Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Work in the Factories

A Report on the Atlanta Conference

Organize the Women!

Communists have to pay special attention both to fighting for women’s equality and to drawing the masses of working women into the class struggle.

Women workers are doubly oppressed in capitalist society. They are severely exploited in the lowest-paying jobs, are used as a reserve labor force to swell the ranks of the unemployed and welfare roles as well as being denied their democratic rights which every person is supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution.

Therefore, we must raise the banner of equal rights for women and be the staunchest defenders of women’s rights and fight especially for the demands that meet the needs of the great majority of women, the working women. In this way, we can forge unity between the masses of oppressed women and the general movement of the working class as a whole.

The workshop reached agreement on several such demands which can be brought into the upcoming struggles in labor in 1973:
1) Equal pay for equal work!
2) Equal job opportunity for all women!
3) 24-hour, free child-care centers which provide decent care for the children of all working families!
4) An end to forced labor legislation so called “welfare reform”–designed to use welfare mothers as semi-slave labor and strike-breakers.
5) An end to legalized, forced prostitution!
6) Special protective legislation against heavy lifting and dangerous work; convenient rest room facilities: proper ventilation and lighting where women work.
7) Paid pregnancy leaves!

We oppose the method of struggle used by the union bureaucrats when they half-heartedly take up demands for equal employment and other reforms exclusively through the courts and the legal complex. In this way they forget mass struggle and rely on the mercy of the capitalists. The women’s movement is an important component part of the anti-imperialist united front and the women must be mobilized in militant struggle.

The working women are also opposed to narrow feminism which directs its main blow against the men workers, against men in general or against the family. The struggle for women’s rights must be taken up by the men because it is in their class interests, not out of some abstract sense of bourgeois morality. Both organizations of men and women as well as all-women’s organizations are necessary, depending upon the concrete conditions in each factory or community.

Where and how should we take up the struggle for the rights of women? In the daily struggles in the plant as well as in strikes we should educate the workers against male chauvinism and about the role of the women in the class struggle. We should also ally with the women’s movement outside the plant whenever this will strengthen the fight. The shop newspapers are an important place to take up the women’s struggle, especially in plants where only male workers are employed. This type of shop-paper has been badly lacking.

The special need for the male comrades to work among the men and bring up their level while combating male chauvinism must be stressed, In the fight against male chauvinism, it is important to place the blame where it belongs on the capitalists who initiate it and who profit from it. One example of this was the breaking of a strike by forcing men and women apart at lunch time. There were no adequate lunch facilities and both men and women were forced to eat in locker rooms. When decisions had to be made about the course of the strike, the capitalists used their agents in the union to spread male chauvinist ideas, exclude the women from the decision-making at lunch time and thereby weaken any strike effort. The strike was then easily defeated.

Women under capitalism, are drawn into production and into the working class struggle which advances that struggle. However, under this system, work in production means that women are saddled with two jobs in the factory and in the home as household laborers. Although the struggle must be centered on the factories, it must also be carried into the community and into the home. Women are isolated from the struggle otherwise, with the daily drudgery of household labor. The fight for equality in family life, child-care and decent working hours as well as an end to forced overtime are issues which must be raised in the community as well as in the plant.

Finally we recognize that imperialism is the greatest enemy of women everywhere and that equality for women means the destruction of the whole system of imperialism. In this struggle, the fight for unity is the key to victory. Examples have been given of the attempts by some to use the women’s movement to divide the anti-imperialist struggle, especially the organizations of national minorities, along the lines of men and women. The woman question should be a weapon for uniting the people not dividing them. Minority women are the most oppressed people under imperialism and therefore have the greatest interest in forging unity to defeat imperialism.

In summary, the workshop of “Work with Women Workers” stressed that the “woman question is a class question” and the fight for women’s rights is a vital part of the workers’ movement and the peoples’ struggle against imperialism.

(A report on the conference workshop on “Work with Women Workers”)