29 May 2010

Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

Evelyn Reed’s 1970 essay “Women - Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex?” and her 1975 full-length book “Woman’s Evolution” built upon Frederick Engels’ work “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” which had been published in 1884 in the year following the death of Karl Marx.

Our main discussion in this part of the series “No Woman, No Revolution” would be around Reed’s essay (but we still have no venue for that discussion). Today we look at Chapter 9 of Engels’ book (the chapter called “Barbarism and Civilisation”). Both documents are linked below as MS-Word downloads.

Marx had already worked on source material, including Henry Morgan’s 1877 book called “Ancient Society”.  Engels found Marx’s working papers for this project and at once started to prepare a book from them for publication. By the time Engels died in 1895, twelve years after Marx, he had also edited and published Volumes 2 and 3 of Marx’s masterpiece, “Capital”, Volume 1 of which had been published by Marx in 1867.

The particular contribution of “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” is that it shows the common, interdependent origin of private property and the State, the fall of the women into the oppressive condition which they subsequently continued to suffer, and the institutions of money, writing and law. This revolutionary break was in fact the end of pre-history and the beginning of history, which as Marx and Engels had noted in 1848, was from then on “a history of class struggles”.

The transition from prehistoric communism took place a long time ago in some parts of the world. In Egypt and Mesopotamia (Iraq) it may have happened more than five thousand years ago. In most other parts of the world it was a much more recent phenomenon. The fall of the women may in some ways still not yet be complete in some places.

The simultaneous nature of the triple catastrophe (property, state and downfall of women) means that the remedy for all three will likewise have to be simultaneous. The urgent abolition or “withering away” of the State is a woman’s issue. The socialist project is a woman’s project.

Communism is a necessity for women. The reversal of the downfall of the women can only be achieved by the simultaneous abolition of property and the State. Likewise, the abolition of property and the State cannot be achieved without the conscious restoration of women to their proper place in human society. All three goals have to be achieved together. The three goals are actually the same goal, and the name of it is communism.

You can safely ignore the first three paragraphs of Chapter 9. These paragraphs only refer back to earlier chapters in the book.

From then onwards, what you will find is a virtual history of human society from its beginning right up to modern times.



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