Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Joint Statement on the Woman Question

First Published: Mass Resistance, Vol. 11, No. 4, July 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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It is the task of Marxist-Leninists to unite in line and practice on the woman question in order to move forward party building and the U.S. revolution. COReS and LPR have, thus, given it great importance and this document represents in brief, the unities we have achieved in the course of our struggle to merge as a single organization.

The struggle for the emancipation of women is an important aspect of the U.S. revolution, and a question of fundamental concern for all revolutionaries. The fact that the participation of women in the struggle is necessary for its success is particularly evident in the U.S. Here, due to the advanced development of capitalism, a significant number of women have been drawn into the labor force. Women, thus, have a very important role to play in the class struggle, alongside men.

Lack of child care facilities, discrimination in jobs, housing, education and health care, sexual harassment, and other forms of oppression against women are still factors that keep women as one of the most oppressed sectors in this society. This is especially true of oppressed nationality women who suffer a triple form of oppression – as workers, as oppressed nationalities, and as women. Despite greater participation in social production, women still suffer higher rates of unemployment, earn less than men, and are excluded from the more skilled jobs and even some trade unions. We must, therefore, support and actively participate in the struggle against all forms of women’s oppression and all manifestations of male chauvinism.

It is important that women participate, not only in the struggle for their own emancipation, but also in the struggle for the emancipation of the working class and all oppressed people, and in the struggle to build the party. These struggles are intimately linked – so much so that we refer to the women question as a “class question”.


The oppression of women is rooted in the system of private property and the division of society into classes. The present day system of capitalism is such a class society. A small handful of people privately own the means of production and consequently all the wealth in this country, while the vast majority of workers and oppressed people own nothing except their labor power which hey are forced to sell to the capitalists n order to survive.

Since the oppression of women is rooted in the system of private property and class society, it is the elimination of this system that will create the basis to abolish that oppression. In order to be free of all oppression, women have to be fully integrated into social production. Household chores must be socialised to liberate women from that stultifying burden. Free, quality education, child are, and health care, and full participation in the economic, political and all other aspects of social life must be provided. This is not possible in the pro fit motive system of capitalism. Only socialism can begin to create these conditions. That is why we must always link up the struggle for the emancipation of women with the struggle for socialism, for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not to do so would mean to reduce the woman question to a matter of mere reforms within capitalism. This is the right deviation, and main danger, in our approach to the struggle for the emancipation of women.

On the other hand, we also have to guard against the “left” deviation which liquidates the woman question and fails to recognize her special oppression and immediate needs. It claims that the struggle for women’s emancipation is the struggle for socialism and that, therefore, we do not have to support the genuine demands for women’s rights.

Working class women are part of the main and leading force in the U.S. revolution, and will be taking up the struggle against the bourgeoisie not just as women. However, we cannot fail to raise the special demands of women and in effect liquidate the woman question because of this. Such an attitude could result in the utilization of women by the bourgeoisie as their indirect reserve.


When women are thrown into social production, conditions are created which aid in developing their consciousness. Thus, we see women organizing to fight for their rights – equal pay for equal work, childcare, maternity leave, etc. They also become involved in the labor movement fighting for better wages, better working conditions and against all forms of exploitation. Women are in the forefront of struggles not just of the class, but of oppressed nationalities – for better education, health services, against national oppression, supporting national liberation struggles – and also other movements, against war preparations, nuclear power, etc.

The women’s movement today, however, is mainly composed of and led by petty bourgeois, not working class women.

The predominant trend in the women’s movement is bourgeois feminism which identifies men as the enemy and not the capitalist system and puts forth that reforms to capitalist system will bring about women’s emancipation. Contrary to this bourgeois view, we believe that it is the capitalist system, not men, that is the enemy. This system pushes male supremacy to justify the oppression of women. It intensifies the conflicts that arise between men and women; and bourgeois feminists’ incorrect analysis of and proposed solutions to these conflicts play right into the hands of the U.S. bourgeoisie.

Women and the women’s movement are an important reserve of the working class and die U.S. revolution. We must show concretely our dedication to the full emancipation of women and draw them into the revolutionary struggle – making clear, to both men and women, who the real enemy is. It is this dedication and the correct utilization of the contradictions between women of various classes and strata and the bourgeoisie that will mobilize women in support of the proletariat’s demands in the revolutionary struggle against the U. S. bourgeoisie. In order to move properly, a determination of different sectors of women as direct or indirect reserves of the proletariat has to be made, when and how they can be mobilized, etc.

We have a series of tasks to be taken up if we are to make women a strong reserve:

A. Actively participate in the women’s movement. We should strive to transform this movement into a direct reserve of the proletariat, gaining working class leadership and putting working class demands in the forefront.

B. Participate in women’s struggles, especially those with working class content and participation – e.g., struggles for childcare, equal pay for equal work, paid maternity leave, affirmative action, etc.

