Socialist feminism in Costa Rica —

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Over the weekend of August 10-11 in San José, the Revolutionary Workers Party of Costa Rica (Partido Revolucionario de las Trabajadoras y los Trabajadores, PRT) held its 22nd congress. On the first day, I attended as a representative of the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), joining about a dozen other guests; a closed session the second day carried on internal business.

The PRT dedicated its invigorating congress to Rosa Luxemburg, a brilliant leader in the European socialist movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s and a shining example of women’s capacity for revolutionary leadership. For the PRT, making this connection to Luxemburg was important — an expression of the socialist feminist politics it has embraced.

The PRT has also adopted the banner of ecosocialism, and the congress chose an “honorary president,” assassinated Costa Rican environmentalist Jairo Mora.

Surveying the world scene. Saturday included greetings from other organizations; discussions of the international and national arenas; and a session on “feminismo socialista.” Several congress reports were given by young members, who are a large and vital part of the PRT.

Guests included militant teachers; representatives of the Movimiento de Trabajadores y Campesinos and the Central General de Trabajadores; and Cuauhtémoc Ruiz, a leader in the Mexican Partido Obrero Socialista (POS). Also present were a contingent of young radicals from El Salvador who were so keen to attend that they made the trip with a five-month-old baby — and a guitar, which livened up many of the weekend’s activities.

The discussions of world events and the domestic scene reflected the concerns of workers and oppressed people everywhere: war and militarization; corporate development and its ruinous effects on the environment and the lives of indigenous people and peasants; the economic crisis, used as an excuse to lower workers’ conditions and attack their rights; and disastrous trade treaties like the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

U.S. President Obama had been in Costa Rica in May promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (see related story), and PRT members had taken part in protests to “welcome” this top jefe of imperialism.

Feminist and internationalist to the core. For me, the session on socialist feminism was particularly inspiring. The PRT’s interest in this ideology was first piqued upon meeting the FSP in 2005, and there is a sturdy commonality between how the PRT and FSP understand Marxist feminism.

PRT and FSP both credit Frederick Engels for the original socialist perspective on women’s subordination with the rise of the private property system. Both believe women’s oppression is not only a question of basic democratic rights, but is fundamental to capitalism. And both believe women’s leadership is crucial in the class struggle.

In the words of PRT leader Patricia Ramos, “The socialist revolution will be feminist, or it will not be.” (“La revolución socialista será feminista o no será.”)

Like FSP, the PRT connects the oppression of women with that of LGBT people and traces both back to women’s place in the patriarchal family. The party stresses that fighting sexism and heterosexism in the family and the culture (including left groups) is just as necessary as fighting the super-exploitation of women in the workforce.

The conversation continued in a more public venue two days later, with a chat, or charla, about socialist feminism arranged by Juventud Revolucionaria, the PRT’s youth group, at which I spoke.

It was a treat to see the seriousness with which young people in Costa Rica and El Salvador, of whatever gender, are exploring this political philosophy.

One consequence of the PRT’s adoption of socialist feminism was its expulsion from the Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores-Cuarta Internacional (LIT-CI), the international Trotskyist organization it belonged to until early this year. LIT-CI’s stated reason for kicking out the PRT has to do with PRT’s relations with a second Costa Rican group belonging to LIT-CI. The PRT, however, identifies the main cause as the hostility of LIT-CI leaders to socialist feminist ideas and their undemocratic unwillingness to have these ideas discussed within LIT-CI.

Because the PRT is thoroughly internationalist, the expulsion from LIT-CI came as a real blow. Comrades in the PRT were eager to discuss a new Trotskyist reunification effort called the Committee for a Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR).

At a meeting in New York City earlier this year, CRIR was inaugurated by FSP, the Mexican POS, and the Dominican Republic group NUPORI (Núcleo por un Partido Revolucionario Internacionalista). Beyond this forest of initials is the exciting prospect of badly needed left cooperation across borders.

At the congress and in side meetings, Cuauhtémoc Ruiz of the POS, who participated in the New York meeting, described the participants in CRIR and its points of agreement. The PRT congress voted enthusiastically to become involved with CRIR as soon as the three initiating groups finalize their statement of unity, the political foundation for bringing in other organizations.

Making the acquaintance of Ruiz, the Salvadoran radicals, and PRT members I had not met before, including the four interpreters who made my participation in the meetings possible, was a wonderful experience. Prospects are bright that the energetic young PRT members, together with the party veterans who have blazed the trail, will give this hemisphere the revolutionary feminist shaking up that the times demand.

Send feedback to Andrea Bauer, Freedom Socialist managing editor, at

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