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Contribution of New Communist Party of the Netherlands

Feb 26, 2024

The past few centuries have seen huge strides in the emancipation of working-class women. The achievements are primarily due to the struggles of the labour movement. The socialist construction in the 20th century, in which women and minorities were given all kinds of rights for the first time, significantly advanced the emancipation of these of groups within the working class. Objective developments in technology, economy and society have also brought changes in social relations. However, many of these rights enjoyed by women in socialism, despite the objective possibilities that exist today, are still unattainable for working-class women in the Netherlands.

While bourgeois politicians applaud having more women at executive positions of companies and in politics, ordinary working-class women are still systematically underpaid and have precarious and flexible job contracts without rights. Women are still systematically paid worse for the same work, and work in sectors where women predominate is relatively poorly paid.

Moreover, women face discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity in job applications or at work. More generally, women are more likely to face unequal treatment, sexism and sexual harassment or transgressive behaviour, often in the workplace but also in other settings. The tendency is that combating such behaviour is done by the capitalist, in a bureaucratic way and by using the resources available to the employer (HR etc.). This way, at best, only the symptoms of the problem are fought but not the root cause which today is the existence of capitalism and exploitation of man by man.

The anti-popular policy followed by the Dutch government in recent years has meant that many services that were provided at government expense now fall on the shoulders of normal people, especially women. Family care is an important example of this, where women have to take care of someone in their family in addition to their regular job. The same situation applies with childcare. Young families still have to pay huge amounts of money for child care and spend a lot of time caring for their children. Even if they can arrange child care, there is no time to rest after work because the high pressure on school children ensures that the parent is responsible to take the child to all kinds of extracurricular activities. For many young families, this is an almost impossible puzzle, with many older retired family members also having to contribute. On the other hand, child rearing and the development of children also suffers from the lack of time that many families have. Finally, as women are more often burdened with childcare or family care, they more often work on part-time contracts, pushing down their incomes even harder.

Recent years have been marked by the massive reintroduction of working from home. This has significantly worsened the situation for many working people, but especially women. Working from home is in many cases presented as a "free choice" but in reality it leads to young families (and especially women) being pushed to work more without childcare also being provided, as a way for the employer and society more broadly to shirk their responsibilities. In many cases, work is done "with the child on the lap". In general, there is heavily increased workload (directly or indirectly) that has rapidly increased in the period of the covid pandemic and beyond. For many women, this leads to burnout or other such symptoms.

The objective conditions in which women live and the situations they encounter, as well as their specific needs, are totally denied to negate the degree of exploitation of women. For instance, under the guise of "equality", the retirement age for women has been made equal to that of men and has become one of the highest in the world for women. Under the guise of "equality", women have to work more hours but also do most of the childcare and informal care at the same time, for which they are not paid and do not accrue a pension. This makes women more financially dependent on their partners, forcing them to stay in relationships more often for purely financial reasons. In some cases, they are even forced to accept abuse and harassment from their partner.

Partly because of all the above reasons, it is more common for women to live in poverty. The specific needs of women are denied and all fall on the shoulders of the individual. This also compromises the health of many women. For example, menstrual poverty (the inability to buy menstrual products or other goods that cover specific needs of the female body) is becoming more common. Healthcare is becoming increasingly inaccessible and expensive, often reducing women's ability to visit gynaecologists. Dangerous and unscientific ideas are emerging around contraception, for example, which go hand in hand with the fact that contraception has become something women have to pay for themselves.

Poverty, poor housing, high work pressure, the lack of amenities such as child care, supplementary pension for mothers, etc., the lack of sufficient and full-fledged healthcare that meets women's concrete needs lead to the right to motherhood being increasingly diluted and remaining a purely individual right rather than a social right. Many women often have to choose between building a career, where they can focus on work that gives them a certain level of satisfaction and financial independence, and having children. This also leads to the broader social problems such as the persistent birth shortage.

As a result of rising poverty, more and more women are working in prostitution. They experience horrible conditions there and often face violence, drug addiction or other psychological problems. Under the guise of free choice, work in prostitution is being promoted among young female students as a "creative" way to pay their study expenses. There are also plans for various "erotic centres" that aim to support the expansion of prostitution and improve the business environment in that sector and legitimise it. All this is being done under the guise of the opportunistic ideology of "harm reduction" and "individual rights" but in reality, this is a cover for the further exploitation of women and has nothing to do with improving the wretched conditions in which many prostitutes live.

Various opportunistic parties, political organisations and NGOs promote bourgeois ideas as part of “feminism”. In reality, these ideas are nothing more than a progressive shroud over the plans promoted by the government and the EU itself, namely the exploitation of "untapped labour potential", in other words the heavier exploitation of women and minorities by putting them into the labour market for more hours and eventually gradually cutting away the few facilities that existed for this purpose. Because the social movement went along very hard with opportunistic and reformist politics, it has been severely weakened and marginalised. It is important not to go along with it and expose these politics and not to go along with them under the guise of the "lesser evil". Only a class-conscious movement can bring in real social rights for women.

A reactionary tendency is noticeable in bourgeois politics, with openly reactionary parties freely expressing their views. This reactionary tendency also reflects contradictions within the bourgeoisie, for instance on the issue of abortion. The right to abortion, which until now has been a very limited individual right aimed at ensuring more and more women enter the labor market directly, and not a social right, is further challenged by sections of the bourgeoisie (often with a religious ideological background) who want to put an end to it or at least further restrict the possibility of abortion in order to thus promote the production of new labour power in the Dutch economy.

This reactionary tendency also affects the working class. Opportunism arouses cynicism among the working class and further weakens class consciousness. At the same time, reactionary parties also openly promote their ideas. This leads to a revival of reactionary ideas among the working class. Gradually, it becomes easier (with either a “left-wing” or “right-wing” veneer) to further erode working-class achievements.

For communists, it is important to expose bourgeois policies in this area and make demands for the welfare and defence of women in every workplace or learning institution. In this way, communists can expose even more contradictions, reveal even more aspects of the exploitation of capital and unite the working class on even more issues and get people to join the struggle. Crucially, relevant demands for social rights must be made, the labour movement must come to see women's problems as its own, and bourgeois ideology must be unmasked. Only the working class itself can realise these demands and need not expect anything from the big monopolies, their workplace organs and their government.