Seminar on the Women

Seminar on the Women’s Question

“On the role of communists in the struggle for the parity and emancipation of women”

Communist Party of Sweden

Brussels, March 26 2010,  

Dear comrades.

My party, the Communist Party of Sweden, expresses a warm thanks to the Greek Communist Party, KKE, for the invitation to this seminar.

I come from a country that willingly calls itself, the most equal country in the world. Then adds that about 75 percent of women of working age are gainfully employed, that there is an extensive system of public childcare, that parental leave at childbirth is generous and that mothers and fathers can equally share the leave, which 20 percent of the fathers do . This is the result of a long struggle of the bourgeois women's movement and labor movement. In Sweden, the socialist Kata Dalström was an early popular female agitator. While Europe in the 30´s and 40's bled under fascism and the Second World War, neutral Sweden among other things was able to develop a modern family policy that is associated with the Social democrats and the Communist party.

After World War II, my party and the Left Organization of Swedish Women (SKV) were active in the anti-war work, in solidarity work and within the Women’s International Democratic Federation. 60 years ago most of the 330 000 Swedish signatures under the Stockholm Appeal against nuclear weapons were collected by women.

Today we are working against Sweden’s gradual connection to NATO.

Swedish Communists have always campaigned for the same women policy as in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. We made it clear that it is the socialist social order that secures the position of women within education, employment and politics. This leads to women’s emancipation and changing gender roles.

When the labor market during the second half of the 20th century needed more and more female workers, women became radicalized when they understod the obstacles that existed to gender equality. But the perception spread that all women had the same problems and that the obstacle to gender equality was a gender-power order. Even today men are often seen as defenders of patriarchy and antagonists to women. Quotas of men and women on company boards are being discussed in the hope that more women make better decisions. But neoliberal politics forces company boards to decide on wage cuts, redundancy and moving companies to low- wage countries. State-owned companies decide on privatization and downsizing. In the public sector, where most women work, 350 000 jobs have disappeared since 1990. This cannot be prevented by women as company directors. Feminist research without awareness of the class struggle will go astray. In my party we don’t call ourselves feminists, we say: no class struggle without women's struggle, no women's struggle without class struggle.

Today there is a lot of fuel for working-class women's discontent with their situation. Many are employed gainfully but 50 percent of women in Congress of Trade Unions are forced to work part-time. You cannot survive on a part-time salary. Permanent jobs are becoming fewer and fewer and Man Power companies control the labor power to meet the owner's profit needs. Typical women's work within health care and retail industry is low-wage occupations. Municipal workers' unions dared a few years ago to address the demands for a 6 hour working-day in collective agreements. This demands has now been given the status of a distant vision. But this is badly needed for both women and men in a busy result-oriented working environment that has negative consequences for human health and the family situation. After almost one hundred years of the 8-hour day, it is time to reduce working hours. We cannot force capital to do this now, but we will not remove the demands from our banners.

Sweden's population consists of 20 percent of people with foreign backgrounds. For exampel feudal attitudes to women exist and there are also examples of killing women in the name of honour. But there is also a lot of violence against women in native Swedish families. Unemployment, alcoholism and men's insecurity in a new gender role leads to aggression.

Our capitalist, violence-fixated, sexist and commercialized society obstracts women’s emancipation with partly invisible power. Society's bourgeois feminine ideals and shorter schooling for working class youth are steering young women's career choices. Becoming a hairdresser or having an artistic profession is in demand, jobs in commerce or in health care are seen as emergency solutions, while there are technical programs, with no women at all. At my high schools training as electricians there were no girls at all for several years.

But I remember two girls and they were from the Philippines and Turkey. The school website now presents the veiled Muslim Turkish girl as a successful electrician. It is no doubt- women can do it!

In conclusion: All Communists should put ideas into practice. We should show the interaction between class struggle and the women's struggle, and we should highlight examples that existed and exists in socialist countries as well as in a country like Sweden. We can make the preparations, but it is socialist society that will solve the problem.