International Theoretical Seminar : Introductory speech by the Kurdish Women’s Movement

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Introductory speech by the Kurdish Women’s Movement

International Theoretical Seminar on Women’s Liberation

2-4 December 2018 – Bangalore

Dear women, dear comrades, dear sisters,

We are honoured to be in the presence of such revolutionary, struggling women. We are especially grateful to our Indian comrades for hosting us and making this historic gathering possible. On behalf of the Kurdish women’s movement, we salute you and your resistance.

We thank the organizers for dedicating the venue hall to our precious comrade Sakine Cansiz. Sakine Cansiz, nom de guerre Sara, born 1958 in Dersim, was one of the co-founders of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party. She was detained in 1980 in the infamous military prison of Diyarbakir, where she was tortured brutally. As a leading figure of the prisoner’s resistance she became a living legend. After her release in 1991, she joined the Kurdish guerrilla. She played a special role in the founding of the Kurdish women’s guerrilla and the autonomous organisation of women within the Kurdish liberation movement. On January 9, 2013 together with two of her comrades, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez, she was assassinated by the Turkish intelligence in Paris/France. , Comrade Sara has been a symbol for women’s resistance during her lifetime and continues to drive our struggle beyond her death.

Throughout history, women have played historic roles in the struggles for socialism, democracy and national liberation. Despite their sacrifices, labor, and commitment, they have often been pushed to the background, even by their own male comrades. Our own historical experience as the Kurdish women’s movement shows us that the patriarchal backlash that struggling women often experience is not due to their weakness or lack of will. Rather, we believe that this phenomenon is due to a lack of sufficient theoretical analysis of the depth of patriarchy and its relationship to capitalism and state. Likewise, practically, women’s demands are often compromised and turned into side attachments to the revolutionary work for the so-called „general cause“ due to a lack of autonomous organization and ideological women’s structures. Over a difficult, struggle-ridden period of four decades, we came to a determined conclusion: that all revolutions must be women’s revolutions.

Today, we want to share with you the ways in which our theory and practice went hand in hand.  Over decades, we managed to achieve important steps, but our history was determined by immense struggles over gender and class, as well as a profound challenging of our own perspectives on revolution before we could reach this day.

Kurdistan is the homeland of one of the largest nations without a state. One century ago, European imperialist interests arbitrarily re-drew the map of West Asia along colonial interests. As a result, our homeland was divided between four nation-states: Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. In response to the brutality of severe state terror and colonialist violence, inspired by the many powerful Marxist-Leninist and anti-colonial revolutionary national liberation movements of the world, the Kurdish freedom movement around the Kurdistan Workers‘ Party (PKK) was formed in 1978 by Abdullah Öcalan and his comrades. One of the women that attended the foundation of the PKK was Sakine Cansiz. In the mid-1980s, the PKK started guerrilla warfare against the genocidal policies of the Turkish state.

At the time, in the Cold War world, many of the party’s initial assumptions and attitudes, including its perspectives on women’s liberation resembled that of most revolutionary groups of the time. The ideal of socialism provided a framework for a promise of freedom; women in socialist countries had made immense gains. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the movement’s leadership engaged in a deep critical and self-critical analysis to understand the conditions that led to the end of this historic era. As early as the 1990s, Abdullah Öcalan began to question the belief that the attainment of an independent Kurdish state would necessarily lead to the liberation of society. To what extent did national liberation induce social change? Did it necessarily overcome class? How about all the anti-colonial movements and their new nationalist elites that exploit the people? How could we expect patriarchy, a system that is not 500 but 5,000 years old, to be overcome, if it manifests itself in the most private areas of life?

Women were part of the Kurdish freedom struggle from the very beginning. The first women joined the struggle to be part of the fight for socialism and national liberation; the movement’s perspective was internationalist from the very start. In the 1980s, but especially with the 1990s, when the Turkish state began systematically destroying Kurdish villages, thousands of women joined the guerrilla ranks and participated in social and political work. With the perspectives and suggestions of Abdullah Öcalan, who was a comrade of women from the very start, the 1990s marked the beginning of Kurdish women’s autonomous organization in the armed sphere. The increased participation of women in the armed struggle and their leading role in people’s uprisings at the beginning of the 1990s lead to the formation of a women’s army with own headquarters, academies and commandership within the guerrilla ranks. After a process of theoretical, ideological and practical preparation on March 8, 1995 300 female guerrilla fighters came together in a cave in the mountains of Kurdistan to uphold their first women’s congress and to announce the Kurdistan Women’s Freedom Union (YAJK). But this development was not only a result of the growing number of women but also an answer to a challenge within the movement: gender and class conflict.

This was because both, classical class and gender relations were reproduced within the militants. Male militants made use of the class conflicts between the women according to the old imperialist rule “divide and rule”. Therefore it was not just crucial to organize women separately but to strengthen the ideological struggle inside the revolutionary movement, to fight not just the external enemy but also the internal enemy, which reproduces the system we are opposing.

This is what the Women’s Liberation Ideology of the Kurdish Women’s Liberation Movement is about. Women’s liberation ideology plays a strategic role for the ideological struggle between women and men on one side and women and women on the other side. Being a freedom fighter is not only about taking arms and fighting against the occupiers. Being a militant is not only about organizing people for the case. Being a revolutionary is about realizing the revolution in your own personality first. It’s about living the ideals and values of the society you are fighting for. Because otherwise you never can be sure that you don’t reproduce the system you are opposing. Therefore political and ideological struggle cannot be disconnected from each other. And we have to start with ourselves.

But do we, as women need an ideology? In our own struggle we saw: Yes, we as women need an ideology. Because enslavement, exploitation and discrimination of women have an ideological background. By analyzing social history we came to the conclusion that patriarchy marks a counter-revolution against a social order that was developed by women without any forms of exploitation, power and hierarchies. Patriarchy, which has a history of 5 thousand years, is reproducing itself through very ideological arguments and systematic mechanisms that are based on sexism, which is the basic ideology of power. It is crucial to see that ever since the hierarchical order’s enormous leap forward, sexism has been the basic ideology of power. It is closely linked to class division and the wielding of power. Power and sexism in society share the same essence.

