29 May 2010

Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State


The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State

Evelyn Reed’s 1970 essay “Women - Caste, Class or Oppressed Sex?” and her 1975 full-length book “Woman’s Evolution” built upon Frederick Engels’ work “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” which had been published in 1884 in the year following the death of Karl Marx.

Our main discussion in this part of the series “No Woman, No Revolution” would be around Reed’s essay (but we still have no venue for that discussion). Today we look at Chapter 9 of Engels’ book (the chapter called “Barbarism and Civilisation”). Both documents are linked below as MS-Word downloads.

Marx had already worked on source material, including Henry Morgan’s 1877 book called “Ancient Society”.  Engels found Marx’s working papers for this project and at once started to prepare a book from them for publication. By the time Engels died in 1895, twelve years after Marx, he had also edited and published Volumes 2 and 3 of Marx’s masterpiece, “Capital”, Volume 1 of which had been published by Marx in 1867.

The particular contribution of “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State” is that it shows the common, interdependent origin of private property and the State, the fall of the women into the oppressive condition which they subsequently continued to suffer, and the institutions of money, writing and law. This revolutionary break was in fact the end of pre-history and the beginning of history, which as Marx and Engels had noted in 1848, was from then on “a history of class struggles”.

The transition from prehistoric communism took place a long time ago in some parts of the world. In Egypt and Mesopotamia (Iraq) it may have happened more than five thousand years ago. In most other parts of the world it was a much more recent phenomenon. The fall of the women may in some ways still not yet be complete in some places.

The simultaneous nature of the triple catastrophe (property, state and downfall of women) means that the remedy for all three will likewise have to be simultaneous. The urgent abolition or “withering away” of the State is a woman’s issue. The socialist project is a woman’s project.

Communism is a necessity for women. The reversal of the downfall of the women can only be achieved by the simultaneous abolition of property and the State. Likewise, the abolition of property and the State cannot be achieved without the conscious restoration of women to their proper place in human society. All three goals have to be achieved together. The three goals are actually the same goal, and the name of it is communism.

You can safely ignore the first three paragraphs of Chapter 9. These paragraphs only refer back to earlier chapters in the book.

From then onwards, what you will find is a virtual history of human society from its beginning right up to modern times.


28 May 2010

Ward and Voting District demarcation


ANC Today, 28 May 2010

Ward and Voting District demarcation

Why are we getting new wards and changing some of the existing wards?

The Municipal Structures Act says that wards must have more or less the same number of voters. No more than 10% deviation from the average is allowed. New wards are added before every local election and the boundaries of existing wards often change.

The Municipal Demarcations Board (MDB) is in charge of determining the boundaries of municipalities, and of wards within municipalities. The number of councillors in each municipality is determined by the number of voters and the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for Local Government applies the legal formula and publishes the number of councillors in the Government Gazette. Half the councillors have to come from wards (and the other half from the Proportional Representation list). If there has been a significant increase in the number of voters in a municipality, more wards will be added.

What is the process?

It is not a simple process to add more wards, because of the requirement that wards must have more or less the same number of voters. As new wards are created the boundaries of existing wards also sometimes have to change to ensure that all wards have similar numbers of voters.

The MDB proposes changes to municipalities and publishes them for comment. This process usually starts about two years before an election. If there are no objections, local council stakeholder meetings sign off on the changes and they are implemented. If there are objections from any party, or a dispute about where boundaries should be, the MDB visits the affected area and holds a meeting with all parties to the dispute. They attempt to get agreement and sign-off on new boundaries from all the parties involved. If that fails, the MDB can make the decision.

A Schedule 1 notice is then published about the new boundaries and a two-week formal objection period is allowed before the boundaries are finalised.

Where is the process now?

By the end of May all stakeholder meetings should be completed.

64% of notices have already been published and the rest should be published in June.

The MDB will convene Ward Delimitation Committees in June and July 2010 to decide on the merit of objections received after which it will finalise the wards for the 2011.

As the ANC we should avoid unnecessary delays to the finalisation of wards. Objections should only be made in very serious cases. The timeframes are very tight and any further delays will compromise the opportunities for voter registration.

The MDB has to provide to the IEC the final set of wards on 1 Sept 2010.

What does the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) do?

The IEC then matches the ward boundaries to Voting District boundaries. Most of the 19 000 VDs will remain intact, but a few thousand will change because they are cut in two by new ward boundaries. A number of new VDs are also created in new urban settlements or in rural areas where previous boundaries were impractical.

The IEC proposes new VD boundaries to local Party Liaison Committees who have to sign off on the maps before they can be finalised. Voter registration or re-registration of voters whose VD changed, can only start once maps are printed.

