Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Mary Inman

13 Years of CPUSA Misleadership on the Woman Question

First Published: Theoretical Review, No. 19, November-December 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Theoretical Review Introduction: Mary Inman was an active member of the Communist Party, USA, in the 1930s and 40s. In 1939 she wrote a series of articles concerning women’s oppression for the Daily People’s World, the west coast Party paper. These articles were eventually published in book form under the title In Woman’s Defense. In 1942 Inman published the book Woman-Power, in which she outlined a theoretical approach to the production of labor-power as a social labor process involving “the raising of children and the necessary tasks requisite to the day-to-day production of the energy of adults.”[1] Woman-Power was not well received by the dominant revisionist Party leadership, and Avrom Landy, a leading theoretician, actively polemicized against Inman’s theories in his Marxism and the Woman Question published in 1943.

In 1944 the Communist Party was dissolved, only to be reconstituted a year later. The reconstruction, however, was accompanied by a superficial rectification of the old revisionist line which left many opportunist lines and policies virtually intact. Meanwhile, genuine anti-revisionists soon found themselves expelled from the party, trying to organize themselves under unfavorable conditions.

It appears that Mary Inman was quite active in this anti-revisionist movement within the CP in California, especially in the 1948-49 period. She was close to Harrison George who edited the Daily People’s World before he left the Party in the same period.[2] After the collapse of the anti-revisionist forces, Inman continued to do independent work on women’s oppression. Having previously edited a newsletter entitled Facts for Women from February, 1943 to August, 1946, Inman published The Two Forms of Production Under Capitalism in 1964, which was a concise and updated summary of some of her earlier theories. Finally, in the 1970s a note of hers was published in the correspondence section of Political Affairs, the CP theoretical journal, continuing her attempts to struggle against the revisionist tendencies she had targeted years before.

The pamphlet we are reprinting here was written in 1949. It received only a limited distribution at the time of its publication, and has very nearly disappeared for communist militants and feminists since then. To better understand this pamphlet a certain historical background on the CP line concerning women is helpful. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Communist Party did some effective work among women, though this work was hampered by the general line of the ultra-left “third period.” Given the line and practice of the Party in the Browder period, and the eventual liquidation of the Party and communist work generally, activity among women was severely affected.

Though the Party was reconstituted in 1945 under William Z. Foster, Inman forcefully points out that there was no serious and fundamental rectification of the many political and theoretical errors in Party work among women, many of which continue to this day.

Several structures were established by the Party in the early 1930s to implement special programs for women. A Women’s Commission and special departments were set up to coordinate work among women. Throughout the early part of the 1930s a daily women’s column entitled “Home Life” appeared in the Daily Worker, which raised issues of sexism within the party and gave a legitimacy and focus to women’s problems and concerns. These columns probably even helped women bring up these issues in their home life. Working Woman, a journal whose editors and contributors were predominantly women, was an official party publication which achieved a circulation of about 8,000 copies per month in the mid 1930s. The journal took up questions of birth control and those relating to women “on the job” and in the home. Further, “proposals were made that all CP members study the questions involved.”[3]

But women were not limited to discussing their own oppression, and were encouraged to participate in the overall work of the Party, with many women providing leadership in key areas of struggle, even against the wishes of their husbands. United Councils of Working Class Women sponsored by the CP helped mobilize tens of thousands of women to oppose high prices, rent hikes and similar problems.

All this began to change when the Party took up and began to actively implement the line of the 7th Comintern Congress on united and popular fronts. The popular front line was predicated on an alliance with non-proletarian strata, which ended in the subordination of communists to larger and more powerful bourgeois groups. Rather than seeking to maintain working class independence politically and organizationally, the Party quickly capitulated to tailing after Roosevelt and the New Deal.

There were four major results of this new orientation of party work among women: (1) the abandonment of the centrality of working class hegemony in the struggle for women’s liberation, (2) the political and organizational subordination of communists to organizations and practices led by and dominated by women actively supporting the ideology of capitalism, (3) the liquidation of independent working women’s organizations for the struggle toward women’s liberation, in general, and for working women’s struggles specifically, and (4) theoretically and politically the Party abandoned a Marxist-Leninist line on women’s oppression, and politically tailed after, and practiced, the lines of women’s organizations dominated by capitalist ideology, to the detriment of working class women.

“By the later 1930s the ’Household Corner’ columns [previously Home Life] in the Daily Worker concerned mostly clothes, food and household chores . . . [and] the columns did not help women to look beyond the home ...or even to analyze the politics within the family and home structure.”[4] The Women’s Commission was disbanded in 1940. After changing the name of Working Woman to Woman Today in 1935, the journal was finally liquidated a few years later. Party work among women came to be construed as winning endorsements from such groups as the YWCA, the PTA and the League of Women Shoppers for various Party causes and campaigns.

Mary Inman, while able to see these concrete manifestations of the revisionist line–and this is the greatest value of her pamphlet–failed in “13 Years of CPUSA Misleadership on the Woman Question” to go to the theoretical and political sources and roots of the Party’s failures.

Another shortcoming of the pamphlet is a puritanical, almost prudish approach to sexuality, and perhaps a misuse of the term “pornography.” However, we feel Inman’s expose of the hypocritical sexism of the editors of certain Party publications is an excellent example of the need for a constant struggle against male chauvinism within the Party. Further, in a tangential discussion to the main thrust of the pamphlet, Inman repeats a common formulation of the time that indicated a disrespect for and misunderstanding of homosexuality. For reasons of space we have edited such asides and only publish those parts of the pamphlet which relate specifically to the line of the CPUSA on women’s oppression. The full text is available on microfilm in the Earl Browder papers, 1891-1975, which can be found in many libraries.

There is a tendency for Inman to overemphasize the economic oppression of women, at times nearly reducing women’s oppression to class oppression. A review of her other work indicates, however, that this emphasis was more an aspect of the polemical elements of the pamphlet than a failure to grasp the general oppression of women. Especially her book, In Woman’s Defense develops a much broader understanding of the issues involved. Further, Inman’s tendency toward an economist vision of women’s oppression is far overshadowed by her critique of the extremely backward economism and reductionism of Landy, who postulated that the key to eliminating women’s special oppression was for women to enter the realm of socialized industry and wage-labor generally. Inman correctly struggled against Landy’s extreme reductionism, and her theory has been born out in social practice, since today, with the phenomenal increase in the number of women who work the double shift inside and outside the home, women are increasingly oppressed and exploited in both spheres of production.

Finally, given the differences between the women’s movement of the 30s and 40s and that of today, Inman’s discussion of feminism and the leadership of the women’s movement is somewhat contradictory and confusing. This is partly due to the fact that feminists of her period were struggling in certain different ways and had certain specifically different concerns than today. But further, though Inman raises some very important criticisms of certain “bourgeois feminists,” she does so without generally situating them within a rigorous and effective political critique of the dominant tendencies within feminism as a whole.

Thus, reprinting this pamphlet today is not without problems. But we are quite convinced that Mary Inman’s contributions to the anti-revisionist communist struggles of the past are of lasting importance to our present and future work of developing a revolutionary strategy for the liberation of women and the socialist restructuring of society.

Neil Eriksen


[1] Mary Inman, The Two Forms of Production Under Capitalism, published by the author, March, 1964, Long Beach (P.O. Box 507, CA. 90801), p. 10.

