“No one should be surprised that not all women unite in a single feminist movement. Feminism necessarily has different colors, different trends. One can distinguish three main trends in feminism, three substantive colors: bourgeois feminism, petit-bourgeois feminism, and proletarian feminism. Each of these feminisms made their demands in a different way. Bourgeois women are in feminist solidarity with the interest of the conservative class. The proletarian woman consubstantiates her feminism with a faith in the revolutionary masses to create a future society.”- José Carlos Mariátegui
A popular movement for women is absolutely essential for the liberation of the working class and the building of a new and equal society. Smashing the old world cannot be done when women’s oppression and subjugation are still intact.
The working class faces a multitude of indignities, oppression, and hardships in the interest of the ruling class extracting a profit from our labor. Working class women face added indignities, oppression, and hardships, as we are commonly seen as the inferior sex, the object of men’s desire, and a tool of reproduction in the household. Socially and economically, misogyny still reigns supreme as the default. Over the history of women’s struggle for equality and dignity, the ruling class has taken our struggle, distorted it, and sold our own oppression back to us. The struggle for minor reforms or even the embracing of misogynist tendencies in our society has had far too loud of a voice and the struggle for true liberation and power has been silenced and tossed aside. PWM-MFP is a movement for the liberation of women that works within the broader revolutionary movement for establishing the power of the working class. Our goal is clear: Revolution! We seek to not only be supports of revolution but leaders within it. We will have our full potential realized as fighters for our class.
The Women’s Situation in the U.S.
Not all women are of the same class and therefore not all women face the same obstacles or oppression. This is a distinction that has historically been white-washed by mainstream feminists.
First wave feminism in the US was most overtly characterized as the struggle for bourgeois and petty bourgeois women’s rights to vote. The age of western enlightenment brought many new ideas into focus on the question of liberty and equality and a new class began to rise up in power, beating back the old rulers of feudalism. Religious dogma and rigid adherence to the harsh feudal socio-economic system were being challenged as a new mode of production began to rise, capitalism. With this new system came new rhetoric of equality and democracy among men. But these new declarations could not be taken at face value, for this equality was only to be reaped by the new rulers of society, the propertied bourgeois class.
The wives, daughters, and other women previously under the tutelage of these men embraced these new ideas fully. Their only grievance was they had not received inclusion in this subjective equality; thus began the rise of first wave feminism and the women’s suffrage movement. While it was headed by bourgeois women, the new social set of working women found themselves swept up in the movement for women’s suffrage. But of course, women’s right to vote was not a win for working-class women at all. They still were paid much less than their male counterparts, and who they voted for would not change the harsh conditions and discrimination they faced in the workforce or in the home – where they were expected to work for free.
The privatization of reproductive labor in the home, in fact, only truly benefits the ruling class — for working-class men do not have a long-term interest in maintaining this. This dynamic ensures that the working man, seen as the more valuable worker by the boss, can spend all of his energy toiling in his bosses’ interest. In this relationship between the working man and his domestic partner, the man does not possess any more tangible power than he would as a single man; he is still a wage slave and one who is expected to be the primary breadwinner in a workplace that exploits him greatly. Lacking a revolutionary party he cannot fight his enemy in any meaningful way, thus some men become abusive as a result of their indulgence in the bourgeois ideology that tells the man that his domestic partner is his property. Feeling responsible for the woman and having an illusion of total power over her, he makes her out to be his enemy. While this is an awful situation for any woman to endure, it is also corrosive on the man for it does nothing to solve their material problems. Therefore the only solution for working men and women is the revolutionary party in which they can fight together for their vindication and do away with the oppressor class. Fighting the vestiges of bourgeois ideology that have devalued the existence and labor of women must be done in this fight as well.
