Communism and women's liberation
The following is an excerpt from the Theses for work among women adopted by the 1921 Third Congress of the Communist International, as translated in Spartacist (English edition) no 62, Spring 2011.
By placing before the Communist Parties of the West and the East the immediate task of strengthening the work of the party among the female proletariat, the Third Congress of the Communist International at the same time points out to the women workers of the whole world that their liberation from age-old injustice, enslavement and inequality can be realized only through the victory of communism. What communism gives to women can by no means be provided by the bourgeois women’s movement. As long as the rule of capital and private property exists in the capitalist countries, the liberation of woman from dependency on her husband can go no further than the right to dispose of her own property, her own earnings, and the right to decide equally with her husband the fate of their children.
The most decisive efforts of the feminists — the extension of women’s suffrage under the rule of bourgeois parliamentarism — do not solve the problem of the actual equality of women, especially of the non-propertied classes. This can be seen in the experience of women workers in all capitalist countries where in recent years the bourgeoisie has granted the formal equality of the sexes. Suffrage does not eliminate the primary cause of women’s enslavement in the family and society. Given the economic dependence of the proletarian woman on her capitalist master and her breadwinner husband, and in the absence of broad protection in making provision for mother and child and socialized education and care of children, replacing indissoluble marriage with civil marriage in capitalist states does not make the woman equal in marital relations and does not provide a key to resolving the problem of the relation between the sexes.
Not formal, superficial, but actual equality of women can be realized only under communism when women, together with all members of the laboring class, become the co-owners of the means of production and distribution, participate in managing them and bear their work responsibilities on the same basis as all members of toiling society. In other words, it is possible only by overthrowing the system of the exploitation of man’s labor by man under capitalist production and by organizing the communist form of economy.
Only communism will create the conditions under which the natural function of women — motherhood — will not come into conflict with their social responsibilities and interfere with their creative work for the benefit of the collective. On the contrary, communism will enable the development of a well-rounded, healthy and harmonious individual, closely and inseparably bonded with the tasks and life of the toilers collective. Communism must be the goal of all women who fight for the liberation of women and the recognition of all their rights.
However, communism is also the ultimate goal of the entire proletariat. Therefore, the struggle of working women for this common goal must, in the interest of both sides, be waged jointly and inseparably.
— Communist International, “Theses on methods and forms of work of the Communist parties among women” (1921)