Many women in the new women's movement saw that capitalism was a system hostile to women They felt that the goals of the bourgeois women's rights movement, full equality within the framework of the system, were too limited. Instead they took the "full liberation of women" as a goal, without always knowing clearly what this entailed.
Historical experience thus far has not given women any reason to view the socialist society as their utopia. Many socialist revolutions have promised women freedom from gender oppression, but none have kept the promise. It is true that women have received large social and economic advances (though these advances have often been temporary). But the oppression of women has remained.
The conclusion stares us in the face: The type of social system makes little difference, the man and men's power are the enemy and must be fought. Let's not be tricked into following men's "class struggle and revolution". They will only use women to reach their goal, and then continue dominating us afterwards. And, undeniably, this is how it has often ended.
Why did it end this way, and can it work out differently? I won't attempt to present an encompassing historical conclusion of the fate of women in the socialist societies the world has seen thus far. But I will bring up a few conditions that I think can contribute to explaining why it ended as it did.
First a few words about what I mean by socialism. In order to introduce a socialist system the bourgeoisie must be overthrown as a ruling class by a socialist revolution. The working class must take over state power in alliance with other segments of the working people. Profit, as the driving force in the economy, must be replaced with a social plan developed to cover the people's needs.
In reality, it is far more complicated and ambiguous than this type of schematic description suggests. What is meant by "the working class having state powers"? Does it mean that the majority of the population participates actively in running the country, through some form of extremely far-reaching democracy? Or does it mean that the policy adopted for the most part objectively serves the working class, while those who actually govern are a smaller group, for example a party? What is meant by "a plan developed to cover the people's needs"? Who decides what "people's needs" are? And what needs are given the status of being "the people's"?
In the socialist countries the world has seen thus far, it has not been the working class who has literally ruled. The party and state bureaucracy have governed the country on behalf of the working class, more or less to its advantage. The plan has also been formed, and "people's needs" defined, not by the people themselves, but by a party and a bureaucracy.
Considering the historical and economic conditions the socialist countries have had as a starting point when they began building up their country, the result is not surprising. But socialism is, in itself, a social system full of contradictions. Socialism must not be seen as a "completed" social construction, but as a process, a transitionary society, a road from the old to the new. The final goal is not socialism, but a classless, communist society. The concept of socialism as a "completed" social system has done great damage in the communist movement. Socialism is a compromise, or rather a battle between contradictions. The socialist revolution introduces the power of the state for the majority, the working class and the working people. But it does not remove the division of labor in a society. The division between the hand's work and the mind's work, between the workers and the experts, between those who are ruled and those who rule, still exists. This conflicts with the working class administering the power of the state, actually and directly. As long as the division of labor exists, it is a source which undermines the power of the working class and the working people. Therefore a battle must be fought to reduce and eventually abolish the division of labor. This must occur in two ways, first, by creating material conditions for major social participation and all-around development for the working class and the working people. The reduction of working time is central here. As long as the majority of the population must use most of their waking hours to produce what society needs, the chances of succeeding in "abolishing the division of labor" are small, no matter how good one's intentions are. Second, a political system must be developed that ensures, as far as possible and within the framework of existing material conditions, the direct participation of the working class and the working people in governing the state. One can hardly criticize the underdeveloped and destroyed by war Soviet Union of the 20s and 30s for not having "abolished" the division of labor. But one can criticize Stalin for developing a political system where the workers were only "mobilized as producers, not as a ruling class". (See Fossum 1984.)
The socialist revolution also introduces a planned economy directed towards covering people's needs as a main regulator for the economy. But it does not abolish the wage system, it does not abolish production of commodities, and therefore the market as a distribution mechanism is not abolished either (though its significance is reduced). Therefore, the amount you earn remains the factor which, in the main, determines how well you live. The plan, as a whole, can be directed towards covering people's needs. But as long as commodities must be bought for wage income, there will be some whose needs are met better than others. The principle for the distribution of commodities in the socialist transition society is: from each according to capacity, to each according to work. It is a major step forward in relation to capitalism, where commodities are distributed according to class, and all surplus that is created is controlled by a small minority of the population. But socialism's right is nonetheless an "unequal right", as Marx says, because it measures different individuals on the same scale. Everyone does not have the same capacity to work. Two, who both "contribute according to capacity", can therefore risk receiving rather different rewards.
In the communistic society another principle of distribution applies: people contribute to society according to capacity, and receive according to need. Only then have we reached a point where society is truly able to have regard for the individual, and replace an abstract "justice" with a "right" which is based on the fact that individuals actually are different. Perhaps we women have particularly good qualifications for understanding the meaning of this, since we have concretely experienced how "equal" treatment of two sexes in two different circumstances often results in new oppression.
Therefore, in the socialist period a battle must be fought so that "need" plays a more and more important role. Like in the battle to "reduce" the division of labor, one must fight on two fronts: the material conditions for the "need society" must be created, while one simultaneously fights so that the increasing wealth in society is really used to cover people's needs, and not to strengthen the power and privileges of a few strong groups.
The road from the old to the new is no well-beaten path. It is a question of a process full of complicated contradictions and hard battles. If the working class continues to be ruled, instead of ruling (even if they are primarily ruled to their own advantage) the social dividers from the old society may, after a while, re-emerge. The stratum that actually rules, may begin to consider their own interests more than those of people in general, and the economic plans that they formulate may become less and less of a tool to ensure that "people's needs" are met. Because the socialist society is an unfinished society, and carries with it the heavy inheritance of capitalism in the form of economic and social structures, political organization, "obvious truths", ingrown habits and concepts, things that are new and different must be fought through in conflict with everything to which we are accustomed. Nothing "happens automatically". Things that "happen automatically" often take the wrong direction.
Fighting in order that the socialist transition society should be governed by, and serve, the working class more and more, is in many ways fighting an uphill struggle. This is one of the reasons that we in AKP(m-l) feel that it is so important to have a communist party that is conscious of this and can be a leadership for the working class' battle during socialism. But it must not be a party that separates itself from the working class and instead becomes the core for a new ruling class, as has happened in many other socialist countries.
Where does the fight against women's oppression stand in this picture? First, the saying that nothing "happens automatically" applies here. Fighting for changes in women's position is an uphill struggle, too. And it is not just a fight against "ideological leftovers" from the old society, which really have no foundation in the new times, but merely stay alive by force of habit, as it has often been considered. Primarily it is a question of fighting for material changes. Only in the communist period can women's problems be fully solved: the family can be abolished; "according to need" becomes the main principle for the distribution of products in society; the division of labor between the sexes disappears. Women, therefore, have very special reasons for being "impatient" with the socialist compromise, and for fighting to develop society onward to communism. But this also means that the battle against women's oppression is a necessary and inseparable part of the road from "the old" to "the new": a classless, communist society. It is unthinkable that class oppression can be abolished while gender oppression survives. The division of labor in society, which still exists during socialism, is an important material condition for the birth of new privileged stratums and classes, which can take over power and once again oppress the working class. This pertains to the division of labor between experts and workers, between physical and mental work, and between the rulers and the ruled. Society's division of labor according to sex places women on one axis of these labor divisions and ties them down there. The oppression of women is a force which preserves other forms of oppression. How can the division between rulers and ruled be abolished as long as women are tied down? How can we abolish the division between expert/worker, between physical and mental work as long as the woman is a double-shift servant in the family and unable to find time for all-around development, school, finishing her education? Gender oppression will contribute to preserving the class divisions, and form a source for the re-establishment of capitalism.
Class oppression and gender oppression are not identical contradictions. They must be solved with specific measures. Nonetheless, it is impossible to totally solve the one contradiction without solving the other. A classless society with gender oppression is unthinkable. Therefore the question of what kind of society we have is interesting for women. And therefore the question of whether or not we have women's oppression should be interesting for communists. An active policy for fighting against gender oppression, is a necessary part of the fight for communism and against the re-establishment of capitalism. If one does not understand this one is doomed to, at least in the long run, waste the hard-earned results of a socialist revolution.
Why hasn't the battle against women's oppression made greater progress in the socialist countries we have seen thus far? Part of the problem lies in the theory that they have had as a guideline. In the socialist and communist movement there has been something called "the woman question". "The woman question" has become a secondary question, which could be looked at isolated from an overall theory of revolution, socialism and communism (as many men in AKP(m-l) in reality still view it). If the "woman question" wasn't "solved" it didn't necessarily have any serious consequences for the rest of the socialist construction. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State Engels did attempt to form an integrated theory about how the oppression of women was woven together with class oppression and had to be abolished with it. The problem, however, was that the women's struggle was not seen as a driving force for the abolition of private property, classes and the state. If anything women's liberation was a result of the other battles.
