The Women Question & Marxism (IV)

Luis Quispe lquispe at blythe.org
Thu Apr 25 22:36:58 MDT 1996


            II. MARIATEGUI AND THE WOMAN QUESTION
                    Part 4 a series of 4

50 years ago Mariategui, with his sharp historical foresight, perceived
the importance of the woman question in the country and its perspective
("The first feminist quivers are latent in Peru ..."); he devoted two of
his works to this question, Woman and Politics and Feminist Demands, [Las
Reivindicaciones Feministas, were reivindicaciones to the political and
economic demands of women.--Trans.] besides many other contributions
found in his writings. It is indispensable to go back ourselves to this
source, because in it we will find the position of the Peruvian working
class with respect to the Woman question; even more, because this problem
is a little known and researched aspect of Mariategui's work.
Josi Carlos Mariategui taught us: "In our times life in society cannot be
studied without investigating and analyzing its causes: the organization
of the family, the condition of the woman;" and researching the nascent
Peruvian feminist movement he said: "Men who are sensible to the great
emotions of our times cannot and should not feel themselves out of place
or indifferent to this movement. The woman question is part of the human
question."

So let's keep in mind that from the beginning of its political emergence
the working class of this country paid attention to the situation of
women, establishing through its great representative their position with
respect to women, as well as offering fighting support to feminist
struggles, as shown by the solidarity of textile workers and drivers with
the women workers of A. Field Co. in 1926.

What was the feminist development which attracted such accurate
attention? The condition of women in the country suffered a noticeable
change especially in this century and more specifically after the two
world wars. While the condition of peasant women changed more slowly,
that of her sisters turned workers and professionals experienced more
rapid and profound changes. Evidently the presence of women in our
society has been conquering positions ever more widely.

Last century the action and literary work of Clorinda Matto de Turner,
Mercedes Cabello de Carbonera and Margarita Praxedes Muqoz, highlighted
the feminine presence over a background of millions of peasants, workers
and other women who, while anonymous, were subject to harsh social
repression of feudal roots. The Peruvian woman of the 19th Century had
minimal access to education, and when she was allowed to attend secondary
education, the educational norms followed would establish for her a
watered down curriculum comparable to the last primary grade for males
plus some of the secondary school courses these would follow. The
abandonment of feminine schooling is clearly shown by the fact that,
while there were private institutions which tended or prepared students
to enter the university, it was not until 1928 that the National Women's
School of Lima opened its doors in Lima; up to then there was no such
school of its kind in the capital city. It's good to notice how by the
end of last century some women educators worried about the education of
women, proposing its renewal: it demands overcoming the erroneous concept
of "educating them only for marriage, which leads one to think such is
their only purpose in life," that their education must not be in the
hands of nuns, who having abandoned the world are not in a position of
forming good women, and that we need to end the misconception that the
single or married woman who works outside the home degenerates socially;
at the same time they demand and create new educational centers.  Teresa
Gonzalez de Fanning was outstanding in this aspect.

Similarly college education was closed to them, their presence at the
University is not noticed until the 1890s, and it wasn't until 1908 that
women were authorized to enter and seek a degree at the University and
exercise the professions.  The demeaning of women and their social
outcasting is thus clearly seen in education.  However with the 20th
century transformations, women see an increase in their possibilities to
pursue studies and work as professionals, most of them finding work as
teachers. Only after World War II is a diversification of women's careers
seen. University graduates, whom early in the century could be counted
with the fingers of the hand, almost reach the current 30% of college
graduates of the country.

But what really would imply a profound, radical and far reaching change
is the incorporation of women into factory production. The
proletarianization of the Peruvian woman began this century hand in hand
with the introduction of machinery and the development of bureaucratic
capitalism. We see in our environment with its specific conditions, the
situation described by Marx and which we quoted above, with the
productive incorporation of women as workers, the process of proletarian
politicization opens up to the feminine masses of Peru. The participation
of women in worker's unions begins, women join the struggle for salaries,
the eight hour workday and working conditions; they participate in
people's struggles together with other workers in actions against the
high cost of living and price increases, which develops their ideological
understanding, and finally the women of the country amidst  revolutionary
combat, become political militants of the working class.

