by Mujeres Libres
translated from the Spanish by Tess C. Rankin
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Editorial, Issue 1 [May 1936]
While we do not claim to be infallible, we are certain that we have arrived at the opportune moment. Yesterday would have been too soon; tomorrow, perhaps, too late.
Here we are, then, at the peak of our time, prepared to follow the path we have marked out to its very end; to channel woman’s social action, giving her a new view of things, preventing her sensibility and brain from being contaminated by male errors. By male errors, we mean all of the current concepts regarding relation and coexistence; male errors, because we vigorously reject all responsibility for historical developments in which woman has never been an actor but rather was obliged to be a defenseless witness.
This does not imply recriminations against anyone. If the whole of the ignominious past we were sunk into causes us pain, we nevertheless dare not think that it could have been another way; we know that Humanity inflicts pain upon itself in the process of creating its path forward, and we are not interested in recalling the past but rather in forging the present and confronting the future in the certainty that, in woman, Humanity has its ultimate reserve: an unprecedented strength capable of changing, due to the law of her very nature, the entire landscape of the world.
A resurrection of feminism? Bah! The war killed feminism, giving women more than they asked for by brutally forcing them to stand in for men. We are not interested in a feminism that sought its expression outside the feminine, trying to assimilate virtues and values that are foreign to us. We are interested in another, more substantial feminism, from the inside out, the expression of a “mode,” of a nature, of a different system, one opposed to the system constructed by masculine forms of expression and male nature.
A declaration of war, perhaps? No, no. A melding of interests, a fusion of concerns, a zeal for cordiality in search of a shared destiny. The desire to give life the sense of balance that it lacks, which gives rise to all its ills.
But that is already more than feminism. Feminism and masculinism are two terms of the same scale. Several years ago, French journalist Léopold Lacour found the perfect term: integral humanism.
Due to a lack of integrity or wholeness and, as a result, a lack of balance, civilization threatens to collapse. To reproduce, the species needs two elements, masculine and feminine. Society is the medium in which the species develops and if, in the creation of that medium, those aforementioned elements do not come together equally, a dangerous imbalance will inevitably arise in moral beings, which may lead all of Humanity down a path of ruin.
This brings us to the terrible crossroads at which we now find ourselves. An excess of audacity, roughness, inflexibility—male virtues—have given life this sense of brutality that leads some to feed on the misery and hunger of others. Humanity has unfolded in a unilateral direction, and this is the result. The absence of women from History has led to a lack of understanding, consideration, and affect, which are their virtues and would have been the counterbalance to provide the world with the stability it lacks.
These are decisive moments for History; we must set forth once more on the path, rectify mistakes, subvert concepts, and, above all, give to every thing, every fact, every human expression the value that it has in its own right based on the intention that produced it, removed from mere circumstance or accidents that have shaped it; and no one, absolutely no one, can shrug and keep this pressing task of preparation at arm’s length.
Thus MUJERES LIBRES is born. In this atmosphere heavy with perplexity, we wish to make a sincere, firm, and unselfish voice heard: that of woman, but a voice that belongs to her, that is her own, one that is born of her inner nature; one not preached or learned in the choirs of theorists. To that end, we will try to prevent women, who yesterday were subjected to the tyranny of religion, from falling prey, when they open their eyes to the fullness of life, to another tyranny no less refined and even more brutal, one that already besieges and covets women to act as the instrument of its ambitions: politics.
Politics presents itself as the art of governing the people. It may perhaps be that in the realm of abstract definitions, but in reality, in this reality that we suffer in our flesh, politics is the putrefaction that eats away at the world. To say “politics” is to say “power,” and where there is power, there is slavery, which is moral laxity and misery.
MUJERES LIBRES proclaims itself on the side of a free and decent life, where each man—we use this word in the generic sense—can be his own master.
MUJERES LIBRES asserts that to discover new horizons, it is necessary to discover new vantage points. Politics disgusts us because it does not comprehend human problems but rather sect or class interests. The interests of the people are never the interest of politics. Politics is the permanent incubator of war. It always, always carries in its gut the germ of imperialism. There are no straight paths in politics. It could be depicted as a zero eternally biting its tail.
MUJERES LIBRES seeks the infinite straight path of direct and free action by the multitudes and by individuals. We must construct a new life with new procedures.
We are certain that thousands of women will recognize their own voice here, and we will soon have alongside us a mass of young women that is now stirring disoriented in factories, fields, and universities, diligently seeking the way to channel their concerns in formulas for action.
A Magazine that seeks free women in Spain. But are men already free?
Why do women have to fight for their own liberty? Perhaps because the men who fight for this liberty forget about the liberty of women.
A free woman must first be free in her home. This is what the man who lives by her side must understand.
The primary objective of women’s struggle consists in making men—their fathers, brothers, and relatives first—understand that without the liberty of women, that of men is worth nothing.
