AUSTRIA: "Unleash the force of women for the revolution!" …

March 16, 2020

In addition to the 8th of March 2020, International Women’s Struggle Day, we want to publash an English translation of an text from the Red Front Collective (Austria) which was firstly published in German language in February 2020. We think it is an good contribution for deepening the discussion on the development of a class conscious women's movement.

"Unleash the force of women for the revolution!" …

... with this goal the "International Women's Day" was decided exactly 110 years ago, which until now is committed in a struggling way on March 8th all around the world. Across all continents the call of the oppressed women for the elimination of patriarchy, for an end of exploitation and oppression can be heard.

The general crisis of capital, the increasing aggressiveness of the ruling class in Austria against the broad masses, is showing today its ugly face in all aspects of women's lives. Cuts in the areas of public health and education, rising costs of rents and groceries, increasing tax burdens for the masses as well as the enormous "flexibility" of working hours lead to the aggravation of patriarchal oppression of women. Effects like the increased part-time and petty work of women which makes an independent existence impossible, poverty of women with children as well as the increase of violence against women, are effects that are apparent today in all its urgency. This course of the ruling class did not firstly appear with the participation of the FPÖ in parliament, but has become the general course of every fraction of the ruling class since some decades. How correct this assessment is, is evident not least with the current government participation of the Green Party, who continue this course unchanged, and even intensify it in many points. The strong to one-sided focus, especially ofpetty-bourgeois feminism on so-called “right” or “right-wing extremists” in parliament finds its flip side in the "open door” to the supposedly “liberal” parts of capital like the Green Party or the SPÖ, and thereby not only proves itself to be wrong, but also shows the increasing lack of orientation within the petty-bourgeois led women's movement. A lack of clarity about the tasks and goals of the women's movement, as well as about its friends and enemies, diminished the influence of petty-bourgeois forces among the masses of women and at the same time led to further fragmentation of the women’s movement, which can not be resolved by the petty bourgeois-feminist forces either. That's why it is no wonder that today the ruling class increasingly uses “feminism” for their own purposes and that it is no longer a rarity that under the pretext of "feminism" reactionary laws like the "headscarf ban" or other anti-democratic laws are passed.

In addition, it is becoming clear today that the increasing deterioration in the situation of the majority of women in Austria which brings patriarchy more and more open to light, does not “automatically” lead to an increase in awareness within the women's movement or a "sudden" upswing in the struggles of the masses of women. "Women are just like men reactionary, centrist or revolutionary. Hence, they cannot struggle together the same battle."[1] This teaching from the international women's movement is also essential for all struggling women today, because it shows that it is decisive for which goals the women's movement is struggling and under which leadership the women are mobilized. Essential experiences from history show that women are used as “mobilization mass” from the conservative side as well and a lack of political consciousness among women can also lead to a pillar for the rule of capital. Therefore, it can only be harmful for the women’s movement, to underestimate the influence of the apparent “liberal” sections of bourgeoisie on women and to adopt supposedly “good”, but in reality ultra-conservative demands like the payment of housework, uncritically within the women’s movement. Also the currently strong trend to the “women's strike” is an expression of the increasing disorientation within the women’s movement, by remodeling strike to become a form of "activism", which orientates on changing the main form of struggle on 8th of March into isolated “strike”. It should not be underestimated that this form of activism corresponds to the trend of fragmentation of the women’s movement in general and individualization of the women’s question in particular, and is therefore also in its symbolic “value” harmful for the struggle for a new upswing of the struggling women’s movement. Especially in this situation the task of politicization and mobilization of women must not be taken up “spontaneously” and thus disoriented, but must be grasped on the basis of the previous experiences of the women’s movement, which are rich in teachings and put forth many personalities, which should serve until today as guiding stars.

With capitalism the women’s movement develops finally to one essential part of the mass movement. The majority of women become workers and “thereby the work of woman was finally relocated out of the house into the society”[2]. Thereby the basis for the old slogan "the world the man's house, the house the world of women” was withdrawn and a new basis for politicization and the women's struggle was created. The women workers did not only become numerically the main force within the women's movement but because of their double oppression in capitalism also its most consistent force. Even from the beginning of the women's movement it became obvious that it was in no way “uniform”, but different forces and positions were existing. Clara Zetkin as one of the most important representatives of proletarian women's movement expressed already in the 19th century this struggle between mainly proletarian and bourgeois women’s movement: “The movement of the 'women's rights activists' can score certain benefits in single points, but never ever solve the women question."(Ibid.) Thus, she made it clear that the women's movement, if it wants to struggle consistently, has to connect the enforcement of women's rights with the struggle for
revolution. The revolutionary workers parties were the first political parties in history, which included the equality between man and woman in their program and created own forms for the mobilization and politicization of women. Thereby personalities were forged, who did not only gain great importance as pioneers in their own country, but also became guiding stars of the struggling women’s movement around the world. This "new type of woman" expresses in history the most in the communists Eleanor Marx-Aveling, Clara Zetkin, Nadeshda Krupskaya, Lin Hu-Lan, Tschiang-Tsching and Comrade Norah. Under the leadership of the communist parties they forged whole generations of oppressed women to conscious combatants against patriarchy and capital and show all struggling women today what it means to "unleash the force of women for the revolution”.

