Feminism, as a political and social movement, has a bourgeois origin and comes from the moment when the bourgeoisie was an ascending class, a progressive class. Woman suffrage was born, as the first feminist expression, along with the first triumphant bourgeois revolutions, centered on the partial claim of the right to vote for women and the legal equality of women, although the formal proclamation of woman suffrage dates from July 19, 1848, when the Seneca Falls Declaration was signed in the state of New York.
At the same time, the Industrial Revolution brought with it the incorporation of women into factory labour, which especially interested the bourgeoisie - just like child labour - because of its lower cost. A class-conscious movement of proletarian women was born, linked from its origins to the general revolutionary workers' movement, which, at the same time that claimed for the right to vote for women and their legal equality, linked these claims to the general struggle of the working class for its emancipation.
To the extent that in a large part of the capitalist countries the right to vote was achieved, and formal equality before the law was recognized, the suffragist movement disintegrated as a movement characterized by its bourgeois essence and, therefore, linked to the concept of individuality typical of the liberal political tradition, coming to an end after World War I. This class character led some bourgeois feminists to deny the proletarian women what they claimed for themselves.
The struggle for the liberation of women relied then in the hands of the revolutionary workers' movement which, from the outset, openly confronted bourgeois positions, even in claims that could be occasionally shared, as was the vindication of female suffrage. In this regard Clara Zetkin, in her work The Women's Question and the Struggle Against Reformism , affirmed:
"Our vindication of women's right to vote is not a feminist claim but a class and mass claim of the proletariat ... The right to vote helps the bourgeois women to break down those barriers, in the form of privileges for the male sex, that are an obstacle to their own development and activity. For workingwomen this right becomes a weapon in the battle which they must wage for humanity to overcome exploitation and class rule. "
A stage marked by the struggle of the labour movement began. The International of Socialist Women played a crucial role, its first conference took place in 1907 and the second in 1910, the communists in the latter proposing the celebration of the International Day of Working Women, which was organized for the first time on March 19, 1911, and in which, as the communist Alexandra Kollontai then expressed: "the motto of this important mobilization was the right to vote for workingwomen and join forces in the struggle for socialism."
It was on March 8, 1917 (February 23 in the Gregorian calendar) when the Russian working women demonstrated in Petrograd (Leningrad) demanding bread, the return of soldiers sent to the war front, peace and proclamation of the Republic, giving rise to the spread of the strike to the whole proletariat, transforming it into an insurrection that after five days overthrew Tsarism.
With the triumph of the October Revolution of 1917 the era of transition to socialism began, the era of proletarian revolutions. Soviet power elevated women to a new condition, and the world revolutionary labour movement struggled having in mind, from women's point of view, the undeniable achievements of socialism on the road to the definitive overcoming of the oppression of women.
Two years after the revolutionary triumph, Lenin drew attention to the fact that in that short space of time Soviet power, in one of the most backward countries in Europe, did more for the liberation of women and for their equality with the "strong" sex than all the progressive, cultured and "democratic" republics of the world, taken together, for 150 years.
The legal consecration of fundamental rights such as equality between men and women, the right to vote, the right to elect and be elected, the right to divorce, the suppression of religious marriage, the right to abortion, the protection of maternity as a social function, the protection of health, the right to work, the choice of profession, equal pay for equal work, etc., allowed the women of the Soviet Union and the rest of the countries of the socialist camp to have unequaled advances in relation to the rights of women in capitalist countries.
Millions of women fought alongside their male class comrades on every strike, every demonstration, every new attempt to assault power and also on the anti-fascist resistance. The international communist movement was in charge of organizing the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) in 1945. In our country it was the Communist Party that created the Anti-fascist Women's Group in 1933 and later, clandestinely, promoted the creation of the Women's Democratic Movement (MDM) in 1965.
We can not forget the struggle of the proletarian women in Spain. From textile factories in Catalonia, in the nineteenth century, to tobacco factories in Seville, Valencia and Alicante, through the canning industries of the Cantabric and Atlantic coasts, women were always present in the proletarian struggle. The advances of all kinds achieved during the Second Republic (right to active and passive suffrage, constitutional equality for both sexes in marriage, right to divorce, etc.), the role of women on the fronts and the rear during the national - revolutionary war, in the anti - fascist guerrilla, in the support of political prisoners and their families, in exile, in the mass struggle against Franco, in the labour and student movement and in each and every one of the battles that our working class fights every day must not be forgotten.
It is necessary to reclaim the role of working women since the days of the Paris Commune to the present day, to reclaim the importance given by the international communist movement to the struggle for the liberation of women, marking a new stage in the struggle of women against capitalist exploitation and against all forms of oppression. It is necessary to emphasize that the debate promoted by the revolutionary workers' movement on the political, civil and labour claims of working women contributed to lay the organic basis of the female workers' struggle around specific demands, with class-oriented objectives and integrated in the struggle for socialism at a time characterized by the massive incorporation of women into factory work in which the development and strengthening of the communist movement led to the intensification of women's struggle for better working conditions and social and political rights.