Second Wave Feminism was marred with a lot of the same bourgeois sentiments as its predecessor. While this new movement did focus some of its energy in beginning to address some of the inequalities in the workplace, it did so primarily in the legal arena. Emphasis was put towards focusing on issues of “sexual liberation” (an idea that originated with the Nazi and child molesting sympathizer Alfred Kinsey), reproductive rights, and domestic violence. This movement, of course, coincided with the rise of the “New Left” which influenced second wave feminism greatly. The “New Left” was encompassed by many different types of politics but with a heavy emphasis on condemning the Vietnam War and supporting the emerging militant Black Liberation struggle. At the same time, a rampant countercultural phenomenon was sweeping the youth of the country, the Hippie Movement.
Much to the disadvantage of the “New Left” and its bedfellow Second Wave Feminism, hippie culture was embraced as a part of this new wave of radicalism, exposing some of the issues of the foundation of these movements. Hippie culture was just that, a culture, not a “social revolution”. It was one of self-indulgence and middle-class exploration. These politics seeped into the tenants of feminism as they cross-pollinated in places like feminist bookstores and women-owned businesses. An overemphasis was put on sexual experimentation and promoting safe sex with the distribution of pamphlets on birth control, venereal diseases, and safe abortions; while at the same time these (mostly white middle class) women ignored the plight of the working class oppressed nations women (black and brown women) who were fighting an epidemic of forced sterilization which left 1/3 of Puerto Rico’s childbearing-aged women unable to have children.
So while the going trend of feminism was to unite women on the premise of simply being women, working class and oppressed nations women found themselves more suited for national liberation movements and common labor movements, as their primary oppression was not that solely of being a woman, it was their class that determined the extent of misogyny and hardship they faced. Black women joined groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army and fought for their place in that struggle because they knew they would not see equality as a woman if they could not first have liberation as a Black person. These flaws in this second wave of feminism exposed an obvious shortcoming of this type of bourgeois feminism. It could not speak for working women and any wins in the legal arena were marginal compared to the needs and demands of the vast majority of women; it mostly remained a cultural phenomenon on college campuses and among middle-class young women.
Third-wave feminism, the feminism of the 90’s, persisted in being heavily swept up and defined by the going counterculture. This brand of feminism prided itself on challenging gender norms and viewing their sexuality as a source of power. This type of “grrl power” feminism, needless to say, was not that which spoke to the broad sections of women in the United States. This third-wave brought into focus one of the most corrosive schools of thought to the left, Postmodernism. Postmodernism seeks to shift the focus of oppression to every minor grievance of the petty bourgeois as opposed to the point where all oppression originates; class society. The analysis of the society we live in and how to fight it is hyper-individualized and personalized with the postmodernist. This is the trend of “feminism” we are left with today. Instead of seeking to unite, the postmodernist blames the individual and attacks micro-aggressions instead of the system of oppression we find ourselves under: capitalism. Furthermore, the working women’s struggle is put further off course due to the postmodernist’s insistence to lump every other oppressed or marginalized group into what should be a distinct struggle for women through the virtues of “intersectionality”; a kind of “oppression stacking” contest where you tally up how many oppressions you face and this determines how valid your opinions, politics, or voices are in the struggle. This type of degenerative thinking has left feminism to mean everything but the fight for women’s liberation from class society. With this sort of logic simply being a working-class woman who seeks revolutionary change is not enough. You must be at the pinnacle of oppressed people. Suspiciously, class is hardly ever mentioned, for the postmodernist is the petit-bourgeois foot soldier and does not seek to liberate the working class. In fact, this type of feminism is excellent for the reproduction of capitalism today.
Today in the imperialist superpower that is America, the inclusion of tokenized identities is something that has brought great profit to the ruling class. They have figured out how to constantly reinvent themselves as a wholesome ruler by using black faces to oppress and exploit black people, queer people to oppress and exploit queer people, and women, such as Hilary Clinton, to oppress and exploit women. Where the postmodernist third-wave feminist seeks a critique and solution in society, she creates another avenue of attack against women and all those she claims to care about. This last type of “feminism” in fact has been so destructive that it has young women of today completely rejecting the term feminism altogether. They see feminism as a divisive tool of self-aggrandizing conjecture and if we cede any more ground to the postmodernist trend of “feminism” that’s all it will be.
