A WORLD TO WIN    #24   (1998)

Worldwide Fundraising Campaign

In our last issue we printed a letter from the Information Bureau of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement calling on supporters to help organise the Worldwide Campaign to Raise Funds for the RIM. One of the key activities that needs to be stepped up by the world’s Maoist forces is the dissemination of revolutionary literature. Groups and individuals have picked up the gauntlet, why not you? Send in your contributions today to AWTW to support the more frequent publication of the magazine, in more languages, and to make it available in more places around the world that want and need it. Make your cheques and money orders payable to A World to Win and send them to:

A World to Win, 27 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3XX, UK.

Letters from Our Readers

The following letter is from a woman reader in Andhra Pradesh, India, reporting on conditions for women in ­India.

Dear AWTW,

Women hold up half the sky. They are half of the revolution.

The rise of the revolutionary women’s movement is breaking the shackles of women’s exploitation in the semi-feudal semi-colonial system all over the world. The sound of women’s bonds cracking is gradually reaching the ears of women in all nooks and corners of the earth. The fight against patriarchy and its manifestations like sexual atrocities, racial and gender discrimination, caste discrimination, dowry murder, eve-teasing, etc., has been on the rise in the recent past. It has become an integral part of the mainstream revolutionary movement, which is fighting against the base of this economic exploitative system.

The revolutionary movement placed the fundamental issues of women’s economic and sexual exploitation on the revolutionary agenda. The exploiting class used patriarchy to treat half the working force, i.e. women, as cheap labour. They also exploit working women for their sexual needs. They try to use gender to divide working class men and women to rule them. This is a universal phenomenon.

Struggle has been going on since the early 20th century against every form of the exploitation of women. After a period of random struggle, now is the era of the women’s movements. It is so in Peru. It is so in Germany, in the Philippines, in Sri Lanka, in Kashmir, Nepal, and elsewhere. And so it is in India. While the imperialist countries try to lure the masses with mere economic and welfare programs using funded voluntary organisations, like in any developing country the revolutionary movement in India is developing in its own way and with a clear perspective. It influences the masses of women more and more and brings them onto the path of revolution, and thus of liberation.This letter tries to explain the process in which the revolutionary women’s movement in India took a clear shape….

Women in the Telengana­armed struggle

The Telengana armed struggle in the 1940s in the state of Andhra Pradesh was a turning point in the history of the revolutionary women’s movement in India. Women fought valiantly in this struggle. Poor landless agricultural labourers occupied 10 lakhs [1 lakh = 100,000] of land in this struggle against the feudal landlord system. Forty percent of the land was owned by the landlords and their kin. The people were burdened with taxes. There were no education or medical facilities. Total literacy was 8.5 percent, and for women only 1.5 percent. Women of the poorer castes were slaves in the house of the landlord. Every girl had to go to the landlord immediately after attaining puberty. But the masses rebelled, and women like Ilamma, Narsamma, Chilakamma, and others led the masses heroically under the guidance of the Communist Party of India. They organised shelter for activists, and other dangerous tasks. They worked as members of the armed squads in the forest areas. The village committees formed during this movement made demands, like the right for women to own property equally with their brothers, a ban on marriages for women under 18, special facilities for women’s education, leave for pregnancy, an end to restrictions on women’s employment, equal wages, and others. Women laid down their lives in this struggle.

More struggles after the ­ “transfer of power”

15 August 1947, celebrated as the date of Indian independence, was merely a transfer of power from the British to the India comprador ruling class. Still today there is no real independence. Economic exploitation and cultural degeneration increased. Patriarchy was firmly upheld by the rulers. Due to economic crisis in India, women had to bear new burdens. They had to give birth to more and more children to increase the available labour power, while, on the other side, infant mortality rates increased.

The semi-colonial system needed human labour. So it also encouraged women to get into education. But they were confined to the jobs of nurses and teachers, merely a continuation of the role of women in the feudal patriarchal system. Even today the majority of people in India are in villages. With feudalism intact, exploitation gave rise to further rebellion.

Naxalbari: Spring Thunder

The Naxalbari armed revolt in 1967 in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal came like spring thunder to the Indian revolution. The tribals fought against the plunder of the land-owning Jotedars. Peasants surrounded a plot of land in the Naxalbari region, marked the boundaries with red flags, and began harvesting the crop. A peasant conference called for ending monopoly ownership of land by the landlords and re-distributing it through peasant committees, as well as organising and arming peasants to resist the landlords and reactionaries.

