"proletarii, propertyless citizens whose service to the State was to raise children (proles).”
Classical Antiquity; Rome, Perry Anderson, Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism, Verso Press 1974
The issue facing women working at home or in capitalist society is the matter of unwaged servitude versus wage-slavery. The social reproduction of capitalist society is found both in the workplace and the home.
"It is not a question of wages or prices; these are but the reflections of the social relations of capitalism." K. Marx
As Marx states it is not an issue of wages but of the relationship we have to the means of production, wages reflect the minimal share of profit from the social reproduction of value. To that end all relationships are matters of capitalist relations of production.
So the stay at home mother is reproducing the capitalist relationship in the home, and reproducing the proletariat.
"That the abolition of individual economy is inseparable from the abolition of the family is self-evident. " Karl Marx, The German Ideology
The capitalist relationship of the home was structured in the 19th century with the development of the nuclear family. The rise of the ‘modern woman’, and the middle class values of the family were created in this era (which saw the emergence of homemaker magazines dedicated to women’s morality) as the extended family was replaced with the nuclear family. What is often overlooked in this era is that those advocates of the stay at home mother were well off and had servants, nannies or governesses to raise children, the whole age of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’.
The 'woman' in the household was allowed leisure time to persue reforming society because servants, usually Irish immigrant women, did her work. This also applied to the skilled tradesman and his family. They too employed servants to work in the home. This was true right up until the 1920's in North America and the UK. The creation of modern etiquette manuals and homemaker ideology was crafted by these middle class women, who of course were speaking to their own class of women, not to the servants in the household.
The early wave of 19th century feminism that fought for women’s rights, the abolition of slavery also coincided with the movement for temperance and for moral virtue. They blamed drink for working class men’s violence, and fallen women- prostitutes-- who for the most part were unemployed Irish serving girls---for the degradation of the moral virtues of womanhood. The reformers and their feminist agenda were the well off wives of the labour aristocracy and the small business owners.
This class conflict can be seen in the controversy raised when the black former slave Sojourner Truth made her famous speech; And Ain't I A Woman, to the 1851 Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.
Sojourner raised herself to her full height.
"Look at me! Look at my arm." She bared her right arm and flexed her powerful muscles. "I have plowed, I have planted and I have gathered into barns. And no man could head me. And ain't I a woman? I could work as much, and eat as much as man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne children and seen most of them sold into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me. And ain't I a woman?"
The impact of this black woman on the predominately white middle class convention shocked much of the audience. Just as Yoko Ono would be in the 1970's when she wrote the equally controversial song; Woman is the Nigger of the world. And of course in today’s hip-hop and rap vernacular we still hear women devalued as 'ho' and 'bitch'.
Woman and her work is devalued because it is not seen as producing surplus value, but rather seen as the reproduction of the world we live in. In other words she produces and reproduces 'use value' in Marxist terms. She is the proletarii producing the proles of capitalism.
Women’s work outside the home socially reproduces her work in the home. Teacher, nurse, nun, seamstress, waitress, cook, daycare worker, laundress, janitor, chauffeur, home-care worker, model, prostitute, stripper, etc. are reflections of work in the home in capitalist society. Women workers are subjected to the division of labour of the home in the work they do in capitalist society.
Even the medical challenges of biological reproduction, cloning, artificial insemination and fertility drugs, birth control reflect this division of labour of women’s work of actual biological reproduction from one of sexuality into capitalist commodification. Capitalism cannot function without the social reproduction of women’s work, waged or unwaged.
The Living Wage campaign dovetails with the need to argue for Wages for Housework, an issue whose time has come. We need a social wage that constitutes both the living wage and wages for housework. This wage includes full benefits including pensions, medical, dental, etc. for all proletarians waged or unwaged.
Wages were once upon a time tied to the ability of a skilled craftsman to support the basics of life for his family. Today all the proletarians in the family work, father, mother, even children. The capitalist system of wage slavery has once again been reproduced not in the ‘satanic mills’ of the first wave of industrialization, but in the very society we live in. It is not uncommon for us to work for minimum wages in two or three jobs. And these jobs are also where we socialize, the mall, or consume, i.e. Macdonald’s.
Like the middle-class women of the 19th century, who had time to raise her family thanks to nannies and servants, today that same professional class returns to the bosom of the nuclear family, as stay at home moms. Only because they and their husbands are professionals earning incomes that can support both of them. and of course can afford the indentured servitude of a live in nanny.
