Workers Vanguard No. 1027
12 July 2013
Egypt: For Womens Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
The Legacy of Colonial Subjugation
(Women and Revolution pages)
The image flashed around the world in December 2011: a young woman, her clothing ripped off to bare her blue bra, being dragged through Cairo’s Tahrir Square by military thugs who beat and kicked her. It presented a stark symbol of the degradation of women in Egypt, whose oppression has long been codified in law and enforced as well through customs such as seclusion.
The mass upheaval against the U.S.-backed regime of Hosni Mubarak, whose rule rested heavily on the military, repeatedly thrust the miserable status of women into the spotlight. Driven by poverty and an immense desire to throw off dictatorial rule and the many-sided oppression endemic to Egyptian capitalist society, women were among millions of demonstrators from virtually all social classes who braved police bullets and took to the streets in the January 2011 mass protests. Their presence, which challenged the traditional, stifling patriarchal order, was answered by intense measures of suppression carried out by the military, police and Islamist mobs. The protests succeeded in driving out the hated Mubarak. But the political forces at their head—from bourgeois liberals and nationalists to (belatedly) the Muslim Brotherhood—offered only another face of capitalist class dictatorship over the workers, the poor, women and all the oppressed.
In March 2011, a month after Mubarak’s overthrow, thugs mobilized around slogans such as “the people want to bring down women” and “the Koran is our ruler” attacked an International Women’s Day demonstration in Cairo, telling those assembled, “This is against Islam” and “Go home, go wash clothes.” Women arrested at a protest the next day were forced by the military to undergo “virginity tests” in an act of calculated humiliation.
Mubarak was quickly replaced by the direct rule of the military, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). But in the June 2012 presidential elections, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi defeated the SCAF’s handpicked candidate, Ahmed Shafiq. In exchange for protecting the lucrative economic prerogatives of the high command, Morsi secured the resignation of top SCAF leaders in an attempt to firm up his position as president. Now the military has swept him from power, reasserting direct rule to try to enforce social peace.
The Lash of Political Islam
Women would immediately feel the lash of political Islam in power. Last year, in an ominous sign of what the Islamists had in store, hardline Salafists and other Islamists introduced bills in parliament to eliminate the law (honored in the breach) against the horrendous practice of female genital mutilation, to rescind the limited right of women to divorce and to lower the age of marriage for girls to 14. The government television station also began featuring women announcers in headscarves, overturning a decades-long secular dress code. Despite large protests in November and December, Morsi pushed through a new constitution reinforcing Islam as the official religion and subordinating the minimal rights formally granted women to sharia (Islamic law). Islamist clerics have been regularly going on television to demand the veiling of women and the banning of alcohol, to be enforced by religious police. Meanwhile, sexual assaults, particularly against protesters, continue with impunity, with clerics lashing out at women heading toward Tahrir Square as “devils…going there to get raped.”
These harsh facts should be enough to expose the political bankruptcy of those reformist “socialists” in Egypt and around the world who portrayed the anti-Mubarak upheaval as a revolution. As in Tunisia and elsewhere, what took place in Egypt during the “Arab Spring” was no revolution. The repressive forces of the capitalist state—centrally the military and the police—have remained intact. The already desperate material conditions of life for the overwhelming majority of the population have in fact worsened over the last year as food prices and unemployment continue to climb. While the last two years of social turmoil have been a big factor in Egypt’s economic dislocation, the working people have certainly not escaped the effects of the world capitalist economic crisis, which has led to brutal attacks on workers’ living standards internationally.
As he tightened the grip of Islamic reaction, Morsi signaled his intent to restore “stability” in order to foster a climate conducive to capitalist profit-making. “Since Mursi assumed office,” wrote Near East historian Joel Beinin, “physical and legal attacks on trade union activists have increased. Hundreds of workers have been fired for trade union activities and thugs have beaten many others” (Middle East Report and Information Project, 18 January). In tandem with state repression, the Islamists sought to bring unions under their control by maneuvering their own members into the leadership, including in many of the unions that had corporatist ties to the state under Mubarak. Presaging yet more attacks on working people and the poor, the government, which already receives more than $1 billion in U.S. aid annually, appealed for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund based on a program of austerity.