[2] See especially Paul Costello’s “Anti-Revisionist Communism in the United States, 1945-50,” Theoretical Review, No. 11, July-August, 1979; and Harrison George, The Crisis of the CPUSA, 1947.

[3] Robert Shaffer, “Women and the Communist Party, USA, 1930-1940,” Socialist Review, No. 45, May-June, 1979, p. 81.

[4] Shaffer, 1979, p. 96.

* * *

13 Years of CPUSA Misleadership on the Woman Question

Following the publication in the April, 1945, issue of Cahiers du Communisme of Comrade Jacques Duclos’s criticism of the CPUSA leadership for the liquidation of the Party, May 20, 1944, and other wrecking, the CPUSA leadership publicly admitted its “errors” and promised to correct its “mistakes” (Daily Worker, New York, May 25 to July 26, 1945).

However, no statement of any kind was made by the Party leaders during this period of “self-criticism” admitting their wrecking on the Woman Question, which had been carried out as an integral part of their wrecking of the Communist movement as a whole. Consequently, the leadership made no promises to correct these liquidatory practices affecting women as was done in the case of other issues and groups (albeit hypocritically, as events have shown).

Nor did the July, 1945, Convention, which ousted Browder and supposedly re-established the Party not only in name, but in reality, deal with the leadership’s former liquidation of the Woman’s Movement. (When this writer inquired of a leader in Los Angeles why this was not done I was told that the leadership did not have to make such correction with regard to women as Comrade Duclos had not included the liquidation of the Woman’s Movement in his criticism.)

Furthermore, wrecking on the Woman Question has not only continued since the ousting of Browder, but has even been accelerated under the leadership of Dennis (ably abetted by Foster, who warned against an “over correction of errors” at a time when nothing had been done to stop their liquidatory practices affecting Communist work amongst women).

The wreckers have shown an understandable reluctance to commit their policy and practices to print, preferring to carry out their liquidation of Communist work amongst women in a secret, and semi-secret, manner. However, three published, definitive statements, revealing their bold plans, have appeared over a period of thirteen years. They are:

(1) An article, “Lenin on the Woman Question,” by Irene Browder (under the name of Irene Leslie), in the March, 1936, issue of The Communist, official organ of the Party. In this article Browder’s wife, under the guise of writing “Leninism” on the Woman Question, misstated Lenin’s position theoretically and organizationally. Her position has never been officially criticized nor corrected. On the contrary, it is still being followed today.

(2) A 64 page pamphlet, Marxism and the Woman Question, by A. Landy, written at a time when he was National Educational Director of the CPUSA, and published by the Workers Library Publishers, New York, July, 1943, while Browder was still head of the Party. (The last 24 pages of this pamphlet were first published in The Communist, September, 1941; the first 39 pages, were written as an answer to my book Women-Power, in which I had attacked his anti-Marxist position in The Communist. In this 39 pages, published nearly two years after his article in The Communist, Landy elaborates his former position.) Landy, under the guise of writing “Marxism” on the Woman Question, falsifies Marxism. His position has never been officially criticized, but only praised in Party publications, by Party leaders, to this date.

(3) An article of seven pages in the November, 1948, issue of Political Affairs, by William Z. Foster, “On Improving the Party’s Work Among Women,” being an analysis of the position taken on the Woman Question by the 14th National Convention of the CPUSA, held in New York City, August 2-6, 1948. In this article Foster, under the guise of “Improving Party Work Among Women,” conceals past wrecking and lays the basis for new frauds.

An examination of the principal points of these three documents, and the practices carried out under these directives, reveals thirteen years of uninterrupted wrecking on the Woman Question.

1. Article by Browder’s Wife, in 1936, Paved the Way for the Liquidation of Communist Work Amongst Women, and Is Patterned After Today by CPUSA.

Irene Browder, in her article in The Communist, denied the Marxist-Leninist concept that women are an oppressed sex in society. She inquired in the second paragraph, “Is [it] necessary to mention that not all women are oppressed?” She cited the existence of bourgeois women to prove that there is no Woman Question, yet two pages further on she slyly states that it was part of Lenin’s thesis that, “In reality, women, who compose half of humanity, are deprived of their human rights and are subjected to men.”

Thus she engaged in double-talk, and for years this pattern was followed by Party writers, who helped in this manner to conceal the vast and elaborate campaign of slander and oppression carried on by the bourgeoisie against womanhood; the capitalist propagandists saying “Women are mentally inferior; women cannot reason logically; women cannot drive a car”; that women are treacherous, mercurial, notionate, unreliable, etc., thus, amongst other things, helping to create in the minds of women and their allies ideas of distrust in the ability of women to be a factor in the solution of their economic, political and social problems.

Instead of the clear Leninist theory that women are an oppressed sex in society; that their oppression has an economic foundation in the exploitation of the working class, and that while all women are degraded under capitalism that it is the workers and their allies to whom we must look for a solution, the approved Party pattern for writers was to start off by using the fact of the existence of bourgeois women to disprove that women are oppressed.

This was done under the guise that it was necessary to split working-class women off from bourgeois women. But how was this split to be effected? By renouncing Leninism on the Woman Question. One can imagine what it would do to the concept of the oppression of the Negro People in the United States if Communist articles about their subjugation were prefaced by the question: “Is it necessary to say that not all Negroes are oppressed?” citing the existence of members of the Negro bourgeoisie to disprove the oppression of the Negro people. A somewhat similar situation exists with regard to women.

On the other hand, having renounced Leninism by denying that women are an oppressed sex under capitalism, on the defense that such renunciation was necessary to prevent working-class women from following the leadership of bourgeois women, the Party leadership did everything it could to turn the leadership of the Woman’s movement over to bourgeois women!

In fact, Irene Browder, in this same article, scuttled that part of Lenin’s program for women in which he stated that there should be found special forms of struggle for women with a clearly stated difference between such forms of struggle and the organizations of the bourgeoisie. She set as “our main task” the capture of bourgeois women’s organizations, which were then to be used to bring about socialism, no less!

She wrote: “What should be our tasks today in helping to solve the woman problem? Our main task is to win the women’s organizations for the struggle for the economic and social equality of women, not only theoretically, but actually.” Amongst these “Women’s” organizations which she set as the main task to “win” she included the following:

Young Women’s Christian Association
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of Catholic Women
Women’s Christian Temperance Union
Women’s National Democratic Club
Women’s National Republican Club
National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs
Camp Fire Girls
Girl Scouts
The Daughters of the American Revolution

She headlined this particular piece of political skullduggery with the caption: “WE MUST REACH THE TOILING WOMEN IN THE BOURGEOIS ORGANIZATIONS.” But on the following page “bourgeois” organizations have become “women’s organizations” and the task of “reaching” the “toiling women” has been transformed into “winning,” as “our main task,” such organizations as the Women’s National Democratic Club, which is controlled by the Democratic Party, arid the Women’s Republican Club, controlled by the Republican Party, and the National Council of Catholic Women, controlled by the Catholic hierarchy, for nothing less than the “struggle” for socialism; i.e., for the “economic and social equality of women,” and not just in theory alone. Oh! no, “but actually”! Could Marxists be set more futile tasks than this on which to dissipate their energies?

Yet, this line is still being applied today, as shown by a six-column article, by Loretta Starvus Stack, Party Organization Secretary for California, published on Page one of the People’s World, March 8, 1949.

