25 March 2011

Umsebenzi Online on Women

No Woman, No Revolution, Part 10

Umsebenzi Online on Women

Umsebenzi Online is the South African Communist Party’s twice-monthly e-mail newsletter. The Umsebenzi Online archive is on the SACP web site. You can subscribe to it (free) from the Umsebenzi Online distribution-group web site, or by using the Umsebenzi Online promotion box near the top of the right-hand panel on the Communist University blog, or in the left-hand panel on the SACP web site.

You can use the same promotion box (or this one) to invite anybody to be on the Umsebenzi Online list. Just put an e-mail address in the box and click “Subscribe”. An e-mail will go to that address, inviting the person to click to confirm that the she or he wants to subscribe. It’s quick and convenient.

Umsebenzi Online is the SACP’s authentic voice. It usually carries an article by the elected SACP General Secretary, currently Dr Blade Nzimande.

To complete the picture of the women’s movement that the CU has tried to provide in our ten-part “No Woman, No Revolution” set, the last main document (linked below) consists of four articles published in Umsebenzi Online from the beginning of 2006 to the present.

2006 was the year when the CU did its first “No Woman, No Revolution” series, from February to May of that year, meeting at the Women’s Jail, Constitution Hill. August 2006 was when we saw the launch of the “Progressive Woman’s Movement”, something different and opposite in character from what the Communist University had imagined was needed.

The Communist University is not a constitutional structure of the SACP. It supports the SACP, the ANC, and COSATU. But for pedagogical reasons it must be allowed to speculate, without any prejudice to those organisations.

So here are some speculative theses on the question of women in South Africa:

  • Women, as such, have no interests that are antagonistic to those of men, but women have a common and particular felt experience among themselves, as women, of the oppression that capitalism has brought to their lives.
  • Therefore there is a basis for working women to organise as a mass, by which is meant a small or large number of people who feel a common disadvantage in society, and who in consequence organise themselves together for their collective good.
  • Women’s mass organisations have the same requirement as trade unions and political-vanguard organisations, to be both democratic and centralist. Therefore women’s organisations should have individual membership and branches, hold periodic national congresses, have corporate personality, and have a constitution to ensure democracy.
  • The SACP, as a vanguard political organisation of the working class, is designed to relate to such mass organisations, just as it relates to trade union organisations, and others.
  • As a matter of historical fact, the ANC, through the ANCWL, has on four successive occasions since its founding in 1948, acted to ensure that the above kind of democratic, mass, individual-membership general-purpose women’s movement could not flourish. The ANCWL, under pressure from the ANC, blighted FEDSAW, the UDF women’s structures, and the Women’s National Coalition, and it now blights the Progressive Women’s Movement.
  • The ANC adopted “non-sexism” in the 1980s, and the current South African Constitution is non-sexist, but in practice these provisions mean little as compared to the material non-existence of a mass women’s movement that has membership and democracy, and which is politically aligned to the working class and to the cause of socialism.
  • Very little of the above is discussed in the general public realm. What discussion there may be is often based on unexamined vulgar bourgeois-feminist, eclectic and post-modernist precepts. The situation is, on the face of it, much the same as it was five years ago in mid-2005, when the Communist University began to plan its first “No Woman, No Revolution” series.
  • Yet two very great gains have been made. The one was the election, in December 2007 at Polokwane, of an ANC National Executive Committee of 84 members of which 50% are women. The other was the announcement in 2009 by the SACP GS that the YCLSA has a membership that is more than 50% female.

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