Women in Arms (Part 1)

Luis Quispe lquispe at blythe.org
Mon Feb 26 23:17:19 MST 1996


   THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE POPULAR WOMEN'S MOVEMENT IN PERU

In 1964, an handful of female workers and university students (mostly from
peasant origins) set up, under the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru
(the PCP), the women's section of the Students' Revolutionary Front (the FER -
"Frente Estudiantil Revolucionario").

Most of them were from Ayacucho, 400 kms Southwest of Lima high in the Andes,
and in their declaration they began by drawing a clear line of demarcation
vis-a-vis the pseudo "feminist" positions propagated by reactionaries among
the petit bourgeoisie.  Their stated aim was to "retake Mariagegui's road" and
to forge the women's contribution for the revolutionary road.

Few seriously believed that this undertaking of the Communists would bear
fruit.  The revisionists who in past years had supported the brief ventures
into "foquismo" tactics-ie. those following the model of Che Guevara, such as
Luis de La Puente Uceda, considered the newly-established women's movement of
the FER as a short-lived initiative which would burn itself out rapidly
enough.  The would-be emulators of Che filtered out any sign of life of a real
women's movement from their ranks, demonstrating their scepticism in the
fighting power of women.

Four years later, in l968, the women's movement of Ayacucho made a public
declaration of their principles and plan of action.  They upheld Lenin's
thesis dealing with women's participation in the revolution, namely that "the
success of the revolution depends on the degree of women's involvement."  At
the same time, a programme was being implemented as part of a central
objective to educate, involve and organise female workers and peasants.

In 1973, during the Velasco fascist dictatorship, the Popular Women's Movement
( the MFP - Movimiento Femenino Popular) was founded. It was "an organization
generated by the proletariat among the ranks of women and as an organism
featuring three characteristics- adherence to the ideology of Mariategui,
being an organisation of the masses, and guiding itself by democratic
centralism.

Thereafter, the majority of the MFP members, including its leadeship, went on
to unfold their actions principally in the rural areas to spread the ideology
of the proletariat and to enlighten the female peasants on the importance of
women's participation in the revolutionary process.

In 1975 the MFP took up the task of expanding to a national level.  To achieve
this the MFP would merge with the masses in its class struggle, especially
with the female workers and peasants, developing a protracted and hard working
task.

In January of that year, the MFP staged its first national conference for co-
ordination, outlinig its plans for the immediate future.  Soon after the
meeting, which had brought together leaders from all over the country, a
manifesto was published its slogan and title was "Marching Under the Banner of
Mariategui, Let's Develop the Popular Women's Movement".  The document
recommended, among other things, "contant adherence to the line of Mariategui"
and quoted two of his thesis concerning the role of women.

The first reads as follows:  "Feminism in Peru did not appear artificially and
out of nowhere.  It has appeared as a consequence of the new roles of women as
intellectuals and manual workers.  The genuine feminist women are those who
work and those who study."

The second quotation read:  "The class struggle - as historical reality rather
than as a theoretical exercise - is reflected at the level of feminism.
Women, as well as men, are just as likely to be reactionaries, or centrists,
or revolutionaries.  Therefore women cannot fight together in the same battle.
In today's humanity, class rather than gender differentiates individuals
more."

The MFP's manifesto from its national conference unified all women's
organisations upholding the class line and in favour of fully retaking the
road of Mariategui and this manifesto appeared at a moment in which at the
national and the international level the emancipation of women had become a
field of contention of ever growing significance between the people and its
enemies.

This national event was seen by its organisers as "one more step on the road
to the politicisation, mobilisation and organisation of the Peruvian woman"
begun in 1964.  From this conference arose the National Coordinating
Committee, taking upon itself the elaboration of the manifesto and its
positions, conclusions and tasks.

In synthesis, the movement was organise under the guidance of two basic
principles:  the principle of political-ideological build-up as the
cornerstone and the principle of organisational build-up.  As a first step
organising the National Coordinating Committee with the fundamental political
objective of encouraging women to go into the process of production,
familiarising them with trade union experience and getting them acquainted
with the Party of the proletariat, the Communist Party of Peru.

For the ideological-political work a line of action was laid down:  "It is
imperative for working women to become conscious of their situation of double
exploitation.  In the first instance exploited as part of the proletariat, a
slave subjected to the yoke of capital.  Secondly, as the victim of ferocious
social, ideological and political oppression enforced by imperialism, the
bourgeoisie and the remnants of the feudal system, which in her condition as a
woman weigh heavier upon her."

In 1978, the MFP's roots had spread widely throughout the countryside and in
townships.  As they prepared themselves for definition in taking up the road
to the initiation of the people's war, they drew a clear cut and final
demarcation vis-a-vis all feminist non-proletarian positions.

Reiterating the thesis of Mariategui concerning feminism, the MFP pointed out:

"Three fundamental currents, three basic hues can be distinguished within
feminist -bougeoise feminism, petit-bougeois feminism, and proletarian
feminism.  Proletarian women totally infuse and merge their feminism with the
faith of the revolutionary masses in the society of the future".

One year later, as preparations for the ILA (The Initiation for the Armed
Struggle) got under way, the MFP's standpoint becomes more solid centering
itself more closely on the cornerstone of party unity (Gonzalo Thought).
Within the torrent of revolution storming down the Peruvian Andes - with a
totally reconstituted Communist Party of Peru and with a new leadership of
recognised authority among the maoist force equiped with concrete and definite
plans for "initiating the armed struggle from the countrysides into the
cities."  the MFP, as a united organism generated by the revolution, has
clearly defined its position.

Another of their documents, quoting Chaiurman Mao points out:

"In the semi-feudal and semi-colonial societies, the woman is subject to
fourfold oppression -political oppression, clan oppression, religious and
marital oppression."

Further on, and to illustrate the importance of the participation of peasant
women in the people's war, they quote Mao' saying that "since the peasantry is
the main force of the revolution, peasant women play a vital role in the
struggle of the women's movement.

               COMPANERA COMBATIENTE
               (Woman Comrade In Arms)

Companera                                  You build a world
Scaling the heights                        Where misery
Piercing the mountains                     And exploitation
Fighting with determination                Are unknown.
On with the People's war!
                                           Woman,
Not pain                                   You fight for your hunger
Nor cold                                   freedom,
Can ben you                                your eyes of fire
                                           reflect the steel
                                           of the party's forge
                                           the invincible light
Forward you march                          of Eyes straight ahead
Your faith is unshakeable
In your goal.                                   President
                                                Gonzalo.

=========================
Published by The New Flag
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