31 August 2009

Basic Communism Generic Course

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[CU for Tuesday 1 September 2009]

Following on from our recent Communist University series on “Basic Communism”, the CU is proud to announce that the new “Basic Communism” generic course is now available on the Internet, currently housed on the YCLSA Discussion Forum web site.

Click here for the “Console”.

Click here for the Introduction.

This set is designed to be as brief as possible (ten main texts) but also to provide further reading.

The following are the main texts used in this series:

  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed, C2, plus Glossary and Pol Ed
  • The Prince, compilation, Machiavelli
  • Communist Manifesto, Bourgeois & Proletarians, Marx
  • 3 Sources and 3 Component parts of Marxism, Lenin
  • SACP Constitution, 2007
  • Worker Solidarity and Unions, MIA; Meetings, Hannington
  • Negotiations, MIA
  • Value, Price and Profit, Parts 6 to 10, Marx
  • Lecture on The State, Lenin
  • Democracy & Culture, Shivji, Malik; African Socialism, Nkrumah

The next Generic Course to be prepared in this way will be “No Woman, No Revolution”. Planned completion for that one is a week from now.

We will return to our new series, “The State and Revolution”, on Wednesday. When we have worked through that set, in the course of our daily Communist University postings, it will also be published on the Internet as a new Generic Course.

That is how we will continue to work, i.e. from the daily CU mailing, to worked-up Generic Courses. Your feedback, which contributed considerably to the Basic Communism series, continues to be very much appreciated.

Click on this link:

Basic Communism, Console

Class Society and The State

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[CU for Monday 31 August 2009]

V I Lenin wrote "The State and Revolution" between the February 1917 bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia, and the October 1917 proletarian revolution. The latter dramatically interrupted his writing, leaving the work unfinished. [Picture: Lenin in 1917]

SACP Deputy General Secretary Jeremy Cronin has remarked that South Africa is in some ways stuck “between February and October”, meaning to compare our SA situation during the 15 years since 1994 with the eight months in 1917 between the two Russian revolutions.

It therefore seems worthwhile to run all six chapters of “The State and Revolution” as a course, set or series of the Communist University, now. In length, they are well suited to the purpose. It is even possible that this kind of treatment, and this way of collective study, was exactly what Lenin had in mind when he wrote the work. He referred to it as a “pamphlet”, which would tend to mean a text for mass agitational propaganda.

The urgency of Lenin’s revolutionary purpose is apparent from the first paragraph, as is the priority he gives to the understanding of The State as a product of, and integral to, the exploitative class-divided social system that the Bolsheviks were determined to overthrow, and therefore a matter of the highest revolutionary priority.

Hence the first words are a definition and a challenge to those who would think otherwise: “The State: a Product of the Irreconcilability of Class Antagonisms”

In the first paragraph Lenin refers to the embracing of “Marxism” by the respectable bourgeoisie, and their pleasure at the amenability of “the labour unions which are so splendidly organized for the purpose of waging a predatory war!”

The world war that was raging at the time was not merely a incidental background to the Russian Revolutions of 1917. Like the lethal global neo-liberalism of today, the war had seduced the major part of the social-democratic organisations that claimed to represent the working class. The structures of the working class had turned against the working class, and the crux of the matter was the question, then as now, of The State. Lenin is unequivocal:

“The state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms. The state arises where, when and insofar as class antagonism objectively cannot be reconciled. And, conversely, the existence of the state proves that the class antagonisms are irreconcilable.”

Lenin proceeds to write that the overthrow of the bourgeois state has to be direct and forcible, whereas the withering-away of the proletarian state can only be the indirect consequence of the progressive disappearance of class antagonism during the transitional period called socialism. "The State and Revolution" goes to the very heart of the revolutionary theory of class struggle, sharpens all contradictions, and draws clear lessons - lessons that are still relevant today, and especially for South Africa.

