Studies III: PCOT and Women’s Issues (I)

This post is a part of a new series of posts which will consist of translations and excerpts from the communiques, statements, pamphlets and other literature from left-wing political parties in the Arab world, especially Tunisia (others as well, Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania in particular). The selections will focus on foreign policy, women’s issues, relations with other political factions (mainly Islamists and other leftist tendencies), ideology, rhetoric and general worldview. The purpose of this series is to put into English elements of the contemporary Arab political discourse which are generally neglected in western and English-language reportage and analysis while the of Islamist tendency receives extensive, if not excessive coverage. The translations in this series should not be taken as this blogger endorsing or promoting the content of particular materials: the objective is to increase access to and understanding of the contemporary Arab left by making its perspectives known, especially in areas of interest and relevance to English-speakers. This series will include both leftist and Arab nationalist [party] documents, statements, communiques, articles and so on. The series will attempt to touch on as many of the main (and interest) leftist parties as possible.

The following are three translations of articles published by the Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party’s (PCOT) organs on women’s issues. They were selected because they reflect the general tone of the party’s publications on women’s questions. The first comes from before the January 2011 uprising and frames women’s emancipation in terms of Marxist ideology; the second and third come from after the overthrow of Ben Ali, one is a communique marking International Women’s Day and the other is a “tribute to working women where ever they are”and describes the party’s view on the marginalization of women and its severity. All three are essentially polemics. The articles here are brief; translations of excerpts from the party’s longer ideological tracts will follow later on.

1. Marxism and Women’s Emancipation

“Oppression of women in the nature of class and history”

LINK: http://www.albadil.org/spip.php?article3781

DATE: 29 March, 2010

The historical materialist approach of Marx reveals for the first time, more clearly and convincingly, because it is scientific, that the social character of the oppression of women is in all historical stages, including the capitalist stage. The fact that this persecution is historically characteristic has meant real inferiority for women in the family, public life and society and that it is not rooted in “human nature” for this “reason” or for another, and that it is also not “fixed” and “eternal” as claimed by all reactionary theories and concepts of various colorings, it sources which prevailed previously and still do are social phenomena born of specific circumstances and can be explained and analyzed  which gives it a relatively transitory character and nominates therefore that it be overcome as soon as changes [take place] in the historical conditions that have generated it.  In other words, as soon as the the available historical conditions are overturned women will regain her position as a liberated thing, with equal rights to men.

The family and marriage thus social phenomena which have their history, their common past, present and future, like all historical phenomena, like all other social institutions. And this means that have not known from the outset one absolute and final form, with the woman captured and always inferior, but to the contrary they customarily known many developments and changes in relation to developments and changes in the particular economic and property relations within human societies.

This is a revolutionary idea, a historical, social, relative and transitional idea, against the oppression of women and it sent a crushing blow against all reactionary ideas and theories that have claimed that the inferior position of women is “dictated by nature” or “by the will of the Creator” or by “requirements and dynamics of public morality” and that the patriarchal family is the absolute and final form of the family and cannot be changed. All tries to do is “convict” because it is a “violation of the provisions of nature” or challenges “divine will” or “infringes upon morality”!!

The credit goes to Frederic Engles and Comrade Marx and his associates for creating the theory of scientific socialism, for providing a general template for the evolution of the forms of the family and marriage throughout historic in his class work The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. In this book Engles adopts the historical materialist approach of Marx, and that of the historical knowledge and anthropology of his day, which was confirmed by studies and subsequent research and the health of some of this was enriched by new information but does not depart from the general context in which Engles placed it, and and some corrections to other information was made, without this meaning that new information refuted or denied the revolutionary idea at its core, the Marxist theory about the nature of the historical and social oppression of women and on the contrary this [new knowledge] supported it, in terms of its formulas and emphasized that there is no room to search for the roots of this oppression outside of history or outside of the social relations of human beings.

2. Women and the Revolution

“Toward extending our revolution until we have full and effective equality between the sexes”

LINK: http://www.albadil.org/spip.php?article3719

DATE: 8 March, 2011

On the Occasion of 8 March

Saluting Tunisian women on this year’s International Women’s Day in a new historic era. The Tunisian people erupted managed last 14 January to overthrow their dictator and seize their freedom. Today they continue the Revolution toward the final elimination of dictatorship and the establishment of a democratic system to achieve their national and popular demands and aspirations.

Women have contributed actively and effectively to this Revolution from the south to the north, and women workers, employees distracted from work and university graduates and students and intellectuals and artists, lawyers, judges, housewives contributed and presented spectacular images of resistance and resilience.

The Ben Ali regime state, although its paying lip service to “modernity”, deprived women of their liberty and of their rights. A large number of them, who were campaigners of the Workers’ Party Youth Organization, were arrested, tortured and denied their studies and employment. Women were even deprived of 8 March (International Women’s Day) which was converted in a formal ceremony for the glorification of the dictator. Highlighting the latter point brought a variety of repression on women activists and associations, committees and independent women’s clubs.