The process of the political development of the Peruvian woman, parallel
to their incorporation into labor, provided significant gains to the
country's class struggle in the first third of this century, among which
milestones we must highlight the struggle for the eight hour workday by
agricultural workers at Huaral, Barranca, Pativilca and Huacho, in which
five female workers offered their lives in 1916, sealing with their blood
their adherence to their class. Just as we highlight their participation
in momentous actions against rising prices and the high cost of living in
May of 1919, actions in which women workers organized a Women's Committee
so as to channel their supportive actions and agreed "To make a call to
all women, without distinction of classes, to cooperate with their action
to the defense of the rights of Peruvian women"; in this great struggle
women faced police forces at their meeting on the 25th, during which,
after overcoming the bloody police repression, they proclaimed the
following conclusions:

"The women of Lima, surrounding towns and peasants met in great public
meeting on Sunday 25 May 1919 at Neptune Park, having considered:
"That it is not possible to further tolerate the situation of misery to
which the high cost of subsistence goods and residential rents and all of
life's necessities have reduced the people; that Peruvian women, as well
as women in all civilized countries, have understood their mission to
intervene in the resolution of the economic and social problems affecting
them; Have agreed:

1. To make as their own the conclusions of the people's meeting at the
Alameda de los Descalzos on May 4th.

2. In case those conclusions are not accepted, to declare a general
women's strike in all branches of industry, leaving the date to the
discretion of the Men's Committee for Diminishing the Cost of
Subsistence" (Martinez de la Torre, Notes for the Marxist Interpretation
of the Social History of Peru, Volume I, Lima 1947.  Our emphasis.)
Another chapter in this history of women's struggle was waged by Socorro
Rojo against the persecution, repression, imprisonment and blood politics
unleashed by the dictatorship of Sanchez Cerror defending the rights and
liberties of the people, especially the proletariat.
In the struggles referred to, besides the politicization of women, or
more strictly, as index of a correct perspective, it must be highlighted
that in them the feminine masses waged their actions intimately united to
the people's interests, which are their own, and in direct unity with and
support for the struggles of the working class, which is their class.
In synthesis, the road traveled by Peruvian women in this century and the
final part of last century is marked by their widespread incorporation
into production and under bureaucratic capitalism pushed forward by North
American imperialism and by their increased access to education,
especially at the university. These are the bases on which the first
feminist impetuses of the country will hatch, a phenomenon which
Mariategui described as follows: "Feminism has not made its appearance in
Peru artificially or arbitrarily. It has appeared as result of the new
forms of intellectual and manual labor of women. The women with true
feminist affiliations are those women who work, the women who study. The
feminist idea prospers among women in intellectual jobs and in manual
jobs: professors, university students, workers. It finds a propitious
environment for its development in the university classrooms, which
attract more Peruvian women every day; and in the workers' unions, where
factory women enroll and organize with the same rights and the same
duties as the men. Besides this, we have the feminism of dilettantes, a
little pedantic and a little mundane. For feminists of this kind,
feminism is a mere literary exercise, merely a fashionable sport."
(Feminist Demands; our emphasis.)

It is on this basis that Mariategui elaborated the position of the
Peruvian proletariat on the woman question, by establishing the general
line to follow on this matter for whomever wants to develop from a
Marxist viewpoint. Let's see the basic problems from this position:

1. The Situation of Women.

The starting point of the study of the woman question from the viewpoint
of the Peruvian proletariat, demands to keep in mind that Mariategui
represents in the country the application of the universal truth of
Marxism-Leninism to the material conditions of a backwards and oppressed
country, an application which leads him to scientifically present the
semi-feudal and semi-colonial character of our society, in the midst of
which a national-democratic revolution has developed since 1928 through a
long and sinuous process whose higher stage is still pending. This is the
substance and guidance of Mariategui's thought; and starting from these
considerations we must treat all the problems and policies he
established, among them what is relevant to the woman question.
Thus Mariategui starts from the semi-feudal and semi-colonial character
of Peruvian society to judge the situation of women. This in itself
rejects from the outset the obsolete theory of "feminine nature,"
conceiving of women in a situation or condition derived from the
structure of society in which they function and emphasizing the dynamic,
changing character of women's situation, he points out the transforming
role work has on the condition of women with respect to social status and
ideas about them. The following paragraph expresses this and other points
well:

