One hundred years ago, female workers and socialists first observed a holiday that honored courageous battles by and for working women: International Women's Day. Then, as now, the questions of women and revolution were tightly interwoven. Initially marking heroic strikes by New York textile workers, March 8 has been the occasion of female-sparked revolutions and uprisings from Russia 1917 to the present day.
Sisters rise up globally
Around the world, women are part of grassroots revolts against poverty and fear. In numerous Arab nations, women are instrumental to electrifying mobilizations against oppressive regimes. They have led marches, cared for the injured, defended other women, and stood their ground against government thugs. Strikes and rallies led by female workers in Egypt were pivotal to toppling the despised Mubarak regime.
These struggles are far from over. Feminists must stand in solidarity with our sisters by opposing threatened U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa, especially if the Pentagon tries to justify occupation by manufacturing panic about "defending women" against Islamic fundamentalism.
In the United States, "union maids" are key to mass actions and occupations by public workers defending living standards and collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin, Ohioand Indiana. As a legacy of affirmative action, the majority of public workers are women and people of color-including teachers, nurses, office staff, and social workers. National Nurses United and others are boldly standing firm against concessions. They ask why the poor and workers are expected to "share the sacrifice" while last year Corporate America raked in record profits and Wall Street paid average bonuses of $128,530. Instead of slashing social services and workers' pay and benefits, elected officials should balance government budgets by ending give-aways to big business and the rich.
In all these battles for justice, women are proving themselves militant fighters for liberation. This is no surprise. The worldwide exploitation of women has created a specially oppressed sex whose potential for revolt and capacity for leadership is second to none. Their contributions and particular needs must be recognized.
All the way to liberation
In the past, some revolutionary movements have failed when they refused to deal with women's oppression or take on capitalism. Under the guise of "unity," women in El Salvador, Guatemala and Iran were told they must wait until some distant point in the future for an end to their oppression. The chance for progress passed and conservative regimes consolidated their hold. To avoid a repeat of this history, Hoda Badran, Egyptian activist and chairperson for the Cairo-based Alliance for Arab Women, says, "We have to demand our rights. I myself am optimistic but we cannot just sit around and do nothing."
Social and economic revolution are needed to win female liberation because the insatiable capitalist thirst for profits relies on inequality and the unpaid and underpaid labor of the female sex. Women, and their allies among queers, immigrants, youth and the entire working class, have the need and the strength to build a planned, collective socialist economy to feed, house, educate, and nurture all humanity.
Celebrate the revolutionary leadership of women by getting involved with Radical Women. Check us out at http://www.radicalwomen.org/. There you can learn more about our socialist feminist ideas and organizing efforts, and order a copy of The Radical Women Manifesto.
Donations are also tremendously helpful. As a community-based group, Radical Women is sustained by support from people like you. Please contribute online or mail a check, payable to "National Radical Women" to 5018 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98118.
Viva the revolutionary force of women!
Radical Women, U.S. Section
P.S. This just out -- a sign that Radical Women's doing the right thing is our mention by name, with a quote from our website mission statement, by notorious far-right media demagogue Glenn Beck, in an outrageous smear attack on unions, radicals and the activists targeted by grand juries in Minneapolis and Chicago. See Beck's March 3 Fox News tirade at http://mediamatters.org/mmtv/201103030046. We're proud to be in such distinguished company!