Communist Women 's - International

(Stalinist-Hoxhaists)

 

 

 

 

 

April 2014

published on occasion of the

94th Anniversary of the Foundation Day of

 

 

The Communist Women's International

1920 - 1930

 

"The liberation of women is not possible without the socialist world revolution.

And the victory of the socialist world revolution is not possible without the communist women's world movement guided by the Communist International of Women (SH) as a sub-organisation of the Comintern (SH) ."

 

The slogan of the Communist Womens' International (Stalinist-Hoxhaists):

"Everything for the emancipation of the women !

Everything through the emancipation of women !"

 

    edited by the Executive of the International of women and the communist secretariat in Moskau - by Clara Zetkin

    (published in German and Russian language)

 

“Alles durch die Revolution! Alles für die Revolution!”

[ "Everything through the revolution ! Everything for the revolution !" ]

 

 

Clara Zetkin wrote these words in 1921, declaring the supremacy of communist revolution. This dedication to
revolution provided the foundation for the periodical "Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale", in which communist women from throughout the world united their voices in the cause of international solidarity. The goal of "Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale", as an appendage of the Comintern, was to unite communist women throughout the world in the cause of international revolution.

This organ was a collective propagandist, Agitator and Organizer of the Communist Women's International as an sub-organisation of the Comintern comparable with the Young Communist International. The CWI (KFI) was the combined international organ of the communist women’s movement of all countries which struggled as a strong lever for the socialist world revolution.

 

The typical structure of KFI included sections that promoted Marxist scholarship, understanding of current events, and enrichment of women’s intellect. The major sections in any given issue of KFI contained articles, reports, notes on movements within various countries, and concluded with a feuilleton section. KFI even incorporated plays, poetry, and discussion of literature that might be of interest to communist women. Several issues of KFI included conference proceedings from the Third International as well as proceedings of international women’s conferences. Popular topics for articles included government programs for mothers and children, issues related to prostitution, health care, worries about the occupation of the Ruhr, agitation efforts, and tributes to Lenin.

Most issues of KFI included a section discussing the progress of women’s movements outside the communist women’s movement for the purpose to win non-communist women for the communist women's movement.

In 1921, discussions of women in Soviet Russia played a particularly important role. Issues in 1922 were also published regularly and again emphasized feminist and socialist movements in continental Europe. By 1923, issues were sporadic, with only January through July being published. Yet by 1923, the periodical moved outside of Europe in addressing the latest news in other regions of the world, particularly East Asia.

While the articles discussed a variety of topics from many countries, the articles about women in the Soviet Union focused on three main topics: the new legal position granted to women as compared to that of capitalist countries, state protection of mothers and children, and the development of women as workers. Most KFI articles about women in the Soviet Union aimed at proving that life for Soviet women was much better than life for women in capitalist nations such as England, France, and Germany. By comparing the Soviet Union to capitalist countries, articles in KFI emphasized that women in the Soviet Union were equal to men both in theory and in practice. Zetkin viewed Soviet women’s practical equality as a direct result of communist revolution.


Only a handful of issues came out in 1924, and 1925’s four issues ended with the May/June issue. The year 1925 also found a renewed interest in Soviet Russia and expressing gratitude for Lenin. Clara Zetkin called Lenin the great redeemer [Erlöser] of the female gender. He gave international women courage. He was woman’s friend, helper, teacher, and leader.

Lenin was the one to put communism into practice in the Soviet Union, and the effects of his actions allowed women in the Soviet Union to experience a quality of life and level of rights not allowed to women in capitalist nations such as Germany. One of the most concrete actions meant to improve the status of women in the Soviet Union was the creation of family laws.

Clara Zetkin stated that the proletarian revolution in Russia was the beginning of world revolution—worthy of admiration, gigantic, but nevertheless the beginning. No one was surer of this fact than Lenin. As the creator of the Communist International, Lenin proved his dedication to worldwide revolution.

Clara Zetkin illustrated the lot of women in Russia since the Bolshevik Revolution.
They had political equality with men, the same work responsibilities as men from the age of sixteen onwards, enjoyed an eight-hour workday, and had access to all occupations. In addition, women received equal pay for equal work. Neither work nor family placed a burden on women as communism provided practical equality between men and women. On contrast, the German November Revolution failed the women because it failed the proletariat. Only in Russia, where the proletariat governed the country, could women be as
equal as men. Clara Zetkin’s analysis of the two November revolutions supported the socialist feminist stance that women’s liberation only came through the liberation of the working class. Clara Zetkin supported feminism not as its own movement but as a "byproduct" of communism’s restructuring of society. Accordingly, only Soviet Russia liberated women from inequality in the workplace and the burdens of motherhood because it was the only country that had supported a communist revolution.

The questions of funding and illness, gave plausible reasons why Zetkin stopped producing the magazin "KFI".

 

 

 

Tens of thousands of Russian women joined the Bolshevik Party and dedicated their lives completely to the cause of communism. Bolshevik women joined such organizations as the
Comintern, which focused on spreading communism internationally.

Clara Zetkin looked to Russia as a shining example and goal for communists in Germany. She believed that women could achieve complete equality with men not through the Weimar constitution, but through worldwide communist revolution.

Thus she became a major advocate of international solidarity among communist women.

The Communist Women's International, headed by an institution known as International Communist Women's Secretariat, was established in Moscow by the Comintern in April 1920.

Operations of the Communist Women's International was directed by a body known as the International Communist Women's Secretariat. This body was renamed the Women's Section of the Executive Committee and made a subordinate department of the Executive Committee of the Communist International (ECCI) and its magazine terminated in May 1925.

The Women's Section of the Executive Committee was terminated by ECCI in August 1930.

 

Ultimately eight women were named to the body, including six Russians — Kollontai, Lenin's wife Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lyudmila Stal, Zlata Lilina, Konkordia Samoilova, and a woman known to history only as Similova — as well as the Dutch Henriëtte Roland-Holst and Rosa Bloch from Switzerland

Secretary of the organization was the veteran German revolutionary Clara Zetkin.

 

 

 

International Communist Women's Conventions

 

 

Convention Location Date Comments
1st International Conference of Communist Women Moscow July 30-Aug. 2, 1920
2nd International Communist Women's Congress Moscow June 1921 Attended by 82 delegates from 28 countries. Resolutions in Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale, vol. 1, no. 5/6 (1921), pp. 203–212.
Conference of International Women Correspondents Berlin January 1922 Delegates from 9 countries and representatives of International Women's Secretariat. Account in Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale, vol. 2, no. 3/4 (March–April 1922), pp. 477–487.
3rd International Conference of Communist Women Moscow 1924
4th International Conference for Communist Work Among Women Moscow May 29-June 10, 1926 Total of 18 voting and 47 consultative delegates.
Conference of Women Attending 10th Anniversary Festivities Moscow November 1927 Characterized by historian Jean-Jacques Marie as a "purely ornamental conference" of tourists. (Marie, "The Women's Section of the Comintern, pg. 281.)
Conference of Heads of Communist Party Women's Sections Moscow August 1930 Final conference organized by Women's Secretariat.


 

 

An International Conference of Communist Women was convened from July 30 to August 2, 1920 in Moscow, concurrent with the ongoing 2nd World Congress of the Comintern.

 

Delegates to the Second International Conference of Communist Women in Moscow and the International Women’s Secretariat, “Manifest der Konferenz an die Kommunistinnen der ganzen Welt,”Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale 1, no. 5/6 (August/September 1921): 40-43. In English, “Manifest of the Conference for Female Communists of the Entire World.”

 

Becoming like Soviet Russia was the only option for freedom as the delegates urged readers to look to Russia’s example. Thus while the delegates admitted that not all was well for their Soviet sisters, they also asserted that it was through capitalism that Russian women were oppressed. Internal problems were an effect of bourgeois aggression, and the ills of the entire world would be relieved if capitalist countries looked to Russia’s example and followed it.
Russian women also urged their Western counterparts to look to their example. In the introductory article of the February 1923 issue, “Der Internationale Kommunistische Frauentag 1923,” Clara Zetkin argued that Soviet women would stand side by side with other communist women on International Women’s Day. In the same issue, an article written by the female communists of Soviet Russia titled “Aufruf der russischen Genossinnen zum Internationalen Frauentag an die Proletarierinnen aller Länder” urged women in the West to support communism. They asked women: Do you want to be equal? Their husbands and sons would no longer be sacrificed to war. They could have control over production in the workplace. Their children would be protected and fed. [ Die Kommunistinnen Sowjet-Rußlands, “Aufruf der russischen Genossinnen zum Internationalen Frauentag an die Proletarierinnen aller Länder,” Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale 3, no. 2 (February 1923): 16-17. In English, “Call of the Russian Female Comrades for International
Women’s Day to the Female Proletariat of all Countries.” ]

 

The International Women’s Secretariat of the Communist International wrote a cry for help titled “Proletarierinnen, schaffende Frauen in allen Ländern, erlahmt nicht in der
Hungerhilfe für Sowjet-Rußland.” The authors recognized that millions in America and the British Empire were unemployed and dying from hunger. But above all the tragedies
of these capitalist countries was the famine in Soviet Russia. The authors asked their readers: “Frauen, könnt ihr einen Tag eures Lebens der Hungernden Sowjet-Rußlands vergessen?” [Women, can you live one day of your life forgetting the starving people in Soviet Russia?] This article appealed to women’s sense of compassion and desire to relieve the suffering of others. As communism succeeded, international revolution will prevent any future famines. Consequently, supporting Soviet women and looking to their example
strengthened communist efforts in other countries.

