I am writing this letter to urge revolutionary working women to unite with other Marxist-Leninists in Canada, in building and strengthening the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). I, along with many other women, was temporarily diverted from this main task. The last few years were spent participating in the “Women’s Movement”. Women’s Liberation obscures the cause of the forms of social, cultural and economic oppression that women experience. This “movement” keeps women from uniting with their class brothers to overthrow the capitalist system.
Working women are organised on the basis of sex (feminism) instead of being organised on the basis of class. Many independent Marxists, myself included, thought it was possible to work within the Women’s Movement. Last year we organised a 20-week course, a library, a speaker’s bureau, and various other activities. Within this framework we found ourselves, on occasion, leading working women towards reform and separatism. As we gained experience, we formed a socialist study group to combat the capitalist line on women’s liberation. This tended to be an elitist approach and still accepted that feminism was a valid basis for organising around.
Following this feminist line, the Women’s Program Centre supported the film festival entitled Women and Film – 1896-1973 – International Festival. The group that organised this film festival, many of whom make a living as artists and writers, were directly funded by the Secretary of State Department, L.I.P. grants and donations from large corporations. One of the stated aims was to make women aware of the works and history of women filmmakers. These organisers, who were being subsidized through the taxes of Canadian workers, refused to show the film “Salt of the Earth”, because it was not made by a woman. This film describes the heroic struggles of a group of Mexican-American men and women workers, in the early fifties in New Mexico, who resisted the attempts of mine-owning capitalists, cops, scabs, and the courts to smash their strike. However, the festival organisers saw fit to include the films of Leni Reifenstahl, a high-ranking German fascist film propagandist, on the basis that she was a “woman”. Promotional material for this festival actually stated the following “Leni Reifenstahl poses an important question with this film: does unacceptable content nullify a work’s artistic merit?” (The implication being that fascist films, such as Triumph of the Will, can be promoted if they are technically good.) The bourgeoisie and its state arm, the Liberal Party, are quite happy to spend monies from Canadian workers to spread the bourgeois line on art and culture to working women diverted by a movement predicated on sexism.
My refusal to take part in promoting this film festival helped me to realise that continuing to work within the organised women’s movement was no longer acceptable. This does not mean that I no longer consider myself part of the struggles of women workers. It means that it has become clear that the priority is to disassociate from the splitting and dividing practice of feminism and strive to struggle for the emancipation of the entire working class. Working with my husband, who is a railway worker on strike over the last period of time, has helped to point out the tremendous degree of unity and shared sense of struggle that exists among working people. Some of the wives of the other strikers and myself organised a mass picket to reinforce the fact that entire families felt that this was their struggle. The mass picket in front of the express terminal was a great success and it heightened our determination to fight against capitalist exploitation.
Reading PCDN regularly for some months, having discussions with the Party here, and summing up my own experience in the Waffle and the women’s liberation movement has led me to the conclusion that only by Marxist-Leninists uniting to build the Marxist-Leninist Centre in Canada, CPC(M-L), will the struggle for the emancipation of the working class move forward at this time.
(This article first appeared in People’s Canada Daily News, Vol. 3 No. 267, September 6, 1973.)