Women and the crisis of capitalism: Fighting back on a class basis!

Russian working class women gained much from the October revolution of 1917 and the subsequent planned economy that was put in place. Later under Stalin many of the gains were destroyed, although as the economy developed the conditions of women also improved. The return of capitalism in Russia dramatically worsened the conditions of women. How does all this compare to the current situation working class women are facing in the UK?

While paying particular attention to the deepening crisis of capitalism within the UK, we must also see all events against a backdrop that has seen the US economy downgraded from AAA debt rating to AA status. These events have subsequently led to the ensuing debt crisis of the Eurozone deepening. As we witness the destruction on the economic plane, within society we see the resulting effects spill over into the social and political plane and cause the most severe rioting for a generation in the UK on the streets of London. We see the leader of the UK Labour party Ed Milliband rushing to condemn the rioting, but at the same time failing to pose any credible alternative to the crisis of capitalism that is destroying the lives of the youth, the unemployed and working class women.

The Current State of the UK Economy

The economic crisis within the UK is deepening by the day; and statistics and data are hard to keep pace with. The most recent figures made available by the Office for National Statistics on 17th August 2010 show us that UK total unemployment had risen for the first time in six months to 2.49miliion, a 7.9 per cent increase. Women have been hit the hardest by the increase in unemployment seeing the level of female unemployment rise by 21,000 to 1.05million, the highest levels since May 1998. Youth unemployment also saw a rise and now stands at 949,000 for youth between the ages of 16 to 24 years old. The total increase that has been seen is the largest since May 2009, this news greatly shocked bourgeois economists who had been predicting a fall in unemployment of around 10,000.

Inflation is also set to rise as the Office for National Statistics shows us that inflation stood at 4.2 percent in June after a drop of 0.3 percent from the May levels of 4.5 percent, this is above the government’s 2 percent target for the next 12 months. This increase of inflation has been put down to a cut in the UK growth forecast of 1.8 percent to 1.5 percent by bourgeois economists.

The cuts in US growth forecasts have also led to a further deepening of the Eurozone debt crisis. The increase of inflation will hit the working class hard with rail commuters already facing an inflation busting increase rise in rail fares of 8 percent; this is in order for the previously nationalised railways to maintain healthy profits at the expense of the working class. This is not to mention the rise in utility bills that will be faced by the working class in previously nationalised industries such as gas and electricity.

These attacks by the capitalist system are however having a disproportionate effect on working people, especially when it comes to working class women who are now seeing a 10% cut in the benefit payment that covers the cost of weekly childcare. This fresh attack is forcibly pushing more women back into work while they try to support and care for a young family. The coalition government also wants to raise the pension age for women from 60 to 65 by 2018 in preparation for both female and male pension ages rising to 66 in 2020. All of this in order to balance the books of finance capital.

The Gains of October 1917

The above commentary is far removed from the conversations that took place in the autumn of 1920 between Clara Zetkin and one of the leaders of the Russian revolution V.I Lenin on the topic of the women’s question. In a work entitled “On the emancipation of women: from the writings of V.I. Lenin”. Clara Zetkin gives a detailed and extensive interview with “Lenin on the women’s question” in a document entitled “from my memorandum book”. In this document Lenin goes onto display the huge advances that had been made in the life of working class women within the Soviet Union after October 1917 with the following comment,

“The Government of the proletarian dictatorship, together with the Communist Party and trade unions, is of course leaving no stone unturned in the effort to overcome the backward ideas of men and women, to destroy the old un-communist psychology. In law there is naturally complete equality of rights for men and women. And everywhere there is evidence of a sincere wish to put this equality into practice. We are bringing the women into the social economy, into legislation and government. All educational institutions are open to them, so that they can increase their professional and social capacities. We are establishing communal kitchens and public eating-houses, laundries and repairing shops, nurseries, kindergartens, children’s homes, educational institutes of all kinds. In short, we are seriously carrying out the demand in our programme for the transference of the economic and educational functions of the separate household to society. That will mean freedom for the woman from the old household drudgery and dependence on man. That enables her to exercise to the full her talents and her inclinations. The children are brought up under more favourable conditions than at home. We have the most advanced protective laws for women workers in the world and the officials of the organised workers carry them out. We are establishing maternity hospitals, homes for mothers and children, mother craft clinics, organising lecture courses on child care, exhibitions teaching mothers how to look after themselves and their children, and similar things. We are making the most serious efforts to maintain women who are unemployed and unprovided for.”

