Women must fight alongside the workers, peasants and all the oppressed, with the aim of becoming the malik of India!
The 8th of March this year comes at a time when the Lok Sabha has been dissolved and campaigning has begun for another General Elections. The women of India constitute a very important section of the electorate. All the rival parties have started wooing the women for their votes. International Women’s Day presents an occasion for women to sum up the lessons of their ongoing struggle and draw pertinent conclusions, and base their future political actions on these conclusions.
Conditions and causes of women’s oppression
In spite of the growth of the Indian economy, in spite of enactment of laws for the protection of women, and several years of implementation of government programs for their empowerment, women of India continue to face discrimination and oppression on a daily basis. The birth of a female child is not met with the same celebration as the birth of a male child in most parts of the country; in many cases, the female child is not even allowed to be born. The sex ratio remains below 950 women per 1000 men, one of the lowest in the world. The proportion of women who die during childbirth is among the highest in India (see chart below).
Indian women remain victims of patriarchy, of domestic violence and sexual assaults, and of medieval barbaric customs and practices including sati and the caste system. They are victims of state terror, of communal and other forms of organised political violence unleashed by parties in power. They are faced with growing insecurity of life and livelihood, ill health, illiteracy and grinding poverty. Women in the labour market face super-exploitation and denial of basic labour rights.
Why is it that the conditions facing Indian women remain so terrible, in spite of the fact that all the parties in power swear by the noble objective of women’s empowerment and have even accommodated women as Chief Ministers? Why do the numerous legal changes and government programs fail to produce any significant results? Is it only a matter of the politicians and parties in power being corrupt and self-serving, or is there a deeper reason? Why do women remain powerless and excluded from the decision making process, in spite of being the largest section of voters?
The problem of the oppression of women has deep roots in the socio-economic system, and in the political institutions that maintain this system.
The women of India face multiple forms of oppression because Indian capitalism has grown and continues to grow by preserving every form of oppression from the past, including caste based oppression and bonded labour. It has grown through an alliance of the big capitalists of India with foreign capital and with the big landlords and feudal forces at home. It has today reached a stage when the monopoly business houses of the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and others collaborate and compete with foreign monopoly capitalists to dominate and plunder the whole of India, and seek to expand their markets and spheres of influence abroad.
The oppression of women is rooted in the capitalist system, which is growing in India alongside the preservation of the remnants of feudalism. It is this capitalist system that is responsible for the preservation and reproduction of the oppression of women, of dalits, of different nations, nationalities and tribes within India, alongside the exploitation and oppression of the working class and peasantry. The political institutions are designed to keep decision making power in the hands of the propertied classes who have a stake in keeping this rotten economic system alive.
Capitalism is a system of production that is geared towards the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a propertied minority, based on the exploitation of the labouring majority. Capitalism continually produces and reproduces the relationship of subordination of those who work, to those who own the means of production as their private property. Within the family, it reproduces the relationship of patriarchy and the subordination of the woman to the male ‘head of the family’.
Capitalism has reached its highest and final stage of imperialism. It has become a parasitic system that perpetuates all forms of oppression in society, old and new, because this serves the interests of the monopoly capitalists to reap the maximum rate of profit.
Even in the most developed capitalist countries, such as in the United States, women occupy a secondary position in society. In the US economy, women are largely concentrated in so-called ‘women’s jobs’ that are geared to serve male bosses. They are employed on the shop floor when there is an economic upturn and the capitalists want to expand production. They are paid less than their male counterparts. They are the first to be thrown out of their jobs whenever there is a downturn in the capitalist economy.
Only a very small minority of elected representatives in the US and other advanced capitalist countries are women. Crime against women, including domestic violence and attacks on the streets, are extremely high and on the rise. So are prostitution, the commercialization of sex and the degradation of the female human form to a commodity.
The big capitalists in our country are dreaming of making India into an imperialist big power like the United States. In pursuit of this dream, they want a free hand to intensify the exploitation of all those who labour. They want the working men and women to be available for super-exploitation, to be hired and fired at the will of the minority of propertied men in society, and deprived of all rights. This is the essence of their program of privatisation and liberalisation, which they call economic ‘reforms’.
The tendency of capitalism to convert all social products into commodities is currently being stretched to its ultimate limit in the name of these economic reforms. Big monopoly corporations, Indian and international, are demanding that everything – from drinking water, irrigation, electric power, health and education – must be converted into means for delivering the maximum rate of private profit in the hands of the monopolies.
The main ruling parties, both the BJP and the Congress Party, are implementing what the big monopoly capitalists want. When out of power, such parties pretend to oppose this ‘reform’ program. But their performance in power, both at the centre and in various states, has shown that both the BJP and the Congress are committed to one and the same program of the ruling class.
The economic program of the big bourgeoisie is being accompanied by the political tactics of inciting communal hatred, organising communal violence and unleashing state terrorism in the name of fighting individual terrorism. These criminalised political tactics, which have become the trade mark of both the Congress Party and the BJP, are aimed at diverting and dispersing the forces of resistance to capitalism. They are aimed at eliminating all opposition to the drive of the monopoly capitalists towards their imperialist ambitions. They are aimed at turning people against each other rather than against their common enemy. Women are among the worst victims of communal violence and state terrorism, as the Gujarat 2002 genocide, the November 1984 massacres and the numerous other atrocities including army rule in Kashmir and the Northeast, have starkly revealed.
The economic program of market oriented reforms, the criminalised politics of diversion, division and repression, and the tactics of the ‘ballot and bullet’ – all of this together constitute the anti-social offensive of the ruling bourgeois class. The aim of this offensive is to block the path to social progress and revolutionary transformations, so as to keep alive and further expand the space for capitalism and imperialist plunder.
Capitalism as a system has become outdated and parasitic. The shrinking minority that benefits from this system is keeping it alive at an enormous cost to society. The cause of the emancipation of women requires that women play their role in the movement to halt the anti-social offensive, and to uproot capitalism from the soil of India. This movement can be carried out successfully only by the working class in alliance with the peasantry, women and youth of all nationalities and regions within India.
The most important lesson is that the way forward for the women’s movement lies in joining hands with the working class and all the oppressed, to fight with the aim of becoming the masters of Indian society, dislodging the capitalist class from this position.
Unite to defeat the anti-social offensive of the bourgeoisie!
Fight with the aim of uprooting capitalism from the soil of India!