First Published: The Call, Vol. 3, No. 12, September 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Third National Congress of the October League was held recently in Alabama. In forthcoming issues of The Call, we will present summations of the major decisions of the Congress, beginning with this one on the woman question. Ed.
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The October League views the liberation of women as a major strategic question n making revolution in the world today. Within the women’s movement as well as in the communist movement, both in the U.S. and internationally, the debate over the road of women’s liberation has considerably sharpened over the past year. This has been evidenced by the struggle over International Women’s Day in March, 1975; and by the more recent struggle within the International Women’s Year Conference in Mexico City.
At the Third Congress of the October League the organization adopted a new resolution on the question of women’s emancipation. This resolution is the product of struggle, both inside and outside the October League, against reformism, feminism, and other opportunist theories about the path to women’s liberation.
This resolution, entitled “Women’s Emancipation: The Path and Our Tasks”, restates and sums up the basic Marxist-Leninist principles pertaining to the origins of women’s oppression, citing the early development of private property, and with it, classes, as the source of women’s inferior position.
With the development of modern imperialism, the resolution shows, millions of women were brought into socialized production. “But this in no way eliminated imperialism’s brutal oppression of women; in fact, this has only intensified it. While millions of women have joined the ranks of the proletariat, over half are still excluded from production.” The resolution points out that while imperialism oppresses women, it also “creates the conditions which impel millions of people, including women, into the struggle for socialism.”
The document details the oppression and exploitation of women in the U.S., including the double job of domestic labor and child care which faces the working women, and the triple oppression of minority women. “While production and trade are now organized on a massive, world-wide scale, the isolation of domestic slavery has been preserved. The vast majority of women collectively spend millions of hours a day performing unpaid labor in the home.
Because it is only the capitalist class which materially benefits from the oppression of women, real equality for women can be attained only by smashing the system of exploitation of private property. The October League views women’s liberation as a component part of working class revolution, not as a goal which can be reached through legal reforms within the system, or through “alternative life styles.” Instead, the capitalist dictatorship must be replaced by a dictatorship of the proletariat, which besides giving women full equality under the law, will make other changes which will make possible real equality for the first time, such as the socialization of household labor and child care.
The resolution sums up the two-fold strategic importance of the woman question: “(1) the emancipation of women cannot be attained apart from proletarian revolution,” and “(2) it is a decisive question of mobilizing a potential one-half of the working class and national liberation movements, which together constitute the core of our strategic united front against imperialism.”
In order to maintain the inferior position of women, the ideology of male chauvinism is one of the main weapons in the capitalist arsenal. “Accompanying the historical development of women’s oppression, an ideology was developed to explain and maintain this state of affairs...Male chauvinism is the ideology that men are superior to women, manifested in such notions as: ’women’s place is in the home,’ women are ’passive’ and ’weak’, women were ’created to serve men,’ etc. Male chauvinism is promoted, not by men in general, but by the ruling class: economically, politically and culturally, through tire job market, the laws, degrading advertising and pornography. Only a resolute struggle against male chauvinism in our ranks and among the masses will enable us to mobilize women and unite the working class and national movements.”
The resolution also criticizes the theory of feminism, which views men or male chauvinism, rather than the capitalist system, as the source of women’s inequality. “Feminism,” it explains, “confines itself in practice to reformism, taking the form of campaigns along legalistic lines or promoting cultural ’alternatives,’ including the promotion of homosexuality as an ’alternative’ to relations between men and women. Feminism unites with the reactionary theory of neo-Malthusianism, an anti-children, anti-family attitude which places the blame for poverty and unemployment on overpopulation, rather than upon imperialism.”
While women of all classes are affected by discrimination to one degree or another, the resolution warns against “simply raising the question of equality in general without at the same time placing the question of class struggle in the forefront.” The movement for women’s democratic rights must be led by the working class. In order to really be a force for revolution, the movement for women’s equality must speak for the 90% of the women who are workers and members of oppressed nationalities, who are subject to the most severe discrimination and oppression.
It must be recognized that the enemy of the movement is the imperialist ruling class which is comprised of both men and women. Therefore, says the resolution, “it would be erroneous to conclude that women of the imperialist class have more in common with the masses of toiling women than with their own class.”
Among other questions taken up in depth in this document are the relationship between the woman question and the national question, the particular role of minority women within the U.S. struggle, and the role of the family.
Citing the economic and political stresses placed upon the working class and minority family under imperialism, the resolution calls for the defense and strengthening of the working class family, against imperialist attacks–such as the welfare system, forced sterilizations, the prison system and police repression.
While defending the attacks against women and the family inside the U.S., the resolution also levels sharp criticism at the “new tsars” of the USSR for “trying to push women back into the dark ages of social isolation and passivity,”
In addition to the adoption of major programs on women in the fight-back campaign, in the fight against fascism, the O.L. adopted a general program of mass work for women’s equality and class unity. “It is not enough for the communists to issue abstract calls for socialism in response to the immediate problems of women. We must put forward a concrete revolutionary program-combining the struggle for socialism with women’s concrete demands and needs. It must be a program that successfully fights for reforms in a revolutionary way by linking the day-to-day struggle of women to the final aims of women’s emancipation and socialism. The program must center on the oppression of the working class, minority and poor women.”
The document exposes the superpower calls for “detente” and other schemes to impose upon the women’s movement a line of pacifism, or otherwise divorce it from the general anti-imperialist struggle. It shows the incompatibility between socialism and feminism.
The demands raised in these campaigns are directed not only at women, but also at winning men workers to the cause of women’s rights.
Some of the major campaigns of the O.L. program include:
*JOBS OR INCOME NOW! JOBS, NOT WAR!
*EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK, ON THE JOB PROTECTION, FULLY PAID MATERNITY LEAVE
*ORGANIZING THE UNORGANIZED. The resolution noted that only 12% of all working women today are in the trade unions.
*JOBS OR INCOME BASED ON SPECIAL SENIORITY RIGHTS, for the millions of women kept down or out of work due to discrimination.
*ADEQUATE WELFARE AND SOCIAL PFOTECTION including FREE HEALTH CARE FOR WELFARE RECIPIENTS, AND AN END TO RACISM AND HARRASSMENT FROM THE WELFARE DEPARTMENT
*FREE CHILD CARE FOR ALL WORKING WOMEN
*AN END TO FORCED STERILIZATIONS–ESPECIALLY OF NATIONAL MINORITY WOMEN–an integral part of the fight against the fascist threat as well as for women’s liberation.
*THE RIGHT TO FREE SAFE ABORTIONS
*FIGHT FOR PASSAGE OF THE EQUAL RIGHTS AMENDMENT (E.R.A.)
*CELEBRATE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, MARCH 8, AS A SOCIALIST, ANTI-IMPERIALIST, AND WORKING CLASS HOLIDAY