Women in People’s War: Past, Present and Future
Following the call to action of the Anuradha Ghandy Campaign in support of proletarian feminism, we are publishing a short speech written by a supporter of the RAH and given at the International Working Womenʹs Day event hosted by the Stonewall Militant Front in Austin this year. Proletarian feminism was birthed in the class struggle, in Peopleʹs War, and in our modern movement we must honor our martyrs and theorists like Comrade Anuradha Ghandy and carry that struggle onwards. Ten years after her death, the memory and spirit of Comrade Anuradha Ghandy lives on, in the Peopleʹs War in India, and in the international communist struggle. It is this spirit which drives us forward now to build a militant womenʹs movement which can crush the class enemy here in the belly of the imperialist beast.
Long live the struggle of proletarian women for their liberation!
Honor to Comrade Anuradha Ghandy!
Onwards in the development of a proletarian feminist movement in the world!
The oppression of women has existed for so long in our world, and is so pervasive and total in our society, that it appears to be almost natural, undefeatable, something which we can only improve or manage but never fully do away with. The capitalists themselves, when they acknowledge the oppression of women, tell us that it is either natural or that we should seek only to improve the representation of women within the ruling class and their toadies within the state. Both serve the same purpose: to preserve the oppression of women, to continue their subjugation and domestication and to liquidate revolution. The capitalists cannot end the oppression of women, and they do not seek to because they are the only people who benefit from it. But this does not mean it cannot be abolished in its totality. The oppression of women was born at the dawn of class society, as the very first ruling classes emerged. At the very establishment of private property, women became subjects, domestic slaves bound to the home and to reproduction, bound to the most demeaning drudgery, as men established control over production and property. Women have been oppressed since the moment oppression was born into this world, and they cannot be truly freed until private property and class society are demolished and withered away, until all of humanity achieves dignity and freedom at last under communism. The oppression of women has existed for so long in our world, and is so pervasive and total in our society, that it appears to be almost natural, undefeatable, something which we can only improve or manage but never fully do away with. The capitalists themselves, when they acknowledge the oppression of women, tell us that it is either natural or that we should seek only to improve the representation of women within the ruling class and their toadies within the state. Both serve the same purpose: to preserve the oppression of women, to continue their subjugation and domestication and to liquidate revolution. The capitalists cannot end the oppression of women, and they do not seek to because they are the only people who benefit from it. But this does not mean it cannot be abolished in its totality. The oppression of women was born at the dawn of class society, as the very first ruling classes emerged. At the very establishment of private property, women became subjects, domestic slaves bound to the home and to reproduction, bound to the most demeaning drudgery, as men established control over production and property. Women have been oppressed since the moment oppression was born into this world, and they cannot be truly freed until private property and class society are demolished and withered away, until all of humanity achieves dignity and freedom at last under communism.
Though this may seem distant and unreachable, we know that we can achieve this, and that in fact it is the natural progression of class struggle. To bring about this world we must build revolution, and understand that revolution is the violent struggle between classes, and never succumb to any delusions that there can be any kind of peaceful revolution. In building revolution, the role of women must be understood as essential to its success, as strategic and not tactical. As comrade Lenin said ʹThe experience of all liberation movements has shown that the success of a revolution depends on how much the women take part in it.ʹ Marxism-Leninism-Maoism teaches us, synthesizing the lessons of a century of class struggle, that protracted peopleʹs war is our universal strategy for the seizure of state power. To better explain the role of women in peopleʹs war and the peopleʹs army, Iʹm going to briefly touch upon these concepts.
The peopleʹs army is an army of a new type. It is utterly unlike the bourgeois military forces we associate with the word ʹarmyʹ. It is in short a political army with a military face, which is always lead by the party and its guiding ideology, never letting the gun take command over its decisions. While it has officers and soldiers, their relationships is nothing like that of the bourgeois forces. The soldiers are able to criticize their officers and the officers receive no medals, no special privileges. The way it engages the enemy is also completely different: its actions are political attacks given military form. It relies on the enemy as their quartermaster, stealing arms and ammunition from them, and captives are treated fairly and every attempt is made to win them over to revolution. In peopleʹs war the warfare is also of guerrilla and not a conventional nature. But the greatest difference between a peopleʹs army and a bourgeois army is in its relationship to the people. A peopleʹs army is not one which takes from the people, it is not one which relies parasitically upon the society in which it operates. A peopleʹs army seeks to be as fish among the ocean of the masses, seeking to unite with them fully, meeting their needs, and producing its own supplies, paying fairly for whatever they need from the people. A peopleʹs soldier is a true servant of the people. To be absolutely clear: the peopleʹs army and the soldiers within it carry out the majority of the mass work during peopleʹs war. They produce infrastructure and agriculture for the people within the base areas and defend them from the forces of the state.
