Feminism, Women’s Liberation, and ‘Free Love’.

Many campaigns of contemporary women’s liberation struggles carry with them a number of sexual overtones and undertones that tend to divert attention from the main issue which is the emancipation of women. Unfortunately some of the rhetoric and ideology of feminism directs its attack upon man, representing him regardless of his class as the main enemy. Without a political perspective, and a genuine historical and scientific analysis of society, such a campaign can only degenerate into an individualist orientated adventure at odds with the real struggle of workingwomen for real equality. Feminist tactics, that include middle-strata romanticism, often result in the alienation of potential and actual allies. The true emancipation of women is inextricably bound up with the economic and social emancipation of the working class as a whole – which includes men.

Early in 1974 a national television programme entitled ‘Open Door’ portrayed the activities of a women’s film group that produced films to further the liberation of women. Unfortunately, despite its genuine activity, the political understanding of inequalities was not made. This was proven by one scene representing a staged industrial dispute involving some women in a factory. The solidarity requested from fellow male workers was rejected by an individual male convenor. This senior male shop steward was shown, somewhat exaggeratedly as a pompous, chauvinistic man who appeared on the scene reading the ‘Morning Star’ and who proceeded to insultingly condemn and reject the pleas of the striking women. The naivete lies in the ignorance of all the years of joint and often bitter struggle of both the male and female workers and trade unionists for better conditions for all. The political naivete was again exemplified by the image shown of the ‘Morning Star’ read by the chauvinist convenor. No recognition of that paper’s or its predecessor the ‘Daily Worker’, valiant and consistent campaigning for true emancipation of women in British capitalist society over many, many years.

Not only do we have amongst many men an entrenched bourgeois orientated ideology – we have it amongst women too! Women’s liberation that insists on restricting the campaign to demands for sexual ‘freedom’ avoids the main problem – class society. The emancipation of women is a part of the overall class struggle to establish socialism – it is not solely an individual matter or a demand to make promiscuity socially acceptable. We must therefore examine further the actual situation, the necessary tactics for the present and strategy for the future. We will find that the adventurist and ‘romantic revolutionary’ demand for the abolition of the family or monogamy is in reality a bourgeois demand based on a middle-strata orientated outlook. In part some people have misinterpreted or slandered Marxist theories of marriage and the family by claiming that socialism equates with ‘free love’. This is not the case at all.

The demand for ‘free love’ is not a working class demand – on the contrary, it is essentially a demand put forward by some feminists with bourgeois or middle-strata outlooks. We must ask what do people mean by the demand for ‘free love’? The demand for such a concept of ‘love’ is a subjective demand that is the opposite of the objective analysis of love based upon existing class relations. The demand for ‘free love’ by bourgeois orientated women revolves around the avoidance of problematic emotional involvements to enjoy temporary assignations; the possibility of removing sanctions against extra-marital relations; and the irresponsibility of avoiding genuine relationships concerning childbirth. As we can see, such an outlook is a far cry from the women of the working class when demanding real equality and freedom. Working class women who realise that only the abolition of capitalism will eradicate the inequalities within their homes and marital relations do not demand ‘free love’. No, these conscious women recognise that the issue is one of objective class demands, not one of individual subjective desires. It is within the atmosphere and conditions of bourgeois relations that subjective considerations of sexual love without responsibility or equality arise – not in the context of working class struggle.

To be continued

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