Writing about the 18th Convention of the Young Women’s Christian Association being held in San Francisco, Mrs. Stack, behind the transparent screen that she is stating the opinions of working women, “the industrial delegates,” says, “only the YWCA can supply the recreational and educational program industrial women workers need.”

She follows this with a statement of her own that “It was the industrial section that formerly lent militancy, in a Christian sense, to the ’Y’ program,” and declares approvingly, “The growing army of women workers compelled the young organization to increase and improve its facilities and program in order to carry out its avowed aim of ’making Christianity work’.”

She states that, “The general theme of the convention, as sounded by Mrs. Harrison Elliott, general secretary, in her opening speech, is improving the condition of women on a world scale through the Christian faith.” And no where is there a single dissenting word in her article to counteract this capitalist-class poison she is helping to spread to the readers of the People’s World.

The convention passed a resolution calling for “constant struggle for the democratic principles ... as the surest opposition to all attempts of communism and fascism to gain influence in America.”

And in a follow-up article in the People’s World, March 14, 1949, Mrs. Stack writes consolingly of this anti-communist resolution as follows: “Conservatives, although they were able to push through the anti-communist resolution, nevertheless did not have an easy time of it.”

She regrets that 300,000 women workers who use YWCA facilities are not members of that organization, despite the fact that “The trend reflected at the convention, tying the YWCA with the Administration’s foreign policy, cannot help but lead to capitulation on the domestic program.”

She leaves her readers with this message: “There are strong progressive and liberal currents in the YWCA that could wage an effective fight to keep the YWCA faithful to its purpose–the application of Christian principles to the problems women face today.”

Thus does the Right Wing of the Party in California, through its Organization Secretary, in a worker supported daily, boldly try to enlist working women in the task of waging “an effective fight,” not for Socialism, not for the application of Marxism-Leninism to the problems women face today, but “for the application of Christian principles” to their problems.

To the task set for Communists by Earl Browder of “making capitalism work,” the Right Wing of the Party in California has added the task for women workers of “making Christianity work”!

How Browder and His Aides Liquidated Women’s Organizations

The next few years following the publication of the article by Browder’s wife, in the March, 1936, issue of The Communist, saw the liquidation of the left Woman’s Movement.

In 1936 there existed a monthly magazine, The Working Woman, with a national circulation and news stand sales.

There existed throughout the country Women’s Councils, which met regularly and exerted a growing beneficial influence both on women’s problems and political problems in general. There existed a program for a Woman’s Charter, which had as its aim the setting of women into motion to struggle for Equal Rights.

There existed an organized movement for the establishment of a National Woman’s Congress, which was to be an integral part of an International Woman’s Congress.

And there existed growing agitation for an organized Nursery Movement on a National scale, all within the activities of the Communist Party.

Publications Stopped

The Working Woman was changed to The Woman Today, and in a short time it, too, was killed.

Women’s Councils Disbanded

The Women’s Council’s were disbanded, their funds confiscated and their workers, trained to work with women, were scattered and set to other tasks.

Woman’s Charter Killed

Agitation for a Woman’s Charter was killed, and the leadership of the Equal Rights struggle was turned over to the National Council of Catholic Women. Thus the Party leadership helped to lead women into a disastrous pincers movement, formed on one side by the fascist-like National Woman’s Party, and on the other by the Catholic hierarchy, which prevented a struggle around the vital Equal Rights issue, and spread untold confusion throughout the labor movement.

Equal Rights Struggle Sabotaged

In the interest of large hotel owners and manufacturers, who employed low-paid woman labor, and opposed the passage of minimum wage laws raising the pay of such employees, and of other legislation beneficial to women which was opposed by the capitalist class, the National Woman’s Party proposed an Amendment to the United States Constitution falsely labeled an “Equal Rights Amendment,” which has as its purpose the prevention of any law being passed “applying specifically to women.”

And the Party leadership, instead of proposing a real Equal Rights Amendment for women as the best way of carrying out its own program of this particular phase of the struggle, as well as of fighting the phony measure of the National Woman’s Party, openly announced in its press that it was following the leadership of the National Council of Catholic Women who opposed any Equal Rights Amendment whatsoever, on the claim that such an amendment would be “blanket” legislation, whereas, the NCCW declared, only “specific” legislation could be made applicable to women.

On the contrary, there must be both specific laws, and a basic constitutional law, applying to women. It is not a question of either one or the other, but of both.

Yet, despite the fact that Communists have always advocated Equal Rights for women, and have as a model Article 122 of the Constitution of the USSR, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, as head of Party work amongst women in the CPUSA, wrote in the Worker, New York, October 18,1943, that the stand taken by the National Council of Catholic Women in 1923, that there could be no Equal Rights Amendment, “could not be surpassed.”

Writing in the Daily Worker, January 14, 1943, Miss Flynn has also followed the leadership of the NCCW and had advanced arguments, while writing about the phony “Equal Rights Bill” sponsored by the National Woman’s Party, which could equally be used against a real Equal Rights Bill, stating: “The danger in a blanket amendment is that it cancels out the good with the bad.”

Then on August 25, 1946, the Party, without previously opening its press to a discussion of this important matter which had been so badly handled, published, in the Worker, its approval of an inadequate, and confusing proposed Amendment, authored by Susan B. Anthony II, called “The Woman’s Status Amendment.”

After being sponsored by the Party and nursed through the legislative channels at Washington, D.C. for several months, its author, Miss Anthony, wrote in an article in one of the national bourgeois magazines, in regard to the Bill sponsored by the National Woman’s Party, and the “Woman’s Status Amendment,” “I won’t take sides here on the comparative merits of the rival legislative proposals,” saying not a word to inform her readers that one of the measures had been authored by herself (“We Women Throw Our Votes Away,” by Susan B. Anthony II, Saturday Evening Post, July 17, 1948.)

Writing in regard to the “Woman’s Status Amendment,” she states in the above article: “The gist of the bill is; ’That it is the declared policy of the United States that in law and its administration no distinctions on the basis of sex shall be made except such as are reasonably justified by differences in physical structure, or biological or social function’.”

At last report this Bill had as its chief sponsor in Congress Senator Robert Taft, co-author of the notorious anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act. Thus under the leadership of Browder and his aides, who remained in power after his expulsion, the struggle for an Equal Rights Amendment for women has traveled a distance only as far as that between the Catholic hierarchy and Senator Robert Taft, in more than 13 years! If, indeed, there is any difference between the Catholic hierarchy and Senator Taft, where laws for working men and women are concerned.

Having for several years carried on a campaign against any Equal Rights Amendment whatsoever, and the Party leadership having entirely given up the practice of admitting its errors on the Woman Question, for the purpose of correcting such errors, the above Draft Amendment was explained as an “Equal Rights Plus” Amendment (People’s World, September 24, 1946). Thus it was made to appear that women, through a measure asking only what is “reasonably justified,” under capitalism, and having the support of Senator Taft, were to receive more than Equal Rights!

Woman’s Congress Strangled

An attempt to organize a Woman’s Congress was led to defeat by Mary Van Kleek in 1937. Miss Van Kleek at the time was director of Industrial Studies for the Russell (“Robber Baron”) Sage Foundation, and one of the most prolific propagandists for that organization, as the records of any Municipal Public Library will reveal. Yet, she was placed in charge of organizing the important Woman’s Congress by the Party leadership.

