FRIENDS of Latin America-India – (FOLA-India) has organised a seminar titled “Women in Socialist Movements” on March 19, at JBMRC Auditorium in Kolkata. The seminar was organised jointly with the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta. The official message from the collective of the Cuban Embassy in India on the occasion of the seminar was read at the beginning of the seminar. The secretary of FOLA-India, Suman Putatunda started the programme, discussing how women’s liberation can be found in the concrete realities of women’s lives in socialist countries which have overthrown capitalism. ‘Revolution within the revolution,’ is what Cuba calls the struggle for women’s equality. Women such as Celia Sánchez, Vilma Espín, Tete Puebla, Melba Hernández and Haydée Santamaría were among the leaders and heroes of the revolution who fought in the guerilla movement with Fidel Castro and others. Today Latin American women are participating in organisations led by and for women. Just now Camila Vallejo Dowling and Karol Cariola Oliva, are the best examples of the youngest and internationally best recognised Communist leaders around the world. The anti-imperialist character of the genuine women’s movement brings it into alliance with the vast majority of working and oppressed people throughout the world who have formed a broad united front against imperialism.
The first speaker, eminent Marxist thinker and former MP, Prof. Malini Bhattacharya took up two polemical points in her presentation. First is about the socialist project seen as an instrumentalist project using women for class-struggles while pushing to the background the ‘woman question’ and second one is the about the value of ‘reproductive labour’ being underestimated in the socialist project? In her argument, she countered these charges referring to the fruitful experiments in making the ‘woman question’ an integral aspect of socialist transformation taken up in the early years of the socialist movement in Europe which culminated in the radical changes brought about by the Russian Revolution. Her presentation ended with the assertion of the relevance of the socialist transformation vis-à-vis the ‘woman’s question’ in view of the changing forms of women’s exploitation under global capitalism.
The next speaker, Prof. Himani Bannerji explored an attempt to bring together social movements concerning gender and patriarchy with the project of class struggle organised by socialist and communist parties. It seeks to open up and redefine the concept of class and going beyond economistic readings of class by incorporating the social relations of gender, particularly in terms of sexual-social division of labour. It examines in this context the relationship between social production and social reproduction in a way that encompasses the formative nature of the capitalist mode of production. The presentation emphasises the urgent need for broadening the scope of the socialist and communist project and finding a common ground with other anti-oppression movements. In view of the fact that the last decades have seen a great upsurge of neoliberalism, with its own particular kind of fascisms which are not quite the same as those of the 1920s to 1940s, what is needed is to re-examine and renew socialist and communist politics. This would mean, among other things, adopting a strong feminist critique in our political praxis.
Prof. Amiya Bagchi, president of the organisation, chaired the seminar. In his address, he dwelt on the historical roles played by women in the leadership of socialist and Communist parties and he also mentioned what great role women are now playing in the present peasant movements in India. The discussion was followed by a film show, "Celia Sanchez, the most beautiful flower of Cuban Revolution" followed by a question-answer session.