chapter  Chapter Four
Talking her way out of it
From class history to case history
ByJulia Swindells, Lisa Jardine
Pages 25

The problem of the subordination of women and the need for their liberation was recognised by all the great socialist thinkers of the nineteenth century. It is part of the classical heritage of the revolutionary movement. Yet today, in the West, the problem has become a subsidiary, if not an invisible element in the preoccupations of socialists. Perhaps no other major issue has been so forgotten. In England, the cultural heritage of Puritanism, always strong on the Left, contributed to a widespread diffusion of essentially conservative beliefs among many who would otherwise count themselves as ‘progressive’. A locus classicus of these attitudes is Peter Townsend’s remarkable statement: ‘Traditionally Socialists have ignored the family or they have openly tried to weaken it – alleging nepotism and the restrictions placed upon individual fulfilment by family ties. Extreme attempts to create societies on a basis other than the family have failed dismally. It is significant that a Socialist usually addresses a colleague as ‘brother’ and a Communist uses the term ‘comrade’. The chief means of fulfilment in life is to be a member of, and reproduce a family. There is nothing to be gained by concealing this truth.’