Oppression, inheritance and private property: Marxism and the family
Engels described the emergence of the patriarchal family as humanity’s first counterrevolution. For hundreds of thousands of years, under conditions of what Engels calls primitive communism, there was no private property, marriage as we know it today did not exist, and there were no classes. But agriculture and the production of a surplus (more resources than was necessary for sheer survival) laid the material basis for a division of labour, and with it the emergence of social classes: exploiters and the exploited.
The burgeoning ruling class needed a way to pass their accumulated wealth to their offspring, down the male line, which in turn necessitated a way of determining paternity and controlling reproduction. The only way that could be done was by demoting women to the position of domination by men. This is the historical basis for marriage in its present form and the family. The family, private property, the state, and class society all have a shared origin. Today, we strive to free human relations from the shackles of coercion and oppression; and put them on a healthy basis under a socialist society.
- Origin of the family: In Defence of Engels and Morgan
- Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State - Friedrich Engels
Fred: People on the left often blame capitalism for women’s oppression. But the origin of women’s oppression is not in capitalism; its roots go much further back in time. They originate in early forms of class differentiation of society, with the emergence of private property – and that goes back thousands of years.
These ideas have been embedded in human consciousness over a long period of time – the idea that it’s always been like this. Even many women accept that this is how it is, because they accept what they have seen through their mother’s, their grandmother’s, their great-grandmother’s experience. It's always been like this as far as we can remember. But this is breaking down as an idea – and it’s breaking down as a consequence of the development of society and thanks to class struggle itself. Revolution is what will finally remove this idea from the consciousness of humanity.
Capitalism didn’t create the idea of the family or the idea of the man dominating the woman. It has inherited it from previous societies. But it finds it to be a very useful tool. It’s useful for dividing the working class and for mobilising backwards layers in moments of class struggle.
Capitalism, however, also lays the basis for women’s liberation. In what sense? Through the development of the productive forces, by bringing women into production itself. It's through capitalism that the basis is created for the final overthrow of this form of the family. True liberation will come through a radical transformation of society.
Now, when I mentioned the idea that things have always been like this, that ‘always’ actually proves to be a very short period of history. The latest findings seem to indicate that Homo Sapiens have been around for about 300,000 years; and maybe ten or twelve thousand of those years we had some form of class society. So, from the long historical view, it’s a very short period, although in the minds of individuals it’s a very long period. But as Marxists we look at the long view of history. We look at the process over long periods of time.
We’ve had different forms of class society. Slavery, feudalism, capitalism: different forms, but all of them have something in common – a propertied class at the top. In the passage from each of these, we’ve seen radical changes. When the bourgeoisie was coming to power, it required the most advanced thinking of its time. That’s why the bourgeoisie in its early period had a rational scientific approach to questions. But once it consolidated its position in power, in order to defend the privileges it now had, it needed to abandon its earlier ideas – ideas that evoked social change. Now it was social conservatism. There was even a reaction against the very same ideas the bourgeoisie espoused as it came to power.
On the question of the family, we see something similar. We had people like Morgan, who wrote the book Ancient Society that Engels used to develop his text On the Origins of the Family. Morgan is a product of the 19th century, and of course, much more research has been done since. We don’t regard Morgan as the Bible of anthropology; some of the things he said are dated. However, he represented a major step forward in our understanding. In the same way, Darwin developed the theory of evolution. It was later sharpened, for example with the idea of punctuated equilibrium: the idea that evolution takes place through leaps. Just because some of what Darwin said proved to be inexact doesn’t mean that we throw evolution out as a theory (unless you’re a U.S. Republican or you’re called Donald Trump).
But let’s look at Morgan. I wanted to outline where Engels took a lot of his ideas from. Morgan was bourgeois, a Republican. Remember, in those days the Republicans were not the Republicans of today. Things have flipped in American politics. The Republicans were the more ‘progressive’ wing. Morgan studied kinship systems in several peoples. He travelled to Europe; he met Darwin and some British anthropologists.
He developed his theory of social evolution – that society develops, it evolves, and that different societies have gone through similar stages of development. For instance, he came to the conclusion that humanity had a common origin, something which now is taken for granted as an idea. He thought that common origin was in Asia; now it seems confirmed that it was in Africa. This is an indication of the period he was writing in, obviously. But he underlined the fact that technological changes determined progress in society. He saw similarities in development in the different societies that existed in different parts of the world, and he saw this as allowing us to have a picture of development – a picture which obviously develops over tens of thousands of years.
Just a little warning on the use of terminology: Morgan used terms which we wouldn’t use today. He used ‘savagery,’ ‘barbarism,’ and ‘civilisation.’ We should be careful in not reading into the use of these words meanings which we would give to those words today. He also uses the word ‘communism’ and ‘communist’ at least nine or ten times in the book. Somebody reading that today might think he was referring to Stalinism. Of course, that was impossible in the 1870s. What he meant was people lived in a communist way. There was no property and there were no classes.
If you have an evolutionary approach, you will see development and change; you don’t see merely cultural differences. Of course, there are different cultures. But the structure of the family, if you present it as a cultural thing, you’re saying, “Well, in that particular society, it’s always been like x, and in this other culture, it’s like y. And also, it’s always been like this.’ But we know, for example, that in Europe a thousand years ago, two thousand years ago, things were different, because we have a historical knowledge of the changes that took place. The Romans had slaves. So is it a cultural characteristic of Romans to have slaves? Well, the Romans of today don’t have slaves. So where did the change come from? There was a change in society.
The development of productive forces is the motor that drives the change. Even within the Americas you have peoples at different levels, from hunter-gatherers to people living in cities – and it was pushed by the development of technique. Nowadays, we wouldn’t use the terms Morgan uses. We use words such as palaeolithic (the old Stone Age), neolithic (the final stage of the Stone Age), and then we have the Bronze Age, the Iron Age.
Of course, the timeline of these stages is not the same in every part of the world. Development took place at different paces in different parts of the world. That has nothing to do with any idea of a superior race, as some people in the past would claim. It can depend on the geographic conditions, the climatic conditions, the animals that are available, the material resources that are available. Humans are all equally intelligent. The difference is simply an accumulation of knowledge over time.
