Communist Party Women’s Department C.C. member Anna Damon decries the low level of women’s recruitment, particularly Black women and factory workers, into the Communist Party and suggest some reasons for it, and some suggestions for overcoming it.
‘Recruiting Women into the Party’ by Anna Damon from the Daily Worker. Vol. 9 No. 23. January 27, 1932.
WHILE improvement in our general work among women can be recorded the basic task of shop work among women remains totally neglected.
The Party registration recently carried through shows glaringly our main weaknesses with regard to the social composition of women members in the Party.
The total number of women in the Party so far registered is 1554, which is 19 1/2 Per cent of our total membership. Out of this number only 814 are wage earners. The remainder, 740, are housewives.
The Districts where the wage earning women are distributed is also very limited. New York has 682, about 41 per cent. All the other districts combined have the remainder of 872, or 59 per cent.
In the industrial districts chosen for concentration by the Central Committee, we have hardly a hand-full of industrial women. Within the last months no change to any great extent can be recorded in the districts. We want to take as an example two districts of outstanding importance—Detroit and Cleveland. (A similar situation can be found in most districts with the exception of New York.)
FAIL TO PENETRATE FACTORIES.
Detroit district has a total women membership of 77. Out of these only 12 are recorded as wage earners. This category includes school teachers, welfare workers, office workers and waitresses. Practically none work in basic factories concentrated upon by the district and the central committee.
When we compare this insignificant number of women in the Party with the total number of wage earning women in Michigan State (360,701, out of which 82,329 are directly engaged in manufacturing and chemical industries according to 1930 U. S. Census report), we can readily see the failure of the district in penetrating the large shops where women are employed; and we see the tremendous task facing the District to recruit industrial women into the Party.
FEW NEGRO WOMEN IN THE PARTY.
Or let us take the Cleveland district. Here we have had more or less of a functioning Women’s Department for the past year. The Department has initiated a number of successful unemployment struggles and demonstrations, involving thousands of women. At the present time there are in Cleveland over a thousand women organized in Unemployed Block Committees and branches, and are the most active section in the struggles of the unemployed. However, how does this reflect itself on the Party membership? There are only 78 women in the entire Cleveland district—out of which 30 are wage earning women. Very few of these are Negro women or women working in basic industries.
WHY SUCH A SITUATION?
Is it enough to dismiss the shortcoming of no shop work among women as some of our women’s work organizers do by a general statement. “Well, the whole Party isn’t doing much work in the shops. How do you expect the women to do it?’’ We think it not quite so. Our women comrade organizers should examine rather than cover up the failure in our shop work in the spirit of Bolshevik self-criticism and overcome it.
This holds good for the Women’s Department C. C. as well as for the District Departments.
Why was it that in spite of the numerous instructions that went out from the Center, the representative of the Women’s Department C. C., Comrade Rogers in a 9 weeks tour covering 4 basic districts, did not succeed in holding one single meeting with a group of shop workers, Party members and sympathizers, and thus laying a real foundation for delegate meetings from among the factory workers. More than this, why was it that not a single factory gate meeting was held which could have been addressed by Comrade Rogers during her tour.
Why was it that not one single shop nuclei in any of the districts where large numbers of women work, and where no beginnings to date have been made with work among the women, called Comrade Rogers to any of the meetings to discuss with her how to carry on work among women. We must state very definitely that the orientation for work among women is still among the housewives and contrary to the decisions of the 13th Plenum of our Party.
ORIENTATE TOWARDS THE SHOPS.
We cannot at the present period of sharpening class struggles be satisfied with good meetings of Mothers’ Leagues, Women’s Councils, Women’s Clubs of Housewives, etc. Such meetings are necessary and should be held, but they must not become the central activities. Once and for all, the districts must make a real turn in our work among women away from the housewives and towards the factory and unemployed women workers.
One of the main reasons for not recruiting more industrial and Negro women into the Party and into the TUUL is due to the fact that these women do not yet see in the Party and in the TUUL the form of organization which deals with concretely and fights for the special problems of women, in addition to the general working class problems. In other words, our Party and the TUUL have not yet formulated special slogans and demands for industrial and unemployed working women, nor have we developed delegate meetings, the form of organization which could attract women from the factories and which would develop them politically to join the Party.
Our present slogans and demands for women in factories and among unemployed are merely agitational and abstract in form. At times they do not get beyond the appeals in our Party circulars, the Working Woman, and on few occasions the Daily Worker.
The special women’s demands, by far too few, and insufficiently concrete from the Central Committee, have not been utilized by the districts nor have they been concretized and made fighting demands for improving the conditions of the industrial and unemployed working women.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
In order to overcome the present criminal neglect of our shop work among women, the entire Party must be mobilized for this work. The District Committees must assume full political and organizational responsibilities for developing work among Negro and unemployed working women. This must be one of the major tasks in connection with International Women’s Day campaign and the recruitment drive.
Let us carry through in practice the teachings of Comrade Lenin: ‘‘The Communist Women’s movement itself must be a mass movement, part of the general mass movement, not only of the proletariat, but of all the exploited and oppressed, of the victims of capitalism. We must win over on our side the millions of toiling women in towns and villages—win them for our struggle and in particular for the Communist transformation of society. There can be no mass movement without women.”
The Party must become conscious of the rapidly increasing radicalization and militancy of the Negro and white working class women. The Party must learn how to win these categories of workers for the Party and the TUUL. The entire Party, especially the shop nuclei and trade unions must be mobilized for this task.
The Districts plan of work for I. W. D. should have as the central task work among Industrial women in the shops and among the unemployed. Our work should not be merely meetings from the outside of the factories but provide for informal meetings in private homes with our present shop contacts.
Let us discuss with them their daily problems in the factories. Advise them and lead them in their struggles against increased misery and exploitation. It is only through direct knowledge and participation in their struggles that we can gain the confidence of the working women. Let us prove to them, through deeds that the Communist Party is their class political Party. This cannot be accomplished only through distribution of leaflets, mass meetings and demonstrations. We must begin patient, systematic, well planned legal and semi-legal work In and around the factories.
Let the district department for women make a beginning in the recruitment drive to orientate the work among women toward the factory workers. Let us carry through in our daily work the fine paper plans of work.
Double the number of industrial women in the Party!
Triple the number of Negro women by March 8th!
The Daily Worker began in 1924 and was published in New York City by the Communist Party US and its predecessor organizations. Among the most long-lasting and important left publications in US history, it had a circulation of 35,000 at its peak. The Daily Worker came from The Ohio Socialist, published by the Left Wing-dominated Socialist Party of Ohio in Cleveland from 1917 to November 1919, when it became became The Toiler, paper of the Communist Labor Party. In December 1921 the above-ground Workers Party of America merged the Toiler with the paper Workers Council to found The Worker, which became The Daily Worker beginning January 13, 1924.
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