Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Black Workers Congress

The Black Liberation Struggle, the Black Workers Congress, and Proletarian Revolution

The Woman Question

The great upsurge of class struggle ignited by the thunderbolt of Black revolution in the U.S. during the sixties, gave rise to, among other things, a resurgent women’s liberation struggle. Masses of women surged forward in tremendous numbers taking to the streets, the schools, the communities and workplaces, demanding an end to the shameful oppression and exploitation of women in U.S. society. Since then, with every year the significance of the part played by women in the anti-imperialist movement increases.

Moreover, the increasingly important role women are playing at the point of production and in the working class generally, makes a working class analysis of the woman question an immediate political necessity.

The Role and Position of Women in Imperialist America

As we already know, the capitalist system is a society divided into antagonistic classes-the proletarians, those who work and have little or nothing-and the capitalists, those who do not work and have everything. The capitalist class is the ruling class, the exploiting class. Not only men, but women too are part of the capitalist class – some women have billions invested in factories which exploit masses of workers, others have numerous servants who wait on them hand and foot while they wine and dine on the international jet-set. Again the basic division of U.S. society is a class division, not women against men. The women question, is therefore, a class question.

But women, no matter what class they belong to, do not have the same rights as men in imperialist America. They have a special oppression – economic, social and political, which is a result of the historical evolution of class society and the system of private property:

The downfall of maternal law was the historic defeat of the female sex. The men seized the reins also in the house, the women were stripped of their dignity, enslaved, tools of men’s lust and mere machines for the regeneration of children. (Engels – Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State).

Thus for literally thousands of years, women have been virtually domestic slaves!

The development of capitalist society, despite all the phrasemongering about the “equality of all”, did not change the basic position of women, the position of being subordinate to men. Women, who in communal and feudal society were the slaves of their husbands in the family and home, become in addition to this, under capitalism, the wage-slaves of capitalist in industry! Though “granted” equality under the “law”, in real life the role and position of the masses of women in capitalist society is a shame. The working class woman is oppressed not only by capital, but by the despicable and hypocritical inequality of marital and family rights, inequality in relation to the husband and children while being condemned to the humiliating atmosphere of the kitchen and the nursery.

According to 1971 statistics, women constituted 55.7% of the population and 40 % of the workforce in the U.S. This broke down to 16.4% of the industrial proletariat (“blue collar workers”), 23.7% service workers, 57.1% of office and government personnel, and 2.7 and a half farm laborers. 3 out 10 women who work year round receive less than $3,000 a year! In steel, aluminum and auto, women make up a significant % of the workforce. In the electrical and toy manufacturing industries the percentage is even higher. At the same time working women are dong the work of “men”, they are being paid far less – 60% less according to some sources. Some of this is due to the fact that much of the woman workforce is unorganized, but in the main it’s just plain super-exploitation. As with the Black workforce, the difference in the wages between men and women workers, equal more super profits for the imperialist!

Black Women

Since slavery, Black women have been the most downtrodden, and in many ways the most exploited group in the U.S. Not only are they exploited as wage-slaves, but also as members of an oppressed nation and race, and what’s more, as members of the oppressed sex!

Though Black women, who because of the special oppression of the Black male worker, has always been forced to work more than white women, the unemployment rate for them is near 30% – second only to the unemployment rate of black and Puerto-Rican teenagers!

Black women and women from other oppressed nationalities, also bear the double burden and the dual role of being both mother and wage-earner – 30% of all families in the Black Nation are headed by black women. Because of ’unbearable oppression and poverty, many Black women are forced to go on “welfare” instead of working and even in addition to working. They are forced by lack of free and adequate child care centers to stay at home even whey they could be working. Most however, are forced to do both – slave on the job and then slave at home doing unpaid housework, laundry, shopping, cooking, etc. etc. In spite of this incredible reality, from very early in life, black women like all women, are taught that they must live under the protection of men-that men are superior and they are inferior. They are taught to believe that their place is in the home, waiting on their husbands and children day and night! And silly black buffoons like Immamu Baraka have the nerve to say to black women – “stand behind your black warriors, you should be seen and not heard”.

That is why it has been no accident that black women have been found in the lead of every great revolutionary upsurge in imperialist America – from Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth, to Maggie Jones, the organizer of the largest Unemployment Councils in the State of Ohio during the thirties, to Rosa Parks, whose defiance and courage ignited the revolutionary flames of the modern black liberation struggle. As for today, we need only to look at the militant struggles black women have been spearheading in the health and hospital industries, garments, and textiles, housing struggles and rent strikes, struggles inside the school system, for community control and day-care, you name it, black women are there, militant, black, proletarian and proud!