Morgan pointed out that just as society changed, so did the family. Europeans, when they started to colonise other parts of the world, had known the monogamian family: a man-woman relationship fixed for life with the father figure dominating. They had this idea as far back as they could remember, and descent was through the male line. Let’s not confuse patrilineal with patriarchal and not confuse matrilineal with matriarchal, because matriarchy gives the idea that women dominated. That’s not what we’re talking about. We had matrilineal lineage, i.e descent traced through the women’s line. But with monogamy comes strict faithfulness, i.e. fidelity – in theory of both sides, in practice of the woman.
When the Europeans embarked on colonising, they encountered many different peoples in different parts of the world, and they did not understand what they were seeing. They could not understand the family relations. For instance, they would see a chief and they would think, ‘that’s their king’. They didn’t understand the idea of common ownership of the land, so they saw feudalism where there was no feudalism; and the family bewildered them. In some cases, they just saw promiscuity, these relations which were ‘immoral’. Morgan actually makes the point that these mistakes were made by viewing these societies through the lens of Europeans. Of course, the family in European societies didn’t emerge ready-made. It wasn’t the product of Adam and Eve – ‘Mum and Dad will have the kids’ etc. In any case, they couldn’t understand; and the problem in a lot of the accounts of the Europeans is that they were describing something without understanding the structure that lay behind it.
Throughout Morgan’s book, you find an idea that property is actually the base for the transformation in the family into what we have today. But he also stresses that there were different forms of the family.
At some point, human beings realised or discovered – nobody can say exactly how – that it was better to avoid consanguine reproduction. At a certain point, the family structure was based on the prohibition of reproduction within your own group, i.e. within your own gens, as Morgan called it. A 2017 article from Cambridge University, “undefined://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/prehistoric-humans-are-likely-to-have-formed-mating-networks-to-avoid-inbreeding&source=gmail&ust=1677593903593000&usg=AOvVaw3Dz4UdWAxHhT2Z1G2jyU4j">Prehistoric humans are likely to have formed mating networks to avoid inbreeding”, says that this occurred at least 34,000 years ago, according to their research. This seems to correspond to what Morgan was saying.
What are the common elements of primitive societies? (The word ‘primitive’ comes from the word primus: the first, the early societies. It’s not a derogatory term.) In those societies, there’s no property, no classes. You had a form of communism in the way they live, i.e. they shared everything out, and they were egalitarian.
One of the points that Morgan underlines is the fact that in these early conditions, the father was unknown. That explains why the lineage was through the woman. You knew who your mother was; you did not necessarily know who your father was, and therefore, the group was formed around the women. Does that mean that men have no role? No, of course they did. But something else that Morgan highlights is that you knew who your uncle was on your mother’s side, but you didn’t necessarily know who your father was. There are cases where, when inheritance began, in the early stages, it would go from the uncle to the nephew.
Morgan noticed from his studies and from reading accounts of others that this kind of structure – i.e. the gens, and mating outside the gens with another gens – existed in various parts of the world, which would indicate that it went very far back in time. He finds traces of it even in ancient Greek and Roman society, and he finds this historical passage in many different parts of the world from a matrilineal to a patrilineal society.
When the early forms of property emerged, which were held in common by the gens, that meant that the land which was held in common by the gens remained within the gens – so property was passed through the mother line. It wasn’t private property yet; it was common. But eventually, gradually, individual property started to emerge here and there. This forced a switch in the way the gens was structured. In the early forms, the man would leave his gens and go to the woman’s gens to mate and reproduce; and there was no fixed relationship, no document saying ‘you’re married for life’. The couple could separate. There was no guarantee that the children came from this or that man.
But, as property developed, and especially considering that the earliest forms of property were domesticated animals, this new phenomenon emerged: “The domestic animals were a possession of greater value than all kinds of property previously known put together. They served for food, were exchangeable for other commodities, were usable for redeeming captives, for paying fines, and in sacrifices in observance of their religious rights. Moreover, as they were capable of indefinite multiplication in numbers, their possession revealed to the human mind its first conception of wealth. Following upon this, in the course of time, was the systematic cultivation of the Earth, which tended to identify the family with the soil, and render it a property-making organisation.” This emergence of a new phenomenon – wealth, the accumulation of wealth – introduced the desire to pass on this wealth to the next generation, and that meant the men, who had the herds, who had the animals, desired to pass this on to their offspring.
This is what produced the first switch, which was the men no longer travelling to the women’s gens to reproduce, but the women now being taken out of their communities into the men’s gens. This was a passage which dramatically changed the position of women in society. Previous to this, Morgan explained that they practised communism in living. Society was ruled through councils that were elected. In the assemblies, everyone, male or female, could express their views. (Morgan uses the word ‘communism’ nine times in his book. He wasn’t a communist at all, but he was just observing how these societies were structured.) And then, he refers to the “unfavourable influence on women” that property had. With this eventually emerged the monogamian family. He explains that the monogamian family is where there’s a strict discipline: they’re married, and it’s for life. Before that there was the pairing relationship: men and women became couples, but not fixed for life. They were free to separate.
In his studies, Morgan encountered different stages of development. He sees matrilineal societies. He records some of the older generation remembering the elements of the matrilineal that had already either disappeared or they were transitioning away from.
Morgan also explains how the state emerges on the basis of property. And I’ll quote, “The growth of the idea of property and the rise of monogamy furnished motives sufficiently powerful to demand and obtain this change in order to bring children into the gens of their father and into a participation in the inheritance of his estate. Monogamy assured the paternity of children which was unknown when the gens was instituted.” He says, “The idea of the family has been a growth through successive stages of development. The monogamian being the last in its series of forms.” He also looks at the way the state emerged in ancient Greece. He quotes the case of Solon, who developed the idea of four classes based on their wealth. In ancient Rome he quotes the example of Servius, who divided society into five classes based on the value of their property; and then Dionysius, who came along and added a sixth class, the propertyless. And now Morgan refers to the “men of property” – and these became a power in government.
With this idea of ‘property’ also came slavery – the idea that you could actually own another human being, and you could own your wife and your children. The prime example of that is the paterfamilias in Roman society, where the father had absolute power over all the members of the family. “Man far back in barbarism began to exact fidelity from the wife under savage penalties but he claimed exemption for himself.” Of course, they wanted to be absolutely guaranteed that the children this woman produces are their offspring. If he went around and had sex with other women and had children, it didn’t matter. He wanted to make sure that the ones in his house were his offspring who would then inherit the wealth. The extreme example is ancient Greek society. Women were not allowed to see anybody outside the family. Women were literally reduced to children-bearing creatures. This is where the origins of this kind of family are to be found.
