Showing posts with label socialism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label socialism. Show all posts

Monday, April 06, 2020


Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of The Wolftones Performing The Song In Honor Of "James Connolly". There are also some very good photographs of the destruction of Dublin after the British shelled the downtown area of "their province" to kingdom come.



A word. They tell a story about James Connolly that just before the start of action on Easter Monday, 1916 he told the members of the Irish Citizen’s Army (almost exclusively workers, by the way) that if the uprising was successful to keep their guns handy. More work with them might be necessary against the nationalist allies of the moment organized as the Irish Volunteers. The Volunteers were mainly a petty bourgeois formation and had no intention of fighting for Connolly's vision of a Socialist Republic. True story or not, I think that gives a pretty good example of the strategy and tactics to be used in colonial and third world struggles by the working class. Would that the Chinese Communists in the 1920’s and other colonial and third world liberation fighters since then had paid heed to that strategic concept. Here is sketch of the life of this Irish freedom fighter

James Connolly, June 5, 1868-May 12, 1916, was of Scottish Irish stock. He was born in Edinburgh of immigrant parents. The explicit English colonial policy of driving the Irish out of Ireland which thus created the Irish diaspora produced many such immigrants from benighted Ireland to England, America, Australia and the far flung parts of the world. Many of these immigrants left Ireland under compulsion of banishment. Deportation and execution was a standard English response in the history of the various “Troubles’ from Cromwell’s time on.

Connolly, like many another Irish lad left school for a working life at age 11. The international working class has produced many such self-taught and motivated leaders. Despite the lack of formal education he became one of the preeminent left-wing theorists of his day in the pre- World War I international labor movement. In the class struggle we do not ask for diplomas, although they help, but commitment to the cause of the laboring masses. Again, like many an Irish lad Connolly joined the British Army, at the age of 14. In those days the British Army provided one of the few ways of advancement for an Irishman who had some abilities. As fate would have it Connolly was stationed in Dublin. I believe the English must rue the day they let Brother Connolly near weapons and near Dublin. As the old Irish song goes- ‘ Won’t Old Mother England be Surprised’.

By 1892 Connolly was an important figure in the Scottish Socialist Federation which, by the way, tended to be more militant and more Celtic and less enamored of parliamentarianism than its English counterpart. Later, the failure to gather in the radical Celtic elements was a contributing factor to the early British Communist Party’s inability to break militants from the British Labor Party. Most of the great labor struggles of the period cam from the leadership in Scotland and Ireland. Connolly became the secretary of the Federation in 1895. In 1896 he left the army and established the Irish Socialist Republican Party. The name itself tells the program. Ireland at that time was essentially a classic English colony so to take the honored name Republican was to spit in the eye of the English. Even today the English have not been able to rise to the political level of a republic. Despite Cromwell’s valiant attempt in the 1600's and no thanks to the British Labor Party’s policies this is sadly the case today. All militants everywhere can and must support this call- Abolish the monarchy, House of Lords and the state Church of England.
In England Connolly was active in the Socialist Labor Party that split from the moribund, above-mentioned Social Democratic Federation in 1903. During the period before the Easter uprising he was heavily involved in the Irish labor movement and acted as the right hand man to James Larkin in the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1913 when Larkin led a huge strike in Dublin but was forced to leave due to English reprisals Connolly took over. It was at that time that Connolly founded the Irish Citizens Army as a defense organization of armed and trained laboring men against the brutality of the dreaded Dublin Metropolitan Police. Although only numbering about 250 men at the time their political goal was to establish an independent and socialist Ireland.

Connolly stood aloof from the leadership of the Irish Volunteers, the nationalist formation based on the middle classes. He considered them too bourgeois and unconcerned with Ireland's economic independence. In 1916 thinking they were merely posturing, and unwilling to take decisive action against England, he attempted to goad them into action by threatening to send his Irish Citizens Army against the British Empire alone, if necessary. This alarmed the members of the more militant faction- Irish Republican Brotherhood, who had already infiltrated the Volunteers and had plans for an insurrection as well. In order to talk Connolly out of any such action, the IRB leaders, including Tom Clarke and Patrick Pearse, met with Connolly to see if an agreement could be reached. During the meeting the IRB and the ICA agreed to act together at Eastertime of that year.

When the Easter Rising occurred on April 24, 1916, Connolly was Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, and as the Dublin brigade had the most substantial role in the rising, he was de facto Commander in Chief. Following the surrender he was executed by the British for his role in the uprising. Although he was so badly injured in the fighting that he was unable to stand for his execution he was shot sitting in a chair. The Western labor movement, to its detriment no longer produces enough such militants as Connolly (and Larkin, for that matter). Learn more about this important socialist thinker and fighter. ALL HONOR TO THE MEMORY OF JAMES CONNOLLY. Chocky Ar La (Our Day Will Come).


Tuesday, October 01, 2019

In Honor Of The Anniversary Of The Chinese Revolution-From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"Women And Permanent Revolution In China"

Friday, October 01, 2004

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"Women And Permanent Revolution In China"

Markin comment:

The following is a two part article from the Winter 1982-82 and Spring 1984 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Women and Permanent Revolution
in China


"The revolt of women has shaken China to its very depths In the women of China, the
Communists possessed, almost ready made, one of the greatest masses of disinherited human beings the world has ever seen. And because they found the keys to the heart of these women, they also found one of the keys to victory over Chiang Kai-shek."

—Jack Belden, China Shakes the World (1951)

The French Utopian socialist Charles Fourier maintained that the liberty of women stands as a decisive index of social progress in general. Fourier was surely right. Compare the advanced capitalist societies formed by the bourgeois-democratic revolution with the backward capitalist societies of Asia and Africa. The elementary rights Western women take for granted— to choose one's marriage partner, contraception and divorce, access to education, not to speak of political rights—do not exist for women in the tradition-bound and priest-ridden countries of the East. And efforts to achieve such rights are invariably met with murderous reaction. By all accounts the feudalist insurgency in Afghanistan (against which the Soviet army fortunately intervened) was fueled, above all, by attempts of the left-nationalist government to reduce the bride price and to teach young girls to read.

In the twentieth century the backward countries can no longer be transformed through a bourgeois-democratic revolution. Indeed, the "democratic" imperialist powers, centrally the U.S., prop up the most reactionary, obscurantist regimes in the world from Chiang Kai-shek's China to Emperor Bao Dai's Vietnam to the Saudi monarchy. Only in those countries of the East where capitalism has been overthrown, in however bureaucratically limited or deformed a manner, do women enjoy elementary democratic rights. To cross the border from old Afghanistan, for example, into Soviet Uzbekistan is to traverse centuries of the oppression of women.

That women cannot be freed in the countries of the East without overthrowing capitalism was perhaps nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in the case of China. The democratic reforms Western feminists organized and agitated around—equal access to education, suffrage, access to contraception—were inconceivable in a country like China without a profound social revolution. Chinese women activists, including those initially influenced by Western feminism, were inexorably drawn into the broader currents of revolutionary radicalism, first that of modernizing nationalism and later that of Communism. The history of revolution in twentieth-century China is in no small measure the history of its women struggling for their liberation.

Modernizing Nationalism and the 1911 Revolution

The complete subjugation of woman in traditional Confucian China was proverbial. The Confucian Book of Rites prescribed that "to be a women means to submit." A women was totally subject to her father and later her (arranged) husband or, by convention, mother-in-law. Women were socialized to be not merely submissive but invisible. If someone came to her home when her husband wasn't there, a woman traditionally responded, "No one is at home." Women had no protection against flagrant physical abuse save community disapproval of an especially cruel husband. For many a Chinese woman the only escape from an intolerable family situation was suicide.

The oppression and social segregation of Chinese women was intensified by the hideous practice of foot-binding introduced in the tenth century A.D. The purpose of this painful and crippling process was to further restrict women to bedroom and kitchen. As a folk ditty put it, "Bound feet, bound feet, past the gate can't retreat." Contrary to a common misconception in the West, the custom was not limited to women of the upper classes. All Chinese women had their feet bound except those of the poorest families and of the non-Han ethnic minorities (e.g., Manchus, Hakka) among whom women generally had greater freedom.

The liberation of women from their total bondage was a fundamental aspect of the modernizing nationalist current which developed among China's intellectuals and officials at the end of the nineteenth century. A key target for these reformers and radicals was, understandably, foot-binding, which enlightened Westerners condemned (and rightly so) as barbaric. More important for nationalistic Chinese, it was commonly believed (without any genetic basis) that the male children of foot-bound women were physically weaker than Westerners. The movement against foot-binding was therefore largely motivated by the desire to produce a new generation of fighters against imperialist domination. In the 1890s Unbound Feet and Natural Feet Societies mushroomed throughout China. The membership of these societies, it should be pointed out, were almost entirely men. And where the reforming intelligentsia/officialdom were influential, the proportion of girl children with bound feet did diminish.

The same reformers and radicals who agitated against foot-binding also advocated education for women. Here again most were not concerned with sexual equality per se, but rather with overcoming China's backwardness vis-a-vis Western imperialism. They recognized that women who could read, write and do sums were a valuable national resource, even in their traditional role as mothers of male children. As one reforming official argued, "If the mothers have not been trained from childhood where are we to find the strong men of our nation" (quoted in Elisabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China [1978]).

Whatever their personal outlook and motivations, these Westernizing intellectuals/officials set up the first schools for girls, often their own daughters, which produced a new Chinese woman who would play an important role in the subsequent revolutionary upheavals of her country. The new girls' schools were naturally hotbeds of anti-Manchu and anti-traditionalist nationalism. In Shanghai, Peking, Canton and elsewhere disciplined contingents of schoolgirls regularly participated in the mass protests against foreign privilege. In one such school a secret girls' militia was formed under the guise of physical education classes.

The outstanding woman revolutionary of the pre-1911 period was Chiu Chin (Jiu Jin). The oldest daughter of a scholarly family, she was allowed to study the classics with her brothers (not that uncommon a practice). In addition she was proud of her ability to ride a horse, use a sword and consume large quantities of wine. Despite this liberal upbringing, Chiu, like all Chinese women, was subject to an arranged marriage, which was not a happy one.

Influenced by the Western ideas sweeping the Chinese intellectual classes, at the age of 30 Chiu left her family and in 1904 went to Japan, then the main organizing center for Chinese revolutionary nationalists. Overcoming chauvinist objections that a cultured woman should not associate with men of the common classes, she became the first woman member of Sun Yat-sen's Restoration Society, the principal anti-Manchu organization. In 1906 Chiu returned to China where she divided her energies between putting out the Chinese Women's Journal, manufacturing explosives and organizing secret militias. Chiu saw in the women of China—so deeply oppressed under the old order—a kind of elemental vanguard force for national regeneration. Her outlook was encapsulated in a 1907 poem, "Women's Rights":

"We want our emancipation!
For our liberty we'll drink a cup,
Men and women are born equal,
Why should we let men hold sway?
We will rise and save ourselves,
Ridding the nation of all her shame.
In the steps of Joan of Arc,
With our own hands will we regain our land." ,,

—quoted in Wei Chin-chih, "An Early Woman Revolutionary," China Reconstructs, June 1962

One Western student of her political activities concluded:

"When Ch'iu Chin turned to revolution she anticipated ways in which women were eventually liberated in China. She implicitly recognized that sexual equality was
not likely to be achieved without some major structural changes, and saw the liberation of women as one result of the revolution to which she chose to devote her greatest energy."