After the Russian working class conquered power under the leadership of the Bolsheviks not only did working class women gain, but life expectancy for all age groups went up considerably. A new-born child in 1926-27 had a life expectancy of 44.4 years, up from 32.3 years thirty years before. In 1958-59 life expectancy for new-borns went up to 68.6 years. The trend continued into the 1960s, when life expectancy in the Soviet Union rose above life expectancy in the United States. Life expectancy in the Soviet Union was fairly stable during most years, although by the 1970s it had gone slightly down. The majority of capitalist sources arbitrarily place the blame on the growing alcohol abuse and poor healthcare that had emerged within the USSR; this does not, however, take into account the process of degeneration that took place within the USSR following the civil war of 1917-1923 and the rise of a bureaucracy under Stalin.

The Thermidor and the Family

The start of the Russian Revolution, on International Working Women's Day, 1917,The start of the Russian Revolution, on International Working Women's Day, 1917, The events of the civil war culminated in the rise of a bureaucracy that started out as a necessity after the disastrous consequences of the civil war (and the 21 imperialist armies of intervention), and eventually leading to the consolidation of the bureaucracy under the leadership of Stalin. Due to the backwardness of Russia and the isolation of the revolution after the failed German revolution of 1918, the bureaucratic degeneration lead to a period of Thermidorian political counter-revolution that began to claw back the victories the working class (and especially working class women) had made since October 1917, whilst leaving the economic basis of the planned economy intact.

Trotsky went onto describe the Stalinist bureaucracy as a cancerous tumour on the body of the workers’ state. He explained that, "A tumour can grow to tremendous size and even strangle the living organism, but a tumour can never become an independent organism" (The Class Nature of the Soviet State, 1933). Trotsky outlines this process in his 1936 masterpiece “The revolution betrayed” and dedicates a section entitled the “Thermidor in the family”, in chapter 7, to the subject of the “Family, Youth and culture”. Trotsky goes on to say:

“The total number of steady accommodations in the crèches amounted, in 1932, to 600,000, and of seasonal accommodations solely during work in the fields to only about 4,000,000. In 1935 the cots numbered 5,600,000, but the steady ones were still only an insignificant part of the total. Moreover, the existing crèches, even in Moscow, Leningrad and other centres, are not satisfactory as a general rule to the least fastidious demands. “A crèche in which the child feels worse than he does at home is not a crèche but a bad orphan asylum,” complains a leading Soviet newspaper. It is no wonder if the better-placed workers’ families avoid crèches. But for the fundamental mass of the toilers, the number even of these “bad orphan asylums” is insignificant. Just recently the Central Executive Committee introduced a resolution that foundlings and orphans should be placed in private hands for bringing up. Through its highest organ, the bureaucratic government thus acknowledged its bankruptcy in relation to the most important socialist function. The number of children in kindergartens rose during the five years 1930-1935 from 370,000 to 1,181,000. The lowness of the figure for 1930 is striking, but the figure for 1935 also seems only a drop in the ocean of Soviet families. A further investigation would undoubtedly show that the principal, and in any case the better part of these kindergartens, appertain to the families of the administration, the technical personnel, the Stakhanovists, etc.”

Trotsky goes onto detail the hypocrisy of the degenerated Bolshevik central executive committee by stating:

“The same Central Executive Committee was not long ago compelled to testify openly that the “resolution on the liquidation of homeless and uncared-for children is being weakly carried out.” What is concealed behind this dispassionate confession? Only by accident, from newspaper remarks printed in small type, do we know that in Moscow more than a thousand children are living in “extraordinarily difficult family conditions”; that in the so-called children’s homes of the capital there are about 1,500 children who have nowhere to go and are turned out into the streets; that during the two autumn months of 1935 in Moscow and Leningrad “7,500 parents were brought to court for leaving their children without supervision.” What good did it do to bring them to court? How many thousand parents have avoided going to court? How many children in “extraordinarily difficult conditions” remained unrecorded? In what do extraordinarily difficult conditions differ from simply difficult ones? Those are the questions which remain unanswered. A vast amount of the homelessness of children, obvious and open as well as disguised, is a direct result of the great social crisis in the course of which the old family continues to dissolve far faster than the new institutions are capable of replacing it.”

The relative political rights and economic material conditions of women in the USSR never did recover to the level they were at under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. The Thermidorian period of political counter-revolution had the most disastrous consequences for women with the abolition of the right to a legal abortion taking place at one point. Whilst a number of reforms were granted after the death of Stalin in the post-war years, with the right to abortion being re-instated, women’s rights never were the same again.