There is a quote I want to read out: “When the fact is accepted that the family has passed through four successive forms and is now in a fifth, the question at once arises whether this form can be permanent in the future. The only answer that can be given is that it must advance as society advances and change as society changes, even as it has done in the past. It is the culture of the social system, and it will reflect its culture. As the monogamian family has improved greatly since the commencement of civilisation and very sensibly in modern times, it is at least supposable that it is capable of still further improvement until the equality of the sexes is obtained. Should the monogamian family in the distant future fail to answer the requirements of society, assuming the continuous progress of civilisation, it is impossible to predict the nature of its successor.” These are quite revolutionary ideas considering it was the nineteenth century.
Morgan said about wealth, “The human mind stands bewildered in the presence of its own creation.” What creation is he referring to? He’s referring to property and wealth. And then a last quote from Morgan: “A mere property career is not the final destiny of mankind if progress is to be the law of the future if it has been of the past. The time which has passed away since civilisation began is but a fragment of the past duration of man’s existence and but a fragment of the ages yet to come. The dissolution of society bids fair to become the termination of a career of which property is the end and aim because such a career contains the elements of self-destruction.”
Some people say, “Oh, Morgan was a racist because of his approach to the early forms of society.” Now, I didn’t know him personally – he was not a friend of mine. I don’t know what inclination he might have expressed. But listen to what he says here: “Democracy in government, brotherhood in society, equality in rights and privileges, and universal education foreshadow the next, higher plane of society to which experience, intelligence, and knowledges are steadily tending. It will be a revival in a higher form of the liberty, equality, and fraternity of the ancient gentes.” So he actually sees something positive in the early societies. Of course, Morgan was a man of his period. He thought that the United States was the most democratic form of society he could imagine. But you can see why Marx and Engels would have found this extremely interesting.
There are objections to this theory – an objection to an evolutionary approach to the development of society. It’s described as being ethnocentric. I suppose, today, you might call it Eurocentric. In the nineteenth century, you’d have to say there’s an element of truth in this. Europeans then tended to see other societies through the lenses of European society. Imperialism – colonialism – sought to justify its brutal exploitation of peoples in the colonies. See slavery for example: this crime was carried out against Africans, mainly. The idea was developed that they weren’t really human – that’s why you could exploit them like animals. The other peoples, of course, were inferior and needed the civilisation of the Europeans. But to throw out the essential idea of social evolution because it came from the nineteenth century would be a little bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Do we reject Hegel because he was an idealist? No, we don’t. What we do is we take the dialectic of Hegel – remove the idealism, but take the dialectic.
This is the case with many of the discoveries as capitalism started to emerge in its early days. You don’t throw out everything. In science, we see how science moves upwards to greater and greater understanding. In each step, obviously you have to reject certain ideas of the previous periods. But you don’t reject the kernel, the essence, the ideas that are valid.
Anthropology in the nineteenth century was dominated by this thinking. Their idea was that society evolves, and, as a logical consequence, the family also evolves. It’s more or less since the 1920s that anthropology did an about-turn on this and rejected the ideas of Morgan – rejected social evolution. The fundamental reason they reject Morgan is because he provided the ideas, the studies, the data, upon which Engels then developed his text. Morgan became connected with communism. Remember, this was the time when Darwin was developing his theory of evolution.
I found an article by Stephen J. Gould and it was on the question of what came first – the erect posture, the brain, the hands – what came first? Well, the erect posture came first. But the evidence isn’t there that the brain then began to grow for some unknown reason – and when the brain reached a certain size, then men became more intelligent and could do more things. Engels pointed out it was the other way around. See, erect posture frees the hands; and it was through labour that the brain developed. Engels wrote a text: The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Human. Stephen J. Gould says this: “The nineteenth century produced a brilliant exposé that will no doubt surprise most readers: Friedrich Engels.” He added, “It unfortunately had no visible impact upon Western science.” Note he says “unfortunately,” because, on this, Engels was proved correct. He quotes Engels’ explanation of how idealism dominated philosophy for centuries, then he says, “The importance of Engels’s essay lies in his perceptive analysis of the political role of science and the social biases that must affect all thought.” This is Stephen J. Gould: “If we took Engels’s message to heart and recognised our belief in the inherent superiority of pure research for what it is, namely social prejudice, then we might forge among scientists the union between theory and practice that a world teetering dangerously near the brink so desperately needs.”
Anthropology is a study of human society in its evolution or in its variations. As we live in society, we also have prejudices within the society, as Gould points out. But we have to understand that the prejudices which dominate society are the prejudices of the ruling class. The dominant ideas, as Engels explained, are the ideas of the ruling class. In the past, the bourgeoisie looked forward to progress; now, it is desperately trying to keep society stable in a society where they are the privileged elite. The only way of breaking with these prejudices is to have a materialist and a dialectical approach – concretely, a revolutionary approach.
Some people try to make out that Engels developed dialectics differently from Marx. But The Origin of the Family is a book that Marx intended to write. Between 1879 and 1882, Marx read all the most advanced anthropologists of the period. He left notes, which you can find on the internet, called The Ethnographical Notebooks. Engels, after the death of Marx, used those notes and elaborated the origins of the family, etc. But, of course, Engels went beyond Morgan – far beyond. He developed the perspective of how future societies would change.
Today we see this new approach, which is to look at the part. In anthropology, they study in detail this community, that society, this tribe, whatever – very detailed studies. So they look at many parts, but they don’t see the whole. Because if you look at the whole, you get a picture. You get a picture of evolution, of change. But the final conclusion you can draw from this bigger picture is that capitalism is not the final stage of human development; and therefore, the family, as we have known it, is not the final form of the family.
Engels explained, “Human labour power at this stage yielded no noticeable surplus as yet over the cost of its maintenance.” What does that mean? Well you see, when productivity of human labour is barely enough to feed yourself and your offspring, there’s no material base for the division of society into classes. For one to exploit another, the other would have to be able to produce at least enough for both. It took tens of thousands of years for productivity to rise above a very primitive level. But once it did reach a certain level, the surplus that was now possible created the material base for the division of society. That is what determined, in the end, what Engels referred to: “The overthrow of mother right was the world historical defeat of the female sex. The man took command in the home also. The woman was degraded and reduced to servitude. She became the slave of his lust and a mere instrument for the production of children.” But Engels also points out that by abolishing private property and bringing everything back into common ownership, the single family ceases to be the economic unity of society.
