Source: Published in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1009-25
Translation: Translation team organized by John Riddell
HTML Markup: David Walters & Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive, 2018
Copyright: John Riddell, 2017. Republished here with permission
1.) The Third Congress of the Communist International, together with the International Conference of Communist Women, confirms once again the decisions of the First and Second Congresses that point to the necessity of strengthening the work of Communist parties of the West and East among the female proletariat. This work aims at educating the broad messes of working women in the ideas of communism and drawing them into the struggle for soviet power and the building of a soviet republic.
Around the world the working class, and thus also working women, face the essential question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
The capitalist economic system has landed in a dead end. There is no longer scope for the further development of the productive forces within the capitalist framework. The increasing poverty of working people, the bourgeoisie’s inability to further expand the productive forces, the prevalence of speculation, the decline of production, unemployment, price fluctuations, the gap between wages and prices: all these factors lead inevitably to a sharpening of class antagonisms in every country. This struggle decides who will determine, lead, administer, and organise the system of production, and whether this leadership will be assumed by a handful of bourgeois and exploiters on the basis of capitalism and private property or by the class of producers on the basis of communism. In accord with the laws of economic development, the new class striving forward – the class of producers – must take control of the productive system in order to create new economic structures. Only in this way will it be possible to maximise the development of productive forces that have previously been held back by the anarchy of the capitalist system of production.
So long as power remains in the hands of the bourgeois class, the proletariat is not able to improve the system of production. So long as power is in the hands of capital, it is not possible to save the situation in a bourgeois country through reforms, whether taken by a democratic or a so-called socialist government. It is not possible to ease the grave and unbearable suffering of working women and men that results from the decay of the capitalist economic system. Only the seizure of power by the proletariat makes it possible for this class of producers to take possession of the means of production and promote economic development in the interests of working people. In order to hasten the hour of the proletariat’s inevitable decisive struggle against the decayed capitalist world, the working class must hold firmly and without hesitation to the policies laid down by the Third International. The workers’ dictatorship of the proletariat is the immediate goal that determines the methods of work and the direction of the struggle by both men and women of the proletariat.
The Third Congress of the Communist International begins with the proposition that proletarians in all capitalist states now face a struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat. In countries where workers already possess this dictatorship, the immediate task is to build communism. The Third Congress of the Communist International notes that it is not possible either to win power or to achieve communism in a country where capitalism has already been overthrown, without active support by the broad masses of women of the proletariat and semi-proletariat.
At the same time, the congress directs the attention of all women to the fact that every attempt to free women from servitude and achieve their equality will fail unless they enjoy the support of the Communist parties.
2.) Today above all, the interests of the working class urgently require that women be drawn into the organised ranks of the proletariat fighting for communism. As economic dislocation assumes more and more drastic and unbearable forms for the poor people of city and countryside, it becomes increasingly essential for the workers to carry out the social revolution in the capitalist countries. Meanwhile, the workers in Soviet Russia have to rebuild the economy on new communist foundations. Both tasks will be all the easier to carry out to the degree that women take an active, conscious, and determined part in carrying them out.
3.) Wherever the question arises of taking power, the Communist parties must properly evaluate the great danger to the revolution represented by the masses of women workers, housewives, office workers, and peasants who have not been encompassed by the movement. They have not been freed from the grip of a capitalist world outlook, the church, and bourgeois prejudices; they have not encountered, in one way or another, the great Communist movement for freedom. The masses of women of the West and East who have not been brought into the movement are a pillar of support to capitalism and are vulnerable to counterrevolutionary propaganda. The experience of the Hungarian revolution, in which large numbers of women who lacked class consciousness played such an unfortunate role, must stand as a warning for proletarians in every country who have taken the road of social revolution.
On the other hand, the experience of the Soviet republic shows the important role played by women workers and peasants both in defending the republic and in every arena of Soviet construction. The facts clearly show the importance of the role played by women workers and peasants in organising defence behind the battle lines, in the struggle against desertion and against every form of counterrevolution, sabotage, and so on, in the Soviet republic. The proletariat of other countries must learn from the experience of the proletarian republic.
It follows that the Communist parties face the task of extending the influence of the party and of communism among the broad masses of women in their countries. They must use special, more effective methods that enable them to liberate women from the influence of the capitalist outlook and the compromisers, educating them to be true fighters and, in this way, to achieve their true liberation.