—Mary Backus Rankin, "The Emergence of Women at the End of the Ch'ing: The Case of Ch'iu Chin" in Margery Wolf and Roxane Witke, eds., Women in Chinese Society (1975)

In 1907 Chiu was deeply involved in an abortive anti-Manchu uprising. Though warned that she was about to be arrested, she refused to flee. She was captured, questioned under torture (but did not reveal her colleagues) and was beheaded without trial. Her execution provoked large-scale demonstrations throughout China. Popular outrage over the martyrdom of Chiu Chin helped forge the spike that was driven into the heart of the hated Manchu dynasty four years later. And Chiu would have been pleased to see women's battalions too fighting the imperial forces as they went down to defeat.

It is common for contemporary Western feminist academics to label Chinese women activists of Chiu Chin's generation as "feminists," as does, for example, Elisabeth Croll in her valuable study, Feminism and Socialism in China. This is a case of ideological obfuscation. While there were women's journals in the pre-1911 period, there was no women's movement separate and distinct from the broader current of modernizing nationalism. Nor was women's equality seen as separable from the overall transformation of China into a modern society. Croll herself recognizes that the women activists of this period were first and foremost radical nationalists, an ordering of ideological priorities of which she is somewhat critical:

"Rather, the early feminists, who wrote the first magazines, thought that no question was so urgent as the threatened autonomy of China and the overthrow of the
Manchu dynasty and the foreign yoke of tyranny It is
particularly apparent from the early women's magazines and newspapers that the women contributors felt very deeply for their country, and the issue around which women first met, demonstrated and organised was that of 'national salvation'."

With the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, China appeared to have become a Western-type parliamentary democracy. This was, however, a soon-to-be-discarded facade behind which rival militarists sought to fill the vacuum left by the disintegration of the imperial bureaucracy. Bourgeois-democratic politicians like Sun Yat-sen became mere playthings in the hands of one or another of the warring warlord cliques.

The immediate aftermath of the revolution witnessed the emergence of a genuine feminist movement consciously modeled on the British suffragettes. When the National Assembly refused to write women's equality into the new constitution, members of Women's Suffrage Association stormed the Assembly hall, smashed windows and floored some constables. These militant Chinese feminists also aggressively displayed Western social mores, which affronted the old China perhaps even more than their demand for equality under the law. The Chinese suffragettes were soon to discover that they were not living in a restricted bourgeois democracy like Edwardian Britain.

The now-republican militarists, and their landlord and usurer backers, were as ruthlessly committed t defending the old order, including the subjugation of women, as had been the imperial bureaucracy. In 191 a girl about to elope with a militiaman was arrested and publicly executed as a lesson to all women that the new republic did not mean "personal freedom to do what they like." With the consolidation of Yuan Shih-kai military dictatorship the following year, all suffragette organizations were banned and a number of wome activists found with arms were publicly beheaded. A new movement for women's liberation had to await new wave of revolutionary nationalism set into motio by the world war and the red dawn arising out of Bolshevik Russia.

From the May Fourth Movement to Communism

On May 4, 1919 huge student protests erupted Peking against Japan's 21 demands, which would have totally reduced China to a Japanese colony. The homes of pro-Japanese ministers were ransacked. The movement rapidly spread throughout the country, and a new note was sounded when factory workers struck support of the student demands for a new government. The May Fourth Movement went far beyond protest against the immediate Japanese threat or even the depredations of the imperialist powers in general, marked the beginning of a new wave of radical activism directed no less at the existing Chinese order th against foreign domination:

"Traditional ideas and modes of conduct were crumbling and the echo of their fall sounded from one end of the country to the other. Young men and women in towns and villages began to break with the old authority of the family and the village elders. A fissure opened between the generations that was never again closed."

—Harold R. Isaacs, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution (1961)

High up among the traditional ideas and modes of conduct which came under attack was the subjugation of women. A manifesto issued by the most influential journal of the movement, Chen Tu-hsiu's New Youth, declared:

"We believe that to respect women's personality and rights is a practical need for the social progress at present, and we hope that they themselves will be completely aware of their duty to society."

—quoted in Croll, op cit.

And women responded to these ideas. The May Fourth ferment gave rise to the so-called "five proposals" movement: equal access to education and employment, suffrage and the right to hold office, the right of inheritance and the right to choose one's marriage partner. It should be emphasized that the struggle for the equality of women was in no sense regarded as women's work. When the Peking Alliance for Women's Rights Movement was established among university students in 1919, two-thirds of its members were men! For China's educated youth, the May Fourth Movement was a veritable political/cultural renaissance with which all could identify from the mildest liberal reformers to the most wild-eyed anarchists. However, the naive unity among China's New Youth could not last long. And it did not. Two of the movement's leading figures, Chen Tu-hsiu and Li Ta-chao, through contact with Soviet envoys, were soon won to Marxism and set out to organize a Chinese Communist party, which was formally founded in July 1921. The issue of Communism split the loose, heterogeneous organizations which made up the May Fourth Movement into hostile camps. The left wing became the core of the newly formed Communist Party (CCP); the right-wingers joined the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang or other national-liberal for¬mations like the Chinese Youth Party. One such right-winger recalled that after a stormy argument a friend who had just become a Communist left saying half jokingly, "Well, Shun-sheng, we'll see each other again on the battlefield" (quoted in Chow Tse-tsung, The May Fourth Movemen([1960]). These words proved to be prophetic.

The left-right polarization of the May Fourth Movement likewise extended to the women's movement. The more conservative women's groups stressed social work and legalistic reforms. Christian women activists, who had earlier vigorously opposed Confucian traditionalism, now increasingly defended the status quo against "red revolution." During the 1920s the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) became a kind of conservative, pro-imperialist anti-pode to the Women's Department of the Communist Party. One of the leading lights of the Chinese YWCA was a young heiress recently returned from Wellesley, Soong Mei-ling, later better known to the world as Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.

The outstanding woman revolutionary of this period—who embodied the transition of May Fourth radicalism to Communism—was Hsiang Ching-yu (Xiang Jingyu). In 1915 at the age of 20 she opened the first coeducational primary school in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, and also organized an anti-foot-binding society. She was naturally caught up in the May Fourth Movement (as was a fellow Hunanese student activist named Mao Tse-tung). In 1919 Hsiang, along with some friends, went to France to continue her studies. To pay her way she worked in a rubber plant and then a textile mill, thus acquiring first-hand knowledge of a highly class-conscious proletariat. In France she (along with Chou En-lai) organized a Marxist study group which later developed into an organization of Chinese Communist student youth abroad.

Expelled from France for political agitation, Hsiang returned to China in early 1922 and immediately joined the Communist Party. She was elected to the party's central committee at its second congress in 1922 and a year later became the head of its newly formed Women's Department. The Communists thus became the first Chinese party to organize women as a distinct oppressed group.

Like most other newly formed Communist parties in the colonial world, the CCP's original cadre were recruited from the radical intelligentsia. To win over the best women activists, Hsiang polemicized against Western-style feminism which had gained a certain currency in Chinese intellectual circles at the time. (Margaret Sanger, for example, visited China in 1922 and lectured at Peking University.) Hsiang insisted that "the new-emerging labouring women are the strongest and most revolutionary," and she charged the feminists that they "have not the courage to take part in the real political movement—the national revolutionary movement—the prerequisite to the movement for women's rights and suffrage" (quoted in WangYi-chih, "A Great Woman Revolutionary," China Reconstructs, March 1965).

China's newly emerging laboring women would certainly demonstrate their revolutionary force in the next few years. However, the program of a "national revolutionary movement," implying as it did collaboration with a supposedly "progressive" wing of the Chinese bourgeoisie, would lead the youthful Communist movement into an historic defeat in which Hsiang among countless others would lose their lives.

Revolution and Counterrevolution, 1925-27

The fate of the women's movement and revolutionary mass movement in general was to a large extent determined by the bloc between the inexperienced Communist Party and the bourgeois-nationalist Kuomintang. At the prodding of the Comintern (Communist International) representative, Maring (Hendrik Sneevliet), in 1923 the Communists entered Sun Yat-sen's party as individuals, originally intending to take short-term advantage of the Kuomintang's loose structure. (Significantly, Trotsky voted against this policy in the Russian party leadership.) At first the entry tactic appeared highly successful as Communist influence grew by leaps and bounds.

The Canton general strike/boycott directed against the British in the summer of 1925 marked the beginning of the second Chinese revolution and consequently the beginning of the decisive conflict between the Kuomintang leaders and the" Communists. The nationalist bourgeoisie suddenly became frightened of the powerful Communist-influenced labor movement it had helped to mobilize in extracting concessions from the imperialists. In March 1926 the commander of the Kuomintang armed forces, Chiang Kai-shek, staged a coup in Canton. Chiang's coup was a clear signal that the bourgeois nationalists were about to behead the workers movement. Despite this (and the strident warnings of the Trotskyist opposition in Russia) the Stalin/Bukharin leadership of the Comintern ordered the Chinese Communists to preserve the bloc with the "patriotic" bourgeoisie at all costs. The cost was the Chinese revolution which over the next year and a half was drowned in blood, first by Chiang and then by the "left" Kuomintang leaders.

Far more centrally than the anti-Manchu revolution of 1911, the betrayed and defeated Chinese revolution of the 1920s posed the issue of women's liberation. No area of Communist activity was more spectacularly successful than its work among women. Within two years of its founding the Women's Department of the CCP had 100,000 members; by 1927 it had 300,000 members. In 1924 International Women's Day in Canton—the Communist/nationalist stronghold— drew less than a thousand. Two years later 10,000 women marched through the city under the slogans "Down with imperialism," "Down with warlords" and "Same work, same pay." The Communist organization of women simply swamped the small bourgeois feminist groups, like the Women's Rights League, and in doing so won over their most committed activists. An American feminist academic, not sympathetic to Marxism, acknowledges that by the mid-1920s, "More and more women activists were moving toward the position held by Hsiang Ching-yu in 1922: feminist rebellion was meaningless without general political revolution" (Suzette Leith, "Chinese Women in the Early Communist Movement" in Marilyn B. Young, ed., Women in China [1973]).

At the height of the revolutionary upsurge in 1926-27 an estimated million and a half women were members of women's organizations generally led by Communists. These organizations were tribunes of the oppressed in the truest sense. Runaway slave girls, prostitutes wanting to leave their degrading profession, peasant women abused by their husbands, as well as women factory workers, flocked to these organizations with their grievances. For some observers, aware of the traditional total submissiveness of Chinese women, the eruption of an aggressive women's movement was the clearest proof that age-old China was undergoing a revolution. A sympathetic Westerner wrote at the time:

"Whatever the fate in store for the Nationalist government, it may be that historians of the future will find that the greatest and most permanent achievement to its credit has been the promotion of the women's movement."

—H.O. Chapman, The Chinese Revolution, 1926-27 (1928)

The demands made upon the Communist-led women's organizations far exceeded their material capacities. Even a relatively straightforward task like finding alternative livelihood for tens of thousands of prostitutes and concubines required the economic resources of a government department. And, in fact, many Chinese women looked upon the Women's Department of the Communist Party as if it were the women's department of a soviet government. (In some areas women's groups set up their own divorce courts.) Yet the fatal policy of limiting the revolution to bourgeois-democratic tasks prevented the establishment of a Chinese soviet government. And it likewise condemned the women's movement, despite the radicalism of its participants, to acting as a pressure group upon "anti-imperialist" militarists, landlords and factory owners whose idea of the role of women was shaped by the Confucian Book of Rites and the requirements of hoped-for capitalist stability.