An emancipated woman means a free family.
With free women, the social struggle of men would increase its chances of triumph.
Paris, May 1936
Editorial, Issue 2 [n.d. 1936]
We cannot help but smile when we hear the frank tenderness with which many women utter the word democracy. One would think, upon hearing them, that this word contained all of the meaning of life, that it is the limit of all things, the defining term of all possibilities.
We won’t try to deny that democracy has had its time and has played its role in the history of human progress, but nor can we accept that it is, as many would like it to be, a definitive political structure, nor even that it is not already exhausted and, like all dead things, now an impediment to the very same advancement that it inspired.
The birth of democracy was that renewed budding of generous impulses, that renewed valorization of human sensitivity, which periodically arises throughout History when the people’s political structures grow stiff from an excess of rote automation. But democracy, like all political systems, has undergone a process I would describe as a parabola—that is the exact image—and once its momentum is exhausted, from its determination to automate the spontaneous expressions of the people, it finally becomes that obstacle we’ve mentioned, which Humanity must overcome if it wishes to save itself.
And no one can tell us that democracy has not outlasted its evolutionary stage and begun its dizzying descent, which always tends toward regression. Thus we see how it stumbles upon new problems every day—war, mechanization and its consequences for the worker, exchange, etc., etc.—that are unsolvable within the scope of its political limitations.
And what has happened is that democracy, which designated itself the regime of liberty, has forgotten to secure its own liberty, allowing the most significant aspect of the old regimes to stand: privilege.
For that reason alone, we denounce its falseness. In any dictionary we will find that democracy means government by the people, but democracy is not even remotely government by the people but rather government by a class. Democracy—no longer capable of supporting the weight of its lie in the face of the violence prompted by the disinherited classes—has recently granted itself an adjective, calling itself “bourgeois democracy.”
Even better: we now see it exposed, just as it is, and thus can understand perfectly its inability to resolve certain problems, and thus we can also understand its new modality: regression. To continue to advance would mean endangering the interests it represents: those of privilege and keeping a tight rein on change. It has no qualms about contradicting the work of a century in an instant, and so we have seen how in Germany, Italy, and other countries, it has thrown itself into reactionary arms to contain the advancement of the people, who were overtaking it. German fascism was born of democracy; Italian fascism was born of democracy; Austrian fascism was born—despite its later gestation—of democracy. Democracy opened the world’s doors to the “shirtless”; but now that the “shirtless”1 have gained awareness and intend to establish themselves in the world, it slams resoundingly shut those doors and turns the keys over to the fascio—when it doesn’t itself turn into the fascio overnight.
It has had no qualms about reducing to ashes the famed rights of man—of man, it should be clear; those of woman have not yet been granted—and the rights to freedom of association, to strike, to the free expression of thought have been turned into one single right: that of complaint, and only when one is alone, when one’s neighbor (if a lover of democracy) does not notice.
These three rights contained the most substantial aspects of democracy, if not the totality of democracy. And what remains of them? Without looking any further than Spain, the April 8th law concerning public order and censorship of the press.
Let us say it again. All political regimes, as a form of human expression, obey certain biological laws, the same laws that regulate the life of organized beings: birth, development, and death. Democracy, like all living things, carried within it the seed of its own destruction: the principle of liberty. It awoke in the oppressed masses the urge for liberation and it showed them the way forward. What it cannot do is stop them in the middle of their journey; the multitudes will advance over its remains. The principle of liberty has strangled it. Democracy has died. The law has been obeyed. The epitaph on its tomb: LIES.
Have the women of the Women’s Republican Union finally understood this? At the very least they have already begun to express their disappointment in their recent manifesto, in which they take offense at the Republic’s detour on its way toward their cause, at how legislators and leaders have disdained their actions, which were highly effective at the ballot box in support of the same men who today forget them.
I have here the six demands, all of them undoubtedly of interest, that make up the republican women’s manifesto:
PACIFISM. EQUAL RIGHTS. RIGHTS FOR CHILDREN AND MOTHERS. DETERMINATION OF PATERNITY. PROHIBITION OF CHILD EXPLOITATION. EFFECTIVE PROTECTION OF CHILDHOOD AND MOTHERHOOD. MORAL AND MATERIAL WELFARE (pre-matrimonial certifications and abolition of the traffic in women). FEMALE CONTRIBUTIONS TO LOCAL GOVERNANCE AND POPULAR INITIATIVES.
We in no way wish to deny that these demands are of interest, but we are certain that the fight to achieve them will inefficiently consume an absolute outpouring of women’s energies. We once stated elsewhere that woman’s mission is not to ask for laws but rather to break all of the commandments. To create a new and free life. Forever upward. Our place, as oppressed women alongside oppressed men, is to take or create for ourselves whatever we can and not expect it, as a kindness, from anyone.