4.) The Third Congress of the Communist International entrusts the Communist parties of the West and East with the special task of strengthening work among the female proletariat. It also points out to the working women of the entire world that only the victory of communism will open the road to their liberation from servitude and oppression. What communism offers women is not offered at all by the capitalist women’s movement. So long as capitalist power and private property still prevail in the capitalist countries, the liberation of women from dependency on men cannot get beyond the right to dispose over her earnings and property and to a voice equal to that of the man in raising the children. The efforts of feminists in countries with parliamentary systems to extend the right to vote to women do not resolve the question of achieving real equality, especially for women of the non-propertied classes. Workers have learned this in capitalist countries where the bourgeoisie in recent years introduced formal equality of the sexes. The right to vote cannot destroy the original causes of women’s enslavement in the family and society. Introduction of civil marriage in place of indissoluble marriage in the capitalist countries does not grant women equality in marriage and does not resolve the challenge of mutual relations of the sexes so long as conditions persist where women workers are economically dependent on the capitalist and the male wage earner and where there are no laws protecting mothers and youth and women’s social education.
Women can achieve genuine, as opposed to formal, equality only in communism. In other words, women of the working masses will be free only when they can take part in ownership of the means of production and distribution and the leadership of society on an equal basis. They must be able to carry out the obligation of labour in the same way as other members of labouring society. In other words, this is possible only when the system of capitalist production has been overturned and replaced by a communist economic structure.
Only communism creates conditions in which women’s natural function of motherhood does not conflict with her social obligations and her creative labour on behalf of all society. Communism will promote the harmonious and all-sided development of personality, which is closely and indissolubly linked to the life of the labour collective. All women who strive for women’s liberation and the recognition of their rights must adopt communism as their goal.
Communism, however, is simultaneously the goal of the proletariat as a whole. Therefore, the struggle of working women and men must be conducted jointly and in unified fashion, in the interests of both sides.
5.) The Third Congress of the Communist International stresses the basic postulate of revolutionary Marxism that there is no ‘special women’s question’. For working women to join together with capitalist feminism weakens the struggle of the proletariat. Marxism also stresses that any support by working women to the traitorous policies of the social compromisers and opportunists equally weakens the proletariat’s cause. This approach would postpone the social revolution and delay the victory of communism and also the hour of women’s liberation.
It is not the united efforts of women of different classes that makes communism possible, but rather the united struggle of all the exploited.
The proletarian masses of women are obliged by their own interests to support the revolutionary tactics and strategy of the Communist parties. They must take part actively and directly in the mass actions and the civil war that is emerging in all its expressions both on a national and an international scale.
6.) Women are doubly oppressed, by capitalism and by their dependency in family life. Their struggle against this oppression must take on an international character in the coming period and become a struggle by proletarians of both sexes for the dictatorship of the proletariat and for Soviet construction, waged under the banner of the Third International.
7.) The Third Congress of the Communist International warns working women against any collaboration or compromise with the bourgeois feminists. It also underlines that support to women of the Second International or opportunist forces close to it will cause enormous harm to women’s cause and that of the proletariat. Women must never forget that their slavery is rooted in the capitalist structure. Ending this slavery requires a transition to a new form of society.
Support to the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals and similar groups obstructs the development of social revolution and thereby also that of a new form of society. The more decisively that broad masses of women turn away from the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals, the more certain is the victory of the social revolution. It is the duty of Communist women to condemn all those who shrink back from the revolutionary policies of the Communist International and to struggle unrelentingly and inexorably to exclude these forces from its united ranks.
Women must bear in mind that the Second International has not made even an attempt to launch a publication dedicated to the struggle for the universal liberation of women. The International Association of Socialist Women, to the extent that it has taken shape at all, was formed outside the framework of the Second International on the independent initiative of working women.
As early as its First Congress, in 1919, the Third International set down specifically its position on the question of drawing women into the struggle for the dictatorship. It was on the initiative of the First Congress that the first conference of women Communists was convened. In 1920 the International Secretariat for Work among Women was founded, with permanent representation in the Executive Committee of the Communist International. It is the duty of all class-conscious women workers everywhere to break without fail from the Second and Two-and-a-Half Internationals and give whole-hearted support to the revolutionary stand of the Communist International.
8.) Women workers, peasants, and employees should give expression to their support for the Communist International by joining the Communist Party in their country.
In countries and parties in which the struggle between the Second and Third Internationals has not yet been brought to a conclusion, women workers should give full support to the party or group that comes out for the Communist International. They should fight ruthlessly against all wavering or openly traitorous forces, without giving heed to any supposed authorities. Class-conscious proletarian women struggling for their genuine liberation should not stay in parties outside the Communist International. Any enemy of the Third International is an enemy of women’s liberation.