Women within the USSR did, however, fair better to women within capitalist countries in the post-war period and before the capitalist counter-revolution of 1989. This occurred because of the growth that took place within the planned economy which allowed for improvements in childcare, women’s wages, employment rights, maternity leave, and education.

Women in Post-Soviet Russia

We are given evidence of the improvement in women’s material conditions in the post-war period by one bourgeois academic, Glenn E. Curtis, who gives numerous examples of women’s material conditions in his book Russia: A Country Study, Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1996.

“The Soviet constitution of 1977 stipulated that men and women have equal rights, and that women have equal access to education and training, employment, promotions, remuneration, and participation in social, cultural, and political activity. The Soviet government also provided women special medical and workplace protection, including incentives for mothers to work outside the home and legal and material support of their maternal role. In the 1980s, that support included 112 days of maternity leave at full pay. When that allowance ended, a woman could take as much as one year of additional leave without pay without losing her position. Employer discrimination against pregnant and nursing women was prohibited, and mothers with small children had the right to work part-time. Because of such provisions, as many as 92 percent of women were employed at least part-time, Soviet statistics showed.”

Curtis then goes onto give details of the decline in women’s material conditions since the collapse of the planned economy, where he states the following in a section on the Russian family:

“According to the 1994 survey, the dynamics of the average Russian family have changed somewhat. Compared with 1989, about 3 percent fewer individuals characterized their marriages as in conflict, and 9 percent fewer called their marriages ‘egalitarian’ in the distribution of authority between the partners. The average distribution of common household tasks was shown to be far from equal, with women performing an average of about 75 percent of cooking, cleaning, and shopping chores. Between 1989 and 1994, women's expression of dissatisfaction with their family situation increased 13 percent, while that of men rose only 2 percent. Women reporting family satisfaction were predominantly young or elderly, with adequate-to-high incomes and at least a secondary education. According to experts, social and economic crises have caused Russians to rely more heavily than ever on the family as a source of personal satisfaction. But these same crises have caused the standard of living to fall, and they have required that more time be spent at work to keep it from falling further, thus making it harder for families to sustain their most cherished attributes.”

This section could almost have been taken straight from Trotsky’s “The Revolution Betrayed”. Curtis goes onto comment in a section on Russian maternity, infant care, and birth control:

“Unwanted pregnancies are common because of the limited availability and substandard quality of contraceptives and a reluctance to discuss sexual issues openly at home or to provide sex education at school. No social stigma is attached to children born out of wedlock, and unmarried mothers receive maternity benefits. Medical care for expectant mothers is among the least adequate aspects of the country's generally substandard system of health care. A high percentage of pregnant women suffer from anaemia and poor diets--factors that have a negative effect on their babies' birth weight and general health.

“In the mid-1990s, modern forms of contraception are unavailable or unknown to most Russian women. The Soviet Union legalized abortion for medical reasons in 1955 and overall in 1968. But information about Western advances in birth control--and all modern means of birth control--was systematically kept from the public throughout the remaining Soviet decades. As a result of that policy, today's Russian gynaecologists lack the training to advise women on contraception, and public knowledge of the subject remains incomplete or simply mistaken. Even in Moscow in the mid-1990s, most contraceptives were paid for by voluntary funds and international charities. In the early 1990s, an estimated 22 percent of women of childbearing age were using contraceptives; the percentage was much lower in rural areas.”

Curtis goes further by commenting in a section on Russian “wages and work” in the following manner:

“A 1994 World Bank report identified an increasing likelihood that positions offering lower wages would be filled by women, in most sectors and occupations of the Russian economy. Many women, however, reportedly accept jobs at lower levels of skill and remuneration in exchange for nonmonetary benefits, such as short commuting distances, minimum overtime hours, and access to child care or shopping facilities in the workplace. (see The Role of Women, this Ch.)”

Curtis goes into the greatest detail about women within Russia in a section entitled “The Role of Women” (http://countrystudies.us/russia/51.htm). In this section Curtis gives the most honest appraisal of the gains women made from the planned economy and what was lost when the restoration of capitalism took place. Curtis comments about the effects the collapse of the planned economy has had on childcare within the former USSR in the following way:

“Most of the nominal state benefit programs for women continued into the post-Soviet era (see Social Welfare, this Ch.). However, as in the Soviet era, Russian women in the 1990s predominate in economic sectors where pay is low, and they continue to receive less pay than men for comparable positions. In 1995 men in health care earned an average of 50 percent more than women in that field, and male engineers received an average of 40 percent more than their female colleagues. Despite the fact that, on average, women are better educated than men, women remain in the minority in senior management positions. In the Soviet era, women's wages averaged 70 percent of men's; by 1995 the figure was 40 percent, according to the Moscow-based Centre for Gender Studies. According to a 1996 report, 87 percent of employed urban Russians earning less than 100,000 rubbles a month (for value of the rubble--see Glossary) were women, and the percentage of women decreased consistently in the higher wage categories.

