“International Working Women’s Day” is not any other date, as for a long time they tried to make us believe. Over the last decades, this day was distorted by bourgeois imperialist institutions and by reformism, which separated March 8 from its nature of struggle first –by commercializing the liberation movement- and then from its class character, turning it into a day that celebrates “sisterhood” (all women, rich and poor, exploited and exploiters). And each year, they perform hypocrite tributes to women in general through the press and social networks, aiming to transmit the idea that oppression is in the past because today there are female ministers, secretaries’ of States, judges, presidents and businesswomen, all “empowered”.
By International Women’s Secretariat – IWL-FI.
March 8, like May 1, are originally days of international struggle of the working class. In the case of March 8, International Working Women’s Day, it was born as a rank and file movement of immigrant women who worked in textile factories in New York. They organized strikes and massive actions for better work conditions and the right for union-trade representation.
Like it happened with May 1, the brave US working class’ struggle was seen as a model to follow by the rest of the world proletariat, and in 1910, the International Socialist Women’s Conference proposed March 8 as a day of global struggle of the working class for rights and equality, and for the liberation of all working women from oppression and exploitation.
All the bourgeois propaganda that tried to distort March 8 was not capable of hiding the fact that women are still oppressed, and male-chauvinism and violence grow every day, with thousands of victims.
Violence became a world pandemic. Statistics point that 1 of 3 women suffered physical or sexual violence [at least once] and that every 10 minutes there is a femicide. This situation deepens with the economic crisis, in which immigrant, refugees and poor women are more vulnerable. The killing of trans women, although not considered by official statistics, have to be acknowledged by us as part of this reality.
Femicides, harassment and rapes, forced marriages, genital mutilation, trafficking in women, and the violence in general attacking women brutally; as well as the high levels of unemployment, wage inequality, the double-shift, restrictions to abortion, etc., show that capitalism did not free women from oppression but increased such oppression instead – be it to overexploit women and increase their profits, be it to divide and weaken the working class as a whole. This is the main reason that made the working women stand up.
The new working women’s pugnacity
Last year, the International Women’s Day was not just another day. The massive participation of working women and men in the international call for a global women’s movement launched by #NiUnaMenos [#NotOneLess] generated, in many countries, extraordinary demonstrations. The protest against violence was added to other demands, like full right to free abortion, equal wage for equal jobs, against sexual harassment at work and study places, against austerity and cuts to our rights. During these demonstrations, the production and provision of goods and services were partially or fully stopped/blocked.
The wave of violence affecting women is a consequence of the intensification of all kind of inequalities by a system in crisis – the capitalist system, trying to self-preserve. To it, it charges the weight of austerity plans over the working class’ men and women’s shoulders.
It is also a consequence of the reformist strategy of class conciliation, used together with the bourgeois policy of “empowerment” to deceive workers and oppressed sectors without any effective change.
Reformist sectors claim that there is a “feminist spring,” as if these struggles were a phenomenon separated from the working class as a whole. On the contrary, we affirm that there is an ascent of women’s struggles for democratic and economic demands, which makes part of the working class’ struggles as a whole.
The call to strike on March 8, as a tool of struggle to reject violence and male-chauvinism signed, in part, the beginning of the overcoming of the poly-classism inherent to the previous initiatives. It also posed the matter from a class perspective, emphasizing the idea that the struggle against male-chauvinism and women’s oppression need to be embraced by the working class as a whole, men and women, as part of the struggle against the economic and social system that generates it: capitalism.
We, socialists, are convinced that -just as the struggle to free the oppressed ones can only be victorious if we consider it from the point of the view of the fight against capitalist exploitation and subjected to it,- victory over capitalism can only be ensured through the unity of the working class in a revolutionary fight. This means to incorporate the demands of the oppressed sectors in its program and struggles in general, and fight with all of our strength against male-chauvinism and women’s oppression among the working class.
If we agree on this, there is no sense in calling just half of our class for a day of struggle to achieve a few reforms in favor of women and leave aside [the fact] that, to achieve equality and the end of male-chauvinism, we need to eliminate the system of exploitation and oppression that suffocates us.
If we fight for an anti-capitalist March 8, we all need to unite, men and women from the working class, against male-chauvinism and exploitation, against capitalism and its governments, be them presided by men or women.
For a collective movement that includes and mobilize all of our class
There are important political, strategic debates that we need to be able to have in a frame of unity between the different groups defending and mobilizing for March 8. Among them, the main one is who is called to stop for women: only women, or men and women of the working class?
Some feminist organizations want to focus the day on a housewives’ stoppage – so, an individual action against men. We, socialists, think that this approach is incorrect, for two reasons.
First, because it confronts an incorrect enemy (men, as a “class” or homogeneous collective,) and second because it takes air and strength out of our struggle for full emancipation.