Engels used the term ‘sex love’. What he means by that is normal, healthy, natural attraction between people, not marriage based on need or property – and in bourgeois society, most marriages amongst the bourgeoisie are based on massive wealth. But Engels also explained that it was modern large-scale industry which lay the basis for the emancipation of women. He says, “Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair. Society looks after all children alike. Whether they are legitimate or not.” On the future generations, he says, “They will care precious little what anybody today thinks they ought to do.” Basically, he says we cannot dictate to the future generations. These were the ideas which the communist movement was based on when it came to the family, women’s liberation, etc.
I’m convinced that it’s not by chance that the shift in anthropology happens in the 1920s. In October 1918, when the Bolsheviks came to power, they introduced the code on marriage, the family, and guardianship. It was the most advanced marriage law that had ever been seen – total equality between the sexes. You didn’t have to have grounds for divorce, you just had to express the desire that you wanted to divorce. The concept of ‘illegitimate child’ was removed – there was no such thing as illegitimacy. Abortion was granted. They developed the idea of communal dining rooms, public laundries, and child care centres. They basically tried to carry out a policy on the family based on the ideas of Engels that were in turn based on the findings of Morgan.
Unfortunately, of course, the Soviet Union was isolated, and the revolution degenerated. In referring to the canteens etc, Lenin said in a 1919 speech, “There is an insignificant number of them, and the conditions now obtaining in the Soviet Republic – the war and food situation – hinder us in this work.” They were not able to push forward on that program. Trotsky explained that the workers’ state had to become wealthier; they had to accumulate more resources. But still, this was the first time we saw a country, a party – the Bolshevik party – attempting to act on Marxist theories on the family.
Put yourself in the shoes of the bourgeoisie in the 1920s. Revolution after revolution – the Russian, the German, the Italian, and many others. They were terrified! Therefore, not only did they have to launch a military offensive against the Soviet Union in an attempt to destroy it, they also had to launch an ideological offensive against the ideas on which the revolution was based.
I want to quote from a book called The Rise of Anthropological Theory. It was written by M. Harris. He says this: “With Morgan’s scheme incorporated into communist doctrine, the struggling science of anthropology crossed the threshold of the 20th century with a clear mandate for its own survival and well-being: expose Morgan’s scheme and destroy the method on which it was based.” Then began all the studies to disprove that there was a general historical pattern from matrilineal societies through to patrilineal. In another book called Early Human Kinship: From Sex to Social Reproduction, we find a quote from a Polish anthropologist, Malinowski: “I believe that the most disruptive element in the modern revolutionary tendencies is the idea that parenthood can be made collective. If once we come to the point of doing away with individual family as the pivotal element of our society we should be faced with a social catastrophe compared with which the political upheaval of the French Revolution, and the economic changes of Bolshevism are insignificant.” Therefore, it was an ideological necessity for the bourgeoisie to combat this idea of social evolution – that the family evolves, and that you can have a different form coming into being.
That need is still present today. The difference today is they’ve moved to the stage, where basically, the idea is that there’s no pattern, there’s no evolution from one form to another, and that the different forms that we see are simply cultural. The ruling class must eliminate the idea that things can change in a progressive manner as society progresses. Therefore, we’re left with this conception of a society where men are sexist by nature, where men dominate women because of their nature. Well, if that’s the case, the perspective is not one of changing society in a progressive manner, but a permanent war of the sexes. That’s ideal for the bourgeoisie, of course, because it ferments division.
But oppression in all its forms, and the archaic family – the patriarchal family – actually has already started to break down. Capitalism is breaking down the family. We don’t have the old days when you had mum, dad, the kids, and everybody had an uncle and an aunt who were married; or, you know, there was no divorced aunt or your half-sister by your father who’s married to somebody else – which is the way things are developing now. We can actually see elements of the new society emerging within the old. But we still live under capitalism. Capitalism still produces phenomena such as we saw recently in the United States – the richest capitalist country in the world and they’ve just abolished abortion. Think about it: Russia in 1920 was one of the most backwards countries in the world, and they introduced abortion. We have many countries where abortion is banned. We still have a huge difference in wage levels between men and women. In Britain, on average, a woman earns 90 pence for every pound a man earns. During the pandemic, it was more likely a woman would lose her job than a man.
We have a vision of a new society – a society where human beings relate to each other freely, not through economic coercion and not through physical coercion. We have that vision that Engels developed of the future society. Genuine human relations will emerge once the root cause has been eliminated: the private property that exists under capitalism. How people will relate to each other in the future – that’s not up to us to decide, because we can’t even imagine. I can’t leave a will telling my future grandchildren how they should relate to each other. The advantages my grandchildren, if I have them, will have over me, is they will be alive and I will be dead, and there’s not much you can do when you’re dead. But as we are alive now and we live under a historical crisis of capitalism, our task is to build a force to overthrow this system: to take the wealth which exists – the immense wealth which has been accumulated – and use it collectively. To have child care for everybody; to allow a woman or a man to take 6 months (or more) off work to have their child, come back to work and have child care in place; to have enough public housing that if a couple separates they don’t have to fight over who gets the house. We would remove all material constraints, and finally provide the material base upon which human beings would be able to relate to each other freely; and not just men and women, but gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, to live with whoever they wish, as they wish. It will take a huge effort to remove all this consciousness accumulated over thousands of years, but it can only start if we change the economic base.
Ylva: If we look at the origins of the family, we can clearly see that if we want to get rid of women’s oppression, we have to remove all of those things that hinder women from participating fully in social production, through socialising those chores that are the responsibility of the family today. The amount of democratic reforms and rights that have been won for women under capitalism is in itself a proof of this fact, because women have, to a large degree, been drawn into production – earning their own wages, many of them becoming part of the working class and therefore part of the class struggle.
In countries like Sweden, for quite a time, a large part of what used to be women’s domestic chores were socialised, with elder care, day care, free meals in schools, and so on – which is why Sweden has been called the most equal country in the world, because children growing up in the past decades grew up with both parents working, which, together with other factors, led to partly changed attitudes.
This shows the potential of what could be done under socialism, but it can never be done fully under capitalism. Welfare is currently under attack in all countries by privatisations and cuts, and has been for decades; the main responsibility for the household still lies with the family and therefore, in general, with women; and capitalism upholds and benefits off of women’s oppression in a myriad of different ways. There are many different ways in which capitalism can make money off of sexism and misogyny, and beyond direct economic incentives, the ruling class has an interest in using oppression and the family to divide the working class.
