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I'm not exactly pro capitalism. I understand it's flaws, but I don't understand how communism is better. Whenever I think of communism I think of the ussr or north korea which aren't good selling points. Also I was always told as a student all the benefits of a free market economy. I admit I am uneducated in this topic, and haven't done outside research. I'd like to explore this point of view. Can you explain a bit more the benefits of communism?
Allow me to preface my political ideologies with this:
It matters just as much who’s running the system as it does what system is being run. That is to say, there are good capitalist leaders and good communist leaders, there are bad capitalist leaders and bad communist leaders. Keep that in mind, as often communism is presented (especially in America) based only on Authoritarian and oppressive regimes of the past. This makes it difficult for many to truly ‘get’ what communism is all about.
But before we get to communism, I’ll talk about capitalism:
Under communism, there is a class of workers, called the proletariat, that collectively own the means of production (a common misconception is that everyone takes ownership of your personal belongings, but that isn’t necessary), and redistribute the produced wealth equally among everyone. Socialism is like communism, but on a smaller scale: individual businesses are collectively owned by the 'employees’, and wealth is redistributed to workers, but not to everyone in the state-system.
In a communist system, the proletariat must have some way to enforce their will; this is known as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Oftentimes, historically, the dictatorship of the proletariat evolved into a straight-up dictatorship (like in the countries you mentioned) in the same way private companies can devolve into monopolies under capitalism. The fact is, some people just want to control the wealth. This, however, is a fundamentally capitalist social construction - the idea that the money comes first is taught from a very young age, and imprinted in even the most radical thinkers. Under a truly communist system, however, the will of the general public comes first and foremost. This means that companies no longer operate by means of profiteering, instead they make products that are actually useful and well-built and long-lasting, unlike the products generated today.
What is in today’s time a 'moneyocracy’ will become a meritocracy, where innovation and the entire human experience can push forward at an unprecedented rate - and this will involve everyone and not just the top few. Everyone’s standard of living will rise. “A high tide raises all ships” they say.
With an eased atmosphere of not having to worry about dying because your work isn’t valued by your society, this creates what is called the 'socialist archetype’ (originally called the 'new soviet man’, but I don’t want to make this USSR or male specific). The socialist archetype is a person that is no longer oriented by profit and money seeking, instead they are oriented by what they can contribute to the society they live in. Because they don’t have to worry about literally starving, they have the opportunity to seek higher education (and it would be free!), design or build something, become an artist, or anything else - this archetypal person is simultaneously no type of worker and every type of worker, because they are looking to advance the human condition, and not fill their own wallet. This is essentially the end goal of socialism and communism, and we think it’s pretty cool.
Keep in mind that in the current day and age, most if not all arms of injustice extend from the body of capitalism. So we tend to be less pro-socialism than we are anti-capitalist, as we have to fix our broken world before we can build on it.
If you’re looking for a really good read on communism, I recommend nothing less than The Communist Manifesto itself. It’s only 35 pages long, and relatively accessible - you can probably find it online for free.
I hope this answer will suffice, and that you (and hopefully other members of our audience) will continue to learn and develop your opinions! Cheers!
Ideology is topped by direct attacks on the ideological structure. If we attack from within our existing ideological structure it’s meaningless. Capitalism isn’t based on ethics, it’s based on stories like “being wealthy is good,” “people who work hard get to be wealthy,” and “the system is fair because it values hard work.”
All of these narratives are false, and none of them can be attacked from within a narrative that respects ethics. Capitalism ideology describes it’s ethics internally. Those who follow the ways of capitalism are blessed by the invisible hand, those who commit the sin of being lazy (or following the evil path of communism) are punished. Wealth is justice and wealth is right, everyone who suffers is just suffering for the good of the greater capitalist cause. Capitalism, so the idea goes, will bring about a better would through it’s continual spread. The exploited are really just building wealth with the assistance of the glorious job creators.
Of course, like all mythological systems, these stories are simply intended to maintain the existing social order. And, like all other mythological systems, they must be attacked and treated as other systems of faith. The religion of capitalism must be attacked based on the tenants of faith. One of these tenants is that it is logical and based on science… That is, if we want to attack the religion of capitalism we should first point out that it is a religion.
You’re not really a libertarian if you advocate capitalism. Private ownership over socially-operated production and socially-used living spaces is tyranny in a different skin, plain and simple. It may be “voluntarism” in the world of right-libertarians and ancaps, but it’s only voluntary insofar as a gun isn’t held to your head; as long as exclusive individuals hold the reigns of power over things that are socially-operated, the overwhelming majority of people won’t be free. “Libertarian” used to mean “decentralized socialist” until capitalists appropriated the term; even Rothbard admits to that. Things that are socially-operated ought to be socially-controlled; and no, that doesn’t entail bureaucracy lording over the people, but it does mean consensus democracy for production and other activities that are done socially. Private ownership over production forces people to take orders from those who own; those who own can do what they want to the detriment of those who use – in other words, tyranny.
