International Women's Day 2006

 

The Working Class Must Reclaim Its Holidays!

 

            US Neo-fascism works in nefarious and beguiling ways to confuse the American working class and people that democracy exits for them even as it suppresses their most elemental rights and prevents any revolutionary current from emerging in their movements. This can be seen in the way revolutionary working class holidays are “celebrated” in our country. International Women's Day is a case in point. To be sure, although not very large, there were no lack of meetings, demonstrations, and other events that were organized last month to mark the day, and no doubt the majority attending these actions had the purest of motives to fight for the liberation of women and to link this fight to other progressive struggles, such as the struggle for peace, against globalization, etc.   But what were the politics? Did they truly serve the interests of women, the working class, and people? And were the political actions organized in such a way that they will indeed lead to advances? These are hard questions that we direct to the most serious minded and militant fighters in the ranks of   women as well as to other vanguard forces, the ones that are committed to “making a difference” in bringing about meaningful improvements for our class sisters and brothers.

            We must cast aside illusions. The fact that the state permits these politics and activities to take place generally means that they pose little harm to US fascist-imperialism. In other words, they will not directly bring about any change that benefits the working class and people. Take for example, the “Bring the Troops Home Now” demand that has become the main rallying cry for the anti-war movement and was raised at a number of demonstrations and meetings during Women's Day activities. One may well remember that this demand comes as the follow-up to “No War on Iraq ” shouted by tens of millions around the world prior to the Anglo-American led invasion of the country. And what were the results?

I. Revolutionary Foundations

            International Women's Day originated as a revolutionary holiday of working women almost 90 years ago. Clara Zetkin , German revolutionary proletarian leader, proposed to the International Women's Conference in 1910 that an annual day of celebration of socialist and working women be established for fighting for equal rights, including the right to vote, for women of all countries. Zetkin chose March 8, having been inspired by a women's demonstration that had occurred in the United States . On that day in 1908 women of the needles trade demonstrated in Manhattan to demand the right of suffrage and the right to organize. The Conference ratified the proposal, and the first International Women's Day took place the following year – 1911.  [See Document #1]

            Several years later World War I broke out. Working women were strongly opposed to this first inter-imperialist war and Zetkin together with other Socialist leaders, such as the Russian Bolshevik Alexandra Kollantai , began organizing this opposition despite the treachery and sabotage of Social Democracy, which viciously tried to prevent it(1). As a result, the International Women's Day conferences and demonstrations that usually took place throughout Europe were only held in Switzerland and Norway in 1915 and 1916.

            However, the momentum was on the side of the revolutionary forces, dramatically seen in the most famous International Women's Day action the very next year as part of the February Revolution in Russia :

On International Women's Day, February 23 (March 8), at the call of the Petrograd Bolshevik Committee, working women came out in the streets to demonstrate against starvation, war, and tzardom. The Petrograd workers supported the demonstration of working women by a city-wide strike movement. The political strike began to grow into a general political demonstration against the tsarist system (2).      

Both Zetkin and Kollantai participated in the revolutionary actions that eventually forced the overthrow of the Czar Nicholas II, ultimately leading to the end of Russia 's involvement in World War I .

            The victory of Socialism in Russia after 1917 created excellent conditions for women of the new Soviet republics to realize full social and political equality, an entirely new situation that inspired women worldwide to take up a similar path to liberation. [See Document #3] During the 20s and 30s women in many countries took their place in the labor force in larger and larger numbers and played a more important role politically. Beginning in the 1930s the women's movement began to express itself concretely in international organizations. One such organization was the Women's World Committee against War and Fascism, which carried on an ongoing fight against the dark forces of reaction that were proving themselves mortal enemies of freedom, peace, and stability. However, it was only armed struggle that would stop international reaction. With the defeat of fascism and the expansion of the Socialist camp after World War II, the Women's International Democratic Federation was born and grew into a huge organization with a “membership of 81 million in 44 countries” with “affiliated organizations in 70 countries, ‘representing hundreds of millions of women in all parts of the world" (3). This organization advocated the most advanced politics, covering “all the general interests of the broad working masses, as well as the specific demands of women [and laid] the greatest stress upon the central issue of preserving world peace, [proving itself to be] a strong force against the warmongers during the cold war period”(4).