For purposeful working women of the West and East, there is only one place: under the banner of the Communist International, that is, in the ranks of the Communist Party of their country. Any wavering by working women, any evasion of the struggle against the compromising parties and leaders that call themselves socialist, will have a pernicious effect on the proletariat’s struggle and will endanger its victory in a struggle that is developing into a national and international civil war.
On the basis of the principles described above, the Third Congress of the Communist International resolves that the Communist parties in every country are to conduct their work among the female proletariat along the following lines:
1.) Women are to be regarded as members with equal rights of the party and all class organisations (trade unions, cooperatives, factory councils, etc.).
2.) It is necessary to recognise that women active in every field of proletarian struggle, not excluding military self-defence of the proletariat, are to be drawn into the building of new social foundations and the organisation of production and life on a communist basis.
3.) The role of motherhood must receive recognition as a social function. Efforts are needed to institute and realise measures that protect women in their role as mothers.
The Third Congress of the Communist International is strongly opposed to forming separate, special women’s associations within the party or the trade unions, or in the form of a special women’s organisation. However, it nonetheless recognises the need for the Communist parties to use special methods of work among women. It therefore recognises that it is appropriate to create special organs to carry out this work inside all Communist parties. The congress is guided here by the following considerations:
a.) Women suffer subjugation in the capitalist countries and also are in a difficult position in the soviet countries that are undergoing a transition from capitalism to communism.
b.) A certain passivity and political backwardness is evident among the masses of women, which results from the fact that women have for centuries been excluded from social life and chained to the family.
c.) The special social function – motherhood – and the resulting characteristics that nature assigns to women call for greater protection of women’s health and energies in the interests of society.
Based on these considerations, the congress recognises that it is advisable to create special bodies to carry out work among women. These bodies consist of sections and commissions linked to all party committees, from the party Central Committee down to the city or ward committee. This decision is binding on all parties belonging to the Communist International.
The Third Congress of the Communist International considers that the tasks of these sections and commissions are as follows:
1.) Educate the broad masses of women in Communist ideas and integrate them into the ranks of the party.
2.) Struggle against the prejudices linked to women’s social role and strengthen the awareness of working men and women that proletarians of both sexes share common interests.
3.) Strengthen the willpower of women. Draw them into all expressions of the civil war in capitalist countries. Arouse women to activity by drawing them into mass actions and into the struggle against capitalist exploitation (lack of housing, inflation, unemployment, the wretched conditions of children). Pursue the same goal in the soviet republics by drawing women into building a communist economy and way of life.
4.) Place on the agenda the questions related to women’s equality and protection of the woman as a mother. Direct the attention of the party and, in soviet countries, the legal authorities, to these issues.
5.) Struggle systematically against the power of tradition, bourgeois customs, and religion, in order to promote more healthy and harmonious relations between the sexes, relations capable of assuring the physical and moral vitality of working people.
The party’s leadership bodies must directly lead the work of the commissions [for work among women] and take responsibility for their work. The head of each commission should be a member of the leading committee. If possible, several Communist men should be members of such a commission.
The commissions should not act on their own to carry out the necessary measures on issues as they arise. Instead, in soviet countries, this should be done through the appropriate economic or political bodies (soviets, commissariats, commissions, trade unions, etc.). In capitalist countries, help should be sought from appropriate bodies of the proletariat (trade unions, councils, etc.). Wherever Communist parties are illegal or semi-legal, they will build an underground apparatus for work among women, subordinated and adapted to the underground apparatus of the party. Just as in a legal organisation, an underground party needs a woman comrade in each local, district, or central committee who is responsible for leading underground propaganda work among women.
The main arena for Communist Party work among women at this time is the trade unions, production collectives, and cooperatives. This is true both in countries where the struggle to overthrow capitalism is under way and in the soviet workers’ republics. Work among women must be carried out with respect for the unity of the party as a movement and of its structures, and also with respect for the independent initiatives of the commissions. This applies to all initiatives for complete liberation and equality of women, which are to be carried out fully by the party.
The goal is not to duplicate the party’s work but rather to expand it through women’s creative self-activity and initiative.
The task of the women’s sections in a soviet workers’ republic is to educate the broad masses of women in Communist ideas and win them to the Communist Party. These sections have to arouse and raise women’s self-activity and initiative by drawing women into the work of building communism and educating them as steadfast partisans of the Communist International. The women’s sections must strive in every way possible to draw women into every arena of soviet construction, beginning with defence and including their involvement in the republic’s diverse economic projects.
