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(en) [Spain] "Free Women": the anarchists who revolutionized the working class By ANA (pt) [machine translation]

Date Wed, 3 Jan 2018 14:14:50 +0200

At the end of the Second Republic some 21,000 anarchists grouped together to form the first radical feminist movement of authentic popular base in Spain. One of the precursor groups of claims for the liberation of gender that, so many years later, continue present in the present time. ---- By Beatriz Asuar Gallego ---- It is said that the story is written by the winners, but what is not said is that the winners, almost in their entirety, are men. And it is not even said that they often forget women: if we look back and think of the great moments of humanity's change, or of the great revolutions, no or almost no woman's name comes to mind. ---- The history of Spain was no less harsh with women, burying for many years the role they played during the country's most rebellious era, the Civil War. However, social organizations constantly try to fill a gap in our collective memory, and face forgetting. As an example, the CGT and Anarchist Women with the Association of "Free Women", which in this 2017 makes 80 years of its foundation. An organization that was then formed as the first radical feminist movement of authentic popular base and precursor in the struggle for claims that, so many years later, still present today.

How were they born? At the end of the Second Republic in a political and cultural dynamic that opened new possibilities for the participation of women in the social struggle. The CNT, National Confederation of Labor, was since 1910 the main trade union center guided by anarchism, from which the CGT was later derived. A union that had a large presence of women and recognized basic labor rights as economic freedom or equal pay, but which almost did not think of initiatives of specific struggles.

At this, women needed to make their own way. In Barcelona, the main nucleus of the anarchist movement, was founded in 1934 the Women's Cultural Group, a pioneer in the articulations of women within the union. But the outbreak of civil war changed the pace of the formations, advanced and decided to create their own organization. On May 2, 1936, several women published the first issue of the magazine "Mujeres Libres", which, as reported by Paula Ruíz Roa, responsible for the CGT Women's Secretariat "served as a basis for the constitution of the libertarian group and the organization of its first and the only congress, which they could hold in August 1937. " In a short time, there were 147 local groups and 21,000 affiliated women.

The first autonomous group of women

Since its inception, "Mujeres Libres" has formed as a totally autonomous group. Most of them militants, were already part of other organizations of the libertarian movement - CNT, FAI, Libertadores Youth -, however, did not subordinate to any of the previous structures.

This was a battle of the anarchists for the rejection that generated within the libertarian movement a women-only organization: "It was they who showed that it was necessary to separate organizations of the entire working class from women's organizations to differentiate the claims of both, because within of the struggle of the working class was not given the importance they had, "explains the current secretary of the CGT, José Manuel Muñoz Póliz.

American writer and historian Martha Ackelsberg points out that the organization's greatest achievement was to be the "pioneer among feminist organizations" and to "unite the struggle against capitalist exploitation with patriarchal oppression." Thus, "Free Women" followed the ideological line of the CNT, but developed its own objective: to emancipate the woman from the triple slavery, "slavery of ignorance, woman slavery and production slavery." With the beginning of the war, they proposed another goal, "to collaborate with an orderly and efficient aid in the defense of the Republic".

Claims still present today

"What strikes the most in this group is how they put the problem of women. Especially at that time, with themes that range from the abolition of prostitution to mixed education, popular canteens or day care, or free love. Claims that reach the majority of the left much later, in the 70's, "says the Brazilian historian Thiago Lemos Silva, who studied for more than ten years the history of this grouping.

From the outset, they claimed the importance of incorporating women into paid work, performing multiple jobs, as well as back-up activities: from literacy to job training in all sectors of work. And, so that this incorporation was not a double burden for women, they complained - as well as now - and started popular eaters and day care centers in the workplace.

They broke away from the idea that home and conjugal relationships were private: they fervently denounced control within married life from the state and the Catholic Church. They proclaimed free love and denounced that the traditional model of family fosters inequality. On the one hand, because they maintain the economic dependencies on which the patriarchy stands. On the other, because it supports the submission of women to men within the family for which they had no right to express themselves in it.

Another of the themes that most stood out was child education. They ensured that in schools a mentality framed by bourgeois values was acquired, so it was essential that education should be a total turning point in the development of a school for freedom. Within education, moreover, they called for the need for sex education, addressing topics that had hitherto been taboo, such as contraceptive methods or abortion.

The repression against the anarchists

As with almost all revolutionary groups the repression during the war by the Francoist troops were colossal. But with the groups of women like this who assumed a double danger in fighting not only for the emancipation of the working class, but also for the emancipation of the woman.

It seems impossible to document the exact number of women who have gone through the ordeal of torture, murder, disappearances and sexual violence. But yes, we know that as with most militiamen and militants, the members of "Mujeres Libres" ended up in prison, in exile, or, at best, subjected to absolute silence denying that they had participated in this organization. Not even, from the outside, in exile, they managed to maintain organized structures in the clandestine, reason why at the three years, in 1939, "Free Women" ended up dissolving. Although they have maintained a legacy: "they have created a great desire in the women of freedom for all of us", affirms Ruíz Roa. And so, as Thiago also points out, "one must know the history of these women in order to question machismo."

Source: http://www.publico.es/politica/memoria-publica/80-anos-mujeres-libres-xxx-mujeres-libres-anarquistas-revolucionaron-club-obrera.html

Translation> Sol de Abril

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