25 March 2010

No Woman, No Revolution

No Woman, No Revolution: General Introduction

We meet in the UJ Doornfontein Library. The next session will be as follows: 
  • Date: 8 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: The Social Basis of the Woman Question.

We have completed the “Basics” series. The new series, starting in Doornfontein on 8 April 2010, called “No Woman, No Revolution”, is motivated by the inconceivableness of a successful revolution that mobilised only half of the available support. Clearly, the women must be as fully involved as the men, or there will be no revolution. 

This series is designed to problematise the question of women in South Africa’s specific conditions in 2010.

The series follows a roughly chronological sequence, beginning with Alexandra Kollontai one hundred and one years ago in 1909, followed by Lenin and the Third Comintern Congress. From there it jumps to the 1950s, the high point of women’s organisation in South Africa; and then to the post-1994 situation, with comment on the ANCWL and the Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM).

The series then doubles back to pick up some theoretical weight from Angela Davis and Evelyn Reed, finally ending up with a compilation of Umsebenzi Online articles on women between 2006 and 2009.

The argument that runs through this course is that to enrol the women into the revolution, the revolutionaries need the same kinds of mass structures that have been organised by and for the working class, such as trade unions.

But the women of South Africa have been influenced by those who have been selling an idea, not shared, for example, by Evelyn Reed or by Ray Alexander, that formal organisation is odiously masculine or patriarchal in nature. Among the women, some have been able to demobilise their sisters with this mistaken idea. We will follow up on this question.

There is not a great deal of suitable Political Education material about women. In this series of ten, we will mostly have just one text to read for each session.

The available narrative in relation to South African women’s organisations, and relative lack of organisations, is not very clear, especially since 1990. One finds that the academic work that could have been done has not actually been done in all cases.

One exception is Meera Nanda’s Postmodernism, Hindu nationalism, and Vedic science (2004). Although it is not about South Africa, this fine essay does cover matters that are crucial to the understanding of South African politics in general and to the question of women in South Africa in particular. It is particularly helpful in respect of the philosophical reversal that happened in India and in South Africa whereby humanism was sometimes abandoned and irrational post-modernism took its place. It is because of this kind of reversal of reason and science that it is possible to conceive of something so peculiarly irrational that it can be called “organic – not a formal structure”.

We will return to this question, too.

The specific introduction for the first session will follow in a day or so. The text will be Alexandra Kollontai’s “The Social Basis of the Woman Question”.


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