The emergence of a militant women's movement in a society like China was bound to produce a conservative backlash. And so it did. This was aggravated by the overzealousness of some women activists. Older, conventionally minded women had their hair bobbed or feet unbound often under considerable pressure, if not by actual force. Over and above such excesses, however, many a peasant husband deeply resented his wife taking their family problems to the local women's group. And even some Communist fathers still insisted on arranging marriages for their daughters. These backward prejudices against women's equality served as an important point of support for the gathering white terror. Horror stories about "the wild, wild women" (that they organized women to march naked in the streets) became a major theme—if not the major theme—of anti-red propaganda.

And when the ax fell, it fell with especial force on the women's movement. Women's movement activists were, if anything, treated more savagely under the Kuomintang terror than even labor organizers or agrarian agitators. China's militarists, gentry and bourgeoisie could understand why peasants would want to stop paying rent or factory workers strike for higher pay and shorter hours. But the demand of women for independence and equality was radically new and appeared to them as a truly sinister attack on their entire social universe. So they reacted accordingly.

For a woman to have short hair now became a crime punishable by a painful death. Women wearing men's clothing were stripped to the waist in public so that "every man in town may see she is in reality a woman" before being killed. Girl Communists in Canton were wrapped in cotton blankets soaked in -gasoline and then burned alive. A particularly audacious young women's leader in a small Hunan village was hacked to death by enraged soldiery. Between 1927 and 1930 tens of thousands of Communist women were killed, among them Hsiang Ching-yu. She was arrested in the French concession of Hankow and turned over to the Kuomintang to be executed.

Yet the spirit of rebellion of those young Chinese women who had rallied to the Communist banner wa not broken. One of them wrote in a poem on the eve of her execution: "Red and White will ever be divide" and we shall see who has victory, who defeat."


Part Two will contrast the role of women unde Kuomintang reaction and in the rural areas liberated b the Communist-led Red Army. It will recount th struggle for women's liberation as a motor force in th civil war which culminated in the victory of Mao's Red Army in 1949. And it will discuss the effect of thi deformed social revolution on the traditional Chinese family and the place of women in society."


Women and Permanent Revolution
in China

This is the conclusion of a two-part article. Part One (Women and Revolution No. 25, Winter 1982-83) covered the interrelation of women's liberation and social revolution from the emergence of a modernizing nationalist movement in China in the late nineteenth century through the defeated revolution of 1925-27.


That women cannot achieve elementary democratic freedoms in the countries of the East without overthrowing capitalism is perhaps nowhere more clearly demonstrated than in China. The Kuomintang counter-revolution in the late 1920s was directed with especial savagery at the radical women's movement. Tens of thousands of Communist and other women activists were raped, tortured and killed for the "crime" of wearing short hair or men's clothing. During the 1930s the Kuomintang militarists sought to reimpose traditional Confucian subjugation upon Chinese women.

This mass of oppressed women would provide much of the social dynamite which blew away Kuomintang China in the civil war of 1946-49. In the rural areas liberated by the Red Army, women were mobilized to fight for their emancipation. While these measures would not have been radical in Shanghai or Canton with their modern industrial proletariat and Westernized intelligentsia, Communist "woman-work" had a radical impact in the primitive tradition-bound villages of Kiangsi (jiangxi) and Shensi (Shaanxi).

However, between 1937 and 1946 Mao's Red Army entered into an alliance with the Chiang Kai-shek Kuomintang regime, one of the conditions for this being that the Communists stopped the confiscation of the landlords' property. This policy basically froze the old social order in the countryside, perpetuating the enslavement of peasant women to housework and husband. Only when the civil war forced the Chinese Stalinists to place themselves at the head of the agrarian revolution did the mass of peasant women achieve the basis for social emancipation. And it was only after the Communists conquered state power in 1949 that the feudalist garbage suffocating Chinese women (ar¬ranged marriages, foot-binding, female infanticide) was swept into the dustbin of history.

Yet the People's Republic of China was the product of a bureaucratically deformed social revolution, and that deformation imprinted itself on all aspects of social life, not least the woman question. Like its counterpart in the USSR, the Chinese Stalinist (Maoist) regime has perpetuated and defended the most basic institution of women's oppression—the family. The Stalinists' conservative attitude toward the family was further reinforced in China by the peasant-based nature of the revolution. For unlike the urban proletariat, for the peasantry, the family is the existing unit of small-scale agricultural production. And this continues to be thecase today on the collective farms.

The gradual replacement of oppressive family functions by social alternatives (communal laundries, childcare facilities, etc.)—the precondition for the complete equality of women—is not a matter of voluntarism and cannot be achieved within an isolated, backward country like China. It requires a level of economic productivity far above even the most advanced capitalist country. Thus the liberation of women—a basic condition for a genuinely socialist society—demands the international extension of proletarian revolution, i.e., the heart of Trotsky's program of permanent revolution.

Women Under Red Army Rule

To escape the white terror which followed the crushing of the 1925-27 revolution, armed Communist bands retreated to the more inaccessible reaches of the vast Chinese countryside. In 1931 a number of these Communist-led forces consolidated into the Kiangsi Soviet Republic in south-central China under the leadership of Mao Tse-tung and Chu Teh.

In abandoning the cities to take the road of peasant-guerrilla warfare the Chinese Communist Party changed not only the environment in which it operated but its own nature. In the 1920s the CCP had been a revolutionary proletarian party supported by the radicalized urban intelligentsia. That is, it was based primarily on the most advanced, Westernized sections of Chinese society. During the 1930s the Communist Party became essentially a peasant-based military force with a declassed petty-bourgeois leadership.

In September 1930 the Bolshevik "International Left Opposition" led by Leon Trotsky issued a "Manifesto on China" which warned against the Chinese Stalinists' abandonment of the urban working class. The Left Opposition, which included a substantial number of Chinese Communists, recognized the need for a period of retrenchment following the brutal crushing of the 1925-27 Chinese Revolution and the strategic nature of all decisive moments follows either the bourgeoisie or the proletariat— Soviets are the organs of power of a revolutionary class in opposition to the bourgeoisie. This means that the peasantry is unable to organize a soviet system on its own— Only the predominance of the proletariat in the decisive industrial and political centers of the country creates the necessary basis for the organization of a Red army and for the extension of a soviet system into the countryside. To those unable to grasp this, the revolution remains a book closed with seven seals."

The social transformation of the CCP had a highly contradictory effect on the CCP's approach to the woman question. On the one hand, the most basic measures (e.g., teaching women to read and practice basic hygiene, elimination of foot-binding) had a profoundly radical impact on the backward villages of Kiangsi and Shensi. At the same time, the Mao leadership was concerned not to affront the traditional social mores of the peasant men, especially those serving in the Red Army, upon whom they depended for their very survival. Thus, "woman-work" in the liberated areas was cautious and conservative in comparison to the radical Communist-led women's movement which had been a major force in the 1925-27 revolution.

If the Kiangsi Soviet did not actually experience "a sexual revolution," the condition of women certainly improved, in some ways radically. Slavery, concubinage and prostitution were outlawed. The war against the Kuomintang in itself tended to break down the traditional role of women. While few women served as combat troops, many were attached to the Red Army as nurses, porters, couriers, laundresses, etc. Perhaps more importantly large numbers of women were encouraged to work in the fields for the first time in order to free up men to fight in the Red Army. The Kuomintang reactionaries hated and feared the signs of women's liberation which they saw in Kiangsi. The accusation that the Reds practiced "free sex" and "debauchery" was a major focus of anti-Communist propaganda.

In late 1934 the Kuomintang armies, advised by a German general, finally broke through and destroyed the Kiangsi Soviet. The core of the Red Army retreated in the heroic Long March of 6,000-8,000 miles. A year later the survivors reached the relative safety of the Yenan area in northern Shensi province. This region, near Mongolia, was one of the poorest, most backward in all China. Almost all women were illiterate, modern medicine was unknown, foot-binding and female mfanticide were common practices. The participation of women in agricultural production (based on winter wheat and millet rather than rice) was lower than in almost any other region of China. Thus, the contradictions which had characterized the CCP's "woman-work" in Kiangsi were reproduced in a more extreme form in Yenan. The commissar of education, Hsu Teh-|ih, explained to American journalist Edgar Snow:

"This is culturally one of the darkest places on earth. Do you know the people in north Shensi and Kansu believe that water is harmful to them?...

"Such a population, compared with Kiangsi, is very backward indeed. There the illiteracy was about 90 percent, but the cultural level was very much higher, we had better material conditions to work in, and many more trained teachers— "Here the work is very much slower." —Red Star Over China (1937)

However, the slow pace of the social transformation in Yenan was not due simply to its extreme economic and cultural backwardness.

As it became increasingly clear that Japan was about to invade China from its Manchurian base, Mao raised the call for a "National Anti-Japanese Front" based on cooperation between the Kuomintang and CCP. Chiang at first rejected this overture, but pressure from his fellow militarists (one of whom kidnapped the Generalissimo until he relented) forced him to negotiate an agreement with the Communists in September 1937, a few months after the Japanese imperial army crossed the Marco Polo bridge and invaded China.

Central to the CCP-Kuomintang agreement was a ban on the confiscation of landlords' property in the areas under Red Army control. The Communists would henceforth limit themselves to rent and interest reductions and similar palliatives. This policy was codified in a 1942 CCP document whose counterrevo¬lutionary intent is entirely unambiguous:

"Recognize that most of the landlords are anti-Japanese, that some of the enlightened gentry also favour democratic reforms. Accordingly, the policy of the Party is only to help the peasants in reducing feudal exploitation but not to liquidate feudal exploitation entirely, much less to attack the enlightened gentry who support
democratic reforms

"The guarantee of rent and interest collection and the protection of the landlord's civil, political, land, and economic rights are the second aspect of our Party's land policy."

—"Decision of the CC on Land Policy in the Anti-Japanese Base Areas" (28 January 1942) reproduced in Conrad Brandt et al., eds., A Documentary History of Chinese Communism (1966)

The policy not to liquidate the landlords' exploitation of the peasantry had a profound and negative effect on the position of women. Since women could not own land (the major source of income in Yenan), they remained economically dependent on their husbands, fathers, brothers, etc. If her husband ordered her to stay home and take care of the house and children, a peasant woman had no practical recourse. For women, the legal right of divorce was meaningless without an alternative means of livelihood. Thus, during the popular front period the mass of women under Red Army rule remained tied to housework as they had for centuries. In her scholarly study, Woman-Work (1976), Delia Davin concludes that "it was still unusual for them [women] to work on the land on any scale until the time of land reform." The Mao regime did promote home industry, especially for textiles, and to some degree this provided women with an independent income. But as long as property relations in the Chinese countryside remained unchanged, the mass of Chinese women would remain unliberated. The manifest gap between communist, and even democratic, principles and social reality in the misnamed Yenan Soviet Republic would soon produce dissension within the Communist camp.