Lenin, Stalin and Mao are the most well known socialist leaders and theorists who had practical experience with the construction of a socialist society. Therefore, they have contributed to communism's theoretical arsenal in many areas where Marx and Engels were without direct experience. But when it comes to the women's struggle and women's oppression it is sensational how little they have contributed. It is in Lenin's work one finds most. Nor was he afraid to criticize male communist's practices in marriage: "Unfortunately it can be said about many of our comrades: scratch the communist, and the petty bourgeois emerges." From Stalin's hand a small speech has survived where he encourages working and farming women to "raise their children in Lenin's spirit" and an 8th of March appeal to "the working women" who are "a powerful reserve for the proletariat". Mao is known for his saying that "women are half of heaven". But other than this very little can be found, from a man who has written about almost everything. It is true that there are a few articles from 1919 which speak out strongly against marriage. But this was before he became a communist, and the articles do not appear in his collected works (see Levy, 1984). For the most part one must say that the leaders who stood in the forefront of socialist construction have contributed little new material beyond what Marx and Engels wrote.
This is too conspicuous to be coincidental. In the socialist countries there has, if anything, been more liquidation than development of theories on women's politics, at least if one looks at what remains as "authorized truths". Marx and Engels contributions have been twisted and amputated. In The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State Engels stipulated two main conditions for women's liberation: one was that women were fully drawn into social production; the other was the dissolving of the family. Engel's first condition has remained as a part of the socialist movements inheritance in "the woman question". His other condition has been kept on paper in the official, theoretical texts. But in reality it has been replaced with a glorification of "the socialistic family". And the concept that women's liberation will arrive as a gift when all other problems are solved, still remains.
In the first years of the Soviet Union's history other voices and viewpoints did exist. One of these voices belonged to Alexandra Kollontay, a lady with a certain amount of power, since she led the People's Commission for Social Welfare. She has, among other things, left a lecture series from Sverdlov University, where she enthusiastically describes "the great progress", namely that "family life is in the process of ceasing to be a norm of life". "To divide the kitchen from marriage is a great reform, and at least in women's history it is just as important as dividing the church from the state," Kollontay writes (Swedish new edition, 1971). Kollontay describes the attempts that were made to establish "communal houses", public meals etc., and predicts that this will become the normal way to organize life when the worst of poverty has been overcome. It is her opinion that marriage will disappear and be replaced with more short-term love affairs when neither of the parties have economic benefits from marriage any longer.
One finds little glorification of "the socialistic family" in this. But one can also find opinions in Kollontay's lectures that fit well with the Soviet State's later opinion on women's role. "The worker republic turns to the woman above all in her capacity as labor power and living unit of production," she writes. The latter capacity refers to women as birth machines. The goal of Kollontay's family policy is to emancipate women to work in production, and ensure her health so that she can do her duty to the community by giving birth (and nursing) healthy, strong, living children. However, the raising of these children is most sensibly taken care of by the collective. In this perspective the goal of abolishing the division of labor between women and men is not very important (p. 249):
"During the dictatorship period (proletarian dictatorship, author's note) it is less relevant than ever for the proletariat to support bourgeois feminism's demands for women's equality as an abstract principle. Sensible state planning would, on the contrary, take women's special physical and mental characteristics into consideration and divide the different areas of work between the sexes in a way that best leads to the common goal.
The working women's goal during the dictatorship period cannot be equality as such, but must instead be the most practical use of the female strengths, and a protection of women's interests as mothers."
Kollontay's family policy is, then, a means of reaching this goal. True, there are also sections which argue more on matters of principle in her lectures, but the main stress lies on women's duties towards the fellowship, and less on rights and the importance of liberating women to play their role as a part of the ruling class. Family policy, too, therefore becomes easier to attack when it is no longer seen as a means in "the most practical use of female strengths". Kollontay's practical programs and propaganda in the period she led the People's Commission for Social Welfare were very radical and stood in sharp contrast to that which was to come. But theoretically her contribution must also be seen as a step backward in relation to, for example, Engels. Nonetheless it was radical enough to be forced into oblivion.
Why was there a liquidation rather than a development in theories about women's liberation in the socialist period? I think that this is because also the socialist societies produce ideology, in the sense of producing veiling justifications for the current conditions. A great deal points towards the oppressed women being a "useful economic animal" also for undeveloped socialism. (I will return to this point in the section "Steel, iron and tractors"). The glorification of the family can contribute to preserving this economic usefulness. Several conditions work together to determine women's fate. The theory about the importance of the women's struggle in the socialist period was lacking and partially incorrect. Workingwomen were in very small degree "constituted as a sex and class", and were therefore not a strong, independent force which could mark society's development on the basis of their own platform. The economic realities with which the new, socialist society stood face to face were very hard. The policy for economic construction which partially was chosen, and partially enforced itself, had important negative consequences for women (even though it also brought them social and economic progress). Once again economic policy was revealed as not being gender neutral. Perhaps it instead created the need for a new ideology which was oppressive to women, as, for example, the glorification of "the new socialistic family".
Reading about the first 5-year plan period in Soviet, gives a glimpse into a fantastic drama. Egil Fossum sums up the events that occurred in this way (1984, p. 15):
"The industrialization that the Soviet Union went through in the period from 1929 to 1941 is the fastest history has witnessed. In 12-13 years the Soviet Union was transformed into an industrial super power, and many tens of millions of people were yanked from the Middle Ages and into the Twentieth Century.
Statistics can give some indications about the extent of the change: the national income was increased fivefold; industrial production with a factor of 6.5; and production of capital goods increased tenfold; transportation capacity was quadrupled; production of all important raw materials increased very strongly. The city population increased with close to 40 million people."
Fossum states that the Soviet Union managed what no other country that was underdeveloped after World War I had managed alone, namely industrialization. Without the economic construction that occurred in this period, it is very doubtful whether the Soviet Union would have been capable of withstanding Hitler's armies and making their major contribution to the fight against Nazism. Stalin's prediction in a speech in 1931 was probably relatively precise, when he stated: "We are 50 to 100 years behind the advanced countries. We must catch up on this head start in 10 years. Either we do this, or we go under." In 1941 Hitler's Germany invaded the Soviet Union.
But the rapid industrialization also had its price. This price was paid by the people in the villages, among others, a strain from which Soviet agriculture never quite recovered. It was accomplished, too, with methods that strengthened the stratum of experts' power at the expense of the working class, and which contributed to cementing the bureaucratic techniques of domination and undermined the working class' possibilities of governing. And it demanded a high price of women.
The industrialization of the Soviet Union was carried out giving stringent priority to agriculture and to heavy industry, at the expense of light industry, which produced consumer goods for the people. This happened in three 5-year plans in a row. Light industry got the crumbs that were left over when heavy industry had taken theirs. The result could be clearly seen on the population's living standards. Living conditions in the cities were atrocious. The city populations swelled, while, simultaneously, far too few resources were invested in housing construction. As Alec Nove writes (1976, p. 198):
"Neglect of maintenance made conditions even less bearable. No Soviet citizen is likely to deny that lack of space, shared kitchens, the crowding of several families per apartment, often divided rooms, were the lot of the majority of the urban population for over a generation, and that this was a source of a great deal of human misery."
Nove also says that when one evaluates the standard of living at this time, one cannot only look at rationing, price differences and the shortage of goods. One must also take into consideration standing in queues, the low quality of the goods, and the neglect of the consumer's needs and demands.
Nove makes no attempt at evaluating what this development meant for women in particular. He mentions that there was a dramatic increase in female employment. Some professions, like medicine and teaching, became completely dominated by women, while "tough ex-farming women made up a large part of the unskilled labor force". In the period 1928-1949 the female portion of the Soviet Union's workers and office staff increased from 24% to 39% (Fossum, p. 87). One might say that the Soviet Union did well in pulling women into society's production, in fact, it was a necessary condition for carrying out the 5-year plans.
Was women's unpaid labor in the family also a necessary condition for caning out the 5-year plans? I think it must have been. And housework must have been a colossal burden in these years, under the conditions that women were offered, with cramped and poor housing, neglect of the consumer goods sector, shortages of goods, and the inevitable queues. "Women still had the main responsibility for home and children, so they lived a life with a very high labor intensity both at home and out," says Fossum (p. 88). Just as women in the USA compensated for the income drops because of unemployment with increased unpaid labor, their Soviet counterparts compensated for flaws in the plans with their unpaid labor. Women's unpaid labor in the family was one of the factors which contributed to the construction of Soviet heavy industry. But it was never put on paper, in the plans or figured into the expenses.
