1970 Militant Women’s Call to Action

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A Berlin women’s group issues a call to arms in Agit 883, refering to Solanas, Mao and Castro

 

In the chapter Militant Women, I refer to the following appeal by the Women’s Liberation Front in the newspaper Agit 883 no. 56 of April 16, 1970. Here is an abridged version of the document itself.

It begins with a Mao quote from 1927:

[Men are] usually subjected to the domination of three systems of authority (political authority, family authority and religious authority). As for women, in addition to being dominated by these three systems of authority, they are also dominated by the men (the authority of the husband). These four authorities are the embodiment of the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system and are the four thick ropes binding the … people… [For women] the opportunity has come for them to lift up their heads, and the authority of the husband is getting shakier every day. In a word, the whole feudal-patriarchal ideology and system is tottering…

 

883-frauenfront

Excerpt from the Women’s Liberation Front’s two-page spread in Agit 883 no. 56 for April 16, 1970.
Agit 883 is available in digital form here: http://www.agit883.infopartisan.net/

 

The appeal continues:

We [the Women’s Liberation Front] already knew a year and a half ago that the SDS [Socialist German Students’ League] was on its last legs—just think of the eggs and tomatoes of September ‘68 in Frankfurt. We never recognized the repugnant separation between politics and private life. For that reason, our first step into politics was a practical one. We founded the first preschools and after-school centers. We were the first to see to see the lousy situation of teenagers in the children’s homes, and we began working to change it.

We are constricted in every step we take. We have long recognized that we can achieve nothing alone. That is why we founded the Action Council [for the Liberation of Women]. And our first slogan was WOMEN TOGETHER ARE STRONG. As a bourgeois women’s association, the Action Council was doomed to fail, which is why we founded the Women’s Liberation Front; that is, because we ourselves are oppressed, we are always on the side of the oppressed.

WE FIGHT BECAUSE WE MUST, NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE READ MARX.

We fight against hierarchy, against the domination of human beings by other human beings. This struggle is possible only for us women, because even the most oppressed proletarian remains an oppressor to his wife and children or to any girl on the street… Other [female] comrades grow hardened in the attempt to assert themselves over men by accumulating knowledge alone, and in their intellectual battles forget that in the interest of the revolution they, in particular, should have the duty of preventing damaged [male] comrades from beating each other to death with their theories. But there are also women with a healthy self-confidence who want to do something together. Where is this gang of women? What’s up with you? If you’re up to it, you’ve got to do it…

Many women brag that they’ve jumped on a party bandwagon without noticing that the old jalopy needs to be electrified before it can set off. They have chosen security over struggle.

 

Immediate action

Under the motto “WITH THE PARTY OR WITHOUT THE PARTY: THE REVOLUTION CAN’T WAIT” the appeal calls for immediate actions, since

[we must see] that the armed struggle accelerates and advances the mass movement. And we do not have the example of Cuba alone. Think of the example of the mass party in China, which was created during the armed struggle. In other words, the strict formula ‘First the party, and only then the revolution’ that some theorists propose has too many historical exceptions to serve as an example. ‘At the current juncture in history nobody can argue with the principle that an armed group, no matter how small, has greater opportunities to transform itself successfully into a large people’s army than a group that limits itself to adopting revolutionary positions…’ (From a Tupamaro document and a speech by Fidel Castro)

 

Then they list the fields of action:

For us this means that it cannot be our sole task to pick apart the theoretical proliferation in 100-page resolutions by composing 150-page resolutions…, instead we need

  • to support the struggle where women have begun to fight and stand up for their interests and organize it well (e.g. Eichenhof).[iii]

  • to advance neighborhood and workplace organization through direct actions and training. At the same time, we must combat male violence/domination in the political groups together with other activist women.

  • to actively support solidarity with the liberation struggle of women in the Third World by constantly improving the equipment, training and education of the Women’s Liberation Front and bolstering its fighting strength with successful actions…. The Women’s Liberation Front will plan and execute actions in close cooperation with comrades in the various basic areas and build up cells throughout the city. It will emerge silently from the darkness, strike, and disappear again…

 

Guiding principles

Finally, the guiding principles expressed in the parlance of the time:

The foremost principles are:

To fight only in the interest of the masses.

To undertake nothing without first closely studying the current situation.

Not to jeopardize fellow activists unnecessarily.

To advance the revolutionary situation through successful actions.

To exercise discipline in observing safety conditions.

To liquidate traitors.

To combat arrogance, selfishness, dogmatism, narrow-mindedness and complacency.

To exercise criticism and self-criticism and solidarity.

To engage in permanent theoretical and practical training.

To attack male violence wherever it appears by all available means.

REVOLUTION UNTIL VICTORY.

FIGHTING MALE VIOLENCE MEANS

SERVING THE PEOPLE.

Women’s Liberation Front.

 

Women’s response to attacks

Two weeks later, these women spoke out again in Agit 883,[iv] clearly in response to attacks:

Many people brazenly claim that we just want to fight men, but they’re wrong. Think about it: The problem of the additional oppression of women has totally gone by the board this past year, ever since the whole organizational thing came up. The Action Council has languished, and only a few small women’s groups are muddling along, constantly mulling over how to organize, and doing nothing.

None of what we aimed to achieve in the Action Council has entered into individual conduct and practice. The women are still competing with each other. We used to dress up to please our men, and now we dress ourselves in theories.

 

The collage of newspaper clippings (see the page from Agit 883 no. 56, April 16, 1970) documents where women drew their political inspiration that year: one hundred “Mad Minas” had occupied the Dutch parliament with their kids, demanding higher kindergarten subsidies and threatening to incite every mother in the country to vote against the parties that rejected their demands at the next election. Thereupon nearly all the parties agreed to this demand.[vi] They also found Eldridge Cleaver’s speech at Stanford University[vii] worth mentioning, in which he especially addressed “the ladies” in the audience:

You have the power to bring a squeaking halt to a lot of things that are going on, and we call that pussy power. We say that political power, revolutionary power grows out of the lips of a pussy… You look at these males who call themselves men, and tell them that they’re going to have to become part of the solution or don’t call you up on the telephone any more.

 

The text was adorned with little pictures: Daisy Duck bashing Donald over the head with a truncheon and the Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver looking sharp in boots, Afro and sunglasses—and wielding a rifle.

 

[i] Agit 883 is available in digital form here: http://www.agit883.infopartisan.net/

[iii] A juvenile home in Berlin.

[iv] Agit 883 no. 58 (Berlin, 1970), p. 8.

[v] Cf. the chapter 68er Movement Splits.

[vi] Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, April 24, 1970.

[vii] Translator’s note: The German translation of this quote sited in Agit 883 is highly sanitized and speaks merely of the “power of sex” and the “womb of a woman.” Eldridge Cleaver, speech of October 1, 1968, in Cleaver, Post-Prison Writings and Speeches (New York, 1969), p. 143. Cleaver was the author of the 1967 Soul on Ice, and a leading Black Panther intellectual and spokesman.

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