International Marxist University

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.

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