Under capitalism, the family serves as a pillar for bourgeois ideology – for the spreading of misogynistic and homophobic ideas, conservative ideas in general – and progress for women, like their rights to abortion and divorce, are often portrayed as a threat to traditional family values, and very often also to religion; as are gay rights, like the right to same-sex marriage. Through this, the ruling class can divide workers by using the family to rally the most conservative layers of the working class and the petty bourgeoisie against other workers. We see this now in the U.S. with the attack against the right to abortion, which is one of many other attempts to cut across growing radicalisation by dividing workers.
If you look at it concretely, it’s very clear that women’s oppression, like all other oppressions, cannot be abolished under capitalism. But then you have the ideas of feminism and other kinds of identity politics, which tend to see the family and oppression as some sort of free-floating structures, and they end up with the most absurd conclusions because of their idealist understanding of the world. They think that if you challenge the ideas of patriarchy, you will change the world. We see this in queer theory, where the idea is simply to challenge – or parody, as they would say – the dominating sexual norms and ideas. Simply living in ways that go against the idea of a traditional nuclear family is seen as the main way to challenge oppression. In their view, simply being gay, or perhaps even being in an open relationship, is seen as a revolutionary act in itself.
These ideas of queer theory are not entirely new; we have seen similar ideas before. Many times in history, petty-bourgeois bohemians have imagined that their way of life is somehow revolutionary in itself if it provokes the outrage of some conservatives. But the family is not as fixed as an institution as they imagine it to be – it doesn’t fall to pieces because same-sex marriage is allowed, for example; nor was women’s oppression in any way challenged by hippies practicing free love in the ‘70s. As Engels explained, monogamy was only ever enforced upon women, and the monogamous family was always accompanied by things like prostitution and infidelity. In reality, many times, those who have imagined themselves to be breaking with bourgeois morality have only romanticised one aspect of it, or they propose methods of struggle that completely mislead young people – who desperately want to struggle against oppression – into dead-ends.
But if one actually seriously studies the history of women’s oppression and the family, then it’s clear that to rid the world of oppression, we need class struggle – we need a revolution and we need socialism to be able to achieve a society where everyone is free to be able to truly love whoever they want to, and live their lives without fear of violence, harassment, or any remnants of oppression.
Serena: In the famous debates and theories on the origins of patriarchy and women’s oppression, Marxists in general and Engels in particular are among the favourite targets of criticism and accusations. Recently, I’ve run into the so-called ‘modern studies’ on matriarchy, which claim to be the most updated ones, and whose main representative is Heide Göttner-Abendroth, a German academic that has collected a lot of information on theories of contemporary residual matriarchal communities all around the world. She accuses Engels of being unilineal because he recognises progress and a direction in history – that is a crime for many, as we know – and because, according to her, in Engels’s explanation of appropriation by men, this revolution seems to run smoothly without any catastrophe in history.
The problem with respected bourgeois intellectuals is that even if they have read some Marxism, either they haven’t understood a word or they consciously distort it in a caricature. While providing a materialistic explanation of the roots of female oppression, Engels’s Origin of the Family is impregnated with dialectics in every comma. But dialectics is a closed book for these ladies and gentlemen. Engels shows a full grasp of the complexity of historical development, being able to also explain its contradictory aspects. For example, when talking about the shift from mother-right to patriarchy, Engels talks indeed of revolution. But revolution does not necessarily mean that it has to take place overnight.
Engels included in his study intermediate stages between the mother-right and the monogamian family (like the patriarchal domestic community), and even steps back – for instance, when he explains the role of the Barbaric invasions during the crisis of the Roman empire and of slave society. Here we have the victory of a more backward form of society, corresponding to the barbarian stage and the gentile constitution, over a more developed one. Roman slave society corresponded to the civilised stage and the monogamian family. It’s a society that nonetheless was facing a deep crisis, having reached the limit of the development of the productive forces. Engels provides a dialectical description of this process when he says, “If the Barbarians recast the ancient form of monogamy, moderated the supremacy of the man in the family, and gave the woman a higher position than the classical world had ever known, what made them capable of doing so if not their barbarism? Their gentile customs, their living habits from the time of mother right.” But there is not the slightest hint of sentimentalism or moralism by Engels towards this partial revival of the gentile constitution by the Barbarians – always a scientific, dialectical point of view.
Here we have a striking example of the dialectical law of the negation of the negation, where the rational kernel of something that has been denied reemerges in a subsequent negation. The Barbaric invasions were a step back in terms of the development of the productive forces; but nevertheless, Engels said, “They infused a vigorous and creative life that was able to rejuvenate the World in the throes of collapsing civilisation.” How this can be conceived as unilineal remains a mystery according to me. Dialectical syntax shows the direction of processes through their inner contradictions.
Well, Abendroth’s theory seems quite unilineal. She said that private property was introduced after migrancy was destroyed, when the migrant peoples around four or five thousand years ago – before Christ, at least – migrate due to climate changes and distort the material structures of their environment in the fight for survival with other communities – and then there was the ‘invention’ of war, violence, private property, class, so on. This theory has zero evidence. Ironically, the only archeological study that is brought in by Abendroth to support her argument, by the Lithuanian archeologist Marija Gimbutas (who studied female statuettes), is at the same time criticised for unfortunately, and I quote, “embracing a critically Engels theory.” So this is a theory that says that history is moved by material scarcity that causes violence, and this is unilineal because it applies to all history until the present epoch as if the productive forces never developed since the ancient times.
In terms of concrete demands against patriarchy, what does she say? “Create small human coalitions that would destroy superstructures from below in a moderate, more simple life, small communities, mutual care and assistance with a strong ethical sense and the contemporary matriarchal communities providing suggestions for the future.” So it’s not the case that from these contemporary communities she gets indications about past societies. That would have been useful, actually. On the contrary, she considers them as a model for the future. This is pure reactionary utopia – another example of an idealistic view of petty-bourgeois families which it pretends to be scientific.
We Marxists, on the contrary, don’t demand a return to primitive communism, but claim that, given the developments that have occurred so far in the history of humanity, by abolishing the very origin of oppression – private property and the resulting class division of society – humanity could once again live without female oppression, but on a much higher level of expression of this potential in a socialist society, and also in the field of genuine, authentic human relationships.