The role of women in peopleʹs war and the peopleʹs army is one of strategic importance. Peopleʹs war brings about transformation in women, and women bring about transformation to the peopleʹs army. They not only double the potential pool of fighters, they improve the quality of the work of the peopleʹs army and themselves often prove the better of male fighters. Women in fact have been active participants in every attempt at socialist revolution, from the first blows of the Paris commune, to the victory of the October revolution, to the long wars of the Chinese revolution, and every peopleʹs war since. Among any segment of the masses, women are the most oppressed, and this oppression is turned into fury in peopleʹs war, which is unleashed upon the bourgeois and their running dogs. In Peru, the PCP paid special attention to the condition of women, who would make up almost half of the peopleʹs army and eventually 60% of the central committee, the highest amount of women to be represented on the central committee of any communist party. They became soldiers and indeed commanders and officers, and terrified the bourgeois forces, who made many observations that they were more furious fighters than their male counterparts. The influence of such women within both the army and the party cannot be understated. Because women understand fully that the forces of reaction will only bring them back into subjugation, that their freedom lies only at the end of the road from socialism to communism, they fight all the more ferociously both for the socialist revolution and to safeguard its gains against capitalist revisionism.
In Nepal a large amount of women joined the peopleʹs army, and were both an asset to it as soldiers and had a great role in transforming its nature to that of a true peoples army. In their documents they note that women played an important role in giving the army its mass character, ensuring it was not only active in fighting but also in organizing the masses and in engaging in productive labor. Women were able to go among the masses more easily, better integrating themselves in the families in the areas the peoples army was in or moving into. They took away the masculine image from the army, showing the people it was truly an egalitarian force and making it more approachable. In the theater of fighting itself, women were no less valuable. They were found to be more tenacious fighters, more eager to go on the offensive, and more resistant to torture. It was found that where men lay down arms and gave up, women would continue to fight. They were less prone to big-headedness after victories and skulking after defeats, being more patient and retaining their composure. Despite facing conservative thinking among some men in the party and in the army, they proved that they were not less physically able than their male counterparts, and as in Peru they were decisive force in the successes of their peopleʹs war.
Not only were women of benefit to the peopleʹs army, they were drawn to it in large numbers from other organizations. In Nepal, an internal survey of women in the movement found that between the army, the party, and the united front, women most sought to be within the army (about 40% identifying it as the field they were most drawn to). In Peru we can also see that women joined the peoples army through the movimiento femenino popular in large numbers, and there are also large numbers of women within the new peoples army of the Philippines right this moment. Why are women so drawn to peopleʹs war, to the peopleʹs armies? There are many aspects of peopleʹs war which appeal to women. Its productive and compassionate nature to the people, itʹs egalitarian nature which allows women the chance to advance, and the opportunity to turn their righteous fury upon their class enemy are some examples. The base area itself, the ability to begin to nurture the fruits of the revolution and build a more just and free world where they themselves can taste the beginnings of their liberation, has great appeal to women struggling for revolution. Of greater appeal, however, is the affect the peopleʹs army and peopleʹs war has on women inside and outside of it.
Violence and struggle are the only ways change occurs in this world. This is true for everything from physics to society. War has an immediate effect upon those taking part, and the nature of the peopleʹs army and peopleʹs war makes these effects into positive transformation. Women are changed by peopleʹs war both in essence and also in form. Where she lacked confidence, where she was made meek and told to focus on her appearance over her physical and ideological development, she is now given leadership, she is trained into a soldier who is upright and armed, able to fight for long periods of time or in quick succession. She is given a political education and the equal place to argue with the men around her both over matters of class struggle as well as gender. Where before her spirit was quashed and she was made to be quiet, now she is rebellious, furious and armed. Long have women endured quietly the private and public violence of men, made powerless against this predation and humiliation by the forces of the bourgeois state. During peopleʹs war womanizers, abusers and rapists fear maoist women, and those who commit acts of violence against women are swiftly punished by the peopleʹs courts. In Nepal especially it was noted that women who had been oppressed by the feudal system transformed wholly and completely. Previously women had worked dawn till dusk on land they had no rights to, which was owned completely by their husbands and would only be passed to their sons, they were not even permitted to remarry after their husbands death. After the initiation of peopleʹs war these same women learned how to plant time bombs, listen for enemy intelligence, and plan complicated attacks against reactionary forces. Women who had previously been illiterate and confined to the home now argued complicated matters of philosophy. Before they faced the endless drudgery of feudal life, the only escape being urban life, which itself offered only trafficking into prostitution or enslavement in sweatshops. Prostitutes who had previously known only the gravest indignities, deepest humiliation and most grotesque violence were freed and became dignified and powerful fighters, able to attack the very state that had forced them into such destitution and earning a dignified death in service to the people, for which they would be celebrated both by their comrades and the people. Peopleʹs war offered freedom, an exciting new avenue for young women to challenge themselves alongside men on equal terms, to prove themselves physically and mentally. Women were, for the first time, given an opportunity for a dignified life and a dignified death in service to the people and indeed to the whole world revolution.