What about the relationship between power and masculinity? Power is synonymous to masculinity. If we want to understand the fundamental characteristics of the consequent male-dominant social culture, we need to analyse the process through which woman was socially overcome. Class and sexual oppression develop together; masculinity has generated ruling gender, ruling class, and ruling state.

The woman’s question has mostly been seen as a sub-conflict that will be solved automatically with the revolution or the national liberation. But if we look at the revolutionary experiences of socialist and national liberationist movements in the 20th century unfortunately we see that the situation of women did not really change or that as result of women’s liberation struggles mechanisms for women have been established but sexism itself or the patriarchal mind have not ben shaken in their roots. What is the reason for this phenomenon? Shouldn’t overcoming masculinity as a system be the fundamental principle of socialism?

As movement we came to the conclusion that it is crucial for women’s liberation to analyse masculinity as a system that is not just outside, but effecting and determining both, men and women, in every sphere of life. Masculinity is a system that is well-organised, that is based on an ideology (sexism) and a state of mind (patriarchy). If we really want to overcome it, if we really want to found the basis for a free life of society, we need to struggle in an organised, systematic and ideological way against masculinity. By saying masculinity we do not reject men. But we believe in the need for a transformation of the men, because the question of freedom does not only concern women but also men. That means a male revolutionary or socialist has also the responsibility to liberate itself from patriarchy.

In our movement this issue has been taken on the agenda of the movement by its leader Abdullah Öcalan and the militant Kurdish women’s liberation movement. The project through which the women’s movement developed this issue further practically and ideologically was called “transformation of the men”. At the beginning of the century male guerrilla fighters wrote reports to the women’s leadership, expressing the reasons why they want to join this project, how they think about male power and women’s liberation and how they aim to overcome masculinity. Those chosen by the women’s movement spent nearly one year at the women’s freedom academy, studying and analysing how patriarchy is reproduced in their personality and trying to overcome it.

But before these steps for the transformation of men, the militant women made a radical cut, starting to organise themselves separately. It was needed to create the room for women to educate, organise, train, live separately, in a place of women. This experience to organise the whole life without any help from men, to build own camps, to plan own military actions, to decide as women on women was very crucial as it showed them that women are able to do everything men can. This experience was very important for strengthening women’s will and also to create a new understanding of women’s collectivism. Liberation is a collective process and needs organisation.

This radical step of the women was later theorized as break-off theory. The meaning was not just a physical break-off from men – they were not totally isolated or disconnected, but came together in mixed meetings, educations, military actions etc. – but it was symbolizing ideational and physical breaking off by women from the patriarchal mentality. This theory was later further developed and named “total divorce”, which means the ability of women to divorce from the five thousand years old culture of male domination.

These and other concepts and theories build together the Women’s Liberation Ideology. The women’s liberation ideology is an expression of the need for an ideological ground of women’s liberation struggle. The Women’s Liberation Ideology is based on the several principles. First of all, women’s patriotism. Against male-dominated notions of borders, nations, and states, we express our patriotism as a universal love for humanity and the earth. We are attached to our native lands, forests, waters, languages and cultures. Our identity is indivisible from our concept of life. Women’s patriotism means a fight against colonialism, state terror and other forms of exploitation and oppression. Women’s patriotism is inherently internationalist. This is connected to the second principle, organized-ness. We see organization as the guarantor for women’s struggles to succeed. Without our active participation in all spheres of life, from society to culture, economy to self-defence, we cannot assert ourselves and our demands for freedom. Women’s autonomous organization constitutes the collective expression of women’s willpower, independent from patriarchal concepts and cultures of life. The third principle, free thought and free will, is a commitment for women to develop their independent and autonomous struggle concepts to make sure that they do not reproduce male-dominated structures. We believe that we need to turn upside down the patriarchal meanings of concepts like democracy, revolution, nation, and class. We need to induce a mental social revolution in the realm of thought and theory. The fourth principle is struggle. We cannot expect automatic formulas to magically give us our rights, we cannot pursue standard procedures and expect deeply internalized social mentalities of exploitation and domination to be overcome. We must be in a permanent struggle, against the male-dominated system’s expression among our comrades and even within ourselves. If individual women do not struggle to liberate themselves, they will not be able to act upon society against oppressive conditions. But above all, we must create mechanisms for collective struggle. The fifth principle claims that for women to develop an autonomous and independent understanding of themselves, society and life, an alternative understanding of ethics and aesthetics is necessary. Women’s conduct and appearance, their mentality and bodies, their means of internal and external self-determination have been taken away by patriarchal systems. Women’s bodies are commodified for the further generation of profit and exploitation. But we believe that beauty transcends the physical realm. Beauty concerns primarily the dynamics within women’s mental self-determination. In other words, it is of vital importance for women’s thought and perspectives to be beautiful. Her ethics, informed by a commitment to justice, autonomy, truth and liberation, generate principles by which she can live. With this understanding of beauty and its effects on physical aesthetics, our confidence and inner power will have an aestheticizing effect on our environment to transform ourselves, other women, men, and society a whole.

Without a women’s liberationist ideology, even the most revolutionary women will be dragged into the male-dominated system or be instrumentalized, even by their male comrades. Our own experience has illustrated this. At the same time, we see the ways in which women’s movements can become detached from societal realities, because they create no alternative to the system or lack the militancy to struggle. The women’s liberation ideology can be applied by women in all countries and adapted to their own contexts. It guaranteed our women that our struggle will not defer women’s liberation to a later point. Instead, we believe that to the extent to which women are liberated, revolution will be possible. Women will not merely serve revolutions, which marginalize their freedom. On the contrary, we are the revolution’s pioneers and creative force. Not only is the women’s liberation struggle the guarantee of revolution, it is also the most radical intervention to the 5,000-year-old male dominated system.

In the realm of theory, our women’s liberation ideology provides a radical, ideological perspective, a revolutionary mentality with which we tackle all of our tasks, from the democratization of the family, to the creation of our communes, cooperatives, academies and assemblies, to our strategic relationship building with revolutionary women around the world such as yourselves. Practically, we understand that our women’s revolution is an on-going effort that must be started in the here and now in the most concrete forms. Thus, rather than delaying our liberation to a date in the calendar, or to a distant, uncertain future „after the general revolution“, we are working towards building up a women’s confederal system from our neighbourhoods to our global democratic alliances.

As Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Movement we came to the conclusion that the woman’s question marks the most profound, deep-rooted question in society and history. Women are the first class in history. They are the most oppressed race or nation. All other forms of enslavement have been implemented on the basis of housewifisation. Without an analysis of woman’s status in the hierarchical system and the conditions under which she was enslaved, neither the state nor the classed system that it rests upon can be understood. Without a thorough analysis of women’s enslavement and establishing the conditions for overcoming it, no other slavery can be analysed or overcome. In this sense, we must acknowledge that not only is patriarchy the precondition for all other forms of exploitation and domination such as class to develop, but also that the liberation from all other forms of oppression necessary must go through the liberation of women.

Therefore we believe that each quest for liberation must take women’s liberation in its centre. Because the women’s question is neither a secondary issue nor a side contradiction but the “mother of all issues”. This is the paradigm with which our movement, which started as classical Marxist-Leninist cadre party, entered the 21st century. In this sense, the new century was entered with a commitment to democratic socialism. This, in turn, would only be possible with nothing less but a women’s revolution.

At this point we have to return to the dialectics of women’s liberation and social transformation. The Kurdish Freedom Movement maintained a dialectical understanding, saying that national liberation and women’s liberation must be simultaneous processes. Women’s freedom in turn stands in dialectical relation to the liberation of society. In this sense women must be the main subjects in the struggle for a free, democratic and equal society. In his message to YAJK in 1998, Öcalan described this point with these sentences:

“Woman’s freedom will play a stabilising and equalising role in forming the new civilisation and she will take her place under respectable, free and equal conditions. To achieve this, the necessary theoretical, programmatic, organisational and implementation work must be done. The reality of woman is a more concrete and analysable phenomenon than concepts such as ‘proletariat’ and ‘oppressed nation’. The extend to which society can be thoroughly transformed is determined by the extent of the transformation attained by women. Similarly, the level of woman’s freedom and equality determines the freedom and equality of all sections of society.”  

With Abdullah Öcalan’s suggestion to shift in favour of a “Democratic, Ecological, Women’s Liberationist Paradigm” through his proposal of Democratic Confederalism not only the quest to find freedom within a state changed in favour of radical democratic, direct action-based, concrete social, political and economic structures, such as communes, people’s academies, people’s assemblies and cooperatives – this new perspective also further radicalized the women’s movement. Since 2005, in all spheres of life, women organize their everyday needs, theorize their freedom principles and build the concrete conditions for a free, just and beautiful life through the democratic confederal system.

Since 2013, on each level of our political and organizational positions, we implement the principles of equal participation and equal representation. Inside the movement half of the members of each body and executive body are women. They are not only numbers but representatives of the organized collective will of the women’s movement. Therefore, the female candidates are chosen by the women’s movement itself. Men are not able to intervene in the collective will of the women but women can veto men that reject women’s liberation values and principles.

It was with this perspective that in Rojava/North-Eastern-Syria, over the last 7 years, the world has observed a radical women’s revolution unfold, which not only managed to defend entire communities against the fascist patriarchal barbarism of ISIS and similar groups, but also to create the foundations for a new autonomous life. From the smallest commune to federal units in all of our liberated areas, the principle of co-leadership between one woman and one man is formally and practically implemented. Women’s communes solve society’s issues, while women’s autonomous economic efforts, justice systems and educational perspectives attempt to mobilize, organize and educate women in all spheres of life.

To be able to play this leading role and to give revolutionary processes a female character, it is crucial for women to organise autonomously and separately. Only as an autonomous force with an organised collective will that takes its own decisions and can intervene in general decision-making processes we can play a historical role in our own movements and at the first quarter of the 21st century, which we can transform into an era of women’s liberation. An end of patriarchy is possible. Because it constitutes the shortest period in history. Even pre-civilizational matriarchal, primitive communal societies have a longer history than patriarchy. We can overcome it by realising the 2nd women’s revolution everywhere. Without such a radical women’s revolution liberating life from all forms of exploitation, enslavement, violence, oppression will not be possible. But it’s also not possible to make a revolution with enslaved women. The extent to which society can be deeply transformed is determined by the extent of the transformation attained by women. The level of woman’s freedom and equality determines the freedom and equality of all sections of society. Women need to be an organized autonomous force within liberation movements to be able to create real change – starting with themselves. Therefore, let’s realise total divorce from the patriarchal system, with all the attitudes it imposes on women and men, for strengthening women’s leadership in revolutionary processes and by doing so let’s turn the 21st century in an era of women’s liberation.

Jin – Jiyan – Azadi!

Women – Life – Freedom!


Theoretical Seminar of the World Women’s Movement: Introductory Presentation on the Liberation of Women (3rd Day)

PDF Download: Lecture Womens Liberation Dec 2018 India_EN_ec

Monika Gärtner-Engel and Halinka Augustin, November 2018

Dear friends and comrades,

I will read out a joint presentation written by Monika Gärtner-Engel, the former European coordinator and a provider of ideas for the World Women’s Conference and this seminar – and by myself. Monika is also the co-author of the book, New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women, which has been translated into seven languages to date and is studied and discussed in many countries worldwide. Unfortunately, she cannot participate herself but sends us warm greetings and best wishes for success. Although she cannot be present we asked her to contribute to this speech on the topic, which is based on the above-mentioned book! I will now read out the contribution.


Dear friends and comrades,

During recent years, the international militant women’s movement has obviously strengthened itself, accomplished great achievements through struggle, and has made significant progress.

Let us just look at the last few months:

  • Thousands of female workers of You Li International in Cambodia have been fighting since July. Shorter time allowances worsen the working conditions. The wages of the workers who do not fulfill the targets are cut; this also applies to pregnant women.
  • In Swaziland on 18 September, 10,000 female and male workers from five textile plants went on strike for higher wages and better working conditions – despite being violently attacked by the police.
  • Since the end of September, in Indonesia thousands of female workers of the garment factory PT II Jin Sun have been on strike, because their wages have not been paid for months.
  • For two months, female textile workers in Myanmar went on strike for better working conditions. Their demands were largely fulfilled. The management sent in gangs of thugs. Since that time, the women have been organizing a protest camp in front of the gates.
  • At the end of October 3,000 female workers of the garment factory Ivory Vietnam went on strike against too many extra shifts, low extra pay, and too expensive canteen meals.