What happens in Egypt, which with more than 90 million people is the most populous Arab state, reverberates throughout the Near East. In a region made up of artificial entities carved by the imperialist powers from the carcass of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt is the only country that has maintained a distinct historic identity through the millennia. It is the social, political and cultural center of the Arab world, generating its defining ideologies. Pan-Arab nationalism was put to the test in Egypt under Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Muslim Brotherhood, the first mass movement committed to the creation of an Islamic state and the grandfather of Islamist movements from North Africa to Southeast Asia, was also born in Egypt.
Developments in Egypt will have far-reaching consequences throughout the rest of the Muslim world. But under capitalist class domination, the only alternative for the working class and the oppressed who chafed under the rule of the Islamists is the bleak prospect of a return to bonapartist military rule. Revolutionary Marxism offers a different perspective, based on the potential of the working class to be the gravediggers of capitalist rule. The Egyptian proletariat has a long history of militant struggle. The years leading up to the ouster of Mubarak saw a strike wave that Beinin described as “the largest social movement Egypt has witnessed in more than half a century” (“The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt,” solidaritycenter.org, February 2010). But those strikes were confined to sectional economic demands, and the working class remains politically atomized and subordinated to bourgeois political forces.
As we have stressed from the outset of the “Arab Spring,” what is necessary is for the working class in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere to emerge under its own banner as the champion of all the exploited and oppressed in struggle against all bourgeois forces—imperialists, secular nationalists, political Islamists. This requires the leadership of proletarian vanguard parties equipped with a program that can lead the daily struggles of the toilers toward the overturn of the capitalist order as part of the fight for world socialist revolution.
The fact that age-old practices hideously oppressive to women can exist side-by-side with elements of modern industry and infrastructure is above all the product of Egypt’s belated capitalist development and its legacy of imperialist subjugation.
Well before the capitalist epoch, Egypt, with its strategic position on the Mediterranean astride the commercial routes between Asia and Europe, had been a magnet for the colonial ambitions of world powers. For over 2,000 years, until Nasser came to power in 1952, the country did not see a native ruler. Conquerors who occupied the country over the centuries include Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, the Arabs, the Ottomans and others. In 1798, Napoleon invaded Egypt, only to be driven out three years later by an Ottoman/British alliance.
Muhammad Ali, commander-in-chief of Albanian forces in the Ottoman army, became governor in 1805. In 1807, he crushed a British attempt to occupy Egypt. The dynasty he founded would rule Egypt until 1952. While he paid homage to the Sultan in Constantinople, the Ottoman capital, Muhammad Ali was effectively a sovereign ruler. In the first decades of the 19th century, he attempted to modernize the country, aiming to establish the basis of a modern economy, including by promoting the intensive cultivation of cotton as a cash crop for export. He brought most of the land under state control and expanded agricultural production by constructing dams and irrigation canals.
To protect the country’s nascent industries, Muhammad Ali’s regime instituted a state monopoly on trade and placed an embargo on imported materials, in particular lower-cost British textiles. He also modernized and expanded the health services and instituted the first secular public schools, which admitted both men and women and included specialized schools to train doctors, engineers and veterinarians. In 1822, Egypt’s first printing house was opened, publishing books in Arabic, Turkish and Persian.
The regime established a modern army numbering well over 100,000 men, a naval force and a merchant marine. By the 1830s, Muhammad Ali ruled over a stretch of land that reached as far as Syria in the north, Sudan in the south and parts of the Arabian Peninsula in the east. Such was Egypt’s development that Karl Marx described it in the 30 July 1853 New York Daily Tribune as the “only vital element” in the Ottoman Empire. While the reforms turned Egypt into a strong and viable state, they were brought about through high taxation, corvée (forced) labor and the brutal oppression of workers, artisans and fellahin (peasants) as well as of the subjugated peoples of Syria, Arabia and the Sudan.
Britain’s capitalist rulers were incensed by Muhammad Ali’s aggressive industrial policies. They feared the emergence of a powerful state that would threaten their interests in the region, potentially cutting their overland routes to India and other Asian colonies, closing the eastern Mediterranean market to British goods and depriving Lancashire textile mills of prized, long-staple Egyptian cotton. In 1840, British and Austrian forces, in alliance with the Ottomans, landed in Syria and defeated the Egyptian army, which was within a few days’ march of Constantinople. At Alexandria, under the muzzles of the British navy, Muhammad Ali was forced to sign an agreement returning Syria and Arabia to Ottoman rule, radically reducing the size of his army and navy, paying a large tribute to the Sultan, disbanding monopolies and lifting embargoes. As Marx observed in the Tribune (25 July 1853), the European powers reduced to impotence the only man who might have “replaced a ‘dressed up turban’ by a real head.” Egypt’s brief experiment in industrialization came to a halt, the country reduced to supplying raw materials for European industry.