It is not surprising, under these conditions that a need would arise for the glorification of "the socialistic family". The regime was dependent upon women taking on this dual burden. Changes in the view on the family found expression, among other places, in the laws. In 1918 the Soviet Union had the most radical family law in the world (see Hagemann, 1981). Marriage and divorce need only be registered to be valid. Spouses kept the same legal status as prior to marriage. Joint property between spouses was abolished, as were all marital duties, including economic support. Everyone who was capable of working was to support themselves. Economic responsibility was, however, kept as a temporary measure, in the case of partners who were incapable of working, because state benefits were not very developed. The division between "legitimate" and "illegitimate" children was done away with. Both parents had equal provider responsibilities. If the parents were incapable of supporting their children the state was to step in. Parental authority was narrowed, and abortion became legal and free of charge.
In the 30s this changed. Fossum writes about the development of family law (p. 89):
"Simultaneously with the increase of women's problems, it became more difficult to divorce and get an abortion. In the 20s the Soviet Union had, perhaps, the most liberal marriage and abortion laws in the world. In the 30s the retrenchment began, and in 1944 the Soviet Union introduced a family law which was perhaps stricter than that of the West in the same time period. The family was perceived as a basis for the entire society. The stronger the family became, the stronger the society as a whole would be, it was said. The strengthening of the family was also a prerequisite for higher birth rates.
The new laws made it difficult to divorce. In contrast to the previous period, one had to raise a case and become divorced by court order. It was difficult to get a divorce to stand up in court. It also cost money. For many it would have been far too expensive. The abortion laws developed in the same direction. Abortion became illegal as early as 1936. Children of unmarried mothers were in a worse position than other children, that is, if the state did not take care of them."
One characteristic of the same picture is that homosexuality again became illegal in the mid-30s, though the paragraphs had been rescinded in the 20s.
This development undoubtedly has many causes. It reflects among other things, the stiffening of the society of the Soviet Union into a rigid division of labor and a hierarchical social structure. It is also a fact that the progressive family law from the 20s did not always function favorably for women in an economically and socially underdeveloped country. For example, Hagemann (1981) tells the following of so-called "seasonal marriages": It sometimes occurred that a rich farmer married when harvesting neared and then divorced again when the work was done. In this way he ensured renewed bedmates and free labor power. Furthermore, the hard living conditions created new, economic reasons for marriage. "A woman can, for example, get together with a man, not because she cares about him, but because 'he has a room in one of the soviet's houses'. Or a man marries a woman because it is easier to keep the winter at bay with double wood rations," Kollontay writes (p. 229). There are also other examples of the new, free laws turning into the freedom for increased sexual exploitation of women by men in a society where the sexes were far from economically and socially equal. Kollontay mentions examples such as "a working woman or farming woman, who sets out with her sack to get flour, is forced to sleep with the conductor in order to get a seat on the roof, or with the guard in order to get through the checkpoint with the flour" (p. 236). These things could, of course, have happened no matter what the law was. But they tell us something about the actual conditions between the sexes.
Nonetheless it is difficult to rid oneself of the thought that there must be a close connection between the economic development's need for women's unpaid labor, and the strengthening of the family as "a foundation for the entire society".
After the war, history repeated itself in the Eastern European People's Democracies. Here, too they wanted to build up strong industrial bases, and here too, heavy industry was given priority above light industry and agriculture. Here too, the women were drawn into social production on a large scale. Scott (1976) describes the situation in post-war Czechoslovakia. The first 5-year plan was very ambitious. The total industrial production increase was to be 57% by the close of 1953. In transit, however, the goals were placed even higher. In 1951 the goal for growth in industrial production increased to 98%, while heavy industry was expected to show even better results. Heavy industry was to reach 230% of the 1948 level in 1953, and Czechoslovakia was to become the world's sixth largest steel producer.
What did this entail for women's daily lives? First: they went into production. By 1955 women made up 42.6% of the labor force in Czechoslovakia. Secondly: "running" a family became extremely hard work. Scott writes (p. 99):
"In spite of promises and decrees, and in spite of this "municipal humor" (so called because no one higher than a local plant director or local government official could be criticized), day-today conditions remained very difficult. Coal shortages inevitably occurred during the worst periods of winter frost, and burst pipes often added absence of running water to the discomfort of cold rooms. Gas and electricity supplies were frequently disrupted during peak cooking hours. Food shortages and faulty distribution made shopping a major problem. Working women left the house early and returned late, but the customer who was not on hand when the vegetables were delivered could not count on having any. Stores were the small, crowded shops which had served the prewar generation, and pressure on them was increased by the closing of the outdoor markets at which small farmers had previously sold their produce. Queues of shoppers waiting for such ordinary necessities as potatoes and onions stretched out into the street. There was hardly a staple which did not at one time or another mysteriously disappear from the market for a protracted period, due to complicated chains of circumstances which were eventually reported in the press to have been corrected, but always seemed to re-form somewhere else. The convenience foods which had made such a brave start were hard to find and expensive; their producers also complained of lack of raw materials arid manpower."
A network of local Women's Committees was organized to contribute to solving women's problems, and to mobilize women into participation in working life and social life. But, Scott writes (p. 101):
"Though they had many tasks, they had no authority and nothing to say about how funds were spent. Their recommendations were appreciated but rarely acted upon because pressing industrial tasks specified by the national economic plan had first priority. After that local industries had urgent financial and manpower needs. Municipal services got the remnants, and voluntary brigades who were ready to improve their neighborhoods could not be supplied with the basic do-it-yourself materials."
In China, as well, the economic policy has been heavily marked for long periods by dramatically giving priority to heavy industry, though Mao warns against an imbalance between heavy and light industry in his famous speech The Ten Major Relationships from 1956. Limitations on private farming plots, free markets and small private business has undoubtedly in periods led to much the same conditions as Scott described from Czechoslovakia: a shortage of goods and an ineffective distribution system that has meant extra burdens for women in the form of long queues, etc. After Mao's death the family has become increasingly strengthened as an economic entity, through the introduction of the "responsibility system" based upon the individual family. People's standard of living has become more dependent upon how much, and what kind, of labor power the family controls. This is a hindrance for the introduction of the "one child policy", because more children mean more labor power for the families in the villages. What kind of child - boy or girl - is not indifferent either. The family is still the most common system of support for the old in China; the children's duty to take care of their parents. A son is often economically more capable of this than a daughter. In addition, daughters traditionally move to the spouse's family/ village when they marry, and become labor power for the in-laws family instead of their own. Pressure from these economic realities on the one hand, and the authorities' one child policy on the other, resulted in the beginning of the 80s in a rather dramatic re-birth of the old custom of infant homicide of girls in many places out in the villages. The Chinese Women's Federation started a nationwide study of the problem of infant homicide of girls in 1983, and found shocking results in some areas. (See Croll, 1984.)
The point is not to moralize over history. What one can learn from the experiences in these socialist countries is that the "woman question" is not a secondary question which can be solved more or less independently of the lines one otherwise takes. "WOMAN QUESTION" is not blazoned on all of the issues that are important for the conditions for the fight against women's oppression. The model for the economic development in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe was not "women's rights". But then again, it was. And having said A, it becomes easier to say B: no to divorce and no to homosexuality and yes to the holy, socialistic family.
Women's organizations have existed, and exist, in most socialist countries. (Though the Bolshevist Women's Chapter, Zhenotdel, was disbanded in 1930. And the Czechoslovakian Woman's Union, which was established after the war, was disbanded in 1952, because it had "achieved its goal". The Chinese Women's Federation was temporarily disbanded during the Cultural Revolution.) But what kind? Women in the socialist countries, who were rapidly drawn into social production, and who truly stood in the "squeeze between work and family", needed organizations which were a strong expression of the "dual consciousness" - class and gender. They needed to be represented by many woman-conscious women, with clear platforms for women's policy, within the organizations through which the working class was to exercise their power as a ruling class. The most important of these was the communist party.
In the Soviet Union there was, according to Fossum "a striking incongruity between women's importance in production and in politics". At the labor union congress in 1949 women made up 40% of the delegates, something Fossum sees as an expression of the economic importance they had. In the party only 20% were women. And though this had tripled since 1920, it didn't help much, since women were primarily found on the lower levels, of the party. The first woman entered the Political Bureau under Khrushchev. When one considers the striking shortage of cadre in the Soviet Union (the male portion of the working class was strongly decimated after war, civil war and intervention wars) these numbers are set in further relief.
The situation was not so very different in China, despite examples like Jiang Qing, Mao's third wife. The women who reached fame, herostratical or honorable, in Chinese political life, have for the most part been wives of even more famous men. This does not mean that they could not have had substantial personal qualities. But without their husband's reputation and power as an aid, they would have had slim opportunities of reaching the top. Any prominent female revolutionaries without this "aid" became invisible somewhere along the road.