It is they who promote the ideal of the family values of the stay at home mom, and call for tax credits for this voluntary bourgeois vocation. Of course these same stay at home moms of the professional classes also have maids, and nannies (indentured servants from the Philippines instead of Ireland). They see little need for socialized daycare, or for a living wage for the proletarian family whether it be a single mother family, a heterosexual or lesbian family. And like their moralist predecessors they couch their version of the bourgeois nuclear family in terms of Christian family values.
The World’s Largest Workplace: Social Reproduction and Wages for Housework by PJ Lilley & Jeff Shantz, discusses this movement which began in the 1970's and was a source of much controversy. Many feminists of the time decried the idea of recognizing woman’s work in the home as waged labour, instead advocating for the abolition of housework. All housework should be shared, women and men should work outside the home and the work of the home should be shared. Unfortunately the ideal did not match reality. Women still to this day do the housework while men do not. Even now that woman are liberated to find work in society, no longer relegated to being the little woman at home, when she returns from her job, the job at home is still waiting.
"Women's full-time participation in the labor market drops off dramatically with the second child," says Rebecca L. Upton, an anthropologist at the U-M Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life.
"While most paid professional women return to the work force full-time after the birth of their first child, over 50 percent change to part-time work or take a leave of absence after the birth of the second.
"A second child also profoundly affects a couple's relationship to each other, with even the most equalitarian men and women assuming more traditional gender roles," says Upton, who is presenting a paper titled "The Next One Changes Everything: Having a Second Child in the American Middle-Class Family."
Wages for Housework was a Marxist-Feminist analysis, written by written by Selma James and Maria Rosa Dellacosta, of this division of labour applied to women as unwaged work. It declared women were proletarians, and that their struggles were key elements in the class struggle, especially in the working class communities where we live and reproduce the social relationships of capitalism and patriarchy.
DellaCosta was part of the workers and womens autonomist movement in Italy, which called for the social strike the refusal to pay rent or utilities, during the economic crisis in Italy in 1971.
As she says now;
"The work I produced from the early 1970s and part of the 1980s is probably fairly well-known and readily available in print. The material emerged from a collective debate with other women focussing on the analysis of reproductive labour and the question of the struggle for wage/income, starting with wages for housework. These days, given the pervasiveness and destructiveness of this most recent phase of accumulation, I feel that a commitment revolving exclusively round the wage/income and the reduction of labour time is inadequate unless it is pursued in step with a series of other issues which I will try to highlight.
In fact, I think that, from various viewpoints, the problem of human reproduction is indissolubly linked to issues - above all, land - raised by the indigenous movements. Women continue to be primarily responsible for human reproduction in all regions of the planet, and the problem of their condition cannot ignore the horizons that these issues outline, whether in families of the advanced areas or the village communities of the 'developing' countries." The Native In Us, the Earth We Belong To
Selma James was the wife of CLR James the Trinadian born Marxist. And like Raya Dunesevkeya (CLR James former political collaborator) Selma contributed to recognizing that proletarian struggle is the struggle not only of the industrialized working class but also of women and of those exploited by race (recognizing their proletarian relationship under capitalism as slaves or indentured servants). See her seminal work on this: Sex, Race and Class. And like Della Costa, Selma James is still active with Wages For Housework campaigns internationally see her Global Women’s Strike web site which also advocates for migrant women and open migration against the migration of global capital.
Babies and Bosses: OECD Recommendations to Help Families Balance Work and Family Life states: the recent OECD report exposed English Canada's failure to develop a cohesive program of childcare, unlike Quebec, that is not just babysitting services. In comparison with other OECD countries, capitalism in Canada fails to pay for the social reproduction of itself, relying on increasing its profitability not only off the surplus value of its workers, but the expense of the family being a further economic burden on these workers.
“Declining fertility rates are a concern in most countries, particularly in Japan, where birth rates are dropping as more people put jobs before childbearing. In Switzerland, as many as 40% of women at age 40 with university degrees are childless. Strong economies and manageable pensions systems depend on both higher fertility rates and higher employment rates. Many governments are investing in family-friendly policies which have societal benefits for the next generation. Support for working mothers will reduce the poverty which impacts negatively on child development and support for pre-school care outside the home can better prepare children for formal schooling. Pay gaps still affect the relative earnings of men and women. Even in families where both parents work, men typically earn 33-66% more than women, so it is usually mothers who take time off to look after children. In most countries, fathers work more than men without children while mothers spend less time in paid employment than other women. “
The National Child Poverty 2004 report from Campaign 2000, shows an increase in child poverty amongst working families, reveals the need for a comprehensive social wage campaign.