"But if bourgeois democracy has not realized feminism, it has
involuntarily created the conditions and moral and material premises for
its realization.  It has valued women as a productive element, as an
economic factor, by making more intensive and extensive use of their work
each day. Work radically changes the mind and the spirit of women. Women
acquire, by virtue of their work a new concept of themselves. In ancient
times society destined women to marriage and idleness or menial work.
Today it fates them, above all, to work. This fact has changed and
elevated the position of women in life."  So it remains clear, for the
Peruvian proletariat, that it is society which imparts women their
condition and not some mischievous nature; that the feminine condition is
a changing one and that it is work which is imparting a great leap in the
position and concept of women. This is the Mariateguist starting point,
at the same time it charges against the biological determinist reduction
of women to simple reproducers, and goes against the rose colored myths
which treacherously help to maintain their oppression: "the defense of
the poetry of the home in reality is a defense of the serfdom of women.
Far from ennobling and dignifying the role of women, it diminishes and
reduces it. The woman is more than a mother and a female, just as man is
more than a male." (The last two paragraphs belong to Feminist Demands,
our emphasis.)

Developing the thesis of the social root of the feminine condition,
Mariategui sets out the difference between Latin and Saxon women,
establishing the causal connection between feudal background and
temperament and differences in each woman: "The Latin woman lives more
prudently, with less passion. She does not have that urge for truth.
Especially the Spanish woman is very cautious and practical. Waldo Frank,
precisely, defined her with admirable accuracy: "The Spanish woman--he
wrote--is a pragmatist in love. She considers love as a means of creating
children for heaven. Nowhere in Europe is there a less sensual, less
ardorous woman. As a girl she is pretty; fresh hope colors her cheeks and
enlarges her black eyes. To her, marriage is the highest state to which
she can aspire. Once married, this innate coquettishness of spring
disappears like a season in her:  in a moment she turns judicious, thick
and maternal." (Signs and Works, Waldo Frank's Rahab.)

What was said about the Spanish woman naturally extends to Latin American
women and among them those in this country, and it shows that the
feminine mentality generated by the ancient  and present feudal
background is still not overcome. But besides this, analyzing the
relations between imperialism and the oppressed countries of America,
Mariategui highlights the alienating mentality which Yankee domination
impresses on feminine mentality: "The limeqa [native of Lima--Trans.]
bourgeoisie fraternizes with the Yankee capitalists, and even with their
lower employees, at the Country Club, at tennis and on the streets. The
Yankee can marry, without any inconvenience of race or religion, the
creole seqorita, and she feels no scruples of nationality or culture by
preferring marriage with an individual of the invading race. And neither
does the middle class girl feel any scruples in this respect. The
huachafita [women from working class extraction but who think
otherwise--Trans.] who is able to trap a Yankee employed by the Grace
Corporation or the Foundation does it with the satisfaction of having
elevated her social condition."  (Imperialist viewpoint.)
Thus typifying the feminine condition in our society as serfdom of women,
the semi-feudal and semi-colonial background which is its root is
established, discarding all interpretation sustained by the supposed
"deficient feminine nature."

On this basis Mariategui goes on to the material analysis of Peruvian
women belonging to the different classes; he masterfully depicts working
women: "if the masses of youth are so cruelly exploited, proletarian
women suffer equal or worse exploitation. Up to very recently the
proletarian woman had her labor limited to domestic activities at home.
With advancing industrialization, she enters the competition in the
factory, shop, enterprise, etc. ... Thus we see her in textile factories,
cracker factories, laundries, container and cardboard box factories,
soaps, etc., where she performs the same work as the male worker, from
operating the machinery, to the most menial job, always earning 40% to
60% less than the male. At the same time that women train themselves to
do industrial jobs, they penetrate also into the activities of the
office, commercial houses, etc., always competing with men and to the
great benefit of the industrial enterprises, which get a noticeable
reduction in salaries and immediate increase in profits. In agriculture
and mining we find proletarian women in frank competition with men, and
wherever we may look we find large numbers of exploited women, rendering
their services in all sorts of activities .... In the process of our
social struggles, the proletariat has had to set forth specific demands
for their defense. Textile unions, which up to now have shown the
greatest interest in this question, though not exclusively so, have gone
on strike more than once with the object of forcing compliance with
regulations which, specified by law, the capitalists simply refuse to
implement; we have some capitalists (such as the "friend" of the worker
Mr. Tizon y Bueno) who have not hesitated to consider as an "offense" the
fact that a woman worker was pregnant, for which "offense" she has been
terminated so as to avoid complying with what the law stipulates. At the
cracker factory, the exploitation of women is vile." (Manifesto of the
General Confederation of Peruvian Workers [CGTP] to the working class of
the country. The Woman Question; a document edited under Mariategui's
leadership.)

