WSF (1996): “Women In The Spanish Revolution”
From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 2, number 2, third quarter 1996. Complete PDF is here
(Based on article from Workers Solidarity, Ireland)
Before the revolution women faced very oppressive and repressive conditions. Women had no independence, they were paid far less than men, single women were not allowed to go out at night without a chaperone.
During the revolution many men and women changed their old conservative beliefs about women. Women fought as equals in the workers militias and were involved at all levels of collectivisation of the land and industry. But change does not occur over night and many sexist practice and ideas remained.
In May 1936 anarchist women formed a workers women’s movement Mujeres Libres (“Free Women”). They aimed to empower women by giving women confidence to participate in the revolution and fight for their own liberation. They also combated the sexist ideas of male workers and peasants. Mujeres Libres worked in close alliance with the Anarchist- Syndicalist CNT unions, with the Anarchist youth organisations, and the Anarchist Federation of Iberia (FAI).
Mujeres Libres believed the fight against women’s oppression was part of the larger struggle to end all forms of oppression. This meant that the fight for women’s liberation was part of the fight against bosses and the state.
Mujeres Libres won many achievements for women during the revolution. They organised democratic schools for women and won legalised abortion and contraception, divorce rights, child care facilities, and equal wages to men.
The Spanish revolution shows us that women’s liberation cannot be ignored or sidelined. We can not wait until after the revolution to combat women oppression or leave it to the “women’s section”. We all, all of us men and women, need to be part of the fight against women’s oppression. A struggle that does not aim, from the beginning for equality for all, does not deserve the name of the revolution.