First published in 1920, this essay traces the history of international women's day and its importance to working class struggle with particular focus on the 1917 Russian Revolution.
"A militant celebration"
"Women's Day or Working Women's Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organization of proletarian women.
But this is not a special day for women alone. The 8th of March is a historic and memorable day for the workers and peasants, for all the Russian workers and for the workers of the whole world. In 1917, on this day, the great February revolution broke out. It was the working women of Petersburg who began this revolution; it was they who first decided to raise the banner of opposition to the Tsar and his associates. And so, working women's day is a double celebration for us.
But if this is a general holiday for all the proletariat, why do we call it "Women's Day"? Why then do we hold special celebrations and meetings aimed above all at the women workers and the peasant women? Doesn't this jeopardize the unity and solidarity of the working class? To answer these questions, we have to look back and see how Women's Day came about and for what purpose it was organized."
I thought this was a particularly good article about the history of International Women's Day, a day that by and large is taken for granted. This article illustrates that IWD was a product of the struggles of women against their oppression, it shows that Women's Liberation was not only a women's question, but a question for the whole of the working class.
This article also pays hommage to those militant, revolutionary women who have risen to the challenge of not only their own oppression, but the oppression of the whole working class on numerous occasion, often leading the struggle.
Written by a Marxist, Alexandra Kollontai, a former Menshevik who split from the party due to their support for the first world war and joined the Bolsheviks.
"Clara Zetkin: Lenin on the Women's Question"
"Comrade Lenin frequently spoke to me about the women’s question. Social equality for women was, of course, a principle needing no discussion for communists. It was in Lenin’s large study in the Kremlin in the autumn of 1920 that we had our first long conversation on the subject.
“We must create a powerful international women’s movement, on a clear theoretical basis”, Lenin began. “There is no good practice without Marxist theory, that is clear. The greatest clarity of principle is necessary for us communists in this question. There must be a sharp distinction between ourselves and all other Parties. Unfortunately, our Second World Congress did not deal with this question. It was brought forward, but no decision arrived at. The matter is still in commission, which should draw up a resolution, theses, directions. Up to the present, however, they haven’t got very far. You will have to help.”
I was already acquainted with what Lenin said and expressed my astonishment at the state of affairs. I was filled with enthusiasm about the work done by Russian women in the revolution and still being done by them in its defence and further development. And as for the position and activities of women comrades in the Bolshevik Party, that seemed to me a model Party. It alone formed an international communist women’s movement of useful, trained and experienced forces and a historical example."
I particularly like this article, which is an account by the German Marxist Clara Zetkin, famous for her role in the German Socialist Party (SPD), alongside Rosa Luxemburg. In this article, she is speaking with Vladimir Lenin on the role of Women in the proletarian-revolution. I loved it because it showed how far backward that struggle for women's liberation has slid, but also, to some extent, highlights why Women need to look to militant struggle against their oppression, not petty middle class compromising. It details the Bolshevik Lenin's views, and subsequently the views of the Russian Communists at the time, of the role of Women as being fundamental to the success of any proletarian revolution. They discuss this role, how to organise women, the question of sexuality, sexism within the work of the Communists in Germany (in that they had not been tempering the revolutionary ideas of women, but rather focused on questions of marriage and sexuality.) and so on. In doing so, it shows a rather compelling insight into the inner-workings of Lenin and the Bolsheviks prior to Lenin's death, as well as the substantial difference between Lenin's Bolshevik party and Stalin's Bolshevik party (which, in Stalin's regime, advocated ruthlessly the nuclear family, homophobia and many other utterly disgusting ideologies).
Overall, the above two articles show a stark contrast between the struggle of women today, and the struggle of women yesturday. It shows the the stark contrast between what militant action can create, and what patriarchal feminism was limited to. Women's liberation, it seems by these two articles, lies in an opposition to Capitalist society. A society which systematically degenerates the role of women to machinery. To something that will produce the next worker, nothing more. It degenerates her role in the work place, and subsequently undermines the roles of all others. It deliberately, institutionally, breeds inequality between the sexes, as well as inequality on the basis of race and sexuality, and it has only been when the system was threatened, when the system was brought to its knees, that women rose to take their rightful place as equals, rather, it has been the only time where women had won the conditions for them to become equals as human beings.
To tackle sexism, we need to tackle the Nuclear Family and destroy it. We need to take the concept of morality, a ruling class concept, and perpetrator of Sexism, and smash it. We need to take the state institutions which reinforce sexist society and smash it, and we need to take the system which degenerates the whole working class to nothing more than producers of wealth for bosses, we need to take the system which has no room for equality, which has no room for free-love, for community, basing itself only on competitive accumulation, and smash it to fucking pieces.
Over the weekend I'll be writing up my own article on the "Women's Question." For now, I hope that these two articles will inspire our female comrades, will inspire our male comrades to stand up along side them, and will inspire us all as a whole to look to Capitalism as the oppressor, and to recognise the only way forward, for liberation for the whole of the oppressed and exploited, is to smash the bloody system that breeds it.
Redistributed by Abel Koskinen, of the Second Life Internationalist Socialists for the SLLU. Original articles courtesy of libcom.org and marxists.org.