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Can Marxism explain the existence of women’s’ oppression? Does the oppression of women pose a problem that cannot be answered by historical materialism, with its stress on social relations of production and class antagonism? Explain the origins and social roots of the oppression of women, youth and sexual minorities[?] Why does Engels identify the origins of both the state and the patriarchal family in the break-up of the primitive commune? Does subsequent anthropological work confirm or undermine Engels’ position? Why did the Communist International insist that there is no distinct ‘woman question’ separate from the class struggle as a whole? Do working class men benefit from the oppression of women? Should we support the demand for wages for housework? What are the programmatic errors of the feminists and the ‘economists’ and how can a revolutionary programme against women’s’ oppression be developed today?

Source of this series of questions: League for the Fith International

And from the same source, some recommended reading:

The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State (Engels)

In Engels, in particular, see the chapter titled, The Family, or if you are short on time, see the sub-chapter titled, The Monogamous Family.

Then, on the issue of women in the Marxist tradition and at large, there is this interesting series of theses that can be explored here:

Theses on Women’s Oppression


To the foregoing I would like to add this:

While exploring the issue of feminism in Marxism, I stumbled upon this penetrating and insightful essay by Martha E. Gimenez, titled, “”Marxist Feminism / Materialist Feminism.”

Of particular interest to me, apart from the critique being directed toward other currents of feminism, is the manner in which Gimenez shines light on Marx’s “materialist” conception of history, i.e., the ‘fact’ that the movement of history — that is to say, the evolution of cultures, ideologies, institutions, social relations, material modes of production, etc., — is very much a ‘force of nature’ over which we possess very little agency, that is, until we become critically aware of the manner in which these ‘material forces’ impel us to live as we do — (‘material,’ not in the sense of what is embodied in ‘physical form’ only, but in the sense of whatever ‘affects’ me against or in spite of my will or desires, which includes both the physical and the more intangible realm of the social and cultural).

To offer merely a short quote as a sample of the flavor of what Gimenez writes:

“Cultural materialism, as developed in Raymond William’s work, is presented as a remedy or supplement to Marx’s historical materialism. There is, according to Williams, an “indissoluble connection between material production, political and cultural institutions and activity, and consciousness … Language is practical consciousness, a way of thinking and acting in the world that has material consequences (ibid, p. 5). Williams, they point out, “strives to put human subjects as agents of culture back into materialist debate” (ibid, p. 5).

The implications of these statements is that “humans as agents of culture” are not present in historical materialism and that Marx’s views on the relationship between material conditions, language, and consciousness are insufficient. But anyone familiar with Marx’s work knows that this is not the case. In fact, it is Marx who wrote that “language is practical consciousness” and posited language as the matter that burdens “spirit” from the very start, for consciousness is always and from the very first a social product (Marx, [1845-46] 1994, p.117).”

source: “Marxist Feminism / Materialist Feminism” by Martha E. Gimenez

I thought you might like to read it.  I most certainly did.


Oh, and another treasure trove of references:

Women and Marxism