Reclaiming the Militant Tradition of International Women’s Day
Red Sparks Union and the Critical Criminology Working Group reclaim the militancy of International Women’s Day!
In the midst of turbulent political and economic times prior to World War I, over 20,000 women garment workers staged a general strike for 13 cold, New York winter, weeks. Their call: better pay and working conditions. Inspired by these Italian and Jewish immigrant garment workers, socialist and feminist delegates to the 1910 International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen called for an annual International Women’s Day. It was to be a day for working class women’s demands and an expression of international solidarity and resistance as imperialism ravaged the lives of women the world over.
Generations later, are told that feminism of 1960s can be summed up as “personal is political” but the lesson we forget from this period of rebellion and uprisings is that “there are no personal solutions to political problems”. Feminism has always meant collective struggle. Today feminism has come to mean individual strategies to address problems women face. Feminism has come to mean sharing housework with your partner. Feminism has come to mean being sex-positive. Even Michelle Obama is a feminist, blinding us to the deep class divisions in our society. For who can truly afford the individual solutions this brand of feminism has to offer? While patriarchal violence and the super-exploitation of women under imperialist globalization continue to escalate.
What is imperialism serving up for working class women today?
• A borderless “war on terror”
• Heightening plunder of land and resources and ongoing colonial occupation
• Low wages or no wages
• Dangerous, dirty and degrading working conditions
• Increased deportations and restriction on the rights of immigrants
• Criminalization of resistance
• The list goes on.
For most marginalized women living in Canada, ‘imperialism’ is not a foreign or abstract concept. Colonialism and imperialism have been a daily feature in the lives of Indigenous women in ‘the Americas’ and in the lives of Third World women for centuries. As oppressed and exploited women, we know that capitalist patriarchy underpins the crisis women face today. We look around and see that the women’s movement in the imperialist countries has yet to achieve genuine liberation for women.
Women’s reproductive labour continues to form the basis of capitalist profits
• Upper class women in Canada can afford to pay for private live-in nannies who live in a form of modern day slavery, yet
• On the other side of the tracks, 1 in 7 women live below the poverty line
• Upwards of 60% of single mother families are or will be reliant upon welfare
• The government services women rely on are increasingly slashed: childcare, health care, education, community-based services, and welfare.
• Women continue to be segregated into ‘women’s work’, teaching, nursing, preparing food, serving, and managing households.
• Our work is devalued, and despite decades of struggle, women in Canada continue to be paid only 70% of what our male counterparts earn.
• Migrant women in Canada form a source of cheap labour, often providing privatized health care and modern-day domestic slavery to the Canadian middle and upper classes.
• Migrant women in Canada face a double-burden of racist and profit-driven state and corporate practices designed to extract maximum profits from marginalized women.
Yet, bourgeois feminism has been exported and promoted around the world, to sidetrack or silence or undermine women’s struggles. In Afghanistan Canada and other imperialist powers used the rhetoric of liberating Afghan women to switch a reactionary, patriarchal but uncompliant regime with a reactionary, patriarchal and compliant regime.
This rhetoric is selectively applied throughout the Islamic world where the U.S., Canada and their imperialist partners want to target and undermine the legitimacy of an existing regime. Meanwhile Israel is held up as a bastion of women’s rights despite its violent occupation, targeting and jailing of Palestinian women, and denial of their right of return and other basic rights.
We must decry the use of Western liberal feminism to undermine women’s revolutionary anti-imperialist struggles for national and social transformation. We must speak up when bourgeois feminists frustrate a deep analysis of the impact of global capitalism on women’s lives. We must challenge charges of anti-feminism when women prioritize national and social liberation over shallow equality with men.
At what point do we say, as women, it’s not enough to struggle for a semblance of equality under capitalism? At what point do we acknowledge and name the fact that some women are gaining their so-called liberation on the backs of other women? When do we collectively refuse this deal?
We acknowledge that under capitalism, there is no such thing as neutrality – we must stand together against economic exploitation and patriarchal violence. We support actions such as the Tyendinaga Mohawk blockade demanding an inquiry, and demanding justice for the 824 First Nations women murdered or gone missing. We stand in solidarity with women who struggle and resist the ongoing colonization of BC. We stand with working class women who demand their rights. We support struggles that directly challenge exploitation and plunder. We support struggles that challenge the bourgeoisie and the state. We honour the women who number among the fallen martyrs, the freedom fighters, the political prisoners. We honour the revolutionary women who continue to struggle within their own movements for an end to patriarchal culture and for women in leadership; in the process of these inspiring struggles we see new social relations of reciprocal collaboration and genuine equality beginning to take form.
Free Zara Alvarez!
32 years old, a teacher by profession and a human rights and political activist, Zara was illegally arrested on October 30, 2012 in her hometown Cadiz City, Negros, Philippines. To date she is still detained on trumped-up charges of murder and robbery in band in an attempt to silence her and dozens of other human rights advocates in the Philippines.
Free all political prisoners in the Philippines!
Justice for Rasmea Odeh!
Rasmea is charged with obtaining naturalization by fraud, in a trumped up case that is obviously political. Rasmea is accused of failing to disclose on her US citizenship application twenty years ago that she had a prior conviction – the conviction in question was in an Israeli military court 45 years ago – Rasmea spent ten years in prison where she faced brutal torture and sexual abuse before receiving a pardon and being released by Israel as part of a prisoner exchange.
We demand – drop the charges against Rasmea now!
Free Lena Al-Jarboni!
Having endured nearly 12 years in HaSharon prison she is the longest serving Palestinian woman prisoner. HaSharon prison is notorious for its torture and medical neglect of Palestinian women political prisoners, who endure beatings, insults, threats, sexually explicit harassment and sexual violence, and humiliation at the hands of Israeli guards. Lena herself endured harsh solidarity confinement in a small cage-like cell, and was forced to witness the torture of her family members. Lena has over 5 years left of her sentence, her health condition continues to deteriorate and it is not expected she will survive. Supporters are demanding her immediate release.
Free all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails!
We stand with Marilyn James!
In a gross act typical of ongoing settler-colonialism, in 1956 ‘Canada’ declared the Sinixt nation in the Okanagan region of BC officially extinct, a convenient declaration that facilitated a massive land grab by the illegitimate BC government; a decision that left those Sinixt members without recognition under the Indian Act. 80% of traditional SInixt nation territory lies within what is now called BC, which is largely unceded indigenous land where the BC government has no legal jurisdiction. In 2008 directors of the Sinixt Nation Society filed a lawsuit claiming aboriginal title to Crown land in the Kootenays in an assertion of their right to be consulted, and to consent to all use of land within that territory. Two days ago Marilyn James was arrested for refusal to leave their camp which is protecting sacred grounds from encroachment by logging interests.
We support the Sinixt Nation and indigenous self-determination!
Justice for all missing, murdered, and imprisoned women!
Long live international women’s day!