On the occasion of International Working Women’s Day, the Organizing Committee for a Maoist Communist Party wishes to extend our warmest militant greetings to all women & nonmen fighting for their liberation in all corners of the world. Together, we’re carrying on a century-long tradition of revolutionary struggle through education, mass demonstrations, public celebrations, and in an increasing number of places – outright rebellion.
With the advent of industrial capitalism in the 19th century, women began taking up an increasingly relevant role in economic life. Yet, despite the growing number of women in the armies of labor, and capital’s ever-growing reliance on their labor-power, they remained deprived of basic rights that their male proletarian counterparts. Women remained deprived of land-ownership rights, lacked suffrage – even more, in some countries it was illegal for women to join political parties. Systemic barriers existed in early welfare systems, in healthcare, and education services. Within the workplace, women endured ill-kept and poor conditions, while labor-unions remained nearly universally male-dominated. At home, women remained tethered to the perpetual mundanity of domestic labor. Women quickly became conscious of their oppression, and its relationship to capitalism, and were drawn to the socialist movement.
In December 1908, the American Socialist Party issued the first formal call for a day dedicated to the women’s struggle, and by 1910 the Second Conference of Socialist Women issued a call for an International Women’s Day. This call was endorsed by the whole Congress of the Second International. The same year the Conference of Socialist Women pressed for a date, which falls on March 8 – to commemorate a clothing strike in 1908.
In Russia, the women’s movement had become increasingly advanced; in no small-part to the role of women in the trade union movement, whose demands were tailored to the special needs of women laborers. There, International Women’s Day had become a yearly expression of working women’s militancy and passion. In a watershed moment, women textile workers called for a general strike set for 8 March 1917. Joined by women in breadlines, having discovered there was no bread, women revolted, destroying the bakeries, and storming the streets en masse. By 12 March, having begun seizing military barracks, and urging working men to join them in arms, the Czar was forced to abdicate in favor of the Provisional Government, which in turn had no choice but to grant many of the women’s demands, including voting rights – the first government of a major world power to do so. After the October Revolution, the revolutionary government declared International Working Women’s Day a public holiday.
The tradition of International Women’s Day spread primarily through the budding international communist revolutionary movement. In 1924, the first I.W.D. demonstrations were held in Guangzhou, drawing ~2,000 people, and by 1927, in Wuhan, over 100,000 women marched in the central city.
But in many of the imperial core countries, the revolutionary power of working women has been circumscribed by liberal and revisionist tendencies; by the end of the 20th century, these liberal feminisms became dominant and the women’s movement has struggled to revive itself; while in the third world, revolutionary women have taken up arms to topple capitalism-imperialism, in the core countries, “feminism” has found its home in bourgeois electoralism, reformism and reductive identity politics which undercut the real legacy of the working women’s struggle: that proletarian women and bourgeois women have nothing in common!
On this International Working Women’s Day, the MCP-OC issues a call to all women of the toiling masses: build revolutionary proletarian feminism!
What is proletarian feminism?
Proletarian feminism distinguishes itself from other crude ‘materialist’ formulations which view women’s liberation as the product of “exclusively” working class struggle, just as much as it differs from liberal or ‘socialist’ feminism which argue for a “dual systems” model of gendered oppression.
As a proletarian feminist formation, the MCP-OC understands that women’s struggles, LGBTQI struggles, and anti-colonial struggles are in the last analysis one and the same fight: the fight against capitalism-imperialism. Gender, like nation and sexuality, does not operate as an autonomous system with its own laws of motion – it is well and fully situated within the logic of capital.
Nevertheless, when gender oppression is just understood as a bourgeois tool to divide the working class, rather than as a site in which class itself is manifested, we lose sight of the unique violence carried out against working class women and non-men in the capitalist-imperialist context (particularly for those in the colonized world).
Proletarian feminism directly opposes so-called feminism which seek to unite women on a broad front, that is, purely on the basis of their identification as women.