The countless chores collectively known as “housework” – cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry, making beds, sweeping, shopping etc. – apparently consume some three to four thousand hours of the average housewife’s year. As startling as this statistic may be, ir does not even account for the constant and unquantifiable attention mothers must give to their children. Just as a woman’s maternal duties are always taken for granted, her never-ending toil as a housewife rarely occasions expressions of appreciation within her family. Housework, after all, is virtually invisible: “No one notices it until it isn’t done – we notice the unmade bed, not the scrubbed and polished floor.“ Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative – these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.
The new consciousness associated with the contemporary women’s movement has encourages increasing numbers of women to demand that their men provide some relief from this drudgery. Already, more men have begun to assist their partners around the house, some of them even devoting equal time to household chores. But how many of these men have liberated themselves from the assumption that housework is women’s work”? How many of them would not characterise their housecleaning activities as “helping” their women partners?
If it were at all possible simultaneously to liquidate the idea that housework is women’s work and to redistribute it equally to men and women alike, would this constitute a satisfactory solution? While most women would joyously hail the advent of the “househusband,” the desexualisation of domestic labour would not really alter the oppressive nature of the work itself. In the final analysis, neither women nor men should waste precious hours of their lives on work that is neither stimulating nor productive.
One of the most closely guarded secrets of advanced capitalist societies involves the possibility – the real possibility – of radically transforming the nature of housework. A substantial portion of the housewife’s domestic tasks can actually be incorporated into the industrial economy. In other words, housework need no longer be considered necessarily and unalterably private in character. Teams of trained and well-paid workers, moving from dwelling to dwelling, engineering technologically advanced cleaning machinery, could swiftly and efficiently accomplish what the present-day housewife does so arduously and primitively. Why the shroud of silence surrounding this potential of radically redefining the nature of domestic labour? Because the capitalist economy is structurally hostile to the industrialisation of housework. Socialised housework implies large government subsidies in order to guarantee accessibility to the working-class families whose need for such services is most obvious. Since little in the way of profits would result, industrialised housework – like all unprofitable enterprises – is anathema to the capitalist economy. Nonetheless, the rapid expansion of the female labour force means that more and more women are finding it increasingly difficult to excel as housewives according to the traditional standards. In other words, the industrialisation of housework, along with the socialisation of housework, is becoming an objective social need. Housework as individual women’s private responsibility and as a female labour performed under primitive technical conditions, may finally be approaching historical obsolescence.
Although housework as we know it today may eventually become a bygone relic of history, prevailing social attitudes continue to associate the eternal female condition with images of brooms and dustpans, mops and pails, aprons and stoves, pots and pans. And it is true that women’s work, from one historical era to another, has been associated in general with the homestead. Yet female domestic labour has not always been what it is today, for like all social phenomena, housework is a fluid product of human history. As economic systems have arisen and faded away, the scope and quality of housework have undergone radical transformations.
As Frederick Engels argued in his classic work on the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, sexual inequality as we know it today did not exist before the advent of private property. During early eras of human history the sexual division of labour within the system of economic production was complementary as opposed to hierarchical. In societies where men may have been responsible for hunting wild animals and women, in turn, for gathering wild vegetables and fruits, both sexes performed economic tasks that were equally essential to their community’s survival. Because the community, during those eras, was essentially an extended family, women’s central role in domestic affairs meant that they were accordingly valued and respected members of the community.
The centrality of women’s domestic tasks in pre-capitalist cultures was dramatised by a personal experience during a jeep trip I took in 1973 across the Masai Plains. On an isolated dirt road in Tanzania, I noticed six Masai women enigmatically balancing an enormous board on their heads. As my Tanzanian friends explained, these women were probably transporting a house roof to a new village which they were in the process of constructing. Among the Masai, as I learned, women are responsible for all domestic activities, thus also for the construction of their nomadic people’s frequently relocated houses. Housework, as far as Masai women are concerned, entails not only cooking cleaning, child-rearing, sewing, etc., but house-building as well. As important as their men’s cattle-rearing activities may be, the women’s “housework” is no less productive and no less essential than the economic contributions of Masai men.
Within the pre-capitalist, nomadic economy of the Masai, women’s domestic labour is as essential to the economy as the cattle-raising jobs performed by their men. As producers, they enjoy a correspondingly important social status. In advanced capitalist societies, on the other hand, the service-oriented domestic labour of housewives, who can seldom produce tangible evidence of their work, diminishes the social status of women in general. When all is said and done, the housewife, according to bourgeois ideology, is, quite simply, her husband’s lifelong servant.
The source of the bourgeois notion of woman as man’s eternal servant is itself a revealing story. Within the relatively short history of the United States, the “housewife” as a finished historical product is just a little more than a century old. Housework, during the colonial era, was entirely different from the daily work of the housewife in the United States today.
‘A woman’s work began at sunup and continued by firelight as long as she could hold her eyes open. For two centuries, almost everything that the family used or ate was produced at home under her direction. She spun and dyed the yarn that she wove into cloth and cut and hand-stitched into garments. She grew much of the food her family ate, and preserved enough to last the winter months. She made butter, cheese, bread, candles and soap and knitted her family’s stockings.’
