Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Fighting for Women’s Equality: A Communist Viewpoint

First Published: The Call, Vol. 8, No. 9, March 5, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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March 8, International Women’s Day, is a time people all over the world focus in on the struggle of women for liberation. But the woman question isn’t limited to this once-a-year event. Work among women – one-half the population – is one of the most important fronts of the people’s struggle.

How do communists take up this work? What kind of program and tactics do they develop? How do they view the importance of winning women to the anti-imperialist struggle and to the ranks of the Communist Party (M-L)?

To begin with, communists recognize that there can be no liberation for women without destroying the system responsible for their oppression. But simply declaring this to be so, no matter how loud and how often, will not win women to see the overthrow of capitalism as their demand. We must combine this revolutionary education with a concrete program of struggle that speaks to the problems that weigh most heavily on women and says: we know what women suffer, we know what causes it, and we intend to fight it.

The sufferings and concerns of women are very broad. Starting from a class analysis, communists understand that the majority of women are part of the working class and oppressed nationalities. So we take up the general campaigns of the working class among women and within the working class also raise the special demands of women in order to mobilize the broad masses of women and strengthen class unity.

It is no surprise, for example, that so many women have come forward in the campaign for Jobs or Income Now. The crisis has increased the number of women who need to work, because their husband’s income is not enough to support the family, or because they are forced to raise their children alone.

Or take the struggle for a shorter work week – this is also an urgent question for women. Having the lowest seniority, women are the most vulnerable to layoffs and job combination that come with forced overtime. Where the short work week demand is being taken out to women in auto, for instance, and linked to their particular problems on the job, many more women are becoming active.


Women have also been in the forefront of the fight against racial discrimination. Whether it be standing up to the Klan in Tupelo, Miss., or defending Terrence Johnson in D.C., women have played a major role in the Afro-American liberation movement. The struggle of Latino people in the fields and against deportations; the fight of Native Americans for treaty rights and against FBI frame-ups – these and every other struggle of minorities in the U.S. have seen significant participation by women.

Another big question facing the masses of people today is the danger of a new world war. Today the Soviet Union is challenging the U.S. for world hegemony and this contention is bound to lead to war. What this war will mean for women can be seen from the Soviet-backed blitzkrieg invasion of Kampuchea by Vietnam. The 150,000 Vietnamese troops are trying to seize control of the country, burning villages and causing tremendous suffering for the women and men of Kampuchea. In response, Kampuchean women are standing side by side with their men to resist the invaders in any way they can.

For women in the U.S., the fight against war preparations by both superpowers is today a pressing issue. While these general issues are clearly “women’s issues,” there are also specific forms of oppression that affect women in particular, and the special demands arising from them must be taken up. For example, the U.S. capitalists today pay women less than 60% of what they pay men. Only one-quarter of the children of working mothers have access to child care centers. Even with the new law that declares pregnancy a disability, the vast majority of women have no maternity benefits on the job. Attacks on affirmative action like the Sears, Bakke and Weber cases threaten to wipe out women’s hard-won gains in heavy industry and the professions.

The fact that minority people are discriminated against in the U.S. has particular impact on the women of these nationalities. Genocidal policies of forced sterilization; disproportionate representation on the welfare rolls; the lowest wages, highest unemployment rates-these are some of the burdens capitalism places on minority women.

The working class and its party must be the hardest, most consistent fighters against these and every other form of discrimination against women. But in each case these demands must be put forward in a way so as to strengthen the unity, and fighting capacity of the working class as a whole.

Sometimes, for instance, activists have raised the demand for hiring women in opposition to the fight for jobs for all workers. Today several feminist groups are demanding that jobs be created for women by denying veterans their due benefits. Such a move plays right into the hands of the ruling class which consistently tries to get various oppressed groups to fight each other for scarce jobs and services.

Taking up the special demands of women includes fighting for particular reforms and legislation such as the Equal Rights Amendment. Communists should work in broad alliances to demand passage of the ERA, a reform that can be used to improve women’s social position and ability to struggle.

At the same time, communists carry out education about the limitation of such measures to show that these alone can never free women. Pointing to examples such as affirmative action, which was implemented only half-heartedly and now is in danger of being wiped out altogether, they show how as long as the system remains intact, such reforms will always be only partial and temporary.

