March 8th, a Proletarian and Communist Day
(«Proletarian»;Nr. 8; Spring 2012)
At the International Socialist congress held in Copenhagen during August and September 1910 Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8th be proclaimed an international day for proletarian women. It was to be a “celebration” similar to the first of May and like the first of May, it originated in a bloody episode from the class war.
In 1908, two years previously, the women working at a textile factory in New York went on strike. The management responded by locking them inside the factory. On March 8th a fire of indeterminate cause swept through the factory in which the workers were trapped incinerating 129 of them.
Ever since, March 8th has been an important day in the class struggle.
March 8th 1917 (February 23rd on the old Russian calendar) saw workers and proletarian women participate in the February revolution that drove out Czarism. Trotsky says, in his History of the Russian Revolution:
“Thus the fact is that the February revolution was begun from below, overcoming the resistance of its own revolutionary organizations, the initiative being taken of their own accord b the most oppressed and downtrodden part of the proletariat – women textile workers, among them no doubt many soldiers’ wives. The overgrown bread-lines had provided the last stimulus. About 90,000 workers, men and women, were on strike that day.... A mass of women, not all of them workers, flocked to the municipal Duma demanding bread.... Women’ s Day passed successfully, with enthusiasm and without victims.
The importance of the contribution made by women to the revolution is confirmed by this report in Pravda on March 18: “The women were ready to fight as they had never been before. Not only the working women but all women; those who line up for bread and kerosene. They organised meetings, met in the streets and strode to the municipal Duma to demand bread. They stopped trams shouting, ‘into the streets, comrades!’ They also stopped work at factories and offices. All in all it was a glorious day of mounting revolutionary spirit.” On March 19th Pravda continued: “The women were the first to hit the streets of St Petersburg. In addition in Moscow it was they who decided the fate of the troops. They went down into the barracks to convince the soldiers to turn to the side of the revolution. In the misery of war women suffered tremendously. Although their loved ones were at the front and they were pre-occupied with their children’ s hunger at home they never lost hope. They brandished the flag of the revolution”.
March 8th is an important day in the struggle of the proletariat and it is indivisibly linked with the class struggle itself.
Today, after the counter-revolutionary storm that destroyed the international revolutionary party of the proletariat as well as proletarian traditions, the proletarian and communist nature of March 8th is obscured and corrupted.
Women’s organizations linked to reformist parties use to celebrated March 8th in the name of social progress, “concrete gains” and parliamentary laws. It is no longer a day of struggle but a diversion with dancing, children’s parties, films and reformist propaganda sessions. With revolting demagogy, the international bourgeoisie and the Feminists celebrate March 8th not as a day for proletarian women but for women in general and even for the woman as housewife. To make this day theirs its whole meaning had to be changed; according to them the women of the Russian revolution fought for civil marriage, laws for equality of rights for illegitimate and legitimate children, divorce laws, maternity leave and freedom of contraception and abortion.
This is not true! To say that the Russian women fought only for these things brings their struggle down to the level of bourgeois reformist demands. The Russian proletariat fought not only against religious marriage and juridical inferiority but against the whole social order that engendered these contradictions. They fought not only for equality before the law and a series of rights, or worse – for an illusory social well-being, but moreover were contributing to the overthrow of international capital with the aim of a different social order. The most advanced women of the proletariat were perfectly aware of this. It was because of this that they were able to endure the hardships that followed, the understanding being that the legal gains made would not be the final resolution to their problems since these were still based on capitalism (when it even rose to that level) in Russia, but would only expose the roots of their troubles.
In memory of the factory workers of New York, Leningrad and the whole world we celebrate March 8th as International Proletarian Women’s Day, a proletarian and communist day!
(“le prolétaire”, Nr. 192, March 8th-21st 1975)
International Communist Party