Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Women and Party Building

First Published: Class Struggle, No. 1, Spring 1975.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

Publisher’s Note: This article is reprinted from the February, 1975 issue of The Call.

* * *

As International Women’s Day, 1975, approaches, it is essential that we grasp the full importance of the struggle for the liberation of women and see how it is linked with the overall struggle for socialism and with our efforts to build a new communist party.

As V.I. Lenin wrote: “real freedom for women is possible only through communism.” Only the end of society based upon private property and the victory of socialism creates the conditions for an end to the historic sexual division of labor. It was this division as it arose with the rise of class society, which led to thousands of years of oppression for half of society–the women.

The development of capitalism into its highest stage, imperialism, has greatly intensified the oppression and enslavement of women while at the same time, bringing thousands of women into industry as workers. This has in some Ways, created the basis for them to fight, in unity with the class struggle for socialism, for a final end to their own oppression.

Capitalism has served to heighten the struggle for women’s freedom and increase the strategic importance of women as a part of the overall revolutionary struggle. Lenin put it this way: “There can be no socialist revolution, unless a vast section of the toiling women takes an important part in it.”

Of course, there can be no more important part for women in the revolutionary movement than that of being a member of a communist organization, such as the October League, and a member of the new communist party that is being forged out of the present communist forces.

A new party, when it is built, will provide a great push forward for the struggle of women around the country. This party must have the full participation of thousands of revolutionary fighters from among the women. They must be won to take part as equals in the struggle, including roles in positions of leadership and responsibility. But history has shown that that this can only occur when the communists put forth a revolutionary position in theory and in practice on the woman question and take a lead in the struggle for women’s rights. The communist organization must also wage within its own ranks, a consistent fight against all inequality and chauvinism towards women. This chauvinism represents the ideology of the capitalist class and must find no fertile soil to grow in within our ranks.

The communist movement must also set a militant example as fighters for the emancipation of women in both their personal and political conduct.

How can these general guidelines be put into practice in party building? First, there must be the recognition of the strategic importance of the woman question within the revolutionary struggle. Secondly, our work among the masses of women, especially among working and minority women, must be intensified.

The woman question is a question of making revolution and in the final analysis, it is a question of class struggle. Because capitalism has been unable to offer any real solutions to the needs of the masses of women, the fight for women’s freedom has become integrally bound up with the struggle for socialism.

J.V. Stalin pointed out that the “first task of the proletariat and its advanced detachment, the Communist Party, is to engage in decisive struggle for the freeing of women workers and peasants from the influence of the bourgeoisie, for political education and the organization of women workers and peasants beneath the banner of the proletariat.” He added that, “International Woman’s Day is a means of winning the women’s labor reserves to the side of the proletariat.”

In order to carry out this work effectively, the special needs of women must be considered and made part of our revolutionary program of struggle. There are some so-called “communists” and “socialists” today who refuse to raise the special demands and needs of the women for fear that these demands will supposedly split the working class struggle.


It is not enough for the communists to issue abstract calls for socialism, as these groups do, in response to the immediate demands and needs of the women. If such a policy is carried out, the leading women fighters will be driven away from the ranks of the Party. Lenin always stressed the need to combine the struggle for socialism with the concrete demands for the needs of the women. He explained the need to bring forward socialism and the seizure of power by the working class. Without this dictatorship of the working class over the capitalists, he said, the REAL equality between men and women was impossible. But, he said, “The women of the working class will not feel irresistably driven into sharing our struggles for the state power if we only and always put forward that one demand, though it were the trumpets of Jericho. No, no! The women must be made conscious of the political connection between our demands and their own suffering, needs and wishes.” (Clara Zetkin, Lenin and the Woman Question)

This struggle for the rights and needs of women must include the demands and be based on the struggle of 90 per cent of women, and not just on the few from the upper classes and professionals. They must speak to the oppression of primarily the working class, minority and poor women. This program must speak to:

*an end to the forced sterilizations, especially of minority women, which have been used as part of a genocidal and fascist attack against the struggles for national liberation.
*the right to free, safe abortions.
*equal pay for equal work as well as on-the-job protection, including fully paid maternity leave.
*free child-care for all working women.
*adequate welfare and social protection, including free health care for welfare women, free from harassment and racism by the welfare department.
*jobs or income based upon super-seniority for the millions of women kept down or out of work because of discrimination.
*organizing the unorganized which is essential if women workers, most of whom are unorganized are to play a significant role in the class struggle. Organizing the masses of unorganized women in sweat shops, mills and factories will raise the conditions of all workers as well as their capacity to fight.

