A Woman’s Motto

[Supplement to Freedom, April 1898]

Down in the South of France stands an old fortress where a woman was imprisoned for 40 years, and in her prison cell is seen to this day, carved deeply into the stone wall, the single word–“Resist.”

Our Aims, by La Voz de la Mujer

[Article recovered by Marisa Muñoz y Liliana Vela and published in Antologia del Pensamiento Feminista Nuestroamericano, this translation is in all likelihood inaccurate and needs much improvement.]

“Our aims” La Voz de la Mujer, January 8th, 1896

COMPAÑEROS Y COMPAÑERAS ¡SALUD!

Well: weary of so much crying and misery, weary of the eternal and disheartening picture which our unfortunate children offer us, tender pieces of our hearts, weary of begging and pleading, to be the toy, the object of pleasure of our evil exploiters or of our despicable husbands, we have decided to raise our voices in the social concert, and to demand, demand we say, our share of seats at the banquet of life.

Long evenings of work and suffering, dark, dreadful days without bread have taken their toll on us, and has forced us to feel the sharp and heart-wrenching cry of our hungry children, for whom weary of so much poverty and suffering, we decided to let our voices be heard, not in the form of a lament or a begging complaint, but in the form of a vibrant and energetic demand. It rises from everywhere. Up until now we pleaded to a God, to a virgin and to other saints no less imaginary than any other and when we went full of trust to ask for a piece of bread for our children, you know what we found? The lewd and lustful look of those who want to constantly change the object of their impure desires, offering us with an insinuating and cunning voice an exchange, a trade, a banknote with which to cover the nudity of our body, without more obligation than to lend it.

We walked further, still confident and with our hopes put in God in the heavens, and after we tripped and fell we cared not where, we saw and while we fixed our eager eyes to the sky, do you know what we found? Lust and brutal impurity, corruption and dirt and a new occasion to sell our skinny and pale bodies. We averted our eyes, dry, oh so dry!, and there, far away in the distance, we almost could see our children, pale, weak and sickly… and the misty breeze, which brought us the eternal song for bread. Mummy, some bread for the love of God! And at that moment we understood why we fell… why we kill and why we steal (in other words we expropriate). It was also then that we understood and we repudiated this God, and that we understood how false is his existence, in a word, that he doesn’t exist.

It was then that we sympathised with our fallen and disgraced fellow women: Now we want to break with all the preoccupations and absurd restraints, with these cruel chains whose links are thicker than our bodies. We understood that we had a very powerful enemy in the current society and it was then that, as we looked around us, that we saw many of our comrades fighting against such a society; and how we understood that this was also our enemy. We decided to go with them against our common enemy, but since we don’t want to depend on anyone, we also raise the red flag; we are leaving for the fight… without God nor master.

And this, dear fellow women, is why we make our newspaper, not ours but everyone’s, and this is also why we declare ourselves Commmunist Anarchists, demanding the right to live, which means equality and freedom.

On the Way to Work (A Conversation Between Companheiras), by G.L.

[Translated by Jesse Cohn.]

G.L. “A Caminho do Trabalho (entre companheiras).” A Terra Livre 1.11 (São Paulo, June 28, 1906).

On the Way to Work (A Conversation Between Companheiras)

— Come on, Joanninha, it’s time already.

— Here we go, Mariquinhas of my soul, back to this hell… I’m really tired of it. You don’t even get to eat, and at home there’s nothing to do but go without necessities… it’s a life of bitterness!

— Look Joanna: this is not living in the world. It’s our own fault, too. I’m sick of talking to you, to you and all the other companheiras, when you don’t want to hear…

— Shut up, there’s a spy over there.

— I don’t care about spies, nor the devil that pays them! Let them go to hell and let them tell anything they like. This isn’t life. I’m hoping that the day will come when we see all these hounds run to the pavement.

— You’re wrong. Mariquinhas, these dogs are kept by employers.

— And the bosses, who guards them?

— The soldiers, the police…

— That’s what the anarchists say…

— Anarchists? By the way, Mariquinhas, the other day I heard a spy say that socialists and anarchists are a bunch of bastards and rioters who only want to make trouble… Is that true?

— And you’re going to listen to those dogs? If there were no socialists and anarchists and all were humble and resigned, the bosses could do anything they liked to us, and our misery would be even greater. Everyone works for the bosses: government, judges, soldiers, spies… and the great herd of employees – a bunch of sheep… Against them and for us, there’s just ourselves, those of us who have a little knowledge of our rights and dignity. Now, the anarchists are of our number, and they often risk their lives fighting the beast… And so it is that the rich and powerful denounce them and try to get the ignorant to hate them: the bosses and rulers don’t want to be bothered in their business; they want to exploit us more easily. Look at the socialists and anarchists you know and look at the bosses: you’ll see in a minute that they are on our side. Look at the bourgeois touring the factory, as they stroll about in luxury… at our expense.

