April 6, 2010
Frequently Asked Questions about Radical Women
Based on a questionnaire received from a student in Tennessee
1) What are your political goals?
Radical Women is a socialist feminist organization committed to fighting for women's equality. RW addresses the root cause of sexism, capitalism, which is characterized by intense class, race, sex, ethnic and caste oppression.
2) How do you go about winning these goals? What is your strategy/tactics?
Radical Women considers the fight for women's liberation as connected to the class struggle - and to other oppressions created by capitalism. We prioritize fighting for the needs and leadership of the most oppressed. We strive to provide a feminist voice in the labor, antiwar and civil rights movements and a radical voice in the women's liberation movement.
We recognize that self-organization and militant action empower people and can unleash a force stronger than any pollster or politician. We try to build effective grassroots campaigns that fight for justice now while generating awareness of the need for fundamental social change.
Radical Women offers leadership-training skills to members because we believe that women's leadership is at the forefront of revolutionary struggles.
Our strategy and tactics vary depending on the issue and goal of a particular campaign. We have lobbied, testified at legislative meetings, mobilized protests, done civil disobedience, written newspaper articles, launched PR campaigns to educate and generate media around a specific issue, hosted community meetings and events, passed resolutions in unions and labor councils, initiated marches, and joined with others in community coalitions.
3) What types of political participation do you engage in?
Over the decades, Radical Women has been involved in more coalitions and community campaigns than could possibly be listed, including work in the feminist, people of color, queer, reproductive justice, anti-Nazi, and anti-war movements. In all arenas, we have promoted principled united front organizing -- an approach in which people with political differences can join together to fight for a common cause, with a workingclass program and democratic processes.
Members are staunch unionists, leading labor battles while also fighting sexism and racism within the house of labor. We agitated for unions to take up demands such as childcare, abortion, gay rights and an end to police brutality. These social issues are an integral part of the class struggle, we argued, since women, people of color and queers are workers (in fact, all together we're the majority of the workforce!).
The organization has supported the front-line role of women of color, combated racism in the women's movement, and spoken out against sexism in the people of color communities.
International solidarity is another of RW's defining characteristics. Whether we're sending delegations to Eastern Europe and Cuba or hosting a speaking tour of Palestinian activists, our approach is that of principled sisters and brothers, not vacuous cheerleaders. We want to learn about others' realities and share our experiences, to openly discuss areas of agreement and disagreement.
4) What type of leadership do you have?
Our organization runs on a democratic-centralist method for setting direction and priorities. This method provides RW members an optimal say about the program, strategies and actions taken up by the organization. Members are the highest decision-making body.
We strive to build leadership that is accountable, collaborative and motivational, leadership that educates and inspires. Each chapter has an elected Executive Committee and Organizer. At our national conference, members elect a National Executive Committee and national Organizer. The Executive Committees work out proposals to the membership on perspectives, policy, tactics, education and action. And the Executive Committee is the body responsible to implement membership decisions.
5) How have you grown/shrunk/changed focus over time? What incentives/benefits does RW provide members?
The organization's political analysis has grown over time. The Radical Women Manifesto, which lays out the group's socialist feminist theory, program and organizational structure, started as a 2-page document. Over the years members have expanded it, based on experiences, and it is now a small booklet. You can read more about it at http://www.redletterpress.org/rwmanifesto.html
Each member receives leadership training, political education, voting privileges, a means to collaborate with like-minded people, and an opportunity to put their beliefs into effective action. Our organization grew because of many audacious females whose dedicated leadership and participation made the ideas a living reality.
RW is a multi-racial organization and has a Comrades of Color Caucus. The caucus monitors issues of concern to people of color, makes proposals for intervention to RW, and promotes the growth of leaders of color. The caucus also helps deal with racism and race relations within the group. These issues have sometimes ripped other groups apart, but grappling with them honestly has strengthened Radical Women.
Radical Women has very vibrant chapters in New York, Washington, Oregon, California and Melbourne, Australia. See http://www.radicalwomen.org/contactrw.html and http://www.radicalwomen.org/activities.html for contact information and local activities. In addition, there are a lot of people and groups we collaborate with around the nation who are not members. The economic crisis and ongoing U.S. wars are sparking young women to question the status quo and want to be part of mobilizing for equality.
6) What have been your greatest successes?
In the over 40 years Radical Women has existed, we've had a huge number of successes. You can read some highlights about our organizing in 2009 at http://www.radicalwomen.org/New_Year_Greeting_2010.pdf. It includes information about Bay Area RW helping found the Student Worker Action Team, which spearheaded statewide University of California student and faculty walkouts to protest layoffs and tuition hikes. It also provides a link to the Sisters Organize for Survival campaign initiated by the Seattle chapter to save a publicly funded healthcare program in Washington State (http://www.radicalwomen.org/sos.html).
We have made an impact in the movements for social justice, where we helped build principled alliances and working collaborations with people of every progressive political stripe. We have mobilized women of all colors, ages, abilities and sexual persuasions, plus unionists, mothers, students, retirees, and immigrants, around a focused, yet multi-issue, program. A few things that come to mind include the following: in the '70s we won the legalization of abortion and no-fault divorce in Washington state; in the '80s we spearheaded successful abortion clinic defense; in the '90s we mobilized against neo-Nazis.
What will Radical Women's next achievements be? Get involved and be a part of making them happen!