Jules: When I joined university a few years ago, one book was very popular on the left. It was a criticism of Engels’s Origins of the Family by a man named Darmangeat. His main idea seemed simple: Engels’s book is old. Let’s see if it’s still current with modern archeology and anthropology. Darmangeat concluded that it was not the case, and he rested his argumentation on some examples of hunter-gatherer societies where oppression of women existed. So he concluded that since there was women’s oppression in societies without classes, as he says, “women’s oppression was not linked to the operation of class structures, and it must have other causes.” But he doesn’t explain what those causes are.
This book was even more popular on the left because Darmangeat is not an open anti-communist. He is a self-declared Marxist and member of Lutte Ouvrière, the French so-called Trotskyist organisation. His book was used as a weapon against Engels’s and Marx’s position on this question by anarchists, feminists, all the anti-Marxists in universities in France.
We still defended Engels’s views, and we were right – because, in fact, the work of Darmangeat was not as solid as it seemed. In a typical academic way, he adopted an empiricist approach, listing examples of hunter-gatherer societies with women’s oppression, but without any reflection on the sources of these observations or even on the validity of these examples. For instance, he used 19th century Aborigines of Australia as an example of a hunter-gatherer society with women’s oppression, but he forgot to take into account that these same communities were subjected to a genocidal conquest; that they were, at that precise time, pushed to the deserts and submitted to an evangelical onslaught by Christian missionaries – all things that pushed towards the development of women’s oppression, or might have pushed. In fact, there are issues with almost all of the examples he uses.
There were also other problems. He didn’t clearly understand the ideas of Engels. He tended to present Engels as a kind of mechanist evolutionist. He even produced weird spreadsheets of social and technical evolution. According to him, the ideas of Engels were that if you are to discover one type of invention, then you jump from one social level to another, an approach that is so mechanistic that it is completely alien to the ideas of Engels. He also made other mistakes; he confused matrilineality with matriarchy.
The final nail in the coffin of his book was even more ironic, because his main argument was that modern research disproved Engels. Well, as a matter of fact, modern research disproved Darmangeat, because since at least the beginning of the 1990s and the beginning of 2000, there have been several studies confirming the ideas of Engels. For the last ten or twelve years, there has been a new trend in archeology that tends to stress the egalitarian nature of palaeolithic societies. For instance, a French researcher, Marylène Pathou-Mathys, uses archeological data from prehistoric sites to prove that women were not oppressed before the neolithic – that they had access to the same food and in the same quantities that men had, they participated in cave paintings, and some even participated in the hunting of big animals – and she stressed that all these point to an egalitarian relationship between men and women in these societies.
But, as is often the case with the academic milieux and their trends, she falls from one error to another. Having observed relative equality between sexes, Pathou-Mathys concludes that there was an absolute equality – that there was no division of labour whatsoever – and she tends to draw an idyllic picture of hunter-gatherer societies, which she even describes as societies of abundance. She explains that our view of pre-history has been ‘falsified’ by the idea of progress. In fact, in a clear case of postmodern relativism, she tends to reduce this question to ‘representations’ and ‘values', and argues that these societies were, at all levels, better than the ones that succeeded them.
She even goes as far as to deny the existence of violence at the time, which is something that is disproven by archeology. That is something that Darmangeat himself had been very happy to stress against her, because he was right for once – because you find numerous acts of violence between humans in palaeolithic societies. I won’t go into details of the prehistoric site, but it is something that is very well known. We’ve found bodies with projectiles still lodged into their bones dating from the palaeolithic times. This violence was caused by the simple fact of a lack of resources pushing groups to compete – because these societies were unable to produce a surplus, and so they were very fragile.
Why do we bother on these questions? This is something that is often heard in universities on the left: why bother with the origin of oppression, as we can only fight against it? Because if we don’t have a correct comprehension of these origins, we cannot fight. This is clear with these two examples. Darmangeat sides with bourgeois liberals: this question is not connected to the class struggle. Pathou-Mathys, she argues for new values and new representations, and she says that by showing that women were powerful in the past, we are fighting oppression. But we say to succeed, the fight for women’s liberation must be a part of the struggle against class society, because the two are inextricably linked.
Marissa: I want to talk about the demand for wages for housework as an approach to addressing gender inequality in the family. This demand has been around for a number of decades, and with the pandemic there was a renewed call for wages for care work, with an open letter from the organisation Global Women’s Strike calling for a care income to accompany the government payouts to those who lost wages due to COVID. One can understand where this demand comes from. While there has been a dramatic upswing in women participating in the workforce since the 1950s, there has not been a commensurate increase in men helping with care work or reproductive labour. This represents a huge burden on women’s time and energy, which in time prevents them from pursuing other goals or interests in life, notably career goals – which is one justification for why women continue to be paid less than men. So something needs to be done to even the playing field, right? Yes, something needs to be done; but not wages for housework.
First of all, Marxists understand that the cost of reproductive labour is generally, on average, over time, included in wages. The price of labour power includes the cost of reproducing it. The fact that this isn’t paid directly to the person doing the care work doesn’t mean that it’s unpaid. Still, one could argue that this money should be paid directly to the person doing the care work – the housewife – instead of to the breadwinner, since financial dependence is a huge source of inequality. But this is still an incorrect demand, even a reactionary demand.
The foundation of the oppression of women in the family is not simply just financial dependence. Part of the shift to private property saw the family and the home getting siloed off from public life. In pre-class society, as Morgan describes, the family was the form of social organisation. There was no divide between public life and family life. Children were cared for in common, meals prepared in common instead of in private. Decisions were made in common. The rise of private property and the move towards monogamous families cut women off from economic power and it also cut women off from public life. Now life was divided into the public sphere – work, trade, politics – and the private sphere – the family home. The laws that eventually barred women from things like running for office reinforced this.
In ancient Greece, for example, women were not allowed outside the home to see anyone outside the family. Laws like that may not exist anymore, but the bourgeois family is still incredibly isolating as a structure. Think of a suburban housewife alone in the house with only a child for company. That has an impact on mental health. There may not be laws that keep the woman in the home, but the burden of housework keeps her in there anyway; and that isolation keeps women and children even more vulnerable to violence in the home.
One of the justifications that you hear a lot for the demand for waged housework is that housework isn’t valued enough by our society; that’s the reason why it’s unpaid, that’s why men don’t want to do it – because it’s low status, because we as a society don’t assign enough value to it, and paying wages for housework would remedy this. But that gets things backwards. There’s a material reason for housework to be offloaded onto the private sphere: so that it costs the capitalists as little as possible. That’s why it’s low status. Not the other way around. You can see how that plays out economically.
