

50 years ago, women at the Dagenham Ford Factory began a strike that became a turning point in the fight for equality. It was not the first such strike, and it would certainly not be the last. However, by standing up against bosses, union officials, and even other workers, they would send a message that has stood the test of time and inspires still.

On Friday 25 May, Ireland went to the polls to decide whether to repeal the 8th amendment of the constitution, which denied women the right to abortion as long as the unborn fetus had a heartbeat. Under these laws, which are part of the legacy of the Catholic Church’s domination of Ireland, abortion was illegal, even under the horrific circumstances of rape, incest or fetal abnormalities. The repeal of the 8th amendment is an epoch-making slap in the face against the Catholic Church and the establishment in the Republic.

We reproduce here a letter that Harry Whyte (a British Communist Party member) wrote to Stalin in May 1934, in which Whyte posed the question: “can a homosexual be considered someone worthy of membership in the Communist Party?”.

We publish here in English an oft-quoted text, The Sexual Revolution in Russia, by Dr. Grigory Batkis, published in German in 1925 as a contribution to the proceedings of the World League for Sexual Reform. Unable to locate an English language edition, we found a copy of the German original and had it translated by our German and Austrian comrades of the IMT.

A wave of mass protests has spread across Spain in response to yet another display of crass sexism by the Spanish state. In an unambiguous case of brutal gang rape, the so-called La Manadaaffair, a Spanish court has delivered a verdict of “sexual abuse”, not rape. One of the three members of the jury even called for the acquittal of the accused. As a result, the defendants have received shockingly lenient sentences.

The October Revolution radically changed the situation for homosexuals in Russia, as it did for women. In 1922 the first criminal code of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was passed as law. In 1918 all the old Tsarist laws were suspended and when finally, after a few years of debate, the new constitution was adopted, homosexuality or “sodomy” as it was called, was decriminalised. This was an enormous advance for homosexuals, who under the Tsar could be arrested and sentenced to years of imprisonment or sent to labour camps.