Click on this link:

State and Revolution, C1, Class Society & State, Lenin, 1917 (6071 words)

27 August 2009

Umsebenzi Online

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[CU for Friday 28 August 2009]

[Picture: 800-metre Gold Medallist Caster Semenya arriving at O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg]

Umsebenzi Online is the South African Communist Party’s twice-monthly e-mail newsletter. The Umsebenzi Online archive is on the SACP web site. You can subscribe to it (free) from the Umsebenzi Online distribution-group web site, or by using the Umsebenzi Online promotion box near the top of the right-hand column on the Communist University blog.

You can use the same promotion box, or this one, (or else the one on any page of the SACP web site towards the bottom of the left-hand panel there), to invite anybody to be on the Umsebenzi Online list. Just put an e-mail address in the box and click “Subscribe”. An e-mail will go to that address, inviting the person to click to confirm that the she or he wants to subscribe. It’s quick and convenient.

Umsebenzi Online usually carries an article by the SACP General Secretary, Dr Blade Nzimande.

Today’s is the last of our ten-part “No Woman, No Revolution” set. To complete the picture of the women’s movement that the CU has tried to provide, the linked document today consists of four articles taken from Umsebenzi Online from the beginning of 2006 to the present. Umsebenzi Online is the SACP’s authentic voice.

2006 was the year when the CU did its first “No Woman, No Revolution” series, from February to May, meeting at the Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill. 2006 was also the year which, in August, saw the launch of the “Progressive Woman’s Movement”, something different and opposite in character from what the Communist University had imagined.

The Communist University is not a constitutional structure of the SACP. It supports the SACP, the ANC, and COSATU. But for pedagogical reasons, if for no other, it must be allowed to speculate, without any prejudice to those organisations.

So here are some speculative theses on the question of women in South Africa:

  • Women, as such, have no interests that are antagonistic to those of men, but women have a common and particular felt experience among themselves, as women, of the oppression that capitalism has brought to their lives.
  • Therefore there is a basis for women to organise as a mass, by which is meant a small or large number of people who feel a common disadvantage in society, and who in consequence organise themselves together for their collective good.
  • Women’s mass organisations have the same requirement as trade union and political-vanguard organisations, to be both democratic and centralist. Therefore women’s organisations should have individual membership, branches, a national congress, corporate personality, and a constitution to ensure democracy.
  • The SACP, as a vanguard political organisation of the working class, is designed to relate to such mass organisations, just as it relates to trade union organisations, and others.
  • As a matter of historical fact, the ANC, through the ANCWL, has on four successive occasions since its founding in 1948, acted to ensure that the above kind of democratic, mass, individual-membership general-purpose women’s movement could not flourish. The ANCWL, under pressure from the ANC, blighted FEDSAW, the UDF women’s structures, and the Women’s National Coalition, and it now blights the Progressive Women’s Movement.
  • The ANC adopted “non-sexism” in the 1980s, and the current South African Constitution is non-sexist, but in practice these provisions mean little as compared to the non-existence of a mass women’s movement that has membership and democracy, and which is politically aligned to the working class and to the cause of socialism.
  • Very little of the above is discussed in the general public realm. What discussion there may be is often based on unexamined vulgar bourgeois-feminist, eclectic, post-modernist precepts. The situation is, on the face of it, much the same as it was four years ago in mid-2005, when the Communist University began to plan its first “No Woman, No Revolution” series.
  • Yet two very great gains have been made. The one was the election, in December 2007 at Polokwane, of an ANC National Executive Committee of 84 members of which 50% are women. The other is this month’s announcement by the SACP GS that the YCLSA has a membership that is more than 50% female.

Click on this link:

Umsebenzi Online on Women, 2006-2009 (6340 words)

26 August 2009

Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex?