            An expression of the women's movement particular to the United States that emerged in the 1930s was the Woman's Charter. Organizations of several million women signed on to its program that declared full emancipation of women while presenting itself as “a great unifying force for peace – and the struggle against reaction and fascism” (5). The 30s also saw masses of American women entering the work force, joining trade unions, and labor advocacy groups, such as the Women's Trade Union League Another major trend in the country was the increasing numbers of Communist women stepping forward and playing an active part in vital causes in the women's movement, including health, maternity insurance, child care, and the special needs of African-American women(6).

            All of these dynamic, progressive, and revolutionary forces played a crucial role in supporting and organizing International Women's Day actions relevant to women and the working masses world-wide.

II. The Reactionary Transformation of IWD

            From its founding in 1911 until the early 50s, the IWD raised different tactical slogans depending on international developments; however, its major thrust was to unite working women in the fight for their full emancipation while linking this fight to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for democracy and Socialism. [See Document #2] After the counter-revolution that restored capitalism to almost all countries of the Socialist bloc, this revolutionary content was sapped from IWD and largely replaced with bourgeois feminist and other reformist politics. Attacks against the progressive elements of the women's movement in the US were launched as early as 1946, when neo-fascism forbade the Congress of American Women from affiliating with the Women's International Democratic Federation(7). But this was just one of its opening salvoes at the beginning of the “Cold War.” Later US neo-fascism would take up the mantle of Hitlerite fascism unleashing international counter-revolution, justifying its aggression by perversely disguising itself as the “world's leading democracy” defending all against “totalitarianism” and “red imperialism.”

            This counter-revolution had its collaborators in the Soviet Union where the Khruschevite clique converted the Communist Party into a reformist, social-democratic mechanism of the state, instrumental in restoring capitalism and installing social-fascism in the USSR and its Eastern European Vassal states. At the same time, these Soviet social-fascists gutted the internationalist proletarian line from world organizations, such as the Women's International Democratic Federation that now “made unprincipled compromises with the feminist organizations, government and non-government, national and international organisms, which inhibit(ed) and oppose(d) the development of the movements of women for their emancipation”(8).

            The casualties of the counter-revolution in the United States included the proletariat's advanced units: its Communist Party and militant trade union organizations, so by the mid-fifties the revolutionary and progressive currents in the country had been all but annihilated. Reaction then had little difficulty filling the vacuum with fifth column units or bourgeois organizations passing themselves off as progressive. A typical example is the National Organization of Women that began its career in 1966 following in the footsteps of the notoriously reactionary Women's Rights Party.  

            NOW has been the major advocate of the Equal Rights Amendment since the 1970s, pushing it as one of the central demands of the women's movement along with abortion rights, and packaging both as progressive. This is the same amendment first proposed by the WRP as far back as 1921 but opposed by the revolutionary proletariat and other enlightened forces because of its complete disregard for the physical needs of women concerning their working conditions as well as their and their children's health and well-being.

III. Revolutionary Response  

            On a world scale, the International Marxist-Leninist Movement with the Party of Labor of Albania in the vanguard re-established the proletarian revolutionary orientation for IWD for several decades (60s through the mid 80s), linking the vital interests and progressive demands of women to the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat for democracy and Socialism. Having had the experience of living and working in a country where Socialism was being built, Albanian women summed up that their

revolutionary practice has fully proved the Marxist-Leninist conclusion that only socialism creates the conditions for a broad, active and fruitful participation of the women in the entire life of the country, for their political, economic, and social emancipation. An important factor for the progress of the entire society is the ranking of woman alongside men in all fields of activity (9).

A number of US Marxist-Leninist groups that were positively influenced by the PLA's politics and the socialist experience in Albania were able to adopt and propagate an effective revolutionary line on women's issues and IWD. Nevertheless, because of their inherent weaknesses combined with neo-fascism's fifth column maneuvers, they were able to exert little influence on the women's movement.

IV. US Scientific Socialist Viewpoint   

The fundamental demands that Scientific Socialists issue are the full emancipation of women and for their economic, social, and political equality.

Concerning women's issues, the Scientific Socialist draft program of immediate demands calls for:

* Equal pay for equal work.

* Full compensation for maternity leave three months before and after childbirth. Non-hazardous work for pregnant women. Free, safe, quality child-care.