What then, of the women's organizations? Lenin states in his discussion with Clara Zetkin in 1921:
"Our ideological conceptions give rise to principles of organization. No special organizations for women. A woman communist is a member of the party just as a man communist, with equal rights and duties. There can be no difference of opinion on that score. Nevertheless, we must not close our eyes to the fact that the party must have bodies, working groups, commissions, committees, bureaus or whatever you like, whose particular duty is to arouse the masses of women workers, to bring them into contact with the party, and to keep them under its influence. That, of course, involves systematic work among them. We must train those whom we arouse and win, and equip them for the proletarian class struggle under the leadership of the Communist Party. I am thinking not only of proletarian women, whether they work in the factory or at home. The poor peasant women, the petty bourgeois - they too, are the prey of capitalism, and more so than ever since the war. The unpolitical, unsocial, backward psychology of these women, their isolated sphere of activity, the entire manner of their life - these are facts. It would be absurd to overlook them, absolutely absurd. We need appropriate bodies to carry on work amongst them, special methods of agitation and forms of organization. That is not feminism, that is practical, revolutionary expediency."
It is easy to support the view that male and female communists should be in the same party. But because of women's oppression they do not have equal "rights and duties" in practical reality. In the party, too, one must carry on a systematic women's struggle.
Lenin's view on women's organization outside of the party expresses the place women's associations have primarily had, in the communist movement and in socialist countries. Women's organizations are primarily a channel from the party to the women, so that women can become acquainted with and support the party's politics. In the socialist countries the women's associations have also had the job of mobilizing women to participate in various tasks which are important to society, and they have taken care of practical tasks that deal particularly with women. But the women's associations have not been assigned any independent role in the struggle. They have not been seen as an organized expression of women's consciousness, nor have they been viewed as a tool for "constituting" women in the working class and the working people as a "class and gender". They have functioned even less as a tool for women's power, as special interest organizations that women could use to fight for their demands and defeat resistance. This does not mean that the women's organizations could not have functioned as lobby groups for women in many cases. There are many examples that they have. Hagemann writes, for example, about the Soviet Bolshevist Party's Women's Chapter, Zhenotdel, in the 20s (1981, p. 36):
"They published a number of women's journals and magazines, they created propaganda groups which went to the most outlying areas in the country in order to teach women to read and to inform them about the content of the new law and the communist policy. They worked actively to enlist women in the cooperative movement and in the fight to restructure daily life in and around the family. They were in the forefront in the fight against misogynic and backward ideas within the party and among party comrades who defended their own privileges in their own families."
In China, as well, women's agitation groups went out to the villages to inform people about the new family law of 1950. Women were gathered at meetings where they could talk about their own experiences and the abuse to which they had been victim, while they simultaneously learned about their rights and received support for carrying through a decision about divorce. The abuse of women and oppression came under fire, and the battle tactics could be militant enough: in one village the women's council kidnapped a brutal father-in-law and held him locked up until he promised change. (See Strand 1985.)
Despite these types of examples there existed no conscious policy which incorporated women's need for an independent organization which gave them the power and strength to fight against women's oppression in the socialist society. Women's associations were primarily to be supporting organizations for the party, which spread the party's ideas' deep into the women's masses, where the party itself could not reach. In discussions with representatives from, for example, the Women's Federation in China, it became very obvious that this is the way they themselves see their job. Also in the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, the women's association, AMNLAE, has been assigned a similar position.
Women have, then, had women's organizations, but no "women's front to back them up". In the party they had little or no power. They have been organized - but poorly organized for fighting on their own behalf. Here, undoubtedly, lies part of the explanation of why women cannot exhibit greater progress in the socialist period.
Socialism is full of contradictions, said Mao. And they are real contradictions, not just a result of "ideological leftovers from the old society". In the Soviet Union of the 30s there was a true contradiction between the need for rapid development of heavy industry (among other reasons in order to meet an attack from Nazism) and the economic demands women's liberation raised. This contradiction could almost certainly have been solved in a better way than it was in the Soviet Union. First and foremost, it could have been recognized and treated consciously as a contradiction instead of breeding veiling ideology. But it could hardly have been eliminated completely.
It can be necessary to compromise between various considerations and various interests. It is important that these are recognized as just that - compromises - and not as the highest of socialist principles. Making virtue of necessity is on the whole a doubtful virtue.
Trying to find out which contradictions will arise in the battle for women's liberation in the socialist period, is perhaps the most important thing that we can do if we want to proceed differently in the future than we have in the past. It will be a question of contradictions on different levels. And since we know little about which conditions will surround a socialist revolution, for example in Norway, then it is difficult to be very concrete. What I present here, will therefore primarily be an experiment in logic. But experiments in logic can also be useful, if they help us to address the right problems.
The fight for women's liberation must, also during the socialist period, be fought in many different areas and on many different levels simultaneously. A bit schematically, I will divide them into three groups:
Of course these areas do not exist independently. But because it is difficult to write about all these things simultaneously, I have chosen this type of subdivision.
It is only when one reaches communism that one has fully realized the economic prerequisites that are necessary for women's liberation. Women, therefore, are interested in an economic development which draws communism closer. But they cannot just sit down and wait and expect that the general social development will "solve" the women's question. They have to fight to ensure that their interests are guarded in the economic plan. For the most part the struggle for an economic development that enhances women's liberation will also serve the struggle to bring communism closer.
In the socialistic transition period women must, therefore, hold on to the fact that the final, strategic goal is communism. Simultaneously, one cannot automatically say what women can achieve in the various stages before this goal is reached. A socialist society can be more or less oriented towards women. In the socialist period, too, women will probably have to have "tactical" demands or "current" demands in addition to strategic goals.
What must an economic model look like, if it is both to bring women closer to the strategic goal and, as far as possible, guard their interests along the way?
Thus far, one of the greatest advances for women during socialism has been that it pulls them into the social production on a large scale. The basis for this has been the very labor power demanding plan economy - a systematic development of the country through the introduction of ever-increasing resources. This is often called developing the economy through the extensive method. The economic miracle of Stalin's time is its primary example. As we have seen, there are definitely two sides to that coin, not least of all for women: there have been no resources left over for the production of necessary consumer goods and for the development of services which could free women from housework.
However, modern capitalism utilizes the intensive method of development to a far greater extent, through perpetually increasing effectivity and technological development. The forces behind this development are built into the capitalistic system itself - among other things, in the competition among capitalists themselves. In capitalism this leads to ever increasing portions of the labor force becoming superfluous, massive unemployment results.
What kind of economic development will serve women? Women need workplaces. But they also need an economic model which makes it possible to "gradually dismantle" the family as an economic unit, in other words which makes it possible for more and more of the unpaid labor in the family to be organized on the social level and/or eliminated through the use of modern technology (Virginia Woolf dreamed about "an economic, powerful and efficient future where the houses were cleaned by a breath of warm wind". The fact that this future has not appeared, is hardly due to the lack of technological possibilities). And they need an economic model that makes it possible to abolish the divide between men's jobs and women's jobs. These two issues are closely tied together. The family contributes to sustaining "women's jobs" and vice versa. In addition they need an economic model that makes it possible to reduce working hours, so women have spare time, the opportunity for all-round development and real opportunities for participation in the running of the state.
On the whole, this means that women profit from an "intensive" economic development, where advanced technology ensures high labor productivity, so that little time is used to produce the material benefits that we need. In the socialist period this type of development does not need to lead to unemployment, as it does in capitalism. The time saved can be taken out in the form of shorter workdays, and/or by transferring resources and labor power to the large, public service sector which can replace much of the unpaid labor in the family. There is no guarantee that these are the choices that will be made. But a highly productive economy provides a greater freedom of choice, and more opportunities for women. Moreover, the communistic "need-society" is unthinkable as long as people have to use so much time producing what is needed to support life. My first demand on an economic model which serves women is, then, a highly technological economy, an economy based on high labor productivity. This type of economy would serve women's strategic interests, and make it easier for them to put through their demands "along the way". (There is an important problem here, which I choose to skip over in this presentation: it has proved difficult for socialist countries, at least socialist countries which started out with underdeveloped economies, to achieve an "intensive" economic development on the same lines as capitalism's. Socialism does not have competition between the individual capitalists as a force behind technological development. What does socialism have that can take its place?)