— Yes, you’re right. Well said the priest, the other day, in the Church, when he gave the sermon: When we die, we will be avenged. We suffer patiently in life, but afterward, we’ll see who was in the right… He said such beautiful things! To say there are no such priests!

— Ah! Joanna! Its because of both of these that we are in this state… For you still believe in the priests?! Would you like me to tell you? Priests, monks, bishops, all this scum of the Church, all of them are a bunch of pimps for the bosses. They help the employers to exploit us and live well at the expense of our sweat, selling us, at great expense, their latinorios* and their lies… They say we have to suffer in this life, because they want to live well without working, at our expense, in the company of our bosses. Don’t you see how they are friends? Don’t you see how pious the rich are? If the pleasure and wealth lead to hell, why don’t the priests, the bishops, the pope, try to convert the pious rich to poverty and not the poor? …

— Yes… But listen, Mariquinhas, we must always respect the priests, because they are God’s ministers, and we need to go to the Mass, go to confession …

— And what good does all this do you? And how can you, believing in God, who, as the believers say, doesn’t make mistakes, never deviates, never changes his mind, and is always just, how can you think that your prayers would change his mind? If it is God, then it is as they say: he must always judge in the same way, listening neither to insults nor pleas, never being swayed by flattery or spite. Do you know why there are churches? For the same reason that there are shops: because there are dealers who live on them… And all that are left to steal. The priests, dealers in religion, bolster the Church, which is their livelihood. And the confession? See these spies that our boss to keep watch over us, to tell them our protests, our words of discontent? The priests have done even better: they invented the confessional. That’s how they find out our secrets, direct souls, govern houses, snatch up inheritances. They make great cops! …

— So anarchists and socialists don’t go to Church? They have no saints?

— And you trust in the saints? Don’t you constantly have to work to earn some bread? If you have to do everything yourself, you must expect everything from yourself… If we trust in our own arms and our own union, we don’t need to kneel before any saint, whether of wood or flesh, nor would our work be so hard and so little profitable…

— Do you know something? I also, since I started reading the papers you gave me, which say so many truths, and a little book called “Why We Are Anarchists,” I have lost my faith in the saints, and when I go to the Church, I don’t even pray: I get to thinking, thinking…

— That all of this is a lie and that the priests are thieves, right?

— I don’t say these things, but… Ah! Mariquinhas, it’s true: you know what an anarchist said to me and the other companheiras?… He come to us with good manners, and so, in conversation, he told us that employers, governors, and the ignorant and traitorous workers who help them are all allied against the poor; that the anarchists want the land, machines, houses, railways, all the things used to produce and transport, all to be managed by those who work on them; that in this way, they’ll produce much more than today, because there no one will be interested in stopping the work just to sell things for a higher price, and because we wouldn’t be working for a boss, but to satisfy consumers, that everyone will work and everyone will consume without the need for money; that today, the factories and farms produce just as long as there are those who buy, and then stop, and are useless, although there are a lot of people left hungry, naked, and homeless; that people are really stupid to put up with this; that women have the same rights as men and will belong to themselves… That we need to be united and resolute! And other things. I was eager to learn more …

— And you thought you didn’t know anything about anarchists!… But here is the prison. Let’s talk again another time.

Idealist Duties of Women in the Workers’ Movement

Idealist Duties of Women in the Workers’ Movement

L’Exploitée

1908

We must demand of ourselves more than we demand from others. Others, if they are somewhat decent people, cannot and dare not preach us our most sacred, and hardest to fulfil, duties; so we need to remind them ourselves; we will fulfil them with as much less pain.

It goes without saying that men and women who work form a common movement to make human labour free; they both have a common interest not to betray each other but to help each other in every struggle. If men go on strike in a factory, it would be silly for women to stay and make a movement fail when it could have been useful to them as well if it had won – we are beyond this; have we not seen this summer, in Switzerland and Austria, men remain at work while we fought in the streets? It would be silly as well if we didn’t care about preparing for a strike, if we didn’t ensure we had a bit of bread for the times of struggle, and if we left all this task to men; also, in Switzerland, for the past few years, thousands of us have joined trade unions and in those unions we have fulfilled our duties just like our male comrades.

When we are only housewives, duties appear less equal than they are. It is true that there are some housewives who, when their husbands are on strike, only lament and put their crying children in front of the house when their father comes back. But these discouraging wives who, making their partners falter, support the work of the bosses are increasingly rarer. In most cases, housewives, during a strike, put on their aprons resolutely and work all day so that their children will have something to eat and so that the family can support the father’s strike. I know some women who, on their own, have cared for their families during months of struggle and who, through atrocious work, have remedied the father’s imprudence who had never been a member of the union, who preferred to buy a couple of pints rather than pay his dues which would have given them a bit of bread during the struggle.

On the other hand, since we are always told that there are some stupid women and that no-one speaks of the sacrifices of brave women, we wish to remind people that there are some stupid men too, who have beaten and abused their wives because they went on strike.