The women’s sections in the Soviet republic must ensure implementation of the decisions of the Eighth Congress of Soviets [December 1920] regarding drawing women workers and peasants into construction and organisation of the economy and women’s involvement in all bodies that deal with the organisation, supervision, and direction of production.
The women’s sections must take part, through their representatives and through party bodies, in the drafting of demands for new laws for the economic liberation of women and for modification of existing measures with this purpose. The sections must show particular initiative in drafting laws relating to protection of women and young people at work.
Women’s sections are obliged to rally the greatest possible number of women workers and peasants for campaigns around the soviet elections and to ensure that women workers and peasants become members of the soviets and their executive committees.
Women’s sections must make efforts to ensure that all the political and economic campaigns undertaken by the party are carried through rapidly and successfully.
Women’s sections have the task of improving the quality of women’s work by more effective trade-union training and of ensuring that women workers and peasants have access to the appropriate educational institutions.
Women’s sections must ensure that women join the commissions for protection of labour in individual enterprises and must help promote the work of commissions for protection of women and youth.
Women’s sections must help strengthen the entire network of social institutions (public orphanages, laundries, repair shops, communal residences, institutions for social care) that provide new Communist foundations for everyday life, ease the hardships women experience during this transition period, promote women’s economic independence, and transform the slave of the home and family into a free partner in creating new forms of living.
The women’s sections must ensure that women trade-union members are educated in the ideas of communism, in which they can draw on the assistance of groups for work among women formed by the Communist fractions in the trade unions.
The women’s sections must ensure that women factory workers attend meetings of factory delegates. The sections are responsible to plan the allocation of women delegates – practitioners – to different tasks in the soviets, in economic work, and in the unions.
Women’s sections of the party must work above all to develop deep roots among the women workers and closer contact with housewives, office workers, and small-peasant women.
The women’s sections convene delegated conferences of women workers in order to strengthen the party’s ties with the masses, to spread its influence among the non-party masses, and to pursue systematic education of masses of women in the ideas of communism through independent activity and participation in practical work.
Delegated assemblies are the best means to educate women workers and peasants. Through these delegates, the party’s influence can spread among the broad masses of non-party and backward women workers and peasants.
These assemblies are composed of women representatives from factories of a given district, city, or rural area (for delegated meetings of peasant women), or neighbourhood (for delegates of housewives). In Soviet Russia, women delegates are drawn into political and economic campaigns of every description. Women are delegated to take part in commissions of various types in the workplace. They are involved in supervision of Soviet state administration. Finally, by the law adopted in 1921, they take part in the ongoing work of Soviet departments as practitioners delegated for two months.
Women delegates are chosen in general assemblies of a workshop or of housewives, according to a procedure set by the party. The women’s sections must carry out propagandistic and agitational work among the women delegates, and the sections meet for this purpose at least twice a month. Delegates, elected for a three-month term, are required to give a report on their activity to their workshop or to neighbourhood meetings.
The second form of agitation among the masses of women is through conferences of non-party women workers and peasants. Delegates to these conferences are elected by meetings of women workers in an enterprise or of women peasants in rural areas.
Women’s sections are responsible for calling these conferences and leading them.
In order to reinforce the experiences of women workers in the practical work of the party and its activities, the women’s sections conduct systematic and broad propaganda, both through publications and in person. The sections hold assemblies, discussions, and meetings of women workers in the enterprise or of housewives in a neighbourhood. They organise delegated meetings and carry out door-to-door agitation.
Sections for work among women must be formed to develop working women as cadres and to strengthen work in Soviet schools at both the central and local levels.
The immediate tasks of commissions for work among women are determined by the objective situation. On the one hand, we have the decay of the world economy, the immense increase in unemployment (expressed particularly in a decline in the demand for women workers), the growth of prostitution, inflation, the housing shortage, the threat of new imperialist wars. On the other hand, we see incessant economic strikes by workers, repeated attempts by the proletariat at armed insurrection, and the looming prospect of worldwide civil war. All this is the prologue to inevitable world social revolution.
The commissions of working women must stress the tasks posed for proletarian struggle, advance the slogans of the Communist Party as a whole, and draw women into participation in Communist revolutionary activity against the bourgeoisie and the social traitors.
The commissions must ensure that women are integrated into the party, the unions, the cooperatives, and other class organisations as members with equal rights and obligations. They must oppose any separating out of women workers or any special status for them. What is more, the commissions must promote the integration of working women as collaborators with equal rights in the leading bodies of the party, the unions, and the cooperatives.