Following the failure to organize a Congress in 1937 (“Feminists” were blamed by the Party for this failure), even agitation for a Congress was liquidated, until it was revived by comrades in the Party, who opposed the Right Wing leadership on the West Coast in 1939-40, which met with instant and enthusiastic support of the membership.

Nothing was done by the Party leadership, however, to organize such a Congress until April 7, 1946, following the International Congress of Women, held in Paris during November, 1945, which was attended by a delegation of thirteen from the United States, headed by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

The Right Wing Party leadership has placed bourgeois women in charge, thus the Congress remains weak and a mere shadow of what it could be. An example of this weakness is the Anthony “Equal Rights Plus” Amendment, the work of the Congress, which had installed Miss Anthony as Chairman of the Commission on the Status of Women.

An example of the harmful confusion and foolishness spread by some of these bourgeois women, is an article by Dr. Gene Weltfish, Vice-Chairman of the CAW, in April 7, 1946, issue of the Worker in which she wrote:

Who should join the Congress of American Women? All Women! For all women are mothers and workers. Sometimes housewives say they don’t ’work’. Of course, cleaning, washing, shopping, tending children isn’t work–it’s just work!!! Even wealth, seldom frees a woman from most of these tasks. Women have foolishly divided themselves into workers and non-workers .... But a little thought will convince you that we women are all workers and all mothers.

We are a majority of the world’s population. We are the world’s largest minority . . .

Thus are class lines made to disappear, as women are chided in a Communist daily for “foolishly dividing themselves into workers and non-workers,” and are told that a majority is a minority, with no single word of correction from Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, or the Worker staff, then or later. And the Foster-Dennis leadership, having denied for years that women are an oppressed sex in society, had no word of correction when women of wealth were, in general, falsely depicted in its press as being in the same category as working-class housewives when it comes to doing the family “cleaning, washing, shopping, tending children,” by Dr. Weltfish.


Under the effects of such liquidationism as existed in the CPUSA for 13 years, as we have described above, it is not surprising that the nursery movement was killed, too. More accurately, perhaps, it was not so much killed as prevented from coming into being. The CPUSA leadership practiced very deadly and effective birth control against it.

Agitation for nurseries sank so low that for more than a year following the publication of Landy’s article in the September, 1941, issue of The Communist, no editorial appeared in the Daily Worker demanding nursery care for children of women wage workers, needed in war production, although the Soviet Union had been invaded by Hitler’s forces June 22, 1941, and such production was needed to help defeat Hitlerism.

This was not surprising since Landy branded such work, raising children in the worker’s home, as “socially unnecessary,” so why demand, editorially, social reorganization of work the Party contended is socially unnecessary?

2. “Marxism and the Woman Question,” by A. Landy, Seeks to Destroy Marxism

When read in its entirety, it is obvious that the Landy pamphlet is not so much for something, as against something, namely: Marxism. It is true that Landy patterns after the Bukharin thesis, that under capitalism the worker’s household is a consumption unit only, and that this consumption is non-productive in the same sense that the consumption of a social parasite is non-productive. However, this is only one of many tricks which he uses in an attempt to destroy Marxism.

For instance, what is left of Marx’s Labor Theory of Value, when Landy writes, p. 25, that labor-power “being the human factor,” it “is not itself the product of the labor process”?

Marx declares in Wage-Labour and Capital, p. 26, that “The fluctutaions of wages correspond to the fluctuations in the price of commodities in general. But within the limits of these fluctuations the price of labour-power will be determined by the cost of production, by the labour-time necessary for production of this commodity: labour-power.”

In Value, Price and Profit, p. 39, Marx asks: “What, then, is the Value of Labouring-Power?” He replies: “Like that of every other commodity, its value is determined by the quantity of labour necessary to produce it.”

Marx, in the above, shows that the price, cost and value of labour-power are all determined by “the quantity of labour necessary to produce it.”

However, Landy holds that labor-power is, instead, the result of “sex and blood,” p. 17, and of a “biological process,” p. 21, and of “air and sunshine,” p. 61.

It is a fundamental of Marxism that the value of all commodities is determined solely by the socially necessary labor expended in their production, and that the value of the labor-power thus expended is, in turn, itself determined solely by the socially necessary labor required to produce it.

The absurdity of Landy’s formulation is shown if we attempt to determine the price, cost and value of “sex and blood;” a “biological process;” and “air and sunshine,” in order to estimate the price, cost and value of labor-power, in order to determine the price, cost and value of other commodities!

Landy Undermines the Materialist Conception of History

What happens to the materialist conception of history, when Landy argues that Engels did not mean what he said, when he wrote:

According to the materialist conception the decisive element of history, is pre-eminently the production and reproduction of life and its material requirements.

This implies, on the one hand, the production of the means of existence (food, clothing, shelter and the necessary tools); on the other hand, the generation of children, the propagation of the species.

The social institutions, under which the people of a certain historical period and of a certain country are living, are dependent on these two forms of production.. . [Preface to the Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State–Kerr edition.]

In Woman-Power, I used the above quotation from Engels as a fundamental Marxist law. Landy denies that this is so, and writes, p. 14:

Any analysis of Mrs. Inman’s fallacies must begin with an examination of the premise on which they are based. This premise, as the reader will recall, is her interpretation of what Engels referred to as the two forms of production, the production and reproduction of life and its material requirements. According to Inman this means that the materialist conception of history requires the recognition that giving birth to children, rearing them and renewing the energy of the adult workers are all part of the process of social production, that phase of it which, she says, takes place in the home and by means of which the housewife takes part in production.

What happens to the Communist concept that maternity is a social function, when Landy argues, p. 18, that this is not so, because, “Motherhood is a phenomenon of nature and not of society; it prevails in all social systems.”

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, reviewing the Landy pamphlet in the Daily Worker, July 30, 1943, praises Landy for “undertaking to clarify the fantastic issues raised by Mary Inman. His pamphlet will help create a better understanding of the struggle for the rights of women and completely refutes her authority to speak as a Marxist.”

Miss Flynn goes on to say that my analysis that the working-class housewife and mother (by her labor in the home raising children and cooking, cleaning, etc., for adult workers), takes part in one form of social production, that which produces labor-power to run industry, is a weird distortion of both economics and biology, as A. Landy points out, declaring further:

The author dissects carefully and in as simple a manner as possible, her false premises that the housewife takes part in production through motherhood (which he points out ’is a phenomenon of nature and not of society’) and through the reproduction of her husband’s labor power (which he points out is scientifically impossible since ’only the producing individual himself can reproduce his labor power’.)

Yet, a circular issued by the Workers Book Store, New York, December 1, 1944, listed the Landy pamphlet as “of Lasting Value.”

Landy’s profound discovery, p. 21, that the wife does not give birth to her husband, no one will dispute, for it is well known that function was performed by his mother. But when he uses the argument that since the worker’s wife does not give birth to her husband that she performs no work that is productive of his labor energy, that is a different question.

One human being may perform for another productive labor in the renewal of their day-to-day energy, without regard to the sex of either the one performing the labor, or the beneficiary of it.

What is at Stake?

What, particularly, did Landy seek to accomplish by undermining Marxism applied to the Woman Question? The answer is to be found in the fact that a struggle was going on in the Party between two opposite currents over the organizing of women.