Gradually dismantling the family as an economic unit will, as previously mentioned, demand a large service sector, and many people working in the caring professions. I imagine small cozy cafés and restaurants in conjunction with workplaces and housing where we will often eat instead of cooking at home. This saves both work cooking and shopping. I see small well-manned and well-womanned day care centers both for pre-school and school-age children, schools, activity centers for people of all ages, old age homes with proper supervision and care, cultural centers, libraries, swimming halls etc, etc. A socialism which is oriented towards women will demand a large, public "tertiary sector" which is not perpetually threatened with cutbacks, reductions and layoffs. And the services that are provided, should be free or very cheap.
As the workday is reduced and the organization of society changes, it is fully possible that part of the need for this sector will disappear. Today there are sharp divisions between "work" and "spare time", between "school" and "play", between the "public sphere" and the "private sphere" and between the "adult's world" and "children's world". This will continue in the first phase of the socialist transition society. But because it will take less and less time to produce the necessities of life needed by society, and people will be freed to expand their creative abilities in a more all-round way, in accordance with their own qualifications and needs, the term "spare time" will lose its meaning. Perhaps being with children, where being creative, playing and learning become different sides of a process, will become a part of all adult's lives, and partially replace school as a separate institution. Many other changes will occur of which it is difficult to conceive today.
But I am fairly convinced that we must take a "detour" towards a large, public service sector which takes over most of the unpaid labor that today falls on women. As long as this unpaid labor remains in the family, women will be tied down as second-class members of the socialist society. This also means a preservation of the oppressive structures from the old society. My other demand on an economic model which serves women, is a large, public service sector which provides free or very inexpensive services.
However, the combination of the first and the second demand can easily turn into an even sharper gender divided labor market. Women are rationalized out of the labor-intensive industrial jobs where they are now concentrated, and technology and men move in instead. I once saw a TV program from Freia chocolate factory, where a representative of the company explained the consequences of the introduction of new technology: True enough, ten women would lose their boring, routine jobs, but instead there would be interesting and meaningful jobs for "two men". It was hardly a coincidence that he put it this way. Women take on all the new jobs in the public sector - which are low paid, because they are women's jobs and also constitute a large expense item for society. An attempt at gradually dismantling the family as an economic unit from one direction, can serve to increase the need for it from another direction. Representatives for the low-income sectors and high income sectors, in other words women and men, must pool their resources.
The long-term solution to this problem, is to abolish the entire paid labor system, and switch over to the communist principle of distribution according to need. But what do we do in the meantime? How are we going to fight to break down the divide between women's jobs and men's jobs in the socialist period? Women's special position in the labor market and in the family as an economic unit work reciprocally to maintain each other, and a policy for women's liberation must attack both.
In my opinion wages are the most important difference between women's and men's jobs. What consequences will this have for the women's struggle in the socialist period? Our goal is to abolish the wage system, this alone can ensure true women's liberation. Perhaps the main strategy for women's "wage struggles" in the socialist period should be that wages become less and less important; that more and more of what we need to live and thrive, both services and products, should be free of charge, so we can use them when needed: free daycare; free housing; free collective transportation; free café meals; etc., etc. This would be one kind of demand that was in full accordance with our strategic goal.
Nonetheless, the wage system will exist, probably for a long time. Maybe this means that the women's movement in the socialist period will also have to have "tactical" demands like equal pay for women's and men's jobs. As long as "men's jobs" and "women's jobs" exist, then people are not only paid according to their effort, but also according to their sex: the power relationship between the sexes expresses itself in lower pay for women. Perhaps equal pay for men's and women's jobs is one of the democratic demands that we must insist that socialism fulfill, before we move on to abolish the entire wage system?
My third demand on an economic model which serves women is therefore a conscious policy of breaking down the divisions between women's jobs and men's jobs. In the short run this must be done by removing the pay differences, on the long-term by abolishing the entire pay system.
I have already mentioned that women need an economy that makes it possible to reduce working hours. This is one of the reasons why we must support technological development that increases labor productivity. But we must also fight so that increased productivity leads to a reduction in working hours. This is not inevitable, even in the socialist period. When women today, in the capitalist period, lead the way in the fight for shorter workdays, there are several causes. Shorter workdays make it possible for more women to work full-time. Full-time strengthens one's position in working life, and one's position in the family: when both wife and husband work equally, women have a better starting point for putting through a more equal division of housework. Women who work full-time also achieve greater economic independence from their husbands than women who work half-days. In addition, shorter workdays give women more spare time, and greater opportunities for participation in politics and society.
In the first phase of socialism it may well be that all of these causes are still applicable. As the unpaid work in the family begins to be organized socially, these barriers to women's full participation in working life will fall away. And demands for "equal division of housework" will be less pressing. But it will take a process to accomplish this, not to mention - a struggle! As for the last cause - shorter workdays in order to improve opportunities for participation in society and politics - this has to do with the fact that women of the working class and the working people are not just meant to be producers, but also rulers during the socialist period. Kitchen maids must run the state, Lenin said, but this is more easily said than done if the kitchen maids both have long workdays, and housework and the care of others waiting for them at home. If women are to play their role as a part of the ruling class, they have to have the material possibilities to allow it. Not least of all, this is a question of time! Reducing working hours (and removing housework as women's burden) is a link both in reducing the division of labor between men and women, and between ruler and ruled. Women in the working class and the working people are the most "ruled" of all. An economy which paves the way for them in ever increasing degrees to "rule the state", is an economy which also serves the fight for communism. My fourth demand on an economic model that serves women, is therefore an economy which reduces working time.
Virginia Woolf dreamed of a future where houses were cleaned by a "breath of warm wind". A beautiful female dream. I think that most of us have fantasized about handy small robots and other technical miracles which could take on the most tedious housework. But it is usually women who fantasize along these lines. And we have neither the knowledge nor the power to turn these dreams into concrete projects.
In the socialist period this has to change! Socialism must develop an "everyday technology" which serves women. Today - engineers and technicians go around in the factories, "stealing" the workers' knowledge about production and putting it into machines that make the workers superfluous. But no one bothers with stealing our knowledge about housework and putting it into machines, because there is no real profit in that.
"Everyday technology" must become an important area of development during socialism. I am not just thinking about housekeeping robots etc., but of all kinds of products that make life easier for women. This means that women must conquer technology, they must enter research and development for application, with a clear-cut women's perspective.
There will be those who ask: "Wasn't the intention to organize housework socially? Are we going to be left with the private responsibility, with only our little robots to help? "Yes, the intention is to organize housework socially. However, no matter what, it is an advantage to automize the toil away. Toil is toil, whether private or collective. It is better to have running water than collectively organized wells and water carrying. When the toil is eliminated, it is probably possible to make it part of the caretaker's job to push the button that turns on the warm, cleaning breath of wind, so we don't have to think about that either! My fifth demand on an economic model that serves women is a model that places a good deal of emphasis on developing "everyday technology".
Socialism will inherit capitalism's "infrastructure" - buildings, transportation networks, roads etc.. In this "infrastructure" there is a sharp built-in division between "private" and "public". Workplaces, theatres, sports arenas, cafés - are all separated from housing. And housing is nuclear-family housing, where everybody has their own, private 'turf.
As I wrote in the chapter about housework, this leads to the concept of the "eternal" and "natural" division between family and society, housework and work, woman and man. These divisions contribute to chaining women to the role of second-class citizens and private servants for the core family.
Therefore, women are interested in breaking down large parts of capitalism's "infrastructure", and building up a new one: housing that doesn't signalize that the core family is the only way to live; planning in rural areas and city sectors that "mixes" the private and the public, and which makes it possible for people to meet in many different contexts, and to get to know each other in many different roles; a material structure which promotes interaction, closeness and caring which crosses the boundaries of generations and families.
How this is actually to be done, I don't know. But isn't it true that the new technological development will soon make the large factories, and the large suburbs with long commuter trips in between a thing of the past? In the capitalist period it is not very likely that this will lead to anything positive. Maybe we risk a re-birth of "home-labor" - with increased isolation, division and less fellowship among people? Socialism, however, offers other possibilities: we can create small societies, where we live and work, and do a lot of other things together. My sixth demand on an economic model which serves women, is therefore a model which breaks up the division between "public" and "private" which is built into capitalism's infrastructure.
To sum up - an economic model which serves women, must satisfy the following demands:
In the socialist period women must fight for a plan economy with the profile that I have sketched above. In the long run we must fight for the introduction of a communistic "need society", and along the way for a socialist transition society which is as woman-oriented as possible.
There are many circumstances that can make it difficult to introduce this kind of model. A socialist Norway could be victim to long-term aggression from imperialism, and might have to use a good deal of its resources on defending itself. Or it could be boycotted, more or less completely, so that it must focus on relatively widespread autarky. It would probably be a meager economy, with extensive need for labor power in the production of material necessities. There would be less room to maneuver, and less room for a model like the one I sketched. In that type of situation women would have to compromise, and choose a new strategy based on what it was possible to achieve within the limits of that framework. The economic basis of a society sets the limits for how far one can get on the road to women's full liberation. But these limits do not dictate how we use the opportunities within those limits. Therefore, women must organize and fight to shape their world in their image, no matter how advantageous or disadvantageous conditions are.