 

 

 

At the beginning of 1922 headquarters of the Communist Women's International was moved from Moscow to Berlin.

Clara Zetkin represented the International Women's Secretariat for Communist work among women at the 4th World Congress of the Comintern, held in Moscow in the fall of 1922, delivering her report on Monday, May 27, 1922.

 

 

Clara Zetkin acknowledged that the Secretariat conducted its work under the "immediate direction and leadership" of the Executive Committee of the Communist International, governing body of the Comintern.

 

The 4th World Congress officially endorsed Clara Zetkin's views in the resolution which it adopted, lauding the efficacy of "special structures" for female communist party members, such as national women's secretariats, and remarking that "unfortunately, some sections have failed partially or completely to carry out their duty to systematically promote Communist work among women" by failing to create such "indispensable" institutions.

 

 

The Communist Women's International published a bimonthly magazine called Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (The Communist International of Women).

 

Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale established a forum in which communist women throughout the world could hear news from movements in countries other than their own.

Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale included articles dealing with the women's movement from around the world as well as coverage of the handling of women's issues in Soviet Russia.

 

A total of 25 issues of the journal were produced during its five years of existence, running from 1921 to 1925. In all, some 1300 pages of content were published in the pages of this magazine.

 

Chief on the agenda for the publication and for the organization behind it was an ongoing effort to promote International Women's Day (March 19) as a worldwide revolutionary holiday as well as to build multinational support for the International Red Aid organization. Other matters of emphasis included agitation against militarism, fascism, and price inflation, as well as education in support of women's reproductive rights.

 

Member parties of the Communist International also issued magazines targeted to a female readership in this period, including Compagna (Woman Comrade), a publication of the Communist Party of Italy, and De Voorbode (The Herald), a periodical issued by the Communist Party of the Netherlands. Czechoslovakia had no fewer than three periodicals targeted to women — the Czech-language Kommunistka (Woman Communist), the similarly named German organ Kommunistin, published for Sudetenland, and the regional publication Žena (Woman).

 

On May 15, 1925, the Executive Committee of the Communist International decided to reorganize the Communist women's movement. The International Women's Secretariat was henceforth to be formally known as the Women's Section of the Executive Committee, according to this ECCI resolution. This change was to be unpublicized, however, with the same decision cravenly declaring that "in presentations to a general audience it is good, for tactical reasons, to preserve the name International Women's Secretariat." At the same time ECCI suspended publication of the official organ of the Women's Section, Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale, ostensibly for financial reasons.

Headquarters for the reorganized Communist women's movement were moved from Berlin to Moscow in 1926 as part of the decision to downgrade the semi-autonomous status of the former International Women's Secretariat.

Late in the spring of 1926 a fourth international of the communist women's movement was held in Moscow. Whereas the previous gatherings had been known somewhat grandiosely as "Conferences of Communist Women," the 1926 session was to be known as the 4th "International Conference on Work Among Women".

The 4th Conference was attended by just 18 voting and 47 non-voting delegates. The gathering tightly controlled by the revisionist Palmiro Togliatti and Ottomar Geschke, who chaired the opening and closing of the proceedings. Also determining the course of the proceedings were the body of delegates from the Soviet Union.

The Soviet system of "women's delegate meetings" — agitational gatherings of non-party women — was again a matter of emphasis, as well as the question of whether communist parties should found new women's organizations with largely non-communist memberships.

 

The Crime of Dissolution

While in the USSR a numerically powerful communist women's movement emerged under the Russian Communist Party's Women's Department (Zhenotdel), organization of women workers in other parties around the world was frequently given short shrift relative to other activities of the communist parties affiliated with the Comintern.

A final conference was organized by the Women's Secretariat in August 1930 which brought together the leaders of Women's Sections of the Communist Parties of Europe and the United States. The conference was chaired by Helene Overlach, head of the Women's Section of the Communist Party of Germany. Palmiro Togliatti and Ottomar Geschke from the ECCI forced the International Womens' Sekretariat to give up the communist womens' organisation. These should be replaced by "open" womens' organisations for non-communist members (!) The delagtes criticized this change because they had made already bad experiences with these forms of organisations.

ECCI was determined to further lessen the place of specific appeals to women at this time.

Elimination of the All-Union Communist Party's Zhenotdel also took place in 1930. Despite the termination of the Soviet and international organizations, Women's Sections remained in some Communist Parties for several years after this date, but the scope of activity of these organizations was reduced and their existence deemphasized.

 

Lenin and Stalin struggled against the wrong slogan of the "ebbing or weakening of the class struggle under socialism".

Lenin and Stalin taught that, in the contrary, class-struggle will increase under socialism. In this period of increasing class struggle, the women play an important role for preventing the danger of capitalist restoration.

It is true: Gender equality was realized by the communist revolution and strenghtened during the construction of socialism. But this does not mean simultaneously that the struggle for gender equality is ebbing and weakening under socialism. In the contrary, this struggle for the emancipation of women - as part of the class struggle - intensifies under conditions of socialism. It is necessary for strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat against all tendencies of restoration of capitalism. As long as the class-society exists, also the inequality of gender will remain. It is a lie to argue that equality of gender would have been allegedly "already achieved" in the socialist society. Equality of gender is only achieved under communism. And socialism is the period between capitalism and communism, a period of the dictatorship of the proletariat, a period of further struggle for the equality of gender, a pre-conditional period for the equality of gender in communism. Thus, the struggle of the emancipation of women does not end with capitalism. It will be continued as long as classes exist even in the period of world socialism.

It is cristal clear that the dictatorship of the proletariat can not be strenghtened without the class struggle of the socialist women. Therefore, the dissolution of communist womens' organisations within a socialist society are a crime against the interests of the socialist women in particular and a crime against the dictatorship of the proletariat in general. It is therefore the duty of the communist party to strenthen the women's struggle for emancipation especially under conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This task can impossibly be fulfilled if the communist women's organisations are dissolved during the period of socialism.

That is why the Comintern (SH) criticizes in principle the dissolution of the Communist Womens' International and the dissolution of the women's organizations of the Sections. Communists are never allowed to dissolve communist womens' organisation, neither in the period of capitalism nor in the period of socialism !

History of the betrayal of modern revisionism teaches us that the restoration of capitalism was last not least based on the restoration of the oppression and exploitation of women, based on betrayal at the rights of the women. Therefore the Comintern (SH) struggles for the restoration of the achievements of the socialist women on a world scale which is only realisable by organizing the womens' struggle for the victory of the socialist world revolution.

The reasons of the dissolution of the Communist Women's International were similar to that of the dissolution of the Comintern itself. The latter one followed unavoidably the former one.

The nature of liquidationism is generally the separation of the communist leading organizations from its mass organizations and thus from their massbasis.

History of the dissolution of communist organisations taught us that the mass organisations - as the driving belts between the party and the masses - were destroyed at first. Then the party was destroyed after it was isolated from the masses.

Before the liquidators were able to dissolve the Comintern they had to dissolve the mass organisations of the Comintern such as the RILU, the YCI, the CWI etc. After the liquidation of all these sub-organisations of the Comintern, the dissolution of the Comintern itself was only a matter of time.

What is the lesson of this liquidationism ?

There is only one lesson - the reconstruction of the Comintern with all its sub-organizations.

This was the reason why the Comintern (SH) decided the re-foundation of the Communist Womens' International on the 8th of March, 2011

[ see: "Foundation Declaration of the CWI (SH) on the 100th International Womens' Day ] .

 

 

 

 

 



Clara Zetkin

 

 

Born in Saxony; editor of the social democratic women's periodical "Die Gleichheit" 1892-1917; headed the International Women's Secretariat of the Second International from 1907; instigated International Women's Day, first celebrated in 1911; joined the Unabhängige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (USPD) in 1917 and the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) in 1919; worked as a leader of the COMINTERN from 1920-1933.