Men are not a social class. There are exploited and exploiters, although both have, as men, some privileges inside the family and the society. Capitalism reproduces and uses male-chauvinism as a way to divide the working class and so increase exploitation as a whole.
When men of the working class reproduce male-chauvinism, they unconsciously help the bosses to exploit and oppress the whole class, just like it is with any other prejudice that affects oppressed sectors like immigrants, LGBTs, black people.
Capitalism charges on the shoulders of the working families –and especially on women- all domestic labor and reproduction of the labor force from which the State and bosses benefit: in the labor market field, it pays women wages lower than men’s – and, in moments of crisis, it is women that swell the army of unemployed, used to reduce both men and women’s wages.
The worker that does not struggle against male-chauvinism has not a full class consciousness, as it pushes half of the working class out of the struggle. His “advantages,” of not carrying with domestic labor (which means a double-shift for most women,) or receiving a higher wage, and even throw on women all the violence from the society, does not make them equal to capitalist and bourgeois men. It is the bosses and the bourgeoisie as a whole that benefits constantly from the thousands of non-paid work hours by working women, not men as a social subject.
The decline and alienation that the system reproduces, turning human beings into objects, mere things, and humanizing products and goods, generate a major level of barbarianism. The fight against male-chauvinism, harassment and violence cannot be a women’s struggle only. We want to win the men of the working class to fight together with us against male-chauvinism. As Marx used to say, that who oppresses others cannot be free.
We defend that the working class as a whole should stop, in defense of women’s demands: against femicides, for #NotOneLess, for the legalization of abortion, equal wage for equal job, equal rights, and for the leadership of this process to be the working women. We also defend assemblies as a method, women’s visibility, and the necessity of developing women’s secretariats or committees in all of our class’ bodies, starting by unions.
Our struggle experience in our workplaces is that, unless a majority of men join the actions to achieve wage equality, we cannot win – as the bosses use male-chauvinism to divide us and confront us to each other. We think that, on a national and global scale, the unity of our class on the base of a real commitment of struggle for the liberation and developing of women’s political leadership is a key factor.
Union bureaucracies are an obstacle – we need to strengthen combative unionism
However, and despite the great enthusiasm that the call to strike causes in the US and many other countries, women know or suspect that the full strike they hope for will be hard to achieve.
In some countries, the call focused on women only. In others, it expanded to the working class as a whole in defense of women’s rights. But the truth is that there is not a single major federation that truly supports the strike and invests its resources in it.
It is true that combative unionism is mobilizing in several countries (like CSP-Conlutas in Brazil; CoBas in Madrid, Spanish State; unions liked to the International Labour Network of Solidarity and Struggles,) linking to rank and file processes. But without real support by the main federations, the strike will be symbolic, as many of the other actions in favor of working women.
The biggest federations, like AFL-CIO in the US, and UGT or CCOO in Spain, do not even mention the strike. So, it is not enough to demand them to call to strike. We need to organize a major movement from the rank and file to take those bureaucrats, agents of capital, out of our labor organizations – to rescue these by choosing honest, classist, revolutionary leadership instead.
Let’s work for the strike to be a success
A new call to a worldwide women’s strike was made for 2018 International Working Women’s Day. As proletarian women, we support this because we are convinced that March 8 has to recover its original meaning and character of struggle. We believe that the strike is the most representative instrument, not of confrontation between sexes but of a social class against the other. And, as so, it is a chance to show capitalists, be them men or women, that we are not afraid, and we are capable of undermining the current productive system (as many examples of struggle and mobilization proved over the last years). We think that the women’s struggle has to be part of all workers’ struggle against imperialism and, of course, against any kind of oppression.
Let’s not let sexism, homophobia, racism to be used by capitalists and their governments to implement violent austerity plans and charge the economic crisis on the shoulders of workers, unemployed youth, and especially on the most oppressed segments, like women.
Unlike many feminist organizations across the world claim, to our opinion the strike of March 8 should be a strike of protests by salaried workers against all invisible form of labor (like domestic labor), and not to punish men but capitalist bosses and governments, demanding the State and bosses to take care of these tasks.
As revolutionary women, we make a call to our male class colleagues to support and join the strike for March 8. Why not turn it into a general strike, stopping public services, transportation, work and study places, and for free time for political, union and cultural activities?
In those cities and categories that do not stop, we call to organize great demonstrations on the streets to sign March 8 by the struggle for our demands.
The IWL-FI, through our national sections, actively participating in the construction of this day of struggle and mobilization, calls the unions to provide the necessary support to the strike and mobilization on the street, organizing meetings and assemblies in all work and study places, to build a great struggle day, not just female but of all oppressed and exploited ones.
Long live an internationalist March 8!
Long live the working women’s struggle!
Down with the exploiter, oppressive capitalist system!
On March 8, we all stop!