The IEC will then conduct targeted registration in changed VDs, upload the data and update the voters roll.

Two public voter registration weekends are usually held. After the first one the roll is again updated and the new version is open for checking at the second weekend. The voters roll closes as soon as elections are proclaimed - usually about 2-3 months before the election.

27 May 2010

Caste, Class or Sex?

CU, No Woman, No Revolution, Part 9

Caste, Class or Sex?

We don't have a venue at the moment. The CU is on the streets again, homeless. We will continue to post until the end of this series (i.e this week's and next week's) and then consider how to proceed. E-mails and blog comments will be welcome.

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” or advanced capitalist 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.”

20 May 2010

Women, Race and Class

CU, No Woman, No Revolution, Part 8

Women, Race and Class

Angela Davis is well known but 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].

We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 27 May (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: Working-Class Perspecive on Housework

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 for 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.

In the following session we will look at another 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.

19 May 2010

True Revolutionaries: Come Forward!


Umsebenzi Online, Volume 9, No. 9, 19 May 2010

In this Issue:
  • The Revolution is on trial (11): It calls for true revolutionaries to come forward!

Red Alert

The Revolution is on trial (11): It calls for true revolutionaries to come forward!

Blade Nzimande, General Secretary

Our national democratic revolution has entered a critical phase in which the many advances made in the run up to, and especially since, the Polokwane conference can either be deepened or face the danger of being rolled back. This is a period that also requires a proper appraisal of recent and current developments, including opportunities and threats to the Polokwane advances, so that our movement as a whole can tighten the political line of march for all our cadres.

This is also a mid-term period between the Polokwane conference, the SACP 12th Congress in 2007 and the next set of congresses in 2012. Thus this period requires a thorough assessment not only for the purposes of the next two to two and half years, but because its political outcomes may have an impact for the next or two decades of our country.

Some of the recent and current developments upon which we need to consolidate and advance the national democratic revolution include the following: 

  • The Polokwane advances and the lessons from there was that it is indeed possible to unite all our component of our movement (the working class, the veterans, former MK soldiers, communists, women, youth, and civic formations) in order to re-assert the collective responsibility of all leadership at all levels and the unity of our movement.
  • The ANC's overwhelming electoral victory in the 2009 elections, a victory that was important for a number of reasons. Firstly, that electoral victory re-affirmed the confidence that our people have in the ANC and the alliance. Secondly it was a victory achieved on the back of the unity of all the forces mentioned above in the run up to Polokwane. Thirdly, that electoral victory marked a defeat of a right wing breakaway from our movement, in the form of Cope, whose aim was to try and weaken if not break our movement. It is this victory that has laid the basis for the emerging contradictions that certainly look like they are going to break Cope.
  • The inauguration of President Zuma and the formation of a new administration, with an inclusive Cabinet, defying the predictions of our detractors who had thought that President Zuma will form a government based on revenge against those who had wanted to prevent him from assuming the role of ANC President and head of state. Instead we also have a government committed to consulting and engaging our people whose modus operandi is that of seeking to break the silos in the operation of government as a necessary conditions for realizing our goals as encapsulated in the five priorities of the manifesto
  • A commitment to a new growth path for our country, including the adoption of a comprehensive industrial policy action plan, and continued commitment to infrastructural investment and the establishment of the National Planning Commission.
  • The holding of two successful alliance summits within a period of 18 months coming out with a clear programme of action 

Indeed these are very strong platforms and terrains upon which we should consolidate, deepen and advance our national democratic revolution. They are also important because they underline the ANC's and government's commitments in prioritizing the needs of the workers and the poor.

Of course the ANC and Alliance prioritization of meeting the needs of the poor is now being cynically perverted by analysts like Mr Moeletsi Mbeki, as if the relationship between the ANC and the poor majority of our country is a utilitarian one, where the ANC is claimed to be using government programmes to buy the votes of the poor. This is an attempt to opportunistically vulgarise the ANC's revolutionary commitment to the poor, as if the poor vote for the ANC because they are bought rather than improvements in aspects of their lives as a result of ANC policies. It is also a downright, and elitist, patronizing attitude towards the majority of South Africans, as if they are duped for voting for the ANC. It is also a sleight of hand to try and project the middle classes and professionals as the only 'rational' voters rather than cannon fodder. This means that elites are smarter and the masses are dumb. Sounds familiar, isn't it?

No wonder this cynicism is being grabbed by both hands by right wing publications like 'The Citizen' which in its editorial of 18 May 2010, citing Mbeki's comments, argues that

"Those who have little political voice are the main taxpayers who finance social welfare programmes and provide subsidies to multi-nationals to base themselves in South Africa".