 

Letters sent by Zetkin to various correspondents, including Heleen Ankersmit 1910-1929, Aleksandra Kollontaj 1909-1914, Elena Stasova 1922-1933, Grigorij Zinov'ev 1921-1925, the Executive Committee of the COMINTERN (ECCI) and its sections 1921-1932, the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) and its Frauenabteilung 1922-1932; letters received by Zetkin from various correspondents, including Rosa Luxemburg 1899, 1907-1919, Emilie Motteler 1901-1918, and Julius Motteler 1890-1906; correspondence with relatives; typed and printed articles and other publications by Zetkin 1905, 1906, 1911-1933; extracts, notes, etc.; Russian translations of articles by Zetkin 1893-1917; articles and other documents on Zetkin; personal documents. [Originals at the Rossiskij Centr Chranenija i Izucenija Dokumentov Novejsej (RCChIDNI fund 528)]

 

Even in the Comintern, ZClara etkin wrote in 1921, “leaders all too often underrate the importance” of the Communist women’s movement, because “they see it as only ‘women’s business.’”For example, the French Communist Party established national women’s structures in January 1921, but abolished them only ten months later. In each of the Comintern world congresses of 1920, 1921, and 1922, women encountered problems winning time to present and discuss their report. Women also met obstacles at the 1920 Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East, but made striking progress.

Yet on the whole, despite what Clara Zetkin termed “open or covert opposition,”party structures for work among women were in fact established in those years in almost all European countries where Communists could work legally. Much credit for this achievement is due to the women heading up this work. They were probably the most able and resilient international leadership team produced by the Comintern.

Their journal, Communist Women’s International, was a formidable educational tool that published 1,300 pages over its five years of existence. No advice on childcare here; no recipes. Each issue contained several articles on the women’s movements and women’s rights activity both within and without the Communist International, as well as analysis of working-class politics as a whole. These were supplemented by reports on women’s conditions in Soviet Russia and on the activity of Communist women in different countries.

The writing is talented and often poetic, as in the following portrayal of working people in war-devastated Europe:

Those who reap the crops and bake the bread are hungry.
Those who weave and sew cannot clothe their bodies.
Those who create the nourishing foundation of all culture waste away, deprived of knowledge and beauty.

Edited by Zetkin, the journal expressed the thinking of the Comintern’s most consistent defenders of its policy of the united front.

The first issue of Communist Women’s International proudly proclaimed that its name expressed the journal’s essence as “the common international organ of the Communist Women’s Movement of all countries.”Its supporters did not use the term “Communist Women’s International” to refer to their movement, but the name continued to appear like a proud banner on the front page of their journal.

The work of the Women’s Movement centered around two main world campaigns: to build International Women’s Day and to support International Workers’ Aid for Soviet Russia, emphasizing its aid to Soviet women. In the winter and spring of 1922–23, the women’s secretariat in Berlin also led campaigns on inflation, the war danger, and education; against anti-abortion laws; and against fascism, working directly with women’s commissions of Comintern parties.

 

 

The Communist Women’s Movement

by Clara Zetkin

 

 

The communist women’s movement has a short but very momentous history. It is growing and playing its role in the most important epoch in the history of mankind. In the period of the world proletarian revolution which began with Red October in 1917, all economic and social barriers between human beings are being torn down and new forms of social life are being created, thanks to the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and the materialisation of Communism as a social order. This violent upheaval of society is an imperative condition for a new and higher form of relationship between man and woman, parents and children, and subsequently for the complete freedom and equality of the whole of womankind. The communist women’s movement shall and is consciously going to serve this great purpose. People who have been oppressed and exploited by capitalism the world over must take it upon themselves to fulfil this end. They will become revolutionary militants under the leadership of the class-conscious proletariat. The activity of communist women is directed to arousing those broad masses of working women who have been robbed and trampled upon by the class supremacy of the big capitalists; it also has the objective of awakening women from all social strata who have been enchained by the sex-supremacy of men so that they become comrades-in-arms for this work of emancipation. The aspirations and activities of the doubly enslaved must be guided by the understanding that the world revolution is the only path to freedom.

The communist women’s movement continues on a higher level of historical and theoretical knowledge and practical work the task that the social democratic women’s movement had willingly undertaken to accomplish in the spirit of Marxism but had later betrayed. But in their approach towards the social order, economy and state of bourgeois society an unbridgeable antagonism yawned between the two movements. The question that fundamentally and tactically divided the two movements was whether the complete emancipation of women was to be achieved by the reform of bourgeois society or by thoroughgoing revolution. Having become bourgeois and, hence, anti-revolutionary, the social democratic women’s movement shrank back from understanding the clear and unambiguous lessons of the events that had taken place since 1914. In contrast, the communist women’s movement drew valuable conclusions, in theory and in practice, from the imperialist world War, the Russian Revolution and subsequent historical events. It was guided by a faithful adherence to the historical understanding of revolutionary Marxism and its consistent and vigorous Leninist application to the problems and tasks of the process of social development.

The starting point of the organised communist women’s movement was the founding congress of the Third International held at Moscow in March 1919. The relationship of this world proletarian organisation to the communist women’s movement reflected the advance in historical maturity of the social development for proletarian revolution in objective and subjective terms. The founding congress of the Third International, unlike that of the Second International, was not content with merely applauding the demand for equal rights for women and their participation in the ranks of the struggling proletariat. Foreign communist women could not participate in the conference because of the extraordinary difficulties of communication existing at that time with the Soviet Union. The First Congress of the Communist International adopted an unanimous resolution, moved by the Russian comrades, which acknowledged the total equality of women and recognised their significance as an indispensable force of the revolution. The Communist International accepted that it can fulfil the tasks before it and ensure the final victory of the world proletariat and the complete abolition of the capitalist system only with the help of the closely interlinked collective struggle of men and women of the working class. The dictatorship of the proletariat can only be realised and assured through the alert and active participation of working class women.” 1

The spirit of this resolution remained decisive for the development, expansion and influence of the communist women’s movement, as well as for its relationship to the Communist International and its national sections. The Second International had been ideologically and organisationally loosely structured and its commitment and leadership did not go beyond resolutions and demonstrations. The social democratic women’s movement developed within its framework though not under its leadership. The Third International learnt from the events of the imperialist era. It also learnt from the shortcomings, the final ignominious (sic.) failure and the betrayal of its predecessor. In contrast, the Communist International was ideologically and organisationally a tightly organised body. The communist women’s movement expanded and worked not only within the framework of the Third International, but also inseparable association with it and under its leadership. As a great world organisation of the stormily advancing proletariat, it, too, based its work and struggles on t: theory of historical materialism, further developed al raised to organised practice by Lenin, as well as on t: experiences and principles of the Russian Revolution. The leading principles and aims of the communist women’s movement necessitated the adoption of common international principles of organisation and action so that women workers of hand and brain together with their class brothers could fulfil and attain their historical significance as forces, that Revolution which would bring them freedom and equal rights.

International women’s conferences and deliberation held in connection with the World Congresses of the Communist International or the plenary sessions of its Executive Committee successfully fulfilled the above objectives. Women comrades naturally participated in a full manner in the discussions and voting on the reports al resolutions at these special conferences. The Second International Conference of Communist Women which was held in Moscow in 1921 gave a fundamental orientation to the principles, tactics and organisation of the communist women’s movement. It discussed and took decisions upon the guidelines for the international communist women’s movement which showed how clearly different it was not only from the suffragettes, but also from bourgeois reformist social democracy and its women’s movement. The guiding principle were based on the observation that private property was the ultimate cause of sex and class slavery and that only the abolition of the private ownership of the means of production and its transformation into social ownership could ensure total liberty for women. Such a far-reaching and fundamental upheaval of the social order had to be collective action of the propertyless and those who owned very little property, regardless of the sex to which they might belong. Without a revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat there could be no real and total emancipation of women; without the participation of women, capitalism could not be smashed and there could not emerge a new socialist order.

The guiding principles conclusively pointed out that the pre-condition for emancipation through communism was revolution, in which the fighting and triumphant proletariat established its dictatorship as the path leading to the objective of social transformation. The guidelines shred to pieces the deceitful and pernicious illusion that changed laws favouring equality of women, that social reforms improving the situation of the proletariat, that bourgeois dictatorship instead of proletarian dictatorship, were capable of bringing freedom and equality. The guiding principles explained that reforms of any kind were and remained merely patchwork solutions in an exploitative and enslaving bourgeois society they offered no solution to the women’s question or to the social question. After fundamentally rejecting reforms as being the “ultimate aims” of the communist women’s movement, they formulated a series of demands which were suited to allay to some extent the burning day-to-day issues in the lives of working women, which served as points of contact for communist educative and organisational work among these strata. They served to direct the understanding, will and determination of enlightened, people beyond day-to-day and partial demands, towards the seizure of power by the proletariat and the upheaval of society. Further, they served to strengthen and enhance their fighting ability for the revolution.