...And Its Legacy
The colonial powers continued their economic devastation of Egypt under Muhammad Ali’s successors. In acceding to French plans to build the Suez Canal, Egypt’s rulers were forced to seek out enormous foreign loans, negotiated on terms highly favorable to the European banks. The British and French governments would hold majority interest in the canal while Egypt supplied corvée labor and went into debt to build it. Over 100,000 Egyptians died in the canal’s construction.
For a brief period during the American Civil War, Egypt had benefited from the boom in cotton prices caused by the blockade of Southern U.S. ports. To speed up export, the government embarked on huge infrastructure projects, building roads, bridges and lighthouses and deepening harbors. But the boom rapidly came to a halt, and the regime was forced to borrow beyond its means to finance these projects. When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, the government was unable to pay even the interest on the loans. Indebtedness compelled Egypt’s rulers to sell the country’s share in the canal to Britain, ceding total control over it to European powers.
With Egypt rapidly sliding into bankruptcy, Britain and France took joint control of its finances and public works. Resentment of foreign domination, state repression and crippling taxation fueled a revolt led by Ahmad Urabi, a native army colonel, under the slogan “Egypt for the Egyptians.” Britain invaded in 1882, defeating the nationalist uprising and occupying the country for seven decades. Not only did the British rulers arrest capitalist development—by World War I, cotton accounted for 90 percent of Egypt’s exports—but they also bolstered the most reactionary and repressive aspects of semi-feudal society. Her Majesty’s Government found its best friends in the corrupt palace, the old Turkish-Circassian ruling circles and the banks and moneylenders, all of whom profited from the exploitation of the peasants, who were subjected to corvée and taxed to bare subsistence to pay off monstrous government debts.
Before the British occupation, education for both boys and girls was provided at government expense. The colonial administration instituted tuition, including for primary education, and sharply restricted education for girls. Evelyn Baring, Lord Cromer, who ruled Egypt on behalf of Britain for a quarter century, warned: “Egypt being essentially an agricultural country, agriculture must of necessity be its first care. Any education, technical or general, which tended to leave the fields untilled, or to lessen the fitness or disposition of the people for agricultural employment, would be a national evil” (quoted in John T. Chalcraft, The Striking Cabbies of Cairo ).
The British rulers justified their colonial occupations with the racist claim of bringing civilization to the “inferior races” and liberating women from backwardness. So whom did these “champions” of women send to administer their colonies? In Britain, Cromer and George Curzon, former Viceroy and Governor General of India, were fervent opponents of giving women the vote. Cromer presided over the merger of separate men’s and women’s anti-suffragist leagues into the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage in 1910; Curzon succeeded him as president.
The development of capitalism in Europe had required the destruction of the political and economic chains of the old feudal order. In 1789 in France, in the classic example of a bourgeois-democratic revolution, the rising bourgeoisie mobilized the peasantry and urban lower classes to bring itself to political power under the banner of the universal rights of man. In place of an economy based on localized production and dominated by the landed aristocracy and the church, the new bourgeois ruling class consolidated a nation-state, separated church and state and established a parliamentary system, a national code of laws and a national currency.
However, with the emergence of imperialism toward the end of the 19th century, a handful of the most powerful capitalist powers acted to suppress indigenous development in colonial and semicolonial countries. The weak, despotic bourgeoisies in countries such as Egypt were incapable of achieving the democratic tasks associated with the bourgeois revolutions in Europe. In fear of the working class, they could not break from their imperialist masters and achieve national independence. To maintain their power, they relied on the refuse of the past—e.g., precapitalist subjugation of the peasantry; domination by the mosques—together with brutal police and military repression.
