The Association of Women for the Defence of Paris was one of the most revolutionary groups during the Paris Commune (1871). In the following submission to the Commune’s Commission on Labour and Exchange, the Association sets forth a revolutionary program similar to that of the anarchists. Capitalism was to be replaced by the free association of the producers by means of a worldwide strike of labour against capital.
The Association of Women have considered the following:
There is only one way of reorganizing labour so that the producer is guaranteed the product of his own work, and that is by setting up free producer associations which will share out the profits from the various industries.
The establishment of these associations would put an end to the exploitation and enslavement of Labour by Capital, and would at last guarantee the workers the management of their own affairs. It would simultaneously facilitate urgently needed reforms, in both production and productive relationships, to include the following points:
(a) variety of work in each trade—a continually repetitive manual movement damages both mind and body.
(b) a reduction in working hours—physical exhaustion inevitably destroys man’s spiritual qualities.
(c) an end to all competition between male and female workers—their interests are identical and their solidarity is essential to the success of the final world-wide strike of labour against capital.
The Association therefore wants:
Equal pay for equal hours of work
A local and international federation of the various trade sections in order to ease the movement and exchange of goods by centralizing the international interests of the producers.
The general development of these producer associations requires:
Informing and organizing the working masses… The consequence of this will be that every association member will be expected to belong to the International Working Men’s Association.
State assistance in advancing the necessary credit for setting up these associations: loans repayable in yearly instalments at a rate of 5 per cent.
The reorganization of female labour is an extremely urgent matter, when one considers that in the society of the past it was the most exploited form of all.
Faced by the present events, with poverty increasing at an alarming rate, and seeing the unwarranted stoppage in all work, it is to be feared that the women of Paris, who have become momentarily revolutionary in spirit, may as a result of the state of continual privation, relapse into the more or less reactionary and passive position which the social order of the past marked out for them. That would be a disastrous step backwards which would endanger the revolutionary and international interests of the working class, thereby endangering the Commune.
For these reasons the Central Committee of the Association of Women requests the Commune’s Commission on Labour and Exchange to entrust it with the reorganization and allocation of work for the women of Paris, in the first instance providing the Association with production of military supplies. This work will naturally not be sufficient for the majority of working women, so in addition the Central Committee requests the commission to place at the disposal of the federated producer associations the sums of money necessary for the working of the factories and workshops abandoned by the bourgeois and comprising those crafts mainly practised by women…
For the Executive Commission