International Working Women's Day: Against All Oppression and Exploitation!

Since International Working Women’s Day last year, in the midst of war and environmental catastrophe, with the economic crisis making life harder for workers everywhere, there has been a wave of protests in response to issues affecting women in particular.

In Iran, they were sparked by the killing of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, by the Guidance Patrol (known unofficially as the ‘morality police’) in September 2022, for the crime of not wearing her headscarf in a suitable manner.(1) Protests against the compulsory hijab are not unheard of in Iran. One of the largest began on International Working Women's Day in 1979, a day after hijab rules were introduced by the Islamic Republic, and lasted several days. Protests against mandatory hijab rules also took place during a wave of protests in 2019–2020, when protesters attacked a Guidance Patrol van and freed two detained women.

For a time these latest protests were happening in conjunction with major strikes among oil workers, teachers and sugar-cane workers. Coordination between them was leading in a positive direction(2), though the protests seem to have subsided in recent weeks. While these protesters have taken a courageous stand against the Islamic Republic, outside of Iran rallies have often been staged by monarchists or supporters of a more ‘liberal’ Iranian state. The working-class women of Iran, and the many male workers who have supported them, have shown great courage in the face of a brutal regime intent on crushing protest, but real freedom for women will not come from a more liberal constitution or a different constellation of bosses at the helm of the state.

In the US, another assault against women has made the news: the Supreme Court’s decision to repeal Roe versus Wade, the judgement that cemented the choice to get an abortion as a constitutional right in the US. Reproductive rights have been under constant attack across the US for decades, and this latest decision opens the way for further restrictions which will primarily affect working-class women. Our comrades in the IWG intervened in protests about this, to show the limitations of petitioning the state to change policy.(3)

In Russia and Ukraine, the war has increased trafficking, sexual exploitation, rape and other gender-based violence. At the same time, war imposes traditional gender roles in the most brutal manner: while men are forcefully sent to die on the frontlines, back at home women bear the brunt of the rising costs of living. In both countries women have sent petitions and staged protests in reaction to the effects of the war, against the draft and the increasingly difficult living conditions they are facing. On their own these actions cannot put an end to the conflict, but they dispel the myth of “national unity” that both sides attempt to uphold. And as we wrote last year,

on International Working Women’s Day (23 February old style/8 March today) 1917, women workers from both home and factory took to the streets of St Petersburg. Then, as now, Russia was involved in a disastrous war which had brought nothing but death, hunger and misery. Then, as now, Russia was governed by a ruthless authoritarian police state. … Today in acknowledging a war of over a century ago we also look to the inspiration that the revolution of 1917 created.(4)

A Global Problem

From the US to Iran and beyond, women are treated as second-class citizens and have their lives regulated in ways men’s lives are not. Women generally still earn less than men, even if there is a formal commitment by the state to ‘equality’(5). But then, the idea of ‘equality’ falls into a fundamental dilemma – equality with whom? Working class men do not have the same chances or status or outcomes as bourgeois men; equality always comes up against the problem of a class-divided society.

This year, we repeat the fundamental message that the ‘liberation’ of women in general, and working-class women in particular, can only come about with the end of capitalism. It is only through the destruction of this rotten system that the working class as a whole will be able to establish a genuine human community that can allow everyone to be free.

To quote what we said in 2000,

We want working class women to have real power.
Instead of pleading for equal pay with men, we want the overthrow of the wages system. Instead of asking for equality under capitalism, we want its abolition. We want a society of freely associated producers who produce for human need and don’t exploit for profit.
We’re fighting for communism because it is the only realistic way to fight inequality and the violence and oppression that goes with it.
Fight with us!(6)

Communist Workers’ Organisation


For some of our previous articles about International Working Women's Day and its history, see: 8 Historical Working Women Moments for 8 March, The Origins and Capture of International Working Women's Day, Celebrating International Women’s Day 100 Years On, March 8, International Day for Working Class Women







Wednesday, March 8, 2023