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Susan Green

The Role of Women in Modern Society

Women in the Socialist Cause

(2 December 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 48, 2 December 1946, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

I made no claim that the solution of economic problems will automatically dispose of the tumultuous dissatisfactions that seethe within us and between us as human beings, both men and women. Trotsky, for instance, stated that such sciences as psychoanalysis which deal with the human being, cannot develop fully until the economic prison bars which confine us are broken. In that sense did I mean that “For the bulk of womankind, complete fulfillment through motherhood and creative work is unthinkable without a basic change in society.” With this overall view Ethel Goldwater says she agrees.

On my part, of course, I recognize the “real wishes and possibilities” of women that Mrs. Goldwater described in her article in Politics. I also agree with her, as she pointed out in that article, that unfortunately even among radicals the double standard for women still exists. Nor do I postpone to a more “favorable milieu” the self-criticism and effort at correction called for. Likewise, I do not advise non-resistance to the commercialism which, as Mrs. Goldwater’s article points out, makes of women worse slaves than they need to be even under capitalism. Again, I favor every present educational effort that would make for happier men and women.

Women Must Be Brought into the Political Struggle

These are all points that Mrs. Goldwater stresses in her Politics article. But such points can be made also by the “enlightened church” or by an ethical culture society. Of course, this does not make them wrong; merely inadequate. The Workers Party thinks of the woman problem as a social problem inextricably entangled in the social-economic roots. As such it cannot be left to individual endeavor, as do Mrs. Goldwater, Politics’ editor, the “enlightened church,” the ethical cultural society, but must be brought out into the political struggle. This is where Mrs. Goldwater misses the mark.

It is from this approach that I asked Mrs. Goldwater “how basically would it [her contribution] alter the situation? To this she now counters that the here-and-now demands of the Workers Party for the $5,000 minimum income, for instance, would also not basically alter the situation, since “a uniformly higher wage generally means higher prices.”

There it a fundamental political axiom Mrs. Goldwater overlooks, namely, that the demands of the labor and of the socialist movements must meet such capitalist contradictions as these, or fold up. Thus the Auto Workers Union had to adopt the slogan of wage increases without any price increases as well as the demand to open the corporation books. The Workers Party endorses this most progressive step and also projects a program for price control by labor and the consumers. We aim for higher wages that are really higher.

As to such demands, however, Mrs. Goldwater says it is “characteristic” of our party to make demands that “can’t be won, and even if they were won, they wouldn’t help much.” Of course, capitalism will not grant the workers what they need for decent living, let alone for a cultured, creative life. That does not mean that our demands for a thirty-hour week, for a guaranteed annual wage, for a $5,000 annual income and other needs to lighten the burdens of men and women, are “fashioned primarily for tactical ends, and have little connection with real wishes or possibilities.” We make these demands because we want these things and we honestly fight for them. I’m sure Mrs. Goldwater does not actually think that such demands are NOT the “real wishes” of the people. And certainly she must regard them as possibilities – that is, as improvements in life that technological advancement can easily provide. Why does she then say that our demands “have little connection with real wishes or possibilities?”

Toward Goals That Will Be Fundamental Solution

That these real wishes and possibilities are not realizable under private ownership, under the profit system, under industrial autocracy, does not produce in us “deepseated pessimism” nor “two minds” nor a disbelieving hope nor “the burden of such a conflict” nor yet do we find solace in any dubious psychological pleasures – all of which Mrs. Goldwater pins on us. The prospective of the Workers Party is straightforward and simple: to get the people to fight intelligently for, and to fight with them for, these things that they do want and that are easily possible. As they find they cannot attain and hold such reasonable goals under capitalism, the pressure of need for these things will force them, and us with them, to struggle on a wider social, economic and political arena, namely, against the whole system that stands in the way.

In my article in Labor Action I stated that Mrs. Goldwater was speaking only for a small number of middle-class intellectuals and not for the large body of working women. She now strengthens my contention. She finds the demand for a $5,000 income “so dull, so colorless” – “why not some interesting details?” Really? Have not the seventy per cent of the population living on incomes of less than $3,000 a year, imaginative powers strong enough to fill in the picture of a $5,000 income? Besides one does not put the “interesting detail” in the platform of programmatic demands; there is a place for everything.

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