Even with a good starting point contradictions and battles will undoubtedly emerge surrounding this kind of economic model. There will still be forces in existence within society which either support capitalism, waver, or want to use the new society as a stepping stone towards their own wealth and power. An economic model which liberates women will undoubtedly meet resistance from these forces, because it contributes to undermining the possibility for the re-birth of a new, oppressive class society.
And there will be contradictions among the people. Even today we can see that women and men have different priorities as to where they think it is important to use resources. This often finds expression in individual families, and it can be seen in the labor movement, where "women's demands" often attract little interest from men. There is little reason to believe that this will have totally vanished by the first phase of socialism.
Let's imagine that Norway began socialism with approximately the same economic structure that we have today. Men dominate in the traditional core of the proletariat, where the material value is created. We find women primarily in the public sector. It is the women who do double work, not the men.
The women say, "We want to get rid of the double-work, we want it done socially, and society must pay. Moreover we want real equal pay - raise the wages in women's jobs!" What will men say then? Maybe they will say, "We are the ones who create value. Shall we feed even more public employees? And should the value that we create be used to raise the pay for practical nurses and office assistants while our wages stagnate? Isn't it supposed to be the workers who are the ruling class? Isn't socialism, supposed to give us advantages, too?"
Such "contradictions among the people" may very well turn up. If they are "solved" one-sidedly on men's terms, as may well happen, then this will not only contribute to maintaining women's oppression,' but will also ensure that structures from the old society are adopted and preserved as well. In this perspective the work that is done to create an alliance between the "two vanguards" in the working class becomes twice as important!
If women are to have a chance of putting "their" economic model through, they have to have power. They have to have power to influence the premises for the plan, and not be stowed away in the "Equal Rights Department" or the "Directorate for Women's Issues". No matter how democratic a socialist society is, there will always be key positions where information is interpreted and the premises for decisions are stated. Women must be there. Part of the strategy for the women's struggle within socialism must be how to get there, and how we can arrange to have a "women's front backing us up" when we fight for the acceptance of our issues.
Today society is organized in families, which have important economic and social duties. What will happen when the family is "gradually dismantled" as an economic unit? What will happen to cohabitation between man, woman and their joint children? Will we mate indiscriminately? Will children live in massive, cold children's homes? Will the rest of us live in barracks and eat in Formica cafeterias with overboiled potatoes and soggy fish? Or will we find happy, lifelong monogamy, freed from problems and oppression?
Many people are scared by the thought that families can dissolve, not just economically, but also as a social unit. I think that this is because we think about the alternatives that exist in a capitalistic society. We think of the hall of the understaffed institutions we know and shiver at the thought that our children and elderly will be stowed away there. We think of the cold, isolated city environments many of us know, and we shiver at the thought of becoming lonely there (though it is a fate most of us will meet, at least when we grow old).
But is this the alternative? No, it couldn't possibly be. No one would choose this. The family won't dissolve, either as an economic unit or as a social unit before alternatives are fought into being that are seen as improvements. The "dissolving of the family" and its replacement with barracks and children's homes would have to be a development forced through from above. It is difficult to imagine the conditions that would cause this. All indications point toward the gradual dismantling of the family as being something for which women will have to fight, and even then it will take a strong mass movement. No matter how successfully the "myth of the good mother" is fought, it is hardly likely that massive groups of women will organize in order to demand barracks and children's homes.
The gradual dismantling of the family will be a process that stretches over time. And it will occur simultaneously with a number of other processes which I have described in the section on economy: reduction in working time giving room for all-round development and activity, social participation and social interaction; erasing the divisions between the "private sphere" and the "public sphere" for the benefit of a mode of society which allows people to express all sides of themselves in most contexts; the gradual dismantling of the wage system and its replacement with distribution according to need. All this will mean that society as a whole will be very different from that with which we are familiar today, and relationships between people will be different from those to which we are accustomed. When we imagine an alternative to the existing family, we must also attempt to imagine this alternative in an entirely different society than the one we now inhabit.
Maybe there won't be a defined pattern for cohabitation? Maybe some people will choose to live together two and two: man and woman, woman and woman, man and man. Maybe some people will live in large groups, consisting of several generations? Children must live with adults, and not in institutions. But perhaps biological kinship will not be as important as it is today? Even now there are, plenty of children who have "mothers", "fathers" and "brothers and sisters" to whom they are not biologically related. And many have two families, which can be difficult if there is animosity between the two, or it can be all right if relations are good.
I don't believe in the happy, lifelong monogamy as the standard. The idea behind this kind of "cleansed" monogamy is based on it being the "natural" and "correct" form for love. When it doesn't function, it is because of the problems society causes people. But monogamy arose as a result of a specific social and economic organization of society. When this organization changes, love will also change.
Does this mean that people will restlessly hunt from partner to partner, dragging rootless children? Hardly. Perhaps they will live in relatively stable groups, large or small, and form relationships across the boundaries of these groups? Why must lovers necessarily live together, when they can visit each other as often as they like and also do many things together outside of the home? Maybe it is easier when love dies, if this doesn't mean that one's entire life is turned upside down as well?
Perhaps there will be less distance between love and friendship than there is today? Maybe friendship will be deeper, warmer and more binding and love will be less despairing because it isn't the only near relationship we have? If we have an integral outlook when viewing the things that will mark the society which nears communism, we will find such possibilities as these.
In their discussion of prostitution Cecilie Høigård and Liv Finstad differentiate two different types of action which they call action as unfolding and action as calculation (1986, p. 184):
"When an act is unfolding, the value of the act lies in the act itself. The act is like a living, organic thing, like an affirmation of life. The act is its own end, its own rationale. It can be compared to the maturation of a seed to full bloom.
When an act is calculated, there is a sharp distinction between the means and the end. The act is performed as a means of achieving something completely different at a future time. There is no internal connection between the means and the end. In fact, the means may even be painful and unpleasant, in sharp contrast to the attractive goal. The person who acts calculatedly figures out advantages and disadvantages, and will not do anything without a purpose. Everything done is calculated for yield. Interests are looked after.
These two types of acts give rise to two different forms of interaction and relationships among people. We have chosen to call these forms community and company.
In a community, the predominating acts are unfolding ones, as with the relationship between mother and child, father and child, married couples, among relatives, among those belonging to the same parish, among musicians playing in the same orchestra. Community is characterized by inner bonds and mutual dependence among the participants.
In a company, calculation plays the dominant role in the acts performed. The parties are prepared to exploit each other for the sake of gain. The relationship is characterized by mutual indifference; the parties see each other as a means through which to achieve their own individual ends. Examples of such relationships include the relationship between buyer and seller at a market, between partners in a contract, between adversaries in a lawsuit."
In practice the division between actions which are unfolding and actions which are calculated is not so clear. Calculated actions can be widespread among spouses. And close, personal relationships can spring up among, for example, colleagues even though, initially, they are only together because both are necessary to make the machine run.
In the ideology of the family, the relationship between individuals is meant to be a goal in itself, and it should be marked by action as unfolding. Many of the other contexts in which we meet people are primarily instrumental; in other words, the interaction is not a goal in itself, and "action as calculation" dominates. This also applies to the contexts which take up most of our time outside the home, work and school. We go to work, not even primarily to work, but in order to make money. We go to school, not even primarily to learn, but "to get a good job in the future", as school children answer when asked (see Ericsson and Rudberg, 1981).
A large portion of our lives is filled with "action as calculation" and a relationship to people which is derived from this. That is not surprising in a capitalist society, where most things deal with exchange, loss and gain. This is so taken for granted that some psychologists and sociologists have adopted economists' "exchange theory" and turned it into a general theory for human interaction: in their interaction with others people try to "maximize gain" and "minimize loss" on their own behalf (and this does not merely apply to money). Their actions must be understood as a strategy for obtaining this.
People's actions are not this one-dimensional. But what if our lives were less influenced by "action as calculation" and correspondent relationships to people? What if work were no longer primarily a means of earning money, but a way of using abilities, energy and fantasy, a manifestation of life, of activity? What if learning were not only a means of "getting a good job", but also an expression of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge? Then the relationship between coworkers, between students, and between teachers and students would also change. It would be fellowship dominated by unfolding, a fellowship with an entirely different inherent value than today.