Is this a valid description? Yes; in essence the workers' situation
remains the same: the widest exploitation in ever more branches of
industry, which in some of them is truly horrifying; the use of female
labor so as to lower salaries, based on their salaries being lower than
those paid to men; non-fulfillment of laws protecting women and hidden
anti-worker positions by the false "friend" of the proletariat. Also very
current is the need to support the achievements of the women workers.
Similarly Mariategui goes on to review the condition of indigenous
peasant women, of whom he says that together with their children they are
obligated "to render gratuitous services to the proprietors and their
families, as well as to authorities"; their miserable condition and
social placement has a root: latifundia and serfdom.

As regards the petty-bourgeoisie, besides pointing out the tribulations
of the women of this class, the analysis of primary school teachers helps
Mariategui to establish how the social mean, the nearness to the people
and their dediCapitalist civilization provided women with the means of
increasing their capacity and improving their position in life."
Therefore, what the bourgeois class does for women was set accurately:
while it is capable of providing conditions for her development, it is
incapable of emancipating her. Mariategui knew this very well: how
despite this limitation capitalism, as it develops, opens up for women
the doors to various activities, including politics, very especially so
in the 20th century, so much that it becomes a symbol of this. Developing
this statement, Mariategui himself vindicates many notable women and
points out and demonstrates the contributions many women have made to
poetry, to the novel, to the arts in general to the struggle and
politics. Thus he teaches us how to judge women of the various classes
and celebrities, pointing out their merits and shortcomings and showing
what is principal in each individual case and, what is more important,
highlighting their contributions to women's advancement.
d to the people, who are strong only if organized and therefore also to
women, who can only fight successfully when they are organized.
As a "convicted and confessed Marxist" Mariategui applied these
principles creatively. He paid very special attention to organizing the
women workers, as is seen in the proposals in the Manifesto of the CGTP
referred to above:

"All this accumulation of calamities' weighing on the exploited woman
cannot be resolved except by immediate organization. In the same way that
unions have to build their youth cadres, they must create their women's
sections, where our future women militants will be educated."
 Mariategui showed the same concern when under his guidance the statute
of the mentioned Confederation was getting ready to fovisional
Secretariat to organize socialist youth, under immediate control of the
Party.

Second. Creating a Provisional Secretariat  to organize the working
women, under the leadership and control of the Party.
Third. Both secretariats will struggle for the immediate organization of
youth of both sexes, for their political and ideological education, as a
preparatory stage for their admission to the Party" (Martinez de la
Torre, op. cit., Vol. II; our emphasis.)

Here Mariategui's thesis is materialized by the need to pay attention to
the women's organizations, even at the most advanced political levels;
and his position is expressed that the organization of women is,
ultimately, the question of organizing them under the leadership and
control of the working class and the Party. Such proposals lead us to ask
ourselves, about each women's group, organism, front or movement: For
which class, how and for what are women organized? And keep in mind that
these points can only be satisfactorily resolved, that is, for the class
and the people, by adhering ourselves to the working class positions.
These three questions: feminism, politicization of women and organization
of women, and the theses which Mariategui established must be studied and
applied consistently, since only that way can an authentic popular
feminist movement be developed.