The guiding principles outrightly rejected the idea of organising communist women separately. They were to join the communist party of their country on an equal basis, as members with the same rights and obligations; women workers and female professionals had to belong to the unions of their male professional comrades. In view of certain social conditions of existence and the backwardness and inability of many men and women to comprehend the necessity and superiority of collective organisation, the communist party did require especial organs which with time would render themselves superfluous through their successful work. How these organs were composed - preferably of male and female comrades - was a question of expediency. The essential tenet of the international communist women’s movement was that systematically organised and energetic work had to be conducted by communist parties in all countries amongst proletarian and working women aimed at mobilising them en masse against capitalism and the bourgeois order.

The Third World Congress of the Communist International confirmed these guiding principles. In international conferences and deliberations of organised communist women, two of which were held in Berlin and the rest in Moscow, activity in important spheres of party work in trade unions, co-operatives and in the sphere of party education was analysed on the basis of these principles. Besides this, these conferences exhaustively worked to systematically carry out delegate meetings and conferences of women and women workers. This was a valuable means to win over working women outside the circle of the communist party to its campaigns and at the same time to educate them in social and community work. In the same way they took a stand on work in non-party mass organisations, especially in women’s organisations sympathetic to the party. National conventions of communist women encouraged the movement in the same way, naturally in conjunction with the communist party of the country. Two international women’s secretariats - one in Berlin for the West and the other in Moscow for the East -had been working since 1921 to promote strong links of the communist women’s movement in individual countries with one another and with the leadership of the Communist International. After the Fifth World Congress they united to form the women’s section of the Executive Committee of the Communist International. This had its headquarters in Moscow and it integrated all sections and organs of the proletarian world organisation. It acted as a model for the leadership of the national sections of the Communist International.

The adoption of common principles with regard to the fundamental approach and organisation of the communist women’s movement strengthened international unity of action and gave it momentum and staying power. In 1921 the appeal of leading women communists to help Soviet Russia, which was then suffering from famine, aroused innumerable women in capitalist countries to give self-sacrificing help and energetic support. International Communist Women’s Day on March 8 each year united growing numbers of developing revolutionary women in the Soviet Union and in capitalist, colonial and semi-colonial countries. It made them aware of their inextricable ties of international solidarity with one another and with their brothers for the realisation of communism. Women stood in the foremost ranks ready to work with all their might for the revolutionary cause and for their own emancipation whenever the national sections of the Third International called upon the proletarian masses and the workers of all strata to wage a consistent and resolute struggle against the danger of an imperialist war: against bourgeois social democratic or anti-Bolshevist smear campaigns which justified the anti-Soviet policy of economic strangulation of the first state of proletarian dictatorship and prepared for military assaults by imperialist powers against it.

As a result of their participation in the struggles of their brothers and because of their heroism and martyrdom, working women have secured for themselves a place in history which is one of great revolutionary value; in the uprisings of the peoples of Bulgaria, Rumania, and Yugoslavia who have been sucked dry and are socially and nationally underprivileged; in the struggle of industrial, rural and intellectual workers against fascism and terror in Italy, Poland and other countries; in the gigantic struggle of the miners in Great Britain; in the revolutionary assaults of workers, peasants, petty-bourgeoisie and intellectuals against national and social slavery in China, India, Indonesia, Indo-China, South-West Africa and other regions of imperialist plundering; in strikes and lock-outs of every kind and in every place in which women workers and wives of workers very often set an example; in unrelenting debates on socio-political measures, political and cultural rights of the poor and with regard to many other issues. The enthusiasm and determination of women to fight was heightened by consciousness of the ties of international solidarity whenever and wherever they actively intervened in events, even when this could not be manifested through actions. The revolutionary seeds of the ideas of the communist women’s movement are germinating and throwing up their shoots.

The women comrades who were organised in the Soviet Union provided the communist women’s movement with strong and well-trained battalions, indeed, a complete national army. What they gave was truly much and far more valuable than their mere numerical strength and their position of power as equals in the state of the proletarian dictatorship under the leadership of the Russian Communist Party; for, what they brought was the rich treasure-trove of their experiences as revolutionary fighters in the period of seizure and declaration of state power by the proletariat, as co-workers in the period of the exercise of power for socialist construction, and as partners in the task of awakening and educating the working women of the proletarian and peasant masses. Of course these experiences did not imply a thoughtless and slavish imitation in different historical circumstances by the communist women’s movement outside the Soviet Union, but they did offer a wealth of fruitful impulses and guidelines. The brilliant personal examples of the freedom fighters of Red October, the blockade period, the intervention and civil war and the heroic example of socialist construction of that time were an inexhaustible spring of revolutionary strength and inspiration for the international communist women’s movement. The communist women of all the non-Soviet countries could learn from them how one died for the revolution and - what was far more difficult - how one lived for the revolution.

Together with the Third International the communist women’s movement spread throughout the world. It lived and took effect not only in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the countries of Central and South America, South Africa and Australia, but also revolutionised masses of women in the Near and Far East; women, who, bonded by thousands of years of economic and social life-forms, were the most oppressed of all female slaves. To be sure, the beginning of capitalist trade and vigorous capitalist production in some of these countries had consequently led to the emergence of a bourgeois women’s movement which had achieved remarkable success. However, even disregarding the bourgeois character and aims of this movement, it had been unable to engage in arousing and awakening the people and had thus failed to penetrate to the depths of society. It had therefore lacked the impetus of more extensive movements as well as the highest of objectives. The goal had been pointed out and the path forward shown by the shining Soviet star. There emerged in the countries of the Orient, in connection with the communist parties, a communist women’s movement which, particularly in China, was transforming the masses of proletarian and peasant women as well as innumerable educated and petty-bourgeois women into fearless revolutionary fighters. A women’s conference for the province of Hubei was convened in 1927 on International Communist Women’s Day. It introduced its programme of action with the following declaration: “The Revolution is the only path for the emancipation of women”.

The development and achievements of the communist women’s movement were creditable. Success should not become intoxicating; rather it puts us under obligation. It would be unworthy of communism if the organised pioneering women fighters were to measure their work amongst the masses of proletarian and working women against what has been achieved and - not against the magnitude and importance of the tasks that the period of declining world capitalism and the initiated and uninterruptedly maturing world proletarian revolution has set before them. The female and male representatives of the communist women’s movement ought not to see things as they should be, but must rather perceive them as they are in reality. Apart from its development and impact in the Soviet Union, it was still weak in both respects. In practically all of the national sections of the Communist International the central leadership and the organs under it had failed to sufficiently appreciate the necessity and value of the participation of the masses of working women in the revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat and the historical reasons for this participation. Wherever imperialist capitalism rules and exploits, there the communist women’s movement came up against the power of the imperialist-capitalist economy, state and social system. In addition there existed the strong and unscrupulous competition of the bourgeois and social democratic women’s movements. The communist women’s movement is still young, and for historically comprehensible reasons, we find within it particularly evident weaknesses and mistakes on the part of the communist parties of different countries.

These and other circumstances that hinder the rapid and tremendous progress of the communist women’s movement are unable to retard it, on the contrary, they goad it on to unfold its determination and strengthen it to the highest degree. With Leninist conscientiousness it will examine with the help of dialectical materialism the conditions of its maturity and influence and, thanks to its firmly established theoretical understanding, ensure successful practical action. By learning, working and struggling, the communist women’s movement shall overcome all obstacles and difficulties which are confronting it. By virtue of its actions it will strengthen its claim to the equal importance of women as forces of revolution and communism. Of particular significance is the fact that the organised women communists overcome the mistakes and failings in their theoretical and practical approach; that they participate eagerly and intelligently in overcoming those mistakes and failings which accompany the process of development of the national sections of the leading mass parties of the revolutionary proletariat. The inspiring example of the first state of proletarian dictatorship stands before the communist women’s movement. This state had laid down the total equality of the female sex in its Constitution and ensured this equality through far-reaching mother and child care and other basic innovations. The communist women’s movement is carried and taken forward by the impact of objective forces which hasten the termination of the bourgeois social system, despite stabilisation and rationalisation under the merciless rule of imperialist monopoly capitalism. Along with the organised, revolutionary and fighting forces of the exploited masses of all states and regions under capitalist rule, the communist women’s movement also proves to be a subjective factor of upheaval and realisation of communism. It must win the masses of working women away from the anti-revolutionary bourgeois and social democratic women’s movements. The strength of numbers done that they boast of does not imply that they are a social revolutionary and liberating force. Of utmost historical importance for attaining the goal is to correctly appraise social development and summon the requisite reserves of will and deeds. Measured by these yardsticks the communist women’s movement emerges as the most superior force as compared to both of these counter-revolutionary movements, indeed, vis-a-vis all the forces of bourgeois society. This understanding, united with practical actions, shall instruct and unite the proletarian and working women around the Red banner. The triumph of revolution, which shall emancipate all of womankind, shall no less be the work of the communist women’s movement.