For this right-wing tabloid, it is as if poverty in this country is not a direct result of the brutal capitalist exploitation always defended by this tabloid - retrenchments, casualisation and outsourcing of the very poor that they pretend to be champions of! It is typical right wing hypocrisy that would at the same time call for protection of labour brokers and attack South African labour laws as making it difficult to hire and fire, and at the same time pretend to be concerned about the poor that are daily being reproduced by the practices it defends! This tabloid always speaks from both sides of its mouth!

Our analysis of the challenges and threats to our democracy should however not be premised on such cynical and elitist analysis, but on a revolutionary and principled analysis of concrete conditions in our country. It is for this reason that we must, from our standpoint frankly and honestly analyse some of the threats to our advances in the current period.

These include, but not limited to, the following:

  • A new trend of right-wing activism which attempts to use our constitution, the courts and other institutions supporting our democratic constitution to try and roll back our gains. These attempts range from and challenging affirmative action in the courts, the banning of our revolutionary songs as an attempt to wipe out the memory of the brutality of the apartheid regime and our struggles against it, to a one-sided emphasis on crime against, for instance, white farmers whilst ignoring the daily brutalization of black farm workers and farm dwellers
  • Intensified exploitation of the working class with increased labour broking, casualisation and retrenchment. The intensification of exploitation and impoverisation of the working class now also manifests through the increasing 'regionalisation' of South Africa's workforce in many parts of our economy - with employers increasingly preferring vulnerable migrant workers from the Southern African region in order to maximize profits and lower wages. These trends pose a threat to the unity of the working class and its capacity to act as the leading motive force of the national democratic revolution
  • The emergence of a small tendency, both inside and outside the ranks of our movement, that seems to be in such a hurry to get rich quick such that it is even prepared to sacrifice the unity of the ANC and our alliance, if these stand in the way of its greed. Tenderpreneurship - the collusion between business elements in the private sector with those in the public sector to corruptly capture government tenders - is one such manifestation of this get rich quick mentality. Whilst tenderpreneurship is not inherently counter-revolutionary, but apart from the white racist right wing tendency, it is the most susceptible to degenerating into counter-revolution through its temptation to turn South Africa into one big tender liable to be bought by the highest imperialist bidder! 

It is especially these threats that call for …

True revolutionaries to come to the front!

Revolutionaries are, from our standpoint as communists, both 'timeless' as well as historical and conjunctural! This means that from the standpoint of the SACP revolutionaries, in the first instance, will be all those who are prepared to battle and make sacrifices to relentlessly wage a struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system and install a socialist order, as part of a continuous struggle to build a communist society. These are communist revolutionaries. But communist revolutionaries are not the only revolutionaries, as historical, epochal and conjunctural challenges throw up their own revolutionaries to advance and take forward the revolutionary tasks of the period.

Just as those who waged a principled struggle against slavery, feudalism and anti-colonial struggles for the installation of a more democratic order in the interests of the majority of the oppressed can justly be regarded as revolutionaries, within the context of the specific revolutionary challenges of the period - to overthrow oppressive regimes.

Indeed our own national democratic revolution has thrown up revolutionaries who have dedicated their lives, and even life, to the cause of the liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular, through waging a relentless struggle to overthrow colonialism of a special type.

But also, revolutionaries in one set of conjunctural circumstances or period may not necessarily continue to play a revolutionary role in different conditions or circumstances.

The tasks and challenges of communist revolutionaries is that of correctly and properly identifying, as well as enter into alliances, with all genuine revolutionaries in each phase of our revolution. Our national democratic revolution has also been characterized by an alliance of genuine communist, nationalist and other revolutionaries in the struggle to overthrow the apartheid regime.

In the era of the national democratic revolution, revolutionaries are all those who are genuinely committed to the immediate and intermediate tasks of uplifting the conditions of the workers and the poor, as well as the complete destruction of the many conditions that reproduce such inequalities. This of course may not necessarily mean that all such revolutionaries maybe committed to the struggle for the overthrow of the capitalist system, but nevertheless they are committed to a principled struggle to uplift the conditions of the workers and the poor in society.

It is also such revolutionaries who have a genuine commitment, in our case, to the building, strengthening and maintenance of our alliance as the only vehicle to advance such objectives.

Within the ranks of the organized working class, especially in COSATU, there are revolutionaries as well, whose understanding of the trade union struggles go beyond the narrow confines of daily workplace struggles, but embrace the transformation of the whole of society. These would include those who might not necessarily be communists, but still dedicated to the radical restructuring of capitalist relations of production in the interests of the workers and the poor, and who believe that the ANC still remains the prime movement carrying the national aspirations of the black working class in particular. By its very nature, the organized working class would be made up of communists, anti-capitalist but non-communist activists, and ordinary working class cadres committed to the radical improvement of the conditions of the workers and the poor. It is the duty of communists to be at the forefront of uniting all these revolutionaries within the trade union movement, but simultaneously understanding their different location in relation to the struggle for socialism and communism.