The development of the socialist society towards communism, must mean just this, a development towards a different relationship to work and learning. As we come closer and closer to the stage where people "receive according to need" and "render according to ability", work will gain an entirely different meaning than it has today. And the relationship between coworkers will have a different content. When the economic foundation for society changes, so that we no longer exchange work for our subsistence, but instead are assured subsistence because we are human beings, and work because we feel a drive to do so, then, much will change.
What does this mean? It means that people would have far more sources of close, meaningful interaction than people of today have. It will not only be the family or cohabitation group which must satisfy the need for care and fellowship. The sharp division between relationships that are a goal in themselves and instrumental relationships will disappear.
But what is the modern family really like? I stated that the ideology about the family says that the relationship between people in the family should be a goal in itself. People live together and spend their time together because they love each other. This is in part true, but only in part. The family also serves a purpose outside of itself. It is a means the capitalistic society uses to solve a number of necessary functions. Jorun Gulbrandsen's definition of the family, "those who have a joint breadbox", is perhaps as apt as "the unfolding fellowship". This, of course, also marks the relationships between people in the family. In addition, oppression and power struggles can lead to "watching out for one's own interests". Action as calculation sneaks into what should be pure unfolding, for example one's sex life.
Høigård and Finstad write about "action as calculation" in sexual life:
"For the prostitute, acts of prostitution are acts of calculation. Her body is a commodity she can market. She performs an extremely unpleasant act in order to achieve a goal. The goal is to acquire money. The customer interests her only in so far as he possesses money. Otherwise she is indifferent towards him.
How is it for other women? Do they use their sexuality and body as a means? D., a French prostitute, says, "Anyway, all women's lives have a prostitute side to them. For a "straight" woman, it may not be cash she gets in exchange, but it's not so different" (Jaget, 1980, p. 127).
Historically, sexuality and financial support have been closely linked for women. The link between sexuality and money is now in the process of loosening in the western societies. For steadily growing numbers of women, sexuality is no longer primarily a means of being supported. The conditions which make it possible for sexuality to have an intrinsic value for women as well are, we believe, on the increase. A women's sexuality no longer derives its entire meaning from aspects outside sexuality. She does not need to calculate it, portion it out to the man who can best give her access to benefits outside sexuality. She no longer needs to act like a dealer at the marketplace whose capital is her body.
But women and femininity continued to be tied to reproduction and to sexuality to a degree that is completely different from masculinity for men. Earlier we warned against drawing direct parallels between prostitutes' lives and other women's lives. But prostitution can be used as a magnifying glass on some aspects of women's lives. ... Women, to an entirely different extent from men, continue to relate to their sexuality as something that is surrendered, traded, or not traded. The manner in which the prostitute relates to her sexuality as a commodity for trade does not differ from how other women relate to their sexuality because it is atypical; it differs because it is overwhelming and dominating."
When the family is gradually dismantled as an economic unit, the forms of living together that emerge will be less affected by "action as calculation", because living together will be self-explanatory. It will not serve to fill economic functions for society. I think that this will mean far better conditions for unfolding than in today's family, and not only in the sexual arena.
A developed, socialist society on the way to communism will on the whole be marked more by action as unfolding and relationships between people where unfolding dominates, than the society in which we now live. A warmer society, and people with a far greater ability to love. That is a far cry from barracks, institutional hells and cold city environments.
Socialism is a society in transition between capitalism and communism. It is not a society which harmoniously, peacefully and on its own develops to a higher stage - the classless, communist society. Getting there will cost struggle between different interests and different policies. Women's interests are "in line" with the fight for communism. Unless the battle against women's oppression is fought thoroughly, the classless society cannot arise.
Therefore, women must organize for struggle, also in the socialist period. They have to have a program, a clear idea of where they want to go and what they want to accomplish. The more women-conscious women there are, the more who actively participate in the struggle, the better it is for both women and socialism.
A program of women's policy for the struggle in the socialist period must be extremely versatile. It must contain an analysis of the type of economic development that will serve women. It must contain policy on how important social institutions must be changed in order to break the hold of women's oppression. It will also have to bring up the less concrete aspects of the "male role" and the "female role": identity, self-image, the interaction between us. And it must contain an analysis of which "command posts", strategic positions, that it is particularly important for women to conquer in order to put through their program. The next section will be dealing with this last point.
In my opinion it is most important that women conquer the foremost tools for class- and women's struggle in the socialist period. The most important of which is the communist party. I am thinking, here, of a communist party which continues, in the socialist period, to be the leadership in the working classes' class struggle against injustice and oppression, fighting for a classless, communist society. This means a communist party that does not have privileges (for example in the form of a constitutionally established special position in the state) and can dictate policy in the socialist period; and a communist party which does not "carry the state" in the sense that all leaders hold leading positions in the state, and that the state and the party seem to melt together. The communist party must be anchored in the class which it is to serve: the working class. Both the majority of the members and the majority of the elected leadership must be regular workers. The party's task is to function as an element, critical of society, which contributes to pushing development forward, and not to hide or cover up mistakes and abuse that the socialistic state wreaks on the working people. At the same time, the party must mobilize people to the fight against all attempts to re-institute capitalism. This is a different model for the communist party's activities in the socialist period than that which we know from the socialist countries we have seen thus far. It builds on the fact that the communist party must become better able to lead the working class, not just in the fight against the old bourgeoisie, but also in the fight against the growth of a new bureaucratic bourgeoisie and a new oppressive society.
Women must conquer this party. Not in order to keep male workers out, or to carry out a policy which conflicts with their interests. Women must conquer the party in order to ensure that the entire working class is represented, not just half, and to eliminate everything that smells of socialist colonial policy, and to ensure that those who have the very most to gain by communism, the working class women, lead the most important organization that the working class has to reach their long-term goal.
Subsequently women will have to build up, not conquer, a strong, independent women's organization. Women will have the best starting point if this type of organization already exists, and has actively participated in the revolution (which will often be the case). The organization of women in the socialist period must build upon that which was created in the fight for socialism, this is where experience and determination will be found.
Organizing women's consciousness will not be less important in the socialist period than it was in the capitalist. Since one of the most important battles must be fought in the socialist period, the battle against the oppression of women, women must be organized as an oppressed sex. Such a mass organization for women, being a true battle organization, will both be able to develop women's consciousness in more and more women and put force behind women's demands. In addition, women in other organizations, and in different types of positions, will need a "women's front to back them up" in order to function well on women's terms.
The third important tool for class- and women's struggle in the socialist period is the labor movement. It has to be a free, independent and strong labor movement which can react, with strikes or other means, to the abuse of workers from state organs or company leaders. Women must make themselves felt here as well, so that the labor movement becomes the tool of the entire working class. This probably means that one has to have particular forms of organization for women within the labor movement.
The socialist society will also have formal, governing bodies: representative assemblies chosen on the basis of free, anonymous elections and a government arising from these. AKP(m-l)'s opinion is that there should be quotas for women and workers in these bodies. Quotas are a means of working against the spontaneous tendency for all kinds of leaderships and bodies to be filled by intellectual men. This does not solve all of the problems, but it must be seen as a way that oppressed groups can reduce some of the handicap that oppression has given them.
In the capitalist period elections and representative bodies do not mean that the people have been given power. The public right to vote contributes to tying the working people to the bourgeoisie's political system and creating the illusion of "the rule of the people". Through the right to vote it appears as if the working people are partially responsible for the bourgeoisie's policy, party to their own oppression. They have themselves "chosen" those who lead! In this way the parliamentary system contributes to neutralizing opposition and resistance. It is also characteristic of the parliamentary system that the real working of the state takes place behind the facade, in the administration, not in the parliament.
Both Marx and Lenin felt that socialism had to break with the parliamentary system, not by abolishing elections and representative bodies, but by making them real tools for the working people's power. Much turned out, as we know, differently. Certain aspects of the political system in the socialist countries came to resemble the bourgeois parliamentary system more than Marx and Lenin had imagined. The elected assemblies were more or less reduced to discussion groups, while the real work of the state took place in the bureaucracy. Many freedoms and rights became more formal than real, also for the working people.
This kind of development contributes to undermining the working class' position as the true ruling class. It strengthens a division of labor where some rule and others are ruled. Therefore, it is important to fight so that the representative, elected bodies really have power in the socialist period, and so that elections really decide something. As a part of this, a struggle must be fought for women's active participation, and the election of many women. If the representative bodies have real power, they will also make decisions which mean progress or setbacks for women. If women are kept out of the political process, it will also be impossible for the working class to be the true ruling class. At best, it will only be the men who play this role.
But even in the socialist period, the exercising of power will not be limited to representative, elected bodies. There are also other strategic positions. Whoever holds them, what kind of interests and policy they stand for, can have wide-reaching import. I will mention some positions in which women, in my opinion, should show special interest.
