‘Political ammunition for practical battles’
Forewords to Indonesian editions of two
classics on road to women’s emancipation
Reprinted here are the forewords to the Indonesian editions of The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Frederick Engels and Woman’s Evolution by Evelyn Reed. The books were published in Indonesia as a boxed set by the Jakarta-based organization Kalyanamitra (Women’s Communication and Information Centre). In April Kalyanamitra held a public meeting celebrating the publication of Woman’s Evolution (see story in July 18 Militant). Copyright © 2011 by Pathfinder Press. Translations are by Pathfinder; reprinted by permission.
‘Origin of the Family’
The book title The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Frederick Engels was published more than a hundred years ago. Now this book is regaining popularity. This is connected to the rise of the women’s liberation movement in the United States and Canada during the late 1960s. Along with organizing activities and mobilizing mass actions to eradicate and eliminate the deep-rooted discrimination women face, women began asking how their oppression originated and whether it has always been the case since ancient times. Eventually many feminists turned to read this classic by Engels. This book serves not only to arm the movement theoretically, but also to inspire with confidence that the liberation of women can be won.
In the context of Indonesia, Frederick Engels’s writing becomes important because it sheds new light and shows a new path, especially for women, but for all of us in general. This kind of literature is rare and it could be considered difficult to find in Indonesia. When the New Order was in power, books containing critical views were banned from publication or distribution because they were perceived as a danger to the state and an inspiration to people to take a revolutionary path to change the authoritarian government and system. But even during the Old Order,1 the progressive publisher Jajasan Pembaharuan, which often published books with a critical viewpoint, also didn’t manage to translate the writings of Frederick Engels.
The Kalyanamitra Foundation is pleased to celebrate the publication of this book as an enthusiastic reminder to activists, academics, social movements, and society as a whole about it. Hopefully this book will fill a void in the women’s movement and in the social development of Indonesia, providing an ideological and theoretical framework which becomes ammunition in practical, day-to-day resistance and battles.
Like a beacon in the dark, we hope this book can illuminate the steps in our struggle to forge a better, unified nation and bring about gender justice. In the midst of chaos in our social and political system and our culture at this time under the rule of the reform regime—while women continue to be oppressed and exploited—the inspiration within this book should encourage the women’s movement and other social movements to go forward. End the darkness, let there be light! And the light will guide our struggle to victory!
Happy reading and enjoy this book.
The social phenomena that place men above women in all aspects of life are often bewildering. When did the process of marginalization of women occur in our social transformation in many places in this world? Why did this exclusion happen? What social powers were at work in this process with such strength to oppress women down to today? There are many more questions that we could ask to expose the reality of the history of this oppression.
This bewilderment has been compounded by the limited references and preferences to guide us, while the discourse that developed hasn’t fully explained the key problem.
This book, as a fundamental work, explains clearly many key questions about social phenomena over hundreds and even thousands of years in the development of society that were accepted without question. Now it is clear for us how patriarchal values arose in our society even though it was through a long process. Evelyn Reed’s work clearly explains the fundamental questions surrounding the historical mystery of women’s oppression. It can help us to picture and focus more sharply on the reality of this oppression.
In any event, the existence of this book will help in the process of epistemological and logical thought that’s clear and distinct. With the anthropological evidence she provides, Evelyn Reed helps us to understand and digest the reality of the history of women’s oppression down to today and how to develop a strategic course for us to overcome the many sides of this oppression.
Hopefully the publication of this book, together with the printing of the work by Engels which we have also published, will help to educate us and all those who want to understand and comprehend the history of women’s oppression, and hopefully in turn we can make the decision to unite together in determination and action to change the social reality that’s oppressing us. That’s because the abolition of oppression against women means the abolition of injustice against humanity itself. As Karl Marx said, “We need not only to interpret the reality, what’s important is how to change it.” Hopefully!
Enjoy this book!
1. The Old Order refers to the bourgeois nationalist regime of Sukarno that arose following the upsurge of workers and peasants that won Indonesian independence from Dutch colonial rule in 1945. The New Order is the three-decade Suharto military dictatorship, which stripped Sukarno of power in a 1965 coup and then slaughtered hundreds of thousands of members of the Indonesian Communist Party, thousands of ethnic Chinese, and others. Suharto was forced out of office by massive mobilizations in 1998.