In the course of all revolutions, it is indeed possible that some of the nationalist revolutionaries, as has happened in our case, through their struggle experiences, get drawn into the ranks of the communist party. In some other instances some communists have left the SACP, but remained committed revolutionaries. Yet others have left and turned against the SACP. But it is important that these do not cloud our judgement and the necessity for maximum unity amongst genuine revolutionaries; a task at the centre of cementing unity within the national liberation movement.

The current phase of our struggle, to deepen and radicalize the national democratic revolution calls for all true revolutionaries, whether communists, trade unionists or revolutionary nationalists, to close ranks, to defend and advance the most immediate goals of our revolution - poverty eradication, joblessness, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the necessity for the unity of our alliance as the most important vehicle to carry forward these tasks.

To restate, who is a revolutionary in South Africa today? 

  • Those committed to the struggle for the eradication of poverty
  • Holding dear the principle of total service and dedication to the cause of the majority of our people
  • Committed to defending the unity of our alliance
  • Some of these comrades might be lapsed members of the SACP but have not turned against the SACP or become anti-communist
  • Commitment to the collective leadership style of our movement which is daily being threatened by capitalist greed and the 'get rich quick' mentality
  • Revolutionaries also must understand that not all that sounds revolutionary is actually revolutionary. The task of true revolutionaries is to distinguish between revolutionary rhetoric on the one hand, and revolutionary action, on the other, aimed at transforming the conditions of the overwhelming majority of our people. 

The political line of march!

The tasks of revolutionaries in the current period is perhaps best captured in the ANC Secretary General's preface to the statement of the ANC National Executive Committee meeting of 12-13 March 2010:

"We acknowledge and recognise the leadership role of our movement. This leadership responsibility imposes particular imperatives upon us regarding our revolutionary conduct. Our leadership of the Alliance requires of us to engage in a manner befitting our standing in this revolutionary and strategic Alliance. Similarly, the Alliance as a revolutionary collective that leads society must act, in word and deed, in a way that commands respect among all our people.

"In the recent past we have (been) derailed by issues that are not core to our programme in society. We should remind ourselves, once more, that our mission is to serve the people. In this regard, our commitments as outlined in the 2009 Manifesto serve as our leadership programme in the present context towards the achievement of our stated objective of a united, non- racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous South Africa.

"Let us return to the revolutionary conduct and discipline that has earned our movement an honourable place in the hearts of our people, and in the history of struggle. Our forebears entrusted us with this glorious legacy, let us not fail them as we march on in history".

The SACP is in complete agreement with this line of march of all the genuine revolutionary forces to consolidate our democracy. In order to realize the above it is important that the following actions and perspectives be adopted: 

  • For our revolution to succeed it is important that we also mobilize all patriots who are at the very least committed to creating a South Africa where all its people will benefit from a more just political and economic order.
  • Reclaim and placing at centre stage our revolutionary values and morality; values that are at the heart of the interests of the overwhelming majority of our people who thoroughly hate corruption and tenderpreneurship
  • The necessity to deepen mass activism principally based on the Alliance programme of action
  • Mobilisation of all our people, and the working class in particular, to roll back and defeat corruption
  • All the Alliance structures need to intensify political education and mass awareness about the strategy and tactics in the NDR, the role of the working class, and to deepen our cadres and mass understanding of the political economy of our five priorities, and for our cadres to understand the class, racial and gender struggles to be waged in order to realize our strategic objectives
  • An all round campaign needs to be waged to emphasise maximum discipline amongst our cadres and the broader mass of our people, including respect for our people at all times, guided by the urgency to implement the political message of the ANC, 'One message, many voices'. 

Communist cadres to the front!

Working together and in the trenches with all other revolutionaries we can defeat opportunism, rank careerism and tenderpreneurship!


13 May 2010

Progressive Women?

CU, No Woman, No Revolution, Part 7

Progressive Women?

In relation to the previous text 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?

We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 20 May (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: Progressive Women's Movement

The linked download is 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.

On 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, but there are 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, Johannesburg. 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.

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, this series will proceed in the following two weeks with two classic reflections on the philosophical basis of the women’s movement, from Angela Davis, and from Evelyn Reed, and will then be completed with texts published by the South African Communist Party in “Umsebenzi Online” during the three years from 2006 to 2009.