First Published: In Struggle! No. 270, November 3, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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I am a working-class woman who is a sympathiser with the group. I used to be a member, but left the group shortly after the birth of my child 21/2 years ago. I left because I couldn’t continue to work at that level and raise my child properly. I couldn’t do both because of activism and chauvinism within the group (although at the time I thought I was just not good enough to handle both).
The recent articles concerning women in the organization have helped me a lot in analysing my past and present experiences with the group. The article on the Quebec women’s conference was quite good. I understood, from my own experience, what those women were talking about. I think its really positive that women are finally talking about all of their experiences. I should say I’m quite a cynical person, especially in relation to the organisation and its ability to change.
However, the proposal coming out of that meeting, i.e, that women in the organization have a separate leadership and structure is more cynical than even I could come up with. These women are honest about all of the problems they’ve had/are having, so why don’t they take their proposal to its logical conclusion? I consider the proposal should actually state that in fact, women should have a separate organization, should leave IN STRUGGLE!, because in fact that would be the result of such a proposal.
How could we possibly have two leaderships, two centres, and be one organization? I still hold to the idea of a vanguard party, that is organized under democratic centralism, that has a single center of leadership. And while I agree that we are not currently in a revolutionary situation, we will be someday. And we have to prepare for that war by organizing now.
If, as the Quebec women propose, we disband what now is in place, how do they propose to win “the final conflict”? If this is a proposal that will work for them, why not others in the group? I could propose that mothers have a separate structure, because we suffer an oppression that childless women don’t understand and don’t deal with. My experience is that some women in the organization are less understanding and sympathetic about my concerns as a parent than a lot of men are or were.
The point I’m trying to make is that we should not organize ourselves along lines of sex, because it isn’t a given that all men are chauvinist (although most are) and all women are “sisters”. We have to continue to struggle with men and women alike to see and overcome chauvinism. If we were to organize separate structures for women, that could be, for me, a statement that men can’t change, that it’s not worth the time to struggle with them. The proposal to have separate structures is extremely impatient. Remember that the lid was blown off this “can of worms” only last March. Only seven months ago. While its true women have been subject to oppression within the group for seven or eight years, it hasn’t been that long since we’ve understood, stood up, and gotten angry.
The anger is justified! But to throw up our arms in despair after only seven months seems to me to be quite premature. The consequences of such action is clear to me. The working class in Canada (men, women) would be cheated of any hope, or leadership, because concretly IN STRUGGLE! would no longer exist. We’d no longer have any organization in Canada that truly fights for socialism.
One last thing. The proposal for separate structures comes from Quebec. I have talked to women in Vancouver about it, women who have always considered themselves feminists, whose roots are in the women’s movement in B.C. These women range from cadre and sympathisers to women who only read the paper and are almost [MIA Note: missing sentence] Not one of them agrees with such a proposal. Why is it that a conference of women in Quebec proposes this, and at the other end of the country, a supporter for such a proposal is hard to come by?
I think it would be extremely useful if women in the group nationally would set up a dialogue. I’d be very interested in reading about the results.
A concerned Vancouver sympathiser