The child poverty rate in Canada is up for the first time since 1996. After five consecutive years of decline, the child poverty rate increased to 15.6% in 2002, which means 1,065,000 children, or nearly 1 in 6 children in Canada, live in low-income families. Fifteen years after Parliament's unanimous all-party declaration to end child poverty, Campaign 2000's 2004 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada reveals that governments are failing to take sufficient action to reduce child poverty and low-wage labour markets are letting parents down.
Pay equity continues to be ordered by the courts in Canada and continues to be challenged by the state at all levels,forcing unions to fight again and again to see it implemented in the workplace. Even the capitalist state enjoys the fruit of the feminization of poverty, which it supposedly opposes in policy. The wage differential between women workers and men, will continue as long as women’s work is seen as an extension of their housework.
Campaign 2000 calls for a federal provincial commission on a Living Wage that wage would be a minimum of $10 per hour. Something the IWW Edmonton Branch has been one of the most outspoken advocates for, in the Alberta or Canadian labour movement.
What is really needed a social wage; Wages for Housework and a Living Wage, of at least $10 per hour including benefits and transferable pensions for waged and unwaged workers. We need business to carry this expense, and to provide on the job daycare facilities as well as paying for the daycare costs of their workers who may use public daycare facilities.
The failure in Alberta, and across English Canada, to provide a comprehensive day care and early childhood program, unlike Quebec, reveals the failure of state-sanctioned tax credits.
These tax credits have not created a social day care program, but have been pocketed by the well off professional class and used to promote family values; that is mothers should stay at home as if having to work was a choice. The cost of childcare the creation of and support of ‘proles’ is a cost being born by working families not by the capitalist system which needs its wage slaves.
"The tax system is now being drawn into the emerging debate in Canada over how to address women's tightening double bind of paid and unpaid work, generating a rash of recent proposals, discussed infra, to give tax relief for caregiving work provided within families. I argue that these proposals are not well designed to improve women's economic equality. While a higher visibility for women's unpaid labour is welcome, the tax reforms being suggested do little more than legitimate the reprivatization of social welfare costs onto families." TAXING THE MARKET CITIZEN: FISCAL POLICY AND INEQUALITY IN AN AGE OF PRIVATIZATION
The need for such a social wage highlights the failure of the capitalist state in Canada to deal with the real costs of social reproduction of the proletariat and its value in creating capitalism. Instead at the behest of business the state issues tax credits to taxpayers, giving back in effect personal taxes, while business pockets their profits and gives their CEO’s record bonuses and wage increases. The capitalists and not taxpayers or the state must pay the social wage with benefits.
A social wage reveals the contradictions of the capitalist value that women’s work is social reproduction for use value rather than a reproduction for surplus value. As such it is seen as a cost of doing business that cuts into the rate of profit.
The proletariat reproduces themselves for the benefit of wage slavery under capitalism and creates the surplus value that is the very source of capitalism. A social wage is a direct assault on the rate of profit capitalists enjoy, and they will fight hard to oppose it, as they have done over minimum wages and reductions in the hours of work.
Women have always controlled their own bodies, regardless of the patriarchy, abortion and birth control, are some of the most ancient of women’s mysteries and social practices. Patriarchy recoils at the thought of women controlling their own sexuality and the reproduction of the human race. It devalues their work of social reproduction, in order to cover up it’s irrational religious fears about women’s and natures domination of “man’s” (God’s) world.
Capitalism on the other hand values this social reproduction but as a commodity, one which is now being removed from the destiny of biology and being transformed by the development of industrialized biotechnology. In her work the Dialectics of Sex, Shulamith Firestone, discusses the attempts by capitalist patriarchy to control women’s reproduction with the introduction of the technology of reproduction; that is cloning, fertility drugs, etc. The ideal, of capitalist patriarchy would be reproduction without women, Firestone asserts. Again her work is from the 1970's, and was well ahead of its time, and while it is somewhat dated it rings the clarion bell over the issues of biotechnology, nanotechnology, and the efforts to commodify women’s sexuality outside of the womb.