There are stupid people of both sexes, but, fortunately, he number of conscious and intelligent people grows daily, people who fight together and help each other are always more numerous.

And now it is not of the duties we have commonly with men, but of the extra duties we have as women that we wish to talk.

With young workers and child workers, women form the lowest social class.

Despised by the state, exploited by bosses, treated as a cruel woman by our family, tormented by children, we live the most painful lives we can imagine. And, what’s more, women – especially older women – have no hope to leave this misery. The years during which we are flattered are too soon over. Nappies and other duties soon make us yellow and ugly; then no-one looks at us any more; in order for people to listen to us, we change our sweet voices into shrilling voices and the result is that our relations cover their ears or flee to the pub.

Well, after this bite of sad and bitter realism, we are going to talk about our particular idealist duties.

The lower classes are carrying the weight of those above them. People from higher social strata therefore have an interest to negotiate with each other since their situation is not so bad as to lose all hope. And because it is not impossible for them to find an agreement – always at the detriment of the classes below them. This is how highly qualified workers manage to make deals with bosses in the following way: you pay us a salary of 8 to 10 francs a day; we help you raise the price of the product (of the watch, for example)by voting a protectionist right; but you promise not to hire our female competitors; however, we promise not to allow auxiliary workers (women especially) in our unions, not to give them the strong support of our comfortable funds.

This happened not long ago in our Switzerland, that enlightened democratic country, whose history tells us that women dressed up as men to chase the foreign lords, commonly with their husbands, their fathers and their sons.

Well, us, women, who are the lowest class and who have no real hope to gain a truly happy life through contracts with all the social classes who dominate us, we have the duty to prevent the union movement to become a movement of more or less well-fed men, blindly following their own economic interests.

We must, as women, as auxiliary workers most of the time, explain to these men that it is an abomination for a worker to procure himself some economic advantages at the detriment of his comrade the auxiliary, who, for a lack of time and money, didn’t have the chance to learn a trade.

We must, as female workers, moving from one trade to the other, hired yesterday in a watch-making workshop, tomorrow in a food-related branch, we must explain to comrades that we cannot just safeguard the interests of our own trade, but that the proletariat needs inter-professional solidarity and that, given the change from human labour to machine labour, from skilled work to auxiliary work, this inter-professional solidarity becomes more and more indispensable every day.

As female industrial workers, we have to remind our unionised comrades constantly that a union movement pursuing purely economical improvements, and pursuing them without caring about comrades who are not “of their trade” becomes a pointless movement which will end up turning against the proletariat itself by oppressing the lower social classes, and dividing the proletariat into, on the one hand, a proletarian aristocracy, and, on the other, the outcast.

We must, as women who buy all kinds of things, that we explain to our husbands disgruntled with our spending that it is a betrayal if the workers of a trade agree with their bosses on raising the price of a product, that workers of every trade mutually annihilate their success in this way, and that only the bosses benefit from proletarian blindness.

We must, as housewives, explain to our comrades that in order to endure and win a fight of principles against all our common bosses, we must have bread and milk during the struggle so that the cries of the children do not drown the fires of enthusiasm. We must push them to create food banks, cooperative bakeries and dairy farms, to take back our consumers’ societies from private capital so that one day, during a strike, our shops will be able to give credit to the families on strike.

As citizens, we must remind our comrades, who are often so proud of “our democracy”, that political freedom without economic freedom is an illusion.

Let’s remind them that we do not have democratic rights, us women, and that yet our situation as political pariahs hardly differs from their own. If they are proud of their fatherland, of the colours they wear, let’s reply with what a Parisian woman – I can’t recall her name – told when she was sent the red ribbon of the Légion d’Honneur: “Us women wear the ribbons we please, and we choose colours which match our tone.”

Whatever the idol that our male comrade venerates because he is closer to the ruling classes than we are, let’s critique these idols, and help men to destroy them – like he helped us destroy those which intimidated us.

Is it possible? by “a mother”

Is it possible?
A Mother
1908
L’Exploitée

I read in La Voix du Peuple that, In the French-speaking part of Switzerland, there are some working-class mothers who send their sons in cadet corps and let them get a murderer’s education!

Do you not know these cadet corps have been used by governments to repress proletarian demonstrations? Here, in Bern, it happened in October last year, and, since then, proletarian women did what they had to do so that their sons hate the cadets’ exercises.

If, in French-speaking Switzerland, they have not yet dared to abuse of your children against yourselves and your movements, think about us, women, have no interest to give our sons a military education, quite the contrary.

We all know full well that men are never as rude and violent towards us than when they come back from their military service; they are never more authoritarian and selfish. It is as if discipline took its revenge.

I ask you then: is it necessary to unleash in our sons, at their most tender age, all these evil instincts? In such a way that the son too would come back as the commander of his mother and sisters?