May 16, 2000: A Book that will Advance the Struggle for the Liberation of Women

Interview with Monika Gärtner-Engel and Stefan Engel on the publication of the Polemic "New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women"

class-struggle.gifRed Flag: Why has the book been published just now?

Monika Gärtner-Engel: The book was supposed to appear even earlier as a contribution for the 6th Party Congress of the MLPD which took place at the end of last year. However, due to the complexity of the subject and various other party tasks, only the first part could appear before the party congress. The book is closely associated with the task of the party congress of Gelsenkirchen set for the MLPD, namely to raise the interrelation between the party and the masses to a higher level. For this purpose, it must change its own work and also work towards changing the relation between the masses and the MLPD.

Only on the basis of this all-sided process of self-transformation will it be possible to win the decisive majority of the working class over for socialism and to involve the broad masses in the struggle for socialism.

All the interrelations between the working class movement and the other mass movements, between the Marxist-Leninists and other militant, progressive forces are concentrated in the women’s movement. It is therefore particularly suited for assessing the overall process of the struggle for the party of the masses and raising it to a higher level in an exemplary fashion. The concrete strategy and tactics of the struggle over the mode of thinking of the masses of women is an exemplary guidance for the mass work of the MLPD.

Red Flag: What significance does this book have for the working class movement?

Stefan Engel: During the 150 years of the history of the working class movement there were always more or less serious difficulties in developing the interrelations to the struggle for the liberation of women properly. These were essentially related to the fact that the system of wage labor was regarded as being something separate from the system of the living conditions of the masses. However, the exploitation of wage labor and the double exploitation and oppression of working women form a dialectical unity.

The bourgeois state and family system organizes the system of the dictatorship of the monopolies and imposes living conditions on the broad masses from which they cannot escape individually, but with which they are less and less able to come to terms as individuals. The working class movement must understand that the struggle for the liberation of women is an integral part of its own liberation and, that at the same time, the struggle for a society liberated from exploitation and oppression will only gain the necessary power by a close cooperation with the independent women’s movement.

The significance of the critical discussion of the bourgeois family relations and their influence in the working class movement has gained in importance especially because of the big problem of the mode of thinking in the working class movement. The working class can only fight successfully for a socialist society if it manages to cope with the petty-bourgeois influence on its mode of thinking and way of living.

Red Flag: How did the book come into being?

Stefan Engel: We began a systematic and indeed successful work among women in the eighties, but we did not work out an ideological-political basis for this work. There were, in fact, some negative historical experiences, especially after the Second World War, but at the same time, various theoretical writings on the women’s issue, that have been read within the working class and women’s movement for decades like August Bebel, Clara Zetkin or also Florence Hervé, were taken uncritically as references for the basis of the work.

In practice, a subtle influence of petty-bourgeois feminism manifested itself in the Marxist-Leninist work among women. The more we dealt with this problem, the more we detected a fundamental ideological-political weakness of the MLPD, but also of the revolutionary working class movement, because the Marxist-Leninist foundations since Marx, Engels and Lenin concerning this issue have been in part displaced or not developed further systematically. Therefore, it was absolutely necessary to make a concrete analysis of the concrete situation of the struggle for the liberation of women and its role in the general liberation struggle on the firm basis of Marxism-Leninism.

We could base our work upon many concrete experiences of struggle and a great deal of knowledge. Nevertheless, we had to study a huge mass of analyses, writings, magazines and nearly 200 books in all, in order to be able to provide an all-sided theoretical basis for our Marxist-Leninist work among women. We had to evaluate many positive as well as negative experiences in the international working class and women’s movement. In addition, it was necessary to formulate the book as a polemic in the search for a new perspective in the struggle for the liberation of women.

We have succeeded in concluding this book now with the help of many activists in the women’s movement and by the fact that the party dealt with this issue thoroughly.

I am firmly convinced that it will make a good contribution to advancing the struggle for the liberation of women as well as the work of the MLPD on its way to becoming the party of the masses.

Red Flag: What are the new perspectives for the liberation of women that are announced in the title of the book?

Monika Gärtner-Engel: In elaborating the book we gained a deeper understanding of the struggle for the liberation of women in socialism. The main problem in the communist and working class movement was to reduce this perspective to the question of equal rights. This is a legitimate demand, but it is, in essence, a bourgeois-democratic demand. It aims at giving equal legal, political, social and economic rights to men and women , but it does not deal with the social roots of the inequality of men and women and its reflection in the thinking, feeling and acting of the masses.

The liberation of women is instead a revolutionary process encompassing the social situation of women and, with this, the overall system of work and living conditions. For this reason the liberation of women is only possible in unity with the overall process of the construction of socialism and its transition from the socialist principle of distribution «each according to his ability, each according to his work» to the communist principle of distribution «each according to his ability, each according to his needs».

In this transition the family will be dissolved, not as a long-term relationship, but as an economic unity of the society.

The new perspectives of the liberation of women imply, at the same time, a profound development of our understanding of politics. They indicate the revolutionizing of our approach to dealing with the masses, with everyday life, the living conditions - in critical discussions about an attitude of our comrades restricting their activities one-sidedly to economic and political struggles in the area of the working life or of political struggles in the strict sense. The new perspectives for the liberation of women also signify the realization of our vision of the future, already today in our present living together within the party as well as within the self-organizations of the masses. This begins with jointly solving the manifold problems in our everyday life and is concentrated in the creative method of the proletarian culture of debate in political work, in our relationships, in our working life, in the neighborhood, ...

Last but not least, the new perspectives for the liberation of women imply a systematic promotion of girls and women, their self-confidence, their organization and their fighting ability.

Red Flag: Thank you very much for this talk.

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