The commissions need to encourage the broad masses of women in the proletariat and the peasantry to utilise their right to vote in parliamentary and other elections by supporting the Communist Party. In so doing, they need to explain how women’s rights are limited with regard to eliminating or easing capitalist exploitation and also to compare the parliamentary system with the Soviet order.
The commissions must also ensure that women workers, employees, and peasants take part with energy and class awareness in the elections of worker deputies to revolutionary economic and political councils. They must strive to succeed in arousing the housewife to political activity and popularising the idea of councils among the women peasants in particular. The commissions face a special task in applying the principle of equal pay for equal work. The commissions need to win working men and women for a campaign for free and generally available vocational schooling, in order to increase the skills of women workers.
The commissions must strive to involve Communist women in municipal and all other legislative social agencies – in which women can now participate with voice and vote, thanks to the achievement of suffrage – in order to take their party’s revolutionary politics into that arena.
When participating in the municipal and other legislative bodies of the bourgeois state, Communist women must strictly observe the principles and policies of their party. It cannot and should not be their main goal to win reforms within the bourgeois system. Rather, they should utilise the demands of working women in order to point women toward achieving their demands and defending their interests along the path of revolutionary struggle, of struggle to establish the proletarian dictatorship.
The commissions should maintain close contact with the party fractions in parliament and municipal councils, consulting jointly on all issues affecting women.
The commissions must make clear to women that the system of separate home economies is backward and impractical, while capitalist methods of bringing up children are imperfect. They should direct the attention of working women to practical methods of improving workers’ home life proposed and supported by the party. The commissions must make every effort to win women trade-union members for the Communist Party. To this end the trade-union fractions should appoint organisers for work among women, functioning under the leadership of the party and the local sections.
The commissions for agitation among women should encourage proletarian women in the cooperatives to spread the ideas of communism, enter their leadership, and influence their functioning, since these organisations will be of great importance in organising distribution of goods during and after the revolution.
The entire work of the commissions must aim to develop the masses’ revolutionary activity and thus to hasten the revolution.
In countries where industry is little developed, the Communist parties and the women’s sections must together seek to achieve recognition of women’s equal status, in both rights and duties, by the party, the trade unions, and the other organisations of the working class.
Sections of the commission must conduct a vigorous struggle against all prejudices, customs, and religious practices that bear down on women. This agitation should also be addressed to men.
The Communist Party and the sections of its commissions must apply the principle of women’s equal status to the raising of children, family relations, and public life.
The sections must try to win support among the exploited working women engaged in small shops, cottage industries, and rice, cotton, and other plantations. Wherever possible – and this applies mainly to the Eastern peoples living in the territory of Soviet Russia – the sections should seek to establish cooperative workplaces and industries and draw the plantation workers into the trade unions.
The best means of struggle against the backwardness of the country and religious prejudices is to raise the overall cultural level of the population. The commissions must seek to speed the development of schools for adults and children. Women must win admission to these schools. In the capitalist countries, women must wage a struggle against bourgeois influence in the schools.
Wherever possible, the women’s sections or commissions must conduct their agitation inside the home. Clubs for working women should be established that aim above all to influence the most backward layers of women. The clubs should be centres of cultural enlightenment, showing in life what women can achieve through their self-activity (establishing homes for children, kindergartens, schools, etc.) for their liberation. Mobile clubs should be established for nomadic peoples.
In the soviet countries, sections should work together with the party to promote the transition from a precapitalist economy to a collective mode of production. Working women should be convinced through practical experience that the domestic economy and previous family relationships enslave them, while collective labour will liberate them.
The women’s sections working among the peoples of the East in Soviet Russia should see to it that Soviet legislation – which assures women of legal equality with men and protects women’s interests – is actually observed. The sections should therefore support the appointment of women as judges and jury members.
The sections must draw women into the soviet elections and work to assure that women become members of soviets and their executive committees. Work among women workers of the East must be carried out on the basis of class principles. The sections have the task of explaining to women the futility of feminist efforts in resolving the woman question. In countries of the Soviet East, women intellectuals, such as teachers, should be drawn into educational work.
The sections or commissions must strictly avoid tactless, inappropriate, or rude attacks on religious beliefs or national traditions, while still resisting the influence of nationalism and religion.
In both the West and East, organisations of working women should not identify with national interests but should rather be instruments for the unification of the international proletariat of both sexes and should carry out tasks shared by the entire class. Given the particular importance of work among women of the East, special instructions are appended to these theses, setting down the guidelines for work among these women while taking into account the specific conditions of everyday life among Eastern peoples.