Conclusion: more and more women are becoming part of the international industrial proletariat and the working class. They constitute the backbone of the militant women’s movement. The numerous female textile workers are in the vanguard worldwide.

Female workers are fighting in many other areas for higher wages and the recognition of their work. The trade-union women’s movement is getting stronger:

  • In November, 4,500 Marriott hotel employees, the majority of them women, went on strike in the USA for the demands: “One job should be enough,” but also for workplace safety, in particular for better protection against sexual harassment.
  • For one day, female tea workers in Sri Lanka brought to a standstill not only all tea plantations in the largest tea-growing area, but also the entire city traffic there. They fight for wages high enough to meet the basic needs of their families.
  • On 31 October, thousands of female noon-meal helpers in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu went on an unlimited strike – starting with a street blockade. They demand higher wages, maternity protection, and pension insurance.
  • Carers, midwives and nurses are fighting in the Netherlands, in Spain; 12-week-strike at the university hospitals in Essen und Düsseldorf together with the trade union ver.di in Germany; demonstrations in 13 cities in New Zealand.
  • 40,000 employees in California walked out; 8,000 (mainly female) employees of nursery schools and primary schools went on strike for two days in Glasgow, Scotland.
  • In September, 20,000 women demonstrated in Bern, Switzerland, for equal wages.
  • On 2 November there was a coordinated strike day at Google in Asia, Europe, and North America against discrimination and sexism at the workplace.


The militant women’s movement has become active in the whole range of issues relating to life and work: wages, pensions, combating poverty, childcare, health care, nursing care and, last but not least, the protection of the natural environment are the focal points.

  • The fight against violence against women has become the object of mass protests. Under the slogan #NiUnaMenos (“Not one [woman] less”) half a million took to the streets, first in Argentina, then in neighboring countries and the entire region. In Argentina one woman dies every 30 hours because of domestic violence; but in Germany also: one every 58 hours.
  • Under the slogan #MeToo a whole system of sexual assaults behind the glamorous façade of Hollywood, but also in the European Parliament and elsewhere, was exposed and demands for public consequences were raised.
  • All around the world millions of women fight for their right to self-determined abortion. In Poland and Turkey, the mass protests were the cause of major defeats of the ultra-reactionary PiS government in 2016 and the fascist Erdogan regime.


The struggles are getting more political, are directed against the policies of rightist governments, against fascism and war:

  • The Women’s March of 5 million against Trump, the anti-women US president, against sexism and racism became the largest manifestation in US history since the protests against the Vietnam War.
  • In Turkey the “Saturday Mothers” have been demonstrating for 714 weeks to clear up the crimes their children have fallen victims to.
  • In Iran strong workers’ struggles link up with the political struggle against the fascist regime. Women courageously join the struggles and protest against forced veiling.
  • In Brazil hundreds of thousands of women demonstrated against the fascist and extremely anti-women candidate Bolsonaro.


Such movements are especially remarkable which are directed not only against the problems created by capitalism and feudalism, but which attack the whole system of double exploitation and oppression of the masses of women and demand and represent societal alternatives:

  • The Banghor movement, under the leadership of Sharmista among others, is fighting for land, the foundations of life, ecology and the protection of the environment.
  • We have witnessed how the Women’s Defense Units in Rojava played a leading role in the fight for the liberation from fascist IS/Daesh, that they not “only” prevented a rollback, but also achieved significant steps forwards towards the liberation of women, for democracy and freedom!
  • With pride we look back at two World Women’s Conferences of grassroots women. Women from four continents exchanged and discussed their opinions – in a self-organized and self-financed way, on a democratic basis, and without affiliation to parties, open for a liberated society. We have grown together and become a world women’s movement.
  • Many revolutionary organizations fighting for the cause of the liberation of women have developed, gotten stronger, and joined their forces, for example in the ICOR.


Dear women,

When I just said that we have grown into a world women’s movement there is still no reason to be self-satisfied.

  • We have wonderful conferences – but real, sustained practical cooperation and coordination is developed only in single cases, as in the solidarity with Joly or Sharmista. But this is the true yardstick!
  • We elect wonderful women – but in reality only a few of them are really working continuously and responsibly.
  • Of course, the work in our own countries is the basis for the worldwide process. But regarding the dialectics of national and international work, we must definitely invest more efforts in international work. Because our adversary is a highly organized imperialist world system.
  • While self-confidence has been growing, while there is a huge range of women’s struggles, at the same time there is a serious underestimation of the necessary society-changing orientation of this movement, as school of a struggle with the perspective of liberated societies, a struggle for socialism and communism.

The women’s movement must learn to understand that the special exploitation and oppression of the masses of the women is deeply rooted, is inherent in capitalism and imperialism, and that for this reason it must become part of a society-changing movement.

As long as capitalism exists – and today it exists in all countries worldwide – the laws of capitalism are effective: it is by no means based merely on the exploitation of wage labor. This is a reformist interpretation, which only demands a fairer redistribution as solution within the system.

No, right from the beginning capitalism is based on the inseparable unity of exploitation of humankind and nature on the one hand, and on the bourgeois state and family system on the other. These are two sides of the same coin.

The social foundation for the liberation of women can only be created through a revolutionary solution. A revolution which enforces a different basic line for work and life in society: instead of exploitation of humankind and nature, instead of rule of a tiny minority over the majority of society, instead of double exploitation and oppression of the masses of women – a life in harmony of humankind and nature, liberation of women, and prospects for youth; suppression only of the tiny minority which wants to restore the old conditions of exploitation, patriarchy, and destruction of the environment.