 

_____

 

Note:

 

1. See “Protocol of the Discussions held in Moscow from March 2nd – 19th”, Hamburg, 1921, p. 194.


Those who reap the crops and bake the bread are hungry.
Those who weave and sew cannot clothe their bodies.
Those who create the nourishing foundation of all culture waste away, deprived of knowledge and beauty.

(Kommunistische Frauen-Internationale 1922)

 

 

 

 

DOCUMENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Fourth Congress of the Communist International

Resolution on the Work of the International Communist Women’s Secretariat

Theses Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congress of the Third International

 

27 November 1922

The Fourth World Congress of the Communist International endorses the work carried out in the period under review by the International Communist Women’s Secretariat in Berlin, an auxiliary organ of the Executive Committee. The achievement of the International Communist Women’s Secretariat is that in every country with an active revolutionary movement, women Communists have joined the sections of the Communist International, and have studied and become involved in the work and struggles of the Party. An additional achievement of the Secretariat is that Communist agitational-propaganda and organisational work has reached the vast masses of women and drawn them into the struggle for the interests of the working masses and for Communism.

The International Communist Women’s Secretariat has sought to link the work of Communist women among the working women of various countries on an international scale, i.e., with the work and struggles of the Communist Parties and the Communist International. It has been able, in conjunction with the Communist Parties of the different countries, to extend and strengthen the international ties between women Communists who have joined these Parties. All its activity has taken place in continuous and close contact with the Executive Committee, under its guidance and in accordance with the major lines and decisions concerning principles and tactics that have been taken at the World Congresses of the Communist International and at the Second International Communist Women’s Conference in Moscow.

The particular methods of Communist Party work among women, and the special organisations for carrying out this work (women’s secretariats, zhenotdels*, etc.) that were set up on the basis of these major policy decisions, have proved not just useful but indispensable in popularising Communist ideas and slogans among the vast majority of working women.

In those countries where the class rule of the bourgeoisie still exists, the first priority of systematic Communist work among women workers and proletarians has been the struggle against the capitalist exploiters to defend the bare necessities of life, the struggle for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In the Soviet states, however, this work has been mainly concentrated on drawing working and peasant women into all aspects of economic and social life, involving them in the construction of the proletarian state and educating them to fulfil these duties. The international significance of Soviet Russia as the first workers’ state created by the world revolution means that Communist work among women acquires great importance as an example for all those sections of the Communist International which are in countries where the proletariat has yet to seize political power – the pre-condition for the Communist transformation of society. The necessity and value of special organisations for Communist work among women is also proved by the activity of the Women’s Secretariat in the East, which has carried out important and successful work under new and unusual conditions. Unfortunately, the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International has to admit that some sections have either completely failed to fulfil, or have only partially fulfilled, their responsibility to give consistent support to Communist work among women. To this day, they have either failed to take measures to organise women Communists within the Party, or failed to set up the Party organisations vital for work among the masses of women and for establishing links with them.

The Fourth Congress urgently insists that the Parties concerned make up for all these omissions as quickly as possible. It calls on every section of the Communist International to do all it can to promote Communist work among women, in view of the great importance of this work. The proletarian united front cannot be realised without the active and informed participation of women. In certain conditions, if there are correct and close links between the Communist Parties and working women, women can become pioneers of the proletarian united front and of mass revolutionary movements.

The Communist International must unite all forces and with no exceptions must develop a revolutionary consciousness in all sections of the proletariat in preparation for the building of Communism and for the struggle against the class rule of the bourgeoisie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Congress of the Communist International

 

Methods and Forms of Work among Communist Party Women:

 

Theses

 

8 July 1921

 

The Second International Conference of Communist women proposes that all the Communist Parties in both Western and Eastern countries, in accordance with the positions of the III Communist International, authorise their women’s departments to appoint responsible Communist women as international correspondents.

 

It is the duty of the correspondents of the individual national Communist Parties to maintain as far as possible constant exchange of information with the Secretariat in Moscow, which is attached to the Executive Committee of the III Communist International and is responsible for work amongst women.

 

The appointed correspondents can only do their job if they make wide use of all technical and other resources of the Communist Parties of each country, which these Parties are bound to place at their disposal.

 

The International Women’s Secretariat organises regular meetings for correspondents twice a year, or more frequently, if necessary.

 

The IWS in Moscow is closely connected organisationally with the Executive Committee of the Third Communist International and works under its direct leadership and in close contact with the correspondents of all Western and Eastern countries. The IWS pays particular attention to 1) the activity of departments for work among proletarian women in the Communist Parties where insufficient work is being carried out and the basic principles and positions of the III International are being disregarded, 2) giving the women’s Communist movement of all countries a single direction and 3) organising working women’s campaigns on an international scale that can draw the revolutionary movement of the whole proletariat into the struggle for its dictatorship.

 

6

 To achieve the closest contact between working women in different countries and co-ordinate their work, the IWS is setting up a West European auxiliary-technical body, whose task is to undertake preparatory work and carry out the resolutions of the IWS in accordance with the directives of the Secretariat, and also of the Executive Committee of the III Communist International.

 

7

 A representative of the IWS shall be included on the West European auxiliary body.

 

The Executive Committee of the Communist International in conjunction with the IWS decides the composition, the basic tasks, and the scope of activity of the West European auxiliary body.

 

 

Basic Principles

 

1 

 

The Third Congress of the Communist International, in conjunction with the Second International Conference of Communist women, confirms once again the decision of the First and Second Congresses that all the Communist Parties of the West and the East need to increase work amongst the female proletariat, educating the broad mass of working women in Communist ideas and drawing them into the struggle for Soviet power, for the construction of the Soviet workers’ republic.

Throughout the world the working class, and consequently working women as well, are confronting the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The capitalist economic system has entered a blind alley; there is no scope for the development of the productive forces within the framework of capitalism. The sharp decline in living standards of the working people, the inability of the bourgeoisie to restore production, the rise of speculation, the disintegration of production, unemployment, price fluctuations and the gap between prices and wages, lead everywhere to the inevitable sharpening of the class struggle. This struggle decides who and which system is to lead, administer and organise production – either a small group of bourgeois or the working class basing itself on the principles of Communism.

The newly emergent proletarian class must, in accordance with the laws of economic development, take the apparatus of production into its own hands and create new economic forms. Only then will it be in a position to encourage the maximum development of the productive forces, which are held in cheek by the anarchy of capitalist production.

While power is in the hands of the bourgeois class, the proletariat is unable to organise production. While they keep this power there are no reforms or measures that the democratic or socialist governments of the bourgeois countries could adopt to save the situation or alleviate the terrible and unbearable sufferings of the working women and men which result from the collapse of the capitalist economic system. Only by seizing power can the class of producers take hold of the means of production, thus making it possible to direct economic development in the interests of the working people.

To accelerate the inevitable and final battle between the proletariat and the obsolete bourgeois world, the working class must adhere firmly and without hesitation to the tactics outlined by the III International. The dictatorship of the proletariat is the fundamental and immediate goal and this determines for the proletariat of both sexes the methods of work and the direction the struggle takes.

The struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat is the most important question facing the proletariat in the capitalist countries. In those countries where dictatorship is already in the hands of the workers, the building of a Communist society is the vital question. The III Congress of the Communist International maintains that without the active participation of the broad masses of the female proletariat and the semi-proletarian women, the proletariat can neither seize power nor realise communism.

At the same time, the Congress once again draws the attention of all women to the fact that without Communist Party support for all the projects leading to the liberation of women, the recognition of women’s rights as equal human beings and their real emancipation cannot in practice be won.

 

2

 

 In the present period particularly, it is in the interests of the working class that women are drawn into the organised ranks of the proletariat as it fights for Communism. As the economic dislocation increases on a world scale and the consequences press more heavily on all the urban and rural poor, the question of social revolution is more sharply posed for the working class of the bourgeois-capitalist countries, while the working people of Soviet Russia face the task of creating a national economy on new Communist lines. The active, conscious and determined participation of women will ensure that these goals are more easily realised.

Where the question of winning power is posed directly, the Communist Party has to take into account the enormous danger presented to the revolution by the masses of passive working women who are outside the movement – the housewives, office workers and peasant women who are still under the influence of the bourgeois world-view, the church and tradition, and have no links with the great liberation movement for communism. Women that stand outside this movement are inevitably a stronghold of bourgeois ideas and a target for counter-revolutionary propaganda, both in the West and in the East. The experience of the Hungarian revolution, where women’s lack of class consciousness played such a sad role, must serve as a warning for the proletariat elsewhere as it takes the road of social revolution.