C. Take up the woman question in all other struggles we are involved in. Concretely, we do this by opposing manifestations of male chauvinism, raising the need for childcare at events, meetings, etc., so as to include women in these struggles.

These tasks will show women our dedication to their emancipation, that we are not just putting out words, but that our actions show our words to be genuine.


As part of our struggle for socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, we must take up the struggle for reforms. There are several aspects which make this struggle necessary. In the first place reforms improve the conditions of the working class and of women under capitalism. Secondly, it serves as training for the working class and its allies in carrying out revolutionary struggle. And thirdly, it shows concretely to the working class and women that the oppression of women (and all other forms of oppression and exploitation) is not eradicated by mere reforms to the capitalist system, and that this struggle must go beyond reforms to the revolutionary seizure of power.

We fight for those reforms which place the working class, and women, in a better position to carry out class struggle, bearing in mind the improvement of the lot of the working class and women. Comrade Lenin summarized this well:

It is therefore perfectly right for us to put forward demands for the benefit of women. This is not a minimum programme, nor a programme of reform in the Social-Democratic sense, in the sense of the Second International. It does not go to show that we believe the bourgeoisie and its state will last forever, or even for a long time. Nor is it an attempt to pacify the masses of women with reforms and to divert them from the path of revolutionary struggle. It is nothing of the sort, and not any sort of reformist humbug either. Our demands are no more than practical conclusions, drawn by us from the crying needs and disgraceful humiliations that weak and underprivileged women must bear under the bourgeois system. On the Emancipation of Women, p. 112

From this standpoint, we establish our approach to the struggle for reforms. It becomes then our task to clearly link the struggle for reforms to the struggle for socialism. This must be done in a consistent and conscious manner.

In the struggle for reforms, our methods of work take on importance. We rely on the strength of the people in winning changes, and on the leadership of the multinational working class. We need to be vigilant and expose all attempts on the part of the bourgeoisie (and its agents) to undermine and divert the struggle from a revolutionary path and reduce it to legal channels, to wrest the leadership away from the masses and to create “leaders” who are nothing but lackeys.

We must also point out that reforms are concessions forced from the bourgeoisie and that they are taken back when conditions worsen, when the mass movement is at an ebb, etc. However, in the course of the struggle, the masses become educated as to the nature of the capitalist system, social props, relations between classes and sectors of classes, etc. Our forces become further consolidated, we learn to deal with contradictions amongst us, work with allies and the formation of the United Front, etc. This is useful and necessary for the working class and its allies to prepare for the socialist revolution.

In the case of women, there are a number of demands we put forth which will improve their conditions and help bring them into the general struggle. These demands are:

1) Equal pay for equal work.
2) Paid maternity leaves with job guarantees.
3) Free day care services in communities and workplaces.
4) An end to all discriminatory hiring and firing practices against women; and end to the practice of assigning women to the most menial and worst paying jobs; affirmative action in hiring, promotions, and training.
5) Right of women to bear arms and exercise the right to self defense.
6) An end to forced sterilizations. The right to free and safe abortions, and availability to safe birth control methods.
7) An end to all attacks against women in culture, mass media, through pornography, degenerate culture, etc.
8) Defending and implementing all protective legislation for women.

These demands are correct because:

(a) They bring concrete, improvement in the conditions women suffer. Such things as the right to free and safe abortions, the right to self-defense, the end to forced sterilizations, equal educational opportunities, etc., definitely place women in a better position to live and to struggle.
(b) They facilitate the participation of women in social production. Child care services, equal job opportunities, affirmative action, paid maternity leave, protective legislation, and others, in fact help women to integrate themselves more fully into the labor force.
(c) They help build the unity between men and women. To the extent that men take up die struggle for these demands, women will concretely see them as allies, the bourgeoisie will be less able to divide the class along sex lines, and less able to use women as a reserve. Through the recognition of a common enemy, women will then be able to participate more actively in the political and economic struggle, which will in turn build the unity and strength of the working class as a whole.


Bourgeois ideology permeates all aspects of society, and we as communists are not exempt from its influence. The fact that there are fewer women than men in the struggle, points to this. Furthermore, there are fewer women in positions of leadership and in general, their level of political development is lower than that of male comrades.

Women in communist organizations face special problems which are directly related to their position of inequality in society (such as the discrimination in education, jobs, etc. that they face). They lack training to carry on their tasks as well as ideological and political preparation. This is compounded by their need for practical skills as well as the fact that the primary responsibility for the managing of their homes falls on them. These things take away precious time and energy that women need in order to carry out political tasks, and to prepare themselves ideologically for the revolutionary struggle.

These problems must be dealt with in a conscious manner when we take up the Woman Question. Some basic ways in which we are doing this are:

1. Struggle against male chauvinism within the organization. A persistent, conscious struggle against male chauvinism must be carried out, as well as, secondarily, against women conciliating to it. There’s a tendency among communist men to believe that they no longer practice male chauvinism just because they have been won over to the idea of the emancipation of women. Therefore, a tendency to belittle the struggle against male chauvinism develops in the ranks of the organization. To correct this situation, we must expose every manifestation of male chauvinism and all practices which maintain the inequality of women must be uprooted.