The subject of proletarian feminism, then, is not all women, broadly understood. We do not see comrades in women who maintain their allegiance to the settler-colonial apparatus, those who are unwilling to break from their privileged status under capitalism. We do not organize petit-bourgeois or bourgeois women, nor any women who would fight to defend capitalism-imperialism or its heterosexist apparatus.
Proletarian feminism is a weapon in the hands of colonized and working class non-men, for those most oppressed by heterosexism and the colonial binary. It is principally the application of the revolutionary dialectical science of historical materialism to the specific conditions of toiling women worldwide. Therefore, we understand that any call for the unification of women as women, rather than a call for the unification of the women of the revolutionary masses on the basis of their class and national oppression, reveals its essentially reactionary political line.
Proletarian Feminism and People’s War
Proletarian feminism is not a theoretical enterprise; it is the living product of people’s war against capitalism-imperialism in Nepal, India, the Philippines and across the colonized world. “Peoples War, Women’s Liberation,” by Hisila Yami of the CPN offers a description of the relationship between armed struggle and proletarian feminism in the Nepalese context.
Yami describes how the party and army function to qualitatively change women into a fighting force, giving their feminism fangs by connecting their understanding of their oppression as women with a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist-Maoist analysis of Nepal. It is through mass work and armed struggle, as well as party-building work, that women can change their position in the new socialist society being built, eradicate patriarchal structures and attitudes, and tangibly practice proletarian feminism. Women are able to see theory in practice as they actually exercise the principle that “power flows through the barrel of a gun,” and make critical lines of demarcation between women revolutionaries and those who seek to maintain the current society.
As Anuradha Ghandy has said, “Women need revolution and the revolution needs women.”
The MCP-OC Upholds Proletarian Feminism!
The Organizing Committee for a Maoist Communist Party unites with all forces across the globe which pursue the liberation of working women from the chains of capitalism and imperialism. We recognize the necessity for constant struggle against this organ of capitalist violence which we call “patriarchy.” That is a struggle which takes place as much within our formation as without; male chauvinism, that petit-bourgeois tendency all too common in revolutionary organizations, must be stomped out wherever it is found. Struggle is the life of the party; this also means, struggle against petit-bourgeois chauvinism is necessary for the survival of the party. Male chauvinism takes many forms, from closing ranks around abusive “comrades” – a tendency all too common amongst revisionist organizations like the former ISO – to speaking over non-men or ignoring the necessity of administrative work in the maintenance of revolutionary organization. We are committed to smashing male chauvinism within the MCP-OC and within every formation with which we unite in struggle!
Still, the source of this petit-bourgeois ideological backwardness is not in the bad ideas of our male comrades, but in the structures of capitalism-imperialism itself. Our enemy is not our male comrades, then, but capitalist class, the settler-colonial dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. What does it mean for us to unite with the tidal wave of working women now rising against this dictatorship? It means that we organize for revolution! The struggle to defeat patriarchy is necessarily a political struggle against the capitalist-imperialist regime; as Marx established now almost 150 years ago, “revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” Only during the course of the revolutionary overthrow of the enemy class dictatorship will it be possible to found society anew, a society in which we who hold up the other half of the sky can finally stand equally beneath it alongside our comrades. This has been established in practice by revolutionaries from the Philipines to Peru: only the path of people’s war will lead us to the liberation of women!
The mass organs of the MCP-OC, principally our ‘For the People’ programs, are the first stepping stone on the road to making revolution in the so-called u.s.a. Without a firm base in the deepest sections of the masses, without the unwavering trust of the people, to call ourselves ‘revolutionaries’ would be an empty gesture; it is the masses that make history, not self-proclaimed revolutionaries. In order to build that trust, we work through these organs to serve the people, to demonstrate to the masses that our leadership comes from them, but this alone is not enough. Without transforming the consciousness of the masses into a revolutionary consciousness, without transforming our organs of popular power into organs of revolutionary power, this work will be meaningless. This is the task which we set for ourselves on this International Working Women’s Day!
Unite proletarian women under the leadership of the MCP-OC!
Struggle against male chauvinism and all backwards tendencies!
Organize the masses, make revolution! It is right to rebel against the reactionaries!
All power to the revolutionary women!