Harriet Fraad, “Children as an exploited class”
“Children as an exploited class”
excerpt from Marxism in the Postmodern Age: Confronting the New World Order. 1994.
Transformation of our system of private child rearing to a system of public services would be costly and require government action. It could address some of the problems of inequity while providing top quality child care. It is precisely because social responsibility for child rearing could accomplish these goals that it encounters right-wing opposition. Although Americans generally cringe when discussing collective kitchens, they generally embrace the collective kitchens of McDonald’s and the rest of the monumentally profitable fast food industry. Although the idea of collective noncommodity child care is anathema to many, quality child care centers are so attractive that they must turn away many of their applicants.
COLLECTIVE, COMMUNAL CHILD CARE
What would collective child care mean? It would mean a different organization of society with children’s care shifted from the individual shoulders of parents to collectively shared public child care facilities. Ingenious and varied possibilities for communal child rearing have been developing since the 19th century (Hayden 1985). To implement these kinds of child rearing strategies on a national scale would require a revolutionary transformation of our society, which does not seem imminent. However, at this moment there are transitional forms such as parenting centers, group homes, after-school, weekend and summer camps, and neighborhood family counseling centers. None of these services would have to be mandatory. They are so desperately needed that I am convinced they would be sought after and fiercely defend once established on a voluntary basis.
For children this could mean the beginning of a change from being a serf, isolated and dependent on the care of whomever bore them, to full personhood. In class terms, it could mean a transition from household serfdom to full citizenship in a communal household setting. At present, the only possibility for children’s liberation from oppressive homes occurs if their parents recognize their own inability to care and voluntarily bear the social stigma of relinquishing them to what are often inadequate state agencies or inadequate relatives.