In order to carry out the primary task of the sections – Communist education of the broad masses of proletarian women – and thus to expand the ranks of Communist fighters, it is necessary for all Communist parties of the West and East to adopt the basic principle of work among women: agitation and propaganda through action.
Agitation through action means above all the ability to arouse the self-activity of working women, reinforce their confidence in their own capacities, and – by drawing them into practical work either for construction or struggle – to convince them that every success of the Communist Party, every action against capitalist exploitation, represents a step toward improving the status of women. Practical work and action leads to understanding of communism’s ideals and its theoretical principles. That is the spirit in which Communist parties and their sections should approach the broad masses of working women.
To the extent that the sections are vehicles for propaganda not merely of the word but of the deed, they must be based on Communist cells inside the factories and workplaces. They must ensure that every Communist cell has an organiser of work among women in the factory.
The sections must, through their representatives, establish ties with the trade unions, ties sustained by the trade-union fractions and working under the leadership of the sections.
In Soviet Russia, propaganda through deeds for the ideas of communism means drawing women workers and peasants, housewives, and women employees into every area of Soviet construction, from the army and militia to activities for the liberation of women (communal kitchens, institutions of social education, protection of motherhood, etc.). It is particularly important at present to draw working women into all the efforts to rebuild the economy.
In the capitalist countries, propaganda through the deed means drawing women workers into participation in strikes, demonstrations, and uprisings, which consolidate and strengthen revolutionary willpower and consciousness. It also means drawing them into party work of every variety, from underground tasks (especially regarding communications) to the organising of Communist Saturdays or Sundays, through which sympathetic women workers and employees learn to be of use to the party through voluntary work.
The goal of propaganda through the deed is also served by drawing women into all political, economic, and cultural educational campaigns initiated by the Communist Party. Women’s committees in the Communist parties must extend their activity to increasingly broad layers of the exploited and socially enslaved women of the capitalist countries. In the soviet countries, this applies to women oppressed by survivals of the old order. The commissions need to respond to all the hardships and evils, all the interests and demands, that display capitalism to women as a deadly enemy to be overcome and communism as a force to be welcomed as their liberator.
To carry out systematic agitation and propaganda work through the spoken word, women’s commissions organise meetings in the factory or neighbourhood and public gatherings of women workers, employees, and civil servants, organised by trade or by district, whether through general open meetings of women or in other ways. They have their agitational and organisational representatives in the Communist fractions in the trade unions, cooperatives, factory councils, and in all the working, administrative, supervisory, and leading organs of the soviet system. This applies, in short, to all organisations in the capitalist countries that must be made useful in winning the exploited and oppressed masses to revolution and in their struggle to win political power, and, in the soviet states, all organisations that defend the proletarian dictatorship and pursue the realisation of communism. They choose experienced Communist women to serve as workers or employees in factories and enterprises in which many women are employed. They establish such comrades in large proletarian districts or centres, as has been done successfully in Soviet Russia.
The women’s committees of the Communist Party of Soviet Russia have worked to hold the extraordinarily useful delegated meetings and conferences of non-party women. So too, the commissions of Communist women in the capitalist countries hold public meetings of women workers, employed women of every variety, peasant women, and housewives. These meetings take a position on the specific hardships and demands of those present and choose committees on an ad hoc basis that will pursue work on a given question in constant contact with those who elected them and with Communist women’s commissions. Each member of these commissions should establish regular contact with no more than ten women in her neighbourhood, to be renewed when the Communist parties and proletarian masses hold major activities.
The women’s commissions of the Communist parties are instructed to use the written word in carrying out their agitational, organisational, and educational activity. They should work toward publication of a national Communist women’s newspaper, inclusion of women’s pages or discussions among women in the Communist newspapers, and articles and contributions in the political and trade-union papers. They should choose women to serve as editors of these publications and recruit and train collaborators for them from the ranks of women on the job and in the struggle. They must create and distribute an appropriate and straightforward array of leaflets and pamphlets that can awaken and attract women.
The commissions should work for women party members to make energetic use of all the educational institutions and materials of the Communist parties. In order to clarify and deepen the understanding and strengthen the willpower of Communist women who are still backward and timid, as well as employed women who are awakening to consciousness, they should draw these women into the party’s general study sessions and discussions. Only where there are compelling reasons should they create their own educational institutions, such as reading circles, evenings of discussion, courses, and lectures.
In order to strengthen solidarity between working women and men, it is desirable not to organise separate courses and schools. Instead, every party school should include a compulsory course on the methods of work among women.