On the other hand, events in the Soviet republic are a concrete example of how essential the participation of working and peasant women is in the civil war, the defence of the republic and all other areas of Soviet life. The important role that working and peasant women have already played in the Soviet republic has been clearly shown: in organising defence, strengthening the home front, combating desertion and all kinds of counter-revolutionary activity, sabotage, etc. Other countries must study and learn from the experience of the workers’ republic.

It follows that the Communist Parties must extend their influence over the widest layers of the female population by means of organising special apparatuses inside the Party and establishing special methods of approaching women, with the aim of liberating them from the influence of the bourgeois world-view or the influence of the compromising parties, and of educating them to be resolute fighters for Communism and consequently for the full development of women.

 

 

3 

 

While making the improvement of Party work amongst the female proletariat an immediate task of both the Western and Eastern Communist Parties, the III Congress of the Communist International at the same time points out to the working women of the whole world that their liberation from centuries of enslavement, lack of rights and inequality is possible only through the victory of Communism, and that the bourgeois women’s movement is completely incapable of guaranteeing women that which Communism gives. So long as the power of capital and private property exists, the liberation of woman from dependence on a husband can go no further than the right to dispose of her own property and her own wage and decide on equal terms with her husband the future of her children.

The most radical feminist demand – the extension of the suffrage to women in the framework of bourgeois parliamentarianism – does not solve the question of real equality for women, especially those of the propertyless classes. The experience of working women in all those capitalist countries in which, over recent years, the bourgeoisie has introduced formal equality of the sexes makes this clear. The vote does not destroy the prime cause of women’s enslavement in the family and society. Some bourgeois states have substituted civil marriage for indissoluble marriage. But as long as the proletarian woman remains economically dependent upon the capitalist boss and her husband, the breadwinner, and in the absence of comprehensive measures to protect motherhood and childhood and provide socialised child-care and education, this cannot equalise the position of women in marriage or solve the problem of relationships between the sexes.

The real equality of women, as opposed to formal and superficial equality, will be achieved only under Communism, when women and all the other members of the labouring class will become co-owners of the means of production and distribution and will take part in administering them, and women will share on an equal footing with all the members of the labour society the duty to work; in other words, it will be achieved by overthrowing the capitalist system of production and exploitation which is based on the exploitation of human labour,and by organising a Communist economy.

Only Communism creates conditions whereby the conflict between the natural function of woman – maternity – and her social obligations, which hinder her creative work for the collective, will disappear and the harmonious and many-sided development of a healthy and balanced personality firmly and closely in tune with the life and goals of the labour-collective will be completed. All women who fight for the emancipation of woman and the recognition of her rights must have as their aim the creation of a Communist society.

But Communism is also the final aim of the proletariat as a whole and therefore, in the interests of both sides, the two struggles must be fought as ‘a single and indivisible’ struggle.

 

 

4 

 

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

A Communist society will be won not by the united efforts of women of different classes, but by the united struggle of all the exploited.

The masses of proletarian women must, in their own interests, support the revolutionary tactics of the Communist Party and take as active and direct a part as possible in mass action and in every type and form of civil war that emerges both on the national and international scale.

 

 

5 

 

At its highest stage, the struggle of women against their dual oppression (by capitalism and by their own domestic family dependence) must take on an international character, developing into a struggle (fought under the banner of the III International) by the proletariat of both sexes for their dictatorship and for the Soviet system.

 

 

6 

 

The III Congress of the Communist International warns working women against any kind of co-operation or agreement with bourgeois feminists. At the same time, it makes clear to proletarian women that any illusions that it is possible to support the II International or opportunist elements close to it without damaging the cause of women’s liberation will do serious harm to the liberation struggle of the proletariat. Women must never forget that the slavery of women is rooted in the bourgeois system and that to end this slavery a new Communist society has to be brought into being.

The support working women give to the groups and parties of the II and Two-and-a-Half Internationals is a brake on the social revolution, delaying the advent of the new order. If women turn from the II and Two-and-a-Half Internationals with resolution and without compromise, the victory of the social revolution will be more sure. Communist women must condemn all those who are afraid of the revolutionary tactics of the Communist International and stand firm for their exclusion from the closed ranks of the Communist International.

Women must remember that the II International has never even tried to set up any kind of organisation to further the struggle for the full liberation of women. The international unification of Socialist women was begun outside the framework of the II International at the initiative of working women themselves. The Socialist women who conducted special work amongst women had neither status nor representation nor full voting rights.

At its very first Congress, in 1919, the Third International clearly formulated its attitude to the question of drawing women into the struggle for proletarian dictatorship. The Congress called a conference of women Communists and in 1920 an International Secretariat for work amongst women was established with a permanent representative on the Executive Committee of the Communist International. All class-conscious working women should break unconditionally with the II and Two-and-a-Half Internationals and give their support to the revolutionary line of the Communist International.

 

 

7

 

 Women who work in factories, offices and fields must show their support for the Communist International by joining the Communist Parties. In those countries and parties where the struggle between the II and III International has not yet come to a head, working women must do all they can to support the party or group which is standing for the Communist International and, whatever the accepted leaders say or do, must ruthlessly fight against all who are vacillating or have gone over openly to the other side. Class-conscious proletarian women who want emancipation must not stay in parties which stand outside the Communist International.

To be against the III International is to be an enemy of the liberation of women.

Class-conscious working women in both the West and East should support the Communist International as members of the Communist Parties of their countries. Any hesitation on their part, or fear of breaking with the familiar compromising parties and the recognised leaders disastrously affects the success of the great proletarian struggle which is developing into a ruthless and global civil war.

 

 

 

 

Methods and Forms of Work among Women

 

The III Congress of the Communist International holds, therefore, that work among the female proletariat must be conducted by all Communist Parties on the following basis:

 

1 

Women must be included in all the militant class organisations – the Party, the trade unions, the co-operatives, Soviets of factory representatives etc., with equal rights and equal responsibilities.

 

 

2

 

 The importance must be recognised of drawing women into all areas of the active struggle of the proletariat (including the military defence of the proletariat) and of constructing in all areas the foundations of a new society and organising production and everyday life on Communist lines.

 

 

3

 

 The maternal function must be recognised as a social function and the appropriate measures to defend and protect women as child-bearers must be taken or fought for.

The III Congress of the Communist International is firmly opposed to any kind of separate women’s associations in the Parties and trade unions or special women’s organisations, but it accepts that special

methods of work among women are necessary and that every Communist Party should set up a special apparatus for this work. In adopting this position, the Congress takes into consideration the following:

 

a) the oppression women suffer in everyday life not only in the bourgeois-capitalist countries, but in countries with a Soviet structure, in transition from capitalism to communism;

 

b) the great passivity and political backwardness of the female masses, which is to be explained by the fact that for centuries women have been excluded from social life and enslaved in the family;

 

c) the special function – childbirth – which nature assigns to women, and the specificities connected with this function, call for the greater protection of their energies and health in the interests of the whole collective.

 

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

 

 

The Third Congress of the Communist International indicates that the tasks of the Communist Parties to be carried out through these departments include the following:

 

1

 

 to educate women in Communist ideas and draw them into the ranks of the Party;

 

 

2

 

 to fight the prejudices against women held by the mass of the male proletariat, and increase the awareness of working men and women that they have common interests;

 

 

3

 

 to strengthen the will of working women by drawing them into all forms and types of civil conflict, encouraging women in the bourgeois countries to participate in the struggle against capitalist exploitation, in mass action against the high cost of living, against the housing shortage, unemployment and around other social problems, and women in the Soviet republics to take part in the formation of the Communist personality and the Communist way of life;

 

 

4

 

 to put on the Party’s agenda and to include in legislative proposals questions directly concerning the emancipation of women, confirming their liberation, defending their interests as child-bearers;

 

 

5

 

 to conduct a well-planned struggle against the power of tradition, bourgeois customs and religious ideas, clearing the way for healthier and more harmonious relations between the sexes, guaranteeing the physical and moral vitality of working people.

 

 

The Party committees directly lead and are responsible for all the work of the women’s departments or commissions. The head of the department or commission must be a member of the Party committee. Wherever possible, the members of the departments or commissions should be Communists.

The commissions or departments of working women should not work independently. In the Soviet countries they should work through the appropriate economic or political organs (Soviet departments, commissions, trade unions); in capitalist countries they should have the support of the appropriate proletarian organisations: Party, unions, Soviets, etc.

Wherever Communist Parties exist illegally or semi-legally, they must still create an apparatus for work among women. This apparatus must be subordinate to the general Party apparatus and adapt to the situation of illegality. All local, regional and central illegal organisations should have, in the same way as legal organisations, one woman comrade responsible for organising propaganda among women. In the modern epoch the trade unions, production unions and co-operatives must serve as the basis for Party work among women both in countries where the struggle for the overthrow of capital is still in progress and in the Soviet workers’ republics.