"The Planning committee". Birgit Wiig (1984) has a tragicomical example of what can happen when men monopolize planning. When the importation of goods got started again after World War II, the Norwegian people were almost totally worn out. There were shortages of nearly everything. But it was the men who planned and gave priority to what should be imported. The result was that importation of alcohol and tobacco (at the time, typically male goods) was rapidly re-established in 1945. Men's shirts, men's socks and men's underwear arrived the same year. It was not until January 1948 that woolen stockings for women were imported. There was enough to supply one out of every four women over 15 with one pair. But buttons, zippers, ribbon and elastic were still not available. Sewing needles and pins were on the same quota as ships. This lead to importation of ships but not straight pins.
Women in socialist countries, and in bureaucratic capitalistic countries, would be able to tell numerous stories of this kind about planning commissions. It is not only that they "forget" to import or produce products that women need. It is also that they make apparently "gender-neutral" decisions which have significant consequences for women: heavy industry is a top priority, and necessary consumer goods are unavailable; private small markets are closed without the state managing to replace them and women have to stand twice as long in queues in order to buy meat and vegetables.
Earlier, I attempted to sketch an economic model which would serve the women's struggle in the socialist period. If this kind of model is to have any chance of winning through, then women's liberation must be a premise for the plan from the beginning. And the concrete consequences that the various routes for economic development will have for women, must be elucidated and presented so that everyone can form a standpoint. This demands that women-conscious women have strong positions in the "planning commission" or in the bodies that the socialist society will use to prepare their economic planning. Otherwise women will easily find themselves in a situation where the terms are set and the train has left when they raise their demands.
The army. In all class societies the apparatus of violence is the final guarantee for the power of the ruling class. So, too, in socialism, where the working class rules. This means that socialism has to solve the last great "question of equality" if it has not already been solved - women's draft on the same basis as men. If women are shut out of military power, this means that they are not taken seriously as a part of the ruling class in the socialist period. An army which really belongs to the working class and the working people, must provide the same space for women as for men. This undoubtedly means that the women's struggle must also be fought within the military.
Media. Media has a good deal of power in the forming of people's image of the world, interpretation of reality and in determining the premises for public debate. In the capitalist period, the media systematically makes large parts of reality invisible. A number of fundamental questions about power relationships in society and the world are never asked, and capitalism's "obvious truths" are not challenged.
Women's lives, particularly, become invisible. Men are written about, and men make statements, men are interviewed, and men are photographed. When women are presented, it is often as representatives of their sex. In Women, a world report studies from a number of different countries are summed up in this way: the picture of women given by the media is "a kind of sexy washing machine" (p. 78).
Women are oppressed as workers in the media. A study from 1981 (Diagnosis, Journalist here as quoted in Holter, 1981) shows that women make up approximately 20% of the journalists in Norwegian daily press, 7% of the women in the study had managerial positions, while 25% of the men were managers. This has occurred despite the fact that the percentage of women trained as journalists was four times as high as the percentage of men. As much as 46% of female journalists were single, against 24% of the men. This probably reflects how difficult it is for women to combine journalism and family responsibilities.
Women are often sent out to cover special "soft" features, in line with the ongoing, gender division of labor in society. This is "women's copy". All other copy areas, which are seen as gender neutral, in reality become men's copy, that is to say that they bear the stamp of men's interests and viewpoints. Thus, large parts of women's reality disappear, and the issues this reality raises seldom bubble to the surface. The most invisible people of all are the working class women. The image of the world that the media constructs and spreads to the majority of people, is therefore an image which does not make it possible to raise fundamental questions about the prevailing order - neither those on class conditions nor those on gender conditions.
The media will be of great significance in socialism as well. Power over the media will then, too, be the power to interpret reality and set premises. Since socialism is dependent upon an actively participating working class (not as passive as possible, as in capitalism), the media will have an important function in raising the questions in which people need to get involved, debating them, fighting for them, deciding them. Which questions these are, and the perspective from which they are seen, will play a part in deciding what the battles in society will be about. The media are not only a reflection of society, but also a force within society. If women cannot fight their way to visibility in the media they will lose a powerful tool for participating in setting the terms for the political process in the socialist period.
Research and education. Research also deals in the power to set the terms. The questions you raise and the angle from which they are viewed, determine a good deal of what it is you find, what type of knowledge you gain. The most important research organization in the technical/scientifical field in this country, NTNF, had the following passage in their long-term planning for 1984: "NTNF wants, through their activities, to contribute to strengthening the ability of trade and industry to compete, thereby ensuring employment." The same view permeates the Willoch government's research report of 1985. This type of goal will, of course, lead to other angles on questions being raised, and other types of knowledge than if the main goal had, for example, been to "make people capable of living and producing without destroying the environment around them."
Along with the modern women's movement, women's research has also grown. It has been, and still is, a kind of underground movement, on the perimeter of, and partially resisted by, most of the academic establishment. Høigård and Snare's description of the fate of women's criminology is typical (from the introduction to a Scandinavian anthology, 1983, p. 7):
"This new mainstream in Scandinavian criminology was often met with hushed growling or listless benevolence from male criminologists. In discussions about funding for Scandinavian women's seminars, arguing against the proposal, it was pointed out that "then funding should be set off for separate seminars for male criminology." As if all the previous seminars did not focus on just that! The listless benevolence expresses itself in the fact that work on women's criminology receives considerably less enthusiasm and critical consideration from our male colleagues than when we produced work within traditional criminology. Women's criminology was seen as a hobby practiced by female criminologists. Of course, all male criminologists did not react in this manner, but it suffices as a description of the main tendency ... In the fight for ever scarcer resources women's criminology has not been an important, accredited asset. Of the eight authors only two have permanent academic positions. The rest have to rely on limited means from various funds and/or conduct scientific research in their spare time. Women's criminology as a hobby has been systemized. Similar developments are reported from other subject areas."
Women's research has been very significant for the women's movement, the women's struggle and women's consciousness. Most earlier research has been based on the premise that person = man, while women are people with some form of deviance or flaw. Women's research broke with this viewpoint and began to study women's conditions and life situations, and explain their behavior, characteristics and history on the basis of this. A number of obvious truths were challenged, and masses of new knowledge emerged. In this knowledge there is plenty political dynamite.
In the socialist period women will not have to settle for being an underground movement or a separate academic discipline. Women's perspectives must enter into all areas of research, give their own angle to the formulation of problems, research programs and projects. We must fight for the kinds of knowledge on which the socialist society will be acting.
Education is important, because it passes on knowledge and contributes to socializing children and youths to the types of people that the current social system needs. The knowledge about how the school system socializes girls to be second-class citizens and caring stage extras in men's lives, is overwhelming (see, for example, Brock-Utne & Haukaa 1979, and Spender, 1984). It is not only the contents of the learning material which functions in this way. The interaction in the classroom is probably just as important. Even teachers who are conscious of gender roles and who strive to give girls and boys equal attention have immense difficulties in managing this. It appears that modern schools are dependent upon the boys being allowed to dominate in order to function. Attempts at shifting the boy's dominance often lead to disciplinary problems of a nature which make teaching nearly impossible. Letting things happen on girl's terms seems to be just as intolerable for school boys as it is for adult men in labor unions and political parties.
Changing the school, so that it does not recreate the oppression of girls again and again, must be an important task in the socialist period. This means, as I previously mentioned, not only getting new books which deal with women fairly. It will probably also mean a complete re-organization of teaching and totally new methods in order to break down ingrown, girl-oppressive structures.
In the socialist period women have to organize for battle, they need a program, and they must know which positions are important to conquer. This is important seen from two perspectives, which hang together. One is the women's perspective. Women have to fight as an oppressed sex, for women's liberation and, thereby, for a communist society. Unless women organize and fight as an oppressed sex, neither they nor the working class as a whole will reach their final goal. The second is a class perspective. The majority of the women belong to the classes which will have power in the socialist period: the working class in alliance with the working people. If women are kept down, they cannot play their part in the ruling class. In that case the rule of the working class will become stilted and amputated, and will have difficulties in resisting new and old members of the bourgeoisie's attempts at re-establishing a system where the minority rules over the majority. Therefore the women's struggle is also a battle for strengthening the working class as a ruling class.
In this section, I have written about some "command posts" in which women should show special interest. But the "battle to change the organization of society" must be fought in all areas. This certainly also applies to working life. Today, the oppression of women is built into capitalistic production, among others through the gender divided labor market, and through the use of the power relations between the sexes as an extra disciplinary mechanism against female workers. If women are to participate in taking control over production, this must necessarily also mean fighting against those characteristics of the way work is organized, which oppress women. Here it must suffice to raise the issue.