This change however swept far beyond the women directly involved in the peopleʹs war. The peopleʹs war had dramatic affect upon the women within the base areas as well. A base area is in short an area in which the party has seized full control and from which it attempts to build the embryo of a new socialist state. These conditions within the base areas create fertile ground for women to assert themselves and act in ways that feudal and capitalist oppression never allow. In Nepal it was found that women began plowing agricultural fields which was not religiously permitted and tiling roofs which was not culturally permitted. When their husbands were killed by police they would shun traditional widowhood ceremonies and instead would print in newspapers resolutions to avenge their husbands in revolutionary struggle. The shame and stigma around remarrying after widowing was also eroded away, and women began to marry for the first time based on love and ideological commitment, and also divorce men who were found to be traitors to and enemies of the revolution. Women were no longer having children until they had sons, and were infact limiting the number of children they had such that they could continue their revolutionary activities. Where before they had no options against polygamy, cheating husbands, and sexual violence they could now find dignity through the peopleʹs courts, and began to speak out against their abusers. Before rape victims were stigmatize, but as the state engaged in organized rape campaigns, this shame gave way to a deep class hatred and a burning desire for rebellion. Women were able to take an active role in shaping the new state, both in infrastructure and in policy, and the absence of men lead to women being more cooperative and alongside the leadership of the party they engaged in many collective works, collective farming being one such example which both improved the lives of the people and brought many families, including those whose male leaders were reactionaries, to the side of the revolution. In the base areas, women began at last to grasp dignity.
Outside of the base areas in Nepal peopleʹs war radically changed the nature of womenʹs lives and womenʹs organizing. Before peopleʹs war the backwards, reformist feminist movement found itself scarcely able to do anything. After the initiation of peopleʹs war, womens organizations began to abandon the struggle for reforms and began to take action, and likewise the reactionary nature of NGOs and their sham activists were exposed. No longer did feminist organizations discuss the representation of women in parliament or amongst the bourgeois. The fraudulent nature of such struggles was exposed as counter revolutionary, and instead violent demonstrations against beauty pageants were organized, and organizations came together to protest the rape torture and murder of revolutionary women. In urban areas where the peopleʹs war had not touched, women began to become more class conscious and the womenʹs movement began to see class as the key link to their oppression. Likewise was the failure of reform and charity laid bare in Peru, as NGO activists were exposed as snitches selling revolutionaries to the state, and as reformists called for the end of armed struggle in favor of participation in elections even as the state engaged in horrific campaigns of violence and slaughter against the people. Such reformism is the betrayal of the womenʹs struggle, of the struggle for true and final liberation. It liquidates the fury of women into that domesticated meekness the bourgeois seeks in all its subjects but especially among women. A sugar coated bullet is still a bullet, and in the face of peopleʹs war, it is plain to the masses and especially to women that such capitulation can lead them no where but back into shackles.
Sadly enough, the communist party of Nepal itself capitulated to capitalist ideology emerging within the movement, which we call revisionism, and liquidated the peopleʹs war to engage in parliamentary struggle. When the party laid down itʹs weapons, the condition of women immediately became worse. In their own propaganda they admitted that women became less involved in the party, that the womenʹs struggle went backwards, and these phony ʹMaoistsʹ began to talk of the representation within parliament and of reform that they had railed against just a few years prior. When the peopleʹs army was taken from women, they lost everything they had fought and died for. In this defeat we find stark lessons: firstly, that we must guard against revisionism within our movement. Revisionism turns our struggle into its opposite, it turns the party of the proletariat into the party of the bourgeois, and the peopleʹs army into the lapdogs of the capitalists, the struggle for revolution into one for reform. The other lesson we can take from this and from other failures and defeats is that women can only be emancipated through the armed struggle. Truly, without the peopleʹs army, the people (and women especially) have nothing.