Today Egypt teems with enormous contradictions rooted in its arrested development. On the streets of Cairo, among Mercedes and BMWs zigzag strings of donkey-drawn carriages. A tiny, wealthy elite holds sway over a resentful population mired in dire poverty. Millions are unemployed and some 40 percent of the population lives in degrading squalor. Landless peasants roam the Nile Valley searching for work. Many find “homes” in cemeteries; the more fortunate shelter in the tin-and-cardboard slums that ring major cities, providing a fertile recruitment ground for Islamic fundamentalists.
The wretched peasantry, constituting one-third of the population, lives in conditions not much advanced from those of Pharaonic Egypt. The majority are tenants, migrant rural laborers and smallholders who, on average, own less than one acre. Men work in the fields while women remain largely confined to domestic and maternal duties in the home, with occasional forays to the well and the marketplace. Women’s oppression is nowhere more entrenched than in the backward agrarian areas, especially in Upper Egypt. As one young government bureaucrat put it, “Many fellahin here don’t let their daughters leave the house to go to school and the like because they fear that their girls will gain a sense of freedom, which is always dangerous.... If they learn to read, they will read the wrong kinds of books, not the Koran” (quoted in Richard Adams, Development and Social Change in Rural Egypt ).
The intertwining of religion with every aspect of society means that Coptic Christians, some 10 percent of the population, remain subject to Islamist terror and state persecution, which in turn reinforce the hold of the church over that community. In October 2011, protesters rallying against the burning of Coptic churches in Cairo were attacked by uniformed military forces and Islamist mobs. In collusion with the army and riot police, armed thugs roamed the streets seeking out Christians, including women and children, killing 27 and maiming hundreds.
Egypt presents a powerful argument for Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, which was starkly confirmed by the October Revolution of 1917 in Russia. Neither the state-sponsored industrial development under Nasser in the 1950s and ’60s nor the “open door” to privatization and investment of his successors Sadat and Mubarak could break the chains of imperialist domination or resolve the contradictions posed by Egypt’s combined and uneven development. As Trotsky explained in The Permanent Revolution (1930), for countries of belated capitalist development, “the complete and genuine solution of their tasks of achieving democracy and national emancipation is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat as the leader of the subjugated nation, above all of its peasant masses.”
The Egyptian proletariat in power would expropriate the bourgeoisie and landlords, seizing the property holdings of the mosques, and break the chains of imperialist subjugation on the road to establishing a collectivized, planned economy in which production is based on social need rather than driven by profit. Proletarian revolution in Egypt would resonate throughout the world, not least in North Africa and the Near East as well as among the millions of North African workers in France and Turkish and Kurdish workers in Germany. Such workers could play a crucial role in linking the fight for socialist revolution in the neocolonial world to the struggles of workers in the imperialist centers to get rid of their own exploiters. Short of the overturn of capitalist rule in the advanced industrial countries, any development toward socialism in the more backward countries would be arrested and ultimately reversed under the pressures of world imperialism.
“To Reach Womanhood
Is to Enter a Prison”
In Egypt, the oppression of women is wrapped in ancient barbaric customs, the legacy of belated economic development reinforced by imperialist domination. Patriarchy in the family is fortified by religious ideology, both Coptic Christian and Muslim; daily life for women is drudgery and humiliation. In her novel The Open Door, Latifa al-Zayyat, a leftist jailed by Anwar Sadat in 1981, tells the story of Layla, a young woman who reaches adulthood during the Nasser era: “She grew to the realization that to reach womanhood was to enter a prison where the confines of one’s life were clearly and decisively fixed.”
The torment of females begins at childhood. Girls aged seven or younger are subjected to the hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), a savagery that involves the cutting of the clitoris, aimed at curbing the sexuality of women and maintaining their chastity. This gross crime not only deprives women of their organs of sexual pleasure but also subjects them to intense pain during urination, menstruation, sexual intercourse and childbirth and causes them multiple medical complications throughout their adult lives. Though illegal since 1997, FGM is rampant across all classes in Egypt, and equally so among Muslims and Christians. According to the United Nations, 96 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have undergone the practice.
A few decades ago, before the rise in Islamist influence, many urban women went around bareheaded and wore knee-length skirts and open-necked blouses. Today more than 80 percent of women don the headscarf. It is not uncommon to see women wearing billowing black robes and niqab veils that suffocate women as they cover the entire body and leave only narrow slits for the eyes.