Despite the hype which pumped up the status of women in Tunisia, they did not in fact have their full rights and were not earning [salaries] on an equal basis with men, not even at the legal or actual levels, where women remained the first victims of unemployment, poverty, marginalization, discrimination in various areas (pay, promotion and professional settings), illiteracy, prostitution, violence, etc.

The women of Tunisia face a new stage in their lives. The Revolution is not over and the Tunisian people still do not hold the reins of power and conflict is at its peak with the remnants of the dictatorship looking to abort the Revolution. The women, as well as men, are invited to continue the struggle until the Revolution does not stop in the middle of the road and the enemies of the Revolution are unable to regain control. The Revolution of 14 January is a revolution of freedom, equality, dignity and social justice. It is these values that should be translated on the ground for Tunisian women and not going back stepping and a continuation of oppression and inequality in any form or under any pretext whatsoever. The opportunity is ripe for Tunisian women to make a significant jup on the road toward their liberation completely and actually and mark a new page for Arab women who are still toiling under the yoke of medieval tyranny.

One of the important stations in the next phase which will have a role in shaping the future of women in Tunisia is the station of the election of the National Constituent Assembly which will draft a new constitution for the country. The transformation of gender equality into a constitutional principle and the empowerment of women with the same rights enjoyed by men in the family, society and public life and the recognition of the social function of motherhood and the criminalization of all forms of sexual segregation, all of those axes must have a place in the new constitution.

  • Toward the advancement of the Revolution so that it achieves its objectives.
  • Striving toward the election of the Constituent Assembly so that it consecrates popular sovereignty.
  • Toward making full and effective equality between the sexes gaining from the benefits of the Revolution.

— Tunisian Communist Workers’ Party, 8 March, 2011

3. The Urgency of Women’s Emancipation 

“Towards completing the struggle for women’s emancipation”

LINK: http://www.albadil.org/spip.php?article2822

DATE: 22 April, 2011

A Tribute to the women’s struggle … A tribute to working women wherever they are

The reality is that Arab woman, including Tunisian woman, still suffers from backwardness in being dealt with as an actor in the society capable of contributing to the cycle of payment, and still suffers from segregation and inequality in law and practice, in addition to the perception of inferiority that turns her into nothing more than a sexual commodity. The roots of this situation of inferiority are in the historical context and social relationships which have been lived by women and which has been dedicated to this disadvantageous situation and its maintenance. The women’s issue has been raised since the nineteenth century in Egypt by Tahtawi and from the nineteen thirties of the twentieth century by Tahar Haddad and even now, actually, because women’s liberation cannot come only in the context of a political movement, and public society and culture and cannot be excluded from the handling of the situation of the community as a whole, because the cause of women is integral to the process of the transition to democracy, as one cannot talk about a free society that does not have free women, and there can be no real equality between the sexes in a society with the starkest contrasts based on inequality.

The demand for full and effective equality between women and men stems from various places. Women are human their rights are human rights. Any assault on her dignity or persecution of her is offending these rights, because as a matter of principle she is an integral part of humanity and that women represent half of society gives her the right to participate in the production of wealth and to social and cultural development side by side with men. Politically, there is no democracy without equality of rights between members of the community and there is no democracy without gender equality. It is relations between men and women and their maturity that determine the progress of peoples and communities and overcome the obstacles posed by the nature of the human animal.

In most areas of steadfastness women were active and present for experience has historically shown women’s presence in national liberation movements, contributing to the flight of the colonizers and the participation in the Tunisian Revolution of women of all ages and brackets therein in the face of the machine of repression in November, and they were among the martyrs as well, who imposed victory on the land over attempts to exclude them from social and political space.

Raising the issue of women and addressing their general treatment under the conditions of society does not, however, negate the need to look at special issues women have stemming from the persecution they suffer since women are the first victims of illiteracy in Tunisia, with the illiteracy rate being 31% among females compared to 14.8% among males (Statistics, 2004).

On the other hand, aggravated manifestations of verbal and physical violence against women in all circles, family, professional and public, is ever the more exacerbated by the phenomenon of prostitution in a clime of spreading consumerism and vanishing humanity. In the area of employment, women are the main victims of unemployment and arbitrary dismissal. The state does not take any action to improve wages or working conditions that are held by women, which is most onerous and dangerous for health. And laws put out by the authorities on the employment of women half the time they attack the right of women to work meaning this becomes a tacit encouragement for their return to the house, and the Tunisian state has yet to ratify ILO Convention Number 183/2000 on the protection of maternity leave (extended maternity leave for up to fourteen weeks and granting pre-holiday status), as it is still considered grounds for expulsion in the private sector. Pregnant women are not given due care by the state so that pregnancy is seen as a responsibility for women because is not seen as a social function for which the state must bare some of the consequences.

The achievement of practical equality between women and men is a necessary condition for all true democratic change. And women’s freedom is an integral part of democratic, popular and national change and the struggle for democratic and social rights. It is therefore necessary to invest in the struggle for social and political rights by enforcing the rights of women. They must be educated about their rights, and especially to defend those rights through their involvement in the struggle for radical and profound social change.


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