The Woman Question: Reply to Melvin

Sherry & Stan Goff sherrynstan at
Thu Apr 25 04:22:53 MDT 2002

> My standpoint is not limited to the relationship between men and women but
> proceed from the logic of the fight to free labor from its status as a
> commodity, i.e., proletarian revolution. As a class, there is nothing more
> immediate to the proletarians who are women than survival or selling their
> labor power or they would not have to work. I deny no issue peculiar to
> women.
> The Women Question is resolvable in history on the basis of the
> social revolution and the emancipation of the status of labor from that of
> commodity. I have stated no more than this.

I have been working very closely with a union here that is predominantly
Black and predominantly women, UE 150.  Both in the workplace and at home,
the experience these women describe is one of class exploitation and sexual
oppression, often in the same moment.  If anyone were to suggest to them
that they must complete the proletarian revolution in order to then fight
sexual oppression, that suggestion would be met with a very strong and
negative response.  This points to the fundamental flaw in the "line of
march"/"aim the main blow" concept of organizing.  [This linear style of
thinking is very male, by the way.] We will not win these women workers to
socialist consciousness by persuading them of the logic of a detached
schema.  They are won over to that consciousness a victory at a time, when
those victories are a result of fighting, for example, sexual harassment by
bosses [and other workers!] in the workplace, and when those struggles do
three things; win concrete improvements in their lives, give them a sense of
their own power through the development of their leadership, and alter the
relations of power. People learn IN the struggle.  The so-called "woman
question" (and we need to ask why there is no "man question") will not wait
for the proletarian revolution, even though we know that alienation and
exploitation of ALL workers is ultimately resolvable only through that
crucible, because women themselves are conscious right now of sexual
oppression, and once conscious, will not be told to wait.  If a man and a
woman are both walking to a meeting of their local marxist organization in
the evening, that man is preoccupied with the meeting, while that woman must
be preoccupied with the more immediate fear that she might be sexually
assaulted, an issue that men do not have to deal with except perhaps in

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