A woman’s right to choose, her right to control sexual reproduction, the ultimate source of social reproduction, remains the key issue in the struggle for women’s liberation. It was when Emma Goldman fought for birth control information to be freely available last century and tragically remains so today. It continues to be challenged by religious patriarch’s as a moral issue. And now it is being challenged by industrialized medicine with its attempts to create life outside of the womb through cloning, and by its attempts to create life in the womb with fertility medicine. The latter uses women as wombs for multiple births. While the moralists deny a woman’s right to abortion and birth control, the medical patriarchs view her as a ‘subject’ for their experimentations.
Whilhem Reich’s work the Sexual Revolution is a critique of the psychic plague that capitalist patriarchy creates in all of us. His assertion is that the very nature of authoritarianism and domination is reproduced under capitalism by the nuclear family under the domination of the father.
Why does society repress sexuality? Freud's answer is that it is the sine qua
non of civilized life. Reich replies that sexual repression's chief social
function is to secure the existing class structure. The criticism which is
curtailed by such repression is criticism of today's society, just as the
rebellion which is inhibited is rebellion against the status quo.Closely
following Marx, Reich declares, "Every social order creates those character
forms which it needs for its preservation. In class society, the ruling cass
secures its position with the aid of education and the institution of the
family, by making its ideology the ruling ideology of all members of the
society." To this Reich adds the following "it is not merely a matter of
imposing ideologies, attitudes and concepts....Rather it is a matter of a
deep-reaching process in each new generation, of the formation of a psychic
structure which corresponds to the existing social order in all strata of the
population." Bertell Ollman, Social and Sexual Revolution: from Marx to Reich and Back
It is our socially constructed roles as men that determine our participation in the social reproduction of patriarchy and capitalism. The sex economy of capitalism is the social reproduction of familial slavery. The slave owner cannot conceive of the slave, the ‘other’ as being anything but a ‘slave’, and the slave who cannot conceive of any other relationship and sees the ‘master’ as natural, always present, all powerful, godlike-the benefactor, the giver of life and death, (Hegel).
Capitalism cannot conceive of any other relationship than the monogamous family, and even those patriarchal religions, sects and cults of which allow for polygamy, remain merely multiple monogamous family units, many wives one husband. It is the very nature of the family that is the source of women’s oppression. It is why the challenges to the family are a key element in revolutionary struggle, and why the reactionary ideologues of patriarchy are united to promote their “Family Values”. It is major battle in the class war to challenge the ruling classes and its family values. (See my; What’s Love Got To Do With It? )
And yet the left has failed to rise to this challenge. Steeped in social democratic ettiquette, the left has not challenged the right wing fundamentalists or the ideology of capitalism and its Family Values. We have a long history of alternatives to bourgoise family values, and yet the silence on the left is deafening. It is time that we recognize, as the right wing has, that the battle lines have been drawn in the class war and that war is not just about the shop floor but the family as well.
“The modern family contains in germ not only slavery (servitus), but also serfdom, since from the beginning it is related to agricultural services. It contains in miniature all the contradictions, which later extend throughout society and its state. Such a form of family shows the transition of the pairing family to monogamy. In order to make certain of the wife's fidelity and therefore of the paternity of the children, she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband; if he kills her, he is only exercising his rights. “ Karl Marx
Capitalist patriarchy will not be defeated by men flagellating themselves for being 'bad'. DeSade and Masoch already tried that, but hey if you like that sort of thing.....go ahead punish yourself..(see Sacher Masoch an Interpretation by Gilles Deleuze, Faber 1971).
3.1 SACHER-MASOCH and DE SADE - Immanence vs Transcendence
In his 1967 monograph on the writer LEOPOLD VON SACHER-MASOCH, Masochism: An Interpretation of Coldness and Cruelty, DELEUZE works on the rehabilitation of the clinical phenomenon of 'masochism' and against its conceptional link to 'sadism' understood as equivalancy ever since KRAFFT-EBING'S and FREUD'S analysis. In order to do this DELEUZE compares the literary work of SACHER-MASOCH (especially Venus in Furs) and the work of the MARQUIS DE SADE.
DELEUZE shows here that the idea of a possible transformation of the sadistic drive into the masochistic drive is grounded in the Freudo-Lacanian assumption of gaining pleasure by lack, which can either be achieved by receiving pain - in the case of the masochist - or by giving pain - in the case of the sadist. Against this model DELEUZE exemplifies the originarity of the masochist, who obviates the need for transcendence by infinitely suspending the (sexual) climax.
