International Working Women's Day: A Day of Struggle Against Exploitation, Chauvinism and War

The 1917 Working Women's Day has become memorable in history. On this day the Russian women raised the torch of proletarian revolution and set the world on fire. The February revolution marks its beginning from this day.


Working Women’s Day, March 8th, is rooted in the struggle of the working class. The working women of Russia, on March 8th 1917, marched through the streets of Saint Petersburg under the class banner “Down with the war” and brought their husbands and sons out of the factories. With soldiers mixing into the crowds of labourers, the working women of Saint Petersburg had sparked the world workers revolution. Soviet power, in turn, made massive advances in the living conditions of women, e.g. being the first state in history to legalize abortion. Amidst the graveyards of Europe and the economic ruin, world capital finally gasped in horror with the recognition that the working class could impose itself onto history. Today, our class is facing massive economic attacks by that very same foe which increasingly views military conflict as the best solution to its crisis, and working women bear the brunt all too often.

The picture for women workers is bleak. In the United States, the legality of abortion has been rolled back in numerous states since the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022. In Iran, women disobeying the modesty law and protesting the state are continually met with deadly police violence. In Canada, the government twiddles its thumbs as more and more evidence leaks about the horrors of Indigenous femicide. All over the world, patriarchal violence bears down on the heads of women. To the partisans of "democratic progress" this regression cannot be explained. For all the laurels capitalism bestows upon itself as liberator of humanity, the wreath is covered in the gruesome blood of women workers.

Capitalist society, rather than having progressed by gradual enlightenment, has always been driven by capital itself. The capitalist state can bestow rights as quickly and arbitrarily as it can take them away. Those same victories working women secured during the Russian Revolution were snatched away by Stalinist doctrine, criminalizing abortion to meet the demands to produce a new wave of workers. Worse yet, consider how the liberal feminist appeal to the "rights of women" has been used to justify barbarism, often against women. To save the poor women of Afghanistan and Yemen from their own “barbarous” men, the “humanitarian” drone operators of the U.S. military fire “humane” missiles at weddings. To “liberate” Gaza from the grip of “backwards” Hamas, the very “progressive” IDF turns apartment blocks into piles of rubble, over which they raise a pride flag. Perhaps nowhere is the contradiction between actual equality and the equality of liberal rights clearer than how the basic decencies afforded to trans women are pitted against cis women, the former put up as predators of the latter by reactionaries, condemning both to horrors of patriarchy, pitting woman against woman based on something akin to phrenology.

Capitalist society is a social system which carries the muck of the ages. These forms of oppression change as they adjust to the logic of capital. Insofar as equality can be realized in capitalism it is an equality organized in accordance with a world based on division and exploitation. Capitalism can cede some rights to women just as it can take it away, since the real motive force in this society is capital. If feminism is conducive to capitalist accumulation, then the bosses will follow it, so long as it doesn’t jeopardise keeping most of humanity in perpetual misery. Therefore, nothing prevents capitalism from being just as feminist as it is patriarchal, if feminism means that women workers are still exploited by bourgeois women as their enlightened overseers. If the wage gap were closed, the head of the state were a woman, and the richest people on earth were all self-made women, it would not change the fact that capital has a constant need to attack the general condition of the working class in its drive for profits. In this attack, the most precarious and marginal sections of the class are assaulted even more viciously. Capitalism can only superficially resolve some of these inequalities; their roots lie in the fundamental inequality responsible for the system, that being the wage relation. Therefore, the abolition of such loathsome conditions can only be brought about by the full abolition of class society.

Some modern feminists disavow their more mainstream liberal counterparts, distinguishing themselves as “radical” or “intersectional.” However, this feminism ultimately only obscures the centrality of class in history. Feminism, in this way, refers to a specific historical movement that is inherently class collaborationist - it cannot be used synonymously with the struggle for women’s liberation. It is only the working class’s fight as a class for itself that can answer the social question. That feminism is an identity movement, not a class movement, proves its bourgeois existence. The identity of womanhood does not transcend the fundamental economic relations constituting capitalist society and its political currents. A “woman’s identity” is used as leverage to squeeze more profits out of their exploitation, and as propaganda to lionize capitalist society. Worse, those radical feminists who pose womanhood as a class itself (!) serve to disrupt and confuse workers. A bourgeois woman is not on the same side as a woman worker, while all members of the working class have the same common goal. The most "radical" of feminism can only be a tool to place working women in a class alliance with capital, incompatible with the way communist class politics fights oppression. All this seeks to legitimize capitalist justice as a "lesser evil", just as the British suffragettes recruited soldiers into the first great imperialist slaughter for “king and country”. As communists, we advocate for more. Not a class alliance for "women's rights", but the unity of the working class for the liberation of women and of all humankind; for women workers as part of the whole workers’ struggle to take initiative and destroy the system exploiting the working masses.

Capitalist “progress” pales in comparison to the new world at the end of the worker’s struggle. But on this day let’s look back on our history, the history of the working class, to understand the concrete ways in which workers have triumphed over chauvinism. The political participation of women achieved in this revolution was not that of casting ballots every four years, but one of constant and active participation through workers’ councils. In place of the capitalist “progress” of bringing more women into factories to replace their male counterparts, through the slaughter of the first world war, the international workers’ movement sparked by the women workers of Russia was the one to decisively end the imperialist war.

Today, in spite of the economic assault of declining real wages, the social assaults seeking to further drive working women into precarity, and the imperialist war threatening workers across the world, working women have been on the front ranks of the working class struggle. Sectors traditionally dominated by women such as education and nursing have presented themselves as some of the most militant of the working class. In 2022, Ontario educators nearly sparked a general strike which was only averted by backroom deals between the unions and state. In Britain, striking nurses have been a continual sore point for capital serving as a reference point for the struggle of the rest of the class. In Bangladesh, the predominantly female textile workers have waged direct conflict with police, the effects of which have hit the pockets of capitalist investments in fashion throughout the world.

It is incorrect to imply that workers’ struggle for merely economic demands will automatically transform itself into the genuine emancipation of women. On the contrary, it must be a conscious political struggle. The working class movement must recognize its struggle as a struggle for human emancipation, and only through the working class movement can there be liberation of humanity. To realize this struggle, our class needs a centralized, international, revolutionary communist party to direct all struggles against capitalist attacks towards a fight for a classless society. It is inherent to the historic task of our class to dispel chauvinism from its own ranks, to unify as a class, and to fight for power. There can be no women’s emancipation without workers’ emancipation! There can be no workers’ emancipation without women’s emancipation!

Internationalist Workers' Group
March 2024
Thursday, March 7, 2024

Mutiny / Mutinerie

Mutiny is the bulletin of Klasbatalo. Mutinerie est le bulletin de Klasbatalo.