On the one hand, the leadership of the CUPSA was in the process of liquidating special forms of struggle and organizations for women, which process was an integral part of their liquidation of the Party and Communist work as a whole.

On the other hand, another current in the CPUSA was attempting to apply Marxism-Leninism to the problem of carrying out Lenin’s formula that the time had come to “organize not thousands, but millions of women.”

It was to block this latter current from using Marxism-Leninism in the solution of women’s problems that the Landy pamphlet was written, and the Landy line continues as the official line of the Liquidators on the Woman Question to this day, in the USA. Therefore, what was, and still is, at stake is the organizing of millions of working class women to struggle against capitalist oppression; to improve their working and living standards; for peace and proletarian democracy; for Socialism.

Women wage workers are eligible to join trade unions, and should do so. But three-fourths of the women of the working class in the United States work only at home, raising children (future workers) and performing necessary work in the renewal of the labor energy of existing workers. They are at present unorganized. Landyism, by denying that their work has any economic importance to capitalism, or society, would blank out the very economic basis for organizing these women as an integral part of the working class.

Landy writes, p. 42, that the basis of political work amongst housewives:“... is not to be found in her usefulness to capitalism ... to look for it along that line is useless and a serious mistake . . . the only result of such an error is to glorify and exaggerate the social role of the housewife... It must be said that this is the road to Right opportunist mistakes . . .”

Landyism Sets False Tasks Before Housewives

The Landy pamphlet sets the false task before 22,000,000 housewives of the proletarian class in the United States, NOT of organizing but of getting jobs in industry.

Writing about these labor-power production workers, under capitalism, Landy states, p. 5:

The entire material foundation of woman’s inequality, imbedded in centuries of restrictions and prejudices which have barred her from full participation in the economic, political and cultural life of the nation, is being undermined. New opportunities for equality are opening up, of such character and scope as to presage the attainment of a whole new and advanced stage in the social position of women. It is coming in the only way such a fundamental advance can genuinely come–by way of industry, providing the material guarantee that this advance will be firmly grounded and will endure; that no effort of reaction will be able to undo what history has once so thoroughly achieved . . . war production . . . provides convincing evidence that the key to the ultimate emancipation of women is to be found in the arena of modern industry and the historical struggles associated with it. It transforms her from a relatively dormant into an active force in the social process, providing the labor movement, the most decisive factor of all, with a new source of vitality and strength.

However, while it has been the main line of the Landy pamphlet to attack as non-Marxist those comrades who had as their objective the organizing of 22,000,000 labor power production workers, who work only at home producing labor power to run industry, and to substitute for the responsibility of the Party in organizing these women THE TASK OF THESE WOMEN FINDING JOBS IN INDUSTRY, the line was so obviously false that Landy was forced to double-talk, at least to the extent of covering up his false premise that the majority of these women could go into wage work.

He writes, p. 6: “... the fact is that even the increase in the number of women in industry will still leave the bulk of American womanhood in the category of housewives.”

Liquidation of Marxist Theory on Woman Question Was Spearheaded by Ruth McKenney

The liquidation of Marxist-Leninist theory on the Woman Question, by Browder and his aides, was spearheaded in New Masses, December 11 and 17,1940, and February 11, 1941, by Ruth McKenney, then an editor of that publication. At that time I was teaching a class on the Woman Question at the Workers’ School in Los Angeles, and Harrison George, then editor of the People’s World, San Francisco, wrote in the February 11, 1941 issue of New Masses an article opposing the theories of McKenney and supporting the application of Marxism-Leninism that I was teaching at the Workers’ School. He stated:

...the labor power of housewives has ever been used and useful, in the production of labor power for industrial production . . .

Apparently ’work’, as you understand the term, means only such things as factory work, while the work of the home, where labor power is renewed daily and reproduced, is not ’work’ at all, but ’idleness’. Yet here, labor power, that of the housewife, is usefully expended in the creation of new labor power, the most valuable of commodities. Granted that it is slavery, but so is the labor power of the menfolk expended in the factory. Let us not lose sight of the economic fact that it is labor power. Let the housewife have at least the inner dignity of being useful to society, and from that point of departure–of departure, mind you–let her organize for better conditions.

To say or imply that 22,000,000 housewives have no useful role, make no contribution to society as it is now organized, is to deprive them of any right to make demands upon this society–except in the name of somebody else, their menfolk; or to demand only ’Give us socialism!’... a slogan that is your one and only proposal...

Then you have it that: ’Hitler “solved” unemployment by . . . forcing all women out of schools and factories, offices and professions, back to the middle ages and the purdah.

He did no such thing, Ruth, and you are not mistaken in analysis here, but facts. It should be firmly kept in mind that the whole campaign against ’women who work’ and the fascist drive to get women out of industry, is to force them to work at ’bootleg’ wages and under inferior conditions .... It is a fascist trick to make women a scapegoat, to divide the people. For you should know that, in 1936, there were more women employed outside the home in Nazi Germany than when Hitler took power in 1933.

To resume a little elementary Marxism. You say: ’So the woman, trained for emergence, is fed a whole library of ideas, to keep her safe in the grueling, unpaid labor of the home’. It is grueling, no doubt, but it is not ’unpaid’. Here you have for the moment gotten away from the error that women in the home are idle, useless and non-contributors to society, and admit that they ’labor’. But you instantly get onto the wrong track in saying they are ’unpaid’. Well, what is the wage of a slave of any kind? Subsistence.

And there you have it. The housewife gets a subsistence wage, as does also her husband–who happens to be the one that brings it home. It is a family wage. The intermediary circumstance of the man bringing it home obscures the economic fact that the housewife’s wage is the same as that of her husband–subsistence, if, as, and provided he is lucky enough to have a job. . .

McKenney’s Reply

To the above, McKenney replied in the same issue of New Masses:

... I am no Marxist of any proportions, and if you argued with me on any other subject in the world I would collapse at the first pin prick. But since this is near and dear to me, I will try to bounce in where angels fear to tread and say I don’t agree with you.

First of all, on the question of whether or not housework is within the productive system. It has always been my understanding that by definition work which contributed to the productive system was work producing commodities; a commodity by definition is something which has both use value and exchange value. In addition, in a commodity economy, socially necessary labor was, I always thought, the quantity of labor necessary to produce a commodity . ..

But the work performed by a wife and mother is unpaid work; it has no exchange value and no use value; it is outside of the commodity system. It does not matter that housewives are often heroic, patient, cheerful, the mainstay of their families. Slave labor was also hard and difficult; it was also performed by brave and intelligent people. It seems to me you raise an emotional problem where none exists. . . .

It seems to me that you fall into the same error as the bourgeois apologists for housework, who try to tell women it is socially useful work.

McKenney’s Diversion

Regarding a program for women, McKenney wrote in the above: “. . . it is very obvious that we need to fight for women’s rights in industry, first of all . . .”

There is, of course, no objection to “fighting for women’s rights in industry,” but to speak of this task as being “first of all” in relation to 22,000,000 women who never would be employed in industry under capitalism is another illustration of putting forward an inapplicable and phony solution to working-class housewifes’ problems, which was continued by Landy in his pamphlet. It is simply a diversion.

Ruth McKenney, disputing the point about whether housewives are paid, wrote:

... wages are not in my opinion family wages.”