Contrary to Islamist claims, the veil is not an exercise in religious freedom or a sign of modesty and submission to a deity. Nor is it simply a reactionary symbol of religious affiliation like the Christian cross or Jewish yarmulke. The veil—a glaring manifestation of the social program of the Islamists—is the physical expression of the submission of women to men, the permanent, imposed affirmation of their inferior status. It represents the extension outside the home of the seclusion imposed on women by Islamic law and enforced by fundamentalist intimidation and social pressure. Young women reluctantly heed the advice of their families to “wear the veil and stay alive.”
As Marxists, we reject the liberal/nationalist notion of “cultural relativism,” which prettifies the veil and other manifestations of the hideous oppression of women in the Third World as quaint cultural attributes. At the same time, we oppose state bans on the veil, which strengthen the bourgeoisie’s repressive powers—a threat to minorities, workers and leftist organizations. In the imperialist West, such bans are an expression of anti-Muslim bigotry and serve only to drive women deeper into a cultural ghetto. Nor are such bans supportable in Islamic countries. When Turkey’s Islamist government announced plans to scrap a longstanding ban on the headscarf in colleges, we noted that this would encourage fundamentalist mobs to try to force women to don the veil. Nonetheless, as we pointed out, “barring religious women from education and universities because they refuse to remove their headscarves can only deepen their isolation from secular currents, increasing the hold of religious reaction and family domination” (“Turkey: Women and the Permanent Revolution,” WV No. 916, 6 June 2008).
“Honor killings” of women and girls for eloping or having sex outside marriage are widespread in Egypt, among both Muslims and Christians, and socially acceptable, especially in the rural areas. Perpetrators seldom get more than a slap on the wrist, since the law allows judges to reduce sentences for men who kill women in “crimes of passion.” Accurate statistics are impossible to find, as most of these murders are either hushed up or reported as suicides.
By every index—wages, poverty, education, employment—women are at the bottom. Fully 60 percent are illiterate. Egyptian law, which has its basis in sharia, codifies the subordination of women to their male relatives. According to Islamic law, a woman’s share of inheritance is half that of her brother. Laws based on sharia ban abortion (with very few exceptions), prohibit Muslim women from marrying non-Muslims, bar conversion to other religions and outlaw declarations of atheism. Until recently, children of women married to non-Egyptian men were denied citizenship. A man can still divorce his wife simply by saying “I divorce you,” but for a woman to get a divorce she has to overcome numerous hurdles. A law passed in 2000 allowed women to sue for divorce on condition that they forfeit all their legal and financial rights. For Coptic Christians, it is all but impossible to get a divorce because their church proscribes it. Meanwhile, polygamy is legal.
The smothering effect of women’s oppression goes well beyond their own enforced seclusion. There is no law criminalizing homosexuality, because the pretense is that homosexual behavior is unthinkable. Nonetheless, for transgressing sexual norms, gay men are a target of state torture and persecution as well as vigilante violence. In May 2001, 52 men were arrested in a raid on a boat party in Cairo. Charged with “habitual debauchery,” “obscene behavior” and “deriding religion,” they were tried in a secret military court, and 21 of them were sentenced to three years’ hard labor (see WV No. 801, 11 April 2003). In 2007, two HIV-positive gay men were arrested, subjected to insults and beatings and detained for months. In 2008, four HIV-positive men were sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of the “habitual practice of debauchery.”
In his seminal work The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Friedrich Engels traced the roots of the family—the main source of women’s oppression—and of the state to the first division of society into classes. The invention of agriculture had provided a social surplus beyond what was required for basic subsistence. A ruling class developed based on private appropriation of that surplus as human society moved away from the primitive egalitarianism of the Stone Age. In order to transmit property from one generation to the next, the paternity of the heirs had to be assured, requiring women’s sexual monogamy. Thus society places a premium on virginity and marital fidelity—for women. Raising new generations of toilers, the family, together with the church/mosque, instills obedience to authority among youth slated for wage slavery or to be cannon fodder in the armed forces. It also plays a major role in inculcating religious backwardness.