Dear friends and comrades,

The struggle for the liberation of women has been going on for thousands of years, because there were always women who did not resign themselves to being discriminated. But never before in the history of humankind have the same good preconditions existed, as they do today, to realize, organized worldwide, our goals and dreams. Because the liberation of women requires societal conditions of high labor productivity which enable work, food, education, health, humans living together, culture, social commitment, and relationships based on love. All this without the family as compulsory economic unit, and without a romantic return to the social relations of primitive society.

Revolutions have been locomotives in the struggle for the liberation of women. In 1871 the Paris Commune achieved first attempts at the liberation of women; as equals, women were at the barricades. 101 years ago the socialist October Revolution in Russia took place; it carried through women’s rights to an extent women in many countries around the world are still dreaming of today. A hundred years ago there was the socialist November Revolution in Germany, which ended the First World War, chased away the Kaiser, introduced the 8-hour workday and women’s suffrage.

These historical facts also show that all conceptions are untrue that claim that the liberation of women is a struggle by women alone. On the contrary, the greatest successes for women have actually been achieved through revolutionary united action with a simultaneous independent women’s movement.

A struggle with clear goals requires strategy and tactics with clear goals, with scientifically substantiated theoretical foundations.

Marx, Engels, and Lenin were great pioneering thinkers of the liberation of the working class from exploitation and oppression AND the liberation of women! They revealed the fundamental identity of the revolutionary struggle for the social liberation of the working class with the struggle for the liberation of women.

  1. Marx and Engels developed the twofold conception of production in the work, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. Frederick Engels wrote in 1884:

According to the materialistic conception, the determining factor in history is, in the last resort, the production and reproduction of immediate life. But this itself is of a twofold character. On the one hand, the production of the means of subsistence, of food, clothing and shelter and the tools requisite therefore; on the other, the production of human beings themselves, the propagation of the species.” (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 3, p. 191)

Determining factors in society according to this are always the level of development of labor, on the one hand (that is, production and reproduction of means of subsistence, tools/machines, etc.) and, on the other hand, the family (in which the production and reproduction of human life itself takes place). Both kinds of production and reproduction are inseparably connected with each other in a specific, characteristic way in the different social formations.

Marx’s and Engels’ political economy is characterized by revealing and analyzing, behind the commodity relations, the conditions and relations of people and classes that exist in the respective societies. Reducing political economy to production and reproduction in the field of work/of factories is, in contrast, typical of capitalist political economy. The capitalist is interested mainly in this kind of production and reproduction, in which the exploitation of labor takes place; this field is the direct source of his maximum profits. To him, human life is of interest chiefly as a source of new labor. But the responsibility for this is to be borne by the bourgeois individual family, and in this family by the women.

Opposing the Political Economy of Marxism established by Marx and Engels were Karl Kautsky and Eduard Bernstein, theorists of revisionism around that time. They denied the twofold conception of production. This revision of Marxist fundamentals had a clear motive – reconciliation with the capitalist system. A further concrete motive was the personal, stuffy, petty-bourgeois or even bourgeois way of life of the reformist and revisionist leaders. It was based on having their wives dutifully manage life for them, raise the children, and, to top it off, idolize their vain husbands.

The twofold conception of production was ignored later on also in the communist movement. Criticism of capitalism was reduced to criticism of the exploitation of wage labor in the factories. This gave rise to economist tendencies in the working-class movement, to a one-sided concern with wage and working conditions. All the societal relations, the bourgeois state and family system, were left untouched in tendency. That had the effect to abandon the basic revolutionary position of struggle for the liberation of women. The struggle was reduced to campaigning for equality or including women in production.

Often this combined with treating the exploitation of wage labor as “principal contradiction” and the issue of women as “non-principal contradiction”. The solution of the so-called non-principal contradiction then preferably was deferred to future socialist relations.


  1. The double exploitation of the masses of wage- and salary-dependent women:

As an effect of petty-bourgeois feminism, there is a widespread view that women are exploited, first, by the capitalist in the workplace and, second, by the man or husband and unpaid family work. However, family work is not capitalist exploitation, as production is for one’s own needs and not for exchange.

Marxism reveals the social reality: The double exploitation of the masses of women consists, firstly, in the exploitation to which the woman worker is subject as part of the general working class, and secondly, in the even lower grading of her labor power compared with her male colleagues. The capitalist places a lower value on the labor power of women because, based on the bourgeois family system, it is not available to him for exploitation on the same scope as that of the man, since the woman bears the main responsibility for child raising and housework/family work. That is the case the world over. Women get 20 to 30 percent lower wages than men. In Germany they get 23 percent less.

In the book, New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women, we wrote:

The real cause both of the exploitation of wage-workers and of the double exploitation of the masses of wage- and salary-dependent women lies in capitalist wage labor. When production is no longer for profit but for the satisfaction of the needs of society, only then can the differences in the valuation of social productive labor and private housework disappear, too. The unscientific petty-bourgeois criticism of the double exploitation of women leads to the division of men and women and denies the necessity of overcoming capitalism and of abolishing the family as an economic unit and the private organization of human life.” (p. 37)


  1. The special oppression affects all women, not just women workers. The special oppression of women even is a fundamental element of all rule in class societies based on exploitation and oppression. This special oppression includes:
  • The system-inherent responsibility of women for private household and family management, which also leads to an economic dependence on men
  • The control over sexuality, and violence against women
  • A whole system of “chains of bourgeois morality” which take effect through traditions, role assignments, religions, moral values
  • Manifold forms of gender discrimination
  • Sexism as a method of destroying the self-confidence of women and girls

All women and girls in society are affected by this special oppression, even if they do not belong to the working class – the woman worker, the woman farmer, female academics, female students, even bourgeois women.

This fact is also the basis for the possibility of the emergence of an independent, militant women’s movement that embraces women of all classes and strata.

It was a historical mistake of the former communist movement in its work among women to restrict it in tendency to proletarian women. Nevertheless, great things were achieved in this area. However, neglecting petty-bourgeois and bourgeois women left them to the influence of the bourgeoisie. In Germany they became an essential mass base of Hitlerite fascism. Particularly in view of the worldwide development to the right, this is an important historical lesson to heed: to strengthen the necessary broad, militant union of the women’s movement across party lines. That also is an element of the foundation of our successful world women’s movement.