While these are essential demands, the following should be added:

* The right of women to equality in working conditions (with due attention paid to their physical needs), pay, education, and all social and political activities.

* Free and safe abortion on request. Free distribution of safe methods of birth control.

Nevertheless, while these are goals that should be fought for as a vital component of the class struggle on a daily basis, we recognize that it is only with the building of socialist society that women's emancipation will be guaranteed. Thus, an ultimate objective of the Scientific Socialist program calls for the  

Complete equality between men and women before the law, on the job, and in social life; recognition of maternity as a social function with full compensation, protection and support of mothers and infants. Humanistic social care and upbringing afforded to infants and children in state-run day-care centers free of charge.

            A first step in restoring the revolutionary proletarian content to International Women's Day will take this basic orientation.   Furthermore, because the aforementioned demands reflect the actual struggle against the exploitation and oppression of women today they must be continuously advanced to agitate among the broad masses and to win progressive women to the side of the proletariat. But national and world developments must also be considered in formulating effective tactics. Additionally, a clear expose of the specific conditions of oppression that American women are subjected to is essential.

            As Stalin pointed out “Not a single great movement of the oppressed in the history of mankind has been able to do without the participation of working women,” who he viewed as "the greatest reserve of the working class." (10). Given the national and world developments, it should be apparent what that great movement is today: the struggle against fascist-imperialism and war. At present, our draft Program explains that the unity between revolutionary and progressive women and the working class movement for New Democracy and Socialism stands to be effected through the

Popular Front in which unity in action is built between the working class and sections of the broader masses, e.g., national minorities, women, small farmers, youth, progressive intellectuals, in struggles for democratic rights, peace, social, economic and environmental reforms, etc. The major and only condition for developing united action with these forces in the Popular Front is that the action or struggle in no way creates illusions about the form of class rule in the US but fights directly and openly against the oligarchy and neo-fascism.

            Uniting the actions of IWD with the revolutionary demands of the working class and the anti-fascist, anti-imperialist politics of the Popular Front would certainly, as Kollontai explained, strengthen the international solidarity of workers.

            These are things for the vanguard and progressive forces to consider if they want to change the complexion of IWD from a reformist, bourgeois-feminist day of bankrupt politics harmless to the reactionary status quo to that of a revolutionary red day of action that wins the great reserve of women to the side of the proletariat. These are politics for furthering the cause of women, the entire working class, and people.

 

Endnotes

(1)The Social-Democratic parties capitulated to their “own bourgeoisie,” demanded that the working class of each country had the responsibility to “defend the fatherland,” and mobilized the proletariat in the inter-imperialist war.   

(2)History of the Communist Party Soviet Union (B). New York: International Publishers, 1939.

(3)Foster, William, Z. History of the Three Internationals. New York : International Publishers, 1955.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Foster, William, Z. History of the Communist Party (USA). New York : International Publishers, 1952.

(6) Ibid.

(7) Ibid. The state fabricated legal justification by branding CAW a “subversive organization.”

(8) Vito Kapo . “Report to the 8 th Congress of the Women's Union of Albania,” 1978.

(9)Lumturi Rexha . “Report to the 9 th Congress of the Women's Union of Albania,” 1983.

(10) Stalin, J.V. “International Women's Day.” 1925.

 

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Document #1

Clara Zetkin's Statement on the Founding of International Women's Day [From a proposal to the Second International Women's Conference at Copenhagen, August 27, 1910]

In agreement with the class-conscious, political and trade union organizations of the proletariat and their respective countries, the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women's Day, whose foemost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women's suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women's question according to Socialst precepts. The Women's Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.

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Document #2

Alexandra Kollontai's Pamphlet: International Women's Day (1920)

 

A MILITANT CELEBRATION

Women's Day or Working Women's Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organization of proletarian women.

But this is not a special day for women alone. The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day, the great February revolution broke out (1). It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates. And so, working women's day is a double celebration for us.

But if this is a general holiday for all the proletariat, why do we call it "Women's Day"? Why then do we hold special celebrations and meetings aimed above all at the women workers and the peasant women? Doesn't this jeopardize the unity and solidarity of the working class? To answer these questions, we have to look back and see how Women's Day came about and for what purpose it was organized.


HOW AND WHY WAS WOMEN'S DAY ORGANIZED?

