First Published: In Struggle! No. 219, September 23, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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The women’s movement today plays a very important part in working-class and popular struggles by fighting for women’s specific demands as well as by taking part in the most important working-class struggles.
In the labour movement, the demands of working-class women have become increasingly important and many women’s committees have been set up at all levels in the labour movement. Certain questions like abortion, violence towards women and rape have mobilized broad masses of women: unionized and non-unionized women, unemployed women, housewives, young women, etc. The situation of immigrant women and Native women has also become an important preoccupation of the women’s movement.
Women have also been in the front lines of support to working-class struggles and the fightback against crisis measures. Many women’s groups have adopted very correct positions on a whole series of questions: democratic rights, the rights of minorities and nations in Canada, the struggle against imperialist war and nuclear energy. The struggle against class collaboration in the working-class movement grew among women workers.
The women’s movement which is active in all these struggles has become a real threat for the bourgeoisie and its reformist mouthpieces in the working class. Given all these developments, IN STRUGGLE’S Central Committee evaluated the work of our Organization among women and adopted very important conclusions, in particular regarding our attitude towards the women’s movement.
Although in the past year our work among women and our support for women’s demands have progressed, we have had difficulty making a correct analysis of the women’s movement. Until very recently, we made the error of considering that the women’s movement was dominated by feminism. As a result of this erroneous perception of women’s struggles, we cut ourselves from many women’s groups, held back the development of greater unity with a militant section of the popular forces, and prevented many women active in the movement from being won over to the communist programme.
Along this same line, we made the error in the past of criticizing feminism in the women’s movement instead of condemning first and foremost the bourgeoisie, its discriminatory policies which uphold and sharpen inequality and women s oppression. It is the bourgeoisie who really benefits from women’s oppression and which maintains chauvinism by all means in our society. In society as a whole, chauvinism is a more important factor of division among the people than feminism and it is a real obstacle to the winning over of women to communism and to their active participation in the revolutionary struggle.
The women’s movement, just like the working-class and popular movement, is permeated with various ideological and political tendencies, ranging from reformism to social-democracy, which presently represent a greater danger for the orientation of the women’s movement than feminism. A quick look at the present efforts of the CLC labour bosses to gain control of the women’s movement should be enough to convince us of this.
The decisions of IN STRUGGLE!’s Central Committee do not alter the fact that we consider feminism (when we mean by that an ideology which states that men are the cause of women’s oppression) to be contrary to the interests of the working masses and women themselves. And consequently, we are going to continue criticizing it, but only in relationship to the importance it warrants among the political tendencies present in the women’s movement.
The clarification of our positions on feminism have also led the Central Committee to specify the attitude we should have towards women’s organizations. We consider that it is legitimate that women organize on their own bases to put forward specific demands, to encourage this participation of women in their union and in various important mass struggles. The fact that women meet together within mass struggles. The fact that women meet together within mass organization to defend their rights is not in and of itself an element of division. It is more important to look at the political orientation which these groups adopt. Take the example of the Saskatchewan Working Women Association, a group composed only of working women and women from popular strata. Its work is clearly inserted in the context of the struggles of the working-class movement against the capitalist class and the bourgeois State. Given this orientation, they not only work to have women’s just demands recognized by the working class as a whole, but as a consequence their work consolidates the united struggle of men and women against their common enemy.
The positions adoptd by he Central Committee will have important practical consequences in our work. We will take a much more active part in the women’s movement and we will work, on a much more regular basis, on women’s specific demands. While taking into account the situation in the various regions of the country, we will devote more energy to work among women. At the same time, the fact that our work is more developed in practice should enable us to move forward in the clarification of questions which are still not very clear.