  1. The claim of gender equality has become one of the central myths of capitalist societies. Formal equality is, of course, a hard-fought-for, enormous historic advance – nevertheless, the text of the law and reality are worlds apart. That is no coincidence, but will always remain so within the capitalist system despite all necessary struggles.

Only in a socialist society do the conditions for the liberation of women exist. Marx and Engels characterized these conditions as follows:

firstly, social production, completely geared to satisfying human needs;

secondly, participation on equal footing by all family members in social production, each according to his or her abilities;

thirdly, the relationship of economic dependence between family member is eliminated;

fourthly, the family ceases to be the basic economic unit on which all personal life is based;

fifthly, housework and the care and education of children become public tasks of society.” (New Perspectives, p. 199)

During the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union, far-reaching socialist legislation was adopted and mass mobilization undertaken for the liberation of women – a gigantic step forward of world-historical dimensions was made with the establishment of kindergartens, nurseries, laundry facilities and repair shops; marriage was made a private affair; there were protective rights for women, a simple divorce law, and a progressive criminal law on sexual offenses. There was a diversified system of women’s delegates.

On the issue of the liberation of women, from the outset of socialist construction a struggle raged over the mode of thinking; patriarchal and feudal influences had to be overcome. Mistakes also were made, as with the Soviet family laws of 1936 in Stalin’s time.

Out of the conscious processing of successes and errors the opportunity grows for a new upsurge of the struggle for the liberation of women in a liberated society. The polemic, New Perspectives for the Liberation of Women, drew conclusions:

Socialist society cannot make the liberation of women reality through decrees. Rather, this involves a more or less protracted revolutionary process of transforming the entire production relations and conditions of life in society. This process goes on in interaction with the changes in the forms of consciousness and the political structures in which the dictatorship of the proletariat finds specific expression at each stage.” (p. 199)


Dear friends, dear comrades,

The main obstacle to the development of a broad, militant women’s movement is the corrosive effect of the system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking! The petty-bourgeois mode of thinking pretends to be critical of society, but with its basic anticommunist orientation aims at the preservation and perpetuation of capitalism and imperialism. A part of this system of the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking is petty-bourgeois feminism.

Petty-bourgeois feminism criticizes the real social inequality between men and women. Its answer to this is the battle of the sexes. It spreads the illusion that social equality is achievable by fighting the “dominance of men”. This made petty-bourgeois feminism valuable for those in power: they integrated it in bourgeois society, seemingly providing an answer to the justified criticisms while channeling these in the opposite direction towards maintenance of the system.

Petty-bourgeois feminism has made the women’s movement in the entire world susceptible to efforts to integrate it in the bourgeois institutions. Many active women have been absorbed by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) financed and controlled by imperialist institutions.

This is “a counterstrategy of the ruling powers against the struggle for the real emancipation of women, and against proletarian class struggle to overcome the system of capitalist exploitation and oppression” (New Perspectives, p. 102).

However, in forming our own theory we must also deal critically and self-critically with influences of the petty-bourgeois feminist mode of thinking. Yesterday we heard a presentation from the Kurdish women’s movement on the ideology of women’s liberation. The Kurdish movement and its leader Abdullah Öcalan undoubtedly have achieved great successes on the road to the liberation of women. Had Öcalan not developed such an awareness of the woman question with analyses, texts, and mass education, and were it not for the resolute measures taken by the entire movement to promote women, the great successes of the Rojava revolution would not have been possible. However, the theory of jineology (the science of women) is virtually the simple negation of the economist assertion that the liberation of society can be achieved solely through elimination of the exploitation of the workers.

One of the key theses of the introductory speech of the Kurdish women’s movement, published on the Internet, is: “Woman’s question as primary conflict”. This is justified by saying: “Women are the most oppressed race, nation or class. All other forms of enslavement have been implemented on the basis of housewifisation.” And the conclusion is drawn “that true revolutions must be female.” In fact, however, the present capitalist system is not based “only” on the oppression of women, rather this oppression is the inseparable counterpart to the exploitation of wage labor. Workers, male and female, stand in antagonistic contradiction to this system, are highly organized, and are the most effective and leading force in the struggle against imperialism. At the international level this is the most highly organized force and carrier of the modern productive forces. To negate the working class, comprising some three billion people in the world today, its growing size and importance, and instead to declare “woman’s awakening and being the leading societal force in this historical scene”, is not only rather arrogant, but unscientific as well, and out of touch with reality.

Secondly, in the theses it is emphasized: “Overcoming masculinity as a system must be the fundamental principle of socialism.”  Citing Marxist classics as well, it is emphasized in the discussion that today the woman represents the proletariat and the man the capitalist. This is a falsification of Engels’ scientific analysis. He wrote:

The modern individual family is based on the open or disguised domestic enslavement of the woman; and modern society is a mass composed solely of individual families as its molecules. Today, in the great majority of cases, the man has to be the earner, the bread-winner of the family, at least among the propertied classes, and this gives him a dominating position which requires no special legal privileges. In the family, he is the bourgeois; the wife represents the proletariat.” (“The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State,” 1884, Marx and Engels, Selected Works in three volumes, Vol. 3, p. 247)

The man as bourgeois, the wife as proletariat thus refers to the reactionary bourgeois family system. Applying this to the overall social relations or the society-changing movement would mean to make this reactionary family system the model for society as a whole. This thesis is, not least of all, a petty-bourgeois claim to leadership by the women’s movement that would only lead to weakening and splitting the entire movement. To realize this does not by any means belittle the strategic and important role of women for the revolution. On the contrary, the women’s movement must be a strong, independent force that is a link between the movements.


Dear friends, dear comrades!

From all of this follows the fundamental importance of the dialectics between revolutionary party-building and non-party-affiliated, self-run organizations and movements in the work among women, as the fundamental relation in the struggle for the liberation of women. A decisive criterion today whether parties really live up to their revolutionary claim is whether they champion the struggle for the liberation of women in word and deed. Whether every member – man and woman – is committed to this in word and deed. Whether they practice systematic promotion of women and actually qualify women in leading functions.

On the other hand, women’s organizations and women’s movements will only be strong in reality when party affiliation and party-based fragmentation are overcome and all forces are combined across party lines.