However, Lenin and Marx are on the opposite side to McKenney. Lenin wrote, in the Teachings of Karl Marx, p. 21: “The owner of money buys labor-power at its value, which is determined, like the value of every other commodity, by the socially necessary labor-time requisite for its production–that is to say, the cost of maintaining the worker and his family.”

Landy’s Double-Talk

We wish to emphasize that although Landy underpinned and gave a “Marxist” base to all of McKenney’s anti-Marxist theories expressed in her New Masses articles on this subject, namely that housework in the worker’s home caring for children and cooking, etc., for adult workers is socially unnecessary labor, “has no use value and no exchange value,” is unpaid in an absolute sense in that she receives nothing at all for this labor (despite the fact that she receives as much on an average as her wage-earning husband, namely, subsistence, or “keep”), nevertheless Landy double-talks and states just the opposite on all these questions in his pamphlet.

However, it was on the basis that the above position of McKenney was correct that my own work was stopped on the woman question, and Harrison George was banned from writing anything in the People’s World on the subject. This action was taken against us solely on the claim of the leadership that McKenney’s position as expressed in her New Masses articles was the correct Marxist position. Furthermore, this action was taken against us six months before Landy wrote his article in the September, 1941, issue of the Communist. And a campaign of abuse, slander and falsification has been carried on for nine years, by the revisionist leadership of the CPUSA, against all of those Marxists who supported the Marxist-Leninist position on the Woman Question, and opposed the wrecking of the McKenney-Landy line. We will return to this subject of the tactics of the wreckers in more detail later. For the present let us examine Landy’s double-talk on these disputed basic points.

Page 8, Landy attacks the theory that the working-class housewife is “performing useful, socially necessary work.”

However, page 30, Landy writes just the opposite: “The fact remains that the housewife does expend energy from which the capitalist clearly benefits . . . .This is possible because the social result of the housewife’s energy, which is spent exclusively in the services of the worker’s family and its consumption, is to help reproduce the worker as a wage-worker for the capitalist.”

He also wrote, p. 30: “Thus, while the activities of the housewife help to reproduce the social basis of capitalist wealth, these activities are gratis as far as the capitalist is concerned.”

However, p. 33, he wrote just the opposite: “Unquestionably, when the worker gets paid for his labor power at its value, this includes the cost of maintaining his family. Economically the maintenance of his wife and children enter into the cost of the reproduction of his labor-power.”

Thus the then national educational director of the Communist Party, USA, while trying to double-talk enough to save a shred of his reputation as a “Marxist” could not resist the impulse to give his cover-up statements a lying twist. For what he is telling us here is that the maintenance of 22,000,000 housewives enters into the costs of labor-power, but that their activities which “help reproduce the social basis of capitalist wealth,” do not enter into the value of the labor-power thus produced. This, of course, is a direct contradiction of Marx, for as we have seen by a preceding quotation from Marx, the value, price and cost of labor-power on an average are equal, and the cost of the subsistence of 22,000,000 women could not enter into the cost of labor-power, UNLESS THEIR ACTIVITIES EXPENDED IN THE PRODUCTION OF SUCH LABOR-POWER ENTERED INTO ITS VALUE.

Landy’s basic errors lead him to represent workers’ wages as being more than they are. According to Marxian economics there is no room for working men to “keep” women. Bourgeois men, yes. But not workers.

When, therefore, Landy attempts to chisel working class housewives (the workers in one form of production) out of the credit rightly due them for the work they do in social production, he is forced at the same time to attempt to chisel them out of their right, as production workers, to their subsistence (i.e., their pay) which they get because of their work, and he must account for their getting their subsistence on a wholly anti-Marxian basis: on the basis of being “kept” by their husbands, and, consequently, receiving their subsistence as a result of their husbands’ work and not of their own.

Right Wing Copies Wrong “Blueprints”

The Foster-Dennis clique of opportunists is fond of assuring American imperialism that they have no intention of following “blueprints” from the Land of Socialism, the Soviet Union, whenever they can in this way undermine international proletarian solidarity. On the other hand, they are equally eager to follow “blueprints” from the Soviet Union by presenting certain problems as being identical under capitalism and socialism, thus setting false tasks before the Party.

Marxists look upon the entrance of women into work outside the home as a progressive trend, where it does not take place under conditions that degrade the working class family. To prevent this, Marxists insist that social services be provided, for care of children, social feeding, etc., so that the standard of living of such families shall not be lowered. Marxists demand equal pay for equal work, so that the entrance of such women into industry will not be used to lower the wages and working standards of the men workers.

Even during the war against Hitler the Landy line was harmful, for it helped place a double burden upon those women who entered war production without, in many cases, any help whatsoever from the capitalist government, which provided only “token” nurseries. But at least women had the satisfaction of knowing they were helping to defeat the fascist beasts, and were aiding the heroic Soviet men and women who were bearing the brunt of this fight for the freedom of peoples from fascist enslavement.

3. Foster Conceals 13 Years of Wrecking on the Woman Question With Claims That Work Was “Neglected”!

Foster began his article in the November, 1948, Political Affairs, by stating that “One of the gravest weaknesses of the Communist movement in the various capitalist countries, including our own, is its relative failure to win the active support of decisive masses of women.”

“Failure to win,” is hardly the term for their crimes against women which included the wrecking of Marxist theory, and the liquidation of women’s organizations for struggle against the bourgeoisie.

He conceals the CPUSA mis-leadership with the phrase “the Communist movement in the various capitalist countries,” although no evidence is given that the “weaknesses” (as Foster terms it) of such parties in other capitalist countries included such crimes against Marxism as the Landy pamphlet, which Foster nowhere mentions in his article. He refers again to “This shortcoming of the Communist Parties,” in an obvious attempt to show that the situation is somehow natural to Communist parties under capitalism.

Thus Foster does not present the problem as mainly one of positive wrecking for the past 13 years by the CPUSA leadership, but as one of a negative, do-nothing policy, as being due to “an underestimation,” and “general neglect,” and to an “inadequate grasp of theory,” and “a woeful theoretical neglect,” which “greatly hampers all practical educational and organizational work.”

He stated, p. 985, that the Communist parties are “literally starved theoretically on this vital matter,” and, p. 988, he finds that “weakness” has existed in “a certain narrowness in treating this question from a scientific standpoint,” and “we tend in analysis to reduce women’s status in society simply to a question of economics and politics. . . .”

It is a measure of Foster’s hypocrisy that he should write (or allow Landy or someone else to write under his name) that the CPUSA is “starved theoretically” on the Woman Question, and attribute this to “neglect,” when, as he well knows, the leadership has for years carried on an active campaign of slander and abuse against anybody who fought consistently for the application of Marxism-Leninism to the question, labeling such persons “enemies of the working class.”

And Party members have not simply been deprived of Marxism-Leninism, but an anti-Marxist-Leninist theory has been propagated, as the official Party position, through the writings of Landy and others. The members, therefore, have not simply been “starved theoretically,” but also poisoned theoretically, and Foster could not be ignorant of this situation, for to this writer’s knowledge he has been amply informed of it on many occasions.

Foster’s “First Task”

Foster lists as the first task in “Improving Party Work Among Women,” “a persistent struggle ideologically against all manifestations of masculine superiority.” This, he tells us, is the “major shortcoming,” in present-day work amongst women.

