Will full-time housewives be represented in the socialist industrial union government?


The People, March 23, 1991, page 6

Will full-time housewives be represented in the socialist industrial union government?


This question begs another, insofar as it assumes that there will be substantial numbers of "full-time housewives" in socialist society. We cannot assume that there will be, nor can we assume that there won't be. The SLP takes no position on what is, necessarily, a speculative matter regarding home and family life in socialist society.

In a society in which full economic opportunity and security will be the birthright of all, and in which it will be possible to live comfortably and support a family on a dramatically reduced work week, relations between the sexes will surely be affected, and the available options for homemaking arrangements and the raising of children will be greatly expanded.

Among other things, there will be full social equality between the sexes, with women no longer being induced by economic circumstances into seeking marriage, or enduring a bad one, and serving as full-time homemakers for that reason.

On the other hand, the economic hardships that have pushed or forced many working-class women out of the home and into the industries in recent years will also be vanquished in socialist society. Thus, we cannot say in advance how many people might choose the role of full-time homemaker in this profoundly altered social environment.

As Frederick Engels observed in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State: "What we may anticipate about the adjustment of sexual relations after the impending downfall of capitalist production is mainly of a negative nature and mostly confined to elements that will disappear. But what will be added? That will be decided after a new generation has come to maturity: a race of men who never in their lives have had any occasion for buying with money or other economic means of power the surrender of a woman; a race of women who have never had any occasion for surrendering to any man for any other reason but love, or for refusing to surrender to their lover from fear of economic consequences.

"Once such people are in the world, they will not give a moment's thought to what we today believe should be their course. They will follow their own practice and fashion their own public opinion about the individual practice of every person."

In the social environment created by socialism, women, and men as well, would certainly be free to choose the option of being full-time home-makers if their spouse, partner or anyone else agrees to support them, is agreeable, and it would be far less difficult than it is today for one spouse to support the other in such an arrangement.

On the other hand, in comparison to capitalist society, there would be much less strain involved for workers to find time to do housework, and it would be a simple matter for a working couple to share it equitably. One or both parents would also be able to easily take off from work and stay home for extended periods when their children are first born, then alternate their modest work hours so as to provide constant care for children throughout their formative years. With more time to devote to children, parents collectively would also be able to organize high quality group childcare or group activities for children.

Under such conditions, it seems unlikely to us that there would be any need or widespread desire to regard homemaking in the same manner as social production and organize something akin to a "socialist industrial union" of full-time homemakers.

Maintaining a home and raising children are obviously socially necessary tasks, but they are performed in the personal domain of one's home; they are not performed collectively at the social level, and home-making is not an industry. Accordingly, the idea of accounting for hours spent homemaking would be problematic, and it would seem to be a pointless misapplication of the SIU concept for homemakers, who work independently, to elect representatives to a homemakers' "industrial council," for example.

What people need in the way of products or services in caring for home and children could certainly be ascertained through the socialist industrial unions and the general process for measuring the needs and wants of the people.

In that connection, what we said in our previous Question Period also applies here: There will be no more materially based conflict between the individual and the social interest in socialist society. Once socialism is firmly established, the main area for social debate and resolution would concern how to best serve the needs and wants of the people.

Under these conditions, it is safe to say that the interests of home-makers -- full-time or otherwise -- would be capably served by the socialist industrial union government. There would not exist any conceivable material interest to cause a socialist industrial union government to make decisions to the contrary.

However, as we have stated many times before in answering questions regarding the details of socialist society, we are not here proposing a blueprint for socialism. In expressing the view that we consider it unlikely that full-time homemakers would be directly represented in a socialist industrial union government, we are engaging in informed speculation. If the majority of people in a socialist society were persuaded that direct representation for full-time homemakers is necessary or desirable, for reasons not evident today, then an appropriate body would be organized and representatives to the socialist industrial union government elected.