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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 25. 3rd October 1973

Women's Struggle

Women's Struggle


After reading Peter Wilson's reply to Jill Basher I felt stirred to reply. However since it is not any concern of mine as to how or why any NZUSA constituent voted for sponsorship of Lorraine Rothman's tour, I shan't comment on the line or standpoint of Jill Basher.

What I do wish to question is the premise from which Peter bases his "socialist" view-point. If indeed that has been the political basis from which his rejection of the tour originated.

In his letter he first draws from the political position of Kay Goodger who "has pointed to some of the false premises on which the concept of "Self-Help" is based," which "has meant the rejection of a scientific approach to medicine in favour of a kind of 'folk medicine'. " Then followed by an extract from "Vaginal Politics" by Ellen Frankfort who wrote: "Doctors, hospitals and drug companies are not going to be affected by having small groups of women learning how to examine themselves or how to extract their menstrual periods."

From this Peter constructs reason to Justify his rejection of Lorraine's tour of our country.

Whether or not her orientation is politically radical is hardly a valid point to bring into question. The essecntial factor is whether or not the concept of self-help clinics has any basis for application in our country.

Consideration of the concept for New Zealand requires an examination of the dialectics of the women's and class struggles along with all the objective conditions existing in New Zealand not those of the USA.

Self-help of itself does not necessarily lead women away from scientific "qualified" (male dominated) opinion. Although it is to be granted the possibilities do exist for this. The main factor remains, that women are given a chance to take individual and collective initiative for the advancement and protection of their own best interests.

This is where direct bearing is brought upon our NZ conditions. If women are organising themselves around a concept of self help, then the basis exists for the concept to be realised be being integrated with the broader struggle for better health and welfare care, where the medical profession is "challenged to use the most up to date methods of technology of society to better womens lives, as well as all other people.

Herein lies the interconnection of the women's struggles and those of the working class in general. Workers in a particular industry separated into organisations on the lines of their craft are not told that they are not politically radical because they choose to adopt forms of methods of struggle in a given situation. Yet Peter seems to assert that women will only find liberation from oppression when they learn the right "revolutionary" slogans.

What Peter says in regard to women being "assigned the role of sex object" in capitalist society is not entirely a correct proposition in my opinion. Capital, as a product of labour and through its private ownership forces the labour power of people into its service. Labour power is a commodity that the capitalist buys on the labour market in order to carry on production and reproduction of exchange commodities.

For women their reproductive biology is drawn into the service of capital as a commodity of utility. Capital imposes on women and the family unit, the responsibility of the reproduction of the commodity "labour power" which the individual capitalist at a future time will buy on the "labour market".

Since the majority of women are in the ranks of the working class, it follows that they are forced into becoming production units for the reproducing of the "working class". So obviously any steps that women take towards organising themselves, regardless of their class, to collectivise for their common interests through self-control or any other basis must qualitively lead to a deepening of social contradictions, thus leading to a broadening of the working class women's perspective and struggle.

The Marxist dictum of dialectical development is that nothing remains static, but on the contrary moves in a constant state of change.

The masses in struggle against class domination, make history. Not theoreticians and pedantic revolutionaries in ivory towers.

Yours for the Revolution,

Ron O'Brien

Socialist Unity Party Christchurch.