In the agrarian economy of pre-industrialised North America, a woman performing her household chores was thus a spinner, weaver, and seamstress as well as a baker, butter-churner, cnadle-maker and soap-maker. And et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. As a mater of fact,
‘… the pressures of home production left very little time for the tasks that we would recognise today as housework. By all accounts pre-industrial revolution women were sloppy housekeepers by today’s standards. Instead of the daily cleaning or the weekly cleaning there was the spring cleaning. Meals were simple and repetitive; clothes were changed infrequently; and the household wash was allowed to accumulate, and the washing done once a month, or in some households once in three months. And, of course, since each wash required the carting and heating of many buckets of water, higher standards of cleanliness were easily discouraged.’
Colonial women were not “house-cleaners” or “housekeepers” but rather full-fledged and accomplished workers within the home-based economy. Not only did they manufacture most of the products required by their families, they were also the guardians of their families’ and their communities’ health.
‘It was [the colonial woman’s] responsibility to gather and dry wild herbs used… as medecines; she also served as doctor, nurse, and midwife within her own family and in the community.’
Included in the United States Practical Recipe Book – a popular colonial recipe book – are recipes for foods as well as for household chemicals and medicines. To cure ringworm, for example, “obtain some blood-root… slice it in vinegar, and afterwards wish the place affected with the liquid.“
The economic importance of women’s domestic functions in colonial America was complemented by their visible roles in economic activity outside the home. It was entirely acceptable, for example, for a woman to become a tavern keeper.
‘Women also ran sawmills and gristmills, caned chairs and built furniture, operated slaughterhouses, printed cotton and other cloth, made lace, and owned and ran dry-goods and clothing stores. They worked in tobacco shops, drug shops, (where they sold concoctions they made themselves), and general stores that sold everything from pins to meat scales. Women ground eye-glasses, made cards for wool carding, and even were housepainters. Often they were the town undertakers…’
The postrevolutionary surge of industrialisation resulted in a proliferation of factories in the northeastern section of the new country. New England’s textile mils were the factory system’s successful pioneers. Since spinning and weaving were traditional female domestic occupations, women were the first workers recruited by the mill-owners to operate the new power looms. Considering the subsequent exclusion of women from industrial production in general, it is one of the first industrial workers were women.
As industrialisation advanced, shifting economic production from the home to the factory, the importance of women’s domestic work suffered a systematic erosion. Women were the losers in a double sense: as their traditional jobs were usurped by the burgeoning factories, the entire economy moved away from the home, leaving many women largely bereft of significant economic roles. By the middle of the nineteenth century the factory provided textiles, candles and soap. Even butter, bread and other food products began to be mass-produced.
‘By the end of the century, hardly anyone made their own starch or boiled their laundry in a kettle. In the cities, women bought their bread and at least their underwear ready-made, sent their children out to school and probably some clothes out to be laundered, and were debating the merits of canned foods… The flow of industry had passed on and had left idle the loom in the attic and the soap kettle in the shed.’
As industrial capitalism approached consolidation, the cleavage between the new economic sphere and the old home economy became ever more rigorous. The physical relocation of economic production caused by the spread of the factory system was undoubtedly a drastic transformation. But even more radical was the generalised revaluation of production necessitated by the new economic system. While home-manufactured goods were valuable primarily because they fulfilled basic family needs, the importance of factory-produced commodities resided overwhelmingly in their exchange value – in their ability to fulfill employers’ demands for profit. This revaluation of economic production revealed – beyond the physical separation of home and factory – a fundamental structural separation between the domestic home economy and the profit-oriented economy of capitalism. Since housework does not generate profit, domestic labour was naturally defined as an inferior form of work as compared to capitalist wage labour.
An important ideological by-product of this radical economic transformation was the birth of the “housewife.” Women began to be ideologically redefined as the guardians of a devalued domestic life. As ideology, however, this redefinition of women’s place was boldly contradicted by the vast numbers of immigrant women flooding the ranks of the working class in the Northeast. These white immigrant women were wage earners first and only secondarily housewives. And there were other women – millions of women – who toiled away from home as the unwilling producers of the slave economy in the South. The reality of women’s place in nineteenth-century U.S. society involved white women, whose days were spent operating factory machines for wages that were a pittance, as surely as it involved Black women, who laboured under the coercion of slavery. The “housewife” reflected a partial reality, for she was really a symbol of the economic prosperity enjoyed by the emerging middle classes.
Although the “housewife” was rooted in the social conditions of the bourgeoisie and the middle classes, nineteenth-century ideology established the housewife and the mother as universal models of womanhood. Since popular propaganda represented the vocation of all women as a function of their roles in the home, women compelled to work for wages came to be treated as alien visitors within the masculine world of the public economy. Having stepped outside their “natural” sphere, women were not to be treated as full-fledged wage workers. The price they paid involved long hours, substandard working conditions and grossly inadequate wages. Their exploitation was even more intense than the exploitation suffered by their male counterparts. Needless to say, sexism emerged as a source of outrageous super-profits for the capitalists.