The American Phenomena of feminism has historically been an anti-Communist one even with the participation of self-proclaimed Communists. Each trend borrows from the strength and popularity of the Communist movements while rejecting the politics that make these movements successful, and simultaneously ignoring the gains of Communists. Nowhere in the mainstream feminist traditions of the US can you find women talking about the success of the Chinese Revolution where women, who were once binding their feet to the point of permanently disabling themselves, engaging in prostitution out of necessity, being forced into arranged marriages and being sold to landlords by their husbands, were under the Communist Party becoming widely literate, finding gainful employment in all facets of production, being fighters in the People’s Liberation Army, and having the burden of solitary reproduction lifted off their shoulders so things like childcare and domestic labor became more socialized. These women did not win liberation through lobbying the then ruler and American ally, Chaing Kai-shek, for their rights. They won by joining the fight against imperialism and capitalism and carrying forward the red flag of Communism. These women were ignored in the dominant feminist narrative of the west.
There were and still are, of course, vultures on the left who seek to capitalize the most off the backs of Communist women – while carrying on the tradition of selling out their revolutions; these are the revisionists. The revisionist may claim to be a Communist or a socialist, in reality, she is anything but. For far too long she has done dirty deals with the ruling class behind the backs of working women.
Everything from endorsing bourgeois politicians, to attempting to co-opt militant street struggles and drag them into the courthouse, where we fundamentally lack power. Angela Davis is a great example of modern-day revisionist women. Having been a member of the long-turned revisionist CP-USA we have seen her politics turn her into nothing more than a talking head of the petit-bourgeois, an intellectual circulating on the campus arena collecting checks for teaching students how to be as much of a pathetic relic as she has become. It’s curious how history has blurred the lines and made Ms. Davis out to more than she ever was. She is most notably remembered as someone who associated with the Black Panther Party, in which she represented the trend of the folding into electoral politics at a time when the Panthers were most gaining steam in the streets and popular neighborhoods. Having been apart of the CP-USA for so long, her corrupt politics continually degenerated; she has rejected pretense of Marxism full on and embraced postmodernist identity politics and outward revisionism. These types of revisionists and their respective parties will always try to find a way to wiggle into women’s struggles, for they see it as an easy place to spread their treacherous ideology and practice.
Here in Austin, we have seen the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) harbor a proven violent rapist and strangler, McKinley Forbes. PSL covered up all links of Forbe’s membership nationally, and locally they went straight to claiming that the charges against her were untrue despite substantial evidence.
Towards the era of the New Militant Woman
“The class struggle, made historical fact and not theoretical assertion, is reflected in feminist terms. Women, like men, are reactionary, centrist, or revolutionary. Thus they cannot fight the same battle together. In the current human panorama, class differentiates individuals more than sex.”- José Carlos Mariátegui
Up until now, there has not been a real fighting women’s organization in the US. This is because up until now women’s organizations have rejected two fundamental principles, 1) a women’s organization must be a fighting organization and 2) a women’s organizations must be firmly centered on class struggle in the interests of proletarian women as half of the proletariat. We aim to embody such principles and emerge as such an organization. PWM-MFP will dare to scale the heights and assault the skies. Through our courage and combativeness we will win the hearts of our class sisters and unleash a torrent of pent-up revolutionary energy; working women burn for revolution. Enough with the petty middle-class organizations, enough with their obscurities it is time we take up our post as women who dare to win the world.