Thus, he places first, not a struggle against capitalist oppression of women, but against masculine superiority. And when he does this he directs the eyes of Party members not to an exploiting class: capitalists, but to a biological group: men, as being of first importance! This was the historic error made by the bourgeois feminists.

The program of the Communist International called for “a systematic cultural struggle against the ideology and tradition of female bondage,” which demonstrated the world-wide Communist attitude on this matter.

And Lenin said we should root out the old master idea of the man in the Party and amongst the masses.

But there is a correct way and an incorrect way to conduct such a struggle. The correct way is to explain the class base of such “masculine superiority.” The incorrect way is that pursued by the bourgeois feminists, who steered clear of such class interpretation of woman’s oppression, and blamed, instead, men for woman’s subjugation.

The feminists followed John Stuart Mill, who had as his basic premise that there is rule by a biological group: men, instead of rule by an economic class: capitalists, as Marxists point out. Today, even the “best” of these bourgeois feminists, and the ones “most sympathetic” to women, spread the utmost confusion in their outgivings over the radio, and in the press.

Invariably, they start out blaming men and end by blaming women. This naturally follows, for when they have presented men as being the cause of woman’s oppression, instead of an economic class: capitalists, they have made men out as something quite monstrous, which does not fit, so they must then turn their attack on women as being “not without blame” themselves, and in large measure responsible for their own oppression!

Thus, the feminists, or anyone else who deals with male dominance under class rule, without first giving the class basis of such dominance, helps to conceal the role of the capitalists in woman’s oppression; channels woman’s resentment away from capitalism; substitutes the working-class man as her oppressor in the mind of a working-class woman, influenced by such a false premise, and directs the resentment of oppressed womanhood into the blind alley of bourgeois feminism.

It is a measure of Foster’s hypocrisy and double-dealing that while tailing after bourgeois feminism, he writes, p. 987, that “bourgeois feminism, which places the blame on men and not on the social system, for the oppression of women, can exert its influence in the absence of a sound theoretical position on the woman question.” That the revisionist leadership of the CPUSA knows this fact well is shown by their past record on “feminism.” Why, then, do they call attention to the errors of feminists in this definitive article, in which they are, in essence, tailing feminism as the “first task”?

Undoubtedly because it serves to throw the reader off guard and is meant to conceal the fact that they are themselves tailing after bourgeois feminism, in somewhat the same fashion as the warmongers in the USA seek to hide their real aims by pretending that they are for “peace.”

This tactic is on a level with the Landy pamphlet, which undermines Marxism, while asserting to correct errors regarding Marxism.

For several years the Browderite leadership attacked the “feminists” to conceal their own misdeeds, yet at no time during all those years did they devote a single line in their dailies, weeklys and monthlies to explain to their members and the working class the basic error of the feminists. And when Marxists attempted to carry out their Communist work on the Woman Question, despite the obstructions of the leadership, such comrades were immediately, and unremittingly branded “feminists.” Nor was this all, the attack on the “feminists” was not carried on in any degree as a Marxist would carry it on, but the feminists were attacked like the Fascists were attacking them, and the lumping of Marxists and feminists together as “feminists” was also copied from the Fascists.

For several years the Party sold and help spread through its bookstores all over the country the vicious anti-woman book, Why Women Cry or Wenches With Wrenches, by Elizabeth Hawes. The Hawes book, published by the U.S. publishers of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, helped spread the phony “war between the sexes” by dealing with woman’s oppression in an anti-Marxist manner. Yet, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn declared in the Daily Worker, December 13, 1943, in a review containing only praise of Hawes’ book, that the “ideas are the same” as those of Mother Bloor and herself.

The CPUSA liquidators endorsed this book, without a single word of adverse criticism, and spread it down through the labor movement eleven months before a vital election when women’s votes were in the majority, despite the fact that Hawes labeled 99% of women morons in the book and slandered the leaders of the woman’s movement of the past, depicting them in Nazi-fashion as freaks that “didn’t know the difference between men and women below the belt.” Hawes called all categories of women “Bitches,” and labeled women “Contented Cows,” who didn’t want to “kick the little tot as it crawls up her leg.” Thus does this leadership degrade both women and the Party.

Foster’s “Second Task”

Foster gives as the task of 2nd importance, in “Improving Party Work Among Women,” overcoming “a pronounced reticence in dealing with questions of sex.”

Here, again, he mis-states the case. For they have not, as he says, been “reticent” about “sex,” but have shamelessly used the columns of the Party press to spread bourgeois degeneracy and pornography.

A case in point is an article, bearing a Detroit dateline, in the People’s World, April 13, 1944, and headlined: “Burlesque Artists Quicker on the Strip.” It stated:

The assembly line technique which Detroit gave to the industrial world, has been adopted in reverse by striptease artists, and the city’s three burlesque houses are now offering a routine that averages only 2.8 minutes from come on to finale.

Fastest time clocked was the National Burlesk with three performances averaging 2.3 minutes. Greatest modesty prevailed at the Avenue, where a sparkling little number called Betty Brooks made it in three minutes flat, followed by a second who did it in two. Average 2.5.

The biggest bargain in town on the basis of time was the Empress with four performers averaging 3.5 minutes. However, the house was pretty dark, making an accurate check difficult. . . and so on through twelve column inches, in a three-column spread, on the editorial page.

Why did a paper like the People’s World publish the above writings of a man who could find no better use of his time than to “clock” strip-teasers?

Because for several years a struggle has been going on between the People’s World and many of its readers who protested the paper’s failure to run articles for and about women that would aid them in their struggles with the capitalist exploiters, but, instead, filled its columns with pictures of bathing girls, pin-ups and other forms of “cheesecake,” in typical Hearst fashion.

Publication of the Detroit “story” represented one round in this battle, in which the protesters were obviously handicapped by having the corrupt leaders they were complaining about sort over their letters and run them occasionally, while there were few, if any, days when this daily paper failed to run “cheesecake,” and more often than not an issue contained not one but many such pictures. Here we will merely cite a few examples, to indicate the extent of this struggle that has gone on for several years.


March 18, 1944, less than a month before the publication of the Detroit “story” recording the “clocking of strip teasers” the People’s World published in the “Letters from Readers” column, a letter from E. W., who complained about “the persistent appearance of pin-ups in the PW” and cited the corrupting effect on workers of spreading this bourgeois “art” to the trade unions, saying: “If so-called leg art of women trade unionists is supposed to promote interest in trade unions, why don’t you show leading men trade unionists exhibiting the same leg art?” E. W. also stated: “The PW’s attitude on women and their problems is weak and superficial”; that the paper was “going right along” with the role assigned to women by bourgeois society, and the paper’s “attitude in this matter is a cynical and a politically dangerous one.”


January 20, 1945, The People’s World published a picture with the caption: “Three of the girls who will present an authentic can-can at tonight’s cabaret to be held under the auspices of the Joint Anti-Fascist Committee.” The three pose with skirts raised to their shoulders, and the reader is informed that the “Theme of the floor show will be ’Liberated Paris’, with six extraordinary dancers ...” Thus in a story about the miseries of Spanish Refugees in France, pornography takes up most of the 22 column inches of space (the picture of the three girls with elevated dresses consumes 14 inches of space). Would Foster say that they were “reticent” about sex in this article where pornography got top billing?