Not very long ago, in fact about ten years ago, the question of women's equality, and the question of whether women could take part in government alongside men was being hotly debated. The working class in all capitalist countries struggled for the rights of working women: the bourgeoisie did not want to accept these rights. It was not in the interest of the bourgeoisie to strengthen the vote of the working class in parliament; and in every country they hindered the passing of laws that gave the right to working women.

Socialists in North America insisted upon their demands for the vote with particular persistence. On the 28th of February, 1909, the women socialists of the U.S.A. organized huge demonstrations and meetings all over the country demanding political rights for working women. This was the first "Woman's Day". The initiative on organizing a woman's day thus belongs to the working women of America.

In 1910, at the Second International Conference of Working Women, Clara Zetkin (2).brought forward the question of organizing an International Working Women's Day. The conference decided that every year, in every country, they should celebrate on the same day a "Women's Day" under the slogan "The vote for women will unite our strength in the struggle for socialism".

During these years, the question of making parliament more democratic, i.e., of widening the franchise and extending the vote to women, was a vital issue. Even before the first world war, the workers had the right to vote in all bourgeois countries except Russia (3). Only women, along with the insane, remained without these rights. Yet, at the same time, the harsh reality of capitalism demanded the participation of women in the country's economy. Every year there was an increase in the number of women who had to work in the factories and workshops, or as servants and charwomen. Women worked alongside men and the wealth of the country was created by their hands. But women remained without the vote.

But in the last years before the war the rise in prices forced even the most peaceful housewife to take an interest in questions of politics and to protest loudly against the bourgeoisie's economy of plunder. "Housewives uprisings" became increasingly frequent, flaring up at different times in Austria, England, France and Germany.

The working women understood that it wasn't enough to break up the stalls at the market or threaten the odd merchant: They understood that such action doesn't bring down the cost of living. You have to change the politics of the government. And to achieve this, the working class has to see that the franchise is widened.

It was decided to have a Woman's Day in every country as a form of struggle in getting working women to vote. This day was to be a day of international solidarity in the fight for common objectives and a day for reviewing the organized strength of working women under the banner of socialism.


THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY

The decision taken at the Second International Congress of Socialist Women was not left on paper. It was decided to hold the first International Women's Day on the 19th of March, 1911.

This date was not chosen at random. Our German comrades picked the day because of its historic importance for the German proletariat. On the 19th of March in the year of 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising. Among the many promise he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women.

After January 11, efforts were made in Germany and Austria to prepare for Women's Day. They made known the plans for a demonstration both by word of mouth and in the press. During the week before Women's Day two journals appeared: The Vote for Women in Germany and Women's Day in Austria. The various articles devoted to Women's Day -- "Women and Parliament," "The Working Women and Municipal Affairs," "What Has the Housewife got to do with Politics?", etc. -- analyzed thoroughly the question of the equality of women in the government and in society. All the articles emphasized the same point: that it was absolutely necessary to make parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.

The first International Women's Day took place in 1911. Its success succeeded all expectation. Germany and Austria on Working Women's Day was one seething, trembling sea of women. Meetings were organized everywhere -- in the small towns and even in the villages halls were packed so full that they had to ask male workers to give up their places for the women.

This was certainly the first show of militancy by the working woman. Men stayed at home with their children for a change, and their wives, the captive housewives, went to meetings. During the largest street demonstrations, in which 30,000 were taking part, the police decided to remove the demonstrators' banners: the women workers made a stand. In the scuffle that followed, bloodshed was averted only with the help of the socialist deputies in Parliament.

In 1913 International Women's Day was transferred to the 8th of March. This day has remained the working women's day of militancy.

IS WOMEN'S DAY NECESSARY?

Women's Day in America and Europe had amazing results. It's true that not a single bourgeois parliament thought of making concessions to the workers or of responding to the women's demands. For at that time, the bourgeoisie was not threatened by a socialist revolution.

But Women's Day did achieve something. It turned out above all to be an excellent method of agitation among the less political of our proletarian sisters. They could not help but turn their attention to the meetings, demonstrations, posters, pamphlets and newspapers that were devoted to Women's Day. Even the politically backward working woman thought to herself: "This is our day, the festival for working women," and she hurried to the meetings and demonstrations. After each Working Women's Day, more women joined the socialist parties and the trade unions grew. Organizations improved and political consciousness developed.

