Women’s Movement and Communist Party: Ideology, Programme, Practice

Women’s Movement and Communist Party: Ideology, Programme, Practice

Publisher’ s note Here is a collection of three papers presented and discussed in the CPI(ML)’s first-ever all-India party education camp for women party cadres, held at Bardhaman (West Bengal) on 26-27 July. Around 60 leading women activists from Bihar, Jharkhand, UP, West Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Delhi – including women members of the Central Committee and all State Committees – participated in the camp organised by the party’s women’s department. The education camp was held in a context of growing challenges and opportunities for the women’s movement in India. A large number of women are fast breaking barriers and entering the workforce and the vortex of broader public life, but the ideological and cultural climate still remains considerably hostile to them, not to talk about the physical torture, economic discrimination and social hurdles that they have to encounter. While women are fighting against all this everywhere, the ruling class too is making various accommodations, albeit reluctantly, to cope with the situation. The Communist Party must stride ahead of all these changes in order to mobilise the new forces of women workers as a formidable agent of change in their own lives and in society. But patriarchal hurdles existing in society tend to be reproduced within the party, and must be vigilantly fought out here too. As CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya observed in his...

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Women’s Movement and Communist Party : Basics Revisited – Arindam Sen

[This paper was first published in Liberation in three parts (June, July and August 2008 numbers)] Part I “Woman, wake up; the tocsin of reason is being heard throughout the whole universe; discover your rights. … Enslaved man has multiplied his strength and needs recourse to yours to break his chains. Having become free, he has become unjust to his companion. Oh, women, women! When will you cease to be blind?” This was Olympe de Gouges speaking at the height of the French Revolution. The quotation is from her Declaration of the Rights of Woman (1791), a rejoinder to the Constituent Assembly’s Declaration of the Rights of Man adopted earlier. The very next year would see the publication of the epoch-making A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft. de Gouges and Wollstonecraft were certainly not the first in fighting for the women’s cause — early figures like Mary Astell (author of A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694)) easily come to mind – and certainly not the last. Many of them were magnificent visionaries. Wollstonecraft for example argued convincingly for equal suffrage for women and criticised the male prejudices of stalwarts like J J Rousseau who was against this. What these valiant fighters lacked was a scientific understanding of the actual causes of woman’s bondage and the real conditions for her emancipation. But this was no...

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Communist Party Programme and Women’s Liberation Movement: Some Broad Points — Ramji Rai

In the first session of this education camp, you have studied and discussed in detail the basic premises of the relation between the communist party and women’s liberation movement. Before approaching the subject at hand, we need to summarise the main points of that session again. On the directive of the district committee of the Communist League in Paris, Engels had prepared the draft of the programme of the communist party, titled The Principles of Communism. Engels suggested to Marx that instead of this draft which was in a question-answer format, the League’s programme should be prepared directly as a Communist Manifesto. At the Congress of the League held from 29 November to 8 December 1847, Marx and Engels’ ideas received full approval, and, in Lenin’s words, the work that “outlines a new world-conception, consistent materialism, which also embraces the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat – the creator of a new, communist society” was presented to the world. In this Manifesto, the founders of Marxism used some of the propositions put forth in Principles of Communism. It will be relevant to begin our discussion by reading some excerpts from this work: “What is Communism? “Communism is the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of...

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A Note on Policies, Positions and Direction of Work of the Women’s Organisation — Kavita Krishnan

In this session, we will discuss the broad policy orientation for the women’s organisation. There are many specific issues, struggles and debates with which we are already quite familiar, and on which we will not dwell in detail in this session. Rather, in the light of the systematic understanding and perspective we have already discussed in the previous two sessions, we can draw a broad outline of AIPWA’s policy approach and its emphasis and direction. Some of the questions we can consider are: What differentiates AIPWA from other women’s organisations and trends in the women’s movement, and what is AIPWA’s approach towards the latter? What is AIPWA’s relationship to the party? Naturally, in the course of our discussion, we will also try to review some of our own popular perceptions and ways of articulating positions, keeping in mind what we’ve learnt in the last two sessions. This note is far from comprehensive and is quite open-ended: it is intended to open up our own ideas, practice and experience for introspection and discussion, rather than to foreclose the discussion. Class and Gender As we begin our discussion of the broad role and orientation of the women’s organisation, the first question we can consider is: Should the women’s movement in India restrict itself to ‘women’s issues’ alone? Or must it confront and address the entire range of social and political structures...

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Appendix: Observations on the Women’s Front

Excerpts from the Political-Organisational Report adopted by the 8th Congress of the CPI(ML), December 2007, Kolkata 34. Coming to the women’s front, the Seventh Congress had called for “laying maximum emphasis on organising working women, urban as well as rural, and challenging the feudal-patriarchal order and especially the growing fascist offensive in every sphere” while regaining and improving the initiative of the women’s organization ensuring vigorous implementation of the mass orientation and regular functioning of its offices and committees. Viewed in this context, we can say that while some progress is clearly visible in terms of advancing our work among working women, a lot remains to be done with regard to the other aspect. The growth of our trade union work in the organized sector and the development of Party work among teachers and government employees have increased our direct reach among working women in the industrial and service sector. Simultaneously, the expansion of the AIALA network and our work in panchayats has also helped us develop closer ties with women in the agricultural field and those employed in rural health sector or organized around self-help groups. Women engaged in the rural health sector get a paltry amount as honorarium and have to face all the hazards emanating from our rural society and an apathetic public administration. The demand for better working conditions and proper remuneration, rights and recognition...

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