This was a new understanding that gave Naxalbari a historical place in the Indian revolution. During two months, 60 incidents of land occupation and crop harvesting took place. Land owning and money lending records of the landlords were burned. Up to 20,000 peasants enrolled as full-time activists in the Kisam Sabha. Police coming to arrest the activists met with stiff resistance from the villagers. Later paramilitary forces were deployed and the revolt was suppressed. But for a short while, the open violent revolt shocked the ruling class. A deeper study of the participation of women remains to be made, but they were highly active in this revolt….

Women in the working-class movement

Industrialisation in India was and is only in the economic interests of the imperialist countries. Now multinational companies are even openly investing in India. Nonetheless, although industrialisation has created a section of women workers, they only represent 7.5 percent of India’s working women. Most of them are in the unorganised sector….

In the last period, the random struggles of women have gradually moulded into the path of liberation, with a clear perspective. “Land to the tiller” has become the slogan of the hour. Another slogan of the struggle is the right to the forest of the tribals….

In the forest area of Dandakaranya, which is full of natural resources, women in the unorganised sector who are up against the capitalist and feudalist system, began to organise. This started with the fight for higher wages for Tendu leaf plucking. Revolutionary armed squads are now in the area, and peasant organisations have been formed, as well as a tribal women’s organisation, with membership now in the thousands. It is taking up all sorts of women’s issues. The struggles have involved many back and forth battles with the police. Most of the Tendu leaf workers are women. Now religious practices that stand in the way of women’s work in production and their individual development are coming to be questioned. For example,  women have had no choice in se  ø their life partner. If a man gra  Ð a woman and takes her to his he is forced to become his wife. Ø(y is a normal feature. Women are  P owed to wear jackets after   ( iage. These practices have now b   change, as women are organised   Ø into revolutionary struggle agai ° India rulers and the imperialistIn

In Andhra Pradesh, in North Telengana, the forest movement has developed, and women are participating in the struggle for wages, for the decrease in the rate of liquor, and for the right to land. In the massive upsurge in recent years, around 1,000 activists have been killed in encou’ers with the police. Due to ts organisations are being ’s organisations are being organised secretly.

The following are objectives of the women’s struggle: women must be emancipated from household work. They must become part of social production. Their labour must be recognised. Marriages must be by free choice. A new family based on love, respect, freedom and equality must be formed. Women must be educated and brought into political leadership. Women must be given the right to instruments of production. They must have equal right to hold property. Household work, kitchen work, and child care must be socialised. Overall, women must be part of the new democratic revolution. Communism alone will give total liberation to women.

Women resist the new economic policies

After the General Agreement for Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and the introduction of “liberalisation policies” by the government of India, women began to be marginalised. Privatisation and cuts in subsidies to health and education affected women directly. They were the first to lose the right to study and to employment. Women workers were re-trenched from public sector companies, which were declared to be sick. The sharp resistance to the Miss World Beauty contest in November 1996 in Bangalore, the centre of the multinationals in India, is a symbol of the consciousness of women. The fact that an Indian contestant was chosen Miss World in 1997 shows that the imperialist plunder of India will increase. They want Indian models to sell their goods. Women are resisting, exposing the interests behind the encouragement of fashion modelling, beauty contests and parlours, etc. They are also determined to expose the funded organisations that act as imperialist agents and mislead the masses.

Another major hurdle to the organising of women is Hindu culture.

The Hindu dharmasastras have been very successful in injecting feudalism into the brains of the exploited. By means of caste, gender and the dalits, women are held at the mercy of the rich. Women’s organisations are gradually educating women about the negative attitude of religion toward the development of women. They also feel that the Muslim and Christian women must be brought out of their confined lives. As a minority in a Hindu state, Muslim women are more deprived of their rights and are suppressed. Christianity has become an instrument of imperialist propaganda. The issues of the dalit women, who are exploited by both caste and gender, are also been taken up.

Women as maid servants to the middle and upper classes, those who have migrated to different countries, women who are victims of sexual atrocities, and others, are being identified as new victims in the era of the “New Economic Policies”, i.e., the era of imperialism. All these sections of women must be brought together and put on the path of revolution.