Women & Revolution!

root - Posted on 08 March 2009

by Catherine Limcaco/POOR Magazine Race, Poverty and Media Justice Intern

Women & revolution are alive & inseparable." In her opening keynote address, celebrated poet and unionist Nellie Wong put it bluntly: "This weekend, we continue the fight for women's liberation because it's as necessary as breathing. The revolution is ours to make. It is our greatest duty. It is our greatest joy." Such sentiments permeated the high-energy event. As one young Chicana noted, "Thunderous applauses, tears of pride and cheers of laughter empowered and emboldened those who came to build the revolutionary feminist movement."

Participants traveled from far and near to attend Radical Women's 41st anniversary conference, The Persistent Power of Socialist Feminism. The landmark Women's Building was a tapestry of ethnicities and colors, feminists born in the United States and many other places, such as Somalia, Iran, Puerto Rico, China, South and Central America, and Spain.Convened in the midst of the imploding U.S. economic crisis, the four-day conference of keynotes and policy resolutions, panels and workshops, sparked intense discussion. The result are concrete action plans to strengthen women's leadership in the social movements, to build united fronts with other committed activists, and to foster solidarity among working people at home and abroad. Merle Woo, one of the volunteers on behalf of Radical Women says , "In these times of economic meltdown, the rise in ranks of economically-distressed workers, the unemployed and homeless, the Radical Women Conference was a true antidote to all these ills, because our goal is to build a grassroots socialist feminist movement that is independent of the Democrats and Republicans and which will truly represent us, the majority, in theory and action."

One pivotal resolution was for a U.S. feminist movement independent of the twin parties of war and reaction. The author, Oregonian mom and bi-lingual teacher Laura Mannen, provided concrete advice on how women can organize independently of the two major parties. "On the job where we are already reviving union power," said Mannen. In coalitions where an army of grassroots women organizes in every community and social movement. In the anti-war movement, pressing it to include youth, women, people of color, queers, socialists, anarchists, pacifists, GIs, veterans and unionists in the crucial war against U.S. militarization. The point, she stressed, is to work together, not separately.

Other movements for immigrants, people of color and queer rights we're spotlighted at this conference. Seattle Radical Women president, Christina López, motivated Estamos en la lucha: Immigrant women light the fires of resistance, the second major policy resolution of the conference. A Chicana-Apache, López exposed the harsh impact of U.S. immigration policies on women and children and heralded the leadership of migrant women fighting for the right to survive around the world. Radical Women members voted unanimously to step up defense of immigrants and to send López on a national speaking tour to address these critical issues.

A panel of Asian American, Black and Chicana/Latina members spoke on "The galvanizing impact of multiracial organizing in a society divided by racism." From its founding in 1967, emphasized Emily Woo Yamasaki, New York City president of Radical Women, the group has fiercely defended its fundamental political position that there can be no revolutionary change without the leadership of women of color. How to teach and practice this made for riveting discussion.

Queer activists at the conference, eager to address issues beyond same-sex marriage, want to combine their issues with the struggle for immigrant rights. The conference pledged to help a guest from Arizona, one who is integrating these struggles in her community. The group also agreed to highlight transgender rights and organize to support the New Jersey Four — Black lesbians being prosecuted for defending themselves.

Moving into action. The conference concluded with National Organizer Anne Slater's report and proposals, Rising to the challenge of socialist feminism in a neoliberal world. Radical Women members affirmed plans outlined by Slater, including the need to maintain a strong national organization and build chapters. The group decided to canvass door-to-door in workingclass neighborhoods to see what issues are of interest to women in local communities, and then organize campaigns around those topics. Furthermore, it was agreed to send resolutions of support and solidarity to political prisoners including the San Francisco 8, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Marilyn Buck, and Leonard Peltier in the United States, Lori Berenson in Peru and Lex Wotton in Australia.

At the end of the four-day conference, it was clear that socialist feminism is alive and thriving. Linking arms across age, race, gender and sexual orientation lines — attendees went forth fortified with the ideas and practical knowledge needed to build a stronger, independent women's movement. Woo believes breaking these racial barriers was one of the highligts. So what's next? Woo says, "A lot needs to be done to implement some power in youth and start crossing generational lines. The youth are the ones who will be left to carry the movement."


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