VANGUARD - Expressing the viewpoint of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) For National Independence and Socialism • www.cpaml.org
International Working Women’s Day: Women of the world unite, rise up!
(Above: Melbourne IWD march 2020)
Statement by Alice M. and Louisa L.
Vice-Chairpersons of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)
On 8 March, the International Working Women’s Day, we stand in solidarity with working women fighting for a world free of exploitation, oppression, imperialism and its wars.
We celebrate and are inspired by the strength and tenacity of many generations of millions of women resisting exploitation, violence and abuse of women. We celebrate women of the world joining and leading struggles for workers’ rights, against destruction of the environment, and against imperialism and fascism. We welcome and celebrate the growing numbers of women joining the revolutionary struggle for socialism and communism.
The International Working Women’s Day was born out of powerful struggles by women workers in textile and clothing factories in Europe and America in 1909-1911, against low wages and oppressive conditions in factories and at home. They demanded the recognition of women as equals in social, political and economic life and proclaimed far reaching militant demands to end women’s oppression, exploitation and inequality.
Communist and socialist women led many struggles and initiated the formation of the IWWD. They called on working class men to stand alongside women and fight the exploitation and patriarchy of capitalism.
Prior to 1917, IWWD was held on various dates in different countries. On March 8, 1917 women workers took to the streets of major Russian cities to protest against the war, against exploitation and for food. In 1921, Communist women in the Second International moved that March 8 be celebrated internationally as the working women’s day. It was the first powerful internationally organised and united voice of working class women.
For communist women capitalism is the source of the exploitation, oppression and degrading of women. Capitalism’s ruthless drive for profit at all cost relies on the exploitation of workers and the patriarchal domination over women. Therefore, the exploitation, commodification, abuse and violence against women will not cease under capitalism and imperialism.
109 years on, and how right are the founders and leaders of the International Working Women’s Day!
The brutal British colonial occupation and theft of their lands in 1788 brought with it the oppression of First People’s women. The colonial tyranny continues today in thousands of ways through both main parliamentary parties on behalf of the Minerals Council and imperialism. Resilient and powerful First People women are at the forefront leading the struggles for sovereignty and self-determination of First People in their communities and across the country.
Formal but not real equality and liberation
In Australia, in the 109 years since the establishment of IWWD the determined and militant working women’s struggles have forced the ruling class (big business and their subservient Liberal and Labor governments) to make a few concessions to women’s demands.
However, legislation on equal pay, equal opportunity, sex discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying, parental leave and child care entitlements, and other rights fought for long and hard, have proven to be unenforceable formalities.
Many gains have proven to be tenuous and temporary, eroded or vanished in past 30 years by capital’s demands to intensify the exploitation of workers.
Gains made in even limited publicly funded and affordable child care have almost disappeared to high cost privatisation. Equal pay for work of equal value is non-existent. Women who make up the overwhelming majority of sole parents living in poverty are attacked by both main parliamentary parties, shifted to even lower and inferior Newstart Allowance, attacked by both main parliamentary parties, and hounded and demonised by government bureaucracy.
Women’s militant struggles for political equality had won us the right to vote and stand in parliamentary elections, but parliament is mainly accessible to a handful of women, and not from the working class.
Under capitalism the overriding needs of capital to maximise profits takes precedence over the rights and wellbeing of working people. Concessions wrung out of the ruling class are minimised so they do not interfere with, or eat into, the profit making by the capitalist class.
Class ceiling keeping women down
(Above: IWD march, Sydney, 2020)
The double exploitation of working women at work and at home continues. Almost half of the workforce are women, yet our wages are still even lower than men’s. Women still shoulder main family responsibilities and are the main carers of children, the elderly and the sick at home and in the community.
That Early Childhood Educators are some of the lowest paid workers in this “wealthy” country confirms that working class women are still held as inferior and degraded. It is an indictment of the capitalist system.
Relentless abuses and brutal violence against women continue. Every week a woman is killed in a domestic violence, and there are many other acts of abuse, sexual harassment and denigrating of women.
The miniscule government funding for services to women and children escaping domestic violence, desperately seeking safety, legal help, affordable long term housing and material support, is severely cut back because profit can’t be extracted from working class women fleeing domestic violence.
The government spends hundreds of millions strengthening state violence, militarising the police to suppress people’s protests under the politically manufactured threats of violence from “terrorism” by refugees and others; and imprisoning countless First People women living in poverty.
Hundreds of billions of people’s taxes are used to support US imperialism, its wars and the military-industrial complex inflicting devastation on hundreds of thousands of people, and spreading fascism across the world.
Capitalism cannot deliver any real and lasting equality and safety of women. The exploitation, abuse and violence against women are embedded and endemic in the class system of capitalism. Capitalism maintains the patriarchy to entrench women’s inferior position, exploitation and commodification of women as workers and as sexual and domestic objects. This patriarchal culture and ideology permeate capitalist society.
Its compulsion to exploit and plunder for maximum profit is in constant conflict with the needs and welfare of women, especially working class women.
Affordable child care in workplaces and communities, free women’s health centres and services, affordable housing and eradication of violence against women are incompatible with capitalism’s ruthless competition and drive for profit.
Inequality, discrimination, abuse and violence against women cannot be ended under capitalism without overthrowing this exploitative class system itself and replacing it with socialism. The economic and social system where the means of production (our resources, industries, services), presently owned by a handful of monopolies for private profit, are placed in the hands of the working class and run collectively to serve the needs of people and the environment.
Only then will working women as equals have the power to move the society to the establishment of real equality between women and men in all fields, and the liberation of both women and men from the oppression of capitalism and the patriarchy.
The fight for women’s rights, equality and liberation is inseparably linked to struggles against capitalism and imperialism. It must continue today and draw women into the revolutionary struggle for an anti-imperialist socialist Australia.
It is a struggle for socialism, and ultimately the classless society of communism.
As the two vice-Chairpersons of the CPA (M-L), we call on Australian working women to join us in our revolutionary party fighting for anti-imperialist independence and socialism.
An extract from our Party’s General Program on Women and Capitalism: “Many of the inequities and injustices of capitalism are visited more frequently and more intensively upon women of the working class than on men. Economic and social inequality, abuse and violence against women and children flows from the exploitative capitalist system and its culture… The double exploitation, inequality, abuse and violence against women cannot be eradicated under capitalism. Socialism will create the necessary conditions for women to achieve their full potential, economic independence, equality and respect in all sectors of society.”.