The Role of Women:
Two Fundamentally Different Views

The Reactionary Bourgeoisie and the Revolutionary Proletariat

By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP,USA

Revolutionary Worker #1098, April 15, 2001, posted at

What is the fundamental cause and source of patriarchy, male supremacy, and the oppression of women? It is the system. This oppression is rooted in the division of society into classes, into exploiter and exploited, and the whole "web" of oppressive social relations that is bound up with the division of society into classes. And in today's world, the oppression of women is completely bound up with the nature and functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system.

As one way to shine a light on this, check out the "big debate" and struggle within the ranks of the bourgeoisie over women in the military--in their military--and women in combat. Certain sections of the ruling class are arguing vigorously that this undermines their armed forces. Now, there is a lot of truth to this, since these are armed forces of conquest and plunder; and the "male right" to plunder women is a key part of this and a key part of the "morale" of their troops and of the "reward" held out to their troops for doing the murderous bidding of the imperialists. This is why, from Thailand to the Philippines, to Okinawa, in Latin America, and all around the world, wherever the U.S. armed forces are stationed, they turn whole areas into whorehouses and force huge numbers of women and young girls to "service" their soldiers--women and young girls who have been made destitute and desperate by the workings of the same imperialist system these soldiers are enforcing. This is in the nature of all armies of imperialists and reactionaries. (Well, what about Israel? Israel has women in the military, as well as men, because it needs them--but don't be fooled by that--it doesn't change the fact that Israel is a macho/patriarchal society, which is part of its overall reactionary nature; and women are not equal in the Israeli army or anywhere else in Israeli society.)

In contrast to the practice and outlook of the bourgeoisie, specifically on this question of women in the military and women in combat, there is the whole history of the revolutionary proletariat on this question, from the time of the Paris Commune onward. The imperialists are having this big debate about women in the military and women in combat--this debate is settled as far as the revolutionary proletariat is concerned. Not that we don't have things to struggle through and make still further progress in, but in the most fundamental terms this debate is settled--women will be in the military, they will be in combat, they will be commanders of the military.

Let's briefly review the history of our class and the armed struggles it has waged. Look at the Paris Commune where, in 1871, for the first time our class took power and held on for two months, before they were slaughtered and their new proletarian system of rule was drowned in blood by the reactionary army. Women played a front-line role in that uprising, in every phase and every aspect of it. Think of that remark by that bourgeois, commenting on the Paris Commune and particularly the role of women in the armed struggle: "If France were a nation of women," he said, "what a terrible nation it would be." And he meant: what a terrifying nation it would be--what a terrifying nation it would be to the bourgeoisie. He was commenting directly on the role of women in combat, in all phases and all aspects of fighting for the new society.

This is a living expression of our slogan "Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution." And we fully intend to do this. This has been expressed wherever our class has waged revolutionary warfare--in the Russian revolution, in the Chinese revolution--and it is being expressed today in Nepal and Peru and all the places in the world where we have been, and are, waging revolutionary warfare. And this will be more and more fully realized with the further development of the proletarian revolution, worldwide, as a key part of our achieving victory and advancing to communism.

This once again shines a brilliant and penetrating light on the profound difference between the reactionary bourgeoisie and the revolutionary proletariat. Of course, fully unleashing women in revolutionary warfare--as full-fledged fighters and as commanders, on every level of our revolutionary armed forces--is only a first step: there remains the task of mobilizing the masses of women, and men, to completely uproot all aspects and forms of the oppression of women, throughout society, throughout the world, as a key part of, and a great source of great strength for, the advance to our final goal of communism. But fully unleashing the fury of women in revolutionary warfare, as fighters and leaders, is a crucial part of taking the first great step of seizing power, and once again this represents a profound difference between our class and the bourgeoisie and all reactionaries.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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