As a socialist feminist organization, the Freedom Socialist Party predicted from its inception that women would be the dynamite in the new explosion of working class radicalism and that women workers and minority women would come to be the shock troops of feminism.
Radical Women, founded in 1967 by women in FSP and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), has been actively translating that prediction into reality for the past nine years.
Radical Women is a colorful and spirited organization of female radicals committed to the fight for the complete and total emancipation of women.
Many RW members also belong to the FSP and have become doers and leaders in the Party. RW and the FSP have had a major impact on the women’s liberation and radical movements because together they are the living embodiment of the historic merging of revolutionary socialism and feminism.
The two organizations have sparked each other’s growth, and complemented and aided each other’s work. RW, a militant feminist action and education organization, has become a productive base from which talented women develop into FSP leaders.
The political relationship between the two groups has developed and changed over the years.
By 1973, it became extremely clear that the close programmatic alliance between RW and FSP should be expressed in an appropriate organizational format. RW voted unanimously to formalize its structural relationship to the FSP and become affiliated with it as an independent, mass organization of Marxist feminists.
Today the two groupings work together in a political and administrative harmony that facilitates a practical division of political labor and provides a constant source of enriching interaction.
From Rebel Girl to Radical Woman — what a long, rocky road the second sex has trod in order to achieve this revolutionary transformation in status and role for movement women!
The sticky “question” of women’s place in the radical movement didn’t attain the proportions of a mass revolt until the mid-sixties.
Millions of people marched and rioted in the demand for liberation and equality — Blacks, Chicanos, students, Native Americans, war resisters, beatniks, hippies. Women alone continued to be seen and treated as a subsidiary, auxiliary force, relegated as an entire sex to assist, service and comfort the “revolutionary” male animal.
So a long-overdue confrontation over sexist politics and the politics of sexism erupted.
Although women had executed much of the movement organizational work and contributed significantly to the ideological development of the anti-war forces, it was the men in the movement, the highly touted charismatics, who took the credit and played “leader” flamboyantly, with the eager cooperation of the media which generally ignored the women.
Women were channeled into supportive activities, their leadership skills and accomplishments underestimated, unrecognized and often degraded.
The Old and New Left alike, without exception, prattled on and on about primary goals and needs of the movement. Any desperate attempt to advocate equal rights for women was sneered at as “divisive,” or. horror of horrors, “subjective”!
Some women capitulated to the terror and became an intrinsic part of the New Left’s descent into irrelevancy.
Other women left the movement altogether, demoralized and confused; they clearly saw the need for radical struggle but wanted no part of the insufferable machismo of the literally male-dominated Left.
Some women, however, stayed to fight it out, insisting that feminism had to be part of radical politics just as radical politics was necessary for the success of feminism.
In Seattle, in 1967, a spunky and far-seeing group of female radicals formed Radical Women — the first socialist feminist women’s organization in American history.
Their goals were 1) to convince the radical movement of the legitimacy of feminist principles and practices, 2) to build a strong, serious organization of well-trained and skilled women leaders, and 3) to encourage the creation of a broad, national feminist movement.
That was nine years ago. Radical Women leapt into prominence on the local and national level and has never relinquished its vanguard role among feminists and socialists.
Radical Women activists organized the first demonstrations at the Legislature for legalization of abortion, launched a statewide campaign for 24-hour quality childcare, aided in the defense of the Black Panther Party against police harassment, publicized the struggle of Native Americans for their historic fishing rights, introduced a model Divorce Reform Bill in the Legislature, lobbied and demonstrated for ERA and Protective Legislation, conducted classes at the University of Washington and Freeway Hall, spoke at colleges, high schools and workshops all over the state and generally focused attention on all the main issues affecting women, minorities and workers.
Radical Women has steadily grown, initiated and refined an impressive body of socialist feminist theory, and consistently furnished energetic and dependable leadership to the women’s movement in the Pacific Northwest, the antiwar movement, and the socialist feminist movement nationwide.
RW introduced the race question into feminist politics from the outset, and RW, from its inception, linked class struggle and unionism to the survival needs of females in a chauvinist society.
RW is a living organization connected to a living struggle by a clear and logical program which unites women of all ages, races, lifestyles and backgrounds around a common goal. The program exposes the inevitability of women’s oppression under capitalism and calls for the leadership of minority and working women in the mass struggle to topple the system.
RW’s famed basic document, Radical Women Manifesto: Theory, Program and Structure, carefully developed as the first theoretical treatment in the U.S. to show the interconnections of class, race, sex and sexuality, is the prime reason for the organization’s survival, longevity and growth. RW is effective because it started with a program, affirmed the validity of an organizational structure, and never wavered from its commitment to the united front, i.e. unity in action around the demands of all sectors of the oppressed.
In struggles over the real issues affecting women’s lives, RW has proved to be enormously innovative and unshakable, thereby attracting the best militants to its ranks.
Radical Women members are labor activists, gay liberationists, and minority freedom fighters who refuse to be suffocated and upstaged by the gentility of the feminine mystique.
RW members are truck drivers, welders, doctors, house-painters, printers, poets, librarians, nurses, electricians, students, factory workers, secretaries, lawyers, teachers, waitresses, fire-fighters, administrators, etc., working together for the emancipation of all women through equal employment opportunity, which can be universally attained only through a socialist transformation.
Radical Women have become formidable labor militants and organizers, champions in achieving affirmative action gains and raising the awareness of unionists.
Sad to relate, there are still people who are nervous and apprehensive over RW, hostile to a group of women who are not afraid to debate and fight for what is right, who mean what they say, and say it well and often. But everyone is invariably impressed by RW, and well they should be, for RW is the face of women’s future.
To build such an organization with such capable spokespersons demanded experience, study. debate, patience and time. RW members — women who are socialists and radicals who are feminists — have accepted the challenges and responsibilities of first-class citizenship and have never stopped learning and doing and growing.
Radical Women stands forth as a model for feminist freedom fighters — incorruptible apostles for themselves, for all women, and for all the exploited and oppressed.