In the book The Second Shift by Arlie Russell Hochschild, the author spent time with and did in-depth interviews with a number of couples from all different backgrounds. One thing she found was that no matter what the initial intentions of the couples were, the burden of housework ended up falling on the woman, except in one case where the woman actually left her husband over the issue. There were some cultural factors that played into this, of course, but what was really important was the fact that the men made more money or had more career opportunities, so it made sense economically for the women to do more housework. Even if the couple initially thought that they wouldn’t let that get in the way, the economic reality eventually asserted itself. The ideas of individuals were not decisive. Wages for housework would only provide more incentive for women to stay in the home, to take themselves out of the workforce, and in doing so remove themselves from public life. It’s a step backwards.
Engels wrote that one of the progressive things about capitalism was that it pushed women into the workforce; that is, it made women active members of the class that has the power to run society, instead of just adjuncts to it. This lays the basis for the true equality of women. The solution to the problem of housework is not to simply assign more value to it, either ideologically or with money, but to bring it out of the home with public childcare, laundries, cafeterias – to shatter the old divisions between public and private spheres that kept women imprisoned. We don’t know what the family will look like in the future under socialism, but we know that it won’t be isolated from the rest of society.
Karen: In the world movement of women in Latin America, which has been very active in the later period, feminist groups have been at the vanguard, and they infuse their confusing ideology through the whole movement. Among the great diversity of feminism, there is a particular one I’m going to talk about: decolonial feminism. This kind of feminism stands that it is necessary to purge feminism and the struggle for women’s emancipation from the Eurocentric influence of white feminism and, of course, also from Marxism. Nevertheless, these discrepancies between different feminisms will help us to demonstrate the Marxist standpoint: that an origin of the oppression of women is found within class-divided societies and not in the Southern version of patriarchy. Among the exponents of decolonial feminism, we can find Maria Lugones and Oyèrónkẹ́ Oyěwùmí, and they claim “the non-existance of patriarchy and a gender system in the time prior to conquest and colonisation.” Arlet Guttea says, “Colonisation brought with it a radical loss of women's political power within its system.” Finally, to end with this series of quotations, Rita Segato comments about this decolonial variant that it identifies in the Indigenous and Afro-American societies a patriarchal organisation even if it’s different from the Western brand, but it may be described as a ‘low-intensity patriarchy’.
In defense of this standpoint, the general approach of decolonial feminism, practically speaking, is that there didn’t exist any oppression of women in pre-Hispanic societies. Or, it existed, but it was with a ‘low intensity’. Therefore, it was the Europeans who created this oppression, male domination of women, and they call it patriarchy, and thus it is necessary to get rid of colonial heritage and Eurocentrism to emancipate Indigenous and Black women in the colonial countries.
So, I will make an analysis of family formations and the role of women in Mexica society from the standpoint of historical materialism. In this way, we can confirm if the oppression of women in colonised countries is a heritage of colonisation, or whether the Marxist standpoint comes with its material analysis of the development of the productive forces, with the accumulation process and the differences between the castes of pre-Hispanic societies.
The Aztec Empire spread throughout Mesoamerica via military subjugation and the extraction of surplus value from the collection of taxes of other peoples. Its main unit of production was the agricultural commune that paid tribute to the Aztec, dominated by a privileged cast of nobles, warriors, and priests. In this deeply militarised society, there was an exaltation of masculine values, which were even reflected in religious beliefs, since human creation was associated with a masculine god – the war god, by the way. Meanwhile, disasters and calamities were associated with female goddesses. In the Mexica society, there were political, economic, and social differences between the noble caste and tributary people, and this was also seen in the family relationships that occurred in each stratum. The role of the noble family was to create political lineage ties, since it was the sons who inherited the social, political, and economic privileges, while the daughters had their role of creating profitable marriage ties, to maintain the lineages or for military or commercial alliance. The families of the common people constitute the economic unit of production; and in the tax system, the families lived in autonomous communal lands, where marriages between members of the same community were preferred in order to preserve the social group established there.
Private property did not exist in pre-Columbian societies. The inheritance of the social position and position of the dominant caste played a very important role in the subjugation of the Mexican women. Within the social order of the Mexicas, there were very strict moral and legal codes for women. They could not reach public or priestly positions. They could not be polygamous. Pre-marital chastity and fidelity were required. If they violated these codes, they could be stoned to death. The Mexica women were educated to be ‘good women’. They had to know how to weave, till the lawn, cook, take care of their children; to be respectful of their husband, quiet and helpful.
As we can see, the family conditions and oppression of women in pre-Hispanic societies were not very different from those experienced by women in other parts of the world. So, it is clear that patriarchal rule is not a European heritage, but rather a direct consequence of the forms of production developed in the different civilisations. In Europe, it was the appropriation of private property – the initial form of exploitation – and the submission of women to men’s control. In the case of pre-Hispanic societies, there was no private property, but there was a privileged caste that benefited from the exploitation of other peoples and required the oppression of women to maintain their status in society.
This is how we can conclude that Engels’s analysis of the oppression of women is perfectly applicable to the reality of Latin America and other colonised countries, and that there are no shortcuts. The only way to emancipate the oppressed women of the world is by class struggle, not ‘decolonising the language’ or ‘cancelling’ everything from Europe. Instead, we have to raise the struggle for socialism, for the full emancipation of humanity.
Fred: I’ll start with the last intervention by Karen. She explained that patriarchal society didn’t come from Europe. Of course, the society that came from Europe was patriarchal, but you already had patriarchal societies in the Americas. But even if it were the case – let’s say you want to get rid of the colonial heritage. It wasn’t just patriarchal relations that the Europeans brought; they brought a particular form of class society. So, if you really want to abolish that heritage, you should abolish private property and classes, because if you don’t do that in the Americas, patriarchal relations will continue. You can’t separate the two.
Something else that has come up: this idea that if you are an ‘alternative’ – you dress in a certain way, you use certain words, you express yourself in a certain way – that makes you revolutionary. But if you are binary, or cis, or all the other words, then you are reactionary. I see it a different way. If you struggle for the expropriation of the capitalist class, then you are revolutionary. If you express yourself in an ‘alternative’ manner, but you support the market economy and capitalism, you are a reactionary, no matter how ‘alternative’ you may look. We have to say this clearly. If you adhere to any form of politics which involves atomising the working class, breaking it up into a myriad of identities, then you are a reactionary. I’m sorry. That is a fact, no matter how ‘alternative’ you can be on other questions. At the end of the day, all forms of oppression are an expression of class society, and it’s the working class, organised as a force, that can change society.