The commission has the right to delegate a number of its members to the party school.
Every party local unit, regional committee, and central committee will establish commissions for agitation among women. The number of members of the commissions should correspond to the needs of the particular country. The party will also determine the number of paid collaborators. The leader of the women’s agitation commission both nationally and in regional and local groups has voice and vote in the corresponding national, regional, and local party leaderships. The leader of such a commission should also be a member of the local party leadership. Where this is not the case, the commission leader should take part in all leadership discussions of questions affecting the women’s section with decisive vote, and on all other questions with consultative vote.
In addition to these general tasks, the regional or provincial commissions have the following functions: maintaining a link between the women’s agitation commission of a given region and the regional leadership; collecting materials regarding the commission’s activity in its region; ensuring that local commissions exchange materials; supplying the region with publications; assigning agitational resources to different parts of the region; mobilising party members for work among women; convening (at least twice a year) regional conferences of Communist women, with one or two delegates from each commission; and holding conferences of non-party women workers and peasants and housewives in the region.
Regional commissions should consist of five to seven members, proposed by the commission leader and confirmed by the chair of the district leadership. The leader and all other members of the district or regional commissions are elected by the respective party conferences.
The members of regional or local commissions are elected by regional, district, or city conferences, or by the relevant commission in consultation with the party leadership. The national commission for work among women consists of two to five members, of which one is paid by the party.
In addition to the functions listed above for the regional commissions, the national commission (national women’s committee) has to do the following: supervise the work of commissions; lead and assign the members working among women; supervise the nature and development of work by women, taking into account women’s legal and economic conditions; assign authorised representatives of the national commission to take part in special commissions that address issues of improving or altering workers’ living conditions, laws, industrial health and safety standards, and the protection of children; publication of the national and women’s newspapers and editorship of the women’s publications and women’s pages; convening women’s representatives of all regions at least once a year; organisation of groups to instruct agitators regarding work among women across the country; supervision of the recruitment of women workers and their assignment to commissions taking part in the party’s various political and economic campaigns; maintenance of ongoing ties with the International Secretariat of Communist Women; holding an annual International Women’s Day.
If the leader of the women’s commission of the central committee is not a member of that committee, this comrade has the right to attend all central committee sessions, with decisive vote on all questions affecting the commission, and otherwise with consultative vote. The chair of the commission is chosen by the party central committee or national congress. Decisions and instructions of all commissions must be ratified by the appropriate party committee.
The International Women’s Secretariat of the Communist International has the tasks of leading the [women’s] work of all Communist parties, rallying working women in struggle for the tasks posed by the Communist International, and drawing working women in every country into the revolutionary struggle for soviet power and the dictatorship of the working class on a world scale.
The number of members of the national commission with decisive and consultative vote will be determined by the party central committee.
Published: in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1026-27.
The Second International Communist Women’s Conference calls on Communist parties in every country of the West and East to have their central women’s committees elect international women’s correspondents, in keeping with the theses of the Third International.
The duty of the correspondent in each Communist Party, as laid down in the guidelines, is to maintain regular relations with the international correspondents in other countries as well as with the International Communist Women’s Secretariat in Moscow, which is a working body of the Third International Executive. The Communist parties must help provide their international women’s correspondents with the opportunity and the means for international communications with each other and with the secretariat in Moscow.
Once every six months, the international correspondents will meet together with a delegation of the International Women’s Secretariat for consultation and an exchange of views. The Secretariat can also convene such consultations at any time if so required.
The International Women’s Secretariat in Moscow, in collaboration with the Executive and in close accord with the international correspondents of each country, will carry out the tasks laid down in the guidelines. In particular, it may concern itself with assisting in word and deed the development of the still weak women’s movement in each country. It will also provide the Communist Women’s Movement of all countries, East and West, with unified direction for their work and struggle. Under Communist leadership and with energetic Communist support, it will lead actions suitable to broadening and sharpening the revolutionary proletarian class struggle through the advance of women.
In order to strengthen and regularise ties with the Communist Women’s Movement in every country, the International Women’s Secretariat will establish an auxiliary body in Western Europe. This body will carry out preparatory and follow-up work for the International Women’s Secretariat. However, its functions lie in implementation, not in decision making; its actions and decisions will follow the directives of the main secretariat in Moscow and the Third International Executive. The Western European auxiliary body will always include at least one representative of the main body. To the degree that the composition and scope of the main secretariat is not laid down in the guidelines, these issues – and also the formation, structure, and activity of the auxiliary body – will be settled by the Third International Executive, in collaboration with the International Women’s Secretariat.
