In discussion of the two replies to Wally Seccombe’s article on domestic labour under capitalism, it is stated in the Themes of nlr 89: ‘Jean Gardiner, writing from a “Marxist feminist” position, criticizes it, among other things, for denying “any validity in their own right to the kind of questions being raised by the feminist movement”. Margaret Coulson, Branka Magaš and Hilary Wainwright, on the other hand, stress the need to base any scientific analysis of domestic labour on the dual role of women as wage-earners and housewives and draw out the implications of such an analysis for the strategic unity of women’s liberation and the proletarian class struggle.’ Without going into the substance of this debate, we think the Themes has summarized the point at issue in an inaccurate and misleading way. Firstly, we fail to understand the reason why a Marxist feminist position is qualified as a ‘Marxist feminist’ position. Marxist feminism represents, not only a discernible, but an important and fruitful theoretical and political current within the women’s and proletarian movements. Secondly, a Marxist feminist position is not simply concerned to affirm the validity of ‘the questions being raised by the feminist movement’. It is concerned to criticize and extend Marxism itself from historical materialist premisses, in particular through an analysis of the connections between the capitalist mode of production and the sexual division of labour. It is, therefore, equally concerned to provide a ‘scientific analysis’ which would lay the basis for ‘the strategic unity of women’s liberation and the proletarian class struggle’. In so far as the Themes, intentionally or unintentionally, lends support to the misunderstandings we have mentioned, we would like to dissociate ourselves from the position put forward there.
Fred Halliday, Jon Halliday
Lucien Ray, Gareth Stedman Jones