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[CU for Thursday 27 August 2009]

Evelyn Reed is the author of the 1975 book “Woman’s Evolution”. Unfortunately it is not on the Internet. “Women - Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex” (1970), the essay linked below, contains some of the ideas that were included in the longer work. [Picture: Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space, 16 June 1963]

Reed writes of “the downfall of women” as if it was a single historic event, which, from the point of view of the metropolitan countries, it appears to be. Of course Reed was aware, like Engels, that there were still contemporary societies existing on earth which had not experienced the full downfall of women. The downfall has in practice been a long cascade, which is not yet at an end.

The downfall of women is real. It corresponds exactly with the arrival of class-divided society, with its institutions of the patriarchal family, private property and state power. This is what Engels expressed so clearly in 1884, following on from the work of Henry Morgan and Karl Marx. Evelyn Reed does not contradict Engels, but her work opened up the story in more detail.

In “Woman’s Evolution” Reed shows how nearly all the productive technologies that humans still use today for basic survival, from horticulture and animal husbandry to pottery, weaving and leatherwork, and including building and the use of fire, originated in the sphere of the women, which was the human settlement itself.

In this short essay, Reed makes the basic case for the historical and materialist view of human life, from which proceeds an integrated understanding of the entire society of men and women together, and the consequent necessity for socialism. After that, she contrasts and compares with some of her contemporary opponents of forty years ago, whose arguments were similar to those of the bourgeois feminists of today in South Africa. Here are some excerpts from the essay:

“Under the clan system of the sisterhood of women and the brotherhood of men there was no more possibility for one sex to dominate the other than there was for one class to exploit another. Women occupied the most eminent position because they were the chief producers of the necessities of life as well as the procreators of new life.”

“Woman’s overthrow went hand in hand with the subjugation of the mass of toiling men to the master class of men.”

“Women, then, have been condemned to their oppressed status by the same social forces and relations which have brought about the oppression of one class by another, one race by another, and one nation by another. It is the capitalist system - the ultimate stage in the development of class society -which is the fundamental source of the degradation and oppression of women.”

“…to say that women form a separate caste or class must logically lead to extremely pessimistic conclusions with regard to the antagonism between the sexes in contrast with the revolutionary optimism of the Marxists. For, unless the two sexes are to be totally separated, or the men liquidated, it would seem that they will have to remain forever at war with each other. As Marxists we have a more realistic and hopeful message. We deny that women’s inferiority was predestined by her biological makeup or has always existed.”

Click on this link:

Women - Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex, Evelyn Reed, 1970 (5584 words)

25 August 2009

Women, Race and Class

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[CU for Wednesday 26 August 2009]

Angela Davis is well known and hard to summarise. She is certainly a scholar. She is also a holder of the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, and she was twice a Vice-Presidential candidate on behalf of the CPUSA. [The image is a Cuban poster for Angela].

This link takes you to an interview that Angela Davis did with Gary Younge of the Guardian (London) in 2007, during a trip which also took her to Johannesburg, as recorded by the CU here.

This link takes you to the Angela Davis page on Wikipedia, where as usual there are more links, at the bottom of the page.

Chapter 13 from Angela Davis’s 1981 book, Women, Race and Class, linked below, is to a large extent a polemic against the Wages for Housework Movement of that time, led by Mariarosa Dalla Costa in Italy.

Davis tackles the matter of housework first, arguing a communist solution to the drudgery of child care, domestic cleaning, food preparation, and laundry.

She shows that the current situation of women is historically recent in origin, and that the repression of women coincides in historical development of human society with the appearance of private property, quoting Engels’ “Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”. Davis reports on her 1973 interaction with the Masai people of Tanzania, where there was still division of labour between the sexes that was “complementary as opposed to hierarchical,” according to Davis.

Davis recounts, in her own way, the nature of the capitalist wages system, where money is only paid for the survival or continued availability of labour power, and nothing at all is paid for the expropriated product of labour. Davis also records aspects of the South African apartheid system of exploitation, which was still in full force at that time.

