By the Editorial Board
International Working Women’s Day (IWWD), marked every year on March 8, is a militant celebration observing the strength and organizing of proletarian women, but it is not a day for women alone as it holds historical significance for the proletarians of the world. On March 8, 1917, the February Revolution broke out in Russia. It was working women who led the first charge in Saint Petersburg.
The proletarian holiday originated in 1910 with the International Conference of Working Women, where Clara Zetkin brought forward the demand that every year on March 8 all over the world “Women’s Day” be observed as International Working Women’s Day. The conference agreed and resolved to do so.
Alexandra Kollontai expressed that IWWD, having accomplished so much, was not enough, that the fight must continue under socialism to fully emancipate women:
“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.”
Maoists understand this sentiment as inherently linked to the question of Cultural Revolution put forward by Chairman Mao Zedong much later. Chairman Mao’s views on the necessity of women’s role in revolution are clear in his own axiom that “Women hold up half the sky,” and his affirmation that, “The emancipation of women is an integral part of the liberation of the proletariat.”
IWWD is a day to celebrate internationalism and honor important revolutionary women leaders, such as Comrade Norah, Clara Zetkin, Jiang Qing, Rosa Luxemburg, and Sandra Lima.
Marxism argues for the emancipation of women through socialist revolution and does not argue for the “liberation” of women from “patriarchy.” Marxism holds that the root of women’s oppression is the emergence of private property and class society, that the first act of class oppression was the oppression of women. The women’s liberation/patriarchy argument incorrectly claims that the main contradiction is that between women and men but as Marxists we insist that this contradiction is secondary—the main contradiction for women is between women and private property, which puts the focus mainly on working women. We highlight the correct and clear position of José Carlos Mariátegui (founder of the Communist Party of Peru): class distinguishes individuals more than sex.
Marxism answers the women’s question and has led women’s struggles for over 100 years; hence we do not use the word “feminism” to describe our views on the emancipation of women through socialist revolution and its continuation under the dictatorship of the proletariat. We do not seek to claim the title of “feminist” for ourselves, and we do not relent on the question of mobilizing women as a force for the proletarian revolution.
Marxism opposes sexual violence against women outright, in both its legal and illegal forms. Hence, revolutionaries oppose the sanitizing of prostitution (which is sexual violence) with the terminology of postmodernism such as ‘sex work,’ etc. Opposing prostitution and seeking to abolish it through socialist revolution means supporting the rehabilitation of women who have been forced or economically coerced into this trade.
It is important to start from a position of Marxism as outlined by Movimiento Femenino Popular of Peru, who said, “The condition of women is sustained in property relations, in the form of ownership exercised over the means of production and in the productive relations arising from them.” To develop sufficient understandings of the distortion of the women’s question they continue: “The oppression attached to the female condition has as its roots the formation, appearance and development of the right to ownership over the means of production, and therefore that its emancipation is linked to the destruction of said right.”
As “Marxism, Mariátegui, and the Women’s Movement” explains, some self-proclaimed Marxists attempt to distract from the root of women’s oppression by arguing that it is not rooted in private property but in the sexual division of labor.
Capitalism itself sets the precondition of the emancipation of women with their incorporation into production. Capitalism will also use women’s labor to lower salaries and will make every attempt it can to divide the interests of women and men workers. The role of women in production is fatal to capitalism, and it is another manifestation of capitalism making its own gravediggers. Working women face oppression both as women and as workers, making them a decisive section of the class.
Tribune of the People salutes all of our class sisters as this important proletarian holiday approaches, and upholds all efforts undertaken to mobilize women as a mighty force for proletarian revolution!
The Success of Revolution Depends on the Degree to which Women Participate!
Long Live International Working Women’s Day!
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