Women's Day served yet another function; it strengthened the international solidarity of the workers. The parties in different countries usually exchange speakers for this occasion: German comrades go to England, English comrades go to Holland, etc. The international cohesion of the working class has become strong and firm and this means that the fighting strength of the proletariat as a whole has grown.

These are the results of working women's day of militancy. The day of working women's militancy helps increase the consciousness and organization of proletarian women. And this means that its contribution is essential to the success of those fighting for a better future for the working class.

WOMEN WORKERS DAY IN RUSSIA

The Russia working woman first took part in "Working Women's Day" in 1913. This was a time of reaction when Tsarism held the workers and peasants in its vise like a grip. There could be no thought of celebrating "Working Women's Day" by open demonstrations. But the organized working women were able to mark their international day. Both the legal newspapers of the working class -- the Bolshevik Pravda and the Menshevik Looch -- carried articles about the International Women's Day: (4).they carried special articles, portraits of some of those taking part in the working women's movement and greetings from comrades such as Bebel and Zetkin (5).

In those bleak years meetings were forbidden. But in Petrograd, at the Kalashaikovsky Exchange, those women workers who belonged to the Party organized a public forum on "The Woman Question." Entrance was five kopecks. This was an illegal meeting but the hall was absolutely packed. Members of the Party spoke. But this animated "closed" meeting had hardly finished when the police, alarmed at such proceedings, intervened and arrested many of the speakers.

It was of great significance for the workers of the world that the women of Russia, who lived under Tsarist repression, should join in and somehow manage to acknowledge with actions International Women's Day. This was a welcome sign that Russia was waking up and the Tsarist prisons and gallows were powerless to kill the workers' spirit of struggle and protest.

In 1914, "Women Workers Day" in Russia was better organized. Both the workers' newspapers concerned themselves with the celebration. Our comrades put a lot of effort into the preparation of "Women Workers Day." Because of police intervention, they didn't manage to organize a demonstration. Those involved in the planning of "Women Workers Day" found themselves in the Tsarist prisons, and many were later sent to the cold north. For the slogan "for the working women's vote" had naturally become in Russia an open call for the overthrow of Tsarist autocracy.


WOMEN WORKERS DAY DURING THE IMPERIALIST WAR

The first world war broke out. The working class in every country was covered with the blood of war (6).In 1915 and 1916 "Working Women's Day" abroad was a feeble affair -- left wing socialist women who shared the views of the Russian Bolshevik Party tried to turn March 8th into a demonstration of working women against the war. But those socialist party traitors in Germany and other countries would not allow the socialist women to organize gatherings; and the socialist women were refused passports to go to neutral countries where the working women wanted to hold International meetings and show that in spite of the desire of the bourgeoisie, the spirit of International solidarity lived on.

In 1915, it was only in Norway that they managed to organize an international demonstration on Women's Day; representatives from Russia and neutral countries attended. There could be no thought of organizing a Women's Day in Russia, for here the power of Tsarism and the military machine was unbridled.

Then came the great, great year of 1917. Hunger, cold and trials of war broke the patience of the women workers and the peasant women of Russia. In 1917, on the 8th of March (23rd of February), on Working Women's Day, they came out boldly in the streets of Petrograd. The women -- some were workers, some were wives of soldiers -- demanded "Bread for our children" and "The return of our husbands from the trenches." 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.

The 1917 Working Women's Day has become memorable in history. On this day the Russian women raised the torch of proletarian revolution and set the world on fire. The February revolution marks its beginning from this day.


OUR CALL TO BATTLE


"Working Women's Day" was first organized ten years ago in the campaign for the political equality of women and the struggle for socialism. This aim has been achieved by the working class women in Russia. In the soviet republic the working women and peasants don't need to fight for the franchise and for civil rights. They have already won these rights. The Russian workers and the peasant women are equal citizens -- in their hands is a powerful weapon to make the struggle for a better life easier -- the right to vote, to take part in the Soviets and in all collective organizations (7).

But rights alone are not enough. We have to learn to make use of them. The right to vote is a weapon which we have to learn to master for our own benefit, and for the good of the workers' republic. In the two years of Soviet Power, life itself has not been absolutely changed. We are only in the process of struggling for communism and we are surrounded by the world we have inherited from the dark and repressive past. The shackles of the family, of housework, of prostitution still weigh heavily on the working woman. Working women and peasant women can only rid themselves of this situation and achieve equality in life itself, and not just in law, if they put all their energies into making Russia a truly communist society.

