It has long been established that communists fight for all democratic rights. And the equality of women is one of those important democratic rights. But communists are also clear that democracy has not and cannot resolve the problems of inequality and oppression. Furthermore, the democracy of even the “freest” republic is always limited and subordinated to the most important bourgeois freedom: the freedom to exploit labour power, to make a profit. As long as society remains divided into classes women will retain the overwhelming responsibility for the upbringing of children and for household work. As long as a social division exists between men and women this will inevitably mean that women are unequal and subordinated to men in many ways.
We have seen that even in bourgeois-democratic countries such as the United States, France or the United Kingdom, the equality of women has not been achieved. A quick glance at the parliaments, the lists of the heads of states, or at corporate boardrooms in these countries shows that men overwhelmingly dominate them. Despite a general tendency for the equality of wages to be declared by law, it is a well-established fact that wages for women are considerably lower than for men with comparative levels of training and skill.
Furthermore, even in the imperialist countries there is a marked tendency for the desperately poor to be made up of an increasingly higher percentage of women. Late twentieth-century capitalism continues along with its “two-tier” system in which a sizeable minority of the population is ground down into shocking conditions of immiseration. In so many cases this means families are headed by single mothers, women are locked into very low-paying work or out of the job market altogether and completely shackled to the drudgery of domestic work, while faced with the task of bringing up children in desperate conditions. Some Western sociologists have coined the term “feminisation of poverty” to describe this phenomenon.
But the oppression of women cuts across class lines; in other words, in class society women are oppressed generally, giving rise to resistance and important movements among the women of various social classes and strata in both the imperialist and oppressed countries. Throughout the world women are confronted with variants of patriarchy and male chauvinism, as well as the backward ideas and practices that accompany them, rarely censured by and often enshrined in bourgeois-democratic social institutions and laws.
Rebellious women who refuse the role that bourgeois society has allotted them constitute an important stream of the mass resistance against the ruling classes of these countries. The struggle against the oppression of women thus brings new and powerful forces into play which the proletarian vanguard needs to learn how to lead as part of the overall struggle for revolution.”