In her concluding paragraph Davis says: “The only significant steps toward ending domestic slavery have in fact been taken in the existing socialist countries.” In other words, wages for housework is an ineffective gimmick; the real solution to women’s problems in society can only come from changing society.

The Communist University is suggesting that the democratic organisation of women in the same kind of way as workers are organised, so that their organisation is a component of democracy and is not outside of democracy, is the only way that women can form a collective purpose, and that socialism should be that common purpose, because it is the necessary solution to the problems of women, race and class.

Tomorrow we will look again at a past polemic between a partisan of the working class, Evelyn Reed, and the bourgeois anti-socialist feminists who stood opposed to her in the late 1960s.

Click on this link:

Working-Class Perspective on Housework, Davis, Women, Race and Class, 1981 (7009 words)

24 August 2009

Progressive Women’s Movement

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[CU for Tuesday 25 August 2009]

Yesterday we asked: Is the Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM) supposed to be a subsidiary of the ANC Women’s League, and therefore a junior partner of the ANC? Or is the PWM a wider movement, open to all women, of which the ANCWL is only one part among many? To what extent have the problems and tensions of the FEDSAW period in the 1950s been solved Or have those problems not been solved?

Today we carry one document compiled of three documents. They are the PWM Base Document, the PWM Founding Document, and the PWM Declaration of 8 August 2006, from the founding gathering in Mangaung. All three documents are from a PWM page at the ANCWL web site, where the PWM logo, rather similar to that of the ANCWL, is displayed. There is no separate PWM web site.

Last Thursday, 20 August 2009, the Progressive Women’s Movement’s third anniversary banquet was featured on the SABC glamour-and-fashion programme, Top Billing. It was a high-society occasion. The President of the Republic was a guest [Picture: Jacob Zuma being interviewed by Top Billing during the PWM banquet], yet it was not clear who is the leader of the PWM.

The PWM Base Document says, among other things:

“The ANC and the ANC WL… have held a view that there is a need for some kind of an organic structure that will take up broader issues of women in the South African Society.

“In October 2005 during one of its meetings the National Executive Committee of the Women's League decided it would be ideal if South African women to formalize a Progressive Women's Movement in 2006.

“After extensive discussions, as the ANCWL and Alliance partners we have agreed that a Women's Movement is a broad front of women's organisations, grassroots organisations of all kinds, feminist oriented groups, researchers, faith based organisations, traditional healers, women involved in policy formulation and programmes.

Character of the PWM: Organic - not a formal structure

Objectives: Unite the women of South Africa in diversity; strengthen the relationship between the government and women's organisations.”

The Base Document therefore confirms that the PWM is an ANC initiative, that it is a combination of women’s organisations, not individuals, that it shall be “organic” and “not a formal structure”, and that it its purpose is to bind the women to the government.

The PWM Foundation Document says, among other things:

“Regular membership of the movement shall be open to any progressive South African women's organisation and formations that work with women that share the values and principles of the PWMSA.

National Steering Committee, Selection and Tenure: National Conference shall identify sectors for representation to the steering committee. After the Conference of the PWMSA the previous committee in conjunction with the newly seconded members will convene a handing over meeting within a period of a month.”

[Steering Committee members are “identified” and “seconded”. This formula is repeated at Provincial level. The word “elect”, or “election”, is never used. Terms are five years (National) and three years (Provincial).]

Powers and Duties of the National Steering Committee: The Steering Committee shall elect a Convenor and assign portfolios and responsibilities to the members of the Steering Committee; They shall carry out and monitor the decisions of the National Conference; They shall coordinate the establishment of Provincial Steering Committees”

Committees: There shall be such other Committee(s) and ad hoc committees, as the Steering Committee may from time to time deem necessary; Each Committee shall have a Coordinator.

“At any National Conference the only business that shall be discussed shall be that which has been specified in the written request lodged by the members concerned, unless the Steering Committee in her discretion otherwise permits.

