The “Syndicalist Women’s Group” (SFB)

Submitted by Juan Conatz on December 23, 2010

Women also demanded a special organization and layed out a programmatic basis at the start of the 1920s, calling for the nationwide establishment of Syndicalist Women’s Group in cooperation with the Geschäftskommission. However, the majority of the local Women’s Groups were short-lived.

The question of whether or not the Women’s Groups represented a separate sector of production or should be organized in relation to the realm of consumption was a source of discussion in both the Women’s Groups themselves and the Union at large. The Syndicalist Women’s Group, as constituted, concerned itself with sexual hygene, abortion and viewed itself as a support for the striking (male) worker, organizing boycotts to this end. Those that wanted the Women’s Groups to operate as a separate sector of production were unable to realize their demands.

The SFB also produced a periodical, “Der Frauenbund,” [The League of Women] which appeared regularly as a supplementary section of Der Syndikalist. In contrast to other women’s organizations of the time, the women of the SFB were generally proud of their roles as mothers and housewives. For most syndicalist women equality between the sexes did not mean equal placement in the “Moloch of the Factory,” but the recognition and elevation of household work and child-rearing to an equal place alongside other forms of employment. According to the SFB itself, it was founded to deal with women-specific issues and employed women should organize themselves within the existing Industrial Federations.

Although men were called upon by the Geschäftskommission and the FAUD-Congress to ensure the establishment of Women’s Groups in their locale, many refused to actively participate. The women raised numerous complaints, even pointing to veritable boycotts from their male comrades. Nevertheless, there were numerous areas where mutual respect and solidarty characterized the cooperation between the SFB and the other syndicalist organizations. The SFB reached at its height a nationwide membership of 800 to 1000 women.