The imperialist and neocolonial worlds are both marked by the oppression of women. As with Islam and other religions, Christianity and Judaism have their own grisly traditions of anti-woman brutality that continue to this day. However, there is an enormous gulf between the status of women in advanced industrialized societies and in the imperialist-dominated societies of the Third World, an outcome of different paths of development. In Egypt, the veil, seclusion, the bride price, FGM, the concept of “family honor” and all the attendant mechanisms of social control over women have been carried forward from pre-capitalist society to the modern day.
These “customs” are not exclusively or even primarily Islamic. (FGM, which is widespread throughout much of Africa, is believed to have originated with animist tribes.) Rather, they are an outgrowth of primitive modes of production based on clans that hold and work the land in common. Inheritance, ownership and access to water and other necessities are determined through the family. Thus the virginity and marriageability of a daughter is a material asset to a patriarch. These barbarous customs can only be completely eliminated through the qualitative development of the productive forces in a socialist world, which will rip out the entrenched economic and social backwardness that is reinforced by imperialist domination. A workers and peasants government in Egypt would seize the property of the landlords and give land to poor peasants as initial steps toward collectivizing and industrializing agriculture.
It will require the overthrow of the capitalist system, which is based on private property in the means of production, and its replacement by a world planned economy under workers rule to build the foundations of a socialist society in which the institution of the family is replaced with collective childcare and socialized housework. Only then will women be freed from the confines of the home to participate fully and equally in political, social and economic life.
Workers Must Come to the Fore
In the last two years, as the Islamists worked toward consolidating their hold on political power, ostensible socialists shoved aside the question of women’s oppression. Particularly notable on this account are the Revolutionary Socialists (RS), the Egyptian affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency founded by the late Tony Cliff, who unabashedly tail after the Islamists. Indeed, the RS formally endorsed Morsi in the 2012 elections—an act of treachery that the Cliffites have since tried to bury—based on the argument that the Muslim Brotherhood has “contradictions” that socialists can exploit (see “Cliffites Disappear Their Support to Egypt’s Morsi,” WV No. 1017, 8 February). The RS even bragged about “reaching out to and earning the respect of the most revolutionary wing of the Salafist movement” (jadaliyya.com, 11 May 2012).
It is grotesque that self-declared Marxists would ever support religious fundamentalists, who want to turn the clock back on human progress by some 14 centuries. The RS has insisted that because the Islamists were repressed under Mubarak (who also at times encouraged them), they were allies in the struggle against dictatorship. This is a deadly fallacy: the Islamists—Muslim Brother and Salafist alike—have a long history of murderous violence against trade unionists, Communists, women, Coptic Christians and Jews, not to mention the RS’s own members.
Women’s liberation requires socialist revolution. By the same token, there will be no revolution except under the leadership of a party that writes on its banner the demand for the emancipation of women. A revolutionary workers party must take up elementary democratic demands such as legal equality for women, equal rights for homosexuals and the separation of religion and state, which Egyptian capitalism has been unable to grant. In order to draw women into the workforce and every other aspect of social life, it is necessary to fight for an end to forced seclusion and the establishment of literacy programs, free 24-hour childcare and free abortion on demand, linked to the struggle for jobs for all.
The Egyptian woman may be hideously oppressed, but she is also a vital part of the class that will lay the basis for her liberation. Women have played a leading role in strikes over the last decade, especially in the textile industry, where they make up 35 percent of the workforce. One of the biggest of the strikes, at the historically combative Mahalla textile plant, was launched in December 2006 by women who walked out as the men continued working. Protesting outside the plant, they started chanting, “Where are the men? Here are the women!”
In 1924, seven years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Leon Trotsky observed in a speech to the Communist University for Toilers of the East in Moscow:
“Even today we can still observe in the East the rule of Islam, of the old prejudices, beliefs and customs but these will more and more turn to dust and ashes.... This, moreover, means that the Eastern woman who is the most paralysed in life, in her habits and in creativity, the slave of the slaves, that she, having at the demand of the new economic relations taken off her cloak will at once feel herself lacking any sort of religious buttress; she will have a passionate thirst to gain new ideas, a new consciousness which will permit her to appreciate her new position in society. And there will be no better communist in the East, no better fighter for the ideas of the revolution and for the ideas of communism than the awakened woman worker.”
—Perspectives and Tasks in the East, New Park Publications (London), 1973
[reprinted in “Communism and Women of the East,” Spartacist (English-language edition)
No. 60, Autumn 2007]
[TO BE CONTINUED]