by James Thompson

In memory of Bernadette Steward

INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY

The International Women’s Day (IWD) has a glorious history and this article will compare and contrast this important holiday with President Trump’s attitude towards women.

First, here is the history. Wikipedia notes that the first Women’s Day observance was held on Fairbury 28, 1909, in New York. “It was organized by the Socialist Party of America in remembrance of the 1908 strike of the International Ladies Garment Worker’s Union.”

Clara Zetkin made the proposal for the IWD at the International Women’s Conference which preceded the Second International in Copenhagen in August, 1910. It was originally called International Working Women’s Day.

In his introduction to the book Clara Zetkin: Selected Writings, Philip S. Foner wrote “March 8 each year would be celebrated in all countries as international women’s day and would be organized chiefly around the demand for women’s suffrage. The date March 8 was chosen because of an event that had occurred on that day in the United States. Under the leadership of women workers in the New York City needle trades, a number of whom were socialists, a women’s demonstration was called on Sunday, March 8, 1908. Hundreds gathered in Rutgers Square in the heart of Manhattan’s lower East side to demand the vote and to urge the building of a powerful needle trades’ union. So successful was the 1908 demonstration that it came to the attention of socialist women abroad and Clara Zetkin, who had learned of it, made the motion at Copenhagen that the day of the demonstration of American working women become an International Women’s Day and that March 8 each year be dedicated to fighting for equal rights for all women in all countries. Her proposal was accepted by the majority of the delegates and the following year, 1911, the first International Women’s Day took place.” (pp. 31-32)

Zetkin wrote about IWD, “In agreement with the class-conscious, political and trade union organizations of the proletariat of their respective countries, the Socialist women of all countries will hold each year a Women’s Day, whose foremost purpose it must be to aid the attainment of women’s suffrage. This demand must be handled in conjunction with the entire women’s question according to Socialist precepts. The Women’s Day must have an international character and is to be prepared carefully.” (p. 108)Zetkin_luxemburg1910

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia wrote about the IWD “The USSR and other socialist states celebrate International Women’s Day to mobilize women who have been liberated from the social yoke and have received equal rights with men for active work in all areas of economic, sociopolitical, and cultural life. On this day women in socialist countries review their participation in communist and socialist construction. In nonsocialist countries, International Women’s Day is observed as a day of struggle for the rights of women and for social progress within the state’s specific conditions and situation. Women in all countries hold March 8 as a day of solidarity with the struggle for peace.” (15, p. 76).

In 1975, the United Nations declared March 8 to be their International Women’s Day.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY IN THE UNITED STATES

Let us fast-forward over 100 years to 2017. It is appalling that this holiday is not widely recognized in the United States. We must remember that over 17 million women live in poverty in the United States. Over 600,000 women and girls are trafficked internationally each year. 70% of women internationally report that they are subjected to physical and sexual violence. 

DONALD TRUMP

And then there is this new President of the United States (POTUS) named Donald Trump. He ran a campaign which featured sexist rhetoric as well as racism, xenophobia and other extreme right wing tactics. He has been quoted repeatedly as referring to women in demeaning language. He has a history of calling women pigs, slobs, and has made disgusting comments about women’s physical appearance. At the same time, he has been the first POTUS to publicly refer to his own penis as well as women’s genitals.

Although he is extremely early in his administration, he has made a number of proposals which if enacted would greatly affect women in the United States as well as in many other countries.

He has proposed harsh immigration policies which potentially could be devastating to immigrant women. His policies could prove devastating to families in the United States as well as around the world. When immigrant families are detained in this country, it is standard procedure for their children to be separated from them and placed in the care of Children’s Protective Service. This means that mothers, fathers and children are separated forever since the parents are typically deported.

There is a new proposal that would separate mothers and children if they are caught trying to cross the border. Again, the children would become wards of the state while their parents would be deported.

There is a current push to privatize Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans’ benefits. If enacted, this would result in diminishing the social safety network and would be particularly devastating to women and children.

There is a current push to reduce public education. This has resulted in and will result in further devastation of communities and will have an extremely harmful impact on women and children.

The continuation and expansion of the government policies of mass incarceration have been devastating to communities and families. Men, particularly African-American men, are the most likely to be incarcerated. However, their absence leaves a void which is difficult to fill so that stable families can be formed and maintained.

The rightward political swing has resulted in and will result in a further downward swing of communities and women and children will bear the brunt of this.

On the other hand, it must be recognized that Pres. Trump’s opposition to war with Russia and China is positive. War with Russia and China would be catastrophic to the women in the United States as well as every other living creature on earth. We can all be cremated equally. 

CONCLUSION

As usual, the dismantling of the social safety network will impact African-American communities, and most especially women and children, most harshly.

How will working women respond to this multifaceted crisis which has been created by unbridled capitalism? Is it acceptable in the United States for progressive gains to be ripped away with a few strokes of the pen by a misogynistic POTUS? Do we want a society which celebrates the accomplishments, achievements and contributions of women or do we want a society which denigrates women?

Working men and women must unite to fight for their rights or face a society drifting downward into anarchistic chaos.

worker-and-collective-farm-woman

James Thompson is the chairperson of the Houston Communist Party.

Bernadette Steward was an officer of the Houston Communist Party. She was an activist in Houston and fought for women’s rights and was involved in the struggle for African-American equality. She died on Easter Sunday, 2014 after a long struggle with amyloidosis.

 

BernadetteSteward2