International Women’s Day (8 March) was celebrated with special enthusiasm this year by members of the parties and organisations affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI), including the Socialist Party in England and Wales (see reports below). Millions worldwide were on the streets to denounce the reactionary views of US president Donald Trump, especially towards women.
It is also 100 years since women workers of Petrograd chose this day to take the action which sparked the historic Russian revolution.
From ‘International Women’s Day 2017: A century on from the Russian Revolution’ by Clare Doyle (CWI). The article can be read on socialistworld.net
Spain: Hundreds of thousands in International Women’s Day student strike
The call by ‘Libres y Combativas’ (a working class socialist feminist platform established by the Sindicato de Estudiantes and members of Izquierda Revolucionaria – CWI co-thinkers in the Spanish state) to strike against sexist violence and in defence of the rights of working class women brought out hundreds of thousands of students.
This is a historic strike, the first time ever that a strike of such dimensions has taken place on International Women’s Day. Mass assemblies and protests took place in more than 1,000 schools and campuses.
Hundreds signed up to get involved in Libres y Combativas, to strengthen the ranks of working class, anti-capitalist, revolutionary feminism.
In the evening big demonstrations took place, including 500,000 in Madrid!
Republic of Ireland: Mass protests demand abortion rights
IWD was a major day of action by women and young people in Ireland to protest the archaic 8th amendment to the constitution which bans abortion.
The ‘Strike 4 repeal’ saw up to 8,000 gather in Dublin city centre in the afternoon. In the evening the ‘March 4 Repeal’ was 12,000 strong.
Socialist Party members supported the strike by assisting pro-abortion rights group Rosa in organising the ‘Bus 4 repeal’, which directly linked women to womenonweb.org – a group that posts safe abortion pills to women in countries where abortion is illegal.
Hong Kong: Solidarity with global mass protests and women’s strikes”
Over 70 attended the Socialist Action (CWI) candle-lit demonstration in Hong Kong.
“Today, International Women’s Day, we go to the streets – not to go shopping or organise dinners and ceremonies. We want a new, fighting feminism against the rule of the undemocratic billionaire 1%,” said Sally Tang Mei-ching, Socialist Action (CWI, Hong Kong)
Female members of Socialist Movement Sindh arranged a workers’ rally from the Socialist Movement Sindh office in Mirpurkhas to the Press Club.
They put forward demands that female workers and peasants working at home should be registered as industrial workers and given full social security facilities.
A demo was held in Leeds Millennium Square marking International Women’s Day. It was organised by socialist women and non-binary group (SWAN), and Leeds Socialist Party branch.
It was not just a celebration of IWD but a demo standing in solidarity with women striking for their rights across the world and, in particular, the continuing struggle for access to safe and legal abortions in Ireland.
The evening was rounded off by a speech from Amy Cousens from SWAN about the origins of International Women’s Day, and how the Russian Revolution was kick-started by women workers refusing to accept their abysmal conditions.
Immediately after the revolution the Soviets adopted the Bolsheviks’ policies on divorce, abortion and sexuality, which remain progressive even by today’s standards.
Socialist Students Liverpool
University of Liverpool Socialist Students celebrated IWD with a debate and discussion on “what is the relationship between gender and class equality?”
We discussed events such as the peace and bread strikes which triggered the February revolution in Russia as well as events such as the Dagenham Ford sewing machinists strike in 1968 which was influential in securing the 1970 Equal Pay Act.
We later joined a demonstration held at the university in solidarity with the Strike4Repeal marches in Ireland on the right of women to take their reproductive health into their own hands.
The demonstration was met with some opposition from a group of male passers-by, who yelled profanities and misogynistic remarks. This clearly shows the congruence between harassment and the need for socialist feminism to fight the misogynist establishment which has been encapsulated with the rise of Trumpism.
We spoke to people at the demonstration about the link between fighting women’s oppression and fighting the capitalist system and we informed the crowd of the Day X walkouts when Trump visits, and sold copies of the Socialist.
London – revolution past and present
In a room plastered in photos, displays and posters celebrating the Russian Revolution, nearly 100 socialists met on International Women’s Day in London, organised by the Socialist Party.
The meeting explained the role of women in the February 1917 revolution and the gains made by the October revolution in attempting to liberate women and unburden them of domestic responsibilities through communal laundries, restaurants and child care.
Other Socialist Party members spoke on fighting sexism today, for abortion rights and women’s equality in the workplace.
It was hard-hitting discussion because if the revolutionary movement in Russia had successfully spread internationally then women wouldn’t still have to be campaigning for their rights today. But it was also inspiring to discuss with revolutionary women and men who continue to fight for socialism.
Kshama Sawant is a Socialist Alternative (US co-thinkers of the Socialist Party) councillor in Seattle, re-elected in November 2015. She has championed a $15 an hour minimum wage and measures such as rent controls to end the housing crisis. The following is an extract from her IWD speech to supporters.
We are fighting for a socialist world
Today is one of the largest ever celebrations of International Women’s Day. In more than 50 countries around the world, women are marching, rallying, and going on strike. Many are protesting against Donald Trump. Because the ‘Misogynist in Chief’ and his vile right-wing agenda are not just threats to women in the United States, but to millions of working women everywhere.
While the protests today are much smaller than the tremendous Women’s Marches just six weeks ago – the biggest single day of protest in US history – today is also historic.
Today’s women’s strike has brought forward the question of power, of our power as working women. Schools closed down in a number of cities today, and, around the country, thousands of women courageously took the day off, called in sick, or left work early.
We, as women, have begun a crucial discussion about what is really needed to defeat Donald Trump. And what is needed is the enormous potential power of strike action. To hit Trump and his billionaire backers where it hurts – by shutting down their profits!
But, to do so, we will need to get better organised. And we will need to build on a far larger scale.
Women’s Day was originally called ‘International Working Women’s Day’. It began in this country over a century ago. And it wasn’t about flowers or chocolate!
It was about working women standing up against their exploitation in their workplaces, for the right to vote and full civil rights, against sexual harassment, for the right to make choices about their own bodies, and for the right to equal pay for equal work.
And it was about capitalism. Because it is not only Donald Trump who is misogynist and racist. The capitalist system is deeply oppressive at its core – it has sexism, sexual violence, and racism written on its DNA. Capitalism relies on the brutal exploitation of women and other oppressed groups to divide and weaken the working class.
The women’s marches in January and today’s incredible events are a huge step forward for our movement. And we need to go further.
In order to fully tap into the power of working women and of the broader working class, we need to organise for broad strike action.
This is not only about an end to Trumpism or to corporate politics. We also have to demand fundamental change, and, for that, we will need a powerful movement independent of corporate politicians. We need our own political parties. We need a new socialist party, as a step toward a new mass workers’ party.
Like the women in Russia a century ago, we are not just fighting for a less brutal system. We are fighting for a socialist world.