Problems of the Women’s Movement

Scared to death at the mass upsurge of the women’s struggle, the bourgeoisie has made every effort to prevent black and working class women from joining, arousing and leading the so-called “Women’s Lib Movement”. They have used every conceivable maneuver to keep militant black and proletarian women alienated from this general women’s struggle even to the point of sending their own wives to “lead” this struggle away from the revolutionary anti-imperialist movement as a whole. The so-called “Women’s Lib” movement has been thoroughly co-opted by bourgeois and petty bourgeois “feminist” forces, who have diverted the just struggle against women’s oppression into channels favorable to the preservation of imperialism. Represented by some bourgeois organizations they run the absurd line that “men” rather than capitalism are the problem of women. Though trying to give the appearance of leading the women’s movement, for example by getting the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) through Congress, most of their activity is completely frivolous and don’t in the least appeal to the masses of working class and black women. Under the guise of this “Equal Rights Amendment” all the protective labor legislation won by hard and bitter struggle of women over the years, would be destroyed! Attached to this bill would be Nixon’s infamous “Workfare” legislation, a bill designed to make welfare mothers practically slaves by making them work to get their “welfare” checks. This bill of course, is also aimed at the wages of the whole working class by increasing competition in the labor-market, and exacerbating the already deep divisions between the white and black/male and female sections of the working class.

One reason these bourgeois and petty bourgeois (“radical Lesbians”, etc.) forces were able to take the lead of the women’s movement has been the revisionist betrayal of the CPUSA which has left the working class in a confused state and unable to give firm proletarian direction and leadership to the united front against imperialism of which the women’s movement is a key part. As a result many women feel that communist neglect the specific interests of women for “pure proletarian class struggle”, and tolerate all forms of male chauvinism within their ranks. Again genuine communists cannot be confused with the cowards and opportunists of the CPUSA, who are no more defenders of the interests of women than they are defenders of the interests of black people or the proletariat as a whole. But a word must be said about male chauvinism.

Male chauvinism is the insane ideology of the imperialist ruling class who have a material stake in the oppression of women. Unfortunately, this ideology has penetrated into the ranks of the working class male population as well and as a result seriously hinders the development of the proletarian revolution, and emancipation of the oppressed nationalities. How can male proletarians and revolutionaries expect the support of women if they continue to hold them in contempt, amuse and abuse them? If they continue to see women only as sex objects to be used for their sexual pleasure? When we say the woman question is a class question, more specifically a proletarian class question, we mean, among other things, that anyone who seeks to dominate and oppress women, seeks to keep the masses of proletarians wage-slaves, whether they know it or not. One cannot be a proletarian in other things while keeping a bourgeois class stand on the woman question – our proletarian line will never become consolidated nor the proletarian revolution be victorious as long as male comrades maintain a chauvinist stand toward women. This goes equally for black and white communist, male comrades of all strata and hue. To neglect the woman question, especially in deed, is to neglect one of the most oppressed and revolutionary sections of the revolutionary movement.

Political Task of the Women’s Movement

The Women’s struggle for emancipation and liberation is part of the mass anti-imperialist struggle of the American people! Only under socialism and through proletarian revolution can women achieve genuine emancipation and equality. This is so because the oppression of women is tied to the exploitation inherent in the capitalist system, a system which knows only the “freedom” of the market place, the ”freedom” to plunder others, the “freedom” to dominate and exploit other nations, peoples, races and sexes. The revolutionary struggle of the proletariat on the other hand, can only be achieved if the wide masses of working women – Black and white – consciously, determinedly and self-sacrificingly join hands with men in the struggle. The Women’s struggle for emancipation and liberation today, however, must first and foremost be linked to the struggle to build a genuine Communist Party.

Communists, especially women communists, must join in, arouse and begin to lead the women’s liberation movement with the aim of linking it to the mass anti-imperialist movement as a whole under the leadership of the proletariat. We must do this by fighting for a proletarian line on the woman’s question and combating the reactionary bourgeois “feminists” and petty bourgeois radical ideological influences within the women’s movement. Communists must begin to show, in word and deed, that they are the most staunch fighters for the rights of women by leading their day-to-day struggles: for equal pay, equal work, equal training, upgrading and seniority on the job, correct safeguards for the health and safety of women workers, maternal benefits and child care facilities, full equality for Black and other oppressed nationality women, etc., etc., while at the same time showing women that only real freedom can come under socialism and through proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Communists must definitely take the lead in training and promoting women in their organizations and developing theoretical as well as mass political leaders among them. Emphasis must be laid on the continued development of women cadres, while keeping in mind and solving practical problems of the home and family which may hinder this.