Work amongst women must be informed by an understanding of the unity of the Party movement and organisation, but at the same time show independent initiative and, proceeding independently from other Party commissions or sections, work towards the rapid and full emancipation of women. The goal should be not to duplicate work but to enable working women to help the Party and its activities.

 

 

Party Work among Women

in the Soviet Countries

 

In the Soviet workers’ republic the role of the departments is to educate the women in Communist ideas, to draw them into the Communist Party and develop their self-activity and independence, involving them in the construction of Communism and educating them to be firm defenders of the Communist International.

The departments must help women take part in all branches of Soviet construction, in matters ranging from defence to the many and complex economic plans of the republic.

In the Soviet republic the departments must make sure that the resolutions of the 8th Congress of Soviets on drawing working and peasant women into the construction and organisation of the national economy and on their participation in all bodies which guide, administer, control and organise production are being carried out. Through their representatives and through Party bodies, the departments must participate in drafting new laws and influence the redrafting of those which need altering in the interests of the liberation of women. The departments must show particular initiative in developing laws to protect the labour of women and young people.

The departments must draw the greatest possible number of working and peasant women into the Soviet election campaign and see that working and peasant women are elected to the Soviets and their executive committees.

The departments must work for the success of all political and economic campaigns conducted by the Party.

The departments must promote the acquisition of skills by female workers, by improving the technical education of women and making sure that working and peasant women have access to the appropriate educational institutions.

It is the job of the departments to see that working women are included in the enterprise commissions on the protection of labour and that the commissions of aid for the protection of maternity and childhood are more active.

The departments must contribute to the development of the entire network of social institutions: communal dining rooms, laundries, repair shops, institutions of social welfare, house-communes etc., which transform everyday life along new, Communist lines and relieve women of the difficulties of the transitional period. Such social institutions which help emancipate women’s everyday lives, turning the slave of the home and family into a free member of the working class – the class which is its own boss and the creator of new forms of living.

The departments must encourage the education of women trade-union members in Communist ideas, with the help of organisations for work among women set up by the Communist fraction in the trade unions.

The departments must ensure that working women attend general factory and general factory delegate meetings.

The departments must systematically appoint delegate-practitioners to Soviet, economic and union work.

[When delegates were freed from factory work for their term, while retaining a wage, they were called ‘practitioners’. The idea was for them to work in various Soviet institutions and thus gain experience of governing.]

The women’s departments of the Party must above all work to develop firm links with working women and closer contact with housewives, office workers, and poor peasant women.

The departments should call and organise working women’s delegate meetings in order to create firm ties between the Party and the masses, extend the influence of the Party to the non-Party masses and educate the mass of women in Communist ideas through independent activity and participation in practical work.

The delegate meetings are the most effective means of educating working and peasant women; through the delegates the influence of the Party can be extended to the non-Party masses and the backward masses of working and peasant women.

The delegate meetings are to be attended by representatives of the factories of the given region, town or rural area (where it is a question of electing rural delegates through meetings of peasant women) or of the neighbourhood, where it is a question of electing housewife delegates. In Soviet Russia the delegates are involved in every kind of political or economic campaign, sent to work on various enterprise commissions, drawn into control of Soviet institutions and, finally, given work as practitioners for a period of two months in the departments of the Soviets (law of 1921).

The delegates are to be elected at workshop meetings or at meetings of housewives or office workers according to the norm laid down by the Party. The departments must conduct propaganda and agitational work among the delegates, for which purpose meetings are held not less than twice a month. The delegates must report on their activity to their shops or to their residential area meetings. The delegates are elected for a period of three months. Broadly-based non-Party conferences of working and peasant women are the second form of agitation among the female masses. The representatives who attend these conferences are elected at the meetings of working women in the enterprises, and of peasant women in the villages.

The working women’s departments take the lead in caning and organising these conferences.

The departments or commissions conduct consistent and extensive propaganda, both verbal and printed, in order to build on the experience the working women gain from their practical work in the Party. The departments organise meetings and discussions; they organise working women in the factories and housewives in the neighbourhoods, lead delegates’ meetings and conduct house-to-house agitation.

Sections for work among women must be established to train special cadres and to expand work in the Soviet schools at the central and at the district level.

 

 

In Bourgeois-Capitalist Countries

 

 

The current tasks of the commissions for work among women are dictated by the objective situation. On the one hand, the collapse of the world economy, the horrific growth of unemployment which has the effect of reducing the demand for women workers and increasing prostitution, the high cost of living, the desperate housing shortage and the threats of new imperialist wars; and, on the other hand, the succession of economic strikes by workers everywhere and the repeated attempts to begin the civil war on a world scale – all this is the prologue to world social revolution.

The commissions of working women must concern themselves with the important tasks of the proletariat, fight for the Party’s slogans in their entirety, and involve women in the revolutionary action the Party takes against the bourgeoisie and the social compromisers.

The commissions must make sure not only that women join the Party, the trade unions and other class organisations and have equal rights and equal obligations (they must counter any attempts to isolate or separate off working women), but that women are brought into the leading bodies of the Parties, unions and co-operatives on equal terms with men.

The commissions must encourage the broad layers of the female proletariat and the peasant women to use their electoral rights in the interests of the Communist Parties during elections to parliament and to all social institutions, explaining at the same time that these rights are limited and can do little to weaken capitalist exploitation or further the emancipation of women and that the Soviet system is superior to the parliamentary one.

The commissions must also see that the working women, office workers and peasant women take an active part in the election of revolutionary economic and political Soviets of workers’ deputies – they must bring housewives into political activity and explain the idea of Soviets to the peasant women. The commissions must work in particular to realise the principle of equal pay for equal work. They must also draw working women and men into a campaign for free and universal vocational education which would help women workers increase their skills.

The commissions must see that Communist women take part in the municipal and other legislative organs wherever suffrage laws give this opportunity, introducing them to the revolutionary tactics of their Party. Participating in the legislative, municipal and other organs of the bourgeois states, Communist women must defend the basic principles and tactics of their Party; they must concentrate less on the practical realisation of reforms in the framework of the bourgeois system and more on using the questions and demands that arise out of the urgent needs and everyday experience of working women as revolutionary slogans to draw women into a fight to win these demands through the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The commissions must be in close contact with the parliamentary and local government fractions and discuss with them any questions which relate to women.

The commissions must explain to women that the system of individual domestic economies is backward and uneconomical and that the bourgeois method of bringing up children is far from perfect. They must concentrate the attention of working women on the proposals for improving the everyday life of the working class being put forward or supported by the Party.

The commissions must help draw women trade-union members into the Communist Parties. Special organisers should be appointed to undertake this work under the leadership of the Party or its local sections.

The women’s agitational commissions must do propaganda work to persuade working women in the co-operatives to fight for Communist ideas and assume a leading role in these organisations which will have a very important role to play during and after the revolution as centres of distribution.

The entire work of the commissions must be aimed at developing the revolutionary activity of the masses, and thus hastening the social revolution.

 

 

In the Economically Backward Countries

(The East)

 

 

In countries where industry is underdeveloped the Communist Parties and the departments of working women must make sure that the Party, the unions and the other organisations of the labouring class recognise that women have equal rights and equal responsibilities.

The departments or commissions and the Party must fight all prejudices and all religious and secular customs that oppress women; they must carry out this agitation among men as well.

The Communist Parties and their departments or commissions must take the principles of women’s equality into the spheres of child education, family relations and public life.

The departments must seek support above all from the broad layer of women exploited by capital, i.e., who work in the cottage industries and on the rice and cotton plantations. In the Soviet countries the departments must encourage the setting up of craft workshops. In countries where the bourgeois system still exists, work must be concentrated on organising women who work on the plantations and on drawing them into unions alongside the men.

In the Soviet countries of the East the raising of the general cultural level of the population is the best method of overcoming backwardness and religious prejudices. The departments must encourage the development of schools for adults that are open to women. In the bourgeois countries the commissions must wage a direct struggle against the bourgeois influence in the schools.

Wherever possible, the departments or commissions must do house-to-house agitation. The departments must organise clubs for working women and encourage the most backward of them to join. The clubs must be cultural centres and experimental model institutions that show how women can work towards their emancipation through self-activity (the organisation of creches, nurseries, literacy schools attached to clubs, etc.).

Mobile clubs should be organised to work among nomadic peoples.

In Soviet countries the departments must help the appropriate Soviet organs to make the transition from pre-capitalist forms of economy to social forms of production, convincing working women by practical example that the domestic economy and the previous family form block their emancipation, while social labour liberates them.