4. The emancipation of women.

In this point too, like in the classics, Mariategui also holds that under
capitalism and industrialization "women make advances on the road to
their emancipation."  However under this system she does not even reach
full legal equality. For that reason a consistent feminist movement seeks
to go further, and on this road it necessarily has to join the struggle
of the proletariat. This understanding led the great proletarian thinker
of our country to state: "The feminist movement appears solidly
identified with the revolutionary movement;" and that although born of
liberalism, only with the revolution could feminism be fulfilled:
"Born of a liberal womb, feminism has not yet been able to operate in the
capitalist process. It is only now, when the historic path of democracy
reaches its end, that woman acquires the political and legal rights of
the male. And it was the Russian revolution which explicitly and
categorically conferred on women the equality and the liberty which for
more than a century, from Babeuf and the egalitarians of the French
Revolution, she had in vain clamored for." (Feminist Demands)
And so it is that in parallel with the construction of a new society the
new woman will be emerging who will be "substantially different from the
one formed by the now declining civilization". These new women will be
forged in the revolutionary crucible and will place the old type of woman
deformed by the old exploitative system in the back room of history, a
system which now sinks for the genuine dignifying of women.
"In the same measure as the socialist system replaces the individualist
system, feminine luxuriousness and elegance will decay... Humanity will
lose some luxurious mammals; but will gain instead many women. The
clothing of the women of the future will be less ostentatious and
expensive; but the condition of this new woman will be dignified. And the
axis of feminine life will progress from the individual to the social ...
A woman, in sum, will be less expensive but will be worth more." (Women
and Politics.)

Besides these basic ideas Mariategui takes care of other problems
intimately linked to women in particular: divorce, marriage, love, etc.;
he treats them with fine irony and takes sharply critical positions on
them. However, as a good Marxist he does not center his attention on them
until taking them as the principal issue.  To do so is to forget the
principal struggle and fundamental goal, while spreading confusion and
disorienting the revolutionary struggle.

Up to this point we have presented and exposition of the central theses
of Mariategui's thought on the women question, in which we have used
plentiful quotations for the same reasons we had when dealing with the
Marxist positions on the subject.

III. DEVELOPING THE FEMINIST MOVEMENT FOLLOWING MARIATEGUI

1. Current Relevance of Mariategui.

A conclusion is obvious from what has been said: the theses Mariategui
held on the woman question resulted from the consistent application of
Marxism-Leninism to the specific conditions in a semi-feudal and
semi-colonial society like ours. On this, generally, there is no
disagreement and even when there is no open adherence, at least by
silence an acceptance of such conclusions is shown.  However the question
is not whether Mariategui's thought was a correct application of Marxism
to the country , the central issue is: how relevant is his thought to the
present?  This is  a subject on which, while expressing an apparent
recognition of Mariategui and so as not to attack his immense and still
growing prestige, some question its current relevance by mentioning that
more than 40 years have elapsed and raising, erroneously and
treacherously, the need to take into account "the creative development of
Marxism in order to surpass it."

Analyzing this point leads us to review, if only in passing, some of the
positions that have been sustained in this country on the woman question.
Thus, the notable and contentious thinker don Manuel Gonzales Prada
handled this question in his 1904 work "Slaves of the Church," a work now
included in Hours of Struggle. There, while expressing important concepts
such as: "We can't know the people well until we have studied the social
and legal condition of women," "the moral elevation of man is measured by
the concept he has on women: for the ignorant and brutal man, the woman
is just a female; for the thinker and cultured man, she is a brain and a
heart," "Just as  we carry the family name of our father, we carry the
moral making of our mother..." " The motive force, the great propellant
of societies, does not function noisily at the plaza nor at the
revolutionary circle; it works in the home," which help to center our
attention on the importance of the woman; on the other hand, he expresses
ideas such as "The emancipation of woman, like the freedom of the slave,
is not due to Christianity but to Philosophy."  "In Protestant nations
feminine ascension is taking place so assuredly that complete
emancipation is already foreseen," "Slaves and serfs owe their personal
dignity to the efforts of noble and delicate persons, the Catholic woman
will only get emancipated by the energetic action of men" and "in the
battle of ideas no ally is more powerful than love."

Thus we see that the contribution of Gonzales Prada to the emancipation
of women overall positive.  He pointed out and denounce the oppression of
women, the important role they fulfill and the necessity to resolve the
problem and set forth the emancipation of women. Although for him the
root of the problem is Catholicism which prevails in women, he believes
that it is possible to reach emancipation under capitalism and he centers
the problem in the individual; yet his ideas overall represent, a
positive contribution, in this and other topics, in studying the problems
of women in the country.