The structural separation of the public economy of capitalism and the private economy of the home has been continually reinforced by the obstinate primitiveness of household labour. Despite the proliferation of gadgets for the home, domestic work has remained qualitatively unaffected by the technological advances brought on by industrial capitalism. Housework still consumes thousands of hours of the average housewife’s year. In 1903 Charlotte Perkins Gilman proposed a definition of domestic labour which reflected the upheavals which had changed the structure and content of housework in the United States:
‘… The phrase “domestic work” does not apply to a special kind of work, but to a certain grade of work, a state of development through which all kinds pass. All industries were once “domestic,” that is were performed at home and in the interests of the family. All industries have since that remote period risen to higher stages, except one or two which have never left their primal stage.’
“The home,” Gilman maintains, “has not developed in proportion to our other institutions.” The home economy reveals
‘… the maintenance of primitive industries in a modern industrial community and the confinement of women to these industries and their limited area of expression.’
‘She is feminine, more than enough, as man is masculine, more than enough; but she is not human as he is human. The house-life does not bring out our humanness, for all the distinctive lines of human progress lie outside.’
The truth of Gilman’s statement is corroborated by the historical experience of Black women in the United States. Throughout this country’s history, the majority of Black women have worked outside their homes. During slavery, women toiled alongside their men in the cotton and tobacco fields, and when industry moved into the South, they could be seen in tobacco factories, sugar refineries and even in lumber mills and on crews pounding steel for the railroads. In labour, slave women were the equals of their men. Because they suffered a grueling sexual equality at work, they enjoyed a greater sexual equality at home in the slave quarters than did their white sisters who were “housewives.”
As a direct consequence of their outside work – as “free” women no less than as slaves – housework has never been the central focus of Black women’s lives. They have largely escaped the psychological damage industrial capitalism inflicted on white middle-class housewives, whose alleged virtues were feminine weakness and wifely submissiveness. Black women could hardly strive for weakness; they had to become strong, for their families and their communities needed their strength to survive. Evidence of the accumulated strengths Black women have forged through work, work and more work can be discovered in the contributions of the many outstanding female leaders who have emerged within the Black community. Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Ida Wells and Rosa Parks are not exceptional Black women as much as they are epitomes of Black womanhood.
Black women, however, have paid a heavy price for the strengths they have acquired and the relative independence they have enjoyed. While they have seldom been “just housewives'” they have always done their housework. They have thus carried the double burden of wage labour and housework – a double burden which always demands that working women possess the persevering powers of Sisyphus. As W. E. B. DuBois observed in 1920:
‘… some few women are born free, and some amid insult and scarlet letters achieve freedom; but our women in black had freedom thrust contemptuously upon them. With that freedom they are buying an untrammeled independence and dear as is the price they pay for it, it will in the end be worth every taunt and groan.’
Like their men, Black women have worked until they could work no more. Like their men, they have assumed the responsibilities of family providers. The unorthodox feminine qualities of assertiveness and self-reliance – for which Black women have been frequently praised but more often rebuked – are reflections of their labour and their struggles outside the home. But like their white sisters called “housewives,” they have cooked and cleaned and have nurtured and reared untold numbers of children. But unlike the white housewives, who learned to lean on their husbands for economic security, Black wives and mothers, usually workers as well, have rarely been offered the time and energy to become experts at domesticity. Like their white working-class sisters, who also carry the double burden of working for a living and servicing husbands and children, Black women have needed relief from this oppressive predicament for a long, long time.
The shortage, if not the absence, of public discussion about the feasibility of transforming housework into a social possibility bears witness to the blinding powers of bourgeois ideology. It is not even the case that women’s domestic role has received no attention at all. On the contrary, the contemporary women’s movement has represented housework as an essential ingredient of women’s oppression. There is even a movement in a number of capitalist countries, whose main concern is the plight of the housewife. Having reached the conclusion that housework is degrading and oppressive primarily because it is unpaid labour, this movement has raised the demand for wages. A weekly government paycheck, its activists argue, is the key to improving the housewife’s status and the social position of women in general.
The Wages for Housework Movement originated in Italy, where its first public demonstration took place in March, 1974.
Addressing the crowd assembled in the city of Mestre, one of the speakers proclaimed:
‘Half the world’s population is unpaid – this is the biggest class contradiction of all! And this is our struggle for wages for housework. It is the strategic demand; at this moment it is the most revolutionary demand for the whole working class. If we win, the class wins, if we lose, the class loses.’
According to this movement’s strategy, wages contain the key to the emancipation of housewives, and the demand itself is represented as the central focus of the campaign for women’s liberation in general. Moreover, the housewife’s struggle for wages is projected as the pivotal issue of the entire working-class movement.
The theoretical origins of the Wages for Housework Movement can be found in an essay by Mariarosa Dalla Costa entitled “Women and the Subversion of the Community." In this paper, Dalla Costa argues for a redefinition of housework based on her thesis that the private character of household services is actually an illusion. The housewife, she insists, only appears to be ministering to the private needs of her husband and children, for the real beneficiaries of her services are her husband’s present employer and the future employers of her children.
‘(The woman) has been isolated in the home, forced to carry out work that is considered unskilled, the work of giving birth to, raising, disciplining, and servicing the worker for production. Her role in the cycle of production remained invisible because only the product of her labour, the labourer, was visible.’