The bourgeoisie does not forget the revolutionary character, deeply linked to the struggle of working women and of the workers' and communist movement as a whole, of the advances in the field of the emancipation of women. And precisely because of this, this history of struggle is hidden, proposing the fiction that the movements for the emancipation of women disappeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, once conquered the right to vote, with the disintegration of suffragism, and did not reappear until the 60's of the last century.
With the birth in the United States of the new left and its transfer to Europe in the heat of the struggles of May '68, the bourgeois historiography starts to spea of a second feminist wave, understood as one of the so - called new social movements, called to question the centrality of the labour movement and the capital - labour contradiction. Their positions were largely based on the theories set forth by Simone de Beauvoir in her work The Second Sex, with an existentialist matrix, combined with a particular interpretation of racial movements in the United States, of the pacifist struggle against the Vietnam War and of the positions of the hippie movement. In Europe, along with the Frankfurt School and authors such as Wilhelm Reich, attempts were made to synthesize these theories with the positions of the new psychoanalytic school, and had an influence on petty bourgeois organizations with anarchist, Trotskyist and Maoist base, which along with other sectors shaped the so-called “new left” and launched a full-blown ideological attack against the essential principles of Marxism-Leninism, facing feminism and Marxism from an openly petty-bourgeois and anti-Soviet position.
It was precisely at that time when the international communist movement was entering into a serious crisis which began with the advance of revisionist positions at the 20th Congress of the CPSU (1956), which would be deepened by the Maoist split and the triumph of Euro-communist revisionism in a whole series of Communist and Workers' Parties that played an important role. The communist movement lost its vanguard position in general and specifically in the struggle for the liberation of the women.
This phenomenon reached Spain with some delay, in the 70's, finding an unequaled breeding ground. The Euro-communist turn of the PCE and the existence of a whole generation that began to accede to the University and to which fascism denied the most basic freedoms, forged the ideal conditions for the birth of a series of organizations, of the so-called extreme left, who espoused petty - bourgeois theories on the question of women and most of the New Left 's views, including MCE (Communist Movement of Spain), PTE (Workers' Party of Spain), OCE-BR (Communist Organization of Spain – Red Flag), ORT (Revolutionary Organization of Workers), LCR (Revolutionary Communist League), etc.
The struggles waged during this stage made visible the specific conditions of women's oppression and to achieve some partial objectives. However, in the midst of the crisis of the PCE, the militants and organizations that persisted in the defense of Marxism - Leninism were not able at that time to respond with the precise force to the ideological attacks that were developed both by the right and the left, to formulate a position of its own and to give the struggle for the liberation of women the necessary depth in a revolutionary perspective.
The question of women did not disappear from communist politics. In the Congress of Unity of the Communists, held in Madrid from January 13 to 15, 1984, a Resolution on the liberation of women was adopted, in which both the Party's concern and the work approach were correctly placed. This resolution, among other things, states the following:
"The issue of women is an aspect of our struggle that lends itself to many confusions. The oppression of women starts from the very moment of the appearance of private property, manifests itself in different ways in different periods of history and reaches a new feature in capitalism.
We, as an organization fighting for the liberation of the working class, must also contemplate from a revolutionary perspective the problem of the double oppression of women. (...) ".
But the events in the USSR, with the advance of Perestroika and Glasnost, the attempts to liquidate the Party and finally the counterrevolutionary triumph in most of the socialist camp, drove our Party and the whole of the International Communist Movement into a serious crisis that brought with it an extreme political - ideological weakening. Therefore, the attacks on Marxism - Leninism, launched by the new left and by all sorts of petty - bourgeois organizations, both in the struggle for the emancipation of women and in other fields, remained largely unanswered. These attacks, as has happened at other times in the history of the class struggle, focused on three basic aspects:
- The Leninist model of the Party.
- The central role of the working class as a revolutionary subject.
- The dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist countries.
If we go throuh the bourgeois and petty - bourgeois feminist historiography, since the end of the sixties to the present, attacks against these three pillars of Marxism - Leninism follow. In short, the bourgeoisie could not ignore the fact that millions of women throughout the world demanded an end to the discrimination and oppression of which they are victims, there was growing understanding that the emancipation of women goes through the liquidation of the regime of exploitation, and then developed a great effort to divert the emancipatory struggles towards partial objectives by resorting to ideological diversionism.
Throughout the 1990s and the first decade of the present century, the postulates advocated by the new left were combined with the rise of postmodern theories within the social and political left. To the previous elaborations, openly confronted to the Communist Parties, the theoretical approaches of authors like Toni Negri, Michel Hardt, Slavoj Zizek, etc. were added. Idealist and reactionary positions that hold in the bottom, although from different angles, that it is the conscience that determines the social position, affirming that the inequalities are fruit of not being able to individually take advantage of the existing opportunities and not of the relation with the means of production and the position in the productive process, denying the class society.