By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
March 23, 2016
We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS), celebrate International Women’s Day and congratulate the women’s organizations and all women for their struggles, sacrifices and victories in upholding, defending and promoting women’s rights, in asserting and exercising the progressive role of women, in resisting imperialist plunder and war and striving to bring about a brighter and fundamentally better world for all humanity.
Let us recall the glorious history of the International Women’s Day. It came about as the result of the struggles of working class women against capitalist exploitation and oppression, of socialist and communist women like Clara Zetkin and Alexandra Kollontai, of the women’s movement for equal rights and universal suffrage, of the women who perpetuated the memory of the Paris Commune and who spearheaded on March 8, 1917 the overthrow of Czarist rule in Russia and of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries that institutionalized the celebration of the International Women’s Day (IWD).
The first known observance of Women’s Day was on February 28, 1909 in New York. It was held by the Socialist Party of America to commemorate the 1908 strike of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union as well as the mass action of garment workers for a 10-hour work day and other better wage conditions on March 8, 1857. In the International Women’s Conference in August 1910, the German socialist women proposed the annual celebration of the International Working Women’s Day on March 8. In the following year, on March 19, 1911, the IWD was celebrated for the first time on an international scale, by over a million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. From 1914 onwards, it became the practice to hold IWD on March 8 in all countries.
After the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in 1917, the communist Alexandra Kollontai and Vladimir Lenin made IWD an official holiday. Women obtained social and gender liberation, including the right of suffrage and other rights equal to those of men, far ahead of the women in the West. All further socialist revolutions and national liberation movements followed the example of the Soviet Union. In the West, IWD was first officially recognized and observed only in 1977 when the UN General Assembly proclaimed March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and World Peace.
It is important to recall the history of the IWD and the working class and anti-capitalist roots of the women’s movement in order to combat the attempts of the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries to obfuscate such roots, coopt the women’s movement and redirect it towards bourgeois feminism, liberalism, neoliberalism and all sorts bourgeois subjectivist currents against the working people, people’s democracy, socialism and communism in favor of the monopoly bourgeoisie, imperialism and all sorts of reaction.
Today, the women, their children and menfolk suffer in common the most intolerable forms of exploitation and oppression in both developed capitalist countries and underdeveloped countries under the auspices of the US-propagated neoliberal economic and social policy and under conditions of US-instigated imperialist wars and counterrevolution in an increasing number of countries.
We honor today all women, their organizations and movements that fight against imperialist plunder and war. They play a distinctive role even as they integrate themselves with the rest of the people in comprehensive struggles. Even as they excel in the struggle against imperialism and all reaction, they struggle against patriarchy and all manifestations of gender inequality, discrimination and violence against women and girls.
In the ever worsening crisis of the world capitalist system, conditions of low wages, mass layoffs, high rate of unemployment, gross inequality and widespread poverty even in the developed capitalist countries. The conditions are far worse in the underdeveloped countries. Working women are still locked up in sweat shops and burned to death just like the women factory workers in the early years of the 20th century in New York City. At least 112 workers were killed in the Tazreen factory fire in Bangladesh in 2013; and 72 workers perished in the Kentex factory fire in the Philippines in 2015, to cite some horrific examples.
In the urban areas, women suffer miserable wages and living conditions and deprivation of social benefits and services whether they work in the sweatshops or stay at home doing subcontractual work. In the rural areas, they suffer land and resource grabbing which render entire communities of peasants and indigenous people landless, homeless and hungry.
The mid-2000 food and financial crisis has ignited a global wave of speculative investments where tens of millions of hectares of agricultural land worldwide changed hands, offered by client states to transnational corporations and other foreign interests in mining and logging concessions and corporate agriculture. Without their land, and with no regular jobs, they are mired in deep mud of mass poverty.
The manipulation of world food prices aggravate the food crisis and threaten food production and food security. This will worsen as a consequence of the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and other free trade agreements. Meanwhile, governments have resorted to private public partnerships and the liberalization of agriculture to offset the fall in public spending. This will lead to widespread displacement of working women.
Women’s emancipation is never possible under imperialism. Women must continue to expose and oppose the ruling bourgeoisie and the state for feeding them lies about the goodness and permanence of capitalism and imperialism. The goriest and most despicable manifestation of moribund imperialism is the ceaseless outbreaks of aggressive wars, the destruction of lives and property and displacement of millions of people as a result of the economic and financial crisis.
Four out of every five persons killed in the wars unleashed by the US and its imperialist partners and puppets in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Kurdistan the continued occupation of Palestine in West Asia are women or children. They also comprise 80% of the tens of millions of refugees forced to flee their homes and homelands because of conflict, oppression or impoverishment.
Even as it is still wallowing in bloody quagmires of its own making in West Asia and Africa, the US is pushing the expansion of the NATO and making provocation on the borders of Russia. The US strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific region is meant to contain China and guarantee US hegemony. It is fraught with war provocations. But China is making its own provocations against the peoples of Southeast Asia by making an outlandish claim of ownership over the entire South China Sea. In their conflicts among themselves, the imperialist powers make other countries suffer the escalation of plunder and the danger of war.
The increased presence of US troops in the Philippines and elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region will put more women at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation. War oppressors inflict violence against women to silence and subjugate the population. Women must intensify the fight to end violence against women, to expose and denounce sexual abuses and demand justice.
The fascist invaders of World War II perpetrated sex slavery in occupied countries. This is well evidenced by the aggrieved women. The US-instigated Daesh jihadists (ISIS or ISIL) are doing the same in the Middle East. Violence against women occurs systematically not only under war conditions but also under non-war conditions. Prostitution and sex trafficking are rampant where mass unemployment and poverty make women vulnerable. Sexual violence occurs at home, in the office, factory, farms and schools.
Women must organize among themselves to strengthen the working women’s movement against the multiple kinds of oppression that they suffer. The women’s movement must raise higher their revolutionary consciousness and militancy and fight for women’s liberation against imperialism and its policies of neoliberalism and aggression. Women must stand together and fight for national and social liberation against imperialism and all reaction.
Women must stand with all progressive organizations and join national liberation movements in fighting against repression, militarization, imperialist plunder and war. Women must not forget those before them who risked their freedom, their dignity and their lives for the women of today. Now that these gains are under attack women must defend them with utmost dedication and vigor.
Ultimately, the working women united with the rest of the people will prevail to change the ruling system, to end exploitation, oppression, patriarchy and wars of aggression. They must take part in rebuilding a society where women and the rest of the people are not exploited and oppressed by imperialism and its reactionary agents.
Arouse, organize and mobilize the masses of women!
Resist and fight capitalist exploitation and patriarchy!
Working women of the world unite to expose and oppose imperialism and its policies of neoliberal plunder and war!
Fight for women’s liberation! Defeat imperialism and all its reactionary cohorts!