16 April 2010

Comintern to Women of the World


Comintern to Women of the World

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).

We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 22 April (Thursday)
  • Time: 17h00 sharp to 18h30 sharp
  • Venue: The Library, University of Johannesburg, 37 Nind Street, Doornfontein, Johannesburg (former Technikon Witwatersrand). Cars enter from the slip road to the left of the bridge on Siemert Road.
  • Topic: Comintern on Women.

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 in the previous post 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 in 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. 

On the other hand, this document could be criticised for being prescriptive, for preaching, and for ignoring revolutionary mass democracy - faults which the Comintern exhibited again in 1930, during in its intervention in South Africa's National Democratic Revolution (see C19, from Class and Colour, Jack and Ray Simons). 

Is this the beginning of the relative failure in the organisation of women that characterised the following 90 years, up to the present time?

In the CU, we have discussed the possible formation of a new organisation for working women, called for the sake of discussion "Working Women of Africa". It appears that the Comintern would have frowned upon such an initiative,


[Picture: workers in the USA]



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