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The Worker, May 1, 1922

Women and The New Age

By Florence Custance (Toronto)

Women are facing the dawn of a new era. Will women flinch from the tasks confronting them? Will they help to speed the day when society shall be freed from the dominance of the privileged few over many millions of human beings? Or will they be the bulwark of reaction, the barricade of defense for the privileged few against the many millions who are crushed beneath the wheels of the grinding greed of capitalism?

Were it not that the pages of history record heroic deeds of women who forgot self and realized the need of the hour, women who stepped into the breach, we would say that we have no hope. But those pages of history are beacons of hope: on those pages are recorded deeds which prove that women can rise to great things. Germany has her heroic Rosa Luxemburg, who was ruthlessly murdered by the German bourgeoisie when she tried to urge the workers of Germany to overthrow their oppressors. Russia has hundreds of noble-minded women who rose in their might against bloody Czarism in March, 1917.

The deeds of these women give hope for the working women of today. Still, it would be an error to suppose that women’s emergence from black reaction can be left to chance. The greatest struggle of all times is on now. It is an international struggle. In this struggle, woman is very necessary. The struggle between Capital and Labor will eventually open up for her the new era — a time in which recognition of her services to mankind as worker and mother will be paid in full, instead of by the drudgery which is her lot today. She must not look backward and pine for conditions and times which will never return again. She must look at conditions as they exist today, squarely in the face, and seek the way out of the cesspool of evil conditions and uncertainty of life’s existence — to this new order of society which must be built and in which she, too, must be a builder.

The traditions and customs of past centuries still act as chains binding women to the rock of conservatism, and preventing her from moving forward as rapidly as she might. A gigantic effort will be necessary, before she finally breaks the links and becomes a human being with equal duties and equal rights with all men. Woman today is a product of the times. Her ideas as to her duties — her work — her ideas of home, marriage — have attached to them relics of the past. A reconciliation between the past and the present is impossible: progress points onward.

Capitalism, the Home-Wrecker

The home, once the center of domesticity, industry and sociability, is now a mere shelter. The duties attached to the home have become commercialized, and have, in turn, with all other forms of industry, been swallowed up in the modern system of capitalism. Capitalism has been the home-wrecker. It has wrecked to social relationships which existed between man and woman. The need of Capitalism for greater and cheaper production has brought women into the field of industry where her ability and ingenuity have been used for profit. She is the enforced competitor of man, and is used by the forces of capitalist greed to break the power of resistance in their struggle to maintain a decent standard of existence.

Life itself is bound up with production. The means of production and the things produced are the property of a small, privileged class, composed of both men and women.

The women of the privileged class have struggled for equal political privileges with the men of their class. As the struggle between Capital and Labor becomes more intense, the women of the Capitalist class are given equal rights. Witness, for instance, the entrance of women into the Houses of Parliament. As owners and possessors, women as Capitalists are imbued with the ideas of production for gain: they are loyal to their class with a staunch loyalty.

If the women of the capitalist class fight for their privileges, as part of the exploiting class, how much more should the women of the working class struggle for equal rights with the men of their class, refusing to be used as strike-breakers and wage-reducers, as tools for bigger profits for the capitalist masters.

Women Must Organize

Women have been forced into industry; there they will stay. Women must insist upon the right to organize into unions, to be admitted if necessary into the same unions with men. They must demand equal pay for equal work, otherwise they are enforced scabs. They must insist upon a proper recognition of motherhood, and protection of mothers and infants alike. To live, the workers must have access to work. Capitalism refuses this periodically. To allow workers to starve because production for profit is impossible, is a crime. The women and mothers of the homes must come out and take up publicly the cry of "Work or Full Maintenance!" — not stay at home worrying how they are going to pay their bills, how they will clothe and feed their children.

The industrial depression, which has brought in its train unemployment, wage-cutting, greater uncertainty of life, is more than a national question. The system of production and distribution is an international one, and one that breaks down all international boundaries. We can realize, as workers, that our comrades in other countries are enduring similar suffering. This should link us up with the workers of other countries. Their troubles should be ours, and ours theirs. In particular, should the full sympathy and active support be extended to the workers of Russia, who took the first step towards a realization of a new order of society, when they took the power from those who could not and would not consider the needs of the masses, but would only use the masses for personal greed and profit.

The message the women of the Workers’ Party of Canada wish to convey to the working women of Canada is to take up the struggle against Capitalist tyranny and selfishness which keep our husbands chained to uncertainty, ourselves to worry and desperation, our children to want. The minor struggles now, fought shoulder to shoulder with the men of our class, mean surer victory when the final struggle against our Capitalist master takes place.

Let us urge the men of our class on with the struggle, helping them with deeds as well as words to greater things. Let us do our duty, taking our part unflinchingly, maintaining all the time our slogan: "Equal effort in the Struggle! Equal Reward in Victory!"-

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