Debate Over the Woman Question in Yenan

Following the Japanese invasion large numbers of radical student youth and leftist intellectuals made their way from the cities to Yenan. In part they were escaping Japanese and Kuomintang repression and in part they wanted to fight Japanese imperialism. Chiang's armies were notoriously corrupt and incompetent, and the Red Army was widely seen as the only effective anti-Japanese force in China.

Prominent among the newcomers to Yenan was Ting Ling (Ding Ling), the best-known leftist woman writer in China. As a teenage girl she had been a family friend of Hsiang Ching-yu, the founding leader of the Communist women's movement, who was killed in the white terror of the late 1920s. Later Ting Ling became a protege of Lu Hsun, universally regarded as China's greatest modern man of letters. Ting thus represented the avant-garde of China's radical intelligentsia.

Many of the newcomers, like Ting, were disappointed when life in Yenan did not measure up to their idea of what a Soviet Republic should be. They gradually developed into a dissident current or milieu, which one commentator termed the Yenan "literary opposition." They criticized the sterility and .dogmatism of official Communist propaganda, the tendencies toward bureaucratic commandism and the exceedingly slow pace of social transformation. But basically the dissident intellectuals objected to certain effects of Mao's peasant-guerrilla strategy and the alliance with the Kuomintang but did not challenge these underly¬ing policies.

The Mao regime crushed the "literary opposition" in the so-called "rectification campaign" of 1942-44. A major target for "rectification" was the views Ting Ling expressed in a 1942 essay, "Thoughts on 8 March" (International Women's Day). (This essay was reproduced in translation in New Left Review, July-August 1974, from which we quote.) Here she criticized the Mao leadership for retreating from the struggle for sexual equality. Ting contended that women in Yenan, while certainly better off than in the rest of China, remained unemancipated. Despite the "free-choice marriage" laws, social pressure forced most women to marry anyone who would have them:

"But women invariably want to get married. (It's even more of a sin not to be married, and single women are even more of a target for rumors and slanderous gossip.) So they can't afford to be choosy, anyone will do—"

Once married, Ting went on, women were pressured into having children whether or not they really wanted to. In this way they were forced back into a life of housework, curtailing their political activity and education. Then they were accused of "backward-
ness," a standard ground for husbands suing their wives for divorce:

"Afraid of being thought 'backward', those who are a bit more daring rush around begging nurseries to take their children. They ask for abortions, and risk punishment and even death by secretly swallowing potions to produce abortions. But the answer comes back: 'Isn't giving birth to children also work? You're just after an easy life, you want to be in the limelight. After all, what indispensable political work have you performed?'... Under these conditions it is impossible for women to escape this destiny of 'backwardness'."

The Maoists reacted strongly to these bitter barbs. Ting Ling was banned from writing and sent to "study" with the peasantry in order to overcome what they called her "outdated feminism." In 1943 a new CCP document on "woman-work" criticized "tendencies to subjectivism and formalism which isolate us from ordinary women" (reproduced in Davin, op. cit.). This document presents increased economic productivity as a cure-all for women's oppression. The actual retreat from the liberating goals of authentic communism expressed by this rather abstract document was spelled out in a speech by Kai Chang, a leading Maoist spokesman on "woman-work": "Our slogans are no longer 'free choice marriage' and 'equality of the sexes' but rather 'save the children', 'a flourishing family', and 'nurture health and prosperity'" (quoted in Davin, ibid.).

While condemning the bureaucratic way in which Ting Ling and her co-thinkers were treated, how are we to judge the substance of the debate? The Maoists argued in Yenan that a more radical policy on the woman question would have alienated the peasant masses, women as well as men. However, when a few years later the Maoists under the pressure of civil war confiscated the landlords' property and gave peasant women an equal share of the land, these women responded with unbounded enthusiasm. The agrarian revolution laid the basis for a revolution in sexual relations.

If the Maoists were guilty of opportunism, then Ting Ling can be convicted of idealist voluntarism. She appears to have been blind to the economic obstacles to social transformation in this most backward province and to the fundamental difference in social outlook between workers and peasants. Working-class and professional women were potentially in a position to be economically independent of their menfolk, and this shaped their consciousness. But the peasant women of Yenan had no independent means of livelihood. How could a young woman who left her father's home and chose to remain single support herself? How could an older woman with young children survive if she abandoned an abusive husband? Ting expected and demanded for the Yenan area full sexual equality in advance of the nationwide political and social revolution which alone could bring this about. Some of the policies advocated by Ting in 1942 were in fact carried out after the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China (a bureaucratically deformed workers state) in 1949. But this required that the Maoists break their alliance with Chiang and place themselves at the head of an agrarian revolution which they had previously sought to suppress.

Women Under Kuomintang Reaction

Whatever the limitations, contradictions and retreats of Communist "woman-work" in Kiangsi and Yenan, the difference between that and the policies of the Kuomintang was like day and night. The inability of the "national bourgeoisies" in the colonial countries to shatter the feudal past and carry through a bourgeois-democratic revolution was conclusively demonstrated in China. Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang, the dominant bourgeois force, depended on relics of the feudal past (the corrupt warlords, landlords, gangsters). The native bourgeois classes in the colonial world are unable to separate themselves from the entanglement with imperialist domination for fear of setting off forces— principally the anti-capitalist struggle of the workers, in alliance with the peasantry—which will sweep them from power as well.

While the immediate target of the Kuomintang counterrevolution was "the Red menace," anti-Communism was soon extended to attacks on "decadent" Western liberalism in all its manifestations, especially on the woman question. In 1934 Chiang launched the New Life Movement based on an amalgam of Neo-Confucian, Christian and European fascist ideologies. The New Life which Chiang prescribed for Chinese women was the Kuomintang equivalent of the Nazis' "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche" (children, kitchen, church).
Here is how the leading ideologue of Neo-Confucianism, Lin Yu-tang, defined the role of women in society:

"There are talented women as there are talented men, but their number is actually less than democracy would have us believe. For those women, self-expression has a more important meaning than just bearing children. But for the common people, whose number is legion, let the men earn the bread to feed the family and let the women bear children— Of all the rights of women, the greatest is to be a mother."

—quoted in Elisabeth Croll, Feminism and Socialism in China (1980)

A leading inspirer and organizer of the New Life Movement was Madame Chiang Kai-shek, one of China's wealthiest women and a Wellesley graduate, who declared that "virtue is more important than learning." It is poetic justice that some of the hoary Neo-Confucianists around Chiang's court criticized Madame Chiang herself as too Westernized and attacked her public political appearances as "immod¬est" (sort of the Phyllis Schlafly of her day)!

The moral climate in Kuomintang ruling circles is well depicted in the memoirs of writer Han Suyin, who was trained abroad as a doctor. Han returned to China in the late 1930s to marry an officer on Chiang's staff, who constantly admonished her that "a woman of talent is not a virtuous woman" and that "to contradict your husband is a sign of immorality" (Birdless Summer [1968]).

If this is how the women of the educated elite were treated, one can imagine the situation facing women of the lower classes. Behind a faqade of bourgeois-democratic laws, a carryover from the revolutionary upheaval of the 1920s, the subjugation of the mass of Chinese women was fundamentally unchanged from the days of the Manchus or, for that matter, the Mings.

Deformed Social Revolution and Women's Liberation

It is now widely recognized that the American nuclear bombs that incinerated Hiroshima and Naga¬saki in August 1945, even though Japan was ready to surrender, were dropped mainly to intimidate the Soviet Union. An even more immediate target for the American imperialists were the Chinese Communists. Having fought and defeated Japanese imperialism in large part to dominate and exploit China, the U.S. was not about to let Mao's Red Army stand in its way. With the guidance and support of Washington, Generalissimo Chiang was supposed to physically annihilate the Communist-led forces. For a year following the Japanese surrender the Generalissimo consolidated his position while spinning out phony negotiations with the CCP for a coalition government. Then in mid-1946 Chiang struck, initially with great effect. The Red Army was driven out of central China entirely and had to retreat on all fronts.

Stalin, as usual, was prepared to sacrifice his foreign "comrades" for the sake of "peaceful coexistence" with U.S. imperialism and its allies (in this case, Chiang's China). The Great Helmsman in the Kremlin later told Yugoslav Communist Eduard Kardelj that he advised the Chinese comrades to "join the Chiang Kai-shek government and dissolve their army" because "the development of the uprising in China had no prospect" (quoted in Stuart Schram, MaoTse-tung [1966]). Stalin's advice to the Chinese "comrades" was in effect that they commit suicide.

With their survival at stake the Maoists finally unleashed their most potent weapon: the mobilization of the Chinese peasantry against the landlords. A powerful wave of agrarian revolution carried the initially smaller Red Army, with its greater combativity and discipline, to victory over Chiang's forces, totally demoralized and grotesquely corrupt (Kuomintang generals sold food on the black market while their men went hungry).

Integral to the agrarian revolution and Red Army victory was the liberation of women from their previous total economic dependency. The Agrarian Reform Law promulgated by the CCP in 1947 divided the land equally between men and women. Women were given their own certificate of ownership, if they so chose, or joint ownership with their husbands. The impact of this revolution in property relations on the women of the Chinese countryside was electrifying. American journalist William Hinton, an eyewitness to these events, reported some typical responses: "When I get my share, I'll separate from my husband. Then he won't oppress me any more." "If he divorces me, never mind, I'll get my share and the children will get theirs. We can live a good life without him " (Fanshen [1966]). Particularly strong partisans of the Communist land policies were widows for whom the traditional Confucian code prescribed suicide at the death of husbands and providers.

The civil war itslef reinforced the agrarian revolution in radically changing the postion of women in society. The transition for guerilla to large-scale positional warfare drew masses of men into the Red Army and so created labor shortages in many villages. Large numbers of women were thus drawn into agricultural production out of sheer economic necessity. According to Teng Ying-chao (Deng Yingzhao), a leader of the CCP-led Women's Association and also Chou En-lai's wife, whereas in 1945 it was still unusual for women to work in the fields, by 1949 in the older liberated areas 50-70 percent of women worked on the land. In some villages peasant women were the main activists in confiscating the landlords' property.

More than any other aspect of CCP policy, it was the mobilization of women which shocked the Chinese ruling class as it was being destroyed. In her memoirs, Birdless Summer, Han Suyin recounts the absolute horror with which the'Kuomintang ruling circles in their last days viewed the revolt of women in the liberated areas:

"They actually had women in the Red armies, girls dressed as boys and carrying guns! They encouraged slave girls and concubines to revolt against their masters! Their widows remarried! They did not insist on 'chastity'! They incited the peasant women to stand up and denounce their husbands misdeeds."

For China's rulers, these were among the worst of the "crimes" of the Communists.
A social system which had oppressed women for millennia was overthrown in the course of a few years of civil war. The first years of the People's Republic of China saw the effective elimination of foot-binding, the general establishment of free choice in marriage, mass campaigns to overcome illiteracy and the drawing of most women into work outside the home.

Yet Mao's China was the product of a bureaucratically deformed social revolution, and that deformation imprinted itself on all aspects of social and political life. The popular enthusiasm and authority which the Maoists gained by overthrowing the old order was dissipated through the insane economic adventurism of the Great Leap Forward (1958-60) and the bureaucratic delirium of the Cultural Revolution (1966-69). The deeply nationalist character of the Maoist regime eventually led it into an alliance with U.S. imperialism against the Soviet Union, dramatically signaled in 1971 when the Chairman embraced Richard Nixon as American B-52s bombed Vietnam. And today the "People's Liberation Army" is the main instrument by which the American ruling class seeks to wreak vengeance against the heroic Vietnamese people, who inflicted upon U.S. imperialism the most humiliating defeat in its history.