The activities of the masochist are 'political acts'. Unlike the sadist of DE SADE, who wants the world to be regulated by universal institutionalization of punishment and prostitution, the masochist is in agreement with his domina, that the 'treatments' are not to be totalized. Thus, attaining of pleasure is not - as in the case of DE SADE - the application of an idea to the world, but, in contrast to this the prevention of the transgression of the material toward an idealistic principle. Hence the desire of the masochist is immanent to pleasure and not the consequence of a preceding transcendent lack.
Immanence and Deterritorialization: The Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari by Stephan Günzel
“I’m a bad boy mommy” is a patriarchal response to women’s power of social reproduction and a lack of recognition of that power by inverting it to one of dependency. The result of this patriarchal dependency on women “knowing their place” creates in men fear, hatred and ultimately violence when “their” property, “doesn’t know it's place”. Ultimately this response is both sadistic and masochistic, it is the schizophrenic nature of capitalism that reduces women and children to chattel property; “she is delivered over unconditionally into the power of the husband.” These are the so called "Family Values" of patriarchy, that the bourgoise family and its religious proponents are advocating as immutable, eternal, and natural. It is the old axiom; There is No Aleternative (TINA), but as we all know there are alternatives.
"Deleuze and Guattari argue that capitalism is a schizophrenic system. Because it is interested only in the individual and his profit it must subvert or deterritorialize all territorial groupings such as the church, the family, the group, indeed any social arrangement. But at the same time, since capitalism requires social groupings in order to function, it must allow for reterritorializations, new social groupings, new forms of the state, the family, or the group. These events happen at the same time. The life of any culture is always both collapsing and being restructured" Deleuze and Guattari: An introduction
It’s not about being bad men it’s about valuing social reproduction as important. That means we value child raising and home/house work as important. And even if as men we share less in the housework, it is a matter of finally recognizing it as work and that it is a division of labour, which makes women proletarians!
Women’s struggles are the class struggle. Women’s struggles historically have always been the spark that has lit the fires of revolutionary social change.
Proletarians of the World Unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains, is the banner and the watchword of the women’s movement for liberation. And their liberation is the liberation of all of us.
“The repression of sexuality has social and economic origins not biological ones. Sexual repressiveness appeared at the beginning of class society and the institution of private property and patriarchy….In modern times, such repression remains indispensable in order to safeguard the two essential institutions of society; monogamous marriage and the family. It constitutes one of the means of economic enslavement. The sexual revolution is only possible
through social revolution.” Daniel Guerin, Homage to Wilhelm Reich
A class-struggle program based on women’s liberation
Social Wage Campaign being a living wage for women working outside of the home, who are usually the worst paid, and wages for housework for those at home.
Daycare; public daycare centres open to all, not private home based babysitting services, daycare centres in the work place, both programs paid for directly from the profits of business, not their after tax profits.
Publicly Available Abortion Services: After the supreme court decision that women in Canada have the right to abortion, the campaign for a woman’s right to choose, packed up. Unfortunately as I have shown in my article: “A Woman’s Right to Choose? Choose What?”, that decision left the politicians federally and provincially off the hook. Dr. Morgentaler’s method of safe effective abortion has not been adopted in hospitals, nor does Medicare cover his services. In effect abortion services are a medical service that is privatized in Canada and still restricted to hospitals which voluntarily choose to provide these services. In some provinces these services are not covered at all. A public campaign to provide full access to the Morgentaler method paid for by Medicare is a very real campaign against the privatization of medical services as well as a campaign for a woman’s right to choose.
Campaign To End Slavery; “Indentured servitude” is just another term for slavery. In Canada Nannies and Farm-workers are covered by federal and provincial labour legislation that allows them to be exploited by their employers. While some progress has been made in Ontario in getting union recognition for exploited farm-workers, usually male, such has NOT been the case with Nannies. A campaign to change the law and to recognize Nannies as workers, including their right to freely organize into unions. This campaign also needs to address the rights of immigrant women and women refugees fleeing patriarchal relationships or regimes.
Lesbian Mothers Rights: Lesbian women have been discriminated against in adoption rights, and campaigns to defend these rights again challenge the monogamous bourgeois family.
Sex Workers Union: Whether strippers, prostitutes, escorts, porn actors, etc. women workers in thus unregulated industry face the dual oppression of being exploited by owners and customers, and their banishment by society at large. The exploitation of children and young adults as well as immigrant women is allowed to exist due to this free market. Laws against prostitution need to be abolished and the regulation of this industry be under workers control through a sex workers union.