In our present movement, we must begin to build for this struggle here and now. We cannot be deceived by those who tell us that the path to our freedom as women lies in reforms, in representation, in community healing. The only way forward for women is revolutionary violence. Our whole lives as women we are cowed, domesticated, made meek and demure. Our bodies are not our own, and any concerns of physical health or physically ability seconded to aesthetic and sexual appeal, particularly to men. We are assaulted by friends, by lovers, by family and by strangers, and we are never truly allowed the means to defend ourselves and to strike out against those who prey upon us. Our bodies are viewed as things to be consumed, to be used by others, to be bought and sold in advertisements, or often as prostitutes, sugar babies, and in nudes over snapchat. We are denied access to much of the workforce, and those areas we are expected to exist within are devalued. When we do share work spaces with men we are valued and payed less than them, and we are often sexually harassed and assaulted by our bosses and male coworkers. Women who are of oppressed nations or who are LGBT face a triple oppression, subject to further violence and indignities, pushed further into prostitution and out of the workforce. We are butchered in our streets, in our homes, and even alongside our families. How many black women must vanish, how many lesbians must be found butchered in their homes, how many girls must be assaulted before we discard the vulgar lies of reformism? Despite the supposed successes of bourgeois feminism we are still largely confined to the domestic sphere, we still lack in dignity and in autonomy. Our president is a fucking rapist. Nothing these phony ʹresistersʹ and #bossbabes offer us can lift us out of this indignity. But there is a way forward for women. Reclaiming revolutionary violence can give us our dignity, peopleʹs war can give us a correct direction for our violence to destroy this corrupt, bastard world and birth a new one. Socialism towards communism is the only road to freedom for us. Womenʹs participation in revolution is a condition of itʹs success, and the condition for the emancipation of women is our participation in revolution, in peopleʹs war.
npa women 1
There is more to draw on than historical examples, even more recent than the peoples war in Nepal which continued into the early 2000ʹs. In the Philippines today women make up a large portion of the New Peopleʹs Army and indeed have place within the party as well. Women are celebrated within the NPA, and simply checking twitter or facebook you can see smiling women in battle dress, determined women training with stolen AKʹs and ARʹs, and videos women holding philosophical and political discussions. A recent tweet illustrates quite clearly the view of women in the NPA: ʹWomen who chose the revolutionary path – the new women – have already emancipated themselves. They are no longer beholden to any repressive authority and, in fact, gained the freedom to smash them.ʹ It is accompanied by a picture of woman of the NPA with an AK standing alongside a man with an AR. As of IWWD, this was tweeted a scant 6 days ago. But we do not even need to look so far as that! Within our own budding movement we can see this struggle begin to take shape. In Kansas city, the Proletarian Feminist Committee has, for about a year now, organized self defense classes for everyone but specifically aimed towards women. The organizers have themselves said that women take these more seriously than men, and fight in them more viciously and train more regularly. In Los Angeles, today, the same day that I deliver this presentation, Red Guards Los Angeles announced the formation of their own ʹWomenʹs Guerrilla Defense Unitsʹ in an absolutely inspiring statement. To quote them quite directly:
ʹWith the participation of the Ovarian Psyco-Cycles we will be starting a Boyle Heights proletarian Womenʹs Guerrilla Defense Unit open to all genders but with a principal focus on proletarian oppressed nationality women.
The unit will be one part internal self-defense training for women, one part external (public) self-defense training for women, one part political development – all united principally under the philosophy that only through revolutionary vengeance/violence is it possible for proletarian women and their allies to be transformed and emancipated from patriarchal capitalism-imperialism.
Patriarchy cannot be simply unlearned. We must literally arm ourselves and go to war with U.S. capitalism.ʹ
In our own locality, the Stonewall Militant Front has reaffirmed its commitment to carrying out revolutionary violence against the forces of capitalist patriarchy. More concretely, our comrades here in the Revolutionary Student Front -ATX have started an absolutely ruthless campaign against the loathsome domestic abuser in the faculty, Morrisette. They have brought great scrutiny and attention to his history of domestic violence and have inspired the masses to carry out multiple graffiti attacks against him and against UT for harboring him. Itʹs militant proletarian feminist leadership has called for revolutionary violence against all abusers and him in particular, expressing their desire to see his throat crush by a militant womenʹs movement in an impassioned speech delivered on campus. These are our first stumbling steps down the road to real proletarian feminism, a feminism that brings violence to the forces of capitalist patriarchy, to abusers and to the capitalists that are, ultimately, responsible for them and who alone benefit from womenʹs subjugation. We must not be meek on this matter: we must begin building for peopleʹs war in everything we do. Proletarian feminism means nothing less, women deserve nothing less, our class deserves nothing less, than the violent overthrow of the capitalists, of patriarchy and national oppression. These forces oppress and exploit us for the benefit of a few, who set us at each others throats like beaten dogs to squabble amongst ourselves for the pathetic morsels of reform they ever so often condescend to toss us. But the fury of women, of working class women, is boundless. Our oppression was born at the dawn of class society and it will die at the birth of communism, with our hands firmly around its throat. Women hold up nothing so little as half of the sky, and we must bring the full force of that down upon the capitalists in violent revolution.
Long live the revolution!
Long live proletarian feminism!
(Source: https://houstonra.wordpress.com/2018/04/12/women-in-peoples-war-past-present-and-future/)Keywords : maoists, anuradha ghandy, proletarian feminism, Peopleʹs War, international communist struggle, india
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