And these ideas turn out to be more outstanding when we see nearly 30
years later Jorge Basadre proposing:  "Gregorio Maraqon demanded that the
essential role of women is love," while the essential role of men is
work... That is why little boys prefer to play with soldiers, symbol of
struggle, of effort, an urge to supremacy; while little girls prefer to
play with dolls, precociously motherly... By virtue of a command of
nature, the charm of the Creole woman, even when not a mestiza, is
different from women of other latitudes by a proper flavor like a fruit
or vegetable... While, on the other hand the highest superiority of men
is in their minds and since the American mind is still determinedly
influenced by Europe, the American glory is lost or lessened ... A
notoriously beautiful women in America can, on the other hand, raise
interest anywhere." (Peru: Problems and Possibilities, Chapter XI. Here
the position is so clearly reactionary that comments are unnecessary.)
If in Basadre the ruling classes speak to us of "feminine nature" whose
essence is love, they also in 1940 express themselves through Carlos Miro
Quesada Laos as follows:

"The role of woman in modern life is manifold. These are no longer the
times--forever gone--when work was forbidden to her. Quite the contrary.
Today woman works in diverse activities... Because she has shown she can
act as efficiently as man... She, therefore, has the duty to study, to
prepare herself for the future. And if in these chores women share the
duties with men, in others they are, and will always be, better than men.
And what happens is that woman contributes to life many things which are
innate to her. She has the hands of mother and nurse...That is femininity
which, thanks to God, they will never lose, despite the 20th century, of
wars and revolutionary theories. The word "consolation" evokes women ...
After making man, the Creator... put her at his side to be his mate, to
give stimulus and sweeten his life... First she must obey her parents,
then her teacher, later on her husband and always duty." (Three
Conferences, Lima 1941.)

With Basadre the exploiting classes postponed the work of women; with
Miro Quesada, having new requirements, they exalt and demand the work of
women. But deep down both are based on "feminine nature." But not only in
this field do these ideas appear; incorrect positions are also found in
writings and magazines which claim to be revolutionary and even Marxist;
we read in them concepts like the following:  Speaking of the "sense of
life," that they participate in "social change," will enable, we
understand it's meant women, "to undo their existential problem, since
the sense of life would then reside in the profit each individual is able
to offer her/his neighbors by way of will and effort."   Considering the
subject "Women and Society" after attempting to outline Engels' thesis on
the development of the family the following is said: "we are possessed of
the myth of the inferiority of women. And from that arises the need of
liberating women... her liberation can only occur when the socio-economic
structure changes with the development of a new society." Thus liberation
is highlighted but not its social background, which is kept ambiguous and
imprecise, ending up centered on how to regulate "the relationship
between sexes in answer to the new ideology. If the women is equal or
must be equal to man, the bases of such relationship would be:
a) To liberate the women from religious alienation...,
b) To exercise the right to choose her mate without obeying prejudices
about masculine initiative...
c) Not to understand women's liberation as a synonym for free love... and
(fortunately!)
d) The woman being equal to man, she must not remain separate from
politics by alleging her feminine condition... love, as a starting point
for a social change, should be the stimulus for     youth (men and women)
to struggle to build an egalitarian world without oppression or injustice."
And in publishing the story, "The Tomb of the Unemployed," a Christmas
story which handily spreads the "generosity of women" and the
"selfishness of men," a treacherous version of "feminine nature": "Later
on the two ghosts became silent, each with its own thoughts. The woman in
her past; the man in his future. The woman on what must be done; the man
on what needs to be done for him. One with generosity and one with
selfishness, always nailed to their foreheads, always wrestling in the
depths of their consciences." (Magazine Mujer number 1 and 2; while
having no dates they were printed in the 1960's). Evidently the ideas
contained in Mujer, despite their apparent Marxist and revolutionary
posturing, neatly reveal a bourgeois background, in no way do they
express a proletarian position on the woman question.
What does this summary show us?  The hard, cold truth that the question
is by no means the time frame when the positions are presented, nor is
the problem "to take into account the creative developments of Marxism,"
but what is central is the class position on which a proposal is based.
We have seen a position prior to Mariategui, that of Gonzalez Prada,
which despite preceding Mariategui by some 30 years entails many positive
elements; as well as a position contemporaneous with Mariategui, that of
Basadre, which is openly reactionary; finally two later positions, 30
years after Mariategui, that of Miro Quesada, which renovates some
criteria but is still reactionary, and that of the magazine Mujer, under
Marxist colors, which definitely adheres to bourgeois positions despite
it being presented to us as revolutionary  and in the service of women's
emancipation.
What is the conclusion?  As we said, the question is the class character
on which a position is based, in this case the position on the woman
question. With Mariategui, the greatest exponent of our working class,
the proletarian position  on the woman question is established. He set
the basis of the proletarian political line on this question and his
positions are completely current, on this topic as well as on others
dealing with the revolutionary politics of the proletariat in our
country. Therefore, developing a people's feminist movement demands,
today more than ever, a firm and consistent adherence to the thought of
Mariategui, starting from an acceptance of its current relevance.

