March 8, International Day for Working Class Women

In this society celebrations have lost their real value, their commemorative value. Instead they disguise their main aim which is to promote the circulation and consumption of commodities. International Women’s Day is the nth tragic example of this.

In New York at the end of March 1911 146 female workers (many were Italian immigrants) in the textile factory of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company were tragically killed in a fire. As soon as the fire started the owners of the factory who were on the tenth floor took steps to save themselves. The workers were not so lucky. In fact the bosses usually locked them in whilst they were working so that they could not steal anything or take too long over breaks. In the trial that followed they were let off and the insurance company paid them $445 for very dead worker; the families got $75 in compensation. (1)

This fire signalled an important date even if it was not, as some sources maintain, the true origin of International Women’s Day. Nevertheless something has remained … according to legend, a short while after their burial mimosas flourished on their tombs! In fact that romantic propaganda gesture by the media to bring joy to flower sellers has in reality a sad and macabre origin. It has a proletarian origin which they have tried to make us all forget in the name of the god, Money.

The real and true recourse to 8 March was officially to remember the first demonstrations of the Vyborg women workers on 8 March 1917. The women spontaneously went on strike and asked the metalworkers to support them. In a short time the number on strike reached 90,000. They demonstrated, formed assemblies and engaged in violent clashes with the police. In June 1921 at the Second International Conference of Communist women held in Moscow under the auspices of the Third International the date was formally adopted as the “International Day of Women Workers”. Bourgeois institutions have thought it better to rename it “International Women’s Day”.

This celebration which has a working class origin is now only for the flower shop owners, sweet sellers and other beneficiaries of commercialisation . We need to campaign to restore the dignity and class character of this day of celebration by all the propaganda means we can.

We think that the increasing violence against women is due to the decline in customs and behaviour due to the economic crisis, and to the cultural survival of preindustrial traditions in everyday thinking, traditions which will only be overcome by the advent of communist society. Nevertheless this irrational reaction, medieval or barbaric like the society that generated it, has to be condemned and above all fought. Fought, through revolutionary propaganda in the construction of an internationalist revolutionary organisation, which is the only alternative to increasing barbarism. But above all it has to be fought for by working class women who are its victims.

Working class women must struggle alongside their class comrades for their own security, creating autonomous self-defence groups independent of the official parties, bourgeois-catholic charitable organisations, or the government. Its enough just to think about the latest episodes, as for example the rape which took place in a barracks a few days ago; how can this rapist State guarantee anything? Working class women together with the whole working class must first resist class violence in order to fight against a specific form of violence and the ideology which sustains it. At the same time they need to struggle to spread the communist perspective the only one which can halt class violence and the ideological forms which still sustain sexual violence.

Moreover we need to condemn the institutional and bourgeois feminism of the suffragette type which tries to forget the class character of working class women or rather the struggle against capitalism and the patriarchal order which emanates from it. It also make no sense to fight capitalism without fighting to defeat patriarchy, or rather for a communist society, the only society in which women will be free from domestic labour and the institutional egoism which is the family. We need to relaunch our proletarian pride even if we have to start with this degenerated celebration of inter-classist bourgeois romanticism.

(1) For the modern repeat of this incident see Bangla Desh Workers struggle for Living Wage in Revolutionary Perspectives 56 or