Why Do We Consider the Labor Struggle a Feminist Issue?
The annual celebration of Labor Day witnesses a renewed struggle against the capitalist system. Working class issues and abuses against them are put under the limelight on this day- abuses that have built a world of exploitation, looting, and death, and exposed the labor force to violence and harm.
The feminist voice remains of great importance. This voice confronts the dangerous capitalist propaganda, which normalizes the exploitation of the working class.
Capitalism has left millions of vulnerable people prone to poverty, hunger, and lack of health, education, and housing services. Because of neoliberal policies, the world is moving every day towards privatization and profit before survival.
In early May, the vicious attack of capitalist forces on the collective consciousness is renewed. The attack varies between the neutralization of the working class from its role and history of struggle, and the obliteration of this history from the media. They also efface the importance of Labor Day in school curricula, concealing its meaning and importance to the working class around the world from the new generations. They do so because it represents a memory of struggle that threatens the capitalist system with more confrontation and an end to exploitation.
Despite the repeated talk and writing about this day, and as an appropriate opportunity to remind of the tragedies of workers, especially the most vulnerable groups, the feminist voice remains of great importance, because it is the voice that confronts dangerous capitalist propaganda, which normalizes exploitation and attacks feminist movements, to drag them into their ranks. Thus, the double exploitation female workers face based on class, gender, ethnicity, etc. is intentionally overlooked.
Capitalist violence breeds patriarchal violence
It is difficult to condone the violence that the working class experiences, not even for one day. Crimes of exploitation and violence appear every day, and the capitalist system and its transcontinental corporations are brutally crushing people, and women in particular.
They also plunder the wealth of impoverished people to accumulate the wealth of a handful of greedy capitalist entities. Those that impoverish the most marginalized groups such as women, and the oppressed groups based on race, color, gender, disability, and other individual factors that are exploited for the benefit of these entities, in addition to destroying the planet and contributing to environmental disasters.
Because the majority of people work under tragic conditions where they are at risk of injury and death, there is no “dignified” work under capitalism, with low wages, lack of health and social security, and widespread violence in the workplace, especially in sectors that do not limit working hours. Half-day or overnight work, for example, is spread among the impoverished classes.
Various forms of insults and degradations are also practiced in the public and private sectors of work, such as sexual violence against women, in addition to being considered “cheap” labor. Consequently, they are exploited in jobs that do not involve union work, or are not recognized as official, especially in companies and factories, paid domestic work, and the service sector.
Women’s struggle against double violence
Following the situation of female workers in the region, we find that flagrant violations multiply violence against them. Women are a vulnerable socio-economic group, constituting the highest proportions of impoverishment and deprivation of decent working conditions. Therefore, their class treatment is mixed with the poisonous patriarchal system, which compounds violence by exploiting their social roles against them.
It is enough for anyone to observe the situation of women workers in the fields and factories, and the types of sexual and economic violence to which they are subjected so that we all realize how the capitalist system exploits the values of masculinity to inflict more violence against women and subjugate them. This is done for exploitation and the feminization of “poverty”, as an important factor in the continued existence of destitute families, subject to capitalist entities.
In the region, as in all countries of the Global South, working women who make up the bulk of the heads of households are fighting against exploitation and patriarchal capitalist violence. These women are resisting, amid collapsed and unfair economies, and repressive regimes that target them with arrest, injustice, and lack of health and social services, in addition to the deterioration of education and housing, the onslaught of capitalist and colonial greed on their resources, forests and lands, and the threat of famine, drought and armed violence to their people.
That is why the first of May, and every day of their lives, is an occasion to recall their struggles and resistance, to save the planet as a whole from the brutal and violent hands of patriarchal capitalism.
A common struggle against capitalism and patriarchy
Halfway through the twentieth century, feminism emerged as a theory and practice in various struggles and issues. The struggle against capitalism received the greatest feminist attention. Feminist theorists mixed anti-patriarchy and anti-capitalism, considering them two sides of the same coin. This coin produces the same hierarchies of oppression and exploitation in the lives of women and vulnerable groups.
Persecution and exploitation in the workplace are linked and similar to exploitation and persecution in the home. The head of the factory or company becomes the equivalent of the head of the family or its men and uses patriarchal and authoritarian power against the workers and expects them to submit.
Feminist theorizing about patriarchal capitalism grew in that period. This happened through deconstructing concepts such as the forces of production, profit, exploitation, wealth, violence, and the working class from a perspective that highlights the reality of women as an oppressed class in the home and the workplace. Marxist feminists started to renew and activate the meaning of work, the economic system, the social system, and how a class and hierarchical world is formed based on multiple factors, including economic hierarchy. However, the greatest focus was on gender-based hierarchies, exploiting them for the continuation of the capitalist system.
Feminist theorists have argued that capitalism is linked to, and even feeds on patriarchy. This is done through the accumulation of profits through the gender division of family labor, or what is known as domestic work, and using it to reproduce social hierarchies. Those that allow the existence and growth of the working class and its exploitation.
Feminists did not want to fall into the trap of regarding women’s issues as only class issues. Therefore, Persecution and exploitation in the workplace are linked and similar to exploitation and persecution in the home. The head of the factory or company becomes the equivalent of the head of the family or its men and uses patriarchal and authoritarian power against the workers and expects them to submit. According to the same patriarchal values, it is normalized that customs, traditions, and history have decreed unfair divisions of wealth. This logic is identical to patriarchal values, which persuade people to exert more effort and convince them that these divisions and hierarchies are nothing but a “natural” historical sequence.
Feminism was not founded by the most privileged and luxurious women but by the workers and women fighting against colonialism, slavery, and racism.
Marxist feminists—those who have made theoretical innovations that reject the trade-off between feminism and class struggle—realized this danger early on. They were able to shed light on this complex oppression, and the danger of patriarchy and capitalism to the security of women and persons of atypical social types, and their right to life and safety.
Feminism is the struggle of women most vulnerable to oppression
Feminism was not founded by the most privileged and luxurious women but by the workers and women fighting against colonialism, slavery, and racism. This is demonstrated by their sacrifices and struggle for the coming generations to continue the battle against the capitalist colonial patriarchy. By standing up to the deliberate appropriation of these struggles, and passing on the slogans of liberal feminism which exploits the women of the affluent classes.
Slogans spread capitalist ideas considering cracks in the hands of women from the impoverished classes as laziness, and believing that access to decision-making positions for upper-class women is the goal of all women.
Today we remember the struggle of the working class and its aspirations for a better, more just, and equal tomorrow for everyone.
Today, we remember the struggle and sacrifices of millions of workers throughout history, including domestic workers and workers in factories, fields, and companies. We celebrate teachers, healers, and unpaid workers in the homes. We do not forget the vendors on the sidewalks, workers in barbershops, entertainment venues, and food sectors, as well as others who work outside the systems and hierarchies of the formal economy.
Women’s struggles are the responsibility of all feminist generations. They must keep their pledge to smother any attempt by patriarchal capitalism to deny that capitalism is the product and protector of patriarchy.
Today we remember the struggle of the working class and its aspirations for a better, more just, and equal tomorrow for all.