Affirmative action, for example, challenges the fact that women are on the bottom of the labor force or excluded altogether. But this is the result of the very workings of capitalism, which uses the position of women to lower wages, worsen working conditions and attack the living standards of all workers and their families. Communists point out that only socialism, by wiping out the private ownership of the means of production and with it, private profit, can fundamentally alter women’s position in society and thereby provide genuine equality.

The communist program for women, in short, addresses the many ways women suffer as workers, minorities and as women, linking particular demands to the final aims of the struggle. But to rally the broad masses of women around such a program also requires special forms of organization and methods of work.

The highest form of organization for the working class is the CPML and this is true for women as well as men. But within the Party itself, particular attention is paid to training women and to developing a Women’s Commission to oversee the work.

Among the masses, a wide variety of organizational forms already exists or can be developed depending on the concrete situation. While the Party’s main work with women, as with the working class as a whole, must go on in the centers of production, it cannot be limited to this.

Padres Unidos in Philadelphia, for example, is composed mainly of Puerto Rican women who are active in the fight for decent housing. Baltimore Welfare Rights is -made up mostly of welfare mothers fighting against cutbacks and degrading treatment. Both of these are examples of groups taking up important fronts of struggle for women.

In the shops, the general approach of communists is to mobilize women to participate in the various rank-and-file organizations. But our tactics must be flexible. Where conditions call for it, or where such organizations already exist, communists also work in committees set up specifically around the conditions women face. Whatever form this may take, it should arise from the struggle and consciousness of the women themselves.

Time and again the union officials have refused to organize unorganized women, opposed their demands as “divisive,” or tried to promote reliance solely on legal solutions. At GM Fremont, for instance, where all the women were laid offin.1974, the UAW bureaucrats opposed across the board the women’s efforts to fight for their jobs, negating years of discrimination that robbed women of seniority.

Communists, on the other hand, see the importance of these struggles for strengthening the unity of the working class, and link these demands to the overall fight to build class struggle unions.

All these struggles among working and minority women represent the core of the movement for women’s equality. In addition there is what is known as the “women’s liberation movement,” including both large organizations like the National Organization for Women (100,000 members) and small local groups organized around issues like abortion and rape.

This movement, which is mainly made up of white, middle-class women, has often played a progressive role. Capitalism’s denial of democratic rights for women to varying degrees affects women of all classes, and many of them have been mobilized to demand their rights.

Where communists work in these groups, they try to base the fight on the interests of the majority of women in the working class. For example, in abortion coalitions, they stress targetting the cutoff of federal funds for poor women which makes it impossible for most of them to afford an abortion, and linking abortion rights to an end to sterilization abuse.

Starting from the point of view of the working class, communists understand and take into account the sentiments of large numbers of women who are opposed to abortion. While upholding the right to an abortion, we must also make clear that our goal is to get rid of the need for abortion by fighting for alternatives – decent jobs and child care, safe, effective birth control, etc. Likewise we oppose the view that the family is the cause of women’s oppression and work hard to strengthen the family as a fighting unit.

This concern for the family applies not only to our stand on various issues, but also to methods of work to involve more women in the struggle. There must be flexibility around things like meeting times and tasks, and, whenever possible, help in arranging child care. There must also be consistent struggle against the view that “politics” is the domain of men, not women.

Many men have been deeply influenced by male chauvinist thinking. Rather than writing them off as reactionary, patient work needs to go on with them – especially by male comrades and advanced workers – to show them why it is in their interests for women to be treated as equals.

Women have also been influenced by the view that their place is limited to the home. We must help them gain the confidence and skills not only to become active, but to be leaders, theoreticians – to tackle any tasks that come along.

In the course of all its work, the Party pays particular attention to educating women about the final solution to their oppression – socialist revolution – and to winning the most class-conscious, active fighters to its ranks. The Party encourages women to join Call circles and study groups, to learn Marxism and become communists themselves.

There are many examples of this approach in the work of the CPML. Nearly half the people recruited to the Party since its founding a year and a half ago have been women. Wherever this work has been carried out, it has dealt a big blow to the view that the obstacles to women’s involvement are insurmountable. It has shown comrades that women can be mobilized not only on International Women’s Day or around particular women’s demands, but to the broader struggle of the working class and the need for revolution.

This struggle for socialism, we believe, is the only road to women’s liberation. And history has shown that this struggle will only be successful when the masses of women have been won to see it as their own.