Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter of Apology from Roxanne Dunbar

First Published: Ain’t I A Woman, Vol. 1, Issue 10, December 11, 1970.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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New Orleans, La.
November 18, 1970


We want to apologize and criticize ourselves for distributing the material from “Red Women’s Detachment” in New York. Our decision to distribute that material to some of our sisters came in the wake of our having discovered an information gatherer working with us, coming to mistrust our own sense of things. We thought we had to treat our “liberalism.” Some of the doubts we had about GLF, women’s liberation, and our disgust with the roles of SWP-YSA and NOW in the Women’s movement were expressed in the RWD papers. Our mistake was to not trust our own ability to express what we had observed. Rather we took, whole and uninvestigated, papers from an unknown group. Also there was a great deal in the papers that we did not agree with, particularly the tone. For this we severely criticize ourselves. Since that time we have found out that the organization (RWD) is actually only two people, and the papers do not grow from or reflect practice.

There is much to say about our deeper understanding, which would require a long paper, and this is meant to be a letter. The principle of our new thinking is about faith in the people. I realize that I lacked such faith in thinking people had to be pinned against the wall to raise their political consciousness. But the lack of faith is also reflected in a fear of struggling with sisters and brothers. I think most of us have been unwilling to trust our political judgment and growth, and to enter into discussions with people, committed to learn. Too often we are defensive with revolutionary and potentially revolutionary comrades.

Furthermore, since the summer, we have thought a great deal about the questions we had which led us to distribute the papers. Also, two of us went to Cuba on the Venceremos Brigade, and there we struggled over the questions we had with other women, white and third world, and with men, white, third-world, and gay, as well as the Cubans.

Yet I am convinced that the revolutionary love that is necessary for our long struggle will only be born of our growing struggles, not our wishes. That is what I learned in Cuba: unity and love come from struggle, and such struggle must be continual for unity and love to subsist.

What we must now commit ourselves to is the struggle. We must build a base among women – the working women, mothers, young girls– not just our educated sisters. We must analyze our conditions, learn about struggles all over the world, develop a strategy in relation to the total revolutionary movement. We must decide on priorities. If we cannot accept the necessity for priorities, we cannot be serious about change. Whether or not there should be a women’s movement, whether or not there must be female leadership, whether or not revolutionary men must be clear on “the woman question,” there is no question of priorities. Women’s involvement and consciousness and growing vanguard role in the movement is an irreversible fact. No, by priorities I mean: Who will we organize among, since we cannot organize everywhere? What are our demands? How much can we satisfy personal needs before the revolution such as the kind of relations with men and children we project, life-style, skills, etc., and what do we have to sacrifice in order to build a revolutionary movement and win?

More than anything, in Cuba, I was humbled by learning the necessity for sacrifice and hard work; how serious and long-term (all our lives) is our task. We learned this from the Cubans as well as the Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Africans, Latin Americans. In our rebellion against woman’s traditional role, we have tended to scoff at the virtue of sacrifice, which has been forced upon women and other oppressed peoples. But sacrifice is one of the basic necessities in a revolutionary struggle, for a vanguard force, and is a virtue we should transform from its present bourgeois setting, which keeps people down, to a revolutionary perspective. Let us not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Power to the sisters,

Roxanne Dunbar