Women Workers and Class Struggles in Alleppey, 1938-1950
CHANGES in the material and political situation of women in post-colonial societies and the Third World countries in general have led to the emergence, in recent years, of an intense debate and ideological struggle at various levels—in political parties and mass organisations such as trade unions, women's organisations and in the academic circles (women's studies in particular) regarding the need to develop an overall theory, strategy and tactics of women's liberation in the context of class struggles so that the full potential of their militancy is realised. Within this debate, the Marxist tendency places the struggles for women's liberation within a broader perspective for an organised movement for radical social transformation and a specific ideological understanding of how this goal can be achieved. This perspective includes the conscious political organisation of "women to realise the goals of equality and liberation. Such organisation of women is visualised at three levels— (a) as part of the working class and as women workers (b) as part of an oppressed sex and (c) the interaction of these two levels, organisationally and ideologically.
Our study attempts to situate this debate within a concrete historical context of struggles in the coir goods weaving (rnana-facturing) sector in Alleppey. We trace and analyse the role and participation of women within the framework of the political practice of a Communist-led movement in Kerala. The organisation of women is considered within the political background of the Ezhava social reform movement, the trade union movement and class struggles, the ideological and organisational growth of the communists, the movement against the arbitrary rule in the princely state, and the anti-imperialist struggle.
Impact of the Social Reform Movement
The rise of class consciousness among the coir workers and women's role and participation in the trade union movement since
* Centre for Women's Development Studies, New Delhi.