These demands must become especially sharp in this period of depression, where all the gains won in the past years in getting women into basic industry are being taken away. Women and minorities are the last hired and first fired. Our demands, while speaking mainly to the needs of the great majority of women, the working and minority women (who suffer triple oppression as workers, minorities and women) are not limited to them. We also take up the fight against all forms of oppression of women, including women from the propertied classes. Our efforts are aimed at building a united movement for women’s freedom, led by the working class and united with the general struggle of the working class.


Our work for the passage of legislation, like the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) reflects this line. The ERA makes all forms of discrimination in hiring, promotion and other fields illegal in the professions, factories and social life in general. However, formal equality is one thing–real equality something else. As long as there is a small class of people who own the means of production and exploit the masses in their millions, real oppression cannot be ended. The ERA is a reform that can only be won as a by-product of the revolutionary struggle for women’s freedom and socialism. If not, it will be turned around against the people by the capitalists. Along with the fight for the passage of the ERA must come a struggle to protect the hard-won gains in the area of protective legislation for women.

The communist program must also strike out at imperialist war and fascism, two of the main enemies of women, as well as in defense of the working class family in general. The capitalist system of exploitation, especially in times of economic crisis such as these, strikes viciously at the working class family. I The capitalists attempt to destroy the family through war, the welfare system, forced deportations and increased brutality towards women and children. The system’s impoverishment of the masses leads to a rising rate of crime and violence which hits directly at women. Its fascist culture is aimed at undermining the ideals and principles of the working class and working class morality and attacking them with decadence and degeneracy. Speaking of the fascist danger, the great communist and anti-fascist leader G. Dimitroff said:

Fascism, posing as a benefactor, throws the starving family a few beggarly scraps trying in this way to stifle the bitterness aroused, particularly among the toiling women, by the unprecedented slavery which fascism brings them. It drives working women out of industry, forcibly ships needy girls to the country, reducing them to the position of unpaid servants of rich farmers and landlords. While promising women a happy home and family life, it drives women to prostitution like no other capitalist regime. (The United Front Against War and Fascism)

The growing struggle against the threat of a new war and increased fascist repression provides us with a chance to take up the woman question in practice and win large numbers of women to the cause of revolution and into the new party.

But work among the masses of women and recruiting women to the Party is not enough. The Party must be organized and able to train and educate women once they come in and be organized to take up the mass struggle for women’s rights and equality and give leadership.

The Marxist-Leninist party does not organize women into separate groups within it and does not have separate “women’s caucuses” which might be found in unions or mass organizations. The Party is a vanguard organization in which every member, man and woman, must unite and fight together as a single group. “A woman Communist,” said Lenin, “is a member of the party just as a man Communist, with equal rights and duties.” (Zetkin)


However, working groups and bodies, such as commissions and committees must be established to oversee the work among women, and particularly among the minority and working women and to bring the party closer to them. The Women’s Commission of the October League also has the duty of seeing that those women brought into the OL are trained in Marxism-Leninism and equipped for their role in the struggle. All forms of discrimination and chauvinism against women and minority comrades must be opposed by the entire membership, and the Women’s Commission must oversee this fight.

Furthermore, the Party can only become the vanguard of the women’s struggle when the men as well as women comrades are armed with the most advanced and scientifically correct theory on the woman question. This must combine the study of the teachings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Tsetung with the concrete conditions of the U.S. today. This is a weakness of our movement. Very little theoretical work has been done to push forward our work for women’s liberation.

We must train theoreticians from among the women as well as the men to advance the science of Marxism on the woman question. More articles on the question must appear in the revolutionary press. There are some organizations in the young communist movement that have in fact, never written anything on the woman question, either in their newspapers or theoretical journals. With this neglect of theory (evidenced especially in the work of some of the groups who most dogmatically scream about the absence in the movement of revolutionary theory) how can revolutionary work among women be carried out?


It is also necessary that our party-building work take into account the special needs of women if they are to participate fully in revolutionary activity. This means attention must be paid to child-raising and child-care so that women can attend meetings and activities as well as being able to spend time with their children. Women who are not as politically advanced as their husbands must be carefully and patiently worked with and brought into the struggle. With political education, these women often advance ahead of their husbands. In other cases, special work must be done with the men whose wives are politically active. Special emphasis must be placed on the fight against male chauvinism within the ranks of the movement. This is the main roadblock to the participation of large numbers of women in our organizations.

Special work must be done in our cadre schools and work conferences to see that women attend in great numbers and that special organizational meetings are called on carrying out women’s work. Especially important is the training of Afro-American, Chicana, Puerto Rican, Asian and other minority women. It is the training and development of these women as leaders of the revolutionary movement which will bring the party closer to the most oppressed sections of the masses.

