The First Conference for a Proletarian Feminist Movement was held on November 30 and December 1 in Montréal, with activists from various regions of Québec and Ontario. The main objective of the event was to initiate a movement across the country to support proletarian feminism.
Throughout the weekend, the participants discussed the content of a Manifesto that will be the basis of unity for the establishment of various groups of women workers and unemployed in different cities, neighbourhoods or institutions. At the end of the event, the participants agreed to establish local chapters in Québec, Ottawa, Toronto and Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, in addition to the existing one in Montréal.
Montréal’s Revolutionary & Proletarian Feminist Front initiated the meeting, along with activists from the Revolutionary Communist Party. One of the organizers explained: “Our objective was to unite around clear principles that will serve as a basis to create new groups; this was the aim of the Manifesto. Our unity in the struggle, as well as in our demands, is based on the needs and aspirations of women, especially those of the most exploited among them and not those from more privileged strata. This is why we define our movement as proletarian. Proletarian women are those who live entirely from the sale of their labour power in exchange for a wage. Fighting oppression of all kinds (racism, gender discrimination) and against all forms of sexual exploitation are also among our principles.”
Another founding principle of the Manifesto is that all these struggles for immediate demands must necessarily be linked to the global struggle against capitalism and that proletarian women must engage in this fight: “The society that will end any discrimination like the one we are fighting for can not be based on the exploitation of women and men, as is the case under capitalism, which makes our bodies and our labour mere commodities to the profit of a few of wealthy people. If we want an end to inequality and exploitation, we will have to destroy the old social relations and build a totally different society.”
Participants also discussed the type of activities that the proletarian feminist groups should organize. Among them, the groups will promote the participation of women in the anti-capitalist political organizations that defend their class interests. As highlighted in the Manifesto: “These groups will be places for education, organization and struggle. We want to build unity with men who share the same political goals, while banishing at the same time sexism and sexist conducts in our ranks. This dual struggle is necessary and will remain necessary until we completely transform the existing society.”
Apart from a presentation from a union activist from Bangladesh (see page 2), comrades from Toronto’s Proletarian Revolutionary Action Committee led a workshop on the different currents that passed through the feminist movement of the last 50 years. Based on the extensive analysis conducted by Indian activist Anuradha Ghandy, this historical overview allowed the participants to better understand how proletarian feminism is related with the present development of imperialism.
A comrade from Montréal’s Proletarian Feminist Front then introduced a very interesting discussion about the various currents around the fight against sexual exploitation and particularly against female trafficking and prostitution. Sensitive to the desire to include sexually exploited women in the proletarian feminist project, participants discussed at length the meaning of the words “sex industry” and “sex workers” that tend to negate the specificity of exploitation found in these activities. Beyond the exploitation of labour, which can be compared to the one in any other sector under capitalism, prostitution does not only use the labour of women, but also their own body, also used as a commodity for rent. This use of women’s bodies as commodities must be fought. For the participants at the conference, the women engaged in prostitution are sexually exploited proletarians and we must stand with them to end all aspects of their exploitation.
Finally, a comrade from the Women of Diverse Origins collective, which used to organise the annual March 8 demonstration for several years in Montréal, shared the history of this group that involves various groups of migrant women and other groups like Montréal’s Proletarian Feminist Front. Both groups will continue to collaborate for organizing the March 8, 2014 demo.
The organization of proletarian feminist contingents for the upcoming International Women’s Day is also part of the action plan adopted at the conference, which also included the following (in addition to the adoption of the Manifesto):
- Creation of proletarian feminist groups in Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa, Québec City and Valleyfield;
- Organization of public launches of the Manifesto in these cities from January until March;
- Launching of a monthly newsletter;
- Organizing of a second conference of the Proletarian Feminist Movement around June 2014.
Even if there is a lot of work to be done to mobilize women workers in the weeks and months to come, those who attended the first conference were enthusiastic and thrilled by the idea of meeting again with more people in six months or so.
The dates of the various public launches of the Manifesto will be communicated soon. Meanwhile, those who want more information or to get In touch can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org