As part of this struggle, male comrades are urged to share in the housework so that female comrades may develop as fully and as quickly as possible. This also holds true for the caring and upbringing of the children In this case the organization also has a responsibility to share in the child care at events, meetings and during political work. Our movement, in general, has not taken up this question correctly and the lack of childcare at movement activities attests to the fact.

There’s no better way to rectify male chauvinism than through criticism/self-criticism. Using this method cadres become conscious of their errors and it helps promote a systematic struggle against male chauvinism.

2. Training. This is an important aspect in helping women to become capable revolutionary leaders, especially through the study of the science of Marxism-Leninism. Political training is important to help women find their bearings when confronted with new situations. We must provide women cadres with a varied political experience and create the conditions so that women participate in all aspects of the class struggle. In giving practical tasks, we must be careful not to re-enforce the roles assigned to men and women in bourgeois society. Both men and women should be trained to carry out any kind of task. Women cadre should not be stuck with the traditional tasks assigned to them (typing, cooking, etc.). In order, to carry this out, a conscious training plan is necessary. Training for women remains inadequate in both COReS and LPR and is something we are striving to correct.

3. Woman Question Commission. In the organizational sphere, we have created a special body to assure that the organization takes up the woman question in a systematic and concrete way. This body is composed of both male and female cadres. Among its most important functions are first, the development of a correct line and practice on the Woman Question, an area in which we look forward to working with other Marxist-Leninist organizations, and second, to insure that a correct, staunch struggle against male chauvinism takes place in the organization as well as in the broader movement.


It is true that the emancipation of women, and consequently die establishment of proletarian relations between the sexes, can be fully achieved only through socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat. But communists in bourgeois society can, and should, consciously strive to build proletarian relations within our ranks, and set an example of what we aim for in society as a whole.

We, therefore, uphold proletarian morality, which is diametrically opposed to bourgeois morality. From this point of view, we promote the monogamous family of a man and a woman and the building of this family based on sexual love and political unity. The equality of the sexes and the subordination of their interests to those of the people are the principles guiding proletarian relations.

Sex love is a mutual and exclusive love relationship between a man and a woman. It is an essential element for a marriage free from the economic and social considerations in bourgeois society. Political unity is the commonness of revolutionary ideals and principles of those marrying. The deeper the political consciousness of the comrades involved, the more must revolutionary ideals or principles be part of the basis of unity of such a relationship. This is not to say that comrades should not pursue a sex love relationship with a person who is less ideologically or politically developed. However, we need to stress the responsibility of the cadre to seek proletarian standards in their potential mates and to help raise the political and ideological consciousness of the lesser developed mates. The organization itself has a duty to help raise the consciousness of non-cadre spouses.

On the other hand, we strongly oppose die hypocritical bourgeois monogamous family, which is based on male supremacy and the oppression of women. This is reflected in bourgeois society through the flourishing of adultery and prostitution, casual and deviant sexual relations and all kinds of pornography. All of these disrupt revolutionary discipline and reduce women to sex objects. Bourgeois monogamy is concretely monogamy for the woman only, insuring her fidelity by making her socially subservient and economically dependent on the man for survival, and by applying social and legal sanctions if she breaks its bounds, while rewarding male infidelity.

In a society where male supremacy is a strong part of the dominant ideology, we consider that a formal commitment, or public marriage of the two people, is a concrete and necessary way of dealing with the woman question. The holding of a public marriage ceremony, which we encourage, is a way of making both man and woman accountable to the organization and to the masses, showing this is a conscious unity and not a casual relationship which oppresses the woman (who would later bear the social burden and the responsibility of the children). At the same time, we recognize the right to divorce. We do not advocate this as a solution to all contradictions within marriage, most of which can and should be resolved through criticism and self-criticism.

Finally, we recognize that given the influence of bourgeois morality, even among communists, we are dealing here with a protracted struggle to build a new kind of relations and family, different from those we are accustomed to. We, therefore, deal with deviations within our ranks through the method of criticism and self-criticism, rather than purging and isolating, as a way to improve our attitudes and practice on this question.

Women have historically participated in the struggles of the working class, here and the world over. Wherever there is a revolutionary storm raging, women are found in the forefront of the struggle, arms in hand, side by side with men. Women have indeed given heroic examples of revolutionary courage and dedication in many revolutionary struggles throughout the world. Kampuchea, Iran, Palestine, Zimbabwe, the Philippines are just a few. Here in the US too, we have many such women who we hold high as shining examples of what Lenin meant when he said:

It has been observed in the experience of all liberation movements that the success of a revolution depends on the extent to which women take part in it.