And to quicken this coming, we have first to put right Russia's shattered economy. We must consider the solving of our two most immediate tasks -- the creation of a well organized and politically conscious labor force and the re-establishment of transport. If our army of labor works well we shall soon have steam engines once more; the railways will begin to function. This means that the working men and women will get the bread and firewood they desperately need.

Getting transport back to normal will speed up the victory of communism. And with the victory of communism will come the complete and fundamental equality of women. This is why the message of "Working Women's Day" must this year be: "Working women, peasant women, mothers, wives and sisters, all efforts to helping the workers and comrades in overcoming the chaos of the railways and re-establishing transport. Everyone in the struggle for bread and firewood and raw materials."

Last year the slogan of the Day of Women Workers was: "All to the victory of the Red Front" (8). Now we call working women to rally their strength on a new bloodless front -- the labor front! The Red Army defeated the external enemy because it was organized, disciplined and ready for self sacrifice. With organization, hard work, self-discipline and self sacrifice, the workers' republic will overcome the internal foe -- the dislocation (of) transport and the economy, hunger, cold and disease. "Everyone to the victory on the bloodless labor front! Everyone to this victory!"


THE NEW TASKS OF WORKING WOMEN'S DAY

The October revolution gave women equality with men as far as civil rights are concerned. The women of the Russian proletariat, who were not so long ago the most unfortunate and oppressed, are now in the Soviet Republic able to show with pride to comrades in other countries the path to political equality through the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and soviet power.

The situation is very different in the capitalist countries where women are still overworked and underprivileged. In these countries the voice of the working woman is weak and lifeless. It is true that in various countries -- in Norway, Australia, Finland and in some of the States of North America -- women had won civil rights even before the war (9).

In Germany, after the Kaiser had been thrown out and a bourgeois republic established, headed by the "compromisers," (10). thirty- six women entered parliament -- but not a single communist!

In 1919, in England, a woman was for the first time elected a Member of Parliament. But who was she? A "lady". That means a landowner, an aristocrat (11).

In France, too, the question has been coming up lately of extending the franchise to women.

But what use are these rights to working women in the framework of bourgeois parliaments? While the power is in the hands of the capitalists and property owners, no political rights will save the working woman from the traditional position of slavery in the home and society. The French bourgeoisie are ready to throw another sop to the working class, in the face of growing Bolshevik ideas amongst the proletariat: they are prepared to give women the vote (12).


MR. BOURGEOIS, SIR -- IT IS TOO LATE!

After the experience of the Russian October revolution, it is clear to every working woman in France, in England and in other countries that only the dictatorship of the working class, only the power of the soviets can guarantee complete and absolute equality, the ultimate victory of communism will tear down the century-old chains of repression and lack of rights. If the task of "International Working Women's Day" was earlier in the face of the supremacy of the bourgeois parliaments to fight for the right of women to vote, the working class now has a new task: to organize working women around the fighting slogans of the Third International. Instead of taking part in the working of the bourgeois parliament, listen to the call from Russia--

"Working women of all countries! Organize a united proletarian front in the struggle against those who are plundering the world! Down with the parliamentarism of the bourgeoisie! We welcome soviet power! Away with inequalities suffer by the working men and women! We will fight with the workers for the triumph of world communism!"

This call was first heard amidst the trials of a new order, in the battles of civil war it will be heard by and it will strike a chord in the hearts of working women of other countries. The working woman will listen and believe this call to be right. Until recently they thought that if they managed to send a few representatives to parliament their lives would be easier and the oppression of capitalism more bearable. Now they know otherwise.

Only the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of soviet power will save them from the world of suffering, humiliations and inequality that makes the life of the working woman in the capitalist countries so hard. The "Working Woman's Day" turns from a day of struggle for the franchise into an international day of struggle for the full and absolute liberation of women, which means a struggle for the victory of the soviets and for communism!

DOWN WITH THE WORLD OF PROPERTY AND THE POWER OF CAPITAL!

AWAY WITH INEQUALITY, LACK OF RIGHTS AND THE OPPRESSION OF WOMEN -- THE LEGACY OF THE BOURGEOIS WORLD!