“The Steering Committee shall have the power to authorise expenditure on behalf of the Movement from time to time for the purposes of furthering the objectives of the Movement in accordance with such terms and conditions as the Member Organisation of the Steering Committee may direct. The monies of the Movement shall be deposited and disbursed in accordance with any Banking Resolution passed by the Steering Committee. Each member shall, on an annual basis pay dues for every five years.”

It appears that in order to be organic and not a formal structure”, the PWM has to be almost as tightly structured as a normal, constitutionally organised body. The requirement to be “not a formal structure” is only attempted in this very formal document to the extent that there is a Convenor and there are Co-ordinators, but not Presidents, Chairpersons or Secretaries; that the basis of delegate status at conferences is not spelled out; and that there is selection, and secondment, and no elections. The PWM fails to be unstructured, but it also fails to achieve formal incorporation. One consequence is that the PWM has no internal democracy - like COPE. Indeed, some of the founders of the PWM did go on to become founder-members of COPE.

Furthermore, an organisation that is not a juristic person cannot make contracts, own property, have a bank account, or employ people. This is the position that the PWM now finds itself in. Three years after its Mangaung Declaration, the PWM has no physical or postal address, no telephone number, no web site, no employees, and no publicly-visible or identified office-bearers. It held a large public banquet, only by virtue of its relationship with the ANCWL. Only the ANCWL is keeping the PWM afloat.

Like FEDSAW in the 1950s, the PWM is not allowed to have a mass individual membership, but only corporate members. Like FEDSAW, the PWM is closely watched by, and practically owned by, the ANC. The PWM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the ANC, via the ANCWL. It is explicitly designed as a vehicle for co-opting otherwise autonomous organisations to be close to the ANC government.

Yet this is not the whole matter.

From February through May of 2006, the Communist University held a major series of discussions on women, at the Women’s Jail on Constitution Hill, Johanesburg. The PWM was founded in August of that year. The CU’s interactions, at that time, with some of the women who were leading the process of formation of the PWM clearly indicated that the idea of Organic - not a formal structure” had support, and that this "organicness" was supported in particular by the then gender officers of the main working-class formations, the SACP and COSATU.

There is a desire in some women to flee from the organisational forms that are normal to the labour movement, of the kind that were championed by other women like the late, great Ray Alexander, for example. The desire to shun such proper organisation has a basis in the conflicted philosophy of feminism. It is related to the contradiction noted by Alexandra Kollontai a century ago, between bourgeois feminism, and working-class politics.

For these reasons, the CU will proceed to air two classic reflections on the philosophical basis of the women’s movement, from Angela Davis, and from Evelyn Reed, and will then complete this current series on women with texts published by the South African Communist Party in “Umsebenzi Online” during the last three years.

Click on this link:

PWM Base Document, Founding Document, and Declaration, 2006 (5303 words)

22 August 2009

ANC Women’s League

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[CU for Monday 24 August 2009]

“…a matter of central importance – the relationship between the FSAW and ANC; the relationship between the women’s movement and the senior partner in the national liberation movement...

“Their main fear was that, if the FSAW were constituted on the basis of an individual membership, it would compete against the ANCWL to the detriment of the latter. In taking this position, the ANC revealed a degree of ambivalence towards the FSAW that it would never entirely overcome.”

With these words of Cheryl Walker’s, we left the matter of the Federation of South African Women (FSAW or FEDSAW). Today we come up-to-date with the ANC Women’s League. The Short History of the ANCWL on its web site recalls the formation of FEDSAW as the major turning point for the League:

“Organisationally, the Federation of South African Women, formed in 1954 as an umbrella body, helped the ANCWL's activities to spread. It was the first indication that the ANCWL wanted to be involved in improving the lot of women nationally, and not only within their own organisation. Federation brought together from the ANCWL, Coloured People's Organisation, Transvaal and Natal Indian Congress of Democrats.

“The impact of women's activities led the male leadership to recognise the potential of the women's struggle.Thus started the integration of women into ANC structures. In 1956 ANCWL President Lilian Ngoyi was elected the first women to join the ANC NEC.”

