Socialism and the Sexes


Date: Mon Oct 09, 1995 7:03 pm EST
From: Conference
Subject: Socialism and the Sexes
The People
October 14, 1995
Vol. 105 No. 12


Many institutions once considered stable foundations for modern social relations are being shaken by capitalist development. One about which we hear a great deal these days is the "traditional family."

The modern family structure with which we are most familiar, however, is only one of many family forms that have evolved over the long course of human history. Each of those forms has been a reflection of the social circumstances under which it grew and took shape, rather than the foundation for them. Similarly, the strain being placed on the family structure of today is a reflection of capitalist development.

Karl Marx addressed this question in CAPITAL, his most important work. Focusing on the effect capitalism was having on the family of his own era, he wrote:

"...However terrible and disgusting the dissolution, under the capitalist system, of the old family ties may appear, nevertheless, modern industry, by assigning as it does an important part in the process of production, outside the domestic sphere, to women, to young persons, and to children of both sexes, creates a new economical foundation for a higher form of the family and of the relations between the sexes. It is, of course, just as absurd to hold the Teutonic-Christian form of the family to be absolute and final as it would be to apply that character to the ancient Roman, the ancient Greek, or the Eastern forms which, moreover, taken together form a series in historical development. Moreover, it is obvious that the fact of the collective working group being composed of individuals of both sexes and all ages, must necessarily, under suitable conditions, become a source of humane development; although in its spontaneously developed, brutal, capitalistic form, where the laborer exists for the process of production, and not the process of production for the laborer, that fact is a pestiferous source of corruption and slavery."

The family is changing because society is changing. These changes cannot be toward a "humane development" as long as the "pestiferous source of corruption and slavery" exists.

Socialism will create an entirely new social environment for the relations of the sexes and the family. For one thing, it will create a condition of economic security for all. This will eliminate a factor that plays a very large role in the relations of the sexes today. Prostitution will disappear. The choosing of a mate will be completely freed of material considerations. This will leave only human considerations. As Marx put it in an early essay, "Assume MAN to be MAN and his relationship to the world to be a human one: then you can exchange love only for love...."

What form will the family take under socialism? That is impossible to say, except that socialism will eliminate the conditions under which the family under capitalism is being bruised and torn and ripped apart, and will establish social and economic conditions for a new era of relations between the sexes. As Frederick Engels explained in his book, THE ORIGIN OF PRIVATE PROPERTY, THE FAMILY 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 -- only this and nothing more."

Sexual relations and "family values" have been corrupted and are being undermined by the social conditions that capitalism creates. The profit motive, which defines capitalist values, are incompatible with human values. Creating the social environment for humans to live and behave as human beings is a task reserved for socialism.