These women stood at the forefront of the worldwide women's movement, because they understood to connect the immediate needs and concerns of women with the aim of the elimination of patriarchy and to direct the women's movement on this path. They could do that, because they were marxists, basing firmly on the ground of proletarian class standpoint and thus were able to apply the only scientific ideology in the women’s question. “...Marx never dealt with the women’s question “per se” or “as such”. Yet he created the most irreplaceable and important weapons for the women’s fight to obtain all of their rights. His materialist concept of history has not supplied us with any read-made formulas concerning the women’s question, yet it has done something much more important: it has given us the correct, unerring method to explore and comprehend that question. It was only the materialist concept of history which enabled us to understand the women’s question within the flux of universal historical development and the light of universally applicable social relationships and their historical necessity and justification. Only thus did we perceive its driving forces and the aims pursued by them as well as the conditions which are essential to a solution of these problems.”[3] Not to analyze the world through the "glasses of women" made these women becoming pioneers of worldwide women's movement, but the world view of that class that "has nothing to lose than their chains” and thus
the most consistent interest to transform it. Learning from these pioneers means to understand and internalize that world view is not a gender question, rather the standpoint towards the world and therefore the view towards society, which today divides into classes and hence is primarily a question of class standpoint. Therefore it is no contradiction that these pioneers placed themselves on the ground of that ideology, which was forged by the proletarian leaders Marx Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. On the contrary, emphasizing the world view of the pioneers of the women’s movement is an important lever to give orientation also today and forge leaders from within the women’s movement.

Also in Austria the women’s movement has its own representatives and guiding stars, which had important influence on the development and struggles of the whole women’ movement. Especially the communists Malke Schorr and Hedy Urach should be emphasized in particular, because they represent the most progressive part of the proletarian women's movement in the time when it reached its highest points, in the struggle for the revolution 1917/18 and against fascism 1933-1945.  They also took up the task of mobilization and politicization of women firmly based on the proletarian class standpoint, which brought them to understand, that the progressive and revolutionary women not only have to “work among women”, but above all organize as part of the vanguard within the Communist Party. Both of these women were members of the Central Committee, the highest authority of the Party, and therefore are important examples, that women are not only able to lead women, but are important leaders within class struggle. Firmly convinced that without a revolutionary party no victorious struggle against oppression and exploitation is possible, the communist party was placed by them as first and foremost, which runs like a thread throughout their entire life: “My whole love for the party, my whole life for it, that is my last greeting to it. I think, that it can be proud of me, that I didn’t disappoint it, because what I was capable of, I have given for its life.” Hedy Urach wrote these lines in her farewell letter from the dungeons of the Nazi-fascists. The Austrian women’s movement gives an important example, that the firm position on the communist party and the world view of the proletariat, was also the main lever for forging recognized guiding stars of the women’s movement. Until today, the most important representatives of the Austrian women’s movment are for the most part partisans, anti-fascists and other struggling women, who developed their important work under the leadership of the communist party.    

All those who dedicate themselves today to the important task of developing a struggling women’s movement, will only then move forward decisive steps, when they place themselves firmly on the ground of the teachings of the pioneers of women’s movment. To “unleash the  force of women for the revolution” means today, that all progressive women forge themselves firmly to representatives of marxism, of proletarian class standpoint and with that equip themselves with that weapon, which indeed doesn’t provide “completed formulas” for the concrete situation in Austria, but provides “the most important”: The ability to understand the situation and to transform it with firm orientation towards the revolution.

To carry a struggling orientation into the women’s movement also requires a clear view of the forces within the women’s movement. In this question as well, the progressive women must learn from the history and take up the important understanding, that the women workers as most consistent and main force within the women’s movement have to take a special role within the women’s movement. That should not be done in a conservative way, it requires new methods and initiatives, which can not just be “mechanically” copied from the historical teachings. As well it would be a mistake to be satisfied with general appeals to the women, without systematic and conscious agitation and propaganda for the specific position of women. To connect firmly with the masses of women, to struggle against isolation and passivity, means getting to know the concerns and desires of women, to analyze them and to develop the struggle together.  "Our demands are practical conclusions that we draw from the burning needs, the shameful humiliations of women as weak and lawless in the bourgeois order."[4] This guideline from Lenin to the Communist Women’s International was significant to unite firmly with the broad masses of women.

The 8th of March 2020 should be a highlight for the revolutionary and struggling women in their firm unification, to grasp with united strength the joint goal of the development of a struggling and class-conscious women’s movement. This 8th of March is also in the history of women’s movement a special 8th of March, because it is the 110 anniversary of the resolution on the “International Women’s Day”, which was proposed by Clara Zetkin. “In agreement with the class-conscious political and trade organizations of the proletariat in their respective countries, the socialist women of all nationalities will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be discussed in connection with the entire women’s question according to the socialist conception of social things. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.”[5] This tradition must be an integral part of the understanding of the struggling women, because it gives a clear orientation in the significance of mobilization of the masses for the 8th of March, which should be committed shoulder to shoulder with the struggling and revolutionary women. The revolutionary women have to go ahead as the most progressive part and direct the struggle of the women beyond the 8th of March. Because the core point is to “unleash the force of the women for the revolution”, for which the international women’s day is an important lever: “The international women’s day is an international celebration for revolution, a step towards world  revolution.”[Ibid.]

Long live the 110th anniversary of the resolution on the International Women’s Day on 8th of March!
For a struggling an class-conscious women’s movement!
Unleash the power of women for the revolution!

Red Front Collective, February 2020

[1] Women’s People’s Movement Peru, 1985
[2] Clara Zetkin, The question of women workers and women at the present
[3] Clara Zetkin, What the women owe to Karl Marx
[4] Clara Zetkin,  Reminiscences of Lenin
[5] Clara Zetkin, Selected Writings






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