That is why I am very happy that this seminar has become reality – it is a genuine novelty in the militant international women’s movement that, in particular, grassroots women from all over the world have embarked on it!

May it be a great success. I wish you an exciting discussion!

Theses of the impulse paper by Monika Gaertner-Engel for the theoretical seminar on the theory of women’s liberation,

Theses of the impulse paper by Monika Gaertner-Engel for the theoretical seminar on the theory of women’s liberation, India, December 2018

  1. The international militant women’s movement has a great wealth of experience and achievements in fighting for the liberation of women. However, the fundamental side of what is necessary to create the basis for this liberation is severely underestimated.
  2. Only a revolutionary solution lays the foundation for the social liberation of women! An analysis of the major successes of the women’s movement and their actual limitations within capitalism.
  3. Lessons from history until today – revolutions were locomotives for the most far-reaching women’s rights so far.
  4. All of the many struggles taking place today are important on the way to the liberation of women, but they have to be led as training ground of the fight for the liberation of women.
  5. The goal of liberating women can only be achieved jointly, across ideological and party-political lines and based on principles. For this the militant women’s movement has to be non-party affiliated. This results from the common aim of the complete emancipation of women, the liberation of women in liberated societies.

Theoretical Seminar 2018: Key theses of the introductory speech by the Kurdish Women’s Movement

  • About the Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Movement: Having a history of 40 years in total, the women within the Kurdish National Liberation Struggle are organising themselves autonomously since the early 1990’s. This process that started first within the guerrilla ranks by establishing a women’s guerrilla army today has reached a level of equal participation and representation in all parts of the struggle. Inside the women are organised autonomously and are the ones that take all decisions on women. But the ideological and practical struggle for true liberation continues as it aims to liberate both women and men from the patriarchal and capitalist-modernist mind of state. The women’s struggle within the Kurdish liberation movement marks a revolution within a revolution. It is based on the idea that true revolutions must be female; that liberation theories and ideologies need to take the issue of women’s liberation in it’s centre. The one who started first analysis on women’s status within the society and the liberation of women was the founder and leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Abdullah O He was abducted through a NATO-operation in 1999 and since then kept in solitary confinement on a prison island in Turkey. Sakine Cansiz, nom de guerre ‘Sara’, was one of the first female revolutionaries in Kurdistan. Cansiz was founding member of the PKK. She was imprisoned in 1980 and brutally tortured. By leading the resistance in the prisons against the colonialist Turkish state she became a living legend. She was at the same time a living history of the Kurdish women’s liberation struggle. On January 9, 2013 Sakine Cansiz, together with her comrades Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez, was assassinated by the Turkish intelligence service in Paris/France.

  • Woman’s question as primary conflict
    The woman’s question marks the most profound, deep-rooted question in society and history. Women are the most oppressed race, nation or class. All other forms of enslavement have been implemented on the basis of housewifisation. Without an analysis of woman’s status in the hierarchical system and the conditions under which she was enslaved, neither the state nor the classed system that it rests upon can be understood. Without a thorough analysis of women’s enslavement and establishing the conditions for overcoming it, no other slavery can be analysed or overcome.
  • Importance to analyse masculinity as system
    Power is synonymous to masculinity. If we want to understand the fundamental characteristics of the consequent male-dominant social culture, we need to analyse the process through which woman was socially overcome. Class and sexual oppression develop together; masculinity has generated ruling gender, ruling class, and ruling state. Overcoming masculinity as a system must be the fundamental principle of socialism.
  • Sexism as the basic ideology of power
    Ever since the hierarchical order’s enormous leap forward, sexism has been the basic ideology of power. It is closely linked to class division and the wielding of power. Power and sexism in society share the same essence.
  • Importance of organizing women autonomously
    Liberating live if impossible without a radical women’s revolution, which would change man’s mentality and life. But it’s also impossible to make a revolution with slave women. The extent to which society can be thoroughly transformed is determined by the extent of the transformation attained by women. The level of woman’s freedom and equality determined the freedom and equality of all sections of society. Women need to be an organized autonomous force within liberation movements to be able to create real change – starting at themselves.

Main concepts and theories of the Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Movement

  • Break-off theory: Ideational and physical breaking off by women from the patriarchal mentality
  • Total divorce: The ability to divorce from the five thousand years old culture of male domination
  • Transformation of the man: Liberation is not just a matter of women but of men also
  • Women’s liberation ideology: Expression of the need of an ideological ground of women’s liberation struggle
  • Jineology: The science of woman and life that rejects the relation between power and science and at the same time nourishes the scientific character of ideology
  • Free partner life: Alternative that aims to liberate the institution of marriage and reorganize the relation between women and men





Theoretical Seminar: Photos of the event location Spoortidhama

Theoretical Seminar: Press Statement: AIRWO Hosts International Theoretical Seminar on the Liberation of Women in Bengaluru

23.11.18: The All India Revolutionary Women’s Organisation (AIRWO) is proud to host the International Theoretical Seminar on the Liberation of Women from 2nd – 4th December, 2018, in Bengaluru. The Seminar, which will be held in Spoorthidhama,  Anjananagar, Bengaluru, is an initiative of the World Women’s Conference, an international coordination of rank and file women working to build a global solidarity of struggling women. AIRWO has been a part of the World Women’s Conference since it began its journey in Venezuela in 2011. The decision to hold an international theoretical seminar was adopted by the Second World Women’s Conference held in Nepal in 2016.
The three-day international seminar will have participants from countries of Asia, West Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. There will also be around 200 participants from around 15 states of India. Women from across the world will speak and interact on the problems confronting women’s liberation, possible strategies to overcome the same and efforts to build a just and egalitarian society. The emphasis of the seminar will be on exchange and interaction rather than one-way deliberations.

