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Women and the struggle for socialism

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4. Class and identity

What role will women play in the struggle for socialism today? Socialists and Marxists believe that the working class is the only force capable of leading the struggle to fundamentally change society.

This is not because of some kind of 'romantic' historical attachment to the idea of the working class but because of the role which it plays in the production process under capitalism.

Capitalism is a system based on competition and production for profit. The surplus from which profit comes is derived from the unpaid labour of the working class through exploitation.

A constant battle is being waged between the owners of the means of production, the capitalist class, and the producers, the working-class, over this surplus, which is reflected in struggles in the workplaces over wages, working hours, speed-ups and working conditions, as well as those to extend and defend public services.

Workers, therefore, have a collective interest in fighting against and ending the economic exploitation which they face under capitalism.

Other classes and groups such as small business owners and peasants also suffer from the economic injustices of the capitalist system and could be involved in the struggle to change society.

However, their economic and social position and outlook is not the same as that of the working class. Through collectively withdrawing their labour, workers potentially have the power to bring the whole economy to a halt.

It is because of the potential collective strength which they possess within the workplace and the potential impact of this more generally in society that they have the main role to play in overthrowing capitalism and building a new society.

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