In Soviet Russia the departments must see that the legislation which recognises the equal rights of women with men and defends the interests of women is observed among the Eastern peoples. The departments must encourage women to work as judges and juries in national courts of law.

The departments must also involve women in the Soviet elections, checking the social composition of the working and peasant women in the Soviets and executive committees. Work among the female proletariat of the East must be carried out on a class basis. The departments have to show that the feminists are incapable of finding a solution to the question of female emancipation. In the Soviet countries of the East, women of the intelligentsia (teachers, for example) who sympathise with Communism should be drawn into educational campaigns. Avoiding tactless and crude attacks on religious beliefs or national traditions, the departments or commissions working among the women of the East must still struggle against nationalism and the power of religion over people’s minds.

In the East, as in the West, the organisation of working women must be geared not to the defence of national interests but to the unity of the international proletariat of both sexes around the common goals of the class.

[Because work among women of the East is so important and at the same time so new, special instructions are appended to the theses which explain how the basic methods of Communist Party work among women are to be applied in the specific conditions of everyday life in the East.]

 

 

Methods of Agitation and Propaganda

 

 

The Communist Parties of the West and East must grasp the basic principle of work among women – ‘agitation and propaganda through action’. Then they will be capable of carrying out their most important task, which is the Communist education of the women of the proletariat and the training of fighters for Communism.

Agitation by action means above all encouraging working women to self-activity, dispelling the doubts they have about their own abilities and drawing them into practical work in the sphere of construction or struggle. It means teaching them through experience to know that every gain made by the Communist Party, every action directed against the exploitation of capital, is a step towards improving the position of women. Firstly, practice and action, that lead to an understanding of Communist ideals and theoretical principles; and secondly, theory, that leads to practice and action – these are the methods of work the Communist Parties and their working women’s departments must employ in approaching the mass of women.

The departments must be in close contact with the Communist cells in the enterprises and workshops, making sure that each cell has an organiser to carry out work among women in the factory in question. In this way the departments will be centres of action and not of verbal propaganda alone.

The departments and the trade unions must keep in contact through their representatives or organisers, who are appointed by the trade-union fractions but conduct their work under the leadership of the departments.

In the Soviet countries the spreading of Communist ideas through action means bringing working women, peasant women, housewives and women office workers into all branches of Soviet construction, ranging from the army and the police through to those which directly emancipate women by their organisation of communal eating, a network of institutions of social education, the protection of motherhood, etc. It is particularly important at the present moment to draw working women into work connected with the restoration of the national economy.

In the capitalist countries propaganda by deed means above all encouraging working women to participate in strikes, demonstrations and any type of struggle which strengthens and deepens their revolutionary will and consciousness. It also means drawing them into all types of Party work, including illegal work (especially liaison work) and the organisation of Party subbotniks or Sundays at which the wives of workers and women office workers who sympathise with Communism work voluntarily for the Party and organise sessions to sew and repair children’s clothes, etc.

The principle of drawing women into all the Parties’ political, economic and educational campaigns is one aspect of propaganda by action.

In the capitalist countries the departments must extend their activity and their influence to the most backward and oppressed female proletariat. In the Soviet countries they must conduct their work among the proletarian and semi-proletarian female masses, enslaved by the conditions and prejudices of everyday life.

The commissions must carry out work among the working women, housewives and peasant women, and the women engaged in mental labour (the intelligentsia).

For the purposes of propaganda and agitation, the commissions must organise public meetings, meetings at individual enterprises and meetings of working women and women office-workers (either by trade or by district). They must also organise general women’s meetings, meetings of housewives, etc.

In capitalist countries the commissions make sure that the fractions of the Communist Parties in the trade unions, co-operatives and factory councils appoint women’s organisers; that, in other words, they have representatives in all organisations which help develop the revolutionary activity of the proletariat towards seizure of power. In Soviet countries they encourage the appointment of working and peasant women to all Soviet organisations which lead, administer and control social life and which serve to support the proletarian dictatorship and contribute to the realisation of Communism.

The commissions must assign proletarian women Communists to work in factories or offices where there are a large number of women; they must send Communist working women into large proletarian neighbourhoods and industrial centres, as has been tried with success in Soviet Russia.

Commissions for work amongst women must make use of the highly successful experience of the women’s department of the RCP in order to organise delegates’ meetings and non-Party conferences of working and peasant women. Meetings of working women and women office-workers from various sectors, and of peasant women and housewives, must be organised, at which concrete demands and needs are discussed and commissions elected. These commissions must keep in close touch with those who elect them and with the commissions for work among women. The commissions must send their agitators to take part in debates at the meetings of parties hostile to Communism. Propaganda and agitation through meetings and debates must be complemented by well-organised house-to-house agitation. The Communist women doing this work must each be responsible for no more than ten households; they must make visits at least once a week to do agitation among housewives, and call more frequently when the Communist Party is conducting a campaign or is preparing any kind of action.

The commissions are instructed to use the written word in the course of their agitational, organisational and educational work:

 

1

 to help publish a central paper on work among women in every country;

 

2

 to guarantee the publication of ‘Working women’s pages’ or special supplements in the Party press, and also the inclusion of articles on questions of work amongst women in the general Party and trade-union press; the commissions are responsible for the appointment of editors to the above-mentioned publications and training working women, both Party members and non-Party members, to work for the press.

 

The commissions must see to the issuing of popular agitational and educational literature in the forms of leaflets and pamphlets and they must help in their distribution.

The commissions must enable Communist women to make the most effective use of all political and educational institutions of the Party.

The commissions must work to strengthen the class consciousness and militancy of the young Communist women, involving them in general Party courses and discussion evenings. Special evenings of reading and discussion or a series of talks especially for working women should be organised only where they are really necessary and expedient.

In order to strengthen comradeship between working women and working men, it is desirable not to organise special courses and schools for Communist women, but all general Party schools must without fail include a course on the methods of work among women. The departments must have the right to delegate a certain number of their representatives to the general Party courses.

 

The Structure of the Departments

 

Departments and commissions of work among women are attached to every Party committee, at local and regional Party level and at CC level. The size is determined by the Party and depends on the needs of the particular country. The number of paid workers on these commissions is also determined by the Party in accordance with its financial resources.

The director of the women’s agitational department or the person chairing the commission should be a member of the local Party committee. Where this is not the case the director of the department should be present at all the sessions of the committee with full voting rights on all questions concerning the women’s department and a consultative vote on all other questions.

As well as the above-mentioned general work, the district or county department or commission has the following additional functions: encouraging contact between the departments of the given district and the central department; collecting information about the activity of the departments or commissions of the district/region in question; ensuring that the local departments have the opportunity to exchange material; supplying the district/county with literature; sending agitators to the districts; mobilising Party members for work amongst women; calling district/county conferences not less than twice a year, at which each department is represented by one or two Communist women; and holding non-Party conferences of working and peasant women and housewives of the given district/county.

The members of the collegium are nominated by the head of the department or commission and approved by the county or district committee. The director is elected in the same way as other members of the district and county committees – at the district or county Party conference.

The members of the district/county and local departments or commissions are elected at town, district or county conferences or are appointed by the appropriate departments in contact with the Party committees.

If the director of the women’s department is not a member of the district Party committee/country Party committee, she has the right to be present at all the sessions of the Party committee with full voting rights on questions concerning the departments and a consultative vote on all other questions.

The central Party department, in addition to the functions listed for the district/county departments, also instructs the women’s agitational department over questions of Party work, supervises the work of the departments, directs, in contact with the appropriate Party bodies, the allocation of personnel engaged in work amongst women, checks the conditions and progress of female labour, bearing in mind the changes in the legal and economic situation of women, participates through its representatives or authorised persons in special commissions working on the question of improving or changing the everyday life of the working class, the protection of labour and childhood, etc., publishes a ‘central women’s page’, edits a regular journal for working women, calls a meeting, not less than once a year, for the representatives of all the district/county departments, organises national speaking tours for instructors on work among women, ensures that working women and all departments take part in all the Party’s political and economic campaigns and actions, delegates a representative to the International Secretariat of Communist women and organises an annual International Working Women’s Day.

If the director of the women’s department is not a member of the CC, she has the right to be present at all sessions of the CC with full voting rights on questions concerning the departments, and with a consultative vote on all other questions. The director of the women’s department or the chairperson of the commission is appointed by the CC of the Party or is elected at an all – Party Congress. Decisions and resolutions passed by all departments or commissions have to be finally approved by the appropriate Party committee. The size of the central department and the number of members to have full voting rights are decided by the CC of the Party.

 

On International Work

 

The International women’s Secretariat of the Communist International leads the women’s work of the Communist Parties at the international level, unites working women to struggle for the goals put forward by the Communist International, and draws women of all countries and all peoples into the revolutionary struggle for the power of the Soviets and the dictatorship of the working class.