FORWARD TO THE INTERNATIONAL UNITY OF WORKING WOMEN AND MALE WORKERS IN THE STRUGGLE FOR THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT - - THE PROLETARIAT OF BOTH SEXES!


Endnotes

(1) Tsarist Russia still used the old "Julian" calendar of the Middle Ages, which was 13 days behind the "Gregorian" calendar used in most of the rest of the world. Thus March 8 was "February 23" in the old calendar. This is why the revolution of March 1917 is called "the February revolution" and that of November 1917 "the November revolution."

(2)Clara Zetkin was a leader of the German socialist movement and the main leader of the international working women's movement. Kollontai was a delegate to the international conference representing the St. Petersburg textile workers.

(3)This is not accurate. The vast majority of unskilled workers in England, France and Germany could not vote. A smaller percentage of working class men in the United States could not vote -- in particular immigrant men. In the South of the US black men were often prevented from voting. The middle class suffrage movements in all the European countries did not fight to give votes to either working class women or men.

(4) At its 1903 Congress, the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party divided into two wings, the Bolsheviks (which means "majority" in Russian) and the Mensheviks (which means "minority). In the period between 1903 and 1912 (when the division became permanent) the two wings worked together, unified for a while, split again. Many socialists, including entire local organizations, worked with both wings or tried to stay neutral in the disputes. Kollontai, an active socialist and fighter for women's rights since 1899, was at first independent of the factions, then became a Menshevik for several years. She joined the Bolsheviks in 1915 and became the only woman member of their central committee. She also served as Commissar of Welfare of the Soviet Republic and head of the Women's Section of the Bolshevik Party.

(5) August Bebel (1840-1913) was a leader of the German Social-Democratic Party. He was a well-known supporter of the women's movement and author of a classic book on Marxism and women (Die Frauenfrage, translated into English as Woman Under Socialism, which has been translated into many languages.

(6)When war broke out in 1914, there was a massive split in the international socialist movement. The majority of the Social Democrats in Germany, Austria, France and England supported the war. Other socialists, such Kollontai, Lenin, the Bolshevik Party and Trotsky in Russia, Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg in Germany and Eugene Debs in the United States, to name some of the leaders, denounced the pro-war socialists for being traitors to the working class and to the fight for a workers' revolution.

(7) The word "soviet" means "council." Soviets, or workers' councils, are democratic bodies in which delegates are elected in factory and neighborhood meetings and are controlled by their sister and brother workers. The representatives of the soviets must report back to their constituency and are subject to immediate recall.

(8)After the working class seizure of power in October/November 1917, the Russian workers' state was faced with two major problems. One was an invasion by thirteen countries, including the United States; the second was resistance by the pro- monarchist and pro-capitalist elements in Russia. Primarily under the direction of Leon Trotsky, the soviets created a workers and peasants army, the Red Army, which defeated the forces of counterrevolution.

(9)Women had won the right to vote in several of the United States prior to World War I. A federal amendment guaranteeing all women over 21 the right to vote was passed on August 26, 1920. It was not until the 1960s that the last legal barriers to working class people voting in the United States were abolished.

(10)The "compromisers" Kollontai is referring to are the Social Democratic leaders who formed a new capitalist government in Germany after the fall of the Kaiser in 1918. They actively supported counterrevolution after coming to office.

(11)While the aristocratic Lady Astor was indeed the first woman to serve in the British parliament, the first woman elected to parliament was the Irish revolutionary Constance Markievicz. Together with other members of the Sinn Fein party, she refused to take her seat in the imperial parliament.

(12)French women did not finally get the vote until after World War II.

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Document 3

Pravda , "On the Path to a Great Emancipation," March 8, 1929.

Today is international communist women's day, the international day for working women. Today is a holiday in honor of one-half of the international proletarian army and in honor of the women workers of the socialist Soviet Union . In our country, governed by the power of the proletariat, the day of the woman worker has been consciously designated as a political and cultural “great day.” And outside the Soviet borders, in places where capitalist bondage has not been overthrown, we are certain that conscientious, advanced women workers will today demonstrate their dedication to the cause of the international revolution and their indestructible solidarity with the working women and men of the Soviet Union .