May 2, 1945, the People’s World used 16 column inches for a picture showing five film actresses in various stages of undress, with one engaged in the act of stripping, and captioned: “In broad daylight in the backyard of a Beverly Hills mansion, five girls engaged in a game of strip poker, stopping only when they got to their scanties–to the disappointment of a dozen photographers and reporters. It was all for a cause–the United National Clothing Drive to raise 150,000,000 pounds of clothing for devastated areas of liberated countries ...”


April 17, 1946, the People’s World used more than 20 column inches of space to portray three pin-up girls in suggestive poses, headlined: “They’re popular with the GIs.”

May 6, 1946, the PW published a letter signed by Jane Barnes, Oakland, and Harold Renfill, Berkeley, stating: “A paper of the quality of the People’s World is a source of constant disappointment to those of us who are fighting all kinds of chauvinism when it persists in publishing cheesecake photos of movie stars and would-be movie stars, thus compromising with male chauvinism . . .”

May 10,1946, a letter from the Excelsior Club, CP, in the PW, demanded that the paper run articles dealing with the vital problems of women, including child care and the problems of women Party members. The Club declared: “... we do not feel that editors are justified in devoting so much space to cheesecake .... We want REAL human interest stories, not sensationalism. If you wish to show pictures of women, let them be women of accomplishment who are an example to all of us . . . .”


March 20, 1947, the People’s World displays in nearly seven column inches a picture of cheesecake with the title: “Contender for the title of Miss Stardust of 1947.”

September 19, 1947, the People’s World, in a five column spread in almost 25 column inches, illustrated with a drawing of strip-teaser Gypsy Rose Lee, by the PW staff artist, Pele Edises, and photographs of millionaire Howard Hughes and “crooner” Jack Smith, stated, under a Hollywood dateline:

Gypsy Rose Lee, who knows about anatomy... named actor Sonny Tufts, millionaire producer Howard Hughes, and singer Jack Smith as the three Hollywood he-men with what it takes to fascinate her.

In a lengthy wire from New York, which she’ll probably have to take off her clothes in an extra matinee to pay for, Miss Lee complimented the blushing men-about town on their ’charming chassis’.

’We girls’ll have to wait until next summer to see any naked male torsoes’, she complained .... Crooner Smith was the only ’selectee’ willing to comment on Miss Lee’s list of ’best-undressed men’ Last we saw of him he was flexing his ’whachumacallits’ and ordering up a couple off-the-shoulder T-shirts.

Could Foster call this “reticence”?


February 25, 1948, the PW published a letter from “J. W. C, Seattle, Wash.,” which stated:

The People’s World is my only daily. Now, however, I doubt if I clearly understand the paper’s tactics in followed by a period of stormy criticism on the part of the membership. However, the liquidators were able to remain in control of the Party apparatus, and because they continued to carry on their liquidatory practices against both Marxist theory and workers’ organizations a growing number of expulsions followed, of comrades who opposed such wrecking.

Amongst principled Comrades, in and out of the Party, must be found the forces not only to defend Marxism-Leninism and the labor movement but for the defense of women from capitalist oppression, and from the propaganda of the aides of the capitalist class who falsely call themselves Marxists.

What Must Be Done To Improve Party Work Amongst Women

FIRST TASK: Since there can be no sound practice without sound Marxist-Leninist theory, the first task of the Party in improving work amongst women must be to struggle against Landyism and all forms of Marxist revisionism, and for the establishment of a rounded-out, comprehensive Marxist theory on the status of women in society. This struggle must be accompanied, at all times, by a struggle against, and expose of, the oppression of women and workers by the capitalist class, so that those who are working in the movement will have a clear understanding of conditions.

SECOND TASK: Since Communists are not concerned merely with theoretical exercises, but are concerned with theory as a guide to action, and there can be no adequate action of the workers without organization, that allows them to act in unison against their oppressors, the second task, in improving Party work amongst women, is the organizing of “not thousands, but millions of women.”

This will not be done overnight, but it will also not be done in several years, unless we keep this objective before us, and start out with that as our goal. If, instead, we only have some weak, watered-down objective, based not on what can be accomplished if we keep our main objective ever in mind, but erroneously based on a weak objective, because present forces appear inadequate to a strong objective, we will fail.

Before the actual organizing of women begins, the forces who do this work will have to adopt a program in relation to this task of organizing the workers in one form of production: that which produces labor-power. No attempt will be made here to take up point-by-point proposals for such a program (although we will gladly mail to comrades who request it, the April-May, 1946, program issue of our paper, FACTS FOR WOMEN, which gives a rounded-out, comprehensive program for women). However, this writer does wish here to inject a note of caution on two main points, regarding a program for women.

Women’s Congresses, in which women of all classes come together to fight for peace and democracy, for improvement of conditions of women and children, etc., are all very good, but they cannot be the main woman’s organization.

The main woman’s organization, in which “not thousands but millions of women” are organized, must be a labor organization, based on improving the working conditions of the workers in that form of production that produces labor-power.

The necessity of this distinction is seen, if we compare the problem with problems affecting the organization of men wage workers, engaged in general in the other form of production: the production of the material requirements of life. Say, these men wage workers had never been organized into labor unions but had only been brought together into a political organization, comprising men of all classes: liberal members of the bourgeoisie, like Henry Wallace, and others not so liberal, who would make demands for the improvement of the status of wage workers, we can see how harmful is the idea that such an organization could take the place of labor unions.

Labor Power Production Workers must have their own labor union, or organization.

And it must, to be effective, be an independent organization designed primarily to improve the working conditions of its members, and not the conditions of some other workers in [the] other form of production. This is basic to any labor union. Experience has demonstrated that trade union auxiliaries are not the answer to this problem. To attempt to make them such will lead to failure. There are many reasons why. Let us cite a few:

The labor of a labor power production worker is not auxiliary to her husband’s labor in the other form of production. Neither is auxiliary to the other. Both forms of production are inter-dependent parts of total social production.

Also, trade union auxiliaries cannot take independent action; they can only back up something the union has previously acted upon. Workers, should, of course, support their union brothers and sisters, in their struggles with the capitalist class, but if an attempt should be made to make the trade union auxiliaries the main organization of the labor-power production workers, its effects would be similar to that if plumbers, say, were not allowed to have their own independent union, but could only join an auxiliary to the carpentersí union, to help the carpenters get better conditions.

Furthermore, membership in a trade union auxiliary is based on a blood or marriage (sex) relationship, and not on conditions of labor.

In addition it would degrade women, by making them a tail to their menfolks’ kite, in this way: if their menfolks were anti-union, she would automatically be barred from belonging to an organization. Perhaps there would not be a great many such cases, but at least it is a factor.

And the present condition of the trade union movement in this country, its undermining by the corrupt CPUSA leadership, in conjunction with the Murray forces, and helping pass the anti-Communist resolution at the CIO National Convention in 1946, together with the Bill Greenes, Mathew Wolls, Careys, Reuthers, Lewises, etc., would condemn the labor power production workers to a permanent condition of unorganization if the matter had to be first taken up and fought out in such unions.

Through the activities of such an independent labor organization, of the labor power production workers, whose economic demands would generally, in this present setting, also have strong political significance (because they would revolve around the social reorganization of one form of production), its women members would experience the realities of the class struggle. Thus, would they gather political knowledge, and many of them would be drawn into broader political movements and the most advanced into the political vanguard.

Los Angeles, California November, 1949