The seminar venue — Sakine Cansiz (Sara) Hall, Gauri Lankesh Nagar — has been named after two remarkable woman martyrs, Gauri Lankesh of India and Sakine Cansiz of the Kurdistan women’s movement. Both of them have laid down their lives fighting against inequality and oppression.
The year 2018 has seen India ranked the most unsafe place in the world for women by a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey, while the World Health Organisation has declared that the scale of violence against women worldwide is now a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.” There is not a single country in the world, no matter how developed, where women are not discriminated against or where there is equality between women and men. Subjugation of women, violence against women and denial of equal rights to them, are clearly global phenomena, deeply rooted in the global politico-economic system, and thus calling for a global response.
The International Theoretical Seminar on the Liberation of Women is a modest but organised attempt to arrive at a deeper theoretical understanding of the women’s question with a view to winning the war against inequality, injustice and exploitation.
Sharmistha Choudhury
(General Secretary, AIRWO)

Theoretical Seminar 2018 in Bangalore: Last chance at last minute


Translation from German with online machine translation due to time constraints:

International Theoretical Seminar on the Liberation of Women
in the “Sakine Cansize Hall” / Spoorthidhama from 2. – 4.12.18 in Bangalore/ India

For the first time since the establishment of the movement for World Women’s Conferences of Basic Women 12 years ago, world women from four continents are organizing an international strategy debate on ways and objectives of women’s liberation. The spectrum of views and statements is broad:
where does the special oppression of women worldwide come from? What are their roots? What are the reasons for their particular exploitation? Are there countries where women have equal rights? What lessons can we learn from history? What significance does the struggle for the liberation of women have for the liberation of humanity from exploitation and oppression – and vice versa? etc. etc.
On the basis of analyses, facts and experience reports we will exchange ourselves. The whole spectrum of women’s movements will have their say.
One thing is clear: in the analyses of the women’s liberation ideology the movements differ. But that is not a problem. We see this fundamental debate as an enrichment for further cooperation in terms of content and practice.
In this sense, come, join in, send your speeches to us or give them to other women. The countdown is on! The theoretical seminar of basic women is a milestone at the zenith of the 2nd World Women’s Conference to the 3rd World Women’s Conference 2021.
The results will be incorporated into the timetable for the 3rd World Conference on Women. The character of a basic women’s seminar will also be organised by the subsequent visit to Indian women’s organisations on 5 December 18.

Of course such a seminar is a challenge for the content and practical preparation.
The organisation team in India works tirelessly on the preparations. Sharmistha Choudhury writes: “The closer the seminar gets, the more nervous I get. I hope that everything will be all right! Today I start the train from Calcutta to Bangalore. It is a journey of 36 hours. I will be in Bangalore for five days to check all the appointments on the spot. We have rented a translation equipment, can you support us with interpreters? We have set up an office. Hopefully the participants have booked their hotels? This is very important! We already have many registrations, from India we expect 200 – 250 participants, from Nepal 12 women will arrive, from Africa we expect about 6 women, from Europe about 40 – 50 women, from the Near and Middle East we have registrations. Greetings from India, Sharmistha.
p.s. the weather in Bangalore in December, about 27°C!”

The theoretical seminar on the liberation of women is a joint work of the militant women’s movement with those responsible in Africa, Asia, Southern Kurdistan and Europe. Many helping hands and heads support the preparations to the best of their ability and actively contribute to the success of the seminar:
* Visa applications are filled in from continent to continent via skype
* Travel groups meet and organize their participation (content and organization)
* One for all – in order to enable one representative to participate, women e.g. in Africa do not participate
* Brigadists take leave, donate travel expenses,
* without cash nothing going on! The seminar is a joint effort and is therefore financed jointly. Donations are very welcome.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

Theoretical Seminar 2018: Offers for the follow-up trips after the seminar

Please find below the offers the from People-to-People travel agency:

Travel schedule for 9 day trip in English

Travel schedule 7 day trip in English

Information regarding offer

People to People Reisen
Hauptstr. 40
45879 Gelsenkirchen
Telefon: ++49 0209 1776560
Fax: ++49 0209 1776561
Mail: reisen@people-to-people.de
Internet: www.people-to-people.de

News from India – the countdown is running – greetings from the organizers from India:

Dear friends,

we are looking forward to this international gathering of women in India! It is a historic meeting – women of the world discuss together the theory of the liberation of women!
Meanwhile we have received calls from all over India from women who want to participate in the seminar. That is very exciting! We also receive registrations from other continents! Welcome to Bangalore!

Staying overnight in a mass accommodation:
The rented meeting room offers common sleeping facilities for about 200-250 women, including 4 rooms, 2 dormitories and halls in which they provide mattresses for sleeping.
Staying overnight in a hotel – you have to rent them yourself.
Those who stay overnight in the Massenquartier will get a breakfast there. If you stay overnight in a hotel, you will have breakfast there. There is tea and snacks as well as lunch for all. Dinner can be served to everyone in the meeting room if needed, but we thought people would prefer to eat outdoors at a time of their choosing.
Advertising. We print 10,000:
We are printing 10,000 posters to be hung all over India.
We are currently calculating the cost of participation and sending it to the homepage!

For the liberation of women! * Call for a theoretical seminar in India!


The coordinators of the World Women’s Conferences of Basic Women and the organisation team in India will inform you about the current state of preparations!

Until today we have Registrations:

From the roof of the world from Nepal/Kathmandu

from Africa

from Latin America

from Europe,

The organisation team launches an advertising campaign in Asia

And for all women who would like to see more of India, the travel agency People to People offers the possibility of a subsequent trip.

You are in negotiations with a progressive Indian tour operator. The offer should be a group travel program, after the seminar. The duration: approx. 1 week, with the possibility of extending a few days, e.g. beach holiday.
Who has interest in it, should itself before the flight reservation with People to People journeys in connection set over email: reisen@people-to-people.de or by telephone under 0209 1776560.
People to People Reisen will also be happy to advise you on your flight bookings and book the flights for you.
As soon as the travel program is finished, we will publish it on our homepage. If you are interested, please contact us directly, the friends of People to People will be happy to inform you.


The preparations for the content are also in full swing. The seminar is a contribution of the international militant women’s movement to the theoretical discussion about ways and goals of the liberation of women. It is a seminar of grassroots women. It is addressed to all interested women, factory workers, farmers, housewives, nurses, educators etc. You do not need to have studied or speak many languages. Every woman can participate in these discussions and contribute her diverse experiences. The theoretical processing of the diverse practical experience and life experience will help us to get a clear view in these troubled times.