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.

"As long as woman is chained to her housework, the care of the family, the cooking and sewing, all her chances of participation in social and political life are cut down in the extreme."

"We must remember that different parts of the human consciousness do not change and develop simultaneously and on parallel lines. There is a certain economy in the process. Human psychology is very conservative by nature, and the change due to the demands and the push of life affects in the first place those parts of the mind which are directly concerned in the case."

“Where there’s a will there’s a way. We have the will to world revolution, therefore we must find the way to reach the masses of the exploited and the enslaved women, whether the historical conditions make it easy or difficult.”

"The only difference between Russia and other countries in this respect is that our laws do not sanctify hypocrisy and the debasement of the woman and her child, but openly and in the name of the government declare systematic war on all hypocrisy and all debasement."

"This transition is a difficult one, because it involves the remoulding of the most deep-rooted, inveterate, hidebound and rigid “order” (indecency and barbarity would be nearer the truth). But the transition has been started, the thing has been set in motion, we have taken the new path."

"Not a single bourgeois state, not even the most progressive, republican democratic state, has brought about complete equality of rights. But the Soviet Republic of Russia promptly wiped out, without any exception, every trace of inequality in the legal status of women, and secured her complete equality in its laws."

"The proletariat cannot achieve complete freedom, unless it achieves complete freedom for women."

"A congress is not a parlor where women display their charm, as we read in novels. A congress is a battlefield in which we fight for the knowledge we need for revolutionary action."

"Soviet Russia puts our demands for women in a new light. Under the proletarian dictatorship those demands are not objects of struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. They are part of the structure of communist society. That indicates to women in other countries the decisive importance of the winning of power by the proletariat."

"Down with the liars who are talking of freedom and equality for all, while there is an oppressed sex, while there are oppressor classes, while there is private ownership of capital, of shares, while there are the well-fed with their surplus of bread who keep the hungry in bondage. Not freedom for all, not equality for all, but a fight against the oppressors and exploiters"

"She was the sword, she was the fire, of the revolution. Rosa Luxemburg will remain one of the greatest figures in the history of international Socialism."

"The real emancipation of women, real communism, will begin only where and when an all-out struggle begins (led by the proletariat wielding the state power) against this petty housekeeping, or rather when its wholesale transformation into a large-scale socialist economy begins."

"For the first time in history, our law has removed everything that denied women rights. But the important thing is not the law. In the cities and industrial areas this law on complete freedom of marriage is doing all right, but in the countryside it all too frequently remains a dead letter."

"No matter how democratic the state may be, the woman remains a "domestic slave" under capitalism, a slave of the bedroom, nursery and kitchen."