“Working women continue to bear the "double burden" of a job and family-raising responsibilities, in which Russian husbands generally participate little. In a 1994 survey, about two-thirds of women said that the state should help families by paying one spouse enough to permit the other to stay at home. Most women also consider their role in the family more difficult than that of their husband. Such dissatisfaction is a factor in Russia's accelerating divorce rate and declining marriage rate. In 1993 the divorce rate was 4.5 per 1,000 population, compared with 4.1 ten years earlier, and the marriage rate declined from 10.5 per 1,000 population in 1983 to 7.5 in 1993. In 1992 some 17.2 percent of births were to unmarried women. According to 1994 government statistics, about 20 percent of families were run by a single parent--the mother in 94 percent of cases.

“Often women with families are forced to work because of insufficient state child allowances and unemployment benefits. Economic hardship has driven some women into prostitution. In the Soviet period, prostitution was viewed officially as a form of social deviancy that was dying out as the Soviet Union advanced toward communism. In the 1990s, organized crime has become heavily involved in prostitution, both in Russia and in the cities of Central and Western Europe, to which Russian women often are lured by bogus advertisements for match-making services or modelling agencies. According to one estimate, 10,000 women from Central Europe, including a high proportion of Russians, have been lured or forced into prostitution in Germany alone.”

Curtis comments further by showing the effects of the economic base being removed for the reinforcement of employment legislation by stating the following:

“According to reports, women generally are the first to be fired, and they face other forms of on-the-job discrimination as well. Struggling companies often fire women to avoid paying child care benefits or granting maternity leave, as the law still requires. In 1995 women constituted an estimated 70 percent of Russia's unemployed and as much as 90 percent in some areas.”

It has also been shown that during the 1990s life expectancy in what is now known as Russia began to steadily decrease from post-capitalist restoration levels of 68.9 years, and finally reaching its lowest level in 1994 at 64.5 years. Whilst average life expectancy for men and women in Russia ebbed and flowed during the period of the 1990’s it did not reach the level that it was prior to the restoration of capitalism until 2009 when it reached 68.9 years old once more.

Current World Bank information shows us for the former USSR, and what is now Russia, that female and male life expectancy when assessed individually break down as the following. In 1989 female life expectancy stood at around 74 years and male life expectancy stood at around 64 years. These figures declined however during the 1990’s and hit their lowest in 1994 when female life expectancy stood at 71 years and male life expectancy stood at 57 years. Life expectancy for male and females again ebbed and flowed throughout the 1990’s with female life expectancy eventually recovering in 2010 at 75 years; male life expectancy, however, has not recovered since the destruction of the planned economy and in 2010 stood at 63 years. Curtis goes on to comment himself that:

“Since 1987 mortality from accidents, injuries, and poisonings has risen significantly, from 101 to 228 per 100,000 populations. Contributing to that figure are an estimated 8,000 fatal workplace accidents per year, largely the result of aging equipment, the proliferation of risky jobs in the unofficial "shadow economy," and the deterioration of work discipline. For the period between 1990 and 1994, the suicide rate rose by 57 percent to a total of nearly 62,000, putting Russia in third place among eighty-four developed countries. The stress of the transition period is one explanation for this rising statistic. The homicide rate rose by more than 50 percent in the same period. In 1994 Russia's 35,000 motor vehicle deaths nearly equalled the 40,000 in the United States, although Russia has less than 1 percent as many automobiles. Deteriorating roads and declining police discipline are the main causes of that fatality statistic.”

These are clearly the signs of an economy now stricken with the contradictions of the market economy based on the profit motive, after the sweeping privatisations of the early 1990’s. And in a very honest and open appraisal Curtis goes onto comment:

“Sociological surveys show that sexual harassment and violence against women have increased at all levels of society in the 1990s. More than 13,000 rapes were reported in 1994, meaning that several times that number of that often-unreported crime probably were committed. In 1993 an estimated 14,000 women were murdered by their husbands or lovers, about twenty times the figure in the United States and several times the figure in Russia five years earlier. More than 300,000 other types of crimes, including spousal abuse, were committed against women in 1994; in 1996 the State Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly, Russia's parliament) drafted a law against domestic violence.”

