Women must organize and unite with the working class to take political power and transform society!
“Shasan Satta Aapne Haath, Jhulm Anyayi Kare in Samapth! (We will take political power in our hands to end this injustice and exploitation)! This was the spirit that reverberated in the hall, filled to capacity, right through the daylong meeting on March 17th at Delhi. The meeting was organized by Purogami Mahila Sangathan to discuss the issue of the way forward for women to transform society and win their rights. Bright red banners adorned the hall with inspiring slogans like, “The toiling people must become the masters of the country’s wealth” and “End to exploitation and injustice, let us build a new society”!
Three veteran fighters for women’s rights and founding members of Purogami Mahila Sangathan in Delhi walked up on the stage amidst enthusiastic applause from the young women and men gathered in the hall. On behalf of Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Vimala welcomed all present and noted that women and men had come from far and near for this important meeting. She extended a warm and special welcome to the delegation of women and men from Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu. She then invited Com. Lal Singh, Secretary of the Communist Ghadar Party of India to preside over the meeting.
Sucharitadelivered the main speech with these opening words, “I am proud to be addressing you today on behalf of Purogami Mahila Sangathan. We are meeting to discuss the path forward at a time when millions of women all over the world are out on the streets, fighting for their rights and against the present course of imperialist wars, of intense exploitation and plunder and of all-round violence and terror.”
In this speech, PMS recounted the proud history of International Women’s Day, which began when women emerged as a political force in 1908 to demand shorter working hours, better pay and voting rights. Working women marched through the streets of New York and inspired the Socialist Party of America to declare that the last Sunday of February would be observed every year as National Woman’s Day. Two years later, at a second International Conference of Working Women held in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a German communist, tabled the idea of an International Women's Day. She proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration on the same day, when women will highlight and press for their demands. This was implemented for the first time on 8th March in 1911, in four countries of Europe. The date gained acceptance in many other countries in 1913. Soon after, there were two revolutions in Russia, in the year 1917; the first brought to an end the rule of the Czar in the first place, and the second in October of that year, brought the working class to power in alliance with the peasants. Women took part in massive numbers in the political uprisings of that period and working women and men came to power with the victory of the Socialist Revolution. Thereafter, the Socialist system in the Soviet Union ensured the socialist organisation of all basic services to the population. With their hunger and deprivation eliminated and assured of access to all basic services women’s participation of in politics, in culture and in all social affairs rose to a high level. This was the pinnacle of women’s emancipation.
The speech exposed the continuing attempts of the bourgeoisie in every country, led by the imperialists, to obfuscate this glorious history and falsify the basis for women’s oppression and therefore the way forward to eliminate it. These attempts of the bourgeoisie got a fillip with the counter revolution organized by the imperialists that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Capitalist relations were restored and with it, women lost all that they had gained through the struggle for and establishment of socialism.
The speech pointed to the fact that PurogamiMahila Sangathan was established at the initiative of communist women in India, belonging to the young Communist Ghadar Party, which had been formed in December 1980. Briefly tracing this history, the speech narrated how PMS carried out a broad range of practical organising work among working women in numerous cities and some rural areas; it organised among nurses, school teachers, garment workers and other sections of working women; it worked for political unity against state terrorism and in defence of the rights of women and of all the working people. In effect, the struggle of PMS has always been an integral part of the struggles of all the working people.
As the speech pointed out, one of the most significant battles waged by Purogami Mahila Sangathan was to combat the ideological confusion that was being spread by the capitalist class on an international scale, especially the notion of gender equality as the goal and the identification of men and their mind set as the enemy to be defeated. Purogami Mahila Sangathan had boldly declared, at its very inception, that the struggle of women is not against men but against the capitalist class, against the parties in power which maintain and enforce the existing system of exploitation and oppression.
The speech exposed the present economic system which is at the root of the violence against women and their oppression, and the political system that protects and enables this system to carry on with the worst criminals ruling over the people. It laid bare the actions of the Central Government, the propaganda of the Congress Party and BJP, the call of the United Nations and of the World Bank, which are all aimed at deceiving women and diverting their anger. The speech clarified that the solution to the problem of all-round oppression and violence against women does not lie in strengthening the existing oppressive state machinery and its armed forces. We cannot rely on the existing institutions of political power, of law and order, of people’s representation and of justice, to protect women from exploitation, oppression or physical violence.