The demand that housewives be paid is based on the assumption that they produce a commodity as important and as valuable as the commodities their husbands produce on the job. Adopting Dalla Costa’s logic, the Wages for Housework Movement defines housewives as creators of the labour-power sold by their family members as commodities on the capitalist market.
Dalla Costa was not the first theorist to propose such an analysis of women’s oppression. Both Mary Inman’s In Women’s Defence (1940) and Margaret Benston’s “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation” (1969) define housework in such a way as to establish women as a special class of workers exploited by capitalism called “housewives.” That women’s procreative, child-rearing and housekeeping roles make it possible for their family members to work – to exchange their labour-power for wages – can hardly be denied. But does it automatically follow that women in general, regardless of their class and race, can be fundamentally defined by their domestic functions? Does it automatically follow that the housewife is actually a secret worker inside the capitalist production process?
If the industrial revolution resulted in the structural separation of the home economy from the public economy, then housework cannot be defined as an integral component of capitalist production. It is, rather, related to production as a precondition. The employer is not concerned in the least about the way labour-power is produced and sustained, he is only concerned about its availability and its ability to generate profit. In other words, the capitalist production process presupposes the existence of a body of exploitable workers.
‘The replenishment of (workers’) labour-power is not a part of the process of social production but a prerequisite to it. It occurs outside of the labour process. Its function is the maintenance of human existence which is the ultimate purpose of production in all societies.’
In South African society, where racism has led economic exploitation to its most brutal limits, the capitalist economy betrays its structural separation from domestic life in a characteristically violent fashion. The social architects of apartheid have simply determined that Black labour yields higher profits when domestic life is all but entirely discarded. Black men are viewed as labour units whose productive potential renders them valuable to the capitalist class. But their wives and children
‘… are superfluous appendages – non-productive, the women being nothing more than adjuncts to the procreative capacity of the black male labour unit.’
This characterisation of African women as “superfluous appendages” is hardly a metaphor. In accordance with South African law, unemployed Black women are banned from the white areas (87 percent of the country!), even, in most cases, from the cities where their husbands live and work.
Black domestic life in South Africa’s industrial centres is viewed by Apartheid supporters as superfluous and unprofitable. But it is also seen as a threat.
‘Government officials recognise the homemaking role of the women and fear their presence in the cities will lead to the establishment of a stable black population.’
The consolidation of African families in the industrialised cities is perceived as a menace because domestic life might become a base for a heightened level of resistance to Apartheid. This is undoubtedly the reason why large numbers of women holding residence permits for white areas are assigned to live in sex-segregated hostels. Married as well as single women end up living in these projects. In such hostels, family life is rigorously prohibited – husbands and wives are unable to visit one another and neither mother nor father can receive visits from their children.
This intense assault on Black women in South Africa has already taken its toll, for only 28.2 percent are currently opting for marriage. For reasons of economic expediency and political security, Apartheid is eroding – with the apparent goal of destroying – the very fabric of Black domestic life. South African capitalism thus blatantly demonstrates the extent to which the capitalist economy is utterly dependent on domestic labour.
The deliberate dissolution of family life in South Africa could not have been undertaken by the government if it were truly the case that the services performed by women in the home are an essential constituent of wage labour under capitalism. That domestic life can be dispensed with by the South African version of capitalism is a consequence of the private home economy and the public production process which characterises capitalist society in general. It seems futile to argue that on the basis of capitalism’s internal logic, women ought to be paid wages for housework.
Assuming that the theory underlying the demand for wages is hopelessly flawed, might it not be nonetheless politically desirable to insist that housewives be paid? Couldn’t one invoke a moral imperative for women’s right to be paid for the hours they devote to housework? The idea of a paycheck for housewives would probably sound quite attractive to many women. But the attraction would probably be short-lived. For how many of those women would actually be willing to reconcile themselves to deadening, never-ending household tasks, all for the sake of a wage? Would a wage alter the fact, as Lenin said, that
‘… petty housework crushes, strangles, stultifies and degrades (the woman), chains her to the kitchen and to the nursery, and wastes her labour on barbarously unproductive, petty, nerve-wracking, stultifying and crushing drudgery.’
It would seem that government paychecks for housewives would further legitimise this domestic slavery.
Is it not an implicit critique of the Wages for Housework Movement that women on welfare have rarely demanded compensation for keeping house? Not “wages for housework” but rather “a guaranteed annual income for all” is the slogan articulating the immediate alternative they have most frequently proposed to the dehumanising welfare system. What they want in the long run, however, is jobs and affordable public child care. The guaranteed annual income functions, therefore, as unemployment insurance pending the creation of more jobs with adequate wages along with subsidised systems of child care.