Whilst it can be argued that women have seen an improvement in legislative rights from the state Duma since the end of the planned economy, these rights cannot be economically enforced since capitalism cannot provide the economic basis for such political legislation to stand upon.

Women and the Crisis in the UK

The concrete examples of improved material conditions for women within the former USSR in the revolutionary period immediately after the overthrow of capitalism and subsequently as a result of the economic development achieved under the planned economy, that were subsequently pushed back by the restoration of capitalism, are in stark contrast to the information laid out in a report recently published by a UK “centre-left” think-tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.

The report (conducted before the most current data for the economic quarter was released) demonstrated that whilst UK unemployment had fallen by 20,000 over the past year to 2.45 million, the number of unemployed women had risen by 42,000. The report demonstrates that the disproportionate effects of job losses on women can be explained by 143,000 job losses within the public sector, whilst UK private sector employment has increased by 520,000. In terms of redundancies between the private and public sector, 40% of redundancies within the last quarter have been among women, an increase of over 10% from the previous quarter. The total number of women out of work is 1,026,000 and figures from the Office for National Statistics demonstrate that 268,000 women have been unemployed for over a year. The “public administration, health and education” sector which is the official name for the public sector, is the only sector within the UK economy that has a higher proportion of women employed within it than men, which is a concrete reason for the disproportionate effects that on women.

Dalia ben-Galim, the IPPR’s associate director, made these comments, “During the recession, unemployment among men increased much more than among women. But our analysis of the latest figures shows us that this experience is now being reversed, in large part because of the government public spending cuts.”

The report goes onto demonstrate a further cause of joblessness among women by outlining the 10% cut to childcare funding that families can claim through the Tax Credit system. Up until April of this year Working Tax Credit covered up to 80% of the costs of childcare up to a maximum of £175 a week for one child and £300 a week for two children. However, in April this was cut to 70% by ministers as they tried to reduce the cost of the welfare bill. The coalition’s attempt to amalgamate the current Tax Credit system into a single universal tax credit is merely a superficial attempt to cut the cost of existing welfare payments in the process. Another think-tank named the “Resolution Foundation” calculated earlier this year that almost 500,000 low to middle income families would on average lose £436 a year in support for child costs. It was also commented on that in London, where childcare costs are at their highest, it is estimated that 50,000 families would on average lose £600 a year, and in the most severe cases the cost could be as much as £1,300 a year.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson disputed the IPPR’s analysis and in the process displayed a disregard for the scourge of unemployment by making the following comment:

“Women who are looking for a job should visit their local jobcentre where they will be given advice and be able to take advantage of the 10,000 jobs we take every working day. In June we launched the work programme which offers long-term unemployed people tailored support to get back to work. The programme is different to previous schemes as it assess people to discover what barriers are preventing them from getting a job and will then work with them to overcome these problems.”

The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation) has commented that the UK has some of the most expensive childcare provision in the world. The average cost of childcare for a week is £97 for a (25 hour week) with costs in the South-East rising to £115. The British Labour Party’s deputy leader, Harriet Harman commented that, “women’s employment is key to the household budget. It is important in lone parent households as a role for their children to see the world of work, and it is important to the economy” She then went on to comment that, ”the cost of childcare going up, while at the same time their pay does not go up, becomes economically unviable. The price that will be paid is by the wider economy, but also by families.”

The Hypocrisy of the British Ruling Class

Nick Clegg. Photo: Prime Minister's OfficeNick Clegg. Photo: Prime Minister's Office The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is, however, seeking to win back female support for his unpopular policy of propping up the Conservative Party, while attempting to destroy the lives of working class women at every turn. Nick Clegg is attempting to appeal to the female electorate once more in the most condescending and patronising of ways. The British newspaper the Independent on Sunday commented in an article on 7th August entitled “Nick Clegg is chasing women”:

“Nick Clegg gained a reputation for being something of a ladies’ man when he suggested in an interview with Piers Morgan that he had ‘no more than 30’ notches on his bed post.

“Now the deputy Prime Minister is to embark on a campaign to woo female voters – and the Liberal Democrats have hired a new Public relations guru to help him.

“Mr Clegg returns from holiday tonight but is leaving his children behind with relatives so he can embark on a breakneck tour of town hall question and answer's and private meetings with party members ‘without having to rush home to put the kids to bed’.”