The deformed character of the Chinese revolution has naturally also affected the condition of women. To take but a few of the more glaring manifestations: the policy toward contraception and abortion has zigzagged between extremes, from practically eliminating any means of birth control during the disastrous Great Leap Forward to the present policy of pressuring women to have abortions they do not want in order to reduce the population. Official puritanism has the force of law, making premarital sex a crime. Many jobs are still typed by sex, and there is unequal pay for equal work, especially on the collective farms.

Women and Revolution, in an article on Maoism and the family (subtitled "In China, women hold up half the sky—and then some," W&R No. 7, Autumn 1974), wrote of both the historic achievements and fundamental limitations of Maoist-Stalinist China in furthering the liberation of women:

"The revolution has, among other things, given women legal equality, freedom of choice in marriage, greater access to contraception and abortion, a greater role in social production and political life and, for some, child care centers, dining halls and schools. It is indisputable that the lives of Chinese women, who in pre-revolutionary times were barely recognized as human beings, have been radically transformed and that Chinese women are less oppressed in many ways than are women in bourgeois democracies. "But while we note such gains and therefore call for the unconditional military defense of China against imperialist attack, we are also aware that China has not achieved socialism—a historical stage marked, among other things, by the withering away of the state—and that the Chinese bureaucracy sabotages those measures leading toward the emancipation of women which could be undertaken by the dictatorship of the proletariat in even a poor and underdeveloped healthy workers state. Chinese women, therefore, continue to be specially oppressed."

The key to understanding the interrelationship between the Chinese deformed workers state and the family lies precisely in the fact that while the bourgeoisie has been smashed and the means of production nationalized, the working class does not wield political power. The state is administered by a bureaucratic caste which, in order to maintain its undemocratic rule, must, among other things, rely upon and foster the nuclear family as one more point for reinforcing respect for authority.

Only a proletarian political revolution which ousts the Maoist-Stalinist bureaucracy, establishes workers democracy and places the resources of the Chinese workers state fully in the service of world socialist revolution can open the road to fulfilling the struggles for women's liberation which have been integral to the tumultuous history of China in the modern era. And only the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution offers the enslaved women of the East—from India to Iran to Sri Lanka and Indonesia—the path to emancipation."

Friday, September 20, 2019

On The 60th Anniversary Defend The Gains Of The Cuban Revolution- - From The Archives- Do Not Cry For Me, Argentina- Remembering Che Guevara

In Honor of Anniversary Of The July 26th Movement

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman (2015)

Every leftist, hell, everybody who stands on the democratic principle that each nation has the right to self-determination should cautiously rejoice at the “defrosting” of the long-time diplomatic relations between the American imperial behemoth and the island of Cuba (and the freedom of the remaining Cuban Five in the bargain). Every leftist militant should understand that each non-capitalist like Cuba going back to the establishment of the now defunct Soviet Union has had the right (maybe until we win our socialist future the duty) to make whatever advantageous agreements they can with the capitalist world. That despite whatever disagreements we have with the political regimes ruling those non-capitalist states. That is a question for us to work out not the imperialists.

For those who have defended the Cuban Revolution since its victory in 1959 under whatever political rationale (pro-socialist, right to self-determination, or some other hands off policy) watching on black and white television the rebels entering Havana this day which commemorates the heroic if unsuccessful efforts at Moncada we should affirm our continued defense of the Cuban revolution. Oh yes, and tell the American government to give back Guantanamo while we are at it.    


A recent news item out of Argentina concerning the dedication of a memorial to Che Guevara caught my eye. Apparently forty years after his death the legendary guerrilla fighter and hero of the Cuban Revolution is being honored with a statute in his hometown of Rosario. This event has not been without controversy, nor should it have been if one understood Che’s life at all, among residents there over the appropriateness of the gesture. That controversy is nevertheless neither here nor there for those of us still trying to make the revolution. Whatever political differences Che and this writer had over the questions of the right strategy for pushing the fight for socialism forward we would, I am sure, agree today that a fitting memorial for a revolutionary is not some slab of stone or metal in Argentina but to get out and organize the struggle. With that in mind a couple of comments about Che’s influence and about the real way to honor Che are in order.

Political activists of many persuasions including at that time this left liberal writer, not just radicals and revolutionaries, saw Che coming out of the Cuban Revolution as a figure larger than life. Trained as a doctor he could have pursued that career and carved a small niche for himself in the medical profession in the Argentine. He nevertheless rejected that path as too narrow for his huge appetites for life. Moreover the Argentine itself was eventually too narrow for his interests.

I have mentioned elsewhere in reviewing one of the of the many biographies about him that, in the end, he was that classic Latin revolutionary in the mold of the 19th century revolutionary Louis Auguste Blanqui- the man of the barricades (or rather one of its modern equivalents- the hills). And so a quick outline of the saga of Che’s life would indicate- the eye-opening travel chronicled in the Motorcycle Diaries, Guatemala during the CIA coup against the Arbenz government, on the lamb in Mexico, the decisive Cuban revolutionary experience by linking up with Fidel Castro in the mid-1950’s, the hard fought, if fruitless, efforts to push African liberation struggles forward and, finally, death in the god-forsaken hills of Bolivia- fighting to the end. A post- war American youth generation (the Generation of ’68) deeply influenced by Jack Kerouacs’s On The Road and ready to ‘storm heaven’ politically could relate to that resume. Combine that with Che’s deeply held moral sense of justice (although, obviously marred by that Stalinist voluntarist streak that he also exhibited) and you have a very appealing political role model.

As mentioned above the political gap between Che and this writer over time only got wider as I got closer to understanding the necessity of relying on the centrality of the working class in the struggle for socialism and he went in search of the “new” socialist man out in the foothills in some adventure seemingly driven by Jean Jacques Rousseau rather than Karl Marx. Yet this writer, and any thoughtful person could, and can, admire a man who out of an intense sense of the injustices of the world sees the need to pick up the gun in order to slay the dragons. Yes, this man Che deserves some honor but not that one that they have erected to him in Rosario. Here is how one can really honor Che. Fight to Free The Cuban Five. Fight to Defend the Cuban Revolution. Most importantly though, fight the struggle here in the “belly of the beast”. That would be more than enough to truly honor this subjective revolutionary.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding of The Communist International-From The Archives- *If Drafted I Will Not Run, If Elected I Will Not Serve- Revolutionaries and Running For Executive Offices Of The Capitalist State

Click on title to link to important theoretical article on the question of revolutionaries running for the executive offices of the capitalist state in "Spartacist- English Language Edition, Number 62, Spring 2009. (Yes, isn't it nice to transcend and go forward in time by the 'magic' of technology in the blogosphere.)


If drafted, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve- words attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman at the prospect of being nominated for American president in the late 19th century.

Well, the old soldier Billy Sherman has it right, if for different reasons from those of today 's revolutionaries. We want no part in administering the bourgeois state today and therefore, disrespectfully decline to run for its executive offices. However, to show that we are not anti-parliamentary abstentionists like many of our anarchist brethren we, in our role as 'tribunes of the people', will graciously accept any elected legislative posts that come our way-of course running on our program of a workers party fighting for a workers government.

Wait a minute, Markin, haven’t you gone out of your way in previous commentaries to argue that revolutionaries should run for executive office, while also taking the historic revolutionary socialist position of refusing to actually accept the office if elected? Umm......, well yes, and here the writer will have to eat humble pie and accept that the old historic position is indeed wrong and not just wrong on a tactical basis but on principal.

Let’s go into a little background here. As I have developed a socialist worldview I have attempted to ground that position with a sense of history. Part of that history included studying the lives of various revolutionary socialists here and elsewhere. One of the first that I came across was Eugene V. Debs, one of the key early leaders in the American socialist movement. Debs not only ran for president as a socialist in the historic four-way presidential fight of 1912 (you know, the one where Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose) but also in 1920 from the Atlanta Penitentiary where he was spending a little time, at government expense, for opposition to American entry into the slaughter of World War I. That fighting stance exemplified for me an ideal way for socialists to get their propaganda out to a hostile world that might be a little less so when confronted during traditional election periods.

That position was fortified further for me by a look at the latter campaigns of the American Communist Party from the time that they placed William Z. Foster and Ben Gitlow on their presidential ticket in the 1920's. To speak nothing of later campaigns by Earl Browder in 1940 and Gus Hall more recently for that same party, as well. Moreover, when I first began sniffing around the Trotskyist movement in the early 1970’s I distinctly remember, as an act of defiance in breaking with the Democratic Party (I had after all, when all the dust was settled, supported Hubert Humphrey in 1968), voting for the Socialist Workers Party candidate in 1972 (and here memory fails for I am not sure whether it was Doug or Linda Jenness who was running for president that year but I believe that it was Linda- someone can correct me on that, please) Moreover, in the harsh reality of American politics since then and the harsher realities of socialist propaganda politics the question of the pitfalls of running for executive office seemed a little exotic, to say the least. In short, nothing really seemed to require that I seriously work through the issue.

Then, a few years ago, entered the International Communist League (ICL) and presumably others to upset the historic applecart. Apparently within that organization some qualms developed over the historic position mentioned above(a position that they themselves utilized back in the 1980’s running a candidate for Mayor of New York City). Researches by the ICL back to the early days of the Communist International concerning various nebulous formulations of the workers government slogan and some unfinished business concerning electoral platforms opened up this can of worms. When I first read of this dispute I dismissed it out of hand as a 'tempest in a teapot' rather than as a serious issue that needed a full airing today among small left-wing propaganda groups and labor militants trying to avoid the pitfalls of opportunism.

Now there are many ways to obtain political enlightenment in the world. One of the most important for me about the nature of the state came from being part one of that state’s armed bodies of men- a member of the American armed forces during the Vietnam War. On the present question my awakening was not nearly so dramatic but as I mentioned in a recent blog entitled "The ‘Woes’ of The British Labor Party" (see May 2008 archives) the defeat of “Red” Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London brought the issues home. The idea that a soft pink leftist, much less a hard Bolshevik would want to administer the bourgeois state for Her Majesty showed me graphically the absurdity of the old historic position. And Livingstone did not even bother with the formality of refusal but accepted that political responsibility, gladly, to boot. Reinforced by a little quick research on my part into the German Social Democratic and French and Italian Communist executive running of municipalities and states and things began to fall into place.

Sometimes old habits die hard though. I still have to think through how critical support to other leftist formations who do run for executive office with some supportable positions would work in connection with this new standard. My question: Are we just maintaining theoretical ‘purity’ by not personally sullying our hands administering the bourgeois state but are more than happy to let others, whom we give critical support to, do that dirty work? In any case I am ‘born again’ on the principal of executive office refusal now and have swore off that childhood dream of becoming president of the American imperial juggernaut- but, hey, how about being a commissar?

Wednesday, May 01, 2019


Click On Title To Link To BAAM Newsletter (local Boston anarchist collective) site for two good introductory articles about the labor struggles of the 19th century and a biographic sketch of the heroic anarchist (and later American Communist Party member) Lucy Parsons, widow of Haymarket martyr Albert Parson and revolutionary fighter in her own right. While my sympathies are clearly with the communist wing on the left wing continuum, especially the struggles led by Leon Trotsky to save the heritage of the Russian Revolution in the 1920’s and 1930’s, the main points of these articles are made by kindred spirits that all labor militants can stand in solidarity with as part of our common labor history.