[Lilian Ngoyi was President both of the League, and of the Federation, at that time.]

See the document linked below for more of this history, and for relevant points from the current (2003) ANCWL constitution. Here are some of them:

  • The Women's League is based on the policies and principles of the African National Congress.
  • [Members must] Combat propaganda detrimental to the interests of the ANC and defend the policy and programmes of the ANCWL and the ANC;
  • The Women's League is an integral part of the African National Congress and is part of its mobilising machinery.
  • The ANCWL shall receive an annual budget, together with the supplementary grants for specific projects and tasks from the office of the Treasurer General of the ANC.

Tomorrow we will look at the Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM) and ask: Is the PWM supposed to be a subsidiary, or junior partner, of the ANCWL, and therefore of the ANC? Or is it a wider movement, open to all women, of which the ANCWL is only one part? To what extent have the problems and tensions of the FEDSAW period been solved, or have they not been solved? To what extent have those problems re-appeared?

Click on this link:

ANCWL Short History, and points from 2003 ANCWL Constitution (1396 words)

20 August 2009

Organised as Women

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[CU for Friday 21 August 2009]

We have seen, by working through the readings of Kollontai, Lenin, the Comintern and the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW, or FSAW), that the class context, and also the South African liberation-movement context, makes the clear understanding of women’s mass organisation very critical.

To sum up: Women are not a separate class, which can be organised against men. Women are not exempt from class struggle, but are as divided by class as men are, and divided into the same classes as men are. Yet women do have a common basis for organisation as a distinct and self-conscious mass.

Today’s text (see the link below) is an excerpt from Cheryl Walker’s 1982 book “Women and Resistance in South Africa”. It concerns the position of FEDSAW as related to the regime, and also as related to the African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL), in the period following FEDSAW’s founding in 1954.

The ANCWL had been founded in 1948; and the ANC was an Africans-only organisation until the 1969 National Conference of the ANC in Morogoro, Tanzania. There was an objective need to organise women on a wider basis than that of the ANCWL. As we noted, the 1954 formation of FEDSAW, intended as a non-racial women’s movement in South Africa, and the simultaneous adoption of the Women’s Charter, prefigured the Congress of the People and the adoption of the Freedom Charter both of which happened in the following year, 1955.

All of that was to the good, but it also seems clear from Walker’s account that the relationship between FEDSAW and the ANCWL was problematic in the 1950s; and it may well be that very similar problems continue, more than half a century later, to arise between, for example, the ANCWL and the Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM) that was launched in August 2006. In the 1950s and again in the 2000s, the question of whether to have individual membership, or not, was at issue. Here is some of what Walker has to say about this:

“There were two alternatives. Either the FSAW could seek its own mass membership or it could base itself on a federal form, acquiring its members indirectly through each of its affiliated member organisations. The matter was not settled at the inaugural conference. A draft constitution proposing the first alternative – a mass, individual membership – was circulated but failed to win overall approval. Ray Alexander, and later the NEC based in Cape Town, supported this constitution, but Ida Mtwana and, it would seem, the ANCWL in the Transvaal, wanted a federal structure.

“In opposing Alexander, Mtwana spoke on behalf of the Transvaal ANCWL, acting, apparently, on the instructions of the provincial ANC. Their main fear was that, if the FSAW were constituted on the basis of an individual membership, it would compete against the ANCWL to the detriment of the latter. In taking this position, the ANC revealed a degree of ambivalence towards the FSAW that it would never entirely overcome. While supporting and welcoming the entry of women into the national liberation movement, it was anxious to retain control over their activities – a control it could exercise effectively over the Women’s League but not so successfully over an independent FSAW.

