By Mike Talavera
Tomorrow is International Working Women’s Day (IWWD), and revolutionary women across the country are preparing rallies and marches to celebrate the holiday, continuing the momentum of a growing militant women’s movement in the US.
For decades, the holiday has been coopted by the United Nations and groups like the Red Cross internationally and by the Democratic Party and its allies domestically, but IWWD is bound inextricably to the history of the International Communist Movement.
Beginning with protests in New York City in 1909, the idea of annually celebrating a “Woman’s Day” was quickly taken up by the Second International Conference of Working Women, pushed for by revolutionaries like Clara Zetkin.
Today, Democrats will use the holiday’s association with the suffragette movement as an excuse to fool more women into seeing bourgeois elections as their only political outlet, but over 100 years ago revolutionaries like Alexandra Kollontai were already distinguishing the demands of IWWD as being much more than what was being demanded by bourgeois feminists.
“What is the aim of the feminists? Their aim is to achieve the same advantages, the same power, the same rights within capitalist society as those possessed now by their husbands, fathers and brothers,” Kollontai wrote in a 1913 issue of Pravda. “What is the aim of the women workers? Their aim is to abolish all privileges deriving from birth or wealth. For the woman worker it is a matter of indifference who is the ‘master’ a man or a woman.”
The Tsarist government incessantly cracked down on Bolshevik-led meetings about women’s issues in early 20th century Russia, making celebration of the holiday difficult for years, but in 1917 Kollontai and the Bolsheviks organized textile workers and other women into what became one of the largest IWWD marches the world had ever seen, an event that triggered the February Revolution.
“At this decisive time the protests of the working women posed such a threat that even the Tsarist security forces did not dare take the usual measures against the rebels but looked on in confusion at the stormy sea of the people’s anger,” Kollontai writes in 1920.
Once the Bolsheviks smashed the bourgeois state and started building a workers’ state after the October Revolution of 1917, the Soviet Union was the first country to make IWWD an official holiday. Since then, Communist Parties have used the occasion to emphasize the role of women in revolution and to take to the streets with their demands, most famously articulated with Mao Zedong’s call that “women hold up half the sky!”
IWWD 2019 will mark a return to these revolutionary roots in the US, with militant demonstrations planned in Austin, Los Angeles, and Charlotte.
A spokeswoman from the Women’s Militant Front in Charlotte told Incendiary that on Friday they will be continuing their #BoycottBenhambros campaign against two real estate developers who fund an anti-abortion network as well as initiate a new campaign.
In Los Angeles, there will be a rally in the Boyle Heights neighborhood, complete with a performance of a stand-in version of council member José “Sleazy” Huizar who will face “the fury of proletarian women for his sexist, predatory, and corrupt behavior.”
“We think of IWWD as a day of propaganda,” an LA organizer told Incendiary, “but propaganda must be in service of some action – this must be a day that revolutionary women (and men) proclaim unapologetically the need to reconstitute the Communist Party, the only organ capable of organizing proletarian women and men against capitalism, women’s oppression, and national oppression.”
In Austin, the revolutionary organization Popular Women’s Movement-Movimiento Femenino Popular (PWM-MFP) has been busy promoting a militant march that will start at 6:30 PM at Parque Zaragoza in East Austin.
“In the coming year, we will unite working men and women in the common struggle against capitalism by first defeating the anti-woman mentalities that still exist in activist circles,” a spokeswoman told Incendiary. “We will entrench ourselves in the struggle of women in Austin and build a movement that fights in the economic and social interest of women. We also wish to align ourselves with the international working women’s movement against imperialism. We will fight against feminism that is happy to keep women in oppressed countries as slaves of foreign capital.”
Incendiary calls on our readers to support these rallies and marches any way you can and to raise the red banner on International Working Women’s Day!