Drawing from this experience, the speech called on all women, “to organise to defend ourselves and our rights by relying on our own strength and collective fighting capacity. Women need to organise as women. We also need to organise as part of the workers and peasants; and as part of the student youth. Women and men need to unite and organise collective self-defense and mutual support as the most reliable security against physical attacks.”Sucharita concluded with the stirring call to all the participants in the meeting “to come forward and actively participate in the work to advance the women’s movement along the revolutionary road, steering clear of all the traps being laid by the capitalist-imperialist forces.”
Following the speech, Com. Lal Singh, in a moving address to the participants, likened the youth with their shining and vibrant faces to the stars in the sky that seemed to have come here on the ground. He exhorted them to be the architects of a change that is so necessary today. He said “you are the fairies that have come down to earth; it is written in your destiny that you will defeat the rakshasas (demons) who are dominating the world and ruling in our country, and who are responsible for keeping us in this condition of poverty and deprivation.” He expressed his confidence that the future of the country will be in the hands of the youth who must organize to first transform society. He invited the youth to express their views on the issues presented.
There was an unending wave of responses from the youth who had listened most attentively to the speech and caught its principal message and who vied with each other to reach the podium and express their views. Without let up, one after another, young women questioned the “independence” that closes all opportunities for education and livelihood for girls from working families while the best education and jobs went to the children of the rich, the “independence” that threatens the security of girls and women, the “independence” that keeps women oppressed. Many significant issues were raised by the youth such as, that the struggle for women’s emancipation is an important part of the struggle of the working class for a society free from oppression, that men cannot be free from oppression and exploitation in a society where women are oppressed, that women in the highest positions of government and state make no difference to the conditions of the large majority of working women so long as the system of exploitation remains the same, that women must organize wherever they work and live in order to bring about a new society where working women and men will have the power to make decisions. The speakers also lambasted the present governments in Delhi and at the Centre for all the lies that they spread about “gender empowerment” of women through dubious schemes! The youthful speakers made a very powerful impact on the listeners who enthusiastically applauded the poetry (shahiris) and proverbs (mohavaras) that were delivered so passionately by their friends.
Concluding this meeting, Com Lal Singh pointed out that this meeting was an undisputable reflection of the consciousness of the youth of the conditions that oppress them. He added, “They have no illusions about who is the oppressor. Most parties that call themselves communist say that they are ready for revolution but the common people are not. This is not true. These parties are on the side of the capitalists. They do not want conditions to be created for revolution.
He agreed with the youth who came and spoke about the difficulties and also about changing society.“The big capitalist parties fool the people and say that small changes are enough. They say that 33% reservation etc. will make a difference but it will not. It will not make a difference even if we have 100% control by women. The question is of class. Only when the workers are free will there be a change in the system.”He explained to the youth that this is a democracy for the capitalists and not for the people. When people come out to protest and demand their rights, the police forces are used against them. The police are in place to protect the rights of capitalists.
Com. Lal Singh took up the important issue of the source of the thought processes and views that people hold. He asked the youth to realise where these come from. Expressing his agreement with many of the youth who said we need to improve our family’s views, he said it is important to understand where our views come from. He explained that they come from the state and the views that the ruling classes propagate. “Many people have not seen socialism and only heard about it. They have only seen capitalism which looks glossy but is rotten. In socialist Albania, a small country, young women and girls used to roam freely at night and no one used to look at them with bad intentions, because everyone was taught to respect women.”He posed the question, “If you do not respect women, are you worth anything in life?”
He reiterated that the young women and men sitting in the meeting are all angels sent from heaven because they are the ones who will change society. He expressed his confidence that they would end the dictatorship of the capitalists and establish that of the proletariat. In the new society, he said, everyone will have equal rights, homes, access to education etc. Education would be equal for all and no one would have to pay. He explained that we have to understand and make people understand that to change society means to wrest the means of production from the hands of the capitalists. He was confident that this day is not far away, when we will achieve our common aim ofplanting the Red Flag on the Red Fort!”
In conclusion, a play was performed by the Ghaziabad youth group that pointed to the necessity of girls standing up fearlessly in their own defence.