“At the heart of the debate between these two alternatives there thus lay a matter of central importance – the relationship between the FSAW and ANC; the relationship between the women’s movement and the senior partner in the national liberation movement. The ANC was adamant on the issue and finally, reluctantly, the individual membership group yielded towards the end of 1954. They conceded not because they had been convinced by the other group’s arguments but because they realised that without the support of the ANC, the women’s movement would be isolated from the Congress Alliance.”

[Picture: Ray Alexander]

Click on this link:

FedSAW, NEC and Membership in 1955, Cheryl Walker, 1982 (3255 words)

19 August 2009

Women’s Charter, 1954

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[CU for Thursday 20 August 2009]

On 17 April 1954, fourteen months before the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 16 June 1955, the Federation of South African Women adopted the Women’s Charter (linked below).

Following on from what we have read in the last three days (from Kollontai, Lenin, and the Comintern), we can see the same thread re-emerging here, as for example in this short passage from the Women’s Charter:

“We women do not form a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.”

The Women’s Charter was not directed against men; nor did it hold out women as a separate class of people as compared to the men. It opposed such a separation. Thus it placed the question of women in the mainstream, and then went on to say:

“It is our intention to carry out a nation-wide programme of education that will bring home to the men and women of all national groups the realisation that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as we women are kept in bondage.”

It is very sad to read the following, from the women of 55 years ago, knowing that it is still as true today as it was then:

“We know what it is to keep family life going in pondokkies and shanties, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. We know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughters becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.”

On the question of forms of organisation of women, a matter to which the CU will return tomorrow, the Women’s Charter as such has little to say, except for the following items from the list of demands:

· For the removal of all laws that restrict free movement, that prevent or hinder the right of free association and activity in democratic organisations, and the right to participate in the work of these organisations.

· To build and strengthen women's sections in the National Liberatory movements, the organisation of women in trade unions, and through the peoples' varied organisation.

· To cooperate with all other organisations that have similar aims in South Africa as well as throughout the world.

The image is of a 1987 FEDSAW Western Cape poster

Click on this link:

Women’s Charter, FEDSAW Founding Conference, 1954 (1534 words)

18 August 2009

Comintern to Women

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[CU for Wednesday 19 August 2009]

The Third Congress of the Communist International (3CCI) took place from 22 June to 12 July 1921 (see the great Communist International archive on MIA).

The main part of the linked document is “Methods and Forms of Work among Communist Party Women: Theses”. It begins by recalling that the two previous CCIs (in 1919 and 1920) as well as two International Conferences of Communist Women had all deliberated on women and states that “it is in the interests of the working class that women are drawn into the organised ranks of the proletariat as it fights for Communism.”

In other words, and following also the words of Lenin quoted here yesterday from the year of the Great October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the question of women is present right at the start of socialism, and with vigour and energy. It could not be otherwise.

Yet, the document quickly states:

“The Third Congress of the Communist International supports the basic position of revolutionary Marxism that there is no ‘special’ women’s question, nor should there be a special women’s movement, and that any alliance between working women and bourgeois feminism or support for the vacillating or clearly right-wing tactics of the social compromisers and opportunists will lead to the weakening of the forces of the proletariat, thereby delaying the great hour of the full emancipation of women.”

That is clear: There is no separate women’s question that is distinct from the revolutionary working-class interest. But later, the document says:

“The III Congress of the Communist International therefore recognises that a special apparatus for conducting work among women is necessary. This apparatus must consist of departments or commissions for work among women, attached to every Party committee at all levels, from the CC of the Party right down to the urban, district or local Party committee. This decision is binding on all Parties in the Communist International.”

That is also clear: there must be women’s structures at all levels. So why is the Comintern not contradicting itself?

Comrades, read the full document, but in the VC’s opinion the matter is simple: Women are not a class, but women are a mass. Women have problems is common, but they are not a separate class. Bourgeois women are part of the bourgeois class, and working women are part of the working class. [Picture: woman worker in the USA]

Click on this link:

Women, Basic Principles, Declaration, Resolution, 3CCI, 1921 (8032 words)