It appears that the Deputy Prime Minister is in a fortunate enough position not to have to rely on state help in order to pay for welfare!

The bourgeois feminist the Lib/Dems have hired for the job is Collette Dunkley, a PR guru specialising in targeting women for the role of marketing director to lead a research team into potential Lib/Dem support at the next election. Ms Dunkley has a reputation for adding “particular value to organisations that want to increase their female appeal or market share”. One Lib/Dem source was reported as saying, “Collette could not have arrived soon enough”. Ms Dunkley heads up a firm called “X and Y communications” that has advised other such companies as Coutts (a private bank dealing in wealth management), Chix and Mortar (a company that offers building courses for women), and Lego the toy manufacturer. This is clearly a person that any working class woman who is in fear of losing her job within the public sector can relate to!

Fighting Back on a Class Basis!

Whilst the above kind words of political sentiment towards women’s material conditions from the deputy leader of the Labour party may be superficially re-assuring on paper, it is not enough to just merely talk about the ensuing crisis of capitalism; action must be taken also!

This is why the trade union movement’s leadership must apply pressure on the Labour Party leadership via there affiliations in order to take steps in the direction of reclaiming lost socialist principles, such as the nationalisation of the banking sector and the top 500 monopolies that control three quarters of the economy; these must be placed under the democratic control of the working class. This would enable a socialist plan of production to be drawn up and initiated where we as a society could provide services that are currently being cut, such as childcare free at the point of delivery, so that we may finally lay waste to the scourges of unemployment and inflation that are created by the anarchy of the “free market” and capitalism.

The bourgeoisie are very slow to learn from history and they have a particular systemic fetish for fanning the flames of a situation that is already beginning to spiral out of their control, as the ruling class try to unload their crisis onto the backs of working class women. Alan Woods comments in his book Bolshevism: The road to revolution:

“On February 22, the Putilov management responded by a lock-out. This turned out to be a big mistake, as thousands of angry workers were massing on the streets, at a time when many working-class women were queuing in the freezing streets for a meagre ration of bread. The combination proved more explosive than the shells produced by the Putilov plant. By coincidence, the next day, February 23, was International Women’s Day. This gave added impetus to the mass movement. The lightning speed with which the women and young people, formerly backward and unorganised layers, moved again caught the activists by surprise.

“On Thursday 23 February meetings were held to protest against the war, the high cost of living, and the bad conditions of women workers. This in turn developed into a new strike wave. The women played a key role. They marched on the factories, calling the workers out. Mass street demonstrations ensued.”

Unison Strikers in Brighton. Photo: 3arabawyUnison Strikers in Brighton. Photo: 3arabawy It is now clearer than ever that the objective conditions for social revolution have matured, as the ground is being prepared for an explosion of the class struggle. As the public sector comes under an ever-increasing attack by the representatives of capitalism, the Conservative Party and their partners the Lib/Dems, it is working class women who are taking the full brunt of this incessant onslaught on all the gains made by the working class in the past. That means working class women will play a key role in leading the fight back.

This means women will become more and more actively involved in their local trade union branches – and later on this will also affect the Labour Party itself. Trade union branches should therefore put in place measures that will facilitate the participation of women workers in trade union activities. The labour movement must take concrete measures to involve women workers in preparing, debating, and passing motions that take up the issues of women at work and at home. Their voice needs to be heard and their demands must be put to the trade union and Labour Party leaderships. Such demands will not be purely “women’s issues”, but will centre also on the more general questions facing the working class as a whole, such as the demand in the UK for the TUC to call a 24-hour general strike. The problems of working class women, at the end of the day, can only be finally solved by a united struggle of all workers, men and women, against this government of the bosses, but women are destined to play a leading role in this, as in all major movements of the working class throughout history.

In the closing paragraph of Clara Zetkin’s interview with Lenin he leaves us with the following sobering thought when we analyse what was achieved in the former USSR, and what was ultimately destroyed by the Stalinist bureaucracy in order to maintain political power.

“We realise clearly that is not very much, in comparison with the needs of the working women, that it is far from being all that is required for their real freedom. But still it is tremendous progress, as against conditions in tsarist-capitalist Russia. It is even a great deal compared with conditions in countries where capitalism still has a free hand. It is a good beginning in the right direction, and we shall develop it further. With all our energy, you may believe that. For every day of the existence of the Soviet State proves more clearly that we cannot go forward without the women.”

The women workers must lead the way!