Politically, the writer of these lines is far distance from those of the Haymarket Martyrs. Their flag was the black flag of anarchism, the writer’s is the red flag of socialism. Notwithstanding those political differences, militants must stand under the old labor slogan that should underscore all labor defense work now as then- ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’. Unfortunately that principle has been honored far more in the breech than in the observance by working class organizations.

Additionally, in the case of the Haymarket Martyrs today’s militants must stand in solidarity and learn about the way those militants bravely conducted themselves before bourgeois society in the face of the witch hunt against them and their frame-up in the courts of so-called bourgeois ‘justice’. Not for the first time, and most probably not for the last, militants were railroaded by the capitalist state for holding unpopular and or/dangerous (to the capitalists) views. Moreover, it is no accident that most of the Haymarket Martyrs were foreigners (mainly Germans) not fully appreciative of the niceties of 19th century American ‘justice’. This same ‘justice’ system framed the heroic anarchist immigrant militants Sacco and Vanzetti in the early 20th century and countless other militants since then. As we struggle in the fight for full citizenship rights for immigrants today we should keep this in mind. Although, as we also know, this American system of ‘justice’ will not forget the occasional uppity ‘native’ political dissenter either.

Most importantly, we must not forget that the Haymarket Martyrs at the time of their arrest were fighting for the establishment of a standardized eight hour work day. It is ironic that 120 years later this simple, rational, reasonable demand should, in effect, still be necessary to fight for by working people. All proportions taken into account since the 1880’s, a very high percentage of the working class still does not have this luxury- given the necessity of two wage-earner families, two job wage-earners, dramatic increases in commute time in order to gain employment, unpaid but mandatory work time (note especially the Walmart-ization of labor time) and a high rate of partially or fully unemployed able-bodied workers. To do justice to the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs this generation of militants should dust off another old labor slogan that used to be part of the transitional demands of the socialist movement- 30 hours work for 40 hours pay. TODAY THIS IS A REASONABLE DEMAND.

Obviously such a demand cannot be implemented in isolation. To even propose such a demand means we need to build a workers party to fight for it. Moreover, and let us not have illusions about this; this capitalist state does not want to and will not grant such a demand. Therefore, we must fight for a workers government. That would be a true monument to the memory of the Haymarket Martyrs.

Monday, April 15, 2019

In Honor of Abraham Lincoln's Birthday- From The Archives Of The First International-Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America (Written By Karl Marx, 1964)

The International Workingmen's Association 1864

Address of the International Working Men's Association to Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States of America
Presented to U.S. Ambassador Charles Francis Adams
January 28, 1865 [A]

Written: by Marx between November 22 & 29, 1864
First Published: The Bee-Hive Newspaper, No. 169, November 7, 1865;
Transcription/Markup: Zodiac/Brian Baggins;
Online Version: Marx & Engels Internet Archive ( 2000.



We congratulate the American people upon your re-election by a large majority. If resistance to the Slave Power was the reserved watchword of your first election, the triumphant war cry of your re-election is Death to Slavery.

From the commencement of the titanic American strife the workingmen of Europe felt instinctively that the star-spangled banner carried the destiny of their class. The contest for the territories which opened the dire epopee, was it not to decide whether the virgin soil of immense tracts should be wedded to the labor of the emigrant or prostituted by the tramp of the slave driver?

When an oligarchy of 300,000 slaveholders dared to inscribe, for the first time in the annals of the world, "slavery" on the banner of Armed Revolt, when on the very spots where hardly a century ago the idea of one great Democratic Republic had first sprung up, whence the first Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth century; when on those very spots counterrevolution, with systematic thoroughness, gloried in rescinding "the ideas entertained at the time of the formation of the old constitution", and maintained slavery to be "a beneficent institution", indeed, the old solution of the great problem of "the relation of capital to labor", and cynically proclaimed property in man "the cornerstone of the new edifice" — then the working classes of Europe understood at once, even before the fanatic partisanship of the upper classes for the Confederate gentry had given its dismal warning, that the slaveholders' rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy crusade of property against labor, and that for the men of labor, with their hopes for the future, even their past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic. Everywhere they bore therefore patiently the hardships imposed upon them by the cotton crisis, opposed enthusiastically the proslavery intervention of their betters — and, from most parts of Europe, contributed their quota of blood to the good cause.

While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, while before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation; but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of civil war.

The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world. [B]

Signed on behalf of the International Workingmen's Association, the Central Council:

Longmaid, Worley, Whitlock, Fox, Blackmore, Hartwell, Pidgeon, Lucraft, Weston, Dell, Nieass, Shaw, Lake, Buckley, Osbourne, Howell, Carter, Wheeler, Stainsby, Morgan, Grossmith, Dick, Denoual, Jourdain, Morrissot, Leroux, Bordage, Bocquet, Talandier, Dupont, L.Wolff, Aldovrandi, Lama, Solustri, Nusperli, Eccarius, Wolff, Lessner, Pfander, Lochner, Kaub, Bolleter, Rybczinski, Hansen, Schantzenbach, Smales, Cornelius, Petersen, Otto, Bagnagatti, Setacci;

George Odger, President of the Council; P.V. Lubez, Corresponding Secretary for France; Karl Marx, Corresponding Secretary for Germany; G.P. Fontana, Corresponding Secretary for Italy; J.E. Holtorp, Corresponding Secretary for Poland; H.F. Jung, Corresponding Secretary for Switzerland; William R. Cremer, Honorary General Secretary.

18 Greek Street, Soho.


[A] From the minutes of the Central (General) Council of the International — November 19, 1864:

"Dr. Marx then brought up the report of the subcommittee, also a draft of the address which had been drawn up for presentation to the people of America congratulating them on their having re-elected Abraham Lincoln as President. The address is as follows and was unanimously agreed to."

[B] The minutes of the meeting continue:

"A long discussion then took place as to the mode of presenting the address and the propriety of having a M.P. with the deputation; this was strongly opposed by many members, who said workingmen should rely on themselves and not seek for extraneous aid.... It was then proposed... and carried unanimously. The secretary correspond with the United States Minister asking to appoint a time for receiving the deputation, such deputation to consist of the members of the Central Council."


Ambassador Adams Replies
Legation of the United States
London, 28th January, 1865


I am directed to inform you that the address of the Central Council of your Association, which was duly transmitted through this Legation to the President of the United [States], has been received by him.

So far as the sentiments expressed by it are personal, they are accepted by him with a sincere and anxious desire that he may be able to prove himself not unworthy of the confidence which has been recently extended to him by his fellow citizens and by so many of the friends of humanity and progress throughout the world.

The Government of the United States has a clear consciousness that its policy neither is nor could be reactionary, but at the same time it adheres to the course which it adopted at the beginning, of abstaining everywhere from propagandism and unlawful intervention. It strives to do equal and exact justice to all states and to all men and it relies upon the beneficial results of that effort for support at home and for respect and good will throughout the world.

Nations do not exist for themselves alone, but to promote the welfare and happiness of mankind by benevolent intercourse and example. It is in this relation that the United States regard their cause in the present conflict with slavery, maintaining insurgence as the cause of human nature, and they derive new encouragements to persevere from the testimony of the workingmen of Europe that the national attitude is favored with their enlightened approval and earnest sympathies.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

Charles Francis Adams

Monday, March 18, 2019

In Honor Of The King Of The Folk-Singing Hard-Living Hobos The Late Utah Phillips -From The Archives- *In the Heroic Age of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies)

Click on title to link to old Wobblie and later American Communist Party founder and Socialist Workers Party founder James P. Cannon on the place of the IWW in American and international labor history.


THE WOBBLIES, Directed by Stewart Bird, Deborah Shaffer, 1979, DVD Release 2006

A review of the life of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, also known as Wobblies) leader Big Bill Haywood. An appreciation of the role of the Wobblies in early 20th century labor history by American Trotskyist leader (and former Wobblie) James P. Cannon. An urgent call to help old time Wobblie folksinger/storyteller Utah Phillips. A reading of a biography of "Rebel Girl" Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (later, unfortunately, an unrepentant Stalinist hack). And now a DVD review of the film The Wobblies. For a writer who holds no truck with anarchy-syndicalist solutions to the problems of the class struggle this has nevertheless seemingly turned into the Year of the Wobblie.

And, dear friends, that is as it should be. Before the formation of the American Communist Party in the immediate aftermath of World War I the Wobblies were, front and center, the major revolutionary labor organization in this country. We honor those Wobblie-led struggles, the memory of those old comrades and try to learn the lessons from their fights. And that, ultimately, is the beauty of the film under review.

Most docudramas or documentaries are filled with learned `talking heads' telling us what the historical significance of this or that event meant. And that concept has its place in our search for an understanding of our history, good or bad. The filmmakers here, in contrast, have seemingly gone out and found every last old time rank and file or middle level cadre Wobblie that still uttered breathe at the time of the film's creation (1979). Here we get the voice, sometimes loud, sometimes confused, sometimes haltingly, sometimes not very articulately telling the story of the Wobblies down at the base-the place where all class struggle ultimately has to be resolved.

We hear old itinerant lumberjacks; migrant farm workers, hobos and `stiffs' get their say. And frankly it is very nice for change of pace. Damn, I wish we had some of those, old as they were by the time they told their story on film, feisty labor militants around today. These were the American equivalent of the rank and file of the Russian Bolshevik organization. They represent the memory of the working class in better times. Moreover, interspersed in between interviews is excellent film footage of some of the early labor struggles (some that I had never seen before like the Bisbee, Arizona deportations-to the New Mexico border- of the copper mine strikers in 1917). And in the background accompanying the footage many of the old Wobblie labor songs created by Joe Hill and others in order to bolster labor solidarity. Ah, those were the times.

Note: This film gives a good chronology of the development of the IWW from its founding in 1905 to the hard times during World War I and its aftermath. It provides less information about latter times. Moreover, outside the opinions of the various old Wobblies it is hard to get a sense of the disputes in the organization, and there were many particularly about the relationship with the Russian Revolution in 1917, and what caused the failure of the old organization (apart from the obvious destructive role of the government crackdowns). For more on the politics check my entries in this space on James P. Cannon on the IWW and the Life of Big Bill Haywood.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

From the Archives- The Fight For Women's Liberation in SDS


March Is Women's History Month

This article is passed on as an item of historical interest to the radical movement. It is a companion archival document to one posted here earlier this year about connecting the struggles to the working class, the central focus in overturning the old society. I would only comment that some of the analysis reads as though it could have been written today, although some ideas expressed here in general terms has been greatly expanded by the last generation of feminist and socialist work on the relation between class and gender.

Moreover, today there is no mass radical youth movement or other audience ready to 'storm heaven' to direct such sentiments toward. At that time radical youth, including radical black and white working class youth, were looking for ways to fundamentally change society and to fight against that generation’s war in Vietnam. In those days radicals, moreover, after the experiences of 1968, for the most part, stood point blank against the bourgeois parties and were out in the streets. Today those who are trying to ‘brain-trust’ a new SDS for this generation of youth seem to have regressed to a point early in the evolution of old SDS where the youth were directed toward 'going half-way with LBJ ( Lyndon Baines Johnson)' and the Democratic Party. We should, however, try to learn something from history. Read on.