Published: in To the Masses: Proceedings of the Third Congress of the Communist International, 1921 (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/897-to-the-masses), pp. 1028-29.
The Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow declares:
The disintegration of the capitalist economy and the bourgeois order based on it, along with the advance of the revolutionary power of the proletariat in countries where the bourgeois order still prevails, makes it increasingly and urgently necessary for the proletariat to conduct its revolutionary struggle and establish its dictatorship. This can be achieved only if the broad masses of working women take part in this struggle consciously, resolutely, and with devotion.
In countries where the proletariat has already taken state power and established its dictatorship through a council system – as in Soviet Russia and Ukraine – it is incapable of maintaining its power against the national and international counterrevolution and beginning the construction of a communist order, which will free humankind, unless the broadest masses of working women are imbued with a clear and unshakable determination that they too must take on the tasks of defence and construction.
The Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow therefore calls on parties in all countries, in accord with the principles and decisions of the Third International, to commit their full energy to awakening, gathering, training, and recruiting the broadest masses of working women into the Communist parties and for revolutionary struggle and construction. Their determination and capacity for action and struggle must be constantly intensified and strengthened.
In order to achieve this goal, all the parties affiliated to the Third International are obliged to establish women’s committees in all their branches and institutions, from the lowest to the highest. These should be headed by a member of the party leadership. The task of these committees is to carry out agitational, organisational, and educational work among the broad masses of working women. These committees will have representation in all the party’s leading and governing bodies.
These women’s committees are not separate organisations. They are merely working bodies for the particular task before us, that of mobilising and educating the broad masses of working women for the struggle to win political power and for the work of communist construction. They therefore function continuously in every field under the leadership of the party. However, they enjoy the freedom of action needed to carry out the methods and forms of work and to create the institutions that are called for in view of the state of their work, the special role of women, and their still unsurmounted special position in society and the family. The conference refers these committees to its adopted theses, which provide detailed guidance for their work.
The Communist Party’s working women’s structures must always be aware, in their work, of their double task:
1.) To inspire increasing masses of women to gain a clear understanding of the revolutionary class struggle of the exploited and oppressed against capitalism and for communism, and to make a firm commitment to this cause.
2.) After the victory of the proletarian revolution, to make them into collaborators in communist construction, imbued with deep understanding and a willingness to sacrifice.
The women’s structures of the Communist Party must, in their activity, be aware that the spoken and written word is not the only means of agitation and education among the masses of women. Instead, the most important method, which must be fully considered and evaluated, is the collaboration of organised Communist women in every field of activity of the Communist parties – both in the struggle and also in construction. This entails the active participation of working women in all actions and struggles of the revolutionary proletariat, in strikes, street demonstrations, and armed uprisings, while in soviet countries working women must play an active part in all spheres of Communist construction.
1. The First Congress ‘Resolution on the Need to Draw Women Workers into the Struggle for Socialism’ can be found in Riddell (ed.) Founding the Communist International (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1987), pp. 250 – 1. A draft resolution for the Second Congress, the ‘Theses for the Communist Women’s Movement’ was prepared by Zetkin and approved by the ECCI following the congress. It can be found in Riddell (ed.) Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991), vol. 2, pp. 977 – 98.
2. The First International Conference of Socialist Women, held in Stuttgart 17 August 1907 prior to a congress of the Second International, established an International Socialist Women’s Bureau. The original idea for holding this international conference came out of a conference of Socialist Women in Germany held in conjunction with the SPD’s September 1906 congress.
3. A reference to First Congress ‘Resolution on the Need to Draw Women Workers into the Struggle for Socialism’.
4. The First International Conference of Communist Women was held in Moscow 30 July – 2 August 1920, during the Second Comintern Congress.
5. The German text of this sentence leaves out the word “not,” inverting its meaning. The translation here follows the Russian text, which is consistent with the thrust of the resolution.
6. The following nine paragraphs are not found in the German edition, and are translated from the Russian.
7. The term ‘practitioners’ referred to women workers, freed up from their responsibilities on the job, who served as delegates for a period of several months while they received their normal wage. The goal was for them to gain experience working in various Soviet institutions.
8. No text of the appendix referred to here has been located.
9. This sentence, which seems misplaced, is not found in the Russian text.
10. The ‘Theses for the Communist Women’s Movement’ submitted by Zetkin to the Comintern Second Congress includes a call to elect international correspondents. See Riddell (ed.) Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite! (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1991), vol. 2, p. 996.