You see the impact of material changes on consciousness. It’s not so long ago that divorce was looked down upon as something bad, something terrible, something immoral; or, for a woman to have a baby without a husband was regarded as the utmost immorality. For young people to have sex without getting married was considered the worst abomination. (Although, I have pretty concrete evidence that practically all of my uncles and aunts had sex before marriage. Unfortunately, then they had to get married and stick with the man for the next sixty or seventy years.) But you can see already, even before capitalism is overthrown – at least in the advanced capitalist countries, but even beyond – attitudes have changed. Well, there’s a material base to it: urbanisation, women going into work, education for boys and girls, women coming out of the home and going into work and becoming part of the movement of the working class. There’s a material base to these changes even before the overthrow of capitalism.
There was some talk of socialisation of the chores. You know, when I was a little boy I used to hear my mother singing from the bathroom. She wasn’t having a shower – she was washing the sheets by hand in the bathtub, bent over the tub. As a young woman, she washed the clothes by the river, carrying everything on her head in a basket. I think the biggest liberation in her life was when I bought her her first washing machine. Technology actually is part of the process – dishwashers, hoovers, and many other such devices. But socialisation also means efficient, good quality child care. It means a reduction of the working day – having a more human balance between the amount of time you dedicate to work and the amount of time you’re free for your family. It means guaranteeing an income to a family when it has children. It means guaranteeing to parents who have children a return into the workforce. How many women have to give up the idea of doing the job they’d always wanted to do because they have to take care of the kids?
It doesn’t have to be that way. As I said, the Bolsheviks tried to implement a communist program on the family. If you read some of Kollontai’s articles – although she was a utopian – she was announcing the great victories, the great changes. 85% of the population of the Soviet Union were peasants. Hardly anything changed for them; and the fact that the Soviet Union was so backwards in terms of the productive forces meant that they could not advance with that program.
The rise of Stalinism is an expression of that backwardness. The Bolsheviks decriminalised homosexuality; the Stalinists criminalised homosexuality. The Bolsheviks introduced abortion; the Stalinists abolished it. The Bolsheviks made divorce an easy matter; the Stalinists made it more difficult. You just have to read the history – it’s all there. This flows from the isolation of the revolution in one backward country.
Different comrades have talked about earlier societies and the evidence for matrilineal heritage, but the evidence keeps popping up. You know – you have this article, that article, “Oh! We found this evidence for matrilineal or this or that.” Here I have an article on hunter-gatherers: “Hunter-gatherer societies are typically egalitarian. They do not tend to have an overall leader. The person taking the lead at any given time might depend on their skills at the task at hand. Men and women tend to have different roles but are valued equally and all help in the daily task of finding food.” I can’t quote all of them. I have many different articles, some very detailed, about the collective nature of hunter-gatherers.
One of the problems when they try to negate what Engels and previously Morgan said, I found in this article: it’s in The New Yorker in 2019, and the actual title is “undefined://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/08/26/how-cultural-anthropologists-redefined-humanity&source=gmail&ust=1677593903593000&usg=AOvVaw1ahXsRI0EXRYCTc_r55JAM">How Cultural Anthropologists Redefined Humanity”. But it makes the point, and I quote, “even in the 1920s, it was almost impossible to find groups of humans untouched by Western practices,” and for example, it cites the fact that in Samoa, they were already all Christians. As soon as there’s contact with capitalism, family relations start to change, so they have to be a lot more careful in the society they’re actually looking at.
Jules made the point about how even so-called Marxists have abandoned Engels. Well, this is 100 years of pressure in the academic world. It’s so-called public opinion – the dominant opinion. If you made a concession to the dominant opinion of this nature, you’re making a concession to bourgeois opinion.
At the same time, comrades have made the point that we shouldn’t idealise early societies, because the communism that Morgan referred to was within that particular community, but there were wars with other groups – over territory, over the right to hunt in a particular area. There’s a material basis to it.
The thing about today is that capitalism has developed the productive forces as far as it could. Now it’s actually in the process of destroying the productive forces – just look at Ukraine. But immensely powerful productive forces have come into being. We could create a society where everybody’s basic material needs are met: food, good quality housing, clothing. We could produce in a way that’s more harmonious with the environment, without reducing the standard of living. Reducing the working day for everybody, and, in effect, extending the time that people dedicate to learning and raising their own cultural level – that is possible. But the productive forces have to be freed from the shackles of private property. By removing those shackles and changing the conditions, consciousness will change as a consequence.
Why was the consciousness of, say, the Europeans who arrived in North America and that of the Indigenous peoples they met – why was the consciousness on the question of property so different? I remember reading – I can’t remember where I read it – years ago: it described the chief of an Indigenous tribe who saw some Europeans building a fence around a piece of land. He actually said, “What are you doing?” and they said, “Well, we’re building a fence around our land,” and he said “How can the land belong to you? We belong to the land.” That’s two different consciousnesses, if you think of it, on the question of property. It’s because there was a different structure to society.
Therefore, as Marxists, we understand that if we change the relations of production, if we change the property relations, if we bring property back as common ownership – but not the property of a stone axe; the property of tractors, combine harvesters, robots, the advanced technology which is available – we could actually continue to increase the productivity of labour to unheard-of levels. The culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans was based on what? The slaves – the work of the slaves. They produced the food, they produced what the thinkers needed. The future society will be based on a different kind of slave – on advanced technology and machines, which will reduce the amount of human labour necessary to produce what we need to an incredible degree. In that kind of society, what will be the point of desiring greater accumulation of property? It’s incredible. Even Morgan understood that it’s self-destructive.
That’s the kind of society we want to create. It’s not a utopian dream – it’s a possibility. It’s a real, material possibility; but it has to go through the socialist transformation of society. That’s our next task: create a movement, a party, with clear ideas. Why do we study history? It’s to understand how society moves, how it evolves, how it develops, and how, therefore, it can be changed. We combine that study with the practical activity of building the Marxist tendency using these ideas. But if you have this vision of the future, it gives greater meaning to the daily activity of the comrades. We have an objective: to change society. And it starts by building up the instrument with which to change society. In the future, the family will be a very different creature; and it’s the future generations that will decide what form to give it, but it will definitely be a lot healthier than the one we have today.