2. Retaking Mariategui's Road

The struggle of Peruvian women and of proletarian women has a long
tradition, sealed with their blood, for over 50 years. Similarly,
feminist organizations are long standing; nevertheless, the process of
organizing Peruvian women began to expand in the 1960's, forecasting a
brilliant perspective, though a long and twisting one.
At present we have a multitude of organizations of varying extension and
levels, and what is more important, sprouting old seeds, we already see
signs pointing to a genuine people's  feminist movement. Today we have a
National Council of Women with fifty years of existence, nurtured by the
decrepit and obsolete theory of  "feminine nature", a "Women's Rights
Movement" upholding a feminism aimed at liberation from dependence on
men; a gamut of organizations being formed which support the current
regime for the benefit of its corporativist process, under the
orientation and control of Sinamos [State's political organization.
National System for Social Mobilization--Trans.] and under its concept of
"participation of women," part of their "fully participatory democracy,"
which obscures that the root of women's oppression is private property
and the subjugation of women that began with it; which, twisting our
history and using a lowly and "vulgar materialism" propagandizes that "in
1968 the revolutionary process began that seeks the authentic liberation
of women with political equality and active participation," concluding:
"We are the ones who must create the various forms of women's
organizations," saturated with the sly and underhanded bourgeois
feminism.  And a National People's Union of Peruvian Women, a right
opportunist organization which staged, as usual, a collaborationist
apparatus totally devoted to the service of the regime.
This increase and organizational strengthening of the masses of women
demands a serious investigation of the woman question and a class
analysis of  the organizations that exist or are being formed, so the
camps can define themselves in order to establish, as in other fields,
the two lines on the woman question: The counterrevolutionary line
commanded by imperialism and the middle bourgeois, and the revolutionary
line whose command and center is the proletariat. That will help the
organizational development of the people's feminist movement, which of
necessity requires its construction to be unleashed amidst the two-line
struggle, the expression of the class struggle and of the similar and
conflicting interests of the contending classes. And of course it must
not be forgotten that within each line there are variations and
differences in operation according to the classes grouped around each
line. From there the problem consists of establishing the two contrary
lines and, within each one the variations and nuances of the line;
establishing which position is in command of each line, and, depending on
the class each represents, gives each of the lines in struggle a
revolutionary or counterrevolutionary character.
All that's been exposed takes us therefore to the necessity of "retaking
Mariategui's road on the woman question," in order to serve the formation
and development of a PEOPLE'S FEMINIST MOVEMENT conceived as a movement
generated by the proletariat among the masses of women, with the
following characteristics:

1. Adherence to the thought of Mariategui;
2. Class conscious organization of the masses;
3. Subject to democratic centralism.

The construction of such a MOVEMENT sets forth for us two problems:

1. Ideological-political construction, which necessarily implies
providing it with Principles and Programme;
2.  Organic construction which we can serve by forming cores or groups of
activists
for carrying the Principles and Program  to the masses of women--workers,
peasants, professionals, university and secondary school students,
etc.--They would work toward the politicization of women, mobilizing them
through their struggles and organizing them to adhere to the political
struggle, in harmony with the orientation and politics of the proletariat.

To conclude this contribution to the study and understanding of the woman
question, it is  pertinent to transcribe a Declaration of Principles and
Programme which for some time has been circulating in our midst,
documents which, while emphasizing their character as ongoing projects,
can serve as a useful basis for discussion of the ideological-political
construction of the ongoing PEOPLE'S FEMINIST MOVEMENT.

Central Committee, Communist Party of Peru (PCP), 1976.

[Translation and reproduction by Peru People's Movement (MPP), 1996.]

------------------------------
Published by The New Flag
30-08 Broadway, Suite 159
Queens, NY 11106
E-Mail:nyxfer.blythe.org
http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp
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