The experiences of yet another group of women reveal the probelmatic nature of the “wages for housework” strategy. Cleaning women, domestic workers, maids – these are the women who know better than anyone else what it means to receive wages for housework. Their tragic predicament is brilliantly captured in the film by Ousman Sembene entitled La Noire de… The main character is a young Senegalese woman who, after a search for work, becomes a governess for a French family living in Dakar. When the family returns to France, she enthusiastically accompanies them. Once in France, however, she discovers she is responsible not only for the children, but for cooking, cleaning, washing, and all the other household chores. It is not long before her initial enthusiasm gives way to depression – a depression so profound that she refuses the pay offered her by her employers. Wages cannot compensate for her slavelike situation. Lacking the means to return to Senegal, she is so overwhelmed by her despair that she chooses suicide over an indefinite destiny of cooking, sweeping, dusting, scrubbing…
In the United States, women of colour – and especially Black women – have been receiving wages for housework for untold decades. In 1910, when over half of all Black females were working outside their homes, one-third of them were employed as paid domestic workers. By 1920 over one-half were domestic servants, and in 1930 the proportion had risen to three out of five. One of the consequences of the enormous female employment shifts during World War II was a much-welcomed decline in the number of Black domestic workers. Yet in 1960 one-third of all Black women holding jobs were still confined to their traditional occupations. It was not until clerical jobs became more accessible to Black women that the proportion of Black women domestics headed in a definitely downward direction. Today the figure hovers around 13 percent.
The enervating domestic obligations of women in general provide flagrant evidence of the power of sexism. Because of the added intrusion of racism, vast numbers of Black women have had to do their own housekeeping and other women’s home chores as well. And frequently, the demands of the job in a white woman’s home have forced the domestic worker to neglect her own home and even her own children. As paid housekeepers, they have been called upon to be surrogate wives and mothers in millions of white homes.
During their more than fifty years of organising efforts, domestic workers have tried to redefine their work by rejecting the role of the surrogate housewife. The housewife’s chores are unending and undefined. Household workers have demanded in the first place a clear delineation of the jobs they are expected to perform. The name itself of one of the houseworkers’ major unions today – Household Technicians of America – emphasises their refusal to function as surrogate housewives whose job is “just housework.” As long as household workers stand in the shadow of the housewife, they will continue to receive wages which are more closely related to the housewife’s “allowance” than to a worker’s paycheck. According to the National Committee on Household Employment, the average, full-time household technician earned only $2,732 in 1976, two-thirds of them earning under $2,000. Although household workers had been extended the protection of the minimum wage law several years previously, in 1976 an astounding 40 percent still received grossly substandard wages. The Wages for Housework Movement assumes that if women were paid for being housewives, they would accordingly enjoy a higher social status. Quite a different story is told by the age-old struggles of the paid household worker, whose condition is more miserable than any other group of workers under capitalism.
Over 50 percent of all U.S. women work for a living today, and they constitute 41 percent of the country’s labour force. Yet countless numbers of women are currently unable to find decent jobs. Like racism, sexism is one of the great justifications for high female unemployment rates. Many women are “just housewives” because in reality they are unemployed workers. Cannot, therefore, the “just housewife” role be most effectively challenged by demanding jobs for women on a level of equality with men and by pressing for social services (child care, for example) and job benefits (maternity leaves, etc.) which will allow more women to work outside the home?
The Wages for Housework Movement discourages women from seeking outside jobs, arguing that “slavery to an assembly line is not liberation from slavery to the kitchen sink." The campaign’s spokeswomen insist, nonetheless, that they don’t advocate the continued imprisonment of women within the isolated environment of their homes. They claim that while they refuse to work on the capitalist market per se, they do not wish to assign to women the permanent responsibility for housework. As a U.S. representative of this movement says:
‘… we are not interested in making our work more efficient or more productive for capital. We are interested in reducing our work, and ultimately refusing it altogether. But as long as we work in the home for nothing, no one really cares how long or how hard we work. For capital only introduces advanced technology to cut the costs of production after wages gains by the working class. Only if we make our work cost (i.e. only if we make it uneconomical) will capital “discover” the technology to reduce it. At present, we often have to go out for a second shift of work to afford the dishwasher that should cut down our housework.’
Once women have received the right to be paid for their work, they can raise demands for higher wages, thus compelling the capitalists to undertake the industrialisation of housework. Is this a concrete strategy for women’s liberation or is it an unrealisable dream?
How are women supposed to conduct the initial struggle for wages? Dalla Costa advocates the housewives strike:
‘We must reject the home, because we want to unite with other women, to struggle against all situations which presume that women will stay at home… To abandon the home is already a form of struggle, since the social services we perform there would then cease to be carried out in those conditions.’
But if women are to leave the home, where are they to go? How will they unite with other women? Will they really leave their homes motivated by no other desire than to protest their housework? Is it not much more realistic to call upon women to “leave home” in search of outside jobs – or at least to participate in a massive campaign for decent jobs for women? Granted, work under conditions of capitalism is brutalising work. Granted, it is uncreative and alienating. Yet with all this, the fact remains that on the job, women can unite with their sisters – and indeed with their brothers – in order to challenge the capitalists at the point of production. As workers, as militant activists in the labour movement, women can generate the real power to fight the mainstay and beneficiary of sexism which is the monopoly capitalist system.