In our mass work among women there is the need for special forms of agitation as well as organization. These special forms of organization, such as mass women’s rights organizations, union committees and women’s caucuses are necessary to bring the masses of women, often kept out of the mainstream of political activity in this society, into the struggle. CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women) is one important example of such a special form of organization which communists should do work in. Lenin, referring to such special forms of organization for women said, “That is not feminism, that is practical revolutionary expediency ...” (Zetkin)

In furthering the struggle for women’s rights, special attention must be paid to organizing the unorganized. Only 12% of working women belong to any trade unions at all, and this is one of the chief factors allowing for the miserable wages and working conditions which millions of women face.

Party building among women also means a consistent ideological struggle against all forms of opportunism on the woman question. All groups and parties who sacrifice the interests of women must be exposed. Starting with the liberal imperialists who come out in word against “male chauvinism” with their sickening and patronizing attitude towards the women’s movement, but whose very existence is based upon the suffering and oppression of women; and down to the various revisionist and ultra-“left” groups who try to separate the women’s struggle from the general class struggle for socialism–we must expose these phony “liberationists.”

Lenin always exposed the phony “socialists” and democrats who took a chauvinist stand towards the real fight for women’s rights. He called on the workers and peasants to:

Tear the masks from the faces of these liars ... Ask them:
Equality between what sex and what other sex?
Between what nation and what other nation?
Between what class and what other class?
Freedom from what yoke, or from the yoke of what class? Freedom for what class?
Whoever speaks of politics, of democracy, of liberty, of equality, of socialism and does not at the same time ask these questions ... is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, is a bitter opponent of the workers and peasants, is a servant of the landlords, tsars, capitalists. (Women and Society)


The main “wolf in sheep’s clothing” is the revisionist Communist Party, USA. While calling themselves “communists” these liars preach that women can be free apart from revolutionary struggle and the dictatorship of the working class. They claim that simply through legalities and petitioning the government and other forms of “legal” struggle, the liberation of women can be won. They confine the women’s struggle simply to the most narrow reforms and refuse to support the mass struggle of women for political rights, such as the ERA. Their program devotes only a few sentences to the woman question under “Allies Against Monopoly,” while never discussing how these “allies” can become part of the revolutionary struggle for socialism. The revisionists of the CPUSA are joined in their male chauvinist line by the various ultra-“left” and Trotskyist groups who try to drive a wedge between the women’s struggle and the class struggle from the “left.” These organizations, including the RU and CL, liquidate the woman question and put the struggle off until “after socialism.” With this kind of an approach, we will never get to socialism. They also serve to alienate the masses of women from the communist movement and keep communists isolated from the women’s movement. A good example of this was the boycott and attempted sabotage by these groups of last year’s International Women’s Day march in Chicago, the largest march of its kind in the country.

A struggle must also be carried out against narrow feminism, which poses men as the enemy, splits the working class struggle and has historically pushed a white chauvinist line in the women’s movement. The narrow feminists have refused to fight for the needs of the working class and minority women or to recognize the leadership of these women, within the movement. This narrow feminist trend pushes the women’s movement to “go it alone,” without unity with other forces and disunites men and women. This trend is also characterized by reformism and counter-cultural solutions, such as homosexuality, to the oppression of women. In many areas, such as CLUW and many of the various women’s unions, Marxist-Leninist women are coming forward and providing leadership to the mass women’s struggle in opposition to these various white chauvinist and petty-bourgeois feminist trends.

In our struggle to build a new party and push forth the revolutionary struggle for socialism there must be a radical break with opportunism. The woman question must be seen as a revolutionary question and not simply one of reforms. It. is a question which only the working class can settle in a revolutionary way. It is a strategic question in the sense that it can’t be settled apart from the overall struggle for socialism. It is also a strategic question because women make up half of the working class and half of the national liberation movements, which together make up the core of our strategic United Front Against Imperialism.


Stalin pointed out that working women “are the greatest reserve of the working class. This reserve (ally–ed.)constitutes a good half of the population.” He added that, “the fate of the proletarian movement, the victory or defeat of proletarian power depends on whether or not the reserve of women will be for or against the working class.” (Political Biography)

But women are not only a “reserve” or ally of the working class. They are also part of the working class itself and if our work is carried out correctly the masses of women will become, as Stalin added, “a real army of the working class operating against the bourgeoisie.” He said, “International Woman’s Day must become a means of turning worker and peasant women from a reserve of the working class into an active army in the liberation movement of the proletariat.”

In the country, many more women have entered into production as part of the working class and as part of its revolutionary struggle for socialism.

A massive movement for women’s rights has been built that can provide a large militant ally for the working class to unite with.

“Long Live International Woman’s Day!”

Women’s Day 1975 can serve as a beginning of a drive to organize large numbers of women and fill the ranks of the communist movement with revolutionary women leaders.