Our woman worker in the past . . . during the barbaric, savage, and blood stained tsarist regime. The heavy and hopeless fate of the woman worker—as mother, wife, and girl. All of the striving of the woman worker toward the light, toward freedom, and to a human existence were snuffed out by the criminal arm of the autocracy. The exploitation and debasement were tripled: in politics, in factory labor, and in daily life.

Working women in capitalist countries. Capitalist “democracy” has not and cannot give freedom to working and laboring women. Working women in all bourgeois countries are economically and politically enslaved. Middle class conventionality has a tenacious vice-grip on daily life. Advanced women workers and revolutionary women proletarians are persecuted. The most brutal blows of capitalist “rationalization,” unemployment, and hunger in the midst of plenty descend upon the female half of the proletariat. Fascism, Catholicism, and reformism with increasingly thoroughness exploit the historical backwardness of women workers in order to split apart the proletarian ranks and strengthen the position of imperialism. The temples of “national government”—what a thing to talk about!—are protected by stone walls which prevent the participation of working women.

Only we in the Soviet Union have at hand all of the preconditions and foundations for the complete emancipation of working women. These preconditions were created and acquired in a severe struggle with enemies, at a time when world history passed over the heights of the great October summit. Only our women have been emancipated in practice, acting as conscious builders of a new society and a new governing commune, and speaking out as active citizens with fully equal rights in the socialist family.

For more than eleven years, our woman worker has made her way along the path set by the proletarian dictatorship. Together with all the proletariat she fought for power in October. Together with her working brothers she passed through the crucible of sacrifice and suffering during the civil war. She stands in the most advanced ranks of our working collective in the present-day glorious and productive period of socialist construction. In the factory workshop and at the controls of the state ships, in the cooperatives and at the shooting range, in the nursery school and at the thundering machinery, everywhere the tractors of our increasingly strong state farms and collective farms are plowing the virgin soil of our Soviet land, in the workers' faculties and in courses for the red sisterhood where the proletariat struggles relentlessly to master science, and everywhere that life is in full swing and the anthills of labor are humming—in none of these places have the working women of the Soviet Union been forced into last place. Everywhere the vigorous stream of activism of our women workers is flowing. With ever more firm and certain steps they are advancing on the path to complete emancipation under the tested leadership of our Party.

Needless to say, without the conscious and active participation of the working woman we will not fulfill the tasks defined by Lenin and by the entire development of the October revolution. We will not achieve the rapid tempo of socialist industrialization if the woman worker turns out to be passive. We will not achieve the complete cultural revolution if the woman worker remains “on the side,” or is somehow pushed off toward “the second rate plan.”

For the successful completion of all these tasks we must mobilize the entire women's active. Recruitment of the best women into the Party and the courageous and steadfast advancement into the soviets, management and cooperative duties, and the governing apparatus—these measures will ensure the actual emancipation of women who remain backward in comparison with our general levels of economic and cultural development.

The maximum activism of all women proletarians and conscientious working peasant women is one of the indispensable guarantees of our further successes and our victorious socialist growth. The greatest possible and most inexhaustible activism, the unceasingly creative work of the woman proletarian on all large and “small” fronts of our life, their rigid and total solidarity with the Party—these are the obligatory conditions for our creativity.

The struggle for a new cultured life—is this possible without the creative initiative of the woman worker? The struggle with alcoholism and disgusting drunken debauchery and the struggle to expel the green hydra from the Soviet home—are these conceivable without the will and determination, without the intensive and constant force of the working woman? Could the struggle with such social ulcers as prostitution proceed successfully without arousing and involving hundreds of thousands of working women?

And the struggle to overcome difficulties, the struggle with our many-faceted class enemies, the struggle with anti-Semitism, with the priesthood, and with religious stupification—are these goals attainable if the campaign against these barbarisms does not include the millions of working women and if they are not advanced into the leading positions?

All of these tasks need to be accomplished, and they will be accomplished. The path to the complete emancipation of working women is clear. No force has concealed it. And not only today, on the red holiday of March 8, should we take note of and strongly emphasize the great challenges facing the women's proletarian movement. These should be remembered constantly, they should become part of our everyday “routine” of socialism. For surely we are talking about one of the greatest tasks that has been set by history: the complete liberation and emancipation of working women from any kind of exploitation, from material need, from lack of culture, and from barbarism.