If the wages-for-housework strategy does little in the way of providing a long-range solution to the problem of women’s oppression, neither does it substantively address the profound discontent of contemporary housewives. Recent sociological studies have revealed that housewives today are more frustrated by their lives than ever before. When Ann Oaley conducted interviews for her book The Sociology of Housework, she discovered that even the housewives who initially seemed unbothered by their housework eventually expressed a very deep dissatisfaction. These comments came from a woman who held an outside factory job:
‘… (Do you like housework?) I don’t mind it… I suppose I don’t mind housework because I’m not at tit all day. I go to work and I’m only on housework half a day. If I did it all day I wouldn’t like it – woman’s work is never done, she’s on the go all the time – even before you go to bed you’ve still got something to do – emptying ashtrays, wash a few cups up. You’re still working. It’s the same thing every day; you can’t sort of say you’re not going to do it, because you’ve got to do it – like preparing a meal: it’s got to be done because if you don’t do it, the children won’t eat… I suppose you get used to it, you just do it automatically… I’m happier at work than I am at home.
‘(What would you say are the worst things about being a housewife?) I suppose you get days when you feel you get up and you’ve got to do the same old things – you get bored, you’re stuck in the same routine. I think if you ask any housewife, if they’re honest, they’ll turn around and say they feel like a drudge half the time – everybody thinks when they get up in the morning “Oh no, I’ve got the same old things to do today, till I go to bed tonight.” It’s doing the same things – boredom.’
Would wages diminish this boredom? This woman would certainly say no. A full-time housewife told Oakley about the compulsive nature of housework:
‘The worst thing is I suppose that you’ve got to do the work because you are at home. Even though I’ve got the option of not doing it, I don’t really feel I could not do it because I feel I ought to do it.’
In all likelihood, receiving wages for doing this work would aggravate this woman’s obsession.
Oakley reached the conclusion that housework – particularly when it is a full-time job – so thoproughly invades the female personality that the housewife becomes indistinguishable from her job.
‘The Housewife, in an important sense, is her job: separation between subjective and objective elements in the situation is therefore intrinsically more difficult.’
The psychological consequence is frequently a tragically stunted personality haunted by feelings of inferiority. Psychological liberation can hardly be achieved simply by paying the housewife a wage.
Other sociological studies have confirmed the acute disillusionment suffered by contemporary housewives. When Myra Ferree interviewed over a hundred women in a working community near Boston, “almost twice as many housewives as employed wives said they were dissatisfied with their lives.” Needless to say, most of the working women did not have inherently fulfilling jobs: they were waitresses, factory workers, typists, supermarket and department store clerks, etc. Yet their ability to leave the isolation of their homes, “getting out and seeing other people,” was as important to them as their earnings. Would the housewives who felt they were “going crazy staying at home” welcome the idea of being paid for driving themselves crazy? One woman complained that “staying at home all day is like being in jail” – would wages tear down the walls of her jail? The only realistic escape path from this jail is the search for work outside the home.
Each one of the more than 50 percent of all U.S. women who work today is a powerful argument for the alleviation of the burden of housework. As a matter of fact, enterprising capitalists have already begun to exploit women’s new historical need to emancipate themselves from their roles as housewives. Endless profit-making fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken bear witness to the fact that more women at work means fewer daily meals prepared at home. However unsavory and unnutricious the food, however exploitative of their workers, these fast-food operations call attention to the approaching obsolescence of housework. What is needed, of course, are new social institutions to assume a good portion of the housewife’s old duties. This is the challenge emanating from the swelling ranks of women in the working class. The demand for universal and subsidised child care is a direct consequence of the rising number of working mothers. And as more women organise around the demand for more jobs – for jobs on the basis of full equality with men – serious questions will increasingly be raised about the future viability of women’s housewife duties. It may well be true that “slavery to an assembly line” is not in itself “liberation from the kitchen sink,” but the assembly line is doubtlessly the most powerful incentive for women to press for the elimination of their age-old domestic slavery.
The abolition of housework as the private responsibility of individual women is clearly a strategic goal of women’s liberation. But the socialisation of housework – including meal preparation and child care – presupposes an end to the profit-motive’s reign over the economy. The only significant steps toward ending domestic slavery have in fact been taken in the existing socialist countries. Working women, therefore, have a special and vital interest in the struggle for socialism. Moreover, under capitalism, campaigns for jobs on an equal basis with men, combined with movements for institutions such as subsidised public health care, contain an explosive revolutionary potential. This strategy calls into question the validity of monopoly capitalism and must ultimately point in the direction of socialism.
Sofia, Bulgaria: Honoring fallen anti-fascists at the Common Grave, June 2, 2015.
“Bow to the fallen against fascism and capitalism! Nothing is forgotten, nothing is forgiven!
“To anyone who still has not lost hope; to anyone who wants to continue the struggle for a socially just, economically developed and dignified Bulgaria: NEVER forget them!
“On 2 June at 12:00, when the sirens howl, stand in a minute silence, honoring the memory of Hristo Botev and all died for the freedom of Bulgaria, let us remember the tens of thousands who lost their lives in the antifascist struggle. Those who nowadays are unceremoniously discarded by the history books, those whose plaques and busts are demolished and destroyed in an effort to erase all memory of them. These wonderful men, women, young people and young children, who until his last breath continued to dream of a happy future for later generations and are harbored in themselves a single small glimmer of hope that one day someone would remember them. We, their descendants, will never forget them!”