Workers Vanguard no. 910 W March 2008

"The Fight for Women's Liberation"

Revolutionary Marxists at December 1969 SDS Conference (Young Spartacus pages)

In honor of International Women's Day {March 8), we reprint below a position paper first presented at the December 1969 New Haven conference of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) by the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus (RMC), forerunner of today's Spartacus Youth Clubs. This is a historic document of the Spartacist League, part of our struggle to bring the materialist, Marxist analysis of the nature of women's oppression to the New Left in the period of the early growth of the radical women's liberation movement We put forward the understanding that the core institution of women's oppression, the family, arose with private property (see The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Friedrich Engels). While women's oppression is distinct from and predates the oppression of the working class, it can only be ended through socialist revolution. This analysis stands against both "lifestyle liberationist" feminists who view gender as the main division in society and Stalinists (Maoist and otherwise) who hold the position that the family can be "a unit for fighting the ruling class" (as the Worker-Student Alliance [WSA] caucus in SDS argued).

SDS was originally the youth group of the Cold War, anti-Soviet "socialists" of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID). SDS moved leftward under the impact of events, particularly the struggle of the civil rights movement against Jim Crow segregation in the South and, later, the struggles against the Vietnam War. In 1962, SDS's Port Huron Statement toned down the overt anti-Communism mat was the stock in trade of the LID social democrats, and in retribution SDS leaders were locked out of their offices. By the end of 1965, SDS had dropped its anti-Communist exclusion clause and split from the LID entirely. It grew rapidly, drawing in tens of thousands of young activists at its peak.

In the summer of 1969, SDS underwent a split. As part of an orientation toward revolutionary regroupment, die RMC, supporters of the Trotskyist program of the Spartacist League, critically supported the wing led by Progressive Labor (PL) and its WSA caucus, which put forward a crudely pro-working-class orientation as against the generally Maoist National Collective. PL itself had been formed from a left split from the extremely reformist Communist Party in the direction of Maoism.

The context of widespread leftward movement, fueled not least by opposition to the Vietnam War and the draft, and the politically open character of SDS provided an arena for revolutionary Marxists to struggle for our program. The RMC sought to take full advantage of this necessarily time-limited situation in winning young would-be revolutionaries to Marxism. To this end, we put forward position papers and resolutions arguing for the program of revolutionary proletarian internationalism. We fought for Marxism as a program for the liberation of all of humanity, especially highlighting the need for a materialist program to confront the oppression of women and blacks (see also "Racial Oppression and Working-Class Politics," WV No. 897,31 August 2007).

This position paper also mentions in passing the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) and Independent Socialist Clubs (ISC). The former was the youth organization of the Socialist Workers Party, a once Trotskyist organization by then degenerated into reformism—as exemplified by its leading role in the class-collaborationist National Peace Action Coalition. The Coalition's purpose was to appeal to liberal Democratic Party politicians who sought to extricate American imperialism from the losing colonial war in Vietnam and to head off a challenge to the capitalist order at home. The ISC were a left split from the Cold Warriors of the Socialist Party who purveyed the same anti-Sovietism with different trappings. Today, readers will recognize them as the still rabidly anti-Communist and helplessly liberal International Socialist Organization.

* * * *
I. SDS and Women's Liberation

SDS needs a clear, accurate class analysis of the special oppression of women and a Marxist program for women's liberation. No other radical youth group has yet undertaken this task. The YSA substitutes enthusiastic tail-ending for program; the ISC in their Statement of Principles patronizingly caters to the separatist mood by telling women that socialist revolution won't solve their problems automatically—as if other sorts of oppression would disappear without the intervention of consciousness?

The existing women's liberation movement, both liberal and radical, seems to see sex as the basic "class division" in society. This low level of theoretical development means an opportunity for Marxists to intervene with a working-class line. However, we will render our intervention useless if we cling to an oversimplified analysis that the only form of oppression is class oppression and confine our interest to the economic superexploitation of women workers.

The class question is the decisive issue in class society. However, other additional types of oppression do exist as well
—e.g., racial oppression, national oppression, women's oppression. To deny that Marxist revolutionaries must concern themselves with these issues is sectarian and blatantly anti-Leninist It is vital that revolutionaries participate in these struggles. The basis of such participation must be the realization that the class question is decisive and thus any movement which fails to identify itself with the struggle of the working class against the capitalist class is doomed to be beset by utopianism, crackpotism, liberal illusions and—ultimately—irrelevance.

The SDS resolution (which was sponsored by the WSA caucus and opposed by us) passed by our June convention (after the walk-out of the RYM [Revolutionary Youth Movement] splitters) did not provide a correct analysis or program. This failure was primarily due to an anti-historical, unMarxist method which resulted in an entirely incorrect position on the family.

II. Oppression and the Family

The June WSA resolution included the following statement: "The family does not have to be primarily reactionary. We should attempt to attack the bourgeois aspect and make the family a unit for fighting the ruling class."

This statement is flatly wrong. It ignores, in a crude anti-theoretical manner, the entire thrust of the Marxian critique of the family in order to accept as potentially revolutionary an institution which is inherently reactionary. The family can no more become a unit for fighting capitalism than can racial segregation, which is also a bourgeois institution. Both of these socio-economic institutions are oppressive and help maintain the capitalist system. Both are tools by which the ruling class maintains and strengthens false consciousness in the working class.

As a pro-working-class student organization, SDS must provide a Marxian class analysis of the social oppression of women. The primary source document for this analysis is The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, in which Frederick Engels traces the history of the increasing oppression of women through the various stages of economic development of society, showing that the appearance of private property brought with it the necessity of transferring this property through inheritance. From this flows the need to trace descent; and since the male, in the primitive division of labor, had come to be the property-owner, he is therefore given the right to exclusive sexual access to the bearer of his children. Hence, the institution of marriage emerges.

Following the method of Engels, examining the oppression of women in class society and the nature of class society itself, we must seek its roots in the primitive division of labor, which resulted in the social division of man and woman, placing the latter in a subordinate position, as class society was born. Subsequently the class divisions transcended the sexual division, and class became the dominant reality of society. To put it another way, Mrs. Rockefeller and her maid both suffer in varying degree from the pervasive oppression of females and have some issues in common, but the maid has more in common with her own husband than with Mrs. Rockefeller.

Sexual divisions continue to be socially enforced, since they bolster the capitalist system. The social inferiority of women is maintained by the entire structure of class society, including its ideologies. Many women internalize and come to believe the false ideas of class culture, and actually feel themselves to be inferior. Women today tend to be "under-achievers"; feeling rightly that there is not much future for them, they waste their talents and energies on trivialities, decide to live through their families or succumb to despair. It is our task to offer to these women a worthwhile goal: their own liberation, which cannot be a personal "self-liberation" but requires a socialist revolution and the withering away of the family. As communist revolutionaries, further, these women will lead incomparably richer lives. They will come to understand their own oppression and the origins,
the nature and the future of the family. As stated by Engels:

"We are now approaching a social revolution in which the economic foundations of monogamy as they have existed will disappear just as surely as those of its complement, prostitution. Monogamy arose from the concentration of considerable wealth in the hands of a single individual, a man, and from the need to bequeath this wealth to the children of that man and no other.

"For this purpose the monogamy of the woman was required, not that of the man. But by transforming by far the greater portion, at any rate, of permanent, inheritable wealth, the means of production, into social property, the coming social revolution will reduce to a minimum all this anxiety about bequeathing and inheriting.... The position of men will be very much altered, but the position of women, of att women, also undergoes significant change. With the transfer of the means of production into common ownership, the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry. The care and education of the children becomes a public affair; society looks after all children alike whether or not they are, in bourgeois legal jargon, legitimate."

This is far from advocating that straw man of the bosses' press, that under communism men and women will live in separate barracks and all children will be brought up in a state orphanage. We are rather advocating the replacement of marriage as a compulsory economic unit with voluntary forms better suited to people's physical and emotional needs. Since the institution of the family is an integral part of the capitalist system, the struggle for women's liberation is inseparable from the struggle for a socialist revolution.

III. The Family and the Class

The WSA resolution states: "With the rise of capitalism and modern industry, the economic foundation on which the traditional family was based was destroyed. Women were taken out of the home and put into the factory. But the special exploitation of women, who became a cheap reserve labor force, continued. To justify the double exploitation of women workers, the ruling class fostered the ideology of male chauvinism."

To set the record straight, at the very beginning of the industrial revolution women and children formed the bulk of the industrial proletariat. The reasons for this are well established. Women and children were cheap, unskilled, docile labor used by the rising capitalists to batter down the wages of men (usually more highly paid) and to destroy the craft industries employing (relatively) highly paid male artisans. To quote Marx in Capital:

"The value of labor power was determined not only by the labor-time necessary to maintain the individual adult laborer, but also by that necessary to maintain his family. Machinery, by throwing every member of the family into the labor market, spreads the value of man's labor-power over his whole family. It thus depreciates his labor power."

Consequently, workers with large families were often given preference by the early capitalists who, as a matter of fact, often compelled the worker to require his entire family to work in his factory or lose his job.

The bourgeoisie of this period actually devised ideological apologia for femaie and child labor (see Jurgen Kuczynski, The Rise of the Working Class, Chapter 2, "The Working Class Emerges"). The limitation of female and child labor (by, e.g., the Factory Acts in Britain) represented concessions wrested by the "working class from capital. The progressive withdrawal of this super-exploited labor from the factory system compelled the capitalists to employ machinery in their stead if they wished to remain in business.

The destruction of the traditional family by employing women and children in production creates the possibility of founding the relationship between the sexes on a new economic basis. But, the spontaneous way this employment developed with the rise of capital was, to quote Marx, "a pestiferous source of corruption and slavery" which the advanced sections of the working class fought. The kernel of this contradiction is that under capitalism the family remains—because there is no other socio-economic institution to replace it.

An Institution of Indoctrination

The bourgeoisie and its theorists tinkered with the old institutions in order to fit them better into the new industrial capitalism. In the age of disintegrating feudalism, before the capitalists had accumulated much experience in running their own system, some of them even toyed with very radical ideas regarding the state, family and religion. They soon learned, however, that whether they themselves liked conventional family life or not, or whether they believed in God or not, the institutions of religion and the family were indispensable for inculcating the required docility, submissiveness, respect for authority and superstition in the working class. Without religion and the family the workers would be far more likely to become troublesome. For this reason the bourgeoisie learned to pay public obeisance to the ideals of religion and the family whether they personally believed in them or not. When economically necessary, the capitalist class will tolerate and even encourage female and child labor—but without allowing the development of institutions to replace the family. The working woman is not really freed from her role as household slave by obtaining work outside the home; she merely has one responsibility added to another.

Although individual families were destroyed—and are being destroyed—by capitalism, the family as an institution was not hurt, as it rises or falls with the existence of private property. When economic considerations permitted, the ruling class periodically initiated campaigns, through the media and the churches, to get women back into the home. This tendency reached a peak of brutal chauvinism and cynical barbarism with the Nazi slogan, "Kinder, Kiiche, Kirche," which portrays the woman deluded by religion and as breeder, babysitter and cook. "The family that prays together stays together": both religion and the family are bourgeois institutions of false consciousness.