Women of the working class today no longer have time to let the mental exercises of the campus intellectuals run our movement. We face the onslaught of a turning tide of extreme right-wing violence against our class firstly, and secondly against us as women. We see that the marginal government concessions of yesteryear are being swept from under us swiftly, proving once what a waste of time it can be to focus your whole movement on governmental reforms. We have failed to unite to take power back from the greedy, self-indulgent, propertied class that we produce for. They take everything from us, our dignity, our ability to earn a decent living, our children, and even our bodies. They use every part of us. We are their consumers, their workers, and the reproductive factory that produces their next generation of workers and consumers. We have nothing to lose by fighting them and fight them we will because we have everything to win.
It is our particular set of oppressions that has given us the tools to become assets to the revolutionary project. Our conditions have forced us to be humble, vigilant, strong, and resourceful in order to survive. We aim to take these traits which have been used as tools of survival and sharpen them into spears and pierce the hearts of our oppressors. They have unwittingly forced upon us the very tools we will use to defeat them.
There is not one feminine nature to speak of. Women are made from their experiences. That is to say, we have many different defining characteristics and attributes. PWM-MFP exists to develop our most revolutionary aspects. We wish to do away with the narrow-minded aspirations of the bourgeois woman. We have no tolerance for women who wish to abandon their class and their cohorts, the postmodernists, who encourage them. We want to make ourselves clear that we stand against sexual exploitation and do not ascribe to the liberal notion that “sex work” is work at all or that it should be upheld as an empowering career choice for women. We have empathy for those women who are downcast into the lumpenproletariat or illegal sexual servitude and have every intention of standing beside them in the effort to bring them up into the ranks of the working class where they can share in our struggle and join us in our fight. For those women who wish to sanitize acts of prostitution and sexual exploitation in any of its forms, including pornography, we will regard them as agents of misogyny and will not hesitate to meet them with the same fate as the rapist, the john, the pimp, the abuser, various apologists for these etc. and for this we will not apologize, period. It is our position that prostitution is sexual violence and that all attempts to legitimize it as anything else are sexist crimes against proletarian women.
“We must recognize, uphold and defend our women leaders who have unwaveringly served our new and growing movement. On International Working Women’s Day we honor them and the undefeatable women of the working class.”-Red Guards Austin
In Austin, the need for PWM-MFP has been acute. In a city where working women face an onslaught of displacement, reactionary labor and women’s health laws, and predatory party culture. These are the things that motivate women to get involved. And what compounds and exacerbates these problems that we face is the absolute liberalism and passivity of traditional Austin activism. While we have seen in recent years the participation of militant women in the budding Communist movement here, the revisionist and liberal Austin activist scene is still overwhelmingly characterized by it’s most gutless and timid tendencies.
It is this very nature of Austin’s activism that allows organizations such as, PSL, to exist and hold public space while they cohort with a rapist and endorse hopeless politicians. PWM-MFP calls for women to join us in our mission to clean house. We hold that the time has come to rid the left of abusers, macktivists (mainly male activists who hit on women in the movement), revisionists, radical feminists, liberal feminists, and all feminist trends of the past. Austin, true to its recent history as a furnace of militant organizing will light the way for women countrywide to reclaim the role of the militant.
The lack of a disciplined and well-organized women’s movement has allowed for traditional activism to be dominated by men, this is evident in Austin where all revisionist organizations systematically fail at recruiting women (or only use them as tokens) and where the Maoist led movement has accomplished a change in the sky and inspired many new women, revolutionaries, to take up the fight. We aim to spread across the city and the whole country. No longer will we sit by and allow the women’s struggle to be degenerated by postmodernism, liberalism “sex-positivism”, and revisionism. Proletarian women have united and we are an unstoppable force shoulder to shoulder with our proletarian brothers, and allied classes in the oppressed nations. Throughout the world, in the most inspiring armed struggles women have proven themselves as not only capable fighters but some of the most fierce and uncompromising guerrillas, we hold their red flag high. Cast aside all illusions and stand up to struggle beside us against the oppression of women.
Long live the Popular Women’s Movement!
Viva, Movimiento Femenino Popular!
Women hold up half the sky!
-Popular Women’s Movement-Movimiento Femenino Popular, Austin Texas, 2018