MOVEMENT “CHE GUEVARA” - BULGARIA
[In the southeastern part of Borisova Gradina in Sofia, there is a monument called Common Grave, where 17 prominent figures of the Bulgarian Communist Party and the Workers’ Youth Union were buried. The memorial complex was erected in memory of the heroes, antifascists, and it was the work of a large team of authors headed by sculptor Yordan Krachmarov. The monument was opened on 2 June 1956, when Bulgaria marks the Day of Botev and all those who fell in the struggle against Ottoman rule, capitalism and fascism.]
what's our fuckin plan tho? or do you think revolution is inevitable?
From Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals (Emphasis mine):
* RULE 1: “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.” Power is derived from 2 main sources – money and people. “Have-Nots” must build power from flesh and blood. (These are two things of which there is a plentiful supply. Government and corporations always have a difficult time appealing to people, and usually do so almost exclusively with economic arguments.) * RULE 2: “Never go outside the expertise of your people.” It results in confusion, fear and retreat. Feeling secure adds to the backbone of anyone. (Organizations under attack wonder why radicals don’t address the “real” issues. This is why. They avoid things with which they have no knowledge.) * RULE 3: “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty. (This happens all the time. Watch how many organizations under attack are blind-sided by seemingly irrelevant arguments that they are then forced to address.) * RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” If the rule is that every letter gets a reply, send 30,000 letters. You can kill them with this because no one can possibly obey all of their own rules. (This is a serious rule. The besieged entity’s very credibility and reputation is at stake, because if activists catch it lying or not living up to its commitments, they can continue to chip away at the damage.) * RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions. (Pretty crude, rude and mean, huh? They want to create anger and fear.) * RULE 6: “A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” They’ll keep doing it without urging and come back to do more. They’re doing their thing, and will even suggest better ones. (Radical activists, in this sense, are no different that any other human being. We all avoid “un-fun” activities, and but we revel at and enjoy the ones that work and bring results.) * RULE 7: “A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.” Don’t become old news. (Even radical activists get bored. So to keep them excited and involved, organizers are constantly coming up with new tactics.) * RULE 8: “Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.) * RULE 9: “The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.” Imagination and ego can dream up many more consequences than any activist. (Perception is reality. Large organizations always prepare a worst-case scenario, something that may be furthest from the activists’ minds. The upshot is that the organization will expend enormous time and energy, creating in its own collective mind the direst of conclusions. The possibilities can easily poison the mind and result in demoralization.) * RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.” Violence from the other side can win the public to your side because the public sympathizes with the underdog. (Unions used this tactic. Peaceful [albeit loud] demonstrations during the heyday of unions in the early to mid-20th Century incurred management’s wrath, often in the form of violence that eventually brought public sympathy to their side.) * RULE 11: “The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.” Never let the enemy score points because you’re caught without a solution to the problem. (Old saw: If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Activist organizations have an agenda, and their strategy is to hold a place at the table, to be given a forum to wield their power. So, they have to have a compromise solution.) * RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions. (This is cruel, but very effective. Direct, personalized criticism and ridicule works.)
“As Marx, who understood the poets as well as he understood the philosophers and economists, was wont to say: ‘The real difference between Byron and Shelley is this: those who understand them and love them rejoice that Byron died at thirty-six, because if he had lived he would have become a reactionary bourgeois; they grieve that Shelley died at twenty-nine, because he was essentially a revolutionist, and he would always have been one of the advanced guard of Socialism.’”
Incorrect reaction to people who say we need a White History Month: We don’t need a White History Month because literally every month is de facto White History Month already.
Correct reaction to people who say we need a White History Month: That is an excellent idea, and I for one wholeheartedly agree! We need a month—maybe even several months(!)—dedicated to white peoples’ vivid history around the world! A history that starts with little more than warring, toothless skunks fighting over various interpretations of Jesus for centuries before stealing some impressive technology from Asian people and eventually using it to commit genocide against 20-100 million Natives, enslave 11 million people from Africa (and letting untold numbers of others die struggling or during transport), massacre millions of Indians fighting for their freedom from the British Empire, massacre 6 million Jews and 5 million others during the Holocaust, cause two major wars on an international scale that claimed 100+ million lives, dominate much of the world via imperialist warmongering, carry out hundreds of false-flag/black ops to ensure that the disadvantaged STAY perpetually disadvantaged, destabilize the Middle East and play a conscious role in the creation and funding of a number of prominent terrorist organizations, install brutal forced/child labor systems around the globe which are still taken advantage of by Western multinationals to this date, establish a global economic/trade system that starves hundreds of thousands of children to death every year and keeps billions of people unable to access food, clothes, shelter, medicine, education and other necessities due to an intrinsic misallocation of resources, railroad millions of people into elaborate rape camps for nonviolent crimes… and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. This is important stuff that every person should be aware of, so come on, let’s make every day International White History Day! Hell I’m setting up a Change.org petition right as we speak! WE CAN DO THIS!
“The intellectual bankruptcy of the socialist doctrine can no longer be disguised. In spite of its unprecedented popularity, socialism is done for. No economist can any longer question its impracticability. The avowal of socialist ideas is today the proof of a complete ignorance of the basic problems of economics. The socialist’s claims are as vain as those of the astrologers and the magicians.”