Functions of the Family

Women and children left the process of production, not chiefly because the capitalists feared for the nuclear family and forced them out but in large part because under capitalism no substitute for the family is available. The domestic labor performed by the housewife has no exchange value, and the family is socially necessary to maintain the working class. The necessity of the bourgeoisie to concentrate and transfer its wealth via inheritance makes the family an ideological necessity for capitalism. Also, the struggle by the working class to limit the exploitation of women and children necessarily caused production to become more capital-intensive, hence ultimately raising the standard of living of the entire working class while in the long run diminishing the amount of labor needed in production.

In the present period, a period of capitalism in decay, there simply are not enough jobs to go around. Women, because of the domestic role they of necessity (under capitalism) must more or less fulfill, are on the fringes of the reserve army of the working class. When they are needed in production (such as World War II) the capitalists have no compunctions about the sanctity of hearth and home, and will gladly hire them to do "men's" work and will just as gladly drop them from production when they are no longer needed. (An unemployed male ex-soldiery would be a far greater threat to the bourgeois order than the more docile women unemployed workers.)

The hollow satisfactions of male supremacy within the home oppress both the men and the women and encourage false consciousness (male chauvinism). By way of comparison, segregation is similarly a tool of oppression (the hollow satisfactions of white supremacy in the U.S. encourage whites to oppress blacks) and false consciousness (racism). The working man learns to direct his anger and frustrations against his wife, rather than against the bosses. He is told that he is the boss in his own home ("a man's home is his castle"). Thus, the family as an economic and social institution is a shackle on the consciousness of the men workers as well as that of women,

The Family in Non-Capitalist States

The family serves its reactionary function not only in capitalist societies but also in the bureaucratically-deformed workers' states—i.e., Russia, China, and those other nations which have abolished the material basis of the family—private property—but which still require the family as a socio-cultural institution in order to suppress the consciousness of the masses, rendering them subservient to the parasitic bureaucracies headed by Brezhnev & Co., Mao, etc.

For example, the initial effect of the Chinese revolution—which in its need to fight imperialism found itself completing the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution and establishing the property relations of a workers' state—was the unleashing of an immensely progressive social force. The feudal oppression of women was abolished. But in the absence of workers' democracy in China, policy is determined by the whim of the Maoist bureaucracy. Hence, the ambivalent attitude toward the family: thus the bureaucracy opposed birth control during the Great Leap Forward; today they encourage long periods of celibacy for the Chinese youth.

The survival of most features of bourgeois family life within the non-capitalist world simultaneously reveals something about both the family and the nature of these societies. The bourgeois family is still the family, similar in decisive respects to the family in non-capitalist but not classless (e.g., feudal and slave) societies. The family unit represents a division of social labor far older than capitalism, dating back to the first "class" division of labor, that between man and woman. As such, the family will require more than the abolition of capitalism (in and of itself) before it is superseded entirely by a freer system of relations between men and women, parents and children. Needless to say, the overthrow of the capitalists and their state by the regime of workers' power is absolutely essential to the liberation of individuals from the narrowness, authoritarianism and sexual inequality inherent in family life. But we should recognize that this task will not be fatty accomplished until the dictatorship of the proletariat has fulfilled its historic mission: until class distinctions and their vestiges have been eradicated from society, i.e., mankind has reached the stage of classless society, communism. The same holds true for other features of class societies in general—aspects not simply peculiar to capitalism, such as the need for a state power over society, the existence of a certain amount of religious superstition, what Marx called "the idiocy of rural life," etc.

No society could today be entirely free of the dark heritage of the family with its sexual oppression and shut-in, stultifying life for the children. What is most repugnant to any revolutionist about family life in the deformed workers' states, however, is the feet that the political elite ruling these societies presents the survival of an archaic and reactionary institution as a great achievement in building socialism! The Bolsheviks in Lenin's time never glorified the family as an instrument—real or potential—for revolutionary socialist struggle and development. As far as the miserably insufficient level of Russian economy and culture permitted, they passed laws and created institutions designed to free Soviet citizens, particularly the women and children, from the oppressive and stultifying influence of the family. All this was of course reversed with the advent of Stalin's bureaucratic regime, which continues on to this day. After wiping out the left wing of the Communist Party and stripping the Soviets of power, the Stalinized regime proceeded to make divorce more difficult, illegalized abortion, enhanced parental authority, and worst of all called this adaptation to brutal barefoot Russian medievalism—socialism! For reasons which Stalinists find difficult to explain, the Soviet Great Leap Backward in policy regarding women and the family was led by the same parasitic gang who murdered the Old Bolsheviks of all viewpoints, throttled the Spanish revolution and let Hitler take power without firing a shot Just as Stalin was willing to use Great Russian chauvinism against national minorities, praise the Orthodox Church and foster anti-Semitism, so he found that the backward Russian family created a base for his bureaucratic and authoritarian aims. Even where private property no longer exists, the institution of the family serves—at best—to hinder the development of a socialist society. At worst it provides a base of support in the culture for the parasitic bureaucrats who barter away the gains of the revolution. SDS cannot wish away the social and cultural significance of the family by words about making it "a unit for fighting the ruling class." Reactionary institutions serve reactionary ends.

IV. The Working Woman

The economic aspects of the inferior position of women in our society provide the most immediate benefits to capitalism. Whenever capital needs to draw women out into the labor force, it has been able to use the ideology of male superiority to justify the super-exploitation of women workers—that is, women being paid less for doing the same work as the men. After all, "a woman's place is in the home," "a man has the responsibility of supporting a family, a woman only works because she wants to."

The assumption is that the woman's main role is that of the tender mother; hence, she is forced to take care of her children, even if they are unwanted, even when she is divorced. Any woman who wants more out of life is termed "unnatural" or "unfit." The lie is pushed that women are fit only for domestic chores and that therefore their labor is not worth as much as the labor of men.

Women make up one third of the American labor force, but the wages of the full-time working woman average only 60% of those of the average male working full-time. The non-white working woman, suffering under a double load of exploitation and oppression, must indeed be the most victimized category in American capitalist society. In itself, the lower average income of women workers roughly indicates the degree of their oppression, not their super-exploitation relative to working men. (They might—and do—take home less money because they are concentrated in less productive jobs.) But women, even more than other oppressed groups such as Black male workers, frequently receive less for work identical to that performed by more highly paid men. In addition to suffering oppression and discrimination, working -women are super-exploited in the literal and technical sense of the term.

Militancy or Passivity?

In the months ahead, many SDS members expect to have jobs, either full-time or temporary, in factories, on campus, in offices and hospitals, wherever labor struggles are going on. Those of us involved in assisting striking unions will be able to establish contacts with workers on the picket lines. As socialists, we must support the working class in its struggles and seek to raise consciousness, pointing out that male chauvinism divides the workers, that lower wages for women means lower wages for everyone. In Britain, where unions have calculated that wages would increase 11% if women received the same pay as men, equal pay for equal work has become a major union demand. In the U.S., a related process of awakening is going on.

Male chauvinism has made many women workers passive in accepting their lower wages and generally poorer working conditions. Many women are convinced that it isn't "ladylike" or "feminine" to be really militant, that political activity is only for men, that the picket line is too dangerous a place for women. These attitudes serve the bosses and most be fought Radicals should encourage militancy among women workers and relate women's oppression to the oppression and alienation that all workers experience under capitalism. Thus, women's liberation has an important role to play in the struggles of the working class. Further, situations sometimes arise where the women—because they are more oppressed by poor working conditions, low wages and speed-up—are more militant than the men. Women are not pale, fragile, helpless creatures; as workers engaged in industrial production, they can wield workers' power!

V. Male Chauvinism in the Student Movement

The student movement is infected with male chauvinism, a bourgeois ideology, as is the rest of society under capitalism. Long ago most of us faced up to our own deeply imbedded racist attitudes and began to conquer them. Now we must root out our male chauvinism as carefully. Here we are dealing with the social and psychological forms of discrimination rather than the economic aspects of male chauvinism. We must recognize also that no one—including our women members—is automatically exempt from male chauvinist attitudes. We must, by scrupulous attention to the content of a pro-women's liberation position, prevent the subject from becoming a bandwagon which intimidates free political debate in SDS the way that some Black hustlers have sought to racist-bait other radicals into accepting their positions as gospel.

Male chauvinism—perhaps a misleading term since it tends to obscure the feet that women's male chauvinist attitudes can oppress them or other women—has hurt the radical movement. Many potentially radical women are unwilling to join an organization which they believe is indifferent to women's oppression, It is a fact that a good number of the ersatz, crackpot and separatist tendencies in the existing women's liberation groups are a reaction to the male chauvinism in the student movement. These groups blur over class lines and stress "individual liberation" and other Utopian schemes.

Many of the women who do enter radical politics tend to play supportive roles and are not encouraged to develop politically or exercise leadership. SDS must rid itself of male chauvinism and utilize the full talents of all its members.

VI. SDS and Special Groups

It is not enough to fight individual aspects of women's oppression within the labor movement and in SDS. Separate women's liberation groups offer an opportunity to tie together all aspects of women's oppression in the minds of their members, and hence to suggest a single solution—which is socialism. As Marxists, we recognize that special oppression calls for special defensive and combative organizations of the oppressed. For this reason, SDS should give critical support (determined by program) to Black groups which fight the special oppression of Black people; similarly SDS should support women's groups which fight on the basis of a Marxist program for the special needs of women.

Armed with a more developed political and economic analysis of society, SDS members should be able to win the more serious groups away from petty-bourgeois amateur therapy sessions, liberalism, female separatism and vicarious anti-male terrorism, to a working-class perspective. Women's liberation groups are a good arena for winning militant 'women over to SDS and to socialism.

VII. Program for Women's Liberation

When SDS members make a political entry into a special group such as a women's liberation group, they should be armed with a program that raises consciousness by relating specific felt needs to the broader struggle for socialism. We carry through this program by raising a series of transitional demands—that is, demands which flow from the specific struggle but which lead the struggle to a higher level of militancy and political

We move that SDS accept the following program for struggle and agitate around the following demands:

For the abolition of family restrictions;

1. Abolition of abortion laws; each woman must be free to make her own decisions.

2. Free abortions, as part of demand for free quality medical care for everybody, so poor women will have the same freedom of choice as middle-class women.

3. Freely available birth control devices and information.

4. Free full-time child-care facilities for all children, the expenses to be borne by the employer or the state. Free pre-natal, maternity and post-natal care with no loss in pay for time off.

5. Establishment of free voluntary cafeterias in the factories and other places of work.

6. Divorce at the request of either partner. Abolition of alimony. Expenses for children to be paid by the state.

7. Lower the legal age of adulthood to 16. State stipend for schooling or training for any child who wishes to leave home. Free education for all children, with housing, food and stipend. No loco parentis. Student-teacher-worker control of all schools and colleges.

To fight the super-exploitation of women workers:

8. Full and equal pay for equal work.

9. Equal work: equal access to all job categories. Shorter work week with no loss in pay ("30 for 40") to eliminate unemployment at the capitalists* expense.

To fight male chauvinism:

10. An end to all forms of discrimination—legal, political, social and cultural.

SDS should seek the creation of a non-exclusionist class-conscious women's liberation organization in which SDS members can participate and struggle on the basis of the above program. Toward this end, we should direct interested SDS members to seek to initiate, along with other radical women, a nationally-oriented women's liberation publication.