Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bay Area Revolutionary Union

Red Papers 3: Women Fight for Liberation

Liberation Women’s Union

Toward a working-class women’s movement

The year 1968 brought “women’s liberation” into the vocabulary of the protest movement. But since “movement women” were still for the most part not subjected to the kind of exploitation and oppression that working class women know, women’s liberation was in danger of becoming a kind of “liberation” that had little if no relevance for the masses of women in this country. From Berkeley to Palo Alto in the Bay Area there were many small women’s groups, and the emphasis in most of them was on the “women” part of “women’s liberation.”

By the summer of 1969 many of the women in these groups were taking a distinctly anti-male position and talking about a “sisterhood” of women, without taking into account the class differences between women as well as men. The enemy was seen to be “men,” instead of the present system of U. S, imperialism which has carried the oppression and exploitation of women to new extremes and which must be destroyed if women (and men) are ever to achieve real liberation.

Those of us who brought up the fact that at that moment women were being murdered and raped in Vietnam—well, that kind of emphasis was called “following like sheep after the men in the movement.” Many women were trying to convince other women that as women we should withdraw from the movement, form a completely separate movement, “gain perspective on ourselves and the roles we play in our private and public lives,” and relate to other groups in “specifically structured struggles which they ask us to join.”

These other groups were defined as black people, working people, and the peoples of the Third World, with no recognition that half those people—half the blacks, half the working people, half the peoples of the Third World—are women not able to afford the luxury of withdrawing from the struggle until they are ready to return. “We see this day of alliances as very distant,” said one group of women.

To women who are free to do with their time as they please, who have not yet had to deal with extreme poverty, napalm, and/or starvation, this kind of ”women’s liberation” offers a retreat—“free space” was the term used.


Believing that real liberation does not come through a self-indulgent “retreat”, and wanting to make “women’s liberation” mean something to poor and low-income, working and non-working women, women from various groups, including the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, Newsreel, SDS, various other collectives and women’s liberation groups, began to get together to discuss what we could do.

The interest was exciting. All of us realized that there were many women in the Bay Area ready to work toward real liberation. And we chose the name Liberation Women’s Union to emphasize the point that we considered ourselves women primarily interested in the liberation struggle of all people—Liberation Women. We wanted to make it clear that we did not separate the struggle for women’s liberation from the overall liberation struggle but consider the liberation of women as part of the liberation struggle and possible only in the liberation struggle of all people.

We wanted to focus on organizing nonprofessional working women, wives of working men, unemployed women, and women on welfare. And we wanted to set up an alternative to the other kind of “women’s liberation” so that women students would not “retreat,” losing the fighting spirit they have, or be drawn into feminism and criticizing movement men in a counter-revolutionary rather than a revolutionary way.

Meeting weekly, about 25 or 30 of us drew up a program, including:

(1) EQUAL WORK AT EQUAL PAY, with no racial or sexual discrimination in hiring, promotion, or pay scales;
(3) FREE, COMPLETE HEALTH CARE, including maternity care, birth control, and abortions;
(6) CONTROL OVER SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS, police, government, etc;
(7) FREE, EQUAL, AND RELEVANT EDUCATION, with admission open and free to all;
(9) CONTROL OVER PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS, including equal rights for all women and men, married or unmarried, and all children born in or out of marriage;

The LWU was formed before many of us had done much mass work among women. Yet the program has been helpful because its direction is basically correct—basically proletarian. The existence of such a group – even without a mass base – has continued to encourage other women to move in the same direction. Increasing numbers of women in the Bay Area are focusing attention on the real needs of working class women and men and are moving out of their sheltered small discussion groups to on-the-job-organizing and community work.


During a strike at a plant in the Bay area, the LWU was active in arranging baby-sitting for the workers’ wives so they could attend the union meetings, etc. And we worked out a communications system and code for notifying each other about mobilizations at the various strike scenes in the area.

The LWU has held workshops on workplace organizing, organizing in the schools, and organizing child care centers. At the first workshop held last fall, few of us had done enough mass work to be summarized and criticized.

At the most recent one, women from six different areas around the Bay had been involved in organizing child care centers.

And our contacts with each other – with other women sharing common goals – made it possible for the women in the various groups represented in the LWU to get together with women from still other groups and put together the International Women’s Day rally in the Mission District of San Francisco, a rally which emphasized the “liberation” part of women’s liberation. At this rally women from the Black Panther Party, Los Siete de la Raza, United Asian Women, Bay Area high schools, the San Francisco hospital workers’ strike, Newsreel, and the Bay Area Revolutionary Union spoke and sang about proletarian revolution.

It is this kind of direction that the LWU has been able to help develop. It seems clear that it is important to form organizations that bring together women from different groups who are working in the same direction: to organize working class women to combat male supremacy and male chauvinism through concrete action around issues which affect women in particular and through participation in the liberation struggles of all people.